A Fire of Devotion Part 1 of 4: Louder Than Sirens: Chapters Two and Three

Chapter Two

“While I did familiarize myself with the ship’s logs after I was brought aboard,” Seven of Nine said, “I doubt that I could ever truly understand such an event without experiencing it myself.”

“Probably not,” Samantha said, looking intently at her glass of wine. Seven wondered if perhaps the ensign had had too much of the alcoholic beverage. “You know, to be honest, I think this stuff Neelix brought on board is a little stronger than he said it was because I don’t even know why I told you about that. Heck, I was asleep at the time so I missed most of it.”

“As it is not classified information, nor deeply personal, I see no reason why the incident should not be open for discussion,” Seven said, wondering why the beverage didn’t seem to be affecting her in the same way. I wonder if my remaining Borg implants render me either immune to intoxication, she thought, or merely makes it more difficult. I should endeavour to learn which it is at some point, if I have the time.

“Good point. So you’re telling me the Borg never encountered anything like that before?”

“I imagine an entity that can alter the dimensions of a ship, causing its geometry to change without destroying it, and capable of leaving gigaquads of new data in the ship’s computers in it’s wake would’ve been of great interest to the Collective if we had.”

“I imagine so. One time Naomi told me about a nightmare she had where she was trying to get somewhere on the ship, only doors kept leading to the wrong rooms, or hallways would just be much longer than they are, or rooms would be bigger. I bet that the people who actually experienced the inversion field, or the Ring as a lot of them call it, must’ve felt like that.”

“I have had some nightmares myself recently,” Seven said, surprising even herself by mentioning it. “About my parents being assimilated. I would call them memories, except I see myself there, as I look now. It is, disconcerting.”

“I heard about those, when we found your parent’s ship last week. I’m so sorry,” Samantha said. “That must’ve been awful.”

“It has not affected my performance of my duties thus far, but I appreciate your concern.” Seven felt herself smiling, though only slightly. The only time she had ever felt quite as safe as she did now was when she was a drone, and all her physical needs were provided for by the collective.

There was a silence that lasted several seconds, when Samantha looked down.

“Um, Seven?”

“Yes?”

“Are you aware that you’ve had your hand on top of mine for the past several seconds?”

Seven looked down and noticed that Ensign Wildman was correct. She was unsure of exactly when during the conversation that had happened, but she removed it immediately, but suddenly found herself unsure of where to put it now, eventually settling for on the table after a second that felt longer than it actually was.

“My apologies, Ensign. I was unaware-”

“Seven, I think you may have gotten the wrong idea about this dinner. This wasn’t a date. I’m sorry if I-”

“I did not believe it was,” Seven said. “You stated that your intention was to ascertain my fitness to be around your daughter unsupervised. I had no cause to assume you had an ulterior motive. I… apologize. Again.”

“Well,” Samantha said, taking in a deep breath of her own before continuing, “let’s just, um, chalk it up to the wine, shall we? After all, I’m a married woman, and you are, well, you’ve only been free of the Borg Collective for a month or so. I think. I’m a little woozy myself. I’ll have to tell Neelix to never let me drink this again.”

“That would be most wise,” Seven said, noticing that her own face suddenly felt warmer than normal. “I should probably leave, as this meeting as gotten undeniably awkward.”

“Good call. Um, oh, and I don’t mind Naomi spending time with you, by the way. And, thanks for saving the ship from those, um.” Samantha’s brow furrowed as she tried to remember whether or not the race they’d encountered had identified themselves. “Those aliens that were experimenting on the crew and everything.”

“You are quite welcome, though regrettably I was unable to save Ensign Luke.”
Samantha sighed. “You know, I didn’t know Roberta all that well. She mostly kept to herself. I think she was just really shy. What those people did to her, I didn’t see it but…” She shivered.
“At least we didn’t lose anyone else,” Seven said.
“We. I like how you say ‘we.’ I guess you really are becoming part of the family aren’t you?”
“It is not an easy process,” Seven admitted. “But perhaps one day I will start to think of this ship as home.” She stood up, putting her hands behind her back. “I thank you for the meal, Ensign Wildman. As for my behavior a few moments ago I-”
“You apologize, I know. You’ve done it twice already. It’s okay. I think there was just some miscommunication. It happens. I’ll see you around.”
“Very well. Good night, Samantha.”

“It’s called blushing,” the Doctor said as he ran his medical scanner over Seven of Nine. “It has already gone away as I saw no signs of it when you entered sickbay, but if it’s still a matter of concern to you I can investigate further. First off, I will need to know the exact circumstances that led to it.”

“Why?” Seven asked curtly.

“So I can determine whether or not what you described is the result of a medical condition known as idiopathic craniofacial erythema, or the more standard reason which is emotional stress, such as that associated with embarrassment, anger, or romantic stimulation.“

“I would prefer not to divulge that information Doctor.”

“Well, I could do a more thorough scan to search for I.C.E., but that would take longer than you just telling me-”

“You are bound by an oath of confidentiality are you not?”

“Of course,” the Doctor said, offended at both Seven’s interruption and her implication. “Anything you say to me would be kept in the strictest confidence.”

“Even if the Captain were to order you to tell her?”

“Seven, unless you’re going to tell me that you plan to destroy the ship or murder a crew member, it would take nothing less than a court order from a Starfleet judge, of which we don’t currently have access to, to make me divulge. Now please, just tell me what-”

“It is either embarrassment or romantic stimulation,” Seven said as matter of factly as if she were telling the Doctor what stardate it was. “Or perhaps both, if that is possible.”

“It can be,” the Doctor said, putting away his medical tricorder. “Seven, if you are planning to enter a romantic entanglement with another member of the crew, I do not yet know what risks your Borg implants might-”

“I don’t believe that will be an issue Doctor,” Seven said. “I am not even certain my interest was quite so ideal. Having never experienced sexual attraction until recently it’s possible that that was all I was interested in. Either way, Ensign Wildman has-”

“Wait, what?” the Doctor said. “I’m sorry, forgive me for interrupting, I was just not expecting you to be so blunt about the subject, given your earlier statements about my discretion.”

Seven of Nine let out a frustrated sigh. She proceeded to tell him about the dinner with Samantha Wildman; why it had been set up, the alcoholic beverages, Seven’s hand ending up on Samantha’s without her even realizing she’d done it, and of course the blushing which had brought her to sickbay in the first place.

“I see,” the Doctor said. “Well, I’m afraid I can’t offer anything useful with regards to your physical attractions, but I believe we can safely rule out a medical condition to explain your blushing. I will say however that if you do find yourself becoming, to put it bluntly, sexually frustrated, I can recommend a number of holodeck programs that could provide you with a healthy outlet.”

Seven just looked at the Doctor with a blank expression for a moment, before saying, “I’ll consider it.”
“Now, just so I don’t overwhelm you with options, would you be willing to tell me if you’d like a program with only women or if you’d prefer to keep your options open?”
Seven sighed again, though the Doctor this sigh sounded more sad than frustrated.
“I’m not entirely sure myself, Doctor.”

Finding themselves alone in the turbolift after a shift change, Captain Janeway decided to ask her first officer a question that had been on her mind all day.

“Commander Chakotay, have you spoken with Seven of Nine lately?”

“Not about anything not related to ship functions,” he said. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, apparently she had dinner at Samantha Wildman’s quarters the other night.”

“I did hear about that. Samantha says that it was just a conversation to settle any concerns she had about Seven spending time with Naomi. According to her it went well, and she doesn’t have a problem with the two of them being friendly.”

“She said the same to me, but that’s not what concerns me. I’ve noticed that Seven seems to have slid backwards somewhat. Prior to that she was starting to speak to the rest of the crew. Nothing major, just about shipboard functions like you were talking about, but it was still progress. Now, except for Naomi, Harry, and the Doctor she’s resorting to monosyllabic replies, ignoring you unless you ask a direct question…” Janeway shrugged. “Did you notice that?”

“I don’t think so, but our interaction today was very brief. What are you suggesting?”

“I’m not sure,” Janeway said. The turbolift door opened and the two exited, making their way to the mess hall to grab something to eat. “The only possibility that immediately comes to mind is that Samantha said something to Seven that offended her, but I can’t imagine what that might be. I certainly doubt she’d do it on purpose, that’s just not the Samantha Wildman we know.”

“There is another possibility actually. Before we had that whole mess with those out of phase aliens messing with our DNA, the same day as the dinner, some of the bridge crew were overheard teasing Ensign Wildman about her dinner being a ‘date.’”

Janeway chuckled. “A date? Samantha Wildman and Seven of Nine? Even if Samantha wasn’t married I’m having a hard time picturing that.”

“Agreed,” Chakotay said, “However, it’s possible that Seven of Nine might’ve mistakenly perceived it that way herself, and she’s reacting to the night not going as she’d hoped.”

“If that’s the case we should probably keep an eye on her then. She’s literally experiencing things she never had to deal with as a Borg drone, and I doubt the Borg have protocols for dealing with a broken heart.”

“Do you think she could be a danger to-”

“No, no, nothing like that Chakotay. Nothing like that. I just hope it doesn’t discourage her from pursuing anything else in regards to her humanity. That she seems to be friendly with Naomi is certainly a good start, but I’d prefer she not stop there.”

“Couldn’t agree more. This does beg the question though.”

“What’s that?”

“How do we find out the truth of the situation. I doubt Seven of Nine would just tell us if we asked.”

Janeway thought about it for a moment. “Probably best if I approach her alone then. The two of us asking together, it could look like we’re ganging up on her. I’ll take care of that now since I’m not really all that hungry. See you in the morning Commander.”

“Good night Captain,” Chakotay said as he turned down another corridor while Janeway kept walking straight ahead. “And good luck.”

“Computer, locate Seven of Nine.”

“Seven of Nine is in Holodeck Two.”

“The Holodeck? That’s unusual,” Janeway said as she changed direction herself.

By the time she arrived at Holodeck Two, Seven was already exiting. She was wearing the brown jumpsuit she had been provided shortly after she came on board, but her hair was loose, and she seemed to Janeway’s eyes to be disappointed. Seven flinched slightly when she noticed Janeway approaching her.

“Captain,” she said.

“At ease Seven. You’re off duty. Getting some Holodeck time in I see.”

“I was,” Seven paused, as if she’d been caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to do and was desperately searching for an excuse. “Trying out a program the Doctor had suggested to me, to deal with a personal issue. However, it didn’t quite work. Was there anything you needed Captain?”

“I was going to ask you a question of a personal nature, but I’m reconsidering.”

“Based on?”

“You seem stressed, and I’d rather not add to that at this moment. I’m sorry the Doctor’s suggestion didn’t help. You could always try one of my holonovels if you like.”

“No offense Captain, but I’m aware of your programs of choice. I do not mind the Da Vinci program, but Victorian England holds no particular interest for me.“

Janeway sighed. “I hear that a lot actually. I tried to get Harry Kim to try it once. Said that after ten minutes he was ready to strangle the child characters.”

“That seems out of character for him,” Seven said.

“I can’t say I entirely blame him, they can be a bit of a handful. But I really think if you’re just willing to stick it out past chapter-”

“Captain, if I say I’ll answer your personal question would you stop talking about Victorian children?” Seven said, her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, not even trying to hide the tone of frustration in her voice.

Janeway found herself wanting to be offended, but to laugh as well. She also felt her patience start to ebb.

“Seven, to put it bluntly, what the hell is wrong with you?” she said. “These past few days it’s like you’ve gone backwards in your-”

“I am not going to attempt to escape again if that is your concern Captain. I have simply had an unpleasant week. The Doctor offered up the holodeck program I just ran as a way to, in his words, ‘unwind a little.’ It did not work, but I can assure you that my performance on this ship will not suffer, and all my tasks will be completed on time, if not early.” Seven then stood at attention like a proper officer. “Permission to return to my alcove, Captain.”

“Granted,” Janeway said. After Seven was out of earshot, she let out a long sigh, and put her face in her hand. “That could’ve gone better.” She glanced the panel next to the door to Holodeck 2. Kathryn, what are you doing? she thought even as her hand began tapping on the console. “Computer, display the last program that was in use,” she said.

Classy, her inner voice told her. Invasion of privacy. Great way to get Seven of Nine to feel like part of the family. Janeway closed her eyes as text began to fill the screen. “Cancel that request,” she said. She let out another long sigh.

“She’ll be fine. Seven’ll be fine. I’m worrying about nothing.” Janeway finally moved from where she was standing, heading to her quarters to get some sleep.

Chapter Three

The ship shuddered from yet another energy weapon impact. Harry turned to see if Seven had kept up with him, in time to see her lying on the floor, not moving.

“Seven!” he yelled, turning back to help, but she raised an arm, weakly.

“Harry, no. Get to deflector control, and shrink the temporal shield. If it’s still covering all of Voyager when our allies destroy the Krenim timeship-” she coughed, and even from the distance he was Harry could still see the spray of blood from her mouth when she did so. He limped back towards her, only now noticing that his ankle had twisted.

“We’re turning it off,” Harry said. “Together. And you’re taking the data we have on the Krenim stored in your implants back to warn us in the past. That was the plan. That was the Captain’s order. Stay with me, we can do this.”

“Ensign Kim, I’m sorry. You’ll have to be the one to stay by the generator.”

“They won’t believe me. They’ll think I’m crazy when I tell them-”

“No time,” Seven said, her voice getting quieter. Harry struggled to try and get the chunk of bulkhead that had fallen on her to move.

“Sam?” Seven said, looking past Harry, even though there was no one behind him.

“She’s safe,” Harry said as he kept trying to clear debris off of her, even as he noticed the growing pool of blood underneath her. “She and Naomi were with the personnel we evacuated.”

“Samantha, I-” Seven didn’t get to finish the sentence. Harry watched the life go out of her eyes. Tears forming in his eyes, he began uttering every expletive he knew, in every language he knew. The ship shuddered once again.

“Janeway to Kim! Janeway to Seven!” the Captain’s voice said over the comm.

“Kim here Captain. I’m sorry, Seven of Nine didn’t make it.”

“Dammit! Can you still get to deflector control?”

Harry looked down the corridor and saw the door that had been the goal for him and Seven of Nine. While debris littered the floor, it was nothing he couldn’t step over. So close, he thought. She was so close. And with her implants recording everything she could prove-

“Harry! Report, can you get-”

“Yes ma’am!” Harry said, getting up and moving as fast he could, ignoring the pain in his left ankle. “And Captain?”

“Yes, Ensign Kim?”

“I look forward to seeing you again.”

Harry got to the door to deflector control. He already knew the automatic openers were off-line so he wasted no time in prying it open with his bare hands. The room was still burned and messy from where an explosion had killed the crewmen usually stationed here nine months ago. Harry thought for a second he could even still smell charred flesh. The device that had protected them from the timeline changes caused by the ship that Voyager and a loose coalition of races were trying to destroy this very second was right where it should be and he immediately got to work on it. He wished he could simply just shut it off, which would be easier and quicker, but someone needed to be able to warn past-Voyager to steer clear of Krenim space. He began making the modifications necessary.

“Shield radius down to, to, there’s no one here why am I bothering saying this out loud?” Harry said as he manipulated the controls, hoping to get the temporal shield down to big enough only for him and the device itself.

The ship shuddered harder this time, and he felt the floor tilt under him.

Inertial dampeners must’ve gone off-line, he thought as he tapped his comm badge.

“Ensign Kim to the bridge,” he said. No response. “Captain Janeway, are you there?” Nothing. “Tuvok? Neelix?” No response. If they were dead, that meant that he was the only person left alive on this ship. And that meant one less ship firing weapons at the Krenim. If Voyager was destroyed before the time ship was, everything he was doing would be for nothing.

A beep coming from the temporal shield generator indicated that the shield bubble had reached it’s desired size. Harry Kim closed his eyes, and hoped.

He heard a noise he couldn’t identify, noticed that the air around him suddenly smelled different, and-

“What the hell?” a voice yelled out in alarm. Harry opened his eyes. Except for a small circle of dust and grime around him and the device, deflector control was clean and in perfect working condition. He recognized the two crewmen who were looking at him in shock, one of them holding a phaser on him. Harry couldn’t blame him.

“Dalby. Gerron. Good to see you guys again.” Harry smiled, then laughed, then began to cry.

When Janeway entered sickbay, she saw the Doctor putting a blanket over Harry Kim. At first she suspected he was covering Harry’s body; that the ensign was dead, but the Doctor stopped at Harry’s neck, and she only then noticed Harry’s chest rising and falling.

“Doctor,” Janeway said quietly. “Is he all right?”

“He’s fine. I gave him a mild sedative as he was suffering from sleep deprivation. I estimate that when he was brought here he hadn’t slept in at least 48 hours, possibly more.”

“I don’t see how’s that possible. He was almost late for his shift this morning because he overslept. In fact, this whole thing is confusing. One second, he’s on the bridge, clean uniform, healthy, doing his job. The next he’s gone and in deflector control with an unidentified piece of technology, covered in blood and soot, and looking malnourished.”

“Captain, while this is indeed Harry Kim, a genetic test has confirmed that, he’s not the Harry Kim you saw on the bridge this morning. My tests show that he is approximately one year older than he should be, and showing signs of multiple inadequately healed injuries, along with a badly sprained ankle, the malnourishment you mentioned, and showing signs of severe post-traumatic stress. My guess is that time travel was involved here. As for the blood, not all of it was his. I identified the DNA of at least seven different crewmembers.”

The Doctor didn’t elaborate further. Janeway sighed and shook her head.

“This kind of thing seems to happen to him a lot doesn’t it?”

“Indeed, though not that much more than the rest of us. Were I inclined to believe in such things, Captain, I would think this ship is cursed. We’ve traveled through time, encountered lifeforms that defied the known laws of the universe, been duplicated-”

“I don’t need a run down of the past four years, Doctor,” Janeway said. “Just let me know when he wakes up. I imagine he’ll have quite a story to tell us.”

“That’s assuming he’ll want to Captain. If his PTSD is as severe as it seems from the scans, he may want to do anything he can to avoid reliving his experiences. Perhaps the device he was found with can provide the answers you need.”

“We’ll see. I’m on my way to engineering right now.” Janeway took another look at her sleeping operations officer. “Just make sure he’s alright.”

“I’ll do what I can,” the Doctor said.

“While the majority of the device is made with Federation technology,” Seven of Nine said as she and B’Elanna Torres scanned the device that had been found with Harry Kim earlier, “there are components that we cannot identify the origin of. Obviously they come from species we have not encountered yet. There are Borg nanoprobes in there as well, which suggests that I had a hand in building this.”

“Makes sense,” Janeway said, having arrived in engineering a few moments ago. “The Doctor says that Harry has aged, making him a year or so older than he was just this morning.”

“He can probably give us more details,” B’Elanna said, “but Seven and I agree, this machine was built with the purpose of protecting a ship from changes in the timestream. This read-out here shows the device was recently reconfigured so that the temporal shield would protect only a fraction of the space it normally does. I don’t know if Harry volunteered, or was ordered to stay with the machine but whatever happened in our future, he had to sacrifice a whole year of his life to come back to this moment to warn us about something.”

“That is a logical assumption,” Seven added.

“Whatever it is we’ll have to wait. The Doctor has him sedated right now.” Janeway tapped her comm badge. “Janeway to Paris. Bring the ship to a full stop.”

“Full stop, aye.” Paris said. “Captian, is this about Harry? Did he say-”

“Nothing yet Tom. Doctor says he’s fine, just needs some rest.”

“That’s a relief,” Tom said.

“Agreed,” Janeway said, tapping the badge again to end the communication.

“Captain,” B’Elanna said. “How bad was it, really? Ken Dalby said Harry looked he’d just come out of a war zone.”

“He may very well have,” Janeway said. “The Doctor didn’t explicitly say it, but judging by the fact that not all of the blood on Harry’s uniform was his, I’m guessing that during this lost year he saw a lot of us die.”

“This makes the second time for him doesn’t it? The second time he’s been the only survivor of another Voyager?”

“Forgive me for interrupting,” Seven of Nine said, “but I don’t understand what you are referring to.” B’Elanna winced, while Janeway looked uncomfortable.

“Seven,” Janeway said, “when you read this ship’s logs, I assume you came across an incident where this ship was duplicated by a spatial anomaly.”

“Correct. I also understand that the duplicate Voyager was destroyed when it self-destructed to destroy a Vidiian ship.”

“Seven, if I order you not to tell anyone what I am about to tell you, will you follow that order? Above all else, Naomi Wildman can’t know.”

Seven of Nine found herself tempted to engage in hyperbole, to suggest any number of violent acts she would allow to befall her before she would do anything that could harm Naomi. She settled instead for simply saying;

“I am perfectly capable of being discreet, Captain.”

Janeway looked around, then stepped closer to Seven.

“The log is mostly accurate. However, it wasn’t the duplicate Voyager that was destroyed. We’re the copy. It’s not something we like to think about, for fairly obvious existential reasons. But before the original destructed in order to save us, the original Harry Kim came over, along with Naomi, who’d just been born.”

“But why would-” Seven started to say, but then it hit her. “Oh. I was aware that the ship was badly damaged and that there had been casualties, but the report fails to mention that Naomi Wildman and Ensign Kim were among them.”

“And as far as Naomi is concerned, that’s exactly how it went. She doesn’t need to know.”

“I agree, Captain,” Seven said, feeling an inexplicable sadness. “She is intelligent, but she is also still a child. Learning something like this would almost certainly be… be… I cannot even think of a proper word to describe it. Were I in her place I imagine I would prefer not to know.”

Janeway’s eyes briefly widened in surprise. “Coming from a former Borg drone,” she said, “that’s saying something.”

“One of these days,” B’Elanna said. “I’ll forget about that whole thing.” She shook her head. “I’m gonna need a stiff drink after my shift is over.”

“I may join you for that,” Janeway said. The two women continued talking about the machine. Seven of Nine excused herself and stepped outside engineering, where she just leaned against a wall, and thought.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard Joe Carey’s voice.

“Seven, you all right?”

“I am fine Mr. Carey. Merely,” Seven paused, searching for the right way to verbally express what she was thinking and feeling. “experiencing emotions I am not used to. It will pass.”

“Okay. Well, if it doesn’t, hopefully the Doctor or Mr. Tuvok can help with that.” Carey politely nodded, then started to head into engineering. “Oh,” he said, pausing in the doorway. “I haven’t heard anything new about Harry. Is he okay?”

“According to the Captain, he is alive but sleeping. We should know more about the situation once he has awoken and is able to report.”

“Good to know. Thanks, Seven.” Carey entered engineering fully, and the door closed behind him. Seven wasn’t sure what she should do next, as she did not have any specific duties for the next several hours. She decided to spend that time in her alcove, although she did not need any significant amount of recharging at that moment.

While walking, she thought more about what she had been told by the captain. By the time she reached her alcove, she had decided that it was best to simply not bother with any philosophical, existential introspection on the matter. This crew was the Voyager crew. That all but the operations officer and one child were exact genetic duplicates with all the same memories up to the point of duplication was irrelevant. She also agreed with the Captain’s statement that it was best that Naomi Wildman not be told, at least for the foreseeable future, if ever. With a sigh of relief, Seven of Nine stepped into her alcove, closed her eyes, and began to recharge.

Harry thought it was a dream for a moment when he opened his eyes to see a clean, unbroken sickbay. He looked around, and he saw the Doctor talking to the Captain. He started to sit up when both suddenly noticed him.

“Mr. Kim, I would advise against-”

“I’m fine, Doc,” Harry said. “Thanks for the good night’s rest. I needed that.”

“Harry,” Captain Janeway said, “what happened?”

“It’s a long story Captain. but first, what date is it?”

Janeway told him, and he tensed up. “Have we already entered Krenim space?”

“Krenim? Why does that name sound so familiar? Are they responsible for what happened to you?”

“Yes. Well, mostly. Why haven’t we-”

“I ordered a full stop once we determined that you were really Ensign Kim, as well as what the device you were found with was for. It’s an ingenious piece of work.”

“B’Elanna and Seven of Nine deserve the lion’s share of the credit for that Captain. As for the Krenim, they aren’t the bad guys. Not in this timeline anyway. And it needs to stay that way. I can show you on our long range sensors where they are, but the short version is we’ll need to go around their space. It’ll add more than six months to our journey home, but trust me, it’s worth it. I didn’t do what I did so I could watch most of the crew die again.”

“Most?” the Doctor said. “Apart from yourself who else survived?”

“I’m prepared to make a full report Captain, I’d just like to get something to eat first.”

“Of course, Ensign,” Janeway said. “Take your time. We’ll stay where we are until we know what our path around Krenim space will be.”

“Thank you.” Harry laughed. “After a year of rations, even Neelix’s cooking will taste good.”

“Let’s not overstate things, Ensign,” the Doctor said.

When Harry sat down at a table in the mess hall, he could feel the eyes of the other crew members on him. It seemed like all of them wanted to walk up to him to say something; either offer condolences on what he went through, or to ask the question that he didn’t want to answer unless he had too. “Did I die?” The condolences he could handle, even if he didn’t necessarily want them. The question on the other hand…

“Harry! Glad to see you up and around,” Tom Paris said, moving from his table to come join him. Harry briefly flinched at the sudden noise, but was able to keep his calm. B’Elanna grabbed the pot of coffee the two had been sharing and followed Tom.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“The Doctor was able to fix my ankle,” Harry said. “I’m just getting something to eat and then going to my quarters. He wants me to take a few days off from my regular duties, and I plan to take him up on that.”

“I didn’t even hear about your ankle,” Tom said. “What happened to it?”

How much do I tell them? Harry thought. He decided that these two at the very least he could be more open with. He hadn’t seen either of them die. Tom might well have been alive right up to the moment the Krenim Time Ship that Chakotay and a handful of Krenim officers they’d turned to their side had sabotaged to make this moment possible was destroyed. And as far as he knew, the allied ship Torres had been reassigned to to help upgrade the weapons was still fighting right up to the moment time changed. If this had been Seven of Nine in front of him, or Joe Carey, or Ken Dalby, or Chell, or Vorik, or…

“It got twisted on my way to deflector controls,” he said, more to stop the flood of faces in his memory than anything else. “It was far from the worst thing that happened to me during the Year of Hell.”

“The Year Of Hell?” Torres said.

“That’s what we took to calling it. For nearly a full year, we were either in hiding, or getting pounded by Krenim ships of varying power levels, each time the timeline was changed. But that’s a little more complicated than I feel like getting into right now.”

“I appreciate that,” Tom said. “There are days when I feel like I should file a restraining order on temporal mechanics.”

“Basically, the problem was this thing called the Time Ship. It did, well, pretty much exactly what you think it did; altered time lines. So much so that in some time lines the race that built it didn’t even exist. Don’t try to figure that one out, it’ll just make your head hurt.“

“Too late,” Torres said, wincing.

“I’m giving you guys the really short version here, largely because a lot of it is kind of painful to remember, but also because the Captain is expecting a full debriefing later.”

“I understand,” Tom said.

“So is that why we, well, they, no let’s go with we,” Torres said. “Is that why we built the temporal shield generator you were found with?”

“Ironically, no,” Harry said. “Not directly anyway. We didn’t actually even know about the time ship yet. The generator, or at least a crude prototype of it, was built as a defense against Krenim torpedoes. They, at least in the timeline where we were in at the t- at that moment, had torpedoes that were able to penetrate our shields by way of some kind of temporal shifting. By existing in and out of time it was impossible to shoot them down with our phasers even though they moved slower than our torpedoes do.”

“Impressive,” Torres said. “I kind of wish you’d brought back some specs on those with you.”

If Seven had been the one to make it to that room… Harry thought.

“If you knew how many crewmen those things had killed, B’Elanna, I don’t know if you’d ever even want to look at a picture of one ever again,” Harry said.

“Oh. Oh god, Harry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s okay. It’s just tough to talk about.” Harry took a large gulp from his cup of water, as he thought about whether or not to continue. As uncomfortable as bringing this all up was, even the short version, he was just so glad to be talking to two of his friends again he felt he could ignore the slight shuddering of his hands, or the mild nausea in his stomach. Keeping as much of the talk as possible to the technological side of things also helped. I just hope it doesn’t feel this bad when it comes time to tell the whole thing, he thought.

“You know, Harry, if you want we could talk about this later or-”

“No, Tom, I think I need to do this. Just bottling it up isn’t going to help me.” Harry took a large bite out of what he hoped was a dinner roll and after swallowing it, continued.

“After months of this, we caught a break. One torpedo impacted against the hull, but didn’t explode. Tuvok and Seven of Nine went to disarm it, but accidentally triggered it. But the good news was, they were able to get enough tricorder data out of it that we were able to adapt our shield’s to the frequency of, um,” Harry closed his eyes, trying to remember all the details, and drawing a blank. “Dammit Seven,” he muttered.

“Harry?” Torres said. Harry sighed.

“She had all the data about everything, I was only going with her to make sure she made it to deflector control. But during the last fight, a bulkhead collapsed. She didn’t make it. She should be here right now, reliving this shit.”

“Harry, look, it’s okay,” Tom said. “You don’t need to remember every exact detail. No one’s expecting you to.”

“Yeah, yeah, I guess you’re right. That’s gonna make the debrief with the Captain tough, though. The point I was getting at is, with the information Tuvok and Seven got before the torpedo went off,” Harry decided to leave out the part where Tuvok lost his eyesight as a result of that explosion, “we were able to build a crude defense against it. That’s how we first started to figure out what was happening. The time ship had done, something, we don’t know what, that was altering the timeline. When the temporal wave hit us, however, whatever they were trying to change backfired on them. The Krenim war ship that had been attacking us was suddenly just a merchant vessel, and the Krenim empire was a third of the size it had been when we were fighting them.”

“I think it’s safe to assume that that wasn’t the time ship’s plan,” Tom said.

“Exactly. When they came looking for us, we were in bad shape. We got away, but lost more than a dozen crewmen in the attack, and that was on top of the dozen more we’d lost in the months before that. Whole sections of the ship had to be closed off because we just didn’t have enough materials to repair all the hull breaches.” Harry looked down at his food.

“And to top it off, during the fight the Krenim were able to get through our shields long enough to beam two people off the ship.”

“Who did they get?” Tom said.

“You. And Commander Chakotay.”

“Damn,” Tom muttered. “That’s, a bit rough to hear.”

“If it’s any consolation,” Harry said. “it did turn out for the best. I hope you don’t mind me skipping ahead a bit in the story.”

“Not at all,” Torres said.

“I don’t know all the details obviously, but somewhere along the line, based on the messages you and the Commander were able to sneak to us, you were able to take advantage of a fracture in the crew. Apparently, their captain had gotten to a point in the original mission, before we’d ever even come along, where they could’ve stopped. But because one colony, one where his wife had lived, hadn’t been ‘restored,’ he decided to keep going, changing time over and over again.”

“Just to save one person?” Tom said. “I bet that didn’t sit well with the rest of his people.” He looked over at B’Elanna. “Though I guess I can’t entirely blame him either,” he said.

“Flatterer,” Torres said.

“Anyway,” Harry said, sounding irritated. “we figured out a way to destroy the time ship and reset everything, but the problem was that Voyager needed to have its temporal shield off-line completely for it to be reset too. Which created a new set of problems, because how would we be able to warn ourselves to avoid Krenim space if everything was just reset. I.. I know I helped figure out how we could get around that, I just wish I could remember. So much of those last days of the year are just a blur. I remember us reaching out to other races who were at war with the Krenim to build a fleet to attack the time ship, and the time ship being sabotaged so we could destroy it. I can remember Seven dying, losing contact with the bridge after a bad hit, and getting to deflector control. And the rest, well, you know that part.” Harry stood a bit too quickly after rushing the end of the story.

“I… I need to go lie down,” he said, his hands shaking worse now.

“Okay,” Tom said, looking concerned for his friend. “Let us know if you need anything.”

The thing that Seven of Nine found the most aggravating about the Voyager ‘rumor mill’ was not that it existed at all, though that did annoy her as well, but the fact that even though she refused to actively take part in it, she was as much a part of it as anyone else on this ship. She was certain she did not need to know that Harry Kim had been overheard in the mess hall saying that she was supposed to be the one who stayed with the temporal shield in order to warn Voyager to steer clear of Krenim space, but now she did. She had to fight back to urge to demand the crewman who told her explain what exactly she was supposed to do with that information. Instead she decided to ask politely.

“May I ask why you felt I needed this information, Mr. Chell?”

The overweight, Bolian, former Maquis crewman opened his mouth to reply, closed it, opened it again, then sighed.

“You probably didn’t,” he said. “Nevermind, forget that I said anything.”

I wish I could, Seven thought. The Bolian went on his way, and Seven continued on her own, which was to familiarize herself with areas of the ship she didn’t usually go to, just in case she might need to in the future. Reading the design specs for the ship were one thing, and she had done that very early after she was added to the crew, but she had learned that time in the Delta Quadrant had led to changes in areas of the ship ranging from the major due to repairs, to the cosmetic in order to help aid the adjustment for crew members hit hardest by their being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. As such, seeing these areas of the ship for herself provided an insight that simply looking at a chart would not provide.

What she did not expect to see on her way to the aeroponics bay that been established by now-former crewmember Kes, was Harry Kim, sitting against the wall in the bay. Most of the food that was being grown here had already been harvested for use in the mess hall, so no one was likely to be down here for awhile except for the routine watering, and that was only if there were any signs that the automated process wasn’t working. This of course made it a good place for someone to be alone. Kim was in a clean uniform, but he did not have his comm badge with him, and wasn’t in his quarters. Seven deduced the situation fairly quickly, and decided to leave, not wanting to bother someone who she did not need to speak to and had gone to some lengths to make sure he’d avoid any personal contact for the time being.

“Hi,” Harry said.

“Ensign Kim, I am sorry to have bothered you.”

“Nah, it’s okay. Turns out the being alone thing isn’t helping any either.” Harry stood up, and smoothed out his uniform. He went over to a nearby table, and picked up his comm badge from where Seven had been unable to see it when she entered.

“I’m sure the Doctor can provide a medical treatment for your post-traumatic stress,” Seven said.

“Yeah,” Harry said, his tone getting angrier with every other word. “No reason why I can’t do it now. Except I just keep making up excuses for why I can’t do it yet. I know I should, I know I should, but I just can’t.”

“Ensign Kim,” Seven said in as stern a voice as she could manage without yelling, “your brain chemistry has been altered due to an extreme amount of stress suffered over a long period of time. Any excuse you make for yourself is the result of this chemical imbalance, which is treatable. While I cannot order you to sickbay to deal with this issue I strongly suggest that you do so as soon as-”

“Seven, tell me something,” Harry said. Seven suspected that Harry might try to interrupt her, but a calmly delivered question was not one of the ways she had anticipated.

“Tell you what?” she said.

“I was just thinking about the last thing you said before you died, in my timeline I mean. When I was trying to get you out from under the rubble you called out Samantha Wildman’s name. At first I thought whatever you two had going was something that happened during the Year of Hell, but the more I think about it the more it occurs to me that there was something there even before then and that it took the Krenim attacks to bring it to the forefront. Since those attacks probably aren’t going to happen now, I just want to say that if you care about her in this timeline too, tell her. Life’s too damn short.” With that, Harry put his comm badge on and left aeroponics. Seven simply stood there.

Tell her what exactly? she thought. I don’t even know what exactly my feelings about her are. Sexual? Romantic? Friendly? I’ve been an emotionless drone for most of my life. If I was in love with her, how would I even know? For that matter, she’s already said she still loves her husband, even though as far he knows she’s

“Seven, are you alright?” Seven flinched when she heard the voice from behind her. She turned around and saw Neelix, holding an empty metal bowl, and looking concerned.

“Sorry to startle you,” he continued. “I just came down here to double check. I think I might’ve dropped a couple of Creterakian onions last time I was here.”

“I was merely… thinking,” Seven said, actually grateful for once for an interruption.

“About what?” Neelix said.

“A personal matter.” Neelix looked for a moment like he was going to press the issue.

“Okay then,” he said. “Carry on. I’ll just get looking for those stray onions.”

“Mom?” Naomi said.

“Hmm? Oh, sorry sweetie. It’s my turn isn’t it?” Samantha said. While she moved her piece on the game board that she’d picked up on Sikaris before Naomi had been born.

“Mom, are you okay? You’ve been really weird lately. You just get quiet, and stare at things, and it kinda worries me.”

“I’m fine Naomi.”

“Are you still sick?”

“What do you mean ‘still?’” Samantha said, wondering where this was going.

“Well,” Naomi said, now ignoring her own turn. “didn’t those invisible alien scientist people who were doing nasty stuff to everybody hurt your leg?”

“Oh, that,” Samantha said, chuckling. “No, no, I’m all good. The Doctor got me fixed up real quick, just like everyone else.”

“So, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I swear.”

Naomi’s face scrunched up in the way it always did when she didn’t believe what someone was telling her.

My kid’s too damn smart, Samantha thought. I’d better tell her something or she’s not going to let this go.

“I guess it was just one scare too many sweetheart. Fact is, those people who were experimenting on us? Not the weirdest or even the scariest thing I’ve seen since I joined this crew. Not by a longshot. There are stories I’m just waiting for you to be old enough to understand better ’cause I know you’ll love the hear them. But after awhile, it starts to add up, and sometimes when you’re dealing with a lot of stuff, it doesn’t take something big to throw you off. Do you understand what I mean?”

Naomi’s face was now in ‘I’m thinking, I’m thinking’ mode. After about thirty seconds, she shrugged.

“I think so. You’re stressed. I’ve heard the Doctor talk about stress before. It can be very bad for you.”

“Yes it can,” Samantha said, “but don’t you worry, I’m dealing with it. I’ll be fine.” She leaned over and kissed her daughter on the forehead. “Now, I believe it’s your turn.”

While Naomi deliberated her next move, Samantha went back to thinking about what she had really been thinking about; Seven of Nine, and the attraction to her she felt, and the guilt that that brought along with it.

This would be so much easier if I just knew for sure that Greskrendtregk thought I was dead and had moved on, she thought. I don’t want to cheat on my husband, but I can’t hold on to this hope of seeing him again forever. I wish I had someone I felt I could talk to about this.

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