CUP – Chapter 10

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

By mizvoy

Part 10: Suspicions

When Seven of Nine beamed into the Lake George transport center, she was stunned at how harsh the weather was. She had spent most of her life in space, living in the controlled environment of a starship or a Borg cube, and had yet to reconcile herself to the wide range of severe storms that regularly scoured Earth’s surface.

This was the worst storm she’d seen, however. Rain slashed against the windows, driven by a relentless wind that also bent the trees nearly double and turned gravel and other loose objects into deadly projectiles. She gave the transport operator a perplexed look.

“Is this weather typical for this region and season?”

“It’s a nor’easter, which have plagued the eastern North American coast for centuries,” the man answered with a shrug. “They’ve come back worse than ever since the Breen destroyed the weather net.”

“It is impressive.” Seven frowned, suddenly unsure of what she should do next. The wind and rain had rendered impossible her plan to walk the few miles to the Janeway cabin, but she wasn’t sure whether public transportation available for her use instead.

As if reading her mind, the man continued, “I’d suggest getting a room at the lodge next door until tomorrow morning, at least. With luck, the storm will blow over and you can go where you want without risking your life in the process.”

“I already have a place to stay,” she replied. “I’m joining my husband and our friend at a cabin just north of here. They arrived earlier for an afternoon sail, but I’ve been unable to contact them.”

The man narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her words—her husband and a friend? Could it be that this friend was actually her husband’s was lover? He kept his voice non-committal. “Communication’s always bad during these big storms. Are they staying at the lodge?”

“There would be no need for that. Our friend, Kathryn Janeway, owns a cabin here, and I feel certain they’ve taken refuge in it.”

“The Janeway place, eh?” he rubbed his chin. He’d been on duty when Janeway and a tall, dark, and handsome man had arrived earlier in the day. From their easy banter and constant teasing, he had assumed that they were romantically involved, and while he might be mistaken, he didn’t think so. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d seen a husband come to the lake with someone other than his wife. The only difference this time was that the girl friend was older than the wife.

He cleared his throat. “I was working here when they beamed in. You say he’s your husband?”

Seven nodded.

“I see.” He paused, wondering if this young wife suspected what might “really” be going on between her husband and their friend. He had lived in this vacation spot long enough to tell when a couple was looking for a secret hideaway, and he worried how such a young, innocent-looking wife would react when she interrupted what was probably “going on” at the Janeway cabin. He expected that she would be shocked and angry, and he worried that she might do something rash.

“I don’t mean to interfere, ma’am, but it would be best to contact them before you drop in unannounced.”

“Waiting for communications to be restored would be anunnecessary delay,” she disagreed. “Perhaps I could rent a vehicle and drive to the cabin?”

He gave her a wary look. “Driving in this weather can be tricky for someone who isn’t used to it. If you don’t mind waiting until my shift ends, I’ll drive you to the cabin myself.”

“That’s very kind, but I don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“No problem,” he insisted, turning back to his console. “My home is in that direction, so the Janeway place isn’t really out of my way.”

“Very well, if you insist.” She was secretly relieved. “Thank you.”

While the man worked, Seven took a seat in the waiting area and watched the storm continue its devastation. From the building’s bay window, she could see whitecaps on the lake and heavy waves crashing against the shore, sending water spray high into the air. Only a few vehicles crept down the rain-filled roadways, and no pedestrians risked being hit by the debris that flew by at lethal speeds.

Seven turned to the clerk. “I don’t understand why my husband would want to go sailing in weather like this.”

The man smirked, wondering if the woman’s husband had been sailing, at all, but deciding not to plant doubt in her mind just yet. He replied, “You wouldn’t think so now, but we were having an unseasonably warm and sunny day until late-afternoon, perfect for a sail. This storm raced in with a speed that caught even the meteorologists by surprise.”

“Why is that? Weren’t they monitoring the storm?”

“Yes, but the climate hasn’t settled down since the weathernet was destroyed.”

“I hope Chakotay and the admiral weren’t caught out on the lake.” She studied the roiling water with concern. “Is there any way we can check?”

“The shore patrol always does a scan of the lake’s surface and provides assistance where needed.” He leaned on the counter and smiled to reassure her. “And anyway, if they were in distress, it’s all over by now.”

“I will be relieved to know for sure that they are unharmed.”

“Yeah, I bet you will.” He winced as a particularly vicious gust of wind shook the building. “People got used to the Nor’easters being less violent, but nowadays, these storms blow in fast and furious, worse than anything any of us ever saw before. Some people think we shouldn’t replace the weathernet and let things stay ‘natural,’ but storms like this make me think we’re better off having it.”

“I think you are correct.”

“For what it’s worth, I’m sure your husband or your friend had enough sense to keep track of the weather. Most boats are pretty well equipped these days.”

“No doubt you are right.”

“I’m sure they sought shelter when the clouds boiled up like they did.”

Seven nodded and fell silent as the clerk turned his attention to several groups of disgruntled tourists who were making their way back to their homes. She used this period of solitude to work out the details of the plan that she’d been working on since her talk with B’Elanna earlier in the day. She had been discouraged when her friend had doubted that her research into removing her implants would work and had nearly been overcome with despair. She was convinced that the procedure could work, however, and soon decided to move ahead without any further delay. Knowing that her problems would soon end, one way or another, her mood had brightened.

The plan was quite simple. She would disable the EMH’s ethical subroutines so that he would perform the procedure without hesitation, and she would activate a holographic assistant to help him. The most challenging part of the task would be breaking into the appropriate surgical center in San Antonio and completing the process before security noticed her presence or the clinic’s staff reported for work. She was confident, however, that she was equal to the task.

Her only remaining uncertainty was the timing. She wondered whether she should wait until after the conference on Jupiter station had ended, or whether she should forego the conference and do it immediately.

She smiled to herself, imagining how pleased Chakotay and the admiral would be when they saw her without her implants, restored to purely human form, free at last of the cumbersome, hateful machines that riddled her body. She decided that she didn’t want to wait any longer. Perhaps she should let everyone think she’d gone to the conference while she sneaked away to San Antonio, instead.


Seven looked up to find the clerk studying her with a perplexed look on his face. “I beg your pardon?”

“I asked if you’re sure you want to go out into this storm, but you must’ve been off gathering wool.”

She frowned. “Gathering wool?”

“Daydreaming, then.” He gave her a wink.

“I was thinking about the tasks I need to accomplish in the next few days.”

“No problem. I was just wondering if you’re sure you’re ready for the weather?”

“I am not afraid of getting wet, if that’s what you mean.”

“All right then, my replacement is here and my shift has ended.” He handed her a poncho. “You’ll need this out there.”

“Thank you.”

“Let’s get going.”

The short walk from the building to the parking lot exposed them to the full brunt of the storm. By the time Seven was seated inside the two-person all-terrain flitter, she was soaked to the skin and her hair had been whipped out of its elegant French twist and into a tangle that covered her eyes. She wondered what good the poncho had done, since she was soaked to the skin.

“By the way, my name’s Joe Whitby,” the man said as he slammed the door shut and activated the engine. The car rocked slightly in the wind while he checked the gauges and used a towel to dry his hands, face, and hair. “And you are?”

“Annika Hansen,” she answered, smoothing her wet hair back from her face and securing it behind her ears. “I’m sorry to get you out in this weather.”

“Oh, I had to get out in it to get home, anyway. My cabin is down the lane and around the corner from the Janeway place.” He backed out of his parking slot, the wipers working furiously to keep the windshield clear. “I’m going to take my time, though. There’s likely to be trees in the road and high water in a few places.”

“I’m in no hurry.”

Seven could see that the weather was not conducive to any type of ground transportation. Whitby was careful as he negotiated their way through the flooded streets and took detours around obstacles that filled the roads, including tree limbs, trash receptacles, and anything else that hadn’t been tied down.

As he drove, Whitby watched the calm woman next to him with a great deal of curiosity-another wife seeking out a wayward husband. But there was something familiar about this woman, something about the shiny implant over her eye.

He’d ask his wife, when he got home. She teased him about his tendency to gossip about his work, but he found these emotional tangles fascinating, dramatic, and often tragic. Annika Hansen wasn’t the first wife he’d seen betrayed by a wayward husband, and she wouldn’t be the last, with human nature the way it is. There were some things that simply never changed.

He wondered how she would react. Would she be the type who had long since resigned herself to her husband’s habits? If so, she would probably handle the proof of her suspicions pretty well. But if she was one of the innocent ones, the ones who suspected nothing, the she might be upset and emotional. He was curious about the drama that was being played out right before his eyes. Nothing short of another Breen attack could have driven him from accompanying her; he was anxious to find out the truth.

Unbeknownst to him, Seven of Nine would have found his thoughts amusing.

The truth was that she was not an innocent young wife, by any stretch of the imagination. She had spent her formative years in a Borg maturation chamber and her youth as a drone, and she shared memories with thousands of other drones which told her all she needed to know about the vagaries of human relationships. In fact, her attitudes and expectations about marriage itself were far from traditional. She was not so naïve as to believe in an exclusive sexual partnership, nor did she think that total fidelity was normal for human nature.

She was secure in her connection to both Chakotay and the admiral, and wouldn’t feel threatened if their friendship evolved into a physical one. In fact, she might actually be relieved to have the Admiral assume the tedious intimate duties of the marriage bed.

She loved them both and was quite certain that they both loved her—and that they loved each other. They were a family, in her mind, a separate collective. She longed to have an equal bond between all three of them.

She wondered, once again, why physical intimacy reserved just for her and Chakotay? Why couldn’t Chakotay and Janeway be intimate with each other? Why couldn’t she be intimate with Janeway? Her questions on this matter, addressed to the doctor, to her husband, and to Janeway over the last year had never really been satisfactorily answered. They all replied that marriage implied fidelity, as if that explained everything. It didn’t. Seven was unhappy with things the way they were and was determined to bring about a significant change.

“Most unsatisfactory,” she said to herself.

“What?” Whitby asked, her words muffled by the wind that howled around the vehicle. “Is something wrong?”

“Everything is fine. I was just thinking out loud.”

“Well, this is the time and place for that.” Whitby pulled the small vehicle into a narrow lane that ended at the back of the Janeway cabin. To her right, Seven could see the churning surface of the lake and looked for the small dock that the Janeway’s used for their boat. However, she saw nothing along the shore and guessed that the dock had been swamped by the wind-driven waves. There was no sign of the boat, however.

“Maybe they put the it in the boathouse,” Whitby commented as he saw where she was looking. “I think they must have made it to the cabin, because there’s smoke coming from the chimney. That’s a good sign.”

“Yes, it is.” Seven silently pushed the door of the ATV open and stepped into the maelstrom, holding her hair out of her face with one hand and protecting her eyes from the blowing sand particles with the other. The smoke and a flickering light in the windows were the cabin’s only signs of human habitation. Slamming the door, she circled the car and fought her way up the walkway toward the cabin’s front porch. Whitby followed her at a discreet distance, curious to observe what was about to happen.

The porch protected them from the worst of the wind. After a brief pause to restrain her hair, Seven opened the unlocked front door and stepped into the foyer; Whitby was right behind her.

The cabin was cool and dim. All they could hear was the sound of the storm’s wind and rain as it swirled around the building. The entire left wall of the great room consisted of a stone fireplace, and they could see that the dying flames were responsible for the low illumination as well as a couple of candles that burned low on the mantel.

She took another step into the room and was about to call out a hello when she noticed that the sofa had been pulled close to the fire and that several of its cushions tossed onto the floor behind it. With another couple of steps, she saw a man and woman cuddled together on the sofa-Chakotay and Kathryn Janeway, fast asleep in each other’s arms.

Seven came to an abrupt stop, and, with an audible gasp, stared at the sight before her. In a moment of clarity, she understood what it was she had been missing in her life, what she sought from these two people who meant so much to her. She felt no jealousy toward them, only acceptance. In fact, she experienced an odd sense of satisfaction as the shadow of a memory from her childhood washed over her.

Although the small ship Raven had been the Hansen family’s residence for nearly a year, Annika, age five, did not think of it as home and was not always happy with her life there. She spent long hours alone while her parents pursued their research, and she had sensed in them a growing concern about the strange beings that they studied.

“I want to go home,” she told them every few weeks. “I’m tired of being on the ship.”

“This is home,” her mother assured her. “Wherever we are is home, Annika, as long as we’re together.”

During their waking hours, when her parents were with her, Annika managed to repress her loneliness, caught up in the excitement that radiated from her parents. She loved watching her father work and was thrilled when he talked to her about it, listening with rapt attention, hanging on his every word. She took comfort from their tranquil reassurances and felt secure in their calm confidence.

It was during the night that her demons assaulted her. She woke up from a familiar nightmare, the day after her father arrived from an extended stay on a Borg cube, hiding from the drones in a maturation chamber with fifty-two neonatal drones. Her mother had been nearly frantic with fear, and Annika had been deeply affected by her mother’s repressed emotions. That experience made this dream particularly disturbing, and so she crawled out of bed, seeking company and comfort.

She was surprised to find the working area of the ship empty. Normally, one of her parents remained awake while the other rested. Curious, she crept through the strangely silent deck toward her parents’ sleeping cubicle on the far side of the ship. She reached the door and opened it without bothering to use the chime, and so she’d caught them unawares. Of course, she knew that they shared a bed and had even awakened them on many mornings when they’d slept in. But this time, perhaps because of Magnus’ close call on the cube, everything seemed different.

This time they were sleeping while in each other’s embrace, intimately intertwined as if afraid of being pulled apart. Annika could feel the peaceful love radiating from them and surrounding her, including her without question, and she had wanted nothing more than to join them, to nestle into their arms and experience the security, the sense of family, that made her otherwise dreary existence worthwhile.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she placed a hand on her father’s shoulder, and he’d turned and pulled her into the warmth of the bed, snuggling her between them while her mother kissed her hair and pulled her head close. She’d drifted off to a dreamless sleep, sheltered in the security of family, blissful in the happiness of family. Loved. Cherished.

She realized, with a moment of clarity, that her feelings toward these two people were the same feelings she once felt for her parents. For a moment, she considered crawling onto the sofa with them and settling down between them like child. She might have done so except that she was so aware of Joe Whitby, who stood right behind her, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Too bad,” Whitby whispered, putting a hand on her shoulder. “I was afraid of this.”

“Afraid of what?” Seven whispered back, frowning in confusion, her heart still brimming with love for her surrogate parents.

“I was afraid we’d find them shacking up,” he gave her shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. “Should we wake them up?”

Seven turned to face him, wondering what his quaint term “shacking up” meant and wanting nothing more than to have him disappear and leave them alone.

Then she realized that she could use the situation to her advantage. Since the sleeping couple was unaware of her presence, she could leave at once and go to San Antonio without having to explain why she had to leave so soon. She could undergo the procedure that night, and, with any luck, return the next day and surprise them.

“We’ll let them sleep,” she pronounced, moving toward the door. “I have somewhere I must go.”

Whitby nodded and followed Seven out of the door, closing it quietly behind him. They stood on the porch, confronted once again by the raging storm.

“I would be very grateful if you could return me to the transport station.”

“Whatever you want, Annika.” He hurried through the wind to the ATV, feeling sorry for the woman and marveling at her calm composure when faced with her husband’s unfaithfulness. In the relative quiet of the car’s interior, he said, “I imagine you have things to do.”

“I’m going to do something I should have done long ago, something that will make everything all right.”

“More power to you.” Whitby powered up the vehicle and headed back toward the village in silence.

Chakotay and Janeway slept on, blissfully unaware of the firestorm that was about to engulf them.