Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager belongs to CBS/Paramount, and the blighted plot line where Janeway dies is property of Pocket Books. No infringement intended.
A/N: This story is written in response to Audabee’s challenge to write a “Janeway Lives” story in answer to the Pocket Book plotline. There will probably be a follow-up to this in the future—we’ll see.
Summary: According to the Pocket Book novels, Janeway has “died” as the Borg queen and has been taken away by Lady Q. But, where did they go? And what is Janeway doing?
Broken Circle (in the “Full Circle” universe)
Amelia Earhart looked up to see her husband, Fred Noonan, leaning against the doorpost and scooted over to make room for him on the porch swing. “The same nightmare, actually.”
When they’d decided to stay on the Briori planet rather than leave with Voyager eight years earlier, they’d decided to get married and build a house that was similar to what they’d both lived in on Earth in the 1930s, a small two-bedroom bungalow with a wrap-around screened porch and lots of windows for natural ventilation. They found themselves drawn to the porch and its breath-taking view of the wooded river bluffs to the west. To the east, in a broad, flat river bottom, was a landing strip and airport where they spent most of their waking hours.
“The same nightmare, hmm?” As Fred sat down, he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to give her warmth against the cool early morning air. The sun had yet to line the horizon with light and the dual moons had set, leaving a shadowed darkness in the hills that felt gloomy and ominous. “The one about the stasis chambers?”
“That’s the one.” She settled against him, grateful for his patience and companionship. “You’d think I’d have nightmares about gettin’ lost at sea, wouldn’t you? Crashin’ into the ocean out of gas?”
He smiled at her reference to their disappearance from Earth four centuries earlier. Everyone on Earth assumed that they had crashed into the Pacific Ocean, when the truth was that aliens had snatched their airplane from the sky. Even after eight years, he smiled at the ridiculousness of their fate. “Our memories of the stasis chambers are a bit more recent.”
“Not all that recent,” she disagreed. “It’s been over eight years since that space ship landed and woke us up, and in all the years since then I never had any nightmares about bein’ in stasis until a few weeks ago. Why would I start havin’ them now, I wonder?”
“I’m guessing something triggered the memory, maybe even that new airplane we’re about to take up for a test flight. You said yourself that sitting in the cockpit makes you feel claustrophobic. Maybe that’s because it reminds you of being in that chamber.”
“Do you remember being in stasis?” she asked, giving him a sideways look.
“Me, neither.” Amelia shrugged, unconvinced. “I do know that I’m not goin’ to let anything slow down the test flight of that little plane.”
“I’m not surprised.”
Once they had become acclimated to life on the planet, Amelia and Fred had found themselves drawn toward aviation as surely as moths are drawn toward the light. The modern airships that the humans had taken from their captors might have been centuries ahead of the airplanes they’d flown on Earth in the 1930’s, but Amelia and Fred couldn’t care less. They missed the thrill of the more primitive airplanes and were soon building one for their personal use.
One unavoidable difference was that the new planes were equipped with the Briori’s more advanced and powerful engines that made the planes faster and more reliable. Many people on Briori soon learned to enjoy private flight as a hobby because it opened their world in ways they had never imagined possible. They built dozens more of the small ships, and airstrips like the one near Amelia and Fred’s house sprung up all across the western rim of the continent. People used the planes to move quickly from one place to another.
That said, simple flight was never enough to satisfy Amelia’s need for daring exploration. Long distance flight was out of the question, however. The humans occupied three cities on the continent’s west coast, and the rest of the planet was undeveloped. So, Amelia and Fred designed a biplane with short stubby wings and a powerful engine, a design that promised to be one of the best aerobatic planes either of them had ever flown. The plane was only days away from its first real test flight after two long years of development. Amelia could hardly wait to take it up for some real acrobatics.
“Why don’t you tell me about the nightmare?” Fred suggested as the eastern sky began to glow with sunlight. “Sometimes it helps to get the details out in the open.”
“Okay.” She hesitated, gathering her thoughts and picturing herself in the nearby canyons. “I walk up to the ‘shrine’ where the stasis tubes were located and discover that the cave is open, not sealed the way we left it. I walk down through the passageway and into the main chamber. There is barely enough light to see my hand in front of my face, and everything is dark and dusty. I can see that the equipment is still there, but it looks deserted and neglected. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I become aware of a weak glow farther down in the cave, and so I walk toward it. I can’t hear a sound, and the light is so weak that I have to feel my way along, runnin’ my hand along the glass fronts of the stasis chambers.
“I turn a corner and discover an alcove that I had overlooked before. And I see that set into the back side of the main chambers is another one that is also the source of the weak light. Dirt is caked on the glass front, so I walk toward it and begin to rub off the dirt with the arm of my jacket. Gradually, I can see a human form standing in the chamber.” She shivered and snuggled closer.
“Let me guess. You find yourself in there.”
“You’d think that would be it, but no.” She took a deep breath. “It’s that woman that found us all those years ago. Captain Janeway. Except the chamber has run out of power, and she is dead. I stand there staring at her corpse, but then she looks up at me with unseeing eyes and says, ‘Why didn’t you save me the way I saved you?’”
Despite his determination not to react, Fred shuddered. “Wow. I can see why that haunts you.”
“Do you think it’s a message of some sort?”
“A message from who, Amelia?” He gave her a smile. “Voyager must be thousands of light years away by now—maybe even back on Earth.”
“Maybe she died and her spirit has decided to haunt me.”
He laughed. “I don’t think she’s the haunting type.”
“Well, I keep having the dream over and over again, and, frankly, I think I’m about to lose my mind.”
“Everything will settle down once we get that plane in the air. You’ll see.”
“I hope you’re right, Fred. I really do.”
They sat in silence and watched the sky until the sun appeared over the horizon.
* * * * *
One week later
Fred stood on the tarmac waiting for Amelia to return from the third test flight of the Noonan Special, as she called their powerful stunt plane. It was a perfect day for the test, clear skies, with a warm sun and gentle breezes, so he wasn’t worried about her safety. She tended to push the envelope, the way all test pilots do, but he trusted her to back off before she went too far. What bothered him was her refusal to use the radio, even when she was in normal flight. After their disappearance over the Pacific, you’d think she’d be on the radio non-stop.
“Any word yet?”
“From Amelia?” Fred glanced over his shoulder at their mechanic, Josh Halgen, who had just joined him on the tarmac. “Not hardly. When she’s out there in a plane, she has everything she wants right there with her.”
“Any idea where she went today? The last couple of days, she did all those stunts practically overhead.”
“Today, she wanted to do a speed run, see how the power plant held up at high speeds for longer periods of time.” Fred always called the engine a power plant, because it wasn’t the typical gasoline engine he was used to from his days on Earth. As far as he was concerned, the “new-fangled” Briori power source was barely reliable, even though Josh promised him it was much more trustworthy than anything available in 1937.
“I know you don’t believe me, but the engine will do fine. Promise.” Josh gazed into the hazy horizon. “That woman just loves to explore new places, though. No telling what she’s up to.”
“That’s the truth,” Fred laughed, clapping the man on the shoulder. “And you don’t know the half of it.”
It was hours later and the sun was setting before Fred heard the familiar sound of the Noonan Special approaching from the distance. He left the office and was standing on the tarmac again when he saw Amelia swoop down from the thousand-foot approach altitude and buzz the tower. She missed the wind sock by what looked like inches, and the roar of the engine was so loud it nearly shook his teeth out of his head. He kept an eye on the plane as she pulled the stick back for a towering loop and then leveled off right at ground level and landed the plane as smooth as silk. Fred chuckled. He knew that the airport commander would be talking to her about that particular stunt, but he’d given up on chastising her years earlier.
He walked toward the plane as she taxied toward the hanger, shut down the engine, and slid back the canopy. Usually, she took a moment to make some notes on the plane’s performance before she waved at him and climbed out, but not this day. Before he knew what had happened, she was walking past him at full speed, hooking his arm in hers, and dragging him with her toward their office inside the hangar.
“Fred, we have to talk.”
“What happened?” he wondered as he matched her pace. “Is something wrong?”
“With the plane?” She glanced at him and shook her head. “No. The engine was fine. Perfect.”
He tried to slow her down. “I want to look at the wings, make sure they’re okay.”
“You can do that later.” She pulled him into their private office and shut the door, making sure it was locked before she turned to him. “This has to be between you and me for now.”
“What did you do, Amelia?” Fred tried not to panic, but he almost expected to hear what she said next.
“I went over to the shrine site today.”
“You know that that whole canyon is off limits.”
Once the 37’s had been rescued from stasis, the site had been dismantled and the cave sealed lest someone decide to try to “preserve” themselves for a “better future.” However, he remembered that there was a flat area on the top of one of the mesas, big enough for their little plane to use as a landing strip, and he knew that she had landed there to gain access.
“I know it’s off limits, Fred, and I was careful not to set off any of the proximity alarms.” She walked to the water cooler and got a glass of water, sipping it as she collapsed into an overstuffed chair. “I keep havin’ that dream, Fred, and I had to go see the place. I had to make sure it wasn’t a message.”
“Okay.” He leaned against the desk and crossed his arms, giving in to her once again. “What did you find?”
“Not much. From what I could see from the air, nothing has been disturbed.”
“So the cave is still sealed.” He could hear the relief in his voice. “Then you landed the plane.”
“I didn’t want to rely on my eyes alone, not from altitude.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small scanning device. “I climbed down and got as close to the cave openin’ as I could so I could aim this scanner at it for some more detailed information.”
“Good thinking.” He took it from her and studied the telemetry. “I see a faint power signature.”
“I know. I thought they shut down all the equipment and pulled out the power plant.”
“I thought they did, too.” He studied the readout more closely, trying to think of something that might be creating such a signal. “Maybe someone dropped a flashlight.”
Amelia snorted. “And it’s still shinin’ eight years later?”
“Their batteries last longer than ours did, you know.”
“Not eight years, Fred.”
He shrugged. “Maybe it’s some sort of force field or part of the security system.”
“The force field is powered from outside the cave.”
“Oh, yeah,” he grimaced. “So, what does this mean?”
“It means that I need to go into the cave and find out what it means.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “They’ll never let us do that.”
“We have to convince them. We can suggest that some people found a way in—beamed in, like those Voyager people—and are tryin’ to use the equipment. It’s possible.”
“I guess so.”
“Fred, I have to do this.”
He sighed, giving up to her insatiable desire to explore. “I know you do.”
She smiled. “I knew you would understand.”
Before he could reply, the communications system chimed. Fred checked the source and gave her a narrow look. “That’s the airport manager, no doubt wanting to talk to you about that unorthodox landing.”
She grinned and shrugged her shoulders. “Oops. I’ll talk to him.”
Fred listened as the manager lectured her about safety protocols, and he heard Amelia make her usual apologies. However, no matter what she said, Fred knew that his wife wasn’t really sorry for what she’d done. The loop landing was the best stunt in her repertoire.
* * * * *
Two weeks later
The ground car stopped a few feet in front of the security shield’s power source in a cloud of dust. A moment later, six people piled out of the vehicle and presented themselves to the pair of security officers who awaited them. A dozen yards behind the generator, Amelia could see the faint glow of the security shield.
“I’m Lieutenant Liu from Shrine security,” the shorter of the two officers announced. “We’ve checked the shields, and have verified, once again, that there has been no breach of them in the last year.”
“Understood,” replied Janet Grey. As governor of the district, she brushed aside his assurance as a battle already lost. “Are you ready to power down the shield?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Liu and his companion opened the command console on the power source and began to enter codes into the control panel.
Amelia had a look of determination on her face as she watched the officers go about their work. Getting into the shrine was a bigger deal than either she or Fred had imagined. Shrine security dismissed the power signal she’d picked up as an anomaly, and they actually accused her of hallucinating when she described her recurring dream to them.
“Dreams are dreams and have nothing to do with reality,” the security chief had argued when she’d contacted him. “You’re taking all of this too seriously, or, perhaps, suffering some aftereffects from the long period you spent in suspension.”
The security chief had taken her to the governor, who had produced a detailed diagram of the shrine to show her that there was no “alcove around the corner,” as she saw in her dream. In addition, she had pictures of the chamber blown up to near life size to show her that she was imagining things. However, facts didn’t matter to Amelia. She simply would not be denied. She called in every favor she could think of and put her status as one of the hallowed 37’s on the line in order to bring about a reopening of the shrine.
“What are you going to do when they prove you were just dreaming?” Fred had asked her, hoping that the prospect of embarrassment might convince her to give up. “You’re going to lose face with everyone, you know.”
“I can’t worry about that, Fred.” She shook her head in determination. “I just keep hearing Captain Janeway’s voice askin’ me why I didn’t rescue her. I have to try.”
“Okay, then,” he sighed, giving her a weary look. “I know better than to argue with you once you’ve made up your mind to do something.”
One of the things he’d always admired about Amelia was that she had always done what she wanted, no matter what people said about her. She’d been a maverick female pilot while on Earth, and four hundred years had done little to change her. Fred had decided long ago that it was easier to follow her than try to change her course.
They watched as Liu powered down the security shield, and then the group moved across the barren ground toward the cleft in the hill that hid the cave opening. They could see the huge rocks that had been placed in front of the opening to keep people out, even though they were a hundred feet away. Amelia was about to ask how they would get past the barrier when she heard the unmistakable growl of heavy equipment traveling up the valley behind them.
“If everyone will just walk over to that shaded area,” Liu said, herding them to one side of the opening, “we can watch while the crane and loader remove the rock barrier.”
“Such a big deal,” one of the other officials muttered, giving Amelia and Fred a piercing look. “And for what purpose?”
Amelia ignored her. Years of criticism for her “unfeminine” ways and her love of flying had given her very tough skin. She knew quite well that she could be leading everyone on a wild goose chase, but she also knew that she had to follow this mystery to its conclusion or she would never find peace. The dream haunted her, waking and sleeping, and she hoped that seeing for herself that it wasn’t real would help her put it behind her once and for all.
Even in the shade, the bright sun and summer heat were oppressive. After a few minutes, Liu had one of his men produce bottles of cool water from his backpack and distribute them to everyone. Amelia took a long sip and then fiddled with the cap, grateful to have something to do with her hands as the tension mounted. After what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time, the Lieutenant and a few of his underlings entered the opening to make sure that there was no danger of collapse. Minutes later, Liu signaled for the rest of the party to come forward.
Amelia, naturally, took the lead. Her heart was pounding as she entered the familiar cool darkness of the cave. Except for the soft words of Liu’s troops who were busily setting up some portable lights, the cave was eerily silent. Amelia stopped at the entrance to collect her thoughts and let her eyes adjust.
“Cold feet?” Fred whispered as he came up behind her and slipped an arm around her waist.
“Sorta,” she admitted, smiling at him over her shoulder. “I don’t know if I want to be proven right or if I’d rather be proven wrong.”
Liu appeared ahead of them in the half-light. “If I remember your dream correctly, Ms. Earhart, we need to walk past this main bank of stasis chambers to gain access to the alcove that is on the . . . right?”
“On the left.” She moved to his side and pointed into the darkness. “That way.”
“Follow me.” Liu activated his palm beacon and walked into the darkness with Amelia right behind him. “As you know,” he added, “our records do not show an alcove in that area.”
“I know that too well,” she muttered.
The rest of the group hung back, watching the beacon as it progressed along the glass front cases and then disappeared around the corner as the two turned to the left.
Liu stopped dead in his tracks. He had expected to find a solid rock wall, as the pictures and diagrams had indicated, and instead, he found himself looking into a small niche that had been carved out of the solid rock. “That’s odd,” he said to himself. He took a tentative step forward and looked back at Amelia.
“Over here,” she gestured, “behind the row of chambers we just passed.”
Nodding, Liu flashed the beacon where she directed, revealing a single stasis chamber that was attached to the others, back to back. The chamber was dark, apparently inactive, and caked with dust. “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”
Amelia was speechless. As if on autopilot, she stepped past him and began to wipe away the dust with her hands, anxious to find out if there was another lost 37 inside or if she would find the Starfleet captain she’d seen in her dream. When she had an adequate area cleaned up, she stepped back to let Liu shine his beacon into the dark interior. Liu wordlessly joined her, taking her hand in his to comfort her as the tension mounted. The beam pierced the darkness, giving them a first view of what the chamber contained.
At first, they simply stared in disbelief, but then, with a sudden shake of his body, Liu snapped into action.
“Sergeant Marcos! Call for medical help. There is someone in this stasis chamber.”
Pandemonium broke loose as the group still waiting in the large chamber realized that Amelia’s dream had “come true.” Within minutes, medics and engineers were busily opening the stasis chamber while the initial team set up temporary power sources to light up the rest of the interior. For now, all that mattered was removing the person they had found from the stasis chamber, but they knew that they would be spending the next several days trying to figure out exactly how they had failed to find this chamber eight years earlier or whether it had been added in the intervening years.
While everyone was busy carefully removing the body and placing it on a gurney, Fred Noonan edged around the far side of the new alcove so that he could join Amelia, who stood pressed against the far wall, her eyes the size of dinner plates. As the medics raced out of the chamber to the ambulance outside, he leaned down to whisper, “You were right. The officials are horrified to think that they left someone in here.”
“They didn’t,” she said, burying her face in his neck. “They couldn’t have.”
“What do you mean?”
“That person couldn’t have been left here eight years ago.” She pulled back to look at him, and he could see that her face was ashen with shock. “That was the captain in there, Fred. It was Kathryn Janeway.”
For once in his life, Fred Noonan was speechless.
* * * * *
Four hours later
In the hours following the discovery of Kathryn Janeway, Amelia had recounted the details of her nightmare to one government official after another. The story hadn’t changed since the first time she’d told it, yet it seemed that every person in authority wanted to hear it from “the horse’s mouth.” To her frustration, no one was willing to tell her anything about Kathryn’s condition, not even whether she was dead or alive.
Amelia’s anxiety had grown steadily as the hours had passed. Now, as she and Fred sat at a makeshift table in the main stasis chamber, right in front of the ones that had been their “homes” for over four hundred years, she was about ready to explode with fury. Behind them, the government officials were in conference following Amelia’s declaration that she had told the story of her nightmare for the last time.
“I’m through here,” she’d told the most recent interviewer, an earnest young woman who was probably a psychiatrist. “Kathryn Janeway is my friend. We have both walked upon Earth, my home planet, and I declare myself her next-of-kin. I demand to be taken to her at once.”
“I’ll be right back,” the woman had replied, shutting her voice recorder with a snap.
Now that they were relatively alone, Amelia turned to her husband, who was notorious for “overhearing” conversations. “So, what did you find out?”
“Not much. I’m not sure these people know if she’s alive or dead, to tell the truth.” When he saw the look of panic on his wife’s face, Fred tried to reassure her. “You know how good the doctors are on this planet. If anyone can help her, they can.”
“I hope so,” she whispered.
In fact, Amelia’s declaration of kinship had complicated an already difficult situation. In a population of slaves that had been taken from every continent on Earth and deposited on this distant planet, a claim of kinship was more of a choice than a heritage. The fact that both Amelia and Kathryn Janeway had been born on Earth was more than enough to justify kinship according to the precedents established by their forebears.
Lieutenant Liu emerged from the conference and walked toward her like a storm front, with the unhappy interviewer in tow. Amelia stood to face him, having learned from years of flying that the best way to survive a storm was to either land the plane or head in the opposite direction at top speed. Before Liu could say a word, she informed him that they were ready to be taken to the captain’s side. “The sooner, the better.”
Liu stared at her a moment, and then nodded. “She’s being held in protective custody.”
“So she is alive.” Amelia was so relieved that she very nearly sat down again. Instead, she took Fred’s hand in hers and said, “When can we see our kinswoman?”
Liu frowned at her use of the word, but decided not to confront her about it. “This discovery is being kept quiet for now,” he explained. “We want to find out how this happened before it becomes public knowledge and people are demanding answers.”
“I’m not going to tell a soul about her,” Amelia replied. “Who would I tell? I just want her to see a familiar face when she opens her eyes.”
Liu led them out of the cave and into the slanting, late afternoon sunlight. The official vehicle that had brought them to the shrine was gone, and so they piled into a cramped, un-air conditioned military truck and strapped themselves in. When the driver turned west toward the coastal city of La Mer instead of taking them back toward The Grange, the closest city to the shrine, Amelia became concerned.
“Where are we going?” she demanded.
“The woman was taken by air transport to the new trauma center in La Mer,” the driver answered. “It will take us about three hours to get there through the coastal mountain range.”
Amelia sat back with a groan. “She’ll be conscious before we get there.”
“Maybe not,” Fred replied. “In the meantime, let’s try to get some rest. I have a feeling we won’t have much down time once we get to La Mer.”
It was dark by the time they arrived at the hospital. The driver took them directly into the subterranean parking garage where their identification cards were verified and their bodies and belongings were searched. They went through two more layers of security before they arrived at a waiting room on the deserted top floor of the hospital.
“That was an ordeal,” Fred complained as he put his I.D. away for the third time. “They really want to keep Janeway’s existence under wraps.”
“Findin’ her in there is somethin’ out of the ordinary and impossible to explain,” Amelia agreed. “I believe them when they say that alcove didn’t exist eight years ago. So how did it get there? How did she get there?”
“Who knows? It’s all kind of spooky, if you ask me.”
“Yet, it isn’t that much more impossible than bringin’ three hundred humans here from Earth, is it?”
“I guess not, when you think about it. But, their human ancestors were brought here over four hundred years ago. To these people, Briori feels like home.”
“Exactly. I don’t find it all that strange to find her there when I just woke up from a four hundred year nap and found myself on the other side of the galaxy.”
Fred chuckled. “We do have a unique perspective.”
They looked up as a small female doctor appeared at the door.
“Ms. Earhart?” she asked, standing halfway in the room and holding the door ajar. “You are the person claiming next of kin to the individual we found in the caves?”
“Yes, I am. I want to see her.”
“Come with me.”
Amelia gave her husband a quick look, but he shooed her on. “You’re the one who knew her best,” he said, settling back onto the overstuffed chair. “I’ll be here if you need me.”
The doctor led Amelia into a wide, empty hallway. “You’re the person who had the dream about finding someone in the shrine?”
“My name is Marcia Rector.” The doctor stopped and turned to her. “I know you’ve probably told the dream a thousand times, but I’d like to hear it again.”
Amelia sighed and complied with her request, proud of the fact that she had worked the narrative into a brief five-minute story. When she finished, the doctor stared at her.
“Is that it?”
“That’s it. What else were you expectin’?”
“Do you remember, in your dream, anything about the captain’s physical condition when you found her in the stasis chamber?”
“She was dead.”
“Besides that. Do you remember anything unusual about her appearance?”
“Like what?” Amelia asked, totally intrigued by the question.
The doctor frowned, wondering how much she should share with someone who was blissfully unaware of the dangerous space that surrounded them. Four hundred years earlier, when their ancestors had overthrown their slave owners, they had made brief ventures into surrounding space and had become aware of some of the perils in the Delta Quadrant, including the terrifying race called the Borg. However, much of this information had been classified and space travel had become a thing of the past. Protected from detection by their atmosphere, they had lived secluded on the planet, blissfully ignorant of surrounding space.
Dr. Rector sighed and said, “Captain Janeway shoes evidence of a very invasive physical assault.”
“Rape?” Amelia whispered, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Not rape, exactly.” She paused to think. “In your dream, when you see her face, do you recall anything unusual? Any scars or ornamentation?”
Amelia closed her eyes, trying to recall the details of a dream that she usually repressed. The moment she saw Janeway’s face was at the terrifying climax of the nightmare, the moment when she awoke in a cold sweat. She could envision Janeway’s glazed blue eyes, but little else.
“I don’t remember anything in particular.”
Rector nodded and resumed her walk down the hallway toward a room that had two security officers flanking the door.
“There is a race of people called the Borg who take people and augment their physical bodies with machinery,” she explained.
“They often replace and arm or a leg with a prosthetic device designed to do certain kinds of work. And they usually implant a cortical node in the brain that includes input devices that replace an ear or eye.”
Amelia shuddered. “Is that what happened to the captain?”
“Something like that.” She stopped in front of the door. “When she was first examined, we saw evidence of metallic implants throughout her body that had recently been removed—something we didn’t think was possible to do before now.”
“So she looks normal?”
“She has some deep, unusual scars on her chest and in her scalp, but those are rapidly healing. It looks as if she was neatly, even surgically, cut in two just below her collarbone.”
“What’s strange is the way that these scars are so rapidly disappearing—miraculously disappearing. If this healing continues at the current rate, she should be back to normal in a matter of days. And, if any scars remain, we believe that they will be minor enough for our technology to heal whatever remains.”
Amelia frowned, somewhat overwhelmed by what she was hearing. “Should I brace myself for what I’m goin’ to see?”
“Well, what you will see isn’t horrifying. Her head has lumps around the crown that are rapidly shrinking, and the sheet will cover most of the damage done to her chest, shoulders, and back.”
“Is she awake?”
“Not yet. She seems to be under a powerful type of sedation.”
“So you don’t know what her mental condition is?”
“No, and, of course, that is what concerns us.” She stopped and put a hand on Amelia’s arm. “That’s where you come in. We’re hoping that seeing a familiar face when she regains consciousness will help her adapt.”
Amelia nodded. “Do we have any idea how she got here?”
Rector shook her head as she led Amelia into the darkened room. “No clue.”
Janeway lay on the biobed in total isolation. Behind a sliding glass door, a nurse and a security officer observed the room, but the door was closed. Amelia approached the bed and looked down at the woman she’d met eight years earlier.
Janeway looked older, which was no surprise. She had a few streaks of silver in her hair and a few wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and her mouth. Her body, covered by a thin blanket, looked thin, although not as whippet thin as she had been all those years ago. The boniness of her shoulders and neck told her that Janeway was not, by any stretch of the imagination, suffering from the middle age spread that plagued Amelia.
Janeway’s face was unscarred, and yet the skin seemed to have been stretched thin, as if it had incorporated more surface area than normal, and there were strange knobs of bare flesh protruding from the hair at the crown of her head. A vicious scar ran across the tops of her shoulders, glossy scars appeared as shiny discs of scar tissue near the juncture of her shoulder and neck, and puncture wounds gleamed just above the long scar on her chest. Her skin was unnaturally white, yet mottled with faint purple splotches, and her arms and hands were alabaster white, as if completely drained of blood.
Amelia shuddered in spite of herself at the obvious violation that Janeway had endured, and she feared, for the first time, that her friend would fail to recognize her when and if she regained consciousness.
“I warned you,” the doctor murmured as she put a comforting hand on Amelia’s arm. “I can’t tell you if her mind has been assaulted as well.”
“And that’s why you have the armed guards at the door?”
“That’s one reason.”
Amelia sighed. “If there is so much as a shred of the captain’s character remainin’, none of us has anything to worry about.”
“You trust her that much.”
“Yes, I do.”
After a few moments, the doctor offered Amelia a chair near the biobed, muttered a few words of guidance to the nurse, and left the room.
* * * * *
An hour later
The first thing Kathryn Janeway noticed was the relative silence, the complete lack of voices that the Borg queen heard at all times. She fought against a wave of panic and loneliness and focused, instead, on the soft beeping sounds that surrounded her, recognizing them as the familiar noise made by a biobed.
“So, I’m alive,” she thought. “I was rescued.”
She lay still as she struggled to remember the last hours of her life as a Borg, marveling at how quickly she’d succumbed to the song of the hive. Without Seven’s help, she might never have found the strength to bring the collective to an end. It had been a close call, even closer than usual. She was lucky to be alive, and she knew it.
She realized that she owed Seven of Nine an apology. She had always suspected that the drone’s adjustment to “normal life” was a struggle, but now she was intimately aware of how difficult it had been for a fully assimilated drone to give up the comfort and company of the group mind. Even after a few days as the queen, Janeway missed the presence of so many other voices, like a murmuring lullaby, and Seven’s experience would have been more severe.
There was no return, of that she was certain. The Borg as they had existed for millennia were no more, and the threat of assimilation was gone for good. She had done that, with great personal sacrifice, and she would have to learn to live with it. Yes, she had eliminated a threat from the galaxy that had worried trillions of people, but in doing so, she had committed genocide. There was no other word for it.
Her last hours as the queen were a blur to her, as memory often is to those who suffer a trauma. She had been on the Borg cube and had heard Seven’s voice, but then? What? She remembered nothing of her rescue, and she was too exhausted to try. She needed sleep, and so she drifted off once again, without ever opening her eyes.
“Ms. Earhart!” Dr. Rector exclaimed as she rushed into Kathryn’s room. “She was awake!”
Amelia looked up from the recliner where she had been dozing. “She didn’t open her eyes or make a move.”
“Maybe not, but our monitors picked up the fact that she was conscious for a few minutes.”
While the doctor ran some tests, Amelia joined her at Kathryn’s bedside where she studied her friend closely. As far as she could tell, there was no discernable change in the woman’s condition. “It’s a good sign, right? That she’s wakin’ up some?”
“A very good sign.” Rector pulled the sheet back and showed Amelia the rapidly-disappearing scars on Kathryn’s chest. “The healing of these physical wounds is simply unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“It’s like a miracle, first finding her in the shrine, and now this healin’.”
“I guess it might be a miracle.” Rector covered her patient again and took a few more readings. “If the healing of her brain is as dramatic as this is, our worries about her waking up with permanent brain damage might be unfounded.”
“I hope so.”
“As do I.” Rector made a few notes and then turned to Amelia. “You don’t need to stay in here with her, you know. I can get you and your husband some beds on the floor nearby.”
“That’s real nice of you, Doctor, but I’ll stay right here with the captain. I can sleep just fine in the recliner, but Fred would probably like a bed.”
“I’ll go take care of it.”
After the doctor left, two nurses came in to tend to the patient, checking her vital signs, turning her in the bed, and doing whatever else needed to be done. Amelia returned to her chair and watched in solemn silence. A few minutes later, the room was once again dark and silent. Despite her resolve to stay awake, Amelia was soon nodding off to sleep.
Kathryn Janeway, on the other hand, was gradually waking up. She had been aware of voices and of gentle hands on her body, but she was simply too tired and too weak to react. She should thank them for their care, she thought to herself, and would do so as soon as she had the strength to open her eyes.
She slept on until the middle of the night, the darkest hour, before she once again became aware of her surroundings. Amelia had departed some hours earlier to sleep in an empty patient room with Fred, and the nurse who was in charge of monitoring her condition had stepped out for some coffee, leaving a sleepy security officer in charge.
Because of this, Kathryn awoke at a time when her caretakers were busy elsewhere, a situation that suited her. She wanted to acclimate herself to her surroundings, to have a few moments to look around and try to remember how she had arrived in this room and under a doctor’s care.
She lay still, listening to the sounds of the building, quickly concluding that she was not on a starship, but a planet. This was mildly surprising, since she knew she had been in deep space when she was last aware of her surroundings. The biobed’s beeps and clicks were unfamiliar to her; she wasn’t on Earth or in a Starfleet facility. She would have to be careful how she reacted, in case the planet was one that was covered by the limitations of the Prime Directive. The fact that she was clad in a hospital smock, not her uniform, gave her pause, as well.
Five minutes after she awaked, the door to her room opened, the lights came up, and a woman stood over her who was obviously a medical professional.
“I’m Doctor Marcia Rector. How are you feeling?”
“I–,” Kathryn paused to try to clear her throat. Another medical type, probably a nurse, offered her a drink of water, which she sipped as she gave the person a nod of thanks. “I’m not in pain.”
“That’s good.” The doctor spent a few moments going over the biobed’s readings, giving Kathryn a chance to study her.
Rector was one hundred percent human, of that Kathryn was nearly certain. The structure of her hands, the shape of her head, and the features of her face were something that had to be of Earth origin. She decided to ask a provocative question and gauge the doctor’s reaction. “Am I on Earth?”
“No, you aren’t,” Rector replied smoothly, so smoothly that Kathryn was able to relax a bit. Then the woman fixed her with a calculating look. “You don’t know where you are?”
“In a hospital. Somewhere.”
The doctor nodded. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“I was–,” she looked at the doctor, wondering how much she should say, how much this woman and her society would accept of her space-faring experiences and of the Borg menace. “I was on a ship.”
“A space ship?”
“Yes, that’s right.” She closed her eyes as the last awful hours on the Borg cube came back to her. “I was on a mission to defeat the Queen, but–.” Without warning, she felt nauseous. “But everything went wrong.”
“Is that when you suffered the injuries?”
“Injuries?” Her eyes fixed on the doctor’s. “What kind of injuries?”
“It looked to us that your upper torso had been nearly or completely detached from the rest of your body and that some sort of cranial implants had been inserted into the crown of your head.”
“Oh, God!” Tears filled her eyes, and the monitor behind her chirped a warning at her sudden increase in blood pressure. “I thought . . . hoped it was all just a nightmare.”
“I should explain that you are nearly back to normal. Through some miracle, your injuries have not just healed, they’ve disappeared completely. You will be as good as new in a matter of days.”
“Not a miracle,” Kathryn replied. “The Q.” She remembered how the female Q had arrived and led her away from the crumbling Borg cube. What was it Q had told her that day?
“The universe never goes back,” she’d said in her usual haughty voice. “It’s all about moving forward, evolving, the call of destiny.”
“I don’t believe in destiny!” In a panic, Kathryn sat up in the bed, oblivious to the alarms that sounded or the hands that sought to keep her quiet. “I want to go back.”
She struggled against her restraints until the door flew open and a familiar figure entered the room. Kathryn sat in disbelief, unable to say a word, as the woman joined Dr. Rector at her bedide.
“Captain Janeway?” Amelia said, reaching for her hand. “Do you remember me? Amelia Earhart?”
“Captain?” For a long moment, Kathryn stared at Amelia and then looked around the room in despair as reality became clear. “What have you done to me?” she said, speaking into the air. “Where have you left me?”
“You’re among friends,” Amelia replied.
“I’m in the Delta Quadrant.” Kathryn cried out before she collapsed onto the pillows, her head spinning as she began to realize the extent of her situation. “Dear God! I’m alone, in the Delta Quadrant.”
“You have us,” Amelia protested, squeezing her hand. “You’re not alone.”
But Kathryn was no longer listening; she had fainted dead away.
* * * * *
Eight weeks later
Fred Noonan sat at the kitchen table and stared through the house at Kathryn Janeway’s silhouette in the dining room window. “She slept on the porch again, didn’t she?”
“Yeah.” Amelia poured him a cup of coffee and sat down across from him. “She says she likes to look at the stars.”
“I’m guessing that she’s looking in the direction toward Earth.”
“I suppose she is.”
They sat in silence for a few moments before Fred said, “She might as well put it behind her and get on with living. That’s what we did.”
“It’s not the same,” his wife disagreed. “The people we loved died hundreds of years ago. Her family is alive and well on Earth.”
“They are? She knows?”
“When Voyager was here, she compared our calendar to hers. She thinks she arrived here almost the same day she ‘left’ the Federation, maybe even seconds later.”
Fred whistled. “So, they’re all still there.”
“And all still grievin’ over her death.”
“That’s why she’s been asking about subspace transmissions and whether we have space ships and such.”
“I wonder what she thinks about out there.”
“Do you really wonder, Fred?” Amelia laughed. “It’s no accident that the front porch faces toward Earth, is it?” They watched as Kathryn stood up and stretched, no doubt awakened by the smell of coffee. “I think she left the love of her life back there, too.”
“Wouldn’t you know it?” He shook his head. “And the governing council isn’t at all interested in helping her build a subspace radio or in helping her fly off into outer space.”
“I can’t blame them, can you? Not with so much of this planet still to waiting to be explored.” The front door slammed shut, and the two let the conversation lag.
“Good morning.” Kathryn said as she walked into the kitchen. She gave them a hesitant smile and then headed for the coffee pot. “I’m so glad that there is coffee on this planet.”
“Nothin’ like a cup of ambition when you first wake up,” Amelia agreed. “Do you sleep all right out there on the porch?”
“Well enough,” she replied, sitting down at the table. “I think better out there.”
Fred laughed, “And what have you come up with? Or do I really want to know?”
Kathryn made a face and took a deep draft of her coffee. “I’m giving up on building the subspace transceiver . . . for now.”
“You might as well,” Fred agreed. “No one seems interested in talking to aliens.”
“And the space ship?” Amelia asked, marveling at the smooth skin on Kathryn’s shoulders, skin that showed no evidence at all of her injuries. She was still in awe of the Q, the people whom Kathryn credited for her rapid healing and her sudden appearance at the shrine.
“I can dream, can’t I?” she said with a wink. “Until I can figure out a way to get back into space, I’ve been thinking that I should learn how to fly. Would you teach me?”
Amelia was beaming. “I’d love to teach you, Kathryn!”
“We have a whole new world out there to explore,” she said, “and I can’t think of any two women better suited to the job.”
“Can you use a navigator?” Fred asked, joining in on the burgeoning excitement.
They spent the next hour talking about where they would travel and discussing how they would solve the problem of limited landing strips and airplane fuel in the undeveloped regions. No one really knew what discoveries awaited them in the interior of the continent, and, for the first time, Kathryn seemed to be genuinely interested in exploring.
They agreed to meet at the airstrip just after lunch. In the meantime, Fred and Amelia had a few chores to take care of, including getting a suitable training airplane ready, and Kathryn had yet to shower and get dressed.
Later, Kathryn stood in front of the mirror in the guest room, absently brushing her hair, when her eyes strayed to the smooth skin of her chest. She ran her finger along an imaginary scar and leaned forward to look at blue eyes no longer distorted by the filmy cornea of the Borg queen.
The memories had all come back to her. She remembered the sounds of the hive mind, the smell of the cube, the odd feel of the “body” that clamped onto her spine and upper torso when she needed to assume a corporeal presence. She shuddered at the thought of it, at the way she had succumbed to the Collective mind until Seven’s voice had joined her thoughts and helped her follow through on the destruction of the Borg.
Seven’s had been the last friendly voice she’d heard before the Cube had dissolved beneath her feet, the last voice she would ever hear from Voyager’s crew or from her family on Earth.
Kathryn watched in the mirror as tears filled her eyes, but then took a deep breath and bit the back of her hand. The tears would not be stemmed. Giving up, she collapsed on the narrow bed in the guest room, gathered the pillow into her arms, and wept bitter tears, as she had every single day since she’d become aware of her exile.
“Chakotay!” she cried into the pillow, her hot tears soaking the pillowcase. “Oh, God, I’m so sorry. Mom! Phoebe! Chakotay! So sorry.”
In the first days after her recovery, Kathryn had been inconsolable and nearly catatonic with grief. At times, she begged to be allowed to commit suicide, shouting at the top of her lungs that it would be more humane to put her out of her misery than to expect her to live an empty life so far removed from home and the people she loved. At other times, she simply withdrew, watching her caretakers come and go with complete detachment and disinterest, refusing to eat or drink, staring into the sky as if her savior would appear out of thin air.
And, of course, her savior could do that, if Q was of a mind to do so. But he (or she) never arrived when she wanted them, only when it suited their benighted sense of necessity. She realized that Q might never bother with her again, that she was left here on some whim, as if stranding her here served some secret, ulterior motive known only to the Q.
She carried on for several weeks in this manner until, in a dream, she was visited by her Aunt Martha, a woman famous for calling a spade a spade. “Get over it!” her aunt said. “Get out of bed and get on with it.”
Her eyes had opened in surprise, but she’d known the time had come. Her period of grieving (Chakotay called it “nuanka”) wasn’t over, it might never really end, but she had to find a way to move on and live her life. Step one was to accept the friendship that Amelia and Fred offered her and move into the spare bedroom at their house. Soon, she knew, she would be finding a place of her own.
She rolled over on the bed and picked up the double picture frame that Amelia had given her on the day she’d moved into their house. She had found some pictures that had been taken of Voyager’s crew eight years earlier and had put two in the frame for her to keep nearby. One was of Voyager’s bridge crew. The other was a candid shot of herself and Chakotay. She drew a finger slowly over his face, wishing she could reach across the light years to let him know she was alive, wishing she could tell her mother and sister that she would be back, someday, come hell or high water.
“It’s just too cruel,” she murmured, “to be so far apart after waiting so many years to be together.”
Only late at night, when the rest of the house was asleep, would she let her thoughts focus on Chakotay. Although it had been a year since their single night of passion, the memory of their lovemaking was vivid and fresh because she had dwelled upon it so often. They’d talked almost every day via subspace, and she blushed to think that some of the content of their whispered conversations might have been monitored. The sight of his name on the incoming message had been enough to send her pulse racing, and the sound of his voice, soft and caressing as he wooed her, was almost enough to bring her to ecstasy.
She sobbed at the realization that she would probably never hear his voice again, never see his face, never feel his arms around her. New tears erupted as she lay back down on the bed and grieved for all that she had lost. She wished she could find a way to reach out to him as he mourned her “death,” to tell him not to give up hope.
Sometime later, a chirp from her communication badge interrupted her.
She sat up, retrieved the device from the bedside table, and cleared her throat. “Janeway here.”
“We thought maybe you’d gotten lost! Do you want to come down to the hanger and have lunch with us?” Amelia asked. “We have pecan pie—or somethin’ that comes pretty close, anyway.”
Kathryn smiled. Her counselor had obviously warned them about her tendency toward depression, for they seldom let more than an hour pass without talking to her and making sure she was all right.
“You know my weaknesses,” she replied, hiding the despair that threatened to overwhelm her. “Save me a piece of that pie. I’ll be down there in fifteen minutes.”
As she finished dressing and started the short walk down the steep bluff to the landing strip situated in the river bottom to the east of the house, she tried to focus on the future and put aside the sorrows of the past.
“Accept what you can’t change, and change what you can,” she told herself, echoing the advice of her counselor at the hospital.
“Our ancestors went through this same experience, Kathryn, when the aliens abducted them from Earth,” Annaleigh, the counselor, told her. “Our heritage is filled with stories that give expression to the mourning that comes from such a tragic loss. It may seem impossible, but I assure you that time will help you come to terms with your new life.”
Kathryn nodded. “While I know that’s true, it doesn’t make my situation any easier to accept.”
“I didn’t mean that their experiences would make yours any less difficult,” the counselor agreed, placing a comforting hand on her arm. “I’m just reminding you that you can survive.”
“Oh, I can survive,” she agreed, a grim look on her face. “But survival isn’t always enough, is it?”
“I think that someday, you might even be happy again.”
Kathryn simply smiled and shook her head.
The counselor insisted that she become a productive member of society, and Kathryn jumped into her new life with her usual resolve. She would learn to fly, and she would volunteer her engineering and scientific services in any way she could to help improve the quality of life on the Briori planet—power production, transportation, even communication, although the atmosphere seemed to be a serious impediment for that. She would stay busy and endear herself to the people, make them want to follow her as she worked toward a better future for everyone, make them willing to indulge her a few of her dreams.
In her Starfleet career, she had never settled for the first option or the easiest one, for that matter, and she had to believe that she could change the parameters here. There were always other choices. She might be able to justify the building of a subspace transceiver. She might put another rusted truck or a plain old satellite in orbit as a “lighthouse” should any Starfleet vessels return to this part of the Delta Quadrant. She might manage to return to space herself, if she could convince the people in power to expend the time and resources the project would require.
If it was her destiny to live out her days in the Delta Quadrant, she might as well make the best of it for a while. She could always “auger in,” as Fred called it, if her hope of getting home faded away.
She rounded the last turn and strode onto the tarmac with tears still burning in her eyes.
“There she is!” Amelia cried, walking to meet her at the hangar door and putting an arm around her waist. “I have a feelin’ that you’re goin’ to have a big influence on our future, Kathryn. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you find a way to get yourself home one of these days.”
“We’ll see about that,” Kathryn smiled, wiping a last tear from her eyes and raising her chin in defiance. “I’ve beaten the odds before.”