And a Child Shall Lead Them, Part IV

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Kathryn entered the brig, nodding at crewmember Matthews, an indication for him to lower the force field. Like Tuvok, she wandered of the futility of confining the being, he was standing in the middle of the room, his hair disheveled with a rakish look, his eyes a soft violet, the smile of amusement ever present. His emerald green robe pulled behind his left shoulder, his sword sitting in its sheath, resting his hand on the hilt.

Janeway swallowed and entered, her commanding presence forcing the being to stand straighter. The truth known, the formidable women intrigued him. He recognized the air of leadership, and energy she emitted. Her inner strength intrigued him the most. There was a definite glow to her aura. One like the younger creature, but different, the younger creature's aura was borne of innocence, where as this one, hers was borne of strength and compassion.

The being knew she controlled her compassion, perhaps to a fault, but there was little she could do to hide it from him. He was aware she wished to speak with him, he could feel a definite, well-controlled anger emanating from her. Just as he knew, it had more to do with the young creature, than with her vessel.

"I know you can understand me, just as I know you don't wish to harm us. I want you to know we will not harm you either, However I must ask you to return control of my ship back to me. If there were someplace you need to go, your home world, I would be more than willing to assist you. You must know the imposition you have caused us, the people here on Voyager are more than a crew, we are family. As their Captain, I am responsible for them, and as such, I am concerned for their safety. Can you please tell me were is it you are taking us?"

The being stepped close to her and inhaled her scent, her aroma filling his senses, the force of her aura. He was able to detect she was speaking truthfully and his eye softened and held her gaze. He felt her intake of breath and understood her thoughts "My God, he is beautiful" He changed his eyes to the same blue of the young creature, and awaited her response.

Shadows chased through her eyes, her face became pensive, then soften, she recognizing he changed his eyes to that of Sevens. " You know, don't you" her mind speaking, conditioning herself not to use her voice.

The being merely smiled, he placed his hand over her eyes, the images of her life flashing quickly. He learned of all her sorrow the deaths of loved ones and the burden of guilt she refused to release that stole her breath. Then he saw the darkness that engulfed her soul, and quickly released her. Janeway was unaware of what he witnessed, nor the depth of knowledge he consumed of her in the matter of an instance.

Assuming he communicated by touch, she reached out and touched his face in the exact method he touched her. However, the being did not register any images to her and simply watched her in disdain. She tilted her head in resignation aware he would not share a link with her, her mouth flexing in remorse.

The being felt the pain pull at his heart, he firmly grasped her in his arms, the act alarming her for an instant, the strength he emitted soothed and relaxed her and she fell into his embrace. Suddenly the images appeared and she witnessed the form of Seven, a beautiful child with strawberry blonde hair nestled in her arms, the child's eyes a deep sapphire blue. She saw a softness in Sevens eyes and face, one the young Borg never expressed before, she was sitting in a field of grass bleached golden by the sun. She saw when Seven turned, the voice of a man calling out to her, she shaded her eyes from the sun, as her face grew brilliant with a smile, she looked up to his face. As he closed the distance between them, Kathryn saw the man's face and recognized Tom Paris.

He was older, dressed in a blue Starfleet uniform with a red shirt underneath, the four pips proudly displayed on his collar. Their mouths moved as they addressed each other, but the words could not be heard. She watched as Tom reached out to take the child from her, cradling the baby in the nook of his arm, he extended his hand out to her and helped her stand. She stood proudly next to him, both of them looking lovingly at the child she turned her face and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek.

An injured groan escaped Kathryn's mouth, she collapsed in the being's arms, and he cradled her softly and placed his chin on her lowered head, her shoulders shaking violently. Tightening his arms around her, he tried to wash away the darkness in her soul, after a few moments she released herself from his embrace.

The tears glistened her dark and troubled eyes, the being reached out to her again, but she quickly stepped back. The pain creasing her brow, a lump forming in her throat, she silently shook her head no, not wanting the beings touch again. She slowly straightened her shoulders and turned, her raw voice whispering "Thank you." The being walked towards the retreating form and as he touched her shoulder, she was violently shaken from his grasp and fell onto the deck.

The red klaxon sounded its alarm, the being reached to assist Kathryn, who shrugged his hand away and quickly gathered to her feet. Holding her head, an angry welt forming, she slapped her comm badge on her left breast.

"Janeway to the Bridge, Report" her command mode creeping back in.

"Bridge here, we're being attacked Captain. We have another heavenly visitor" Chakotays voice coming over the comm.

"On my way, Janeway out" she looked at the being, her anger flaring, "What do you know about th_" but before she could complete her question the being disappeared in a blinding blue light. Crewmember Matthews immediately crossed the threshold, his face filled with shock and embarrassment for allowing his prisoner to escape.

Janeway turned to him, reassuring "It's all right crewman, there's very little you could have done. Put a security alert out and see if you can locate him" Spinning and walking quickly, she headed to the bridge. She exited the turbolift and was crossing the bridge Voyager rocked by another violent blow. Seven instinctively moved from her station, reaching out to steady the Captain, Janeway shrugged her hand away, grabbing on to the side of the station instead

"Report" barking to the bridge crew and crossing the bridge to her command chair.

"Hull breeches on decks 2,8 and 10, sickbay is reporting two casualties, I have contained all three levels, engineering is repairing them now, warp engines are still offline " Tuvoks voice calm and collective.

"Seven, what's are position?"

"We are in sector 164, an M class system, species 529, human designation Va'larian, primitive life forms, they have yet to develop any form of technology.

"Well, so much for trying to get any assistance from there, looks like we're on our own"

"Lt. Kim, Open a channel."

'On screen now Captain, he is not responding to hails"

Displayed before them on the large viewport and suspended angelically between the dark void of space was another being. His wings fully expanded upward, a brilliant white light emanating from their form. If it was possibly conceivable, he was more beautiful than the one on Voyager. His face appeared younger, almost adolescent, his hair cascaded in curls, a brilliant color of bronze, and it hung loosely past his shoulders. Wisps of unruly curls gracing his cheeks, his garments and armor though styled the same, were all in gold. He carried a triangular shield in his left hand, a crest of dragons and torches displayed in precious jewels of rubies and diamonds. A jeweled broadsword of gold in his right hand, he wore roman centurion boots of gold, laced with silver, a red robe cascading over his left shoulder. His broadsword as he yielded it above his shoulder, emitted arcs of a brilliant white light. His eyes were teal and his delicate pink mouth, formed to a snarl. The brilliant white light from the sword, struck Voyager starboard making her rock.

"Captain, shields are down 75%, weapons are offline, we can't sustain another hit" Chakotays voice booming over the alarms.

"Attempting to divert non-essential life support system powers to the forward shields, now" Tuvok making the necessary adjustments.

"Tuvok, I want to know where our angel is, he disappeared from the brig."

"Security reports, they are unsuccessful in locating him."

"Seven, run ship wide scans and she if you can locate him."

"I am making the adjustments to the scanners now, Captain" the Borg transfixed by the being on the view screen.

"B'Elanna, I need engines online now" Janeway snapping her orders crisply, never removing her eyes from the screen.

"I'm sorry Captain, but they're not responding, we're trying."

"Mr. Paris, can you gain control of the helm"

"Impulse power and all engines are offline, we're just drifting, I'm sorry Captain."

"B'Elanna," Janeways voice barking "Can you give us impulse power to the engines?"

'I am sorry Captain, the engines just will not respond, we are doing the best we can"

"Captain, I have located the Omega parent, he's on the bridge" as Seven completed her statement, a blue glow of light appeared, Voyagers angel materializing on the bridge a few feet in front of Janeway.

She quickly crossed the distance between them "I don't know what the hell is going on here, but I have people dying here, release my ship now and let us defend ourselves", her voice fierce and powerful, a force ten glare staring the angel in his eyes.

"Captain, I have weapons back online" Janeway turning to Seven, a silent look of thanks conveyed to the young Borg.

"Michael," came the ominous voice from the golden being in space, "You are too late, concede to me now and I will spare these beings," his voice taunting.

"You are wrong, and I do not fear you, we have waged this battle before, and I will win again" Voyagers angel responding to the taunt. Their voices the sound of screeching eagles.

Janeway snapped to Harry Kim. "Lt., adjust the translators."

"Trying now, Captain."

'Your Lord is dead, Michael, I took him this morning, he is my servant now" the golden angel spewed.

"Why would I believe you, You are the Carrier of Light, you have existed solely to deceive. Do not dare to taunt me with your words." The archangel Michael shrieked.

"Lt. Kim, I need that translator, now!"

"I'm sorry, Captain, I'm trying" beads of perspiration forming on his brow.

"Captain" the cool Borg interrupting, "I am making modifications to the translators now, I have included the Omega signature to the voice resonance levels." Harry's face relaxing with relief "Modifications are complete."

"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, Stop your attack on us now, or we will be forced to defend ourselves."

The Carrier of Light, curled his lip into a snarl, annoyed with her arrogance and tenacity, "You are either a vain woman, Captain, or a foolish one"

"I have already lost two of my crewmembers I will not lose anymore, if you do not stop your attack, we will fire upon you" eyeing the golden angel defiantly.

The Carrier of Light, hissed at Janeway, "Tell me Captain, are you willing to bring the entire death of your crew, for the sake of Michael, is he worth all of your insignificant lives?"

"There are no negotiations, you will release us, or we will fire upon you," eyeing Michael, conveying she would protect him, "Tuvok, lock on phasers."

"Locking on Phasers, phasers are ready, Captain"

"Fire on will" she barked, the phasers striking their target, their force merely absorbed into the form. The Carrier of Light became enraged, his mouth opening and hissing "You are a fool Kathryn, and I'm tiring of your interference. I am older than time its self I have rendered beings far superior than you have to my will. I have watched as they fell to their knees and begged for mercy, before I stuck them down. It is the arrogance of insignificant beings like you. Which have fueled the fires I have thrived on for an eternity? Tell me Captain, are you foolish enough to believe Michael can save you? I have already slain his master, what is another mere 150 insignificant beings like you to a being like me."

He raised his sword above his head, his brilliant teal eyes turning to pools of black tar, Michael knelt and immediately raised his sword, and he held it in both hands and assumed a defensive block, the blue light engulfing his form and surrounding Voyager. As the brilliant white light struck, it met with the blue, igniting violent arcs of energy, sweeping through the bridge and violently shaking Voyager.

The ship dipped to the stern and spun 90 degrees, the crew thrown from their stations. Holding to the sides of his station, Tuvok was the first to rise, quickly followed by Janeway and Chakotay, the rest of the members following suit. Harry was holding his head, the concussion making him dizzy, Tom Paris was holding one hand over his eye the blood flowing freely, tapping commands with his free hand.

"Report" Janeway croaked her voice weak.

"Backup life support is on line, we've suffered system wide damages, decks 14,19 and 18 have hull integrity damage, sensors and shields are also offline" Tuvok responded, his voice pained from internal body damages.

"Bringing life support back on line, Captain," Harry Kim rasped, before passing out.

"Janeway to sickbay we're beaming Lt. Kim down," Michael disappeared through the viewport, engaging the golden angel in space. Their weapons raised, they struck blows at one another, the lights of blue and white meeting and shaking the space around them. The impact of each clash rocking Voyager violently.

"Hull breeches are contained and sensors, are back on line" Chakotay making adjustments on the Op panel Harry Kim vacated.

The beings continued their battle, their forms moving in graceful winged motions, the energy of their forces lighting the dark space between them. "You can not save them Michael, I feel the love you have for them." Their swords clashing again, "You seem to have grown an affection for the young Borg creature", taunting and baiting Michael.

Michael, ignoring him and concentrating on the battle before him, "Your love for these beings are your weakness, it has always been so" with a rueful evil snarl, he countered Michael's blow. Spinning his form to the left, he raised his wings upward, a beam of light emoting from his eyes, he looked to Voyager, locking on the form of Seven of Nine and struck her in the chest, the impact violently slamming her against the turbolift doors.

Janeway looked to the fallen crumbled form of Seven, Chakotay rushing to her side, her life signs gone, 'I'm sorry Captain, she's dead"

Janeway refused to accept the fate, "Janeway to sickbay, we're beaming Seven down, computer lock on Seven of Nine and beam to sickbay, authorization Janeway, Delta, Beta, Ro" Sevens form dematerializing from the bridge.

Michael shrieked in pain, feeling the passing of Sevens life energy, through his form. "No, I resign you back to the darkness" his sword penetrating through the form of the golden angel, a pained horrific shriek escaping his mouth, the golden angel disappeared into the dark expanse of space. Michael disappearing into a ray of blue light.

"Captain, warp engines are back on line and responding" B'Elannas voice coming over the comm link, her department a flurry of activity.

"Mr. Paris, turn us about."

"Aye, Captain, turning about."

"Captain, what about Michael? We can't just let him leave" Chakotays realizing who the angels were.

"Mr. Paris, put us on hold over the Va'larian planet"

"Chakotay, I can't worry about him now."

"Understood, Captain."

"Doctor to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead, Doctor."

"Captain, I need you in sickbay, it's Seven."

"On my way Doctor."

"Commander, you have the conn"


Janeway climbed into the turbolift "deck 13" her command voice gone. Se leaned against the walls of the lift for support as it ascended to sickbay. The lift bringing her closer to the reality of Sevens death.

She remembered vividly the future Michael showed her, of Seven alive and married to Tom Paris their union baring a child. The hurt and loss of Seven to Tom, was little compared to the pain of seeing her lifeless form on the bridge. "Is this my epiphany, is it meeting the Archangel Michael and Lucifer the Carrier of Light, forcing me to acknowledge the existence of God", she managed to retain those memories from her mothers teachings. "Or is it Sevens death, knowing I was responsible for it, denying Seven a fruitful existence, becoming a mother, a life with Tom Paris"

The doors opened and she forced her command mode back on, entering sickbay and stopping in the archway. Harry Kim exiting, released and ordered to rest by the Doctor, his face pained from the sight of Seven lying lifeless on the biobed.

Swallowing the lump rising in her throat she approached the hologram "Doctor, how is she?" asking, hoping, already knowing the answer.

"I'm sorry Captain, but there was nothing I could do."

Her face distorted in agony, a pained gasp escaping her lips, the tears forming in her eyes. A brilliant light of blue appeared next to the biobed, Michael's form appearing. He reached and touched the heart of the beautiful creature, lying lifeless, her body broken and limp. He closed his eyes, the tears streaming down his face; he turned to Janeway and looked at her, a terrible pained expression creasing his angelic features.

As a flowing tear fell from his face and landed on the lips of Seven, her body convulsed, a breath escaping her lips violently, the bio scanners screeching their alarms. The doctor immediately ran to her side, engaging an isolation field and ordering the computer to stabilize her life signs. Her eyes remained closed, her breathing rasped and pained, her heart weak but beating. Michael stepped through the isolation field unharmed he stood in front of Janeway. A look of alarm present in his crystal blue eyes, now the color of the sky touching the sea.

"I can do no more for her," his voice assuming a natural human form. "She has been struck by the dark angel, I have not been granted the right to heal her."

Janeway through a haze found her voice, injecting the ever-present pain "Then I want to know, Who can grant you that right, I want her back to what she was."

"I'm afraid you do not understand, she can never be restored to what she was, she has been touched by Lucifer, she will never be the same. Only my master can grant her what you ask."

"Then you're going to take me to him, and I will ask."

"I can not grant that, there is something I must do, I must leave now."

"You can't leave her like this, she's an innocent and you had no right to bring us into this."

"I must leave, I am sorry" Michael, disappeared into a flash of blue light, leaving a stunned Captain, staring at the empty space where he stood.

"Janeway to the Bridge."

"Bridge here, Captain."

"Chakotay, I want you to run scans for the Omega parent, he's departed Voyager and I want him found, don't lose him Commander that's an order, Sevens life depends on it "

"Aye Captain, understood, Chakotay out" Chakotays eyes scanned the bridge, the crew immediately performing the scans, that would save their fallen comrade.

"Doctor, how is she?" Kathryn's eyes falling to the vulnerable figure lying on the bed.

"Her life signs are holding, she's suffered considerable damage, it's still to early to say"

"Doctor, do whatever you have to do, but save her. We can't afford to lose her."

"I will do everything under my power Captain, I cannot afford to lose her either, Seven is my friend" the sentient hologram injecting emotions his program was never designed to feel.

Janeway softened her tone, touched by the good Doctors words, "I know what you mean, Doctor. I will be on the bridge, contact me if there's any change"

"I will Captain," his voice soft and gentle, missing the usual sharpness.

Janeway headed towards the bridge, her reserve of strength returning with the possibility of hope, she will track Michael down and force him to heal Seven. If it meant having to chose between Seven living and spending the rest of her life with Tom, or dying and never being close enough for Kathryn to love her from afar, then the choice was simple, Seven must live.

She entered the bridge, her crew frantically tracking for signs of Michael's signature. Tuvok located it.

"Captain, I have pinpointed the signature, to a small village in the center of the Va'larian planet.

"Bring us into orbit Mr. Paris."

"Tuvok, what can you tell me about them?"

"They are a primitive culture, scans indicate no technology signatures, and a violent prone society, similar to earth during 10 AD."

"I See, It just seems to get more interesting, Tuvok gather all the information you can on their customs, garments and laws, make sure the Doctor is informed in case he has to make any cosmetic enhancements to an away team. I'll be leading the team down."

"Ensign Nicoletti, find us a safe spot where we can beam down unnoticed'

'Aye Ma'am'

"Chakotay, Harry you're with me, Tuvok I want a security team escorting us, we'll be using Starfleet protocol for avoiding first contact. Let us be careful, I do not want to disrupt this society any more than what we have to. Away team be ready to beam down in twenty minutes" Tuvok I want you to enter the Omega signature into the transporter array, if we find him I want him beamed to the holodeck designed to contain the Omega signature, it may prevent him from disappearing again.

"Tuvok, you have the conn" exiting the bridge and retreating to her ready room.

"Understood, Captain" Chakotay moved to his panel, downloading the information Tuvok gathered, the crew following her orders in preparation for an away mission.

In twenty minutes the team was assembled in the transporter room, dressed in long flowing robes with hoods, Janeways face covered with a black silk cloth, only her eyes showing. The doctor had altered their eyes dark "V" shaped ridges in a vertical line above the brow. Janeway nodded and they were beamed below to the planet surface, appearing behind a hill, the area wild and desolate.

"This is the safest distance without being detected, Captain" Chakotay and crewmember Matthews scanning the region.

"I understand Commander, have you located him?"

"The signal is a kilometer and a half away, northwest" his hand pointing in the direction.

Looking up to the sky, her hand covering her eyes, she spoke to the team "I say we have a few more hours of daylight left, let's get a move on and I want every one to stay alert, we should arrive just before night fall"

The team arrived as the sun was beginning it's descent, a orange glow engulfing the village square. Harry and Ensign Gaines assigned to secure safe lodgings and food for the members. The Va'larians culture dictated that Janeway remain ten paces behind all male members of her team, her eyes cast downward, avoiding direct contact with any male. She was not allowed to address a male publicly, forced to assume a subservient role, something as a commanding officer she found very difficult. Sequestered in an open barn, with other Va'larians, they found a corner in which to retreat, Harry and Gaines returned with food and information. Janeway was forced to serve them and was not allowed to consume her meal until they finished, forced to sit on the floor, her head lower than theirs.

As she consumed her meal, Ensign Gaines and Harry briefed the team on their findings. The village was in the middle of a festive holiday, the mood tense over the arrival of a religious nomadic orator, whose radical teachings caused a division within the Va'larian culture. There was the elder religious sector that disposed the nomadic orator's teachings. They feared the ramifications of his appearance in their village.

The male members of the team were uncomfortable in their leader assuming a subservient role. Transgressing once or twice before correcting their actions, the acts not going unnoticed by a number of the Va'larian villagers, they were anxious to find Michael and quickly depart the planet.

"Captain," Chakotay looking at Harry, while addressing Janeway sitting on the dirt floor below him. "Scanners indicate Michael is three building away on the second level, the first level is used to store dry goods. There are thirteen Va'larian life signs present with him"

Janeway was not pleased, the Va'larians presence increasing their chances of being discovered. She spoke low and gravely, "We have to get in there. Chakotay, you and Matthews are with me, set your phasers to stun. Harry you and Gaines wait five minutes, then follow, I want you both to secure the outside parameter, make sure no one enters after we go in."

No one answered, Chakotay and Matthews rising, Janeway waiting and following them submissively ten paces behind, her face cast downward, holding the silk scarf to veil her face. The other two members waiting the allotted five minutes and heading towards the building.

As Janeway, Chakotay and Matthews arrived, they fell upon a scene of chaos. A group of ten soldiers cleared the building and were plummeting the figure of a fallen man, blood rushing from his open wounds, his 12 Va'larians companions watching helplessly as he was beaten senseless.

Janeway instinctively moved towards the fallen man, finding her arm in the grasped of a strong fierce grip. She turned towards the offending grasp and found herself staring into the deep blue eyes of Michael, in a complete Va'larian form and clothing.

"Lower your eyes", he hissed, "Or you will find yourself hurled from the nearest cliff" a cloud of hot breath meeting cool air rising from his mouth.

The crowd that gathered to witness the arrest of the nomadic orator turned their attention in the direction of Michael and Janeway. Their anger voicing at her impudence and transgression, they began to form a circle around her.

Michael, took control of the situation, he turned to Chakotay. "Brother, you have failed in your duty to school this lowly female properly, she dares to stand before me and look upon my face. See that you correct her errant behavior and restore my honor to me."

The crowd immediately seized on the new scene and began shouting their protest; having lost their interest for the beaten man whom offered no resistance. Chakotay detecting the violent mood of the crowd fell into his role. "What is it that you deem as appropriate punishment, my brother?"

"Beat her, as our father beat our mother, until she learns her place."

"I will do so. Immediately when we enter our home. I thank you my brother" the crowd accepting the punishment and allowing it was a personal matter between two brothers, a situation better handled within confined walls.

Janeway remained held firmly in Michael's grasp her attempts to dislodge herself failing. "If you value your life and those of your people, you will stop. I have already told you I can do nothing more for Annika," using Sevens human designation. "The man I came for will die tomorrow, I must be ready to receive him or all will be lost. Return to your ship Kathryn, I can not permit you to interfere".

"I'm not leaving, not without getting Seven help, she's dying and I have to save her."

"There are forces at work greater than what you can ever conceive, Annika is expendable, it is this man I must concern myself with."

"How dare you call her expendable" she hissed, "You're no different than the Borg and Lucifer. She isn't insignificant, she's a living being whose life you put in jeopardy when you dragged us into this little drama against our will" she spat out to him.

"You dare to compare me to Lucifer and his soldiers? You see with your eyes but not with your heart. I cannot save her, It is not within my power to do so, and you must seek your answers elsewhere. You must leave here and return to Voyager, leave this system now and do not return"

"I can't do that, if you don't help her, I'll beam the Va'larian orator to Voyager, we've already locked onto him, I understand what's going on here, the orator will never see his crucifixion"

"Kathryn, it is not within your power to change the inevitable. Look to your heart for the answers you seek" with a sweep of his hand, the entire away team disappeared from Va'lairias surface, reappearing on Voyagers bridge, much to the amazement of Tuvok and the rest of the crew.

"Tuvok, I want you get a lock on to the Va'larian orator and beam him onboard" Tuvok as is customary of any away mission, was monitoring the teams encounter and aware of the situation, locked on to the orator's form.

"I have a lock Captain."

"Beam him up, Tuvok" before the Vulcan could engage the transporter, Michael appeared before Voyagers viewscreen, his form equal to the size of Voyager. "I have warned you, Kathryn, You will not be permitted to interfere" He held out his palm and inhaling deeply, he expelled a deep breath on to it. Voyager found itself swept into the force, traveling deeper into space, sailing past systems and propelling them away from Va'laria.

"Report," she barked holding onto the arms of her command chair.

"We're at warp factor 21, 22,23,24 Captain I can't."

"It's alright Tom, we've been through this before."

"Captain, Hull integrity is holding, we have covered 9.5,000 light years and still counting, we're are still on course for the Alpha quadrant" Tuvok raising a quizzical brow in astonishment. Voyager continued rapidly as systems folded and unfolded before them, until finally it slowed down to a stop.

"Report Commander" her eyes never leaving the viewscreen.

"Captain, I..." elation and astonishment in Chakotays voice, Janeway entered commands into the panel near her, her jaw dropping in place. Tuvok and Nicoletti both stared at the panels in front of them, no one on the bridge able to find their voice.

Tuvok cleared his throat, "Captain we are 4.5000 light years away from the Alpha quadrant."

"Five years from home" Janeways face a mixture of sorrow and awe. The entire bridge erupted in a shout of joy, as the impact finally settled in.

"Five years from home, Kathryn, not 50, but 5" reaching out and holding her hand, Kathryn allowed the touch, needing assurance it wasn't a dream. The sudden realization of a bitter sweet mixed blessing, the were now five years away from home, but any hope of saving Seven was lost.

As three months passed Voyagers, crew was a mixture of elation and anxiety, as home becomes a more obtainable reality and communications with the Federation increased to daily communiqués. The Federation ordered the USS Enterprise on a 2.5 year intercept course with Voyager, they were to escort Voyager safely home.

Apprehension of some of Voyagers Marquis members ranked high, B'Elanna Torres being one of them. The Chief Engineer no longer had a home or family to return to. For the past six years, Voyager was the only home she knew. The fact that her friend Seven of Nine had not regained consciousness and still remained in sick bay did not help.

Every day after completing her shift she would visit Seven and tell her of her day, or old Klingon stories her mother once told her as a child. The Doctor encouraged the visits, seeing little harm and hoping it was enough to keep Seven fighting longer, recently he discovered some rather disturbing facts.

At times B'Elanna was joined by Tom or Harry, they would touch Seven and offer her words of encouragement. Tom Paris began visiting frequently, having grown found of Seven and feeling guilty that the journey home cost her so dearly.

Kathryn could not find the courage to visit Seven, much to the dismay of her senior crew; she sequestered herself in her ready room, rarely taking command of the bridge, never taking her sparse meals in the Messhall and avoiding all of Neelix's parties. She stopped roaming the hallways as she often did and began neglecting her health.

She turned most of the ship's responsibilities to Chakotay, appearing on the bridge only during her daily communications with Starfleet. It was at the doctor's behest and finally threats of removing her from command, when she finally began taking meals again.

The senior staff was assembled in the ready room, reporting on their prospective departments. The EMH Doctor was patiently waiting his turn, his thoughts on a topic that left him with a heavy heart. The EMH Doctor was a hologram that was activated during Voyagers first year in the Delta quadrant after the ships doctor was killed in an attack on Voyager. Over the past six years, the Doctor exceeded the parameters of his programming and was granted sentience by Janeway with full crew privileges.

For three months since Voyagers encounter with the archangels Michael and Lucifer, Seven remained in a coma, the result of an attacked by Lucifer in an effort to dissuade Michael from venturing to the planet of Va'laria. Lucifer killed Seven and it was Michael's tear that clutched her back from the jaws of death, the damage was extensive and severe, Michael was unable to restore her completely and left Voyager in pursuit of Va'laria.

Janeway against Michael's advice pursued him in an attempt to fully heal Seven. On the surface of Va'laria, she attempted to interfere with the crucifixion of Va'lairias Christ. Forcing Michael to propel Voyager across the Delta quadrant, bringing them five years away from home, as far from Va'laria as possible, a gift of mixed blessings.

Chakotay was reporting the latest failures on finding the being, once Voyager located an Omega signal but was unable to pursue it for long, the direction taking them in the opposite direction of home and against Starfleet orders.

"Captain it has been three months and we have not come any closer to finding him, we cannot continue to subject the crew to this, we need to move on". The room went suddenly silent, the rest of the staff silently disagreeing.

"I'll take your request into consideration, Commander" her voice cold and dangerous.

"Doctor, anything new?" asked Janeway, hoping the doctor had a breakthrough, some good news regarding Seven. Janeway had been in a state of depression since the fateful encounter with the beings

The Doctor cleared his throat, swallowing an imaginary lump settling uncomfortably "Captain, about Seven."

"Do you have anything new Doctor?" her voicing begging for a miracle.

"Captain, I." hesitating "I. Well, I think we should consider placing Seven in stasis."

"Stasis, Doctor, why?" Janeway waiting for a further explanation.

'Its her nanoprobes, Captain, They're breaking down and becoming dormant, I tried to reintroduce new ones, but they seized functioning as well. I recently had to remove more of her Borg implants, she's more human now than she was before, only her cortical implant and facial starburst remain."

"Doctor, why didn't you mention this sooner? Janeways face dark and brooding, her displeasure voicing through.

"I did Captain, I put it in my daily reports, I thought you knew".

Janeways face fell; B'Elanna winced at the doctor's final statement. With a heavy heart and pained voice Janeway continued. "When do you want to do this."

"I strongly recommend we wait no longer than tomorrow" the doctors anguish evident.

Chakotay let out a long breath "Captain, there is another option", Janeway staring at the empty seat across the conference table where Seven always sat, was startled "Commander?"

"You may want to let her go, Kathryn" the Captains face flinched, his words having the affect of a slap.

'That's it, Cha-ko-tay, just like that, let her go without a fight!" the words being spat out from B'Elanna, Janeway unable to find her voice and stop the Klingon.

" B'Elanna," Chakotays wrought with compassion and understanding, "I know that you and Seven were friends, but I think we should consider what Seven would have wanted. I do not think she would want this. We have no way of ever finding this being again. How long should we keep her this way? it just isn't humane, we should release her spirit"

"Pe'twah" she hissed, What the hell would you care about her spirit, you never liked her to begin with"

Chakotay was wounded by B'Elannas words, his forehead frowning, the tattoo crinkling deeply, "B'Elanna that's not true, I've come to respect and admire Seven. But we can't continue searching for the being anymore, we have the rest of the crew to consider, we have to set a course back to the Alpha quadrant," his voice becoming quieter and gentler, we have to resume our lives, you have to let her go."

B'Elanna stood from her chair her anger peaking, her voice a deep growl, "So why let her die, Chakotay! Why not let the doctor place her in stasis until we reach the Alpha quadrant, it's only five years away, they might be able to help her, or do you have an ulterior motive in seeing Seven die", B'Elanna turning her eyes to Janeway.

Janeway was unsure how long it was that she sat there unable to speak, but sensing B'Elannas glare she regained a semblance of her senses. She forced her command mask back on. "Enough Lt. Sit down," the Klingon hissed and threw herself down in the chair.

Janeway forced herself to look at her first Officer, "Chakotay, I think we should do as the doctor ask, I'm not willing to give up hope just yet."

"Kathryn" Chakotay ventured cautiously, "It's not your place to decide that, can you honestly say she would want this?" There no doubt this was a spiritual encounter of massive proportions, we should not disregard the divinity involved here, Omega was Sevens deity, you need to consider the spiritual side of this and respect it".

"Spiritual side, my Klingon a_ _,". "Lt. Enough," Janeway barked her mind a disarray.

"Commander I will consider your argument." "Doctor how long can Seven remain this way?"

"Honestly Captain, you aren't considering the Commanders suggestion are you?" the doctor angry now, "As a medical doctor it is unethical for me to participate in this, To the best of my knowledge Seven never voiced an opinion in this matter. I am obliged to uphold life not destroy it, you have no right to make this decision for her."

Chakotay added kindly, "Doctor, You said it yourself, from your own diagnoses she's dying anyway."

"That may be so Commander, But as a Doctor, I must do everything under my power to prolong it, until we can find a suitable cure" his voice as icy cool as a Borg.

Janeway held her hand up to prevent Chakotay from continuing the words cutting like a knife

"Doctor, please do not tell me what I do and do not have a right to do, and please for once answer my question" her voice edgy and lacking patience. "How long?"

The Doctor pursed his lips in a disgusted curl "I can't say for sure, but another 48 hours at the most"

The Captain finding the doctors tone offensive immediately replied "This meeting is over, Doctor I will contact you with my decision"

"As you wish," all of the respect had gone from his voice.

"It is" she injected frostily.

It was all the Klingon could take, she leapt out of her seat, her rage seeping through, shouting accusingly at the Captain "Your not serious, who gives you the right to decide whether she should live or die"

The members had already risen from the chairs and froze in their place at B'Elannas outburst, each secretly admiring her courage. Tuvok concerned remained behind, attempting to calm the Klingon down. "Lt. Your behavior is illogical, becoming angry and indignant will not change Sevens situation."

"Oh Shut up Tuvok, this is between the Captain and me" B'Elanna spat at the Vulcan.

Janeway turned to Tuvok "Leave us alone, I wish to speak to the Lt. privately." The Vulcan merely nodded his head and exited the conference room.

Janeway stood staring at B'Elanna, "B'Elanna, I know your upset over this and I understand, but I can't have you speaking to me this way in front of the crew. You and I have had our differences before, but you have always respected me as I you. I will not permit this, especially in front of the rest of the staff."

"Permission to speak freely, Captain."

"You mean you haven't been? Janeway added sarcastically.

"How could you sit there and listen to this, when what we should be doing is finding a way to help Seven?"

"Lt. we have exhausted every possible means, I've gone against Starfleet orders in an attempt to track Michael, an order that set us back three months. Chakotay is right we can't continue our search any longer, it isn't fair to the rest of the crew, we need to move on."

"Fine then why not place Seven in stasis, why listen to Chakotay?"

"He makes a valid point B'Elanna, what can we hope to achieve? Starfleet does not have any answers; they have exhausted the finest medical minds on this. We need to consider what Seven would have wanted in this situation."

So, that is it? It is as simple as that? You will let Seven die, then continue on your way as if nothing happened? Kahless, are you that cold?" she snorted in disgust "And I called her the ice Queen, in the short time I was her friend, even I could her greatness, you were suppose to protect her, it's your fault for bringing that bastard on board".

"Lt. I gave you permission to speak freely not to insult me. I'm your Captain, and you may not like my decisions, but they are mine and mine alone, it will be my cross to bare and I accept full responsibility for it."

"My Captain" the words spat in disgust, "Hell you're barely human, your nothing but an empty shell hiding behind your command, she loved you, are you even aware of how much? Even when you rejected her, she still placed you above all. To think she felt she wasn't worthy of you, when you're the one that's not worthy of her."

Janeways face blanched, the words hitting hard and home "Lt. I'm removing you from command and confining you to your quarters. It's obvious your distressed over this matter, take the time to pull yourself together and come to terms with it"

"Do Not bother Captain" she spat out and removed the two gold pips from her collar, placing them on the table.

"At one time I would have followed you to death for a Klingon there would have been no greater honor. I once respected you, your tenacity and your reverence for life, but the Captain I knew then and the one you are now are not the same. You are nothing but a coward. It would be easier for you and your command to let her die. I'm sorry but in good consciousness I can't follow you anymore."

Janeway swallowed the lump in her throat, her voice raw and cracked "Your dismissed, Lt."

"With pleasure, Captain" B'Elanna stormed and exited the conference room, marching into the turbolift and heading towards sick bay. Determined to spend the last hours of Sevens life by her side, hoping Janeway would attempt to stop her, her blood rage demanding revenge.

Continued on part V

Continue to Part 5