Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount. Please don't pick on me. I'm just giving them the life you suck out of them. (9-15-98 2-15-99) Whoa, five whole months to finish.
I could kill Lorinat. Son of a bitch woke me up a little after three a.m., telling me he had the best news ever. My husband's arm was over my waist, effectively pinning me down to the bed. I struggled to get some measure of equilibrium back in my body. I'd just put in 48 exhausting hours on a mining frigate from Jupiter One and I wasn't, what my dad once said, working on all thrusters.
"Voyager made it home." Lorinat said. Immediately, my ears picked up and I was wide awake.
"After ten years." I smiled. Leave it to Kathryn Janeway to bring the ship home.
"Yeah. Imagine that, ten years. The stories that could be told." That last sentence, had me pushing my husbands arm off of me and swing my legs over the side of the bed.
"No." I said, before the question was asked over the comm line.
"Amantha, please." Lorinat was desperate.
"Send John, send Aagageet. I'm not doing it." I stated. I got up, tucking a blanket around my nude form. Being away from my husband, well, let's just say, we had been getting reacquainted.
"I'm asking you."
I sighed and went to my bedroom window looking over San Francisco bay. The moon was shining off the water and brightly at that.
"Can't we let these people alone. Ten years they've been gone. Ten years in which a lot has changed here."
I could almost hear the wheels turning in Lorinat's head. The man didn't back down lightly. "I'll tell you what, Amantha. I'll send you to the big party they're planning at Starbase 24, where Voyager is headed. Feel it out, get a feel. Find three people to interview and set it up." This may be something I can work with. "I'm going out on a limb here, Amantha. I'm giving you complete and total control over this story. Your own deadline, everything. Will you agree to do it under these circumstances?"
"When do I leave?"
Starbase 24 was, to me at least, the least likely place to hold a 'Welcome Home' party. I came in, wearing a black dress. I know they could see 'reporter' stamped across my forehead. Never, in my life in journalism, had I ever felt so uncomfortable.
There is a world of difference seeing them in person, then from pictures brought to us via the records department. Those whom I knew had been Maquis in Starfleet uniform. Well, except for the children (which there were quite a few of) and two other members. The first was a small man, obviously humanoid and very-jovial. I sat at the bar, thinking of the many ways to kill my editor when the man came over to me.
"Why, hello. I don't think we've been introduced." He said, sitting down beside me. The man behind the bar slid him a drink.
"No, we haven't. Amantha Ashlund, reporter for the San Francisco Today." I stuck my hand out in the typical human greeting of hello.
"Neelix. Delta Quadrant native." He shook my hand vigorously. I already liked him. "Ship cook, morale officer, guide, and Ambassador under Captain Janeway."
"You certainly sound busy." I commented.
"It's been an interesting ten years." He said. "You say you're a reporter. I take it then, that you're here to interview people?"
I sighed. Yes, Lorinat was certainly going to perish if I had my way. "In a way. My editor sent me out here to set up an interview with some people, at their earliest convenience." I leaned closer to the man named Neelix and said quietly. "I hate doing this. Everyone just got back. They're being reunited with their families, getting re-established with what they lost. The last thing they want, is some damn reporter sticking her nose in their business."
Neelix looked at me and then around the room. "Give me a minute. I may be able to help." He climbed off the stool and I watched him go through the crowd. The first person he talked to, was a small woman, talking and laughing with a man who had a tattoo on his forehead. As she turned to Neelix, I knew immediately who she was. The captain of Voyager, Kathryn Janeway. A woman to be put in the history book along with April, Pike, Kirk, Picard, Garret. The great ones. I could see Neelix indicate to me, then her eyes followed his movements.
She nodded and went to another person. A woman I believed to be half Klingon in nature and attached to the arm of blond haired, blue eyed man. She also nodded to whatever he said. Then finally, he approached the only other person not wearing a Starfleet uniform. A tall, blond woman, with metal attached above her left eye and other areas. I can't say I thought much of her attire; a skin tight suit that highlighted her entirely. Her response was the same as the other two. Neelix made his way back to me.
"No problem, Miss. Ashlund. Captain Janeway, Lt. Torres and Seven of Nine will give you interviews. They'll be in contact with you to set up the times." He smiled and hit my back, making me choke briefly on my drink.
"I don't how to thank you." I said, wiping at my mouth.
"Just tell the truth. That's all they ask."
I sit here at my computer, ready to write the story of three incredible women. A courageous captain, a half Klingon who needed to feel she was able, and a former Borg, unsure where she fit in the scheme of things.
I wasn't sure I wanted to do this, but along the way, I learned something. Not only about these women and the obstacles they overcame to be what they are, but I learned something about myself.
So I sit here, in my father's cabin, away from the noise, the lights, the annoying hails for when this is going to be done. In front of my, lies the records and interviews, notes of my latest story. I'm not looking for glory, just something that makes these women accessible to everyone. Not some icons that are immortalized.
I only hope that I can become what they are some day.
It was only a matter of a couple of weeks before I received the first interview invitation. I'd come in from watching my sister's son for the day when the message light was blinking on my screen. On it, I recognized the last woman Neelix had approached that night on Starbase 24.
If I hadn't known that she was a reformed Borg, I would say that there was a Vulcan in her gene pool somewhere. Her message was short, to the point, precise and to me, an avid reader, downright cold. I replied, confirming the information and then I made arrangements. My husband said I was nuts. I told him to can it.
To say that arriving on Vulcan Station One was the biggest thrill of my life, would be an understatement. I have never liked Vulcan. I spent a summer here when I was a lowly cadet. The air was too dry and the heat-let's just say I don't look good as a lobster.
A few inquiries had told me the reason that Seven of Nine was residing on Vulcan, was she was learning some control. She had been sponsored into the Vulcan Engineering Academy and Starfleet Academy by Commander Tuvok. He, too, had been on Voyager. She was staying with him and his family.
I beamed down to the surface and immediately wished I was anywhere but here. The heat was sucking the life right out of me, I felt. I caught a Vulcan transport to the academy and was relieved to discover that yes, Vulcan's do believe in air conditioning.
The young man at the front desk, pointed me in the direction of a hallway of doors. Thank goodness they have the decency to use standard Federation English.
I come to the door the Vulcan specified. I knock.
"Enter." I hear. Boy, is my stomach doing flip flops. I have every right to be apprehensive. This woman used to be a part of the dreaded Borg collective. A race known for the assimilation and murder of millions. Yet, I was curious to the fact that Janeway had managed to reform a Borg, make an allegiance with them, that made this interview compelling.
I poke my head in and see her. Same attire as I saw her in at the party, only this one was a cross between brown and moss green. I didn't even get to introduce myself.
"I am Seven of Nine." She said. Her eyebrow rose in a manner very Vulcan like.
"Amantha Ashlund." I said. She nodded curtly and continued about her business. I felt like I was intruding.
"There, my task is complete." She stated. She then indicated a chair for me to sit in, which I took. She sat down. Her back was absolutely straight. "Will this interview require much time?" Lord, I hated being rushed.
"I hope not." I answered. I wasn't sure about what to call her. "What should I call you?"
"Seven is sufficient. I've grown accustomed to it over the years." She even sounded like a Vulcan. I took out my supplies; recorder, PADD, my ancient looking pencil and paper.
"I guess I'll start out with the beginning. How old were you when you were assimilated?" I figured I was best starting at the beginning.
"I was six." Okay, to the point.
"Look, I know you're used to order and what not, but I need a little more specifics." I said.
"Very well then. I was with my parents. They were researchers. Captain Janeway said they held unique insights into their chosen fields of study, but they were, unique with their beliefs." She looked down at the floor. "Before the Borg came on board our ship, the Raven, I was called Annika. Annika Hanson."
"That is what I mean." I said. Up close, she wasn't nearly as attractive as I thought. Long, thin, nose. Forgive me, I'm a nose person. Her eyes are icy blue. They seem to lack something. Then it hit me, they lacked life.
"Then you were Borg?" I prodded. Perhaps I should have had Neelix point someone else out.
"I was Borg for the next 18 years of my life." I quickly did the math. She was now 34. Not really that old, but it seemed she was much older.
"What changed?" I asked her.
"Borg strive for perfection. We opened a quantum singularity and encountered species 8472. They were not assimilated." I looked up from my PADD.
"You encountered a race impervious to assimilation?"
"Yes." God, I hated talking to her. She sounded about as friendly as a computer. Even Data, a damn android has more variance in his speech patterns.
"All out war?"
"Yes. Until Voyager came into our space. Captain Janeway offered us assistance for the safe passage through our space."
"Did you fulfill you end of the bargain?"
She hesitated. I saw confusion cross her features. Apparently, this wasn't as perfect as it all seemed. "No. In an attempt to save Voyager, myself, the Captain, Tuvok and four drones beamed over to Voyager. The captain had been badly injured, leaving Commander Chakotay in command. I could tell he did not like dealing directly with me or the Borg at all. He rescinded Janeway's orders."
"He cut their end of the bargain. Was his reasoning valid?" I had heard about Commander Chakotay, and found that he could play hard ball like the rest. Janeway at least had a good officer backing her up.
"In retrospect, yes. His reasoning was sound."
"In other words-" I pressed.
"He threatened to jettison the cargo bay if we so much as stepped beyond our area. When we attempted to open the quantum singularity, he did just that. I was the only one to survive." As my husband would say, 'ouch'.
"I take then, that your decision to stay, wasn't your wish?"
"No. I fought the captain at every turn. I did not wish to be human. I had been Borg as long as I could remember. Captain Janeway made the decision for me."
"A difficult transition, I assume." I said. I knew to some extent what it was like to be coerced into something I did not want.
"Indeed. My biggest opponents were of course, Commander Tuvok, Lt. Torres and Commander Chakotay." She shifted ever so slightly. "Commander Tuvok, at first considered me a security risk. I could effectively break any code and the fact that I did want to go back to the collective was an all consuming desire. I had knocked out Harry Kim in an attempt to contact the Borg, but I was disabled. By Kes."
This may turn out to be a fascinating story after all. She wasn't readily welcomed by the crew. "I want to get back to this Kes and Harry Kim issue, but first, tell me why you thought that Lt. Torres and Commander Chakotay were both against you."
"Commander Chakotay, I had later found out, had been once partially assimilated by a former faction of Borg. His resentment ran deep, though for a few years, I wasn't sure why." I mentally figured I would find that part out later. She continued. "Lt. Torres saw me as a different sort of threat. I possessed superior knowledge at some areas of engineering then she had. Engineering was her domain and she didn't take lightly to having me work with her."
"Did it work out eventually?"
"Harry Kim and I, under the direction of Commander Chakotay, built the Astrometrics Lab. It became my area." I could almost see Janeway thinking of it as the place least likely for a Borg with little 'people skills'. "It was through my workings there that I found the relay station that allowed us to communicate with the Alpha Quadrant."
I remembered that well. I was just starting out in journalism when reports came in that Voyager hadn't been lost in the badlands, but was stuck in the Delta Quadrant. It was amazing, knowing that they were still alive. That Janeway had done the impossible in regards to the Maquis ship and crew she had been sent out to find in the first place.
"You mentioned a Kes." I said, wanting a little more to the story.
"Kes was an Ocampan, Species 287. She was a medical assistant in sickbay before I became human again."
"What about her?"
"I believe her-evolving, made Janeway more inclined to make me apart of the Voyager family. When I was first allowed to interact with the crew, I found that Kes was a valuable member of the crew. She had volunteered to join the crew with Neelix. Janeway had a habit of-adopting those she felt needed to be reclaimed. Mr. Paris, myself."
"So, you believe that because this highly liked and able being, caused Janeway to focus attention on you?"
"Yes." Oh, I would have loved to have met this Kes. "She tried to form me into an image of herself. We-butted heads over this quite a few times."
I could imagine. I looked at the chronometer. "Seven, would it be possible to finish this interview tomorrow. I have a deadline that must be met before I check into my suite at Ach-Joahn."
"The same time would be preferable. Are journalists usually so. . ."
"No, but then again, I'm not like every journalist. I normally would do this all at one time." I said, putting my things into my carry all. I stood, as did Seven. "Let me ask you a question to ponder until tomorrow." She raised her eyebrow again in that one eyed Vulcan impression. "If you had the choice, would you have gone with Janeway?"
I turned and left her, standing there, looking slightly confused. I think I had the answer before I even got to the door.
"Look, Lorinat. I don't care if you think I'm full of it or not. This woman has plenty of battle damage." I stalked around my room in my lightest clothes.
"You have a unique opportunity. . ." He began over the comm link.
"Then go interview Picard. She makes Vulcan's look emotional." I said.
"Amantha, you have to do this."
"I would rather interview a microb. Or better yet, that Ferengi at DS9." I sat down heavily in the chair, figuring that pacing was only making me hotter.
"One more day. I want you to get her opinion of Janeway. I think, as you say it, she is another woman with plenty of battle damage."
I began seeing what he was digging at. I had told him who I was interviewing before I took off for here. Self righteous bastard, anyway. A former Borg who had no desire to reclaim her humanity, a Klingon engineer who had no self esteem, waiting for the hammer to hit.
"No. I see where you're going with this, Lorinat. I will not slander Janeway. She did the impossible."
"It's because you're a woman." He began. Lorinat, he would have fit perfectly in the 20th century and back. That I was sympathizing because I was a woman.
"No, it's not. Because anyone else, would have crumbled under that type of pressure. I believe Seven of Nine has an opinion. I will not slander these women, nor tell half truths to get you readers. I made a promise that I'd tell their stories with the utmost truth. That means looking beyond the obvious and not lying."
"There are others who would love the chance to work on this story. . ."
"If this is some sort of threat, I'll give you one back. For everyone of Janeway's indiscretions, you'll find eight or nine male officers ranking captain or higher with more skeletons in their closet's. Kirk, Decker, Picard, Sisko, Jellico, Shelby. Any one of them have stories that make Janeway's seem old and boring."
"Fine." Then Lorinat closed transmission. It was a good thing too. I was no longer in the mood to do this story. Seven's brusque attitude and my own ideals of the way things should be. I made a call to my husband, telling him that I would be back sometime tomorrow night. He seemed happy at that thought.
I went to bed that night, with the windows wide open, dreaming of Borg and the carnage I had seen as a last year cadet assigned to ships to bring back survivors and bodies from the attack at Wolf 359. My image was interrupted by one thought.
Janeway had done the impossible. She had made a deal with the devil and she had won. Between her and her first officer, they had fought incredible odds and won. Even Picard hadn't done that.
The next afternoon began as the previous had. Seven was completing an experiment. I had just pulled out my material when she stepped in front of me and sat on a stool.
"I have an answer for the question you asked before your departure yesterday. If I had it to do again, would I have gone with Janeway?"
I smiled, awaiting her answer. I was surprised.
"Yes. I would have." She clasped her hands together. "I believe that I have found within her teaching and that of the community of Voyager, a balance."
"What type of balance?" I asked.
"Captain Janeway is an amazing individual. She has challenged me in ways that the Borg had never attempted. She told me to grasp onto my humanity. What she couldn't teach me, I learned from others. Conversation with the Doctor." Oh yes, the holographic Doctor that I'd seen on news reports, that Janeway was fighting to have classified as a sentient being. Seven continued. "To observe human behavior from Tuvok. How to interact from Neelix and the Doctor. I have found common interests with Lt. Torres. I have even engaged in-romantic liaisons with Ens. Kim." I almost choked at that, but managed to hide it well, from my point of view.
"So, joining Janeway, though against your wishes initially, was a move for the better?"
"We were led to believe, when I had been on board for almost a year, that Starfleet had sent a ship to take us home. The alien had carefully led us to believe that the message he'd recovered was real, and we almost bought the plan. However, careful analysis by much of the crew had led us to believe otherwise. When he was revealed with his true intentions, he had every intent of taking myself and the captain back into Borg space."
I couldn't believe this conversation, what she was admitting to me. "The closer we got, the more apprehensive I became. I did not want to be Borg again. I feared what was to become of me if he succeeded. I had no desire, as I once had had, to rejoin the collective."
I smiled at her. That was something, that I figured she hadn't admitted to very many people. To be something feared, then morphing into a being that feared what once was. I began packing again. As I slung my bag over my shoulder, I gave her a final few words.
"First, I wanted to thank you for your candid reply's. You answered what I wanted to know." I saw the look on her face. I don't know if she expected me to be so blunt with her. "One final question: What is in your future?"
"I am studying both here and Starfleet academy. I would like to perhaps again serve on a Star Ship. Perhaps research. I am-uncertain."
I held out my hand. She took it, giving me a firm grasp in return. "Then I wish you the best in your endeavors."
Then I left.
I lie in my bed that night, my husbands warm breath on my neck. I stared at the ceiling, recalling every moment of those two days. Seven of Nine. A lost soul. Yet, it seemed she fought Janeway at every turn. Truth be known, she was a young child in an adult body, striving to find perfection, and not fully realizing that she would never find it within the confines of either existence.
As my eyes drifted closed, I thought, one down, two to go.
I was putting my thoughts together a few days later when I received the second request. The woman was the second one that Neelix had went to that evening. She was living here in San Francisco, not far from my apartment. I was actually looking forward to this one.
I arrived at the apartment complex early the next day. The weather was overcast and I was not in the best of moods. My husband and I had one humdinger of a fight and I was not to happy with him at the moment. I know, I shouldn't let that bother me, but still. I rang the bell for the apartment and soon heard muttered Klingon curses as I heard some thunking and banging.
The door opened.
"Hi." The woman said. A strand of hair hanging in her face. She absently tucked it behind her ear. She led me into the small living area. It was sparsely furnished, no real personal effects. "We're just moving in. We haven't had a chance to give it a homey feel, yet."
"That's okay. You should have seen my first place after I left Starfleet." I said. Outside, I could see the rain begin. "Damn." I muttered.
"I actually enjoy the rain. You'd be surprised how much you miss being on a ship for ten years." She indicated to a chair for me to sit down on. "You can call me B'Elanna." She said.
"Amantha." I said.
"Let's get one thing straight. I won't slander anyone." I could tell she was adamant.
"I'm not here to slander. I want a straight story. Truth. I refuse to lie for the sake of a story." I was every bit as adamant. She seemed to settle after that. Just from the few minutes I'd spent with her, I could tell that B'Elanna Torres had settled down.
"Would you like something to drink?" She asked. I told her water and noticed her. Definitely Klingon, but the human side muted the harshness of the Klingon physic. Straight chestnut colored hair, big brown eyes. Slightly raised head ridges. Coloring more human. Not a sneer on her face.
"Where should I begin?" She asked, handing me the glass and settling back down. I could see this interview was going to be a lot more easier.
"Anywhere you want. This is your story. Tell it as only you can." I said.
"Well," She clasped her hands together and looked at me, her eyes going slightly wider. "I dropped out of Starfleet at the beginning of the second year. Everything there was a constant struggle. I hated the rules, the discipline."
"Did you regret it?"
"At the time, no. But when we joined with Janeway's crew, I changed my mind." She sat back and crossed her legs. "I-wasn't happy with myself. My dad left my mother and I when I was five. I always thought it was because of the way I looked. You know, a child's notion and idea's. You think if you were something else, if you hadn't done something, then you'd whatever it was that was bad, wouldn't have happened."
"How did you get into the Maquis?"
She took a deep breath. "After I dropped out of the academy, I wondered around, somewhat lost. I would work here, work there. Too ashamed to go home, to afraid of what my father would think if I tried to find him. I had an attitude that got me into more trouble then not. That's how I met Chakotay."
"He saved me from myself, you might say. He has that ability." She smiled. "I earned my way into his trust. His reasons were different from mine. I had nothing to gain in the Maquis. He was looking for some sort of redemption. But he brought me into this world of hiding and covert operations. I did things to ships that weren't suppose to be possible."
"The Maquis were my family. They were my brothers and sisters. Though I grew close to a few. Chakotay, Bendara, Seska, Hogan. They accepted me for who I was. That meant a lot to me."
"What happened to these people, excluding Chakotay?" I asked. She was interesting, a far cry from the Klingon's I'd met.
"Kurt died after being burned by plasma in engineering. Hogan, he died when we were stranded by the Kazon on a volcanic planet. Seska, I wouldn't waste your news space on." I decided to let that drop. I could tell it was a sore subject.
"How did you end up in the badlands and the Delta Quadrant?" I knew the story, but I wanted to here it directly. I hated second hand news.
"Evading Gul Evek. I used to think it would be funny if he was still there, looking for us." She smiled, then let out a genuine laugh. "We'd been evading him when our power supply really dropped off. The next thing we knew, we were somewhere else. As we struggled to get a bearing as to where we were, we disappeared off the ship and that was the last I remembered for a while."
"What was the next thing that you do remember?" I said.
"Waking up with these strange beings looking down at me. I fought them, tried to escape. It was no use. They sedated me and I woke up later. That's when I met Harry. I called him Starfleet. It became a joke between us."
I smiled at her. I had met Harry a few days back at headquarters, quite by accident. He struck me as being kind, pleasurable, sincere. It is strange, you know, hearing about these people through the eyes of others.
"One thing led to another and the first thing I knew, Chakotay was working with Janeway. I'll never forget when she destroyed the array. Chakotay had sacrificed his ship for us and was on the bridge of Voyager with a bunch of us, when she strode onto the bridge. Rigid, bun of steel for hair. She told us that she was destroying the array, to save the Ocampa. Well, I still had quite an attitude and a mouth on me. I didn't want to be there. That array was the only way home, I kept thinking to myself. I charged at her, ready to rip her apart."
" 'Who is she to be making these decisions for us?' I stormed at her. Chakotay grabbed my arm and I knew, knew then, everything was going to change."
"What did he say?" I asked.
"She's the captain. Three words and my whole life changed. All our lives changed. Some way, I guess you could say, it was supposed to be this way. Two different groups, two different ideals. Thrown together for the principle that we couldn't let the Ocampan suffer."
"What were your first impressions of Janeway and her crew?" I asked her. She sat back and ran her hand through her hair, pushing it away from her face.
"I hated her. I hated what she stood for, what she represented. I hated the way she strutted around the ship, ordering us around like a little goddess. Thing was, she needed us. Needed us to work with her Starfleet officers to get things done, keep things running. I thought she'd brainwashed Chakotay. He agreed to serve with her as her first officer."
"None of us that came over from 'Liberty' thought that we'd be any higher then crewmen. None of us thought we'd be trusted enough, do anything well enough for her to allow us to work with her precious ship. Then it came down to important positions to be filled."
"Joe Carrey, when they lost their chief engineer, became acting chief. He knew the systems, sure, but I knew I could do it better. In a fit of anger, I broke his nose."
I spit out my water, which I had just taken a sip of. "Really?"Continue with Story