Disclaimer - Paramount own the names. The scene is mine.
After watching 'Survival Instinct', I wanted more. This is it. In case you don't remember, Marika Willkara was the female drone.
"I'm sorry, am I intru-"
"No, Captain. You're not."
It had become a tradition. Few people on board Voyager knew of Kathryn Janeway's little sojourns to the mess hall late at night, searching for the inevitable pot of coffee that Neelix - bless his sentimental heart - would leave hidden away in one of the cupboards for her to find.
She had been here nearly every night for the past five years, with a few obvious exceptions.
Every night for the past twenty days or so, she had walked into the darkness to find the Bajoran woman sitting at a table, staring at the stars. Every night she would apologise for intruding and the woman would assure her that she wasn't.
Every night she would be at a different table.
Nodding even though she wasn't looking at her - she had never once seen her gaze move from the view - Kathryn moved to behind the counter and started searching through the cupboards. It was a game, of sorts. Neelix apparently found it amusing to put the pot in a different place each time. Personally, Kathryn found it annoying as hell but decided not to moan in case he withdrew his supply of coffee altogether.
Finding the pot, she sighed in anticipation and stood back up. Looking at the Bajoran woman, she frowned. She couldn't help but notice her condition. The first few days or weeks she'd looked fine but these last few days especially...she was so pale. Her hair was limp, lifeless. She was slumped down in her chair a little more than usual.
Deciding this once to do something different, Kathryn walked over and stood beside her. "Marika, isn't it?"
Her gaze didn't move. "I miss them. I hoped I would not."
Being careful not to obstruct her view, Kathryn sat in the chair next to her, placing her pot down on the table. "That's usually the way life works out. Never as you expect or want it."
Marika smiled, weakly. "Wise words, Captain. Words the Bajorans have come to live by. Words the Borg embodied." She paused, then continued. "Even after the relative quietness of the triad, I believed I was ready for this...silence. I was unprepared." Swallowing, she blinked back tears. "Do you have any comprehension of what it is like to have your own mind back? To know that something you are thinking is actually something you are thinking and not a thought that belongs to someone else?"
Of course she didn't. She could try to imagine the chaos that many thoughts initially caused, the control of the Collective, the eventual sharing of three minds. She could try to imagine the terror that it would cause. But Kathryn would never *know* unless on some hideous day she were assimilated herself. "No. Maybe you should discuss it with Seven..."
Marika stiffened immediately. "No. I do not forgive her."
Kathryn wanted to bite her own tongue off. It was plainly obvious to anyone how much Marika and Seven avoided each other. In fact, the only time Kathryn saw Marika at all was during these quiet times at night, when the mess hall was empty. Quiet.
A different approach was needed.
"Perhaps you should talk to Chakotay."
"Your First Officer?"
Kathryn nodded. "He's had some...first hand experience with a version of a Borg Collective. He might understand some of what you're feeling."
She seemed to seriously consider the suggestion. "Perhaps...if there were more time. Right now I simply want to look at the stars with no one's thoughts but my own."
"Very well," Kathryn replied, deciding a retreat was in order. "Do you want me to go?"
Shrugging defiantly, the Bajoran spoke. "I do not mind."
Taking that as a 'yes', Kathryn stood. She picked up her coffee and turned away.
"Please," Marika whispered then. "Please stay."
Trying not to smile, Kathryn retook her seat.
Marika was looking at her. "I...appreciate the silence. But I had forgotten what it was like to have a conversation with another person, one to one."
Raising her eyebrows in understanding, Kathryn did smile then. "I have to say...I'm surprised that you're not doing anything more than looking at the stars. Why don't you do something creative? Paint? Read? Write?"
She smirked. "I was never much of a painter."
"Neither was I!" Kathryn volunteered, pleased. "I have dabbled and find it relaxing, but I'm not particularly good. My sister was always good with the creative things. I preferred my calculations."
"A scientist at heart then," Marika retorted. "My first love at the Academy was quantum mechanics."
"Is there any other?"
Kathryn smiled. "The one and only."
Marika continued. "I knew I wanted to join Starfleet from a young age. Bajor was still rebuilding from the occupation and the area I lived in did not have what you would describe as an abundance of scientific data. I found the whole concept fascinating." Trying to smile, she absently rubbed at the Borg implant through the material of her skirt. "The Borg showed me more than I ever wanted to know." Her line of thought instantly changed. "I do not remember much of my husband."
"Yes, but he was placed aboard a different Borg vessel. According to the Borg sensors, his cube was destroyed when an unknown electrical discharge struck his vessel."
Reaching out, Kathryn touched her hand. "I'm sorry."
"He had been dead for a long time."
"That doesn't make it any easier," Kathryn insisted.
"Perhaps not," was all Marika would admit.
Sensing the need for a change in topic, Kathryn pulled away. "Would you like some coffee? Neelix saves some for me."
Marika looked at the pot. "Neelix, crewman. Talaxian. Species 218. Their biological and technological distinctiveness was-" She stopped abruptly and closed her eyes tightly. "I apologise. I retain information that I do not want to."
Trying to ease the moment, Kathryn smiled. "Old habits die hard."
Thankfully, Marika took the comment in the mood it was intended. Her eyes opened and a tiny smile graced her lips. "I would like some hasperat, if I may. My father was a wonderful cook..." She frowned. "I do not remember his face."
Touching her shoulder, Kathryn stood. "Then we shall replicate you some hasperat. I hardly think the replicators will do your father justice, but we'll make do." Before she could move away, Marika spoke again as she looked through the viewport.
"Seven was right about one thing, Captain."
"And what was that?"
"Survival is insufficient."
Looking up at her, Marika smiled.
Three days later; two days after Marika died, Kathryn Janeway appeared for her shift on the bridge with dark red hair.
She gloried in their reactions; the wide eyes, the grins, the shocked expressions.
Sitting in her seat she looked over at Chakotay who simply smiled.
Tuvok attempted to give his tactical report without his voice fluctuating.
After ten minutes, Chakotay finally cracked.
"Okay, I give up," He began, leaning towards her. "What's with the hair?"
Kathryn smiled, then shrugged.
"I wanted to."
e-mail // voyager fic