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Stripped

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Summary: Kathryn Janeway always thought the stars were her destiny. Destiny is about to give her a kick in the gut.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > VoyagerPeapodsFR15413,0191216,79031 Dec 083 Jul 13No

Chapter One: Becoming

Disclaimer: Joss's and Paramount's, not mine. Italicized dialogue from "Buffy."

The one thing Kathryn Janeway wanted most in life was to be a science officer in Starfleet. She wanted to travel the galaxy and maybe even beyond. She wanted to see what it was that took her father away from her so often. Now, fourteen years old and near the top of her class at the Academy Institute, she felt her dream was so close to being fulfilled. She could practically imagine the hum of instruments under her fingers, the streak of stars at warp speed.

Tomorrow she would be fifteen. And the next day she would be in San Francisco with her father.

Her smile all the next day must have been irritatingly permanent. Most of her friends and classmates probably thought it was because she was finally fifteen like most of the rest of them. But her excitement was for the end of school and the beginning of two weeks of uninterrupted quality time with her father. She packed her bags carefully, but quickly, wrapping framed photos in clothing and putting muddy shoes into bags. Her roommate, Anna Mears, only watched her amusedly and pointed out when Kathryn had forgotten that she'd actually need things like her toothbrush and hairbrush for tomorrow morning as she secured them away. Kathryn sent her a glare and removed the items.

"I'm so jealous that you get to spend that much time in San Francisco," Anna said, laying back on her bed dramatically. "I get to go home to good old Nebraska. Where people are convinced it's still the twentieth century."

"You forget that I have to go home to Indiana after the trip," Kathryn told her with a grimace. "Ah, the mid-west, boring teenagers since 1900."

Anna laughed and levered herself up. "Well, Miss Kathryn," she said, affecting a thick mid-western accent. "Might I escort you to the Mess?"

"That you may," Kathryn responded in kind. The two girls linked arms and left their dorm.

*****

"Daddy!" Kathryn exclaimed as she jumped from the transporter platform into his arms. Vice Admiral Edward Janeway was laughing even as he swung her around.

"Goldenbird! Top of her class, creative, innovative, respectful," he intoned when he put her down. "You had to know that kind of misbehavior would get back to me."

Kathryn laughed and gave her father another sideways hug. "I try," she said modestly.

They spent the afternoon getting Kathryn settled in her temporary bedroom--her father maintained a set of quarters while at Headquarters--and having her catch him up on her various studies and the people she'd met.

"And there's this one boy, Cheb, who's completely full of himself but probably with good reason," she admitted. "He's really clever."

"And good looking?" he asked with a twinkle. Kathryn blushed wildly, but gamely answered.

"If you like the sort, I suppose," she said, earning another laugh.

"That wit of yours, Kathryn, grows sharper everyday. Heaven forbid you ever go to Command School, they won't know what to do with that pert little tongue of yours."

Command School. The mention of it startled her, but she kept up the conversation afterward, mind turning the possibility over and over in her head.

*****

It didn't take long for Starfleet to go stir-crazy without one of the many Vice-Admirals and Kathryn found herself alone in the quarters three mornings later. Her father had left her a message, face full of regret, but knowing that this was the life she would soon have, she couldn't get too angry. They had spent the past few days seeing the city, getting dimsum in Chinatown, and taking an abbreviated tour of Starfleet Academy where, God willing--or really, Kathryn willing--she would be attending in three short years.

Instead of wallowing in her father's absence, she took the opportunity to go out into the sunshine and wind. She dressed as casually as she could manage, a t-shirt and blue jeans, the latter of which Anna had suggested she try, and set out into the bustle of the city. Even without its trolleys and cars of the past, the streets of San Francisco were crowded. She spent the morning walking before stopping for a cup of coffee and a thick turkey sandwich. She knew many people around her were vegetarians, but her mother and father had never seen the point of it. They had encouraged their daughters to try everything and to ditch only what they didn't like.

For the afternoon she ventured back into Chinatown, eyes going wide as she wound her way down small back alleys and into small, forgotten shops. One such shop, practically invisible behind a crowded stall, drew her in immediately. Inside, the air was thick with incense and history. Artifacts of forgotten life--life she thought unimportant since it came before and was not after--littered several tables and shelves. She moved through the shop, picking up and putting down trinkets, running her fingers along fine silk, catching the painted eyes of a twentieth century woman. The back of the shop was covered with a thin curtain which, with a curious look around the shop, she entered. She gasped.

All manner of weaponry lined the walls, set in stands as if they were fireplace utensils, and in the center a gleaming... well, the only word she could think of was scythe. It's head was red, lined at the edge with black. Most curious was the other end which did not end in a hilt, but in a pointed piece of wood. No, that was not the most curious. Most curious was the inky black stone in which the scythe rested. She saw, in her mind's eye, Excalibur pulled from the stone by Arthur. Her head felt full of static, her breath came quickly. She backed out of the room and right into the proprietor.

She gasped as she jumped around, hand going to her heart. "Oh! Excuse me! I didn't see you."

"Only the Chosen may pull it," said the Asian woman, looking as fierce as any starship Captain or even a Klingon.

"I-I don't understand," Kathryn stammered.

"You needn't," the woman said shortly before leaving Kathryn standing there. She stared after her, head awash with confusion. She quickly left the shop and made her way back to her father's quarters.

*****

That night her dreams were unsettling. She rarely remembered them, dreams were only the mind's way of ordering the events of the day, but these dreams made even less sense than usual.

Visions of aliens skittered through her mind. But they were different. They mostly reminded her of tamer looking Klingons. But their blood lust, their violence, their evil far exceeded anything Klingon. And that was saying something. Other alien-like creatures showed up as well, including floating men in suits with rictus grins, large ungainly things with horns like a ram's, and a petite blonde shoving her hands into someone's brain.

And then, different visions. A blonde girl, a brunette girl, a tall girl, a short girl, a Japanese girl, an African girl, a girl who could have been Kathryn's sister. Each of them fought the other creatures. Kathryn had visions of the Klingon-likes bursting into dust, the heads of the grinning men exploding, a hammer the size of a suitcase busting into the blonde's face.

The scene changed. Kathryn looked down a rolling hill of sand onto three women. One wore some kind of Indian garb, another a blonde in a simple dress. The third woman looked wild crouched and moving like an animal, half dressed in what looked like bandages, hair matted and dreadlocked. Paint on her face made her look like she was wearing an African mask. She looked... ancient. They stood in a line and Kathryn thought she could hear words. The words were floating on the wind that gusted around her, twirling her hair and her own dress.

I have no speech. No name. I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound.

The woman straightened before the blonde and Kathryn knew that it had been the girl in Indian garb who had spoken. Had spoken the wild woman's thoughts.

I am destruction. Absolute... alone.

The Slayer. A new voice spoke. The blonde.

The First.

Kathryn woke with a strangled gasp. She opened her eyes onto her darkened room. She let her sweat cool on her pillow and then sat up. She took a deep breath and pushed off the covers.

"Computer, lights fifty percent." The lights went on and she rubbed her face at their brightness. She pulled on her robe and went to the kitchen's replicator.

"Coffee, black," she ordered after a glance at the chronometer informed her that it was nearly six a.m. already. There was no point in trying to go back to bed. She had too much to think about. She took her coffee as it appeared and made her way onto the small balcony. At the fifteenth floor she was afforded a well enough view of the city to see it waking up. But it was not these sights that she concentrated on. She thought of her dream, of its strange revelations. She was not really one for nightmares. Nor was she much interested in horror or fantasy literature. Therefore it made little sense that these images in particular would assault her.

She held her hands and coffee cup over the railing as she rested on her elbows, watching the sun rising. A flash of pictures struck her and she imagined this view from a very different vantage point and the sounds of lightning, chaos, and screaming filled her ears. She closed her eyes and shook her head, attempting to dissipate it.

"Goldenbird?" her father asked as he came out with his own cup of coffee. "Why are you up so early?"

"Dream," Kathryn said shortly. "Didn't see much point going back to sleep."

"Hmm, well how would you like to come to the office for a bit then? I can get you access to a few places most aren't allowed to go," he said giving her a conspiratorial nudge with his elbow.

She smiled and nodded her head. "Sounds good." The distractions of the place would hopefully be enough to push her dream to the back of her mind.

*****

The day, though it did keep the dream from her mind, had its own detractions. For one thing, every single officer in the building had spent at least five minutes telling Kathryn how much her father talked about her and how they couldn't wait to sink their claws into his daughter. The younger ones looked at her like she was some kind of a traitor, which she really didn't understand. She had been bored most of the time and then she had been conscripted into babysitting.

She looked at the six year-old in front of her as if she didn't know what to do with him. She'd never been very good with kids, including her own little sister, and this kid was staring at her like she held the secrets of the universe.

"So... what do you like to do?" she asked.

"Fly," was all he said, his mouth turning up in a sweet, if a little cocky, grin. "Daddy says I'm the best!"

"I'm sure he does," she mumbled. "Well... wanna go to the flight simulator?" This was obviously the perfect suggestion as the boy nearly squealed and jumped up and down. "Okay! Lemme just go get permission."

Permission was easily granted and taking the boy's hand she led him into the flight simulator. Someone was using it so they sat to the side and watched the older man expertly pilot through the asteroid field. When he was done he came out and looked at her and her charge smugly.

"You really think you're ready for this thing?" he asked and Kathryn raised an eyebrow, unimpressed.

"Lieutenant, I'm fairly certain you have better things to do than to gloat to a six and fifteen year-old about your flight prowess," she told him. "And if you don't then might I suggest finding yourself a hobby?"

She smiled sweetly as he glared and stomped off. She looked down at the boy.

"You're cool!" he said.

"Thanks, Tom," she said, leading him into the simulator.

The flight simulator had been a great idea and Tom hadn't really been exaggerating about how good he was. She had actually enjoyed herself and found that the kid wasn't quite as annoying as she remembered Phoebe being at his age. Not that she was much better now. She had found that her own skills in the simulator had, somehow, become much better though she didn't spend much time in it. She almost felt as though she could anticipate every obstacle as it presented itself. From there she had gotten them lunch and chatted amiably with Tom. He was smart and actually quite funny for his age. He did have a couple corny jokes, and a strange fascination with the 20th century, but his enthusiasm was the perfect distraction.

She was almost sad to see him go at the end of the day, but had a promise extracted from her to come visit him at his father's. That his father was the formidable Admiral Eugene Paris was only slightly daunting. Or so she claimed to her father. Her sleep that night was dreamless.

*****

Her two weeks were almost at an end when something very... peculiar occurred. She had, as promised, made the trip out to Admiral Paris's home one morning when the Admiral would be at work and his wife needed a babysitter for Tom. She had had no further dreams and had dismissed the entire incident.

Playing all morning with Tom, from tag to Parrises Squares to a bastardized version of an old board game that Tom had cannibalized, had tired out the six year-old tolerably. She had fed him and put him down to nap, taking the opportunity to relax herself. She lay on the couch, facing the bay, and within minutes she was asleep.

You think you know... what you are... what's to come... you haven't even begun.

Visions swirled around her again as a cacophony of voices rang around her, making Kathryn more and more agitated. More and more frightened. Black surrounded her. A void and the voices resolved into clarity. An older man and a young girl, probably her age, appeared as if Kathryn was seeing a peek into another world.

Because you are the Slayer, The man began. Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One, one born with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires...

The girl joined in for the last few words..

...with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their evil blah, blah, blah... I've heard it, okay?

The scene faded back to black and then another picture resolved of the same girl, a little older, looking like the world was crashing all around her.

No, it doesn't stop! It *never* stops! Do-do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world... again.

The vision faded and out of the black, a man appeared before her. He was dressed... interestingly. His shirt was loud, to say the least, and an old fashioned hat was perched on his head. He gave her a pained smile.

Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterward that counts. That's when you find out who you are. He reached up and tipped his hat to her. You'll see what I mean

She woke with a jolt, falling off the couch. She groaned at her inevitable bruises and rose to her knees. Tom was just emerging from his bedroom, wiping at his eyes. She checked the chronometer and sighed. It had only been an hour since she'd fallen asleep. It had felt like an eternity. And she could not believe the dream came back. Different, sure, but that girl, the blonde, she had been in the last one too. Who was she and why was Kathryn dreaming of her?

She rose to her feet.

"Well Tom, whaddya say we do something active?" she asked.

"Like what?" he asked, hoisting himself onto the couch that was just a little too tall for him.

"Hmm, do you like catch?"

"Like with a ball?" he asked.

"Yep."

"Sure." She took his hand and led him out to the backyard where she found a shed full of athletic gear. She pulled out a small mitt for him and one for herself and found a baseball among an assortment of different balls. She tossed it up and down into her glove and tossed the little mitt to Tom. He slipped it on and ran to the other side of the yard.

They threw the ball back and forth a little, making each other work for their catches. Finally, Kathryn took up the ball with a mischievous grin.

"Okay! Go long, little man!" She yelled before letting the ball loose. It sailed right past Tom, over the fence and over the neighbor's yard before it disappeared from view. Her eyes went wide and Tom was looking at her, mouth exaggeratedly agape.

"WOW!" he said. She ran over to him and still stared over the fence, as if trying to will the baseball to come back to her.

"Uh-huh," she said vaguely.

*****

That wasn't the only peculiar incident, by far. She'd also managed to shatter one of her father's ceramic coffee cups when she'd set it down just a little too hard. She had broken three styluses in half. And a petulant kick at a particularly stubborn piece of equipment at Starfleet had sent her foot into the innards of said equipment. Her eyes had gone extremely wide at that and while the ensign she was working with simply laughed it off and told her everything she never needed to know about stress fractures and angry women, she knew it had been something else entirely.

No fifteen year old as scrawny as she was had that kind of strength. Like, ever.

Arriving in Indiana was as anti-climatic as she'd anticipated. Not only were these new... issues distracting her, but Indiana had nothing to compare to San Francisco. Her mother had presented her with her favorite brownies and the many messages her friends had left and Kathryn had closed herself in her bedroom until nightfall.

But she wasn't tired. She had been getting less and less sleep. Not because of the dreams, though they had continued unabated since that day at the Paris's. She generally slept about six hours before an unnamed restlessness roused her, flooded her with energy. She stared out her bedroom window at the paths between the cornfields and came to a decision. She slipped quietly into her athletic shoes and tip-toed out of the house. It would take a photon torpedo to wake up her mother and Phoebe at this time of night, both heavy sleepers.

Out in the almost cool of the June night she started at a brisk walk, but was soon propelling herself into a run. Into the cornfields she burst and she barely felt the thwap of husks against her bare arms. Her hair didn't even have time to catch as her speed increased. She ran to the end of the fields, coming upon a dirt road. Without hesitating she simply turned out onto the road and kept running, feet pounding the dirt. She came to the paved road. She stopped. She was drenched in sweat, but barely even panting when generally she would have collapsed at this point. She usually did very well in gym, but she was, by no means, the most athletic of the girls in her class. She stretched a little and made to turn back toward the dirt road until something caught her eye.

Without really realizing it she crossed the road and pushed open wrought iron gates, entering the cemetery that hadn't been used in years. Many in the 24th century still preferred ground burials, while many others had taken the options of cremation and being launched into space. The burials now were completely organic and though markers still sat atop the graves, that were not nearly as ostentatious as tombstones of old. This graveyard was full of the latter and even had a few family tombs. What had drawn her here? She had avoided the place for years in fear. She found burial creepy.

Tonight though... she felt... home. And that was a scary thought because before Kathryn had only considered the stars as her true home.
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