The summons itself was hardly unexpected, barely a night passed when she was not dragged from her slumber by one crisis or another. On more than one occasion she had wondered if it might not be easier to forego the attempt at sleep altogether. But tonight she had hoped for at least a few hours uninterrupted rest, her exhaustion had left her barely able to function, and as tempting an idea as a bath was, she had simply pulled off her boots and jacket, tumbled onto the covers and sunk gratefully into oblivion.
She hadn't even been plagued by nightmares as she so often was - there had been no visions of death and destruction circling at her edge of her consciousness, no sudden waking at the verge of a catastrophe. No, this time she had been woken by the shrill noise of her communicator and a request that she would not dream of refusing.
Stumbling out of bed she crossed to her bathroom - hoping that splashing cold water on her face might make her feel less sluggish. As usual her optimism was misplaced. She tried to drag a brush through her hair, but as so often before it made little difference and she ended up pulling it into a hasty bun that was far from emaaculate. Another of the standards she'd let slip due to their circumstances.
Leaving her quarters she trailed wearily along the corridor - nodding to the few unlucky souls she passed who were also awake at this hour. She couldn't help noticing how tired everyone looked, wondered if her face had the same strained look; this war was going to destroy all of them.
At least there didn't seem to be an attack, there was no siren indicating a red alert, and she couldn't feel the building shaking as she had on the one occasion when the planetary defences had been breached. She couldn't help but consider a few explanations that would explain this summons. A new mission was the most likely reason, Voyager had been back from Betazoid for just a day, she'd hoped her crew would get at least a weeks shore leave, if only to allow her ship to be properly repaired. But she was wise enough and experienced enough to realise that Starfleet and the Federation were losing the war against the Dominion and their Cardassian allies and a holiday was as a remote a possibility as a decent nights sleep.
She was closer to the inner sanctum now, a symbol of her status as a senior starfleet Captain, who was rumoured to have the ear of the Admiralty. If you didn't mind the battles and the risky missions she'd undertaken over the last six years you could safely assume that Kathryn Janeway was a player. It was a misfortune she was acutely conscious of that the game in question was war.
Passing through a series of security meansure that would have exhausted her had she not already been tired beyond belief, she was greeted by Admiral Paris. 'Kathryn,' his smile of welcome was perfunctory and did not reach his eyes, but then his smiles were few and far between these days; she understood and didn't take it personally. 'You look tired to death.'
'I was asleep.'
'Were you, sorry. But there is a situation here that demands your attention. It couldn't wait I'm afraid, hence the rude awakening.'
'Its all right - what's going on?' His evasiveness was uncharacteristic and a shiver of anxiety passed through her.
'We aren't exactly sure. We're all in here.' She'd never have imagined that she'd be contemplating this six years ago - but her hand went to the phaser at her side as she followed him into the adjoining room; one thing war had taught her was that you could never be certain who to trust.
The room was mostly in darkness, but she saw Admiral Ross almost at once and fought to contain her surprise, she hadn't even known he was back on Earth. There were two security guards as well and for a moment she thought she was the one under suspicion. But then a figure stepped out of the darkness towards her.
'Kathryn,' his voice as he spoke her name was filled with warmth and relief. He looked vaguely familiar although she was quite sure they had never met, which meant she must have seen his image somewhere. The stranger was wearing a Starfleet uniform, albeit one that was three or four years out of date. When he turned his head she caught a glimpse of an elaborate marking across his temple. The silence was unsettling, as though everyone in the room was waiting for her response.
'Who the hell are you?' she demanded, 'and how do you know my name?'Part 2;