DISCLAIMER: See Part 1
"But the points that I just mentioned are not the only concerns," Seven said as she poured Torres some wine, even though it was only nine o'clock in the morning. But then, she was sharing a breakfast with two Klingons, and with them the only difference that the time of the day made was in whether one drank the strong blood wine, or a lighter wine. Of course, Torres didn't drink alcohol all the time, but now that they were sharing breakfast with Worf, Torres was 'keeping Worf company' as she called it, by also drinking wine. Seven didn't worry that it might ruin the rest of the day though. By now she had seen just how much alcohol Torres could have, and the light wine she was drinking now wouldn't even be enough to start affecting Torres.
Torres took the glass and made a 'go on' motion with her other hand.
"You should also keep in mind that freedom is something a rather large portion of the slaves actually do not want and that by forcing freedom upon them, you are actually punishing them."
"Not all slaves fall in love with their master," Worf interrupted, giving just the right amount of sneer to the word love.
"True," Seven agreed as she took one of the moving food items between her thumb and index finger. After looking at it for a moment, she popped it into her mouth and bit down. By now she had learned to savor the good taste of the Klingon food, and ignore the fact that several Klingon dishes were served alive. "But, I do believe that the number is higher than most would like to admit. There are billions of slaves in the Coalition, millions of body slaves, and even more sex slaves.
"There are bound to be cases in which the masters found that the 'services' they get from slaves they treat well are a lot better than services that they get from slaves that are treated poorly. The step from being nice to loving is a small one. There are bound to be at least several hundred-thousand body and sex slaves that want to stay with their masters.
"But let us ignore love for a moment. There are also bound to be slaves that realize that though they do not love their masters, they also do not hate them. That the masters treat them very well and are giving them a life that is far better than they could have by being free. At the moment they do not have to worry about having a decent place to sleep, or good food to eat. Why give that up to start a life full of insecurities? Then there is also the matter of other slaves. Older slaves for instance. Slaves that have been doing the same work for decades and do not want freedom, all they want is to live out the rest of their life well taken care of."
"I do see your point Seven," Torres agreed. It didn't matter that they were sitting at a table with Worf. When talking about the proposal they were talking as B'Elanna and Seven. Torres wanted advice; not to be told how great her idea was. "But it has to be the one of the other. Either they are slaves, or they are free."
"Not necessarily," Seven disagreed. "There is the option of long contracts. Change all slaves into long contract employees; long contracts that have to work the first ten year contract at the place that they are working now. That would take care of having a work force, and slaves that do not want to leave a master can stay with that master by simply renewing the contract when it ends."
"That's true," Torres agreed. "When a long contract ends, the employer first has to offer that job again to the long contract against the minimum conditions set by the industry the long contract is working in, but the contract has to have at least the same conditions as the old contract if those were better than the minimum conditions. A slave that wants to stay with the master can take the new contract because those minimum condition are always better than what they have now; only being fed and clothed."
"But wouldn't that really only be moving the problem into the future?" Worf asked. True, the proposal wasn't due for two more days, but that didn't mean that he couldn't give his opinion of what Torres and Seven were discussing. "After all, if you make all slaves long contracts at once, then in ten years you still have the problem of suddenly all of them having their contract ending at the same time."
"A valid point," Seven agreed. "However it is a point that is easy to address. A new rule could be added to all the long contract rules, including the already existing ones. A rule that states that besides the normal renegotiation time of ten years, there will be one age based negotiating time introduced. When a long contract becomes for instance forty years old, then its contract can be renegotiated, even if the normal ten year contract has only been negotiated the year before."
"That would mean that over the next ten years more and more former slaves will have their contract ended because they turned forty," Torres said, liking the idea. "So a factory's workforce wouldn't suddenly disappear, instead it would be steadily replaced over ten years."
"Which would still leave the coalition with a shortage of billions of workers in ten years," Worf pointed out.
"I do not think so," Seven disagreed. "After all, those people still need a place where they can work so that they can make a living. Even the people that are not yet slaves and are still children living on the slave planets will soon reach an age in which they will have to find a job to sustain themselves and families that they want to create.
"Fact remains that even though the former slave races are free then, in the beginning they will only get the jobs that nobody else wants to do; the jobs that they are now doing as slaves. Fact also remains that they need a job to survive. Just like a Klingon can not survive without a job, neither will a former slave. As I said, in the beginning only the jobs the slaves are now fulfilling anyway will be available to them, but over time other jobs will open up for them as well.
"There is a chance though that the former slaves will not want to work in certain places, like a factory that treats its workers extremely poorly. The former slaves will in that case take a job in the factory next door that does treat them if not good, at least better."
"Which will result over time in all employers improving the condition in their factories and businesses because they don't want to lose their workers to the guy next door," Torres said.
"Indeed," Seven agreed. "Which will also result, over time, in improving the wages of the former slaves. Again, no illusion, in the beginning the work these new long contracts will be offered will mostly likely only 'pay' the same that the slaves now have; a place to sleep and food to eat. But over time there will be that one employee that offers that, and ten credits a month because they really need new workers 'now.' Which will then result in someone else offering that, and twenty credits because they also need workers, and so on. Over the years, thirty or forty, the differences between these new long contract jobs and the old ones will even out and former slaves will be hired for both while the old long contracts also will be hired for both."
"That could work," Worf agreed. "But you do realize that you also have another problem; sex."
"Oh, believe me, we have absolutely no problem with sex," Torres spoke up as she took hold of Seven's hand and slowly sucked some sauce off one of Seven's fingers.
"Very funny," Worf said. "What I meant is this, as Seven just said herself; there are millions of body and sex slaves. They are that because they have to. If you turn those into long contracts that can choose what kind of work they do, all of them will do something else for a living. Which will mean that the people that now have such slaves will lose them and might just decide to grab a former slave and hide them, or simply not give up their slave to begin with. There simply won't be enough enforcement troops in the Coalition to check every house to see if someone is held against their will."
"Good point," Torres agreed, knowing that this was actually one of the biggest problems.
They are in silence for a moment, all three thinking about the problem.
Finally Seven spoke up. "An option would be to make sex a profession to be proud of; a profession that can be chosen by people without that choice being frowned upon by other people. Let me give you an example." Seven looked at Torres and said, "You once told me that Risa is known for training sex slaves and body slaves. I do not know what else Risa is known for, but in my universe Risa is known as a pleasure planet. Sex is very common there. In fact, when you go to Risa you can buy small statues that signals to all that you are willing to have sex. If you carry the statue around and put on the table that you are sitting at, the Risan people will even come up to you and offer to have sex with you; you do not even have to ask, they offer.
"If anyone in the Federation tells someone else that they are going to Risa for a vacation, then everyone knows that nature will not be the only thing enjoyed there. Risa is known as a pleasure, sex, planet. Yet it is pretty much standard for every single person in Starfleet to visit the planet at least once for a vacation. It is also quite common for couples to visit the planet together. This is not even taking into account all the people that visit the planet that are not in Starfleet.
"Also, the Risan people are not frowned upon, to the contrary, they are very respected. If a Risan goes to a different planet or a star base they normally automatically get VIP treatment, even though they are 'just' one of many Risan. They are highly respected through the Federation because they give Federation personnel a place to unwind."
"Unwind by screwing like crazy," Torres said with a grin.
"Basically," Seven agreed. "But there is more, the sex is just a part of it. The Risan specialize in one thing; making you feel good. Be it by physical pleasure, or simply by giving you an ear that is willing to listen to all your problems. There are people that spent their entire vacation on Risa in the company of one Risan and do nothing more with them than talk and relax on the beach."
"I see what you mean," Torres said. She thought about it for a moment longer before adding, "Long contracts are divided up over specific industries. We have the mining guild, the factory guild, the farming guild, and so on. We could create a sex guild,"
"Service guild," Seven suggested. "It sounds better. Besides, body... servants... I guess that they would be called body servants then, do a lot more than just have sex with the master... the employer. They basically take care of all the needs of an employer. A sex slave is only used for one thing; sex. Whereas a body slave take cares of all the master's needs, including the sex part. This would then still be the same for a body servant and a... sex servant." Seven frowned when saying the last two words.
"Don't worry, Seven," Torres said with a grin. "We can think of proper names to use later on, now we are only talking about the basics. Now, as I was saying, we could create a, service guild, and we could make it tempting for people to join this guild by giving them the best rules of any of the guilds.
"For instance, the rules of a guild don't set how much a person will earn; that's something negotiated individually between employer and employee. But the rules do set the percentage that has to be paid in taxes. The service guild could be the first, and also the last, guild that won't have to pay any taxes at all; no matter how much someone earns."
"You are right. That alone will give them a privileged position," Worf agreed. "The only guild in which you actually get every single credit you earn."
"Yeah," Torres agreed. "And we could make the industry even more tempting by making the position of body servant one of the most respected jobs there is."
"How would you do that, and how would making the position of body servant respectable automatically make the position of sex servant more interesting?" Seven asked.
"Well, it would make the position of the sex servants more interesting because we would make the rules in such a way that anyone that wants to become a body servant that isn't already a body slave now, has to serve at least two years as a sex servant and also has to go through the full Risa training before they get certified as a body servant. So the industry will have enough people that become sex servants because they want to move on to being body servants.
"We have privileged jobs in all industries, but as history has shown, people join the industry to get that privileged job, and then end up not getting that job because they don't want to do the extra training. Or all those privileged jobs are already taken and there are no free positions. The same will happen in the service industry. People will become sex servants because it's the only way they can become body servants, and they just know of themselves that they are the person that will be THAT good and will be picked as a body servant.
"And to answer your question on how we make the job more prominent, we can make the job of body servant more privileged by encouraging more important people to take body servants. Right now it is actually common for the leader of every house to have a body slave, but when they get into higher position they normally get rid of the body slaves because they would have too much power by being tied to that particular master."
"Like me being able to give orders in your name and nobody knowing if you really did give that order," Seven said in understanding.
"Right. But that problem will be taken care of by the fact that slaves will get recognized names and their own identities. So a body servant will have to sign off an order with his or her own name. They will still have power, which will make the position of body servant a very desired position, but that power is no where near the power you now have, Seven. That middle ground will make it possible for people up to High Council members to have body servants."
"For that to work, you will have to change other rules as well," Worf pointed out. "One of the reasons now to not take a body slave is the fact that if someone has a body slave they are not allowed to have sex with a other slave."
"Right," Torres said in understanding. "And the people I just talked about taking a body servant would never do it because those are also the people that have enough credits to buy more than one sex slave. They would not give up the variances of having five, or ten, or more sex servants to get one body servant... or at least not when it meant that they couldn't still have those sex slaves as well."
Torres suddenly grinned and looked at Worf. "You know, we could use that to simplify rules a lot. Now we have rules about who people are allowed to have sex with based on what kind of slaves they have, what their own relationship status is, and all that. We could simplify the rules to where consenting sex is simply allowed between all, as long as local and Coalition laws are obeyed."
Worf nodded. "Which would still bind them to marriage laws and age of consent laws, yet it would get rid of the limitation of exactly what servant to get. A all round good body servant, of several only good at sex sex servants."
"Right," Torres said. "That would make it possible for someone to take a body servant for all the other tasks besides sex that they also do, and still keep some sex servants on the side because they like the variances. A blonde today, or a redhead? A human, or a Denobulans? So many choices, let's just take them all and have a different one every day."
"This could mean that body servants that actually like their employers will have to share that employer with someone else," Seven said, not liking the idea.
"Every deal exists out of tradeoffs," Torres came back, having a feeling that she knew the reason for Seven's dislike. "Besides, don't you think it's only fair? They employers give the body servant a contract, that contract should be of benefit to the employer; not limit the employer. It will also add to the privileged position of body servants in the long run. The ones that are really committed to their job will make sure that they are simply that damn good that they employer doesn't need to look somewhere else.
"Take you for instance, even if we didn't have the relationship we have, if you really were 'just' a body slave. Even then I would not have sex with anyone else, slave or not, simply because you are that damn good. Can you imagine how respected a body servant will become if that servant managed to hold on to that position for years and keeping the employer satisfied for all that time?"
"I see your point," Seven agreed with a smile. "However this too influences the decision about whether or not these contracts should be long contracts. For things to work as you just suggested, the service industry should not be tied to long contracts. After all, how can someone serve for only two years as a sex servant before moving on to being a body servant if the contract is for ten years like all long contracts normally are?
"Also, shorter contracts will enable masters to not prolong a contract, which will make sure that they body servant continues to do the job well. They will want to prove how good they are by being employed by the same employer for many years. And short contracts will also enable a body servant to leave the employer if they do not treat the body servant well enough, which will also improve the living conditions of said servants."
"Good point," Torres agreed.
"To bring up a different point," Seven said after once again a moment of silence in which all of them ate some of the food in front of them. "What government would these former slaves fall under?"
"What do you mean?" Torres asked. "All six slave planets are inside Klingon territory. Granted we have deals with the other Coalition factions that allows them to 'harvest' certain percentages of slaves off the planets without having to buy them from Klingon slave traders, but beside that the planets are firmly under our control."
"B'Elanna, you once told me that despite rules against it, slaves are being raped by Klingons that can't afford to buy a sex or body slave, and that slaves that report this actually take the risk of being raped a second time for telling such 'lie.' For slaves to truly be treated as more than just slaves, they need someone that truly has their interest at heart; someone that is willing to believe their story over the story of a Klingon simply because it is their job to look out for the former slaves.
"To make sure that former slaves are not simply grabbed and used, you need someone that has the power to deal with that Klingon. Right now you do not have that. True, theoretically they should fear you, the Klingon Intendant, for what they do. Yet in reality they do not. They know that the chances of a complaint actually reaching your ears are slim to none. And even if it did, they are sure that you will believe them over the word of some slaves."
"Which is exactly what the long contracts did in that mine on Bajor," Torres agreed. "And they were Bajorans, Klingons will be even more sure that I will believe them. Damn, you are right. We would need someone that others will know will come up for the rights of the former slaves, someone that will have the authority to check things, even if it is in territory that is normally in firm control of the Klingons, or Cardassians."
"An investigator that has powers to disregard orders from an Intendant?" Seven asked. "Someone that will only answer to the Chancellor; an overseer maybe?"
"No," Worf spoke up in a way that made it very clear that this was a point that would not be open to negotiation. "If you introduce a position that is higher than that of an Intendant, then soon that person will try to get more and more of my power. I don't need that. It is troublesome enough to deal with the High Council and the Intendants. At least both of those know not to mess with me. But someone that is higher than them but lower than me might just decide to push that little until they have my position, or turned my position into being only a ceremonial one."
"Point taken," Torres said. "Besides, I kinda like being the top of the top..."
Worf cleared his throat but didn't say anything.
"...the top of the top, except for one person," Torres corrected smoothly. "I am not looking forward to have two people that I would have to give account to. But how else," Torres interrupted herself when an idea stuck her. "Actually, I think I have a solution to that. How about installing a new Intendant? An Intendant that goes over the former slave races?
"True, that Intendant can't just go into, say, Klingon territory, to check something. But, this Intendant would be a go-between. Someone that will hear those reports, and then can take their complaints to the other Intendants. If this Intendant would bring forth an official complaint about the treatment of former slaves in, say, the Cardassian mines, then the Cardassians do really have to check it out because of the Intendant inter-contact laws.
"And if something is wrong, the Cardassians will change the situation because it is more important to them that the former slaves continue to work in Cardassian territory, than covering up some bad treatment in some factory, mine, or sex contract. They will also know that this new Intendant will have the power that all Intendants have; the power to end and call back all long contracts that are of species that fall under that Intendant's territory."
"An Intendant needs a territory," Worf pointed out. "And I don't think that any of the other factions will be happy to give up territory."
"They don't have to," Torres said with a grin. "We Klingons will graciously give up the territory needed. We have the planets of all six slave races under our control; these will become the territory of the new Intendant."
"You, are nuts," Worf said while pointing at Torres with the leg of a bItak beetle. He threw the leg on his plate and pushed the plate away, indicating that he was finished with eating. "Why in the universe would we give up those profitable planets?"
Seeing that Worf had stopped eating and because she and Torres had finished before, Seven stood up and started to clear off the table.
"Seven," Torres said, taking hold of Seven's arms.
"B'Elanna," Seven looked at Torres with a smile. "I know that I am not a slave at this moment. However, seeing the subject that we are discussing the Chancellor sent away the slaves that normally take care of the table and this cluttered table is driving me insane. That is the reason why I am cleaning the table, there is no other reason."
"Alright," Torres relented as she let go of Seven's arm and continued her conversation with Worf. "But that is just the beauty of it; we aren't giving up profitable planets. Those planets are profitable because of the slaves that are sold from it. See, when slavery ends, no more slaves will be sold from those plants. Instead you would be stuck with planets that have been basically ignored for the last one-hundred and fifty years.
"The only infrastructure worth mentioning on those plants is the infrastructure created for the slave trade. For the rest the planets have been maintained by the slaves that have no tools other than the basic tools they made themselves. Buildings are nothing more than houses they build themselves to have a roof over their heads. We would have a choice, either we ignore the planets and let them cope for themselves, which will make them prime targets for illegal slavery. Or we would have to spend trillions of credits to bring the planets up to even a half way decent standard."
"But if we hand the planets over to this new faction, then it's no longer our problem," Worf said in understanding.
"You will have to give up more than only those six planets," Seven pointed out as she sat back down.
"Why the hell would we do that?" Worf asked with a growl.
Knowing the difference between a growl and a growl by now, Seven ignored it and started to explain. "Because if they only have the six planets then they are condemned to using up the resources found on those planets to rebuild their infrastructure. However, you have to take into account that those planets have been mined for recourses for a long time. First when the Sol Empire was expanding, and then by the Coalition because they were 'only' the slave home worlds anyway.
"In other words, all resources needed to rebuild the planet's infrastructures are located in the deeper levels of the plant's crusts. In the beginning these former slave races will not have the tools needed for such deep mining so either they will have to buy the tools; putting them in debt from their beginning since they have no credits in the beginning. Or they will have to buy the resources from others, still putting them in debt.
"Another problem is that if they only control the planets they would need to ask passing permission every time they want to travel anywhere outside the planet's gravity field. Even if they wanted to travel from one of their own planets to another of their own planets they would need to ask the permission for passing through Klingon space "
"So, what would you suggest?" Torres asked.
"At the very least I would suggest giving them not just the six planets, but the six solar systems those planets are located in. That would give them fifty planets they can mine, not just six. True, they would still not have the means to mine from difficult planets, like the gas giants, or planets located too close to stars to allow for normal mining. However, they could rent out the mining rights to those planets to other parties. This would then give them the credits to buy the tools needed to do the other mining, and to buy items from the coalition that they need for the rebuild. It would also give them the opportunity to at least travel inside those solar systems without needing permission.
"Still, such a relatively small territory will result in the Intendant of the former slaves not being taken seriously. The only bargaining chip this Intendant would have would be to forbid the former slaves to work outside their territory. A threat that will get old very fast. Instead I would suggest making the territory a sphere of space that has the two outmost of the six planets as the border of the territory and that includes all that lies inside that sphere."
Torres frowned while trying to picture the position of the six planets and other planets that were inside that territory. "I believe that such a 'ball' of space would also include eight other species; free species."
"Indeed," Seven agreed. "As you know, I studied the layout of the Coalition, and that sphere or territory does indeed include eight species other than the slave species, one of them being the Risan. Besides that the territory also includes the moon Trakah."
"That's the richest source of natural Dilithium in Coalition space," Worf pointed out. "Give me one good reason why we would give that up."
"Because the situation is basically the same as with the slave home planets," Seven explained. "True, it is the richest deposit of natural Dilithium, but the moon has not been mined since the Klingons mastered the art of creating synthetic Dilithium. The Klingons will not miss that moon, yet it will give the former slaves a steady source of income,"
"They would flood the marked with it and bring down the price of Dilithium," Worf objected, waving his hand as if closing the matter for discussion.
"They could," Seven agreed. "Unless a limit was set as to how much Dilithium can be mined. One should not forget that we are talking about giving the former slaves a territory but not about simply just handing that territory away. If slavery is ended, that does not automatically mean that they will also get control over the planets they live on. There are several species inside the coalition that do not own the planet they live on. The former slaves could become such species.
However you are indeed talking about giving them planets and territory. That means that you can set any condition you want to this 'gift.' You can limit the Dilithium mined, or which planet or moon can be lived on in that space. You can give condition like the fact that Klingon ships never have to ask permission to enter the former slaves space. In the beginning, when you are instating this new Coalition faction, you do not have to negotiate with them. They will be thankful with anything you give them; conditions and all."
"She has a point," Torres agreed.
"That she does," Worf said, nodding his head a little. "But there is also one problem. It is easy for us to talk about this now, but who is to say that the former slaves will keep to the limitations we made? For any of this to work you need the former slaves to be trustworthy. Let's be honest, people will either believe that the former slaves are too stupid to maintain their own territory, or that the former slaves will use the opportunity to build an army again and once more try to conquer the Coalition territory. Either way, you have to find a way to prove that all former slaves can be trusted."
"Not necessarily," Seven disagreed. "In the Universe that I come from there is a saying that is very popular amongst human scientists. 'To prove that not all crows are black you only need to find one white crow.'" Seeing both Klingons frown, Seven sighed and added, "A crow is a bird found on the planet you call Sol. Its feathers are always completely black."
"And if someone talks about a crow, everyone knows that it's black bird," Torres said in understanding. "And to prove that not all former slaves are untrustworthy and only want the destruction of the Coalition, we need to find that one person that we can put in charge that will prove to people that this person keeps its deal. We have to take care when we select the first Intendant that it's a person we can make deals with, but that still stands up for it's people so that this new Intendant gets the trust of both sides."
"Indeed," Seven agreed. "It is also very important that this Intendant does not just see the former slaves as its people, but also the species that live in that sector that are free now. They would go from being part of the most powerful faction to being part of the least powerful one. They should not also have to worry about becoming second grade species in the new faction; they must also be able to place their trust in the new Intendant. In fact, to prevent a 'civil war' inside this new faction these free species will need some reassurances. These reassurances too can be part of the condition you set forth for the new faction. For instance an assurance that the lives of the free species do not change, and that the Klingons uphold the right to step in to protect the wellbeing of these species if needed."
"That would basically give us an excuse to invade the new faction at any time under the excuse of 'safeguarding wellbeing,'" Torres said.
"B'Elanna, the Klingons are the most powerful faction by far in the Coalition. If you were to invade the territory that is yours anyway according to the Division document the Coalition is based on, none of the other factions will object to it in any way. This stipulation will not change anything about the fact that this new faction will not be able to defend themselves against Klingons. It will however give the free species a feeling of security. They will know that their life will not change too much, or else the Klingons will come to their rescue."
"True enough," Torres said before adding thoughtfully, "So, we would need to find someone that will stand up for their people. Someone that can hold their own in negotiations with the Intendants, without being intimidated by those Intendants or bullied into accepting deals." Looking at Seven, a grin came to Torres' face. "Say, Seven, how would 'Intendant Seven' sound to you?"
"Terrible. I will not, and that is not negotiable."
"Aww, come on, you are willing to stick up for your people, which is how you came to me. You already met the Trill, Betazoid, Bajoran, and Klingon Intendants face to face and all of them like you. In fact, the Trill and Betazoid Intendants call you friends. The two women that are the Bajoran Intendant are so thankful for your help and like you so much that they invited you to their life bond ceremony, even though you are officially a slave. And the Klingon Intendant, well, I don't think I have to tell you how much she likes you."
"I will not," Seven said with a resolute voice. "As I said, this is not negotiable. I will not put myself in a position where I am your equal at all times, and I will not take a position that will take me way from you. If I were to become Intendant then I would have to leave you to go to 'my' territory. Please, B'Elanna, we worked past me having to worry about you sending me away. Please, please, do not put me in a situation in which I have to fear once more that we will have to part ways. "I will do,"
Torres lifted her hand to stop Seven from talking. "You are right, and I apologize putting you in a position where you have to worry about that." Torres sighted and looked over at Worf before adding. "Besides, it would have been way too easy to have found the right person for the job that fast."
"It would have," Worf agreed. "And let's not forget the small fact that there is still the question if such a job will ever exist at all. Right now we are just playing 'what if' and while I find it interesting to talk about this, that still doesn't mean that I would actually support it."
"Of course," Torres agreed. "And on that note, I think it would be a good time to stop this 'what if' for now. It's time for Seven and me to go sightseeing some more."
"So where are you planning to go today?" Worf asked.
"I was planning to take Seven to Malki's temple."
"Figures," Worf snorted. "Only one woman made it into the hall of the great, and that's all the reason women need to go to her temple. Why not visit Likyi's temple for instance? His temple is much more impressive."
"Because," Torres said with a grin, "as a great chancellor once said; only one woman made it into the hall of the great, and that's all the reason women need to go to her temple."
Worf laughed at hearing his own words. He lifted his glass in a salute before drinking the little bit of wine still left in it.
Seven wasn't sure if she should be glad or nervous about the fact that no guards were accompanying them. She liked the fact that they were alone on the mountain path without someone seeing their every move. However, she didn't like the fact that Torres took her safety so lightly. Seven had asked her why they wouldn't be taking any guards with them and Torres had told her that there wouldn't be any crowds that would have to be kept away.
Clearly to Torres the guards were more for crowd control and making statements than actually to guard her. Seven wasn't sure how to feel about that. She didn't want Torres to get hurt. Yet she also had to admit that Torres, having been Intendant for seven years, had more experience with security than Seven did, so she just had to trust Torres' word.
"You alright, my pet?" Torres asked as they moved around another bend and yet another long path loomed before them.
"I am fine," Seven assured. "Wearing bio-suits does have certain advantages.
"Well, since there is nobody else around, I'm more than happy to admit that I'm beat. But, since transporters don't work in these mountains, walking really is the best way to get there. Good thing that we're almost at the top."
"We are?" Seven asked, pleased with that news despite indeed being fine.
"Yeah. Up this path, then one more bend and you are almost at the bridge where Malki fought the Sol troops, her temple is only six more kilometers (4 miles) further."
"Only?" Seven asked raising her eyebrow a little.
"Well, I said that we were almost at the top, not that we are almost at the temple," Torres said with a grin. "Come on, tell me you aren't having fun."
"I can not do that, since I am indeed having fun," Seven said with a small smile. "This scenery is beautiful,"
"What?" Torres asked when Seven didn't continue.
"I just realized how... nice it is to be able to say that."
"Why wouldn't you be able to say it?" Torres asked. "I'm the Klingon here, I'm the one that has to make sure that I sound tough enough. You on the other hand can simply say that you find nature beautiful."
"I know. What I mean is that on Voyager I started out being a Borg drone that had to learn being human again."
"Should have learned to be Klingon instead," Torres interrupted. Despite the fact that she thought that humans, and the other slave races, deserved the freedom that other races in the Coalition already had, she still didn't like the superior attitude they could portray sometimes.
"Because of that," Seven continued as if she hadn't been interrupted, "I shielded my emotions and portrayed a cool persona. Saying that a nature scene is beautiful was something I simply would not have done then. At most I would have said that this scenery is 'aesthetically pleasing.'"
"Hmm. Tell me something, my pet."
"Have you ever been happy on that ship?"
"You heard me. Have you ever been happy, simply happy, on that ship?"
"I have made friends on Voyager. Friends I miss every day. They have provided me with good times and I miss those times. I have been happy on Voyager."
"But, after spending time with my friends, enjoying myself, I would go to the cargo-bay alone. In my mind I would get stored with the rest of the tools. No matter how nice a part of my day was, it would be ruined by the fact that I would go alone to be stored away until needed the next day."
"Every day," Seven interrupted. "I am happy now every day. There are moments where I do not agree with what you do, or have to do, or where behavior from others towards me makes me unhappy. However over all, at the end of the day, every day, I go to sleep happy and I wake up happy the next morning."
"Good," Torres said as they moved around the bend and pointed to the bridge ahead of them. The bridge was narrow, but long. It had the same width as the path; enough room for three people to walk beside each other, but had to be over two hundred meters long. Now Seven could see how one person could stop a superior force at the bridge. Numbers really didn't matter much if you could only stand with three people beside each other. The only difference the numbers would make then was in endurance.
How long could one person hold out against an enemy that would just keep coming, and coming, and coming. Apparently Malki did have that endurance. Seven realized that the bridge had the perfect width for someone to use a Bat'leth in battle. Nobody would be able to slip passed the reach of the Bat'leth, but the railings were still far enough apart to not hinder the Bat'leth moves.
"Can you picture the scene?" Torres asked. "Let's forget the official number of ten thousand Sol troops, let's say that there were 'only' one thousand. Still, just imagine, one thousand Sol troops reaching this bridge and seeing a Klingon woman waiting for them. Can you imagine it, my pet? Them charging onto this bridge, knowing that they have their numbers in their favor, and then Malki just keeps holding her ground against wave after wave of Sol troops. Showing them what true Klingon stubbornness is all about."
"I can picture it," Seven said, indeed picturing the woman she had seen as a statue standing on the bridge wielding a Bat'leth. Looking over the side of the bridge, Seven could see the ground only ten meter (30 feet) below her. "But why did the Sol troops cross the bridge at all? This ravine is not that deep and one can easily get in and out at both sides."
"My pet, this isn't a ravine; it's a riverbed. We are in the midst of summer now and the river that normally runs through this bed is dried out now. But the Sol troops had to cross this bridge in spring when the snow is melting off the mountains. Then this river becomes a raging beast which sometimes gets so high that it reaches the bottom of this bridge. In spring time there is no way to cross the river without special tools. But the thing is that the tools normally used don't work in these mountain for the same reasons that the weapons don't work here. Besides that, the Sol troops were on the run; they didn't even have ropes with them."
"I see. Thank you for the explanation."
"My pleasure. Come on, let's get those six kilometers over with. want to get to the temple and get a drink.
"Yes mistress," Seven said as they continued to walk up the path.
A little bit further up they reached another bend and Torres gestured over to the side. "You liked the scenery so much, come have look at this." From where she was standing, Seven could see the riverbed fifteen meters below, and beyond that a wide tree filled valley with a lake. "Kinda looks like the valley at my home doesn't it?"
"It does," Seven agreed.
Torres stepped closer to the edge and pointed to one of the sides. "If you look over there,"
"I would much rather like for you to come back here instead. It is not safe so close to the edge."
"Oh come on. I have been here three times already and I have never fallen down. It's safe here, and from here you can really see... shit!"
The last word was said as Torres felt the ground drop from under her feet.
"B'Elanna!" Seven shouted as the jumped closer to grab Torres but she was a second too late and to her horror she saw Torres tumbling the fifteen meters down the slope until she came to rest at the bottom of the dry riverbed. Not thinking about it for a second, Seven quickly made her way down the slope; stumbling down more than actually walking. When she reached Torres, Seven was glad to see that she was moving.
"Arrrr. Kahless be damned. Of all the stupid..."
"B'Elanna, do not move!" Seven pleaded as she kneeled beside Torres.
"I'm fine, Seven. That fall hurt my pride more than my body."
"If you are fine, then why is there a bone sticking through your left leg?!"
"There is?" Torres asked looking down. "That explains that itch."
"Alright. Calm down, Seven. Yes, I'm hurt, but I'm not dying. My leg hurts like hell, but seeing that there, that really isn't a surprise. Other places of my body also hurt, but my leg is the worst."
"And how do you know that you do not have internal injuries?"
"Seven, baby, calm down will ya? Look back up that slope. It's not like I dropped ten meters straight down, I tumbled, rolled, down. I didn't hit my head, and the most of the blows to my body have been absorbed by this damn battle uniform I wear all the damn time. The leg really is the worst. I guess it got caught somewhere and I twisted it; snapping the bone."
"Be that as it may," Seven said, somewhat conceding that Torres was probably right, "you still need medical attention." Seven looked back up the slope that was covered with loose rocks. "I believe that I will be able to carry you back up. I,"
"Seven, get real," Torres interrupted. "Look, I know that you can do things that most people can't, but even you don't have omnipotent powers. The ground is so loose that you will have a hard time getting back up there alone, let alone carrying me. And even if you could get me up there, then what? Would you also carry me the six kilometers to the temple, and all of that so that the people in the temple can carry me back down the mountain?"
"Surely they will have a Doctor there..."
Torres grabbed Seven's arm and pulled her close. She looked Seven deep in the eyes for a moment until she was sure she had the blonde's full attention. "Seven, listen to me, are you listening?"
"I am listening," Seven said, starting to calm down now that she knew that Torres was, relatively, alright.
"Aright, here's the deal. Remember the whole story about that damn bridge? Why the Sol troops had to fight? Energy weapons don't work here. Transporters don't work here. That means that things as simple as bone knitters and dermal regenerators also don't work. So at best you would be hauling up there, and dragging me to the temple, all so that they can give me some first aid and then carry me down the mountain again so that I can get some real medical help. It would be a lot simpler if you just went to the temple, get some people with a stretcher, come back here, and we'll get off this damn mountain a damn lot faster."
"That would mean me leaving you here alone," Seven pointed out.
"I don't think we have much choice anyway baby. Do you really think I could make it up that slope and to that temple with that?" Torres pointed to her leg when she said 'that.' "Even if you did carry me all the way, the movement alone would kill me."
"At least let me get you back up the slope and out of this riverbed."
"A dry riverbed, Seven."
"The chance of flashfloods should not be underestimated," Seven objected. She saw the logic of Torres' statement, but she didn't want to leave her.
"Seven, this river is fed by a lake that on its turn is fed in the spring by the melting snow. For there to be a flash flood, it would suddenly have to rain as much as it normally does in the three months of autumn, and that in the time that it would take you to get up to the temple and back."
"Seven, please don't make me admit how much that damn leg is really hurting me. I need medical help that I can only get at the foot of these mountains."
Closing her eyes for a moment in resignation, Seven sighed and nodded her head. "Very well. I will go get help." Seven looked down at the white bone sticking through the pants leg and flinched at the sight. "I just wish that I could help in some way."
"I know baby, I know. But I can't even let you pull my leg straight. With Klingons and Humans the arteries lie in different places in the leg." Torres frowned. "I never asked what the case was with me; I didn't want to be reminded that I'm not fully Klingon. Pulling that bone back might damage an artery; better just leave it for now."
"I will be back soon," Seven said as she reluctantly stood up. "Please be safe." Looking around her for something to make Torres a little more comfortable, Seven could only see rocks, dirt, and more rocks. Sighing, Seven turned away to move up the slope.
"Seven," Torres said as the blonde had just turned around.
"Don't break your neck trying to get me help, be careful."
"I will," Seven assured.
"I love you. Go get me my help, I'm looking forward to soaking in that bathtub tonight and listen to you pointing out to me, in great detail, how we would not be in the predicament of you having to leave me now if I had taken the guards along."
Seven finally managed a smile at that. "I will hold you to that. I love you to, B'Elanna Torres, despite the fact that you are an annoyingly stubborn woman."
"That's what you get for getting involved with a Klingon."
"As far as I remember, you picked me."
"It's not nice to argue with an injured person," Torres pointed out.
"Then I will save my arguments for tonight," Seven replied with a smile before assuring once more that she would soon be back and then starting to make her way up the steep slope.
Only when Seven was out of sight did Torres look back to the protruding bone. She carefully touched it with the tip of her finger and immediately had to bite her lip to stop herself from screaming. "Kahless be damned that hurts. Sometimes it bites big time to be a too proud for her own good Klingon."
Torres' monologue was stopped when she heard the telltale growl/howl of a mountain Targ. Torres knew that in her state she would be seen as a wounded animal and definitely food. She also knew that her Daqtag would never be enough to defend herself against a mountain Targ. With a silent curse she took the only other weapon she had with her, her mek'leth (Klingon sword like blade, about half as long as a bat'leth) out of its holder and settled in for a wait that suddenly was going to feel a lot longer.
Seven felt that she was making good time, she guessed that she had jogged four kilometers already which left her only two more to go. She would have liked to run but she knew that not even she could run six kilometers at top speed. Suddenly another growl/howl could be heard and Seven slowed down when she realized that this time it sounded a lot closer.
She carefully walked around yet another bend of the mountain path and then she could see two things. One thing was a building further up in the mountain of which Seven was certain that it was the temple she needed to reach, and the second thing was the biggest Targ that Seven had yet seen that was standing to the side of the road.
Seven looked at the animal for a few seconds. It had the standard Targ build but its shoulder height was so high that it had to actually come up to Seven's waist. Its coat was chocolate brown at its back and grayish/white at its belly while its legs were so dark brown that it came close to being black.
Caramel brown eyes looked at Seven for a moment before the animal curled up its lip and showed off a very impressive set of teeth with ten centimeter (4 inch) long eyeteeth. It let out a low growl that Seven more felt in her chest than actually heard.
Seven knew that she didn't have a choice; she had to get past the animal to get the help she needed. Seven slowly came closer, staying as far away from the Targ as the path allowed. She was slightly surprised to see the animal not trying to get any closer. Then, when Seven was as close as she would come while moving past the animal it launched itself at Seven, only to crash to the ground when its hind legs were pulled from under it.
Seven looked on as the animal tried to get back to its feet and only now did Seven see something that had been obscured by the grass before; both its hind legs were caught in a wire trap.
Knowing that her way to help for Torres was free, Seven turned back to the path, but something stopped her from actually moving up the path.
She looked back at the animal that was still trying to get back to its feet but was failing miserably. Seven could see that the wire had been pulled so tight around the animal's legs that it had actually cut in to the flesh and Seven could see the blood seeping from the wounds.
After a moment of more struggling, Seven could see that the blood at the wounds started to flow more freely. Seven knew she should move on. Torres needed help, and this mountain Targ wouldn't hesitate to attack her if Seven tried to get closer to help it. After all, everyone knew that a wounded animal was at its most dangerous. Yet, moments later, Seven found herself trying to get closer to the wounded animal.
The Targ noticed its intended prey getting closer and once more bared its teeth and let out a low growl, never expecting the reaction it got.
Seven heard the animal growl again and decided to do the same. She pulled up her upper lip and also growled, trying to show the Targ that she wasn't afraid of it. Suddenly, as fast as she could, Seven grabbed the Targ's snout with her Borg enhanced hand and clamped its mouth shut.
The Targ was confused. This was supposed its prey; food. Yet this tall animal clearly wasn't afraid. It was the first time since its mother that the Targ met a creature that didn't show any fear. Instead it was growling as if it too was a predator. Suddenly the tall animal grabbed the Targ at its snout and try as it might, the Targ couldn't break the hold. Now the predator suddenly felt like prey.
Seven pulled the Targ's head towards her until she could look into both its eyes. She held the stare until the animal stopped struggling and did nothing more than merely looking back.
The Targ panicked for the first time ever in its life and started to struggle even more. Then the tall animal pulled its head so close that the Targ could have reached the tall animal's head if it could have extended it's tongue through the tight grip on its snout. The Targ saw light eyes of a color it had never seen before looking back at it. It also saw a total lack of fear in those light eyes, and something else. Somehow the Targ could feel that this tall animal wasn't going to kill it.
Now that the Targ had stopped moving, Seven focused her attention on the trapped legs, making sure not to let go of the Targ's snout. Looking closer at the wire, Seven saw that it was made of an alloy that had a breaking point so high that Seven would never be able to break it. Then she looked at the locking mechanism and saw that it was made of a different material. She still wouldn't be able to break it, but she did have another way of getting trough that material. However, it meant letting go of the Targ's snout.
Seven once more brought the Targ's head close to her own. "I am going to release your mouth now so that I can free you. Do not make me regret it." After a moment of silence in which Seven thought about the words she had just said, she added, "What am I doing? You do not understand what I am saying. Just... stay like you are."
The tall animal once more pulled its head close and the Targ wondered what was going to happen now. It had resigned itself to the fact that it had come across an even bigger predator than it was, yet this predator was not acting like a predator. Then the tall animal started to make strange sounds. It wasn't growls; the Targ knew what growls sounded like. Whatever it was, the Targ liked the sounds. They made it feel something inside that it had never felt before.
Sighing once more, Seven let go of the Targ's snout and slowly moved from its head to its hind legs. In the situation the Targ was in now, Seven really didn't fear it. She knew that if needed she had the strength and reflexes to kill the Targ with one hit against its head with her Borg enhanced hand. But she hoped that the animal would stay still. She wanted to help it; not kill it.
Suddenly the Targ felt its snout being released and the tall animal started to move to its hurting legs. Now it was confused again, had it been mistaking? Had this tall animal been attracted to the sent of its blood after all? The Targ growled once more, and once more it got a growl in reply. Then suddenly for a moment its legs hurt a lot more, and then... most of the pain was gone.
Seven brought her Borg enhanced hand close to the locking mechanism and started to drill away the mechanism with her assimilation tubes. After some time she carefully inserted a finger between the Targ's legs and under the wire, and with a sharp pull overcame the resistance of what was left of the lock and pulled the cable loose. She knew that she must had hurt the Targ with that last pull and looked up to the animal's head, only to see caramel colored eyes looking back in great interest. Seven knew that the animals wounded legs needed medical attention, but she also knew that someone else was also waiting for medical attention, someone that had a much bigger priority for Seven.
Seven softly patted the Targ's side and prepared to move on. "I am sorry that I can not give you better care. However, I did give you a chance now; something you did not have before." Seven knew only too well that someone who would have placed such kind of trap would also do only one thing with any kind of animal they found in that trap. The Targ had a much bigger chance of surviving with the injured legs than it did being found alive by the person that had set the trap.
The tall animal started to make those strange sounds again, and once more the Targ felt something it had never felt before. But now the Targ realized what it was. It was feeling a pull to this tall animal, so strong that it was even far bigger than the Targ's pull to its mother had been. Before it could stop itself, the Targ moved its head and started to lick the tall animal front paw that had just patted its side. The Targ was glad to see that the tall animal didn't pull away. Instead the tall animal it let it lick its front paw for a moment and then used that same paw to scratch the Targ behind its ear. The Targ really liked that, no it loved that. Then the tall animal started to move away and the Targ felt a sadness it had never felt before. Not even when it found its mother dead at the bottom of that cliff.
Seven slowly got up and started to move back up the path to the temple. She heard a sound behind her and looked back to see the Targ also getting up and starting to follow her. "No, you stay here. I do not believe that the people at the temple would appreciate your presence."
Yet again those nice sounds, but something in that timbre of those word made the Targ pause. It tilted its head and looked at the tall animal with sad eyes.
Seven saw the sad look on the Targ's face and rolled her eyes. "You look exactly like B'Elanna does when we are interacting on equal level and I am not, yet, giving her what she really wants. Just... stay."
The last sound had sounded different than the rest to the Targ, as if there was a clear meaning to the sound. When the tall animal made that particular sound again and once more started to move away, the Targ started to understand that the tall animal didn't want the Targ to follow it.
"Stay," Seven said again and this time she was glad to see that the Targ did as she had said. This time when she started to move up the path she didn't hear any sounds behind her and when a moment later she looked over her shoulder a final time she saw that the Targ was still where she had left it, looking back at her.
Seven walked through the open door of the temple and saw two Klingons coming her way. As soon as they saw her they hesitated for a moment and then rushed her while shouting 'escaped slave.' Seven treated one of the Klingons to a kick between his legs, which left him sinking to the ground while clutching his groin, and caught the arm of the second Klingon as he swung at her. She twisted the arm back until it was close to breaking point and the Klingon was shouting out in pain.
"Let him go, or you die right now," A third Klingon said while coming closer with a bat'leth in hand. He had come to investigate the commotion and found a human slave taking down two of the best temple guards.
Before Seven could say anything, a fourth Klingon came running and after looking at Seven for a moment his eyes clearly got a lot wider. "You all let her be."
"What?" The Klingon with the bat'leth in his hands asked as he still moved a little closer to Seven.
"You idiots, did any of you take the time to look at that thing hanging around her neck?"
At hearing the question the Klingon with the bat'leth looked back at Seven and only now really saw the necklace that had to be worth more than the temple had gotten in allowance in the last ten years, combined. More importantly, he saw just what mark this slave was wearing. Realizing that he didn't want to die that badly, he backed up and lowered his bat'leth.
Seven let go of the arm of the second Klingon and turned to the Klingon that seemed to be in charge, after she was sure that none of the other Klingons would attack again.
"Your assistance is required. I need a stretcher and Klingons strong enough to carry a grown person on said stretcher down the mountain."
"Where is the Intendant?" The commander asked.
"My mistress is six kilometers down the mountain. Her friend was injured and broke her leg, badly. My mistress needs assistance in getting her friend down the mountain. However, she did not want to leave her friend because she had heard the howl of a mountain Targ, so she sent me here instead." Seven decided that it was better not to mention that it was actually Torres that was hurt, one never knew if there wasn't someone with a grudge against Torres living in the temple.
"I will take care of it right now," The commander assured.
"Good." Seven pointed to the Klingon with the bat'leth before continuing. "You, hand me your bat'leth and then take care of your wounded comrades here."
"You heard her," The commander said as he saw the Klingon hesitate. Once he was sure that Seven had the bat'leth she had asked for, he turned away to get the men and stretcher needed.
"You said that you heard a mountain Targ," A female Klingon that had shown up asked as the wounded Klingons were taken away. "Did you also see one?"
"Why do you ask?" Seven said, evading the question for the moment.
"Because a mountain Targ has settled around here. Since the path up to the temple needs to be safe, the temple is trying to catch it, but until now it outsmarted them."
"And how would this change by me having seen it?" Seven asked.
"Because if you had seen it, and you made it up here, that would probably mean that it was trapped in one of the traps I set out for it."
"I see. Well, unfortunately I did not see one. I did however find a bloodied wire trap. Is that one of the traps you set out?" Seven thought that it would be better to admit that she had come across a bloodied trap, since that would explain the faint blood stains that were still on her hands in case someone asked about them.
"Yeah, it is. Damn, probably some other animal got caught in the trap and the mountain Targ found it and ate it."
"If you are trying to capture it, why use such kinds of traps? Why not use traps that do not harm the animal and then after you caught it you can set it out again away from this temple."
"I don't want it to be set free again; I want it dead. Do you have any idea how great the skin of a mountain Targ would look in my home?"
"I see," Seven said in understanding. "Since it is not allowed to hunt an mountain Targ unless they are a danger to the place they settled in, you want to use this opportunity to get the real skin of a mountain Targ."
"Damn right I do," the Klingon agreed with a grin.
"Well, in that case, good luck with your hunt," Seven said as she saw four Klingons coming closer with one of them carrying a collapsible stretcher. "Excuse me, I have to go now."
Author note: The saying about finding the white crow isn't mine. I heard someone on the Discovery channel quoting some writer and I liked the simplicity, yet difficulty of the saying.
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