DISCLAIMER: See Part 1
"Alright, if there is nothing else, I have a little announcement," Annika said, looking around the table to make sure that everyone was indeed finished with their report. "It's still some time from now, but I just wanted to let you know already that in forty days there is something called 'the Grand Assembly.' We need to be prepared for that. Most importantly, we need to be able to record two days of continuous broadcasting, and up to one thousand information packages the size of your standard Federation package. It probably will be only a couple of hundred packages, but there has been an occasion once where eight hundred were sent out so we need to be prepared just in case."
"And what is this 'Grand Assembly?" Chakotay asked.
"I'm getting there," Annika replied with a smile. "The Grand Assembly is something that is held once every two years. All six Intendants meet to officially ratify the inter-faction deals they made in those two years. It's kind of telling the whole Coalition 'yes we really did make that deal so now shut up complaining about it.'"
"Though I think they will call it differently?" Harry asked amused.
"Of course. They call it 'keeping their people well informed and an imperative part of important Coalition changes."
"Captain, from what you told us about the Coalition makeup, I thought that the Intendants are the only ones that are a part of the Coalition changes," Tuvok asked.
"It's a bunch of nonsense really," Annika said while waving her hand a little as if whipping something way. "There is also something called the Coalition House, but I didn't tell you about them because the three thousand member House has no real power. They are representatives of certain planets and colonies in Coalition space, and the only real benefit they have from being part of the House is that they can say 'but I don't like that' one time without being killed. The House members are allowed to give their opinion, if done with the proper respect to the Intendants, and in the correct way, and in a way that makes it clear that they aren't trying to undermine the Intendants, and, well, you get the idea."
"So this Grand Assembly is basically nothing more than one long info-session?" B'Elanna surmised.
"Right. But, it is a great way to keep up to date with changes in the Coalition; which really is its point anyway. And for the Intendants it's the perfect way of concluding things. It is mandatory for everyone in the Coalition to watch these broadcastings, shops close, factories shut down, all in an effort to make sure that everyone sees it. That way once something has been mentioned at the Grand Assembly everyone in the Coalition is assumed to know about it and 'but I didn't know' won't wash anymore as an excuse."
"You as slaves must have really hated this then," Tom guessed. "Hearing for two days how the rules were changes in such a way that you would be exploited even more."
"Actually, we loved it," Annika disagreed. "You are correct; rules about slaves were also discussed from time to time. Because of this the slaves also are 'forced' to watch it. This meant that for two days we didn't need to work or do anything else but watch some people talk, and talk, and talk. But you see, it was the only time off we had. For the rest we had to work, day after day after day."
"Two days off in two years?" Tom asked, "That's some lousy contract, you should have renegotiated."
Annika smiled at the remark. That was one of the things she liked about Tom. Where others, even B'Elanna, were sometimes still careful about saying some things, afraid that it would bring back bad memories for Annika, Tom actually joked about it from time to time. Annika didn't know if it was deliberate or because he simply didn't think further, but she didn't care. She wanted to move on, and for that she had to accept her past... if only those damn nightmares would stop coming. Annika looked over at B'Elanna and only just stopped herself from smiling. Well, she had found a damn good cure against the nightmares as well.
"Oh, I would have loved to renegotiate, but the employer's conditions for a new contract were a real killer."
"You said it lasted for two days, are the Intendants talking for all that time?" Chakotay asked.
"Not at all. In fact normally they just stick around for the first day. No, once the Intendants announced the relatively big changes and deals. The rest of the time is taken up by announcers announcing continuously smaller and smaller changes and deals. If I remember correctly, the last time the Grand Assembly was opened by the Cardassian Intendant announcing that the Cardassians now officially claimed the monopoly on any and all legal hallucinating drugs. The Grand Assembly closed with the announcement that the Ferengi were permitted to increase their Drapplant worm production by point-zero-zero-two percent."
"And nobody objected to the Cardassians simply claiming a monopoly?" Harry asked. "I'm surprised that the Klingons would let them get way with that."
"Actually, it's a very common thing here. It's pretty much normal for all bigger industries to be monopolized by one of the factions, even though the industry is in the entire Coalition. For instance, the Klingons have the by far most profitable monopolies. They have pretty much absolute control over the Dilithium market. Others still mine for it if they have it on planets or moons inside their faction's territory, but normally they fall far, far, short of the amount of Dilithium they need to keep all their ships flying. And no ships equals no trading. So what they can't mine, they buy from the Klingons.
"Beside that the Klingons also have all six slave planets under their control. They normally don't bother too much with doing the actual slave trade, though there sure are plenty of Klingon slavers. But all in all they normally just lease out the slaving to anyone that pays the right price. The Trill on the other hand have a firm control over the gambling market.
"But a monopoly doesn't mean that nobody else can do it, just that they insinuate themselves into the position of being the people you have to see if you want that thing. Again, take the Trill. They are in firm control of the gambling, but for as long as the Coalition exists the Ferengi are trying to take over that market, never quite succeeding, but never giving up hope."
"And I assume that the information packages you talked about are the things that are announced, just in all the details, conditions and sub-condition?" Tuvok asked.
"Right," Annika agreed. "For instance, they will announce something and the mentioning is nothing more than a paragraph or a page in length, yet the information package that hold the deal is actually three hundred margins long."
"Well, I don't think it will be a problem," Harry said confidently. "With the upgrades we did to the central computer we could record several thousand times that amount without even having to dump it out of static memory."
"Alright, in that case I now close this senior staff meeting," Annika said before adding 'one moment please' when people were starting to get up. "B'Elanna?"
B'Elanna smiled her thanks before getting up and joining Annika at the head of the table. She looked around the table before taking a deep breath. "I, we, Annika and I, wanted to let you know that we got engaged yesterday,"
She was interrupted by a round of congratulations from around the table. "Thank you. Last night Annika and I talked about when we would get married and, um, we know that for most people on this ship the thinking is that when we get back to our universe... but Annika and I decided that because Annika is from here, and we found each other here in this universe, we want to get married while being here. Because of that we have decided that we will get married next month. We would really like for you all to be there. Neelix, if you don't mind, we would like you to take care of arranging this together with Chakotay... if you also don't mind Chakotay?"
Both men assured that they wouldn't mind at all. Of course both of them also knew why Chakotay was asked as well. They knew that Neelix would set up the party and the ceremony, and Chakotay's contribution would mostly be to make sure that Neelix didn't plan anything too overly zealous.
"We have people in mind that we would like to ask to help in the ceremony, but we will do that in private," Annika added. "But we do want you all to know that we consider you all our friends. It's just that we have specific reasons as to why we will ask specific people to,"
"Captain, we are picking up a message on a Federation frequency, audio only," Came the sudden interruption from the bridge.
"Seven," B'Elanna said immediately.
"Play it in the conference room."
"Yes Captain," Came the reply before the message started. With the first few words they heard they knew that B'Elanna's guess had been right. "A message to my friends. I still have not been able to find the cure for the disease we talked about last time. It might be a good idea to meet in person to discuss the matter. I am on my way to Bajor, if you were to go there as well, and travel at warp five, we could meet there in exactly seven days and discuss our problem. Hopefully I will see you soon. Your friend, out."
Annika frowned as she thought about the words. "I wonder what that's supposed to mean. There is no way that we can be at Bajor in a week if we travel at warp five."
"I don't think that Bajor is the place for the meeting to begin with," Tom spoke up. "I told you all you should have played that gangster simulation on the holodeck. That way you would have heard them talk with messages in messages like Seven is doing now."
"Tom," B'Elanna said with a slight growl that let him know that he was starting to piss her off.
"Alright, alright. I think that what's she's really telling us is that we could meet at the place where we would be in seven days if we would have traveled from where we are now to Bajor in a straight line at exactly Warp five."
"Which, in reality, will actually be light-years away from Bajor," Annika said in understanding. "And for anyone else that picked up that message that still means absolutely nothing because they think that some kind of meeting will take place on Bajor itself in one week's time."
"That does seem like a reasonable conclusion," Tuvok agreed. "There is just one problem. For Seven to know where we will be in one week time if we do follow her instructions, she also needs to know where we are now. How would she know where we are? The last thing we know for sure that could have told her what our position is, was the encounter with the Cardassian ship. But she does not know what we did since then and therefore she can not know where we are now."
"Unless a tracking device has been installed in Voyager while she was being repaired," B'Elanna guessed. "I mean, we made the repairs, but the Klingons checked them. They had more than enough time to install a thousand tracking devices."
"So I assume that our next task is to search Voyager for things that aren't supposed to be there?" Harry asked. To his surprise, Annika shook her head slightly.
"I don't think it will be needed. It is clear by now, after what happened with that Cardassian ship that the Klingons aren't out to get us. In fact, we are getting some kind of protection from them. If they wanted to capture us or anything like that they would have already done so. I don't think we have anything to fear from those potential tracking devices.
"Besides, we don't even know that there is such a device. For all we know we crossed paths with a cloaked Klingon ship yesterday or today and they know our position from that. I don't want Voyager to be subjected to some wild Frzin chase. I actually think that it's to our advantage if the Klingons know where we are."
Annika looked to her side where B'Elanna was still standing. "But tell your Engineers that with any repair they make, I want them to check if everything is as it is supposed to be. No need to tell them why; I don't want the crew to get paranoid."
"Easy enough," B'Elanna assured. "I will simply tell them that I want to make sure that they really did give us top quality material to make the repairs, which is partially true. Since we have all those replicator patterns you so nicely uploaded, I want to see if we don't actually have better stuff in the patterns than what we were given to use."
"Sounds like a good idea," Annika agreed.
"Annika," B'Elanna said a little hesitantly, not sure if she should bring this up now. "If we are going to meet Seven in one week, do you think,"
Annika didn't need to hear more. "Neelix, Chakotay, would you be able to plan our wedding in a week?"
"Ooh, I love a challenge," Neelix said enthusiastically, followed by a more serious but still smiling Chakotay. "Well, it's not like we need to give people time so that they can travel to your wedding. I'm sure we'll be able to manage."
"Thanks. We will get together with your later to answer any questions I'm sure you have... I HOPE you have."
"Why Captain, it sounds as if you would object to the standard bright orange Talaxian wedding gown," Neelix said, trying to keep a straight face.
"We will most definitely be getting together, Neelix." Annika said in a firm voice, making Neelix laugh. Annika laughed as well when she realized that she had been firmly tweaked. She took a deep breath to stop laughing and looked around the table once final time. "Alright, let's break this up then; B'Elanna and I still have some quarters to redecorate."
"Would you like some help with that?" Harry asked.
"Thanks, but we already filed the requests with Engineering, they are supposed to come over and do it today," Annika declined, but still very pleased with the offer.
"Why don't you cancel it?" Tom asked with enthusiasm. "Harry and I could ask Jennifer and Megan to come and help, and with your and B'Elanna's engineering knowledge at hand there is no way even we could mess it up."
Annika smiled her thanks at them and quickly looked at B'Elanna. After getting the smallest of nods she gratefully accepted their offer.
"All done?" Torres asked when Seven closed the computer unit down.
"Yes, mistress. Thank you for making it possible for me to see my friends."
"Well, I did promise, didn't I? Even though I want to get those negotiations started, I think I can take a day longer to get to Bajor. It's not like Deanna and Jadzia will stop waiting for me."
"I am surprised that you have not heard anything from the Cardassian and Romulan Intendants, considering that you sent them the proposal at the same time as the others."
"Oh, believe me, eventually I will. I'm pretty much expecting to hear from them after my meeting with the others; after their spies have told them all about what kind of deals we made. Normally Dukat and Shinze need things from me. Now that it's the other way around for a change they are both going to try and milk this for what it's worth."
"Are you concerned about them?"
"I am 'concerned' about all of them, even the Bajorans which should be a sure vote since they owe me big time for them getting their job. This isn't chump-change I'm asking them, my pet. If they decide that it's better for them to not support this deal, even just one of them, then it's dead and buried. It's impossible to end slavery only in one faction. I need the support of all of them, and me needing all their support is something that hasn't happened since I became Intendant. But I'm pretty certain that I will be able to come to a deal with the Bajorans, Betazoids, and Trill. The question with those is mainly what it will cost me.
"Dukat though is a whole different story. He owes me so many favors that I think I'll be able to 'buy' him off with 'forgetting' some of those favors, I just don't know yet how many favors I'll have to 'forget,' probably all. But with him there is also the chance that he will decide that it's just not worth it. A small chance, but still a chance. So as I said, I'm concerned about them all. I am worried though about Shinze. He is the wildcard. He doesn't owe me any favors, nor do I owe him any.
"He is in control of the fourth biggest faction, which means that it's definitely in his benefit to keep me happy, but that he is also powerful enough to say 'no' to me without having to worry what any retaliation matters from my side would bring. It's not like I would be able to declare war on him for not supporting a deal, if I did that then all the other factions would align themselves with him against the Klingons.
"I mean, sure, I could hurt him badly by throwing up economical sanctions. Just look at how glad Jadzia and Deanna were to get rid of the Bajoran sanctions against them. It would really hurt Shinze if they had to suffer from an Klingon blockade on all deals, but the whole matter of just what this is about nullifies that option for me. I mean, it's the choice, either loose Klingon deals, or loose all their slaves. Both are things that he will have to explain to his people.
"The question is, which one would he rather explain to his people? I think that the biggest problem is that I really can't even threaten him with military actions because he knows just as well as I that I won't start a war over this. He knows that giving the order to kill millions might not bother me... after all, I'm feared through the Coalitions for giving exactly such order once before. No, killing millions doesn't worry me, but potentially loosing millions of Klingons in a war does bother me, and he knows that."
"Besides, freeing the slaves is not worth a war of any kind in the Coalition," Seven said in understanding.
"Right. No matter how much we Klingons like a good fight, there is no way, no way at all, that I would start a war over this. We are talking about giving people their freedom back, not about killing millions or even billions in a war. The last war we had was the hundred day Klingon - Cardassian war, and in those one hundred days over four hundred million people died because planets and colonies were the targets; not spaceships. And that's one and a half centuries ago. Can you imagine a war on Coalition scale, fought with the weapons we have today? Weapons that continued to evolve even though there was no war. Simply to be sure that 'my weapons are bigger than yours' should ever a war start."
"It is not worth the risk," Seven said, once gain in complete understanding.
"It's not worth the risk. So, I'll deal for all that I'm worth, I'll maybe make some economic threats, but if one of them simply keeps saying no, then I'll have to bow out and call it a good effort and move on... which reminds me. When we meet your friends, I don't want you to tell them anything at all about what I'm doing."
"Very well, but if I may ask; why not?"
"Because first of all it would only raise their hopes while we don't even know if it will work. Better let them believe what they do now, that it will take them another one and a half years at best to get back to their universe. Besides, for now I would like to keep the news of my proposal just between Worf, Martok, the Intendants... and the spies of course."
"Mistress, if I may ask, what did change? Why did you talk about two years first, and now you talk as if they could go home after the Great Assembly, if your deal works?"
"I answered that once before, my pet. It's the game of chess. Those two years were an estimate of what I knew then, but things changed. The Bajorans are very friendly to us and will probably now support this deal, and not to forget, will probably allow the star base to be used to send your friends home. The proposal is also coming along faster than I expected. I was certain that there was no way that Worf and I would be able to reach agreement on it so fast. I assumed that we would reach an agreement some time after this Grand Assembly was over, which means that it could only have been made official at the next one. That alone is those two years."
"Which would have meant that it would have actually taken Voyager almost two and a half years to get home, not the two years that you told them," Seven pointed out.
"First of all, Voyager will never make it home; your friends might. That system that can transport people from the Bajoran star base to its counterpart in your universe called, as you say, Deep Space Nine, can only transport people one at a time with a few things; pretty much what they can carry in a backpack, but certainly no space ships. Second, when I made that promise to see if I could get them home it was indeed still two years and three months... My pet, if I give a rough time estimate, two years and three months is two years, alright?"
The way Torres had spoken the last words told Seven that she was clearly annoyed. For a moment Seven decided if it was worth to argue her point, but then she realized that actually, they both had a point. "I apologize, mistress. You are right; it is very common to generalize timeframes down to full years, if it is more than two years. However, I personally prefer a generalization that is a little bit more precise. How would you feel about a compromise? Timeframes that are generalized in half year time frames?"
"Alright then, tell me, two years and three months, would that be two years, or two and a half years?"
Seven thought about that for a moment and finally nodded her head a little with a small smile. "It could classify as two years. You were right."
"As a very smart body slave of mine once said about me; I'm always right." Torres softly caressed Seven's cheek with a smile. "I'll try to be a little bit more precise in the future, with you at least."
A whine interrupted them and they looked to the side to see Toby looking back, his head tilted slightly in an adorably cute angle.
"I think someone is complaining that he isn't getting enough attention," Torres said amused.
"A situation that we should rectify," Seven agreed as she patted her leg. "Come on, boy, play time."
Torres was only too happy to follow them both. Even though play time was mostly between Seven and Toby, sometimes the Targ was nice enough to include her as well. But more than that, Torres really liked to simply see Seven and Toby play. It was at those times that she would see a side of Seven she normally didn't see at other times. Seven was always so composed, a perfect balance for the impatient and temperamental Torres. The only exception to this was of course in bed, Seven certainly could, and did, let go there.
But when she was playing with Toby the blonde would run and do things like tackle the beast to the ground to wrestle with him. It was as if playing with Toby made Seven forget about her composed nature. At those times she was just a person playing with her pet. Torres loved to see that transformation; she liked to see that carefree person that Seven became then; someone that only thought about having fun.
Another nice thing about seeing Seven and Toby play was that for a while it made Torres forget all about Intendant stuff. She didn't think about deals, rules, or spies. All she did think about then was that somehow, without her really noticing it, she had slipped into actually having a family life. A family, she had never expected to have; had never wanted as a matter of fact. The extended family she had was more than enough for her. No she never wanted the close, living in one house, family. Absolutely not.
Funny how one blue eyed blonde human and one brown Targ could change things around.
"You have some information to sell?" Bejal Mingan asked the Romulan sitting across from him.
"I have, for ten thousand credits."
"Give me the information and I'll tell you if it's worth the credits you're asking."
"Give me the credits, and I'll give you the information."
"You know that I don't work like that. You also know that I always do pay up, if the information is worth it."
"That you do," The Romulan was forced to admit. "Besides, you know better than to mess with me."
And Bejal did, for two reasons. First, the Romulan sitting across from him was one of the Romulan spies that worked inside the Klingon faction. There was nobody that could give Bejal the kind of sensitive information about the Klingons and Romulans that this Romulan could give him. Second, there also was a second side to this Romulan, a much more dangerous side. Bejal was one of only five people in the whole Coalition that knew that this particular Romulan was an operative of the Tal Shiar; the Romulan Secret Service, and that his specialty was eliminations.
Bejal only knew this because the Romulan had come to him and offered him his services, proving his worth by being able to reach Bejal despite the army of bodyguards he normally had around him. It seemed that the Romulan wasn't happy with what the Tal Shiar was offering him for his retirement. The Tal Shiar had given him the promise that if he did his job right, they would let him retire, alive, and give him a pension of one hundred-thousand credits a year. The Romulan had liked the promise to be left alive because it was an inner service promise and those were kept, normally. But he wasn't happy with the, in his eyes, meager pension. So he had decided to offer his services to the man considered the king of organized crime; Bejal Mingan, undisputed leader of the Orion Syndicate.
"My information?" Bejal prompted.
Knowing that the information was worth the credits he was asking, the Romulan took out a padd and spent the next two minutes inputting codes, fingerprints, and voice prints, before handing the once so heavily secured padd to Bejal.
"I can't let that happen," Bejal said half an hour later. The moon with human like slaves was being readied for 'harvest' as they were speaking. If slavery was ended, he would lose half a billion worth of slave assets. "But you were right; this information is worth the ten thousand credits you are asking. An unmarked credit strip will be waiting for you when your leave my office."
"Thank you. It is always nice to do business with you Bejal."
The Romulan wanted to get up but Bejal held up his hand to stop him. "Tell me, are you still taking jobs on the side to finance your early retirement?"
"I might, depending on the job."
"I'm willing to offer you one million credits for the, removal, of the Klingon Intendant."
"Funny, you never struck me as insane, Bejal."
"I'm not insane, just ruthless in my business and that bitch is interfering in my business with that plan. It's not the first time she has interfered in my business; but it will be her last time. Two million?"
"Try twenty million and I might consider it."
"For twenty million I can hire twenty others, I'm sure that one of them will succeed."
"If that's what you want to do, be my guest. You are asking me, not the other way around. But, I'm willing to take the job for fifteen, and that's my final offer, Bejal."
"Fifteen sounds reasonable for being sure that someone does the job in a way that I am sure that won't be linked to me in any form at all," Bejal relented. He knew only too well that with this Romulan his final offer was not just a dealing approach; his final offer really always was his final offer. The only thing you could do then was take it or leave it.
"Half paid upfront, half paid upon completion."
"Alright. You have a preferred time?"
"Use your own discretion. But, I want it done before her plan becomes official. If you haven't done it by then the deal is off."
"That would mean that I have to do it before the Grand Assembly. A plan like that can only become official with full Intendant support at the Grand Assembly."
"You know, come to think of it, I would be willing to pay you those other five as well, if you were to do something."
"Do it is such a way that the Klingons know it was a Romulan that killed her."
"That would mean me showing my face on record or something of the likes."
"Like that would be a problem for you. Come on, you really don't expect me to believe that you show up here with the same face that you have then you go work for the Klingons."
"I would need some extra credits for the surgery."
"Now, don't become greedy," Bejal really wanted to mention the Romulan's name, but even he didn't know it. "Twenty million for the complete job with evidence, you can pay your own surgery. Besides, I would be greatly surprised if anyone but yourself made those changes to your face."
"Hmm. You do realize that this could result in a war between the Klingons and Romulans?"
"If we are lucky, yes. As the Ferengi say; the best profits are made during war. But I actually doubt that it will happen. The Bajoran Intendant was killed only five months ago, and what was the result? One person got sentenced to death for it. Since we are talking about the Klingon Intendant here, I actually expect some military actions in Romulan space by the Klingons; maybe occupying a planet or two, some show court cases and that's it. The more important thing is that it will indeed cause tensions between the Klingons and Romulans and there is no way that the Romulans would agree to this plan, if a new Klingon Intendant even wants to continue it."
"If you say so. I want my credits in the normal way, and have the rest ready for when I'm done. You won't be seeing me then; I'll be in contact and tell you where to send them."
Without another word the Romulan stood up and left the office.
Bejal looked at the closed door for a moment before turning to his computer unit to make sure that the credits were waiting for the Romulan. "You fucked my plans up for the last time you bitch."
"Nothing, Captain," Tuvok said while keeping his eyes on the sensor readings.
"Incoming message," Harry suddenly spoke up.
A moment later, Voyager's senior crew was looking at Seven's face. "Captain Hansen."
"Captain, please shut your weapon systems down completely. I would hate for there to be, problems, because someone on my mistress' ship believes that you are close to opening fire. My mistress also insists on you shutting down the warp core."
"I don't think so. We will shut down the weapons, but the core stays online. It would take half an hour to start if up again once shut down."
"That is the point," Seven said with a trace of amusement in her voice. "My mistress wants to be sure that you will not try to 'grab me and run.' I may trust the Voyager crew not to do this; but my mistress does not."
"Tuvok, shut down the weapons," Annika said, still deciding on whether or not to shut down the warp core. It wasn't as much the fact that they would only be stuck with thruster for propulsion and slower than light speeds, it was more the fact that with the warp core down, shields could only stay up for a couple of hours before the power was drained. And no shields would also mean that the cloaking system would no longer work since it was incorporated into the shield projectors. All round it just wasn't a good idea to shut down the warp core.
"Weapons powered down... A ship is de-cloaking to our starboard position."
"My mistress' ship," Seven explained, having heard the conversations on the bridge.
Annika was not at all happy to see the huge Negh'Var class ship. Especially not to see that the two Mark eighteen disrupter cannons were aimed directly at them. She didn't even bother to see how many or the eighteen mark twelve disrupter cannons that were located all around the ship were also aimed at them. Annika knew that the two Mark eighteen disrupter cannons alone could pretty much pulverize them; shields and alls. Those weapons were designed to take on star bases and planetary defenses.
"Just remember that if capturing you were my mistress' intent, she would never have let you escape in the first place," Seven added, filling the Voyager crew in a little more on just how they were able to get away from that star base.
Annika dipped her head and looked over at B'Elanna. "Shut it down, the shields as well."
"I assume that the shields would have been the next demand?" Annika asked, looking at Seven.
You assumed correctly."
Warp core is in automatic shutdown mode," B'Elanna informed. "The core can be online again in thirty-five minutes at the earliest." That last information wasn't really needed, but B'Elanna felt that it was something the people on the other ship wanted to know.
"Shields are down," Tuvok added, and only seconds after his last word the hum of transporters could be heard on the bridge and six forms materialized. Seven and Torres appeared, surrounded by four guards that had their disrupter rifles at the ready. Once it was sure that there was no threat, the guards lowered their rifles, but didn't put them away, and the two in front of Torres and Seven moved aside.
"Intendant Torres, Seven, welcome on board," Annika said, trying very hard to stay calm while faced by four armed Klingon guards and not at the least while standing in front of the most feared person in the Coalition. Even though this B'Elanna was basically the same as Voyager's B'Elanna, for Annika they were two different people. The one she feared, the other she loved more than life itself.
"Let me make something very clear here," Torres said, wanting there to be no confusion. "I'm not here as the Klingon Intendant. I'm simply here with my pet who is visiting some of her friends. But let me also be very clear with this; while I'm not here as the Klingon Intendant, I am very protective of my pet. Fuck with her, or think that you can get to me through her, and I'll stop being so nice to you all. Got me?"
"Very clearly, Intendant," Annika assured.
"Alright then," Torres said before addressing her guards. "Put those things away." She looked back at Annika and after a moment of silence spoke up again. "My pet trusts your crew, and I don't feel like walking around here with guards all the time while my pet is visiting, so here is what I'm going to do. I'm going to send my guards back. Please, don't do anything stupid. Grab my pet and I will find you no matter where you run to, and she will do anything in her power to get away from you. Try hurting me, well, you really don't want to go there; you really don't want the entire Klingon faction after your ass."
"We won't," Annika assured. "Seven made it very clear that it is her choice to stay with you and we respect that decision."
Torres looked at one of the guards and gave him a small nod. Without a further order needed, he opened a link to Torres' ship and a moment later the guards were gone. It was at moments like this that Torres really liked the fact that she had decided to keep Martok's operatives as guards.
"How long can you stay, Seven?" B'Elanna asked.
Not having the answer to that surprisingly simple question, Seven looked at Torres for a reply.
"We really should be moving on by tomorrow, say this time tomorrow."
"In that case, there are some people that would really like to see you, Seven. Would you object to a little get-together in the mess hall?" Annika asked, still finding it slightly strange to be talking to herself. She was quickly getting used to the concept though. Annika looked at Chakotay before adding, "Since she can stay until tomorrow we can hold the ceremony tomorrow morning at nine. Is that alright?"
"Won't be a problem, Captain. Neelix has everything ready. All that's needed is to set up the mess hall for the reception, which won't take much more than an hour. We'll have it done in time."
"What ceremony?" Torres asked, having no problem with being impolite and simply interrupting the conversation.
"Forgive me for not mentioning that yet," Annika said, inwardly proud of herself for the fact that she actually felt that she was apologizing for talking about things others didn't know and not apologizing simply because she was face to face with the Klingon Intendant. "B'Elanna and I are getting married. We really would like Seven to be present for that, but since we didn't know exactly how long she would be here, we didn't know exactly how to fill out the plans."
"Getting married?" Torres asked with a grin. She looked at Seven before asking, "What do you think of that, my pet? Our counterparts found each other as well; guess that some things are simply destined to be. How do you explain this away with logic?" Torres knew that Seven would come up with some explanation about character traits and the appeal of certain traits to certain people. Torres smirked a little, having all her arguments ready... only to be completely surprised by the blonde.
"Mistress, I have learned that love defies all logic. One should simply go with it; not analyze it." Having replied to her mistress' statement, Seven took a moment to congratulate Annika and B'Elanna.
"One of these days, my pet, one of these days. There will come a time where you will stop surprising me."
Seeing the interaction between Torres and Seven made Annika realize that these women were a lot more like her and B'Elanna than she had ever suspected, and that just maybe the Intendant wasn't a person one should fear every second. "If I may suggest, we can go to the mess hall in a couple of hours." She looked at Chakotay before adding, "Say two hours." Letting him know how much time he had to shift people around so that Seven's friends could be freed up to be at the mess hall at the same time.
Annika didn't doubt that Seven would want to see some of them privately as well, but by first having a get together in the mess hall, Seven at least had to answer the common questions just once instead of over and over again. "Would you also let the Captain's assistant know that Seven will see her after the get together." Annika looked at Seven before asking, "I assume that you will like to spend some time with Naomi?"
"You assume correct. I see that you also gave her the position of captain's assistant?"
"I did, or better said, I finally did. I made her position an official one. She is now a crewman. But please, Intendant, Seven, would you mind accompanying B'Elanna and me to our quarters? I'm sure that there are a few things we still have to discuss a little bit more privately."
This of course translated, as everyone understood, to them all getting to know each other as persons, and not as 'counterparts of.'
"I am glad you made Naomi's position official," Seven said as she let her eyes drift around the living room.
"Feel free to look around," B'Elanna offered when she saw Seven taking in the quarters.
Seven took the invitation and did indeed look around for a moment while Torres merely looked at Seven moving around the room.
"Would you care for a snack?" Annika offered after a minute. "I assume that once you enter the mess hall you will actually be talking more than having the time to eat something,"
"Annika is a great cook, Seven," B'Elanna assured. "She loves to show that off. Trust me, whatever she makes will be absolutely great."
Seven looked at Torres for a moment and saw the smallest of nods. "Thank you, I believe that a 'snack' would be a good idea." Seven saw B'Elanna biting her lip and she couldn't help but smile. "Do you have something to say, B'Elanna?"
"I... well... Oh hell, you have to ask her permission if you can eat!?"
"She has a temper even shorter than mine, doesn't she?" Torres asked amused. Torres had promised Seven that during this visit she would try very had not to be the Intendant. She wanted Seven to have a good time and the stay to be about Seven, not a visiting Intendant. Torres found it interesting how she could let loose a little between these people. After all, what were they going to do if they saw Torres acting in a way not compatible with heartless bitch image she had?
"She does," Seven agreed. "I assume that this is also one of the reasons I liked to fight with her, but not with you, mistress. There is something about fighting with you that just feels wrong."
"Good thing, since I don't want to have to punish you for arguing with me."
Seeing the look on the faces of the other two women, Seven decided that a little explanation was in order. "You have to understand that both my mistress and I want to have the relationship we have. Since she is my mistress, yes, I have to ask her if I may eat. This is because the original rule she set forth for me was that I would eat when and what she would eat. Having said that, doing so is my choice. She really is not going to say that I am not allowed to eat, nor would I have to fear any punishment if I were to eat something without asking her first. But still, I want her approval. It is me that wants to have to ask my mistress if I am allowed to do something, and not her wanting me to ask."
"And what's this talk about punishment then?"
"Yes, my mistress does punish me from time to time, and it is such a hardship to have to suffer through her having her way with me."
B'Elanna was about to react then the real meaning of the statement and Seven's small smile registered. "Oh."
A little silence fell and Annika took it upon her self to break it. "Feel free to join me in the kitchen." Annika moved to the kitchen as she continued to talk since the others indeed did follow. "As for Naomi's position. We actually made several changes and promotions. I felt that Janeway's 'when we get back this could be a problem' thinking was the wrong way to run the ship. I felt that if someone did something that deserved a promotion or a real title, then they should get that title or promotion.
"Apparently the senior staff felt the same since I haven't gotten a single real objection; only Chakotay or Tuvok pointing out why Janeway hadn't done something, but not objecting. Neelix's position as moral officer is now an official position as well. We promoted Ayala to chief science officer and Samantha Wildman to his second in command.
"I also promoted Harry. He has proven his worth many times, and yet he was still an ensign. Even though he is part of the senior staff and has been in command of the bridge on a regular basis during beta and gamma shift. I took a look at this file and didn't find a single reprimand, only positive marks. I just couldn't understand why she didn't promote him years ago; still can't by the way."
"You made quite some changes in here as well," Torres pointed out, having been in the captain's quarters twice. Once when Seven showed her she ship the first time, and then when Seven showed her the ship again to see what progress was made by the time they got back from Bajor. "Where did you put my pet's alcove, in the cargo bay again?"
"Seeing that Seven made the choice to not come with us, I gave the order to dismantle the alcoves," Annika said while she replicated some ingredients. "We did take out all components that can't be replicated by the replicators we have and stored those though. Would you like to have them in case the alcoves you have malfunction?"
"That's a good idea," Torres agreed. "And since we are talking about that technology, could you let your doctor know that Seven will come by tomorrow for a full physical, including all her implants?"
"Mistress, that will take away from the time I can spend with my friends. A full physical takes two hours normally," Seven objected.
"Then we leave two hours later than I said we would tomorrow. In fact, we will leave three hours later because once the physical is over I'll have him explain a few things to me."
"You do not believe me when I say that the readings are acceptable?" Seven asked with a trace of hurt in her voice.
"Of course I do baby," Torres assured, realizing only after she said it that the private endearment had slipped out. Knowing that she couldn't take it back and that any correction would merely draw attention to the small word, Torres decided to simply go on with talking. "You know only too well that I believe you. But how often have you had to tell me 'I believe' about a certain level being dangerous or not?"
"Six times, mistress," Seven had to admit.
"And that, my pet, is the reason why I want to go over things with him. Have him present while we do the scanning we normally do and then have him tell me exactly what the 'safe' readings are. Have him tell me what can happen if something does go wrong with this or that implant, and even more importantly, what can be done to correct it."
"Very well. You are correct, mistress. Thank you for thinking of my wellbeing."
"As I told you before, I'm just being selfish. I don't want to break in a new body slave."
Seeing the interaction between Seven and Torres, a realization struck B'Elanna. As Annika put the finished food on the table, B'Elanna placed some plates for them all before addressing Torres. "You aren't as bad as you like people to believe."
Hearing the comment, Torres looked at B'Elanna in the cold hard way that she would look at someone whose last minute alive had just started. "Oh, but you are wrong there. I am that bad... and worse." Then she softened her stare and actually gave a small grin. "It's just that through my time with my pet here I have learned that I don't have to threaten to kill someone with every second word I say. But don't make the mistake of thinking that I've grown soft. I would still have no problem at all with killing you and anyone else on this ship. Wait, I take that back, I would have a problem with it. My problem would be that it would upset my pet here and I don't want that."
"But why?" B'Elanna asked. Her problem was mainly with the fact that Torres could talk so easy about killing someone. B'Elanna knew that it was a hard fact that if Torres could kill it so easily, somewhere deep down in her, B'Elanna also had a personality that could do the same.
Torres as about to reply, but Seven beat her to it.
"Because... forgive me for interrupting, mistress."
"That's alright, my pet. Go on, maybe you can explain it in a way that she will actually understand it.
"Thank you, mistress. B'Elanna, ask yourself this; what other option does my mistress have? The only other option is to not be Intendant. But even then she might have to do things you would not want to do. You seem to forget that we are in a Klingon society here. Even in our universe, Klingons challenge each other for things like honor and disgrace. Multiply that by the factor that here the Klingons are the most powerful force, and you have a situation where sooner or later you will have to fight someone until the death."
"Nicely put, my pet, and you didn't even bring in the whole Intendant crap and me having to do things simply to not have to do things in the future."
"What do you mean by that?" B'Elanna asked.
"Mistress, I was deliberately leaving out that part for the simplicity of the explanation," Seven said in a certain tone of voice. Torres really liked how Seven could say something in a way that made it sound like she was sighing without actually doing any sighing at all.
Seven looked at B'Elanna before continuing. "What my mistress means is that because she is Intendant she might have to do things like ordering several hundred or even thousand people to death. It is things like this that give her the name of being a person that you do not want to cross. However, what most people do not realize is that by having those several hundred people killed my mistress prevented a situation from occurring where in the near future a multitude of that number had to be killed."
"One of the reasons why the slaves never even tried to rebel in Klingon space," Annika said in understanding as she finished dividing the food over the four plates. "There have been problems in all the other factions. Situations where a group of slaves thought that they could further their position by stopping working or even taking over the places they were supposed to work at. It normally always ended by all those slaves being killed. But something like that never happened in Klingon space because the slaves knew up front that if they tried that, they would definitely be killed; no maybe about it."
"Right," Torres agreed before trying some of the food and finding it indeed to her liking.
"Are such rebellions common?" B'Elanna asked, starting to understand that basically the killing came down to nothing more than a cold numbers game.
"Eh," Torres said, wiggling her hand a little. "There are always places where the slaves try something like that. But those are normally places where the work situation is so bad that the slaves 'rebel' because they know that the death that will follow is a kind of escape for them. Situation like that occur at least once every week in the coalition. But still, if you think about the size of the coalition and how many planets there are, and how many regions there are on planets, then you can say that something like that happening in your region is a once in a lifetime occurrence. Real rebellions never happen however; for the very simple reason that we don't let it happen. If there is a problem we deal with it, one way or another, before it can spread further than one company or one mine."
"I believe that it might actually happen more often than that," Seven objected. "If a company has a hundred slaves and something like this happens it becomes public for the simple reason that they have to let it be known in order for them to be able to claim insurance credits. But what about small businesses, or slaves that work in homes? Situations like this will never become public because those people do not have insurance. If someone asks about a slave they saw in the house the last time the person will simply say that they sold the slave again. After all, it sounds a lot more interesting to say that one resold a slave with a good profit, then having to admit that they had to kill the slave because they were not able to break it."
"You may have a point there," Torres agreed. "So let me rectify my statement and say that cases worth mentioning rarely happen."
"To that one single slave who was killed, the case would have been worth it being mentioned," Seven objected. Seeing the two other women looking at them, Seven explained. "An ongoing argument between us. My mistress states things as they are, even if she personally does not agree with them. I see things from a personal side. My mistress is right, to any free person in the coalition the killing of a single slave is not even worth being mentioned. I might not agree with how dismissively most people think about slaves, but it is indeed a fact."
"You talk about insurance," B'Elanna asked. "Surely you can't insure people. I mean, surely that must play to the fact that killing someone might be simpler than letting someone live. Kill a sick slave and you get money, credits it's called here, right? Anyway, you get credits to buy a new slave. Or what about insurance fraud? If you have a group of weak slaves, just kill them all and claim the credits to buy yourself healthy slaves. You can simply have them all be killed in an 'accident.' Or what about a slave that is getting older? Just kill it and buy a new one."
"I see that you are getting into the killing groove quite easily," Torres said amused. "Now you might see why I, as Klingon Intendant, have to do it. If not the slaves then the people that tried to mess with me or the Klingon faction in total."
"There is indeed an insurance industry," Seven said before the two women could get into comparing character traits. "However, the fees are quite high and on top of that they only pay seventy-five percent of the common slave price, regardless of how valuable that slave was to you. You only get credits to replace slaves on a list you provided and have kept up to date, and you have to provide proof that you replaced a slave with a similar slave.
"In other words, that you replaced a male human with a male human, and a female Vulcan with a female Vulcan. As you can see, the conditions for such insurance are quite extensive. Because of that, such insurance is normally only taken by companies and people that have at least over one hundred slaves. At that point the amount of slaves gets to the point where having to replace them all at once could possibly put a company into bankruptcy and such an insurance becomes a expensive, but acceptable, protection against such bankruptcy happening."
"I know you people don't like to hear it," Torres added. "But fact is, here slaves are property, and you can insure property."
They finished the rest of their food in silence, with the exception of complimenting Annika on her creation. Only when B'Elanna started to clean away the plates did Annika start up the conversation again.
"To come back to the slave rebellions, I actually heard several stories about rebellions actually succeeding in some places outside Klingon space. Granted, they were far enough away from centers of power, but still. There are stories going around about slaves actually getting what they asked for."
"I'm sure there are," Torres agreed. "But it never happened." Torres lifted her hand to stop Annika from speaking up. "I'm not giving you a propaganda line here. I'm giving you the honest facts provided by someone that is an Intendant and does get to see the unedited information. I mean, think about it. Do you really think we would allow that? That we actually could allow that?
"If we were to allow something like this to happen successfully on some unnamed planet at the border of the coalition, what would there be to stop it from happening on a planet half way inside the coalition? Or in Klingon space? Or on Kronos itself? Fact is large scale rebellions simply don't happen. The fact that you don't hear about us dealing with it should prove that to you. Don't you think that we would jump at the chance to kill every slave in a rebellion somewhere if for nothing more than to prove to other slaves just how stupid rebellion is?"
"That 'doing something so that you don't have to do it again in the future' thing?" B'Elanna asked sitting down at the table again after putting the plates in the replicator.
"Right. The only thing we don't do anything about are those five places where escaped slaves run to. But we have a reason for that as well. As I told my pet once, by leaving those we know just how many slaves do succeed in escaping on average. It also tells us that way if we should change the reward amount for escaped slaves. Not to forget that by leaving those places we know where the escaped slaves are and don't have them hiding all over the Coalition."
"Which is something I have been wondering about," Seven added when Torres was finished with talking. "Why did Voyager never go to those places? Surely you must also know that they exist and where they are."
"That they exist, yes," Annika admitted. "But where they are, no. All I really ever knew about them what that they are located somewhere on the border of Coalition space. I told the senior staff about them, but I also added that if it was my choice, which it was after they made me captain, that I wouldn't visit those places. I knew that first of all people would try to get the ship and do whatever it takes, including killing us. Second of all, I know that those places aren't paradise. If we were to go there we would see so many things we want to change, and we just can't. There is only so much one group of people can do. If we were to establish a new part, yes, maybe we could have built something by our rules, but going to those places we would have basically have to adapt to their rules just to get things done."
"I think you made a smart choice not to go there," Torres agreed. "Believe me; you are better off on that ship than you would ever be there. But just a tip, if you ever do find yourself in a position where you have to go to one of those places, try to go to the one they call 'Homestead.' There is a part of the planet that is run by someone that might actually be willing to do business with you instead of just kill you for your ship."
"Thank you for the tip; we will keep it in mind," Annika assured. "Of course, as I said, I don't know where these places are, so I certainly don't know where 'Homestead' is."
"Basically, if you headed straight to the Coalition boarder in the closest line from Zachian Prime, you can't miss it, or so the reports say."
"Again, thank you for the tip. We will make a run over there just to see where it is exactly," Annika assured.
"As long as you use your cloaking device while running past the Cardassian border you should be fine," Torres said before adding with a grin that showed off her teeth, "And don't go picking any fights with Cardassian ships. I smoothed over the first time, but you really don't want to test Dukat's patience a second time."
"And just how do you know about our cloaking system?" Annika asked. "And now that I'm asking, how did you know our position? Did you have tracking devices installed in the ship?"
"How do I know about the clocking system?" Torres asked disbelievingly. "Who the hell do you think paid the fucking bill for the damn thing!?"
"Mistress," Seven said in a calming tone.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Torres said while waving Seven off. "I know, calm down." Torres thought about the original question for a moment before shrugging her shoulders mentally. "Actually, no. There aren't any tracking devices installed on the ship; your ship is being followed by a cloaked drone ship. I decided that while tracking devices did sound like the most obvious choice, they can be accidentally discovered or actually looked for and found. A drone ship however simply rides along in your wake and is almost impossible to detect unless it starts malfunctioning. You can look for the ship and destroy it if you want, but I can assure you that for your sake it's a lot better to just forget about it. Trust me; it's better for you if I actually know where you are."
"But why are you helping us?" B'Elanna asked. "You don't gain anything by it. Seven already decided to stay with you."
"B'Elanna," Seven said softly. "That the Voyager crew is alive and in good health makes me happy. Just as I would do anything in my power to make my mistress happy, she does a lot for nothing more than the simple reason that it makes me happy."
B'Elanna saw how Torres was looking at Seven while the blonde was speaking and another realization hit her. Something that she had not suspected at all. She had known that Seven loved Torres, but she hadn't known that the feeling was so mutual. "You would also do anything in your power to make Seven happy."
"No I wouldn't," Torres disagreed. "You have to remember that I'm the Intendant. Anything in my power is a whole damn lot more than most people can even comprehend. But I would do a lot; more than most people who make such statements really could do."
"I believe that this conversation is becoming too serious," Seven spoke up as a small silence fell. "Since it is still one hour before we are expected in the mess hall, how would you feel about an introduction to my pet Targ? B'Elanna, I took the liberty of naming him Toby, I hope you do not object."
"You got yourself a Targ?" B'Elanna asked, glad for the change of subject. "I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised, I didn't really see you as the having a pet kind, Seven."
"Neither did I. However, Toby chose me by bonding to me and once I decided to take him as a pet and opened myself to having him in my life I realized that I enjoy having a pet. Even though I have only had him for a short time now, I could not bear losing him."
"Well, I sure would like to meet him," B'Elanna assured. "Does the little guy look like my Toby?"
"Not quite," Seven assured.
"We could beam over to my ship and then come back before you have to go to the mess hall," Torres suggested, trying hard to keep an uninterested expression on her face. She was wondering how her counterpart would react to seeing 'the little guy' that was Toby. Seeing the hesitation on Annika's face, Torres added, "I promise you that we will be back on your ship in time for Seven to be in the get-together in the mess hall."
"Alright," Annika agreed. She knew that she had to start trusting the Intendant at some point, and the woman had done nothing but show good intentions. Besides, if anyone on Voyager knew what Torres could do if she wanted to, it was Annika.
A message to Chakotay and then to Torres' ship later the four women disappeared in the sparkling light of transporter beams.
"Why didn't we simply beam into the quarters?" B'Elanna asked as they walked the short distance from the transporter room to the quarters.
"When I took over this ship, I had some changes made," Torres explained, figuring that it couldn't really do any harm. "One of the changes made was the incorporation of a dampening field around my quarters that is tied into the ships systems in such a way that it can't be switched off. It only deactivates if the ship looses more than eighty percent of its power. Last thing I wanted was for some moron to be able to take me out by transporting a bomb into my quarters from a passing ship."
"Is that something you have to worry about a lot?" B'Elanna asked. "About someone wanting to kill you, I mean."
"There always is someone that wants to kill me, if nothing more than for my position or for the credits I have to my name. But no, not really. I just have to be a little careful in situations where I'm surrounded by a lot of strangers. But that doesn't mean that I don't use the simplest of security measures, like dampening fields."
"In my opinion my mistress takes her security much too lightly," Seven objected. "But that is a point we agreed to disagree on. I am merely glad that she allows me to provide her personal protection at all times."
"My security is just fine," Torres said with a tone of finality in her voice as they reached their quarters. "How about we concentrate on something else, like you introducing our guests to your pet, my pet?"
"Very well, mistress," Seven agreed as she opened the door by stepping up to the sensor. "B'Elanna, please come in so that I can introduce you to Toby."
B'Elanna walked into the room ahead of Seven and started looking around for the pet Targ. Then suddenly, without hearing any kind of warning at all, she saw a fast moving brown streak moving in her direction and she was plowed to the floor. Before anything else could register she felt the sharp sting of teeth closing around her neck.
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