DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and all who sail in her belong to Paramount/Viacom and no infringement of copyright/trade marks is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Stardate: 52668 (Note: events of Dark Frontier have occurred)
KLINGON WORDS: A glossary of Klingon words used can be found HERE
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

I Am Borg
By Kudara

Part 2:

Chapter 9

The next day Kathryn was surprised to overhear a discussion between Paris and Kim about Tom's newly single state. From what she was able to gather B'Elanna and Tom had both decided they were better suited as friends than lovers.

What exactly this might have to do with the previous night's conversation with Annika, Kathryn wasn't certain. However, the possibilities were intriguing to say the least. Certainly the developing friendship between her foster daughter and her Chief Engineer warranted more of her attention than it had given this new development. Besides, Kathryn thought with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, she wouldn't want to deprive Seven of one of the essential daughter experiences of being completely mortified when her 'mother' grilled her first potential suitor.

"Tom and I agreed to go our separate ways last night," B'Elanna casually informed Seven, who was assisting B'Elanna with routine monthly maintenance on the EPS conduits.

Seven looked up from where she was examining the readings from her tricorder, surprised at the casual admission. She was uneasily aware that the information she gave B'Elanna was the probable cause of the failure of B'Elanna and Tom's relationship. Seven frowned, "I did not mean for my apology to cause conflict in your relationship with Lt. Paris, I have erred."

"No, you didn't err Seven, Tom did. And it wasn't really that anyway, your information was just the final thing that made it clear to me that Tom couldn't be the person I needed him to be. We even discussed how both of us went into the relationship thinking we could get the other person to change. Of course, that failed. The fact that we both felt the other one had to change meant the relationship was doomed anyway. So don't blame yourself Seven," B'Elanna hastened to reassure her.

"I do not understand, B'Elanna, clarify…please," Seven requested puzzled.

B'Elanna sighed lightly, "I thought that Tom would stop playing around with his cars and Captain Proton program and spend more time with me when we decided to be in a relationship. He thought that I would be more willing to spend time with him playing around with his cars and playing Constance Goodheart," B'Elanna said rather sarcastically. "We both expected the other to make rather radical changes so that we could be together, and not surprisingly that didn't happen. It wasn't a good way to begin the relationship, its not surprising that it didn't work out. You just helped me see that Seven, you didn't cause any of it."

Seven recalled the reading she had done, "My studies indicated that potential intimacy should start with a mutual friendship which included common interests or the willingness to develop common interests. Though you had a friendship with Lt. Paris neither of you were willing to develop common interests. Is my understanding correct B'Elanna?"

"I'd say that pretty much sums it up," agreed B'Elanna wryly.

Seven paused and stared at B'Elanna, uncertain how to ask what she was curious about. Finally she decided to be truthful. Seven paused to scan for life signs other than their own in the Jeffries tube, mindful of the cultural need for privacy, and ignoring B'Elanna's inquisitive look. "I have noticed signs of physical arousal when you are around me B'Elanna, was that also one of the reasons for the termination of your relationship with Lt. Paris."

B'Elanna winced inwardly, she had certainly just been thoroughly disabused of any remaining illusion that the ex-drone hadn't noticed her attraction. "It might," B'Elanna allowed, "But that doesn't change the fact that the relationship was pretty much over anyway. Besides I would say we need to work on building a friendship first, and I don't know if you're even attracted to me Seven. So once again, you were not the cause of my break up with Tom."

Seven nodded, "This relay is functioning within acceptable parameters, B'Elanna." She informed the Lt., while she considered whether or not she was expected to reply to B'Elanna's statement that B'Elanna did not know whether or not Seven was attracted to her. B'Elanna stared at her for a moment, and Seven wondered if she had seen disappointment in her eyes before she indicated they should move on to the next relay.

Seven reached out and stopped the half-Klingon, "I am unsure what I feel for you B'Elanna. I believe I am still too uncertain that the current state of our relationship will continue." Seven paused then continued in a lower tone, "You already know I consider you to be beautiful B'Elanna, it is not just your emotions that I find beautiful. I also find you physically beautiful."

B'Elanna looked at her doubtfully.

Seven let go of B'Elanna's arm and tilted her head to the side, "I am being honest B'Elanna.

"Even my Klingon ones," asked B'Elanna with a definite doubtful tone.

"Your Klingon heritage is part of your beauty B'Elanna. Your forehead ridges, your skin tone, your physical strength, the sound of your double hearts, your increased body temperature and your distinctive smell are all part of what I find to be beautiful about you B'Elanna," Seven stated calmly.

"Oh," said B'Elanna surprised at the listing of the physical traits. "My smell?" she questioned, then winced wondering if she really wanted to hear Seven's answer.

"Yes, I find your scent to be pleasing, when we are not arguing it has a…" Seven paused then inhaled deeply and looked thoughtful, "soothing effect on me. I am uncertain why this is."

B'Elanna stared at Seven, soothing was not what she had expected Seven to say, she didn't see herself as a soothing type of person by any stretch of the imagination. Yet she knew Seven wouldn't say it if it wasn't true, "I don't really see myself as a soothing type of person Seven," she finally admitted.

Seven nodded, not surprised by B'Elanna's words. She had trouble understanding why she perceived the other woman's scent as soothing as well. In the past it had always produced a strange ache in her as the dichotomy between her feelings of safety in the engineers presence was contradicted by B'Elanna's aggressiveness toward her. Lately however with their changed relationship there was no such dichotomy and Seven was free to experience the first without the second.

"Yet I find it to be so, because I feel safe in your presence… It hurt when we would argue. Even when I would initiate the argument," a touch of the sadness of that time reached Seven's eyes for a moment then she straightened. "We should continue to the next relay B'Elanna."

Kathless, thought B'Elanna, I have been such a Peta'Q. Please let me not have destroyed all hope of anything between us. Impulsively B'Elanna reached up and gently cupped the side of Seven's face. "I want you to feel safe with me Seven… I wish I had realized it earlier."

Seven stilled feeling the warmth of B'Elanna's hand cupping her cheek so gently. Almost instinctively she turned her head into the contact deepening it and took a breath smelling the scent of B'Elanna from the pulse point in her wrist. Suddenly Seven was aware of something she hadn't been willing to face before, mixed in with the feeling of safety was the stirring of desire. Seven looked at B'Elanna, not certain what to do about the feelings the woman's touch had stirred in her.

B'Elanna watched with surprise as Seven turned her head to rest her face more fully in B'Elanna's hand. As Seven turned to look at her with eyes that had deepened from grey blue to blue B'Elanna recognized the desire in them and the uncertainty. B'Elanna breathed in deeply, controlling her own rising desire and stroked Seven's face with her thumb softly before dropping her hand away.

"Let's get moving to that next relay or we will be late for our Holodeck time tonight Seven," said B'Elanna with a smile. Then at the slightly confused expression on Sevens face she explained softly, "Friendship first."

Seven nodded understanding and picked up the tool kit and followed along behind B'Elanna as they moved toward the next relay. She couldn't help but be aware that the nature of the relationship between them had just changed yet again.

For one thing she didn't recall ever being so quite aware of exactly how B'Elanna's uniform emphasized the muscular nature of her buttocks as she walked. Or how the slenderness of her waist contrasted so pleasingly with the width of her shoulders and the roundness of her hips. It was as if the simple touch had awakened something inside her that had been there all along but previously dormant.

B'Elanna reached the next relay and turned around to glance at Seven only to see her drop her eyes away from her gaze and blush slightly. Slightly confused by her reaction she automatically began examining the relay while Seven took readings of the plasma flow. Suddenly a possible reason for Seven's embarrassment came to her, had Seven been checking her out? B'Elanna tried to remember where Seven's gaze had been directed when she turned around. She found it most frustrating to realize that she couldn't remember.

Suddenly B'Elanna realized she really hadn't given serious thought to what she wanted. In many ways Seven's seeming indifference to her attraction had made it easy for her to just react without seriously considering the further implications. Seven might not be totally innocent any more but she was still very innocent when it came to relationships.

B'Elanna glanced at Seven as they worked out of the corner of her eye. Seven was definitely beautiful, she was also loyal, honorable and truthful almost to a fault. Add to that the sheer physical strength she possessed and it was no wonder her Klingon half was attracted to the blonde.

B'Elanna knew… or thought she knew that Seven would be hurt if her first relationship was based purely on physical attraction. She was beginning to see how gentle and caring the ex-drone was capable of being. Seven did have a ruthless side, but it always showed up when Seven was protecting someone or something she cared about.

B'Elanna decided that perhaps being as honest as Seven usually was might be easier than trying to speculate as to what Seven expected from her first relationship. "Seven, what are you expecting from your first relationship? I mean are you looking for a casual relationship or a serious one?"

Seven looked at B'Elanna surprised for a moment then she considered her question. "I am uncertain B'Elanna, the Doctor prior to my own research had given me the impression that one only could only have one relationship that progressed through several well defined stages to a binding relationship such as marriage. My research since has indicated that his description is flawed."

B'Elanna stared at her gaping, "That's an understatement, I can't believe he told you that. What is he back in the twentieth century?"

Seven smiled briefly at B'Elanna, "My own research has indicated that several different approaches to relationships are acceptable. It is permissible to engage in casual relationships for the purpose of sexual intercourse for pleasure without any expectations of marriage. It is also permissible to 'date' several people while searching for the person one intends to 'marry'. Such dating may or may not involve sexual intercourse."

Well that was definitely succinct thought B'Elanna, "Well yes those are all true, but what approach do you want to engage in Seven?"

Seven was silent for a long moment, "While I have come to understand the desire to engage in sexual intercourse for physical pleasure I believe I would prefer to 'date' with the intent of finding someone I would wish to…marry."

"That's my preferred approach as well," said B'Elanna.

They worked together for a few more minutes in relative silence, only speaking when it was required by their work. Seven had been replaying the events of the afternoon in her mind in between the moments when she needed to work. She knew the conversation they had just had was significant, she believed they had just defined the parameters for a potential intimate relationship between the two of them but she was not entirely certain.

"B'Elanna should I interpret our recent discussion as an indication that you wish to date me?" inquired Seven deciding to continue the honest tone the conversation had kept so far.

B'Elanna chuckled softly, "I knew you would get around to asking that Seven. You took a few more minutes than I expected actually… To answer your question, yes eventually I hope we can date. But I think we both know that we still need to work on our friendship first. We have common interests and enjoy spending time together, but we can't date until you trust in our friendship and in me." B'Elanna paused in her work to look frankly at Seven as she said the last.

Seven nodded solemnly, "I will comply B'Elanna."

B'Elanna frowned slightly, "Comply with what? Working on our friendship?"

"I did not mean to be inexact, B'Elanna. Yes, I will comply with working on our friendship. I wish to trust you," Seven's voice dropped and she sounded almost shy when she spoke again, "I find the thought of dating you to be… very appealing. I am having a very different reaction than when I contemplated dating Lt. Chapman."

B'Elanna grinned at the last comment, "Well I certainly hope so Seven. So, what tech level were you planning on playing tonight?" B'Elanna decided a move toward a less intimate conversation was needed at this point.

Seven accepted the sudden change in subject, replying "I was planning on playing at current technology levels. I have looked at the specifications for the current Starfleet stealth combat suit and believe they can be greatly improved. I would like to work with the unmodified suit first though, if you do not have any objections B'Elanna."

"No, none at all. As a matter of fact would you like some help in modifying the suit? That sounds fun quite frankly," B'Elanna replied intrigued by the thought.

"Your assistance would be welcome, B'Elanna," Seven smiled at B'Elanna briefly with pleasure.

Promptly at 1700 the two of them met outside of the Holodeck for their first Infiltrator program run. Seven was dressed identically to B'Elanna in a standard Starfleet workout pants and halter top. Which was not surprising as it was the suggested outfit to wear under the combat suit. B'Elanna stared at her arms for a moment admiring the intricate interweaving of the exoskeleton bands running along her arms and shoulders. Seven looked at her curiously then held out her arm.

"You may examine my exoskeleton more closely if you wish, I have had many crewmembers stare at me as I walked here. A few of them seem to have had difficulty navigating the corridors as they walked into the corridor walls after I had passed," Seven said dryly.

B'Elanna glanced at her and detected the slight twinkle in the blonde's eye and laughed at the statement. "I can't blame them for looking Seven, its very eye catching." Curiously she gently reached out and touched the design finding it to be the same temperature as Seven's skin and oddly enough soft and supple to the touch.

She had expected it to be different, harder and less giving. She looked at Seven who was watching her touch her arm with an intent expression and her breath caught at the darkness in Seven's eyes. The phrase sensitive to tactile touch went through her mind and she wondered exactly how sensitive Seven's exoskeleton was. "Thanks," she said somewhat huskily. Seven nodded silently and seemed to shake herself slightly and nodded toward the Holodeck doors.

The previous occupant had already left so they were able to step immediately into the program once Seven had started it running. Seven had specified a forested terrain and as a result the combat suits they found themselves wearing were colored with various shades of green and brown in random patterns designed to allow them to blend into a forested environment.

Combat Stealth Suits were comprised of an outer exchangeable shell that covered the actual suit. The Combat Stealth Suit was designed with built in sensor technology that was able to duplicate many of the detection capabilities of a tricorder. The readout was displayed on a hands free display projected onto the interior of the polarized face plate. The energy and bio readings of the suit and occupant were masked so that most sensors would not be able to detect them.

Their first task was to establish encrypted local range communications between the suits. Seven quickly accomplished this and encrypted the transmission using Borg encryption codes. The transmission also allowed them to monitor each other's biosigns so they could tell if the other was injured.

"Transmission encryption complete, successfully reading your biosigns B'Elanna. All suit senor readings functioning normally, energy and bio sign masking operating normally," Seven reported when she was finished.

Seven could not see B'Elanna's face behind the camouflaged face plate which was disconcerting, but it also mean that B'Elanna would not notice that she was admiring the how the form fitting suit looked on the muscular woman. B'Elanna finished the diagnostics on her suit and indicated to Seven that they were ready to get their mission objective.

The mission was fairly simple, they had been inserted two miles away from their mission objective which was a small communications station that they needed to infiltrate and destroy the communications equipment. Preliminary reconnaissance reported signs of Jem'Hadar troops guarding the area as well as various types of sensors.

"This is at a medium setting?" B'Elanna questioned thinking of the difficulty of getting past Dominion troops.

"Yes, B'Elanna," Seven verified.

"Ok, any suggestions?" asked B'Elanna wondering what the difficult setting might throw at them.

"bISovbejbe'DI' tImer," growled Seven.

B'Elanna started, then grinned at the incongruity of having to figure out how to translate Klingon spoken perfectly by a Borg ex-drone. "When in doubt, surprise them?" she hazarded.

"Yes, we need to figure out what type of attack they are expecting by the placement of their personnel and sensors, then attack them in an unexpected manner," Seven offered.

B'Elanna nodded, it was sound strategy.

It took them thirty minutes to work their way to within a mile of the communications station, during that time they figured out that most of the sensors and personnel seemed to be set for large scale troop movements, not small unit destroy operations.

Suddenly the medium difficulty setting made sense, all they had to do was not be detected by the Dominion troops or sensors and the mission should be easily accomplished. Of course both of them were aware that battle plans rarely lasted past the first engagement.

Using their suit's equipment they worked their way toward the station at a deliberate pace, avoiding the sentries and working their way around the various sensors.

At one point they were almost surprised by one of the sentries, they quickly rolled into some bushes for cover. Seven was surprised to find herself rolling down into a small gully and stopped herself and then caught and stopped B'Elanna from rolling any further.

B'Elanna had been surprised when the gentle slope suddenly turned into a more steep one and she started rolling faster than she wanted, arms caught her and she found herself resting atop Seven who had caught and stopped her. They both froze at the sound of the sentry calling out to another, both of them knowing at this point that trusting in their camouflage was probably the best option.

B'Elanna was very aware of the form of the woman underneath her, and she couldn't help but relax into the body beneath her fitting them even closer together. She could see nothing of Seven's face but the bio readouts told their own tale of Seven's heart and pulse rate. B'Elanna knew that her own readouts were telling Seven much of the same information.

Finally Seven indicated that they could move and B'Elanna reluctantly levered herself off the taller woman. They continued their way cautiously toward the station, finally dropping and crawling the remainder of the way until they were within visual range of the station.

The two of them watched the movements of the guards and figured out where all of the sensors were located and what area's they covered. Unfortunately it appeared that their ability to evade the Jem'Hadar had ended. From now on they would need to neutralize the enemy quickly before they could alert the surrounding troops.

After some argument they agreed that they would attempt to take out the two outer guards first then quickly move to neutralize the remaining inner guards. From here on out they would have to count on luck and speed to accomplish the mission.

Seven crawled close to her designated guard then when she was as close as she thought she could safely get she signaled her readiness to B'Elanna. When she received the counter signal she sprang from where she was lying and sprinted to the guard. The Jem'Hadar's moment of surprise was all she needed to snap his head back with a decisive blow to his face. Somewhat sheepishly she felt the facial bones break and realized she had probably killed her opponent.

Seven felt it was somewhat of a failure for her since she was trying not to be lethal during the program, however the she had prevented the guard from raising the alarm so within the scope of the mission it was a success. She glanced over to check on B'Elanna only to see her opponent go down with an unnatural angle of the head that indicated that B'Elanna had snapped her opponent's neck.

Efficient noted Seven with some pride at the other woman's evident strength, a Jem'Hadar was not a weak opponent. Seven brought her attention back to her mission and entered the building with B'Elanna following only a few steps behind. Seven split off to the right while B'Elanna took the left hand corridor.

Both of them had appropriated the rifle that both guards had been carrying. Seven with one intent look at the foreign weapon resolved to pause and examine it in more detail later. It was likely that Mulara had provided them with an accurate duplicate of a weapon with which they were totally unfamiliar.

Seven focused her attention forcefully back onto her surroundings, reminding herself that she was supposed to focus on her environment at all times. Noting her sensor readings she detected a room with three Jem'Hadar 9 meters down the corridor. Observing their positions she leapt to the entrance of the room and fired at the first Jem'Hadar then dove under the return fire an took out the second. The third Jem'Hadar almost managed to fire upon her but she shot at him almost instinctively and was surprised to see him drop. Perhaps Kathryn's ability to instinctively aim and fire were not out of her reach, Seven thought.

Seven kept on the move continuing around the corridor in time to assist B'Elanna who had been pinned down by four remaining Jem'Hadar. Taking them by surprise Seven was able to take down two of them which allowed B'Elanna to move to a more advantageous position and take down the remaining two Jem'Hadar.

The two women examined the communications equipment and were able to quickly devise a feedback loop that would overload the equipment with energy and fuse the components. It took them another minute to set up the loop and initiate it, then they destroyed the sensor network with their Jem'Hadar rifles and proceeded back out of the communication station.

Using the sensor equipment in their suits they were able to evade the sentries that were responding to the attack. A minute into their ex-filtration the computer announced the successful accomplishment of their mission goal and asked if they wished to continue the scenario until they reached their entry point.

Seven responded with a quick affirmative and the two woman raced as quickly as they could toward their entry point. As they were running Seven caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye. Before she could entirely process the information she found herself reaching out and pulling B'Elanna into her and rolling the both of them onto the forest floor as energy beams passed over their heads.

Seven had retained possession of her rifle and it only took her a second to identify and target one of their attackers. B'Elanna had lost possession of her rifle when Seven had grabbed her but she located it and crawled over and grabbed it and began firing back as well. Between the two of them they managed to take down all of their attackers. They only had ten minutes left in the program by the time that they were finished with the fire fight.

Picking up their pace they decided to rely on speed to get them the last quarter mile. Four Jem'Hadar suddenly beamed into a space directly in front of them surprising Seven and B'Elanna momentarily. Seven did not slow her momentum and used it to deliver a devastating kick to the first Jem'Hadar she reached. Blocking the blow from another one she noticed one of them drawing a weapon and threw herself at him, tackling him midsection and bearing the both of them to the ground.

B'Elanna had been a few paces behind Seven snapped off a quick shot that took out one of the remaining two opponents and then when Seven and the Jem'Hadar she had tackled separated she shot him as well. "Run," she gasped out knowing they were close to their designated entry point. Seven who had rolled to her feet, spared a moment to nod and the two of them reached the designated location with only moments to spare.

As the Holodeck faded to reveal the machinery that emitted the holo programs the two of them smiled at each other.

"Qapla'," exclaimed B'Elanna.

Seven's mouth quirked up in a smile, "Qapla'," she agreed.

"Sardine's for a cup of bloodwine, Seven?" B'Elanna suggested still running high over the final fight and sprint for the entry point. "Tom wanted us to stop by if we could."

Seven nodded, "I believe it is customary to toast a victory."

B'Elanna reached up and slapped the blond on the back in agreement, not surprised when Seven didn't move much. An amused look and raised brow was all the reply she got right before Seven returned the favor, rocking the smaller woman slightly.

B'Elanna grunted slightly and then laughed at Seven's return of the gesture. B'Elanna was happy to see that Seven was at ease with her tonight, fighting together in the Holodeck always seemed to improve Seven's level of confidence in their friendship.

As they walked into Sardines B'Elanna noted the presence of the Captain and Chakotay in addition to Tom, Harry and a woman hanging all over Tom who B'Elanna finally recognized as Ensign Brooks. Everyone paused in surprise at seeing the pair of them, or perhaps it was at the sight of Seven thought B'Elanna.

"Computer provide Mularan shirt and wrist wraps in royal blue in my size and a similar set in dark red in Lt. Torre's size," Seven said when they were fully in the Holodeck. The neatly folded clothes appeared in Seven's hands and she handed the red set to B'Elanna as she quickly slipped her shirt over her head and wrapped the banding about her waist and wrists. B'Elanna followed suit and curiously touched the soft fabric after she had figured out the wrist and waist wraps.

"The style and color suit you B'Elanna, I am glad that you did not mind that I asked for a set for you. I have been wanting to see how you looked in the style." Seven commented before she turned to the bartender and said, "cha' 'Iw HIq"

B'Elanna noted some curious looks from those who overheard the Klingon phrase for two bloodwines, she noted that the Captain merely looked amused as she examined her two officers. Tom was looking a bit sour as she continued to calmly ignore him and the red headed woman who was hanging all over him in favor of getting her drink with Seven. "No I don't mind, I'm glad you like how I look in them," she replied to Seven.

Seven took the two drinks and handed one to B'Elanna, the two of them ritually tapped their glasses together and Seven said, "Sigr, victory."

B'Elanna smiled guessing Seven had spoken Old Norse and replied "yay."

With that the two of them took deep drinks of their bloodwine, celebrating their first win over the Infiltrator program.

The Captain came over and said, "I understand you two were running through Mulara's Infiltrator program. I gather you succeeded in your first mission." She indicated the two glasses with a smile.

"Yes, Captain," Seven answered. Between the two of them they began to enthusiastically fill in the Captain and Chakotay who had wandered over to listen.

"Jem'Hadar," mused the Captain, "Seven you said you thought the rifle might be an accurate replica of one of their weapons?"

"I believe so, Captain," answered Seven.

"Might be a good idea to study one then, the Federation probably already knows everything about their weapons but we don't. And you never know we might run into a race in the Delta quadrant which uses similar technology," Janeway said, informally ordering them to research the Jem'Hadar rifle.

Janeway and Chakotay left Sardines shortly afterward, in the corridor after the doors had shut Chakotay commented on how he had never thought that the two would make friends much less Seven start picking up Klingon habits from B'Elanna.

Janeway smiled, "I think part of the reason Seven does that is to see the expression on people's faces. She has a very dry sense of humor and I could see her smirk right after everyone reacted to her ordering those drinks."

"How did you notice that?" asked Chakotay, "she had her back to us."

"Reflection behind the bar," Janeway smiled at Chakotay.

Chakotay shook his head smiling, "Now I'm going to start looking for it, I wonder how many other things she does just to see people's reactions."

"Oddly enough, less than you might think. She still has trouble understanding the concept of humor. I just noticed the Klingon thing tonight because she was watching B'Elanna's reaction and B'Elanna was watching ours," said Janeway.

Back in the Sardines program B'Elanna and Seven had joined Tom, Harry and Susan Brooks at their table. The three of them had apparently been playing one of Tom's Captain Proton programs. It was all B'Elanna could do not to chuckle at Tom as he tried to make her feel jealous over Brooks who apparently enjoyed playing Constance Goodheart.

"I believe you are better at participating in Lt. Paris's programs than I am," Seven said to Ensign Brooks, "I misunderstood the role of Constance Goodheart and proceeded to disable the robot that threatened me. It was not a challenging opponent."

B'Elanna almost spit out the mouthful of bloodwine she had at Seven's comment, she recalled that Tom had whined to her about that once and she had found it amusing even then.

Susan Brooks leaned over and put an arm around Tom's shoulder, "Oh I don't mind letting Tom and Harry rescue me, I find it enjoyable just to play along in the role."

"Well Tom was saying he wanted to find someone that liked participating in his programs with him, I'm glad it didn't take him long to find you Susan," B'Elanna commented with only slight sarcasm. Knowing full well that Tom had probably already been seeing Ensign Brooks when they broke up. Seeing Tom's startled faced at her comment helped, apparently he thought that he would be rubbing his new girlfriend in her face. So much for the lets be friends like we used to be, she thought.

"Why don't we go have some real bloodwine instead of the holographic type Seven," she commented.

Seven nodded, "That would be acceptable B'Elanna." Seven stood and waited for B'Elanna to get up. She had caught on to the fact that the presence of Ensign Brooks was designed to make B'Elanna regret ending her relationship with Lt. Paris. After watching B'Elanna's amused reaction and Lt. Paris's disgruntled expression she realized that he had failed. She wondered if he was aware of B'Elanna's interest in her but from the way he reacted around her she thought he was not.

"I thought you couldn't drink Seven," said Tom.

"I could not before I died, now though I react normally since my cortical node is not affected by it," Seven replied as she and B'Elanna stood to leave.

"Oh," came the reply from Tom.

The two of them left Sardines and started for B'Elanna's quarters.

"You were not upset by the presence of Ensign Brooks?" questioned Seven.

"Nope," replied B'Elanna lightly, "I hope they get along well together and Tom gets over trying to make me feel jealous."

Seven nodded as the two of them entered B'Elanna's quarters. B'Elanna replicated them two bloodwines and they sat down and began discussing how to examine the hologram Jem'Hadar weapon.

The conversation continued as they went to the mess hall for a late dinner where Harry Kim joined in the discussion. Tom Paris was no where to be seen and B'Elanna assumed that he was probably still with Ensign Brooks. She shrugged internally and focused on listening to the conversation. They all agreed that they should study the weapon first in the Holodeck then when they had learned all they could there they would replicate the actual weapon and finish their study.

B'Elanna and Seven parted company late in the evening, agreeing to meet in engineering the next day to finish their experiments on the chemical reactor. Projects were starting to stack up and they needed to get that one completed before they could start studying the Jem'Hadar weapon in earnest.

Chapter 10

It had taken them a week of hard work to finish the chemical reactor, they had made the final connections to the plasma grid this morning and now they were ready to initialize the first reactive process.

"Adding metallic ions," B'Elanna reported, standing next to the input control panel.

A few minutes later, "Energy production at 10%, tritanium molecules are starting to collect in the output chamber." said Seven, who was standing at the reactor's main control panel.

"Bringing input mix up to 50% of nominal," B'Elanna looked over at Seven waiting to see what the results of this action would be.

Seven watched the displays in front of her intently, "Energy production rising…30%...35%...40%...45%... energy production at 50%."

They continued raising the input mix in stages until they reached a 100% nominal mix and Seven was able to report that the energy production was at 100% as well.

B'Elanna gave Seven a triumphant smile and walked over to the main EPS system displays, looking at the total ship's energy levels. "There it is, energy levels are rising… 105%... 110% of normal and holding steady, we've done it Seven!" B'Elanna looked over at the woman still monitoring the output displays and could tell that Seven was pleased. Over the past week B'Elanna had grown much more adept at reading the expressions that fleeted over Seven's face.

One night after an unarmed training session she had asked Seven why she didn't show her emotions more openly. Seven had admitted that she had attempted to learn how to smile more readily but had been displeased with the results, declaring them unsatisfactory. After she had managed to persuade Seven to show her the 'smile' B'Elanna had to admit that Seven was correct, it didn't look quite right, it was too forced.

"I think that smiles have to be spontaneous to look natural, Seven," she had told her and had grinned at Seven's disgruntled look.

Seven had also admitted that she didn't feel comfortable with showing her emotions visibly. When B'Elanna had asked why, she had admitted that she didn't really know why, the thought was just uncomfortable. Noting how Seven had hunched over slightly while she was speaking of the subject B'Elanna remembered when she had been talking to Tom and Harry about the same subject and had said that perhaps Seven didn't feel comfortable with the crew knowing how she felt. Now looking at Seven she believed that she had guessed correctly.

B'Elanna didn't know if Seven's reserved nature came from the Borg or if it was part of Seven's own personality. After she had managed to talk Seven into showing her some of the Raven logs she thought that it might just be part of Seven's personality exacerbated by Borg conditioning. B'Elanna's heart had ached for the bright, inquisitive six-year-old revealed by those logs. Young Annika's questions had almost been prophetic given what had happened.

B'Elanna's wandering attention was drawn away from Seven as she glanced to see who had come into engineering. B'Elanna stood up straighter as she saw that it was the Captain who had come down, probably to see how their project was progressing.

Janeway walked over to B'Elanna with an expectant look, "How is it going?"

"Ship's energy levels are at 110%, Captain," B'Elanna reported to her.

"Congratulations are in order then," Janeway said, "and I'll be increasing replicator rations later on today. I'm sure the crew will be appreciative of your efforts, I know I am." Janeway smiled at the two of them, they had worked hard on this project. She had dropped by engineering frequently to check on their progress and to quietly observe the two of them as they worked together. One didn't have to be an astute observer to notice the growing friendship and attraction between the two women.

They might have thought they were being discrete, but anyone watching would have noticed that Seven looked at B'Elanna when she thought B'Elanna wasn't watching, and B'Elanna looked at Seven when she though Seven wouldn't notice. And both of them pretended to be engrossed with their work if the other noticed them watching. Janeway had found it a rich source of amusement the entire week.

Janeway had noticed Ensign Brooks hanging all over Tom Paris earlier in the week at Sandrines. When B'Elanna and Seven had walked in she had been prepared to intervene if B'Elanna got angry, but B'Elanna had just given the helmsman an amused and condescending look and had turned her attention back to Seven. It had been at that point that Kathryn thought she was correct about the two of them being attracted to one another.

Now, of course, she was absolutely certain the two were attracted to one another. She was also pleased to note that they seemed to be taking things slowly and that B'Elanna was obviously working on regaining Seven's trust. It had seemed a strange pairing at first, given their history, but after seeing them work together for over a week she was beginning to see that the two of them were suited to one another. Both of them were incredibly bright, honorable, strong women, and both felt themselves to be different from the rest of the crew. Janeway's main concern now was that the two of them might be too alike, which could work for or against them.

"The chemical reactor is functioning as expected Lt. Torres, Captain," Seven's voice intruded into Janeway's thoughts and she focused on the younger woman that had walked over to the two of them.

"Yes, it is. I was telling B'Elanna that I will be increasing the replicator rations for all the crew this afternoon. I would like your input into how much of an increase we can afford, I was thinking an increase of two replicator rations a day for each crewmember?" asked Janeway. She could almost see the calculations going on in both their heads.

B'Elanna nodded and turned inquiringly to Seven raising an eyebrow. Seven responded, "That should be acceptable and still leave the ship with a slight surplus of energy. B'Elanna do you agree?"

"Sounds good to me, I know I will enjoy the extra replicator rations," affirmed B'Elanna.

"You two will be starting on the Jem'Hadar weapon next?" asked the Captain.

"Yes, I'd like for Harry to help us if that's alright Captain?" asked B'Elanna.

"I'll let him know," the Captain assured her. "Well I've got to get back to the Bridge, good job you two." Her praise brought out a full smile from her Chief Engineer and a straightening in posture and a pleased look from Seven. She smiled at the both of them and then left for the Bridge, their next project should prove interesting; no doubt Harry would be pleased to assist.

Back in engineering the two women discussed the possibility of using the deflector dish to gather a metallic ion stream that could be fed directly into the chemical reactor. Both of them agreed that it should be fairly simple to do if they ever need to do so. They finished up the last diagnostics on the chemical reactor and filled out the necessary logs and reports, before they were finally ready to look at the Jem'Hadar weapon.

"B'Elanna, Holodeck 1 will not be in use for another two hours, should I reserve it for us to begin examining the Jem'Hadar weapon?" asked Seven.

"Yes, and make sure you use engineering's hours and not your own, I'll see if the Captain has spoken to Harry yet." B'Elanna answered her as she tapped on her combadge to speak to Harry. "Torres to Kim."

"Kim here," came the reply.

"Hey Harry, has the Captain spoken to you yet about working with Seven and I on the Jem'Hadar weapon in our Infiltrator program?" she asked.

"She just mentioned it to me, are you two about to start working on it now? It sounds interesting." Harry replied.

"Meet us on Holodeck 1 Harry, we're reserving it for two hours." B'Elanna

"I'll see you there in a few minutes," Harry closed the channel.

B'Elanna nodded to Seven and the two of them proceeded to Holodeck 1. Once there the two of them copied the Jem'Hadar weapons information from the Infiltrator program to a new holodeck program and initiated it. When they walked into the holodeck the Jem'hadar rifle was resting in the middle of the holodeck floor.

"Computer, add a table to the holoprogram," B'Elanna requested.

A simple metal table appeared on the holodeck and Seven, who had picked up the rifle, placed it on the table before requesting a few more items. "Computer add three tricorders to holoprogram and place on second table." Immediately, approximately three feet away from the first table a second one appeared with the three requested tricorders upon it.

"Computer add firing range with weapons diagnostic sensors to program," Seven said after the tricorders had appeared. Suddenly the appearance of the holodeck changed to that of a standard Starfleet firing range. They were now standing at the upper end of a large rectangular area with the two tables they had added earlier, the remainder of the area was filled in with the firing range.

"Good idea," B'Elanna remarked as she walked over to examine the diagnostic screens on the wall nearest them.

Harry arrived, stepped into the holoprogram at that moment and looked around with an interested expression on his face. "Looks like you have been busy."

"Ensign Kim," Seven smiled slightly at him, "Is there anything you would like to add to the program?"

"No, it looks like we have everything we need," Harry commented.

Seven nodded, "Computer save program Engineering four five two."

The three of them each took a tricorder and began to examine the Jem'Hadar rifle.

"It appears to fire tachyon pulses," noted Seven as they examined the weapon.

"Nice power capacity, 5 x 108 megajoules," noted B'Elanna.

"I wonder what they use for a power source?" asked Harry, "Ours only produce 3.45 x 108 megajoules"

"They appear to use a more advanced power cell; the technology is not familiar to me." Seven admitted.

"So the Borg aren't in the Gamma Quadrant," said B'Elanna.

Seven nodded, "They had not been when I was last with the Borg."

Harry picked up the weapon judging the weight, "It's 158 grams heavier than our phaser rifles, and 18 cm shorter. It uses some type of durtanium alloy for the casing. I'm still tying to figure out the composition.

"Harry could you take a look at the hologram and see what you can determine from the coding?" asked B'Elanna.

"Certainly," said Harry.

By the end of their two hours they had a better idea of the durtanium alloy composition of the outer casing of the rifle, as well as some idea of how the power cell operated. Firing tests had given them information on the weapon's tachyon particle beam at different power settings. The weapon was capable of stunning an enemy at its lowest two settings. The remainder of the settings would kill most humanoids. At its upper range the Jem'Hadar rifle was noticeably more powerful than the Starfleet type 3b phaser rifle.

"Our holodeck time will end in 5 minutes," Seven looked up from her tricorder at B'Elanna and Harry.

B'Elanna nodded, "Tonight's unarmed combat again, Seven?"

"Yes, B'Elanna. Lt. Cmdr Tuvok accepted my invitation to join us." Seven responded.

Harry looked at the two women, amazed that there had been no sign of irritation between them as they had worked together over the past two hours. He knew they worked out together three times a week for two hours and had been surprised when he had seen the reoccurring time blocks. The past couple of hours had been enlightening; the two women seemed very comfortable in each other's presence, freely complementing each other and Harry whenever one of them figured out something about the rifle.

Harry had also noticed how frequently they looked at one another; he had heard rumors from the other engineers that something was going on between the two. He had laughed when he first heard it but now… it was definitely apparent that something was going on. Harry glanced at B'Elanna only to see that she was once again glancing at Seven and Harry could swear there was a wistful expression on her face. Just then Seven looked up and caught B'Elanna staring, and Harry was surprised to see Seven's face soften and for her to give B'Elanna a slight smile

Harry felt more and more like a voyeur as the two women stared silently at each other for several seconds. Then Seven blushed faintly but did not lower her eyes from B'Elanna's. Harry jerked his eyes back to B'Elanna when he heard a faint growl off to his right and noticed the decidedly possessive and hungry look B'Elanna was directing at Seven.

"Well, I guess its time for me to get going back to the Bridge." Harry said in an overly loud voice that brought him to the attention of both women. As both women looked at him, surprised, he nearly fled the Holodeck thinking to himself 'Seven and B'Elanna?' Then he thought, 'I wonder if that was the real reason B'Elanna was so willing to break up with Tom? Seven and B'Elanna were spending a lot of time together even before they broke up'.

'The truly amazing thing', he thought to himself, 'was that Tom hadn't started a betting pool on when the two would actually get together yet'.

B'Elanna and Seven stared at Harry's retreating back for a moment then Seven looked at B'Elanna with a raised brow. B'Elanna had the grace to look slightly embarrassed at her obviousness. "I'm not going to apologize for being attracted to you Seven."

Seven smirked, "I would prefer it if you did not," she allowed. "Our Holodeck time is up."

"Computer save program." Seven paused waiting for the computer to comply and then ended the program. The two of them walked out of the Holodeck and to the turbolift. "I must analyze some scans in Astrometrics. I will see you at 1700 hours at Holodeck 2."

"Ok, Seven. I'll see you there, is Tuvok showing up at 1700 or later?" asked B'Elanna.

"Lt. Cmdr Tuvok stated he would be present at 1700 hours B'Elanna," said Seven. The turbolift stopped at Deck 8 and Seven smiled briefly to B'Elanna and exited the turbolift for Astrometrics.

B'Elanna grinned and watched admiringly as Seven walked down the hallway before the doors closed and shut off her view of Seven's form. Seven's steady gaze and comment in the Holodeck had given her a boost to her confidence that Seven would eventually trust her enough for them to become lovers. B'Elanna felt a slight quiver work its way along her back and shoulders at the thought of having the blond woman underneath her, or over her for that matter.

The turbolift stopped and the incoming crewman stopped and backed away giving her a wide eyed look. B'Elanna was puzzled for a moment before she realized she had been growling slightly, embarrassed she pretended she was angry and stomped by the crewman who flattened against the wall to let her by. B'Elanna shook herself trying to work off the lustful feelings. She knew that she felt more than just a physical attraction for Seven, but right now it was hard to remember that with her Klingon blood raging for her to claim the woman.

At 1700 the three of them met at Holodeck 2. Seven started the program and they entered the recreation of the Mularan inner temple grounds. Tuvok had declined being shown through the holoprogram by High Priestess Analea, so he had never seen the grounds before. After she heard this Seven suggested that they take a few minutes to see the gardens before heading over to the training area.

As she had suspected Tuvok found the gardens very interesting, B'Elanna found them less interesting than Tuvok but she did admire them. After taking longer than fifteen minutes the trio headed back around the path and toward the practice area.

M'ara was waiting for them and spoke in flawless Vulcan, "Tuvok son of T'Meni, thee are welcome here. I am called M'ara."

Seven quietly translated for B'Elanna knowing that she would not understand the language; Tuvok gave her a glance as she did so and Seven realized that he had not known that she knew Vulcan. Seven was uncomfortable for a moment, her knowledge of Vulcan was of course from the Collective, but then she gave herself a mental shrug. She had not been responsible for the events at Wolf 359 any more than she had the other events of her life while she was in the Collective.

"I thank you for your welcome, M'ara," Tuvok replied politely, both B'Elanna and Seven could see him staring intently at the Klingon holo-character.

"I am pleased you enjoyed my gardens, I believe you would find them an excellent place to meditate," commented M'ara.

"Your gardens?" questioned Tuvok intently.

"Yes, my gardens. You surely didn't believe I would leave Seven's training to a holo-program no matter how well written?" M'ara smiled at Tuvok.

Tuvok straightened, "Seven, Lt. Torres were you aware of the nature of this program?"

B'Elanna felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, "I thought you were already aware of the identity of the holo-character Tuvok. I mean she's named M'ara…" B'Elanna trailed off.

"I too assumed that you and the Captain were already aware of the purpose of the holo-program Lt. Cmdr Tuvok," said Seven. She stared curiously at Tuvok, amazed that he had not made the logical connection between the name M'ara and Mulara. Then of course there was the fact that she still had an unknown task that would be asked of her as a reborn. Mularan history made it clear that Mulara personally made sure that the reborn had all the information and training they needed to accomplish that task.

Tuvok raised an elegant brow at them, "The similarities in names had occurred to me, I should have pursued the information sooner. I must inform the Captain of the situation now that I have been made aware of it."

"Please do, I need to discuss a few things with Captain Janeway," M'ara informed Tuvok. This statement drew looks from all three present. Tuvok hesitated a moment, looked at M'ara intently, then nodded and stepped away to contact the Captain.

M'ara turned to Seven, "Kayaln is dreaming, I believe you would benefit from speaking with her Seven." M'ara made sure Seven was looking at her and then she glanced over at B'Elanna, making it clear what the topic of the conversation should be. Just then Kayaln appeared among the trees on the other side of the pavilion walking toward them. Seven glanced quickly at B'Elanna and then back at M'ara and nodded.

As Seven strode through the pavilion she heard M'ara address B'Elanna, "Let us see how much practicing you have been doing of your Mok'bara katas B'Elanna." Seven smiled, knowing that M'ara would be pleased she knew B'Elanna had spent several hours practicing the Klingon martial arts forms. B'Elanna was determined that she would not be a liability in the Infiltration program.

Kayaln greeted her with a warm smile, "You look well, Seven."

Seven smiled briefly back, and then when Kayaln held out her arms gratefully accepted the hug.

"M'ara said you needed to talk?" asked Kayaln.

Seven nodded and glanced over toward where B'Elanna was practicing with M'ara. B'Elanna was moving through a kata with M'ara performing the opponent's moves. B'Elanna glanced up and looked intently over to where they were; suddenly M'ara moved up next her and cuffed her across the side of her head, rocking B'Elanna.

"Pay attention to your enemy, not your hormones!" M'ara yelled at her.

"Oh," said Kayaln knowingly. "Perhaps we should go for a walk," she suggested.

Seven nodded to her and glanced one last time at B'Elanna who was now paying strict attention to her teacher and then followed Kayaln deeper into the trees.

"Tell me about her, Seven," Kayaln urged when they had moved out of sight and hearing of the pavilion.

At first slowly and then with more confidence under Kayaln's patient questioning Seven discussed the events of the last two weeks, and the tumultuous feelings those events had stirred up in her.

"Feelings are not irrelevant," said Kayaln with a smile.

"They are uncomfortable though," said Seven.

"They frequently are, but it's often worthwhile. What are you afraid of Seven? There's something holding you back from moving to the next logical step with her. What is it that stops you from telling her you would like to begin dating?" asked Kayaln.

"I do not know if she feels anything beyond a physical attraction for me, I find it… insufficient," admitted Seven.

Kayaln was silent for a moment, marshaling her thoughts, "From what Mulara has told me of Klingons, B'Elanna has been very restrained."

Seven considered the statement, "That is true, however, B'Elanna is only half-Klingon."

"Perhaps, but from what you're telling me she's reacting to you as a Klingon would, not as a human would," said Kayaln.

Seven frowned slightly, thinking, "She was attracted to the blood smell of my exoskeleton, she growls when she is aroused by my presence. You are correct; she has been reacting more like a Klingon than a human." Seven looked slightly surprised as she realized this.

"I would say that she has been showing a lot of restraint then, wouldn't you? Isn't that indicative of something more than just a physical attraction? Besides, most people start with a physical attraction to each other and a friendship, and then date to see if the relationship can develop into something deeper," Kayaln grinned at Seven.

"The purpose of dating is to let these deeper feelings develop?" asked Seven.

"If they can, sometimes it doesn't work out that way though. Dating doesn't come with a guarantee of success, Seven. But you will never know if it's possible unless you try," Kayaln said gently.

"I have been in error then, I should have agreed to date B'Elanna earlier," said Seven somewhat agitatedly.

"No you have not been in error Seven. You needed to be able to trust B'Elanna before you started dating her." Kayaln's emphasis of the word 'before' was not lost on Seven. "The question you need to answer before you start dating her is: do you trust B'Elanna Seven?"

Seven turned and looked back towards the pavilion, thinking of the events of the past week, she had begun to feel a strong yearning for the engineer's company at some point during it. The warm smile B'Elanna gave her when she first saw Seven in the mornings, the praise she now freely and easily gave when Seven helped her work through a problem, and the intently aroused gazes that made Seven sharply aware of her own physical attraction for B'Elanna.

But did she trust her yet? "Yes, I trust B'Elanna," Seven answered.

Kayaln beamed at her, "Then you might want to start thinking of what you want to do for your first date, Seven." Seeing Seven's suddenly anxious look Kayaln suppressed the desire to chuckle and instead placed a reassuring arm around the younger woman's shoulders. "An invitation to dinner is usually considered acceptable Seven."

Seven looked at her perplexed, "We frequently eat our meals together, those were not dates." Seven concentrated on remembering what she had learned about proper dating protocol, she knew Kayaln was correct but she was as well. "Proper dating protocol specifies that the location where the food is consumed is important."

Kayaln nodded, "Either that or the meal be special in some way, but something should be different from the meals you normally have together."

Seven considered her statement, "I have Holodeck time, there are many restaurant programs available for use. Perhaps one of those would be appropriate?"

"Would the food be real?" asked Kayaln curiously.

"It would be real food; each program has a set number of ration slips that are used per person."

Kayaln smiled at Seven, "That sounds perfect."

The two of them continued to discuss various restaurant choices for a short while then Kayaln insisted that they go back to the pavilion so Seven could train.

After the cuff upside the head B'Elanna focused on her teacher, she had been angry for a moment then embarrassed. The conversation between them since had been limited to corrections and praise from M'ara and questions about certain moves from B'Elanna.

Out of the corner of her eye B'Elanna caught sight of the Captain approaching and hesitated only to have M'ara shout "Focus! I didn't say we were done yet! How can you expect to protect Seven if you can't focus." B'Elanna knew her surprise was clearly visible for M'ara continued speaking as they performed the moves of the katas. "What, did you think I was teaching you all this for play? The time to decide will be soon, Seven is one of my reborn and she will need you B'Elanna."

B'Elanna could feel the Captain and Tuvok watching and listening, yet they did not interfere. B'Elanna could only guess that M'ara meant for them to hear this conversation. "What do you mean the time to decide will be soon and what do you mean Seven is one of your reborn?"

"Your decision B'Elanna will be whether or not you can fully commit to being Seven's mate when she makes the choice whether or not to take on the task I will ask of her. I will not tell you what the task is for Seven will not be ready for the decision for several more months. Yet I want you to know that the task will be a worthy one, as worthy as the one that Kathless undertook. It will be one that will risk both your lives and probably those of Voyager as well should the Captain choose to support Seven." M'ara finally stepped back from B'Elanna at this last and looked over to where Captain Janeway and Tuvok stood.

M'ara looked back at B'Elanna, "I expect that Seven will decide to undertake her task. She will need someone that she can depend on to support her, and more than that, she will need someone to love her. I believe you can be that person, but you need to make that choice. And I want you to make it knowing that a future with her will not be an easy path for it will mean that you will have to commit to her task as well."

B'Elanna looked at M'ara's grave, serious face and nodded understanding that M'ara was telling her that if she pursued a relationship with Seven that she had better be certain about the depth of her feelings. 'It's a good thing we are taking things slowly' thought B'Elanna.

B'Elanna noticed M'ara turning toward the Captain, "Captain Janeway, I am pleased to meet Annika's chosen mother."

B'Elanna noticed that Janeway had her hands on her hips and was looking none too pleased with the situation. Upon hearing M'ara's statement she seemed to unbend slightly, "Should I call you M'ara or Mulara?" she asked in a neutral tone.

"Whichever you prefer," M'ara said smiling. "Seven and B'Elanna call me M'ara, perhaps it would be simpler if you did as well."

B'Elanna tried to stay unnoticeable while the two of them gave each other measuring stares. Finally the Captain said, "Thank you for restoring Seven's life."

"She was unjustly killed by one of my people, and she was worthy of the saving," said M'ara simply. M'ara smiled, "You have found her worth saving a time or two yourself Captain."

Janeway's mouth twitched briefly, "Yes I have."

Both of them were silent looking at one another then Janeway said, "What task will you ask Seven to perform?"

M'ara chuckled, "I cannot tell you that Captain. Seven will know her task when it comes before her, then she will decide to perform it or she will not."

"And if she doesn't?" asked Janeway.

M'ara shook her head, "I will not tell you that either, it would unduly influence her."

Janeway looked narrow eyed at M'ara after that statement, then in a surprising change of subject, "Could you transport Voyager back to the Alpha Quadrant?"

M'ara looked at her calmly, "Yes I could but you do not want me to."

"Why not?" Janeway asked in a tight voice.

"Because if I do the Federation will be destroyed within the next 100 years, if you find your own way home then most possibilities are that the Federation will survive well past that point," said M'ara bluntly.

B'Elanna was stunned by the information, what possible difference could it make how they got home? Janeway looked stunned as well but also concerned thought B'Elanna.

"We do something on our way to the Alpha Quadrant that changes the timeline so greatly?" Janeway asked, doubt obvious in her tone. "Does it have anything to do with Seven's task?"

"It is a combination of events that Voyager will face on the way to the Alpha Quadrant and the task to be placed before Seven. But if you are not there to take place in those events things will go badly for the Federation later. Do not underestimate Voyager's influence in events in the Delta Quadrant, you will continue to play a pivotal role in them," M'ara finished speaking and she and Janeway stared at one another solemnly.

Janeway looked at B'Elanna and Tuvok then sighed, "I won't ask for you to send us back then. Lt. Torres, Tuvok, M'ara's identity is considered classified as is the conversation you just heard. The crew doesn't need to know that Mulara could get us home but we cannot take it."

B'Elanna nodded, "Understood Captain." Janeway was right the crew didn't need to know about this, B'Elanna wished in a way she didn't. The thought that Voyager and Seven would be required to do something that would save the Federation from destruction was intimidating.

"Captain Janeway, I need you to assist in Seven's training. B'Elanna should also be included," said M'ara with a penetrating look at B'Elanna that caused her to straighten warily.

"What type of training?" asked Janeway.

"Leadership, decision making, tactics…" said M'ara.

Janeway and Tuvok both stared at her with keen expressions, "You want me to put them through command training?" Janeway asked.

"That will work as a basis, but they will need a different emphasis than the standard Starfleet command training," said M'ara. She turned toward B'Elanna, "B'Elanna why don't you go and work with Kayaln and Seven while I speak to Captain Janeway."

B'Elanna glanced over past the pavilion and noticed Seven and Kayaln returning, she caught Janeway's nod to her and said respectfully, "M'ara, Captain." Then she smartly turned and walked toward the other side of the pavilion.

Seven and Kayaln paused as she approached and Kayaln said, "Perhaps the two of you would like to practice against multiple opponents?"

B'Elanna felt a anticipatory smile forming, and noticed Seven looking at her with an amused expression on her face. B'Elanna knew that Seven found her obvious enjoyment of fighting multiple opponents amusing but it wasn't like Seven didn't enjoy herself as well thought B'Elanna smugly.

Kayaln chuckled at the two of them, "It's obvious that both of you think my suggestion is a good idea." Kayaln paused for a second, "Defend yourselves," she suddenly said as the area around them suddenly filled with opponents.

Janeway paused in her discussion with M'ara for a moment to watch B'Elanna and Seven defend themselves against multiple holo-characters that had suddenly appeared. The two of them were outnumbered by six to two but they appeared to be easily winning the battle.

"They fight well together," said M'ara.

Janeway nodded, the two of them did fight well together and if M'ara's training request was any indication they would need to depend on that ability. Leadership, ethics, both single and fleet tactical training, and diplomacy, were the topics Mulara wanted Janeway to teach Seven and B'Elanna. Janeway hadn't gotten any further answers about the future from Mulara, but given the training emphasis she had a few ideas about what Seven and Voyager might be asked to accomplish to save the Federation.

B'Elanna and Seven thanked M'ara and Kayaln for the evenings training and ended the holoprogram. They exited the Holodeck and began the short trip back to their respective quarters on Deck 9. Seven glanced uncertainly at B'Elanna, finding the prospect of asking the woman for a date the following evening irrationally daunting.

Gathering up her courage Seven said, "B'Elanna, if you have tomorrow evening free I would like to invite you to a dinner date on Holodeck 2 at 2000 hours."

B'Elanna stopped, which caused Seven to stop as well, and turn to look at her, "A date?" she asked.

Seven squared her shoulders and looked into B'Elanna's eyes, "Yes, a date B'Elanna. I feel it is time for us to see if our friendship will… develop into a different type of relationship."

B'Elanna felt like chuckling but knew that Seven would likely take it poorly at the moment. Seven's erect posture and serious demeanor would have once annoyed her, now though, especially given the subject matter, she found herself fondly amused with Seven. B'Elanna reached out and grasped Seven's right hand, "I would like that."

Seven's face seemed to light up from within at B'Elanna's words and she allowed the smaller woman to tug her into walking again. B'Elanna did not let go of her hand and Seven squeezed it gently, feeling happier and more optimistic than she could ever remember.

The End of Part 2

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