DISCLAIMER: Star Trek not mine, no profit made, just playing. That oughta cover it, right?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Anyway, I've done something I really shouldn't, and tried my hand at some technical stuff along the way here, please ignore it as it's all from my imagination and I am _not_ a technically inclined dragon. It's just meant to be a bit of framework for the story itself, so it's not that important anyway.
Also, in case anyone wonders about it... my little wonder ship is a bit inspired by a ship called "The Sun Crusher", I believe, from an old Star Wars book. The rest is me. ^-^

Klingon Heart
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson

Part 3

A while later in Sickbay, where the doctor had first been surprised at the request to save an ailing baby reptile but then quickly smiled reassuringly at Mezoti, promising to have her little friend healthy in no time, Voyager's Captain, Chief of Engineering, unofficial leading Astrometrics officer, and resident Klingon mom all watched as the doctor treated the tiny creature. They were silent, most of them deep in thought about the things they'd learned about the tall ex-Borg and her young ward, and didn't really know what to say.

Seven and Mezoti had already moved on to more important matters.

"What is your prognosis, doctor?" Seven asked after the EMH had what she deemed a suitable amount of time to examine the lizard.

The EMH smiled at Mezoti. "I'll get your pet well in a little while, it will just take a bit of time since it is so very young and weak. See, it's already breathing more easily." And the little purple creature was indeed breathing less heavily, not shaking with every breath as it had before. It's dark eyes continued to open occasionally to locate Mezoti, who were standing near the lined container the doctor had put it in.

"His designation is Toby." Mezoti informed the doctor seriously.

"Oh, his name is Toby huh? Well, nice to meet you Toby, and I'll get you up and running in no time." The doctor pretended to speak to the lizard in the way some adults have when they are trying to humour children. "I think we'll have your Toby here for observation overnight, where I can help his lungs and heart to catch up and make sure he gets stronger. Then tomorrow you can probably take him with you, and I'll have come up with a... nutritional supplement that you can feed him for a while, until he is strong enough to eat the greens he's supposed to."

"That is acceptable doctor, thank you." Mezoti nodded and patted the lizard's head carefully.

"Right now I think we need to put Toby to sleep, to let him conserve his strength." The doctor continued gently. "And that way he won't miss you when you go to regenerate tonight, so you don't have to worry about him."

"Doctor" Janeway interjected. "what are your thoughts regarding Toby staying on Voyager for the time being?"

"Well, Toby is clearly of a herbivorous species, and nothing indicates that he would present a threat in terms of bacteria, nor does he seem to have anything that could grow to be venom sacks or other similar defence mechanisms." The doctor enjoyed showing off what he had deduced in such a short amount of time. "This species is often seen around the site and has so far been deemed skittish but harmless, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be perfectly allright to keep this specimen onboard."

"Also, our little Toby is an infant and would not survive on his own yet. Most likely he has been imprinted on Mezoti as his mother and would try to return to her if we let him loose." The little lizard made a tiny mewling sound as it yawned before falling asleep. "We'll have to keep an eye on him as he grows though, because it would appear that this species is genderless... Toby isn't really a 'he' per se... so it's possible that they are self-reproducing once they reach full maturity."

Then he moved over to his desk to dutifully log all pertinent data on his latest patient, internally bemoaning once again that he had no name, preventing him as it had many times before to name something after himself. In this instance, a breed of small lizards.

"Now then, a pet crisis averted and an emotional family wringer later, I think it's time for Kate and myself to retire." Miral told Seven and B'Elanna, causing Kathryn's eyes to open wide. "Aren't you tired, Kate?" Miral purred with a leer at Kathryn, causing her to blush fiercely.

Kathryn looked over at Seven, and her expression changed from one of embarrassment to maternal concern. She looked back at Miral with a pained expression, but the Klingon woman indicated B'Elanna with her eyes, then Seven, raising an eyebrow meaningly. Kathryn nodded slightly, then turned to speak to Seven.

"SoSnI', have you initiated a mating bond with Captain Janeway?" Mezoti's clear voice inquired politely before Kathryn had the chance to say anything.

While the other adults were occupied by either smirking or sputtering in shock, Seven responded to the question.

"I believe that the Captain and Miral indeed have co-" B'Elanna and Kathryn were both holding their hands over Seven's mouth, looking quite horrified. Kathryn let go and stepped back, and after a brief moment B'Elanna did the same.

"They have copulated." Mezoti concluded calmly. "I am not ignorant of these matters, even though I am a minor." She added to B'Elanna and Kathryn.

"I was going to say 'consummated'." Seven chided the other two women gently. "Also, while Mezoti was Borg for such a short time and not truly linked to the Hive mind, and therefore do not retain as much information as I, she is aware of the reproduction procedures of many species."

She turned to the child. "However, B'Elanna dislikes the word 'copulation', and as such I request you do not use it."

"Yes Seven, I will comply. Although it is a functional term."

"Hmm, so Seven has the knowledge of many species', ah, reproduction procedures?" Miral said with an evil smirk at her daughter. "Lucky you."

"Mom!" B'Elanna exclaimed, mortified. She cast a tortured glance over at Kathryn. "Are you and I the only ones that have any concept of privacy?"

Miral shared a smile with Seven. "We just value... honesty. Isn't that right, puqnI'be'?" The last was directed at Mezoti.

"Dishonesty is a corruption of data and a waste of resources. Also, it is not honourable."

Miral smiled affectionately at the little girl. She was just about to say something else when Kathryn's combadge sparked into life, alerting Voyager's Captain that there was a vessel approaching the planet. Resolutely Miral picked Mezoti up to take her to B'Elanna's quarters, while the other three women shared a brief look, then raced off to their respective stations.

None of them noticed the doctor's speculating look from where he had been pretending to go over data at his desk.

Captain Janeway entered the Bridge already barking orders.

Because there was no way Voyager would be able to fly, Janeway wanted Tal and Tom to pilot the Hybrid and the Delta Flyer, to protect the immobile Voyager. If it came to that, Janeway would order Tal Celes to ram the Hybrid into the alien vessel and hope that all of B'Elanna and Seven's calculations about the little ship's capacity were correct. But hopefully it would not come to that.

Security were rounding up those outside of the ship since the first sign of the other craft appeared, and as soon as they were all inside, B'Elanna would hopefully have made the necessary adjustments in Engineering to have the original shields up and running. Icheb was replacing Tal Celes in Astrometrics as she headed for her pilot duty, but the main control were as ever in Seven's hands, where she stood at her station on the Bridge.

"Alien vessel is hailing, Captain."

A deep breath.

"On screen!"

The alien vessel belonged to a species called the Kotol, which Seven identified as a small and deeply religious group that rarely instigated conflict. Their technology was inferior to Voyager's, and it seemed as if they did not pose much of a threat.

In fact the Captain of the Kotol ship was not hailing Voyager to challenge or threaten it's crew, but instead to warn them. It appeared that the Kotol had attempted to colonise the planet generations before, and were convinced that it was a cursed place.

While the Captain of the Kotol vessel was much too nervous to come down to the planet to meet Janeway, or to allow his ship to come too close to the surface at all, he was willing to tell what he knew of the planet.

Many generations ago, while the Kotol were much larger in numbers, a large group of them settled on the planet, intending to colonise the green and flourishing paradise and abandon space travel. For a long time it had seemed to be the perfect place, until as the Kotol believed, something that the Universal Translator translated as the 'Elder Gods' awoke in the planet.

The planet came alive. Sudden storms, mists, rains or quaking earth was followed by mountains opening up to swallow Kotolians, or the ground splitting open, or the ocean parting, all to do the same. Afterwards the bodies were usually found, frozen in a mask of utter pain and fear.

The few that was found alive were even more horrifying. Some were driven insane by whatever had happened to them, while others came back with abilities that they could not control and that ended up destroying themselves and those around them – on some occasions it was said that even the dead rose from their graves.

The Kotol had endured nearly twenty years on the planet before the survivors rebuilt their ships and left, never to come closer to the planet than this ship was now. That had been a very long time ago, and whatever traces the Kotolians had left behind had long since disappeared.

Janeway felt tendrils of ice move across her spine at the tale, and she was distracted enough by it to be just a fraction too late to prevent Seven to inform the Kotol Captain that she herself had experienced this 'phenomenon' and had a lost family member returned to her. The Kotolians on the viewscreen all gasped and performed a peculiar gesture that Janeway thought might be their way of crossing themselves, and started almost shrieking.

Moments later the Kotol vessel had reversed course and left the planet's orbit, cutting off communications without further explanations.

Janeway sighed and gave Seven a chagrined glance. The former Borg looked just a fraction abashed at events.

"...well that accomplished a fat lot of _nothing_!" B'Elanna grumbled crankily as she entered her quarters after having once again dismantled the shields she had temporarily restored when the Kotol vessel had approached, ending up in several hours of work that had not really had much purpose.

Then she saw Captain Janeway's uniform jacket hanging inside the door. On the edge of the couch, her sweater. Alarmed, B'Elanna's head snapped around.

A somewhat surprised Kathryn met her gaze from where she was sitting, wearing an undershirt, with Miral standing behind the chair massaging her shoulders.

B'Elanna exhaled in relief.

"What, you didn't think we'd do anything with the little one sleeping right there on the couch, did you?" Miral wryly asked her transparent daughter. B'Elanna and Kathryn both cringed slightly.

"I... I should go." Kathryn said uneasily, awkwardly walking over and putting her jacket on. She hesitated by the door, looking over at Miral, and at that moment the doors opened to let Seven into the room.

"Captain." Seven inclined her head slightly, not appearing to notice the slightly strained air in the room. "Miral. B'Elanna." The last name was said with a small, unconscious smile on her lips. "I have come for Mezoti."

"The little one is sleeping soundly, it'd be a shame to wake her up." Miral smiled. "Does she need to do that regeneration thing tonight?"

Seven considered this. "No, Mezoti do not require regeneration at this time, sleep will suffice. But the couch is where you sleep Miral, where would you get your rest?"

Miral grinned. "Oh, I'm going with Kate tonight, so the couch is all Mezoti's." Kathryn emitted a startled little squeaking sound. "That said, Kate and I will be going now, so..."

"You were interrupted before." Seven nodded. "I understand. Goodnight to you both, then."

"Right. Goodnight children." Miral ushered the flustered Kathryn out of the room.

B'Elanna blinked, then rubbed her ridges.

"What troubles you?" Seven asked softly, coming closer and tenderly tracing B'Elanna's ridges herself. When B'Elanna leaned into the touch and sighed, Seven had a revelation.

"The Captain and Miral... their relationship bothers you."

"No! I mean yes... I mean no, but..." B'Elanna growled a little in frustration. "I don't know what it is, maybe I'm bothered knowing these things about my mother. And Kathryn has been one of my best friends, mentor a-and mother to me for what feels like the most important seven years of my life so far, and then my real mother is suddenly here and we are able to get along..." She sighed again.

"It feels odd. I'll get over it though, I just need some time. I think maybe its just that I'm afraid that one of them is going to get hurt, or both, and I love them so much..." She leaned into Seven's very willing arms.

"What about you, Seven? Does it bother you at all?"

Seven gave the question a moment of thought. "No. Miral is a congenial and honourable individual, and I believe she would not willingly hurt Kathryn. I... like her."

"Kathryn has been alone for so long, and well deserves happiness. If being with Miral gives her that happiness, then I am glad they have found one another."

B'Elanna smiled lovingly at Seven. It had been a long, trying, emotional day, and all she really wanted to do was to crawl into bed, wrap herself around her love, and sleep. But they had things to talk about first.

Giving in to an urge that never really seemed to leave her while in Seven's presence, B'Elanna pulled the fair head down and kissed her.

When the kissing finally ended, Seven stepped back slightly and looked at B'Elanna regretfully. "I must go now."

"What, go? Aren't you staying here tonight?" B'Elanna was crestfallen.

"I need to regenerate tonight, otherwise my functioning will be unacceptably diminished by tomorrow." Seven apologized. "I... still require regular regeneration. I always will."

"I know, Seven." B'Elanna hugged her. "It just means that as soon as I get the opportunity, I'll put converting the bed we designed for the Hybrid into something I can have in my quarters as a priority on my personal projects list." She grinned at Seven. "Care to contribute your input to the cause?"

"Of course." Seven smiled. Then she walked over to the couch, leaned down, and gently kissed Mezoti's forehead. Returning to B'Elanna she gathered her up in her arms and kissed her deeply before stepping back.

"Goodnight B'Elanna." Seven breathed, then left.

"Goodnight Seven." B'Elanna sighed to herself in the room that was now empty save for a sleeping little girl and herself.

B'Elanna kept intending to talk to Seven, but during the time that followed they, as well as everyone else onboard, were constantly busy. The few times they actually ended up alone together, they were either too exhausted to do anything other than curl together on B'Elanna's bed and go to sleep, or, upon rarer occasions, ended up doing something else entirely. It was getting to the point where it was frustrating B'Elanna to distraction, and nothing seemed to help.

All the hard work was not going to waste, however, and the end of the refurbishing of the ship seemed to be in sight. To Janeway's relief, and that of many others, the engine work was done, as well as shields and external changes, so if would be necessary, Voyager could take off and finish the last part of the renovations in space. It would be more convenient and less time-consuming to do it on the planet though, so they would be staying there for the duration of the changes.

The warnings of the Kotol taken to heart, crewmen were strongly cautioned to remain vigilant while working outside of the ship itself, and not to leave what had been determined as a safe area unless it was truly necessary.

Miral had been supervising the children in the messhall when B'Elanna had arrived for her lunch break. They chatted lightly while waiting for Seven and hopefully Kathryn as well to join them, telling Sam Wildman anecdotes of little Mezoti an her beloved pet.

The lizard had proved to be a source of great amusement for both little girls onboard once the doctor had allowed Mezoti to collect Toby from Sickbay. To the adults relief Toby was obviously an intelligent creature and had so far not been any trouble, always staying very close to his owner, preferring to rest atop Mezoti's head as she moved about or regenerated, or to lay curled around her slim shoulders. The little creature seemed curiously similar to a kitten, making the occasional tiny sound and stroking up to people around it begging to be petted, and charmed most that encountered it.

B'Elanna was telling Sam and Miral about the adorable scene she had walked in on in Cargo Bay 2, where Mezoti had been seriously scolding Toby for trying to eat Seven's now flourishing plant, explaining to the little creature how the plant was important to Seven who would be sad if Toby ate it. The reptile had looked rather sheepish with a piece of the plant in it's mouth while Mezoti scolded it, then reluctantly opened it's mouth and let the plant go and curled itself up to Mezoti, nudging her with it's head as if begging to be forgiven. While the three adults smiled at the image, Tom Paris entered the messhall.

Tom Paris had truly had a long succession of really crappy days. First the Captain had him pilot every tiny and insignificant survey and material-gathering mission imaginable, and when he went back to her to explain how these things were just beneath his dignity as the ship's best pilot, she not only gave him a scathing reply, he found himself assigned to even _more_ demeaning missions. He hadn't been allowed to pilot his Delta Flyer for what felt like forever, assigned instead to the shuttles as other pilots were given the Flyer for missions. Also, he was assigned to personally participate in the demeaning missions, not only as a pilot, but digging, hacking, carrying and loading as well.

That morning had taken the cake as far as indignities were concerned, as he had piloted a shuttle to another continent on the planet as the biologists had located a large grassy plain area where a species of large herbivores grazed. It wasn't until they arrived there that it became apparent to him that they expected him to join them in collecting the grass eaters' droppings for the purpose of providing natural fertilization to the farming area at the landing site.

He, Tom Paris, had been forced to shovel dung!

So when he saw B'Elanna, one the Captain's golden girls and one of the two people he held resonsible for all of his indignities since their breakup, laughing with her little instant family, whatever restraints he had on his foul mood left him at warp nine.

"Well if it isn't little miss mongrel and her family of undead..." Tom's voice was just loud enough to make the buzz of the full messhall die out in a shocked silence. "Got some other bright ideas today that means we stay stuck on some messed up and dangerous planet, working our asses off, while you play house with your new pets? Though it figures, ya know, that only the Borg rejects and dead freaks are willing to..."

With a roar B'Elanna stood up, slamming both fists into the tabletop making the Wildmans' dinner trays fly to the floor with a crash. "You petaQ...!"

Sam Wildman grabbed B'Elanna's arm in an attempt at restraining her. "B'Elanna, no!"

"Oo, did I strike a nerve, turtlehead?" Tom smirked. "Why I nev-"

That was as far as he got, because before he or anyone else had the opportunity to react Miral had left her seat, rounded the table, and were holding Tom Paris in the air by a tight hold on his collar.

"You insult my daughter, her lover, my grandchildren, their outstanding work for this vessel, and my Klingon heritage... right in front of me." Miral shook her head. "Just how stupid are you?"

"You have something to say about forehead ridges?" Miral twisted her grip slightly so that the collar cut into Tom's throat a bit more. "Why stop there, why not implants, nose ridges, ear shapes and skin colour?" Around them the non-humans in the messhall stiffened in their seats, looking grimly at Tom.

"You know a little about Klingons, Paris..." Miral's smile was humourless but filled with sharp, menacing teeth. "What did you think I would do when you insult my family in front of me?"

"Mom, no." B'Elanna had calmed down just enough to want to keep her mother out of trouble. "He's not worth being thrown in the Brig for."

Miral struggled with herself, then eventually let go of Tom's collar. Shaken, Tom stumbled when he was released, and squeaked out a thoughtless retort as he straightened himself.

"Right, like that'd happen... the Doc's told me she's so far up Janeway's ass they'd have to-"

This time the hands that cut him off were holding his neck rather than his shirt, as Miral growled at him.

"Was there something else you wished to say about your commanding officer, Ensign Paris?" An ice-cold voice cut in smoothly, relaxing both Miral and B'Elanna just a fraction. A short distance away Captain Janeway and Seven had arrived to the messhall.

Tom's eyes began to bug out as he realized his mistake. "C-captain! T-tell her to let go, I didn't mean... I... Captain!"

Janeway made a show of considering his request, then looked at Miral. "Give him here, Miral."

Smirking evilly Miral changed her grip, then hurled the helmsman with all her might through the air in Janeway's direction. The crowd in the messhall barely had the opportunity to gasp before Seven took a small step forward in front of Janeway, and in a smooth and impossibly fast motion reached out with her Borg enhanced arm and caught Tom's left ankle. Tom yelped in pain and fear as Seven suddenly were holding him upside-down in the air.

"Thank you, Miral." Janeway said calmly, as if she hadn't been startled by events at all.

"Captain, he has soiled himself." Seven declared with some disgust.

Janeway chose not to comment on that. "Ensign Paris, you are hereby transferred to the gamma shift until further notice. I suggest you spend some time considering what is proper conduct for a Starfleet officer."

A beat. "Let him down now, Seven."

"But Captain!" Tom whined as he crouched unsteadily, clinging to Seven's stiff arm. "Come on, I'm the best pilot you've got, you can't replace me!"

"On the contrary Tom, we have many skilled pilots onboard Voyager, and I intend to replace you with an exceptionally talented one, namely Ensign Tal Celes." Janeway said coolly, wondering to herself if she would end up having to summon security to deal with this. She _really_ did not need this today... she had just wanted a bite to eat and a peaceful moment spent with her family before returning to her duties.

"Oh you've _got_ to be kidding! Celes has been lucky a couple of times, but she's one of the data-pushing bimboes from Astrometrics, for crying out loud!" Tom cried, forgetting to crouch to hide the dark stain on his uniform pants.

Across the room the Delaney sisters rose as one to spear Tom with cold and angry glares, belonging to the 'data-pushing bimboes from Astrometrics' themselves. With a sinking feeling of defeat, Tom realized that this was not only quite possibly his most embarrassing moment ever and another hard blow to his career and status onboard, it was also likely the end of the 'friendly' get-togethers he had occasionally enjoyed with the two sisters.

"Tom!" Janeway barked. "Your behaviour is inexcusable, and I have had enough! Consider this your last warning, if I hear about a single offensive comment or action from you again, I'll have you demoted to crewman! Is that understood?"

Tom nodded mutely, afraid to do much else just in case. Janeway ignored him however, chosing instead to summon security to escort Tom back to his quarters, and someone to clean up the mess on the floor.

Sighing deeply, Kathryn finally got to take a seat next to Miral at the table, looking rather miserably at the other women present. Wearily she reminded herself that she had to have a little conversation with a certain EMH, although in truth Kathryn would be surprised if the doctor had said anything more than some innocuous comment on her and Miral, people like Tom didn't need much encouragement in her experience, but still... her one real grab for some personal happiness in far longer than she really cared to remember, reduced to contemptuous gossip, that... hurt.

Seven moved first to hug Mezoti and kiss B'Elanna before taking a seat herself, making B'Elanna's anger melt away into a goofy smile. Kathryn finally cracked a smile herself at the sight of B'Elanna's smitten expression as she watched Seven interact with the two little girls at the table. It was bothersome, yes, but she shouldn't let Tom Paris ruin her day... as Mezoti declared moments after the man was escorted away, he was after all quite 'irrelevant'.

After the disastrous lunch in the messhall, Miral approached Kathryn about something that had been bothering her. While both Kathryn and Miral had talked to Seven, Mezoti and Icheb about their own feelings for the little Borg family, they had an unspoken agreement to leave the specifics of Seven's relationship with B'Elanna to B'Elanna herself to clear up. Problem was, B'Elanna and Seven never did seem to have enough alone time for the anxious engineer to bring up the subject. And the strain was beginning to show in both women.

It was time for some motherly intervention.

After some thinking it was agreed that the final stages of the work in the ship could do without Seven and B'Elanna for a few days, the question was only how to ensure that the two women had enough time alone together without interruptions and without being pulled back into work?

Kathryn came up with the idea. As the time on the planet was swiftly nearing it's end, and with the improvements on the communications systems, the beacons that had been deployed to establish the link to the Alpha Quadrant were now superfluous. Kathryn would order B'Elanna and Seven to take the Hybrid and collect the beacons, a mission which would take at least a day, maybe two if B'Elanna was smart enough to seize the opportunity.

The biggest problem would be convincing both women to perform a task they would immediately realize was unnecessary. Kathryn wanted the beacons collected to be put to other uses sometime, but it would be more efficient to simply collect them as Voyager travelled onwards to the Alpha Quadrant, rather than send out a ship on a special retrieval mission. Kathryn, however, felt confident that she could convince Seven of the importance of some alone time with B'Elanna, and Miral, well, she would just bash B'Elanna's head until she agreed.

Almost before they knew it, B'Elanna and Seven were onboard the Hybrid and taking off for a two-day mission all alone.

The trip itself threatened to take a lot longer than the two days alloted to them, because B'Elanna found Seven to be very distracting when she was punching in commands at her station in the nude. Which she also found Seven to be when doing the same thing wearing B'Elanna's own clothes. Or Seven's biosuit. Although quite frankly, B'Elanna would have found Seven to be quite distracting had she worn all of Hydroponics bay, too.

Despite this, B'Elanna was not going to be distracted away from her own private mission.

After a nice replicated dinner, during which B'Elanna had mostly just gazed lovingly at Seven, lost in thought, B'Elanna tried to focus her thoughts to express herself as eloquently as possible.

That what was supposed to be a speech about how much B'Elanna truly loved Seven ended up with B'Elanna on her knees in front of Seven, swearing to spend the rest of her life loving Seven and showing her how special she was to B'Elanna, surprised B'Elanna just as much as it did Seven. That her response was a flying tackle that sent them both flat on the floor, with B'Elanna losing most of the air in her lungs in the process and with Seven sobbing so hard that she could not verbalize her response for a good long while, was less surprising when she thought about it. After all, B'Elanna knew the astonishingly sensitive and gentle soul that hid under the Borg demeanour by now... and she loved her with all that she was.

Eventually Seven regained her composure enough to lean back to look solemnly at B'Elanna, her eyes turned a clear, pale blue that made B'Elanna's heart ache, and tell B'Elanna that she loved her as well, and that yes, she wanted to marry B'Elanna... and that made it B'Elanna's turn to burst out in tears.

Many hours later, as they lay curled together in the black sheets of their bed onboard the Hybrid, they spoke in soft tones of what they would like to be part of their future. Some were small, fairly inconsequential things, other were more important. First and foremost among the important things was the part where they agreed to ask to be allowed to adopt Mezoti and Icheb once the Captain had performed a small wedding ceremony for them. Providing of course that the children approved, but they both felt that Icheb and Mezoti would wish to be officially adopted.

B'Elanna found herself slightly giddy at the prospect of being somebody's mom, but she suspected that the nervousness would come later, once she had more time to worry about all the things she might do wrong. And she'd have her Seven, who while perhaps a bit unorthodox, was a great mother as far as B'Elanna was concerned. B'Elanna fell asleep that night smiling to visions of Mezoti and Icheb running around with a bunch of little Klingon/human/Borg tykes while she and Seven watched over them, together.

The next day they collected the last beacons and plotted the course back to Voyager. B'Elanna talked to Seven about doing something nice for Kathryn and Miral as a way of thanking them, but Seven pointed out that they had not acted for the sake of receiving thanks, and if B'Elanna wanted to do something for them, showing some acceptance for their relationship would probably be what Miral and Kathryn wanted most.

They were still lightly talking about that subject when the Hybrid's sensors revealed something horrifying at Voyager's location.

"B'Elanna..." Seven's voice was scarcely louder than a whisper. "...I am reading Borg signatures from the planet... I believe they are from a Borg Cube."

When the Hybrid came into orbit around the planet it was to the sight of a Borg Cube engaged in a firefight with the stationary Voyager and the Delta Flyer. Voyager's upgrades seemed to keep the ship safe despite the circumstances, but the Delta Flyer had no such upgrades, and was faring less well. Still, skilled piloting kept the little vessel from taking too heavy damages.

What appeared to be the greater threat was not the Cube, despite it's unrelenting firing on the ships, but rather the fact that the ground was swarming with Borg Drones, and many of the crew of Voyager were still outside the ship itself. In fact it looked as if the Cube was firing merely to keep Voyager and the Delta Flyer occupied.

As long as the ship was under fire it seemed that Voyager would not let it's shields down to allow the rest of the crew inside, although perhaps that was also to keep the Drones out of the vessel. Regardless of what reason, the people outside the ship were sitting ducks, having virtually nowhere to run and little means to fight with. So instead of engaging the Borg Cube, the Hybrid swung low to practise some expert markmanship on B'Elanna's part, clearing the way to the shuttles for some of Voyager's crew.

B'Elanna was swearing about not having a transporter installed and having waited with the development of stronger weaponry for the ships, as Seven opened communications with Voyager.

To both their shock it was not Janeway but Chakotay who held the Bridge, and he wasted no time in informing them that Captain Janeway had been caught outside when the attack came. Behind him Icheb spoke up out of turn from where he was upholding Seven's station, telling Seven and B'Elanna that when the attack began Janeway had ordered him inside the ship, then taken off running towards the area near the storage caves where Miral and Mezoti were supposed to be. The boy looked pale and frightened, and was bleeding from a large gash in his head, yet he didn't falter and held Seven's station admirably.

Their horrified shock nearly made B'Elanna and Seven react too late to save a small group containing Tal Celes, both Wildmans, and two of Sam's biologists from being overpowered. Wrenching the Hybrid around hard, Seven landed the ship and flung the door open.

B'Elanna raced to the opening, waving for the group and yanking them inside when they were close enough. "Come on, hurry!"

The door shut behind them just as another group of Drones reached the Hybrid, causing Seven to quite viciously run them over as she immediately took the ship off towards the caves. B'Elanna yanked Sam Wildman down in her own seat, then pulled on Tal Celes to replace Seven as soon as Seven would get out of the chair.

"If you can't help the people on the ground, then concentrate on the Cube!" B'Elanna ordered, preparing to hurl herself out of the ship as soon as Seven had sat it down. Seven, rather than setting it down, opened the door while hovering a distance above ground, then pulled B'Elanna with her. "Close the door behind us quickly!" She called as they both jumped out and, completely unarmed, raced towards the last known location of the larger part of their family.

Seven and B'Elanna were fortunate that they were not intercepted by more Drones on their way than they were, because even the enhanced strength of a former Borg would not hold up for long against a large number of tactical Drones. Curiously enough it seemed as if though the Drones were letting Seven and B'Elanna into the caves rather than preventing them, although there was no time to consider this odd behaviour further.

Then B'Elanna and Seven reached the one cave that held what they sought, and came to a screeching halt.

The first thing they saw was Miral, struggling to get back up on her feet just inside the cave opening. She was clinging to the rock wall that was covered in a large stain of blood, clearly her own as the right side of her head and torso were bleeding considerably. Miral seemed oblivious of this though, as she spat and got up, growling furiously.

Further in the cavern stood Janeway, firing her phaser left-handed as her right arm hung apparently unusable at her side. Her jacket was torn nearly completely off, and one side of her face was covered with a large bruise.

Neither of the two women seemed to take notice of Seven and B'Elanna arriving, and it was not hard to see why.

Furthest in, a few steps away from Janeway was the green glimmer of a forcefield, and behind it five Drones formed a strange circle around a small blinking object on the ground. Also inside that circle of Drones were a sixth Drone, holding Mezoti captive.

As the Seven, acting purely on instinct, rushed the forcefield with a strangled cry, one of the Drones forming the circle left his place to bend over the artefact and interface with it. Almost immediately he straightened again, and returned to his place. Seven tried to force her Borg-enhanced arm through the forcefield by sheer brute strength.

Janeway, who had stopped firing as soon as she saw Seven hit the forcefield, and Miral reached Seven and B'Elanna just ast the latter was about to start pounding on the barrier with her bare fists.

"Lanna, don't." Miral rasped. "You can't do anything that way." The older woman held up her own fists, blistered and burned, obviously from having done the same thing. Finally the forcefield threw Seven back a step from where she had been trying to push her arm through it.

The object on the ground inside the Drone circle began flashing brighter, emitting a series of beeps and then the centre opened.

"What is that doing?" B'Elanna breathed to Seven. Seven had no answer to give.

"It summons me."

The new voice sent a recoil through both Janeway and Seven, it was one they knew well. One which had haunted nightmares for them both. And suddenly she was there, all dangerous serpentine grace and an almost gentle expression on her pale features, an expression that froze beyond bone right into the soul with it's inhuman cold.

The Borg Queen.

Janeway straightened and schooled her features to hide her pain and her worry, this was one enemy she would _never_ reveal any weakness to, even if it killed her. "How did you find us? Voyager should be undetectable from Borg sensors now."

"Captain Janeway. Lieutenant Torres." The bald head cocked slightly as she spoke. "Seven of Nine."

The last name was spoken like a cold caress, and glassy black eyes fixed on Seven's rigid form.

"You are new." The eyes did not leave Seven although the Queen was now addressing Miral. "Oh. Miral, maternal unit to Lieutenant Torres. Species 3904, Klingon."

"A Cube assimilated a colony of species 233 two days ago."

"The Kotol." Seven supplied for the others.

The Queen tilted her head, then nodded. "Yes, the Kotol. Their legends of a cursed planet has... intrigued us." She walked up to the forcefield, standing closely in front of Seven. "Collected data suggests the planet may contain intact technology from one of the First."

Seven's eyes widened involuntarily and she drew a surprised breath.

"The first?" Janeway asked Seven, as always ready to absorb information that might serve her crew.

"The Firsts is a group reference to species 01 to 07, the origin of the Borg... very little has been retained about them." Seven responded quietly. "As even the remnants of these species are long disappeared, it shrouds the origin of the Borg in much mystery. To find technology of one or several of these species would be beneficial in knowing the nature of Borg, and as such retrieving anything that may connect to them is a priority nearly of the same level as the Omega Molecule."

The Queen inclined her head slightly. "The colony held information that indicated that their cursed planet was in this sector, and a Cube was dispatched to investigate. That Cube intercepted another vessel containing species 233 which revealed the coordinates of the planet. It also made us aware of Voyager's presence here."

Closing her eyes briefly, Janeway remembered the Kotol Captain and his attempt at warning them of danger. It seemed that the planet indeed was a curse to his kind... she just hoped it wouldn't end up a curse to Voyager as well.

Suddenly the Queen turned, walking over to the Drone that held Mezoti. "And what have we here? A neo-natal Drone severed from the Collective. Unfinished. Incomplete." A tilt of the head and the Drone that held Mezoti let go.

"Release my daughter!" Seven demanded loudly, anger evident in her voice.

"Your... daughter?" The black eyes scrutinized Mezoti's small form. "Ah. A term of... affection. This neo-natal Drone is of species 689 and cannot be your offspring."

"My designation is Mezoti, and I am the daughter of Seven of Nine." Mezoti proclaimed with some pride, having been quite elated to hear her beloved Seven claim to be her parent. "Biological heritage is irrelevant, sentiment is what is pertinent. My SoSnI' has said so."

"That's not... _quite_ what I said..." Miral muttered to herself. "...but it'll do."

"Indeed?" A brief look from the Queen and the Drone that had held Mezoti was scanning her. When he was done, the Queen smiled.

"You will be returned to the Collective. You will be made whole, complete. We will perfect you."

Seven once again tried to strike her fist through the barrier.

Mezoti looked up at the Queen's pale visage quite calmly, tilting her head slightly as she spoke with a sure voice. "You cannot grant perfection to any creature, for you are flawed. Imperfect."

The Queen's eyes narrowed for a moment in what appeared to be anger. Who would dare to call the Borg Queen imperfect? Then the expression passed and she looked as calm as ever.

"Your Primary Cortical Node is clearly malfunctioning and your cerebral matter is underdeveloped. You cannot grasp our perfection. We will enhance you so that you will be able to see the perfection of the Collective."

"Advanced intelligence is not required, for your imperfection is quite obvious even to beings of primitive nature." Mezoti was undaunted by the creature that had entire quadrants tremble in fear, and that had plagued Mezoti's own existence to such an extent. "Seven is perfection, she will teach me more than you ever could."

"Kahless!" B'Elanna breathed in awe. "Yeah, she sure is yours, my love."

"Give me back my daughter!" Seven demanded again, practically trembling with fury.

"Resistance is futile." The Queen informed Mezoti, then the Drone returned his hold on the girl, silencing her in the process. She then turned back to Seven, a ghost of a smile on her lips. "This neo-natal Drone will be reassimilated. She appears to possess many traits similar to that of the child once designated Annika Hansen, and we will perfect her. In time she will take your place."

The people outside of the forcefield turned very still, and Seven's faced became ashen.

"No." She ground out. "NO!" Her eyes locked with the Queen's. "Take me instead."

B'Elanna gasped.

"Take me and leave my child, Voyager and all those onboard her, alone. I will come with you."

B'Elanna and Kathryn both lunged towards Seven, but it was too late. The barrier opened just in front of Seven and she stepped through, then the forcefield came back up behind her.

"NO Seven!" B'Elanna roared, slamming a fist ineffectively into the barrier, heedless of the damage she received.

"You know what will happen to you. You know that your ...rescue... will be to late." The Queen stated calmly, looking at Seven.

"Yes. You... informed me when last we met that I was created for the transcendence." Seven spoke quietly. "Leave them be and I shall not resist."

The Queen looked towards the cave opening for a moment. "The Drones are returning to the Cube as we speak. The Cube will enter a transwarp conduit to my location as soon as you are onboard. Voyager will be left alone."

Seven nodded ."Then I will comply."

"You have cost me three sons." Seven's voice turned hard and full of hatred. "I will not let you take my daughter as well, so I will go with you."

"But know this, I will destroy you."

The Queen looked at Seven for a moment, then answered surprisingly softly. "Then you will destroy yourself as well."

"So be it."

The Queen smiled. "You cannot."

The women outside of the forcefield were shouting by now, but neither Seven nor the Queen seemed to hear them. Seven looked over at Mezoti, meeting the child's horrified eyes with a sad little smile. The Drone holding Mezoti walked over to the edge of the forcefield and deposited her outside before anyone had a chance to react.

"I kept my promise, Mezoti." Seven said almost in a whisper, looking at her daughter. Her eyes then swept across the other members of her family that were present. "I love you all. Farewell." Her eyes locked on B'Elanna's as the Drone that had held Mezoti stepped forward and grabbed her arm. In a glimmer of green the forcefield came down just as the six Drones and Seven were beamed away.

B'Elanna's scream echoed in the cave as she sank to her knees in shocked disbelief.

"I win. You lose." The Borg Queen smirked at Janeway. "She is mine... she was always mine."

Then the holographic projection flickered a few times and disappeared, just before the artefact on the cave floor was beamed away.

Part 4

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