There is none so blind…
By romansilence


Part II


Chapter Four

Meanwhile B'Elanna was once again pacing her quarters. The first few hours of her translation efforts had been utterly frustrating; she wanted to do a good job and thus had to look up far too many words to make sure that she didn't miss a subtle meaning, but then something somehow seemed to have clicked. The walls she over the years had built around her Klingon heritage and consequently her mastery of the language had simply melted away.

The young engineer quickly understood that she had missed a lot of details during her first read-through. She could have contacted the captain over an hour ago but she didn't and it was not the late hour that held her back.

Chakotay had told her nothing but lies about the lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay. The one thing he had not lied about was that the only person authorised to supervise this ritual was the highest ranking officer on any given vessel or base and that the supervisor or spiritual leader had a lot of leeway in how the ritual would be performed. It initially had been a way to give young, impulsive officers a second chance, to teach them to become better officers, better leaders, to teach them that the honour of a warrior is something that has to be earned every day and is not some kind of birth right.

Finally deciding that she needed at least a modicum of rest to do her work, she retired to her bedroom. Sleep, however, continued to evade her. B'Elanna restlessly rolled from one side to the other and finally returned to her workstation. She only intended to check her translation once again but then began to follow a couple of links from the original files Captain Janeway had pulled up and the first tendrils of an idea began to develop.

When the computer announced one hour to the start of Alpha shift, she sent the translated documents and a request for a meeting at the end of the shift to the captain. She entered Engineering early and immediately was assaulted with a barrage of questions and requests, but despite this having been the second night virtually without sleep she felt remarkably relaxed and rested.

The day went smoothly and for once they had the opportunity to do a few key repairs thoroughly instead of only sticking band-aids on her precious engines. She signed off on her last report for the day and sent it to the Bridge the moment Beta shift personnel arrived to take over.

She still had about an hour before she had to be in her quarters to honour the conditions of her house arrest. So, she decided to grab a quick dinner in the Mess Hall. Tom Paris and Harry Kim invited her to sit with them and of course the conversation quickly addressed her punishment.

"… but she can't do this to you. You're not the only one responsible."

"The captain could have sentenced me to up to two months in the brig for deliberately breaking the Prime Directive, Starfleet, and she also would have been within her rights to revoke my commission and reduce me to crewman for good. I looked it up before I decided to do what I did. I don't complain about my punishment and neither should you, Harry."

"Are you sure, Belanna?" Tom asked.

The young woman only nodded while trying to gulp down today's special without gagging. "Argh, I'd rather eat Gagh!"

Then she began to smile but didn't answer when the men asked what that was all about and simply resumed her meal. Before returning to her quarters she made a detour to Sickbay where she questioned the Doctor about anything he knew about Talaxian physiology. Unfortunately the Doctor was unable to provide her with the information she had been really after.

B'Elanna entered her quarters twenty minutes late and found the captain sitting on her couch.

"I hope you don't mind that I let myself in. I became worried when you didn't answer the door. The computer located you in Sickbay. Is everything alright with your leg and your ribs?" Kathryn didn't mention that it had taken a considerable part of her willpower not to storm directly to Sickbay.

"Yes Captain, everything's fine. I only passed by to ask the Doctor about Talaxian taste buds but it never occurred to him to include them in his physicals. His words not mine. Earlier during dinner it came to me that Neelix' creations are sometimes this hard to stomach because his taste buds don't work like ours."

"You might have a point, B'Elanna. If we could make him understand how the things he serves taste for us, he might be able to adapt his recipes. What gave you the inspiration?"

"Today's dinner offering. I told the others that I'd rather eat Gagh – and I hate Gagh, all fifty-one variations of it. After my father left it took my mother years to accept that a Klingon sense of taste was not among the things I inherited from her."

"Alright, the house arrest is rescinded for you to work with Neelix after dinner hours."

"Thank you, Captain."

"You did a very good job with the translations, B'Elanna. Are you still sure that you don't want to press charges against Chakotay?"

"Yes Captain, I'm sure," she answered and quickly bent down on her right knee.

"I am Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, daughter of Miral of the House of Shig'Rai, chief engineer on board of the Starfleet vessel Voyager. I feel that I'm not the officer and the warrior I should be and hereby ask you respectfully to help me develop my whole potential by leading me through the 'Rite to reject dishonour'."

According to one of the files she had read the night before, this for Klingon measures extremely humble request would allow the captain to initiate a lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay without it being seen as a disciplinary procedure.

"What makes you think that I'm qualified to guide you in this ritual?"

"You are the captain."

"What makes you think that you are worthy to receive such attention?"

"In the past I dishonoured myself on more than one occasion and I disappointed a lot of people. Please, help me to regain my honour."

"B'Elanna are you really sure about this? Though the ritual has next to nothing to do with what Chakotay did, it still is very demanding."

For the first time since kneeling down the young woman looked up but the soft voice did not correspond with her captain's command mask.

"Yes Captain, I'm sure that I want this. I know that it won't be easy and I might even question this decision down the line but I'm determined. Please, help me regain my honour, Captain."

The other woman nodded and then answered, "B'Elanna Torres, daughter of Miral, your request is granted. I, Kathryn Janeway, adopted daughter of Rel'Issa of the House of Kahless, accept you as my student during the lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay. Rise and take a seat. There are some things you have to know about me before we can begin."

B'Elanna slowly stood and remembering her manners offered something to drink.

"Blood wine would be nice but the replicators just don't get it right."

"Try mine; I tweaked the replicator a bit. It doesn't come close to the great years but it's better than the standard issue."

"Didn't you just say that you have Human taste buds?" Kathryn asked in a mixture of banter and genuine curiosity.

"Humans stay away from blood wine not because they don't like the taste but because they can't stomach the stuff without getting sick," the young woman answered lightly. She returned from the replicator with two zinc mugs and handed one to her captain who took a tentative sip.

"That's really good, thank you, B'Elanna."

For a few minutes they just drank, then Kathryn began to speak.

"I was in my last year at the Academy when I was assigned to one of the first year cadets as a tutor of sorts. The young man was a real surprise for me. His name was Worf."

"Lieutenant Commander Worf of the USS Enterprise?"

"Yes. You know him?"

"I know of him. He was one of the reasons why I even tried it at Starfleet Academy instead of taking one of the other options."

"Other options?"

The young woman knew that part of the ritual demanded to be absolutely honest with the spiritual guide. She never had spoken about it and she even wasn't sure that her mother knew, but this time there was no hesitation. "After I finished school I had an offer by the Daystrom Institute and one by the Klingon Ministry of Science and Development. I left it out of my application to Starfleet Academy."


"I knew that the instructors would treat me differently if they knew. This way I was just one among many."

Kathryn slowly nodded her understanding, having been branded a science prodigy herself in the past, but also knowing that it only had been half an answer, at most. So, she just continued.

"Worf and I became friends and he taught me a lot about Klingon culture, but we lost contact when I was sent on my first assignment on the Wellington. A few years later my father and my fiancé died in a shuttle accident. There was an unexpected problem with the new warp coil I had helped developing. I held myself responsible and my work performance began to suffer."

Kathryn's voice was carefully void of any emotion but B'Elanna still was grateful for the amount of trust the older woman showed her by telling her about something this obviously painful.

"Admiral Paris was the head of the research facility and he had been a friend of my father. He decided that I needed a change of scenery to get my priorities straight, as he called it. He knew of my ongoing fascination with Klingon culture; so, that's where he sent me. Officially I was to be the Starfleet observer to the tests of a new propulsion system.

"The initial tests were time and again postponed and the Klingons didn't know what to do with me because I was not part of the official Federation diplomatic team. So, they put me where they thought I could do the least harm; they sent me to the household of the only female priest of the monastery of Boreth."

She paused for effect and B'Elanna blurted out, "Boreth, they really wanted you out of the way."

Kathryn's answering smile could have melted tritanium alloy and the younger woman's heart did a little somersault.

"In the long run, it turned out that the paranoia of the Klingon High Council regarding Starfleet officers was the best thing that ever happened to me, though it also foiled the plans Admiral Paris and my father had had – but I'm getting ahead of myself."

The auburn haired, commanding beauty took a deep breath.

"During the first two weeks of my stay on Qo'nos my romantic conceptions of the Klingon dedication to honour had undergone a radical reality check and I had lost a great deal of my illusions. I expected to die of boredom at the monastery but I should have known that a warrior culture like the Klingons would also have a more vital, a more lively form of spirituality – but I'm digressing again."

"Like many of the more traditional Klingon households, Priestess Rel'Issa's was surrounded by a big wall and closed off with a massive door. When I stepped through the door for the first time I quickly found myself on my backside looking up into the pale eyes of an enormous targh, opening two rows of large, sharp teeth, pausing a bit, and licking my face enthusiastically. That was the first taste of a world I only began to understand when I started to let go of my Starfleet prejudices. In the household of Rel'Issa I learned that the Klingon culture Worf had told me about was not dead."

"Rel'Issa had a daughter, about three years my senior. She had served five years in the Defence Force and now was a priest in training. Her name was L'Larrela. She was as curious about Human culture as I was about Klingon. We became friends, we…" Kathryn fell silent.

"I understand, Captain. You don't have to tell me."

There was that smile again but this time there was so much sadness in the blue eyes that all B'Elanna wanted to do was to take the other woman in her arms and keep her safe.

"Yes, I do, B'Elanna, and no, Lar was not my lover. I loved her and a part of me always will. In my heart she was my parmaqqay but at her level of initiation celibacy was expected of the trainees and so we decided to wait. In the evenings we often went for runs or long walks. One night, after an especially hot day, we were attacked by four armed Klingons without any house insignia on their battle dresses. We tried to defend ourselves. Lar wanted me to run to safety. At the time I didn't have any formal battle training and my Starfleet techniques did not fare well against the viciousness of the attack."

"One of them aimed a disruptor at Lar's back while she held most of the others off only armed with her mek'leth. I didn't think when I threw myself forwards to cover her and the next thing I remember is waking up in the infirmary of the monastery. Lor's mother was sitting at my bed and told me that they had found us right after and that," Kathryn's voice abruptly changed to an almost inaudible whisper, "that they had cut off the head of her daughter and taken it with them."

Long minutes of silence followed and finally the younger woman asked softly, "How did you survive, Captain?"

"I didn't," was the toneless answer. "What I had taken for a disruptor had been a cellular destabilisor, set low. He had aimed for L'Larrela's spine to incapacitate her but instead had hit my heart. The monks and priests brought me back to life… My heart was severely damaged but they didn't have any Human replacement organs and it would have taken too long to get me to the Federation Embassy; so, they… I'm sorry, I can't talk about it."

"Computer, open medical file of Captain Kathryn Janeway, medical history, classified file; authorisation Janeway alpha phi eight zero. Go and have a look, B'Elanna."

"Yes Captain. Would you like a refill?" The engineer gestured towards the empty mug of blood wine.

"Yes but I'll take a glass of water instead."

"Of course, Captain."

The dark haired woman took a seat in front of her workstation and began to read. She didn't know much about medical procedures but it was enough to understand that what the healers at the monastery had done was unprecedented.

They had removed Kathryn's damaged heart and replaced it with L'Larrela's. A bone marrow transplant had stopped the derogatory effects of the destabilisator and the damage already done was halted by the introduction of Klingon neural pathways and muscle tissue. To the healer's surprise there had been no sign of her body rejecting the foreign tissue. Instead they noted a considerable change in her genetic structure.

According to the DNA sequence dancing before her eyes, Kathryn Janeway was as much of a half-Klingon as she was.

To say that the young woman was shocked would have been an understatement. When she closed the file and returned to the couch, she knew that she had made the right decision with the lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay. The captain would lead her successfully and honourably through the ritual; there no longer was even the tiniest doubt about it.

So, she found the other woman's eyes and said, "You know, Captain, most people on the lower decks are convinced that you are more than Human. It's a shame that they'll never know how right they are."

"You could tell them. Everyone running a medical scan on me can find out easily."

B'Elanna's eyes widened and then she carefully answered, "I suppose the file is classified for a reason, Captain. Some narrow minded people could see you as a Klingon spy or something. I'm honoured that you shared this knowledge with me."

The sudden smile on the other woman's face told the young engineer that for once she had said the right thing,

"I never thought that I would meet someone who is even remotely like me but in a strange way you're as Klingon as I am. How do you always keep this temper in check, Captain?"

"I don't have your redundant organs and if push comes to shove I'm not as strong as you are. But from my point of view this has nothing to do with physiology. All of us have to fight against our tempers at one point or the other. And for controlling your temper, that's what the lajQo' quvha'ghachtay is for – among other things.

"When the healers at the monastery first had told me what they had done and that I would be stronger and faster than most other humans I was not really grateful.

"In my mind they had cut the woman I loved to pieces to save the life of someone not worthy to breathe. In my mind I did not deserve to live because I had not been able to protect her.

"The monks tried to teach me but I didn't want to listen and when they finally let me go I fled to the capital. I spent my days drinking blood wine like it was water and getting into bar brawls. One evening I picked a fight at the wrong bar and landed in prison. I refused to call anyone and was sentenced to one week of solitary confinement."

"For a Klingon it would have been a hard sentence but for me it turned out to be a blessing. The alcohol induced haze in my head faded slowly and I took a hard look at myself. L'Larrela would have been disappointed in me but I still didn't know what to do, so I returned to her mother's household. And she greeted me at the …."

"When I heard that you had not immediately run back to the comforting arms of the Federation I knew that sooner or later you would be back. It didn't take as long as I expected, but you really look like targh shit." The Klingon woman's command presence was astonishing, to say the least.

The young Starfleet Officer racked her brain for something appropriate to say but the only thing she came up with was totally incompatible with her training. She lowered herself, somewhat unsteadily, on her right knee and said, "Please help me, teach me to carry her legacy with honour."

"I knew my daughter would not have chosen a complete p'taQ as her mate. Stand up; you need a bath and something to eat. Then we will talk."

Before Kathryn could thank her the woman was gone and one of the servants led her to the bathing area, the hot springs just behind the public part. Another servant joined the first woman and together they removed her soiled clothing. She didn't know what to say; so, she stayed silent and the two Klingons seemed not inclined to engage in conversation.

They led her to a small, almost bare room at the east side of the main house. It held a bed, a small table, a chair and a knee-high chest. On the table a pitcher of water, a glass, a few slices of bread and fresh cut fruits were waiting for her. She devoured the offerings ravenously as if she had not eaten in weeks.

As soon as she had finished one of Rel'Issa's warriors told her to follow him and led her through winding corridors to the Lady's study. She sat behind a massive wooden desk that was completely bare, except for a roll of thick paper.

"Take it and read."

Kathryn opened the scroll. She had made good progress in learning the intricacies of the language but still had a hard time to find her way through the long sentences. This was taking too long but when she glanced up, the older woman showed no sign of impatience. The impassivity of her face would probably have made a Vulcan envious. Kathryn repressed a smile at the thought and returned her attention to the scroll. Almost three quarters of an hour later she closed it and put it back on the desk.

"Will you do it?"

"Yes Rel'Issa joHwI'. Thank you for the honour of assisting me."

"I'm not sure I understand, Captain?"

"Really, or do you just not want to understand?"

"I…, I…," B'Elanna fell silent. "I'm sorry, Captain."

"Don't apologise, just improve."

The engineer studied the face of her commanding officer. She easily recognised the core of steel behind the polished façade that in her eyes characterised all Starfleet officers, at least the ones she had learned to respect.

But there was more, a current of energy she never had wanted to see before, seriousness and passion combined. Her first instinct had told her to snort at the offhanded remark, just loud enough for it not to be seen as insubordination but she curbed her reaction because this was about more than her own prickly sense of honour.

Yes, she had understood; she just had wanted the woman to tell her directly. Janeway had been open and honest with her and she had answered that with a clumsy attempt at manipulation. The captain had honoured her with her story and the least B'Elanna could do was to treat this gift with respect. She was determined to prove to her that she deserved such trust. When she finally found the other woman's eyes her decision was made.

"I'll try my best, DevwI' SeQ [spiritual guide]."

The captain slowly and almost imperceptibly inclined her head and stood up. "I'll see you tomorrow afternoon for your first lesson. I expect you to be in your quarters not later than ten minutes after the end of your shift. And see that you have memorised the rules for the lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay by then. Thank you for the refreshments, B'Elanna."

"You're welcome, Ca… DevwI' SeQ."

B'Elanna slumped back on her couch as soon as the door had closed behind the older woman. Her surprising revelation had answered a lot of questions and brought up others.

For the first time Janeway's decision to destroy the caretaker's array began to make sense. From a purely formal interpretation of the Prime Directive the Ocampa were a pre-warp civilisation; so, Captain Janeway would have been in her right not to concern herself with their problems – but to do so would have been dishonourable.

A couple of other decisions the captain had made these last few months suddenly also appeared in a different light and Starfleet rules and regulations had less to do with it than questions of integrity and honour. In a way Kathryn Janeway was a perfect blend between a Human and a Klingon, just like she had said the night before – the best of both worlds.

And now she, B'Elanna Torres, the angry child from Kessik IV, had a chance to become the same. The young woman was a bit overwhelmed by that thought and the promises and possibilities it held. She could only hope that she would not blow this chance.

An hour later she sat in front of her view screen and memorised the rules of the ritual, just like the Cap… her DevwI' SeQ had ordered.

It didn't take the ship's scuttlebutt long to find out about their captain spending a lot of time in the quarters of the chief engineer. It even quickly replaced the speculations about Chakotay's sudden need for a spiritual retreat.

They added two and two – and came up with six.

A few of her former Maquis' friends gave B'Elanna the evil eye for her perceived betrayal, but none of them, not even Seska, had the courage to confront her directly.

None, except for a young ensign named Harry Kim.

Harry had been carrying a tray with an appetisingly smelling meal. She invited him to join her with an almost imperceptible nod.

His smile still had the fresh-out-of-he-Academy-flavour she had come to love over the course of the last couple of months. Harry had become a younger brother to her, a younger brother and a friend. So, she took no offence when he asked,

"Hey B'Elanna, are you saving your replicator rations or do you have developed a sudden masochistic streak and an appreciation for Neelix' cooking?"

Her eyes widened a bit when she heard her name correctly pronounced. "Something like that, Harry."

She smiled at the description of the Talaxian's cooking. It had improved greatly since she had started to give him some pointers. At the moment, however, he was at a stage where everything he created turned out to be rather bland – but she had no doubt that this too would change soon.

In her eyes a change of topic was in order, so she asked, "Tell me, Starfleet, where did you learn to say my name correctly?"

The young man blushed slightly. "I heard Captain Janeway say it the other day and it sounded so different, so noble." His blush deepened and he quickly added, "I looked it up in our database. Why did you never tell any of us that they way we pronounced it was wrong?"

"The glottal stop is hard to produce for most Humans. Over the time I learned that most people just don't bother and it got tiresome to correct them all the time. I got used to it; that makes efforts like yours even more precious. Thank you, Starfleet."

"I was my pleasure, B'Elanna. It's the least a friend can do. I… I want to… Did you hear the rumours about you and the Captain?"

"Yes Harry. Do you want to know if they're true?" The young engineer asked cautiously.

"I… I… It would be none of my business, B'Elanna. I'm just worried about your reputation, yours and the Captain's."

Coming from anyone else she simply would have brushed them off but the dark haired young man deserved better, "Thank you, Harry, you're a real friend. No, the rumours are not true. I'm not the Captain's lover. She is helping me.

"The night after we left Sikari I had a rather physical disagreement with Commander Chakotay in front of my quarters. The Captain ended it and now she is teaching me how to control my temper. – And Harry, I want this to stay between us. Don't tell anyone, not even Tom."

"Of course, B'Elanna, your secret is safe with me."

The rest of their lunch break was spent with other gossip and some engineering talk. It did not sit well with the young woman that she could not tell her friend the whole truth. She, of course, would not go into any detail, that was only between her and her DevwI' SeQ. Harry would have understood that the captain was trying to help her deal with her Klingon half, but he also would have asked why his commanding officer knew so much about Klingons and the answer to that question would betray her teacher's trust.


Chapter Five

Two days after her lunch conversation with Harry, B'Elanna was in one of the storage rooms when she was roughly pushed against one of the bigger crates. She turned to find four of her former Maquis crewmates forming a half circle around her. Two of them held no visible weapons, one of them was brandishing a heavy spanner and the last one was armed with a knife.

"We have a message for your bitch of a lover, you whore!"

They attacked.

B'Elanna ducked the heavy spanner aimed at her head and barely avoided being sliced open by the knife. The unarmed men tried to get a hold of her arms, and she quickly became aware that they wanted more than to just scare her.

She remembered them well. None of them was Starfleet material, and even on the Maquis ship, they had been nothing more than simple crewmen without specific talents. They certainly did not count among the best and brightest fighters, but four against one stacked the odds firmly against her, even counting on her Klingon strength.

They continuously closed in on her. She knew that she needed more room to defend herself properly. She waited for an opening while she continued to evade their attacks as best as she could, though she still was taking hard hits.

With the edge of her hand she hit the hand holding the knife. The crewman tried to pick it up; and that gave her the opening she needed. The young engineer barrelled through their defences towards the empty area in the centre of the room. She would stand a real chance if she got the opportunity to use the moves the captain had taught her.

Turning around to face her opponents she felt a searing pain in her left arm and almost lost her balance. She saw the knife sticking out of her arm. Her instinct told her to pull it out and use it against them, but before she could do it the first of them reached her and she took him out with a powerful kick to the chest. He stumbled backwards and took down one of the others. Meanwhile the man with the spanner had closed in and hit her. She was knocked backwards. The communicator had taken the brunt of the blow and burst into tiny pieces before it even hit the floor.

Pain was flaring through her body. The spanner had hit her chest and re-injured arm. She had a hard time to fight through the pain, but the scent of her own blood had finally awakened the Klingon warrior in her; that and the anger of not having thought of calling for help in the first place.

B'Elanna launched herself at one of the men and broke his neck with a roar. His friends renewed their attack and for the first time since this all started they worked in concert with each other. She was thrown to the floor and one of them yanked the knife out of her arm. She had just enough freedom of movement left to catch the man's wrist.

B'Elanna turned the weapon against him and pushed as hard as she could while the other two rained blows on her. The knife slipped into his abdomen.

Two down, two more to go.

She felt her hold on consciousness slipping. Suddenly she heard the distinctive sound of transporter beams. The men hammering her with blows slumped to the side, hit by phasers set to stun. The face of Lieutenant Commander Tuvok appeared in her field of vision, and she gave up her fight against the overwhelming pain.

"Welcome back. You gave us quite a scare, young lady." Kathryn smiled at the young woman whose brown orbs were still slightly unfocused.

"That's what my Gramps always called me when I was in trouble. Am I in trouble?" B'Elanna's voice was slightly hoarse.

"No, B'Elanna, but you were badly hurt. I want you to sleep and relax."

"The others, the crewmen, what happened with them, Captain?"

"One is dead, the man with the knife wound has already been healed and the other two woke up in the brig some time ago. They all will face charges for attempted murder and the assault of a senior officer."

"Did they tell you who put them up on it, Captain?"

"What makes you think that they didn't act on their own, Lieutenant?"

"They are followers, not leaders, all of them. Someone must have provoked them into attacking me.

"I'm sorry I disappointed you, DevwI' SeQ," B'Elanna continued. "I should have put a stop to these rumours from the beginning."

"You have nothing to be sorry for, B'Elanna, and you didn't disappoint me. You acted honourably and did your ancestors proud."

The young woman's eyes began to drop shut but before she once again drifted to sleep, she whispered, "Thank you."

Kathryn smiled and allowed herself the luxury of letting her right hand rest on the young woman's left cheek as soon as she had closed her eyes. Only then did she turn towards the doctor's office,

"Doctor, I want you to let me know as soon as Lieutenant Torres regains consciousness again."

"Yes Captain. Is it true that there will be a court martial against the Maquis who attacked the lieutenant?"

Kathryn's eyes took on a dangerous glint, "They tried to kill one of my senior officers. You can bet your database on it, Doctor. – I'll be in Holodeck II should you need me during the next two hours."

Two hours later the captain was back in her Ready Room after having worked out her anger and other unsettled emotions by participating in a martial arts tournament. Commander Tuvok would give her his full report in about ten minutes.

Just enough time for a cup of coffee.

She smiled when she smelled the full aroma of the brew. B'Elanna had fine tuned the replicators in the Ready Room as well as in her quarters and suddenly everything, smells and taste, seemed to be greatly enhanced.

"Come in."

Unfortunately her old friend had not much to report. The security tape monitoring the storage room showed that the four crewmen had entered the room only seconds after B'Elanna. The door protocol apparently had been manipulated to keep the door from closing entirely after an authorised entry. It took some engineering experience to fool the locking mechanism this way, and though the Vulcan Security chief come unofficial First Officer was sure that the four attackers did not have the skills necessary, there also was no indication on who could have done it.

"Any indication that Chakotay had anything to do with it?"

"No, Captain. He has not left his quarters for five weeks now. In the beginning most of his Maquis friends and a couple of others tried to contact him but only got his automated message that he was on a spiritual retreat and could not give any time frame on how long it would take. Ensign Seska tried to break into his room five nights ago. He told her to leave him alone and to not contact him again."

"Thank you, my friend. I'm really sorry for burdening you like this."

"I'm only doing my duty, as a security officer and as a friend. Anything else would not be logical. About Commander Chakotay, a couple of minutes ago he asked to speak to you."

"Well, he can call me in about eight months. I have nothing to say to him."

"I expected this to be your response and already informed him accordingly. He insisted. He said that he had undergone a vision quest and needed to speak with you about what he had found."

Her instincts screamed at Kathryn Janeway to deny the request but the Starfleet officer in her insisted that he at least deserved a tiny chance.

"Alright, schedule something for later this day, but make it clear to him that this will be an exception. I have other things to do than to be at his beck and ..."

The bleeping of the captain's comm. badge swallowed the rest of her words.

"Sickbay to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead, Doctor."

"You wanted to be notified as soon as Lieutenant Torres woke up."

"Thank you, Doctor, I'm on my way," Kathryn cut the comm. link. "We'll finish this conversation later. I want you present when I speak with Chakotay."

The tall Vulcan raised his eyebrow as if he wanted to say that he wouldn't allow it any other way and followed her out of the Ready Room where he took the Bridge.

The doors to Sickbay opened to a loud argument between B'Elanna and the visibly exasperated holographic CMO; neither of them heard their captain come in.

"I'll rearrange your photons if you don't let me go, you holographic moron."

"That's enough, Lieutenant. Doctor, report!"

"Your officer here diagnosed herself as healed and intends to return to Engineering where she probably will re-injure herself in an effort to prove how tough she is."

Janeway shut him up with one of her trademark glares and he continued more professionally, "Lieutenant Torres' injuries have been healed. All her organs are working normally but she needs to rest the arm a couple of days at least. Even her Klingon physiology needs time to get over the trauma."

After Janeway's reprimand the young woman had quietly settled back on the biobed and berated herself. She once again had lost her temper and overstepped her bounds and the other woman would undoubtedly call her on it.

"If she wears the sling I was about to put on her," the doctor continued, "she can retire to her quarters and go back to light duty tomorrow."

"Do it Doctor."

This time the engineer did not protest but followed his orders to the letter.

"I want you back for a check-up after your shift tomorrow, Lieutenant Torres."

"Yes Doctor." She hopped from the biobed. "Doctor, I apologise for threatening you. It's nothing personal. I just always detested hospitals and your Sickbay is too close a reminder. Thank you for putting me back together."

The bald CMO swallowed his surprise and answered, "I was only doing my job but you are welcome, Lieutenant. Please see that you get something to eat before retiring to your quarters, and no detours to Engineering."

"Yes Doctor."

The two women walked to the turbo lift and the captain ordered, "Mess Hall!"

"DevwI' SeQ, I…"

"Now is not the time, B'Elanna. We'll talk as soon as I can get off-duty. In the meantime I want you to write a detailed report on the attack, as detailed as you can get it."

"Yes DevwI' SeQ."

The turbo lift doors closed and B'Elanna mentally squared her shoulders before entering the captain's private dining room come mess hall. She hated being seen as vulnerable and that was exactly what the sling on her arm proclaimed loud and clear.

Hours later the engineer was pacing her quarters, once again. The report Captain Janeway had requested she wrote had told her that she could have ended this much sooner and possibly without anyone getting hurt or killed if she only had thought of calling security. She was angry with herself but this time she knew that the Ca…, that her DevwI' SeQ would help her to cope with the far too familiar feeling.

The captain's shift had officially ended more than half an hour ago; so when the door chimed she was certain she knew who it was. The sight of the first officer standing at her door surprised her – to say the least.

"What do you want, Chakotay? To resume your sick game? And anyway shouldn't you be in your quarters?"

"I came to apologise and to make you an offer, Lieutenant Torres, in the hope that we could somehow save or restore our former friendship. Captain Janeway authorised that I speak to you about it."

"Come in."

"I don't know where to begin. I never should have done what I did to you.

"When Captain Janeway sentenced me to nine months of confinement I was angry, but after a few days of having nothing to do I started to think and went on a vision quest. I took a hard look at myself and I didn't like what I found. And I'm doing everything I can to become a better man and a better officer while serving the rest of my sentence.

"What I did is against everything I thought I believe in. I never should have used a Klingon ritual as an excuse. I dishonoured and betrayed you by doing so, and I dishonoured and betrayed myself. By Klingon law you have the right to balance the scales by treating me the same way I treated you. It's called pol 'ruv [saving justice], sort of an eye-for-an-eye justice. Captain Janeway told me that she would not interfere if you were to accept my offer. B'Elanna," he pronounced the name carefully, "you were my friend long before I jeopardised our friendship by my actions. I'll take everything I have to for the chance to be your friend again."

Her instinctive reaction had been to take him up on his offer but she knew she could not. It would not be honourable, and that's what she told him.

"The captain predicted that you would not accept," he answered with a hint of sadness in his voice, "but I never would have thought that you would base any of your decisions on Klingon honour."

His words were clearly intended to provoke her but she didn't take the bait. "Klingons are not the only race in the universe that has a sense of honour, Chakotay. I accept your apology but you are not the only one to blame. I allowed you to do these things. I dishonoured myself." She took a deep breath. "Having you as my friend meant a lot to me but please understand that it will take some time before I'm ready to go back to what we were to each other before."

Chakotay was stunned at her reaction. He had expected anger and violence, not a hand cautiously offered in peace. "I think I understand, B'Elanna. Thank you for giving me another chance."

The young woman was not less confused by her own words. She never before had acted this way; anger was so much easier to handle – but somehow she was relieved. It felt good; so, she continued. "Thank Captain Janeway, Chakotay."

The arrival of the captain kept her from contemplating her feelings more deeply. She didn't wait for her to take a seat before she got down on her right knee.

"Please stand up, B'Elanna. You did nothing wrong."

"I disagree."

"That's obvious – and not the answer I wanted to hear. Try again."

"I should have called security as soon as I realised what they were up to. Daniels, the man I killed, I could have simply knocked him out. I could have tried to disable him and the others from the beginning but I just acted on impulse. I didn't think."

"Anything else you could have done differently in your eyes?"

"I should not have fought with the Doctor."


"I… I wanted to take Chakotay up on his offer. I wanted him to pay for what he did to me, for what I allowed him to do. That's when I knew that I could not accept."


"It would not have been honourable, DevwI' SeQ. Chakotay reminded me of Klingon law but it still would not have felt right."

"Klingon law is about more than an eye-for-an-eye, B'Elanna. Sometimes it's more honourable to show what others might perceive as leniency."

"I understand, DevwI' SeQ."

"No, you don't but one day you will. It takes more than one lesson to learn. And now tell me: how was your lunch?"

"Neelix tried a new combination of spices today. He's getting better every day."


"I know that's not what you want to hear. Are you sure that you're not also part Betazoid, Captain?"

"You're still stalling, B'Elanna. If it helps you make up your mind we can go for a run on the holodeck."

The young woman shook her head in the negative and answered, "I thought that everyone would look at me with pity because of my injuries but I was wrong. Neelix and Harry were relieved to see me up and about, they even hugged me and I sort of bantered with Tom."


"Yes DevwI' SeQ. He told me that the Doctor had put a lot of effort in healing my arm and that it seemed as if it were true that Klingons are really hard to kill. I told him that half-Klingons are even harder to kill and we all laughed. It felt good.

"Then a few of the former Maquis crew came to our table and for a moment I thought that they were out to make trouble, but they only wanted me to know that not everyone shared the views of these – and I quote – 'pea brained goons'. One of them even said that she hoped you would throw them out of an airlock. I answered that it would be against Starfleet regulations and that I didn't want to see them dead – and surprisingly I really meant it.

"It was good that I didn't hide away in my quarters like I wanted to," the young woman ended her report.

"That's good to hear, B'Elanna. I read your report. You really were very thorough and Tuvok wants you to know that you did a more than adequate job. I now want you to have a look at the security recording of the storage room and tell me if you have anything to add."

"Security recording?"

"Yes, you used your authorisation code to open the door but someone manipulated the locking mechanism. That's how they got in. The door sensors still detected movement where there should not have been movement. That activated the security monitors and alerted the security department."

Kathryn took a seat on the couch and studied the other woman's face. She dreaded the fall-out of the unfortunate incident. According to Tuvok, except for the door, there was no evidence that the four men had not come up with their hair-brained idea on their own though they both had a prime suspect. This person had been seen talking to all of them individually and in a group but that alone was not enough to incriminate her, at least as long as the three men in the brig refused to talk.

The court-martial was scheduled for the next day, one hour after the end of Alpha shift. She and Tuvok would have the chair and three members of the former Maquis and three Starfleet officers would form the jury.

B'Elanna returned from the console and returned to her kneeling position. "So, anything to add?"

"The attack, it lasted just over a minute. It seemed much longer to me."


"Had I taken the time to call security they might have overwhelmed me. I still regret that I killed Daniels but according to the recording I didn't have much of a choice in order to protect myself."

"Do you still think that you should be punished, B'Elanna?"

"No and yes, not for what happened during the fight, DevwI' SeQ, but for losing my temper with the Doctor."

The young woman intensely studied her hands that were resting on her left knee. Kathryn's right hand cupped her chin and made her look up.

"You felt vulnerable and lashed out. It might not have been right but it's understandable. You apologised without being prompted to do so; that's a big step. Don't be too hard on yourself."

"I'll try, DevwI' SeQ."

Kathryn nodded and the dark haired woman asked if she wanted something to drink. "A glass of water would be fine, B'Elanna. I also think that we both deserve a break tonight though the house arrest limits our choices somewhat."

"Would you play a game of chess with me, Captain?"

The other woman nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, I'd love to. The last time I played chess I was on Mars, waiting for Voyager to leave the Utopia Planetia shipyards."

B'Elanna pulled a chess set out of one of the wall compartments and quickly set it up. Their playing styles could not have been more different but it turned out that they were evenly matched.

After the second game had ended with a draw the engineer got herself a glass of water and asked her captain, "Are you sure that you don't want anything else? Blood wine, tea, coffee?"

"I'm fine with water, B'Elanna."

"You don't have to do this on my account, DevwI' SeQ. As my teacher you are not subject to the same rules."

During the lajQo' quvHa'ghachtay it was expected that the ghojwI', the initiate or student followed a strict diet consisting of non-replicated, vegetarian food and water.

"I know, B'Elanna, but I have my reasons. In a few weeks you will understand. And now, back to the game."


Chapter Six

When Gamma shift changed to Alpha the security officer on duty in the brig was found dead by his replacement from Alpha shift, Ensign D'Vor. He immediately sounded a ship wide alert; with his phaser drawn he checked the cells and found the prisoners also dead. There were not any visible injuries to them. The surveillance logs and their back-ups had been erased; and even a molecular scan showed no sign of unauthorised entry.

The autopsy report said that the four men had been poisoned by a neuro toxin used in Romulan poison patches. Death had been immediate and cellular degradation put the time of death at 40 to 42 minutes after the start of Gamma shift.

The news spread faster than wildfire through the ship, and the rumours and speculations followed quickly behind.

Captain Janeway was pacing her Ready Room, prickly like a bear with a sore paw and every status report from the Doctor and Tuvok made her more irritable. This whole incident had the potential to polarise the crew at a time when the two groups had just been starting to come together in common purpose and leave behind their differences – and then there was the tiny voice deep down telling her that she and her secretive behaviour were at least partway responsible for the current situation.

When the news about the murders had reached Engineering B'Elanna did not know what to think. They had tried to kill her; so, a tiny part of her was relieved that they now had paid the ultimate price for their crime. But the dark haired woman also couldn't help but feel responsible for the death of the young night shift security officer. If not for these crewmen's misconceptions about her relationship with the captain none of this would have happened and he would still be alive.

She was desperately trying to concentrate on the padd Harry had sent to her office. She knew that it contained a plan to increase the range of the sensors without the usual energy drain. They had talked about it during lunch the day before but she simply was not able to focus on the data. As usual the door to her office was open and she was thankful for the distraction when she felt someone standing in the doorway – until she looked up and saw Seska.

Ever since the incident with the Sikarian trajectory matrix, her former friend had become more distant and they had not spoken for days now.

"Seska," she said, trying to keep this as professional as possible, "what can I do for you?"

"I just wanted to congratulate you, Belanna. I thought that Starfleet and your four-pip-lover had you completely cowed but to take out these three morons all at once – my respect. That was nice work!"

The dark haired engineer flew out of her seat and snarled at the other woman. She wanted to wipe the smug grin off her face and then introduce her to the interior of the warp core, but that only would make her think that she had been right in her assumptions. So, she took a deep breath and answered, "I didn't kill them, Seska. Poison is not my style – and you know me long enough to also know that I don't kill in cold blood. They no longer were a threat to me, and now get out of my office if that's all you have to say."

There must have been something in her eyes and voice that made the ensign back off. "Have it your way, Torres."

Seska turned around and stormed off and the young engineer couldn't help remembering the conversation she had had with Seska directly after the Sikarian disaster.

B'Elanna was sitting in front of the smoking remains of the device that should have shortened their journey by more than four decades. Her phaser had destroyed the matrix and saved the warp core but now they would have to face the consequences.

"I start erasing sensor logs. We can blame it on the phase discrepancy."

B'Elanna stopped her. "No, we're not going to cover this up."

The other woman looked at the chief engineer as if she just had sprouted two heads.

"Are you crazy? We don't have to take the blame for this."

"But we're going to. We disobeyed orders, gambling that it would pay off. It didn't. And we can't just pretend that nothing happened."

The expression on Seska's face mirrored her words. "I don't understand. There's no need for this."

B'Elanna's next words surprised herself, "I'm sorry if you don't get it, Seska, but it has something to do with being able to live with yourself."

"That doesn't sound like you. You've changed."

The woman sounded disappointed but for the first time since this whole mess had started B'Elanna felt comfortable in her skin when she answered, "If that's true I'll take it as a compliment."

Yes, she had changed, more than she ever would have thought possible – and she was surprised to find that it had begun before she had engaged on her new journey with her captain.

Before she could deepen this strain of thought her comm. badge brought her back to the here and now. "Tuvok to Torres."

"Torres here."

"Your presence in Security is required, Lieutenant."

"I'm on my way, Lieutenant Commander."

She knew that he probably wanted to interview her. She was a logical choice for a suspect.

"Lieutenant, please take a seat. Since your house arrest started the comings and goings to your quarters have been monitored. Last night you left your quarters at 22:30 in the company of Captain Janeway and re-entered at 01:54. The murders were committed at around 00:40. Where were you at the time of the murders, Lieutenant Torres?"

Not too long ago she would have reacted violently to being accused, but this time she had expected it. On a Klingon ship it would have been her right to kill those men; she had a motive. So, she simply answered.

"I joined Neelix in the mess hall and we worked on a couple of his recipes. I don't know for sure when I returned to my quarters but Neelix accompanied me there. I'm sure he will confirm my whereabouts."

"Thank you, Lieutenant Torres. You may return to duty." The young woman nodded, turned around crisply, and left Tuvok's office.

Her mind was running a mile a minute. His simple question was a sure sign that her interview had only been a formality, to make sure that no one got the idea that the captain's alleged girlfriend got preferential treatment.

The 'captain's girlfriend' – what in Grethor was she thinking? Wishful thinking if she was honest with herself. Even before she had known about the woman's dual nature, she had been fascinated by Kathryn Janeway, by her inner strength, her convictions, her principles – and on the Bridge during a red alert her command presence made her more than just a bit attractive. Her heroic beauty was outright compelling – but the redhead was not only her commanding officer she also was her teacher, her DevwI' SeQ. She owed her respect and obedience, not overtly active hormones. She simply had to put it out of her mind.

Besides, someone as strong, independent, and beautiful and wise as Kathryn Janeway could never find herself romantically drawn to someone like her. She just had to put it out of her mind, which of course was easier said than done. To make things more difficult her mind insisted on bringing up the memory of Janeway's scent, the scent of her blood, the scent of her arousal after their holodeck adventure. It was indelibly burned in her mind.

Meanwhile the young engineer had once again reached the sanctuary of her office, but she still was far from calm. She really wished that she could chalk up her feelings with pure physical attraction but she knew that it was more.

It had been from the beginning, but since they had started on this ritual journey it had grown considerably. She knew that from the captain's side there never would be more than the care and friendship a teacher has for her student – and even if there could have been more, Starfleet frowned upon captains who got involved with members of their crew. There was no official regulation forbidding it, but the unwritten rules dictated that a captain had to be aloof, distant from the crew in order to make critical decisions clearly.

B'Elanna sighed and tried to push these thoughts down as deeply as possible, for once following one of her mother's Klingon sayings: 'qoH vuvbe' SuS' [You can't stand against a force of nature]'.

B'Elanna had just managed to immerse herself once again in Harry's padd when a slight jolt ran through the ship and the warp core changed its hum. She sprinted out of her office and looked around Engineering. None of her people seemed to have felt something out of the ordinary but she could hear and feel the difference. She automatically checked the flow rate, phase variance, and temperature but everything seemed to work within normal parameters.

The readings, however, didn't calm her. She stared at the warp core as if this dangerous but vital piece of equipment could give her an answer. There it was again, a slight jolt, the hum once again changed to a higher pitch, then there was a hiss. She rushed over and pushed Ensign Susan Nicoletti out of the way just as one of the main plasma conduits exploded. She was thrown to the side and while still falling she ordered the evacuation of the engine room.

She quickly climbed back to her feet. B'Elanna knew she needed to repair the damage, and she had to do it before the plasma had a chance to reach the warp core. Voyager dropped out of warp and she once again landed on the hard deck, her back in the dangerously steaming liquid.

Her uniform jacket soaked it up like a sponge, effectively keeping it from getting closer to the core. Her comm. badge chirped and the captain asked for a status report. B'Elanna tried to keep her answer short and calm while she once again got back to her feet.

"One of the main plasma conduits blew. The engine room has been evacuated. Ensign Nicoletti is unconscious. I'm about to seal the breach."

The plasma had begun to burn its way through her clothing and she tore the fabric off her body before it could burn her skin. A tiny part of her mind registered that it was already too late to prevent this while the other part finally found the tool kit and sealed the break by bypassing the ripped section. It would put more pressure on the other conduits but with the ship out of warp she was not too concerned.

Less than ten minutes after the emergency evacuation, B'Elanna recalled her people and began to issue orders while helping Susan Nicoletti up.

"Clean this mess up, replace the conduit, and find the hell out how this could have happened. We ran a complete check only last week."

The black and yellow clad men and women had a hard time not to stare at their fiery and half-naked chief but they obeyed immediately.

"Carey, call Tuvok down when you analyse the ruptured conduit. I have a bad feeling about this – a very…"

The doors to Engineering suddenly opened and Captain Janeway rushed in, her Vulcan security chief hard on her heels, and despite his longer legs obviously hard pressed to keep up with her determined stride.

"Report Lieute…," the word died on Janeway's lips when she saw her chief engineer.

The young woman was using one arm to hold up an obviously dazed Ensign Nicoletti who was profusely bleeding from a gash at her temple. The other hand, the one that should have been in a sling, still held the tool she had used to redirect the plasma flow.

Kathryn ran the last steps while unzipping her jacket. As soon as she had reached the younger women she threw the garment over B'Elanna's shoulders and handed the ensign's care over to Tuvok.

"Computer, medical emergency, four to beam to Sickbay."

"Activate Emergency Medical Hologram," the captain barked in her best command voice before they even had fully re-materialised. "Janeway to Kes, report to Sickbay, on the double."

"Please state the nature…."

"Lieutenant Torres was subjected to liquid propulsion plasma, on her back and arms, Doctor," Tuvok calmly informed him while helping Susan Nicoletti on the next biobed.

"Get her to the surgical booth, Captain," the hologram took command. "Remove your jacket and help me to get her undressed. I can smell plasma on her trousers."

"I'm alright, Doc. See to Nicoletti, she was unconscious." B'Elanna's words would have been more convincing if her knees had not chosen this moment to collapse out from under her.

The Doctor scooped her up like a doll and put her face down on the biobed. With Kathryn's help he cut through the rest of her clothing and shoed Captain Janeway out before erecting a force field around the bed.

The dark haired woman's back, buttocks and upper thighs were a mass of raw, bleeding flesh. She had brought her good hand to her mouth and bit down to keep from crying out in pain; the adrenaline rush that had kept her going having finally run out.

"Doctor, sedate her."

"I can't, Captain. Plasma burns are tricky; any kind of medication before I have cleaned the residual liquid could considerably delay her recovery. And according to her medical file she refuses the use of painkillers or sedation except for life threatening injuries. At this point I see no reason to countermand her wishes."

Kathryn had no choice but to accept the medical reasons her holographic CMO had given. As always when dealing with him she had to forcibly remind herself that he was not just any hologram and that according to Starfleet regulations he was the ultimate authority in all things medical on the ship. So, she relented, especially since B'Elanna had apparently made her wishes very clear, but she still was not ready to simply let her suffer. There were other ways than pain killers or sedation.

"Doctor, please rotate the table. I want her to face me during the procedure. B'Elanna, look at me and only me; I'll help you through the pain."

For the next three and a half hours Kathryn's world consisted of nothing but the brown orbs of the young half-Klingon, and B'Elanna focused everything she was and felt on the captain's blue-grey eyes. Janeway was peripherally aware of people entering and others leaving the infirmary. At one point she recognised the voice of Tom Paris, and on a certain level she knew that her behaviour would only add fire to the rumours but this was too important to worry about appearances.

Finally, the Doctor finished the treatment and deactivated the force field but neither patient nor captain seemed to notice. Twenty minutes later Kathryn rose and stepped closer to the bed, "Well done, B'Elanna chaj."

The younger woman's brown eyes widened in surprise and a smile spread over her exhausted face when Kathryn continued, "vuv baj no', Miral puqbe' [You make your ancestors proud, daughter of Miral]."

"Thank you, DevwI' SeQ."

"Sleep now and don't give the good Doctor too hard a time."

Janeway found the Doctor working in his office. He looked up and his eyes seemed to reflect awe, "Captain, how did you do it?"

"Do what?" Kathryn asked innocently.

"Lieutenant Torres, of course. Eighty percent of the skin on her back, buttocks and upper thighs had to be replaced. The plasma caused severe damage to the gluteus maximus and was about to burn its way into her shoulder blades. Even a pure Klingon would not have been able to stand this much pain without being restrained but as soon as you made eye contact her breathing and heartbeat became almost normal and her whole body relaxed. It was as if the pain were suddenly gone. How did you do it, Captain?"

The woman hesitated for a moment. "Check your medical files, Doctor, the subsection about Klingon medical history. Search for 'oy'sontay [Ceremony of Pain], but consider what you find as falling under doctor-patient-confidentiality."

She let her words sink in and then asked, "So, what's Lieutenant Torres' prognosis?"

"The gel packs regenerating her epidermis will have to stay on for twelve more hours, then another four hours for the new skin to settle and desensitise. She can be released to her quarters around midday tomorrow, and provided she really gets some rest she can resume light duty the day after. The sling will have to stay on for at least seven days; she overstressed the just repaired ligaments and muscles – and considering her volatile temper I'm not looking forward to tell her."

"I'll talk to her. Let me know when she begins to wake up."

"I will, Captain. Commander Tuvok wants to talk to you. You can find him in the security office."

As soon as the door had closed behind the energetic woman the holographic Doctor called up the word she had mentioned. At first the translation did not make much sense until he found out that the first word she had spoken did not translate as being thirsty ("oj") but was in reality a noun and meant "pain". It seemed that this "Rite to relieve pain" was almost as old as Klingon culture itself and the more he read about it, the less he believed his eyes.

As CMO he had familiarised himself with the medical history of the whole crew; so he knew about Captain Kathryn Janeway's rather unique, half-Klingon, half-Human physiology. The file said that the changes had been made to save her life after a fatal accident but he still was a bit surprised that she also seemed to have adopted the more obscure aspects of Klingon culture. It was eerily fascinating but her comment about confidentiality was a sure indicator that she was not prepared to talk about it.

Before Kathryn reached Tuvok's office Lieutenant Carey informed her that the repairs to the engine room were finished and that they were ready to go to warp. She told him to go ahead and ordered the Bridge to resume their course. A couple of minutes later she sat in front of the Vulcan's desk, a steaming mug between her hands.

"I'm all ears, Tuvok."

"The plasma conduit rupture was induced by an explosive attached to the pipe and the casing. It was designed to direct the plasma flow to do as much damage as possible. If not for Lieutenant Torres' timely reaction we could have lost the warp core. The explosives were supposed to be detonated by remote control. It is logical to assume that it was intended to serve as a diversion of sorts but I regret having to inform you that there is no evidence, not even on molecular level. Whoever set this up is good but he or she made a mistake. They forgot to isolate the trigger.

"Lieutenant Carey thinks that the bomb went off by accident. There was a small phase variance in the warp core that probably triggered the reaction prematurely. A combined team of security and engineering combed the whole engine room for further surprises. That's why the repairs took so long. I put security on condition yellow."

"Good thinking. Keep me posted on anything you might find."

"Of course, Captain."

Kathryn had hoped that the Mess Hall would be empty at this time of the Beta shift but the experience of the last couple of days seemed to make the crew wanting to stay together. She carried Neelix' newest creation to one of the few empty tables near the view ports and began to eat, making a mental note to congratulate the Talaxian on his cooking. The lessons with B'Elanna really seemed to pay off.

Janeway sensed someone approaching the table. She looked up. Harry Kim seemed to be nervous and determined at the same time; so, she decided to invite him to sit. "Take a seat, Mister Kim. What can I do for you?"

"I… We… We'd like to know how B'Elanna is doing. I asked the Doctor but he said something about privacy and refused to answer."

"Lieutenant Torres will make a full recovery. The plasma burns were severe and she re-injured her arm but will be able to return to light duty the day after tomorrow."

"That's good to hear. Thank you, Captain." He started to rise and leave her to the rest of her meal.

"Harry, what's the crew's reaction?"

"Nicoletti and Carey are singing B'Elanna's praises and everyone is shocked about the threat to the ship. Tom feared that Maquis and Starfleet would start hurling accusation at each other but so far it seems to bring them closer together, united against the saboteur as the common enemy."

"That's not the way I would have wanted to achieve this but I guess one has to be grateful for small favours."

They spoke for a few more minutes about ship's business but the captain quickly excused herself. The late dinner had gone a long way to restore her depleted energy reserves but she still was bone-tired. The "Ceremony of Pain" had been very exhausting and her whole body cried for the comfort of her bed. Despite her weariness and what she had told Tuvok about getting some rest, something told her that she should not delay checking on her chief of engineering.

Part 3

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