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Past into Future
"Do you live to annoy me? Is that what you do?"
Seven studied the half-Klingon's angry face with interest. "I would like to understand, Lieutenant, how it is that I instil this level of adverse reaction in you, when I am simply carrying out instructions."
"It's not that you are `simply' carrying out instructions, Seven, " countered the near-furious woman as she turned back to her console in Main Engineering. "It's HOW you carry out those instructions."
"I do not understand," whispered the Astrometrics officer, almost sadly. It was enough of a change in her voice to dredge up a little compassion from her adversary.
"Look, all I'm trying to say is that, well Hell... there are ways of delivering information without it seeming either like a demand or a leadership take-over bid."
Seven's eyes showed nothing in the way of comprehension and B'Elanna decided it was time to reign in her annoyance and try to get this latest bit of `co-operation' over with. The sooner that was achieved, the sooner the Borg-lady would remove her person from Engineering.
It had been a long shift. In actuality, the duration of the shift had been no longer than usual, but there had been many challenges throughout the day and the small Engineer was very ready for the silence and solitude of her quarters. In the middle of the living area, she threw her head back and sighed deeply before beginning to remove her uniform prior to a long dreamed of aqua shower.
The stress slowly subsided as the water worked its magic on her tired muscles, affording her her first insight into what relaxation might feel like. Soon the intentions behind the shower were fully realised as B'Elanna, washed, dried and dressed in her nightwear shorts and T- shirt, relaxed fully on the couch. She lazily tucked into a replicated meal and, between mouthfulls, she closed her eyes and drank in the peace, easily forgetting what had gone before as she sank deeper into the couch.
Some time later, the crumpled woman awoke and realised ruefully that she had fallen asleep. Her neck was stiff and the hour seemed late but before she could verify that, she froze.
It wasn't anything she felt. It wasn't like that at all. But it was… something, and that something made B'Elanna visually scan the room, knowing suddenly that she was not alone. The feeling was strong, causing her to call out into the empty space, "Who's there?" There was no reply for quite a while, and her body was just beginning to stand down from some kind of alert when she noticed a shimmering light starting to take form. As she watched, transfixed, a humanoid shape appeared before her.
Now, there wasn't a whole lot out there, either in the Alpha Quadrant, or the Delta so far, that had phased the wiry half-Klingon, but this was managing to get through. B'Elanna sat with her mouth slightly open, watching - HERSELF. The shimmering light had formed the shape and features of B'Elanna Torres, but was holding as a light form, rather than materialising into solid matter. The vision stood before her, watching her as she gingerly put her plate, from the earlier meal, on the floor and slid off the couch, never moving her eyes from the apparition for a moment. Feeling for the instrument that she knew was on the table, B'Elanna drew the tricorder into her hands and slowly advanced on the stationery figure, tentatively taking readings as the form simply smiled at her.
`That can't be right,' she reprimanded herself as she retook the readings, but no, it had been correct. After the third attempt at registering the apparition, the Engineer put down the equipment and stared at her image. There were no tricorder readings at all. Whatever `this thing' was, it wasn't registering and it was time to do more than stare. "Computer, identify occupants of Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres' quarters."
B'Elanna Torres is the sole occupant at the present time
"Intruder alert. Security team to Lieutenant Torres' quarters."
A very short time later, Tuvok and two security men gained entry and, a split second before they did, B'Elanna watched her apparition disappear, leaving the security team to discover just one surprised and slightly shocked woman.
"Where is the intruder, Lieutenant?" asked Tuvok, phaser raised and ready to do some apprehending if the situation warranted it.
"Gone?" echoed Tuvok, who had just finished working late when the call had come through. "Gone where?"
"Just disappeared. It was… me." The Vulcan's eyebrow danced upward but the thought that the Lieutenant might be lying to him never entered his logical head. "I scanned it before it vanished and there was nothing. No readings. Nothing at all."
Tuvok silently directed the other two officers to search the quarters and it took the three of them less than a minute to agree that there was no intruder present, just one clearly surprised Engineer. "There appears to be nothing we can do to assist you, Lieutenant. Should your `guest' return, however, I should be indebted if you would contact me in my quarters. I would appreciate a chance to," he paused, as he always did before repeating a typically human expression, "get to the bottom of this."
"Of course," B'Elanna agreed, almost shyly as it dawned on her that she was in casual attire before this always-perfect Vulcan. She showed them out and leaned against the closed door, sighing, before turning round to look into her quarters, searching for any sign that the apparition might have returned.
There was nothing.
Carey eyed the Lieutenant, a concerned expression moving up through his face to challenge the look of sheer efficiency he usually displayed. He moved closer to her, coming up behind her to place a friendly hand on her arm as he said quietly, "Is everything alright, Lieutenant?" B'Elanna jumped heavily at the touch and looked around, flustered and apologetic.
"Carey," she acknowledged breathlessly. "I'm sorry." She laughed nervously and found it hard to stop as the tension of the previous evening found a way to escape. "You really ought to think about it before you startle a Klingon," she joked, catching her breath before she remembered his question. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks. Just a little incident in my quarters last night. I could have sworn someone was in there with me."
"You call Security?"
"Yeah. Nothing there. You don't need to feel that stupid so late at night!" They smiled together before Carey nodded and moved away, just as the doors opened, admitting the Captain who found B'Elanna like a heat-seeking missile, pausing only long enough to acknowledge Seven, who was working over at a far console.
"I hear you had an intruder in your quarters last night? Tuvok says he found nothing." Janeway noted the tired look around the Engineer's eyes and the strange expression. "Care to tell me about it?"
"There's really nothing to tell, Captain." B'Elanna looked shyly around Engineering before looking back at Janeway. "I saw something, I scanned it but there were no readings. I called Security and it vanished as they entered the room. They found no residual readings of any kind. End of story."
Janeway heard the fear that B'Elanna tried so hard to disguise and knew she wasn't getting the whole story. "What else?" she persisted, gently but firmly.
For a split second, B'Elanna thought of saying that there was nothing else, but this woman knew her too well and would know she was lying. So she took a nervous look around Engineering before drawing close to her questioner and whispering, "It looked like me! It never fully materialised and it looked like me. It just smiled at me!"
Whatever the Captain had expected, it hadn't been that, and her expression momentarily reflected B'Elanna's. "You OK?"
"I'm OK. A little spooked, but OK. Don't worry."
"If happens again, I want to know, understood?"
Seven, who's wonder-ears had overheard the conversation, watched Janeway leave and then approached the Engineer, raising an eyebrow as she stood beside B'Elanna, hands clasped behind her back.
"I suppose you heard all that?"
"Yes. The many cultures assimilated by the Borg all seemed to have their own peculiar version of what is termed a `ghost', Lieutenant." That one got the Engineer's attention as she turned to look at Seven fully. "And the one thing they all had in common was a fear of such things. Are you experiencing such a fear?"
"Ghosts?" spat the Lieutenant, although not unkindly. It was more that she'd not entertained such a description to cover what she (thought she) had seen the previous evening.
"It appeared to fit that description, did it not?"
"It appeared to me. Only. I find that a little suspect, don't you?"
"In what way?"
"Well I HAD just woken up. Maybe it wasn't there at all - after all, sensor readings couldn't pick up a damned thing."
"You feel you might have imagined it, Lieutenant?"
B'Elanna studied the blue eyes, feeling her answer rather than thinking it. "No," she said quietly.
"You have formulated an opinion as to what it was?"
"No. I haven't. But you, and Tuvok, and the Captain, and Carey will all know about it when I have. OK?"
Seven took that as her cue to leave and she nodded politely before returning to the far console, pleased that she had spoken with B'Elanna Torres without it deteriorating into a fight for once.
B'Elanna looked at the woman's receding back and felt her fear rising again. She couldn't understand why this `ghost' incident had scared her so much. `Probably because it was me,' she reasoned, `and it wasn't temporal.'
"You wouldn't like to tone it down a little, would you? I'd planned on living through this!" Chakotay held his arm where his opponent had managed to hurt him. Having the safeties off on the holodeck programmes didn't alter the force with which an organic person attacked another, it only took the sting out of the weapons used. He often indulged in hand to hand combat with B'Elanna and he looked forward to it, usually having to fight pretty hard to stay even with the fiery half-Klingon, but today she was warp charged. "I heard," he said simply.
"Jeez. Does everybody know my business around here?"
"Come on, B'Elanna, you know I have to be informed if anything threatens ship's security?"
"Yeah. Sorry." She watched him rub his arm again. "You need Sickbay?"
"I need to know you're OK."
"You and everyone else today," she replied testily. "Hey, look. I'm sorry. Let's call it a day?" she suggested and then walked off before Chakotay could say otherwise, leaving him rubbing his arm and watching his friend with concern.
The Captain looked up as Chakotay entered the Ready Room. She saw, in him, a chance to ease back on the steady flow of work that had kept her cooped up for far too long. "Ah, Commander. Whatever it is that I can do for you, would you join me in a drink first, and perhaps save your Captain from going gently mad?"
He smiled at her as she rose to stride over to the replicator; not even contemplating a refusal before heading towards her coffee, her salvation. Joining her on the couch he grinned, taking his drink. "It does all seem to come at once, doesn't it?"
"You'd think, outside of the Federation, we'd have an easy time of it. How do you suppose I made the mistake of `business as usual,' huh?" she laughed. After an appreciative sip of her drink she asked, "What brings you here, anyway? Not that I'm not delighted by the interruption, of course!"
"I had some holodeck time scheduled with B'Elanna earlier but she drew it to a halt early… seems she couldn't hold back from trying to rip me apart."
Janeway studied his face intently, sipping more of her drink before asking in a solemn voice, "Anything that might compromise her position?"
"No, I think she was letting off steam there so she could keep it under control in Engineering. But the Doctor was impressed," he smiled.
Making a `poor you' expression, Janeway then went on to give her First Officer the last little bit of the puzzle, the bit that had the whole thing making sense. "Herself?" he questioned.
"Seems so. Nothing solid, apparently, it just stood in front of her, smiling."
"No wonder the poor kid's scared. I think I would be." The look in his superior officer's eyes told him that she would have felt the same herself.
"Seven? Are you free later? I am having trouble with my schoolwork and Neelix can't help."
Seven looked fondly at the child in Astrometrics. "What kind of trouble?" she asked in a voice that was softer than she reserved for most people.
"Well… did the Borg ever assimilate any people from Earth, who studied pre-millennium classical music?"
"Is classical music not in our data banks?" asked 7, knowing it was.
"Yes, but it doesn't explain it to me like you would. Will you help me?"
"When humans began exploring space, the Borg assimilated many of their ships. Certainly there were humans who held an interest in and a passion for such music." Seven looked into the child's face, a little face alive with the knowledge that she would be helped by her idol, but now was not the time. Being eager to move on with her current calculations, Seven stated, "I will come to your quarters at 18.00 hours, when my current shift ends. We will discuss it then, before your bedtime."
Naomi knew that she had been dismissed. She smiled happily and repeated "18.00 hours," and then turned and left.
Seven realised, as she watched the child go that, much as she loved Naomi, she was wishing for a different level of company, adult company, to look forward to at the end of her duty shift. But the adult who's company she desired would never allow it to become a reality, so there seemed little point in allowing such mental indulgence, she thought, turning back to her work.
It was just after midnight. B'Elanna had been asleep for about an hour when she was woken by… what? A feeling? "Computer, lights one third," she ordered, listening to the little answering chirp the computer always gave. She cast her eyes around her bedroom, almost afraid of what she might find, but she saw nothing unusual. Climbing out of bed, reaching for her combadge and attaching it to her chest, she entered the living area, stopping cold as she faced her fear.
The apparition was exactly as she had remember it from before, more pure light than anything but clearly recognisable as B'Elanna Torres. Softly she asked, "Are you a ghost?" and watched as the image shook its head and smiled. "Then what are you? And what do you want with me?"
"I am B'Elanna Torres. I am you, from your future, I suppose, as you would view it. But this is not time travel, Lieutenant. I am more a composite of what `we' are. Nor will you detect me on your scans this time, as you couldn't before." To the frightened woman's face she continued, "I am an imprint in time, existing now in an area that you would insist is `in the future' but, truly, there is a greater truth."
"That all time is NOW. All time exists at the same time. There is nothing other than this moment. All the centuries, happening at once."
"You mean parallel universes?"
"Yes. And no."
`What is this? April 1st?' "Yeah, right," she replied, trying to sound comfortable with this kind of impossible talk. "Let's skip the quantum philosophy session, huh, and you just tell me why you're here?" She found her fear subsiding now that there was a genuine interaction between the two of them. It felt more `normal' somehow, although she managed to smile inwardly at that description, as she looked at the shimmering image before her. "This time imprint thing… why? Why have you come here?"
"Your life, as you lead it, can take on many possible paths. It might surprise you to know that each path plays out to completion, and more paths are created as you continue, each of those playing out to completion. But one path is always the stronger one, and to ignore its pull creates friction and frustration. It is this friction that should serve to warn you that a wrong turn has been taken somewhere although, as I said, ALL paths have been laid out before you, by your own hopes and thoughts, and the choice is always yours."
"Yeah, so? If this so-called path I'm on now isn't actually wrong, then why…?"
"Because there is a better one, one I regret that you ignored, Lieutenant, hence this unprecedented step."
"Look, no offence, but last time I saw you, I had just woken up and this time, the same. I'm not entirely sure I'm not just imagining you. Excuse me, there's something I have to do. You just stay there, OK?" B'Elanna tapped her combadge and alerted her Captain, as she had promised to do at the next sighting. The apparition showed no emotion either way about the interruption and simply smiled at her in silence. However, as another set of sparkles joined them in the room, the first set faded quickly to nothing.
"Captain!" B'Elanna did a double take at Janeway, who was standing before her in her nightgown, something the Engineer had never seen before, and she smiled awkwardly.
"What? This?" asked Janeway, looking down at her own clothing and smiling back at B'Elanna in her shorts. "Didn't think you'd want me to take the time to change," she grinned and then turned serious. "Where's the intruder?"
"Gone. Disappeared as you arrived. It seems she doesn't want anyone else to see her."
"You learn anything?" The Captain went from room to room, searching. When she'd finished, she went and sat beside her Chief Engineer and was brought up to date. At the end of the story she was basically speechless - a state that rarely occurred – until she finally asked, "Did it seem like your idea of a ghost to you, regardless of what it said?"
"I wouldn't know. I never met one! You?"
"I was led to believe I'd met my father once, when I was clinically dead. I suppose that made us both ghosts, didn't it? It turned out it wasn't him though, you remember?"
"Yeah, it was an alien, wasn't it?"
Janeway nodded. "But what was I? I could see all of you, and hear you all as you moved on with your lives, thinking I was dead - which technically I was. I do remember that your time and mine seemed very different though."
"But I'm not dead here. And you didn't see `yourself' when you died, so this has to be different." The Engineer paused, looking at her hands. "I wish Tom were here."
Janeway's eyes clouded over, remembering holding her helmsman in her arms as he died. It had been a difficult away mission, but they'd looked certain to remain safe, until… In two years, losing Tom had not lost its sting. Nor was the feeling that she had to tell Admiral Paris on her return to Earth getting any easier. B'Elanna realised the can of worms she'd just opened up and put a comforting hand on her Captain's arm. "I'm sorry."
"Me too," answered a woman who was fighting to return her concentration to the here and now. "It seems to me that we have to find out whether this apparition is a, pardon me, figment of your imagination, or a real intruder. Whatever it is, I'm heartened by the fact that it hasn't hurt anyone."
"Apart from in the wits department!"
Janeway wasn't listening and B'Elanna watched as the Captain stood up and faced into the centre of the room, hands slightly splayed at her sides. To the room she said, "I have come here only to give moral support to B'Elanna; to help her. You have my word I will not hurt you, unless I deem that you pose a threat to us, or my ship, in any way."
The two women exchanged quick glances as a mass of shimmering light began to form in the room. Janeway, surprised and momentarily taken aback, recovered well as she held her ground and looked in amazement at the other B'Elanna, for there was no doubt in her mind now that this was a duplicate. In looks anyway. "What is it that you want?" she asked, softly.
"To reach her." The apparition indicated the seated Engineer. "To remind her of a path she agreed to take – a path she is resisting. The more frustration a person displays, to certain areas of their lives, the more it is indicative of a resistance to flowing with the cause of that frustration." The apparition turned away from the Captain and looked at its image on the couch. "You need to move forward carefully now or all will become lost and a new path will open up to you. It will be impossible, at some point in your progression, to turn around and reclaim what became lost to you. Do you understand? You have suppressed your feelings…"
"Feelings? For who, what?"
"When you fight your destiny, you fight yourself, and nothing runs smoothly. Face it now, before it's too late." B'Elanna stared at the apparition, not understanding what it was trying to tell her. She felt partially aware but she couldn't quite grasp it. "Wait!" she called with her hand outstretched as her other self vanished again. She was not to know that it wouldn't return.
The Captain had got it; she knew what the apparition was trying to say. B'Elanna's repressed feelings had bottled themselves up, to appear as frustration aimed at one area, more than any other. `Why is it that B'Elanna's subconscious won't allow her to see it?' she thought. `It's practically staring her in the face!' She rubbed the back of her neck and shrugged her shoulders as she said, "Well, Lieutenant, I need my sleep, but I feel someone should stay with you tonight. The only crewmember I can think of who can do without sleep is Seven." Happily, B'Elanna was still too deep in thought to object and the Captain took a site to site transport, fast.
Warning. Regeneration cycle incomplete
Seven returned to consciousness, aware that her Captain was calling her name. She looked down, barely registering the fact that her superior was wearing a nightgown, and asked in her usual tone, "How many I assist you, Captain?"
`Efficiency through adversity!' thought the Captain, cheekily. "Seven, B'Elanna's intruder - it returned. I got there as fast as I could…"
"I noticed," smiled Seven.
"… and we spoke with it. It's gone now but I don't think B'Elanna's going to get much sleep, and she shouldn't be alone tonight. Will you suffer in any way if you break your regeneration cycle now and continue it later?"
"No, Captain, I will not suffer. I have had sufficient regeneration to keep me `happy' for some time to come."
Janeway couldn't help but smile at Seven's increasing use of human descriptive words. "Well then. Would you please report to her quarters. And, thank you." Seven nodded and then watched as the Captain ordered a site to site transport back to her quarters. When she had dematerialised, Seven headed for the door.
"You don't have to stay here, you know," said B'Elanna, testily. "I'll be fine."
"Captain Janeway seems to think…" Seven was suddenly shy about revealing that, in effect, the Captain had asked her to baby-sit. She tried another tack. "I am following orders, Lieutenant." Secretly, she was enjoying being right where she wanted to be. She was half expecting to be asked to leave and so was pleasantly surprised when she was offered a seat instead.
"So long as you're here, you might try to help me with this."
"If I can."
"Seven, you're pretty clear in your thinking. I mean, you don't let human emotions get in the way much."
Seven was gratified that the Lieutenant had chosen to discuss with her the experiences of earlier that had unsettled her so much. She sat silently, giving a slight nod of agreement.
"I'm confused about what this apparition was trying to say to me. I think that perhaps if I get another viewpoint on it, I might get to understand why she was here, OK?"
"The Captain didn't offer to talk you through this?" Seven asked in surprise.
"No. Couldn't wait to go get you and then get to bed."
"Then I shall try to assist you. What did this apparition tell you?"
"Hi you two, how's it going?" asked Captain Janeway as she entered the holodeck for her planned time, just as Seven and B'Elanna were leaving. She was heartened by the wide smiles coming from both of them, and the relaxed and happy way they were arm in arm.
"Oh, just fine."/ "Very well, Captain," they both said together as they walked off up the corridor, leaving Janeway smiling. She was glad for these two, glad that she had been so perceptive as to read the words of the other B'Elanna so well. She was convinced that if she hadn't then nothing much would have changed between the warring parties.
The Captain started her programme, slightly sad that there was nothing she was bottling up her energy and fighting against, and therefore nothing and no one she was resisting. It almost seemed a shame, she thought with a smile as she ran down the hill to Phoebe and her mother, being met by a four-legged streak of red named Molly that almost knocked her off her feet.
Much as B'Elanna had done to Seven, when at last she had understood.
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