DISCLAIMER: You know the drill…. Voyager and the whole crew belong to Paramount, et. al. (except for Ensigns' Bennett and Leon). In the future, this FF will depict a loving relationship between women. It also includes psychological trauma and imagery. If this bothers you, please read elsewhere.
GRAPHICS: To view the book cover that accompanies this story click HERE
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Sara Crusade

Chapter One

Gliding through the dark expanse of Delta Quadrant space, the Starship Voyager moved with the ease and elegance of an eagle soaring on a gentle breeze. Her Captain, Katherine Janeway, was sure that no ship was more beautiful and more soulful than her own. And on this day, like every other, her presence in the command chair was as much an act of love as it was of duty.

To the crew of Voyager, the ship was their home away from home; a safe haven where no battle was ever so great, and no obstacle so high, that they couldn't overcome. Whether crewman admitted it or not, they too felt a pulse of soul beating throughout the ship that held them as they journeyed toward home. To some, Voyager even seemed as if a mother, cradling the crew in her womb, until they reached their mother Earth.

Captain Janeway sat on her bridge, absently stroking an arm of the command chair with her right hand. Her face rested contently in her left hand as she observed the view screen ahead of her. Barely moving her head to look over her left shoulder, Janeway glanced toward Ensign Harry Kim, Voyager's young, cheerful Operations Officer. "What's our status Mr. Kim? Is there anything on long range sensors? Anything at all…?"

It had been over one week since the crew had encountered anything anomalous, and few stars or planets even graced their presence. Albeit calming to the Captain, the monotony was also fairly boring. Dutifully checking his sensor readings, Ensign Kim light-heartedly responded to his Captain's request. "No Ma'am. Sensors aren't picking up anything but more smooth sailing."

Janeway nodded her head approvingly, and a slight grin crossed her face. She cared deeply for all her crew, but certain crewman touched her soul, and Harry, with his boyish optimism, was one of them. The doors to the bridge opened and Janeway's First Officer, Chakotay, stepped onto the platform, heading for his chair next to Janeway.

"How was your lunch, Chakotay?" Janeway looked at the Commander, who had become her friend and trusted advisor.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Chakotay answered, "Not bad. Neelix has been experimenting with new recipes and he seems to have found one that's almost pleasant." He smiled at the Captain as he took his seat beside her, and his smile crinkled the tribal tattoo above his left eye.

"Good! I'm always pleased when Neelix can find pleasure in his work, while still taking care of the taste buds of my crew." Janeway stood and crossed the bridge. "Chakotay, I'll be in my Ready room. You have the bridge."

"Aye, Captain."

Not everyone found the calm so calming. In Engineering, B'Elanna Torres, the Chief Engineer, was beside herself with anxiety. Over the past week she had checked, double checked, and triple checked the efficiency of Voyager's engines and had been unable to get them operating above peak performance. Even with 'help' (a word the Klingon-Human hybrid used caustically) from Seven of Nine, the Astrometrics Officer and former Borg drone, the Warp and Impulse engines would not be adjusted any further.

B'Elanna paced in her office, feeling like a wild caged targ. She was a warrior at heart, in need of excitement. Her blood felt like it was stagnating in her veins with the incessant boredom. The only 'excitement' B'Elanna had experienced over the past week and a half was the adrenaline rush of arguing with Seven while they worked together at trying to improve engine performance. With every improvement B'Elanna tried to make to the engines, the ex Borg drone had tried to out-do her, attempting to incorporate Borg technology into Voyagers's systems. Seven's annoying attitude of superiority added to B'Elanna's agitation and made her feel like wrapping her bronze-colored hands around the pale neck of that damn Borg machine. In fact, the Chief Engineer was sure that her efforts would be better spent trying to improve Seven's performance instead of Voyager's. Just as she was completing that thought, the doors to Engineering opened to reveal Seven of Nine walking through them yet again.

B'Elanna, acting from her state of agitation, rather than her role as a Starfleet Officer, leapt from her office to the main Engineering room, screaming in a rage. "Seven, get the HELL out of my engine room!"

Seven simply remained still, standing where she was when B'Elanna yelled at her, with her hands behind her back, and her head tilted slightly to one side. The implant over her left eye raised slightly, and Seven's lips barely pursed together. Seven steeled her gaze at the angry part-Klingon, while the rest of the engineering crew scattered like roaches in the light.

'I said 'GET OUT'!"

"I heard what you said, Lieutenant." Seven seemed to stand even taller in B'Elanna's perception, which pissed her off even more.

'Then tell me why you're still standing here? No, wait… better yet… LEAVE."

"I was running some calculations in the Cargo Bay, and believe I have come up with a way to enhance the Warp engines."

"What?! Another Borg assimilation technique? I don't think so. I've told you before, I don't want any Borg CRAP in my Engine room." B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest defiantly and leaned against the bulkhead near her office. She waited to see if Seven would catch the hint that she was including her in that statement.

"I see." Seven remained steadfast in her position. She wondered to herself how humans could possibly function with such uncontrollable outbursts, and then she wondered why she felt an opening in her chest, like a wound was being exposed. Seven considered her relationship with the Chief Engineer to be very volatile, and she was never sure how the half-Klingon would react to her. But she sensed at this moment that her relationship with the Lieutenant was important.

"You see…. what, Seven," B'Elanna asked sarcastically.

Seven inaudibly sighed. "I see that you are angry and unable to converse reasonably at this time. I will leave and take my findings to Captain Janeway for her input." Seven knew the Captain would not be at all pleased with the fighting between Lieutenant Torres and herself. It seemed that of all the crew on board Voyager, the only two crewmembers consistently unable to get along were she and Torres.

B'Elanna also realized that Janeway would not appreciate their disruption of her tranquility. She was bereft of any way to handle the situation, however, as she wouldn't let go of her anger, or admit she was an ass by apologizing. So, with nothing further to yell at the lanky Blonde, she simply waved her hand.

"Do what you have to do, Seven."

Seven turned on her heels and left Engineering, feeling small inside, although she didn't understand why.

Seven of Nine, once the Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One, returned to the Cargo Bay – the only place on board Voyager where she felt truly safe. Few people bothered her there, and with the exception of the Borg children she'd shared the space with, she felt securely alone. It was a paradox, she understood, but she felt the need to be utterly alone to feel safe, yet cursed the feelings of being trapped by her utter isolation. As part of the Borg Collective she had shared her mind with the minds of thousands of other drones, all working together without an individual will in order to reach perfection. Since Captain Janeway had severed her from the Collective, Seven had endeavored to become an individual working in a collective of individuals. But it seemed to her that she could not fit in. To Seven, she was too human, with frailties and insecurities she did not have as a drone. To the members of the crew, however, Seven was still a Borg drone, in search of perfection.

As if to prove her weakness as a human, Seven was deeply affected by her most recent encounter with B'Elanna Torres. She did not know why she felt drawn to the dark, compact woman; only that in B'Elanna's presence Seven felt alive, electrified by the raw emotion she was able to illicit from the Chief Engineer. They had even seemed to bond minimally in the past, when Seven's cortical node had malfunctioned and B'Elanna had protected her in Engineering… and when B'Elanna had joined Captain Janeway and Tuvok in being assimilated to rescue Seven of Nine from the Borg Queen and infect Unimatrix zero-one with an individuality virus. But this encounter with B'Elanna's temper seemed emotionally oppressive for some reason. Seven had felt a subtle shift in B'Elanna over the past week; her anger seeming different, almost bitter. And now Seven felt like an insect that had viciously had its wings pulled off.

Upon entering Cargo Bay 2, Seven saw the remaining Borg child, Icheb, completing a task at his workstation. Icheb looked up and acknowledged Seven with a nod of his head, and then shutting down his console, walked toward the regeneration alcove where Seven was now standing. "I have completed my assignments for today. I am leaving now to study security procedures and Vulcan meditation techniques with Tuvok."

"That is acceptable," Seven responded, squashing any emotions she was feeling. "Tuvok will guide you well."

"I concur," replied Icheb, as he turned to walk out the Cargo Bay doors.

Seven watched him leave and then leaned her back against the alcove. Not wanting to spend another inefficient minute dwelling on her emotional discomfort, Seven set the alcove for a long regeneration cycle. She had been regenerating longer and more often than usual over the past week, but rationalized that it was the sensible thing to do given the lack of crisis requiring her assistance on the ship. She stepped upon the dais, visually examined the Cargo Bay, and stepped back into the regeneration unit. Seven began her regeneration cycle for the night.

B'Elanna paced in front of the warp core after Seven walked out. The Engineering staff slowly returned to their stations, stealing glances at the disturbed Chief of Engineering. B'Elanna noticed the submissive way in which her staff was returning to duty stations, and she let out a loud deep growl in frustration. As B'Elanna was about to storm back into her office, Vorik, her Vulcan Engineer, spoke up.

"Lieutenant Torres, I am getting a sensor reading from Jeffries Tube seven, section nine. It appears a gel pack has ruptured there."

B'Elanna snorted, "Seven, huh? Why doesn't THAT surprise me?!"

"Excuse me, Lieutenant?"

"Never mind Vorik. I'll take care of it. The Alpha shift is ending… go meditate or something."

Vorik lifted his eyebrows slightly, staring at B'Elanna as she spoke, and then turned to leave.

B'Elanna gathered her toolbox and headed for the offending gel pack.

Crawling through the Jeffries Tube she thought again about the significance of a gel pack going out in tube seven, section nine when she had just had one of her ugliest fights with Seven of Nine. "Hmm. I think it's a conspiracy. An evil plot between Seven and my ship to piss me off. It is MY ship after all, not Seven's…. I am the Chief Engineer. Who does she think she is? She can't just make changes to my engines, adding Borg technology at her every whim. It's enough that she already has her damn nanoprobes floating around in Voyager's central systems." B'Elanna sighed, realizing her conversation was not only one sided, but could get her psychiatric care if anyone observed it.

She pulled the hatch off the infected section, setting it down beside her. Opening the toolbox, B'Elanna grabbed a small flashlight and began inspecting the area. The ruptured gel pack had coagulated with blue/green gel drying on the top and sides of it. The gel packs were the nervous system of the Intrepid-class ship. Without each one performing at peak efficiency, Voyager would cease to function properly. The Chief Engineer carefully grabbed the pack to remove it without getting the gelatin-like substance on her hands and uniform. She placed the ruptured pack in a small bag, and reached into her toolbox for a new gel pack. As she placed it into place, she felt a prick on her finger.

"Ow! What the hell?"

She removed the new gel pack and noticed her right index finger was bleeding. Blood dripped from her finger onto the gel pack and B'Elanna set the pack down on the floor of the Jeffries Tube while she wiped her finger with a shop rag. Looking at the conduit that ran behind the gel pack, B'Elanna searched for any jagged edges that could have pricked her finger and possibly caused the rupture to the initial gel pack. Not seeing anything, she gently glided her hand along the conduit until she felt something. Aiming her flashlight at the area, she noticed a small piece of wire protruding from the conduit.

"Alright, how did you get loose?" B'Elanna used a small spanner to repair the wire, and then replaced the gel pack, satisfied that this one wouldn't rupture. As she started to replace the hatch, she remembered the blood that had dripped onto the pack, but not feeling like removing it for a third time, she let it go. It wasn't more that a couple of drops anyway, and wouldn't interfere with the functioning of the gel pack.

B'Elanna left Engineering after she returned her tools and ran a diagnostic. Satisfied that all was operating efficiently, she headed to the quarters she shared with her husband, Ensign Tom Paris, Voyager's Helmsman. B'Elanna hoped that going home would relax her and give her a chance to unwind. She still felt anxious, and was looking forward to spending some quality time with Tom. Their relationship had been strained lately, and B'Elanna hoped that an evening together would rekindle their waning flame. The closer she got to their quarters, however, the tenser she became.

It was really no surprise to the Klingon-Human hybrid when she walked through the doors to her quarters and found them empty. It seemed B'Elanna came home to empty quarters most nights anymore.

"Torres to Paris" B'Elanna paced the livingroom.

"B'Elanna….?" Tom sounded puzzled to hear from her.

"You're not home, Tom."

"I picked up an extra duty shift, working with the Doctor in sickbay. I'll be home after the Beta shift… don't bother to wait up." Tom seemed to be picking up extra shifts a lot lately, or so he would have his wife believe.

B'Elanna suspected something much different than commitment to duty. She noticed how Tom's color flushed ever so slightly whenever he was around one of the Delaney Sisters, especially Jennifer. There were other signs she noticed as well; the way Tom acted slightly manic in Jennifer Delaney's presence, how his eyes lingered on her a split second longer than normal. Up to this point, B'Elanna had been unable to catch him in the act of infidelity, however, as Tom always seemed to be where he said he was going to be. But then B'Elanna usually checked up on him right after they spoke, when he knew she'd be angry and on the prowl. She decided to feign patience on this night, and take a sonic shower before searching the ship for her husband.

The sonic shower did nothing to alleviate B'Elanna's tense muscles, and the more she thought about Tom's infidelity, which she was sure of, the angrier she got. As she thought about the situation, B'Elanna had to admit that circumstances with Tom were causing her a lot of distress, and proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back during this lull in the Delta quadrant. Her sense of spiraling out of control is what spurred her intense hostility toward Seven of Nine recently, she decided. As B'Elanna thought about her verbal altercation with Seven in engineering earlier, she realized that she'd just been mean. Her arguments with Seven of Nine usually made her feel alive, and strong, but today she felt like a peta'Q. Standing in the shower, contemplating, B'Elanna felt an emptiness in the pit of her stomach. It was a deep, hollow feeling, and reminded her of the home-sick feelings she experienced as a child after her father left.

B'Elanna got out of the shower and got dressed, grabbing a pair of comfortable black sweat pants and a sage green tank top from her small clothes drawer. Pulling them over her undergarments, B'Elanna queried the computer for Tom's whereabouts.

"Ensign Paris is in the sickbay".

Surprised to hear that answer, she snatched a pair of athletic socks and put them on under her sneakers and took off for sickbay.

As B'Elanna entered through the sickbay doors, the Emergency Medical Hologram shimmered into view.

"Please state the nature of the medical emergency." He did an about face when he realized he was facing no one and turned in time to see B'Elanna searching the sickbay.

"Lieutenant Torres… may I assist you with something?"

"Where is he Doc? Where's Tom?" B'Elanna's eyes seemed to darken, and she stared at the EMH intently.

"Where is who, Lieutenant?"

"Don't play games with me Doctor! Where is Tom? He told me he was working here for the Beta shift." B'Elanna was losing what very little patience she had.

"Well he's clearly not here," the Doctor responded indignantly. "He stopped in at the beginning of the shift and then left."

"So you're telling me that he wasn't scheduled to work Beta in the sickbay?!"

"No, Lieutenant, Mr. Paris was not scheduled to work here. I thought it odd that he came by at all really, but he said he forgot to bring back a hypospray he had taken out yesterday…."

B'Elanna interrupted the EMH, "A hypospray?! Where did he put the hypospray when he returned it?"

The Doctor walked over to a console near one of the biobeds and opened a drawer. "He placed it in here. Why are you asking?"

B'Elanna stormed over to the drawer and started shifting its contents around.

"Lieutenant! Please… do not dishevel my surgical tools like they were shop tools for tuning a shuttlecraft!"

"Aha!" B'Elanna triumphantly held up Tom's communicator badge. "That damn Peta'Q used his communicator as a decoy!" Before the Doctor could say anything, B'Elanna stormed out of sickbay, clutching Tom's communicator like she was strangling his neck.

Her first impulse was to advance on Jennifer Delaney's quarters and pummel her husband senseless for dishonoring her, but knowing that she probably would indeed hurt him severely, she decided to return to her quarters. 'There will always be time to choke the life out of Tom', she thought. Before she knew it she was back in her quarters, standing before the replicator and commanding it to produce a Klingon ale. She choked down the drink, still standing before the replicator, and then ordered another. B'Elanna felt the carbonation from the ale burn as it slid down her throat, and once inside her gut she felt a warmth spreading through her, numbing her brain. Sitting down on the sofa she nursed her second ale a bit longer, assessing her current situation and how she was going to handle it.

"Goddamn Tom!" B'Elanna felt her chest tighten, and her hands clenched into fists as she forced back the tears that stung her eyes. "Why did you have to do this to us? WHY?! Why?" She lowered her head to her hands and started to weep, hot tears of anger and betrayal. Out of sheer primal compulsion, B'Elanna lifted up her nearly-empty glass of ale and threw it at the television she had replicated for Tom when they first became seriously involved. She received only minimal satisfaction at hearing the replicated glass shatter against the television cabinet and fall to the floor. She thought about how hard it had been for her to fit in with the crew, to adapt to Starfleet protocol, and to finally feel accepted for who she was - by someone who had encouraged her heart to open. As her mind reeled at the pain of knowing the truth about the blonde Helmsman, and feeling intoxicated by drinking the ale so quickly, B'Elanna fell into a fitful sleep on the sofa.

The Beta shift had taken over operations of the Starship Voyager, and except for those crewman working a double shift, all of the Alpha shift was off duty. Captain Janeway was relaxing in her quarters reading, preparing to sojourn to her bedroom as soon as she completed the current chapter of her book. Ensign Kim had agreed to work the Beta shift on the bridge, as it was his only opportunity to sit in the command chair instead of standing at ops. Harry Kim loved the feeling of Janeway's chair.

All seemed calm and run-of-the-mill during the Beta shift. The Delta Quadrant remained quiet and the shift was uneventful. Harry sat thoughtfully in the Captain's chair, pondering his future for most of the night… until 2230hours.

Ensign Diana Bennett, the Beta shift Operations Officer, broke the silence as her hands flew across the comm.

"Ensign Kim, I am picking up anomalous readings 800,000 kilometers straight ahead. It looks like a spatial rift Sir."

"On screen Ensign," Harry commanded.

"Aye Sir." Ensign Bennett continued monitoring the ops station for any further readings. Harry looked up at the view screen and felt his jaw drop slightly as he took in the sight. Colors swirled at the edges of a black abyss.

"It also appears to have the qualities of a black hole, Sir."

"All stop!"

"Aye Sir, all stop." Ensign Michele Leon, the Beta shift Helmsman brought Voyager to an abrupt halt, waiting for further commands.

Harry tapped his communicator. "Kim to the Captain."

"This is Janeway. What is it Ensign?"

"Captain, can you come to the bridge? There's something you need to see." Harry sounded ever so slightly nervous. As much as he enjoyed the role of Beta "Captain", he didn't enjoy the crisis when they arose.

"I'm on my way!" Janeway leapt up from her lounge chair and hurried back into her uniform. In less than five minutes Janeway was stalking the corridors en route to the bridge.

As the door to the Voyagers's bridge flew open, Captain Janeway strode purposefully toward her command chair, pulling her red uniform jacket down at the sides.

"Report!" Janeway's voice was stern and her command mask was firmly in place, giving her the confidence that allowed her to lead her crew 60,000 light years from Earth. She proceeded to the area in front of her command chair, and stood there watching the view screen.

Before Harry could respond, Ensign Bennett responded. "Ma'am, sensors indicate that it has a high level of electron density with spatial and temporal irregularities, and quasi-stellar radio sources."

"Quasars," Harry stated quizzically.

Eyes widening in recognition, Janeway commented to no one is particular, "A black hole with a spatial rift…." Janeway had a strongly curious scientific side, reveling in anything new and exciting. She allowed herself a moment to ponder this new anomaly and then Janeway's command mask dropped back into place.

"Why wasn't I notified of this sooner?!"

"Sensors didn't pick up the readings." Harry was feeling somewhat unsure of himself.

"How can that be? Ensign Bennett, are you having problems at ops?" Janeway's voice was curt and Ensign Bennett wasn't sure if her Captain was referring to a problem with the station itself, or with her.

"`No ma'am, none that I'm aware of."

"Ensign Kim, I want you to take over ops, and find out what's going on here."

"Yes, Ma'am"

"Send a probe into the heart of that thing. I want to know if it poses any danger to Voyager."

"Yes, Captain!" Harry strode to the back of the bridge and took over for Ensign Bennett, who moved to the secondary ops station.

"Ensign Leon, remain at full stop until I give further orders."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Janeway to Seven of Nine" Janeway waited briefly and when she got no response, repeated herself. "Janeway to Seven of Nine!" There was no response. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay 2." The computer's female voice spoke purposefully and without inflection.

"Computer, what is her status?"

"Seven of Nine is regenerating."

Janeway thought for a moment before making a decision. She didn't want to disrespect her crewmembers privacy, or their need for sleep, but she really wanted Seven in Astrometrics monitoring the anomaly.

"Computer deactivate regeneration cycle."

"Unable to comply."

Janeway was taken aback, although she tried not to let it show. It unnerved her when anybody refused an order, and it was no less so when it was the computer.

"Harry, what the hell is going on?"

Harry, scrambled his fingers over the comm for any reasons why ship's sensors would not have detected the anomaly sooner, and why the computer was refusing to follow Janeway's command.

"Captain, the radio emissions from the black hole appear to be disrupting the ionosphere. I'm picking up heavy neutrino readings and diffuse infrared emissions from interstellar dust. It must be interfering with our systems." At least, Harry hoped that's what it was.

"Captain," Harry added, "sensors indicate the black hole has a strong gravitational force, and is pulling anything within 100,000 kilometers into the event horizon."

'Great,' Janeway thought. For almost two weeks we travel in utter boredom, and now we're faced with the exciting and dangerous prospects of a black hole with temporal shifts. 'There's never any middle ground in this Godforsaken quadrant!'

"Janeway to Torres." She waited a moment when no response came, Janeway sighed audibly thinking, 'not again.'

"Janeway to Lieutenant Torres! Computer, locate B'Elanna Torres."

"Lieutenant Torres is in her quarters."

Giving in somewhat to her sarcasm at the late hour, Janeway responded, "Computer, is Lieutenant Torres alive?!" She didn't expect any answer other than an affirmative one, but couldn't help letting her command mask fall ever so slightly at the absurdity she felt she was experiencing.

"Unable to respond."

"What?!" Janeway's command mask plummeted back into place. Now she was starting to get worried.

"Janeway to security! Take a detail to Lieutenant Torres' quarters and check for any problems."

"Aye Captain," came a male voice.

"And keep me informed. I want to know what Lieutenant Torres' status is the moment you reach her quarters."

Seven awoke in a green pasture, surrounded by trees and rolling hills. The sun shone brightly and was warm against her face. As she surveyed her surroundings, Seven noticed she was still in the blue bio-suit she'd worn earlier that day on board Voyager. She wondered how she'd gotten to this unfamiliar place and why she was no longer on- board the starship.

In the distance, Seven saw a small lake, and began moving toward it. As she walked she noticed a deer grazing nearby. Just as she began to approach the deer, it looked up at Seven, locking eyes with her for a moment. Seven stared into the doe's brown orbs feeling somewhat unsettled. It was as if the deer seemed sentient, and Seven felt drawn toward the emotion she saw in the creature's eyes. As she continued toward the lake, the deer went back to grazing.

When Seven reached the shore of the crystal blue lake the sunlight rippled off the water, causing the lake to appear to change color. Suddenly the water seemed a murky gray, and then it took on the appearance of Borg metal. Seven watched on in astonishment. In an instant, the sunny day turned to night, and Seven stood in the pitch black. Her legs felt like lead, and she could not move. Staring unbelievingly, Seven watched as lightening flashed upward from the lake, like Borg tubules trying to assimilate the sky. Seven saw another flash of lightening illuminate the sky from behind her, and when she spun around she saw the deer struck dead. It's body lay smoldering on the ground, the head facing her, and the doe's eyes staring blankly at Seven.

When Seven blinked to rid herself of the image of the deer she found herself back onboard Voyager. She was standing in an empty corridor on one of the decks. It was dark, and silent, and reminded her of the ship when the crew lay in stasis as Seven and the Doctor took Voyager through the nebula. She remembered also, the unprovoked fear that had gripped her during that particular voyage, and she felt a heightened sense of awareness and paranoia developing now. As she stood in the middle of the corridor, trying to adjust her eyes to the darkness, she had the sense that the walls were closing in on her.

"Seven of Nine, you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

Seven felt her heart race as she heard the familiar reverberation of the Collective. She started to walk through the corridor at an expeditious gait, when she saw the bulkheads appear to transform into part of a Borg cube. Seven increased her pace, heading toward the turbo lift in a desire to get away. As she rounded a corner she saw One standing there, waiting… as if he'd never died. Seven gasped for air and felt her chest tighten. Her mouth filled with the taste of cold metal.

Seven slowed her steps, and cautiously walked up toward the only son she'd ever had a hand in creating. Despite the reasoning in her head, which warned her of a trap, her heart demanded that she feel him. With a gentled touch, Seven drew her human hand to One's face and caressed his cheek as a mother would. One grabbed Seven's arm firmly.

"Resistance is futile."

Seven jumped back and tried to free her arm, however One would not let her go. She tried to back away, but One maintained his position. From the bulkheads, assimilation tubules erupted, snaking their way through the darkness in the direction of Seven of Nine. With a cry of anguish, Seven yanked her arm away from One's grip, twisted herself around him, and sprinted to the turbo lift.

Once inside the turbo lift the doors automatically closed, but before Seven could give the computer her command, the turbo lift began dropping freely out of control. She placed her back against the rear wall of the lift and held on, bracing for impact. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, and the rapid descent disoriented her. Without warning, the doors slid open and Seven found herself looking back out onto the green field in the night. It was not peaceful as it had initially been in the sunlight, and she could hear tortured screams surrounding her. The turbo lift vanished, and Seven stood outside, watching in horror as hundred of species of humanoid, in various stages of assimilation, lurched toward her. The zombie-like Borg advanced quickly, grabbing for Seven. She backed up a few paces, and then realizing she would be overcome, turned around and started running. The Borg zombies quickened their pace, reaching out for her. Suddenly Seven found herself flying mere feet above the ground. She tried to will herself higher, to escape the hands that grabbed at her legs and clothing. Unable to force herself to fly any higher or move beyond the grasping hands, she screamed out, "Stop!" Her voice betrayed her panic. Then one hand grabbed her ankle and pulled on Seven tightly. She kicked to get away, but the grip did not lessen. Looking down in terror, Seven saw the hand that anchored her was B'Elanna's. B'Elanna tugged on Seven's leg, and with a look of fear called up to her, "Seven, help me."

B'Elanna felt heavy walking through the corridor to sickbay. When she looked down, she saw her belly protruding from her body, and saw the bottom of her engineering smock swaying as she walked. Beside her, Tom Paris smiled as he walked holding her left hand. They turned toward sickbay and entered through the doors as they opened. The Doctor ushered the couple over to a bio-bed and assisted the pregnant woman onto the bed.

"Lie down, Lieutenant Torres," the Doctor said, nodding to Tom to stand beside her head and out of his way. "Let's find out how baby Paris is doing."

The EMH slowly waved a medical tricorder over B'Elanna's stomach, and she listened to the tricorder as it beeped. "Your baby is coming along just fine, Lieutenant. She should be ready to come out in about seven days."

Quizzically, B'Elanna repeated, "Seven?"

"Isn't that wonderful 'Lanna? We're having a baby girl?" Ensign Paris took her left hand and squeezed gently.

"Now, there may be some complications from the combination of the Human and Klingon physiology, so I will need to monitor you every day to make sure the baby is fine."

"What will she look like," asked Tom.

"She'll look like both of you, of course, Mr. Paris."

"No!" B'Elanna became agitated. "I don't want her to look Klingon. Fix her Doctor. Change her genetics to make her look human!"

"Lieutenant Torres… B'Elanna… your daughter will look like both of you. I'm sure she'll be beautiful just they way she is, and she'll be strong and…." The Doctor's voice trailed off as Tom chimed in.

"And aggressive, and stubborn, and oh yeah… angry and unlovable!" Tom said this last part with such cheer in his voice, it stunned B'Elanna speechless. She looked over at Tom, to look for any signs she'd really heard what she thought she had. But when she tried to focus her eyes on him, Tom shimmered into nothingness and her eyes focused on the wooden inside of a ship instead.

"What in Kahless's name…?

B'Elanna tried to sit up, and as she did she felt her stomach rip open as her baby's head crowned from her navel. A Klingon warrior walked over to where B'Elanna lay and placed his hands on the baby, pulling her out from the splitting stomach. As the baby emerged from the womb, B'Elanna could see that the baby appeared to have some Borg implants. B'Elanna gasped at the sight of her child, held out at arms length by the warrior.

"Miral," B'Elanna sobbed. "She's Borg…."

"This child is not fit to live among Klingons. You have dishonored your House by giving birth to such a foul creature." The Klingon warrior growled.

B'Elanna could not move, but tried to grab her baby from the warrior's grip. "That's my daughter, don't you hurt her." B'Elanna heard herself beg. "Please… my baby….give her to me."

With an angry bellow the Klingon warrior yelled, "You DARE come aboard the Barge of the Dead and give orders?!"

"The Barge of the Dead?" B'Elanna seemed confused but she tried to grab at the baby again as she dangled from the arms of the warrior.

"Just please, give me back Miral…."

Just then, Seven of Nine walked out of the darkness and grabbed the child from the Klingon's hands. "I will take the child. She can not be harmed if kept away from your hateful ways." Seven looked directly at B'Elanna as she spoke.

"No, Seven please… I won't be hateful with her. That's my baby!"

"Irrelevant. You have made it perfectly clear that you are incapable of loving anything Borg, and this child is clearly part Borg. Therefore you are not fit to parent her."

B'Elanna's body shook as she sobbed, trying to reach her daughter while trying to sit up.

"However, if it is any conciliation Lieutenant Torres, I will cut open my chest and hide the baby near my heart, where she will be safe." With that said, Seven of Nine placed the baby under her right arm, grabbed a Kut'luch blade from the warrior, and proceeded to cut her self from the bottom of her collarbone to the bottom of her diaphragm and placed the baby inside. As soon as the baby had been placed inside Seven's chest, her body healed and there was no further sign of B'Elanna's child.

B'Elanna looked on in stunned silence. Then she watched as Seven of Nine turned around and walked away. She disappeared into the darkness, and B'Elanna watched with her arms outstretched, trying to call out to Seven, but unable to utter a sound.

"Well now…," said the warrior loudly. "We won't have to be bothered with that pariah infecting the gene pool or causing problems!" He laughed and then disappeared.

B'Elanna attempted to sit up again, to get off the bio-bed that she seemed to have brought with her to the Barge of the Dead. As she forced herself up she found herself upright on the sofa in her quarters. She looked down at her stomach, and saw that she no longer appeared pregnant. She was dressed in the sweat pants and tank top she'd put on the night before. She hugged her arms to her stomach and began to cry softly.

"My baby Miral… it was just a dream." She swung her legs over the sofa and tried to stand up, but her head felt dizzy and she fell back onto the sofa.

"Tom?" B'Elanna called for her husband, hoping to get some help getting up, and maybe a concerned ear to listen to her nightmare. There was no response. Realizing she was alone, and that Tom must have stayed out to play all night, she wiped her eyes and nose with her hand and forced her legs to stand.

"Regeneration cycle complete"

Seven's Borg alcove shut down, releasing its hold on her. As she regained consciousness, she fell forward off the dais and onto both knees on the Cargo Bay floor. Leaning on her right arm and clenching her stomach with her left hand, Seven gasped for breath.

Part 2

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