DISCLAIMER: Paramount, Viacom, whoever else these days, just borrowing, no harm intended...yaa dee dah...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: T/7, of course, graphic scenes somewhere in the middle, Borg children still on board, no canon episode referenced except for the one with the Science Fair, the Omega Particle episode and the Tsunkatse tournament ship episode.

Queen of Hearts
By DiNovia

Part Seven

"Did you see that?" Tom Paris stared unblinking at the forward viewscreen on Voyager's bridge. As the injured Radamaani guard was led away, he repeated his question.

"Did you see that?"

Harry Kim, sitting in the captain's chair, barely nodded, his mouth hanging slightly open. He, too, watched as the guard was led away, noting the mournful sound of bells filling the arena as the Lead Pair made their entrance—thankfully less dramatically.

"That wasn't good," he mumbled, wondering what the Hell was going on over there. And wondering if anyone would survive it. A thought flashed through his mind and he hit his communicator. "Kim to Lieutenant Carey."

"Carey here."

"Carey, can you get a lock on the away team? In case we need to transport them to safety?"

"Um…just a sec." There was a brief pause and then Carey's voice over the communicator again. "It will take a while to get a positive lock, sir. Their shield harmonics are a little…unusual."

"Get Vorik to help you. And anyone else you can think of. And let me know the minute you have a lock, do you understand?"

"Aye, sir."

Harry leaned back in the captain's chair, one eye on the proceedings taking place on Pod Boi-Ovani and one eye on the bridge crew, gauging their readiness should he call upon them to do something unexpected.

He thought about the phrase 'Aye, sir', how solid it was, how comforting. It seemed to lend him a little stability and for that, he was grateful.

Seven of Nine watched the Raadamani champion complete something called the tzit-fallit, the Enumeration of Primes. It was a simple chant apparently consisting of a chronological list of all the Primes beginning with Sokar, Child of All Pods. It did not seem particularly relevant to the proceedings however Seven was intrigued to see that the chant seemed to fortify her adversary. Gone now was the fear that only moments ago had betrayed him. In its place was a determination born of his emotional response to the chant.

Unwilling to let the Raadamani ritual disturb her own focus, Seven was keenly aware of its effect on the Raadamani observers. They became unified, a collective—of sorts—in thought and intent: the belief that Wuqat would prevail.

She hazarded a glance at her superior officers standing stiffly next to the Lead Pair and then another at her wife, under heavy guard and kept well away from the arena. Their uncertainty showed clearly in their features and their bearing. Even Tuvok did not seem his usual dispassionate self. She realized then that a ritual would be a comfort to them…if only marginally. Vulcan, Klingon, and Human, all had their own rituals and their own histories and cultures that had passed those rituals down from parent to child, from teacher to student, from elder to initiate.

Seven knew she could call up and perform one or more of those rituals, relying on the knowledge contained in her cortical implant, but she immediately discarded the idea. A ritual completed in that way would mean nothing to her supporters because it would mean nothing to her.

She needed a ritual of her own.

Uncertain about how to begin, Seven followed the Raadamani champion's example, taking her place at the tos, the place where things begin and things end.

She then let her eyes fall upon her superiors one at a time, pinning them with her sure and even gaze, nodding formally to each of them. Janeway's steel-colored eyes, clouded with worry. Chakotay's leaf-brown eyes, sad and supportive. Tuvok's black eyes, alert and aware. She kept those gazes as long as she could, trying to convey to them what she could not say aloud, hoping to remember this moment in time.

Then she turned her eyes to B'Elanna, looking into wounded fawn-colored eyes with eyes as blue and bright as the Aegean Sea in summer. She let her gaze linger the longest with her wife, holding the moment until a smile dusted her lips and the entire arena became silent, waiting for her to speak. When she was ready, Seven closed her eyes and inclined her head briefly—a reverent acknowledgement of her wife's particular place in her heart—and then turned to face the rest of the arena.

"I have no gods," she said, her voice clear and calm. Power and confidence radiated from her every pore. "I have no history or culture of my own from which to draw spiritual or religious icons. The collective that sustained me for much of my life had no use for such irrelevance." She looked to Kathryn then, noting the red of her dress uniform, remembering the first time she had seen the color as an individual and how it had affected her.

"However, one woman, in her wisdom, severed me from that collective and added me to her own." She turned to B'Elanna again, smiling fully and sweetly at the compact engineer, unable to contain what she felt for her. "And another, in her generosity, has shown me joy and love and peace." She took a deep breath and then turned again to the rest of the arena, letting her gaze fall upon as many Raadamani as she could.

"I have no gods," she repeated to them. "Instead, I have family. It is my family that gives me strength and I owe all duty and honor to them." She grasped the tos, then, and began the requisite circumference of the arena, listing as she went the members of her family: the full names of each and every crewmember or civilian inhabitant—past and present—of the Federation Starship Voyager.

Chakotay put a comforting hand on his captain's shoulder and though she didn't turn or acknowledge him in any way, he felt her gratitude in the way she relaxed into his touch. What he couldn't see—but he did suspect—were the tears gliding silently down her regal and otherwise stoic features.

Phoebe, what do I do if she doesn't survive this? asked Kathryn Janeway silently. She couldn't believe, after everything that she'd been through with the young ex-Borg, that they'd found themselves—once again—in a seemingly untenable situation. What comfort can I give if I have none of my own?

Unable to do anything but watch as Seven entered into battle, Kathryn gave her mind over to something she rarely indulged in: prayer.

Wuqat, however, waiting for his opponent to join him in the center of the arena, couldn't believe his luck.

He'd finished the tzit-fallit only to see the Human champion take her place at the tos, apparently intending to complete a ritual prayer of her own. Then she had grasped the pole exactly where he and Qati had placed the yiheja earlier. He almost laughed out loud, his victory now assured.

Even your 'family' cannot give you the strength you need now, Human, he sneered to himself.

The USS Voyager was a strange place. News traveled quickly aboard the lean, moderately sized ship. Sometimes it traveled more quickly through the ship-wide grapevine than it would have over a subspace relay network. And it knew no boundaries. All news was game, whether the details of a recent breakup or the speculation surrounding an impending promotion.

So it came as no surprise to Neelix, one of the integral cogs in the gossip machine, that confused and incredulous Voyager crewmembers began arriving in the mess hall barely six names into Seven of Nine's unexpected and heartwarming recitation. Some of those who entered found friends already there and grimly took their place with them. Others had vaguely guilty expressions on their faces and Neelix made a point to seek those crewmembers out, reassuring them as best he could.

They were all more or less glued to the viewscreen, listening as Seven continued listing crew names in alphabetical order, including their ranks and—where appropriate—the dates of their deaths. By the tenth name, someone got the idea to broadcast the audio component over the ship's comm system from the beginning and Seven's resonant tones filled the corridors and crew quarters and departmental areas, stating again that she had no gods, just a family. And that she owed that family her duty and honor.

More and more crewmembers entered the mess hall, seeking the community of their comrades, while others, caught in the middle of their duties, simply stopped what they were doing to listen. It wasn't really important where they were when they heard it, it was only important that they did. And that they were together, offering support to Seven and to each other.

"…Ensign Elspeth Harper…Crewman David Henard…Crewman Mortimer Harran…Crewman Mariah Henley…Ensign Georgina Hickman…Lieutenant Roger Hogan, deceased, stardate 50032…Emergency Medical Hologram…"

Neelix scurried from table to table as the list continued, offering a word here, a beverage there, his smile growing wider and wider as he realized his greatest wish for Seven of Nine, former Borg drone, was coming true: she finally belonged.

Lt. Susan Nicoletti waited until Seven got through the N's then looked across the standard-issue slate gray table at her three companions, her eyes troubled.

"Did you have any idea?" she asked quietly. "Any idea at all?"

Two of them, Dell and Jenkins, just shook their heads, looking about as morose as Nicoletti felt. The third, Allison Foster, rubbed her forehead with something akin to self-recrimination.

"I feel terrible," she said softly. The others muttered their agreement.

Dell looked up briefly and tapped the fingers of his left hand absently on the tabletop. "I mean, I've worked with her a few times, you know? That Omega Particle thing and a few other times in Engineering. She was always…I don't know…aloof?" He shook his head. "Damned efficient, yeah, but aloof. I thought—well, I just thought—you know…"

"It doesn't matter what we thought, Josh. We were wrong. And leave it to the Chief to show us just how wrong we were." Susan's lips thinned into a grim line. If there was one thing she hated, it was disappointing B'Elanna Torres. And somehow—irrational as it was—she felt like she had done exactly that.

"Well," said Jenkins, breaking off a piece of the blueberry muffin she had replicated and crushing it into crumbs. She glanced briefly at the viewscreen, watching as Seven continued to circumnavigate the arena. She had just begun the T's. "We can't exactly go back and fix it, right?"

"No," agreed Susan, "but we can change how we treat her in the future." Susan Nicoletti was a brilliant engineer and a solid theorist, but she was also a steadfast optimist and she refused to believe that Seven of Nine had no future.

"…Crewman Adam Thompson…Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, Chief of Engineering and my wife…Ensign Ligonin Trumari…Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Chief of Security…Crewman Tashcal Unai…"

"I don't think the Chief will stand for anything less," said Dell, his eyebrows climbing his forehead in fearful consideration of the consequences should he or anyone else aboard Voyager now fail to treat Seven of Nine with respect and kindness.

Susan quirked her mouth into a rueful smile. "You're right there," she conceded. "But that's not exactly what I meant." She grinned then, and leaned forward conspiratorially. "Listen, I've got a plan…"

Susan easily gained her colleagues' support for Operation Welcome Home and, as the senior officer in the group, she took it upon herself to assign each of them duties to perform to make it a success. When she was done, the crewmembers dispersed to seek out other tables, recruiting more assistance for the 'mission' than any of them first expected.

They stopped only when they heard the first clang of blade against blade. It was a sparring move, a test by both warriors to gauge strength and reflexes. Another clang, another test. Another. Yet another. Seven's bat'tleth seemed the most intimidating of the weapons wielded, but the Raadamani's slisss blades were proving to be agile in their own way as he deftly parried each blow.

Suddenly there was a flurry of movement as Seven whirled into a spinning attack, arcing her blade high overhead as if to strike from above. At the last possible second she pulled hard on the blade and changed her angle of attack by almost 25 degrees, catching Wuqat of Pod Boi-Ovani completely off guard. He howled in pain as the Human's weapon sliced across his shoulder, leaving a deep gash in its wake.

The observing crewmembers sat absolutely stock still as the image of Seven of Nine on the viewscreen reached out and slid two fingers along the forward edge of her bat'tleth blade, wiping a thick, umber-colored liquid from it with barely concealed disdain. She flicked the offending substance from her fingers, raising her ocular implant challengingly.

"First blood is mine," she said.

A roaring cheer detonated through Voyager's mess hall.

Something's wrong. Why is she still standing?

Wuqat caught the Human's blade on his left slisss just at the last second and scowled. The creature should have been driven to her knees by now. The poison should have begun to break down her neural pathways, affecting her motor skills, her sight, her cognitive abilities. But none of that seemed to be happening.


He blocked another deadly combination from Seven with something close to desperation, his own movements becoming less precise. One of his blades slid down the bat'tleth and Seven pushed him off, unbalancing him as she did so. He turned to catch himself and caught her chin with the tail of his blade, the resulting ribbon of crimson startling against her pallor.

Sweat rolled down Wuqat's face and chest. His muscles bunched and screamed as the fight took its toll on his energy reserves. He began to panic, the sensation hitting him high in his throat, making him swallow reflexively. His eyes darted to his wife, Nai, held under guard near the Human's mate. She had Qati with her and both of them looked terrified.

His focus careened back to Seven of Nine just as she crouched to sweep his feet out from under him. He threw himself into a backward roll and came up standing, seeing the Human's metal eye plate rise with something akin to respect. It did not comfort him. Instead, his breaths came in shallow gasps, barely sips of air, and his eyesight seemed to be narrowing, able to see only his opponent and her elegant weapon.

Why are you still standing? he screamed at her.

Something is wrong. The temperature in this arena has elevated beyond acceptable levels.

Seven wiped the blood from her chin with her Human hand, momentarily fascinated by the sight. She took several deep, cleansing breaths and took stock of her situation while the Raadamani champion stood across from her, breathing shallowly. He looked…distressed, which surprised her, as he was more than holding his own against her attacks.

She rested her bat'tleth against her leg and looked around the arena, trying to determine if the change in temperature was another tactic to disrupt her focus. As hot as it was, she realized she should have been perspiring…but she was not. In fact, her skin seemed tight and somewhat cool to the touch. She frowned but dismissed the symptom as inconsequential. It was probably a simple reaction to stress, nothing more.

She reached for her bat'tleth, intending to take the battle to another level with a complicated cross-body move, when the unthinkable happened.

She missed.

Eyes wide, Seven stared down at her Human hand, completely flabbergasted. It had not been a matter of micrometers. She had missed the blade by at least 5 centimeters. And now there was a most unusual sensation in her fingertips: a burning effervescence that soon became pain. The pain became brighter as she stared incredulously at her hand and then it started to creep up her arm, leaving a numbness in its wake.

Round, blue eyes, suddenly frightened, snapped to Wuqat's features and his look of uncertainty slowly turned to one of smug satisfaction.

What have you done to me? she cried.

Something's wrong. Sweet Kahless, something's very, very wrong.

"Torres to Janeway."

B'Elanna's eyes were fixed on Seven, watching as she stared down at her hand. Every molecule in her body willed Seven to be alright even though she clearly saw that she wasn't.

"Janeway, here. What is it, B'Elanna?" Janeway turned to look up at the Chief Engineer in the back of the arena but she couldn't see her very well through the rest of the crowd.

"Something's wrong with Seven, Kathryn," said B'Elanna urgently, forgetting protocol completely. "We've got to stop this. Now."

Janeway looked back at Seven, her brows crowding low over her eyes. Seven was staring at her hand, looking at it as if it had just started speaking Romulan. And although it did concern her, it didn't seem to be evidence of something pressing enough to forfeit the battle, which is what B'Elanna appeared to be asking her to do.

"Can you be more specific, B'Elanna? What's wrong?"

"I don't know!" B'Elanna hit the rail in front of her with a clenched fist, startling several nearby spectators with her outburst. "She reached for the bat'tleth but she missed it. She missed it! That just doesn't happen. Not with Seven."

"Could it be fatigue, B'Elanna? Or—"

"No! No, it's NOT fatigue! Kahless' left thumb, she's Borg! She's—"

"Calm down, B'Elanna. That's an order." The last thing Janeway needed was a panicked half-Klingon rampaging through the arena.

"She has a point, Captain," said Tuvok grimly, indicating B'Elanna. "Seven of Nine would not exhibit signs of fatigue this early in such a battle. She endured significantly longer battles aboard the Tsunkatse tournament ship, even without the opportunity to regenerate. I believe the lieutenant is accurate when she says there is something wrong."

"If B'Elanna is right and there is something wrong with Seven, what can we do about it?" asked Chakotay. "I don't think Seven would be very pleased if we forfeited this battle for her."

Janeway shut her eyes for one brief moment, wishing she were anywhere else but in this situation. Just when it seemed she'd made it through another rock and a hard place, she found a bigger rock and a harder place.

But Chakotay was right. They had no right to forfeit this battle for Seven. And if they did, God only knew what the consequences would be.

"B'Elanna, keep an eye on her. Keep me posted on any changes."


"Lieutenant Torres," said Janeway slowly, "that's an order." She rubbed her forehead and turned towards B'Elanna, wishing the engineer wasn't halfway across the arena, alone and afraid. "That's all we can do for now, B'Elanna," she continued more gently. "I wish to God we could do more."

"Understood," acknowledged B'Elanna softly and she closed the comm link. She looked down at the floor of the arena, watching as her lover's stance went from one of confidence to one of disbelief, of question.

It's our blood, be'nal, she whispered. Our blood, forever and ever, remember?

Seven of Nine reached for the bat'tleth with her Borg-enhanced hand, noting that it, at least, still seemed to be functioning with some normalcy. She lifted the blade slowly, managing somehow to wrap the fingers of her numb right hand around its ghop'etlh, the rightmost of the three 'blade hands'.

She tried to take a deep breath but realized—with some alarm—that she could not. Her lungs felt thick and slow and she was only able to take in a small gulp of air. A strange sensation began in her chest and abdomen then; a fluttering, buzzing emptiness that she realized could easily consume her reason if she did not control it.

I am experiencing panic. Unacceptable.

Seven manually activated a phalanx of diagnostic nanoprobes from her cortical node, reasoning that the more she knew about her condition the less likely she was to indulge in emotional chaos. The information they returned did not lessen her fear. A neural toxin had been introduced to her organic systems, following the axonal pathways provided by her nerve endings, destroying her synaptic relays as it made its way to her brain.

Her nanoprobes, at first able to counteract the toxin's effects, were now overwhelmed as it invaded non-neural cells and took them over, creating—in essence—microscopic toxin factories. For every one that the nanoprobes were able to neutralize, five more started up production, pumping more of the insidious poison throughout her body.

I am…dying.

Seven glared at Wuqat, noting the changes in his body language and stance as he became more confident, watching him as he casually adjusted the fastenings on his blades. The buzzing emptiness inside her became a black hole that cut right through her, dislodging the steadying hold of her dispassionate Borg nature. She saw her adversary and his weapons as if for the first time. His superior height, his conditioned musculature and dense skeletal system as well as the vicious blades that curved sinuously around each of his closed fists and down the outside of each of his forearms until they terminated in what could only be described as 'gutting hooks'.

Terror rolled off her body in waves.

Seven licked suddenly dry lips and turned, anxiously looking for B'Elanna in the crowd. She thought about opening a channel to her wife—to tell her what was happening, to tell her she would have to protect B'Etal—and realized too late that her communicator was lodged in the arena barrier, useless to her now. Wide, blue eyes found her wife and saw her struggling with a pair of guards who were attempting to keep her from making a run for the arena. Other guards were converging on the Klingon's location even as Seven watched.

There is no more time.

Seven slowly rounded on Wuqat and narrowed her eyes, her flame-blue gaze coalescing into a razor-edged beam of wrath. Gone was her panic and fear, replaced now by one singular, feral purpose. She knew she had only moments of mobility and consciousness left, enough perhaps for one more attack. She had to save her daughter and her wife. Her family would remain whole as long she still drew breath.

She hefted the bat'tleth carefully and released a sub-vocal growl from the pit of her belly, warning the Raadamani of his coming fate. He froze where he stood, his confidence fading as quickly as it had come.

The pain in Seven's limbs became agony and she let her growl rise in volume, using it to anchor her mind and body to her purpose. She lifted B'Elanna's family blade across her body and shifted from leg to leg, testing her ability to keep standing, to move with certainty. Satisfied, she sprang forward, lifting the bat'tleth high over her head. She brought it down with deadly precision and a battle cry the likes of which no one in the arena had ever heard before.

Wuqat saw his death in the cobalt of his enemy's eyes and he could not move. Every molecule of his being screamed at the sight of her leaping for him and he could not move. He felt the heat of her wrath bearing down on him, saw her dig for and find a core of strength within that he hadn't anticipated and still he could not move.


Qati's anguished cry broke through Wuqat's paralysis and—having no time for anything more—he dropped into a crouch and crossed his slisss over his head, attempting to shield his face from the coming blow.

The two champions' blades connected with a massive crack

Time itself became a spectator and held its breath as the great blade of the House of Km'DoQ split in half on impact, sending Seven's arms wide as her body continued forward, irrevocably committed to its path.

No one moved.

No one breathed.

Eyes round and filled with shock, her mouth frozen in a silent scream, Seven of Nine looked down at Wuqat just as his eyes, filled with disbelief, looked up.

He laughed.

He pushed upward and laughed as her scarlet blood ran down his arms. He stood up and laughed even as she gasped for breath. He kept her poised on his dual blades for a moment and then pushed out with his right elbow, rolling the Human champion down his left slisss, catching her with its gutting hook.

He grunted as he forced the hook through the meat and metal of her side and laughed as she collapsed bonelessly to the floor. Relief washed through him, sweet and bright. He had won. He had defeated the Human champion and had earned the right to claim reciprocal action on that filthy mongrel infant. He wanted to shout to Chaos itself that today—today—Wuqat of Pod Boi-Ovani was invincible.

He looked at the pathetic Human as she tried to pull air into lungs filling with his poison. He sauntered over to her and kneeled at her side, chuckling with contempt.

"I hope you enjoyed the time you spent with that fractional infant," he sneered down at her, leaning in close so she would hear every word. "I know I will enjoy draining her impure blood."

He tipped his head up to laugh again and stopped suddenly, unable to make a sound. Horrified, he looked down at the Human champion and saw the ruined half of her weapon buried in his throat.

"I hope…you enjoyed…your…last…breath!" gasped Seven as she shoved the blade deeper into the Raadamani's neck, hearing the satisfying crunch as what was left of her bat'tleth severed his vertebrae. "You will not…TOUCH… my daughter," she hissed, watching his dead weight fall away from her.

Seven of Nine felt the darkness coming to swallow her and she used what little strength she had left to turn her head to where she knew B'Elanna would be standing. She gazed up at her wife's horror-filled features, smiling through her pain and the blackness nibbling away at the edges of her consciousness.

She loved me back, she thought wonderingly.

"maj dok…" she whispered, reaching out to B'Elanna with one bloody hand…as if to touch her beautiful face one last time.


Kathryn Janeway wrenched her gaze from Seven's broken body and turned towards the origin of that heartbroken scream just in time to see two Raadamani guards go flying through the air.

"Chakotay—" she began only to see a flash of red as he sprinted past her, already on his way to B'Elanna. Satisfied that he would get her chief engineer to safety, Kathryn began to make her way toward Seven. She slapped her communicator as she took her first step.

"Janeway to Voyager. Harry, beam—"

"Way ahead of you, ma'am," replied the ensign calmly just as Seven of Nine disappeared in a haze of silvery-blue sparkles. "Seven's in Sickbay now, Captain. We'll have a lock on the rest of you in just a minute."

With Seven already transported to Voyager, Kathryn changed focus immediately, turning to make her way to B'Elanna instead. A cluster of Raadamani guards surrounded her chief engineer and she could only see a flash of ochre here and there as B'Elanna fought them, desperation and despair blinding her to the overwhelming odds.

The Klingon howled with frustration as more guards surrounded her and she doubled her effort to break free of them. Janeway knew it was only a matter of time before one of the Raadamani drew a weapon and took her officer down; something she hoped to avoid at all costs.

Chakotay and Tuvok were closer to B'Elanna's location than she was, but they were in no better position to prevent any harm the Raadamani might do to the engineer. And although the Raadamani seemed to be showing remarkable restraint with the angry, frightened young woman, Janeway had no way of knowing how long that would last.

"Make it snappy, Harry," she ordered. "We've got problems here."

"Understood, Captain."

Within seconds Janeway gratefully felt the telltale grip of the transporter beam as it lifted her out of the Raadamani arena and deposited her back on the blissfully familiar deck plating of her ship. Before she had a chance to release a sigh of relief, however, all Hell broke loose.

"SEVEN!" B'Elanna, caught by the beam out while in the middle of wrestling with two particularly strong Raadamani guards, fell forward as the transporter released her. She collided with Chakotay who immediately grabbed her arms in a futile attempt to restrain her.

"Let me go!" she screamed, throwing herself into a sideways roll. The two struggling officers fell off the transporter platform but to his credit, Chakotay kept hold of the battered Klingon.

Before anyone had time to react, Harry's voice sounded over the comm.

"Captain, the Lead Pair are hailing us and the Doctor is requesting additional power from—"

B'Elanna seized the distraction and head-butted Chakotay with teeth-rattling brutality, instantly rendering him unconscious. Once freed of his hold, she growled and began untangling herself from their awkward position on the floor.

"Take care of it, Ensign," snapped Janeway as she motioned to Tuvok. "We're a little busy down here at the moment."

"Uhh…aye, sir." The comm link closed abruptly.

Tuvok effortlessly sidestepped B'Elanna's attempt to crush his kneecap and reached down, gripping the young woman's accessory nerve where it met the biarticulate cranial fibers of her upper trapezius, applying the ages old reflexology trick for which his people were known. B'Elanna slumped to the floor, completely unconscious.

Janeway looked to where Carey and Vorik stood unmoving behind the transporter console. Vorik seemed none the worse for wear but Carey was positively white.

"Lieutenant Carey, we could use someone with some medical experience down here," she suggested gently.

The young man jumped as if smacked. "Yes, ma'am," he said, his fingers flying over the console.

Janeway gave Carey an appreciative smile as she made her way to B'Elanna Torres. Chakotay started to come around and Tuvok knelt beside the first officer and helped him to sit upright.

"Are you alright, Commander?" asked Janeway as she gracefully folded herself down onto the deck plating and pulled B'Elanna's still unconscious form into her lap.

"I'm fine, Captain. All in a day's work," grimaced Chakotay, wincing slightly as he touched the sizable knot growing on his forehead. He nodded at B'Elanna. "How is she?"

Janeway brushed an errant sable hair or two away from B'Elanna's face, noting the bleeding cut under her right eye and the multitude of bruises purpling her jaw and now the delicate ridges of her brow. "Superficial injuries, Chakotay. Though she'll probably have one Hell of a headache when she wakes up, if you're any indication."

"And Seven?" he asked quietly. Kathryn shrugged apologetically, her gray eyes giving away her fears for the young Borg.

The doors to the transporter room opened then, admitting Sam Wildman and Joshua Dell, both carrying emergency med-kits.

"Oh god," whispered Sam as she rushed over to B'Elanna and the captain, kneeling quickly at their side and opening her kit. "What happened?"

"Bumps and bruises, Ensign," said Janeway, remaining still as Sam examined the fallen engineer. "And Tuvok had to…sedate her. Can you wake her?"

Sam nodded pensively. "But I'd like to wait until I get these other injuries healed, if you don't mind, Captain."

"Absolutely," agreed Janeway. She knew B'Elanna was not likely to sit still for very long once she was conscious again. She watched as Sam waved the dermal regenerator over B'Elanna's face and wrists and was surprised to see a gentle tremor in the young blonde's hands as she worked. She remembered, then, just where Sam was supposed to be.

"Where are the children?" she asked gently, putting a steadying hand on the young mother's arm.

"iCheb's watching them," replied Sam, looking up with saddened eyes. "They don't know about Seven yet. I wouldn't let them watch the battle."

"How is Seven?" asked Chakotay as he submitted to Crewman Dell's ministrations. The knot on his forehead had already been reduced to a dull, reddish spot.

"She's in surgery, Commander," said Sam grimly, pointedly not looking at her commanding officers. "That's all I know."

Janeway and Chakotay glanced at one another over the ensign's shoulder, their long years in the Delta Quadrant together allowing them to speak volumes without uttering a word.

"I think I should go to the Bridge, Captain," said Chakotay, rising from the floor as soon as Dell had cleared him to stand. "I'm sure Harry thinks we've abandoned him."

"By all means, gentlemen," she said, including Tuvok with a small wave of her hand. She could see that he was fairly itching to get away from the thickening emotions in the room. "If you need me, you'll know where I'll be."

Both officers nodded at their captain before taking their leave of her, followed by Joshua Dell. Sam made a move to administer a stimulant to B'Elanna then, but Janeway held up her hand, halting the action. She knew B'Elanna wouldn't want Vorik or Carey to see her like this.

"Lieutenant Vorik, Lieutenant Carey, I'm sure your Engineering crew is looking for you."

Vorik immediately began to exit but it took a minute for Carey to jumpstart himself. When they had both reached the door, Janeway called to them.

"Gentlemen, good work." Her eyes softened with a gentle smile. "And thank you."

Both men nodded at the captain and exited hastily. When the door had shut behind them, Janeway turned to Sam.

"Before you wake her, Sam, you should know that it was B'Elanna who attacked Chakotay—"

Sam gasped slightly and Janeway shook her head. "It was an accident," she explained, not wanting Sam to think the worst. "She didn't know where she was. She was fighting to get to Seven when Voyager transported us out of there." She looked down at the currently peaceful Klingon engineer, knowing all too well what she was going through. "I don't know how she'll react when you wake her," she admitted softly. Then she pinned the young woman with steely eyes. "But if she becomes violent, I want you to let me handle it."

Sam nodded her assent and pressed the ready hypospray to B'Elanna's neck. The hiss of a pale green drug entering B'Elanna's system shattered the troubled silence of the room.

Cinnamon-colored eyes fluttered open, cleared, and turned black with rage all within a matter of seconds. The young Klingon woman launched herself off the floor, clenched her fists at her side, threw her head back and howled. It was the most agonized, most heartrending, most despairing sound Janeway had ever heard…and it went on for an eternity.

Janeway rose from the floor and motioned to Samantha Wildman that she ought to move as far away from B'Elanna as possible. Then she stepped between B'Elanna and the door. Samantha gathered up the medical equipment and closed it back in the med-kit, pulling it and herself backward towards the transporter console. Tears streamed unchecked down her face at the sound of her friend's desolation.

B'Elanna's howl disintegrated into a hoarse wail of grief until her exhausted lungs finally gave out and she fell silent. She kept her head tilted back and her eyes closed for a moment longer and then turned, pinning Janeway with a look as black and as void of feeling as any she had ever seen.

"Where is she?" Though her voice was low and ragged, it left the other women no doubt of the pain and rage that still boiled beneath her seemingly calm exterior.

"She's in Sickbay, B'Elanna—"

Having heard all she needed to hear, the young Klingon headed for the door only to find herself intercepted by Janeway.

"Let me go to her."

Janeway crossed her arms over her chest and leveled one of her sternest glares at the lieutenant.

"That's not a good idea, B'Elanna." Her voice left no room for argument.

B'Elanna bristled, her muscles tensing for a fight. "You can't keep me here," she growled. "I won't let you."

Kathryn knew all too well that B'Elanna would have little problem overpowering her if they came to blows. But still she stood her ground.

"And I can't let you go," she countered succinctly.

"LET ME GO TO HER!" B'Elanna's body shook with unadulterated rage as she menacingly leaned toward her commanding officer. She was quickly coming apart at the seams. She wanted only one thing: to see Seven. Nothing else mattered.

"Absolutely not. Not while you're like this, B'Elanna." Janeway saw her young officer's eyes bloom with hatred and violence and she quickly and softly added, "You can't do anything for her now—"

The words were like a blow and B'Elanna staggered back, her face now slack with disbelief. "I can do EVERYTHING for her," she roared. "I am her wife! It is my duty, my privilege to perform the Hegh bey, to warn Stovokor that a warrior such as they have never seen is coming!" Tears flooded B'Elanna's eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She fell to her knees as the angry sea of her grief rushed to overtake her.

"I can hold her in my arms…kiss her…one last time…" Too long denied, anguished sobs wrenched themselves from her throat and she fell forward, crushed by the weight of her despair. "I can tell her I love her," she cried.

She looked up with eyes so bleak, so filled with pain that Kathryn felt tears spill down her own cheeks before she could stop them.

"I can tell her…goodbye," she whispered sadly.

Kathryn charged forward and fell to the floor in front of the young woman.

"No, no, no, darling," she cried, gathering B'Elanna into her arms and cradling her as she would a child. "Oh god, B'Elanna," she wept, "Seven's alive! I'm so sorry—I didn't realize—" She cupped B'Elanna's tear-stained face in her hands and forced the young Klingon to look at her. "Seven's alive, sweetheart! Do you hear me? She's still alive!"

It took a minute for B'Elanna to process what she was hearing and she simply blinked up at Kathryn Janeway, her sobs becoming confused hiccups.

"She's…alive?" she asked shakily.

Kathryn nodded through her own tears. "She's in surgery. The Doctor is doing everything he can to save her, but yes, she's still alive." She smiled down at her officer, this young, brave woman who had come to mean so much to her over the years. She rocked her soothingly and stroked her sable hair. "Hold onto that, darling. Don't give up on her."

"She's alive." The statement was curiously devoid of feeling, as if B'Elanna still hadn't processed the information. Then—suddenly—she laughed.

"She's alive!"

Kathryn nodded down at her and B'Elanna laughed again, burying her face against Kathryn's tunic. Relief sparkled through her body like sunshine over water.

Samantha, still partially hidden behind the transporter console, laughed with B'Elanna, ignoring her own tears. Kathryn Janeway just hugged her young charge again…fiercely.

"I think I'll walk you up to Sickb—"

Before Kathryn could complete her thought, the decidedly harried voice of iCheb broke over the comm system.

"iCheb to Ensign Wildman."

Samantha quickly tapped her communicator, her smiling features melting into a frown of concern.

"iCheb? What is it? What's wrong?"

"Mizati…accessed the console in your quarters, Ensign," he said hurriedly. "She became extremely…upset. I believe she is heading for Sickbay. Naomi and I are in pursuit."

"Oh Kahless," breathed B'Elanna, blanching at the thought of Mizati barreling into Sickbay only to see her mother broken and bleeding on an operating table. "Kathryn—"

Janeway was already ahead of her. "Come on, let's go," she said, helping B'Elanna off the floor. "You too, Sam," she added grimly. "We have some children to comfort."

Part Eight

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