DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first ever work of fanfiction. Inspired by the fantastic writers on P&P, VJB and ff.net. Lisa Countryman's "She Who Hesitates..." is my B/7 bible. RalSt, Ryuchan and H.W. Are a few of my heroes. All of you helped me get through a difficult time in my life and inspired me to write. Thank you. Hope people like this. PS- I've bent canon to my will. Some things have happened, some things haven't. Usually if I don't mention it, an event or episode didn't happen, and if I do mention something from a specific episode, it will be clear what I've altered if anything.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To dehickey[at]hotmail.com

Research and Development
By Gemini1179

 

Chapter 5- In the Meantime...

The change was almost instantaneous. They had just left Sickbay and Lieutenant Sara Myles had already noted the change in the Captain's posture and the gleam in her eyes. Science really was her first love apparently. She bristled with energy and purpose; the Captain was known to stand up for her crew and if that meant learning everything there was to know about the creature that attacked them, then she would do it. Never mind it was the hour normally when Alpha shifters would be getting ready to call it a night. It was a remarkable thing to watch from the Lieutenant's perspective.

Striding towards the turbolift, the Captain snapped her hand to her communicator. "Captain to Bio-Science Lab Two, who is on duty?"

"This is Ensign MacKennie, Captain. I'm here with Crewman Tallis. Soris and Tamlen are running labs in the Hydroponics Bay."

Ensign Kayla MacKennie was 33. A Bio-Science major right out of Starfleet Academy when Janeway selected her to be on her science team. Currently, she headed the Bio-Science and the Xenobiology departments during Beta shift; Sam Wildman was the de facto head of the department (as there was no current official head), but she would be getting ready for sleep and Janeway didn't feel the pressing need to disturb her. At this hour, Bio-Sciences only consisted of four people, unfortunately, and Captain Janeway was all too aware of the losses her crew had suffered by the Caretaker's array and in the seven years since. The sciences particularly suffered on Voyager and Janeway inwardly wished she had more time simply to go down and work a shift or two in her native field.

Crewman Tallis was an interesting one. A young lady born on Risa of all places. Her parents were a Betazed and a Vulcan, yet she was born with a rare cross-species genetic defect which oddly enough left her with no telepathic or empathic abilities at all. In fact, the only distinction between her and a human or Betazed was her pointy ears and slightly larger eyes. With her regular eyebrows, large pale almost grey eyes and long blood-red hair she kept in a pony tail, she reminded Janeway of an Elf or fairy from Earth fantasy folklore. Casting a quick glance at the taller woman walking beside her, Janeway decided that the two of them had very similarly coloured hair, only that Myles kept in neck length and tucked behind her ears.

Keeps her looking modern, yet functional. Maybe I should trim my hair again...

They had reached the turbo lift and stepped inside. "Very well Ensign, myself and Lieutenant Myles are on our way. Anything interesting to report so far?"

Myles let the computer know their destination while trying not to be obvious in her observation of the Captain.

"Computer, Deck 8, Section 15." A beep from the computer and a quick nod from the Captain were the only responses. She stood to the Captain's left as the doors to the turbolift closed and the lift began to move.

Ensign MacKennie came back over the comm. "Well Captain, we're just in the initial scan stage now. We're running a level 2 tissue scan before we even remove the BSF."

"Sounds like a good start Ensign. We'll be there in five minutes and you can put us to work." Janeway gave a crooked smile to Myles satisfied that she probably had just volunteered the woman for work far outside her element and that the woman on the other end of the comm was probably choking on her own shock. She decided the look on the young security officer's face was worth it.

"Y-yes ma'am, er, I mean Captain. MacKennie out." Now it was the Captain's face that blanched for a second. Shaking her head, she turned to Myles.

"Has Seven of Nine released some sort of memo I don't know about changing the communication protocols on this ship?"

At first, Sara was unsure what to make of the statement. She simply hadn't spent enough time around the Captain to be sure if this was relaxed behaviour or not. The mock indignity, tiny wry smile and gleam in the woman's eyes answered her question quickly enough. Seizing the moment, Sara took a chance.

"Well, you weren't supposed to find out about it and I'll deny it even under torture. I've been trained to resist questioning, you know."

Janeway chuckled. "Good to know Lieutenant." If she didn't know any better, she might have thought the young Lieutenant was flirting with her. Or she had been flirting with the Lieutenant. Interesting woman... Reminds me of... She locked that thought down before she could even think it. It was ancient history.

While the Captain's last statement sounded like the end of a conversation, Myles was still curious about a few things and felt that alone in the turbolift with the Captain she could get away with asking.

"Captain, permission to speak freely?" She kept her eyes forward and posture rigid.

For Janeway it was too late for such formalities to be honest. Besides, it was just the two of them in the turbolift, what could possibly happen?

The momentary interruption of her breathing and heartbeat while she waited for the 'other shoe to drop' passed. And here there is no wood for me to knock on...

"Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Thank you Captain. I was wondering two things, one- what is BSF? And two- why do you need my help? Science was never really my field, well, other than learning biological and physiological weaknesses to exploit in combat."

The Captain turned to her left and looked up at the taller woman. It's times like these Kathy that I wish we had invested in some boots with heels...

"Well, to answer your first question, BSF stands for Biological Sealant Foam. You didn't see the science team spray the creature before they removed it from the Flyer?"

"No, as soon as Lieutenant Carey's team and the science team arrived, I made my way to Sickbay after reporting to Lieutenant-Commander Tuvok."

An opportunity to talk science. Janeway lived for this. "Ah, well, you would have missed them use an anti-gravity field to suspend the creature off the deck. Then they use the BSF to encase and quarantine the creature for safe movement. The foam hardens almost instantaneously after being sprayed and micro-chemical preservatives and sealants prevent the tissue from either decaying or releasing bacteria. Oxygen from the environment is absorbed through the outer layer of the foam and stored in the inner layer if needed to keep the tissue alive. But it's only one way like a vacuum seal, nothing gets out. Fascinating stuff really."

Sara thought it was actually interesting. She found herself immediately determining six ways a dispenser filled with that foam could be used in a combat situation. It was something she would have to look into further.

"As for your second question, you partially answered it yourself. Sometimes the scientist can't see the purpose of something that a warrior can. Since you've joined Alpha shift, I've gone over your files and have been impressed. You were part of the first team to find Tuvok and myself in Cargo Bay 2 when the Borg beamed us over, you led one of my French 'resistance' cells during our time fighting the Hirogen on the Holodeck and Tuvok has only given glowing praise to your investigative and interrogation skills."

Myles couldn't help but smirk the tiniest bit. "Glowing praise from Lieutenant Tuvok?"

Janeway straightened her face and responded in her best Tuvok impression. "Her work has been quite satisfactory." She even raised a brow.

Myles could not help the snort as she tried to cover up her laugh and get her breathing under control.

"You see, it's the adjectives. He never uses them unless he's impressed." She whispered conspiratorially even though the two of them were alone in the turbolift.

Reigning herself back in, Myles let out one last chuckle as the turbolift doors opened leading to the science labs. Despite the levity in the turbolift, Captain Janeway once again let her scientific curiosity get the better of her. "We'll see the creature soon enough Lieutenant, but I'm wondering about your impressions of its behaviour."

Sara smiled slightly now that the conversation had turned to her field of expertise. They made their way the last few steps and into the lab as she gave her impressions of the creature.

"It's a large reptilian/lizard creature that moves on four legs. Incredibly stealthy and likely highly intelligent. I had a weapon drawn the whole time and Seven of Nine did a lot of lifting. I suspect it had been watching us for a while and determined Lieutenant Torres to be the weaker prey as her focus was on the mining and engineering aspects of the mission the whole time. Unlike what you'd normally think of a reptilian creature though, its legs were quite long and its body didn't rest low to the ground. That alone tells me its hunting technique is unique. It moved more like a cat than a reptile and attacked the Lieutenant when her back was turned. I unloaded a full-setting pulse into its torso where I judged its heart to be after Seven of Nine tackled it and it barely winded it. I think you'll find its hide to be of particular interest. I was impressed with Lieutenant Torres' instinct though, she moved quickly and efficiently after my first shot and put her phaser to its eye and killed it."

"Incredible" was the only thing the Captain could say upon arriving in the lab next to the dark-haired Ensign MacKennie at the diagnostic console. Crewman Tallis was working at the stasis field controls monitoring the creature encased in a thick layer of the pale yellow foam on the diagnostic pad in the centre of the room.

"Alright Ensign, what can we help with."

 

Chapter 6- Unique Reactions

Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram, Chief Medical Officer by default, did not have to sigh, nor did he have to shrug, pinch the bridge of his nose or feel exhausted. Yet, over the course of this one day, he did all of those things. He thought briefly that it might have to do with the evolution of his holomatrix

personality subroutines, or it was part of the original 'Zimmerman' programming, but it didn't really matter. Even with the programmed medical knowledge of thousands of doctors and his experiences here in the Delta Quadrant, he was still able to be surprised far too often. Going over his current medical reports to the Captain he still wasn't truly sure why Lieutenant Torres was still alive. Why she had survived.

*Several hours earlier*

"Lieutenant!" The Doctor rushed to the prone form of Voyager's Chief Engineer inwardly chiding himself for being so initially distracted by Seven's condition when they first beamed to Sickbay. He didn't scan the Lieutenant because he assumed all the blood on her under garment tank top had been from Seven and Torres didn't let on that she was wounded at the time.

'I've let Lieutenant Torres get away with far too much self-diagnosis. My programming shouldn't have allowed this.'

Opening the back of her OR scrub top, he saw distinct claw marks and dried blood on her upper back. What concerned him was the distinct discolouration and vein-like tracks spreading from the wounds not unlike the first indications of assimilation from the Borg. Running his tricorder over the infection, he saw

what appeared to be some kind of neuro-toxin that had spread from the wound slowly into her central nervous system and was overloading all the nerve endings in her body.

'She must have been in incredible pain throughout the entire operation on Seven.'

The Doctor once again cursed the Klingon hybrid under his breath for her stubbornness. Quickly lifting B'Elanna over to another biobed, the Doctor set her down on her stomach. He opened her top to expose her back and quickly cut her tank top strategically so it could be removed. There he saw that the infection was covering her whole back. He quickly set up several diagnostic instruments and began a new series of scans.

"Doctor to Mr. Paris" As the scans were beginning on B'Elanna, the Doctor moved to Seven to do another scan for the toxin in her system.

"Paris here Doc, can this wait, Harry and I are finally going to defeat the Sisters of DOOM…" The Doctor could hear the groans from the other occupants in the Holodeck. "Mr. Paris, Lieutenant Torres is lying on a biobed in critical condition, shall I ask her to wait while you impress your black-and-white egotistical constructs?"

On the Holodeck, Harry and the Delaney sisters suddenly looked as horrified as Tom felt. The last four hours had been a blast and none of them wanted to leave the interactive program unfinished but with B'Elanna in Sick Bay, there would be no question of what needed to be done.

"On my way, Paris out." Tom was running out the door to the Holodeck while stripping off the `Captain Proton' jet pack. Even though they weren't together anymore, he still cared a great deal for B'Elanna and didn't want to ever see her hurt.

Megan Delaney found herself climbing into Harry's arms while Jenifer closed down the program. Finding himself more comfortable around Megan as the evening went, Harry gave her a quick squeeze in the embrace they shared before the three of them exited the Holodeck.

The Doctor once again looked over his scans of Seven. There appeared to be no trace of the toxin that he had seen in Lieutenant Torres. Going over his initial scans of Seven quickly, he saw that her nanoprobes had immediately targeted the toxin when it first entered her system and destroyed it. Seven was safe, but it didn't really help the situation with B'Elanna.

More thorough scans had shown that this toxin or whatever it was, had migrated not only through B'Elanna's central nervous system and circulatory system but also to her bone marrow and was affecting her stem cells in some way he couldn't readily identify. Ironically enough, the Doctor WAS able to conclude that had she been fully Klingon, or fully Human, whatever this aggressive toxin was, it would have killed her shortly after she had been attacked. The toxin was behaving almost like a virus but it contained a DNA encoding sequence the Doctor had never seen before. In order to eliminate certain lines of diagnosis, he had done simulations on pure Klingon and pure Human DNA that showed that it attached junk code to the DNA which caused the infected cell to replicate a new cell and then die. The new cells were incredibly unstable and immediately de-coalesced which would likely have caused an immediate shut down of all major organs in response to the shock of the body's inability to naturally adapt and the host would die.

B'Elanna's hybrid DNA seemed to absorb the junk DNA attachments and simply produce new cells. Tissue throughout her body was simply dying and regenerating as if her entire composition was being renewed. The first areas affected were her bone structure and cartilage. Whole sections were cracking off and breaking into microscopic chunks which seemed to feed the virus and accelerate the process. While working to counteract the effects with no success, the Doctor had Tom monitoring B'Elanna's life signs which at first dropped rapidly after she had fallen unconscious, but had seemed to stabilize shortly after this new cellular replenishment began.

Harry had come in offering his support and nearly keeled over himself upon seeing Seven lying on a surgical bed and then B'Elanna next to her. The Doctor had sent Harry away and contacted the Captain to find out what she had discovered about the creature in order to gain some sort of insight into what

might be happening to B'Elanna.

After hearing the Doctor's report, Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Myles shared a look that told them that they both felt ashamed that neither of them had noticed B'Elanna's condition and had paid her little mind in deference to Seven whom they believed to be in greater danger. Finally composing herself, Janeway believed she was able to perhaps shed some light on what could possibly be happening with B'Elanna.

"So Doctor, as far as you know, B'Elanna is stable for the moment?" Janeway gave a brief glance to Lieutenant Myles to see the relief she felt reflected in the younger woman's eyes. Ensign MacKennie and Crewman Tallis both glanced at their Captain before resuming their work.

"Yes… as far as I know. Which bothers me as this situation is unlike any I've ever come across. Needless to say, you need to be careful near the creature's claws and since none of you are in Sickbay dying, I'll assume you have been. What else have you discovered from the creature?" The Doctor was hopeful they might have found something that could help him understand what was happening to the Engineer.

"Well, yes, after we arrived, Ensign MacKennie and Crewman Tallis were able to determine that there was a toxin of sorts secreted through tiny hollow tips in the creature's claws which matches the 'unknown contaminant' that the main computer had detected upon initial transport and measures have been taken to ensure no one else will be harmed by them, although it seems that with death, some of the offensive and defensive capabilities of this creature shut down. It really is a fascinating life form. Its hide is laced with a crystalline fibre chain lattice that is connected via unique synapses to a sort of `powered' nerve system that is separate from its central nervous system. This unique system is powered by a central organ near its heart that is protected by a dense bone casing not unlike the idea of a spinal vertebra but with thousands of thin yet long nerve tendrils that snake through the creature's body to its hide. Apparently, when this creature is alive, this unique `powered' system alters the natural bio-electric field of the creature causing it to basically act as a null field which absorbs all manner of scanning technology. We hypothesize that there are herbivores on the planet that have developed an instinctual organic sensory ability similar to that of our tricorders and other scanning technology. This system seems to be an evolutionary response to that ability. The outer scales are even designed to absorb sound waves which prevents detection by echo location as well as dampening the sounds that the creature itself makes. Without a herbivore as a specimen, it is hard to say just what the purpose of the `deoxi-mutating toxin' -as we're now calling it- is. From what you are saying about the nature of it altering DNA sequences, it's possible that there are other defensive capabilities of this creature's prey that it counteracts by essentially `shutting them off' by forcing a new replication of cells and tissue that do not produce defensive capabilities. One claw swipe might not even really wound the creature, but make it more vulnerable to attack over time."

Captain Janeway, despite the originally desperate nature of her Chief Engineer's situation couldn't help but be fascinated by the potential that this creature presented as well as the wealth of scientific knowledge that it seemed to hold for her. It was Lieutenant Myles that deduced the longer limbs and claws were more for initially wounding its prey. Janeway had that same gleam in her eyes she always got when working on a scientific problem. She continued studying scans of its internal systems as the Doctor pondered this new information.

"Hmmm. I wonder if the nature of the DNA of the creature's prey isn't an `amalgam'-type of DNA similar to humanoid hybrid DNA structures. It would explain why the Lieutenant's condition seems to be continually improving and her new tissue is stable. The creature would not want the flesh of its prey

destroyed, simply that its defensive capabilities are removed."

Thinking for a moment and tapping her chin, Janeway was coming to an understanding. It was Myles who spoke. "So with no detected `defensive' capabilities then, the newly encoded DNA simply reproduced an optimally healthy body then?" Janeway nodded in agreement and smiled slightly. The young security officer had taken to their time in the Bio-Science lab quite well.

"While I believe it is too early to draw any conclusions, I am hoping that you are right Lieutenant, a healthy body is the best food. Captain, I will be keeping Lieutenant Torres at least overnight if she does or doesn't wake up and then will re-evaluate her condition in the morning. I believe however that we are beyond reversing the process as the speed that the changes are occurring is nothing short of astounding."

"Very well Doctor, keep me informed, Janeway out." With a self-satisfied smile on her face, she couldn't help it as she looked over to Myles. "At least he didn't get the memo..." Myles chuckled and shared the details of the in-joke with the other two women in the room and the Captain found herself shaking her

head at the three laughing women.


Sitting in his office after sending Paris home for the night, the Doctor glanced briefly at his monitors for both Seven and B'Elanna to make sure they were both stable and recovering. Going over his current medical reports he still wasn't sure why Lieutenant Torres was still alive. Why she had survived.

"I guess Lieutenant, you finally have something to thank your hybrid nature for."

 

Chapter 7- Awakenings

~Internal diagnostic complete. Energy levels at 27%. Nanoprobe saturation at 31%. All systems are functioning within normal parameters and sustainable for 6.14 hours. Physical recovery from recent trauma 97%. Current Voyager Standard Time is 0253. Surrounding ambient temperature is 20.3 degrees Celsius. No micro-changes in local air density indicating movement~ As Seven's internal systems 'sounded' off their reports to her slowly awakening mind, she once again concluded that she did not like this sluggish part of the `sleep' experience.

'This state leaves me vulnerable upon `waking'. Klingons do not have this problem. I shall have to do more research on humanoid waking protocols to determine which will result in my being at my most efficient in the least amount of time.'

Seven opened her eyes slowly and adjusted her vision focusing on the ceiling of Sickbay. Testing her motor functions and finding no major issues, she began to look around as she stretched her long form on the biobed. She noticed that she was naked and only covered by a surgical blanket. As she sat up, she wiggled her toes enjoying the sensation of freedom from her oppressive footwear as evidenced by the tiny satisfied smile playing on her soft lips. There was a tingling sensation in the small starburst implant on her left foot that sent a brief chill up her leg. Clutching the blanket to her chest, she looked around and spotted Lieutenant Torres lying on a biobed to her right.

Concern welled within her as she quickly looked over the Engineer for any outward signs of trauma. She gingerly hopped off her own bio bed, taking a moment for her cybernetic-physical interface systems to calibrate. She then padded over to the Lieutenant while wrapping the blanket around her lithe form. 'She looks so peaceful ' thought the tall blonde having to search for a second to find the right word.

B'Elanna Torres was lying under a medical covering that left only her bare shoulders, neck and arms exposed. Her caramel-coloured skin showed no outward flaws that the blond ex-Borg could see. Accessing her memory, Seven concluded that she had never seen B'Elanna's skin look so... perfect, or rather, *more* perfect. She also noticed distinct evidence of muscle from her shoulders down her arms that was far more pronounced than Seven could recall before. She found her own body responding in unexpected ways, it was...

The Doctor, having been alerted to the change in Seven's bio-readings when she woke, interrupted her thoughts as he strolled into the main area out of his office to check on his most frequent of `customers'.

"Ah Seven, my number two patient in all-time in Sickbay appearances behind only Lieutenant Torres who has claimed top spot and hung on to it for so long. How are you feeling?" His attempt at being jovial was lost on the lithe beauty and her concerns were not to be deflected.

"Is Lieutenant Torres damaged? What is her current functional status? You will tell me now. Comply." Seven spun on the Doctor and fixed him with an ice-cold Borg stare that would freeze Neelix's Four- alarm Leola Chilli Delight. Her Borg mannerisms were in full command to cover her inner emotional turmoil.

The Doctor rubbed his temple absently. If he was not a hologram, he might not have time for `this shit'. As it was, and being such an evolved being, he chose to ignore Seven's tone and fill her in on Lieutenant Torres' condition while keeping within the parameters of doctor patient confidentiality.

"Calm down Seven, Lieutenant Torres is going to be just fine, she was exposed to the same deoxi-mutating toxin that you were, but without nanoprobes, she experienced more severe side effects. She is healing well from her ordeal and that is all I can tell you unless I get permission from Lieutenant Torres herself. As for you, now that you're up, I need to do a few scans and then you are to go to your alcove immediately for a minimum twelve hour regeneration cycle." The Doctor had used his best `I'm-your-friend-Seven' voice in hopes that it would calm the woman down. Stress after a major surgery was not a good thing and she needed to regenerate. Her body's nanoprobes had used up stored energy exponentially during her ordeal.

Understanding the Doctor's position, Seven fought to bring her emotions in check. "I… will comply. I will speak to Lieutenant Torres after my regeneration cycle." She spoke the last part while straightening her posture and raising her chin as if daring the Doctor to contradict her.

"Of course Seven, you'll no doubt be having to chat with a few people, the Captain, Chakotay, Icheb, Harry, Neelix, Sam and Naomi Wildman all came in briefly last night to see you while you were recovering." The Doctor guided Seven to the en suite bathroom so she could shower and change before heading to Cargo Bay Two.

'Chakotay yes, I need to speak with him after I speak with Lieutenant Torres.'

Seven considered what needed to be done after she finished her regeneration cycle as she stepped into the sonic shower while the Doctor retreated to B'Elanna's side to check her status and give Seven some privacy.


Chakotay had been brooding on the bridge all day long. Captain Janeway, sitting in her command chair beside him, was contemplating going to her ready room just to be away from the sullen man. She hadn't thought he was so emotionally involved with Seven and it bothered her. He seemed so hurt after finding out she was injured on the away mission. She couldn't focus on the dead sector of space ahead of them with her thoughts continuing to circle the idea of Seven and Chakotay being and staying together.

Apparently, last night he had prepared a magical evening on the holodeck for the two of them involving dinner and a magical walk through a forest which was why he was unaware of her return and injury until late into Beta shift. Captain Janeway rubbed her brow absently as if a headache were coming on. She would have to talk to Seven about this. Seven hadn't mentioned that she was even interested in a relationship to the Captain and Janeway honestly did not believe that Seven was ready for that kind of thing… yet. Perhaps Chakotay had somehow tricked Seven? Was he coercing her?

Shaking her head slightly, Janeway found herself unnaturally irritable. She'd only gotten four hours of sleep which would have been less had Lieutenant Myles not dragged her from the Lab when MacKennie turned the night shift over to Crewman Tallis. She had to admit that it was a bold move from the tall redheaded security officer and secretly Janeway might even have liked it a bit. Said woman was currently stationed with Tuvok at Tactical doing some simulation training with the Vulcan Security Chief.

Still, this Chakotay business was sitting the wrong way with Kathryn Janeway and private crew matters or not, she decided to broach the subject with Seven when she finished her regeneration cycle. 'She is an exception. She is *the* exception.' A good `philosophical discussion' in the evening after a debriefing on the away mission is just what was needed to ease the Captain's mind.

"Commander, you have the con, I'll be in my ready room."

"…yes Captain"

The Captain didn't care to linger on the response of her first officer as she got up and walked briskly to her ready room as she'd gone long enough without a good dose of her favourite black coffee. 'Just something to take the edge off,' she thought. A raised eyebrow was the only response from Tuvok while Myles gave a brief nod to the passing Captain and Harry and Tom exchanged knowing glances.


Sara Myles was used to operating on limited sleep. Training at Starfleet Academy included late night exercises and early wake up calls just for this reason so she was feeling no ill effects of her impromptu 'science' lessons the night before. Today was her day to learn the basics of the Tactical station as a back-up for Lieutenant Commander Tuvok during an Alert situation. With Lieutenant Ayala moving to Beta shift permanently in the Tactical position, Myles was the 'logical' choice to fill his position on Alpha shift as Tuvok's second in command. Because Security was normally not a full-time position for the bulk of its ranks, Lieutenant Myles was one of only six full-time security personnel on Voyager.

For the most of the morning, Tuvok had been instructing her on standard and emergency protocols for communications on Voyager, hailing frequencies and comm. channel manipulation. It was not difficult to pick up and Myles had a keen enough mind for it. Communication protocols for tactical teams are taught in basic so it wasn't much of a stretch for her to focus on both the Tactical station, Tuvok and what was going on on the rest of the bridge. After lunch, they were working on targeting exercises, focusing on disabling an enemy ship's weapons or engines.

Myles had noted early in the morning that Harry Kim's posture was stiff and he radiated nervousness. Tom Paris looked fairly relaxed at the helm if not a bit bored by the fact that he would catch himself staring at various parts of the view-screen for long moments before shaking his head and re-focusing on his station. The young Brunali, Icheb, was at the Master Systems Display at the back being tutored by an engineering Ensign that Myles didn't readily recognize. Science and Engineering stations were currently vacant.

'I should go over the Alpha crew manifest and Icheb's study schedule in case I ever need to know where he is- Seven is known to care for him.'

However, it was the Captain and First Officer Chakotay that had held her attention when she wasn't focused on tactical. She hoped Tuvok didn't notice and thus far he had not said anything to her about her divided attention.

Chakotay on first glance simply looked sullen and upset. To the casual observer, they might think he was simply concerned over the situation with Seven of Nine. Sara Myles was not the casual observer. It was his eyes. They tightened almost imperceptibly every so often.

'Anger... why anger? Was he mad at B'Elanna? Seven? Me? Something is off there, it's not concern... why isn't there any concern? Upset and anger could be explained if there was concern, but there isn't any.'

The Captain was another story. She had been obviously tired all day. Not only that, she was obviously not happy with her First Officer's mood. He was performing his tasks well enough so it was likely that she was simply unable to say anything to him about it- even though she clearly wanted to. Her posture had her leaning away from the man despite her frequent glances towards him. She only leaned to her left to check her command update screen.

'Likely to check for updates from medical... I wonder if Seven knows just how many people she affects on this ship on a personal level?'

Re-focusing her mind on her exercises, she didn't notice the Captain get up until she was walking past her and Tuvok, a small nod was all she felt she could get away with towards the woman who looked like she was about to either pull out her hair or hook a coffee-IV to her arm.

Myles was surprised after a few moments when Tuvok spoke in an almost whisper.

"Do you believe the Captain's command ability has been compromised, Lieutenant?" Tuvok had stopped the information scrolling at the station and turned toward her.

"Sir?" Inwardly Myles cringed knowing Tuvok's directness. He would not ask her a question without purpose. This was about the Captain's mood regarding Chakotay and Seven. She quickly recovered and responded to the best of her ability as Tuvok opened his mouth to clarify.

"No sir, I believe she may be distracted to a small degree, however, she seems quite capable of performing her command responsibilities."

Apparently satisfied with the answer, Tuvok glanced quickly to the Captain's ready-room door. "I agree. However, it seems her inability to resolve her feelings for Seven of Nine may become an issue in the future."

Myles could only agree. The question was, why was Tuvok telling her this? It was almost... gossip. He clearly had a purpose to this line of dialogue so Sara merely nodded and waited for him to continue.

"However, it is not a situation where I need to address the Captain personally. I am also aware of her... distaste for my 'prodding' into her personal life as she would say. I believe your behavioural analysis skills and interpersonal skills are adequate enough to 'get through to her'."

Sara Myles prided herself on not being easily confused.

She was confused.

'Eh, "pride is a fool's fortress" my grandma used to say...'

"Sir, is it not irregular for a security Lieutenant to have a 'hear-to-heart' with the Captain of a starship?"

"While normally I would agree, since I've put forth the application for your transfer to Alpha shift as my second-in-command, the Captain reacted favourably to your files and I understand you spent some 'off-duty' time with her last night. I believe she would respond positively to you."

What Tuvok would not tell her is that he had purposefully left her on Gamma shift since Voyager arrived in the Delta Quadrant for a reason and has recently pulled her to Alpha shift for a reason. Knowing the Captain as long as he has, Tuvok was aware of the Captain's Academy crush on a redheaded combat instructor not unlike Lieutenant Myles. In the first few years, he felt the distraction would negatively affect the Captain if the young Lieutenant was a member of Alpha shift. Over the past few years however, the Captain's attachment to Seven of Nine had overridden that concern. Knowing Seven as he did, he knew she would not enter a long-lasting relationship with the Captain. He had also drawn the conclusion that the Captain would benefit from a healthy relationship. Also, of course, *if* Vulcans could be glad, Tuvok would be glad that the Captain had ignored all of First Officer Chakotay's advances... *if* Vulcans could be glad.

Myles furrowed her brow as she thought of all the ways the Captain may kill her in the next few minutes if this when poorly. She gathered her courage as an idea came to her. "Very well sir, shall I go see her now?"

"Officially, you are required to be proficient in the basic aspects of Tactical by the end of today's shift, however, your training is proceeding above expectations, perhaps you require a break?"

'Subtle.' Lieutenant tried to not smirk at the raised eyebrow that seemed to say so much that the dark-skinned Vulcan never would. She nodded and headed towards the Captain's ready-room.


Chakotay slumped into the Captain's chair with all the enthusiasm of a deactivated Borg drone. It should have been a good day for the commander, but it wasn't and not because he was worried about Seven having gotten hurt. He had lost three months worth of rations that he had put into the lower decks betting pool through Crewman Stanz last night.

'Not to mention the two weeks worth or rations I spent on that damn holodeck date'

The thought of enduring Neelix's Leola Root menu for the next three months sent a shiver up the large man's back. Still, he had lived off worse… or… at least similarly terrible food during his Maquis days.

Chakotay tried to stifle a frustrated sigh and focus on his duties as he decided to simply make the best of the situation and get his `money's worth' out of the ex-drone over the next few weeks before he got bored of her. Still, he was pissed at the loss of rations, there was no way around it. Crew assignment rotations and his future plans for himself and Kathryn were what kept him grounded in this ancestors-forsaken quadrant…


Other than the sudden departure of the Captain to her ready room and the brooding of the first Officer, things aboard Voyager were relatively calm at the moment. Repairs were complete and they were back to warp six en route to the Alpha Quadrant. Harry took the moment to ask Tom about B'Elanna and Seven's condition.

"Tom, it's been all day, any news on Seven or B'Elanna?" He tried to sound as nonchalant as possible as he kept his eyes and fingers working over his console at Ops. Tom was thankful that his back was turned to his friend as he rolled his eyes.

"Harry, don't worry, they're both going to be fine. Seven is regenerating and B'Elanna will likely be clamouring to get out of Sickbay-" He was cut off by a voice over the comm.

"Torres to the Bridge, why am I still stuck in Sick Bay? I've got a ship to take care of!" The Doctor could be heard in the background biting back his frustration at his uncooperative patient. 'Speak of the devil,' thought Tom snorting quietly and rolling his eyes again while grinning like a fool at Harry.

"Has the Doctor cleared you for duty, B'Elanna?" Chakotay said with a hint of amusement. 'Some things never change.' He at one point thought he should be mad at his former Maquis comrade over the incident on the away mission but had concluded that it was Seven's own stupidity that had cost him so many rations so he found B'Elanna's discomfort more humorous than anything else. Besides, despite the uses, or 'potential' uses of the Borg, B'Elanna was vital to the operation of Voyager and losing her would not be acceptable. Chakotay had a tremendous respect for the woman after all.

"I most certainly have not! Commander, inform the Captain that she is needed here in Sickbay." The Doctor shouted into B'Elanna's combadge as the fiery half-Klingon was hastily putting on her uniform top in an attempt to escape Sickbay. "Doctor, I'm fine, Chakotay, tell the Doctor I'm fine!" Tom was sure he could hear a low growl through the comm.

"B'Elanna, you know that you can't leave Sick Bay until the Doctor clears you. I'll send the Captain down now Doctor. Bridge out." B'Elanna could be heard grumbling something approximating a `fine' as the channel was closed.

 

Chapter 8- Time To Get Up

B'Elanna found herself emerging from the most restful sleep she has had in a very long time. The only problem was that she didn't remember going to sleep and had no idea where she was.

It didn't last long.

She was invigorated, felt alive and energetic with a sharp awareness that usually took longer to achieve after emerging from sleep. B'Elanna snapped up to a sit and quickly realized she was in Sickbay. Memories of the away mission and Seven getting hurt flooded back to the fore of her mind. She still wasn't sure what happened to herself however, or why she was naked on a biobed covered only by a sheet with several diagnostic and monitoring medical devices attached to various parts of her anatomy. She quickly clutched the sheet that had fallen to her waist to her chest when she sat up and looked around quickly to see if anyone saw. The slight blush disappeared before it began. Her whole body tingled with energy and she flexed her right hand into a fist noticing a new definition to her muscles she didn't have before. She realized that although she felt chilly initially, she seemed more and more comfortable with the room temperature as the seconds ticked by.

"Kahless Doc, whatever you gave me, I'll take two more!" B'Elanna looked around with a giddy smile on her face but the Doctor was nowhere to be seen.

Listening quietly for a moment while clutching her only covering to her chest, B'Elanna heard nothing but the hum of the warp drive and a slight buzzing from the various pieces of medical equipment around the room.

'That's odd, the warp core sounds louder than normalc and the port nacelle is out of alignment by 0.3% or soc wait, I can't normally sense a misalignment that smallc'

B'Elanna tried to keep her hearts from involuntarily speeding up as she was noticing that her vision seemed far more acute than normal as well. As she hopped off the bed feeling no soreness in her muscles, she looked down at the medical devices attached to her wrists, chest and ankles briefly before rubbing her forehead and finding another device attached to her left temple. While her muscles were not sore, they felt stiff, like she hadn't used them in a while.

A brief thought that she'd somehow been infected by some of Seven's nanoprobes was quickly discarded. She'd know if she'd been assimilated, she'd been once before already when they'd infiltrated Unimatrix Zero, and what she was currently feeling was nothing like the enhancements of a Borg drone.

'Enhanced,' yes, that is what she felt like- or more like simply herself on her best possible day... ever... ever. She wasn't sure how she felt about his new realization. It was a weird feeling in a way, B'Elanna concluded, but she wasn't going to complain, she had a ship to keep together after all and could deal with this later.

'Everything seems to be in the right spot- I've got engines to nurture.'

She had a brief feeling that she was supposed to be remembering something from when she was unconscious, but dismissed it shaking her head.

The small brunette bounced over to the nearest replicator to get a fresh uniform and began to remove the monitoring devices after she'd put on her undergarments. All too quickly she realized her mistake with a small groan as the EMH shimmered into existence.

"Lieutenant Torres, I should have known. I take a moment to compile my program and you attempt to escape Sickbay."

"Take it easy Doc, I feel fine so discharge me so I can get back to my engines already." B'Elanna squirmed as the Doctor ran a tricorder the length of her body and then began unceremoniously removing her bio-monitors.

"Lieutenant, with what happened to you, I'm well within my power to keep you here for another week simply for observation. In fact, you will need to stay here for the next two days at least so I can run more tests." The Doctor was putting the bio-monitors on the nearest medical tray for Paris to put away later when he shows up for his evening shift in Sickbay.

B'Elanna turned back to the Doctor after she had gotten her uniform pants and tank top on and quirked her eyebrow in question. Ignoring the part about being stuck in Sickbay for the next two days, she focused again on her current state of heightened awareness. "What do you mean `what happened to me'? I figured I'd passed out from exhaustion after the surgery on Seven-" glancing around quickly and crushing a tiny morsel of dread that seemed to spring into her consciousness, B'Elanna continued, "- speaking of Seven... she ok?" she said having noticed more hope in her tone than she would have expected. Inwardly she scolded herself for not noticing the absence of the tall blonde immediately.

Ordinarily the Doctor might have been stunned at B'Elanna asking about Seven's well being, but remembering back to her care of the ex-Borg and dedication the day before, the Doctor chalked it up to a bit of away-mission camaraderie. "Seven is currently regenerating and will be fit as a fiddle once she finishes her regeneration cycle which should be soon actually. Once again, my skills have exceeded their potential and I've performed yet another miracle." The self-satisfied smile etched in the photonic man's face as he spoke was almost enough to cause the small hybrid to reprogram some of his personality subroutines. It was his lack of acknowledging her assistance in the matter that set B'Elanna's jaw, ruined her `morning' and made her even more determined to escape Sickbay.

'What I wouldn't give for a D'k tahg right now just to stab him a few times with but I do want to find out what happened to me. If it's bad news, better to hear it sooner than later.'

Seeing the set jaw, crossed arms and tapping foot beneath a scowl that could send a pack of Klingons running for their mothers, the Doctor thought it wise to bring the Lieutenant up to speed- well, as much as he could.

"Lieutenant, you may want to sit down a moment." The Doctor tried to gently guide B'Elanna over to one of the biobeds, but she didn't move an inch and continued to fix her gaze on him. Sighing in frustration, the Doctor started again. "Do you remember being attacked by the reptilian creature on the planet?"

"Yes, the damn Doch tlhej ghobe' quv attacked me from behind." B'Elanna spat with a look that could only be described as `go on'.

"Well, that `thing with no honour' as you so eloquently called it, had some very unique offensive and defensive biological adaptations- one being a `deoxi-mutating toxin' which was secreted through micro-fissures in its claws that spread from the wounds on your back to your entire body- and quite rapidly I might add." B'Elanna decided to give the Doctor a break and put her socks and shoes on after hoping up on the nearest biobed.

"cand?"

Not being a complete fool, the Doctor had caught on to B'Elanna's mood change since he'd arrived and not wanting to incur further wrath from the now more-dangerous Engineer, he took a moment to try and explain the situation in the best way possible.

"Lieutenantc from what we've been able to determine, this deoxi-mutating toxin seeks out and attaches to the victim's DNA and forces cellular replication which basically discards then regenerates each cell in the victim. Before cellular replication occurs, the toxin attaches what appears to be `dunk DNA' to the code. The incredible thing is, and more importantly for you the fortunate thing- had you been fully Klingon or fully Human, you would have suffered irreversible cellular decay and would have died before you even got back to Voyager."

That hit home. B'Elanna sat stunned for a moment as she absorbed this new information. There was something familiar once again floating at the back of her mind just out of reach that she felt she should remember. Shaking her head and trying to digest what the Doctor was saying, B'Elanna asked the first thing that came to her mind.

"Wait Doc, that's insane. There are billions of cells in the human body, never mind bone and cartilage. Is this 'process' still going on? Am I currently changing? I feel great."

"That is another of the mysteries. The whole process took under 18 hours to replicate and replace every cell bone and bit of cartilage in your body and even produce more cells adding to your already unique nature. You've gained almost 16 kilos in mass. I could show you your old hair that died and fell off your head if you want. You were bald for almost 21 minutes."

"Yuck, no thanks... So, you're saying that the fact that I'm a hybrid saved my life?" B'Elanna unconsciously shifted her weight from foot to foot getting a feel for her added mass. She really didn't notice a difference.

The Doctor leaned back against the console across from B'Elanna and quickly glanced at his most recent tricorder readings once again. "That is exactly what I'm saying Lieutenant. Seven's nanoprobes were able to fight off the infection, but any other member of this crew, save possibly Naomi Wildman or Crewman Tallis would have been killed. The Captain spent a number of hours in Bio-Sciences studying the creature yesterday with some of the Xenobiologists from the science department. From what they could determine, it seems that the animals native to that planet exhibit mutating amalgam-DNA properties. There is so much we still don't know, for example, there are amino chains in the creature that seem to have likely come from another species, but not through procreation. It is all speculation at this point, but I suspect that both the herbivores and carnivores are able to spontaneously hybridize a portion of their DNA with either a plant (in the case of the herbivores) or another animal (in the case of the carnivores). Basically the carnivores and herbivores continually mutate and evolve offensive and defensive capabilities to counteract each other. It is really quite remarkable- and mostly speculation I'm afraid."

"Heh. Hard to believe my being a genetic mutt actually worked in my favour." B'Elanna muttered as she looked for her uniform top and combadge. 'csomething to be proud of... finally. That feelsc right somehowc' It was all very interesting, but she was feeling fine and just really wanted to get back to work. 'And check on Seven... that crazy Borg, I owe her a drink.'

Other than that, as far as she was concerned, she had heard the important part of the science diatribe- saved from death- good enough for B'Elanna Torres.

The Doctor had been satisfied that he had done enough to keep the testy Engineer in Sickbay for a while longer while he performed some more tests so he could better understand what was happening to her and if she was somehow contagious to the crew. "Now Lieutenant, if you'll move back to the diagnostic station, I'm going to run some more tests-"

"Oh no. I'm fine, you said it yourself my hybrid DNA kept me safe from the whateveritwas and I feel great. I'm going back to work." B'Elanna cut the Doctor off seeing his usual I've-got-a-new-lab-rat enthusiasm that drove her nuts.

"Lieutenant Torres." He said with as much firmness his holomatrix vocal subroutines could muster. "You are not cleared to leave Sickbay. As I said, I could keep you here indefinitely simply due to the fact that we don't know exactly what is happening to you. Yes, you `appear' fine, but that could change, I simply don't know for sure. Starfleet Medical Quarantine protocols dictate that subjects exposed to unknown toxins need to remain under supervision for a minimum of 24 hours." The Doctor was prepared to use a sedative and force fields to keep the half-Klingon in Sickbay if necessary.

B'Elanna was fighting her temper; Human and half-Klingon patience only went so far. Blowing up on the EMH would give her a headache she didn't need. It was time to go above his head. She tapped her combadge as she reached for her top.

"Torres to the Bridge, why am I still stuck in Sickbay? I've got a ship to take care of!" As the channel opened, B'Elanna could have sworn she heard Tom snort in the background.

It was Chakotay that answered.

"Has the Doctor cleared you for duty, B'Elanna?" The Doctor was moving towards B'Elanna now and she noticed the hypospray in his hand as well as the smirk she could clearly hear in Chakotay's voice. He seemed to think this was all very funny. The Doctor answered as B'Elanna was caught in her observation. "I most certainly have not! Commander, inform the Captain that she is needed here in Sickbay."

B'Elanna didn't think he really needed to lean that far into her chest just to yell into the comm. Still, she was ready to leave and was already stifling a growl. "Doctor, I'm fine, Chakotay, tell the Doctor I'm fine!"

"B'Elanna, you know that you can't leave Sickbay until the Doctor clears you. I'll send the Captain down now Doctor. Bridge out."

Well, that was the end of that. "Fine" was all B'Elanna muttered as she plunked down on the nearest biobed avoiding the triumphant gaze of the EMH.


"Come."

Looking up from her most recent sip... gulp, of coffee, Captain Janeway's surprise at seeing Lieutenant Myles in her ready-room was only betrayed by the slight lift in her left brow. Said brow paused a moment before becoming an inquisitive brow as she leaned back in her desk chair.

Standing at attention and trying not to let the feeling of 'this was a bad idea' take hold, Myles decided to forge ahead. 'I had a good run...'

"Permission to speak freely Captain?" She hoped directness would work. At least, non-Vulcan directness... from another woman. Janeway narrowed her eyes. 'Or not...' thought Myles in mild dismay.

Janeway thought a moment. She found that she liked the woman standing before her. The tall redhead wore the uniform well. Her green eyes danced with life and confidence and she was in excellent shape. It was very likely she was sent to her ready-room by Tuvok- Janeway wasn't blind and she new Tuvok did meddle despite his stance on such things. She knew her duty once she made the decision to destroy the array. She never forgot though, she never forgot. She decided to give the attractive woman a break.

"Go ahead Lieutenant." Janeway's tone was low and dripped with curious amusement.

"If I may be so bold Captain, I don't think this... thing between Seven of Nine and Commander Chakotay is something that will last. I suggest that you simply ask her out- sort out once and for all her position."

"Excuse me?" Captain Janeway's face began its pre-Force-10-glare safety checks. The big gun might fire.

"Captain, you've seen my file. I am an expert on reading people. I know you're interested in Seven of Nine, I also know she's not interested in Commander Chakotay. Despite her reputation for being a private individual, she does show emotion and not once during our away mission or emergency situation did she mention him, besides, he has... a reputation."

The boldness of the young Lieutenant put Janeway's building glare on hold. "What reputation?"

"Only that he carries a torch for you and only has 'flings' with lower deck crew women." She tried to hide her mild disgust but didn't put much into the effort.

Janeway sighed, unconsciously relaxing. "The torch I can deal with, him 'dating' Seven I can't. You saw how heart-broken he's been all day." It was weird how quickly she found herself relaxing around the Lieutenant.

Myles shook her head and furrowed her brow as if she was trying to solve a difficult math problem. "I do not believe he is heart-broken. He's been showing dismay, hurt and anger, but not concern. Something is bothering him, but it's not the welfare of Seven of Nine."

"Are you sure?" Janeway was mildly shocked. Myles was incredibly perceptive, and if she was right...

"I am, to be honest I think Seven of Nine will sort out her situation with him shortly."

`If the way she now looks at Lieutenant Torres is any indicationc This is ridiculous, I feel like I'm in high school. *Sigh* Maybe the Captain simply needs to get this out of her system, it certainly isn't good for her to bottle things up. Wow that's so lame, you're a security officer not a psychiatrist Myles...'

"Chakotay to the Captain." The interruption was welcome for Lieutenant Myles. She was finding herself not liking this entire situation for reasons other than Tuvok manoeuvring her into it.

Janeway sat forward before standing up. "Go ahead Commander."

"It seems B'Elanna is awake and... wants out of Sickbay."

"Of course she does." she pinched the bridge of her nose. "I'm on my way, Janeway out." Myles turned to the ready-room door to allow the Captain to leave ahead of her.

As the Captain walked by, she said "Just ask her Captain." Janeway paused and nodded briefly to the younger woman before exiting to the bridge.

To Be Continued

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