"Kim to Chakotay." The Asian's disembodied voice sounded over the comm. system on the Bridge.
Chakotay automatically raised his dark brown eyes as he responded. "Go ahead."
"Commander, we've broken the encryption codes. You might want to come and have a look at this." Kim's voice held a barely contained excitement at his success.
Chakotay pushed himself up from the Captain's chair as he answered, unable to subdue his own elation at the news. "We're on our way," he replied as he strode toward the turbolift. "Mr Paris, you have the Bridge," he told the sandy-haired helmsman. He nodded at Tuvok, now recovered enough to insist on returning to duty. Despite Chakotay's initial reservations, he had allowed the dark Vulcan to resume his place at Tactical. With Voyager's senior staff level seriously depleted, he needed the Second Officer's support and skills. Together they stepped onto the turbolift and turned round together to face the exit as the doors slid shut, Chakotay's last image being Paris switching places from the Conn to the Captain's chair.
Once at their destination, Chakotay wasted no time in examining the decoded data, the soft blue shimmering of the warp core illuminating the computer terminal in Main Engineering reassuringly.
"It seems that we have a society with a shielding generator powerful enough to cloak the entire planet," Kim told him as he studied the workstation.
"How the hell didn't we detect this on our initial scans?" the Native American asked, frowning at the information displayed.
"One of the functions of the cloaking system is to disguise itself," Kim returned, assurance seeping though every pore now that he had discovered some of the planet's secrets.
"How then, do you propose to combat this cloaking system so that we can locate the away team?" Tuvok, as always, was straight to the point.
"With B'Elanna's readings, we can determine how power is generated to create the cloak. I'm hoping that once we identify the power sources, we should be able to isolate them and neutralise them. Once inoperative, the cloaking system will fail." The young Ops officer was practically falling over his words in his eagerness to pursue his course of action.
"And how will you detect those sources when Voyager is incapable of detecting the planet at this time?" Once again, the dark-skinned Vulcan cut to the chase.
Kim hesitated for the first time. It was at this point that he needed to take an intuitive leap, but he was far from confident. "I'm hoping that the information B'Elanna collated will give us a template for the energy signature. If we can adjust sensors to look specifically for that pattern, the planet should become visible to us." Harry ran a hand through his thick black hair, his body language telegraphing the nerves he felt over his supposition.
"Certainly sounds feasible," commended the First Officer with a nod. "Any ideas why we managed to transport Tuvok and Neelix, but not the others?" he probed, wondering if the young Asian officer had found a solution to that particular part of the puzzle.
"A generator that cloaks an entire planet must be huge. My guess is that it took a few moments for the shielding generator to become fully charged."
"That would certainly explain the degradation of signal quality from the comm. link," Tuvok inputted, having read Voyager's logs of the incident thoroughly.
"Exactly." Kim's face was once again triumphant. "As soon as the generator became powerful enough, it destroyed all our links with the surface and made the planet vanish. If we can identify and then disable the generator, we should be able to find the Captain and the others."
Chakotay put a large hand on the young Ensign's shoulder. "Good work, Harry," he congratulated. "Let's get that generator deactivated."
The three women surveyed their surroundings in silence for a few moments. The exit to the prison was at the top of a long switchback path of metallic grey steps, wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side. The steps stopped some distance below them and then the path opened up onto a large square, with several road junctions leading out symmetrically away from the prison and into the distance. Uniform, two-storey buildings stretched out below them in a neat, tessellating pattern. On the roof of each sandy coloured building was an identical array of metals and cables. Perched on top of each of the structures were flashing mauve lights, each one offset from the others, providing a dazzling flash effect that pulsated far into the distance. The effect was both disorientating and hypnotic and the remaining members of the away team forced their eyes away from the glare to focus on less mesmerising aspects of the architecture.
B'Elanna used one of the remaining tricorders to scan the area thoroughly. "Remember those energy readings I picked up in the market?" she asked Seven, her voice hollow as she concentrated on the data displayed on the instrument in her hand.
Her tall, blonde companion needed no further prompting. "These buildings are the origin of those readings. It would appear to be a massive generator."
"Generator for what though?" mused Janeway.
"Captain, when you contacted the ship just before our capture, did the signal degrade?" B'Elanna, despite being physically exhausted, somehow managed to garner some enthusiasm for her thought processes.
"Yes. I noticed the reception getting poorer when I contacted you, but it broke down quickly when I was communicating with Voyager," Janeway confirmed, wondering what the Chief Engineer was onto now.
"Then I suggest that we're looking at some sort of shield or cloaking generator," B'Elanna voiced her hunch, allowing a hand to sweep across the vista of buildings.
There was another silence as Janeway and Seven tried to appreciate the sheer scale of the device.
"Are they shielding the entire planet?" the Captain wondered out loud.
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes as she studied the buildings thoughtfully. "Unless the locals are incredibly inefficient in utilising the power generated, I think you're right," the dark Klingon agreed.
"With the shielding in place, Voyager will be unable to locate us," stated Seven somewhat redundantly.
"Then we have to find a way to disrupt the shield," decided the auburn woman. "But first we have to get away from the prison and try and find a place of safety," she reminded the younger women, casting a glance over her shoulder and back into the foreboding building.
B'Elanna and Seven followed her glance and stared into the doorway for a moment before switching their attention back to the Captain.
"Let's go," invited Janeway and she gestured towards the steps with the muzzle of her rifle. Immediately comfortable steering the group once more, Janeway led the way down the metal steps, the heels of her boots resonating as they made contact with the new surface. B'Elanna followed carefully after Seven gestured for her to take the middle position. Fully aware of her weakened state, the Chief Engineer realised that she would be no good in one of the fighting positions so she readily accepted her placing in the group. Somehow, the Klingon hybrid felt more secure knowing that Seven was guarding her back.
Seven frowned at B'Elanna's readiness to be protected. It was totally out of character for the proud woman to admit weakness, particularly when it involved conflict. B'Elanna's acquiescence indicated the severity of her injuries. She might be conscious, but Seven wondered how long the Klingon would be able to remain that way. Determined to protect the woman she loved, Seven concentrated on her role, diligently observing the path they had already trod, her weapon primed for immediate use.
B'Elanna managed the first flight of steps before hissing and leaning against a wall. She coughed heavily and was alarmed to see blood on her hand as she brought it away from her mouth. The Klingon looked around her to see if the others had noticed further evidence of her frail state before wiping her palm on the remains of her white undershirt. It was already almost completely dark with blood from her time spent with the Moderator. One more stain would not stand out. Her redundant Klingon physiology was not designed to continue working long after her primary systems were affected. In a way, their role was similar to Seven's make-good circuitry. They were a temporary stopgap until she could be repaired. B'Elanna grunted in amusement at her own analogy before looking up into cobalt eyes, darkened with concern.
"B'Elanna," Seven began, uncertain how to phrase her concern without angering the volatile engineer.
"Save it, Seven," returned the dark-haired woman, hoping that the irritation she projected would hide the pain she was in. B'Elanna pushed herself off the wall she was leaning against and propelled her body down the next flight of stairs. Four steps prior to the next landing, she stumbled, her head dizzy and her vision blurred. The Klingon groaned as she landed in a heap, too disoriented to try and break her fall. The engineer closed her eyes in an effort to stop the spinning sensation, and heard the rapid syncopated footfall of her companions as they approached where she lay.
"B'Elanna," the tall ex-drone repeated softly. "Let me carry you," she requested.
The smaller woman shot her eyes open in disbelief. "Are you insane?" exploded B'Elanna, her pride taking full control of her emotions. Unfortunately, the outburst led to another bout of coughing, and this time, there was no hiding the bright frothy blood from her companions.
"B'Elanna," explained Janeway gently, "the quicker we get down these steps, the quicker we can find a safe hide-out."
The half-Klingon allowed the mutinous look to remain on her visage for a few seconds more, before nodding minutely. Seven exhaled loudly, earning surprised glances from both the Captain and the engineer but she ignored the looks as she shouldered her weapon. Without warning, she bent and swept B'Elanna into her arms, provoking the raven-haired woman to exclaim in protest.
"Don't struggle. You'll put me off-balance," advised the blonde Astrometrics officer as she adjusted B'Elanna's weight carefully.
Not trusting herself to provide a civil reply, the engineer decided to remain reticent. As Seven began to descend the next flight of steps, B'Elanna could feel her head getting heavier. She nodded forward and rested it in the crook of the Borg's neck as blackness washed over her.
Seven, feeling the woman she was holding relax totally, adjusted her grip slightly to keep her in the same position. She could feel her heart pounding and wanted nothing more than to stop and check B'Elanna out but knew it would be illogical to stop and restart. Satisfied that she could feel the gentle swell of B'Elanna's respirations, she hugged the dark woman into her tightly, willing the woman that she loved to hold on just a bit longer. Her thoughts became locked onto that one focus, repeating it in her head continually like a desperate mantra.
Once they were finally at the bottom, Janeway did a brief reconnaissance of the area before indicating that Seven should follow her. The Captain was unsure exactly what she was looking for, but knew that in order to stand any chance of survival they had to find a secure hideaway for Torres. After leading them deep into the heart of the generator buildings, the auburn woman gestured for Seven to standby while she checked one out.
Janeway set to work on the small, oval control panel situated to the left of the barrier. Fully conscious of the time ticking away, the Captain worked as quickly as possible, sure that she could break the code without having to resort to using her rifle. Several attempts later, the Captain straightened her back as the door slid back, revealing the inner workings of the generator. The indicator panels on the equipment it housed dimly lit the area inside. Janeway hesitated before entering and once again used her tricorder to scan the room. Satisfied, she stepped through the doorway, closely followed by Seven.
The ex-drone's eyes adjusted to the altered lighting instantly and inspected the area closely. She noticed the stairwell at the end of the room and pointed it out to Janeway before gesturing up at the ceiling.
The Captain had no problem interpreting the signal and she motioned for Seven to remain where she was as she waited a fraction longer for her sight to regulate before approaching the stairs. When she was ready, Janeway cautiously ascended the steps, her compression rifle still raised and ready.
The upper level contained nothing more exciting than the connection relays for the metallic arrays on the roof of the building. Satisfied that they were alone and safe, at least temporarily, Janeway skipped back down the flight. "It's clear up there."
The younger woman assessed the room carefully before selecting a niche in the furthest wall from the stair access. Seven strode over and then lowered the unconscious half-Klingon gently to the ground.
"Captain, B'Elanna's running out of time," Seven spoke in an urgent whisper as she got herself upright again.
Janeway looked up from the readings displayed on her tricorder. "I know," assured the older woman. She approached the workstation in the centre of the room. "This building and most of the others that surround it appear to be slave stations. If one of the slave generators goes down, the power drop is minimal and the other stations compensate for the loss. There's nothing we can do here that would interrupt the power generator enough to get Voyager to see us." Janeway couldn't hide the frustration from her voice as she discussed her findings. Determined to get something positive from the console, she continued to scan the readings displayed in front of her.
Seven looked up at her commanding officer. "If the master station can be located, the command sequencing could be breached, forcing the shielding to collapse."
"Good idea," agreed the Captain. "But how do we find it?"
"We may be able to locate the master station from the databases," Seven suggested, forcing her mind to work on the current problem rather than dwell on the fate of the Chief Engineer.
The blonde ex-drone joined Janeway at the console and her hands flew over the controls as she sought out the relevant information. After several minutes of searching, Seven paused the display. "This is a map of the generator array."
The Captain studied it closely, trying to decipher the alien symbols and detect the building she wanted. Both Janeway and Seven were drawn to one particular place, convinced that it was the locus of the power grid.
"Seven, take B'Elanna to the upper level and stay put. I'll find this building and disable the generator," Janeway was back in full command mode, at last seeing a real chance to get off the planet.
"It would be more logical if I went, Captain," demurred Seven, despite not wanting to leave B'Elanna for a second. "My technical skills are greater than yours and I have superior strength."
Janeway saw past the arrogant statement and realised that Seven was merely stating the facts as she saw them. "I know," she admitted. "However, I do not have a make-good circuit in me that could fail at any second and cripple me," she countered.
Seven blinked, not having taken that into consideration. She stared at Janeway for a long moment while she considered the options, limited though they were. The tall blonde woman then turned to the unconscious engineer and once again lifted her up and cradled her.
Janeway followed them upstairs and then sat down with Seven. "We have two remaining tricorders and one comm. badge. I'm going to set the tricorders for telemetry so that you can keep track of what I'm doing. If I set it to perform a botanical scan, you'll know that I'm in trouble. Of course, I might not get the opportunity to do even that, but it's the best idea I can think of." The Captain worked on one tricorder as she spoke.
Seven adjusted the other tricorder herself. "I will do the same. I have also set a location beacon for the tricorder signatures. It is crude, but should you get into trouble, I will be able to find you swiftly."
"Hopefully, you won't get discovered, but at least up here you have a good defensive position." Janeway moved the conversation back to Seven and B'Elanna.
"Agreed," Seven concurred.
Janeway looked at the young woman compassionately. "Look after B'Elanna. I'll be as quick as I can. Knowing Chakotay, as soon as the shielding is breached, we'll be located and transported back to Voyager." The auburn-haired woman squeezed Seven's hand. "Good luck."
Seven nodded and watched silently as the Captain made her way to the steps. As Janeway disappeared down the stairs, the tall blonde spoke softly. "Good luck, Captain."
"I didn't think that the Borg believed in luck," a quiet, dry voice interrupted Seven's musings.
Seven spun round at the words. "B'Elanna. You are awake."
"I know," B'Elanna retorted wryly.
Seven found herself grinning at the response and hurried over to the Klingon hybrid, helping the woman into a sitting position.
B'Elanna leaned back against the wall and wondered fleetingly if she looked as bad as she felt. Her mouth was dry and she felt cold and weak. Her head was still spinning and she couldn't shake the feeling of nausea she had but overwhelming all of this was the emotional relief that she was still alive and that she was not alone. She could feel the heat radiating from the ex-drone seated next to her and found herself leaning into the warmth and onto the taller woman's shoulder.
Seven forced herself not to recoil from the sudden invasion of her personal space and instead willed her body to relax and allow the raven-haired engineer to rest against her.
"So what's the plan, Seven?" B'Elanna's voice sounded alien to her own ears. It was weak and sighing.
"The generator array works in a master/slave operation. The Captain is going to locate the master generator and cut the energy to the shielding." Seven felt B'Elanna's head nod in approval.
"I like simple plans. Always less to go wrong," the half-Klingon whispered tiredly. "And the Moderator?"
Seven had felt B'Elanna's body stiffen just prior to the question but it still caught her off-guard. Realising that her own body had reacted in a similar way to the smaller woman's, she responded just as quietly. "The Captain made sure that he would no longer be able to harm anyone." She was surprised to hear a short stab of laughter.
"She killed him? Wish I'd been able to see that."
"I wish that it had been me that killed him," responded Seven, an icy hardness steeling her voice.
B'Elanna pulled herself away from Seven's shoulder awkwardly and was fleetingly surprised that she missed the contact instantly. "Why?" she asked simply.
"I promised you that I would avenge you, B'Elanna. I have been unable to fulfil that promise." Seven was alarmed to feel tears pricking the back of her eyes but blinked them back as she regained her composure.
"Vengeance isn't all it's cracked up to be, Seven," the dark Klingon told her carefully. "Take it from one who knows."
Seven paused as she looked into the pallid, drawn face of the Chief Engineer. Swallowing, she continued hesitantly. "It is the broken promise that bothers me, B'Elanna. Not the vengeance."
B'Elanna looked steadily at Seven for a few moments, instinctively reading between the lines. "Seven," she began, not knowing how to broach the subject and yet determined to talk honestly with the ex-drone.
Seven jumped up suddenly, frightened at all the possible things that B'Elanna might say and not wanting to hear any of them except one.
"B'Elanna, let me speak first. I have to tell you how I feel -- what I feel -- before you reply." The tall Astrometrics officer started pacing, her nerves displayed quite openly.
"No," interrupted the ex-drone forcefully, halting her parade and grinding on a heel to look at the darker woman. "Please let me speak." Seven halted her speech quickly and drew in a large breath, hoping to calm the raging emotions inside of her. "I love you B'Elanna Torres. I can think of no other emotion that it could be that I feel for you. You consume every waking thought. I crave your company and miss you when you are not near. When I thought you were dying " Seven's voice cracked but she swallowed convulsively and forced herself to continue. "When you were taken by the Moderator, I thought that I would lose my reason for existence. I cannot function if you are not with me. I need " Seven suddenly broke off, her right hand wrapping round her body to clutch at her abdomen as a look of agony etched itself on her face. Without warning, her legs collapsed beneath her and she fell into a heap on the floor, her human arm clenched at the abdomen whilst her borg-enhanced arm began to twitch spastically.
B'Elanna had listened to Seven's disclosure, surprised only that she realised that her words did not come as a total shock to her and that she had been aware of Seven's sentiments for some time now. What had amazed her the most was her own reaction to the now spoken feelings. She didn't feel horrified or aghast. She didn't object because she was already married, in fact she forced herself to say nothing until Seven finished, knowing that Seven needed to vocalise her feelings and that she would not accept any response until she had related all of the information. What she did feel was the certain realisation that she felt *something* in return. What that something was, she couldn't be sure of. But it alarmed her that it felt so *right*.
When Seven collapsed, B'Elanna pulled herself over to the woman. "Seven! What's wrong?"
The tall ex-drone dimly heard the words but could barely force her mouth to respond, she had never felt so much pain.
B'Elanna grabbed the tricorder that had been left and scanned the woman, though she knew without analysing the results that her make-good circuitry had failed.
"Seven, I need to replace that circuitry, but I have to figure out a way to make it last a bit longer," she told the borg reassuringly, absently wondering if the EMH would commend her on her bedside manner.
Seven nodded in comprehension, but felt her teeth grinding against each other as the pain continued to consume her. Vaguely, she became aware of a problem and forced her jaw to unclench so she could speak. "B'Elanna, the Captain set these tricorders for telemetry. If you take it apart, we will have no way of knowing where she is."
B'Elanna looked at the ex-drone. "I can't leave you in this pain Seven. Your borg circuitry is starting to fail. I have to do something," she objected, wiping the sweat from her brow with her forearm as her own body protested once again at its mistreatment.
"No, B'Elanna. If you take apart the remaining circuitry, we will have no functioning Federation technology. It will make it harder for Voyager to locate us. And we can't abandon the Captain. We have no choice." Seven's voice held in solid resolution.
B'Elanna thought for a moment and realised that there really was no choice.
Janeway pressed her shoulders hard against the wall of the building she had been walking past, lying flat onto it. Trying desperately to keep her breathing silent, she concentrated on the pattern, forcing her respiration to slow by using her nose to breathe in and her mouth to exhale and not to take on gulping breaths that could possibly alert an attentive guard to her presence. She had heard something as she approached the next intersection between buildings and now strained her ears, desperately trying to pinpoint the origin of the disturbance and ascertain whether it was an immediate threat to her. It was difficult to isolate any alien sounds over the pounding of her heart and the rushing ebb and flow of her respirations. Her mind raced as she kept her body tensed and she could start to feel the strain as her leg started to tremble in protest at the locked rigidity of her stance. The auburn haired woman had been cautious to the point of paranoia ever since she left Seven and B'Elanna in one of the generator buildings. All hopes of their rescue were firmly placed on her shoulders. It was a burden she was willing to carry but with the responsibility came the tiny voice of doubt that was now muttering in her head. What made things worse was that all the time she was not fixated over getting discovered, she was dwelling on the incidents leading up to their escape. The image of the Moderator slowly asphyxiating as she crushed his trachea with her knee seemed to be burnt onto her retinas. Every time she blinked or de-focused slightly he would appear before her, struggling weakly and changing colour as she deprived him of oxygen. It was the look in his dark blue eyes that she obsessed on. His hatred for her was plain to see, but he had a look of respect in his eyes. She didn't want his respect. He was a vile, evil man who had delighted in torturing other people and he had revelled in his work, particularly with B'Elanna. He had taken joy in inflicting pain on people just as she had taken joy in killing him. The Starfleet captain swallowed convulsively, feeling the bile scorching the back of her throat as she forced it back down. She had never killed someone in such a personal way before. Phasors, torpedoes, plasma bolts all had the ability to isolate the deed from the perpetrator. She could justify opening fire on all the peoples that she had entered into conflict with. She was having difficulty justifying her actions over the Moderator. She knew she had exacted revenge on him for his treatment of B'Elanna. She could take the moral high ground and say that by killing him, no one else would be forced to endure the horrors he so delighted in. But it was far more primeval than that. She killed him because it made her feel good.
Snapping her mind back to the task at hand, she realised that the sound she had heard had been the echo of her own footfall. Cursing her stupidity, she moved forward, rolling her feet this time in order to minimise the sudden contact with the ground and reduce the noise she was making. Slowly, she moved on. The similarity of the buildings was disorientating but she had maintained a careful concentration on her direction. She knew where she was headed and she pressed on, closing the distance between herself and the Master station.
Seven could hear B'Elanna next to her but it was too painful to open her eyes. The left side of her head seemed to be on fire and every time she moved her optical implant, the agony magnified instantly. She concentrated on trying to lie as still as possible. This was made impossible by her cybernetic arm twitching continually and that in turn forced the rest of her body to move. The resulting tremors in her body triggered more pain and she felt herself being sucked into a never-ending cycle of excruciating torment. The tall, blonde ex-drone could hear B'Elanna muttering softly but found it impossible to focus her hearing to discover what she was saying. The recursive cycle of agony consumed her. A deep-seated fear gripped her as she began to believe that she might never break free from it.
Vaguely, she was aware of warm hands placed gently on her, one of them softly but thoroughly examining her abdominal implant and the surrounding area whilst the other rubbed her back slowly in small circles, trying to soothe her or at least offer her comfort. She felt her eyes sting as a pin-prick of tears welled up at the gesture and was aware of the hot path her tears traced as they betrayed her will and broke from the corners of her closed lids to run down her face. She knew that she was dying, but at least B'Elanna was next to her, trying to ease her pain and extinguish her fear.
The steady thrum of the Warp Core could barely be heard over the activity taking place in Engineering. Ensign Harry Kim was tapping away furiously at a console, extrapolating the latest set of results passed to him by one of the engineering teams. He paused for a moment and then struck the workstation with a clenched fist. It had been frustrating enough to try and break B'Elanna's encryption codes but at least he had attacked that task knowing that the half-Klingon engineer would have made them breakable to someone on board Voyager. Following his own hunch through was decidedly more infuriating, simply because he couldn't be sure that his method of approach was the correct one. They had been trying for several hours now to isolate the power signatures and adjust the scanners so that they could detect both the planet and the cloaking mechanism. So far, all Harry had located was failure after failure. Sighing, he ran a hand through his thick black hair, trying to compose himself again. His display hadn't gone unnoticed by the others but he was in charge of this project and if he gave in to emotional outbursts then his team would crumble too. He was surprised when the slight form of Nicoletti approached him hesitantly.
"Take a break, Harry," she advised him quietly. "Get something to eat and come back when you're ready."
Harry's eyes widened at her suggestion and then grew larger as she grinned at him.
"You have no idea how much you resembled Lieutenant Torres when you punched the console," she confided. "We always tell her to take a break when her frustrations get the better of her."
Harry snorted. "I can just imagine how she reacts to that," he responded.
Nicoletti shrugged indifferently. "She can be a bit awkward to persuade sometimes," she expanded.
"Then you might as well know that I can be as stubborn as her," returned the young Ops officer. "I'm not going anywhere till they're back on Voyager."
"It's a well kept secret in Engineering, but she always gives in to us in the end," confided Nicoletti in a near whisper, as if by saying the revelation any louder would exact the wrath of the Chief Engineer on her, despite her absence.
Harry's eyes widened again. "How the hell do you manage that?"
"If I told you, I'd have to kill you. But get yourself out of here and get something to eat." She grinned as the Asian ensign's stomach growled loudly in agreement.
Harry returned the grin half-heartedly and was gladdened to hear Nicoletti refer to B'Elanna in the present tense. He had just been starting to drift towards referring to the away team in the past tense and it was a welcome feeling to know that no one in Engineering had given up hope yet. "Who volunteers to tell her?" he enquired, still curious as to how B'Elanna could be manipulated by her staff.
"We draw lots," the engineer replied laconically. "If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for you. Off you go." She made sweeping motions with her hands as she shooed him out the doors.
"Are you telling me you got the short straw for asking me to leave?" Harry asked incredulously.
"I *always* get the short straw, Harry," Nicoletti revealed as she continued to herd him towards the exit.
The young Asian officer allowed himself to be removed from Engineering and realised as he turned away that his stomach had been protesting vociferously for some time about his lack of intake, but unfortunately he had chosen to ignore its cries. Knowing that rectifying his neglect would boost his energy reserves and perhaps allow him to think of something else, even if only for a fraction of a second, he strode down the corridor towards a turbolift and the mess hall. He was surprised to find himself salivating as he got closer.
Seven felt B'Elanna's hand examine her abdominal implant again. This time, the pressure the Klingon exerted seemed far stronger and, despite her pain, Seven was curious to know what the raven-haired woman was doing. Suddenly she felt a click and a sudden release as the pain wracking her body dissipated, ebbing away as the tremors subsided. She lay for a moment, savouring the pain-free sensations her body was now experiencing and then sat up suddenly, comprehending what B'Elanna had done, even as she took in the remnants of the tricorder and comm. badge discarded on the floor next to the dark Klingon.
"You used the tricorder," she accused angrily. "How could you abandon the Captain like that?"
B'Elanna gazed steadily at the blonde borg before answering.
"We haven't abandoned her, Seven," refuted B'Elanna, her voice betraying the sheer exhaustion she was experiencing.
"What would you like to call it then?" Seven was furious with B'Elanna for breaking the link with the Captain when she was in danger. More compelling was the feeling of guilt that now consumed her. How could she enjoy the sensation of a pain-free existence at the expense of the safety of the Captain? "Betrayal?"
The dark engineer flinched at the word. "No, Seven. Common sense."
Seven stared at the older woman balefully, waiting for her to justify her last comment.
The half-Klingon sighed slightly as she sagged back to lean against the wall once more. She closed her eyes as she continued. "Which one of us was going to go to her rescue, Seven?" she asked quietly. "You, who couldn't even move for all the pain you were in, or me, who can't " B'Elanna stopped abruptly as she realised she was about to reveal how badly incapacitated she was. She knew herself that she could no longer even stand up straight without collapsing with dizziness. She had been losing blood from wounds all over her body continually, but could sense that she was bleeding internally too. She didn't have much time left, but she knew that Seven's chances for survival could be improved dramatically if she could solve the problem of the make-good circuitry. Equally, if Seven could survive for a while longer, then maybe she could hang on too. The engineer had made improvements following her examination of the younger woman and had even discovered a way of integrating the circuitry without suffering the flashback surge, but she knew that it would still only be a matter of time before that circuitry failed. She just hoped that Janeway could get to the master station and interrupt the power supply to the cloak before it did.
Seven realised immediately the logic of B'Elanna's actions and berated herself for reacting in such an emotional and irrational way. She sat down next to the dark-eyed woman and hugged her knees in tight. "I am sorry B'Elanna," she whispered softly.
B'Elanna opened her eyes and turned to look at the young drone. "It wasn't an easy decision, Seven. I feel like I've betrayed her anyway." The engineer's voice was hoarse with emotion. Seven began compulsively to swing an arm round her in order to offer support in a tactile gesture even as she wondered why she should suddenly want to become more demonstrative, but was suddenly reminded of her revelation just prior to the make-good circuitry failing. She tensed and looked at the Klingon hybrid nervously, wondering what to say next.
B'Elanna saw the turmoil reflected in Seven's cobalt eyes and realised what the ex-drone was contemplating. She leant her head back against the wall and looked up toward the ceiling before speaking. "Seven, you've given me a lot to think about," she began softly.
"You don't have to say anything, B'Elanna. In fact, our previous conversation should be ignored," interjected Seven, suddenly afraid of what was about to be said.
"I can't forget what you've said," returned the smaller woman. "Nor can I ignore it." This time, B'Elanna stopped on her own volition. She cursed inwardly. Why was this so difficult? Surely she should just be able to brush off Seven's remarks the same way she brushed off Vorik's advances and even Freddie Bristow's all those years ago. Seven's revelations had spun her into turmoil though, and all the time she had been working on repairing Seven's circuitry, she had been examining her feelings towards the ex-drone and her emotions regarding Tom. "Seven, I don't know how I feel about you," she continued truthfully. "What I do know is that I need time to analyse my feelings and to deal with them."
Seven felt physically crushed. Despite her best preparations she had still held onto the hope that B'Elanna might willingly reciprocate her love. Her cheeks burnt as the humiliation coursed through her and she felt an invisible band squeeze round her chest. Reflexively, she hugged her knees in tight and felt her throat constrict and dry as she tried to formulate a response. "I am sorry B'Elanna. I will not bother you again with this. I should not have said anything."
B'Elanna knew all too well how Seven felt. She might have a predilection for emotional outbursts but they were of the hostile, defence-mechanism variety. Very few people got beyond the protective wall she built around her true feelings. The longer that wall had remained in place, the harder it was to break through it. She might have berated Seven for being emotionless in the past, but she was just as guilty in some aspects. Now that the young ex-drone had opened up to her, her own barriers had become painfully obvious to her. She wanted desperately to deal with this and give Seven some honest answers so that they could deal with the situation. But it was not going to be easy.
"You can't take back what's been said, Seven," she whispered softly. "I need time though," she repeated. "And it's not just about me and you. I have to deal with Tom too."
"Deal with Tom?" echoed Seven in confusion. She mused over the statement carefully. If B'Elanna had no feelings for Seven, why did she need to deal with Tom? The spark of hope that had been extinguished by B'Elanna's earlier words ignited again but Seven tempered it carefully, not wanting to get carried away with the possible connotations of the Chief Engineer's words.
"Yes, Seven. Deal with Tom. I need to be honest with myself and those closest to me." B'Elanna shifted her gaze slightly and stared at a new part of the ceiling. "But it's not going to be easy."
Janeway waited a full five minutes before approaching the door to the master station. There were no guards outside but the scuffed appearance near the doorway suggested that the place was visited frequently and she suspected that it was already occupied. Realising that she could potentially wait all day for anyone to emerge, the Captain forced herself to take more positive action. After careful scrutiny of the walkway, she crept over to the entrance and opened her tricorder. Immediately, her eyebrows shot up in surprise as she discovered that she no longer had telemetry from the other piece of equipment. Torn between heading back to discover what was wrong and continuing with her mission, she hesitated.
She felt a swoosh of air behind her and realised far too late that she was about to be struck. Janeway reacted anyway and the blow fell slightly to the side of her head, throwing her sideways onto the path. She blinked back the stars that were pulsating in her eyes as she instinctively rolled, using the momentum of her fall to dodge the next blow. As she turned over onto her back, she trained her weapon in the air, trying to find the source of her attack.
Her jaw dropped and her grip on the rifle tightened as she stared into the eyes of the Moderator.
For a second, the Captain was paralysed. Her brain insisted that the Moderator was dead. She had killed him, using the most basic techniques instead of falling back on the less personal weapons at her disposal. Snuffing that thought out as her eyes were clearly telling her assumptions had been wrong, the red-haired woman reacted instinctively. Janeway squeezed the trigger of her compression rifle, aiming at the man's chest, but before she had an opportunity to apply enough pressure to fire the weapon, it was snatched from her grasp by a security officer standing to one side of her. As the auburn haired woman swung to face her new attacker, she felt a sudden pain in her ribs as his booted foot swung full force into her side.
"Enough," ordered the Moderator curtly. The guard straightened in acknowledgement before stepping away from the Captain.
Janeway eased herself into a sitting position and rubbed her right flank tenderly. She looked round carefully, noting three guards pointing their rifles at her before she met the gaze of the Moderator for a second time as he squatted down on his haunches next to her. "You should be dead," she accused, her words hissing out venomously.
"You really should study more anatomy and physiology," the blond interrogator told her conversationally, ignoring her attacking tone. "We have several back up routes for oxygen intake. It requires a lot more than a knee on my neck to kill me."
"I'll try to remember that for next time," Janeway retorted, her disgust unabated. She grimaced slightly as his foul breath assaulted her senses once again.
"I'm sure you will," the Moderator conceded. "Now, where are your colleagues?"
Janeway barked a short stab of laughter. "You really expect me to tell you where they are?" She asked incredulously.
"Oh, I *know* that you're going to tell me where they are," the tall man responded. "In fact, you're going to lead me straight to them."
"I don't think so," contradicted Janeway scornfully. "I'd rather die than put them in your hands again."
"An interesting option, but one that's not open to you," the Moderator replied sinisterly. "However, we don't have time for this banter," he continued.
"Really? I thought you liked taking your time interrogating us," Janeway's voice was starting to sound strained.
"Oh I do with the right person," he agreed personably. "But she's not here. That's why you need to tell me where she is."
Janeway shuddered. The man was totally obsessed with B'Elanna and the thought of him getting his hands back on her repulsed the Captain. "I will not take you to them," she stated firmly.
"You won't have a choice in the matter," the Moderator responded.
Suddenly, the blue-eyed interrogator swung a hand up towards the Captain's head. Anticipating a blow, Janeway ducked to one side to avoid it. An instant later, she felt a stinging sensation in her neck. She returned her gaze to the Moderator who was holding an empty phial out for her inspection.
"What's that?" She asked cautiously, knowing that its contents had found their way into her bloodstream.
"Truth serum. Very effective, but ultimately very boring to use," the Moderator replied, almost cheerfully. "I would have liked to use more traditional methods to extract your colleagues' location but I need to find them quickly. However, don't be too disheartened. By the time I've finished with my first subject, the serum will have worn off sufficiently for me to practise my skills on you."
Janeway could feel the effects of the drug already. Her vision was becoming blurred and she was having difficulty concentrating on what was being said to her. Her tongue felt thick and swollen and her eyelids drooped slightly as a wave of fatigue washed over her.
She felt her chin being clasped and she looked groggily at her captor. Unbidden, her thoughts came to her lips. "Anyone tell you that you're an asshole?"
The Moderator smiled icily at her for a moment before speaking. "Where is she?"
His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of an ocean and it took several seconds before Janeway registered what it was he was saying and that he required an answer. Even as her brain screamed out that she would never reveal their hide-out, Janeway could hear herself respond. "They're in one of the slave stations south-west of here." She couldn't even clench her jaw shut to stop the slurred words from falling from her lips.
Janeway realised that the Moderator was still smiling at her and felt her stomach turn in sickened reaction. Her throat burned as she swallowed down the bile that rose from her stomach. Janeway felt the strong arms of two guards pull her to her feet. She swayed slightly, trying to find her centre of balance, but it remained stubbornly elusive and the Captain reluctantly allowed herself to be held, knowing that if she attempted to free herself, she would end up in a sprawled heap on the ground.
The leader looked at his captive carefully, lifting her eyelids to inspect her pupil reaction and sclera colour. Satisfied that he hadn't overestimated the quantity needed, he brought his face in close again. "Start walking and take us to them," he grinned humourlessly at Janeway.
Seemingly of their own volition, Janeway felt her legs moving and despite a voice screaming in her head to stop or to lead the Moderator away from B'Elanna and Seven's bolt-hole, the Captain began retracing her steps back to her crew.
Seven of Nine stared intently at the console, knowing that she could not glean the information she wanted to know from it, and yet hoping to find anything that might be of use in their current predicament. It was, she admitted to herself, a diversion to stop her worrying about B'Elanna. The Chief Engineer had fallen into a half-sleep, half-coma a short while ago, despite a valiant attempt to remain conscious. Seven was at a loss as to what to do, something that occurred rarely, and something she felt deeply uncomfortable about. The tall blonde sighed in frustration. The console would tell her nothing except variations in power output and she had already rigged an audible alarm to trigger if the Captain was successful in disabling the Master station. She wished she could vent her frustration by hitting the console the way the half-Klingon often did but knew that the exercise would be futile.
Unable to distract herself any longer, the Astrometrics officer gazed over to the prone form of the Klingon hybrid and studied her intently, something she knew that she would never get bored of
doing. B'Elanna looked paler than ever, her features pinched and drawn by her present condition, and yet Seven thought that she looked truly beautiful.
B'Elanna's face crumpled into a frown and she groaned as she became aware of her surroundings once more. Instantly, Seven hurried to her side and sat down in front of the engineer.
"Still here?" The raven-haired woman whispered.
"Yes. The power supply is still operating at 100% efficiency," explained the ex-drone.
"Damn, and I was hoping to open my eyes and see the ceiling of Sick Bay," sighed B'Elanna softly. She struggled to sit up before leaning against the wall for support. "How are you doing?"
Seven let out a short bark of astonished laughter. "You can barely drag yourself upright and you're asking *me* how I'm doing?"
B'Elanna began to shrug but realised that it was too painful. "I might be on death's door but I can still worry about a friend," she told her. "I take it the make-good circuitry is holding up?"
Seven swallowed before answering. By mentioning their friendship, B'Elanna had unwittingly reassured Seven that she had made the right choice in revealing her feelings, even if the ultimate outcome was not one she hoped for. One of her deepest fears had been the thought of ruining the relationship she had developed with the headstrong
engineer over the last few days. "This repair is more efficient than the first attempt. I believe it will hold until we return to Voyager."
"*If* we return to Voyager," corrected the raven-haired woman pessimistically.
"*When* we return," Seven insisted. "The Captain will not fail."
B'Elanna smiled weakly at the tall blonde woman. "Seven, I need to tell you something in case I don't get a chance to later."
The Astrometrics Officer sprang up as though burnt by the words. "B'Elanna, we will get out of this together," she stated, not wanting to contemplate the thought that the engineer might die before Janeway got help.
The half-Klingon shook her head slightly. "Please, Seven. It would be dishonourable of me not to tell you. So it's best if I say this now." Despite the weariness of her voice, there was an underlining determination that B'Elanna would be heard. The dark engineer wondered for a moment why it took a near death experience for her to reveal her feelings. She felt like a coward and a hypocrite, having
previously accused Seven of being emotionless when she was just as guilty of hiding her feelings beneath episodes of explosive posturing. It was time to set things right.
Seven stared at the woman for a moment before giving a sharp nod for her to carry on. Mentally, the ex-drone braced herself for the rejection she feared.
"I told you that I needed time to think things over, and to sort out my own feelings," the shorter woman began. Seven nodded her concurrence.
"Well, I don't think I've got the luxury of time, Seven. So, here's what I *do* know." B'Elanna coughed and looked away from the blonde woman for a moment, focussing on some faraway point. "First of all, thank you for making me explore my feelings. I think I could have quite happily gone on existing the way I have been forever until you got me to examine my heart. Perhaps 'happily' is the wrong word to use. I would have continued mindlessly with the blinkered belief that I was supposed to live my life that way. Have a husband. Have children." She rubbed the back of her neck absently. "Don't get me wrong. I'd love to have children. I just want to bring them up in a world where their parents love them and each other wholeheartedly." The engineer shifted slightly as she thought carefully about her next words. "I know now that I don't love Tom, at least, not in the way I
always thought love was meant to be. He's a good friend and a good listener but he doesn't understand me. Which means that I can never be my true self with him." She paused for a long time and Seven realised that she was holding her breath, waiting for the next sentence.
The Chief Engineer switched her gaze to look Seven squarely in the eye. "Not like when I'm with you."
For a moment, Seven had difficulty following the conversation. However, as soon as she connected the last two sentences and realised their meaning, a slow look of astonishment unveiled itself on her usually impassive features.
B'Elanna curled her lips in a small grin. "I was waiting for the penny to drop," she commented. Before Seven could ask about the obscure remark, the dark-eyed woman continued. "Seven, I can't put a name to my feelings about you at the moment. For the last few days I've been telling myself that our relationship is purely platonic and I'm sure that had I more time I could continue the deception until I convinced myself that it really was. But I can't leave you thinking that I didn't care about you."
Seven continued to stare at the woman she loved. Her head was swimming with questions and she felt confused over exactly what was going to happen next. B'Elanna hadn't told her that she loved her. But she had been honest and truthful. And she had given her hope. Hope that they could build on the friendship they shared and develop it into a more intimate relationship. Slowly, the tall blonde approached B'Elanna and sat down next to her. The ex-drone was so close now that she could see her own features reflected in the dark pools of the half-Klingon's eyes. "Thank you for telling me," she whispered.
"What a touching scene," a deep voice rumbled across the room, breaking the spell between the two women instantly.
Seven instinctively leapt to her feet and adopted a defensive stance. The first person she noticed was the owner of the voice. Her brow crumpled in confusion. "You're dead," she accused the Moderator, unable to grasp the fact that the Captain had failed to eliminate him.
"So people keep telling me," observed the tall man wryly. "However, regardless of the dispute over my status, I suggest you stand down. Or people will be making the same statement of you." His tone remained light, yet there was an unmistakable threat underlining his comments.
Surveying the guards with their weapons drawn, and the Captain with a rifle aimed at her head, Seven forced herself to relax and stand more upright, realising that she had no chance of overcoming the men. As soon as her posture indicated her surrender, two guards grabbed her by the arms and took her over to where Janeway was standing. The ex-drone stared at the Moderator balefully but before she could say anything, she heard B'Elanna speak up.
"Tell me you're the good-hearted identical twin brother of that asshole Moderator," she asked, her voice determinedly strong.
"See, she didn't need any truth serum to tell you what you are," Janeway commented, the words still slurred slightly as the drug continued to course through her body. She received a sharp backhand from one of her guards for the remark that snapped her head back. She pinned him with a glare as she rubbed her stinging cheek but made no further comment.
Seven frowned slightly, noticing the lack of clarity in the Captain's voice and realised that Janeway had been coerced in some way to lead the guards to their hideout. Not seeing any visible sign of injury, the former borg could only surmise that the Captain had been drugged.
The Moderator ignored the exchange and swiftly reduced the distance between himself and B'Elanna. He reached inside his long leather jacket and retrieved a square device that he then waved over the Klingon's body. After several sweeps he sat back slightly to study the results. He shook his head ruefully. "Tsk, tsk. Why did you take it upon yourselves to leave?" He asked.
"I couldn't stand the company any longer," B'Elanna retorted. Inwardly, she cursed the weakness of her body and she longed to smash her fist into his face but she knew that she didn't have the strength or energy to fulfil her wish. Her mind was still active however, and she was determined not to let him see how fearful she had become the moment she had laid eyes on her torturer.
The Moderator ran a finger down the curving line of her jaw almost affectionately, his lips curling into a smile as he saw her flinch at the caress. "B'Elanna," he crooned, savouring the name as if he were talking about his most cherished possession. "It's a good job your leader told us where to find you," he remarked, noting with interest the look of disbelief flash across the features of the dark-haired beauty as she flicked her eyes towards Janeway. "Much longer here alone and you most certainly would have died. At least now I can treat your injuries."
B'Elanna frowned in confusion. "What? You've tortured me for hours and now you want to patch me up?"
"Absolutely. There are hours more pleasure I can illicit from you yet," he told her ferally. "However, even I am not skilled enough to stop you miscarrying," he continued, his face and voice taking on a facade of regret.
Both Seven and Janeway stiffened at his words, rocked by their meaning.
"You bastard!" The Captain exclaimed as she tried to leap at the Moderator. Her effort was halted immediately by the guards surrounding her as they held her back by the shoulders. She struggled furiously against the grip and was rewarded with a rifle butt slamming into her head. Stunned, the red-haired woman fell onto one knee. She shook her head slightly, but made no further effort to engage the enemy.
Seven looked at B'Elanna unblinkingly, barely registering the commotion the Captain had created. A hot, single tear traced down one cheek as she caught the engineer's look. "I'm so sorry, B'Elanna," she whispered, the words unable to carry over the distance between her and the half-Klingon.
"Kim to Chakotay," the Ensign's voice broke excitedly over the comm.
Chakotay looked up toward the ceiling instinctively as he answered. "Go ahead Harry," he invited. "Give me some good news."
The slightly distorted voice continued. "We've located the planet on sensors. I'm hoping that now we've broken through that barrier, it won't be long before we locate the power supply to the cloaking generators and deactivate them."
The native American stood up as he heard the news, a wide grin breaking across his face. "Can we get a visual?" He asked.
"Yes sir, but it will only show a vague outline of the planet. The cloaking mechanism is shielding most of the features of the world," he explained.
"On screen," Chakotay requested of a young ensign who had taken post at Ops since Kim's sojourn in Engineering. True to Harry's word, the view screen depicted a grey sphere with just a few sparse features including a number of separate land masses and a large expanse of ocean. Despite the lack of information, the First Officer peered closely at the screen, as if to obtain any additional clues in combating the cloaking device.
"The cloak also shields any potential threat from the planet's surface," Tuvok advised impassively from his station at Tactical. "I must advise that Voyager remains in a vulnerable position all the time we orbit the planet."
"Thank you Tuvok." Chakotay barely managed to conceal his frustration at the remark. He took a steadying breath before continuing. "Now that we're this close to locating our people, I think I can justify staying here for a while longer."
"I am merely advising continued caution, Commander." The dark Vulcan remained impassive.
"If you're telling me not to get carried away, then thank you. But I can't help being eager for the return of my friends," the Commander snapped. Silently, Chakotay admitted to himself that the Security Chief was right and was grateful for the level-headed caveat.
"Harry, what's next?" Without realising it, Chakotay raised his voice to speak over the Comm.
"Now that the planet has been located, we can use the long range sensors directed towards the surface to find any power sources."
"How long will it take to configure the sensors to look for what B'Elanna specified?" The Commander asked.
"It's already been done," Kim replied.
Chakotay allowed a look of delighted surprise to flit across his face. "You were confident of success with your project then?" He couldn't help but rib the young man good-naturedly.
"According to you sir, failure was not an option. I just thought it would save time if I got an engineering team to look at the next phase of the plan while I worked on this bit."
"A logical and commendable course of action," congratulated Tuvok, indicating his approval with a raised eyebrow.
"I agree," Chakotay added. "Harry, do you need to remain in Engineering or can you operate from the Bridge now?"
"I can do everything from the Bridge now, sir," the young Asian man confirmed.
"Excellent. Get up here once you're satisfied that everything in Engineering is operating correctly. Let's see if we can bring them home."
"Yes sir." Harry's voice vibrated with enthusiasm and determination.
"Good job Harry," Tom commended his friend. The strain of having B'Elanna stranded on the planet was starting to take its toll on the Helmsman. He had tried to concentrate on his role at the conn but had found his mind constantly focussing on his wife's absence. He had managed to suppress his hopes for the Away Team's retrieval so far, but now that Harry had made such a significant step, the sandy-haired man couldn't stop his emotions soaring. He felt Chakotay grip his shoulder in a gesture of understanding before returning to his seat at the centre of the Bridge. For once, Tom didn't mind the Commander's intrusion into his thoughts and welcomed his support. It wouldn't be long before he had B'Elanna back in his arms.
B'Elanna just stared at the Moderator in silence. Outwardly, she showed no other sign of acknowledgement to his revelation other than a quiet disbelief. Her mind, however was in turmoil. Questions raced through her head, new ones starting almost before the last thought finished. She had miscarried? How long had she been pregnant? Had the baby been a boy or a girl? How would Tom react? How was she supposed to react?
The engineer pulled her mind into focus as she saw Seven mouth some words at her. She couldn't hear them but gleaned their meaning from the expressive look on her face. How had she ever thought that the tall blonde was emotionless? But despite seeing the obvious anguish on the ex-borg's features, B'Elanna could find no fire or will to stir up any of her own emotions. She felt as dead as the baby she would now never know. The engineer found it impossible to respond to Seven's gesture. She remained motionless as she flicked her eyes back towards the man who had just extinguished her desire to live with one careless sentence. "It's over," she told him in a monotone. "You'll get nothing from me now, not even resistance."
The Moderator narrowed his eyes at the statement, realising that he had made an error in telling the woman about the loss of the foetus. She had lost the indomitable spark of life that he so longed to toy with. He couldn't help but curl his lips into a snarl as he contemplated the loss of his most valued torture subject. A loss that needn't have happened had he kept his mouth shut. "Don't be so sure of that, my pretty," he whispered, rubbing his thumb over the dark wound he had inflicted on her cheek.
B'Elanna stared at him, her eyes dead. She felt no need to flinch from his touch. He could inflict no greater pain on her now.
Annoyed by the lack of reaction, the Moderator stood quickly.
"What's the matter, lost your favourite plaything?" Janeway goaded.
She knew that B'Elanna desperately needed help but the remnants of the truth serum in her body would not allow her to remain silent and she mentally kicked herself for provoking the man.
The tall blond interrogator stared balefully at the red-haired woman, still kneeling after the blow she received. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the other woman, a look of sheer grief etched across her porcelain features and he recalled the events he interrupted when Janeway led him to their hideout.
Unable to control the grin that sprang across his face, he returned his gaze to the dark woman still slumped against the wall. "I might not be able to get a reaction from my work on you, but I suspect I'll be able to get a satisfying response if I work on your friend here." He flicked his head toward the ex-drone, his long blond hair accentuating the movement as he approached B'Elanna and crouched down in front of her.
For a long moment, B'Elanna did nothing except return the stare. She was truly at a loss as to what to do. But she could feel nothing. The engineer knew that it was wrong to be so emotionless but at the same time had no solution to her lack of feelings. The one thing she would not do though was be responsible for putting Seven or the Captain in danger from the Moderator. Not while she could still breathe. What was needed now was action, not words. Psyching herself up for the interaction, the dark Klingon shifted her arms slightly so that she could push away from the wall that was supporting her body.
Suddenly, the engineer sprang forward, throwing her body into the off-balanced interrogator. B'Elanna's momentum propelled them halfway across the room and as they landed, she heard a satisfying crack as the man she was entangled with collided with the central control panel. Grabbing hold of the lapels of his jacket, the raven-haired woman used the leverage it produced to head-butt him in the face, feeling his nose displace with the force she put into the blow. Knowing that the guards would come to his aid, she rolled off him quickly and lay on the floor with her hands raised in capitulation. She found herself looking down the muzzles of two rifles and grunted as she felt a boot kick her in the ribs.
As soon as B'Elanna had launched herself at the Moderator, Seven swung a clenched fist at one of her guards before spinning quickly and chopping the other in the throat. Her assault was stopped before it really started however as Janeway was dragged into her line of sight with a rifle pressed firmly against her temple. Understanding the threat, the tall borg held up her hands in defeat, grimacing as she saw B'Elanna receive a blow to her already battered body. The first guard pulled himself upright and slugged a right hook at the ex-drone's face, only to find his fist caught in one of the woman's hands. The Astrometrics Officer squeezed it gently before releasing the limb, but the underlying threat of menace was communicated effectively to the guard and he backed off slightly, raising his weapon and aiming it squarely at Seven's chest.
The Moderator pulled himself to his feet and gingerly checked his head and nose to determine the extent of the injury. Satisfied that he would suffer no permanent harm, he turned furiously toward the prone woman. "You've just made my task that much more of a pleasure," he hissed, unable to keep the ire from his voice. He ground on his heel as he turned away. "Take them back to the cell block," he commanded, looking over his shoulder as he left the building, blood pouring freely from his misshapen nose.
Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he span back round to look more carefully at the scene. Three shimmering blue clouds swirled round his captives and they evaporated before his eyes.
"NO!" He screamed, running back with his arms outstretched in a vain attempt to grab any of the women. As his hands passed through the transparent image of the exotic beauty he so wanted to continue his craft on, he howled at the guards. "Where have they gone? Get them back now!"
The men, as confused as the Moderator, just stared back at the man impotently.
They were only on the pad of Transporter Room One for a few seconds. As soon as an anguished Seven of Nine screamed at the transporter operator to get them to Sick Bay, the Ensign behind the operating console complied and performed a site-to-site transport. Chakotay and Paris, who had formed the greeting party, exchanged looks before sprinting to the nearest turbolift to take them to Sick Bay.
"Computer, activate Emergency Medical Holographic Program," Janeway barked tersely as she saw Seven sweep Torres into her arms and place her onto a bio-bed.
The Doctor shimmered into existence. "What seems to be the..."
"B'Elanna needs help." The Captain couldn't trust herself to say any more. Fortunately, the EMH took the hint and grabbed a tricorder on his way towards the bed.
"Dear God," he breathed, shocked at his friend's condition.
"Doctor, we were told that B'Elanna may be miscarrying. Is there any possibility that you can save the baby?" Seven's tone was almost pleading.
"At the moment, it'll be all I can do to keep B'Elanna alive," the tall man retorted sharply, his mind racing to come up with solutions to all of the stricken engineer's injuries. He looked up at Seven when he realised the atmosphere in Sick Bay seemed to have plummeted icily and saw two pairs of eyes boring into him intently. He knew it was illogical, but the looks emanating from the Captain and Seven made him nervous and he coughed unnecessarily. "I'll try my best," he answered softly, hoping to appease them.
Janeway nodded curtly and expected to wait some time for an answer to Seven's request.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as the Doctor looked up from his console almost immediately. "I'm sorry. She has already aborted the foetus. There's nothing I can do."
Seven closed her eyes and held them shut for a long moment as the words sunk in. "I'm so sorry, B'Elanna." She repeated her sentiment from earlier in the same quiet whisper.
Janeway noticed how distressed the young blonde was and closed the distance between them. "We have to help each other get through this," she told the girl softly and pulled her into a hug, feeling the taller woman cling onto her desperately as convulsing sobs wracked Seven's body. Instinctively she pulled the woman closer, at the same time closing off the part of her mind that contained her grief. As the Captain, it was her duty to support her crew and she was only dimly aware of a voice inside her head wondering who would support her when she finally got the courage to deal with the trauma they had all gone through.
Captain's personal log; We have resumed course for the Alpha Quadrant now fully laden with dilithium and fluorixitine alloy. Voyager is back to full power and there will be no need for us to stop for any more supplies for some time to come. However, I can't help but think that the cost of our reserves was too high. B'Elanna has been told by the Doctor that it is impossible for her now to have children. Both she and Seven have isolated themselves from the events on the planet, stating that they have dealt with the issues and now refuse to talk to anyone else about the experience. Seven immerses herself in work and has to be ordered off duty. B'Elanna is rarely seen outside of Engineering. I can't help but wonder at the effect it is having on her marriage though there have been no reports of arguments between her and Tom. I suspect that we may feel the repercussions of this assignment for some time to come.
As for me, I know that the blame lays firmly on my shoulders. It was my decision to undertake the Away Mission. I am responsible for the death of B'Elanna's baby. I have yet to apologise to her or Tom for that though. I suspect neither would understand why I have to accept accountability for their loss.
The story arc continues in Retribution
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