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She Who Hesitates is Lost
By Lisa Countryman
Chapter One: Holograms and broken hearts
Seven of Nine stood in the pub and watched as a mere Hologram announced his relationship with the captain. Her face remained unchanged for the most part, with the exception of a slightly raised eyebrow. The rest of the crew present showed their surprise in their expressions but they tried to act unaffected. "Sullivan" was the holo-characters name, and he had apparently been programmed for drunken self-pity. Seven watched his display for a few moments and then quietly excused herself from the Fairhaven program.
Tom Paris had created the program for the crews recreational enjoyment, but Seven had not enjoyed it at all. In fact, the former Borg drone found the holodeck a complete waste of time. Indulging in fantasies when there was work to be done seemed an ineffective use of time. Now Seven had to face the fact that not only did Captain Janeway find the holodeck an acceptable use of time and resources, she apparently found its characters suitable for romantic entanglement.
Seven made her way to the Astrometrics lab without speaking to any of the crewmembers she passed, but that in itself was not new. She found superfluous conversation almost as wasteful as spending time on the holodeck. Seven was a commanding presence, with her tall, lanky build accented by her striking blonde hair and blue eyes that alternated from an arctic blue to a deep cobalt depending on her outfit and mood. The crewmembers that saw her this day saw a young woman who looked much the same as the drone had when Janeway had first rescued her from the Borg Collective. Her face was cold, her features harsh, eyes deep blue and lifeless. Most assumed it was just another of her Borg moods, some wondered if she was having a bad day, but none could have guessed she was dealing with a broken heart.
Once she was safely inside the sterile confines of the Astrometrics lab, Seven began cataloging the scans from the last few star systems Voyager had passed through, trying desperately to get her mind off of the holographic bartender from Fairhaven. No matter how many intricate equations she worked on, she could not shake the images of Michael Sullivan touching the woman she loved. The idea that Kathryn would let a hologram touch her, love her, when Seven was aching to ease the captains loneliness, was physically painful. After two hours, Seven gave up and went to regenerate.
Seven kept to herself even when an interstellar storm battered the ship, but she had heard that the Fairhaven program was damaged, almost lost, yet it had been saved. Most of the crew went to the grand reopening to celebrate, but there were two notable exceptions.
Captain Janeway stayed away, warring with her own inner demons as she tried to understand how and if she could have fallen in love with a hologram. She was confused, and more than a little disgusted with herself since Michael Sullivan wasnt even a sentient hologram. He lacked the sophistication of the Doctors program, unable to feel, or speculate, or to even understand his own existence. The more Janeway thought about it, the more she realized that it wasnt so much Michael Sullivan she loved, but the idea of being in love. But that wasnt exactly true either. It was the idea of being in love with someone acceptable. She had decided long ago that she couldnt afford to get involved with any of her crew, and her recent conversation with the Doctor had only reinforced that belief. Starfleet allowed for captains to date crewmembers, but Kathryn had never been one to cross that line. She had always had her own built-in safety net, Mark, the ever-faithful fiancÚ, but now he had moved on. And to make matters worse, she was not just captain, but the supreme Starfleet officer in the Delta quadrant. So in effect, she was Starfleet command, and that meant her dating a crewmember would have been like an admiral dating a cadet. Janeway didnt want to even consider crossing that bridge.
The other person who chose to miss the grand reopening was Seven of Nine. She had decided that the only use she had for the holodeck was to play Velocity, and even that didnt interest her at the moment. Ever since she had discovered Janeways "relationship" with the hologram she had avoided the holodeck and the captain. Just the thought of either one caused the surprisingly fragile blondes chest to constrict and her throat to feel painfully dry. Instead, Seven studied the massive amounts of data she had recently collected when Voyager had been trapped in orbit around a planet out of sync with the rest of the universes timestream. She wished for a moment that she had beamed down to the planet because in that timestream, she would have long since lived out her life, and in fact would have been dead for centuries. She had heard that "time heals," and she wondered how much time must pass before simply thinking of Kathryn wouldnt make her feel like crying. She remembered when One had died. He had been like her son, and she truly loved him, but his loss had not cut as deeply and Kathryns decision to be with the hologram. Perhaps it was the difference between losing someone to fate, and having them choose another.
Back on the holodeck, things were not going as expected. The bartender, Sevens rival, was drinking more ale than he was serving. He was drunk and pining away for his Katie OClare. For the first ten minutes it had been almost amusing, but it quickly progressed to downright annoying. The program had been on-line less than a half-hour before Harry Kim deactivated the whining bartender. From there, things went down hill. Tom Paris decided to run his secondary beverage server. He activated Rebecca OToole, or "Becca", as she was known. Beccas most noteworthy "attributes" were her extremely large breasts, her extremely revealing blouse, and her extreme willingness to share both. Unfortunately for Tom Paris, he was enjoying all of Beccas attributes when his girlfriend BElanna Torres arrived. Toms head was buried inside Beccas blouse chasing an olive he had dropped down her cleavage moments before, and Becca was all too eager to assist by arching her back and pushing her permanently erect nipples into Toms face.
"Oh, Tommy, me boy," Becca said with a thick brogue. "Youve gotta talented tongue. Would ye like ta come upstairs with me like ya di last night?" She pulled him toward the back of the bar and leaned against the rough oak wall.
Toms hands were joining his mouth under the thin cotton blouse and his boyish giggle was unmistakable. "Im expecting someone tonight," he said. "But I will take you up on that come the morrow," he answered in his version of the local dialect.
"Oh, surely ye kin sneak away fer a few hours?" the hologram laughed.
What happened next was not entirely clear considering that those who were close enough to actually see BElannas reaction were either knocked out of the way, or rendered unconscious. The Klingon-human hybrid ended Beccas short holographic life with a quick snap of her slender neck. Though she had been only a fantasy creation, her body made a satisfying thud as she crumpled to the floor. Luckily for Tom Paris, Tuvok happened to be at the pub playing "rings" because the Vulcan was the first person to reach Torres. Tuvok was hurled over a nearby table, but his grip on BElannas arm caused her to tumble over the table with him. The two struggled on the floor while Tom dove behind the bar counter. Tuvok had BElanna in a headlock, but a well-placed elbow to his ribs doubled him over long enough for the svelte engineer to escape. She was over the bar counter in one leap, and Paris came flying back over the bar a split second later. It would have been an impressive leap on Toms part, except he had not propelled himself. BElanna had tossed him headfirst toward the "Rings" area and then followed him with a deep growl.
Janeway was in her quarters when she was called to sickbay. She was not amused by what she found.
When Janeway entered sickbay the first thing she noticed was that every bed was occupied. The second thing she noticed was that there was a security team around one bed apparently having an impromptu wrestling match with someone.
"All right," Janeway said with a take no prisoners whip of command in her voice. "What the hell is going on?"
"Captain, there was an altercation in the Fair Haven program," Tuvok informed her.
Janeway cringed, assuming Michael Sullivan was still pining for her. "And why did the crew get involved?" she asked, motioning toward the crowded sickbay.
"The crew started it," the Doctor said as he looked up from Tuvoks obviously broken arm. "Why does everyone always blame the hologram?"
"Explain." the captains eyes narrowed.
"Ouch," Tom Paris yelled from a nearby bed. "Take it easy, Neelix."
"Maybe next time you wont be so eager to help a hologram retrieve her lost garnish," Neelix snapped at the bruised and battered helmsman.
Janeway took a step closer to Paris. "Am I to understand you started this?"
"Patak!" Torres yelled from across the room. "Let me go you son of a targh!"
The captain turned in time to see Jensen, who was of the burlier security officers, fly across the room.
"Get off of me!" BElanna yelled. "Let me finish what I started. Tom Paris you Denivian slime devil, Im gonna rip your heart out and feed it to you."
"Lieutenant!" Janeway barked as she made her way toward the pile of security officers. "At ease, BElanna," she ordered.
Two of the security team shifted their focus toward the captain, one of them got BElannas boot against his jaw for his lack of attentiveness, and the other got her fist across his throat. Both men were dropped to their knees. Torres scrambled to her feet and lunged toward Toms position when Janeways steely glare froze her in place.
For a moment BElannas eyes darted over the captains wiry frame looking for a way past her, but Janeways eyes hardened and she squared her stance letting Torres know that shed have to go through her commanding officer to get to her target.
"Captain," BElanna said as she sighed and relaxed her own stance. Her Klingon blood was in full battlelust, but she would never hit the compact woman who blocked her path. They shared a long and respectful friendship, and BElanna had come to see Janeway as something of a surrogate for the mother she hadnt seen in too many years.
"I think youve got some explaining to do," Janeway said. The security officers managed to get back on their feet and quickly grabbed Torres by each arm.
"Let me go," Torres demanded, yanking her arms free with relative ease.
"Are you going to restrain yourself?" Janeway asked.
"Yes, Maam," Torres said through gritted teeth. The two security officers looked to the captain and then stepped away when she nodded her approval. BElanna sighed and ran her tongue over her teeth tasting blood, but she ignored the more obvious trickle of blood making its way down her forehead.
"Im waiting." Janeways voice was quiet and low, warning BElanna that she wasnt in the mood for any stalling.
BElannas eyes drifted to the deck plating. "Apparently Paris cant keep it in his pants. Hes screwing one of those holographic sluts. Its bad enough that hes cheating on me, but with a hologram? He dishonored me, Captain. The whole crews laughing at me."
"And you felt that action warranted putting half my crew in sickbay?" Janeway kept her face calm, but inside cringed at the topic of sex with holograms.
"No, Maam. It didnt involve any of them," Torres said motioning to the crowded sickbay. "This was between that PaTak and me," she explained, pointing to Paris.
"I disagree," Tuvok said as he stepped beside the captain, his injuries healed. "Had you been left to your own devices, I believe Voyager would no longer have a helmsman for the alpha shift."
"Damn right," Torres said with a snort.
"That is unacceptable, Lieutenant," Janeway said, quickly silencing BElanna. "I dont care what Tom did or who he did it with. You will not physically accost any member of this crew."
"But he dishonored me." Torres eyes flashed as she shifted her weight.
"Enough," Janeway said as she held up her hand. "You will sit down and wait for your injuries to be treated and then you will go to the brig. Directly to the brig, without stopping by Mr. Paris quarters, and you will wait there until I can figure out what to do with you." Janeway released a disgusted sigh. "Is that clear, Lieutenant?"
BElanna bit her lip and then looked into the captains slate blue eyes. "Yes, Maam."
Chapter Two: Consequences
BElanna Torres suffered the least during her punishment. She spent three weeks in the Brig reading technical manuals and Klingon history. She actually enjoyed the time she spent alone. The rest of the crew struggled during her absence. Most notably was Seven of Nine. With Torres out of Engineering, Vorik had first been put in charge, but after the warp core decided to throw several temper tantrums, Janeway put Seven in charge of the Engine room. The engines were running at peak efficiency, but the Engineering staff didnt seem to enjoy being given Borg designations.
Seven looked up from the personnel reports when she heard the doors to Engineering hiss open. She sighed and focused on the data padd on her desk as Captain Janeway made her way across the room to the small office off to one side.
"Seven, can I have a word with you?" Janeway asked from the doorway.
"Of course, Captain." Seven stood and gave Janeway her full attention.
"Would you care to explain this?" Janeway thrust a data padd at the former Borg drone.
Seven raised an eyebrow, then read over the padd. "Captain?"
"Explain." Janeways voice could have cut through the duranium deck plating. She took a deep breath and slowly released it.
"I am uncertain as to what you expect me to explain," Seven said as she handed the padd back to Janeway.
"What the hell were you doing?"
Seven seemed genuinely confused. "I was utilizing the holodeck to relieve tension."
"This is not an acceptable use of the holodeck," Janeway said quietly. "In fact, I think you should talk to the Doctor or perhaps Chakotay about this."
"Is this why Lieutenant Torres was imprisoned?" Seven asked.
"No," Janeway snapped. "She is in brig because she injured several members of this crew. Im here because I am worried about you, Seven."
"Are you certain you are not here out of concern for the holocharacter? I did reset the program when I left."
"Seven, you killed a holocharacter, twice. What is this about?" Janeway stepped closer, but Seven moved away.
"Lieutenant Torres killed a holocharacter, and from what Tuvok has said, it was an efficient focus for her aggression," Seven explained. "He stated that had BElanna not killed Becca, she would have severely injured Ensign Paris. Tuvok stated that had the holodeck been full of holographic characters and not actual crewmembers, Lieutenant Torres would not be in custody at this time."
"That doesnt explain why you did this," Janeway said waving the padd.
"The character annoyed me," Seven stated.
"You broke his neck."
"Twice," Seven amended. "He is an exceptionally annoying program. He grabbed my buttocks."
"So you killed him?"
"Captain, I am confused as to your objection. How is my use of the holodeck, or Lieutenant Torres any different than yours?"
"What?" Janeways eyes widened.
"I killed the annoying bartender, Sullivan," Seven said as she went behind her desk, or rather the desk she was using until Torres was returned to duty. "It alleviated some of my tension. BElanna and I chose to kill holograms, you choose to fuck them, both relieve tension. I fail to see why we are having this discussion."
"You are out of line," Janeway said. Inside she cringed at the blondes terminology. She hadnt expected such a word from the exdrones mouth.
"Then perhaps you should send me to the brig," Seven replied. She knew her words hurt the captain, she could tell by the tiny wrinkles that formed around the older womans eyes when she looked at Seven, but she couldnt stop herself from saying them.
"Dont think I wont," Janeway said, her voice was harder than she had intended, but Sevens word had stung deeply.
"Are we finished?" Seven asked. "We are in need of dilithium crystals and I need to assign a crew to retrieve them."
"Seven, whats going on with you?" Janeway asked sincerely, pushing aside her own hurt and focusing on her concern for Seven. "Youve been avoiding me. You dont meet me for Velocity anymore; you wont even look me in the eyes. Talk to me. What is it?"
Seven briefly considered telling Janeway the truth, that she was deeply hurt by the captains decision to turn to a hologram, but she couldnt. It was too painful to say out loud, so she changed the subject. "The dilithium crystals are critical. I have found a planet three days away by shuttle."
"Youre avoiding my questions."
"I will pilot the shuttle myself," Seven stated.
"Seven, dont you think leaving the ship to avoid my question is a little over the top?" Janeway took a step closer to Seven as she spoke, but was only frustrated when the Borg moved around her and headed out the door.
"I do not see how my actions can be seen in any spatial placement, over the top or otherwise. I will be in the shuttle bay preparing for launch."
"Who are you taking with you?" Janeway asked, trying a different tact.
"I will go alone," Seven said dismissing the question.
"I dont think so," Janeway said. "Protocol requires at least two crewmembers," she added with a wry grin. She was hatching a plot, and not one of her kinder ones.
"Fine," Seven said. "I will leave Vorik in charge and take Lieutenant Nicoletti with me."
"No," the captain said.
"I am acting head of Engineering. I have the right to assign my staff as I see fit," Seven said indignantly.
"And I am the Captain. I have the right to assign my crew any way I see fit." The petite redhead crossed her arms over her chest and eyed the tall blonde. "I think Lieutenant Torres has been in brig long enough, but I dont think her punishment is quite finished. I think a little dilithium collection would be just the thing for her." Janeway almost laughed as she saw anger flash across Sevens sculpted features. It was no secret that Torres and Seven had a volatile and unfriendly relationship, and both women generally did anything to avoid spending time alone together. An away mission that required three days travel each way in addition to the actual time it took to collect the dilithium would be enough to bring the two to blows. "Sure you want to go yourself?" Janeway challenged.
Seven stared at Janeways lips; they were edging up at the corners the way they always did when she found something amusing. The exdrone suddenly pictured that same smile directed at the hologram Sullivan. "I am sure Lieutenant Torres and I will manage."
Chapter Three: Its only six days
BElanna stared at Janeway as if she had grown a second and third head.
"Me and Seven?" BElanna turned at let her eyes wander over the tight confines of the cell she had come to call home. "No thank you, Maam. I think Ill stay right where I am." BElanna walked back to her bunk and flopped onto her back and stared up at the ceiling.
"You dont have that option," Janeway said. She was beginning to get more satisfaction from her present plot than she really should, but with all the trouble Torres and Seven had been giving her lately, she intended to milk it for all it was worth.
Torres sat up and turned toward Janeway. "You cant be serious, Captain. Ive just served three weeks for busting up Tuvoks security squad. You send me off for six days with that that with her, and Ill end up court martialed."
Janeway gave Torres an evil, predatory smile. "Im hoping youve learned your lesson."
BElanna snorted and stood up. "Im a slow learner, Maam." She paced the small room, not crossing the doorway despite the fact the forcefield was now down.
"Youre going. Consider it the last of your punishment."
"If Id known this was part of the punishment, I never would have lost my temper," BElanna said as she ran her hands through her dark hair.
Janeway laughed. "Well, just remember that over the next six days. If either of you returns with so much as a broken fingernail, Ill lock you two in one of these cells, together, for a month."
Torres released a sigh and her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Do I at least get time to go pack a bag?" she asked without looking up.
"Make it quick. Sevens in the shuttle bay now, and she hates tardiness," Janeway said, unable to avoid tossing out one last dig.
BElanna stood outside the shuttle bay for several minutes before actually entering. She nodded to passing crewmembers who seemed surprised to see her out of the brig. Once she had her temper firmly in check she entered and went to the Delta Flyer.
"Lieutenant Torres, you are late," Seven said instead of a greeting.
"Yeah? Well, considering I just got drafted for this little mission, youre lucky Im here at all." Torres brushed past her traveling companion and went inside the shuttle directly to the small sleeping area in the back and tossed her duffel bag onto one of the bunks.
Seven stood in the doorway behind the compact Klingon-human hybrid and crossed her arms over her chest. "Your tardiness was intentional," Seven accused. "I inquired as to your location and was informed that you were waiting at the entrance to the shuttle bay for the last six minutes. Explain."
BElanna spun and glared at Seven, who didnt react. "Just be glad I did. Ive been standing out there going over every reason I could think of to not ring your scrawny neck."
"Indeed?" Seven smirked, and tilted her head to one side. "And the reasons were so abundant that it took you six minutes to list them?"
"Dont start with me, Borg." Torres squeezed around Seven and went out to the shuttles helm. "It took me that long to come up with one reason."
Seven followed on BElannas heels. "And what was the reason?"
"I didnt want to get my hands dirty." Torres flopped into one of the chairs and began the preflight checklist.
Seven sat in the chair to BElannas right and began assisting her. "I assure you, I have impeccable hygiene."
"Yeah? Well, youre still a Borg. The idea of touching a drone doesnt appeal to me," BElanna shot back. She was surprised when she saw Seven actually flinch.
"I am no longer a drone," Seven said quietly. "Perhaps we should agree to keep our conversation to a minimum."
"Fine by me," Torres said as she finished her preflight check.
Twenty four hours later, Seven of Nine was in the cargo hold double checking the containment field that was supposed to transport the dilithium crystals. She avoided Lieutenant Torres for the most part, only needing to actual speak with her on one occasion to point out a necessary course adjustment. The former Borg drone was used to people avoiding her, and she occupied her mind with calculations to increase the sensitivity of the shuttles sensors.
It was not as easy for BElanna to remain completely quiet. During the three weeks Torres had spent in the brig she had been able to talk with her guards and keep up on ships gossip. The complete silence of the shuttle quickly began to grate on her nerves. She decided she was desperate enough to talk to the drone.
"Hey, Seven, what are you doing?" Torres asked as she leaned against the shuttle wall.
Seven raised her blonde eyebrow in response.
"Okay, I admit it. I was a little tough on you yesterday." It was as close to an apology as Torres would get. She ran her hand though her hair and cleared her throat. "So, what are you doing?"
Seven accepted the gesture for what it was. People often said that she was like a child in many ways, and one of those ways was in her willingness to move beyond disagreements.
"I have fine-tuned the sensor array to increase its sensitivity by 32 percent." Seven stood up so BElanna could access the panel.
"Yeah?" Torres knelt down and examined the changes. "You rerouted the auxiliary power feed to the imaging matrix. Good idea."
"Thank you," Seven said cautiously.
Torres turned and looked up at the athletic blonde. "You know, Seven, I can recognize good work."
"I am aware of that fact, Lieutenant. You are a brilliant engineer. Part of that entails the ability to notice the skill others possess." Seven linked her hands behind her back, forcing her chest into stark profile as she turned toward the front of the shuttle.
"Thank you, Seven." BElanna stood and looked at her companion. BElanna had noticed Sevens perfect body on many occasions, and what amazed the half Klingon most was that the exdrone seemed oblivious to her own beauty.
"I merely stated the obvious," Seven explained.
"Brilliant? Wow." Torres motioned to a panel cover lying on the floor behind Seven. "So are you finished in here?"
"Yes," Seven handed Torres the panel and then extended her hand and pulled her to feet.
A beeping from the helm cut off their first civil conversation. They both moved to the helm and sat, BElanna quickly accessing the readings. "Well, Seven, looks like your improved sensors are picking something up."
Seven leaned over against BElanna and gave the computer a few quick commands, her fingers moving gracefully over the controls. "I am detecting neutrinos. They appear to be from a stabile source," Seven said.
"Stabile?" Torres stood and leaned against Sevens shoulder to get a better look at her readings. "Could that be a wormhole?"
"Possibly," Seven said, trying to ignore the warmth of BElannas body against her arm. "These readings are similar to the data I have received from Voyagers records on the Bajorian wormhole. The stabile neutrinos have only been found at that artificial wormhole."
"So you think its the same wormhole?" BElannas eyes widened.
"No," Seven stated. "Only that both anomalies share stabile neutrinos."
"Damn. Well, I say we go investigate and see just where this wormhole leads. It could be just the short cut were looking for."
"It could also lead us directly back into the heart of Borg space," Seven pointed out.
"Always the optimist," Torres whispered under her breath as she changed course toward the neutrino emissions.
"The captain did not give us permission to investigate any phenomena," Seven said even as she adjusted the sensors to scan the area in question.
"Im not passing up a possible wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway should be glad we found it. I still cant believe she stuck me on this stupid mission," Torres grumbled. "Like it really takes a Chief Engineer to pick up some dilithium deposits."
Seven glanced over at her companion and waited a few minutes before commenting. "I believe it is my fault you were assigned to this mission."
"What?" Torres said as she spun toward Seven and glared at her.
"I wanted to participate in this mission. Given our well known incompatibility, I believe she sent you to either dissuade me from coming or to punish me." Seven sighed and gave the control panel her full attention.
BElanna stared at the exdrone trying to decide if she should be angry or laugh. It hadnt occurred to her that Seven was so keenly aware of human nature. Finally, her own curiosity made her break the silence.
"Umm, Seven? What did you do to piss off the captain?"
"Tom Paris is an idiot," Seven said instead of answering Torres question.
"Yes, he is, but that wasnt what I asked."
Seven turned to BElanna and took a leisurely look at the Klingons muscular frame. "You are the second most attractive female on board Voyager as well as one of the most intelligent, and yet he choose to jeopardize everything you offer by copulating with that hologram."
BElanna felt her cheeks darken and her face became warm and she cleared her throat. "Uh, thanks," she said unsteadily, then frowned when she realized Sevens implication. "Second most attractive? You really are full of yourself, Borg."
Seven seemed confused. "Who else would I be full of?"
"I suppose you think youre the smartest and best looking?"
"No," Seven said honestly. "I do not. I believe of all the women on Voyager I am the least appealing. As you are so fond of pointing out, I am Borg."
"So who is the most attractive?" BElanna stared at the blonde, unable to grasp that she didnt know she was one of the most beautiful women many had ever seen anywhere.
Seven blushed and looked away. "It is irrelevant."
"Okay," BElanna said, drawing the word out. "So what did you do to warrant the punishment of six days with me?"
Seven turned slowly back toward BElanna. "I killed a hologram, and then pointed out to the captain that it was no different than her use of the programs."
"Whod you kill? Her bartender?" Torres said jokingly.
"Yes," Seven said.
"Oh. Well, what else did you say to her?" Torres asked.
"That it shouldnt matter if member of the crew used them for killing or fucking. Both are methods of relieving stress."
BElanna burst into a howling laugh, letting her Klingon self fully enjoy the moment. Finally, she wiped her eyes and looked at Seven who seemed mildly amused herself. "You really said, fucking?"
"It is the correct term. It means a sexual act of a vulgar or unseemly nature. I can think of nothing more unseemly than sex with a hologram," Seven said with her typical bluntness.
BElanna studied Seven for several moments, rubbing her chin as a realization came into her consciousness. "The woman who is the most beautiful in your eyes its Janeway, isnt it?"
"Yes," Seven said without looking up from the panel. "I am getting strange readings from the area ahead. There appears to be a nebula around the wormhole. If it is indeed a wormhole."
"Lets ease into the nebula and see what we can see," Torres said. She looked over at Seven and realized the exdrone was in love with the captain.
"Wait," Seven said, dropping the shuttle to one half impulse. "There are several beacons between us and the nebula."
"Are they armed?" Torres asked.
"They do not appear to be," Seven answered.
"Youre in love with her, arent you?"
Sevens hands froze on the console. "You are mistaken," Seven said, her voice like ice. "I have no feelings for the captain."
"You react pretty strongly for someone who doesnt have any feelings."
Seven bit her lip and then looked at BElanna. For some reason BElannas recent loss at the hands of a holographic character made her feel closer to the Klingon. "I am no longer in love with her," Seven stated.
"Oh," BElanna said, amazed the exdrone admitted as much as she had. "Does she know? I mean, did she know how you used to feel?"
"It is irrelevant. We had developed a certain closeness. After she convinced me to return to Voyager during my confusion about the conspiracies, I thought we understood each other." Seven looked away, embarrassed by both the admission and the reference to her brief delusion about the crew of Voyager after she overloaded her cortical implant by using Borg technology to download all of the ships logs. "The person I thought she was would not fall in love with a hologram."
"Im sorry," BElanna said sincerely. She was suddenly glad to be on the shuttle with Seven. For the first time she thought she understood the exdrone, and she was finding out she was very much like Torres herself.
"Thank you," Seven said, and then went back to the control panel. "There is a communications relay on the beacon. It is activating."
"Got it," Torres said. "Audio only. Im opening channels now."
*"Alien vessel, you are entering a restricted zone. Leave now or you will be prosecuted for violation of the Dengari Border."*
"Friendly arent they," BElanna said. "The same message is on a continual loop."
"We should return to our original flight plan," Seven said as she began plotting a return course.
"The hell we will. There might be a wormhole in there. We arent just gonna turn tail and run. Theres no sign of any ships in the area." Torres began plotting her own course into the nebula.
"That would be ill-advised. The message was clear, and we have no reason to violate their border." Seven reset the course heading.
"Yes, we do," Torres put her hand over Sevens and held it in place as she used her other hand to lay in a course to the nebula. "I think I saw some debris in there. Could be a damaged ship we have to look for survivors."
"I doubt the veracity of your claim, and I doubt the Dengari will find it a plausible excuse either." Seven pulled her hand free.
"Come on, Seven. Wheres your sense of adventure?"
"Borg have no sense of adventure," Seven deadpanned.
BElanna smiled, baring her razor sharp canines. "But youre not Borg anymore, now are you?"
"I hope I do not find myself wishing I were," Seven said as she leaned back into her chair so that Torres could take control of the helm.
Chapter Four: Justice for all
"Its not my fault," BElanna said for the fifth time in ten minutes.
"Indeed?" Seven said as she turned around and stared at Torres who was sitting on a small bunk in the tiny, dingy cell. "And exactly whose fault is it?"
"Stupid Dengari," BElanna said under her breath. "How was I supposed to know they had two battle cruisers in that nebula?" Torres asked as she stood and crossed to Seven.
"On the bright side," Seven said sarcastically, "We now know there is a wormhole inside the nebula."
BElanna glared at Seven, but said nothing.
"Unfortunately, I do not think a wormhole that goes to the Dengari penal colony will assist Voyager in any way." Seven walked to the doorway and studied the forcefield with her Borg eyepiece looking for any weakness. She saw none.
Torres was glad to see the two guards coming down the corridor. It meant she didnt have to respond to Sevens remark. The guards were muscular, but lanky, with dark coloring and had thick black hair pulled back over there ears. Their uniforms were as black as their hair, made of reflective material that absorbed phaser fire, much to Torres horror. She had tried firing on the boarding party that over took the Delta Flyer only to watch in stunned silence as the shots simply disappeared into their clothing with a muted hiss.
"Weve got company," Torres whispered as she stood and moved next to Seven. The former Borg stood to her full height and positioned herself between the entrance and BElanna. The Klingon noticed, but said nothing.
"It is time," said Kendo, the shorter of the two guards. He was still at least six inches taller than Seven. Malok, his silent companion, was almost ten inches taller than the lanky Borg and he held two sets of shackles in his hands.
"Time?" BElanna asked as she tried to step around Seven. "What the hell does that mean?" Seven shot her an angry glare but the Klingon ignored her. "When are we gonna talk to someone in charge?"
Malok nodded toward BElanna before speaking. "Your sentence has been decided. You are very lucky that you have been given the minimum term."
"Sentence?" Torres yelled. "We havent even had a trial!"
"Lieutenant," Seven said quietly.
"Suspects are not worthy of appearing before the magistrate. Had you been found not guilty, you would have been given an audience with the magistrate," Kendo explained.
"How can we be found not guilty if we cant give a defense?" Torres demanded.
Kendo paused and then smiled. "Were you in Dengari space?"
"Then you are guilty," he explained. "Come."
"What is our sentence?" Seven asked.
Malok frowned and studied the deck plating, not wanting to meet their gaze.
"Two and one half years," Malok said.
"Unacceptable," Seven said, pushing BElanna behind her. "I forced Lieutenant Torres to violate your space. I will serve both terms for a total of five years and you will release her."
"What?" Torres yelled.
"A noble offer, but that is not how we do things," Malok answered. He motioned to his partner and the man stepped forward. "Co-operate and you will not be injured again. Please."
"Please, BElanna," Seven said gently. "Do not resist. Voyager will find us in a matter of days and the captain will figure something out." She didnt add that she been terrified when she had seen BElanna beaten into submission during their capture. It had taken three guards and five broken ribs to restrain Seven when she had seen BElanna go down.
"Fine," Torres said, noticing that Seven had used her first name and said please. She held her hands out to the second guard and flinched as he snapped the shackles into place. She would have fought, but when she had woken up in a strange sick bay and looked across the room to see Seven being operated on, she had known it was her fault. Luckily, the Dengari had technology similar to Voyagers, and they had repaired Sevens damaged ribs and punctured lung.
The guards escorted them onto a small ship without any windows and motioned them into two seats near the front of the cramped cabin.
Malok, the taller guard finally spoke. His voice was deep, and sounded almost sad. "Secure," he said as he clamped BElanna into the chair. He had small ridges on his cheeks, much like his companion, but more pronounced. Torres found the species almost attractive, except that they apparently thought throwing someone in prison without a real trial was completely acceptable.
"Now you," the shorter guard said to Seven.
She sat, and placed her arms on the chair as BElanna had done. The taller guard moved closer and began fastening the heavy metal clamps, two near the wrist, two on her upper arm. His eyes met Sevens and he quickly looked back to his hands.
"Please," Seven said to him, her eyes pleading. "My left arm is damaged. This exoskeleton helps support it. Could you loosen the clamps?"
Torres almost choked when she heard the blatant lie. She was amazed how easily the fabrication rolled off the former Borgs full lips. The guard seemed moved, and he studied her left hand.
"Does it hurt?" he whispered.
"It is painful, but I can tolerate it. I cannot bend it, so the clamps cut into my flesh," Seven said, then tilted her head and actually batted her eyelashes at him. "Please."
"Okay," he said quietly and loosened the clamps. "Hows that?" He put his fingers under the clamp to check the tightness and sucked in a deep breath when Seven flinched and whimpered when he touched her skin. He frowned and loosened them a bit more.
"Thank you," Seven whispered as he stepped away. She looked over at BElanna who was biting her lip to keep from laughing.
"What about our shuttle?" Torres finally asked.
The shorter guard turned. "It will be held until your release. You have the option of having any personal items with you, except for weapons or communications devices."
"Well take everything," Torres said. "And theres a power converter we need from the cargo bay."
"You wont have any power where youre going," he answered.
"Shell die without it," Torres said motioning toward Seven with her head. "Her, injuries, make it necessary for her to take energy directly from the converter." It wasnt entirely true, since Seven could eat solid food and sleep when she had to, but the power converter allowed her to maintain more productive levels and made sleep almost unnecessary. BElanna also hoped she could use the converter to make a signal device.
"Is it portable," Malok asked.
"Yes," Seven said.
"Well load it," he said. "It might help."
The two guards left and BElanna looked over at Seven. "Any bright ideas?"
"We will adapt," Seven said. She looked down at her loosely restrained left arm. "Thank you for bringing up the power converter."
"Its the least I can do," Torres said quietly. "Sorry I got us into this. Oh, and by the way, Borg what did you think you were pulling trying to take the fall alone? You think Id go back to Voyager and just leave you here to serve my sentence?"
"No," Seven smirked before continuing. "I expected you to go to Voyager and bring back help."
"Oh," Torres said.
The two guards returned, their arms full of items from the shuttle. Malok began packing them into a large locker at the back of the cabin. He carefully examined each object as he placed them into the storage container while the shorter guard returned for more things.
"Medical supplies," Malok said. "These will come in handy if you can keep them."
"Where are we going?" Seven asked, turning her head to try to look at him.
"Jusari Prime. Its our penal colony," he said as he continued to pack things into the locker. "The shuttle will come down just outside the outer limits of Non-V City, the secondary city. Its for non-violent offenders, but you should still be wary. The violent offenders migrate toward Non-V to take advantage of the newcomers. As soon as they see the shuttle come down, the scavengers will head for your position. Theyll kill you if they can."
"Great," Torres said. "Any other good news for us?"
He finished putting the things in the locker then stood and held out a laser-cutting torch. "I cant let you have this. It can be used as a weapon."
Seven leaned toward him. "What else can you tell us?"
"Try to get as far way from the city as quickly as you can. Most of the life-sentencers gather there." He moved closer and knelt between the two women and took a map off of the flat dashboard. It had no instruments and seemed designed more for storage than anything else. He opened the map and held it up to them. It showed the entire planets surface with four continents around the equator. "V-City is here. You should avoid that area at all costs," he said pointing to the center of the largest continent. "This is Non-V, its not much better." He pointed to an area near one of the eastern most seaboards.
"Why do we have to go to either?" Seven asked.
"We send offenders to one of the two starting points. Its up to you where you go then." He reached into his waist pack and took out a device that looked like a large hypospray and adjusted the setting. "As long as you stay within the area near the equator, the weather is moderate. If you go further, the weather is harsher, but there are fewer people."
"How do we get back?" Torres asked.
"This," he said pressing the hypospray into Sevens neck. "I just set it for your release date. It has a genetic marker as well as a radioactive tracer. We already installed a universal translator at the hospital." He pressed the hypo into BElannas neck and stood. "At the end of your sentence you will be retrieved by transporter."
Seven tilted her head to one side. "Why not transport us onto the surface?"
Malok leaned against the dash and looked at her. "The shuttle is supposed to give you a fighting chance. It allows you to take your possessions with you, but you wont be able to bring them with you when you return, so leave anything of value here. If you can keep the scavengers away, you can use the shuttle for shelter, but I wouldnt suggest it. They make good targets."
"Malok," Torres whispered. "We have a ship that will come looking for us, Voyager. Tell where we went. Please."
"It wont matter," he said. "Theyll never get through the wormhole."
"You are mistaken," Seven said. "Our captain will not give up on us."
He sighed and stood. "It wont matter. Im sorry. Oh, and dont waste your time trying to get this shuttle to fly. It isnt designed to leave orbit. We launch it from a cruiser into the atmosphere, and its guidance system takes it to the landing zone. Takes about ten minutes. It doesnt have any communications equipment at all." He turned back and looked at Seven. "Stay out of the cities. Your golden hair is very rare. Theyll theyll like you."
"What the hell does that mean?" Torres demanded.
He looked into the Klingons dark eyes. "These are not nice people. She will be a primary target."
"I am no ones target," Seven said.
Malok turned to Torres. "If you can, dye her hair black. It might help some. If it doesnt, well the transporter retrieval system will pull out anyone with your DNA markers. If well any offspring will be beamed out with you."
"Offspring?" Seven asked.
"You cant send her down to that hell hole," Torres said as she struggled against her restraints.
"Im sorry," he said as he went to the door when Kendo returned with his arms full of gear.
Kendo placed the energy converter into the locker and turned around as Malok continued stowing the rest.
"Its against rules," Kendo said quietly to Torres. "But I took one of the solar collectors from your cargo bay, maybe you can use it to help your friend."
"Thank you," Torres said. She felt her chest tightening and began to wonder if Voyager would ever find them. The two guards were competent, and kind, but what worried her was the way they kept looking at Seven with sincere regret. Whatever they were headed for, BElanna would do whatever was necessary to keep Seven safe.
"Its time," Malok said as he secured the locker.
"Good luck," Kendo said. "You will be retrieved exactly two and one half years after you land, no matter where you are. If you get separated, you will be reunited when we retrieve you."
"Stay away from the cities," Malok said as he squeezed Sevens shoulder, then he and Kendo left the shuttle.
BElanna and Seven said nothing as they listened to the outer door being locked down. They felt the shuttle vibrate as it was lifted into the launch bay. BElanna flexed against her restraints, but the alloy didnt budge. She looked over at Seven and raised her eyebrows in question.
Seven twisted her wrist and grimaced when her thumb popped out of its socket. She rotated her shoulder as she worked for the best angle. Her wrist was still at the wrong angle to clear the second restraint so she pulled her entire weight away from her arm. Torres groaned when she heard the bone snap and watched as Seven pulled the flopping limb up through the restraint. Once clear of the restraint she turned and examined the clamp holding her fully human arm.
"Kahless!" BElanna said. "Didnt that hurt?"
"Pain is irrelevant at the moment," Seven said as she pulled at her restrained arm. She placed her Borg enhanced hand near her fully human hand and accessed the tiny control panel near her wrist. Her assimilation tubules slithered out of her hand and she held them up to the restraint. The tiny tubules contained microscopic drills in the tips, which Seven used to eat away at the alloy holding her in place. After several minutes she yanked her arm free and went to BElannas chair and began drilling to free her.
"That things pretty handy," Torres said as she watched the Borg drills eat through the alloy with ease.
"There are some advantages to being a drone," Seven said. The final clamp broke in half and Seven went immediately toward the locker at the back of the cabin.
"Get the bone mender and let me fix that arm," BElanna said. She stood and began looking over the small cabin.
"There is no time," Seven said as she grabbed a tricorder from the pile of supplies. "Use this to find the best way to access the propulsion system. We can alter the shuttles course."
"Umm, Seven? This thing isnt spaceworthy," Torres said even as she began scanning the cabin.
"Correct, but if we can access the propulsion, we can land somewhere away from the two major cities." Seven pulled out a box of tools and began digging through them with her uninjured arm. "I believe it would be to our advantage to avoid contact with any of the planets current inhabitants."
"Good idea." BElanna paused near the back of the cabin. "Here, theres a fuel line to the main thrusters."
Seven began tearing away the panel with a large spanner. "Once we access this, you will need to figure out how to restrict the flow to alter the shuttles flight path. I will begin scans of the planet so I can determine the best landing zone."
"Got it," Torres said as she lifted the panel out and leaned into the opening.
Seven reset the tricorder and tried to scan through the shuttles thick hull. "I cant get any interstellar readings, but I am getting a clear image of the planet. We are coming in over the main continent. Reduced fuel to aft thrusters by 40 percent. That will put us into a tight turn."
"Okay," Torres said and grabbed the edge of the panel. The shuttle responded, tossing Seven across the floor. She rolled onto her knees and continued scanning the planet surface.
"Lieutenant, do you have a preference? Desert or mountain?" Seven asked.
"Desert or mountain," Seven repeated. "We can reach two areas, one is desert, one mountain."
"Mountain," Torres said. "But it better not be cold."
"Increase aft thruster to 72 percent," Seven said, raising an eyebrow.
"72 percent? Seven, Im winging it."
"Winging it?" Seven asked, mortified.
"I dont exactly have a comm panel here. Im just kinda cutting off the flow a little."
"Then kinda cut off the supply to 72 percent of normal." Seven crawled closer to Torres. Seven continued scanning. "Reduced aft thruster to 60 percent."
BElanna glared at Seven and then tried to estimate her adjustment.
"Too much, increase thrust to 74 percent," Seven ordered.
"Im gonna kill Janeway for this," Torres said even as she increased the thrust.
"We are coming in for a landing," Seven said. "I suggest you brace for impact. I do not believe this shuttle was designed for a rough terrain landing. I will monitor our descent."
"What about your arm?" BElanna asked.
"Go. After landing I may have more serious injuries for you to attend." Seven began making minute adjustments to the thruster but it was difficult because she could only access one of the shuttles two sets of thrusters. By increasing or decreasing the thrust she was able to make the shuttle turn, but only in one direction, to the right. So if they needed to turn the left, they had to make a three-quarter circle to the right to effect a one-quarter turn to the left.
"Seven, leave it," BElanna said. "Take cover."
"1500 kilometers " Seven said, glancing at the tricorder, still making adjustments to the thrusters. "1000 "
"Seven, brace yourself. Thats an order."
"500 " Seven made one final adjustment. "Impact in 6 seconds "
"I told you to take cover," Torres yelled. "Seven, get " The shuttles impact cut Torres off. She had tied herself back into the restraint chair and was thrown forward, knocking the wind out of her chest. The sound of metal on rock filled her ears and she wondered if the small shuttle would tear into pieces or just burst into flames. She was pitched to the left and saw a flash of blue go past her, followed by the sound of flesh against steel. The grinding stopped and Torres found herself still in the chair. She looked over and saw Seven under the front panel of the shuttle.
"Seven?" BElanna ripped at her ties and then crawled over the very still body under the dash. "Seven? Dont you die on me, Borg. That would be just like you to leave me to fend for myself." She careful turned the blonde over and saw a deep gash across her temple. "Damn it."
"Lieutenant, must you always use such colorful euphemisms?" Seven whispered as she sat up.
"Youre damn right I do," BElanna answered. "Are you okay?"
Seven stared at the half Klingon before answering. "Given our current situation, I believe any answer would be relative."
"Youre fine," Torres said as she moved to get the medical pack. She quickly scanned Seven and then healed the deep cut on her temple. "No concussion. Must be that hard head."
"We should verify our location," Seven said as she tried to stand.
"Not so fast," Torres said, yanking her back down to the floor. "Let me fix that arm first. Whered you park us anyway?"
"I attempted to land on the smaller of the two continents off the western coast of the main land mass." Seven held her arm out for Torres to examine. It had swelled and turned a deep purple and seemed to have an extra bend in the middle of her lower arm.
"How close are we to the main continent? The one where the cities are?" BElanna frowned at the tricorder. "Damn, Seven. You snapped the radius and the ulna."
"There are 2,500 miles of ocean between us and the continent with the prison cities." Seven grimaced as BElanna tried to straighten the damaged arm. "As for my injury, I had to break the bones in order to free myself from the restraints."
"This is gonna hurt," Torres said as she gripped the arm on each side of the breaks.
"It already hurts," Seven responded dryly.
"Its gonna get worse," Torres said. "Wait, let me give you a painkiller."
"No," Seven held BElanna in place with her good arm. "We may need the painkiller for more serious injuries in the future. I can tolerate the pain."
Torres studied Seven for several seconds and then nodded. "Im sorry." She wrenched the bones back into place with a muted crunch.
Seven said nothing, but squeezed her eyes shut and took deep breaths and a tear slid down her cheek.
"Oh, God, Im sorry," BElanna said again and gently set her arm in her lap. She wiped away the tear and cupped Sevens cheek in her hand. "With that tough act of yours, youd make a great Klingon."
Seven opened her eyes, expecting to see Torres mocking her, but found only sincerity. "Thank you."
"Youre welcome." Torres used the bone mender to knit the bones back together and then they both stood. "Lets take a look around the neighborhood," BElanna said as she headed for the door.
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