DISCLAIMER: You all know it, the characters and background story don't belong to me but to Paramount, unfortunately. No copyright infringement is intended, no profit will be made. This is an alt story, in other words there's a consensual sexual relationship between two adult women that at one points get pretty hands-on.
SPOILERS: Follows the show up to season five "The Dark Frontier".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To romansilence[at]yahoo.de

The Brig
By romansilence


Chapter One

"Lieutenant Torres, do you understand the charges brought against you?" Captain Janeway asked.

Her face was set in an unreadable mask but inside her heart was bleeding. She didn't want to do what she was about to do. It just couldn't be true, B'Elanna could not have done it, not in a million years; it was not who she was. The Human-Klingon Hybrid was one of the few people she trusted completely. She had earned that trust and developed into a great officer, and though she never would tell her, without her they never would have come this far. Without B'Elanna Voyager would have been destroyed dozens of times already.

And that's why she still couldn't believe it but neither Commander Tuvok nor Seven of Nine had been able to find evidence that contradicted B'Elanna's confession or at least offered extenuating circumstances, even the gossip mill on board was conspicuously silent.

"Yes, Ma'am, I understand the charges. I killed Commander Chakotay and I am responsible for the deaths of Lieutenant Carey and Crewman Merian. I plead guilty. Please, Captain, let's just get this over with."

Under different circumstances Kathryn would have smiled at B'Elanna's impatience and no-nonsense-attitude, but they were talking about the rest of the young woman's life, and lately she began to feel more anger than anything else at B'Elanna's stubborn refusal to explain her actions.

"This is your last chance to explain yourself, Lieutenant Torres. Explain at least why Commander Chakotay had been carrying a phaser set to kill. Give me a chance not to incarcerate you for life."

"There is nothing to say, Ma'am." B'Elanna said and looked her captain directly in the eyes.

"Then you leave me no other choice. Attention, everyone!"

The court-martial had followed Starfleet's war time protocol which basically stated that the decision would not be made by a jury of the defendant's peers but by the highest ranking Starfleet officer available. The rules also recommended that the trial should be held without public, but Captain Janeway had decided against that. After everything her crew had been through in the last five years they deserved to know what was going on. So, she had allowed public attendance and the mess hall was filled to capacity with every off-duty crewmember on board and if she was not mistaken a few who should have been at their duty stations.

"Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, for murder in the first degree in one case and involuntary homicide in two cases you are hereby sentenced to life-imprisonment. However, this ship can ill afford to lose its best engineer. So, I'm giving you a choice, B'Elanna Torres. Crewman Suder's former cell has been repaired and is waiting for you. It would afford you privacy and twenty-four hours a day to think about your actions. Your other choice is to be imprisoned in the brig, without much privacy but with the chance to continue to work in Engineering as a crewman."

"The brig, Captain." B'Elanna answered without hesitation. Then she removed the bronze bar indicating her rank from her collar and put it on the desk in front of Janeway.

"So, be it. Security, escort Crewman Torres to the brig. Everyone else, dismissed!"

Her crew quickly left the room without a single word even before the two security officers had reached B'Elanna. There were no protests, no groups lingering to speak among themselves; they just left silently. When Kathryn finally stepped out of the mess hall come courtroom she saw that they obviously had formed some sort of honour guard to the left and the right of the corridor leading to the turbolift, and later she learned that on the whole way to the brig her crew had lined the corridors and stood at attention for the prisoner.

If nothing else this was ample proof that there was something about the whole thing she still missed. It kept nagging at her, and it had ever since she had come back from Unimatrix One after rescuing Seven of Nine.

B'Elanna had been on the bridge when the Delta Flyer had dropped out of the transwarp corridor. She had been the one to fire the torpedoes that had collapsed the corridor and destroyed the Borg ship chasing them. But when they had docked a few minutes later Harry had been in charge and B'Elanna had already been in the brig.

She remembered the conversation in the shuttle bay…

"Welcome home, Captain, Commander, Tom," Harry said after snapping to the most rigid parade attention Janeway had ever seen, even from him.

"It's good to be home, Ensign. Where are Lieutenant Torres and Commander Chakotay? I expect a status report and I want the transwarp coil fitted to Voyager's engines ASAP. We should get out of here before they'll send another cube to get us."

"The transfer of the transwarp coil has already been prepared. Nicoletti and Vorik know what to do, Captain," Harry answered with his eyes slightly to the left of his captain's head.

"That's good to hear but it does not explain Commander Chakotay's absence," Janeway said and gave Harry a force five glare.

Harry swallowed hard but then squared his shoulders and said, "There have been two incidents while you were gone, Captain. Two days after you left there was an accident in Engineering. Commander Chakotay had ordered an exercise, an emergency shut-down and restart of the warp core. Something went wrong and the shut-down process created an energy surge. A few systems in the engine room exploded but it also migrated to other systems. Holodeck One exploded and six former Maquis and two Starfleet officers who had been in the holodeck to play volleyball were killed. The energy surge also fried all of our surveillance cameras, video and audio. We only were able to get everything back up to work the day before yesterday. The reports are already waiting on your desk."

Now it was Janeway's turn to swallow hard. Eight dead! "What caused the accident?"

"We don't know for sure, Captain. Without the surveillance footage it's hard to tell where it started. We were busy with repairing the damage and didn't have the time to investigate the reason," Harry answered.

"You said there were two incidents, Ensign Kim," Tuvok asked from behind.

"Yes Commander. Two days after the accident there was an altercation between Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres in Engineering. As far as I know the commander was complaining that the repairs were not going fast enough and that we needed to be battle ready at a moment's notice and Lieutenant Torres told him that it would take as long as it would take. They came to blows. Chakotay pulled his phaser but Lieutenant Torres still attacked him. Shots were fired and Lieutenant Carey and Crewman Merian who had tried to separate the fighters were killed by phaser fire. Lieutenant Torres wrestled Chakotay down and broke his neck. She is in the brig to await her court-martial, Ma'am."

Replaying the conversation with Harry in her mind on her way back to the bridge Kathryn suddenly became aware that the young man had not once looked at her then. She also realised that ever since he tried to avoid looking her in the eyes. And once again her mind ran rampant with other possible scenarios.

In moments she felt especially paranoid she was certain that her crew, her whole crew was keeping something from her, something important, but most of the time her mind came back to the one thing she really couldn't wrap her mind around.

Yes, B'Elanna had a volatile temper but she kept it under a tight lid. She shouted and cursed, she threw things and sometimes she dented an unsuspecting wall panel with her bare fist; but ever since she had broken Lieutenant Carey's nose right at the beginning of their journey she not once had raised her hand against another sentient being. Yes, she had threatened them, but she never had really done anything.

The closest B'Elanna had ever come to come to blows with someone had been in the early days of Seven's presence on board when the tall blonde had still been learning about social behaviour – and that soon had turned out to be sexual tension more than anything else.

Kathryn stepped into the turbolift. She couldn't help the smile that spread over her face when she thought about the day her surrogate daughters had shared their first kiss.

About eight months after she had severed Seven from the Borg Collective she had been called down to Engineering to end yet another of the numerous confrontations between the two women. She had been able to hear the shouting from the moment she stepped off the turbolift, and from what she heard it had been nothing special, just a variation of the average 'This is my engine room and you have to respect the rules' from B'Elanna and Seven's 'The rules are inefficient and obsolete'. But then there suddenly had been silence, utter and complete silence, and she had broken into a run. When she had rounded the corner to the main entrance of Engineering she had seen B'Elanna and Seven locked in a passionate kiss, and to this day she didn't know who had been kissing whom.

It had, of course, not completely stopped their arguments; sometimes she thought that nothing ever would, but she never again had been called down to Deck Eleven to end a confrontation. And with the help of the relationship with B'Elanna, the crew had started to accept Seven as one of their own…

No, she still didn't get it. What could Chakotay possibly have said to make B'Elanna fly off the handle this completely? The only thing she had come up with was that he might have insulted Seven or B'Elanna's honour as a Klingon warrior, but both had happened before and then B'Elanna had not lost control then. What had been different this time?

Had it been the stress of losing Seven to the Borg just when the young women had had moved in together and not being allowed to go on the rescue? Had it been her fault that three people, including her First Officer, now were dead?

The lift arriving at the bridge brought Kathryn out of her musings. Tuvok immediately rose from the command chair and Harry left his post behind the operations' console.

"It can't be over just yet. She must have taken more time to explain," he said.

"Crewman Torres was sentenced to life imprisonment for one count of murder and two counts of involuntary homicide, Ensign Kim," the captain answered neutrally but with a flat undertone in her voice.

"But… but she… she prom…" He fell silent, straightened his posture and asked, "Permission to go on an early lunch break, Captain?"

"Permission granted, Ensign." Harry was gone before she even had a chance to say, 'Dismissed'.

"Report Commander Tuvok."

"No planets, no nebulas or other stellar phenomena at all for the next sector, and according to Astrometrics for the next three sectors," Tuvok reported in his neutral voice. "Repairs are progressing according to plan and should be finished in the next forty-eight to sixty hours. Captain, would you like to discuss the upcoming changes in personnel in your Ready Room?"

Kathryn translated his last words to 'What I have to say is not for the ears of the crew, not even the bridge crew'. So, she just nodded and led the way.

Janeway took a seat behind her desk and Tuvok stood comfortably in front of it. Even after almost a week he looked strange to her in the red uniform, and if he were prone to such illogical Human feelings he probably also would feel uncomfortable.

She came straight to the point, "So, my friend, which changes do you object to?"

"Personally, none, Captain, in my opinion you made the logical choice."

"And as my first officer?" She cautiously asked.

"As your first officer I'm curious why you chose to disregard Lieutenant Torres' recommendation to put Lieutenants Nicoletti and Vorik in joint charge on Engineering?" Tuvok asked.

"One day Susan Nicoletti will be a good chief. At the moment she might have B'Elanna's intuition but she does not have her intimate knowledge of Voyager's systems. Vorik knows Voyager's systems but he doesn't feel them. None of them is ready to take over as Chief and despite Crewman Torres' recommendation Engineering can not be run by committee, not even a committee by two. Seven on the other hand is ready to step in for B'Elanna. She has the knowledge and she follows her intuition more often than she would ever admit. Seven of Nine is the better choice. During the last week I spent more time in Engineering than in any of the years before. The Engine Room needs a real Chief, not some people who are still learning the ropes." Janeway answered.

"As I said, Captain, your reasoning is logical, but in recent years Astrometrics has become almost as important to Voyager's survival as Engineering, and no one pays as much attention to detail as Seven of Nine, not even me." Tuvok replied.

"My decision stands, Commander, Seven of Nine will take over as Chief of Engineering and will oversee the Astrometrics' lab." The captain answered. "Dismissed Commander."

Tuvok inclined his head and left.

"B'Elanna, please, talk to me. You promised that you would set it right during the trial. Pleading guilty won't do that," Harry said.

The young Human-Klingon Hybrid sat on the bunk that would be her new bed and smiled at her friend.

"I'll be alright, Starfleet," she said.

"Don't call me Starfleet, B'Elanna. Two people I considered my friends betrayed everything Starfleet stands for."

"Yes, Harry, they did, but you didn't. You are the embodiment of a Starfleet officer. You have nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that the Maquis no longer exist and the fact that Chakotay and his cronies betrayed not only us and our Captain but also everything the Maquis ever believed in does not make me ashamed of being Maquis. Your honour is your own, Starfleet. And pleading guilty was the only thing I could do, Harry. I killed Chakotay, and Carey and Merian are dead because I didn't do it when I should have, when I challenged him for leadership. Everyone on board of this ship has to understand that what happened can not go unpunished. Someone has to pay the price, and that's me. Seven understood, why don't you?" B'Elanna said.

"Seven has the same exaggerated sense of responsibility and guilt as you do, Lanna. Did it ever occur to you that the best thing to do would be to tell the truth?" Harry retorted.

"Harry, you promised me you wouldn't, and I count on you to keep your word. Kath… The captain is not to know, not now, not ever. It would damage her ability to command if she were to know. She would start to second-guess herself, and that's something she, and we can not afford."

"I'll keep my promise, Lanna, but I don't have to like it."

Naomi Wildman hid in a doorway when Harry left the brig. While the captain and the doctor had been gone to bring Seven back, her mother and Neelix had basically kept her in their quarters, even her lessons took place there. The only explanation they had given her was that there had been an accident and that it would be safer for her to stay in. They even had changed the door's encryption code. But after what she had just overheard she was determined to find out what had really been going on.

So, instead of going to sickbay and meet with the doctor for her biology lesson, the girl returned to her own quarters and began to check Voyager's logs, and when she didn't find what she had been looking for she started to check the back-ups. Sometimes having two of the best engineers in the Quadrant as her teachers did pay off, Naomi thought but it still took her more than two weeks to piece together what had happened. She even spoke to her friend B'Elanna in the brig who convinced her not to tell the captain. During her next shift in Engineering B'Elanna erased the brig logs of Naomi's visit.

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in her Ready Room, ostensibly reading personal reports. Though Tuvok would never admit it, he felt uncomfortable having to deal with the personal problems of the crew; so, Kathryn had taken over some of the duties usually relegated to the first officer – and if she was honest going over those records with Chakotay had taken longer than she needed now doing it by herself. Her mind, however, was not really on the task.

It was with B'Elanna and what could have happened to make her lose control that completely, to make her lose control to the point of killing a friend, but she was not closer to an answer than she was two weeks ago after the trial.

Kathryn also had tried to speak to Seven of Nine. If there was one person on board to whom B'Elanna would have told the whole truth, it was Seven, her lover, her benal. Seven, however, avoided her as best as she could. The few times they had had to interact in a professional capacity Seven had reverted to her old Borg mannerisms and speech pattern.

There had even been moments when she had contemplated to simply go down to the lower desks, grab a passing crewmember and order them to tell her what really happened, moments during which she was utterly convinced that the whole crew was keeping the truth from her. Of course she knew perfectly well that she never would do it and that those thoughts bordered on paranoia.

She also had tried to get B'Elanna to talk, of course, more than once, but to no avail. The last time, only two days prior, had been utterly frustrating. It had been halfway through Beta Shift and she had found the security officer on duty standing guard outside of the cell block.

"Does the prisoner have a visitor, Ensign?" Janeway asked.

"No, Captain, but Commander Tuvok told us that it was alright to give Lieu… Crewman Torres some private time, especially after a long shift. She only returned from Engineering half an hour ago," he answered.

Janeway only nodded and stepped in. B'Elanna had been doing some sit-ups but immediately jumped to her feet when she saw her commanding officer.

"At ease, crewman," Kathryn ordered. "How are you, B'Elanna?"

B'Elanna's at-ease-stance was only slight less stiff than Harry's attention-posture but her voice sounded perfectly normal, almost relaxed, "I'm fine, Captain, thank you. What can I do for you, Captain Janeway?"

"I heard you just returned from a long shift. Is there anything wrong in Engineering?" The captain asked.

"I was just busy with some maintenance in Jeffries tube forty-six, Captain. You'll have to ask Lieutenant Nicoletti, Ensign Vorik or Seven of Nine for specifics about Engineering as a whole." There was a distinct note of resignation in her voice.

"It's hard being out of the loop, isn't it, Lanna?" Kathryn asked.

"The hardest part is not to be the one who is giving the orders. It hurts, Kathryn, but I brought this upon myself. You don't know how much I appreciate it to be allowed to still be useful for this ship. I would have gone crazy, locked up with nothing to do. Thank you."

"You're welcome, but it was a selfish decision. Why did you do it, Lanna? Why did you attack Commander Chakotay?"

"I killed him, Captain, that's all there is to say, and I don't regret it. I only regret that Merian and Carey also had to pay the price." B'Elanna answered.

"What did he say to you, Lanna? Why did you lose control?"

"There is nothing to tell, Captain. I'm sorry."

B'Elanna had held her eyes but had not responded to any further questions, and after a few more minutes Kathryn had left. The only thing that visit had done was to reaffirm her belief that her former Chief Engineer had not told the whole truth during her trail. She was now sure that B'Elanna wanted to be punished, and that it was not for killing Commander Chakotay. Sooner or later she would find out what was behind B'Elanna's stubborn refusal to tell her the truth.

She would find out what drove her to basically punish herself. She would get her to talk. Her gut feeling told Kathryn that on Qo'nos B'Elanna's actions would not have been prosecuted but applauded, and if she got her to admit to that she would have a justification to change the sentence, if not even declare the whole trial void. Lieutenant Worf's career on the Enterprise was proof enough that Starfleet and the Federation respected a Klingon's right to defend or revenge their mate, and B'Elanna was a daughter of the Klingon Empire. She just had to get her to swallow her pride and admit to it.

So, the next morning she ordered Lieutenant Ayala who had taken over as Chief of Security for Commander Tuvok to her Ready Room.

"Lieutenant, it has come to my attention that the regulations governing the treatment of prisoners, especially prisoners found guilty of a violent crime are not respected. From now on there will be no more guarding from a distance, no unsupervised visits, a security officer will be with Crewman Torres at all time during work. Conversation is to be limited to work related topics alone. I also saw that she is still wearing an engineering uniform instead of a prisoner's jumpsuit. See to it that all of those regulations are followed to the letter."

"With all due respect, Captain, but so far B'El… Crewman Torres has been a model prisoner. There is no reason to treat her like a common convict," Ayala said carefully.

"Lieutenant Ayala, one day you might earn it but at the moment you don't have the right to question my orders. I expect my orders to be followed. Dismissed."

"Yes Ma'am."

As soon as he was gone Kathryn took a deep breath and went to her replicator for a cup of coffee. She quietly admitted to herself that she could have handled the whole situation better. She could have trusted Ayala and told him why she insisted on this change in treatment. She could have told him that she was convinced that the only way to get B'Elanna to open up, to get her to talk was to break her first, or at least to soften her up.


Chapter Two

Two months passed, two months during which Kathryn's plan didn't seem to bear fruit; two months during which B'Elanna's quick thinking and taking charge at a critical moment had saved the ship from destruction; two month during which the Human-Klingon Hybrid stubbornly refused to answer the question she asked every week with anything else than "There is nothing to say, Captain." But it also were two months during which she more than once had had the distinct impression that not only Harry Kim but also Seven of Nine and Tom Paris had been on the brink of talking to her, of telling her. None of them had, however.

And then there was the day when Naomi Wildman asked to speak with Captain Janeway.

"What can I do for you, Miss Wildman?"

"Captain, I wanted to give this back to you." The girl stood at attention in front of the desk. She took a step forward and put the pip the captain had given to her on the desk.

"I no longer want to be your Captain's Assistant," she said and started to leave.

"One moment, young lady, the least I expect is an explanation. I know that I didn't spend enough time with you during the last couple of months and that your position is more honorary than anything else, but I still thought that your sense of duty was more developed." Kathryn said in an effort to get the girl to really tell her the truth.

The girl looked angrily at her but then her back straightened even more and she said calmly, "The polite thing to do would be to tell you that I no longer want to be your assistant because my schoolwork takes up too much of my time, but that would not be honourable. It would be a lie. The truth is that I don't want to be your assistant because you are not the captain I thought you are. The way you have everyone treat B'Elanna is petty and not honourable. She did nothing wrong. Captain, may I be dismissed now?"

Kathryn only nodded. Of all the things she had expected this had not been it. Over the last two months she had received petitions for a more lenient treatment of Crewman B'Elanna Torres from almost every single crewmember, including Neelix and the Doctor, but nothing had been able to change her mind. If the only way to get the stubborn engineer to talk to her was to break her first than that's what she would do. She would out-stubborn her.

Now, for the first time, her eyes on Naomi's pip, she began to question her decision and her determination to see it through. Kathryn felt the deep need to break open her last bottle of whiskey but she knew that getting drunk wouldn't change the girl's words and it wouldn't change how much they had hurt.

The door chimed and she automatically invited whoever was waiting outside in.

"Captain, are you alright?"

"Not really, old friend. Is something wrong? Why do you ask?"

"When Naomi Wildman just left your Ready Room she was crying, I had expected you to follow her to calm her down again," Tuvok said.

"It seems that I no longer have a Captain's Assistant. Miss Wildman basically told me that I was an honourless p'taq for the way I treat B'Elanna," Kathryn answered, "the way I ordered everyone to treat her."

"You ensured that Starfleet regulations are adhered to, Captain. I know that Crewman Torres understands that." Tuvok answered.

"Yes, but they are regulations even you did not seem necessary to enforce when you gave your parting orders to Lieutenant Ayala."

"Those regulations were written with regard to prisoners who are liable to destroy equipment or injure other crewmembers, and they never were meant for long-term confinement," he said.

"Then why didn't you come to me and questioned my motifs? I told you once that you are my moral compass; that still stands, now more than ever," Kathryn said almost plaintively.

"I only would have had the right to interfere if the prisoner had filed an official complaint or if Crewman Torres would have otherwise indicated that she feels treated unjustly. Though I admit that I'm curious as to why you were so adamant about this."

"I'm afraid that my reasoning is not very logical, though at the time it made perfect sense." Kathryn answered.

She was well aware that they had fallen back into their roles of old, when she still had been a wet-behind-the-ears science officer doing her first tentative steps at command school, and he had been teaching advanced tactical strategies at the Academy. He had become her mentor but they had not spoken like this for years.

"So, why does your reasoning not make sense anymore?"

"Would you believe that it's because a young girl just told me that I'm not the captain she thought I was and because she gave me something back of which she once had been very proud? She also told me that B'Elanna did nothing wrong."

"Yes, Captain, I would believe that, but I also know that it will not change your course of action if you're convinced that it's the right thing to do," Tuvok answered.

"And herein lies the crux, my friend. The least I can say is that it's not working. I didn't give those orders just to uphold Starfleet regulations. She has done enough for this ship to warrant leniency. Only three weeks ago it was only her presence in Engineering that kept us from losing our warp core and being destroyed. I gave those orders because I want to get her to talk. She admitted that she doesn't feel remorse for killing Chakotay but she refuses to tell me why she did it. I'm sure that if I know the why I could come up with extenuating circumstances and would maybe even be able to revoke the sentence."

"Were you not bound by Starfleet regulations and Federation law, Kathryn, would you have given her a free pass?" Tuvok suddenly asked, and proved once again how well he knew her.

"I'm looking for a reason to do exactly that, Tuvok, within Starfleet regulations and Federation law." Kathryn rose and began to pace the length of the Ready Room. "I know it sounds as if I give little weight to the violent death of three crewmembers but deep down I know that regardless of the provocation B'Elanna would never kill anyone without a damned good reason. So, I thought if I put enough pressure on her she sooner or later would break down and tell me the truth, but at the moment it seems as if all the good it does is to bring up the crew against me."

"If you want to put pressure on Crewman Torres you'd need to do more than Starfleet would allow. Cut down on the number of visitors and the length of the visits, reduce her time to exercise in the gym to an hour once a week and most importantly, don't let her work, and in another month or three you might see some results, though I sincerely doubt that," Tuvok said.

"I want to get her to talk, not destroy her personality, Tuvok. Why do you think that would not work? What you propose is liable to destroy anyone, much more someone with Klingon blood in their veins."

"Did Crewman Torres ever tell you how she met Commander Chakotay?"

"She only said that he saved her life and Chakotay also never spoke about it. Why?" Kathryn asked.

"Crewman Suder told me about it when he asked me to keep an eye on her and protect her should it become necessary. He said that the commander had always been jealous of B'Elanna Torres and that they only got along because of her total lack of interest in command.

"Commander Chakotay saved her life when he killed a Cardassian prison guard aiming a disruptor at her. He was the last one of the guards still alive after the prisoners had rebelled under her command. Miss Torres had been held there for almost six months and they tried their best to break her. They tortured her, put her in solitary in an icy, dark cell, whipped her in front of the other prisoners, raped her, but in the end her perseverance inspired the other prisoners.

"Suder was one of them, a new arrival then. B'Elanna created a diversion and managed to kill the commander and his guards. The other Cardassians fell quickly after that. Chakotay and his crew had initially only come there to steal supplies, but suddenly had to deal with three thousand prisoners."

"The labour camp on Caessik III?" Kathryn asked. "Chakotay told me that he and his crew infiltrated it and freed the prisoners. He told me he killed Ghul Canak."

"No, Captain, he only tried to reap the benefits, but the former prisoners made sure that everyone knew who really did it."

"That makes me even more convinced that B'Elanna acted out of self-defence. Ever since our disagreement over the Borg he feared that he was losing my trust, and he knew that in case of an emergency I would count one hundred percent on B'Elanna and Seven. With you, me and Seven gone, he might have seen his chance to get rid of a rival."

"It's one of the theories that crossed my mind, but without Crewman Torres' statement all we have is conjecture. We lack evidence."

"Did you find anything in Chakotay's files?" Janeway asked.

"No, Captain, his logs were strictly professional, and since he was not suspected of any wrong-doings by regulation I had no right to go through his personal belongings, and since no one of the command staff made a claim to it everything is still as he left it," Tuvok answered.

"Then do it now," Janeway ordered.

"We still have no legal concourse to search his personal belongings, Captain. There's not even a single shred of evidence or a witness statement to cast doubt on Commander Chakotay or his actions."

"That would have been too easy, wouldn't it?" Janeway said with a resigned shrug of her shoulders. "I want this done by the book. So, for now, I want you to give me all the information you have about the labour camp on Caessik III and the Ghul commanding it as soon as possible. I think it's time to do some investigating of my…"

A sudden jolt ran through the ship, strong enough to throw Tuvok off his feet and Janeway out of her chair. They had just come back up to their feet when the ship rocked again. Janeway hit her head at the edge of her desk but didn't lose consciousness. Tuvok helped her up again and they staggered over to the bridge where everyone was still picking themselves up from the floor.

"Report!" She barked.

Harry had a deep gash on his forehead but still tried to obey. He pulled himself back to his console. "Emergency energy only, life support and inertial dampeners are holding. We have no warp, no impulse and no thrusters. Shields and weapons are also down, as well as the environmental controls. Readings are intermittent but indicate that there has been an explosion in Engineering, a series of explosions it seems. The comm. system is down too."

"Tuvok, you have the bridge, see what you can repair from here; priority is the defence system, then internal communication. Tom, Harry, get down to sickbay. The doctor might need your help, Tom. And Harry, have him patch you up, then join me in Engineering."

The turbolifts were also not working; so, it took Captain Janeway more than fifteen minutes to get down to deck eleven via the Jeffries tubes and ladders. The big double doors to Engineering were closed and in front of it was utter chaos. There were crewmembers treating each other with dermal regenerators; others were just sitting on the floor and stared at the closed doors and two engineers were trying to open them. Susan Nicoletti leaned heavily on Vorik while directing their work. Her face was ashen and she had a gash at her temple and an obviously just healed wound in her thigh.

No one paid her any attention.

"Report! What happened?"

"Captain, I'm so glad that you're here. We can't get the doors to open and we have to get in. If we find B'Elanna in time she still stands a chance. Our authorisation codes don't work."

"What are you talking about, Lieutenant? What happened?" The captain insisted.

"Captain," Vorik answered.

He kept his arm around Nicoletti's waist and held her right hand with his left. As touch telepaths Vulcans were usually very careful about touching other people, especially if they were as emotional as Susan undoubtedly was at the moment. So, in Kathryn's eyes, this uncharacteristic behaviour was either an indicator of the gravity of the situation or the young Vulcan and Susan Nicoletti were closer than she had thought.

"There was a series of explosions in the engine room. We had four serious injuries after the first set, but we still thought that we could get it under control. The second explosion occurred just when Lieu… Crewman Torres returned from sickbay. She had carried Seven there. She was among the first injured. After the second round of explosions we had plasma and radiation leaks and had to evacuate. The warp core started to overheat and Crewman Torres stayed behind to do a controlled shut-down, but the emergency procedures for the plasma leaks and those for radiation poisoning had already been activated and the doors were sealed."

"And B'Elanna? What's the status on Seven?" Kathryn Janeway's command mask was firmly in place, inside, however, she was praying: 'Let them be alright!'

"Seven is in sickbay. We'll get word as soon as the doctor knows how serious it really it, but she looked very bad. We don't know what happened to B'Elanna. Sensors indicate that the leaks are under control, but that's about all the information we can get. We read a breathable atmosphere inside, so the cleaning procedure must have been successful but the other readings are intermittent at best, and there are no life signs. That's why we have to get in there, and your command override should do it," Susan answered. She was still holding on to Ensign Vorik.

"Computer, open main doors to Engineering on deck eleven. Authorisation: Janeway-Alpha-Phi-One-Omega."

The computer beeped but nothing happened. She typed in her code manually, but the doors stayed shut. Taking a closer look she found that the door mechanism was blocked with Borg encryption codes, no, those were Borg encryption codes with a twist.

"Mister Vorik, what are the chances that Crewman Torres is still alive?"

"Considering her physiology I estimate 1:100,000. However, experience has taught me never to bet against Lieu… Crewman Torres," he answered.

"Captain, you can't just give up on her, regardless of how angry you are at her about this… about Chakotay," Susan burst out.

"Lieutenant Nicoletti, watch what you're insinuating. Keep two men here, but with the way the door mechanism has been encrypted it would take hours to break it down, at best. Susan, I want you and a team over at the entrance to the lab. Try to get in there. Vorik, you are with me. We'll try the Jeffries' tube accesses on deck ten. Bring your tools and a medkit. The rest of you… Go to sickbay to get treated or split into teams. I want the whole ship checked for hull breaches, manually. And send someone to the bridge to tell Commander Tuvok what's going on."

Vorik and Susan exchanged a glance in which profound relief warred with surprise, but Kathryn didn't see it. Her mind was already running through ship's schematics to find the best access route.

They went up to deck ten and checked the entry points there, but their tricorder readings warned them of a still existing plasma contamination. It was one of the security features she had found lacking from the beginning but the ship designers at Utopia Planetia had assured her that there was no way to include the Jeffries tubes into the decontamination protocols, and ever since being stranded in the Delta Quadrant they had not had the time or the opportunity to think about improving Voyager's design. Not that she did not have a whole drawer filled with padds proposing one improvement or the other, mainly from B'Elanna or Seven or both of them.

Janeway groaned internally; that left her only one other option, "Come, Mister Vorik, if we can't get in from the side, then we'll come from above."

"Captain?" He asked.

"Follow me."

Kathryn led Vorik two more levels up. The tricorder found no indication of danger. They followed it through two hatches that had to be opened manually. Janeway stopped in the middle of the third segment and removed two of the floor panels. The space underneath was filthy and barely big enough for Naomi Wildman to wriggle through. She swiped the dust and grime away and uncovered a hatch Vorik had not even known existed.

He always had thought that next to the Chief he was the one who knew this ship best.

"The hatch has been sealed completely shut. There's no easy way to open it up. I hope you have something in your tool box to do that, otherwise we have a problem. Even your Vulcan strength wouldn't move it," Janeway said.

Vorik looked down, checked something in his toolbox and answered, "I can get it opened in twenty seconds, provided you don't care for the damage."

"Do it," Kathryn ordered neutrally, but inside she was screaming, 'I don't care for the damage. I care for B'Elanna.'

Vorik pulled a small container out of his tool box and unscrewed the cap. He removed the small vial inside of it and opened it. With the help of the pipette he let single drops fall into the seams of the hatch and cautioned her to turn her face to the side.

A few seconds later there was an explosion which resulted in both sides of the hatch hanging half open. Vorik kicked them in completely and looked down into some sort of tunnel.

"I'll take point. Be careful what you touch, Vorik. There are open wires all through this area, and I don't know how many of them are still live. It would not kill you but could possibly do some temporary damage to our nervous systems." Janeway said.

"Then it would be logical for me to take point. That way you would know what not to touch," he answered.

"Nice try, Ensign, but you would not know where to go, and I won't get one of my people unnecessarily injured. There are a few tight spots and it'll take us at least ten minutes. So, let's go."

They made it to the exit they needed in eight minutes.

"Give me your tetrazine drops, Ensign," Janeway ordered.

"Starfleet regulations forbid the use of tetrazine. We use modified nitro-glycerine, Captain," Vorik answered and handed over the vial.

"Nitro-glycerine?" Janeway asked while she selected the appropriate spots where to drop the liquid explosive.

"The Chief came up with it while watching one of Ensign Paris' old movies. It's an explosive from the 20th Century, highly unstable but very effective. The Chief took the basic chemical composition and made it stable, but we are only to use it in emergencies, like last year when you were stuck in the turbolift with your leg broken."

Janeway's answer was cut off by the detonation and Vorik heard the sound of metal hitting metal.

His tricorder beeped a warning. "Captain, there's still some low level radiation."

"How much time before it gets dangerous?" She asked.

"About two hours." He answered.

"Good, keep an eye on the time and our bio-readings. We're right above the second level of Engineering."

Janeway let herself glide through the opening and steadied herself at the railing running all around the inner side of the second level of the engine room after landing with a hard thump. Vorik's landing was much less noisy, but Janeway was already too busy assessing the situation to muse about it. And it looked like a war zone.

"Vorik, find out if the radiation is residual or if there is still a radiation source around. I'm looking for B'Elanna."

With her eyes firmly on her tricorder readings Kathryn stalked off towards the ladder leading down to the ground level of Engineering.

Vorik noted the ease with which his captain slid down the ladder, an ease speaking of long familiarity. He filed it away with all the other incongruous facts he had learned about his captain in the last two months, but especially in the last hour.

The radiation readings led him down to the ground floor. He passed the warp core and ended on the far left side of the engine room. Captain Janeway was kneeling on the floor next to the prone body of B'Elanna Torres. The radiation leak was right behind them, and B'Elanna's left hand was still holding the hyper spanner needed to seal it, one not usually found in a tool kit.

"The radiation is residual. It was coming from over there. It looks as if B'Elanna had fixed the leak before she lost consciousness."

"Thank you, Vorik. Get the transporters back on-line. We'll need a site-to-site transport. She needs to go to sickbay." Janeway ordered and pressed a hypo-spray in B'Elanna's neck while her other hand gently pushed a strand of hair out of her face.

Vorik hurried off to one of the few consoles that didn't look completely fried. It was only about three yards away, not far enough for his Vulcan hearing not to pick up the captain's whispered words. "Don't you dare die on me, B'Elanna Torres. We need you. Damn it, I need you."

B'Elanna's eyes fluttered open. "Captain… get out… radiation… dangerous… protect you."

It was evident that it hurt her to speak. Her eyes closed again.

"Look at me, Lana," Kathryn ordered.

Brown eyes opened and she tried to speak again but Kathryn put her finger on B'Elanna's lips.

"Listen, Lana, listen well. I know your lungs are damaged, Lana. I want you to take small breaths, slow, small breaths. Focus on your breathing. We'll get you to sickbay in time. I, we all need you to stay alive. Don't die on me. The ship needs you, Seven needs you, I need you."

B'Elanna's eyes had closed again, but her breathing was less laboured and her vital signs had stabilised. Still, Kathryn didn't stop talking and despite his best intentions Vorik didn't stop listening.

"You're a pain in the neck, B'Elanna Isabella Torres. You have been from the first day we met, but without you this ship would have been lost dozens of times already. Without you I would have drowned in the guilt of stranding us here. Even when you left the Academy you did it for a purpose; so, despite of what you may think you never were a quitter. So, don't give up now. Don't you dare. That's an order; and as soon as you're back on your feet, we'll sit down and get to the bottom of this whole mess. I'll find out what has really happened and then I'll get you out of that cell. I know you care for this ship and its crew. You never would have killed Chakotay just because you were angry. You must have had a damned good reason, and I'll find out what that was."

Kathryn was aware that she was babbling, but she didn't care. She put her hands on B'Elanna's cheeks, surreptitiously checking the pulse at her throat to make sure that she really was still alive. For a moment she closed her eyes and when she opened them again her command mask was firmly back in place.

"Status report on the transporters, Ensign Vorik."

"The main control panel is fried. I'm trying to divert energy to the cargo transporters and tie them into the internal targeting system. It's a highly irregular procedure and even if it works it'll take at least an hour," he answered.

"I see. Keep working. I'm going to the lab and try to give Lieutenant Nicoletti and her team a hand from the inside."

When Kathryn stepped into the lab she heard the distinct sound of a plasma torch coming from the door. A heartbeat later she saw a first spark and then a continuous stream in the upper left corner of the door. At the same time she saw a plasma puddle right in front of the door. Should the beam from the torch hit the puddle they could call themselves lucky if only the lab was destroyed. Then another stream of plasma light appeared in the upper right corner of the door. In contrast to the first one which was slowly moving downwards this one moved to the side, and another few moments later a third plasma light indicated that Lieutenant Nicoletti was really pulling out all the stops to get this door opened. Working with three plasma torches in such close proximity in and of itself was a high risk procedure, with most of the systems out of order it bordered on suicidal, but Kathryn also knew that the young engineer did not have much of a choice.

Janeway looked around the lab and finally located the drawer with the emergency supplies or where the emergency supplies should have been. The packet that should have contained a plasma absorbing blanket only held some sort of gauze. The plasma soaked through it in moments and the two plasma torches were already halfway down. She hastily rummaged through the supply cabinet and came up with a mixture of ingredients her teachers at Starfleet Academy would have outlawed as too unstable and thus too dangerous. For once her chemistry lessons, not one of her stronger subjects, by the way, paid off, and when the first torch reached the floor level nothing happened.

It took another ten minutes for the rest of the door to be welded open. Someone kicked it in. Two volunteers were already waiting with a stretcher and Susan Nicoletti snapped to attention, "Captain, we were able to get one of the turbolifts to work. It doesn't yet go all the way up to the bridge but we can reach sickbay."

"Finally some good news then. We found Crewman Torres; for the moment she's stable but she needs urgent medical attention. Your first priority will be internal communications; I'll need a damage report as soon as possible, then the transporters, turbolifts, and the rest."

"I understand, Captain, emergency protocol Torres-Alpha-Four. We know what to do. Where can we find you?"

"Via my comm. link, I hope, if not, start in sickbay."


Chapter Three

If the scene in front of the engine room had been chaos, sickbay was pandemonium. It looked as if half of her crew was there to get patched up. The doctor was in the surgical bay behind a force field, operating on Seven of Nine. Occasionally he looked up and barked an order to anyone who happened to make eye contact with him. Tom was completely out of his league with too many people demanding his attention at the same time. He definitively needed help.

Kathryn had promised herself never to get into such a situation ever again, but it seemed as if she had no choice. So, Captain Janeway did what she did best: she started to give orders.

"Tom, come here and stabilise B'Elanna, put her behind a force field until the doctor can care for her, there has been radiation poisoning. Ensign Crespax, Crewman Peterson, grab a medical tricorder each. We have to get some semblance of order in here. Do what you can for the wounded who can still walk. We need everyone who's able to help with the repairs out their working. Check for concussions, broken bones, internal bleeding and any signs of plasma burns or radiation, these have priority. Send them to me and use the dermal regenerators on everyone else."

"But, Ma'am, we're botanists, not medics." Ensign Crespax protested.

Janeway cast him one of her force-ten glances, known among the crew as her glare-of-death, and he quickly found an injured crewmember to treat.

Half an hour later the stream of crewmembers coming in to be treated had started to trickle out, most of them with injuries from a fall or from a panel or console exploding close by. They only needed a few passes with the dermal regenerator to get back on their feet. There also had been a few more challenging cases but her half-forgotten training had kicked in, and knowledge gained from experience she really didn't care to remember.

By then Janeway had reached the other side of the room where she found Samantha Wildman lying on a bio-bed. On a chair next to her sat Harry Kim with a worried looking Naomi on his lap. His right arm hung down at an odd angle, but he did not seem to be in pain.

Samantha was conscious and she also seemed to be on painkillers. She tried to sit up when she saw her commanding officer, "Captain!"

"Stay put, Ensign. I'm reading multiple fractures. What happened?"

"We were in the hydroponics bay when the attack happened. One of the etageres toppled over and fell on me," Samantha answered.

"Mom pushed me aside or it would have hit me," Naomi whispered.

Janeway knelt in front of the girl. "Your mom will be alright, Naomi. She has a few broken bones, but they are clean breaks. She'll be back on her feet in no time."

"That's for me to decide, Captain," the Doctor said with his usual acerbic charm.

Janeway stood up and ordered, "Go and care for Crewman Torres, then I want a report on Seven of Nine. Get going, Doctor."

"I'm the CMO here, Captain. It's for me to decide who's the most in need of medical care, and Starfleet regulations state that prisoners are not a priority," he said calmly.

"This prisoner is, Doctor. Without her your photons would by now be scattered through half of the sector," Janeway pulled a medical tricorder from behind her back and opened it. "Those are the initial readings I took of B'Elanna about forty or forty-five minutes ago."

"Damn!" He said and stormed off to where Tom was still busy treating B'Elanna.

Janeway smiled a smile that didn't reach her eyes and turned her attention back to Ensign Wildman, "Alright, Samantha, I want you to relax. We'll start with your bruised ribs. That should make it easier to breathe."

The captain pushed the uniform tunic and tank-top up and traced the injured ribs with her fingers before she programmed the bone knitter, "Let me know if you need more painkillers, Samantha."

"I'm fine, Captain. Tom dosed me up good. I even slept for a while. Captain, our attackers why didn't they destroy us or try to board us?"

"There was no attack, Ensign, just a series of explosions in Engineering, but at the moment we're dead in the water, so to speak, and as soon as the doctor is ready to take over again, I'll go back there to help out. Here you go. Your ribs are as good as new. Try to take a deep breath, Samantha."

"Thank you, Captain, that feels much better," Samantha answered.

"Good, and now for your arms. Do you want to help me, Naomi?"

The girl nodded and Kathryn lifted her out of Harry's lap and sat her down at the side of the bed. She held the medical tricorder for Naomi to see the broken bone just four inches above the wrist and told her how to move the boneknitter to its best effect. With every slow pass the tricorder showed her progress and Naomi's tense body started to relax. The second arm was treated the same way and Kathryn put Naomi back on Harry's lap.

"You'll have to let me do the rest, Naomi. Healing a thigh is more difficult than healing an arm because of the muscles all around it. Samantha, I need you to relax as best as you can, or would you like a muscle relaxant?"

"No, Captain, they put me out like a light. I'll be fine," Samantha answered.

"Then let's get started," Janeway cut off the trousers and first checked the breaks manually. It would help her to better direct the boneknitter, but it still took her half an hour to heal both legs.

"You'll feel full of energy for the next few hours. It's a residual effect of the healing process. Your bones are healed now, but you shouldn't put any pressure on them. In other words, you'll not be allowed to lift heavy objects or move around other than with the help of a hover chair and later on crutches. Your bones are healed but your arms and legs still sustained some trauma and need time to recuperate. You'll need to give your body a chance to finish healing on its own. In other words, Ensign, you're on desk duty, and you can use the time to come up with ideas on how to secure the growing banks in the hydroponics bay. I don't want what happened to you ever happen again."

"Aye, Captain, and thank you for taking care of me. I appreciate that very much," Samantha said.

"You're welcome, Samantha. And now, it's your turn, Ensign Kim. What happened to your arm?" Janeway asked.

"I slipped off the ladder when we climbed down from the bridge. I might have broken my neck or back had Tom not been able to hold on to me. Now, I just have a dislocated shoulder," Harry answered.

"A dislocated shoulder, a bone bruise at the hip and a concussion. Do you feel nauseous or dizzy?" The captain asked.

He vigorously shock his head, but the captain didn't find him very convincing.

"I sincerely doubt that, Harry. Close your eyes for a moment. I need to see for myself how bad your concussion is, and sometimes the old methods are the best. Keep your eyes closed and in the meantime I'll check your shoulder."

Naomi climbed down from Harry's lap and Kathryn whispered in her ear and told her to keep an eye on his face and to tell her if his pupils were of the same size should he open his eyes again. The girl nodded solemnly.

Captain Janeway checked the angle of the dislocation and acted quickly. She put her knee against his side, grabbed his elbow, stabilised his shoulder and pulled the arm upwards and back. Harry groaned and opened his eyes in reflex.

"Harry's eyes are almost the same, Captain. His left eye is slightly bigger, but not by much," Naomi said.

"Thank you, Naomi. Harry, you're all set. I'll give you a painkiller and put your arm in a sling and you're ready to go. I want you to go to the Astrometrics lab and check it out. Try to reprogram the external sensors and focus them on Voyager's hull. We need to find every single hull breach or weakness. I already sent teams to check the ship level by level, but we can't afford something being overlooked," Janeway ordered.

"Aye Captain, but I'll need two hands for that. So, the sling won't be necessary," Harry said.

"You'll wear the sling, Ensign Kim, and I'll better not see you without it until the doctor gives you the all-clear. Your tendons and muscles need time to heal, that's not something that can be rushed. Take someone with you to serve as your hands," Janeway said while putting on the sling.

"I can go with Ensign Kim, Captain. Seven of Nine has taught me a lot about Astrometrics and the lab," Naomi said. "Please, Captain. I want to help."

"That's for your mother to decide, Naomi," Janeway answered.

"At the moment Astrometrics is as safe as any other place on board and I know that Harry will take good care of her. You can go with him, Naomi, but I want you to stay with Ensign Kim the whole time and you have to promise to do everything he says," Samantha said.

"I promise, Mom. Thanks," Naomi pulled Harry out of his seat and out of sickbay. At the door she suddenly let go of his hand and ran back to the captain. "Thank you for healing my Mom. I'm sorry for what I said in your Ready Room, Captain."

"It's alright, Naomi, you were not entirely wrong, but this particular problem will have to wait until Voyager is back on her feet. Now go, Miss Wildman," Kathryn answered.

"If you help me up and into a hover chair I can help you, Captain," Samantha offered as soon as her daughter was gone. "I'm not as good a field medic as you are but I know my way around a medkit."

"I'll take any help I can get, Ensign, though I really hope that the worst is over. I'm needed in Engineering."

As if to mock her the double doors to sickbay opened and Ensign Vorik carried in an unconscious Susan Nicoletti. Janeway helped Samantha off the bio-bed and Vorik put Susan gently down.

Janeway stared at the tricorder readings and blanched. That was not good, not good at all.

"Doctor, Lieutenant Nicoletti needs your help," she said.

"I can't leave Torres at the moment. In addition to the radiation poisoning, for reasons I can't fathom she has internal plasma burns. I already replaced one of her lungs but I haven't found all of it, yet. What's Nicoletti's status?"

"Multiple fractures of the right arm, including a shattered elbow, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and her intra-cranial pressure is up by forty-five percent," Janeway said.

"Mister Paris, get over there and care for Lieutenant Nicoletti's brain. Captain, you will have to re-inflate her lung. It's beyond Starfleet's First Aid training, but you already showed more advanced skills today. Do you know what to do?" The Doctor asked.

Janeway sighed, "I know what to do, Doctor. Samantha, I'll need a surgical kit."

Tom Paris and the captain worked in tandem, and twenty minutes later Susan Nicoletti's vitals were stable and her intra-cranial pressure almost back to normal. Before they started on her arm they made sure that she still was sufficiently sedated.

Vorik looked extremely pale but didn't let go of her uninjured hand. To distract him and herself from the gruesome sight of broken bone fragments sticking out of bleeding flesh Janeway asked, "What happened, Ensign?"

"We were able to restore energy to the engine room, and were trying to re-initialise the warp drive but it kept on collapsing. It's protected by an encoded shield we're not able to break. Su… Lieutenant Nicoletti went to the diagnostic console on the upper level. She slipped on a plasma puddle that had not yet been cleaned up, toppled over the railing and landed on her arm and head."

"Susan will make a full recovery," the captain said to Ensign Vorik who had still not moved from Susan's side, "but she will be out of commission for some time. Her injuries need time and physical therapy to heal. She will sleep for at least the next ten to twelve hours. We have to get back to Engineering."

The chaos in front of Engineering had transformed into ordered activity inside of the cavernous room. Every console was occupied, and they all were busy either studying the read-outs or repairing the consoles. Access points, panels, and burst open conduits were all over the place. It really looked like a war-zone, and yet… not.

Kathryn didn't have a chance to really think about that incongruity, since a young ensign reported that they were close to re-establish internal communications but that every diagnostic they had run to re-start the warp drive had come up negative.

Ten hours later they still were without warp but had made some leeway in breaking the encoded shield, but it was slowly degrading. Another twelve hours and they should be able to reinitialise the warp drive. However, they had been able to restore main energy to the whole ship, repair internal communications and the external sensors' array, get shields and weapons back on line, make all of the turbolifts work and repair all of the hull breaches Harry's search has found.

Janeway had coordinated the repair teams and had found herself in more than one Jeffries' tube, checking out the readings. She was bone tired and every single of her muscles protested its abuse. Commander Tuvok had let her know that there was something she should see for herself, but first she wanted to check on B'Elanna and Seven, especially since she had had to leave for Engineering before the doctor had finished with her former chief engineer.

Sickbay was quiet when the captain entered. There was no sign of the doctor, Tom was sleeping in his office, and she knew that Samantha Wildman and Naomi had returned to their quarters a few hours earlier.

Seven and B'Elanna were lying next to each other, close enough to touch, and Kathryn stepped between their bio-beds. They looked so peaceful. Kathryn was marginally relieved that the force field holding them apart from the other patients had been disengaged.

Kathryn stepped back and called for the doctor. "What is the nature of the medical emergency?"

"Give me a status report on Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres," she ordered.

The doctor hesitated for a moment, studying her face, then he answered, "Seven of Nine was hit by an energy discharge that almost fried her Borg systems. Had she not been brought here in time, not even my superior medical knowledge would have been able to save her."


"Seven of Nine will make a full recovery, provided she rests here for the next twenty-four hours and regenerates for at least two days after that."

"And B'Elanna?"

"She'll need more time to recover. I don't know what she did in that engine room but she ended up with numerous broken bones, radiation poisoning and plasma burns. And I still don't know how she got plasma into her lungs and her stomach. I predict at least seven to ten days of recovery in sickbay, and after that at least a week of light duty. And I'm not looking forward to have her here for the coming week or more. She's an even worse patient than you are, Captain."

"ETA on them regaining consciousness?"

"About ten hours for Seven of Nine and forty to forty-eight hours for B'Elanna," the doctor answered.

"Notify me as soon as one of them begins to regain consciousness."

"Of course, Captain. If you don't mind… The knowledge you displayed today, it's way beyond the standards, even for Starfleet command school…"

The captain smiled at him but he did not see that it didn't reach her eyes. "Let's just say that Admiral Pulaski was a very demanding teacher. I expect your report as soon as possible, Doctor."

"Kate Pulaski who wrote the manual on triage and emergency treatments?" He asked, but Captain Janeway was already gone.

It was in the middle of Gamma shift, the light in the corridor had been dimmed and no one was around to see Kathryn slump against the wall as soon as the door had closed. All those years she had tried to stay clear of sickbay during emergencies, today, however, there had been no other choice, and it had brought back the memories she had tried not to revive. As a rule she was no coward, but when she had learned the skills that had aroused the doctor's curiosity it had cost her too much, it had cost her the last remnants of her innocence. No, she would not think about that, not now, not ever.

Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath and walked towards the turbolift, her captain's mask firmly back in place.

Tuvok had been waiting for her on the bridge and they immediately retired to her Ready Room where she replicated a coffee for herself and some tea for Tuvok.

"You said that there was something I needed to see, Commander?"

"Yes Captain." Tuvok activated the view screen on her desk. "I found it after communications had been re-established. It played on the small view screen in your chair. At the time it was the only one active on the bridge, otherwise it probably would have played on the main screen."

Commander Chakotay's face appeared on the view screen and judging from the background the recording had been taken in his quarters.

"This is the prize you all have to pay for betraying me and the Maquis. You want to submit to Starfleet regulations and be tyrannised by Kathryn Janeway and her pet-Borg, and their whore, B'Elanna, the traitor, fine, but you'll have to do it on a crippled ship, forced to find a planet and give up your unreasonable dream of returning home to a Federation that has betrayed us all. See it as my last greeting from the afterlife."

The screen went blank but Janeway continued to stare at it, then she turned her head towards Tuvok, "What is your take on this, Tuvok?"

"I think that we just got the first proof to our suspicions on what really has happened while we were gone, Captain. It's still conjecture but I think Commander Chakotay tried to take over the ship and leave us to our fate. I also think that the crew objected to his plans, and that blowing up the engine room is his form of revenge. However, I regret having to inform you that it's not enough to exonerate Lieutenant Torres," Tuvok answered.

"No, it's not, but the message alone is more than enough justification to have a closer look at his personal logs and other belongings. I want you to make this your highest priority. I'll see to the safety of the ship. And find out how he was able to embed this message in our comm. data without warning signs coming up."

"Understood, Captain. Here's the report about Caessik III for which you asked. It's a compilation of what Crewman Suder told me and what I could find in our database. You'll also find the names of two of our crew who can give you an eyewitness account on what happened. Captain…" Tuvok suddenly fell silent.

Kathryn looked at her old friend, and that was all they needed between them. "I thanked the wrong person for killing him, Tuvok, and that's something I can set right now."

"Read the files, and you will know that she didn't do it to be praised or thanked," Tuvok answered.

"Dismissed, Commander, and thank you." Kathryn answered, knowing well that most other first officers would have cautioned her to get some sleep after the long day she already had had – and for once she was thankful for his Vulcan restraint.

Kathryn Janeway spent the next four hours reading Tuvok's report about Caessik III while checking in on the progress in Engineering from time to time. It wasn't going as fast as she would have wanted and also not as fast as she was used to but the engineers and scientists recruited from other departments were doing their best.

It was not as good as it would have been with B'Elanna in charge. From the first moment on the young woman had impressed her immensely…, Kathryn thought, but forbid herself to pursue that strain of thought.

Janeway had read quite a number of Tuvok's reports, not only here in the Delta Quadrant. They always were detailed without being verbose, terse and rational, surpassing even the exacting standards of Vulcan bureaucracy; and in the past she might not have given them all the attention they deserved, merely skimming over the content and instead concentrating on his usually exhaustive summary.

The report she just had pulled up on her desk screen was different, and not only because there was no summary. Indeed the whole report read like a summary, just as if Tuvok had wanted to distance himself from what he was writing down. It still was extremely detailed, and what his words didn't say, Kathryn's memories supplied. Despite her best intentions it took her in, and brought her back to a time she had promised herself to erase from her memory.

Kathryn fell asleep on her desk and only woke from the doctor calling her down to sickbay. She remembered all too vividly what her dreams had been about, and though she would never admit to it, she was thankful that he had ended that particular nightmare.

"I'll be down in ten minutes, Doctor."

The Captain strode into sickbay, right in the middle of the classical 'irresistible force meets unmoving object' conundrum; with the force being Seven of Nine and the object being Voyager's CMO.

"Nothing you say will get me to leave her before I'm sure that she'll be alright," Seven said.

"You need to regenerate, now," the EMH answered.

"Report, Doctor!" Janeway said.

The Doctor and Seven started talking at the same time, but knowing the former Drone as she did, Janeway had a pretty good idea about what was going on.

"Seven of Nine refuses….."

"I can go without regene…."

"Stop it, both of you," Janeway ordered. "Doctor, is there any way to wake B'Elanna up without impeding her healing process?"

"We could chance a couple of minutes, three at most, Captain, but I don't think that now would be the best time to question Crewman Torres."

"Do it, Doctor. Seven, you have three minutes, max; and then I want you on a regeneration cycle for the next forty-eight hours," Janeway ordered.

The Doctor looked puzzled, but Seven's thankful smile was almost enough to make Kathryn forget about her nightmares.

Janeway's next stop was at Engineering to check on the progress of the repairs. Warp drive was still about two hours away but all the other systems worked within specifications, or as it once would have been called 'nominal'. From B'Elanna's perspective, however, it worked at a substandard level, like everything worked substandard that didn't function at least at a hundred percent.


Chapter Four

Back in her Ready Room Kathryn decided to call in the two crewmembers whose names had been listed in Tuvok's report. For both of them it was the first time in the captain's sanctuary, and they had a hard time to hide their curiosity. The fact that the captain was over by the replicator and as introduction asked them if they wanted anything to drink, didn't help matters any. Bewildered as they were they refused; the expression on their faces only topped by the next when she asked them to take a seat on the couch.

Kathryn didn't bother with small talk, "Tell me about the death camp on Caessik III and its commander!"

They stared at her with wide eyes. Crewman Kalor, a young Bajoran, was the first to recover but there still was a considerable amount of mistrust in his posture and voice, "What do you want to know, Captain Janeway?"

"The truth," she simply answered.

The other crewmember, a young woman of, according to her files, Human-Romulan descent, jumped up from her seat, "The truth, as if you ever were interested in the truth, Captain Janeway of the Federation!"

Before she had a chance to say anything else Kalor put his hand over her mouth and silenced her. He looked at her and said, "Remember our promise, Hama."

"Tell me about the death camp and Gul Canak." Kathryn repeated. Her command mask was still in place but the informed listener would have sensed a certain urgency in her voice.

"Now," she ordered. "Tell me about the death camp."

"The Federation tends to call them relocation camps, labour camps if they have a bout of honesty," Hama Xeltek spat out.

"Tell me about the death camp on Caessik III," Janeway repeated her order. Her voice had dropped at least an octave which made it sound more than just dangerous. It made it sound lethal.

"You want to know about Caessik III?! I'll tell you about Caessik III. I'll tell you about hell, a place the Cardies brought us to after they had killed our parents and family and friends. I fought them and they locked me away, and when they let me out again my little brother had died of hunger. He was just a boy, but the prisoners, we, we were fighting amongst each other. There never was enough food or water, and we killed each other for the little there was. Is that what you want to know about Caessik III, Captain?" Hama Xeltek said with a calm, icy voice, a voice betraying the unspoken emotions behind them.

"If you were fighting each other, how could you have staged a successful rebellion?" Janeway asked.

The two former Maquis, however, seemed not inclined to answer, so she added, "Commander Chakotay told me that he freed the camp and I believed him. Recently I got proof of the contrary. I need to hear what really happened from someone who saw it first hand."

"Why?" Crewman Kalor asked.

"As a Federation captain I could just order you to tell me, but I want the whole truth, and if you insist I will not make a log about it. I have personal reasons to ask, reasons I won't get into," Kathryn answered, though the captain in her feared that with that simple admission she already had divulged too much.

The two crewmembers exchanged another look and finally Kalor answered, "Hama is right, we killed each other for food and clothing and bedding, as if working in the mines the whole day had not been hard enough. It was, what do you Humans call it, 'survival of the fittest' and too many of us had to pay the price."

"What changed? What happened?" Kathryn asked.

"What happened? B'Elanna Torres happened," Hama said with definite growl.

"I need to know more," Kathryn said.

"The arrival of new prisoners was nothing new or exciting for us, and that one or more of them were fighting the Cardies was also nothing new. One day they brought five prisoners. The Cardies told us that they were Maquis and would learn how to behave and how to respect their betters. That also was nothing new. The Cardies had broken more than one group of them. There were two women in that group, and as usual the two women were stripped in front of everyone and shackled," Katar said.

"One of them cried out and grabbed the weapon of a guard and shot herself. The other one attacked the guards and killed one of them with her bare hands. In the past I saw prisoners killed who had done nothing more than to raise their fists against a guard, but the Commandant stopped them. Gul Canak told us that he would make her an example, that he would get her to crawl at his feet…" Hama continued.

Kalor looked uncomfortable but that didn't keep him from taking over, "Usually rebellious newcomers were brought back from the main building after about a fortnight, broken and only a shadow of what they had been before, especially the women. B'Elanna was different. She walked out of the holding area with her head held high. She was limping but she didn't give in."

They once again fell silent. Janeway rose and walked over to the replicator. She ordered three shots of Andorian Ale and brought them back to the couch table.

"I need an answer."

Finally Hama Xeltek answered and her voice was almost inaudible, "After they brought me out of the main building I was broken. Finding out that my kid brother had been killed in the meantime didn't change that. I was nothing more than a machine doing what I had been ordered to do."

Kathryn gave the woman the time she needed to continue.

"B'Elanna was different. At first she provoked the guards every chance she got, and they either flogged her on the spot or dragged her off to the main building. The third time she came back she no longer provoked the guards, but all of us who had seen other cases knew that they had not broken her, not as they thought they had. She started to talk to us, one at a time. She told us that if we didn't act we would die at Caessik III but if we did at least some of us had a chance to survive."

Kathryn respected the woman's silence.

"They broke me -- and though they did the same things to her, repeatedly, and worse, they never succeeded. She gave us something we never had had before, a sense of unity, of belonging together. She convinced us that it was better to die fighting than to die being beaten."

Hama Xeltex fell silent. She swallowed hard and looked up to the captain as if she didn't know what to say next.

"What do you think would have happened if Chakotay's Maquis had not arrived when they did or not at all?" Janeway asked.

"B'Elanna would have been killed. We still would have been free, but it also would have been much harder to get transportation for over three thousand people," Hama answered.

"Tell me about the death of Gul Canak." Janeway asked.

This time both of the crewmembers picked up on the sense of urgency emanating from their captain.

"We had everything set up," Kalor said. "We were ready to go. All we needed was a diversion. B'Elanna provided that diversion by accosting the guards, and since it was her it brought the commander down fast. Gul Canak seemed to be angry. He told us that he would make an example of her. They set up the whipping poles and dragged her towards them. She managed to take down the two Cardies holding her arms and challenged Canak. She called him a coward hiding behind his guards, not male enough to fight his own fights. He took the bait, convinced that it would be over in less than a minute. He told her that she was weak like the rest of the Federation and that he would make her pay right in front of everyone.

"B'Elanna was still wearing chains and he attacked her with a long dagger. She was faster. She brought her hands together and used the length of the chain to hit him in the face. It made him angry. He tried to overpower her, but her next swing of the chain hit the sensitive ridges at his neck. He cried out and attacked again. The tip of his dagger sliced her arm. She later told me that he had been dead the moment she had first smelled her own blood, but she had to play for time to get us all in position. She dragged it out for another five minutes and when she heard the signal she got under his defences, pushed some sort of pressure point on his hand and killed him with his own dagger.

"His personal guards attacked her, and we started to take out the rest of the Cardies. We initially had wanted to detail a group of us to have her back, so to speak, but she refused. She said that we all would be needed elsewhere, and she had been right. She was taking heavy hits but in the end there was only one of them left, and that was when Chakotay and his men beamed down. He shot the sole survivor of Gul Canak's personal guard, and afterwards tried to make everyone believe that he alone was responsible for the liberation of Caessik III," Hama said.

Kathryn studied the expressions on the faces of her crewmembers. "Thank you. You are dismissed."

"Yes, Captain." They echoed. Kalor and Hama rose and turned to leave the Ready Room as bewildered as they had entered it.

"One last question." Janeway said. "Did Commander Chakotay try to take over Voyager while I was gone?"

For the fraction of a second they both looked as if they had just been run over by a shuttle and quickly fled the room without giving her an answer, but for the captain that was answer enough.

Kathryn spent another night waking time and again soaked in sweat. The pictures of the past still vivid in her mind even as she stood in the shower to wash the sweat away. She pulled a Vulcan meditation lamp out of a box in her closet as well as a small pillow. It had been years since she had felt the need to use it, but she knew that this was the only way for her to get a semblance of rest.

The next morning Tuvok reported that his search of Chakotay's personal belongings and logs had yielded no results. It seemed as if he had never made a personal log of any kind, not electronic, not hand-written. His investigation of Chakotay's message had been more successful. It had been stored in the filter that usually weeded out sensor shadows and spacial background noises.

"I apologise, Captain. That should have turned up during my regular security checks."

"How could it have, Tuvok? I'm sure that it was only installed after we left to get Seven back."

"It also could be much older, Captain. The way this message speaks about Miss Torres and Seven of Nine make it logical to assume that it has been composed as soon as it became clear the crew at large was starting to accept Seven of Nine as one of their own. There was no time stamp on the message or its coding," Tuvok said.

"No time stamp? That's practically impossible," Janeway replied.

"No, Captain, it is not. There's a relatively simple Maquis procedure used to hide the point of origin of a message. It has the side effect to erase the time stamp. To make sure that Mister Chakotay left us no other surprises I ran a search to look for other manipulations of the logs. I didn't find the same thing but I found something else. The official report we were given after our return stated that the communications and the surveillance systems were down for more than three days. My first check didn't reveal anything and I left the in-depth check to Seven of Nine.

"Last night I found evidence that the whole breakdown was not due to system failure but rather has been artificially manufactured after the fact. I was able to restore seventy-two percent of the files. The rest are protected by encryption codes I have not been able to break yet. However, I now have an idea what really happened. It still does not constitute evidence. For the most part it consists of conversations between crewmembers in the various departments and corridors."

"Shouldn't that have been overwritten long ago?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, usually it would, but by overwriting them with unspecific noise those three days have been taken out of the regular cycle and thus preserved," Tuvok answered.

"I understand. I'm listening, Tuvok."

For the next thirty minutes Tuvok told Janeway what he had pieced together and illustrated it with part of the restored security footage. Her eyes went wide at the picture he painted and for the first time B'Elanna's stubborn refusal to talk began to really make sense. B'Elanna wanted to protect her feelings.

"How high is the probability that this is what really happened?" She asked right after Tuvok had finished speaking.

"I'm confident that what I just told you comes very close to the real events, though it still essentially is pure guess work based on hearsay. There still is no hard evidence," Tuvok answered.

"I know, my friend, but I have a feeling that we'll find all the evidence we'll need in the twenty-eight remaining percent," she said.

"Then I'll double my efforts to break the encryption, Captain, but I can't promise any immediate success. The encryption code is very complex, on a level by far outclassing standard Borg codes. Apart from you and me there are only three, maybe four people aboard with the knowledge to do something like that, B'Elanna Torres, Seven of Nine, Vorik and Harry Kim," Tuvok said.

"Hmm… Harry… it might be worth a shot. I could simply order him to decrypt the remaining files," Janeway said.

"I would caution against that, Captain. Enlisting the help of Mister Kim or Seven of Nine is not advisable. Harry Kim is Miss Torres friend; whatever he finds could be called into question at a later date," he answered.

"You have a point, Tuvok. In order to declare a court-martial sentencing void everything has to be above suspicion. From now on your priority is to decrypt those files. Give everything else to me," Janeway ordered.

"A wise precaution, Captain. This way no one can accuse you of favouritism."

Before the captain had a chance to reply her comm. chirped. The doctor wanted her to know that Crewman Torres was about to regain consciousness.

"I'm on my way, Doctor. Janeway out."

When Captain Janeway entered sickbay Lieutenant Ayala was busy putting a cuff on B'Elanna's left ankle to shackle her to the bio-bed.

"Stop it, Lieutenant, restraints will not be necessary. From now on Crewman Torres is to be treated as a low risk prisoner."

Ayala looked at her with wide eyes, his expression changing between surprise and relief, "Thank you, Captain. I hated having to treat her that way. But may I ask why you changed your mind?"

Janeway smiled at his question. "Officially, because her recent actions in Engineering saved Voyager and her crew, again."

"An unofficially?" The Doctor asked.

For a moment Janeway studied the faces of both men. She was tempted to tell them the truth but decided against it, and not only because of Starfleet's ideas about the ideal relationship between captains and their crew. If Tuvok's theory was indeed correct then her whole crew had tried to keep the truth from her in a misguided attempt to protect her.

"There is no unofficial answer, Doctor. Lieutenant Ayala, you are dismissed. Doctor, give me a status report. Start with the least serious injuries. I know you already sent in your report, but I didn't have the chance to read it just yet," Janeway said.

"You looked tired, Captain."

"I had trouble sleeping last night, and before you say anything, should it not get better, I'll come and ask for your help."

"Thank you, Captain, for not trying to fool me. All in all there were only sixteen crewmember completely uninjured, close to a hundred with minor injuries, most of which you treated, by the way. Twenty-five suffered serious injuries. Twenty of them are still on light duty, including Ensign Wildman. Crewman Garbo, Ensign Niven and Lieutenant Nicoletti are on bed rest in their quarters and should be back on duty in five to six days at the most. Seven of Nine will be fit to return to duty after the end of her regeneration cycle. And Crewman Torres… is waking up right about now," the Doctor said with a grin.

Janeway turned towards the upper end of the bio-bed and saw how B'Elanna opened her eyes and tried to sit up. The Doctor put his hand on her shoulder and told her to relax. He ran a few scans and seemed very satisfied with the readings. Due to form he started to fill both of them in on the ingenious way he had saved her life against impossible odds, but Captain Janeway stopped him.

"I'd like a few minutes alone with the patient, Doctor."

"She won't stay awake for long, Captain, and try to keep her calm. If she moves around too much I'll have to restrain her to keep her from destroying my hard work," he grumbled.

"Understood, Doctor. Computer, end the emergency medical hologram."

"You know, Captain, you're the only one he doesn't bitch about when they do that," B'Elanna said, her voice still heavy from sleep, painkillers and sedatives.

"I'm sure he would also complain about me if there were someone to whom he could address his complaints," Janeway answered with an easy smile. "First things first, B'Elanna; Seven is alright. She's regenerating at the moment and will be fine at the end of the cycle, and Voyager is almost back to normal working order. We had to wait 'til your encrypted shield around the warp core had degraded before we could reinitialise the drive. The doctor told me yesterday that you'll need about two weeks recovery time in sickbay, but I'm sure you'll cut it down some."

"Don't you want to know what happened?" B'Elanna asked hoarsely.

Janeway gave her some ice chips to suck on before she answered, "I know what happened. The security cameras in Engineering are very sturdy, they gave me every detail. You saved Seven's life and then you returned to save the lives of the rest of the crew. From the message Chakotay sent to the bridge he only wanted to cripple the ship to force us to settle on the next inhabitable planet, but his charges were too strong. The first round of explosions damaged the release mechanism for the warp core. We would not have been able to eject it had it been necessary. You saved us all and nearly killed yourself in the process. Why did you block the door, B'Elanna?"

"So, it was Chakotay, that rat bastard. I should have known. I should have expected something like that," B'Elanna said with an underlying growl.

"Yes, it was sabotage, and according to that message Chakotay was responsible. So, why did you block the door?"

"The sensors were fried. I couldn't get any clear readings, didn't know if the radiation was really gone. I didn't want to risk anyone else," B'Elanna answered.

"You closed off the last radiation leak before you passed out. Never do something like that again," Kathryn said.

"I'll try my best. Captain, can't I be released to the brig? It at least would be quieter than sickbay. The Doctor practises his operas. The last time he even tried to get me to help him work on a Klingon opera. It was pure torture, and I know you don't condone of torture."

"There are some of your crewmates who think otherwise. They think that the way I treated you is torture." Kathryn said.

"You only followed Starfleet protocol."

"Starfleet protocol would have left me other options, B'Elanna," Kathryn answered after she had made contact with the younger woman's eyes.

"I know," B'Elanna said softly. "I know you want to force me to tell you what you want to hear."

Kathryn smiled. Even pumped up to the gills with painkillers B'Elanna chose her words very carefully to keep her from outright lying to her captain.

"I wanted to encourage you to tell me the truth. Chakotay's message made it clear that he had tried to take over the ship but had failed. I have a pretty good idea what happened, B'Elanna, all I lack is proof, but as soon as I've found that …"

"You won't find anything, Captain, so, even if I told you what happened, who would believe a convicted murderer?" B'Elanna asked.

"I would believe you, B'Elanna, and as for evidence… Tuvok found the main security logs under the layer of random signals you created. It would have been more efficient if you had just created a real malfunction."

"That's what Seven said, but I couldn't bring myself to sabotage even a small part of my ship, not after Chakotay and the others tried to tear it apart with their damned phasers," B'Elanna's voice was slurred during the last words and before she even became aware of what she had just said the sedative once again took over and she fell asleep.

Janeway reactivated the Doctor who huffed indignantly and asked him for the time when Seven's regeneration would end. She ordered him to appraise her when Crewman Torres would wake up again. She returned to the bridge to free her first officer for his decryption duties. Since it was a rather empty area of space, except for a small solar system with only five planets four light years away, bordering their course, she spent the time reading the doctor's report and immersing herself in other paperwork.

Alpha Shift ended quickly and she retired to her Ready Room. Seven's regeneration cycle ended in another three hours and she didn't want to arrive in Cargo Bay Two with the images of her nightmares fresh in her mind. To her own surprise she found herself out of reasonable work after only an hour. Kathryn knew that the sensible thing to do would be to go to the mess hall, get something to eat and socialise with her crew.

However, she couldn't bring herself to do that. If Tuvok was right, and deep down she had no doubt that he was, then her whole crew had been lying to her, if only by omission, and she didn't really know what to think or do about that. In the strictest sense of the word that could be regarded as mutiny, but their intention had not been to rebel against her command but to preserve it, and to preserve her confidence in her command decisions.

Did they, did B'Elanna really think that she was that fragile? It would have made her angry if not for the fact that the young Human-Klingon Hybrid had sacrificed her whole life, her whole future to spare her that, among other more personal reasons, she presumed.

So, Captain Kathryn Janeway stayed in her Ready Room and treated herself to a sandwich and another cup of coffee. There still was about an hour to go before Seven would leave her alcove. She sat on the couch and stared out to the distorted star field swishing by. It was, as always, a mesmerising sight, one of which she had not gotten tired since the first time she had travelled at warp speed; and she probably never would. It had a soothing effect on her, even in her darkest hours of depression and self-depreciation. Perhaps that was why she had fallen that deep during their time in the void, no stars, no sense of going anywhere, no progress.

"Regeneration cycle complete."

Seven of Nine stepped out of her alcove. She didn't seem surprised to see the captain waiting for her.

"How do you feel, Seven?"

"I'm functioning within normal parameters, Captain. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"First thing tomorrow morning I want you to check out the M-class planet in that solar system we're passing by. I want you to find out if it's suitable for shore leave."

"Shore leave?"

"Yes, I think this crew deserves some leisure time," Janeway answered with a shrug of her shoulders.

"There's no need to wait until morning, Captain. I can run the analysis now," Seven replied.

"No, you can't, Seven. There's something else I want you to do first. The Doctor just advised me that B'Elanna is waking up again. I want you to sit with her, keep her from getting bored. She still has some healing to do."

"Isn't that against Starfleet regulations, Captain?"

"It isn't, Seven. I revoked my orders concerning Crewman Torres' treatment. Go and stay with her. She'll be happy to see you."

"Thank you, Captain."

"You're welcome, Seven."

The cargo bay doors closed behind Seven as she hurried out, walking as fast humanly possible without outright running. Kathryn smiled at the thought of the reunion of the lovers in sickbay, hampered as it would be by B'Elanna's physical state and the presence of the doctor.

Part 5

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