DISCLAIMER: If Paramount owns it, then I don't. If Paramount doesn't own it then I do. Does this cover it? If you are a Paramount lawyer please don't come after me. I am just a factory worker. If you come after me with legal papers then I can give you some tips about preserving them, but that is all that I can give you.
This story features some interaction of the female/female kind. If you don't want to read that, or are not allowed to read that, please feel free to go read something else.
FEEDBACK: Yes please. I would like to know whether you liked it or didn't. If you didn't like it, why not? Let me know, but tell me nicely please.
ARCHIVE: I wish. But if you decide to make my wish come true (no, not that one. The one about the archiving) than please let me know.
Unless I already gave permission. Updating is a given.
WRITER: I guess that's me. H.W. Alias.hw@tiscal.nl
NOTE #1: I would like to thank my betas who are in order of appearance<g>:
My sister: She betad the first chapter for me and still reads each chapter and points out if something is unclear.
Letterx: Who checks if I have no major plot holes in my story and is a all-around big help.
Jackie: Who takes care of all of my typos, and believe me, there are an awful lot of typos to take care of.
Xakana: Who I see as my goalkeeper. She catches everything that the others have missed. She my be last in this lineup. But just as with a soccer game, if you don't have you're goalkeeper than you have no chance of winning the game.
NOTE #2: Because I got the idea for this story thanks to a little bit of fun certain people on a certain mailing list were having I honored that fun by putting Astrometrics on deck four. If you don't get it, don't worry it is not important. If you do get it, then you know what I'm talking about.<g>

The Traveler
By H.W.

Chapter 1

When Seven of Nine walked out of Astrometrics at the end of her shift, she was surprised to see Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres lying on the floor a bit further down the corridor. Her first reaction was to run and make sure that B'Elanna was all right. However, the toolbox beside the Chief Engineer and her cursing reassured Seven that there was no need to make a fool of herself. So instead she made sure that her cool Borg mask was in place and walked the remaining distance to B'Elanna in her self-assured and confident manner.

Of course Seven knew only too well that the Chief Engineer called that same walk arrogant as hell.
"Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, may I ask what you are doing here? Deck four is not an area frequently visited by you. Maintenance is usually done by one of your engineers."

"Damn it Seven!" B'Elanna shouted while the tool that she was using went flying through the corridor. "Why do you always have to sneak up on people?"

Seven did not dignify that question with an answer and simply looked at how the tool that B'Elanna had thrown made a rather impressive dent in the wall plating that covered the real structure which made Voyager.
The chief engineer had asked that same question twenty-eight times, in the last four weeks. Twenty-eight times the Borg's answer had been the same. Twenty-eight times Seven had explained that she did not 'sneak up' and that B'Elanna simply had been too engrossed in her work to hear the Borg approach.

This however was an explanation that B'Elanna could not accept. The Klingon was proud of the fact that there was enough Klingon warrior in her to 'feel' somebody approach. And yet. That annoying, arrogant, beautiful ... that stupid Borg succeeded time and time again in approaching B'Elanna without the Klingon noticing it.
*Be honest girl.* B'Elanna thought. *The only reason this terrifies you is because you know certain things about Klingon warriors that others on this ship don't know, not even the doctor. A true Klingon warrior will 'feel' all but one person approach. That one person is the only person that the Klingon warrior will never have to defend herself against. Her partner, her third heart.*

"Lieutenant, May I point out to you that causing damage while repairing Voyager only means that you also have to repair that damage later on. So, throwing heavy objects into relatively soft material is only counterproductive."

"Listen you...." B'Elanna suddenly stopped her outburst by taking some deep breaths and thanking Kahless for the fact that she was also partly human. If she had been fully Klingon she would have already punched Seven, or jump her for an entirely different reason.
"Damn, I never thought keeping my promise to Kathryn could be so hard."


"Never mind Seven. Actually, contradictory to what you think throwing my tools around is very productive."


This was the first time B'Elanna and Seven had an altercation since the Klingon made her promise to the captain. At the time B'Elanna could not understand why Kathryn had ask her to explain things to Seven instead of shouting at her. Now however the Klingon could clearly hear that Seven was truly curious and not making fun of her.

"Yes. The damage to that wall is easily repaired in five minutes. Correct?"

"Correct." Seven agreed, not really sure about where B'Elanna was going.

"Correct. Now, by throwing that stupid tool around I had an release for my... annoyance and thereby it prevented me from doing something like ripping those circuits down there out of the wall or hitting you.
If I had ripped those circuits out, it would have caused me at least four hours of extra work. And as far as hitting you, well we don't want that now do we?"

Seven felt a strong wave of disappointment crashing through her. *B'Elanna wants to hit me.* However talking out loud her cool Borg persona had gotten a distinctive superior tone in her voice.
"I see what you mean Lieutenant Torres. TRYING to hit me would only have resulted in you getting severely damaged which in its turn would have needed to be treated in sickbay. And after that you would have gone to the Brig. Indeed, if you explain it like that throwing that tool was a prudent course of action."

To Seven's surprise B'Elanna actually started laughing at this. "TRYING to hit you. You are pretty sure of yourself Seven."

"I am Borg." Was all the explanation that Seven gave.

Surprising enough that explanation was more than enough for B'Elanna.
"That you are."
But then the Klingon got serious again.
"Listen Seven that remark about hitting you it is not because I don't like you, it is simply an impulse from my Klingon side. My Klingon side needed some physical release and unfortunately Klingons are known to do physical rather violently."
B'Elanna actually saw a slight change of expression on that Borg mask and decided to quit while she was ahead. But the Klingon could not help adding in thought. *Thank Kahless she doesn't know that minor physical violence can also lead to some other physical exercises.*

"So you are actually telling me that you like me Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna's first reaction was to deny that statement. But luckily enough the Klingon stopped herself before she made that mistake.
"Well, I wouldn't call you my friend. But yes. I think you could say that I am learning to like you."
B'Elanna saw Seven actually smile in reaction to her words. *Beautiful.*

"In that case Lieutenant I will look forward to the day you will be actually prepared to call me your friend. I would like that."

"What?" B'Elanna couldn't believe her hears. Surely Seven had to be joking. "You actually want to be my friend? Well you sure as hell have an interesting way of showing that..."

"Lieutenant, before you start explaining how I should have shown you that I wanted your friendship put yourself in my position. If somebody treated you the way you treated me until today, would you have made it known to that person that you really wanted their friendship?"

B'Elanna opened her mouth a couple of times but every time only one or two syllables came out. Finally the Klingon groaned and lowered herself until she was sitting on the deck and then buried her face in her hands.
"How can I be so stupid? All my life I have people look at me strangely because I'm either too much of a Klingon for them or too much of a human. Then by some freak accident I get stuck on this ship and find a home. And what do I do when somebody comes along and people look at her strangely because she is too much of a Borg, too much a machine? I am the first in line to shout that you are too much of a Borg to be human and too much of a human to be Borg."

"Lieutenant, it was not my intention to cause you distress. Please be assured that I am able to put your former behavior towards me behind me if you are willing to do the same. After all my behavior towards you also could have been different."

B'Elanna gladly accept the hand that Seven offered her and found herself being pulled onto her feet with incredible ease. An ease which told B'Elanna that Seven probably was not exaggerating when the Borg told her that TRYING to hit the Borg was all what the Klingon would have done.
"Kahless Seven, I never realized how strong you truly are."

"That is an error made by almost everybody on board this ship. Everybody knows that my body still has Borg enhancements, which I will have to live with for the rest of my life. But almost everybody seems to forget that the Borg only call something an enhancement if it truly is an enhancement. Small improvements are called just that, improvements."

"The crew will be glad to hear that. Tell me Seven, in a fight, is there anybody on board the ship capable of beating you?"

"That depends. If they are allowed to use technologies like forcefields or phaser weapons then each and every one on board the ship is capable of 'beating me', even Naomi. But if you mean in a hand to hand combat scenario, then no there is nobody capable of 'beating me'."

"Well it sure is nice to exactly know what you're capable of."

The tone in B'Elanna's voice made it clear to Seven that the Klingon made it a habit to always be unsure of herself in everything. *Except engineering. She is always sure of herself as far as any technological problems are concerned. Maybe bringing this conversation back to technology will give us the opportunity to let our friendship slowly grown. That is what we need.*
"It is, the only drawback is that you also exactly know what you are not capable of. But be that as it may. This whole conversation started with me asking you what you were doing on deck four."

B'Elanna noted Seven's change of subject and gladly jumped at the opportunity. Her mind needed time to sort out all the information it had gotten in the last couple of minutes.
"Well, the reason why I am here on deck four is because I am checking out airlock thirty-one. And it is too serious to let one of my engineers do this. Tom brought you that report a couple of hours ago, remember? Anyway, on his way back to the bridge airlock thirty-one suddenly opened up and Tom was almost pulled into space."

"What? Is he functioning? Why was there no alarm? Why was I not informed of this? This only happened a couple of meters from where I was working the entire time."

"Whoa." B'Elanna made a slowing gesture with her hands. "Easy with the questions Seven. Tom is fine. He is just extremely shaken. He was only centimeters from being on the outside of Voyager before the security forcefield snapped in place and saved him. The captain gave him the rest of today and tomorrow off to get himself together. Kahless Seven, can you imagine that? Being only a couple of centimeters away from outer space, from being dead? As to why there was no alarm. That's what I am trying to find out, without success I might add.
And as to why you were not informed. Well, there was really no reason to. The emergency forcefield activated, Tom was automatically transported to sickbay like we have programmed the computer to do in case of an emergency. And be honest Seven, if we notified each and every member of the crew every time something happened on Voyager there would be no work being done. Everyone would be busy reading the notifications. We are in a starship and accidents do happen."


B'Elanna looked at how Seven got onto her knees in front of the excess panel and quickly looked away to escape temptation. *Kahless can't that woman do anything without moving so... sensual?*

"You are right Lieutenant There is absolutely nothing wrong with these circuits."

The Klingon also sank to her knees and looked at the electronic circuits in the wall.
"Yes. And that is why I am so frustrated at this. There is absolutely nothing wrong. Those circuits are as perfect as they were at the moment they appeared in the replicator."

"Lieutenant if I were able to solve this mystery for you would you agree to not tell anybody how I solved it? Not even the captain. Especially not the captain?"

"Eh, sure Seven. I just want this solved. I don't like the idea of airlocks opening by themselves." B'Elanna made some room and gestured to the circuits. "Knock yourself out."

"I do not see..." The Borg did not finish her statement but rather moved to a better position in front of the circuits.

"I don't see, what Seven, what? You can't leave a sentence hanging like that. What were you going to say?"

Seven looked at the floor for couple seconds before lifting her eyes to B'Elanna. "I was going to say that I do not see how rendering myself unconscious will get those circuits fixed."

B'Elanna was getting better at stopping herself before her first reaction left her lips. So instead of beginning to shout that Seven's remark was not funny the Klingon once again took a deep breath and simply asked: "Why didn't you say it then?"

"Because I know what you mean and I do not want to risk our building tolerance of each other by saying something that I only was going to say because I find your reaction to it quite entertaining."

"Wait a minute. Let's see if I understand this correctly. You were going to make a joke because you would find my reaction to that joke funny."

"That is a satisfying explanation of the facts Lieutenant."

"Let's see if I really got this straight. All those remarks to me were really you using your dry sense of humor? You actually got a sense of humor?"

"The answer to both of those questions would be affirmative."

This time B'Elanna leaned forward and put her head against the wall while she groaned.

"Damn it Seven I really do not know you, do I?"

"Would it have made a difference if you had known that I was 'joking' Lieutenant?"

"It sure as hell would have. Because then I would actually have appreciated those remarks and would not have thought that you were making another stupid comment. I do have a sense of humor you know."

"I know that Lieutenant. But I will try to refrain from using them in the future."

"Don't Seven. Now that I know that they are merely meant in fun I will actually enjoy hearing them, once in a while."

"Very well Lieutenant. Shall I start the repairs now?"

The Klingon gave Seven a toothy grin before answering. "Sure Seven, knock yourself out."

The Borg repaid the grin with a smile of her own which made the Klingon glad that she had two hearts, because B'Elanna was sure that one of her hearts had stopped beating altogether after seeing that beautiful smile.
The Klingon stop grinning however when she saw how Seven simply plunged her assimilation tubes into the circuits.

"Remember Lieutenant you promised not to tell anybody how I solved your mystery. This will not cause damage to the circuits and the places where my assimilation tubes have entered will be repaired by some of my nanoprobes before they become inactive. I also...."

"You also.... what Seven, what. Remember what I just told you? Do not leave sentences hanging like that."
The unfinished sentence was however quickly forgotten when B'Elanna saw the distress clearly written all over the Borg's face. "What is it Seven? You look like you saw a ghost."

The Borg swallowed a couple of times, clearly trying to collect herself again. Seven was sure that B'Elanna would no longer want to have anything to do with her when the Klingon would hear what Seven had to say. When she was sure she had her Borg coolness back in place Seven detached her assimilation tubes from the circuits and answered in her unemotional Borg voice.
"The reason you were not able to find the problem was because you were not looking for a Borg encryption code. After I broke the code the original virus was easily found and deactivated. The virus had tied itself into the ship's internal sensors and was programmed to open the airlock at the eighth time Lieutenant Tom Paris would walk through the corridor from the time the virus was first activated."

"What? Are you trying to tell me that the Borg deliberately tried to kill Tom?"

"Not kill, frighten. That same virus also made sure that the emergency forcefield was activated just before the Lieutenant would have left the ship."
Seven closed her eyes before adding the rest. She knew that any possibility of a friendship with B'Elanna would be over with the next couple of words.
"And it was not the Borg, but one ex-drone. The reason I was able to break that Borg encryption code so easily was because I wrote it in the first place."

But to that certain ex-drone's surprise her worst fear never actually crossed B'Elanna's mind. The Klingon did not start accusing Seven of trying to kill Tom but instead got a compassionate look in her eyes.
"Oh Seven. You mean somebody is actually trying to set you up? To make it look like you were trying to kill Tom? Who would do such a terrible thing?"

"I must admit that I am surprised that you didn't assume that I actually tried that." Seven stated with relief clearly visible on her face.

B'Elanna got to her feet, quickly followed by Seven, and started gathering her tools and closing the access panel to the electronic circuits. "Don't be ridiculous Seven. I would not even have suspected you of doing that at the time that I truly hated you. Besides, if you would have done this you sure as hell would not have told me this now. I would not have found this virus without you. As a matter of fact I actually did not find it, you did. But that still leaves the question about who would have done this."

"Thank you for believing me Lieutenant. You have no idea what that means to me. As far as the person who could have done this, I think I know who that was.

That trader that was on board of Voyager last week actually asked if I could write him some Borg encryption codes. After the captain assured me that I could do this person that favor I wrote him the encryption codes."

"And exactly how many encryption codes are we talking about here Seven?"

"At the captain's suggestion I wrote him the amount of codes he had asked for. Which was three thousand one hundred eighteen."

"Kahless. So we possibly have over three thousand of these types of traps on board?"

"That is a distinct possibility Lieutenant."

"Come on Seven. We have to tell the captain about this." However to B'Elanna's surprise Seven did not move.

"Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres. You promised not to tell the captain how you came into possession of this information."

"Don't worry Seven I won't tell her. I just say that I found the Borg encryption code and since you were only working a couple of meters away I got you to break them. Then you found out that it was originally your code and after that you found the virus. Is this explanation acceptable to you?"

"It is. Thank you Lieutenant."

This time it was B'Elanna who did not move. "Tell me Borg, how often have you used that little stunt with those assimilation tubes?" The grin on B'Elanna's face was enough to take the sting out of the remark and Seven realized that the Klingon was actually using her own kind of humor on the Borg.

Seven's cool Borg tone and face were absolutely perfect but for the first time since knowing the Borg B'Elanna could actually see the twinkle in Seven's eyes. "Officially, this was the first time."

"And unofficially, between friends?", the Klingon asked. Seven's entire face lit up with a broad smile when she heard B'Elanna calling her a friend and the Klingon shamefully realized that it was incredibly easy to break through that Borg front, if you only tried.

"Unofficially, more times than the Chief Engineer would like to know."

This time they both started walking down the corridor to the turbolift. "Well then, we better not tell her." B'Elanna joked. "I heard the Chief Engineer has a terrible Klingon temper."

"You would not believe me if I told you about the chief engineer's temper Lieutenant."

"Seven?" B'Elanna asked just before the doors to the turbolift closed.

"Yes Lieutenant?"

"Call me B'Elanna, all my friends do."

"Yes B'Elanna."

Chapter 2

Somewhere else in the galaxy.

Her eyes were closed, her entire body a picture of relaxation. To a casual observer, she looked like she was in a light carefree sleep.
A casual observer would call her peaceful, tranquil. Serene.

But the others in the room would never make that mistake. Sure, all of those words could apply to her and most of the time she was all of those things. But they knew.
If provoked, she could be ruthless, relentless, harsh, hard. Deadly.

And they were glad. They wouldn't want her any other way. Because they knew. To successfully rule an empire of that magnitude, you needed a ruler who cared about her subjects but wouldn't think twice about decimating an enemy. None of them had any doubt about the fact that at the moment that peaceful looking woman was making decisions which would influence billions of lives.

She was Empress Shadeen. Sole ruler of the Empire and her race. And while there were thousands of rules and regulations for her race she could choose to break them all and none could oppose her, but she never did. Her word was law on thousands of planets yet she abided to the rules like she expected of everyone else.

There was a distinct difference between the Empire and her race. The Empire consisted of thousands of different races but only one race, hers, ruled them all. Hers was a warrior race. Either they were children or they were soldiers. There was nothing else. Soldiers filled every job. The workers who built the spaceships in the shipyards could launch a counterattack within minutes if somebody was foolish enough to ever try an attack in the first place. Those workers then became the highly trained and lethal soldiers who would make an enemy curse the day they were born.
That scientist over in the PetreDaR colony studying that spatial anomaly in sector eighty-seven would gladly jump into battle while shouting: "For Empress and Empire."

However, surprisingly enough her race was a benevolent race. All those thousands of races gladly were a part of the Empire. The Empire gave them a relatively free self-rule, the rules they had to abide by were acceptable, and the tribute to the Empire was easily sustainable. As a matter of fact, it was far less than the costs would be of keeping their own army. Yet, in return for their tribute, they got a protection they could never hope for if they had to rely on themselves. The Empire also gave help when a planet was in dire need for it. There was more than one race that thanked its continuous existence to the Empresses race. On different planets, her race had done everything from simply destroying an all life-ending asteroid before it could impact, to providing the scientists and the science, to turning barren land into luscious fields of vegetation.

So it worked out for both sides. The planets swore absolute and complete loyalty to the Empress and the Empire while her race could fully concentrate on being warriors.

Not that they were constantly looking for battles or conquering new territory. No, the size of the Empire had not changed in the last three thousand years. And while their ships did travel outside of the Empire's territory they never laid claim to anything that did not belong to them. That was one of the many paradoxes of her race. All of them were warriors yet a majority of them died of old age without ever seeing anything more than a scuffle.

However, the entire race knew why this was so. They knew the reason that they were such good soldiers was the same reason why few of them ever saw a real battle. Only a small amount of them was enough to win a major battle. The entire race knew that their deserved reputation as fierce warriors was what actually kept them out of a majority of battles. It was a fact for more years than anybody could count. You did not mess with them without suffering the consequences. The result of this knowledge was that every soldier wanted to be the best that he or she could be so that not only the soldier but also the reputation as a warrior kept the race safe.

But all of the training did not matter to the soldiers: they gladly endured it. For they only had two priorities. First, to ensure the safety and well being of the Empress. And secondly, to ensure the safety and well being of the Empire. If that meant that they would spend their entire life on a Starbase guarding the Empire's territory, they would gladly do so. And if that meant that they had to die in battle by the thousands they would march on the enemy with fire in their eyes and their spirits ready to take as many as possible with them on the journey to the afterlife.
For they knew. It wasn't how you served the Empress but how WELL you served the Empress that decided your place in the after-life.


Empress Shadeen opened her eyes and looked at the operative who had addressed her. Like all of the operatives in the room, he was a member of the Imperial Advisory Council. The IAC was the only body who could legally force the reining Emperor or Empress to resign. They were the only safeguard the Empire had against a erratic ruler and the IAC had used that power on more than one occasion. However the last time the IAC used it was almost twenty thousand years ago. That was the time that the name Shadeen became an imperial one. Her family had ruled the Empire since that day. Empress Shadeen herself had gone from being Chiada Shadeen to being Empress Shadeen twenty-three years ago, only a couple of days after her fourteenth birthday.

It had been a dark day. Her father had died in battle two days earlier, followed only a couple of hours later by more than forty thousand members of the Imperial guard who could no longer live with the fact that their leader had died in battle while they lived on. The self-killings had only stopped when the deceased Emperor's last will was announced. When it was made public that Chiada would be the new ruler and not any of her brothers, the Imperial guard listened to the last request of the deceased ruler and swore their loyalty to the new Empress.

Of course there was also an election once every fifty years in which the entire Empire could choose whether or not they wanted the Imperial family to remain in charge. If there ever was more than twenty percent of the empire who wanted another family in charge then an election between the contesting families would be held. This fifty-year election happened only three years ago and of all the billions of votes only a little more than three hundred thousand had voted against Empress Shadeen.

She was the undisputed ruler of the Empire. Because of this some called her the most powerful mortal in the universe. Empress Shadeen had no such illusions. She knew that there had to be races in the universe that were even more powerful than hers, they just had not yet encountered them. Maybe in another Galaxy.

She had to admit however that they yet had to encounter a race that could pose a threat to them in this Galaxy. The most powerful race in the vicinity of the Empire was the Borg and they were always quick to disappear when they saw an Imperial ship. Yes, it had taken many battles over many centuries for the Borg to understand that they were no match for the Empire. But now they finally got it. However Empress Shadeen also had no illusions about this. She knew that the Borg were only waiting until they had assimilated enough technology to win a battle against the Empire. The collective mind of the Borg could simply not understand that there were some enemies from whom you could never win.

The only other race who had posed an interesting challenge in the last years was the Dareni.
There were actually races who thought that the Borg had defeated the Dareni. Empress Shadeen still had to smile when she thought about that. As if a vicious race like the Dareni would stop a battle against the Borg simply because those Borg had finally developed a weapon to destroy some of their ships. Empresses Shadeen wondered why some races still thought that the Dareni were so stupid. The Dareni were vicious, but not stupid.
Of course they had understood that not even the Borg could alter so many nanoprobes to keep up a battle of that magnitude in such a short time. And of course the Dareni were smart enough that they understood that the Borg could only figure out how to alter those nanoprobes with the help of somebody else.

No, the destruction of those ships would only have resulted in angering the Dareni.
It was simply that the Dareni thought so little of the fight with the Borg that they also opened a second front in another part of the Delta quadrant at the same time that their fight with the Borg took place. Unfortunately for the Dareni that second front brought them into the space of the Empire. The vicious Dareni did not want to hear the one and only warning the Empire gave them. The Dareni attacked.

The Empire was the one who finished the attack. The real reason why the Dareni stopped following the Borg in the battle that the Dareni were having with the Borg at the time was because they had no more ships to send to that battle. The Empress had not taken the Dareni attack lightly and she had sent in a decimating eight wings of battle cruisers. Within thirty hours, the hundred and sixty battle cruisers had surrounded the Dareni home word and suddenly the Dareni were capable of pleading. The benevolent Empress had made them a deal. The Empire would leave the Dareni alone if they agreed to never again leave Fluidic Space. The Dareni agreed, gladly.

And thus the peace had returned again. The Dareni were back in their Fluidic Space, the Borg went back to its business in the Delta quadrant. And the Empire went on, knowing that there was no enemy who could defeat it.

Neither the Dareni nor the Borg has ever stopped to contemplate actually working together against the Empire, not that would have made much difference.
No, the Dareni and the Borg had fought each other until one of them had also started a fight against the Empire, the biggest mistake they could have made.

For everybody knew, the Empire never attacked unless provoked.

"Yes?" Empress Shadeen asked while she gave the operative with the name Carizon her full attention.

"Empress, as you suspected the BroN'es have started their attack."

"Today? My, they are eager. Details?"

"Their fleet crossed our border and have started an attack on Chiada six. It seems that they think that success lies in the numbers. There are over four hundred warships, more than one hundred heavy destroyers. And then there is the auxiliary fleet of course."

"So they bypassed four other planets and started an attack on a planet which carries a name which was mine before I became only known as 'Empress' Shadeen? They are attacking one of my protectives?"

"Yes Empress. But then we know that they are not the smartest race in the universe."

"Fools, that is what they are. They start an attack on an Empire like mine and actually think that they can win. Based only on the fact that I am a female. Are there any casualties on our side? Is my protective unharmed?"

"No and yes, Empress. The defense satellites of the protective are doing an excellent job. They already have destroyed three ships and none of the satellites has sustained any damage. If you ask my advice, I would let the satellites take care of this."

"Your advice is noted my friend. I cannot follow it however. They crossed the border, they started the attack, and they specifically attacked a planet, which carries a name that was mine before I became only known as 'Empress' Shadeen. I cannot let a provocation like this go unchallenged."

"I know my Empress. But it is my job to tell you what the simplest option is. What is your order considering this provocation?"

"Sent in two battle cruisers and send them my regards."

"Two? Against the BroN'es?" The disbelief was clear to hear in Carizon's voice.

"Yes my friend. I want to send a message. I want none of those ships that entered our space to ever leave it again. After that I want the battle cruisers to set course for the BroN'es home word and destroy their central command."

"Any special orders, my Empress?"

"Yes. About the auxiliary fleet. With the BroN'es, the only primary fleet is a military one. The auxiliary fleet is usually comprised out of civilian ships and civilians. Destroy the ships but leave the civilians alive. Drop them off on the BroN'es home word after the central command is taking care of."

"Yes Empress."
With that Carizon turned and went back to his station to execute the Empress's orders, and Empress Shadeen once again closed her eyes and let her mind drift over the thousand and one different matters of state.

However, her eyes only stayed closed for couple of minutes. The door had opened so quietly that none of the operatives had actually heard it. But Empress Shadeen had. She always did.
She saw how one of her imperial guards came nearer and sank onto one knee before her. His eyes lowered to the floor in an utmost sign of respect for her.

This was something nobody was forced to do. As a matter-of-fact, a warrior of her race never lowered his or her eyes. Empress Shadeen was the only one in the entire Empire who was treated that way, but not because she was the Empress but because she also was the best warrior of the Empire.
While it was not necessary for an Emperor of Empress to follow the Imperial guard's training, Empress Shadeen had done so.

The Imperial guard's training was a brutal one. Only one in a thousand soldiers who applied actually made it through the first selective training. And of the ones who make it through only one in four hundred actually finish the training. But anybody who thought that Empress Shadeen had enjoyed special privileges would be sorely mistaken. She had followed the training and finished it just like all the other candidates. Only, she had been so good that she actually received the title of Commander. The last time that happened was almost one hundred years ago.

Imperial guards usually did not have a command title. That they were imperial guards was all the title they needed. Of course, in day-to-day life they had people who commanded them at work, bosses. But as soldiers they only answered to one, her, Empress Shadeen. They would do whatever she told them to do, no questions asked.
But if once in a while an imperial guard was so good that he or she actually received a command title then this would bring his or her word close to being as important as the one of the Emperor or Empress who ruled at that time. But for a ruler to actually have earned the Imperial guard's title of Commander -that had never happened before.

"Yes?" Empress Shadeen once again opened her eyes. Over the years, she had learned that this simple question was the best way to get people to say whatever they had to say.

"Empress, his Eminence is here and asks if you could spare him a couple of minutes of your time. He says that it is extremely important."

"What?!" The Empress asked disbelieving. "His Eminence is here?"

"Yes Empress." The imperial guard answered. If he had not spoken to his Eminence only a couple of minutes ago he would not have believed it himself.

"Is he suicidal? He knows that he is not allowed inside the palace just as much as I am not allowed inside his cathedral.

"I don't know, Empress. All I can tell you is that he looked extremely disturbed and that he said that there was not enough time to wait for the monthly meeting."

"His Eminence has a unique way of making my life more difficult than it needs to be." She sighed and let her eyes drift across the room. As she suspected, all of the operatives had stopped working when they heard that his Eminence was in the palace. "Very well, let him enter."

The Imperial guard stood and quickly left the room. However it did not take long for him to come back with his Eminence.

His Eminence got onto his knee in front of Empress Shadeen and lowered his eyes. Accepting her rule for all in the room to see. This, however, did not guarantee that he would continue living. He did not have to look at the operatives in the room to see that their weapons were drawn, they were Imperial guards after all. He knew that the first word the Empress would speak would mean whether he lived or died. If she addressed him as YOUR Eminence it would mean that she did not accept his presence in the room. If that happened he would be dead before the Empress would be finished with speaking the words.
His only chance was that she addressed him as MY Eminence and thereby made it clear that she accepted his role as spiritual leader of HER race.

My or your.

Life or death.

He stood before the palace gates. He was the spiritual leader, the second most powerful person in the Empire. He knew that the entire race was prepared to die for the Empress. But all of them came to his temples to pray. Theoretically he was the only one who could oppose her if need be. The IAC had the power to force an erratic ruler to resign. They could not, however, force a ruler to resign simply because he or she reigned incorrectly. And the fifty years between elections was a long time for a ruler to make terrible decisions. In that case the only person who could ever hope to gather enough support to oppose the always loyal Imperial Guards would be the spiritual ruler of the Empire -he, his Eminence.

Not that this was a concern with the reign of Empress Shadeen. No, she was the perfect ruler. He, as the keeper of the holy texts, could not find an example of a better ruler in their history.

But the fact remained that he was going into the palace. There she could have him killed and nobody in the Empire would say a word about it. They would most probably even praise her swift reaction. His own priests would spit on his dead body after the Imperial Gaurds threw it into the street. Rule and religion did not mix. There was a clear separation between the two. Every priest could go into government buildings to take care of his or her business. They would be treated with the highest respect. But not one priest in the entire Empire had any position whatsoever in any government body.
The temples, on the other hand, were open to anybody who wanted to attend a service, anybody. But none of the Imperial Guard, and of course especially not the Empress, were allowed into this cathedral. Not because he had decided it was so but because that was the law. There was a clear difference between rule and religion. Both had their own headquarters. Rule, the palace. Religion, the cathedral.

But he knew that this was simply too important. He needed to speak with the Empress immediately and personally.

An Imperial Guard came closer and made a small bow, but he did not take his eyes off his Eminence. Warriors never lowered their eyes for anybody, except the Empress.

"My Eminence, how may I help you?"

"I am here to see the Empress. I have extremely important news."

"My Eminence? I'm afraid I don't understand. If you want to speak to the Empress then why are you here? You have a direct communication line from your cathedral to the palace. And your monthly personal meeting is only in one week. But even then it would not be here in the palace."

"No, you don't understand. I have to see the Empress directly, now."

"My Eminence, do I understand you correctly? You actually want to set foot on palace grounds? I could go tell the Empress that you are waiting here by the gates."

"No that will take too long. I am coming with you."

"As you wish, my Eminence, it is your decision."

It was only a couple of minutes before his Eminence was once again waiting. This time in a reception room while the Imperial guard went to inform the Empress.

"The Empress will see you. Please follow me, my Eminence."

He followed the Imperial guard into the throne room. While he was curious about this famous room which he had actually never seen, he was smart enough to not look at anything but the back of the Imperial guard in front of him. Once the guard stepped aside his Eminence got onto his knee in front of the Empress and lowered his eyes. Accepting her rule for all in the room to see.

He knew, however, that this did not guarantee that he would continue living. He did not have to look at the operatives in the room to see that their weapons were drawn, they were Imperial guards after all. He silently listened for the first word the Empress would speak. For he knew that the first word that Shadeen would speak would mean whether he lived or died.

He knew.

My or your.

Life or death.

"My Eminence." Lucky for him Empress Shadeen was a believer. "What is of such importance that you would come into my palace? The last time a server of the faith was in this room it did not end well for her. I believe that giving her the last blessing was your first act as Eminence after my father killed her. You would know for sure, since she was your predecessor."

"You are absolutely right my Empress. But what I have to tell you is extremely important." He took a deep breath before adding: "I had a vision."

"Arise my Eminence. Tell me what we can expect this time."

After she allowed him to stand, his Eminence did just that but still did not look her in the eyes.

"Oh, come now Danzoc. You know how to look me in the eyes when we have our monthly meeting, why not now?"

With this he finally looked her in the eyes. "Because, my Empress, a ruler such as you deserves all the respect I can give her when she decides to forgive me for entering her domain. I know that I am the one who is at fault here."

"Don't start talking about forgiveness and fault or I may just decide to kill you after all." That small joke was all that was needed. The Imperial Guards put their weapons away and went back to once again be the operatives who monitored all that was going on in the Empire.

After that Empress Shadeen got serious again and her expression took on an obvious distaste in what she had to say.
"So tell me what can we expect? Floods on the desert planets? Snow in the rainforests? Or this time maybe something completely funny, like rivers streaming uphill? Oh no, wait. We had that last time."

By now Empress Shadeen was used to the occasional prank of the same beings they so loyally believed in. It was a price she and the Empire gladly accepted because while the Divine Ones did play with her race on occasion, they also fiercely protected it. If a race with Almighty powers, like the Q for instance, threatened the Empire it were the Divine Ones who protected it.

"With all due respect Empress, I would not have come here for something unimportant like that. Empress... It is time. There is a chosen. The time of change is at hand."

For several long minutes there was absolutely no noise in the throne room. Even the machines seem to understand the importance of that revelation and kept quiet.
Finally Empress Shadeen found her voice.
"Are you sure?" She asked quietly. "It has only been three thousand years since the last chosen. There were five thousand years since the chosen before him."

Every time there was a new chosen it meant a time of change for the Empire. It was always for the good of the Empire, but the price could be severe. They were lucky the last time. Three thousand years ago the actions of the chosen resulted in the Empire expanding almost a thousand fold. The time before that, eight thousand years ago in total, the Empire had learned that rule and religion always had to be kept separate. However, they learned this through a Civil War that nearly crippled the Empire. Rule and religion had fought each other bitterly. In the end both sides agreed that they would never again interfere with the business of the other side. But the cost for this lesson was the death of more than sixty percent of the entire population.

In the time of change brought by the chosen only three things were certain. The first, that the Empire would never be the same again. The second, that the Empire was the most vulnerable for influences from outside forces.
It was how the Empire reacted to these influences that decided what the faith of the Empire would be.
The third, that even the smallest action of the chosen could have a major effect on the Empire. The Civil War, eight thousand years ago, had only started after the chosen had said that he was not really interested in what the Divine Ones had to say. The Chosen had never actually said that he would not listen to what they had to say, just that he was not really interested.

"Yes Empress. The chosen is not picked because a certain amount of years have past but because THE Divine ONE, the ruler over all of the lesser Divine Ones, decides that is time for the Empire to change."

"Thank you for immediately telling me this Danzoc.


Carizon immediately reacted to Shadeen's call.
"Yes, my Empress?"

"You heard what Danzoc just had to say?"

"Yes, my Empress."

Shadeen looked him directly in the eyes and then let her eyes drift across the other operatives in the room, indicating that Carizon now had the authority to speak for all of them. "Any suggestions?"

"There really is nothing to suggest, my Empress. We only know that something is going to change. But what? The best we can come up with is to send a message out to the entire Empire. Tell it that the time of change is at hand and to prepare for... To be prepared for something unexpected."

The Empress smiled at the faltering words of her friend.

"It is nice to know that I am not the only one who would like some more information." A quick look at Danzoc told her that he had nothing more to add.

"Send a message out to the entire Empire stating that there is a new chosen and that the time of change is at hand. Also sent out all of the scout ships to the borders. Furthermore, put the Imperial wing on standby. I want it ready to go at a moment's notice. So that means that the Imperial guards already have to be on board."

"Yes Empress. It will be done."

Chapter 3

"I did no such thing."

Seven had always been impressed by the way the Captain could use her voice. The words were only spoken in little more than a whisper yet it sounded as if Janeway had shouted them at the top of her lungs. However, the Captain had just basically accused Seven of lying. This was unacceptable to the Borg.

"I assure you Captain, you did. I came to you with the information that this trader had approached me to write him the Borg encryption codes we are talking about. Since I know that this is something you would not take lightly, I asked you first if I should grand his request."

"Come now Seven. Giving somebody over three thousand Borg encryption codes without knowing what he is going to do with them is pretty much the same as giving somebody over three thousand phasers without knowing what he is going to do with them. With a lesser developed species, those codes can be the difference between winning and losing a war. So simply giving somebody those encryption codes can be considered a violation of the prime directive. And I am not in the habit of breaking the prime directive that easily."

Almost...B'Elanna almost started laughing at this. While she knew that the Captain had a very good reason to break the prime directive every time she had done so in the Delta Quadrant the fact remained that Janeway had broken that same prime directive on more than one occasion.

"Listen Captain. I agree with you that this is something you would usually not do. But... you got to admit that Seven would also not do this without consulting you. And IF she would have done this without contacting you, then she would not lie about it now." B'Elanna's defense of the Borg was enough to stop the Captain's reaction to Seven's statement.

"I know this, B'Elanna. But I also know that I did not agree to have Seven write those codes." Then the Captain's attention went back to the Borg. "Is it possible that this guy tricked you Seven? That he made you think that I had agreed?"

"That is highly unlikely, Captain. I came to you directly. We spoke here in your ready room and you also agreed here in this same ready room."

Janeway came from behind her desk and gestured to the couch. Indicating that B'Elanna and Seven should sit down. Janeway saw the first word forming on the mouth of the Borg but beat her to it.

"Yes I know Seven, sit down anyway." After all three of them sat down, Janeway took a moment to collect her thoughts and then finally made a gesture to Seven and spoke up. "Okay. So you know for sure that I agreed. I know for sure that I didn't. One of us has to be wrong here, Seven, and to be honest I believe it is you. So think about it. Maybe he tricked you by affecting your Borg implants somehow."

Seven could not understand the human tendency to always assume that one was right. The Captain knew that she was right and so everybody else had to be wrong. Janeway could simply not accept that she was wrong and Seven was right. Of course it never crossed Seven's mind that at the very moment she was displaying that very same behavior. She thought she was right and the Captain was wrong. However, unlike the Captain, Seven actually had means to prove that she was right. So to get to the point she started reciting the most important part of the conversation.

'You find it acceptable for me to write him the codes he asked for?'

'Yes, Seven. It is the least that we can do for him. I feel almost guilty for taking his goods at such a low price. I would actually feel a little better if you were to give him those codes.'

'Very well Captain. But what about the amount? He did asked for three thousand one hundred eighteen encryption codes. This is a considerable amount, even if you use it as payment.'

'He deserves nothing less Seven. That coffee alone would have been worth that. I haven't tasted coffee like that since I was on Earth.'

'But Captain...'

Seven's recital was stopped by a raised hand from the Captain. "You are right Seven. I actually remember saying that."

B'Elanna could almost feel the unease coming off Janeway so the Klingon decided to brush it off as not important. "So you forgot. That happens to the best of us. Heck, just last week I forgot that Chakotay had asked me for a match of Velocity."

"No B'Elanna. There is something else going on. I can remember the entire conversation that Seven I had. But I still cannot remember it actually happening. I know I had the conversation with Seven, I know what we talked about. But I... can... not... remember the conversation actually happening."

All three women thought about this and without really realizing it Janeway took a sip from the coffee. Then she suddenly stopped and looked at the cup.

"Captain?" B'Elanna finally asked after all three of them had looked at the cup for a moment.

"This is also not right. Has either of you ever tasted real coffee from Earth? And I do mean real coffee?"

"I tried it once while I was tasting some of the suggestions the crew had made after I needed to rely more on organic food and less on regeneration." While Seven did not change her Borg expression, it was clear to hear what she had thought about the taste.

"No Seven. I mean real coffee from real coffee beans. It has such a unique flavor that not even our sophisticated replicators can duplicate the taste perfectly."

"I tasted it once, while I was at the academy." B'Elanna spoke up, mainly to see where the Captain was going. "However it does not agree with my Klingon tastebuds. That's why Klingons have invented Raktjino."

"Congratulations B'Elanna. You just offered yourself as my guinea pig."

With that the Captain went to the replicator and replicated an empty cup.

"Why would B'Elanna's knowledge of taste reduce her to an animal used for research? I thought humans no longer condoned such barbaric behavior?"

"Cute, very cute, Seven." B'Elanna whispered so quietly that only Seven would actually hear her. When the Captain started explaining however the Klingon realized just how few people really knew that Borg.

"It is just a figure of speech Seven. It means that I want to try something out and I require B'Elanna's help to do so." With that the Captain was back at the couch and poured a little coffee into the second cup. She then handed the cup to B'Elanna who looked at it as if it was a cup of plasma cooling liquid.

"You don't actually expect me to drink that Captain? I was not kidding when I said that it did not agree with my tastebuds."

"Come on B'Elanna. It can't be that bad."

Seeing that there was no real way out without going into a discussion with the Captain about taste B'Elanna took the cup and drank some of the coffee before she could change her mind.

"Beh, gross. That stuff is vile. I really don't understand how you can drink that." B'Elanna said while taking the glass of water the Captain had replicated for her.

Seven thought that time was unnecessarily used for trivial things and spoke up, mainly to get the conversation going again. "I fail to see a point in this. The only thing we established is that B'Elanna does not like human coffee, but she already knew that."

By now the Captain had disposed the empty coffee cup, and the empty water glass, and sat down on the couch again. "I am getting to the point here Seven. So B'Elanna, I know that you didn't like the taste but how did it compare with the coffee you had tasted at the academy?"

"It tasted the same. It was the same vile..."

"Yes, yes. I know..." The Captain interrupted B'Elanna before being interrupted herself by Seven who feared that Janeway once again was about start a lengthy explanation.

"I think the point that the captain is trying to establish is that the taste should NOT be the same. While the Terran coffee bean has been exported to many different planets, the soil compositions from other planets results in, at the least, a slight difference in coffee tastes. But most likely the taste should be so different that you should have noticed it."

"Exactly." Janeway said with a smile because she knew perfectly well why Seven had interrupted her. "There is no way to get this exact taste here in the Delta Quadrant. I will give a sample of the coffee beans to the doctor so that he can run some tests on them but I am willing to bet that this is original Earth coffee. The beans were grown in Earth's soil."

"Okay, so the only way that this coffee could taste like it's from Earth is that it IS from Earth." B'Elanna stated to get that point clear. She knew that the coffee wasn't important but the fact that it came from Earth.

"Yes." The Captain agreed. "But how in Hell did a trader in the Delta Quadrant acquire coffee from Earth? I doubt that he just flew there and knocked on the Federation's door asking. 'May I have some of your delicious coffee. I could make a nice profit selling it in the Delta Quadrant.' That's not possible. Well, it is not possible for somebody who has to make a living as a trader. But that's the only explanation for such similarities I can come up with."

"Maybe Q is having fun again." B'Elanna offered. "He already transported Voyager to the Alpha quadrant once. It wouldn't be hard for him to get some of that coffee and pose as a trader."

"No, that is not his style. First of all, he would want us to know that he was playing with us. So he would never have disappeared again before the 'fun' actually starts. And second, he wouldn't have to ask Seven to write him those codes. He has the powers to make accidents like that happen without having to disguise it." Janeway sighed and rubbed her face with her hands. "Which brings us back to the important issue. Obviously this trader used at least one of those codes to hide a trap on board. I really don't think that that trap was the only one. Especially because it was specifically designed for Tom and also designed to activate when he passed a certain place on the ship a certain amount of times. So what can we do about that?"

Seven couldn't stop feeling responsible because the codes that she had written were used to endanger the crew, her collective. "That is 'the bad news' as you would call it. Because of the way I wrote those codes, it is not possible to do a ship wide scan. The infected areas would not show up on internal sensors. The only way to be absolutely certain if a system is affected or not is for me to go and check them out, individually."

The Captain actually straightened up on the couch when she heard that. "Surely there must be another way. There are thousands of systems on Voyager which could be affected. It would take you years to check them all out."

"Not years, months. But I suspect that this trader started with the more important systems. For instance, it would be a waste to use one of the codes to make one of the sonic showers malfunction. I was planning on starting with the more important systems. Once I find all of the codes we will be once again sure that every system on Voyager operates within acceptable parameters."

"But what if he copied the codes and used one particular code more than once?" While she did ask, the Captain dreaded the answer. Visions danced before her eyes, that somewhere along the line, years from now, in some future battle, suddenly the photon torpedo launchers would decide to stop working. Or worse, that the torpedoes would detonate before leaving the ship.

"That... It is not possible. When I was writing the codes I integrated a string of code that prevented the complete code from being copied. If he were somehow able to remove that extra string, the entire code would become useless. There are not, and will not, be more than three thousand one hundred and eighteen codes."

"Whoa. I'm impressed Seven. Are you telling us you actually didn't trust that trader?"

"Why do you ask, B'Elanna? Because I added the safeguard? No. I trusted him as well. I just wanted to prevent unnecessary spread of Borg technology."

"Seven." The Captain interrupted. "Why did you just say that you have to look for those codes? We got a complete engineering department. I'm sure that we could bring the time that we are searching for those codes back to a week or two if everybody with engineering knowledge went looking for them."

"That approach would be extremely unproductive Captain. Only B'Elanna and Lieutenant Kim would be capable of finding these codes in an expeditious manner. There is a distinct possibility that others would not find the code in an affected area. That would even be counterproductive. It would be more productive if the others concentrated on doing their daily jobs and covering my shifts in Astrometrics. That way I would be free to keep searching for those codes."

"And why are you the only one who can find those codes so quickly? You have to use the same technology as the others?" Janeway asked kindly.


"Actually, Captain." B'Elanna spoke up before Seven could start digging a hole. "I was there when Seven found that first code and I have to agree with her that it would be extremely difficult for others to use her approach in finding those codes so quickly. I think it would be best if Seven and I went after those codes and the others kept their eyes open for anything that might indicate a problem. It is possible that some of the systems will only gradually start malfunctioning."

"B'Elanna, it is not necessary for you to assist me in this task."

B'Elanna closed her eyes for a moment and started counting to ten. Surprisingly her agitation was gone by the count of four. It was then that the Klingon realized that Seven was feeling guilty and did not want to bother anybody else with what, in Seven's eyes, was the ex-Borg's own problem.

"Listen Seven. If the Borg attack Voyager, which department makes the repairs?"

"Engineering of course. But..."

"Right. Now, those codes are causing damage to the ship. Correct?"

"Yes, but..."

"So why wouldn't the Chief Engineer make repairs on her... the ship?"

"Because, B'Elanna, that damage is caused by codes that I wrote."

"But did you dream them up or are those codes designed by the Borg?"

"They are Borg codes, but I did write them down."

"So you are basically saying that you are at fault here because you wrote those codes down?"

"Yes but..."

"Seven, people have been killed by Voyager's weapons. Weapons that I built, enhance, and maintain. Am I responsible for their death?"

"Of course not. You build those weapons to defend Voyager. But..."

"Exactly Seven. Look, when the Hirogen misused our holographic technology many of them died. But it would be wrong to blame Voyager for their deaths. They misused our technology and they are responsible for that.
The Borg have designed those encryption codes to defend themselves. Originally those codes were defensive, not offensive. Don't blame yourself if somebody misuses what you have created."

There was a long silence in the ready room after that statement. Janeway realized that something important was going on between B'Elanna and Seven.

Finally Seven gave a small nod.

"I will appreciate your assistance B'Elanna."


"B'Elanna Torres. Why is that remark accompanied by a grin as if somebody had given you a second phaser in a velocity match?"

"Because, my dear Seven, I just realized that I can actually win a argument with you when I stick to logic."

"Should I be frightened?"

However before B'Elanna could answer that, the Captain interrupted.

"Well now that you have figured that all out, why don't you to get started? Where are you going to begin?"


"The warp core."

Seven and B'Elanna looked at each other for moment and then finally B'Elanna
combined their answers. "The warp core, which is in Engineering."
"So what do you suggest we do in the meantime? Should certain parts of Voyager be closed off? The holodecks come to mind here."

B'Elanna shook her head in a negative manner before answering.

"I don't think that doing that will have much of a effect. I agree, the holodecks should be checked out before being used again. But Harry can do that. Tom told me that he and Harry were going to Holodeck Two later on. I think that Harry will gladly check out both holodecks first if that means that he can use them later on. And I trust Harry enough to know that he will not rush his job only to be able to use the holodeck a little quicker. While the technology of the holodeck is very extensive there is a surprisingly small amount of areas that can be affected by viruses. Everything else that effects the holodeck also effects the main computer. And that would mean that the holodeck would be shut down."

"But all the problems we had with the holodecks..." Janeway started before being interrupted by B'Elanna.

"...all the problems with the holodecks we had were always hardware errors or something that could not be reproduced by a virus. No, Captain. Surprisingly enough, the holodecks are relatively safe. There is a bigger chance of something happening at one of the workstations then there is of something happening in the holodecks. And for other areas being shut down... That could also create more problems then it would solve.

"There's a high possibility that some of these traps will be actually activated by NOT using a certain piece of equipment anymore. The virus we already have is a good example of that. Each and every member of the crew could have walked through that corridor a hundred thousand times and nothing would have happened. It was targeted at Tom. But other viruses could easily be activated by, for instance, me not going to engineering for more than two days.

"Listen Captain. I could offer you a number of things we could change as a precaution but then I could also offer you explanations why these precautions might not work, or might actually be counteractive. In my opinion, the best option really is to let everything go on as normal and have Seven and me go looking for those codes."

"Very well." The Captain relented. "But there will be a senior staff meeting in one hour. While we will go on with our daily lives I want each department ready to react in case something happens. I also want them extra alert. A minor difference in one of the systems is usually ignored or corrected by the person working at that system but now I want everything reported. Everything could be the beginning of a very major problem.
Dismissed, but I will see you both in one hour."

The two woman were almost to the door when Janeway added.
"Oh B'Elanna, could I speak you for moment?"

"Sure Captain."

"I will already go to Engineering and start preparing the warp core." Seven said to B'Elanna before turning to the Captain. "That means that Voyager will have to drop out of warp until the inspection are complete."

"Of course, Seven. We are in a relatively quiet part of space at the moment so dropping out of warp for a couple of hours will be no problem."

"I have to go to my quarters first." B'Elanna said while walking back to the couch. "So I think it is best to start our inspection after the senior staff meeting. Is that okay with you Seven?"

"Of course B'Elanna. I will see you at the meeting." With that, the cool blonde disappeared through the doors.

"Okay what's up?"


"Kathryn." Janeway corrected. Indicating that there was no Captain in the upcoming conversation. "Two days ago you were sitting in that very same spot going on and on about how Seven once again had disrupted your work schedule. How I should keep that 'stupid Borg' out of engineering, how..."

"She is not stupid." B'Elanna interrupted. "She may ignore things up to the point that you might think she's stupid, but she is one of the most intelligent people I know. No, she IS the most intelligent person I know."

"Why, thank you very much." Janeway said with a smile.

B'Elanna also smiled when she realized what she just said. But she was not prepared to take back her words. "Sorry Cap-Kathryn. While you may be very trained in giving commands and taking decisions Seven IS smarter than you. She is also smarter than Tuvok. But being smart and being capable of command are two entirely different things. I think she might be very capable of being in command... eventually."

"I think you're right, B'Elanna. But all of this really does not answer my question. What happened between you two?"

"Not much really. I just took your advice and stopped shouting and started listening."

"And?" Janeway asked gently. She could see that this was difficult for the Klingon.

"And? I found out that I am a complete asshole." A tear rolled down B'Elanna's face when she continued. "She wants to be my friend, Kathryn."

That tear was all the encouragement that Janeway needed to take the Klingon into a comforting hug. B'Elanna rested her head on Janeway's shoulder and this time did not try to stop her tears. Klingons did not cry, but that fact had never stopped her human side from doing so. In fact, it was her crying that had formed the strong connection with Janeway. All those years back Kathryn had at first not known what do when the strong Klingon suddenly had started crying in her ready room. Since then, Kathryn had been the only person on Voyager to ever see the Klingon cry.

"Oh Kathryn. I called her a friend and it made her smile. A smile that would lighten up anyone's day. One word from me and she smiles.
Only a couple of minutes of talking with her, without me trying to convince myself that I hate her, and I find a person who I want to have as a friend. Since she has been on board, her friendship was only one word away and I, the idiot, did nothing more than hurt her. I can't actually believe that she is still prepared to offer me that friendship. I really don't deserve it."

"Nonsense." Janeway disagreed. "You are just quite temperamental. It is just as much her fault for not seeing that. I like her just as much as I like you but don't turn this all into your fault. If she had tried a little more, you would have noticed and things would have been different."

"Careful, Kathryn. You are making the same mistake as I did."

"Meaning?" Janeway asked. By now the hug had ended and B'Elanna's crying was down to the occasional tear.

"Meaning that we are trying to use our way of thinking on Seven. And that is where we went wrong. Let me use Seven's own words, because I don't think I will ever forget them. 'Lieutenant, before you start explaining how I should have shown you that I wanted your friendship put yourself in my position. If somebody treated you the way you treated me until today, would you have made it known to that person that you really wanted their friendship?' Well Kathryn? Would you have? No. While I agree that Seven did do some things which made me dislike her even more, the fact remains that I never actually tried and that is the only reason why Seven and I are only now becoming friends."

"Well I am glad. Seven needs a friend and it seems that lately I'm not good enough anymore. Recently, her whole attitude towards me has been changing. It seems more strained that it should be. To be honest, I fear for our friendship."

B'Elanna was quiet for a moment. Deciding whether or not she should speak up. Eventually, the Klingon realized that her newfound friendship with Seven was more important than the fact that this friendship was not more than one day old.

"With all due respect, Kathryn, I don't think you have ever been Seven's friend."

"What!?" Janeway immediately went on the defensive. "If I haven't been a friend to her, then who was."

"Kathryn, I am talking about close friends here. Seven does have some friends on Voyager but, as close friends go, she only has Tuvok and Naomi, and I hope that now I am fortunate enough to also be called a close friend of Seven. You have been a friend, but not a close friend. You have been a mentor, a mother figure to Seven. But that does not necessarily make you into her close friend. I think the change in attitude from Seven, towards you, is because she has left the stage where she needs a mentor. Kind of like somebody leaving the parental house." Now B'Elanna took a deep breath and added. "If you want to stay in Seven's life then you need to change. Stop trying to protect her. But try being there for her when she gets hurt."

"That is quite some insight you suddenly developed there." Janeway said, slightly hurt. But not because of what B'Elanna had said but because Janeway knew that the Klingon was right. Janeway knew that she had to say goodbye to 'her child' if she wanted to keep her friend.

"I did not suddenly develop this insight. This is something I've noticed the last couple of weeks." B'Elanna shamefully hung her head before adding. "I just didn't care enough to tell you. Why should I care how you get along with... 'that stupid Borg'. I got to go now Kathryn."

Janeway understood why B'Elanna had to go. Not because of time pressure, but because her Klingon half could only tolerate showing weakness for so long. This was how it usually went. The human half would seek comfort and when the Klingon half had enough of that it would let itself be known. "Of course you do B'Elanna. Why don't you freshen up before you go."

B'Elanna did as Janeway had suggested, knowing that her tears must have shown, and that this was the reason why Janeway had suggested freshening up in the first place. When she left the ensuite B'Elanna glanced at Janeway. As always, that was enough. One single glance and a 'thank you' and a 'you're welcome' were exchanged without words.

"Please tell Chakotay that I want to see him, Lieutenant."

"Yes, Captain." And B'Elanna was out the doors onto the bridge.

"Chakotay, the Captain would like to see you."

Chakotay stood up and started to walk to the ready room. But he stopped when he reached B'Elanna. "Thanks. Say... do you have time later on? You still owe me a velocity match."

A grin proceeded her answer. But the answer was still negative. "Sorry, Chakotay, I don't have time. The Captain will explain."

"That's okay. But don't think i'll forget about it. We will have that match one of these days. And you are going to lose big time."

B'Elanna grinned again after hearing that statement. "That's right Chakotay. YOU are going to lose big time. Now I've really got to go. See you later."

And with that B'Elanna went to the turbolift while Chakotay went to the ready room.

Chapters 4-6

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