DISCLAIMER: See Chapter 1

The Traveler
By H.W.

Chapter 10

Since the most of the senior staff had been on the bridge anyhow, the doctor and Neelix were the last to arrive. Almost no one had noticed the change in seating positions. The only person who had noticed was Tom, since Seven was sitting in the chair he usually sat in, the one beside B'Elanna. So, he had taken the chair that the Borg usually occupied and was now sitting across from them, looking at them with a triumphant smile on his face.

"Now that we are all here." Janeway opened. "Care to fill us in, Seven?"

The Borg took a deep breath and was thankful for the feeling of B'Elanna's calming hand on her leg. "Species thirteen. They, and everyone else, simply refer to them as 'The Empire'. But their name is The Followers."

"The Followers?" Janeway asked. "Strange name."

"As far as the Borg know, it is because of their spiritual belief system. They are highly devoted to a race with almighty powers. And even though they believe in the entire race of omnipotent beings, there is one that is placed even higher than the others. The leader of that race. And that is where the name comes from. For wherever that leader of the omnipotent race leads, they will follow. Hence, the Followers."

Chakotay leaned forward when hearing that. "Gods? You mean that they believe in a race of gods?"

"That term is relevant." Seven said carefully, not really certain herself what would be considered a god. "It depends on one's description of 'gods'. The Q, for instance, would be considered gods to a many races in the galaxy. Yet, we have all seen Q and felt his powers. But we still do not call him, or his race, Gods. The same description applies to this race with omnipotent powers. The Followers have seen them, have actually experienced some of the results of actions taken by these powerful beings. It is up to the person if they want to call them Gods. The Followers call them..."

"Wait a minute, Seven." Janeway interrupted. Just hearing the word 'Q' always gave her a headache. "Are you telling us that these people see the Q as their gods?"

"Not at all. The leader of this almighty race is more powerful than the Q could ever be. You have to make a distinction between the Followers and their Divine Ones, as they call them. The Followers are the people which are in that ship out there. They are the guards of their Empire. It is when a race like the Q threatens this Empire that their Divine Ones start protecting it. But only then. For anything other than threats of omnipotent beings, the Followers take care of themselves."

"And what happens if the Q do decide to attack the Empire?" Tuvok asked.

"If the Q were to do so then they would be eradicated, and they know this.  That is why no one with almighty powers has ever threatened the Empire, as far as the Borg know.  If they ever were to do this, their existence would be wiped out, down to the last member of their race.  As far as the Borg know these Divine ones have never attacked any of the other races with omnipotent powers, but the fact that none of those races have ever attacked the Empire would suggest that these Divine ones are indeed capable of killing beings like the Q." 

"Sounds like a 'you stay away from my home and I will let you do what ever you like outside of my home' kind of deal.  No wonder the Q would stay away."  Harry said impressed.

"Simply put,"  Janeway cleared up.  "If immortals attack the Empire then
their Divine Ones defend it; if mortals attack the Empire, the Followers
defend it?"
"Simply put? Yes. That explanation is acceptable."

"So... Seven." Neelix started slowly. "You said that the Empire calls their gods the Divine Ones?"

"They never actually call them Gods. They only call them Divine Ones. Whether or not they are gods is left to the personal belief of the individual."

"Why do you ask, Neelix?" Janeway asked kindly, seeing that this was difficult for the furry man for some reason.

"Because rumors of this Empire are known all over the Delta quadrant. When the war, which eventually destroyed my homeworld, was raging at its fullest, some wanted to ask for help anywhere it could be found. Rumors were heard of a race so powerful that nothing could defeat them. So some wanted to try and find them to ask for help. But since the government didn't know if this 'Empire' really existed and where it could be found, the government finally decided that the spaceships that the search for this Empire would require would be better spent fighting in the war. And... well, I find it difficult to accept that my homeworld is ruined because it was decided by the government that the spaceships were too valuable for a 'wild goose chase', and here we come across one of their ships. Maybe we could have found them and they could have helped us. Maybe..."

"They would not have helped you." Seven interrupted, trying to make Neelix understand that his 'what ifs' were of no use. "The Borg have assimilated almost one hundred species who asked this Empire for help, usually help against the Borg. They do help and protect certain races on occasion but they decide who and why they help. They most probably would not have helped you because, though you may have lost your homeworld, for them it would have been a simple war between two parties in which they had no business interfering."

"We are digressing." Chakotay spoke up. "Tell us what you know, Seven."

"They are..." Seven paused and looked a bit uncomfortable. "First, I must say that all this information is secondhand. The Borg were never able to assimilate anyone of their race, or any of their technology. The information I have is from encounters the Borg had with them, and from information that races had which have been assimilated by the Borg."

B'Elanna laughed quietly at that. "Are you trying to tell us that the information you have comes from the Borg equivalent of rumors?"

Seven surprised everybody by merely smiling tolerantly at the remark and then went on surprising them even more by saying, "Kyamo, if anybody knows the value of rumors then it is you." And for the first time in her life Seven experienced the strange phenomenon of how a quiet room can get even quieter. But just as it is with most phenomena, it lasted only for a couple of seconds.

"Yes!" Tom said excited. Even though he couldn't understand the word, he understood an endearment between lovers if he heard one.

After Tom's outburst, realization hit the others and everybody started talking at once.

Hu? (Harry)

What? (Neelix)

But... (The Doctor)

Interesting. (Tuvok)

Oh boy. (Janeway)

This is not good. (Chakotay)

Everybody started quieting down when B'Elanna reacted. They all wanted to hear her reaction to this slip of the tongue. "You sure as hell know how to break the news, Mesh."

Janeway decided that she better take hold of the situation before anybody could start asking questions. "Um, am I to understand that your relationship has shifted to a more personal level?" Deliberately 'forgetting' that questions about personal matters were usually not discussed during a senior staff meeting.

"You could say that, Kathryn." B'Elanna replied. She specifically called Janeway 'Kathryn' to indicate that she was now talking unofficially to one of her friends, and not to the captain. "Yesterday Mesh... Seven and I finally had 'that talk' and..." B'Elanna started blushing now but still continued. "And we confessed what we've been hiding for months."

When she heard 'for months' Janeway quickly made the small calculation and then looked to Tom who was sitting there with a smug look on his face, as if he was somehow responsible for what had happened between B'Elanna and Seven. And now the relatively sudden divorce between Tom and B'Elanna made complete sense to her. He had known before either of the women had wanted to accept it. "Well then, let me congratulate you both on taking your relationship a step further."

"Actually, Kathryn, Captain." Now B'Elanna changed back to using 'Captain' to indicate that the next part was more official. "We did more than taking it 'one step' further. We combined Borg efficiency with Klingon straightforwardness and got engaged last night. And this morning I asked Seven to move in with me, and she said yes." Now her eyes found those of Tom. She apologized quietly, apologized for giving more to Seven in twelve hours than she had ever given to him. She never asked him to move in with her. It had been his idea. B'Elanna could see the trace of hurt in his eyes that he couldn't quite disguise but luckily, she also saw how his smile was genuine, and that he was really happy for them.

"Congratulations to both of you." Tom said with a clear voice that led no doubt to anybody in a conference room that he sincerely meant it.

It was Chakotay who disrupted the good reactions to this news. "I must admit that I would never have pictured you two together since you are really nothing alike. But let me also congratulate you on taking your relationship further." Nobody in the room had any trouble hearing that Chakotay certainly didn't mean his felicitations. "But, I must also admit that the engagement doesn't really sound too wise. Don't get me wrong, if you have been together for some time and feel then that you should get engaged, fine. But isn't this just a little bit... quick? Wouldn't it be better if you waited some time before getting engaged?"

B'Elanna couldn't believe that her 'friend' would say something like that but before she could react, Seven did.

Seven shifted the chair back and stood, leaning forward on her arms and fisted hands, which she had placed on the table. "B'Elanna and I ARE engaged according to Klingon tradition. And according to that tradition anybody who does not agree with the engagement can challenge the person who is not yet part of the Klingon house, in this case me, to an honorable combat. Do you wish to challenge me? Please, say yes."

Those last words gave Chakotay a pretty good indication of what would happen if he were to say yes. "No, I don't want to challenge you. I was just wondering if you two had actually thought this through."

"Okay, that's enough." Janeway intervened. She had waited so long because first she couldn't believe what Chakotay had asked and after that she had a feeling that interrupting them before Chakotay had answered would have been the wrong thing to do.

But Seven wasn't quite finished with making a few things clear. "Let me make this clear to you. B'Elanna and I have not made this move without reason. We may have become engaged relatively quick by your standards, but you seem to forget that for the last three months B'Elanna and I have spent at least twelve hours each day, seven days each week, together. When we became engaged yesterday, we did so because we simply could not hide how we felt for each other anymore. So, do not DARE to question our motives. I would die protecting my Kyamo, and I would certainly defend our relationship to someone like you. So... do... NOT... try... me... on... this, or else I WILL show you how much I intend to embrace Klingon customs under which B'Elanna and I are engaged." By now her tone of voice had changed from the cold Borg monotone to something best described as barely contained danger.

"That'll do, Seven." Janeway interrupted with a tone in her voice that could have chilled the room by ten degrees. She knew that Chakotay was not a man to back down from being challenged like that. But the Borg chose to ignore the captain, for the moment.

"Have I made myself clear?" Seven whispered dangerously.

And then Chakotay surprised the captain by saying; "Very clear. I didn't intend to offend you, Bo... Seven. I'm sure you two will be very happy together."

"We will." The Borg said, accepting the fact that Chakotay was backing down. She then set down again and immediately felt B'Elanna take her hand and place both hands on the table, showing without a doubt her support to Seven in this. The ex-drone then took a calming breath and focused her attention on Janeway. "I apologize, Captain. I had expected some resistance from the crew against our engagement." She then looked at Chakotay again for moment. "Resistance which till now has only come from one single person." Then back to Janeway. "My behavior does not belong in a senior staff meeting. It is just that the Commander's reaction so openly during this meeting still came as a surprise, even though I expected that he would not approve of our engagement."

"I can accept that." Janeway said understandingly because she too was surprised at Chakotay's reaction. "But this is the first and last time this happens. Such a reaction, while on duty, is unacceptable." Janeway's tone made it clear that a next time there would be severe consequences.

"Yes, Captain," Seven agreed.

"Very well, let's get back to the matter at hand. We have a spaceship out there."

"Actually, Captain." B'Elanna spoke up. "Now that we are talking about this, I would like to officially request that my quarters be designated from now on, as the 'Torres -...'" A quick look to Seven. "Nine, or Hansen?"

"Hansen is acceptable."

"Then I would like to ask if from now on they will be the 'Torres - Hansen' quarters."

"Very well." Janeway agreed. But before she could finally start about the ship again, Seven spoke up.

"And I would like my status changed. Humans are listed as either single or married, according to Federation rules. However, engaged Klingons have status as such which is accepted by the Federation. From now on I would like to be listed as Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One, née Annika Hansen, Lady-to-be of the House of Torres."

"If you ask me, you're just going for the record of longest name." Tom reacted amused.

Even the serious Janeway couldn't contain a small laugh at this. She then looked at Seven and merely asked; "Lady-to-be?"

"Yes. Since the Klingons put the females equal to the males long before the humans ever did, the names Lord and Lady are not necessary restricted to respectively male and female. Usually it is, but with the same gender pairings, as B'Elanna and I, the names are assigned differently. Since B'Elanna and I agreed that she will be the leader of the house, she will be called Lord of the house. Which means that I will be the Lady of the house."

"And what is if two males get married?" Tom asked. "Sorry, but somehow I simply don't see a rough male Klingon warrior calling himself 'lady'."

"You're right." B'Elanna spoke up. "But as far as I know they change the name then to ruler of the house, and Lord of the house. Still indicating that one is higher. Klingon customs simply demand as much."

Janeway sat up a little bit straighter and cleared her throat. "Okay, now, officially we should be talking about something else entirely. So, Seven, we know by now that the Borg call them species thirteen, that they and everybody else simply call them the Empire, and their official name is The Followers. Now, what more can you tell us?"

"They are a warrior race. The average height of the individual is two meters and ten centimeters (Seven feet), and they have an according body bulk."

"Like the Hirogen?" Neelix asked.

"No, more like a broad shouldered human of that height. Though their body is much more enduring than a human's, or Hirogen's for that matter. Just as with humans there is a distinct aesthetic difference between males and females of their race. However this is only limited to aesthetics and biological differences in the bodies. Male and female are of equal heights and strength."

"So male and female look different but basically are the same?" Harry wondered out loud. It wouldn't be the first time that they encountered a race in which male and female were almost the same.

"Not at all. There is a distinct difference between the two, just as with humans. Basically you could actually compare them with big humans, it is just that the average male is not taller or stronger than the average female. On first impression they look quite a bit like humans. But there are distinct differences. Their bone structure is much stronger than that of a human. So strong that it is difficult for a Borg drone to break any of their bones, it would be impossible for human to do so without the help of heavy objects. Physically, they are also much stronger. Strong enough to overpower a Borg drone."

"That doesn't say much." Chakotay interrupted. "Everyone of us has the fighting skills to outfight a Borg drone."

"That may be. But I said that they are strong enough to overpower a Borg drone, not outfight. They are actually physically stronger than eighty-nine percent of Borg enhanced drones. One thousand, one hundred and eighty-five races are stronger than The Followers if those races have Borg enhancements. The Borg do not know of a race that is physically stronger than The Followers without Borg enhancements."

"You said they are a warrior race. Do you mean like the Klingons?" B'Elanna asked.

"Partially. Just like the Klingons, they have certain warrior beliefs, traditions and customs. But they are more... sophisticated. More like what the Klingons can be in the future, if they do not destroy themselves in the process of getting there."

"You said that you could basically compare them with big humans, do they also look the same as humans?" The Doctor couldn't help but ask. His programming automatically made him curious to what these aliens would look like.

"At first sight they do. But if you take a moment to look at them you will see certain differences. The heavier bone structure and more dense muscle tissue does give their bodies a look quite different from humans. Just like the Klingon's bodies look different than humans, though their faces and foreheads do look more human than Klingons although, their heavier bone structure makes their foreheads more prominent. More like yours, B'Elanna, except that the lower ridges go on and circle the eyes, like with the Cardassians, and the most upper ridges are almost invisible. But unlike the Cardassians their skin is as smooth as that of a human, and their skin color is, in general, also more like yours, B'Elanna. Though, just as with humans, this varies from white to almost entirely black. But the majority of them are just a little bit darker than you."

"Thanks for the visual, Seven." Chakotay interrupted "But why not tell us about important things now."

"You said that the Borg never succeeded in assimilating any of them." Janeway intervened. "Why not? Aren't they suitable for assimilation?"

"To the contrary. The Borg believe that they would be very suitable for assimilation. However, they use one of the most effective Borg systems against the Borg. Nanoprobes."

"You mean they are cybernetic, just like the Borg?"

"Not at all, Doctor. As far as the Borg know, the children of the Followers only get injected with their nanoprobes when there is the possibility that they will encounter the Borg. And they will also be injected at the moment they become soldiers. But unlike the Borg, the nanoprobes of the Followers lie dormant in their bodies and only become active and reproduce when needed. As far as the Borg know, that is when the person comes into contact with something that is not natural. As long as damage to the body has occurred naturally, for instance in battle, the nanoprobes stay dormant, even if they could save the life of the person. They believe that letting the nanoprobes save the life on occasions like that is 'cheating'. However, the nanoprobes will become active as soon as something happens to the body that the normal immune system cannot defend itself against. For instance, if the person were to be poisoned or would come into contact with chemical or biological weapons. Thanks to their nanoprobe technology, the Followers are almost immune to weapons of this kind.

"But it is when a Borg tries to assimilate the person that these nanoprobes show their true potential. If this happens, then the nanoprobes first destroy the Borg nanoprobes that are trying to enter the body, then the Follower's nanoprobes travel up the Borg's assimilation tubes and destroy every nanoprobe and implant in the Borg's body. Leaving nothing more than a dead drone which obviously died because all the Borg technology that was needed to sustain the drone's life was turned into nothing more than useless and irreparable metal."

"Wow, talk about unlucky thirteen." Tom said.

"Lieutenant?" Janeway asked.

"Um, sorry Captain. Old Earth superstition. Far into the twenty-second century it was believed that the number thirteen was unlucky. Even going so far that in the high-rises of that time they most often skipped the thirteenth floor. Going from the twelfth to the fourteenth floor. And since Seven said that the Borg called them species thirteen and the Borg are not able to assimilate them, it reminded me of that old superstition."

"Indeed." Seven said, lifting her eyebrow. "It seems appropriate. They are also far more advanced than the Borg as far as weapons and shielding is concerned."

"I would say so, judging from the readings we got from that ship out there." Chakotay couldn't help but point out the obvious.

"That 'ship out there' is only one of their Scout ships. Just as Voyager's weapons are superior to one of the shuttles, the Scout ship has only light weapons and is only lightly armored compared to one of their bigger ships. As far as the Borg know, their battle cruisers are the most powerful ships they have."

"Even more powerful than that ship?" Harry asked, surprised.

"The last battle between the Borg and the Empire was sixteen years ago. The Borg were on the verge of assimilating a heavily populated solar system. Six planets were populated with possible drones, all worthy of assimilation. Twenty-nine billion in total. So to assimilate efficiently, the Borg had come en force. Twenty-seven cubes and sixteen spheres were dispatched. The Borg were just about to begin assimilation when they noticed an Imperial battle cruiser coming through the system." Now Seven looked at Neelix. "Since the assimilation that was about to happen was of no business to them, the ship continued its course through the solar system without interfering." Then she looked to the Captain again. "However, since the Borg were there in such great numbers they saw this as the perfect opportunity to finally succeed with assimilating Imperial technology. They shifted their attention from assimilating the solar system to attacking the battle cruiser. Now that they were attacked, the battle cruiser came around and answered the attack. F..."

Seven took a deep breath and was once again thankful for feeling B'Elanna's comforting hand. "Five hours later, one single, heavily damaged sphere was all that was left of the Borg force and the Imperial battle cruiser allowed it to go when the sphere set a course for Borg space."

"The single battle cruiser destroyed twenty-seven cubes and fifteen spheres?!" The Klingon asked surprised. "Did the Borg later return to still assimilate the solar system?" B'Elanna then asked quietly because she knew that if this had happened sixteen years ago the ex-drone would actually know every detail of the massacre, even though she never was at the actual battle. 'Thanks' to the collective Borg mind.

"The Borg did return eight months later. However, when they arrived they found an Imperial Starbase and four Imperial battle cruisers waiting for them. It appeared that since the Borg had decided to attack a battle cruiser in that solar system the Empire had punished the Borg for this by protecting the entire solar system."

Janeway understood now. "So that is what you mean with that they choose who they protect, and why. They first didn't protect the solar system against the Borg, and after they were attacked there they started protecting it as a punishment to the Borg."

"That is correct. However, make no mistake about the sincerity of their protection. They would defend the solar system down to the last person. Their honor as Warriors demands it."

"So did the Borg try another attack?" Harry asked.

"The Borg collective did not achieve its present magnitude by taking stuped risks. They often make calculated sacrifices but attacking a second time would not have served any purpose. The Borg retreated without a single shot being fired."

"So if you knew that we were heading for this 'Empire', why didn't you warn us before?" Chakotay asked. "If you had, we could have set a course around it without losing too much time."

Seven could clearly hear the challenging tone in that question. However, since it was a legitimate question, she chose to answer it and ignore the tone, for now. "I could not warn you because I do not know where this Empire is. I do not know if that ship out there is guarding the borders of the Empire, or if it is protecting something else. It is always assumed, and I must admit that I have often said so, that a Borg drone possesses the knowledge of the entire collective. That is not entirely correct. There is approximately two percent of information that is only known to the Borg Queen. The location of this Empire is information that is not known to the normal drone."

"Why not?" A surprised doctor asked.

"Voyager itself succeeded in severing a drone from the Collective --me --and giving me my individuality back. It is conceivable that somebody else would do the same and then the knowledge of that Borg drone would be at the disposal of that somebody, just as my knowledge is at the disposal of Voyager. It would be unacceptable to the Borg if some one was to learn the position of the only known thing that can destroy the Borg Collective. That is why certain knowledge is kept from the average drone."

Janeway leaned forward and held up her finger for a moment. "But in that case, why not keep ALL the information from a normal drone? I mean, the information you have provided us with has been, and continues to be, of immense value to us."

"A drone needs information to be able to function properly." A quick look to Tuvok. "For instance, to know that they simply have to kill Vulcans because they are not suitable for assimilation. And a Borg drone also needs to know how important information about the Omega molecule is. Only things that have the potential of destroying the Borg collective are partially kept from the average drone. For instance, I still know that this is an Imperial scout ship out there; I still know that trying to assimilate one of the species would mean the end of my existence. But I do not know the location of the Empire. I do not know the place that races could go to ask for help against the Borg."

"Okay." Janeway agreed, seeing the logic Seven's speech. "What more can you tell us about them? And what now? Set a course and see if we can find a way around this Empire, if this is the Empire?"

"I still have a lot of information about them, but I can not tell you more that is really relevant at the moment. Perhaps that they exist far longer than the Borg. The first contact the Borg had with them was early on in the Borg's existence, hence the designation species thirteen. Since before that day, they have had a technology far superior to that of the Borg. And up-to-date, that superiority has only increased. And IF this is the border of the Empire, then setting a course to find a way around it is not advised. I do know that the expanse of the Empire rivals that of the Borg and that the Borg actually expect that the Empire is far greater than Borg space. It is likely that finding away around their Empire would prolong the journey to the Alpha Quadrant by decades. We could try going around them at a distance of several light-years. If they still block our way then it is conceivable that this indeed the border to the Empire. And in that case I would suggest, waiting."

"Waiting?" Janeway repeated.

"Yes." The Borg answered shortly. But then realized that the Captain would not be satisfied with that answer. "If this is their Empire, we have only the option of receiving their permission to pass through their space, or basically spend the rest of our lives trying to go around it. But if we wait, they will eventually contact us, even if it is only to say that there will be no further contact. That is what they usually do. I just informed you of the Borg retreating the second time they wanted to assimilate that solar system. The Followers also sent the Borg a message that day. Very clear, very simple: 'Leave, or be destroyed.'"

"Anybody else have any suggestions?" The Captain asked. When nobody replied she continued. "Okay then, but I am not going to back us up any more. Tom, I want you to set a course to starboard, warp six. If they are blocking our way only for something they are protecting then they will keep up with us until we have reached a distance far enough away and then we can go through. If it is the border to the Empire then they will eventually have enough of us sliding along their border and contact us."

"Or blow us to bits." Tom added.

"I doubt that." The Borg replied. "If they were looking for a provocation, they would have destroyed us by now. That time is over. Now they will wait until we do something they find unacceptable. At this point we would receive some kind of warning. That is one of the paradoxes with this race. Once the first threat is over and they have not destroyed you, they will give you the opportunity to leave."

"Very well, dismissed." The Captain ordered.

As soon as everybody stood, Chakotay intercepted B'Elanna at the door. Seven realized that now was not the time to intervene, now was the time to let the Klingon have her say.

"B'Elanna, I really think..."

"Stuff it, Chakotay. Just stuff it. I can't believe you are doing this. The only reason I didn't react like Seven did is because I have learned to control myself, at least during staff meetings. But if you are even thinking about saying that Seven is no good for me, I swear to Kahless that I will honor my Klingon heritage and stand up for my fiancée. So think really hard about what you're going to say now, really hard."


"Yeah, I thought that this would be what you had to say. You be really careful Chakotay because right now you're on my bad side. And if you really think that I would give this up, give up my love for Seven, give up life, just because you think it's a bad idea, then you've got another think coming. Now, you are my commanding officer and I have to work with you, but outside that you better stay the hell away from me, you got that?"

"I got it, Klingon. Well, if you want to throw away your life that's your business." With that said, Chakotay headed the last couple of steps toward the door but he just didn't make it.

"Commander, a word with you, if you please." The Captain said in that quiet tone of which everybody knew that it meant nothing good. "Ladies, you're dismissed.

Chapter 11

Authors note: When you get to these *** markings this story changes from PG-13 to NC-17. If you wish to keep reading this story as PG-13 only then you can stop reading at that marking and continue with chapter 12. You will miss some talking and... other things between B'Elanna and Seven, but you won't miss anything plot wise


B'Elanna let herself fall onto the coach and groaned. "That must have been one of the weirdest shifts ever. Nothing happening at all and yet more tension on the bridge then most of the times when we've been attacked. But I guess this proves your point, Mesh. Twelve hours at warp six and that ship just simply keeps pace with us. This must be their border. I wonder when they'll contact us."

"I do not know that for certain, but I suspect within two days at the most." The Borg answered while she went to the replicator.

"Well, at least now it's the beta shift's turn to keep an eye on our company."

Seven sat down on the little part of the couch not covered by B'Elanna's body and put two glasses on the coffee table. "And we have twelve hours before we have to report for the next senior staff meeting."

"What's that?" B'Elanna asked, eyeing the two yellowish white glasses suspiciously.

Seven handed one of the glasses to the Klingon and simply said, "Try." Which B'Elanna did.

"Um, not bad. A little bit thick to drink but definitely a nice taste. Now, what is it?"

"Nutritional supplements. You would most likely call it 'energy drinks' or 'liquid dinner'. This is what I usually drink instead of eating."

"Well they're not bad, I kind of like them. But I thought we would have dinner later on?"

Seven took a long drink from her own glass, emptying it halfway. "And I said, we have twelve hours before we have to report for the senior staff meeting. I think it would be wise if you would have eight hours of sleep, and we should also calculate having at least an hour to prepare for the meeting tomorrow. Which leaves us with three and a half hours of free time. If you wish to spend a considerable amount of that time eating, we can do so. But I was hoping for something else."

"Yeah? What were you thinking of?" B'Elanna asked, not catching on.

As an answer, Seven stood up and started walking to the bedroom. "Kyamo, I think it is time for you to show me if my research was efficient." The blonde said while she started opening her biosuit, leaving no doubt about exactly what she was talking about.

"Wait!" The Klingon said, finally understanding. "I want to help you with that." And then mumbled under her breath, knowing that Seven would understand her anyhow, "The sooner I learn how to get into that damn biosuit, the better." She then remembered the glass in her hand and quickly emptied it, then she saw the still half full glass that Seven had left and drained that as well, her Klingon side hoping that she would need it. But when she reached the Borg who, by now, stood in the doorway to the bedroom, she suddenly became nervous. Realization about what was going to happen gave her a shuttle load of butterflies.

"You are nervous." The watchful Borg observed. "That is unnecessary. What is about to happen is nothing more than physical affection."

"Are you telling me that this doesn't make you nervous?" A surprised B'Elanna asked.

"I am Borg." The composed blonde said before she could no longer contain her cool façade. She then took a shaky breath before honestly admitting; "I think the correct term is that I am 'nervous as hell'." She took a deep breath, smiled, and then closed her eyes for a moment, trying to control herself. A combination of reactions that the Klingon would never have asserted with the cold Borg a mere couple of months back. "But I also desperately want this, I..." The Borg was silenced when B'Elanna leaned forward and kissed her. A tender kiss at first, but one which quickly became more passionate.

"You are nervous because you're looking forward to it," the Klingon said after she broke the kiss. Deciding that in this situation it was up to her to take the lead, at least for now. "But as nervous as you are, you can't wait to do more than look," the Klingon's hands found her way to the Borg's hips and she leaned forward again, kissing the blonde passionately. A kiss that only became more needy the longer it lasted. B'Elanna then moved forward and closed the space that had been between them. Now they stood against each other, feeling the heat of one another's bodies. "Your heart is racing about a million beats a minute, I can feel it. Mine are doing the same," whispered B'Elanna. "You're sweating and the room temperature seems to have increased by forty degrees."

"I am Borg, I should not sweat. My nanoprobes should prevent that."

" Yet you are." The Klingon said after another kiss, and before she shifted her attention to that beautiful neck.

"Y.. yes, I... I... yes. Ohhh, Kyamoooo." B'Elanna smiled at the lustful moan coming from those beautiful lips.

"Maybe your nanoprobes weren't designed with an aroused drone in mind. I like that. I look forward to making you sweat." Slowly her hands started moving from the blonde's hips, roaming over her body but staying in the 'safe zones'. "Kahless, how I have dreamed of touching you like this." B'Elanna decided to move a little bit. Pushing Seven further into the room and then backing her into the wall; this way the poor drone wouldn't be resting against the small edge of the doorframe. "So, MY beautiful one, is this anything like your research taught you?"

"W... What resear..." Seven's reply was broken off when B'Elanna started sucking and nibbling her neck in earnest. "I... I... I... do not think I can s... stand a... anymore."

With that, the Borg started slowly sliding to the floor, but before she was completely to her knees, the Klingon used both of her hands to take a good hold of the biosuit and lifted the heavy ex-drone up again, accidentally slamming her against the wall rather hard. "Ummmm!"

"Kahless, I am s..." B'Elanna started to apologize before she realized that Seven's moan was one of lust, and not of pain. Making the Klingon understand that the ex-drone really would be able to handle the Klingon when she would become rougher. Something that was bound to happen in the future. 'But not today.' B'Elanna promised herself, 'today all that Seven will know is tender lovemaking.' She than asked out loud, "Are you still with me, Mesh?"

"Yes, Lanna. However, I do not know what to do. I can just tell you that I like what you are doing to me. Please continue, show me, teach me."

"Gladly." B'Elanna said, deciding that it was time to get a little bit more intimate. While she felt Seven's hands drifting over her body without a real purpose, just touching her, the Klingon decided to make her own hand movements a little bit more precise. She brought her hands up between them and slowly started grazing the underside of Seven's breast. Not really touching, just letting Seven know that more was to come. Of course, during all of this, their mouths kept busy. Changing between kissing long and deeply, and focusing on each other's necks. The way Seven had learned how to make love to B'Elanna's neck in mere minutes of feeling B'Elanna do the same to hers, showed the Klingon that the 'teaching' part of their relationship wouldn't last long. She was sure that by the end of night they would be equal partners.
"Let's move to the bed."


When B'Elanna had seen how difficult it was for Seven to get out of the biosuit without help and lying on the bed, she couldn't help but point out that a simple uniform was much quicker and easier to put on and off. Which she of course had to demonstrate by shedding her own uniform.

"The major advantage of these bodysuits, besides regulating my body temperature, is that it is actually more protective then standard Federation uniforms," the Borg said while she kicked the biosuit off the last part of the journey down her legs in a very un-Borg like manner. "They also are more comfortable because the material stretches, it is actually softer and stronger than a standard uniform. And it wears so comfortably that sometimes I do not feel that I am wearing it at all." She then saw how B'Elanna, who was sitting on her knees beside her on the bed, was looking at her and getting a distinct paler complexion. "Breathe, Kyamo."

"Kahless, you're beautiful, Mesh."

Automatically the Borg's hands went to her abdominal implants and rested there as an insecure expression formed on her face.

B'Elanna knew what Seven was about to say and quickly stopped her by laying alongside the long blonde's body and then shifted down a little bit until her face was equal with the metal bands. "You're beautiful Annika, beautiful." The Klingon said and started tracing small kisses along the metal. "Don't take this the wrong way and think I'm only saying this to make you more comfortable. But I actually like this," she then continued to trace the outline of metal with her fingertips and looked deeply into the ex-drone's eyes," I think it looks... nice."

"It looks hideous. It is metal ruining what could have been a beautiful body," the blonde said. Knowing enough about humans to know that her female form would be aesthetically pleasing to humans, and a lot of other races, if it had not been marked by Borg implants. Of course, she had observed the reactions she always received from the other crewmembers, how they would react to her presence. But that, in her mind, was only because the biosuits accentuated her female form while hiding a lot of the implants.

"No, you're wrong," the Klingon said. Moving up the blonde's body again and then sitting up, straddling the Borg's legs. Her satin covered center almost touching that of the blonde's bare one, it aroused the Klingon more than she had been in her entire life. Yet, somehow she knew that she first had to make this clear to the Borg before continuing. "It isn't hideous." Also knowing that she had to be absolutely honest with the Borg about this, she continued, "It had the potential of being hideous, I agree. If the implants had simply been straight metal strips." The Klingon demonstrated by using a finger to draw a line across the ex-drone's abdomen, actually crossing some of the metal bands. "If they had been like this. And if they had been surrounded by scar tissue, then yes, they probably would have been... hideous." She then used her finger to follow the curving line of the implanted strip that flowed just along the line of the ex-drone's rib cage. "But they aren't made like that. There is a curving form to them and where the flesh reaches the metal there is a perfect transition. As if the flesh changes into the metal. As if the metal is a part of the body, designed that way by nature. There isn't any scar tissue, or even an abrupt stopping of the flesh. It simply... changes."

"The reason why the metal is curved is because straight strips would reduce the drone's abilities to move. And the reason why there is no scar tissue is because the nanoprobes in a drone's body prevent cicatrix from forming because if an implant is surrounded by scar tissue the functionality of that implant might be reduced."

"Yes, fine, nice reasons," B'Elanna said. Wanting the Borg to see what the Klingon was seeing. She leaned forward and started kissing the drone. But after a moment she started moving down Seven's body again, ending up at the biggest implant, the abdominal one, a second time. "But the fact is that thanks to that, it looks nice. Some races we have encountered have actually asked if the implants on your face were facial art. Tell me something, Mesh. Do any of these implants reduce your feelings?"

"What do you mean?"

As an answer B'Elanna used the tip of her tongue to softly trail along the line of one of the metal strips. The Borg's sudden shaky intake of breath answered the question that the Klingon was about to ask, but she asked anyway. "Did you feel that?"

"Yes, th... oh, Kyamo." The Borg interrupted herself when B'Elanna started following the second band with her tongue. Making it continuously more difficult for the blonde to answer. But yet somehow the ex-drone managed. "The nerve endings, mmmm, in the flesh surrounding the... Ohhh Lanna... Implants are actually very sensitive. One of the, that feels sooo gooood, one of the side effects of having the doctor 'wakeup' the, ahhh, nerve endings of my entire body, please continue."

By now B'Elanna had finished tracing the last of the metal bands and suddenly looked up into Seven's eyes. "Are you telling me that all of your implants can be considered erogenous zones?"

"Some more than others, and normally they are simply more sensitive but if you give them the same treatment you just did, I think you could describe them as erogenous zones."

"Good to know," B'Elanna said with a wicked smile. "So do you now believe that you are so beautiful it really can make me breathless? Do you understand that your implants don't bother me, that I like them? Do you like it when I treat them like I just did?"

The Borg thought about that for a moment. Then she relented, but did change B'Elanna's words slightly. "Yes, Kyamo, the fact that you almost asphyxiated while looking at me proves that YOU think I am beautiful. I am glad that my implants do not bother you. And I really like it when you treat them as you did. It, I believe it arouses me."

The Klingon laughed at that. "Oh, I know that it arouses you," she said while she abandoned the implants for a moment and moved up the blonde's body again, using her own body to sensuously slide along Seven's body. Making as much skin to skin contact as possible. Feeling the warmth of that long, silky smooth physique against her own was enough to make the Klingon almost growl from the sheer pleasure of it. "You don't need my Klingon sense of smell, or paying worship to your abdomen to smell that."

They took their time to enjoy the experience of kissing each other for minutes on end. Small kisses were traded and then followed by the immense pleasure of giving and gaining equal access to each other's mouths. Their tongues locked in a dance of sheer ecstasy. Eventually B'Elanna moved her focus to the neck of the long blonde. For the first time, but certainly not for the last time, truly enjoying that the ex-drone measured a delicious hundred and eighty centimeters (six feet). There was so much of her lover to enjoy. All of it worthy of thorough attention. But eventually she moved her attention from the Borg's neck to her breastbone, quickly placing a kiss there.

The Klingon moved a little bit further down until she reached the valley between Seven's breasts. Taking her time, B'Elanna slowly started placing small kisses on the underside of the breast. Sometimes using her tongue to taste the heavenly flesh, sometimes using her teeth to softly nibble, and sometimes simply use her lips to place sweet kisses. After several kisses she would move to the neglected twin and start the same procedure there. Continuing like this she slowly worked her way up the beautiful mounds and closer to the taut nipples, closing in on the peaks in a devilishly slow pace. When the Klingon was about to close her mouth around one of the nipples she realized that something had changed. Seven was no longer moaning like she had done when B'Elanna started her treatment but was trying to control the heavy panting she was doing. But the Klingon was rather fond of that moaning and changed her approach. Continuing to shift between the two mounds she used her tongue to softly caress the areola but never touched the nipples themselves. She smiled when within a minute the moaning returned and then relented when Seven spoke up. "Please, Lanna, do not tease me like that. Please, Lanna, please."

"Only if you stop trying to be quiet. I like to hear you, Annika." B'Elanna then took one of the buds into her mouth, very softly biting down and than quickly but, barely touching, she flicked her tongue over it. When she heard the 'ummmohhh' coming from the Borg she decided that it was time to get down to business. She used her mouth to give the peaks the attention they deserved, while rolling and pinching the other bud to give Seven all the pleasure she could, using whatever hand she had free to massage Seven's mounds.

After long minutes the Klingon slowly started moving down the body of the Borg again but continued to give the blonde's mounds their proper attention with her hands.  Reaching Seven's abdomen again, B'Elanna once again taking time to make love to the implants, showing Seven that she really didn't think they were repulsive. B'Elanna hadn't been lying, she did like them, somehow they fitted Seven. Moving slightly lower she took a moment to dip her tongue into the Borg's naval. Suddenly she heard a 'oh, Lanna' and found her head being held in place rather forcefully by strong Borg hands. "Annika, love, please let go of my hair."

"I am s..." The ex-drone started to say.

But B'Elanna wasn't looking for an apology for a perfectly normal reaction. "You like that, don't you? I was wrong, you don't have erogenous zones on your body. Your entire body is one big erogenous zone." She interrupted, making Seven's clouded mind understands that she didn't have to apologize for everything.

"Only for you, Kyamo, only for you. Please..."

B'Elanna continued making love to the Borg's naval for a couple of minutes, even though her entire body was urging her to move that little bit further down. But her mind wanted to give Seven as much pleasure as possible. Finally she couldn't wait any longer. The smell reaching her Klingon nose was wreaking havoc on her brain.

Slowly she started giving the hairless mound the same treatment with her mouth as she had done to the breast. Concentrating on the mound and occasionally shifting to the thighs, thoroughly enjoying the continuously soft moaning of her ex-drone. Finally the Klingon focused her attention on the soft pink folds which were begging for her attention. Continuing her soft approach, B'Elanna softly put her tongue at the bottom of the crease, flattened it, and in one soft but sure stroke moved all the way up, collecting all of the dampness that had formed as a result of B'Elanna's treatment of the Borg's body.

The Klingon couldn't help but groan when she tasted her lover for the first time. Her Klingon taste buds caused the taste that humans would find heavenly to tasted even better to her. From that very first taste B'Elanna knew that she was addicted. Needing... craving that unique taste that was Seven. She took a deep breath trying to concentrate, but it didn't help at all. Because now her nose was filled with the unique smell that was Seven.

Gathering her wits somehow, B'Elanna reluctantly took away her hands from the Borg's breast so that she could put them to better use. Using her thumbs, she spread the soft lips and used the tip of her tongue to caress the soft flesh. Deliberately staying away from the little bundle of nerves on the top and the opening further down.

"Oh, Lanna, don't stop. This is so much more than I ever expected."

The Klingon smiled when she heard the normally so cool blonde say 'don't.' Now she finally knew what it would take to get the ex-drone to shorten her words. It excited her to know that she was the only one who could bring Seven to talk like that, and that she was the only one who would ever hear Seven talk like that. She then decided that if what she had done to Seven now was more than what the ex-drone had ever expected, it was high time to show her all she could feel.

She decided to start with the little opening and slowly started swirling her tongue around it. Occasionally entering the blonde.

"Kahless, B'Elanna!" Seven shouted while her hips bucked off the bed.

Causing B'Elanna to smile once again. She understood that Seven had said 'Kahless' because she needed to say... something. The Klingon wondered who else would appear before she was finished.

Eventually she was entering Seven as far as she could reach with her tongue. Slowly establishing a nice rhythmic pace for a couple of minutes, she once again reduced Seven to moaning so deliciously and using an occasional 'oh Lanna.' Eventually the Klingon moved up to the bundle of nerves. Using her fingers to expose the little bundle of nerves even more than it already was and then stroking the length of her tongue along it.

" God, B'Elanna."

*I've been promoted, I'm a God now.* The Klingon thought ridiculously. She then closed her lips around the sensitive flesh and let her tongue dance around it. By the increased moaning and hip movements of Seven, B'Elanna knew that the Borg was getting closer. But the Klingon wanted her to experience one more thing and slowly slid a finger deep inside the warmth of Seven. Even though the ex-drone was tight, B'Elanna could feel that one finger wouldn't be enough. So she eased out again and then gave Seven a delicious feeling by filling her with two fingers.

"Lanna, oh, Lanna. How I love you. It feels so good to have you inside me. Now I know what the word heaven means."

Never easing up on her light, but continuous assault of the Borg's bundle of nerves, B'Elanna started to establish a slow, steady, pumping rhythm. By the way Seven's warmth kept squeezing her fingers, the Klingon could feel that the blonde was real close. Suddenly she had a desire to see Seven's eyes. So she abandoned the little bundle of nerves with her mouth and moved up the body again, remembering to replace her mouth with the thumb of the hand that also filled the Borg.

They kissed when the Klingon reached Seven's waiting lips. Giving the Borg her first taste of herself. The ex-drone realized that she really liked tasting herself on B'Elanna's lips.

"You're really close, aren't you?"

"Y, yes, v... oh, very."

"Good, I wanted to see your face when you come."

Seeing B'Elanna's face, looking into her eyes, it sent Seven over the edge. Her body started bucking and she clamped down on the Klingon's fingers with enough force to stop their movements. But B'Elanna wanted to prolong this moment for Seven so she started rubbing her thumb a little bit faster and with a fraction more force over the slippery bundle of nerves.


B'Elanna relished hearing Seven scream her name at the height of the moment. After being married, and having several relationships before that, she was sure that screaming out the name of your lover was something out of a holo-novel romance. Nobody ever had screamed her name, nor had she herself ever screamed somebody else's name. When Seven's scream ended, B'Elanna had reached a small orgasm just from the sheer ecstasy of it.

The Klingon slowly eased her fingers out and licked them clean. It really was an addictive taste to her. Nothing could ever come close.

After they had kissed and caress each other for several moments Seven's hands started to move more deliberately, tracing the outlines of B'Elanna's satin bra. "I can not believe that you made love to me like you did and through it all continued to keep your underwear on." The blond said with a smile, showing that her remark wasn't meant negatively. "However, now is the time to remove them. Let me make love to you, Lanna."

"That's okay, Annika. I had my release at the same time you did, you took me over the edge with you."

"Do you not want me to make love to you?" The Borg asked surprised.

"Sure I do. I'm just saying that it isn't really necessary."

"Explain." The blonde demanded with a voice nowhere near as warm as it had been mere moments before.

B'Elanna sighed and then started explaining. "Over the years, I have learned to get my pleasure from giving it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy s... making love. And it isn't that I can't reach orgasm. Thank Kahless I can or else I'm sure I would have killed several people here on Voyager. Can you imagine my, um, temperament and not been able to get rid of that in some other way than fighting?" Seeing that Seven wasn't smiling at her joke, B'Elanna took a deep breath and then sighed again. "It's because I'm a hybrid. I'm just not as sensitive as a normal woman is in the areas where it counts. So, as I said, over the years I have learned to get my pleasure from giving it. It is easier than somebody desperately trying to get me off. What I just did to you, excites me. So much so that I did reach my peak. Annika, I just don't want you to get upset because you can't satisfy me the way I did you."

Seven realized that Mr. Paris could be really glad that he now was a friend of hers, or else she would have to seriously consider causing his body permanent damage. But since he was her friend she decided to leave things as they were and consider this a bit of luck for her. Because she knew only too well what B'Elanna was talking about. "Lanna, I want to make love to you. Please let me. And I will promise not to be upset if I 'can not satisfy you.' I want to feel you, touch you, taste you. Please do not take that away from me."

"Oh, of course, how stupid of me. Here, let me..." The Klingon said while she moved her hands to take off her bra.

"No, I will do that, when the time comes." The Borg stopped her. "I like you in these. Black definitely is your color."

"No, blonde is my color." The Klingon teased.

"Very funny. Turn around." Seven said while she moved enough to give B'Elanna the opportunity to shift and lay face down on the bed.

"Why?" B'Elanna asked while she already did as told.

"Humor me." Was the Borg's only reply while she waited until B'Elanna was settled. When the Klingon finally was, Seven moved over the body and started placing kisses everywhere. From the Klingon's feet to the crown of the her head. She then took hold of the damp satin panties and slowly took them off. Using enough time to shower the legs with kisses, she then moved to B'Elanna's beautiful rear cheeks and started kissing those. Now it was the Klingon's turn to moan. But Seven could hear that it was more and moan of pleasure than of lust. Showing that the Klingon tremendously enjoyed what Seven did to her but that there was something missing.

The Borg thought that B'Elanna had a rear she should be proud of. Lean, yet muscled like the rest of her body, and beautifully shaped. So it was with an effort that Seven shifted her focus a little bit further down. She tenderly spread the legs of the Klingon and quickly found her center. She knew that B'Elanna would think that heading straight for her center was a result of the Borg's inexperience. But Seven had an ulterior motive. But before that, she first needed B'Elanna to feel how it was to be touched by her without the massage.

The research that she had done had given the Borg massive information about how to treat a female Klingon body properly, she had specified her research to female Klingons since that was the only thing relevant to Seven. So now she knew everything from just how many Klingon myths were true or not to some very... interesting positions one could take while making love. But one of the most interesting things that the blonde knew was just how sensitive a Klingon's body could be if treated correctly. She was looking forward to introducing B'Elanna to some bodily sensations the Klingon had never felt before.

As the damp panties had already proven, the Klingon was very lubricated. Confirming the Borg's suspicion. She first took a moment to play with the Klingon's bundle of nerves for a few minutes and then moved her fingers to the entrance, sliding two fingers deep inside B'Elanna.

From her research the Borg knew that even though the Klingon women had an outside stimulus like human women, in the form of a little bundle of nerves, the Klingons were actually even more sensitive inside. Because, where human women had a single 'g-spot,' as it was called, Klingons had thousands of nerve endings just as sensitive placed throughout the inside of their entire womanhood.

From B'Elanna's changed moaning Seven could hear that she was most definitely having an effect on the woman. She knew that even contradictory to the Klingons word, she would be able to make B'Elanna reach her peak. But that was not what she wanted to show the Klingon. So she removed her fingers and went to sit on B'Elanna's legs, just under those beautiful cheeks. The Borg took a moment to taste the sweetness of B'Elanna from her fingers, preferring that her first taste would have come from the source directly, but knowing that doing that would distract her at the moment where she shouldn't be distracted.

After her fingers were clean Seven started massaging the shoulders of the Klingon. "Why did you stop?" A disappointed B'Elanna asked.

"Patience, Kyamo, patience. I assure you, I will be visiting that place again." The Borg then went back to administering her massage. Moving all over the back of her lover and finally concentrating on the lower back.

B'Elanna couldn't believe what she was feeling. There was a saying, 'better than sex'. And B'Elanna had to agree. The massage that Seven was giving to her was doing something to her body. She really did feel better than she had on more than one occasion during sex. "I don't know what you're doing to me but you can keep doing it for the next hundred years."

The Klingon had just finished saying that when Seven changed the massage. Using her thumbs more, putting greater pressure on certain parts of B'Elanna's lower back. The immediate result of this was that B'Elanna's occasional moan changed to a continuous deep Klingon growl. Almost making it seem as if she was purring. The Borg then moved back to the shoulders, deliberately not going the other way, nearer to B'Elanna's center. "Turn around." She then whispered in her lover's ear.

When B'Elanna did so, Seven laid down on the bed on her stomach and took position between her lover's legs. She knew that she couldn't use her thumbs to spread her lover's lips without ruining the surprise so with Borg efficiency her tongue found B'Elanna's bundle of nerves and flicked over it.

"Sweet Kahless!" The Klingon shouted and then closed her legs in an automatic response.

Seven laughed, pleased that she succeeded in surprising her lover. Something that was well worth the small displeasure of having her head crushed between the powerful thighs of the Klingon.

"Wha... what, what have you done to me?" B'Elanna asked surprised while she carefully touched herself, finding herself more sensitive, and more lubricated, than she could ever remember.

"Go inside." Seven merely said, but then quickly added; "carefully."

B'Elanna did so. Slowly sliding in two fingers, and thereby treating the Borg to a side that almost robbed her of her ability to think. After the Klingon's fingers were into the first knuckle, her breathing changed to a helpless panting. She couldn't believe what was happening to her. It felt as if the slow penetration of her fingers caused thousands of little orgasms to trigger.

"So, what do you think about my research now?" The Borg asked amused.

The Klingon removed her fingers and laugh at Seven's remark. By now both of them knew that the talk about research would be an inside joke of them for years to come.

"Over time you will get used to the sensation you just felt, but it never lessens. You will always feel that when being penetrated. But because you get used to it, it becomes a 'great' feeling you will enjoy tremendously. As I just showed you, your clitoris is also more sensitive. Just as your nipples are."

Hearing that made B'Elanna automatically touch the buds through her bra and she found that those little buds were more sensitive then they had ever been. As a matter-of-fact, they were now just as sensitive as her bundle of nerves usually was. "What HAVE you done to me, woman?" She asked with a smile.

"I massaged your back," the Borg stated matter-of-factly, and accompanied that statement with a raised eyebrow. "You can take off your bra now. I wanted you to keep wearing it so that the sensitivity of your nipples would be disguised by the fabric." While B'Elanna took off her bra, Seven used the opportunity to drink in the sight of her naked lover. But when the Klingon looked at her expectantly, she started explaining.

"As it seems, your sexual organs are purely Klingon. Which means that they have to be 'turned on' before use. Klingons are obviously different than humans. On a normal basis the blood supply to the sexual organs are limited by the body. It is believed that this is a side effect from Klingon evolution. When the ancestors of the Klingon started walking upright the blood flow in certain blood vessels was reduced. But because the Klingons have so many redundant systems other blood vessels took over the blood supply. However this resulted in a reduced blood flow. As you know from your own experience, Klingons are still able to mate with this restriction so evolution never corrected this problem. But thousands of years later it was found out that by massaging a Klingon's lower back the blood flow to the sexual organs is increased, which results in a higher sensitivity."

"Are you trying to tell me that I could always have felt like this if somebody had known how to massage my back years ago?" The Klingon asked. Even though she was more aroused than she could ever remember, she still wanted to know about the new sensitivity of her body.

"No. The effects of the massage I have given you will start to wear off in several hours. This is not permanent. However, it is also something that can be repeated as often as you like. So in other words, the massage has to become part of our foreplay. Which I do not mind since I like being able to make you purr like a kitten."

"Hey! At least keep it Klingon and call it Tika cat." B'Elanna mock defended. Knowing that there was no way out of it. She HAD purred like a cat.

"This puts me in a strange position." Seven confessed, while trying to ignore the needs of her body, or what being that close to her lover did to her senses. Somehow she felt that she had to make this point before they could continue with anything else. "I am saddened by the fact that you have never experienced this before in your life. But at the same time I am also... glad. "

"Glad?" The Klingon merely repeated while she pulled Seven closer until the Borg was lying partially on top of her.

"Yes, because you are my first lover. And now, in a certain way, I am also your first lover. B'Elanna, let me introduce you to the new sensitivity of your body."

"Yes." B'Elanna agreed and then pulled Seven closer for a kiss.

The Borg knew that this was not a time to play with B'Elanna as she had done with Seven. The ex-drone decided to keep it pretty basic, in the beginning. More would come later in the evening. But for now Seven wanted to show B'Elanna what a Klingon orgasm could be like. So while she used her mouth and one hand to make love to B'Elanna's mounds and the little buds on top of them, her second hand once again found the moist heat of the Klingon's center. She used her hand to make slow, but steady, circles over the entire center. Using her palm to place just enough pressure on the little bundle of nerves.

B'Elanna agreed that this could be seen as being the first time because for the first time in her life the Klingon felt the joy of making love. This had nothing to do with pent-up energy which needed release, or simply feeling horny. This wasn't about that. This was her partner, her 'Lady-to-be' loving her.

The Klingon was nearing her peak faster than she could ever remember and just when she thought that she was about to fall over the hedge, Seven proved to her that another Klingon myth wasn't a myth at all. Suddenly she felt those long fingers enter her and establishing a slow pace. Keeping a peak what usually only lasted several seconds going for minutes. It felt as if the slow pumping fingers moving along the nerve endings inside of her were giving her a continuing shower of one orgasm after the other.

Only when B'Elanna stopped screaming her release did Seven carefully withdraw her fingers. Taking pride in fact that her lover had screamed her name, or variation of it, fifty-eight times.

"K... Kahless, I promise you, Seven I will never complain about your research again."

"Yes you will, but not on this subject." The blonde argued amused before asking, "Are you functioning?"

"Functioning?" B'Elanna asked, laughing. "I don't bloody think so, you made sure of that. But I feel terrific if that's what you mean."

"That is what I meant."

"You know what's really funny? Usually I had enough after I came. But after all you just did to me, I am ready to go again, how is that possible? I should be spent, only being capable of babbling incoherently."

"That is also due to the increased blood flow. That is one of the negative side effects of this. I can only give you the massage if we have time to enjoy the results. Unfortunately a 'quickie' as it is called, is something we will never be able to do."

B'Elanna decided that it was her turn again and started kissing the Borg in a way that showed this. "I don't know, I also enjoyed what you did to me before you give me the massage. I enjoyed it more than anything else I can remember. So even without the massage, I definitely see the potential of a 'quickie' in my office." B'Elanna decided to see if Seven was susceptible for dirty talking. "Can you imagine that? You, me, in my office? During Alpha Shift? You bend over my desk while I'm fu..."

It seemed that Seven was very susceptible to dirty talking because B'Elanna ended up only sleeping for five hours. And 'surprisingly enough' the Borg also slept for those entire five hours. And it certainly wouldn't be the last time that B'Elanna and Seven tired each other out.

Chapter 12

The next day found the senior staff in the conference room again. "Okay, Seven," Stated Janeway to open the meeting, "Almost an entire day has passed and the only thing that has happened is that they are keeping an exact pace with us. Now, I know that you said that the only other option was waiting, but surely there must be something else we can do?"

"Once again, Captain, I believe that waiting is the best option. I am fairly certain that something will happen rather quickly."

"FAIRLY certain?" Chakotay asked. Making obvious that he didn't believe her. "We don't have much use for 'fairly certain'."

"There is nothing else I can tell you. I can not give you a precise timeframe. All I know is that something will happen..."

Suddenly the conference room was filled with the eerie red glow of a red alert and Seven was interrupted by the warning klaxon that sounded just before the nervous voice of a beta crew ensign was heard over the com system; <Red alert, Captain to the bridge.>

"... Very soon." The Borg couldn't help but finish.

Since they had been through this procedure often enough the senior staff was on the bridge, and at their stations in mere seconds. "Report." Janeway said forcefully while taking her chair.

"Three ships just de-cloaked alongside the scout ship."

"De-cloaked?" The Captain asked while she looked at the viewscreen and saw three ships which were several times bigger than Voyager and which also dwarfed the scout ship. Making it look in size about as big as the Delta Flyer compared to Voyager.

"I believe so, Captain. There was a fraction of the standard distortion that always appears when a ship de-cloaks and they were traveling at warp six without showing any signs of reducing speed from coming out of trans warp."

"They are Imperial Battle Cruisers," Seven interrupted. "And the Empire indeed has cloaking capabilities. Also highly advanced. The Borg do not know of anything that can detect one of their ships while cloaked."

Janeway was quicker than Chakotay but still the question was the same. "Why didn't you tell us this before? Those ships might have already been out there since yesterday."

"I... Captain, I told you the essentials. They can destroy us within a moment if they wish. If I were to tell you everything I know about them, I would be giving you information for days. All of which is potentially important. Remember, the Borg have known of the existence of species thirteen almost as long as the Borg itself exist. And for that entire time the Borg have gathered information about them."

"But whether or not they can cloak is very important." Chakotay objected.

"Not more important than the fact that they use autonomous regeneration technology which automatically repairs small damage to the ships. Only larger damage is repaired by technicians. Or the fact that they have the technology which makes the use of our tractor beam impossible. If we were to try and lock onto one of the ships with a tractor beam we would receive a massive power overload which would destroy Voyager. Or the fact that they have a system that makes beaming to one of the ships without their permission impossible. The pattern would be scrambled beyond repair and thus, the person who is trying to beam aboard is killed. Or the fact that..."

"We get your point, Seven." Janeway interrupted.

"What's with the overkill than?" Tom suddenly asked.


"Well, Seven, you just explained how phenomenal those ships are. Heck, yesterday you explained that one of those Battle Cruisers took on forty-three Borg ships and came out on top. So why do they send three of those ships to intercept us. I mean, that would be enough to win a war. What's the point?"

"That is the point." Seven explained. "It is more a political statement then an actual show of force. This is standard behavior if a representative of their race is sent to a meeting. The 'point' they are making is that you are not merely meeting a representative, you are meeting the Empire. Whomever will be speaking to us will be doing this not only in name of the Empire, but also has the authority to make immediate decisions in name of that Empire. And that is what those other ships are for. It is a statement to show that the representative of the Followers does have the power of the Empire behind them."

"As the old Earth saying says; a picture speaks a thousand words." Janeway clarified. "Have a single person say that they represent the Empire and a enemy could still choose to kill the representative and start an attack on the Empire. But had the representative show up with enough force to win a war before it ever started and a enemy will think twice about starting anything."

"Indeed." Seven agreed.

A bleep from Harry's workstation interrupted the conversation and made everyone look in his direction. "We are being hailed."

"On screen." Janeway replied while standing up. With that the viewscreen changed from showing the alien ships to showing two people, obviously women, sitting beside each other in two chairs. Though one chair was slightly bigger than the other, showing that this person was the one in charge. "I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager." Janeway said to begin the conversation.

"Yes, we know who you are. Our scan of your ship told us everything about you." The woman sitting in the smaller chair replied.

"Then you know that we mean you no harm." Janeway said in her best diplomatic voice, which caused the woman in the bigger chair to snort dismissively and the woman in the smaller chair to smile.

"Captain Janeway, you couldn't cause us harm even if you wanted to." The woman who had been talking before said. "Now, how can we be of service?"

Janeway understood only too well that if they knew who they were from the scans, then they also knew that they were in the way of Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant. They wanted to hear her ask. Well, that was something she had learned by now in the Delta Quadrant. To ask if they could pass through someone's territory. "As you probably know from the scan, we are currently en route to the Alpha Quadrant, and it seems that to do this, we need to cross your space. We would like permission to do so."

"And why would we give you that permission?" The woman in the smaller chair asked. By now it was obvious that she was the one who usually did the talking while other woman was the one in charge. "Why would we allow you into our space when we can turn you back just as easily?"

Janeway opted for the easy answer and hoped that it would appeal to these people. "Because the only thing we want to do is get home."

"Captain, from here on, the shortest route through our space, which wouldn't take you into Borg space, is almost twenty thousand light-years. Surely you understand that we can't let you make a journey through our space which would take you more than twenty years with your ship. We would have to monitor you for that entire time. Sending you away is a lot easier."

Janeway was quiet for a moment, trying to wrap her brain around the number of twenty thousand light-years. The entire Federation was only eight thousand light-years across. "Surely there must be a way we can come to an agreement?" She asked after she found her diplomatic voice again.

Suddenly, Seven stepped away from her workstation and joined Janeway on the lower part of the bridge. "Explain. We are not asking you for your help. We merely want to pass through your space. Something that you even allowed the Borg to do on several occasions. Monitoring us could easily be done by an unmanned warhead which could destroy us if we were to leave the preassigned route. I know that you possess such weapons. So monitoring us is also not a problem. Why are you being difficult?"

That last question caused both women to smile.

"Because, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One, in contradiction to the Borg or others, the scan of your files show that quite often agreements like this have resulted in you not being welcome in that system anymore." The woman in the smaller chair said before looking back to Janeway and addressing her again. "Tell me, how many races now see you as enemies when you only started out to help them?"

"But those same files you scanned should also show how many races we did help." Janeway pointed out while the old saying, 'the good with the bad' came to her mind. "Cultural differences are bound to happen if two species meet. Yes, I agree that sometimes those cultural differences were the cause of misunderstandings between us and others. But our files should clearly show that only with a small amount of the races that we helped did misunderstanding actually happen.

"No." The woman in the big chair suddenly said with authority. "The problem is that you people try to subject everyone to YOUR rules. And when others don't abide by them, you interfere. What is there to keep you from trying to enforce my people and my Empire to abide by YOUR rules?"

"The Empress." Seven whispered as her eyes grew wide in shock. For one who always held back her emotions from the view of others, Seven still couldn't hide her surprise at coming face to face with the woman who could have the entire Borg collective destroyed by simply giving the order. The ex-drone had never thought that it would be her stay onboard Voyager that would bring her into the presence of the only threat she had known for eighteen years.

Shadeen's eyes quickly darted to the Borg and then back to Janeway while she continued talking. "You arrive somewhere, say that you will abide by the local laws but as soon as you don't like those rules, you break them because they don't measure up to Federation standards. In my Empire my word is law, yet six months ago, when my wife and I were on Zidok three, we followed the laws of the people that govern the planet. They have the strange customs that married couple are not allowed to see each other during the daylight. I, Empress Shadeen, who could enforce whichever rules I want on that planet, who basically can do whatever I want, abided by that rule. Simply because it is a rule on that planet. A rule that is part of their self-government. So even I, Empress Shadeen, follow the rules that are set forth, even if I don't like them. But had you been in that position, you would have insisted on seeing your wife during the day simply because you are used to that and wouldn't let other people tell you whether or not you could see your wife."

Janeway took a moment to see if Seven was all right and saw that Seven was fine, finding reassurance from B'Elanna who had come to her side. She then focused her attention back to the Empress who was still talking.

"Such self-focused thinking certainly won't convince me to let you pass through my Empire. It only proves my point. You want everything done your way. Everything you have done up-to-date has been done to further yourselves and not the people that you were 'helping'."

Hearing the Empress talk about 'convincing' finally gave Janeway the handhold she needed. Now she knew that her first approach of being friendly in the face of a mighty opponent had been the wrong thing to do. So acting like the captain she was, who knew that her actions had been the right ones, at least in the light of the moment, she stated confidently, "No, we DID help people. We did help the Ocampa, we interfered with the Ocampan way of life, forever change their history by destroying the caretaker's array..."

"And that is a good thing?" Empress Shadeen interrupted. "You didn't give the Ocampa any choice in a matter, did you? You decided for them what was best."

Instead of reacting to that Janeway went on as if she hadn't been interrupted. "Not to mention that by destroying the Caretaker's array we prevented other ships from becoming the victims of an abduction just like we were." Janeway was set on defending not only the Federation principles, but her personal morals as well.

"But what about the Caretaker himself? You killed him, destroyed him because he didn't abide by your rules. You oppressed your way of life on him and when he didn't accept that, you killed him." The Empress retorted back calmly.

"We didn't kill him, he was already dying. We merely destroyed the array after he died." Janeway immediately corrected. Somewhat offended by the suggestion that they had killed the Caretaker.

"You seem to forget the unique nature of the Caretaker." Shadeen disagreed. "Who is to say how long he would have lived if you hadn't interfered with him, if he didn't have to use his powers to try and correct the damage you caused."

"But he was harming and killing other people, other races, innocent ones." Janeway could see that the Empress was about to react to that again so she decided to shift to another example. "Fine, then what about the Vidiians? We were attacked by them on countless occasions, barely coming out of each fight alive. B'Elanna, over there, was genetically dissected and split into two, in hopes that the Vidiians could find a cure for the Phage. Yet after all of that, it was our Doctor who, in the end, came up with a cure. We handed it over to them, helping them cure that deadly disease." By now, the Captain was trying her best to remain calm, remembering that these people could easily wipe out her entire ship.

"And what of Species 8472 and your alliance with the Borg to help destroy them?" The Empress came back and then smiled before adding, "Not that you actually did destroy them, but nevertheless, you participated in what you thought was the destruction of a species."

"What do you mean 'we didn't destroy them'?" Janeway asked, surprised about that statement and the smile which certainly wasn't a friendly one.

"What I mean is that you didn't destroy Species 8472, or the Dareni, to use their real name. We did."


"That is of no concern at the moment. Just that they know that we will annihilate the rest of them if they ever leave fluidic space again."

"So you also oppress your rules onto others." Janeway stated as if she had won the 'yes but' game.

However, the Empress was not that easily defeated. She leaned back in her chair a little more and spread her arms in a 'so what' manner for a moment. "I never said I didn't. You can't rule an Empire of the magnitude that mine is without rules that everyone has to follow. I never said I didn't do that, I asked what was there to stop you from oppressing YOUR rules in MY Empire. What is there to stop you from trying to contradict MY rules." Shadeen then leaned a bit forward again. "And right now you still haven't convinced me that you wouldn't do that. Right now, you still sound like somebody who only does things to better themselves."

"Fine." Janeway said, realizing that she had to number some of the good things that had come from Voyager's interactions with others. "What about our help in freeing the inhabitants of Unimatrix Zero?"

"And what about the Hirogen?" Shadeen once again countered. "You gave them holographic technology. A clear violation of your own prime directive, your own rules, to change their lifestyle. To inflict upon them, YOUR vision of what was right and wrong."
"They were hunting us! They were killing everyone unlucky enough to be deemed a worthy prey." Janeway was slowly beginning to lose her cool and self-control. Having every questionable decision she had ever made over the past seven years being thrown back in her face, as if the nightmares and constant guilt weren't enough, really ticked her off. After all, she was only doing her best trying to protect her crew, trying to get her crew home without any of the Federation's assistance each starship captain was used to, and most often took for granted. She couldn't let the Hirogen keep hunting her crew. She couldn't try to go around Borg space each time, it would add an unacceptable amount of time to their journey home. But she also wasn't about to let the Caretaker hurt and abduct anyone else, even if that was at the expense of them getting home. All she had done had been for the greater good and the well being of her crew. With that, she decided that she wouldn't deny her beliefs. "We represent the Federation of United Planets, and the rules they have set forth. The Federation consists of..."

But Janeway was interrupted by Shadeen. "We know everything there is to know about the Federation, our ships go there on a regular basis. But I am not talking about the Federation, I'm talking about you. The Federation is all the way back in the Alpha Quadrant. They have little, or basically even no, say in the action you take here in the Delta Quadrant, do they? Tell me, Captain, if I told you that right now, fifty light-years from here we are forcefully removing a population from its home planet, how would YOU react to that? Would you object?

Janeway knew that their scan of the Voyager files would have shown that she was a person to do this so she stood by her beliefes. "We would like to know why, but I think that I would object, yes. I, the Federation, is against the forceful deportation of people."

"And yet your precious Federation has done the same on NUMEROUS occasions. Now, you see, we have experience with the relocation of people. Their planet is about to be destroyed by a exploding star. Unfortunately, it is our belief not to stop these acts of nature since the galaxy has to keep renewing itself. But we don't see why we should let those billions of people die simply because they think that they should die with their planet."

"But that is their right." Janeway argued. Not understanding what the Empress was trying to explain.

"Ah, but you see, in the history of the Empire, this has happened several times before. And you know what the funny part is? Every time, EVERY time those billions of people who hate us because we took them away from their planet, suddenly love us when they see their precious planet destroyed. And when they understand that it wasn't for us, they would be dead now. Then suddenly not a single one of those billions hates us anymore. And suddenly they are so thankful to us for giving them a new home to live, because that is what happens. We give them a new 'world' to live on. We help them with building their society again.
And that is the problem. There are things happening in my Empire you would not agree to simply because you only see the moment. You do not see the bigger picture, what we are doing, what is really happening."

"Then why don't you enlighten us?" Janeway asked. If this was the problem then she might just have the answer. "You are right. We only see the moment. We arrive somewhere and only see what is happening, we have to make our decisions based on that. But if you let us pass, you would be deciding which course we would take through your space, so you would know what we would encounter. Simply tell us why you are doing that..."

"Enough!" Shadeen interrupted again. "I am not in the habit of explaining myself to anybody but my advisers, and my wife. And I'm certainly not in the habit of explaining things to someone who is ASKING ME if they can pass through MY Empire."

"Then maybe you should stop playing word games. Deciding if someone is an enemy merely due to the consequences of choices made is not honorable." B'Elanna mumbled so quietly that the Captain standing four meters (12 feet) away hadn't understood what she said. But apparently The Followers had excellent hearing for even over the comm. system, they had heard what the Klingon had said.

"Spoken like a true warrior, we might disagree on the fact whether or not this is honorable, but truly spoken like a warrior." The woman in the smaller chair said with a smile before the Empress replied.

"And I never said that you were our enemies. I just want to know what insurance I have that you aren't going to try and change my, our rules. For no matter what your dear Captain here says, you people have the habit of bending even your own rules to suit you."

B'Elanna quickly looked to Janeway who just slightly inclined her head, giving the Klingon permission to continue the conversation. "Seven, here, says that you are a race of warriors. In that case, our word should be insurance enough."

"But nobody gave me their word that they wouldn't interfere with our rules." Shadeen said calmly.

"Fine, then I'll give you my word." B'Elanna responded, irritated. She couldn't believe that the Empress hadn't simply asked for that if that is what she wanted to hear.

"The word of a Klingon is worth more than any contract put to a padd." The woman in the smaller chair explained, mostly for the benefit of the Empress since Shadeen didn't know as much about Klingons as her wife did.

"Hmm, well in that case, I hope for you, B'Elanna Torres, that your Captain will uphold the word that you have just given me. For I give you my word as Empress Shadeen, ruler of the Empire, that if your word is broken, all of you will regret it for years to come. Many years to come. A day won't go by that all of you will wish that you were dead. But that is a luxury that only old age will provide you. That is my word I gave to you." Then the Empress looked back at Janeway and addressed her. "Of course, we have to talk some more, but I would like to do that face to face. I suggest that you, and whoever you want to take with you, will gather in your conference room in one hour. We will then beam you over to my ship."

Janeway was glad that some headway had been made in the conversation but when she heard the Empress basically telling her what to do it somehow rubbed her the wrong way. "We would be more than willing to welcome you to Voyager." But Janeway stop talking when she saw how the eyes of the Empress had narrowed to mere slits.

"Captain Janeway, I understand that a strong will is a requirement for a Captain. And that this strong will has helped you survive by yourselves here in the Delta Quadrant for seven years. I can even admire that. But I am not the representative of some way off planet. I am the ruler over an Empire that is bigger than anything else in this galaxy. Do you really think that I would come to YOUR ship to talk about ME giving YOU permission to travel through MY Empire?"

"You are right, of course." Janeway agreed. Not because she didn't want to irritate the Empress but simply because she could see the point that Shadeen was making. "I'm afraid that during our years here, it has become kind of second nature to have talks onboard Voyager."

"Which probably is a good thing." Shadeen agreed, obviously more calmed down. "Seeing that we know some of the parties you have had talks with. Going to their planet wouldn't have been the smartest thing to do. Then we will beam you to my ship in one hour?"

"We will be ready."

"Good." Was all that Shadeen said before the connection was terminated and the viewscreen returned to showing the Imperial ships.

"Well, that was interesting." Tom said, mostly to break the silence on the bridge.

Janeway then looked to Seven. "You could at least have said that they could be so damn irritating." But the tone of her voice made it clear that this was not really meant, more of a way of breaking the tension. "That could have gone better."

"Actually, Captain," The blonde contradicted. "Even though it does not look that way, it appears that this conversation went very well. Being invited to their ship is certainly not standard procedure. There are a few races who have been assimilated by the Borg which had information from when they asked the Empire something, long before the assimilated races met the Borg. Usually when one is invited to their ships their whole behavior changes. To use a human saying, one could say that 'the battle is won' when one is invited to their ships. If they were not interested in us, they would have sent us away."

"You could have fooled me by the way the Empress was talking."

"To be honest, I can see their point. Partially at least." Chakotay spoke up. "I'm not talking about our history in the Delta Quadrant. I'm talking about the fact that we have encountered an Empire many times larger than the entire Federation, powerful enough that even the Borg perceive them as a threat. And then here comes a small starship which means nothing to them and we come very close to giving them OUR demands for passing through THEIR territory."

"Come now, Chakotay, I did no such thing." Janeway was obviously surprised by his words.

"Kathryn, you have to see it from their point of view. You heard what she said, she is not in the habit of explaining herself except to her advisers, and her wife. Since she is the Empress of such a large Empire, I can see her making decisions each day that affect millions, or even billions. To then suddenly have somebody come along and almost demand passage, I can imagine that this Empress wouldn't like that too much."

"I'm afraid I have to disagree with you there. She may be the Empress of her Empire, but that doesn't mean that I will do everything she says. I..."

"Captain, can I speak with you for moment, in private?" B'Elanna interrupted.

Noticing that this was somehow important to B'Elanna, Janeway agreed. "Let's use my ready room." She said and saw that B'Elanna gave Seven a small push in the direction of the ready room, indicating that she wanted the Borg to come along.

"Okay, what is it, B'Elanna?" Janeway asked after she had entered the really room and took position on the couch.

"Permission to talk freely, Captain?"

"Go ahead."

"Captain, about your remark that you wouldn't do everything the Empress tells you. I gave her my word that we wouldn't interfere with anything."

"And I guarantee you, B'Elanna, we won't unless it is absolutely necessary."

"Captain, the whole point of that conversation was that the Empress didn't want us to decide what was important and right or wrong in her Empire. And yet now you tell us that you are going to do so. I gave her my word!" B'Elanna almost shouted the last sentence.

"Settle down, Lieutenant. As I said, we won't interfere unless it is absolutely necessary."

"But who decides what is necessary? You said it yourself, we only see the moment. Kathryn, they have existed longer than the Borg. If they didn't know what they were doing then they wouldn't have survived until now."

"Listen, B'Elanna. I don't intend to break the word that you have given. But there are some things that I, as the Captain, can't ignore and nobody can make me ignore those things."

"The Empress can." The Borg spoke up. "Captain, up to now you and Voyager always managed to survive. Called it luck or ingenuity, you have even managed to outsmart the Borg on numerous occasions. But the Empress is not the emotionless Borg. If we were to break the promise that B'Elanna has given her, and we were to interfere in something. First she would correct what ever we had done, so we would have broken B'Elanna's promise for nothing, and then she would hunt us down like a Klingon would if he was fulfilling a blood oath. The only difference is that she has the means to find us anywhere in the galaxy, not that it is likely that we would get more than a few light-years from wherever it was that we had interfered."

"I understand that, Seven, but I am a Starfleet Captain, I have to stand by my beliefs."

"You do not have an option in this, Captain." Seven stated determined.

"As Captain James T. Kirk once said: 'Starfleet captains always have options'." Janeway quoted.

"As Captain Jean-Luc Picard once said: 'a Captain's first choice should always be to ensure the well-being of the Federation, even if this comes at the cost of that Captain's own beliefs'." Seven immediately replied, wondering why the Borg collective had kept that quote as relevant information.

"Meaning?" Janeway asked, surprised that Seven would answer her by also quoting someone.

"Captain, you know that I am not one for exaggerating. So believe me when I tell you that this Empire is capable of defeating the Borg collective. And the way we, Voyager, behave ourselves will determine whether the Empress thinks of us as people she can not trust and with whom she does not want any further contact. Or whether she see us as trustworthy enough to establish further contact. The potential gain for the Federation by how we conduct ourselves here is tremendous."

After that Janeway was quiet for a moment. She stood up and walked to the window before sighing deeply and turning to the two women. "You are of course right, both of you. Damn, when did I became so damn stubborn? I spent years in the Federation following orders that I often didn't like. I should be used to that. And most probably, I am only making smoke for nothing. If we are allowed to pass and they gave us a route to follow, of course they are going to keep us well away from anything that might 'tempt' me. If I had gotten a deal like this after we became stranded here in the Delta Quadrant seven years ago, I wouldn't have thought two seconds about it. I would have jumped at the chance."

"I, for one, am glad for that stubbornness." B'Elanna said to Janeway while she laid a hand on Seven's shoulder, giving her next words more meaning. "That stubbornness saved us more often than I can count, and that stubbornness brought Mesh into my life."

"Adapting is hard." Seven automatically put her arm around B'Elanna's middle, pulling her a little bit closer, not caring whether or not it was appropriate behavior. She had to show B'Elanna that she was just as glad that Janeway's actions had brought the Borg collective to send a drone to Voyager to mediate. "For years, you had to adapt to the fact that out here you ARE the Federation. And then you suddenly had to adapt again to listening to others telling you what to do."

Janeway turned to the window again and spoke more to herself than the two women. "Well, it seems that with some luck this is what I will be doing for the next twenty years. At least they should be safe years, somehow I think that the Followers are the only race with battleships in this Empire."

"It should be a safe time." Seven agreed. "However, it would not necessarily have to be twenty years."

Janeway's eyes immediately found those of the blonde. "What do you mean?"

"As I already stated, there is a high possibility that the next encounter will be a lot friendlier. Maybe actually friendly enough so that we COULD ask for their help."

"You mean trans warp?" B'Elanna asked surprised.

"Yes, as mentioned, the Borg have only seen them travel at warp sixteen. But still, that would mean that we could be in Federation space in less than two months. But if what the Borg have 'heard' is correct then they can travel at speeds of up to warp thirty."

"That would mean that we would be in Federation space in..." Janeway stopped talking when she tried to calculate the timescale. Speeds up to almost warp ten were something every Federation Captain knew. But calculating trans warp speeds was something else entirely.

"We would be in Federation space in less than fifteen minutes." Seven said, knowing that at this point neither Janeway nor B'Elanna would actually want to hear the answer down to the seconds. "However, I doubt that this would be a speed often used since the power drain is something to be considered. After all, it already takes fifty thousand times as much energy to travel at warp thirteen than it would to travel at warp three."

"Yeah." B'Elanna agreed. "But even though it is fifty thousand times as much, our warp core still provides enough energy that we could sustain warp thirteen."

The blonde nodded her head slightly. "You are correct. But let us not forget that the Empress said: 'We know everything there is to know about the Federation, our ships go there on a regular basis.' So maybe it is as simple as going along on the next ship going to the Federation."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves." Janeway interrupted. "Getting home really quick is a possibility that has passed us by on too many occasions. First, let's see how that talk goes. And B'Elanna, I now give you my word that I will keep the word you have given to the Empress."

"Thank you, Captain."

"Okay, Seven, since you are our expert on the Followers, I would like to have you with me during that face to face meeting. As well as you, B'Elanna. You have caught their attention. I expect you both in conference room one in thirty minutes. Tuvok will be the fourth and final member of the away team. Dismissed."

When the two women had left the ready room, Janeway settled back into the couch and looked out of the window. Realizing that she had almost blown the best chance of getting home they had had in a long time, only because she had become so damn stubborn. More stubborn than was even good for a Federation starship Captain. And that made her mind drift to something else she was stubborn about. For two years now they hade managed to hide it from everybody, except Tuvok. And the only reason they were hiding it was because Janeway insisted that the crew needed to think that the Captain was above things like that. 'No more.' she promised herself. No matter how this business with the Empire would turn out, after things had settled down she would no longer hide it. Janeway shook her head slightly and then said quietly, "Oh, Rebecka, how do you stand being in a relationship with me? You deserve so much better."

Note. All knowledge contained in this chapter about warp/trans warp speeds, as well as the power usage for those speeds isn't mine. I got that from: Daystrom Institute Technical Library (at: http://www.ditl.org/ ) a very interesting site. Go have a look.

Part 13

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