Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

The Traveler
By H.W.

Chapter 7

Earlier that morning in B'Elanna's quarters.

The Klingon was slow waking up, which was unusual for her. Normally she would wake up and be out of the bed within a minute, yet now it had taken her more than 10 minutes to get from the blissful stage of half-sleep to being awake enough to consciously open her eyes, which she had yet to do.

*Damn, I haven't slept like this for years.* She thought while she buried her face a little more into the softness it was resting against. Suddenly her eyes flew open as she realized exactly what that softness was and who she was using as a mattress. The events of the previous night came flooding back in. *I'm sleeping on top of Seven. I am engaged to Seven. I am sleeping on my fiancée.* A smile started to spread across her face. A smile that quickly disappeared when she suddenly set up straight because she knew for sure that this incredible thing had to be a dream.

"You are not dreaming, B'Elanna." Seven said reassuring.


"How did I know that you thought last night was a dream? Because I thought the same thing when I woke up. I awakend with you in my arms, just as I have dreamed. With your head resting on my…" A smirk that showed that Seven had noticed all too well how B'Elanna had buried her face into the softness she had found. "…chest, just under my chin."

"Really? Me too. Well, I mean that I've dreamt of being held in this position, not that I've dreamt of holding myself in this position of course, because, well…" B'Elanna stammered.

"Kyamo (beautiful one), do not worry, I understand what you mean. In fact, it is quite logical for us to have similar dreams. Just as it is logical for me to want to hold the woman I love in my arms and it is logical for you to want to be held by me. Kyamo, please do not attempt to raise one eyebrow like I do, you look like you might strain a muscle and I do not wish to see the doctor today. Rather, let me explain. I have done extensive research on the bonding of Klingons and humans and have come across several references that state that strong Klingon warriors who fight in many battles wish to be held, and feel protected, by their mates when not fighting. And it also stated that this behavior usually starts with the warrior wanting to be held while sleeping. Only later when the proud warrior realizes that this is nothing to be ashamed of do they start admitting this openly. And we have certainly encountered enough battles lately to prompt that behavior in you."

"Hmm, leave it to you to bring logic into a conversation about dreams, bring the doctor up in that same conversation, then bring up Klingon behavior, and actually know all the stuff you say in that conversation thanks to research. Tell me, have I told you already how much I adore your little quirks? Don't answer that and consider yourself told."

"I am merely stating what I know based upon the research I have done. The simple answer would be that we simply had two dreams that fit together perfectly… Just as we do."

B'Elanna closed her eyes for a moment when she heard those four last words. She would have never thought it possible to feel like that. That the simple feeling of two arms around her could change everything, make everything else secondary. Oh, she knew that she would give her life for crew and ship. Or that she would leave those arms at the very second a red alert would sound. Or that she would spend days on end in Engineering if that was required.

But still, none of it mattered as much anymore as it did only twelve hours earlier. Because now she knew what her last thought would be if she had to give her life for crew and ship, what image she would see before her eyes when she gave her last breath. Or that the only reason she would leave those arms was because she knew that those same arms would be waiting for her when the crisis was over. And working in Engineering for days on end? Ha! So what. Seven would be by her side and that's what counted.

Since B'Elanna really didn't know how to word the feelings she had, the Klingon half of her decided to ask the relatively neutral, "In that case, how did you sleep?"

They looked at each other and smiled. They both knew what Seven's answer to that would normally have been. So Seven decided not to use her obvious 'I closed my eyes and…' answer, but instead replied, "I do not know for certain but I believe that my answer to that would be… good."

"Why don't you know for certain?" B'Elanna asked while she lowered her head again. The heck with modesty. It felt simply right to be held like that and what was wrong with resting your head on the chest of your fiancé anyhow?

"Because I do not have any reference points. This was actually the first time I slept."

"What?" B'Elanna asked surprise and once again sat up a bit so that she could look into Seven's eyes.

Seven understood the predicament that B'Elanna was dealing with. Either be held in a very comfortable embrace or be able to look Seven in the eyes. So the Borg accommodated her fiancé by also shifting position. She sat up and pulled B'Elanna against her. This way, if she wanted, B'Elanna only had to look up to see the Borg's eyes.

"Yes. While the doctor did encouraged me to sleep, all my attempts at doing so failed. After I had tried for eight consecutive nights to sleep, the doctor agreed that I was not ready yet and said that I should just rely on regenerating for now. However he did encourage me to try to sleep whenever I felt the need to."

"But if you haven't slept before then how could you have dreamt of holding me in your arms?"

"Because I also dream when I regenerate."

"What?  I didn't know that.  Why didn't you tell somebody?  We always assumed that you are totally unconscious while you regenerated."

"Kyamo."  Seven said tenderly.  "The first dream I ever had was about you sealing one of our arguments by kissing me.  The second dream I had was about you tenderly trailing your fingers across the exoskeleton of my hand while you were reprimanding me about how and how not to use that hand.  The third dream was ab… about something else. Why would I tell anybody about that?  What is wrong with dreaming of the person you love?"

"You're right. There is nothing wrong with me dreaming about you." B'Elanna agreed, deliberately changing the words. "But I would still like to know how it is possible that you can suddenly dream. I was present when you once told the doctor that you actually didn't dream. Remember? So when did this change? And don't you go telling me that this has something to do with you becoming more human. This is mechanics. I could understand that some things changed if some of your implants had been removed but that hasn't happened. So how the hell can you suddenly dream?"

"I started having dreams after we found and removed the virus in the Borg alcove." The Borg could feel B'Elanna stiffen when she said this. "I checked the entire alcove after I had my first dream and found that the virus had changed the programming of the alcove slightly just before we removed it. I no longer only stay in the second stage of sleep, which is a semi-conscious state. Since the virus changed the programming of the alcove I am now occasionally allowed to reach R.E.M. sleep. Not as often as is normal for a human, but often enough to have at least one dream each time I regenerate. This is something the original programming of the alcove prevented entirely from occurring. And something that is also different from normal human beings is that I can remember each dream I had. Humans only remember the last dream they have before waking up. But if I have two or even three dreams I still remember all of them."

"So, for once, something good actually came from one of those viruses. But still, that is months ago.  You should have told me," the Klingon accused.

Normally the tone AND the words that B'Elanna had spoken would have been enough to either annoy the blonde, or put her completely on the defensive. But Seven knew that B'Elanna was only concerned for her and that knowledge made all the difference. Because now that accusation actually felt good to the Borg. A fact that her logic-driven mind could not understand at all but knew that it simply had to accept. So Seven explained with a voice filled with understanding.  

"I tested the alcove extensively and there was, and is, no danger.  Kyamo, now that I could finally dream, dream of you, I did not want to lose those dreams again. That is why I did not tell anybody."

"Okay." B'Elanna relented. "I can accept that, I… I would have probably done the same thing. But I insist, and there are no compromises on this subject, that I will check out that alcove before the next time you regenerate. I promise I won't change anything as long as it isn't dangerous." The small nod that Seven gave B'Elanna was all the confirmation by Klingon needed. So to keep the conversation light she then smoothly changed the subject. "So you were basically telling me that I put you to sleep?" B'Elanna's smile made it clear that she was trying to lighten the mood.

"I would rather say that you were the one thing that was missing in my life to make it comfortable and complete enough for me to sleep but if you wish to phrase it that way…"

"Damn, Seven, you know how to make a girl feel good. That was beautiful."

"It was the truth."

"That you actually mean it is what makes it so beautiful."

Seven's answer to that was to tenderly start kissing B'Elanna, which they continued doing for several minutes.

"Wow, now that is a way to start the morning. Morning?" B'Elanna then interrupted herself, realizing that she was too rested for the four hours of sleep that she could have had ad at the most. "Computer, what time is it?"

<The time is zero nine hours and three minutes.>

"Oh, damn." B'Elanna groaned. "I forgot to set the alarm. No wonder I'm so rested. It is not often that I actually get eight hours of sleep. Well, we most obviously overslept."

"No we did not. This may have been the first time I slept but I only slept for three hours and forty minutes, which was more than enough for me. I then told the computer to disable the alarm and send a message to the Captain informing her that we would start later today because we worked so long yesterday and it would be more efficient to grant you an acceptable amount of time to sleep."

"You did that while I was sleeping right on top of you? I really must have been tired. I assume the captain agreed?"

"Of course, I would have woken you if she had not."

"Of course. Ask a stupid question…" B'Elanna mumbled. Then she realized something else and this time let go of Seven entirely. "Oh, Kahless, that means that you were awake for more than four hours with me lying on top of you."

"Do not distress, B'Elanna, I used the time most efficiently."

"Yeah, I guess that photographic memory of yours does come in handy sometimes. So what did you think about?"

Seven smiled in a way that the Klingon would best describe as patiently tolerant. "I used that 'photographic memory of mine' to remember everything I observed in those four hours of watching you sleep. The comforting feel of your weight on top of me. The rhythm of your breathing. The warmth of your body against mine from toe to... chin. The smell of your hair. The smell of your body, which is almost the same as that of a normal human but thanks to its Klingon Heritage it smells... spicier, more full of life. The way your left hand unconsciously traced the offshoots of my abdominal implants on my side. The way you mumble very softly in Klingon, which I find absolutely adorable and... cute. The way..." The Borg stopped when she saw tears rolling down the Klingon's face. "I hurt you." She said, distressed.

"No you didn't, you stupid Borg. You made me feel so good inside that all I could do was cry."

"Klingons do not cry."

"Yeah, well, Klingon/human hybrids do. But don't tell anybody. Janeway is the only other person who knows this. Rather, tell me what I said in my sleep. Tom has told me that I sometimes mumble in my sleep but he couldn't understand what I said."

"Which most probably is a good thing. It took my enhanced hearing, which Tom does not have, and my knowledge of the Klingon language, which Tom also does not have, to clearly understand what you said. And I really do not think that he would have liked to hear you talk about what you are planning to do to me when you finally get into that 'damn biosuit'."

"Oh, Kahless in a freezer. You heard that? You know what I want to..."

"Yes I heard. And, Kyamo, I am looking forward to it."

"But, Seven, some of that is quite... rough." B'Elanna seriously said, wanting to clear that up before they were ever in a situation where talking about it was the last thing on their minds.

"Some of it was. But you are forgetting that I listened to you for more than four hours. And while you were not talking for the entire time, I did also hear you speak about things that are slow and tender. You have pretty much covered your entire spectrum. Even up to the use of certain attributes you were willing to use if I wanted something else." Seven made sure that B'Elanna was looking her into the eyes before she added, "And let me assure you, Klingon, nothing of what I heard was too rough for me. Are we finally clear on that, SuvwI' (warrior)?"

" Hija' " (yes), the Klingon said after a moment of hesitation. But then started to explain exactly why she was so hesitant. "Seven, sometimes, experience counts more than knowledge. You may research all you want about this but until you actually experience it, you never know for sure whether or not you really like it. For instance, what is so hard about not touching your partner when your partner has ordered you not to do so? That is really incredibly easy, isn't it? You simply don't touch your partner right?"

"That is correct."

B'Elanna took hold of Seven's hand, which was continuously trailing along the Klingon's arm without the Borg realising that she was doing so.

"You see, love." B'Elanna quickly placed a kiss on the hand. "That is precisely what I mean. You have researched this and to you this simple command sounds so easy, oh, so very easy. But I have actually experienced it. And believe me, those kinds of commands are the hardest to follow. To actually NOT use your hands. To keep your eyes closed, or actually keep your eyes open.
Love, the point that I'm making is that until you have actually experienced it, you don't know for sure. And one thing I can guarantee you is that the first time you actually experience it, your reaction will be 'all of my research could never have prepared me for this'."

"Kyamo, I believe that you are misunderstanding me." Seven countered. "I do not assume that I know everything there is to know about this. I actually know that I will most probably forget all of my research at the very moment this will happen. And honestly, I HOPE that I will forget all my research. Because at that moment I want to truly give myself to you and not think about whether or not what I am experiencing is the same as what my research has suggested.

But until that very moment, I only have my research and the current knowledge of my body. So until I actually experience this I will talk about what I know. My research and my body. And, Kyamo, my research has told me what I can expect as far as physical pain and pleasure is concerned. My knowledge of my body tells me that I can easily take the POTENTIALLY physical pain and my body is already hoping for the pleasure. So when I am talking about wanting something I can only talk based upon my research. And I look forward to you teaching me the practical side of my theoretical knowledge."

"In that case, continue convincing me. Because I have to admit that the SuvwI' (warrior) in me still needs more convincing if you really want her to not hold back when the situation occurs."

"Very well." The Borg agreed. "But first let me thank you for saying honestly that you need more convincing. No matter what else ever may happen, we should always be honest with each other, always have an honest relationship."

"Always. I promise you that, Annika. No lying about feelings. No saying that one is all right when one really isn't. Our love will be the foundation our relationship is built on; honesty will be the glue that holds the foundation together. We will never, ever have to doubt each other because we will always talk openly with each other. Only that way will our love always exist without the tarnish of a stain upon it."

"And you say that I have a way with words. Yes Kyamo, honesty will be the only rule in our relationship. The rest will be agreements and…" A smile. "…compromises. Because I know we will never agree on everything."

"Deal. But because I know how precise you can be with words, my beautiful Borg, let me make clear that I will sometimes answer evasively or lie to you. But never on anything even remotely important. For instance, if you ask me if I have a present for your birthday then I might say no and thereby lie about that. But I will not say that I like a certain food if I really don't only because I think I should be nice to you."

"Very well, I can agree to that. But for the rest, honesty."

"Honesty." B'Elanna repeated. She knew that the marriage with Tom had been doomed to failure from the beginning. But what had made it even more difficult were the small lies one told to not hurt the feelings of the other. B'Elanna swore on her Klingon honor that this was not going to happen in this relationship. There would be no secrets. Well, okay, the only secret she was ever going to keep from Seven was whether or not she had a present for her birthday. But that was it. "Anyway, you still have to convince the warrior. So start convincing."

The Borg answered the Klingon's grin with a smile of her own before starting to explain. "As I told you, I have done extensive research about this. As a matter-of-fact, I have researched all there was to find about Klingons in the Federation database. So I know that all that talk about bloodshed and breaking of bones during copulation is only a myth. Yes, Klingons can be rough and because of this, accidents do sometimes happen. So, yes, occasionally there are broken bones and blood but this is not intentional. They are nothing more than accidents. All those myths come from the few times that very violent Klingons copulated with women or men who thought that they could handle it. But statistics show that there are actually fewer injuries with Klingon copulating or Klingon/human copulating then they are between humans who decide that they want to try 'the rough stuff' once."

"The rough stuff, huh?" B'Elanna interrupted. "Have I told you how much I love hearing phrases like that coming from your lips?"

"No, you did not. However, I will consider myself told once again. Now, as I was about to say. You will notice that until now I have not spoken about the fact that my body is much stronger and resilient then a standard human body because of my Borg enhancements. However, I have avoided that topic deliberately. Because even without them I am sure that I could handle everything you have to offer. But if you still are afraid of that then remember that I AM Borg. I AM capable of denting duranium, I AM cable of overpowering everybody on board this ship, including you. I have nanoprobes in my blood that are capable of healing injuries a normal human being would die from."

"Yes, but…"

This time Seven silenced B'Elanna by softly putting two fingers against her mouth. "The biggest problem about this alleged roughness of Klingons is that this belief is so widespread that even young Klingons believe it until they have their first copulation and realize that it is not so. Kyamo, I think that the biggest problem with this specifically is that you simply had the wrong partners up till now. I like Tom and he is my friend, but he is not suitable for you. There is a huge difference between being rough and being… temperamental. You need somebody who can keep up with you. Somebody who actually wants more and is not just going along with you because you like doing it. And I truly believe that I am that person. So stop being afraid that I might change my mind when I actually fully experience that Klingon heritage of yours." Seven could still see a trace of reluctance in B'Elanna's eyes so she tried a different approach. An approach that she knew only too well. Logic. "Very well, tell me, B'Elanna. Every time you copulate, is it always rough?"

"No. Usually it isn't. Most often it isn't. But, Annika, the occasional time, every month or two, I always had to restrain myself because it was more than Tom could handle."

"You are now specifically referring to Annika to indicate that my human side could have troubles with this, correct?" But before the Klingon could answer, Seven continued. "Well then let me tell you one of Annika's secrets, Klingon. Annika usually dreams about tender, but once in a while she dreams about submitting to the Klingon. Do not assume that Annika would not be welcoming and even relish such treatment once every couple of weeks."

"You would?" The Klingon asked surprised.

"Yes, I believe I would. Why do you find that so hard to believe?"

"Well… I don't know really. It's just that, I, well, I guess, you see... As you know, I worked on the data we recovered from the 'Raven'. I have actually seen the little innocent six-year-old Annika. And I somehow find it hard to compare that to the woman who just assured me that she would like to see some of that Klingon Heritage of mine."

Seven softly tapped B'Elanna against her forehead, against the Klingon ridges there. "No, Kyamo, not some of that Klingon Heritage but THAT Klingon Heritage. Not some. Is that finally getting through that thick head of yours?"

The Borg's approach was successful because B'Elanna couldn't help but grin at that. "It is slowly starting to get through. Please be patient with me. All my life I have needed to play that down, to control that part of me. I have to get used to suddenly having somebody truly accepting it. No, not just accepting but actually wanting it. And you know what the funny part is? As much as I am talking about it, you are absolutely right. It is only occasionally. It is more like some sort of battle lust. In certain circumstances, I truly want to be that dominant Klingon. But much more often than that, it is actually my Klingon half keeping my impatient human half in check. Showing the human the fun of a slow, patient, drawn out love session."

"I am glad that you are finally beginning to see what I already know…"

"From research only." B'Elanna interrupted and reminded.

"Kyamo, believe me, I may not have put my research into practice yet but I know more about this than any Klingon ever did before they started copulating. The only thing that is missing is that I actually experience it. And I also want to comment on something else you just said. You may have seen an innocent little six-year-old Annika in that data, but now I am a grown woman with a twenty-seven year old body. Only three years younger than yours. Lanna, I may call my human side 'Annika' but I am not that little girl anymore. She does not exist anymore. The Borg killed her and there is no way of getting her back. My body has the impulses of a twenty-seven year old. And it wants things that it could even easily handle without the Borg enhancements.

"It is just because humans, even half humans like you or me, always fall back on what they know to guide them in their life that I sometimes seem inexperienced or, as you call it, 'innocent'. However, Kyamo, I have already spent three years with you and your personality. I do have experience with that. So, I think I know what I am getting myself into. I know that I love everything about you. And your Klingon Heritage is a very big part of why I love you. I love that temperament of yours and I hope that we will never stop fighting. Because I like the fights we have. I like that Klingon straightforwardness you have. And I especially like when you actually use that straightforwardness instead of having your doubts cloud your mind. I love the way…"

"So you like that straightforwardness, huh?" B'Elanna interrupted because Seven's speech had given her the courage to ask something very important. "In that case, let me ask you this very straightforward. Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One, Annika Hansen, will you move in with me?"

Surprised, Seven took a deep breath. Even though she had expected that B'Elanna would ask her this question soon, hhe had not expected to hear the question SO soon. She had expected that it would take B'Elanna at least a couple of days to get used to the idea of living together with somebody again. However there was no doubt in Seven's mind about what her answer was going to be.

But before the Borg could answer, B'Elanna took the deep breath as a wrong sign and quickly stood up and started pacing the room. She wanted Seven in her life as much as possible so she immediately started with explaining why moving in would be a good idea. Not even for a moment looking at Seven. If she had done so, the smile would have told her what the answer was.

"I mean, I know that according to Klingon tradition we could go on living separately for the next five years but I don't want that." (end of room, turn, start walking) "I love you and I want to be with you. I don't want to keep this quiet as I did with Tom in the beginning." (turn, start walking) "As a matter-of-fact, when we speak to Janeway this afternoon about what we realized about this traveler, I wanted to ask the Captain to send a official ship wide memo informing people, if you agree of course." (turn) "I want the entire universe to know, but I will settle for the entire ship…"

"Kyamo...", Seven interrupted quietly.

"… I know, Seven." B'Elanna rambled on. "I know that this is not really necessary but," (turn) "I still want to do it. Unless you really object. But there are also other reasons. Senior staff is allowed to have their own rooms. You shouldn't have to live in a 'cargo bay'!" B'Elanna practically spit those last two words and then continued rambling. "Now, I know that moving in isn't exactly having your own rooms but if you're going to move, I would like to have you here." (turn) "And that cargo bay simply isn't safe…"

"Lanna..." Seven tried again.

"…No, Seven, everybody can walk in there while you are regenerating and you don't notice it. I know. I have been there each time you regenerated the last couple of months and you never noticed my presence."

B'Elanna was so caught up in a rambling that she didn't realize what she just confessed to Seven. Nobody knew that B'Elanna had spent at least one hour each night when Seven was regenerating just looking at Seven, looking at her own idea of perfection.

"And it would also be better for your health if you lived here. Because you would eventually get a rhythm into your life. Something I know you don't have at the moment. Going to bed at night. Breakfast in the morning. Dinner at night then sleep again. Much better than what you have now..."

"B'Elanna," this time Seven was actually quietly laughing.

"…And if you live here than nobody would disturb you when you are sleeping, I mean sleeping sleeping, not regenerating. Though I do tend to move in my sleep. Not that I'm assuming anything but… okay, so I am assuming that we would sleep in the same bed…"

Seven decided to just lean back and wait until B'Elanna was either finished rambling or would finally look at her. She actually enjoyed seeing the Klingon ramble on like that.

"…And you could use the kitchen here if you want to cook. I could teach you a few things. Not that I'm any good at cooking. But then again, you don't have to be any good at cooking to be better at cooking than Neelix. But if you don't like to cook then I would love to make you something once in a while. I'm sure I could get better at it, cooking I mean.

"And to be honest, I don't trust that alcove of yours anymore after what you just told me and I would only feel comfortable if you were regenerating in a alcove we built from scratch. And then we could just as well build it in here, in some corner. Once again, nobody to interrupt you when you are sleeping or regenerating.

"And… and… ah, you could have Naomi over when you are staying here. I like the kid so that wouldn't bother me at all. I would like that. And… and… you could use half of the closet space to hang your biosuits so that they don't wrinkle. Do your biosuits actually wrinkle?"

B'Elanna was so caught up in her rambling that she still hadn't looked at Seven so she was completely missing the unbelievable sight of a Borg shaking with silent laughter.

"And… and, you would also be rid of that stupid 'regeneration cycle complete' voice. And, when we live together we actually get replicator rations for two persons so we could actually save replicator rations when we would use the kitchen. And Naomi could also come over more often…"

When B'Elanna started to repeat herself Seven decided that it was time to put her out of her misery. So with difficulty, she summoned her best monotone Borg voice and tried a complete; "Chief Engineer Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres."

Seven was finally successful and the Klingon stopped dead in her tracks. She slowly turned to Seven, realizing what a fool she just had made of herself. However, luckily, the Borg had the most beautiful smile on her face that B'Elanna had ever seen. And then those beautiful lips formed the most beautiful word that B'Elanna had ever heard.




Now that Seven had agreed the nervous butterflies left the Klingon and she got some of her calm back. Though there was no way of getting rid of that broad smile that had come to her face when Seven had said yes. "That's all? After that entire speech, you simply say yes?"

"It seems that you are quite capable of using enough words for the both of us." Seven said while she got up and moved to the Klingon. She put her arms around B'Elanna and rested her hands on the Klingon's backslide.

B'Elanna had no control over it when her eyes fluttered shut. Feeling Seven's body against hers, in front of her, and feeling Seven's hands on her backside was almost enough to short-circuit her brain. And that was with clothes on. She was sure that the ability to stand would automatically leave her if this same situation were to happen when they were both naked. That thought was enough to make her hearts beat in overtime and she quickly stepped back, out of the Borg's reach. "That is something you shouldn't do when we still have to work, love."

"Why not? Does that not arouse you? Or are you afraid to feel my arms around you, afraid to feel my mesh covered hand touching you? A hand that has enough power to transform your beautiful body into nothing more than a bloody heap?" By now Seven's tone had changed from warm and loving to that famous cold Borg tone and her questions were asked in an accusatory way. It pained the ex-drone that she had to do this but she needed to prove this point.

"What kind of stupid questions are these?" B'Elanna asked outraged. How could Seven think that B'Elanna would be afraid of those implants? The hurt was obvious to hear in the Klingon's voice. "How can you even suggest that?"

"Because I noticed that you changed the subject to living together without actually ending the conversation about your Klingon Heritage. Kyamo, I am sorry that I had to do this. But you just proved my point. All what I said about my implants is true. Yet you do not fear them while they are touching your body. In fact, you want them touching you. The same goes for your Klingon Heritage. It is something others might have to fear but to it is something I could never think about fearing. Just like you want to feel my mesh-covered hand on your body I want to experience that Klingon side of yours."

Finally B'Elanna's facial expression changed from outrage to total understanding. Finally, FINALLY she understood what Seven meant. You don't need experience or research to love something. You simply need to love a person entirely and you will love everything about that person.

"Thank you for explaining, Annika."

The tone in the Klingon's voice told Seven that she had finally gotten her point across. So she once again changed the subject. This time back to the living together.

"I wanted to agree to living together before you even started with explaining why living together would be a good thing. Though I really did like your explanations. If you had not asked me, I would have asked you in a couple of days. I just thought that maybe you needed some time to adjust to the idea of it again."

"Okay, in that case, why don't we speak a little about the moving in, and the moving of your personal possessions while we have breakfast."

"I do not require n…" Seven started to say but she realized that even though she was not hungry, she still could eat something if that meant that she could have the experience of sharing a breakfast with B'Elanna so she quickly changed her statement. "I would love to have breakfast with you. Though only a little, I am not that hungry."

B'Elanna caught the change and it brought a smile to her face. *How have I ever managed without her? Just the fact that she wants to eat breakfast with me makes me happier than Tom ever could.* She realized that even though it was true it still was not fair to her friend who had certainly tried everything to make her happy, *Sorry Tom.* she thought before saying out loud; "Great, one breakfast coming up."

Chapter 8

B'Elanna finished putting the remains of the breakfast away which seems only fitting to her since it had been Seven who had ended up making the breakfast stating that B'Elanna's methods was inefficient.

"I think I'll have a quick look in Engineering before we go give our report to the Captain. You okay with that?"

"It is acceptable. The report to the Captain is important but not urgent and I know that the first thing you do when you start working is take a look at the warp core."

"Sure, call me predictable why don't you." B'Elanna joked as she started moving toward the door. "Okay then, shall we go?"

"Yes, Kyamo." Seven replied and started to get up from the couch.

B'Elanna stopped when she heard Seven once again call her beautiful one in Klingon and joined Seven by the couch. "You really like calling me that, don't you?" She asked while they both sat down again.

Seven smiled and openly took a good moment of time to admire the view of B'Elanna sitting there, looking at her. "It suits you. And I like the way it sounds. If there is a single word in the Klingon language that fits you perfectly, then it is Kyamo. Do you actually know the precise origin of the word Kyamo?"

"No, I don't. It's just a Klingon word like the rest. A beautiful one..." B'Elanna grinned at her chores of words, which had been accidentally. "... A beautiful word, I mean, but as far as I know, it is just a word."

"That is incorrect. There is a specific history to that word. At the time the original Kahless lived, there was no Klingon description for 'beautiful one.' However, Kahless wanted a word that described his wife perfectly. After days of thinking, he decided that the beauty of his wife was so unheard of that no word in the Klingon language was good enough to describe her. So he came up with the term 'Kyamo.' And since then the use of the word Kyamo is only allowed to describe a beautiful Klingon woman."

"Damn, Seven you really do know a lot about Klingons, don't you? But, um, than how come that nowadays the word Kyamo is used to describe everything beautiful. Even a very good-looking Targ."

Seven used her Mesh covered hand to brush away some of the hairs that hung before the Klingon's face. She liked how B'Elanna reacted no differently to the normal hand than the hand with the exoskeleton on it. How B'Elanna leaned into a caress with that hand just as much as she did when Seven used her other hand.

"Because now, almost no one remembers the exact origin of the word. But, during the time that the real Kahless lived, you would have been killed for using the word Kyamo to describe a Targ. So, unless you object, I would like to keep calling you that, Kyamo."

"I don't mind at all. I also like the way it sounds." B'Elanna leaned in to steal a small kiss. "Especially when it comes from these beautiful lips. So, you just keep right on calling me Kyamo. Mesh."

It took a moment for Seven to understand that B'Elanna had just used her own form of endearment. And without really realizing it, she looked at her Mesh-covered hand that was still between them.

The Klingon took the hand between her own two hands before explaining tenderly. "That is what everybody else will think. And I am fine with that. Let them think that. Let them think that it is a reference to your Borg enhanced, Mesh-covered hand. But the real reason why I will call you that is something private something known only to us. I want to call you that because..."

"...because of what the word suggests." Seven interrupted B'Elanna, already knowing and understanding what the Klingon was trying to say. "The word 'Mesh' is often used to describe the coming together of two things in a haphazard way.  It would refer to the Meshing of my Borg nature and my humanity."

"Yes, Mesh, but also it would indicate the coming together, the Meshing, of our love for each other. Because, you've got to admit. If something came together haphazard then it's us."

"Indeed." Seven only said while she raised her eyebrow in her typical superior Borg manner. But then she quickly decided that she would rather be kissing B'Elanna, so she took a moment to do so. A moment, and a kiss, which turned into several kisses and a couple of minutes. Finally, she decided that they really had to go if they were ever going to leave the quarters that day. So she stood up and headed to the door. But just before the sensor would detect her, she realized that she had forgotten a small detail. "Computer, what is the translation status of the Klingon word Kyamo?" She asked, wanting to know if the computer would translate the word in the rest of the ship.

<The Klingon word Kyamo is listed as an endearment/profanity that is not to be translated into Federation language unless said in an ongoing conversation. Other words in this category are in order of common usage; raktajino, petaQ, jay', bang, Hu'...>

"Computer, stop reply." Seven interrupted when de computer continued giving detailed information. She then turned her attention to B'Elanna. "You have the computer set to detailed replying. Explain. You always told me to 'shut up' when I was expanding something in detail."

"Mesh, first thing, you said it right. 'Told' you. Past tense. I never do that nowadays, do I?"

"No, you do not. However that does still not explain why you used to interrupt me."

"Did it annoy you when I told you to shut up?"

"Yes, it did."

"Then you know why I always told you to shut up. I like detailed information but I like telling you to shut up even more."

"Ah, in that case, I can explain everything in detail from now on." The Borg was not at all surprised by that explanation, she had expected as much.

She and B'Elanna finally left THEIR quarters and started walking to the turbolift. "You, of course, do realize that your alignment of the magnetic constrictors yesterday was off by 0.005 percent. I could explain how to correct this in the future. Then you..."

"Mesh, shut up." The Klingon said with a smile. Knowing only too well that Seven was merely having fun.

"Yes, Kyamo." The Borg dutifully replied and then added, "For now."

As soon as they entered Engineering, B'Elanna and Seven had split up. B'Elanna going to Lieutenant Joe Carey and Seven went to examine the warp core readings.

"Okay, Carey, tell me what we've got," the Klingon said.

"Nothing really to tell. We have steady running, nothing reported except for the standard small stuff, and nothing that would indicate that a new virus has activated." Then he continued with a smile. "I see that you're letting the Borg near your warp core without double-checking what she's doing, "Carey said. And then continued while faking excessive nervousness, "Should I check if the escape pods are in good working order?"

Carey was B'Elanna's second in command and he had seen how the two women had grown to each other in the last couple of months so they both knew that he was only teasing and needling his chief and good friend.

"Hey now, if I were you, I'd watch what I would say about my fiancée." The Klingon came back just as jokingly and realized at the same moment exactly what she had said. She wanted the entire ship to know but she would have liked if her friend (and Captain) had been the first to hear the news. But there was no way of taking back her words and she wouldn't deny the truth of them even under torture. So she decided to keep the conversation light and said in a sweet, innocent voice. "You wouldn't want me to get all protective about my fiancée, now would you?"

While she was saying this, she dusted some imaginary lint of the Lieutenant's uniform jacket. The whole scene was so innocent that was almost scary. However before Carey could ask if he had heard what he thought he had heard, never mind clarifying whether or not he was just 'threatened', they were interrupted by the clanging of tools being dropped and scattered about the floor by a young Ensign who had been only recently promoted to Engineering. The Ensign was so caught up in 'accidentally' overhearing the conversation between Carey and B'Elanna that she had walked straight into the warp core console, scattering the tools that she was carrying all over the floor.

"Are you damaged?" Seven asked the Ensign while she was helping her up from the floor.

"You guys are actually engaged? Wow. That is so cool. We've been waiting for that to happen for years! The group will never believe me when I tell them this. This is so… Wow."

B'Elanna sighed at the inevitable question.  She really did want everybody to know about her engagement, it was just that she wanted to tell her closest friends first. Tom, Harry and Janeway. Those people should have been the first to know. So she was a bit reluctant to tell others this news first.

But, then again, this was her engineering staff. They deserved to know and she was just dying to tell more people about her love. 

While this conversation was taken place, Seven took a moment to look around Engineering. She saw that nobody was working anymore and everybody was listening to the conversation. The Ensign's excitement had made sure of that. Seven was surprised to see nothing but smiles and approval written on every face. And the few that saw her looking at them returned the look with eyes filled with well wishing.

"Rachel, calm down." The Klingon addressed the Ensign. "Yes, Mesh and I got engaged late last night. So you guys are actually the first to know."

"Mesh?" Rachel asked. "Ah, you mean Seven. Nice nickname. Anyway, we never believed that you guys really hated each other. We always thought that all that fighting was just pent-up sexual frustration. It is so great to be proven right. Oh boy, the group will have a baby when I tell them this. Say, talking about baby, have you two actually… um, you know, consummated and all that stuff?"

"Kyamo, would you mind if I assimilated your engineer. At least that way she would stop asking questions that are unhealthy for her continued existence."

"Um, Rachel, you know that I don't mind that you talk so openly, but you do need to learn that you simply don't ask certain things. So, don't ask. And what is this group you're talking about?" B'Elanna decided that it was better to steer the conversation away from dangerous subjects that could try even Seven's patience.

"Oh, nothing really." Ensign Rachel suddenly started to answer vaguely. "Just some of us lower deck personnel who like to get together and gossip about ship's business. Hey Seven, I also like the Kyama nickname."

"That is Kyamo, not Kyama. And you are answering evasively."

"Eh, I am? Um, I really got to go. I have to do maintenance on the turbolift."

With that, Rachel quickly gathered the tools from the ground and left Engineering almost at a run. But she didn't go to the turbolift. She headed straight for her quarters. She had to let the group know this great news. Turbolift maintenance could wait for a couple minutes.

B'Elanna laughed when she looked at the retreating figure. She couldn't help it, she just liked the kid. "Anyway, Joe, Seven and I have to make our report to the Captain so you will have to hold the fort a little while longer."

"Sure, no problem. And let me be the first one to congratulate you on your engagement. I think you two fit together perfectly."

"I must admit that I am surprised by your reaction to our engagement. I had suspected more resistance to the fact that B'Elanna and I have begun a relationship."

Carey shook his head when he heard that. "Neh, Seven, not anymore. Sure, the first year you were on board pretty much nobody trusted you. But three years have passed since you got here and you have shown us, on numerous occasions, that we can trust you. You have saved this ship several times and you have proven that you certainly deserve a place here. I know that you don't have many close friends but you also, as far as I know, have no more enemies on board this ship and we all like you. So we certainly won't mind that you would get involved with our stubborn Chief Engineer here."

"Hey, I resent that. I am not stubborn. Okay, so I'm a little bit stubborn." The Klingon said, in mock outrage before getting serious again, "Thanks, Joe, that means a lot to me, to us. I'm glad that I don't need to go around breaking noses left and right."

Carey rubbed his own nose in response to that. "That would be a good incentive. But it really isn't necessary. I guarantee you, there's only sincere well wishes from the crew."

"Most of the crew." Seven corrected.

B'Elanna knew whom Seven was talking about so she decided not to react. She was sure that her friend would be happy for her. Certainly, Chakotay would only wish for her happiness.

"Well, see you later, Carey."

Seven gave a small nod to the Engineer and left together with the Klingon.

They were halfway to the turbolift when they met four members of the crew debating something rather actively.

"It appears that the Ensign was quick in spreading the word. They are talking about our relationship." The Borg sometimes found her enhanced hearing quite useful.

"Yeah. It looks like the news might reach the bridge before we do."

"I highly doubt that, the bridge is a sealed off part of the ship. I am sure that the entire ship knows by now, except the bridge. I do not believe that anybody from the crew would specifically go to the bridge to spread gossip. Nor would they send a message. I believe that this is one of those cases where everyone knows except the senior staff."

"You're probably right. But only because lunch break hasn't started yet. Because then I'm sure they would know."

By now, they had reached the crewmembers who were suddenly extremely quiet, not really knowing what to say. Finally, one of them gathered the courage to speak.

"Sooo. Um, is it true? You guys finally got involved, officially, I mean?"

"Yes, X." B'Elanna answered the woman whose real name was so difficult to pronounce that everybody simply called her X, which was at least the first letter of her name. "Seven and I got engaged yesterday, according to Klingon tradition, and today, Mesh agreed to move in with me. Which means you and Rachel will have to help Harry, Seven and me build a new alcove in our quarters. I want that finished by the next time Mesh has to regenerate."

"Sure, boss. You just give the word and we will be ready. I like that nickname by the way, Mesh, sounds like something I would come up with. Um, that is… not that I have dreamt of being close enough to Seven to have a nickname for her." Then X realized that Seven was also present. "Oh, God. I'm not saying that I wouldn't want to be close to you, just that I ain't. I certainly wouldn't mind being close to you. As a matter-of-fact, I have dreamt of that, um… I didn't say that, you didn't hear that. What I meant was…"

"X, stop digging." B'Elanna came to the rescue. The Klingon certainly couldn't blame her for having a crush on Seven. "She will let you go on until you wish you could sink through the floor."

"That warning comes a bit too late, boss. I already want to sink through the floor. But…" X sighed and took a deep breath. "Let me assure you that I am absolutely happy for you. You deserve each other. And I mean that in a good way. Not that I mean… I am going to shut up now."

"A very wise decision." The Borg finally said. "I thank you for your well wishes. They are… unorthodox but appreciated. Shall we continue, Kyamo?"

The Klingon didn't answer but started walking to the turbolift with a big grin on her face. She looked to the side and saw a smile on Seven's lips when they both heard the excited X saying: "Did you hear what she called her? That is so…wow."

When the doors to the turbolift finally closed behind them, B'Elanna could not contain her laughter and even Seven was laughing silently. "Do you think she's part of this group Rachel was talking about?" The Klingon finally asked.

"I would say that the chance of this is highly likely." Then the Borg sobered up and her voice became serious. "I was fully prepared to ignore the negative reactions of the crew to our involvement but these positive reactions make me feel accepted, part of the collective."

"I think Carey was right, Annika. You may only have a few good friends but you certainly have a lot of friends on this ship, even if you don't know it yourself."

"I am starting to realize that." Seven said while the doors to the bridge opened and they both stepped out. "It is just that..." But Seven never finished her sentence. Her eyes had drifted to the viewscreen and she had seen the ship on it. Suddenly, she couldn't move anymore. Now that Species 8472 was once again back into fluidic space there was only one known species in the Galaxy that were a threat to the Borg collective. For eighteen years, Seven had lived with the knowledge that there was one thing that could threaten the continued existence of the Borg collective. Now that Seven could feel emotions again, seeing that ship filled her with fear. However, that fear was only short-lived. It was quickly replaced with the need to protect her collective. To protect Voyager.

"What's the matter, Mesh?" B'Elanna asked when she noticed that Seven had stopped moving. But the Borg never answered her. What happened next on the bridge was more important.

"Okay, Tuvok..." Janeway said.

But before Tuvok could do whatever the Captain was about to order, a purple light was filling the bridge. "WE are being scanned." Tuvok said calmly, if a bit redundant.

Seven could feel how Tuvok was looking at her but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the ship on the viewscreen.

"Raise Shields."

These words from Janeway were finally enough to prompt a reaction from Seven. She knew that she had to act now or it could already be too late. So while Janeway was still saying her last word, her voice was drowned out by a not so cool nor composed blonde urgently screaming...


That reaction was even enough to stop Tuvok from carrying out his orders.

"Seven?" A surprised Janeway asked.

That question and B'Elanna's hand on the small of her back guiding her was enough to finally get the Borg moving. And it was only the contact of that hand on her back that gave Seven the self-confidence she needed at that moment.

"Seven, I am waiting for an explanation. We are sitting ducks with our shields lowered."

"I realize that, Captain, but they never attack unless provoked. However, the meaning of the word 'provoked' is rather broad-based with them. Everything can be a provocation if they are looking for it. Raising our shields could be considered a provocation."

"Okay, I can accept that. But I would still rather have my shields up in case they decide that something else is a provocation and start firing upon us."

The Borg opened her mouth to start explaining more precisely what she meant but decided that she really needed to get the Captain's undivided attention before Janeway would make a decision based upon only a part of the information. So she opted for a very blunt but effective; "If they start firing upon us then our shields would not make any difference. There weapon technology is far superior to Voyager's."

"Come now, Seven. I'm sure that we could handle a ship that is ten times smaller than Voyager." The Captain said. But to her credit, she didn't simply assume this. She wanted Seven to prove her wrong. However, it was not Seven who was going to prove her wrong but the other ship.

"Something is happening." Harry said when he saw the indicators on his board lightening up. They are powering up weapons and shields, Captain."


"This is a unwise decision, Captain." Seven tried again.

"Your objection is noted, Seven, but I still want those shields up."

"Kathryn, you will kill us all." Seven said in a last desperate attempt.

But, luckily enough, that attempt was very effective.

"Harry, what do those readings tell you?" The Captain asked. But when the young lieutenant didn't answer, she looked at him and saw disbelief written all over his face. Janeway had enough of it. She wanted answers and she wanted them now. So instead of trying to give another order, she stood up and walked to Kim's station. When she saw the readings that were on the board, she too needed a moment to find her words.

"I stand corrected. Thank you, Seven. At the moment, that little ship has a weapon signature that is more than fifteen times as powerful as that of the most powerful ship in the Federation. The shields measure as more than twenty times as powerful as anything the Federation has."

"That is correct." Tuvok had rerouted the information through his board because he saw it as his duty to double-check those readings. And he saw it also as his duty to give more information. "And I suspect that they are not running at full capacity. The readings are too steady for that. They do not show the power fluctuations one gets when the systems are running at top capacity."

"So they are just showing off?" Paris chipped in.

"I think it is more like they are looking for what our reaction will be." Janeway took the time she needed to get back to her chair to think about what her next action would be. "Any suggestions, Seven?"

"They always allowed the Borg to retreat. Maybe they will allow us to back up."

"They ALLOWED the Borg to retreat?" Janeway asked. "Very well, they didn't answer our hails, they won't let us through, and they just basically told us that picking a fight with them is not a good idea so let's see if we can go around them. Tom take us back fifty thousand kilometers at warp seven, then set a course that will take us around them, leaving at least those fifty thousand kilometers between us."

"Yes, ma'am."

The next five minutes were spent in tense silence. Finally, Tom set the new course and they once again started in the direction of the Alpha Quadrant.

"If you want to raise the shields, Captain, then now is the time to do it." Seven said, knowing only too well that the shields really wouldn't help them but they would make Janeway feel more comfortable.

"Well in that case, Tuvok, raise shields."

"Shields at one hundred percent."

All the time this was happening, the mysterious ship didn't move. But when they finally came alongside the ship, though at a fifty thousand kilometer distance, the ship started moving and then it just disappeared. Only to reappear in front of them again, blocking their way once again.

"All stop." Janeway ordered. "Did my eyes just deceive me or did that ship jump from one place to the other."

"It did not 'jump'. It moved at a speed in excess of warp ten." The now completely calm Borg explained.

"What? They have Transwarp capabilities? But I didn't see a Transwarp conduit?" Janeway asked surprised.

"They do not need a conduit. Their shielding is strong enough to protect the ship from being torn apart by the forces that act on a ship at Transwarp. The fastest speed that the Borg have ever seen one of their ships travel at was warp sixteen point six. But the Borg believe that they might be capable of speeds in excess of warp thirty."

"This just keeps getting better. Any idea why they won't let us through? And what more can you tell us about them?"

The only two reasons I can think of for why they won't let us through is because either they are protecting something, or we have reached the border of their territory. And as for what more I can tell you, do you want this information now or do you want to hold a senior staff meeting?"

"You're right again, Seven. A senior staff meeting is definitely what we need right now." She got up and moved in the direction of conference room one and only gave the order as in an afterthought. "All senior staff to the conference room."

Chapter 9

Author's note: In the Star Trek Voyager episode 'dark frontier II' the Borg Queen tells Seven that they are about to assimilate species ten thousand two hundred something. I used that number as an indication for the amount of races there are in Empress Shadeen's Empire.

Somewhere else in the galaxy.

"I don't care."

Zerisan was the aid of Empress Shadeen from her birth. She was one week younger than the Empress and they had been brought together for that single purpose. Shadeen was to be a possible heir to the throne and Zerisan was to be her aide. Luckily for both of them, they fitted together perfectly and a strong friendship had built between them from a time even before they could speak. So, Zerisan could see that her Empress was in danger of losing her patience.

"By the Divine ones." Empress Shadeen continued. "Why do I even bother with these fools if they really think that I would, for one minute, believe their excuses. They start wars with everyone they can find. They are stupid enough to actually begin an attack on MY empire. And then, after they don't have a single spaceship left, they come crying and begging to ME for help because the other races they had started wars with suddenly saw the chance at vengeance. And when I agree to protect their miserable excuse for a society, they have the impudence to tell me that OUR researchers were faulty. Tell me, Zerisan, I have twenty-one thousand six hundred and eighteen races in my empire. Why do I even bother with such fools as the BroN'es?"

"You bother because you DO care, my Empress. But not about the fools that are in power, you care about the common people. Because the government was so set on winning wars, ninety-five percent of the population now lives in poverty. Thousands die each day of hunger. THAT, my Empress, is why you bother."

"Well then, I guess that means that I have to do something about the fools that are in power. The time for playing nice is over. Send in the troops. Occupy the planet. I want each government position filled with one of my soldiers."

"You want to occupy the planet because they falsified reports? Isn't that a bit… drastic?" Zerisan asked. Being the aide of the Empress, Zerisan was one of the few from whom it was actually expected that they questioned the Empress's orders. Questions made a person think. Only dead rulers had no one to advise or question them.

"It isn't about the falsified records. It is about what they are lying about. They agreed that in exchange for protection they would abide by our rules. Now, I have no delusions. I know that gifts are exchanged to gain favor. But on a government level, there is NO, I repeat, NO corruption in my empire, or anything I protect. I do not allow it and I do NOT tolerate it. If they wanted to keep their precious system of buying their way into government help then they shouldn't have come to me. They shouldn't have agreed to follow the rules. So now it is time I introduce them to the first rule. 'Abide by the rules or suffer the consequences.' I want that planet up to standard within two years. I want poverty erased in one year. And within three months, nobody will die of hunger anymore on that plant. Also, introduce our standard government system into their society. I have a feeling that the population will like it, even though the 'rulers' won't."

"Do you want to take the planet into the Empire, Empress?"

"The size of the Empire hasn't changed in three thousand years. And it's also not going to change for these idiots. I will be glad to hand the planet back over them once a government is in place that can actually think. But until that day, their planet will be occupied territory, but not part of the Empire."

"And if the new government asks us for our continued protection?"

"Then it will become one of the places outside the empire which are not possessions of the Empire but still protected by it. Zerisan, if I were to take everybody who asks into the Empire then everybody would come begging for help against their biggest enemies. I would end up ruling over the entire galaxy and frankly, I don't need the headache of that."

"Yes, Empress, it will be done." Zerisan said with a smile. She knew what Empress Shadeen was talking about. At least once each month somebody came pleading for help. If it wasn't against the Borg, it was against the Hirogens or against the Voth, or, or, or.

"Anything else?"

"Several things, Empress. But they are subjects with blurred lines."

Empress Shadeen lifted her hand to Zerisan. Indicating that she wanted her to come forward. "In that case join me, my wife, I have gone too long without touching you."

Their race was proud of the fact that they were multifunctional. Everybody had more than one function. It often happened that a person receiving orders from somebody one moment, would, at the next moment, be giving orders to the same person because they both were filling a different function at that moment. Zerisan had several functions. Imperial Guard. Bodyguard of the sole heire of the Empire. Chief pilot of the Imperial wing. Aid to Empress Shadeen. And Lady of the Empire, wife of Empress Shadeen.

Zerisan joined her wife on 'the throne' as it was called. It really was simply a comfortable chair with buttons built into the armrests. All the Empire was at Shadeen's fingertips. It was positioned with the back against the wall, directly opposite of the only entrance to the room but it certainly wasn't the lavishly decorated center of the room that most would expect. While their race did know what luxury was, even though they were warriors, Empress Shadeen had never been one for excess. As long as her clothes fit her well and her chair was comfortable she was satisfied.

Zerisan opted to sit on her wife's lap and took a good deal of time to properly welcome her wife with leisurely kisses. They both had long ago grown accustomed to not holding back their love for each other because others where present. If they were to do that, then they only would have the five hours a day that the Empress tried to spend with her family.

Not that any of the operatives in the room had a problem with this show of affection. As a matter of fact, in the entire Empire only a few would have problems with it. The rest, as the operatives, wanted their Empress to be happy. They wished her a healthy and lucky family life. And the operatives in the room knew only too well that occasionally, weeks went by without the Empress being able to enjoy her family life. She tried to spend several hours each day with her family but too often the Empire came first. So, nobody in the room would even think about the possibility of being upset over the fact that their Empress took a few minutes with her wife.

"Talk to me, love. What is wrong?"

"Before I came in here, the minister of family affairs wanted a moment to talk with me as Lady of the Empire. He asked me when we were planning on having more children. He reminded me that it was tradition for an Emperor or Empress to at least have fifteen potential heirs to the throne."

Shadeen laughed at that and then once again kissed her wife. "Just like it is also tradition for the Emperor or Empress to have a harem of three thousand wives and or husbands. But you are all the harem I need. There isn't , and won't ever be, anyone else but you." Then she got more serious. "You should have reminded him that only THE divine ONE, The Traveler, the ruler over all of the other divine ones, has the powers to make a mortal pregnant without the interference of technology. So when I found myself pregnant with Xakana seven years ago, and tests showed that the rest of her DNA came from you, my wife, I saw that as a clear sign that Xakana is to be the sole heir to the throne. If The Traveler wants more heirs to my throne then he will take care of that. But as long as neither of us suddenly becomes pregnant, there will be no other heirs."

"Um, I did tell him this. He took that opportunity to tell me that it was time that we told the Empire the truth. That we used technology to create our child."

"He said what?! Get him in here, NOW!" Empress Shadeen shouted. The minister of family affairs was the last descendant of the previous imperial family before the throne was appointed to family Shadeen almost twenty thousand years ago. He was one of the few who was against the rule of Empress Shadeen. Simply because he wanted to rule for himself. He had actually entered the last election three years ago and only seventy-four people in the entire empire had voted for him. Yet, he still harbored illusions about his family name once again being the Imperial one.

"Beloved." Zerisan said. Trying to temper the angry ruler. "It is his right not to believe in the Divine ones."

"Zeri, I couldn't care less about what he believes in. That has nothing to do with this. What this is about is that I proclaimed that I found myself pregnant with Xakana, OUR child, something you know is true. And he basically says that he doesn't believe that our child was conceived only with the blessing of The Traveler. That, is what this is about."

When Zerisan understood what her wife was saying, she too got became furious. The actions of the minister were inexcusable. "Carizon."

That one word was enough to be considered an order for Carizon. An order which he had received from the Lady of the Empire. "Yes my lady, my Empress." The last two words were directed at Shadeen and then he was out the door.

"You wanted to see me, Empress?" The minister asked calmly after Carizon shoved him through the door. Carizon and Zerisan had understood the hidden insult after the Empress had made it clear and now they both could barely themselves in check. They wanted to kill this worm who dared to insult their Empress.

Empress Shadeen waited until Zerisan had stood up and was standing to the side of the throne. "Zerisan tells me that you told her that we should officially announced that we used technology to conceive our child. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Empress, as you know, we may all choose whether or not we believe in the Divine ones. And I do not believe in them. There is no crime in that."

Shadeen slowly rose from her throne and came closer to the minister. "Do you really believe that I wouldn't recognize the real meaning behind those words?"

"Empress, I, eh, really don't know what you are talking about. It is my right not to believe."

"This has nothing to do with your right to believe and you know it. I said that one day I suddenly was pregnant, and the second parent of that child is my wife and that this has happened thanks to intervention of THE Divine One. And you say that you don't believe this?"

"Agan, Empress, it is my right…"

"So you are saying that I lied to my own people, my own race? You accuse ME, Empress Shadeen, of lying to her soldiers? How dare you?" Shadeen reached to her hip and pulled the ceremonial warrior's knife out of its sheat. This knife was given to each soldier to indicate that they had passed the training and could now call themselves soldiers to the Empire. In this time of phasers and projectile weapons the knives were rarely used, but it was the first weapon one had to master before one could become a soldier. The knife was still used in challenges and close combat; when an enemy was so close that phasers or projectile weapons were more a hindrance then they were of help. They were made of a special material so strong it could cut through duranium and it wouldn't even leave a mark on the thirty-centimeter long blade.

The knife Shadeen was holding at the moment had been handed down through time from Emperor to Emperor for the twenty thousand years that the Emperor or Empress had been called Shadeen.

"Defend yourself, for you are going to die today." Shadeen said in the standard opening to a challenge ritual.

The minister drew his knife and started circling the Empress, who did nothing more than keep him in her line of sight. Tradition stated that the challenged, in this case the minister, should have the first attack. That first attack was nothing more than a pathetic slicing of air and to her disgust, Empress Shadeen could easily see that the minister had only kept his training proficient enough to pass the tests without being punished. While his skill was enough to serve in a war, it was pathetic compared to someone like the Empress.

But still, the first attack had been made and now she could kill him. She was just about to move forward and plunge the knife into his heart when he started talking, hoping that he could break her concentration enough for him to win the battle.

"Do you really expect people to believe that crap about The Divine One being behind your pregnancy? I bet that you and your little whore got it on one night and decided to use the 'services' of one of the guards. Am I right?" He asked with a sneer.

Even though his words had an effect, it was not result he was expecting. Empress Shadeen slowly put her knife away, deciding that it was too good to get dirty with blood from the likes of him. Then she looked at him and her eyes told him that at this moment Empress Shadeen was at her most ruthless. Now, he was facing the person who could order millions of people to death because they had threatened the Empire. And the minister realized that the last minutes of his life had just begun.

"Not only do you call me a liar, you also dare to insult my wife?"

Before the minister could answer, Shadeen slipped through his defenses and hit his chest with so much force that the splintering rib bones penetrated every vital organ in his body. "Nobody insults my wife unpunished. Die slowly, you vermin."

Their bodies were strong, built for battle. So even with a pierced heart it took the minister almost ten minutes to die. The last thing he saw before everything went dark around him was the Empress looking at him with contempt in her eyes. At that moment, when he knew that this ambition would never be fulfilled, realization hit him. He understood how poorly he had served the Empire the last years. Even if he didn't like the Empress, he still should have served the Empire. And with his last breath he was glad that he was about to die. Because the Empire didn't need people like him. He thought about how the Empire would have fared with him as Emperor and for the first time in his life he was glad that such a good person as Empress Shadeen was sitting on the throne. So with his last breath he whispered: "Long live Shadeen."

Two guards stood beside the body of the minister, waiting for the order of what to do with the body. Empress Shadeen had heard his last words and knew that in his last moments of life he had once again become a worthy servant of the Empire. "Give him a soldier's funeral. Let his body burn up in the sun of or Homeworld so that his spirit is free to be judged by the Divine Ones."

"Yes, Empress, it shall be done."

Zerisan took hold of her wife's hand and they both went back to the throne. "Are you coming home with me now?"

"Yes, my wife. When we were joined I promised you that the Empress would never enter our household, save for when she had to give orders to others. But in our household, she would never exist. When Xakana was born six years ago I promised you both that I would always be there on special days. The only thing that would keep me from that would be an all-out war. I may be an hour ore so late, but I will never miss one of those days. So yes, my love, we will go home now as I do not intend to miss my daughter's birthday." Shadeen then took a deep breath before slowly beginning. "My love, today or daughter celebrates her sixth birthday. I know that training only starts after the eighth birthday usually. But she IS the heir to the throne. I think it would be best that from now on she would attend official gatherings. And I would like it if, from now on, everywhere we go she would be introduced as the heir to the throne. I want to slowly start introducing her to the knowledge of politics."

"But love." Zerisan countered. "I know that one day she will take your place on the throne, and I know that training usually starts at eight years; mine did. And I also know that this training builds gradually, leaving enough time in the beginning for the child still be a child and play. I know all that. But still, love, can't we wait till her eighth birthday just like the rest? Can't we give her those two extra years?"

"Zeri, it is time. When I was six years old, I was leading admirals, generals, and tens of thousands of troops into mock battles against my father in training exercises. I was seven when I won the first training battle against my father's troops. I was eight when I succeeded in capturing my father. Yes, I know, the outcome would have been different if it was a real battle and actual people would have been killed; then I would never have won those battles against the Imperial Guards. But the fact is, when I was as old as Xakana, I spend all my time training and learning. I don't want that for my child. But it IS time for her slowly start. Simply accompany me and watch and listen."

"The reason why the Emperor was training you so hard was because he was already aged two hundred and eighty-five years and even though we stay strong and healthy till the moment we die, we still only rarely live beyond three hundred years. The reason he was training you so hard was because he was disappointed in his other children and you were born fifty years after the last of his sons. He saw you as the last hope to keep the name Shadeen a proud one. A name that the soldiers would want to die for. And he was right. His hard training paid of and also prepared you for the Imperial Guard training you did later on. But you, my beloved wife, are merely thirty-seven years old. You have still more than enough time to prepare your heir."

"And that, Zerisan, is the reason why I want Xakana to slowly ease into this. To merely accompany me in the beginning; to just sit and see what my job really is. She will still have years to be a child and play, to form that strong friendship she has with the girl which will one day be her aide."

Shadeen smiled knowingly at her wife. Both of them had seen the strong connection between Xakana and Dorani, the young girl who accompanied Xakana everywhere. They both knew that the bond between the two young girls had been made. Pending intervention from the Divine Ones, the name Dorani would one day make its entrance into the imperial family's history.

"I know, and understand that, but still..."

Shadeen sighed deeply. She was used to giving orders and whatever she said happened. But at that moment she was not the Empress. She was a woman talking to her wife about the future of their daughter. Her wife, whom she had to convince, not order. And Shadeen was glad that her wife had always been able to stand up to her on those occasions where the Empress did want to surface and give orders. That did not happen in their marriage and Zerisan was sure to remind her of the fact often enough. That was one of the reasons why Shadeen loved her wife more than life itself. Even if it sometimes made things a little bit harder.

"Beloved, we can't wait too long with this. Because one day, there will come a time when I have to teach my daughter to give orders." Suddenly Shadeen touched a couple of buttons on the armrest and a small screen came out of the chair, filled with information. "One day I will have to teach her how to say 'attack' and then later on, read a report like this. This is about the BroN'es. More than six hundred thousand dead. Over two million that will never be the same again because of wounds they had suffered. How many of those were fathers? Or mothers? Or daughters? Or sons? How many little six-year-old BroN'es will never see their parents again because I said the word 'attack'?"

"They started a war against us, they suffer the consequences."

"I know that Zeri, and I would have still given the order if ten million of them had died. But that is not what I'm talking about. I can give that other because of my training. I can give that order because, if needed, I would destroy everyone who would dare to attack the Empire. But I know that I couldn't have given those orders if I hadn't been trained to handle their effects. Beloved, I don't want our daughter to suffer because her training was not good enough. I would rather train her too much then have her experience a single nightmare over the results of orders she has given. Zeri, beloved, it IS time for her training to begin."

Now it was Zerisan who had to sigh deeply. "You are right, of course. It is time. But promise me, love. Promise me that it will happen slowly."

"That I promise you. I promise you that as your wife, the birthmother of our child, AND as Empress Shadeen, ruler of the Empire. That is the major advantage I have over my father. He had only ten years to train me. I have one hundred years to train Xakana, and hopefully more than one hundred fifty years to be her adviser. Her training will be so slow that she won't even really realize that she is being trained. As I said in the beginning, she will merely accompany me and listen. She will be excited about the fact that she can see the Empress of the Empire at work. She won't even realize that she is learning things at the same time."

"Very well, that approach I can except. You have my blessing, Empress."

"Thank you, my wife. Now, let's go home and celebrate our daughter's birthday."


But just when they were about to get up Carizon approached them.
"Empress, my lady, the ISS (Imperial Space Ship) Zakood has encountered a spaceship which might just be the 'something' we are looking for."

"Zakood, Zakood." Shadeen said while thinking which ship this was. "Ah, scout ship eight thousand seventeen. At the moment it is patrolling sector ninety-five of the border."

"That this correct, Empress. They are, at the moment, blocking the way of a Federation starship..."

"Federation? What are they doing at sector ninety-five of our border? Besides the fact that they don't have the technology to get there in the first place, there is also the small detail that my Empire lies between their current position and their Federation in the Alpha Quadrant."

"That is correct again, Empress. The Zakood has scanned the ship and from their database, it seems that they were taken to the Delta Quadrant against their wishes by..."

"... The Caretaker." Shadeen finished. "I told him that we could help him reproduce offspring. Or else that we could take over protecting the Ocampa. But no, mere mortals couldn't possibly protect the Ocampa. Whatever happened to the Ocampa by the way?"

"I don't know, Empress. Do you want us to send a scout ship and see?"

"Yes, does that. But whatever happened, do not intervene. We offered our help and it was rejected. Now survival is up to them."

"It will be done, Empress." Carizon said and then returned to the subject at hand. "About the ship. From their files we know that they are on route to the Alpha Quadrant and that is what brought them to our border."

"Ah, yes. A little inconvenient that my Empire lies between them and the Alpha Quadrant. Did they try hailing our ship?"

"Of course. It is a Federation ship after all. And from what we know from their database, they survived seven years in the Delta Quadrant while keeping their Federation principles relatively intact."

"I almost feel sorry for them. The sophisticated Federation people suddenly being dropped in the roughest part of the Delta Quadrant. You said that their principles stayed 'relatively' intact. So they were tried?"

"Yes, Empress. And you have every reason to feel sorry for them. The first enemies they made were the Kazon. Their database shows that over those seven years they had to break their 'Prime Directive' on several occasions to survive. But it seems that their Captain also had the difficult task of incorporating criminals into her crew."

"Now it becomes interesting." Shadeen said leaning forward a bit, which caused Zerisan to stand up and take her rightful place beside the throne.

"Yes Empress." Carizon agreed. "Apparently, they were pursuing a group of what the Federation called terrorists when both they and the terrorists were taken to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker. The detailed information is in this padd." Carizon handed Shadeen the padd and continued. "But, to make a long story short, they ended up integrating the 'terrorists' into the crew. And then some years later they came across another Federation starship brought there by the caretaker. They hadn't succeeded in living up to Federation standards but the crew of Voyager, that's the ship by the way, ended up taking them on board also. And from this data it seemed that the Captain was able to make a functioning crew from this."

"Hum, you are right. This might just be that 'something' we are looking for and..." Shadeen interrupted herself when she saw the gleam in Carizon's eyes. "And what else? I know that look, my friend. You are keeping the best for last. So what more is so special about this ship?"

Carizon smiled at his friend and Empress and then specifically looked at Zerisan to indicate that she would find the following information also very interesting. "It's about two of the crewmembers. One is a former Borg drone. Severed from the collective and now an extremely productive member of the crew who has actually helped defend the ship against the Borg on several occasions."

"Interesting." Shadeen agreed.

"Yes, my Empress. And you, my lady, will find the other crewmember very interesting. She is a human/Klingon hybrid."

"Klingon?" Zerisan asked excited. I like the Klingons. They are a little bit like us and..."

"Yes, beloved, we know about your hobby of keeping up with different honorable warrior races in the Galaxy. And it seems as if you are about to meet your first Klingon, even if she is only a hybrid."

"Ah, but with the Klingons, their hybrids often are more like what the Klingons want to be then the real Klingons are themselves."

"We will soon find out. Carizon, give the orders. The imperial wing will leave in one-hour." Then Shadeen focused her attention on our wife. "And you will be on the bridge with me as my wife."

"But I am your chief pilot. I should be at the helm."

"Not this trip, beloved. On this trip you will be my wife and bodyguard of the heir to the throne. Xakana is coming with us."

"But..." A sigh. "Yes, a good choice, my love," she then said, specifically saying 'my love' to indicate that she was agreeing with her wife that this would be a good opportunity to start the training of their daughter. And that she wasn't bowing to the orders of her Empress. "However, we can't be too careful. There is Borg technology on that ship. I want our daughter to be injected before we even leave."

"Of course, I was about to suggest that you do that while I prepare everything on board the ship." Shadeen agreed. "And please tell our daughter that I haven't forgotten about her birthday. That Federation ship isn't going anywhere. They have to get through our space. So, we won't be traveling quickly. Once the wing is underway we will celebrate her birthday and she can have a good time with her friends."

"Thank you, beloved. Thank you for taking time for your family."

"I won't lie to you and say that I would destroy the Empire to save my family, you know that this would be a lie. But I would die for my family and I will certainly take the time for you if I can. Now go and make preparations. By this time tomorrow, you might just meet your first Klingon."

"Yes, Empress." Zerisan said while she turned and left the room.

Shadeen looked at her wife as she was leaving the room and with difficulty suppressed a lustful growl. *By the Divine Ones. How I love that woman.*

Chapters 10-12

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