DISCLAIMER: To all the lawyers out there - Paramount owns Voyager, I don't. I'm just doing this for fun, not profit, so please don't sue me. Please?
WARNING: T/7…if f/f bothers you, please don't read (not that there's actually any in this so far...but you never know ;)

Words Mean Nothing

By Quew

Part 9

B'Elanna automatically leapt across, protecting Anna from any more explosions and when it became clear there were going to be no more, she helped the blonde up. Moving as fast as her injury would allow, Anna led the half-Klingon toward a squat, solid looking grey building on the south side of the compound.

'What the hell is going on?' B'Elanna cried over the noise of the next explosion.

'Your employers are attacking us! Did you lead them here again?!' Anna cried.

B'Elanna dearly wanted to round on Anna for being so stupid, but she held on to her temper tightly and spat 'You know I didn't!'

They reached the building, and B'Elanna noticed many other people hurrying from all over the base into it. Anna and the engineer followed them in, and they ended up in a low, long room full of shelves. Anna pulled off her dress without a hint of modesty and quickly pulled a pair of black combat trousers from a shelf, slipping into them. She tossed another pair to B'Elanna, who stared at them for a moment before making up her mind and getting into them. A black shirt followed, along with a reinforced bullet-proof vest and a pair of boots. Once they were in their kit, they went into another room and B'Elanna was armed with a large projectile weapon.

'If you're not with them, you won't mind defending this place against them,' Anna said as she loaded her own shotgun. B'Elanna noted the way the mechanism worked and mimicked the procedure easily. Before she knew it, she was in the middle of a pack of people running for the boundary of the base. They ran through a patch of scrubland and then hit small copses, the trees affording them at least some cover. Behind them, the base was at the centre of an ever expanding circle of black clad people - it looked like every person in the base was out.

Anna was on her left, a man on her right. The blonde was obviously suffering with her injury but refused to let in show, keeping pace with all of them, her face a grim mask. As they rounded a small hillock, B'Elanna gasped.

Laid out below them, about half a mile away, a huge task force of specialist police units were laid out, their formations perfect. The leader of B'Elanna's unit called a halt and they dropped into the scrub around them.

'Thank god we've only got another hour or so until darkness,' Anna whispered. 'They've really pulled out all the stops this time!'

B'Elanna peeked up again, this time with a pair of binoculars that were being passed around, and saw something that made her blood run cold. Strutting in front of a unit of tough looking individuals, Claudia was obviously making some sort of speech, her arm movements wide and enthusiastic. The men and women in front of her were stood to attention, their eyes following her every move, and their faces all held an expression that B'Elanna was all too familiar with.

She could see the loyalty, the pride of being led by that strong, capable woman in their eyes. She knew they would do anything for her - a Janeway tended to inspire that kind of feeling in their subordinates.

Swearing slightly under her breath, she checked her weapon nervously, aware that deep down she didn't really want to have to use it. At least with phasers you could make the shot non-lethal. This time she didn't have that option. She turned to Anna.

'Isn't there anything we can do?' She whispered. 'Can't we talk with them?'

Anna shot her a look that was half understanding, half anger. 'We've tried. They sabotaged the meeting and nearly killed three of us the process.' The blonde watched B'Elanna's face as her words sunk in, and then she gasped as a realisation hit her. 'You don't get it do you? Words…they don't mean anything. People lie. People twist things. Whatever anyone says, they usually don't mean it; they're just trying to get what they want; what they need; what they think they deserve. Actions count. Actions don't lie. Words…words mean nothing.'

B'Elanna reeled, Anna's impromptu speech hitting her hard. You've spent too long in Starfleet, a voice inside told her. She's just recited exactly what you thought while you were with the Maquis. Don't you remember? And then, you join Starfleet and you get caught up in their words of diplomacy and unity…you know the real world isn't like that…

'You're wrong,' she said, a steely undercurrent to her tone. 'I do understand.'

As if sensing B'Elanna's turn toward her sensibilities, Anna nodded. 'Are you ready?'


'Good. Because they're coming.'

B'Elanna gasped and poked her head up out of the cover. Sure enough, the ranks of people below them were slowly and inexorably marching forward. She saw the first line hit the trees and immediately begin to use the cover, staying in the shadows and making it hard to pick them out.

'What are we going to do?' She asked.

Anna squinted up against the setting sun and sighed. 'Whatever we can.'

It was damp, the moisture from the loam seeping through the engineers clothes as she lay on her belly, covered by leaf-mould and netting. The unfamiliar material of the ski mask she was wearing itched, and her head was aching from wearing the heavy night-vision goggles for too long. Her shotgun was lying beside her, ignored, as she adjusted the sight on the silenced rifle stretched out in front of her in the darkness.

Her ears were pricked for the slightest movement around her, but all she seemed to be able to hear was her own heartbeats thudding crazily.

Suddenly, a twig snapped. Desperately trying to control her breathing, B'Elanna looked for the source without being able to move, swinging her eyes back and forth over her area. Just as she had finished, a foot appeared, treading lightly and carefully by her left cheek. It had missed her by a hairs breadth, and B'Elanna felt sure that the owner of the foot would be able to see her.

Apparently not, as the foot was joined by its partner, and the owner of the feet carried on. B'Elanna became very aware of the feel of the rifle in her hands as the person came into view, walking slowly and wearing night-vision goggles. In her world of fluorescent green vision and painfully controlled breathing, B'Elanna realised that she would have to kill this person. She didn't want to - Kahless knows she had, when she had been with the Maquis - but she didn't want to.

You are a warrior! She told herself. Act like one!

Slowly, rising out of her camouflage like a vengeful demon, she raised her gun and fired. It was a different kind of fighting, she realised as the bullet left the gun in slow motion. Gone was the honour of facing an honourable foe; she was shooting people in the back.

The gun bucked in her grip, and made a flat 'Phhhuutt!' sound, the silencer effectively deadening the noise of the shot.

She saw the person jerk as the bullet entered their chest, falling to their knees. Played out in the green of her night vision goggles, B'Elanna saw the person fit one last time, and then their body was still. For at least a minute she stood and watched, waiting for them to groan, to roll over, to breath.

When she came back to herself, she found she'd fallen to her knees, and a small patch of vomit was soaking into the forest floor in front of her. She groaned, and, keeping her eyes averted from the person she'd shot, she stumbled deeper into the woods. It didn't matter how many times you fought and killed, it never got easier.

You'll never be a true Klingon! A disgusted inner voice called.

I don't want to be! She replied. And I don't need to be to be a warrior!

She dropped the gun, wishing for a batleth or anything else. She would rather have been in the Tsukante ring, fighting someone face to face to the death, than sneaking around in the woods and shooting people in darkness.

You've done it before, a part of her argued. When you were with the Maquis, you had to do many things like this. What's changed?

I have.

'You! Stop!'

Cursing her inattention, B'Elanna raised her hands and laced her fingers over the top of her head.

'Turn around and take off your mask!' The voice ordered.

As she did so, B'Elanna realised that she knew that voice. She took off her mask and goggles and then strained into the near complete darkness.

Suddenly, torch light blinded her. Stepping into the circle of it cast by an unseen torch-holder, Claudia circled B'Elanna, her mouth a thin, angry line.

'I should have known you'd be here!' She hissed. B'Elanna shrugged and didn't answer, even as she was grabbed roughly by two more of Claudia's team and dragged behind them. It wasn't long before they were out of the trees and cresting the same small hill that Anna and B'Elanna had been lying on not so many hours before. B'Elanna couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the blonde. That train of thought was utterly derailed once they crested the hill and they could see the complex beneath.

B'Elanna gasped, her heart sinking. The compound, lit up by floodlights to combat the darkness, was over-run. She could see military vehicles surrounding the buildings, shouts and commands floating up in the cool night air. Worse, she could see all of Anna's people being herded into the central area, row upon row of handcuffed rebels lined amongst the tress where, not too long ago, she and Anna had been enjoying their picnic.

She suddenly realised she had nothing left to lose - in this era anyway - and she waited until one of her guards let his grip on her elbow relax slightly, and then took her chance. Without letting herself think about what she was doing, she threw herself down the hill, pulling her other guard with her. They rolled head over heels, hitting the ground with bone bruising force while trying to grapple with each other. They rolled to a halt finally, and luckily B'Elanna ended up on top. She head-butted the man viciously, breaking his nose, and then leapt off him and ran for cover.

Part 10

Shots thudded into the damp earth around her feet but still B'Elanna ran. She was suddenly aware of her body; the beating of her hearts; the harsh panting of her breath; the pain from her injured shoulder and the aching of her legs as they carried her to cover.

She dove into the nearest entrance to the base, and two startled policemen looked up. Seconds later, they were moving forward, ready to intercept her. She didn't hesitate and didn't slow down, running forward and slamming the heel of her hand into the lead man's nose.

Ignoring his squeal of pain and the sudden jolt of her injured shoulder, she lifted her leg and kicked the next man in the stomach, ramming her other elbow into his back as he doubled over.

She left the two men lying in the hallway, struggling to find their feet as she ran on. She took the next door left, and then the second right, ducking and weaving through the base. Voices, strangely distorted by the close concrete walls, made her think that enemies were everywhere, when in fact they were thankfully few and far between. Most of them were out in the central, grassy area, keeping an eye on their captures. The few that weren't were either still fighting outside, or giving the already searched base another cursory once-over.

She was hiding in a small room from two policeman who were searching the base when another attack of dizziness hit her, worse than the first two.

'Not now!' She whispered, clenching her fists and sinking to the floor before she fell. Curling up as tightly as she could, she made no noise through shear force of will. The room appeared to be melting from under her, slipping and sliding out of vision.

Another room seemed to be trying to superimpose itself onto the one she was in…a very familiar room, with fuzzy blobs that wore familiar coloured uniforms.

'We've nearly got her!' A youthful voice cried.

B'Elanna tried to answer but it came out as a dry sob, her body reaching its limit. She felt like she was being torn between the two locations, her body being pulled in both directions at once and ripping her apart. She closed her eyes, scrunching them tightly shut as tears threatened to fall, and willed herself to stay conscious.

'B'Elanna! Hold on!' A familiar voice ordered.

She tried to answer, but the moment she opened her mouth she felt like all her teeth were being pulled out at the same time. Her limbs were threatening to shut down one by one, the pain too much for her nervous system to handle. She threw her head back and let out a hoarse scream that degenerated into harsh, quick sobs.

'Stop!' An unfamiliar voice cried, full of pain.

'We need more power!' Another voice shouted.

'It's not going to work!' Someone else interjected.

The last thing B'Elanna remembered was the frightening feeling of, just for a second, being two people in two different places, before her body shut down altogether.

It was a surprise to B'Elanna that, when she woke, she was all in one piece. Another surprise turned out to be that she had not been found while she was unconscious, which was at least one good thing that had happened that day.

She heaved herself to her feet groaned as quietly as she could as every single molecule in her body protested.

'Are you okay?' A soft voice said behind her.

She whirled, surprised. A shadowed figure was sitting on a small desk behind her.

'Who are you?' She asked.

'Forgotten me already?' Michael chuckled, although it held no trace of amusement.

B'Elanna didn't answer, instead choosing to examine the young man. He was a mess, mud smearing his clothes and blood dripping from a wound on his forehead. His black hair was sticking out at odd angles and he was favouring his left foot.

'Just you and me?' She said, rubbing her aching temple absently.

'Yeah,' Michael said. 'Are you gonna pass out again if we move?'

'Don't think so.'

Michael nodded and they left their hiding place, quietly traversing the base. B'Elanna was happy to follow Michael until they reached a small hatch set into the floor. She hesitated slightly before following Michael down into the pitch-black space underneath.

'Where are we?' She whispered.

'The sewers,' he replied.

She swallowed her revulsion and tried not to look down as he illuminated their passage with a small torch. Some of the things she stood on were made distressing sucking noise, and she resorted to holding her nose the last ten metres. Finally, they were going back up a ladder. Following the man's lead, she exited as quietly as she could. The room was large, and covered in darkness. She could just make out row upon row of shelving as she hovered by him as he whispered instructions.

'We're in the back room of the armoury,' he hissed. 'Do not make a sound. This will be the most heavily guarded section.'

'What are we here for?'

'Anything we can get our hands on.'

She nodded and they split up. She worked by feel, grabbing anything and everything she could. She filled her pockets first, stuffing small items in until she couldn't fit any more. Then she grabbed any weapons she found that had straps, slinging them across her shoulders. It occurred to her that she didn't actually know what most of the items were for, but she was sure she'd be able to figure them out given the chance. She saw Michael only once, crouched down by a wall and fiddling with something.

Footsteps sounded close by, surprising her. They were not the stealthy footsteps of someone secretly stealing weapons, they were heavy footsteps of someone who intends to stop people secretly stealing weapons.

B'Elanna froze, her arms full of items, and before she could act torchlight touched her. Before the guard could react, she'd dropped what wasn't already in her pockets or across her back and started to run. She immediately found it hard to run with the bulky guns across her back, and dropped three as she turned a sharp corner between rows.

Gunshots started to zip around her, hitting the floor and shelves.

'Hey! Stop that! You want to set something off??' A voice shouted: another guard. A third voice called out, and then a forth…B'Elanna realised that soon, the place would be swarming, and she didn't know where the sewer hatch was.

She pulled one of the things she'd grabbed out of her pocket. It was round shaped and fitted into her palm, with an odd looking mechanism on one end. It looked simple enough…pull the bit that moved and then throw? It didn't look much good as a hand to hand weapon, so throwing it seemed to be the best option.

She yanked the pin and threw it over the racks in the general direction of the guards voices, all the while wondering what it actually was. Some sort of smoke screen? Gas?

The explosion knocked her off her feet, throwing her into a rack of pistols. The shelves swayed dangerously, dumping their loads onto B'Elanna and threatening to collapse on her themselves. Under the pile of weaponry, the engineer was shocked. Definitely not a smoke screen, she thought, her shock wearing off and leaving her with yet more pain.

Small explosions carried on for some minutes, gun magazines affected by the heat exploding one bullet at a time. She dug herself out of the pistols and found her feet, swaying slightly as she tried to clear the ringing in her ears.

'You!' The voice sounded slightly distorted and far away. She turned slowly, licking dry lips. Behind her, a guard stood, his face bloody and his clothes smouldering. 'What the hell did you do?!' He cried, stumbling slightly. B'Elanna recognised the agonised look on his face; He was in shock, in pain, and very, very angry, and she knew that there was often no reasoning with someone in that frame of mind.

'Look…I didn't know…' she managed.

'You didn't know that if you throw a grenade, it kills people?' He snarled, reaching the end of his tether. In a quick movement, he reached down for the pistol in his holster.

The gunshot sounded quiet after the grenade explosion. B'Elanna's eyes widened, and she stared down at the smoking pistol in her hand. She hadn't even remembered lifting it, or pulling the trigger. The guard, his hand still on his holstered weapon, slowly toppled backwards, a look of shock on his face.

'Well done.' Michael stepped out of the shadows, lowering his own weapon. 'I wasn't sure if I'd have to step in.'

B'Elanna didn't speak, she only shook her head and tucked the pistol into the back of her trousers. She swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the bile rising in her throat, and followed Michael as they started to move once again.

Guards, attracted from outside by the noise of the explosion, began to mount up inside the armoury. They barely made it to the sewer hatch without being spotted, and once down in the cloying darkness they ran back the way they had come.

From the room they had started from in the main base, they moved as quietly as they could to a room that gave them a view of the grassy centre and the armoury. They could see guards flocking toward the armoury, amongst them Claudia and other high ranked officers.

B'Elanna heard Michael mutter something under his breath, and it sounded to her like, 'no other way.'

She looked sidelong at him, noting the harsh set of his jaw and the despair just under the surface in his dark eyes. Something else was hidden there…remorse?

He reached down to a thigh pocket and pulled out a small black box. He pulled the antenna out and then flipped up the cover over the red button, the box's only adornment.

Things started to fit together horribly in B'Elanna's head as she watched his thumb descend toward the button...he'd mined the armoury...that's what she'd seen him doing...

Without thinking she reached out, grabbing the digit tightly. 'Don't!'

He turned on her and she could see the raw pain in his eyes. 'I don't want to,' he whispered, 'but there's no other way.' Then his face hardened one more, and B'Elanna saw the resolve there. 'Don't try and stop me.'

'The explosion…it'll kill every person in that building…' B'Elanna said, watching ever more guards approach the large double doors.

'And maybe a few outside, if it's large enough,' Michael agreed.

'Your own people are down there!'

'Any one of them would die for our cause!' Michael snapped, his eyes alight.

'Really?' B'Elanna asked. 'Have you been down there and asked every single one of them if they wanted to be killed for you?'

'Not for me! For us!'

'Is there a difference? There's always someone on top, someone calling the shots.'

His mouth fell open, the fire ebbing out his gaze. 'You're right…I should be down there…'

'There must be another way.' B'Elanna said again, gently prying the little black box from his hand.

'We've tried everything, and…they still hunt us down…' He said, sounding tired and drained. He slumped against the wall and put his head in his hands…'I thought it was the only way.'

'Nothing is ever the only way,' B'Elanna said.

'Really? Do you have another idea?' He looked up, his eyes hopeful.

B'Elanna searched those dark, dark eyes with her own, noting the moisture and despair, and wished to Kahless that she did have another plan. 'Well…we could try talking to them?'

He shook his head. 'We missed our chance for that…they've got us by the balls, we've got nothing to negotiate with.'

She looked down at the black box, and then back at the rebel leader. 'That's where you're wrong.'

Part 11

'Hands up! Drop your weapons!'

B'Elanna heard the words from her hiding place, and couldn't resist poking her head up and watching Michael drop his gun on the soft grass.

Several policemen started to converge on his position, guns raised, but he held up his hands to stop them. Everyone could clearly see the black box in his hands. 'Stop!' He ordered.

Slowly, all of the approaching men and women came to halt, eyeing him up and down.

Their plan was working; all of the officers in the area had their attention firmly focused on Michael and the box in his hands.

'If you're thinking of shooting me, please be aware I will press this button the second I hear a shot!' He called, his voice slightly bitter because he didn't like saying it any more than they liked hearing it.

'Why are you here?' A familiar voice called. Claudia had exited the armoury in time to hear Michael's words, and she came closer. 'What not run?'

'Would you run if any of your officers were being held captive?' He challenged. When she didn't answer, he continued. 'I know you think that we're a bunch of misguided savages, willing to kill and willing to abandon our men, but that's not right.'

Claudia shook her head, her words carefully chosen. 'I don't think that. I think you need…help. This isn't the way to change things.'

'This is the only way to change things!' Michael cried. 'Nothing else works!'

'And what if you'd won here today?' Claudia asked. 'What then? Would you have rode into town and told everyone you were in charge? Do you think they would have listened? Do you really think it matters?'

'Of course it matters!' Michael replied. 'We're doing this for every person who's ever been oppressed, for anyone who's ever been the victim of the dictatorship we call a government.'

'Really.' Claudia appeared to take the words in, mulling them over and coming closer still to Michael. 'I think you're doing it because you don't know any other way.'

'No other way works. Words, diplomacy, negotiation…it all becomes lost in red tape and back-stabbing.'

B'Elanna, entranced by the exchange, forgot she was supposed to be moving until Michael shot a desperate look her way. Shaking her head to clear it, she began to move toward the captives, using the trees as cover. She could still hear Michael and Claudia in the centre of the area, and hoped that they would continue for just a few more minutes…

The first captive she reached didn't make a sound as she unlocked the cuffs with the keys given to her by Michael. The other rebels noticed her working and made a conscious effort not to look in her direction as she worked as quickly as she could. Soon, five, then ten, then fifteen were away, snaking through the trees and to the relative safety of the buildings. The plan was for the rebels to use the sewers to escape, re-grouping at an emergency site six miles east.

She was just about to start unlocking the next row when one of the captives next to her hissed, 'Freeze!' out of the corner of her mouth. B'Elanna immediately dropped into a sitting position, clasping her hands behind her back as if she were cuffed herself.

'Anna?' She whispered, trying to talk without moving her mouth.

'Don't move…' The blonde replied. 'One of them is looking directly at us…just don't move…'

B'Elanna felt a knot of despair grow in her stomach, aware that there must be a sizeable and visible gap in the captives behind her.

Thankfully, Michael was keeping one eye on the proceedings, and he upped the ante on his performance. Before the policeman could figure out what was bothering him about the lines of captured rebels, his attention was once again grabbed by Michael's black box, now being waved around menacingly.

B'Elanna counted to fifteen and then slowly moved once more, unlocking Anna's handcuffs. The blonde stifled a groan of pain as she rubbed her wrists.

'Get out of here!' B'Elanna ordered.

'What about…?' Anna began, but then their eyes met. B'Elanna stared into that face, a face she knew so well and yet didn't know anything about the person behind the face, behind the mask. She was suddenly struck with the fact that that was exactly what Seven wore around Voyager…a cool, calm, collected mask. No-one knew the real Annika Hanson. This revelation was precipitated by the look on Anna's face - hard, strong and set. B'Elanna knew it was a mask, just as Seven's was.

'Just go!' She screeched once more. Anna held her eyes again, and then nodded. B'Elanna watched her crawl away toward the trees and then turned her attention back to the task at hand.

She had released five more captives when a voice rang out. 'Stop!'

She turned and saw a man pointing a gun at an escaping rebel as he ran for the cover of the buildings. The other officers turned and saw how many rebels were missing, immediately ignoring Michael's threats and heading after them.

The rebels not freed fought to stand, still handcuffed, and started milling around, hampering the policemen as best they could. B'Elanna hid in their midst, keeping to the middle of the group and slowly urging them to move toward the buildings.

'Sit back down!' Claudia ordered, rounding on the lot of them. They ignored her, and B'Elanna could see she was in two minds about what to do. She didn't want to use force on unarmed captives, that would be wrong, and yet if they were left unchecked she might have to, to keep them from escaping.

Just when B'Elanna had a plan begin to form in her mind, a scuffle broke out on the edge of the large group of handcuffed rebels. Two of them were fighting with policemen, struggling like snakes as the officers attempted to keep them down. That's when things really started to go wrong.

She looked across at Michael, who was looking horrified as policemen and rebels fought amongst themselves. She felt eyes on her and turned her head slightly. Claudia was staring right at her, having spotted her in the heart of the group. The diminutive woman started forward, pushing through the handcuffed ranks and raising her gun.

B'Elanna turned and ran, pushing through the rebels as she fought to get away from the vengeful woman. Suddenly, someone opened fire wildly, and screaming echoed off the tall buildings. She turned, expecting it to be one of the officers, but it was one of the rebels she'd freed who'd wrested a weapon from one of the assorted policemen.

'Stop!' Someone else shouted. B'Elanna changed tacked, running for the rebel. She broke out of the main group and launched herself forward, landing on the gunner with an impact that drove the air from her lungs.

'What are you doing?!' The man cried, holding onto the gun tightly as she tried to pull it from him.

'There are too many of us here! You might hit one of them!' She cried as they tussled. She was aware of policemen converging on their position, their guns raised. They were unsure of whether to fire on her or not as she'd stopped him firing on them.

Just as she pulled the gun out of her grip and stood, someone in the crowd shouted, 'get to the armoury!'

She leapt upright and opened her mouth, only to find a snub-nosed pistol levelled at her.

'Put down the rifle,' Claudia growled.

Over the red-heads shoulder, she could see Michael shouting at the rebels to stay put, but the tide was slowly heading for the small squat building at the edge of the trees. The policemen were trying to hold them back, and shots started to ring out in the floodlit darkness.

'Please!' Michael cried, his authoritative tones trying to carry across the whole crowd. 'Think about this! Carnage isn't the answer for either side!' He became aware that no-one was listening to him, too caught up in the urge to fight their way out. He knew he couldn't allow it to escalate to a bloodbath…that wasn't what the rebels were about…

Time slowed as he locked eyes with the half-Klingon, and without thinking she leapt forward, her instinct making her try and protect a Janeway before she'd thought about the consequences.

The policemen surrounding Claudia and B'Elanna mistook her actions as an attack on their superior, and opened fire just as the world shook.

B'Elanna screamed as the bullets tore into her, the bullet-proof vest she wore protecting her from as many as it could, but still others found their mark, ripping through the flesh of her limbs. She screamed again, but it was swallowed by the deafening explosion that came from the armoury. The building itself appeared to jump, the roof and walls breaking into pieces which were carried into the air by the huge fireball that mushroomed upward. Concrete and glass flew horizontally away from the building and toward the crowds.

Strangely, after a few seconds, B'Elanna didn't feel any pain any more. She felt like she was surrounded by cotton wool, making everything around her seem unreal and far away. She was aware someone had turned her over, and hands roamed her body, trying to stop her lifeblood from staining the grass beneath her.

A familiar face swam into view, twisted in worry. 'Captain?' She whispered.

Claudia nodded, tears streaking down her face. 'Don't you dare die!' She whispered harshly.

Around them, the fall out from the explosion was becoming an issue, shrapnel decimating the tightly packed ranks of policemen and rebels while concrete and molten metal rained down. Regardless of what side they were on, people helped each other try and escape, desperately moving away from the raging inferno that had been the armoury. Smaller explosions sounded inside the shell of the building as the assorted weapons within succumbed to the heat.

B'Elanna stared up at Claudia's face, wishing it was the real captain, wishing she could say goodbye to her ship and her crew one last time. Her vision started to slide from side to side as loss of blood made her head spin, and she found her breathing was becoming laboured. She was aware in some detached part of herself that she was dying; that this was it, and that she would never get to see anyone on board Voyager again. She wanted to weep for all the things she would never get to say or do again, and for all the things she'd never given thought to doing. It all seemed so clear now…if she just kept her eyes closed, it all made sense.

'Dammit Charlotte!' Someone screamed, shaking her. She managed to open her eyes and Claudia's face, out of focus and discoloured, swam into view.

'I'm…' She had to stop, blood forcing it's way into her throat and choking her. She turned her head and spat, feeling it dribble out of the side of her mouth.

'Stay with me, please,' Claudia said. B'Elanna stared at the grass by her face, watching in swim in and out of focus. She closed her eyes as dizziness made the world spin, and she would have vomited had she the strength. The world had become quiet, the sounds of battle fading away and then disappearing altogether. She felt someone take her in their arms and groaned.

'Please! Wake up!' Someone called.

Opening her eyes, Claudia's face swam into view…only, she looked different. B'Elanna didn't know if it was her eyes playing tricks on her, or if…she couldn't finish that thought, her eyes rolling back in her head and her body going limp.

'Janeway to sick-bay!' The horrified captain shouted in Voyagers transporter room as B'Elanna's pulse stopped under her fingers and she locked eyes with a white-faced Chakotay. 'Medical emergency!'

Part 12

The first thing she became aware of was someone holding her hand and talking to her softly. She couldn't pick out separate words, but the tone was soothing and she soon drifted off to sleep again. The next time she awoke, the voice was still there, and she was aware of another hand stroking her face softly. She wanted to smile, but couldn't remember how she did that, and so settled for lying still and having this attention focused on her. She slowly became able to pick out various words…it seemed that whoever was speaking was recounting ships business to her.

She was pulled back to unconsciousness, feeling comforted by the fact that someone was looking out for her.

Then, the dreams began. It seemed the closer she came to normal sleep instead of plain unconsciousness, the more they'd attack her, a fast barrage of images and sounds.

Fire chased her as she ran through an abandoned police station; bullets tore her apart as she tried to rescue Seven from the burning armoury; voices cried out for mercy as she shot them in the darkness, sneaking from kill to kill with the merciless efficiency of a professional.

She awoke with a start, her eyes flying open and immediately complaining about the brightness of the lights above her. She heard someone screaming, and became aware that it was herself, her vocal chords straining in her dry throat.

Someone tried to hold her down and she started to panic, feebly fighting both her attacker and her disorientation.

'Please, B'Elanna!' A male voice cried out.

Michael? No…

Instead of fighting against the warm grip, B'Elanna threw her arms around Harry Kim's neck, pulling him close and taking comfort in his gentle embrace.

It took a while for her heart rate to calm down, and when it did she pulled back, holding Harry at arm's length and looking at him. It felt so good to see him again, she didn't know how to express it. She could see the tears forming in his eyes as a grin made it's way onto his face, and he lunged forward, hugging her once more.

'Careful, Mr. Kim!' A familiar voice snapped.

Harry let go of B'Elanna like a half-Klingon hot potato, backing off so fast he caught the back of his knees on the bio bed next to hers and sat down with a solid thump.

The Doctor moved forward, giving Mr. Kim a disdainful glance before smiling at B'Elanna with genuine warmth.

'I'm glad you're back, B'Elanna,' He said. It was clear he wanted to embrace the engineer, but mindful of her past injuries he settled for a large grin and a pat on her arm, helping her to sit up on the narrow bio-bed.

'So am I,' B'Elanna mumbled, her mind racing. She was back! They'd found a way! But, what had happened to…

Just then, the doors to sickbay whooshed open and a whirlwind of red and black entered. Throwing protocol out the airlock, Janeway ran forward and embraced B'Elanna so tightly that the hybrid felt like her eyes were popping out of her skull.

'Captain!' The Doctor admonished, prying them apart and them fussing over his prize patient.

'I'm sorry, Doctor,' she said, regaining her composure but unable to wipe the grin from her face. 'How are you, B'Elanna?' She asked, sitting on the edge of B'Elanna's bed and placing a delicate hand over one of the engineers. Without even meaning to, B'Elanna tested the weight and size of the captains hand against what she remembered from the previous night. She came to the conclusion that it wasn't the same hand.

'I'm…okay, Captain,' she said finally, feeling more and more like her old self. 'A little stiff.'

'Well, that's to be expected. I don't know what happened to you down there, but when we got you back, you were in a...bad way,' Kathryn said.

The Doctor nodded. 'You've been in surgery twice, and have been unconscious for nearly two days.'

B'Elanna's eyebrows rose, but one look at Harry's youthful face confirmed it. 'We thought…' He began, but couldn't finish the sentence.

'That I might not make it?' She said. He nodded, looking a little upset. 'You don't know me very well at all, do you Starfleet?' She jibbed. 'If I went through all that just to get home, do you think I'd give up once I got here?'

He shook his head, his happiness at her recovery apparent in his expression. 'No, Maquis, I don't. And I'm damn glad, too.'

'Captain…' B'Elanna said after grinning at Harry. 'How did you get me back?'

'In it's simplest terms, we followed your trail. The minute she realised what was going on, Seven used the transporter controls to isolate your signal and track it for as long as she could. She found it wasn't just travelling through subspace, but it was also becoming a temporal signal too. She had to make adjustments to the controls every ten seconds to allow the transporters to continue to track you through time and space. Thankfully, she managed to track you until you stopped, and then we reversed the process, pulling your signal back through all those layers of subspace.'

'That's why it hurt so much the first few times,' B'Elanna said. 'You didn't have enough power to pull me all the way back in one go.'

Janeway nodded. 'Charlotte was having a pretty rough time of it too.'

B'Elanna opened her mouth to say something else and then her eyes opened wide. 'Charlotte?!'

'You're alter-ego,' Janeway clarified. 'She came here when you went there.'

'I…I know who she is, but I had no idea she was here!' B'Elanna gasped. It did make sense, kind of a cosmic see-saw.

'Oh yes. She was…disorientated when she arrived, and she had one hell of a temper,' Janeway smiled fondly at her chief engineer. 'She recognised most of us immediately, and when we'd explained the situation to her, she told us of our alter egos. She and Seven became quite close, I think.'

Seven…B'Elanna suddenly remembered the conversation she'd had with Anna that day on their picnic, and her stomach began to fill with butterflies. 'I'd like to be discharged, ma'am,' she said.

Janeway frowned slightly. 'I don't know about that, lieutenant,' she said. 'I'll have to consult the doctor.'

With a final pat on the hand, Janeway left to talk to the doctor in his office, leaving B'Elanna alone with her thoughts.

Seven…the engineer sighed. What did she really feel for the ex Borg drone? Had all their animosity over the years simply been a smoke screen for her attraction to the tall, blonde woman? If B'Elanna really thought about it, thought about it more deeply than she'd ever let herself before, she realised she knew the answer, and she wasn't sure if she liked it or not.

Two hours later, B'Elanna was relaxing in her quarters. The doctor had discharged her - reluctantly - but she was under strict instructions to get lots of sleep and report daily for check-ups. She was about to follow his advice and go to bed when her door opened, revealing a slightly dishevelled Tom Paris. She immediately entertained the idea of changing her lock codes but dismissed it guiltily when his eyes lit up.

'I'm so sorry I didn't come down to sickbay…I visited you while you were unconscious, but I was on duty when you woke,' he said, entering quickly and hugging her.

It occurred to her that Harry and the Captain had been on duty when they'd come to visit her, and tried to hide a small frown when he pulled back.

'I thought I'd lost you,' he whispered, leaning in for a kiss.

She was as surprised as he was when she turned away at the last second, his lips hitting her cheek with a wet smack.

'What is it?' He asked, his brow creasing.

'I…I'm sorry, Tom…I'm so tired,' she mumbled, sounding unconvincing even to her own ears.

His face fell he took on the air of a hurt little boy, pouting slightly. 'Okay.'

'It's…it's not you, Tom,' she said. 'I'm just very disorientated, that's all. I need some time.' A part of her looked on, amazed, as the words tumbled out of her mouth. 'Some time to think, some time…alone…'

'Oh, sure,' he said, backing away. 'I'll come back later and we can have dinner or something, maybe a-'

'No,' She stood, her limbs still a little stiff, and raised a hand to stop him speaking. 'I meant…time alone. Single. Just for a little while.'

His look of hurt came back stronger than ever, accompanied this time by a look of incomprehension. 'Lanna…did something happen to you down there? Is that why you're acting this way?'

'You could say that…Tom, please…'

Before she could say anything else, he turned and stormed out of the room. She was so surprised at the haste of his exit, it took a moment to register that he'd left. Sighing, she limped off to the comfort of her bed.

The cargo bay was dark, and B'Elanna slowed as she entered. There was no sign of Seven, even though the computer had said this was the ex-drones location.

After a restless night of tossing and turning, B'Elanna had realised the only way she could stop obsessing about what the woman thought of her was to come down here and ask her herself. She moved further into the darkness, keeping an eye out for the other woman.

A small sound caught her attention, like a whispered sigh. She inched further still, and then gasped at what she saw.

Seven of Nine was huddled behind her workstation, staring at a holo-image and sobbing quietly. B'Elanna leaned forward, trying to see what was on the picture Seven was crying over. She managed to see the top of a dark head before she over-balanced, tripping into the workstation. Seven leapt to her feet, clutching the picture to her chest and turning baleful blue eyes onto the lieutenant.

'Don't you have respect for others privacy?' She snapped, and B'Elanna was taken aback by the tone.

'Seven, I'm sorry, I didn't mean…are you okay?'

'I am fine,' Seven said, her words contradicting her appearance as she wiped away her tears.

B'Elanna steeled her jaw and looked Seven straight in the eyes. She'd committed herself to doing this now, and she was going to do it; she knew if she didn't do it now, she'd probably never do it.

'Seven…I was wondering…would you like to go out sometime?'

It was obviously the last thing the blonde had expected to hear. Her eyes widened and a little gasp escaped from her full lips.

B'Elanna dropped her gaze to her shoes, scuffling them awkwardly as she waited for Seven to regain her composure.


B'Elanna's head came up quickly, 'No?' She repeated.

'No.' Seven confirmed.

The engineer could almost feel her heart breaking inside her chest, and for a moment she wondered how deep her feelings for Seven went…and why she'd had to find out the hard way.

She nodded, trying to contain her racing emotions, and was halfway to the door when she turned. 'Seven…there's always something between us, when we're together, isn't there?' She asked, looking deep into Seven's cobalt blue eyes. She saw them flicker, and then Seven said, 'Yes,' in a very small voice.

'If you don't mind me asking…why?' She was aware that the question was egotistical and illogical, and she didn't care.

Seven's composure started to crack piece by piece; first, her voice wavered; then her eyes started to tear, but she never lost her eye contact with B'Elanna. Standing straighter even as a small tear escaped and made its way down her cheek, she said, 'I am in a relationship with someone else.'

'Who?' B'Elanna managed.

There was a slight pause before Seven answered. 'Charlotte.'

When it had sunk in, B'Elanna wanted to say 'but she's gone,' or 'but she is me'…but then it occurred to her just how lucky someone Seven loved was. Seven's unwavering loyalty to her lover traversed not only galaxies, but centuries as well. Seven knew full well that Charlotte would not be coming back, and yet she refused to cheapen the experience by giving up on her feelings straight away.

Something in Seven's eyes made B'Elanna realise all this, and she also realised something surprising in herself. She was willing to wait for whenever Seven would be ready. It didn't matter if that was a day, a month or ten years…B'Elanna would wait. She would show Seven the same loyalty that Seven was showing Charlotte, and one day, she hoped, herself.

She looked into Seven's eyes and she could see it all mirrored in the ex-borgs gaze. She nodded and smiled slightly. Her eyes drifted down to Seven's hands, and she suddenly realised who had comforted her that night in sickbay.

'I understand, Seven,' she said, turning back toward the cargo bay's doors. Just as she was about to leave, she heard Seven call:

'Perhaps…perhaps another time, B'Elanna.'

She turned and with a small nod said, 'whenever you're ready, Seven. Whenever you're ready.'

She smiled all the way back to her quarters.

Back in the cargo bay, Seven smiled as she worked.

The End

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