Lines in the Sand: Night, part V

By Seema

Ah, the Borg. How did I know that was coming next?

I suppose everyone wants to know how we went up against the Borg countless times and managed to come out ahead every time.

Hell, sometimes I want to know how too.

I still wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, and thinking that there is a Borg lurking around every corner.
And you know, some days, they were everywhere. Damn if they aren't prolific. But I suppose if you don't have a nine month gestation period and all you have to do is assimilate a planet or two to grow, then it's easy to be everywhere.

Our first hint of the Borg came on Sakaari. The inhabitants of that planet lived underground, which both confused and interested us. It didn't take us long to find the exoskeleton of a drone, hidden in the bushes. I remember looking at Kathryn and saying, "What do you think?"

She looked at me, her lips drawn into a straight line, her eyes going to and fro quickly. I could tell she was thinking of Wolf 359; I mean, who wouldn't? At that battle, there was an entire armada of Starfleet ships up against the Borg and yet, the casualties were extraordinarily high. And here we were, in the Delta Quadrant with no friends, and the Borg could be anywhere.

We had gone up against the Kazon and the Hirogen with some degree of success but maybe our number was up. Maybe it was the end for Voyager.

I could tell that the Captain was perturbed by our discovery but she cautioned me not to say anything to anyone else.

"It could be a fluke," she said. "It has been years since the Borg were here. I doubt they are hanging around.
Sensors haven't picked up any trace of them."

"I hope you're right," I told her sincerely. Still, as I stared down at the remains of the Borg drone, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

I didn't like it, didn't like it at all.

And within a few weeks, we were face to face with the Borg. Our choice then was not easy - the Borg or Species 8472.

With the Borg, there was the omnipresent threat of assimilation; the thought of their long tubules piercing flesh sent shivers down the spine. On the other hand, Species 8472 regularly ate Borg for breakfast.

"Not a good situation, no matter how you look at it," I told Kathryn. "Let's find another way."

"No," she said. "Going through Borg space is the quickest way home."

"Dammit, Kathryn, don't let your emotion cloud your judgment, not this time. The risks don't outweigh the benefits. We could be a ship of Borg drones before this is over."

"What do you suggest? Going around would add several more years to our journey, if not more."

"How about settling down here in the Delta Quadrant? Can you consider that option? Maybe we could avoid either species. Living here is preferable to assimilation."

"I've noted your objection," she said coldly. And I knew that tone of voice, icy and pure iron; had heard it a million times in the past, in a variety of situations, when she was obviously disregarding my advice. Janeway's hand grasped the back of the chair - almost as if looking for support - her fingers nearly bloodless from exertion.

"You're not going to do it," I said quietly.

"There's another way."

"Which is?" I asked.

Her eyes, cold and hard, focused off into the distance and I knew I wasn't going to like what she was about to propose.

"I've come up with a plan," she said. "The best of both worlds. It would help us and it would help the Borg."

"What is it?" I queried. Already, I could feel the muscles in my neck tightening and a pain developing right above my left eye.

The Captain had decided to go with a Borg alliance much to my dismay.  I gave Kathryn the fable - maybe you know it - about the scorpion and the fox. The fox and the scorpion make a deal: the scorpion can cross the river on the fox's back. Once on the other side, the scorpion stings the fox; when the fox asks why, the scorpion simply responds, "You knew what I was before we made the deal."

And so it was with the Borg.

They sent us Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One, as their representative. Even then, the Borgified Annika Hansen, possessed a sense of haughtiness and superiority. An intelligent scorpion perhaps, but deadly all the same.

Confrontations eventually all blur together, blending and bleeding colors and lines into a hazy illusion of what was. I do not remember words much, only actions and feelings, and I remember staring down at Kathryn as she lay unconscious in sickbay. I squeezed her hand, hoping against hope, that the warmth from my body would flow into hers; I was wrong. She lay there silent, having gambled with the Borg and lost.

At least that was my interpretation. She had taken a risk, had been wrong, and now I was in command, and I
had to do what was best for Voyager.

So I whispered, "Forgive me," and then let go of her hand.

To countermand and contradict your commanding officer is never easy; thirteen years in Starfleet prior to the Maquis had drilled a certain sense of obedience into me. But I was angry that we had been pushed up against a wall; getting away from the Borg would now be as easy as squeezing water out of a turnip. And so I broke the Alliance with the Borg.

In retrospect, I broke the Alliance because I didn't want to form it in the first place; I thought Kathryn was wrong and here was my chance to put it right.

I was wrong. When she woke and I had to explain my actions, I really thought it was over for us then. Really thought that there was no way to restore our working relationship and that she would go back to trusting Tuvok over me again.

We did find a way, though, to work together and not let our individuality destroy us - but my conscience still continued to plague me. I had never directly disobeyed the Captain's orders before - disagreed, yes - but never disobeyed. And I wanted her to know how much I regretted losing her trust, but not what I did.

So after we severed Seven's link to the Collective - and that's another issue entirely - I went in search of the Captain, finally locating in her the holodeck, writing out her logs with feather and ink.

It was an odd scene, bereft of the technologies of the twenty-fourth century yet comforting and cozy.

"Am I interrupting?" I asked.

"Not at all. I'm just finishing up my log."

"The old-fashioned way," I commented.

I wanted to get as far away from bio-implants and fluidic space and... this feels more human somehow."

"I hate to spoil the mood. It's going to take at least two weeks to get remove all of the Borg modifications, but B'Elanna says some of the new setups work better than the previous technology."

"Leave them. How is our passenger?"

Of course, there were so many ways to answer this question. Mentally, I wasn't sure. In a way, we had amputated Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One, from the only family she really knew. It had been a necessary step, but not one that I felt very comfortable about. And only time would tell how we would adjust to having a former Borg drone on board and how she would adjust to us.

I only hoped that the drone - hadn't quite come to think of her as Seven yet - could forgive us and understand why we did what we did.

Even if we couldn't understand

"The doctor says she's stabilizing. Her human cells are starting to regenerate," I said.

"I wonder what's left underneath all that Borg technology," Janeway said. "If she can ever
become human again."

"You're planning to keep her on board."

"We pulled the plug. We're responsible for what happens to her now."

"She was assimilated at a very young age; the Collective is all she knows. She might not want to stay."
"I think she might. We have something the Borg could never offer... friendship."

I grabbed the back of one of the high-backed chairs, thinking how so recently I had betrayed my friendship with the Captain.

"I want you to know that disobeying your orders was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do."

Her gaze was warm, understanding, and I could see that she no longer held any rancor towards me.
"I understand. And I - respect the decision you made, even though I disagree with it. What's important is that in the end we got through this, together. I don't ever want that to change."


"Good. Well. I think it's time we got back to our bridge."

"No argument there."

"Computer, end program," Janeway called out. The Renaissance room melted away and was replaced with the grided sterile walls of the holodeck. "You're not really comfortable with the idea of having the drone remain on the ship, are you?"

I let her exit the holodeck first before answering the question.

"It's the same as having a Cardassian serving aboard a Federation starship," I said carefully.

"Not the same thing at all," Janeway said.

"What if she wants to return to the Collective?"

"I don't think that will happen."

"That's optimistic, isn't it? We want to return home, don't we? To our families and friends? Why wouldn't it be the same for her?"

"I suppose we'll deal with that when she recovers. It will work out, Chakotay." Her fingers brushed the back of my hand lightly. "And for what it's worth, I know it took a lot for you to disobey my orders. You wouldn't have done it if you didn't believe you were doing what was right for this ship. I can't fault you for that."

"So I'm forgiven?"

Janeway smiled, "This time, yes."

And I looked at her, "There won't be a next time, Kathryn."

Kathryn laughed.

"Don't count on it, Commander," she said. "There's always a next time."

And with the Borg... damn, they were always around the corner, lurking, always with something new to taunt us.
You asked about the operation to infiltrate the Borg cube. Yes, I was opposed to that too, because it would mean sure assimilation for the Captain and anyone she chose to take with her. Kathryn insisted it was part of a plan that would help the Borg find their individuality.

"What if the neural suppressant doesn't work?" I asked her as the two of us planned the operation.

"That's a chance I'm willing to take."

"What about the psychological effects? Assimilation... it's not like regenerating broken skin or a broken bone. It's an invasive procedure."

"I'm aware of that."

"You don't agree with Borg philosophy," I said. "What if you have to do something... something you disagree with?"

"Are you talking about assimilation?" she asked evenly.


Janeway leaned across the table, her hands folded neatly in front of her. "I have considered all of the ramifications of what we're doing here, Chakotay. Don't think I haven't."

"I'm not, but I am concerned. As your First Officer..."

"And more," she slipped in.

"And more," I allowed myself a small smile. "As your First Officer and your friend, I'm having a hard time with this decision of yours. And believe me, it's purely selfish and self-serving."

"I thought so," she said quietly. "Voyager is yours, Chakotay. If something happens to me, promise you'll get this crew home."

"You know I will."

"Do what you have to."

"There's no doubt about that."

"I think that's all," she said quietly. "Do you have anything else?"
I nodded.

"Come back," I said. "Don't make yourself too comfortable over on that cube."
Janeway grinned, the first real smile I had seen from her during this entire meeting.

"You can count on it," she said.

It took us three months to get them back. Three months is an eternity, especially when you don't know what's going on. We had no idea, for most of that time, if they were even alive or if they were functioning as part of the Collective or if they even retained an iota of their own personalities, that individuality we put such a high value on.

When they - Tuvok, B'Elanna, and Kathryn - did return, I had to brace myself, try not to flinch, as I stared at their armored bodies. And I couldn't see how they could possibly be the same again, how they could even go back to their pre-Borg lives without any psychological effects at all.

Tuvok was the quickest to recover, no surprise, given his exceptional meditative abilities and emotional control.
Kathryn, outwardly, she was fine. That commanding tone of hers was back within days, those hardened eyes, the set of her jaw - that was all there. At night though, I would find her in the mess hall or on the holodeck, staring into space or drinking bottomless cups of raktajino.

On one such occasion, I dropped by her quarters and found her curled up on the sofa, a blanket pulled tightly around her shoulders.

"Can't sleep," she said as I sat down next to her.

"I can call the Doctor," I offered. I picked up one bare foot and slowly began to massage the sole, my fingers moving up her calf. Kathryn leaned her head against the sofa back, her eyes half-open.

"Don't," she said.

"You have to get some rest."

"I try. I tried counting sheep yesterday and today, it was hot milk."

"You need a sleep aid."

"I don't think that's going to help."

"You want to tell me about it?"

And that's when she began, her voice very low, halting with just the barest hint of emotion.

"I was wrong," Kathryn said. "I was so intent on eliminating the Borg threat, that I didn't think of the
consequences. I probably should have listened to you more."

I shifted to take her other foot into my lap.

"That feels good, Chakotay," she said. "I didn't realize how cold a Borg cube could be."
"It's not something you think about."

"And loud. Very loud. The voices never stopped. And it amazed me because there were never any discussions about anything; decisions were made and carried out efficiently. All of those voices, they never debated anything - they simply communicated what we were to do. Some days, I could resist and I know B'Elanna and
Tuvok could too, but other days, damn, it was hard."

"What's bothering you?" I asked.

"The assimilations."

I dropped her foot, gently, of course, and sat back. Kathryn shrugged her blanket-covered shoulders.

"There was a child," she said. "Maybe five years old? He was my first one. His name was Devin. I remember thinking that this was wrong, but I could not control my own limbs. He screamed, Chakotay, screamed for his parents and then in pain. And finally, he was silent."

"I'm sorry."

"I don't know how I'm going to explain any of this to Starfleet."

"Exactly the way you just did."

"It doesn't get easier. You know how the saying goes? The first one is always the hardest? Each assimilation after that little boy, they got harder and harder. I don't know how many there were. B'Elanna won't talk about it and Tuvok, well, Tuvok refuses to speculate."

"How many do you think there were?"

"Hundreds," Kathryn said. "I don't know. There was no scoreboard, no count of how many planets we ravaged and added to our own perfection."


Kathryn's lips turned up into a sad smile and she reached for my hand, clasping it between both of hers.

"I can't help it," she said. "I miss the voices."

I pulled her into my arms, and she snuggled up against my chest, her own arm against my stomach, the other grasping at my hand.

"Please tell me," she whispered. "Tell me I'm not Borg."

I kissed the top of her head, smoothed hair back from her brow. I knew she wasn't ready for more, so I tightened my embrace.

"Chakotay?" Kathryn's voice was more desperate, more plaintive. "Please."

"You're not," I said.

But I don't think she believed me. Hell, I didn't even believe me. But we stayed that night on the sofa, curled into each other.

I would like to think that for that night, the demons stayed away.


When we were going through dead space, I found it difficult to move, to generate enthusiasm for anything. When they marched the Maquis off of Voyager, that same ennui grabbed my muscles and I felt absolutely powerless. But armed with the PADDs of information, now that was something.

I settle in my quarters and after gulping down a cup of hot French roast, I summon Seven, Harry, Tuvok and Paris to my quarters.

They arrive promptly, all of them wearing expressions of varying degrees of curiosity for my late-night invitation.

"I thought you were still on the starbase," Tuvok says as he settles into the chair opposite mine.
I gesture to the PADDs in front of me.

"Courtesy of Admiral Paris," I say. Tom's eyes widen and I feel a tinge of sympathy for the young man; he has
yet to speak with his father.

"How is he?" Tom asks, careful to keep his tone painfully neutral.

"He looks good. Asked about you," I answer. "He is proud of you, Tom. Maybe you will get a chance to catch up later."

Tom nods and then picks up a PADD.

"What are these?" he asks.

"These," I say, "are the criminal records of the Maquis. More specifically, the list of crimes attributed to the Chakotay cell."

"Sounds rather glamorous when you put it that way," Harry tries to joke; Tom turns on his friend vehemently.

"It wasn't glamorous," Tom says. "It was a hard life. They were fighting against insurmountable odds and they never gave up."

"Hey," Harry holds up a hand. "I got that. It just has been a long time since I thought of Chakotay or B'Elanna as Maquis."

"Indeed," Tuvok says. "It is difficult to reconcile what is on these PADDs with the people we have served with for the past seven years.

I look at Seven who is intent on her PADD, her eyes darting back and forth as she scans the material. Her brow wrinkles ever so slightly and I can just hear the question formulating in her head.

"Seven?" I ask.

She lifts her head, "Yes, Captain?"

"Do you have any questions?"

"No," she says. "I am simply surprised. I did not realize that Commander Chakotay had so many... acts of sabotage against his name."

"The things you learn about people," Tom says in a hollow voice. "Did not know that they led the attack on the USS Malinche. Five Starfleet officers dead."

"You should know," Harry says. "You were with them for a bit."

"Not very long. Managed to get myself captured on the first mission I was assigned to. Damn, thought I was a hotshot pilot and I get myself captured."

"Don't beat yourself up," Harry says. "It was a long time ago."

"I wish I hadn't let them down," Tom says. "Maybe things would have been different."

"Different in what way?" I ask.

"I don't know," he says. "I always wonder what would happen if you could change one moment in your life and I would change that one. I suppose I would still be with the Maquis."

"Dead or in prison," Harry puts in helpfully.

"Harry," I say.

"We wouldn't be here," Tom says. "You needed me, Captain, to help find the Maquis, and without me, we would never have been caught in the Badlands or met the Caretaker."

"What could have happened is irrelevant," Seven says. She points at the PADD. "This is an irrelevant discussion. It does not help Commander Chakotay or Lieutenant Torres."

I look over at Tom; he is holding his PADD loosely, not really paying attention to any of its contents. I get up and cross the room and kneel by his side. Without thinking, I put my hand on his knee; he flinches.

"Tom," I say quietly. "Let's take a walk, okay?"

He nods. I look at Tuvok, Harry and Seven.

"Keep going over the records," I say. "We have to be prepared for any and all accusations."

Out in the corridor, Tom's face is impassive.

"What do you want?" his tone is belligerent.

"I want to talk to you. We haven't had the chance and it is my fault. I apologize."

"Nothing for you to apologize for. You've been busy."

"I've been avoiding you. There's a difference, Tom."

"Why now?" he asks.

"You blame yourself for a lot, don't you?" I ask quietly. "And I want that to change."

"That's a tall order, Captain. I seem to leave nothing but trouble in my wake."

"That's not true."

"I manage to mess up everything," he says. "You don't see it because I'm just another rehabilitation project to you, another person you cured of terminal incorrigibility. I'm sure my father thanked you for that."

"You're not a project."

"You treat Seven like a science project."

"There is some truth in what you're saying, unfortunately."

"You like that," he says. "You like to take control of people and mold them according to your expectations."

"I don't like to look at it in quite that way."

"It's what you do," Tom says. "I am grateful, Captain. You gave me a chance when no one else would, but at the same, it's very easy to resent the same opportunity."

"I can understand that."

"I was serious back there when I said if I could go back and chance a single moment," he says. "If only I hadn't been cocky and had just completed the mission like Chakotay had ordered, none of this would have

"What about B'Elanna?" I ask.

Tom's face softens and for the first time in months, he shows some emotion. He purses his lips and stares glassily off into the distance.

"Yeah," he says.

"You didn't mess up with B'Elanna," I remind him. "I think you were good for her."

"I try so hard, but it doesn't always work," he says. "I can't get to her, no matter how hard I try. And then when she tries to help me, I close up. I'm afraid that I'll ruin her too, just like I do everyone."

"You don't ruin people, Tom. You just think you do."

"B'Elanna wanted to stay in the Delta Quadrant. I'm starting to think she had the right idea."

"You can't run away from your problems."

We stand there in the corridor, Tom and I, facing each other.

"You're still angry with me," I tell him. "And that's all right."

"I can't help myself," Tom answers. "I try to evaluate everything that has happened from every angle and I still can't reconcile myself. I look at B'Elanna and I realize she isn't the same person she was before the Borg Cube and I think, in time, she will be all right. But what if she's not?"

"I'm sorry, but I had to do it. And B'Elanna volunteered. You forget that fact sometimes. She wanted to go."
"B'Elanna admires you. Hell, we all do. There isn't anything we wouldn't do for you, Captain, even assimilation."

"That's good to hear," I say cautiously. "But I do see the pitfalls of such... admiration."

"It doesn't mean that we are prepared or that we can handle the aftermath."

"I understand that."

"Sometimes, I can't help but think that the high road isn't always necessarily the best one and then I'm never sure why for once why can't we let others fight their own battles? Why do we have to get involved? It doesn't seem right to me, and it's something I've never been able to understand."

"I think I can see the dilemma," I tell him. "And I'm not sure that I understand either."

"That's the problem," Tom says. "It's all right to bend the rules sometimes. It's all right to let things go."

"What if we eradicated the Borg threat? What would you say then?" I shoot back. "Wouldn't that be beneficial to the Federation and other non-allied worlds?"


"Then you can't say there wasn't some benefit in what we did."

"I am an individual, a selfish one. I can't help it. I know what it was like during those days when you were gone, and the uncertainty was excruciating."

"I'm sorry for that."

"I suppose it doesn't matter now," he says gloomily. "We don't even know what's going to happen. Hell, they wouldn't even let me talk to B'Elanna. I just wanted to make sure she was okay and they wouldn't give me thirty seconds with her."

"Tom," I say quietly. "B'Elanna has Chakotay. He will see her through."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

In that moment, I have complete clarity. I see Tom, not as a brash pilot or a late blooming protégé, but rather as someone who, when placed in a desperate situation, did the best he possibly could. I see a young man, perhaps outwardly confident, but insecure in his relationships and feelings.

And I curse myself for not seeing it before.

"You're jealous of her relationship with Chakotay," I state flatly.

Tom is taken aback and he literally takes a step away from me. I don't say much, only wait for him to respond.

When he does speak, his voice is hoarse. "Yes, I am. Is that wrong?"

"No. I understand completely."

"I want to be there for her," he says. "I want her to be there for me, but instead we run away from each other. I was hoping to make it up to her this time by being there and standing by her. Now she's going to think I left her too."

"She won't," I say with certainty. "You're not like that, Tom. You aren't the man you used to be and B'Elanna
knows that. I know it. It's important to me that you know that."

Suddenly, the ship rocks. We both reach out, brace ourselves against the wall, but I still have to take a step forward to steady myself.

"What is that?" Tom asks as he regains his balance.

"I don't know. Janeway to Tuvok."

"Tuvok here."

"What's going on?"

"It appears there was an explosion on the station."

"We're on our way. Go to red alert," I command. I look at Tom. "Tom, we'll continue this discussion another time. You can't blame yourself for everything. You know that, don't you?"

He shrugs, apparently not convinced. "If you say so."

The red alert klaxon sounds and we both break into a run, heading up to the Bridge.


Brigs are never comfortable. If you are lucky, they - meaning the security guards - will provide a blanket, maybe some reading material. It's impossible to sleep, because there is no soundproofing, and you can hear every clank and clang on the station.

I sit up on the bench that also passes for a bed and stare across to the cell where B'Elanna is lying, curled into a fetal position, her chin resting on her folded hands.

The lone guard is reading, his feet propped up on a stool.

I try to compose my thoughts, trying to anticipate what questions they will ask next. I do not want to give too much away so I've kept many of my answers as vague as possible, hoping they can fill in the blanks with the details from logs.

I am concerned about Kathryn, wondering how much damage I've done to her career. I do not think I've told them things they don't already know or suspect. I hope for leniency for Kathryn, but it may be in vain; I look at those stern Federation faces, utterly devoid of expression, and I shudder.

The Kazon-Nistrim seem almost brotherly in comparison.

The starbase shudders, jolting the security guard out of his complacency. Apparently, forgetting protocol, he erupts out of the room. B'Elanna sits up.

"What's going on?" she calls out.

"I don't know," I stand up and make my way to the force field holding me in; B'Elanna does the same. The first night we were locked in here, B'Elanna had paced all night, and occasionally, had thrown herself against the security barrier. Eventually subdued, she had slept, but I had stayed awake, watching to make sure she didn't harm herself further.

The starbase shudders again, throwing both of us to the ground; I roll against the force field, wincing at the jolt of energy that passes through my body.

"Are you all right?" B'Elanna calls.

"Yes," I get to my feet. The red klaxon rings throughout, echoing through the empty corridors.

"Do you think they know we're down here?" B'Elanna shouts over the din.

Her question is answered as five or six guards, plus the original security guard, enter the Brig. They efficiently release the force fields, slap manacles on our hands.

"Is that really necessary?" I ask.

"Orders, sir," one of the guards, a petite redhead responds. "Let's go."

"Where are we going?" B'Elanna asks.

"The station is being evacuated."


"There is a meltdown in the main reactor core," is the curt answer.

"Have you tried reducing the temperature through the fusion relays?" B'Elanna struggles briefly with the guard who has clamped his hand on her upper arm. "Or running coolant through the induction modulators?"

The redhead guard looks at B'Elanna as if the half-Klingon is speaking Breen.

"I can help," B'Elanna insists.

"Our orders are to evacuate all personnel," the redhead says. "Including prisoners."

They hustle us through the corridors, pushing, pulling, and prodding us through them.

"Hey!" B'Elanna shouts at one point.

The starbase is a flurry of action, a far cry from orderly Starfleet/Federation evacuation protocols.

"What about Voyager?" I ask. "Can we contact our ship?"

"There is no time," the redhead responds.

"You are getting on my nerves," I tell her. She doesn't respond.

"What about the others?" B'Elanna asks. "Henley, Gerron, Chell, Dalby, Tabor? What about them?"

"They are being similarly evacuated. You will see them soon."

"Where are we going?"

"Too many questions. Move!"

They push us through an airlock and onto a waiting shuttle. There are already two pilots aboard and the doors slam close behind us.

B'Elanna struggles to her feet, no mean achievement without the use of her hands, and then makes her way to the front.

"What's going on?" she asks angrily.

The pilots, a little more friendly than the security guards, who escorted us here, bring up a blueprint of the station.

"The reactor core finally gave out," one of them says. "It was only a matter of time."

"The station is unsafe," B'Elanna states. "It should not have been operational."

The pilots don't respond to B'Elanna's statement. Instead they request that she sit down since we have
clearance to leave.

"We don't want to be here when it blows," the pilot on the left says. "The shuttle won't be able to stand the shock waves."

"What about Voyager?" I ask.

"I don't know anything about that. Please sit."

The pilots go through the pre-departure protocols and then docking clamps are released and the shuttle is on its way to...

"Where are we going?" I ask.

"We have our orders, sir."

"Which are?" B'Elanna asks.

"We cannot tell you."

"Terrific," B'Elanna rolls her eyes. "What can you tell us?"

The pilot twists around and says, "Your ship, Voyager, it hasn't left the station yet."

B'Elanna closes her eyes, leans back against the wall, doesn't say anything. I take a deep breath.

"They will leave, B'Elanna," I say softly. "Don't worry. Tom will be fine."

"A reactor meltdown, that will cause a cascade reaction," she says. "It will be an explosion of enormous proportions. Voyager has to be able to outrun it."

"They'll do it."

B'Elanna doesn't answer.

"Hey," I call out. "Can one of you release our hands? This is uncomfortable."

"Sorry. We have our orders," the answer, while negative, is delivered in a sympathetic tone.

"If they say that one more time," B'Elanna says under her breath.

"B'Elanna," I say. "There are some things we can control; this isn't one of them."

"It's making me crazy," she says. "Where are they taking us? Why can't they tell us anything?"

"Orders," I say snidely.

B'Elanna snarls at me and I shrug off her anger. There's not much we can do; the pilots are not forthcoming with information. Our hands, literally, are tied. I settle back. It's going to be a long ride.

~ continued in "Lines in the Sand: the Darkest Hour" ~

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