Janeway has called what
she terms "an emergency brainstorming session." In other words, it's
a senior staff meeting, called at the last minute, because she is panicking
in the way only Janeway panics: calmly and utterly unruffled.
She is leaning back in
her chair, her fingers stroking her chin; she is turned away from most of us,
though she faces Chakotay at an angle.
B'Elanna sits across from
me, doing her studious best to avoid my gaze. I have spent the last two hours
trying to track her down, only to find out she was in the holodeck with Commander
I personally do not know
what anyone can say or do with Chakotay for more than ten minutes so it baffles
me that B'Elanna spent so much time with him.
I'm sitting in between
Harry and Seven and then across the table, between Chakotay and B'Elanna, sits
the good Doctor. Tuvok remains standing, which makes me think that this will
be a relatively short meeting; for that small concession, I would be exceedingly
happy because I want to talk to B'Elanna desperately.
"I have noticed,"
Janeway begins, her voice scratchy with emotion, "a certain tension between
some members of our crew."
B'Elanna shifts uncomfortably
in her chair. Chakotay looks down at his fingers. For myself, I love Janeway's
euphemism for the growing dislike between Starfleet and Maquis.
"I want you all to
be clear on this," Janeway rotates her chair so she is now facing us, both
elbows on the table as she surveys each of us in turn. "We are one crew
and we will remain so. Going home changes nothing."
"If you are referring
to the coldness between Starfleet and Maquis," the Doctor began. "The
divisions have always been there, only they are more prominent now."
"I'm aware of that,
Doctor, which is why I admonish you all to do your best to avoid these types
divisions," Janeway says. "I expect you all to remain supportive
of each other. Dismissed."
Chakotay is immediately
out of his side and by his captain's chair. She turns her chair towards the
window, so Chakotay has to turn his back to us so he can speak to her.
"Hey, Tom, if you
aren't busy, want to meet in the holodeck?" Harry asks me in a low voice.
My eyes are fixed on B'Elanna,
"Maybe another time. I've got something to fix."
"The car? The Flyer?"
"No," I nod towards
B'Elanna. "Something infinitely more important."
Out in the corridor, I
catch up to B'Elanna. She looks at me and her gaze is slightly cannibalistic;
this is a good sign - I feel the need to devour her myself.
"We need to talk,"
I tell her, clutching her forearm in case my Klingon darling takes it into her
head to hide in another EPS conduit. B'Elanna's face softens just a bit.
"I know," she
says. "Uh, my quarters?"
At least I know I'm not
in the doghouse anymore. I don't know what she did in the holodeck for two hours,
but it seems to have a positive effect on her; B'Elanna no longer looks as if
she is going to rip my larynx out if I try to speak.
Once in her quarters, B'Elanna
strips off her uniform jacket, tossing it carelessly across the back of the
"One thing I'm not
going to miss when we get back are these uniforms," she says casually.
"So you've changed
your mind," I say. "About staying here in the Delta Quadrant."
B'Elanna curls up on the
sofa and pats the seat next to her. I accept the invitation and lean back against
the sofa, not quite touching her.
"I suppose that was
a foolish idea," she says.
"No, it wasn't. I
think you just have some things you need to work out and it's easier here where
you don't have the baggage that you have in the Alpha Quadrant."
knits her fingers together. "I was wrong, I'm sorry."
"There's no need to
apologize," I say. "What were you doing in the holodeck?"
answers. "Chakotay found this old program of a hiking trail back on Earth.
It was invigorating."
"Ah," I look
at her; damn if she doesn't look serene. I feel a slight tinge of jealousy because
I have never put that look on B'Elanna's face. Chakotay, on the other hand,
yields this enormous influence over her and he manages to bring her a sense
of inner peace that I cannot. It's hard to compete with that kind of power.
He makes her happy and I, well, I just make her mad. Ying and yang, Chakotay
and I are. Between us, we keep B'Elanna in a constant state of flux. More than
anything, I want that to change. I want to be the calming influence in her life
just as I am the irritant.
I lean my head back, focusing
on the ceiling. Of course she talked to Chakotay, she always does. The two of
us, B'Elanna and I, banter back and forth, but never do we truly talk to each
other. I have Harry and she has Chakotay.
B'Elanna gets on her knees
as she turns to face me. She leans forward, her hand cold against my cheek.
"I should have been
talking to you, Tom," she says very softly. My eyes fly open.
"What?" I croak.
If I weren't already sitting, I would have fallen over.
"There are things
I haven't told you," she says. "About my time with the Borg
B'Elanna looks down at
her hands, "This isn't easy for me, Tom, and I don't know where to begin.
I just know that I don't want to run away. Not this time."
I fumble for her hand,
"Take your time, okay?"
"You might hate me
when I tell you."
"I don't think that
"It's worse than you
"It could be, but
then again, it might not be."
We exchange a smile and
then she gets up off the couch, still holding my hand. She leads me into the
bedroom, that enigmatic smile crossing her lips as she glances over her shoulder
back at me.
She pulls back the covers and then pushes me down.
say. For once, physical intimacy isn't the answer; I want to talk.
"Shhh," she puts
her finger to her lips. I lay back against the cushions as she curls up next
to me, pulling the blankets over us. "I want to tell you something."
I wrap my arm around her
and she rests her head on my chest.
"When I was Borg,
I assimilated people," she says very slowly. My grip on her body tightens
a bit and she presses herself closer to me. "Shhh, Tom. Don't say anything,
B'Elanna says. "I wake up in the middle of night because I think I'm in
mid-assimilation. Either I'm getting assimilating or I'm assimilating someone
"There are one hundred
and eighty-seven steps in the assimilation process," B'Elanna whispers.
"The first step is the sedation of the victim. The second step involves
the injection of nanoprobes into the blood stream, and in the third step, you
begin the process of networking the new drone's brain into the neuromatrix."
She pauses, breathing deeply,
"It goes on like that, Tom, and sometimes, I get on stuck on a step, say
step ninety-two, which is, um, the enhancement of vision - you know, the ocular
implant? I messed that up, I think, a few times. I was never, um, um, good at
"B'Elanna, it's all
Her fingers rub the fabric
of my jacket; she raises herself up on an elbow and looks down at me.
"Are you warm? Do
you want to take off your jacket?"
I sit up and shrug out
of the jacket. B'Elanna doesn't look at me as she lies back down, her eyes focused
on the ceiling. I lay back down next to her, careful not to touch her.
"I think I assimilated
a thousand people," she says. "I asked Tuvok once. I said to him 'how
many?' and he couldn't answer. He told me it was illogical to try and guess
since the number would be inaccurate. But I have to know, Tom, I have to."
"Is that why you're
angry with Janeway?" I ask softly. "Is this why you don't trust her?"
"Because she volunteered
herself for this mission and you went with her, thinking it was the loyal thing
to do and then you found yourself in a position that compromised your principles."
B'Elanna inhales deeply,
"I became the thing I hate the most, Tom. Sometimes I look in the mirror
and I see that Borg face of mine staring back or I look at Seven and I remember
something awful and I'm cold. So cold, Tom."
"It's all right,"
I tell her as she rolls back into my arms.
"There's more, Tom,"
she swallows hard. "When I walk the halls of Voyager, I feel like there
just might be a drone around every corner. Sometimes I hear their voices in
my head or I hear screams of the victims. I can't get away from it."
I squeeze her hand, "I'm
glad you're finally telling me."
"I don't feel better.
I thought I would but I don't."
"It's going to take
a while, B'Elanna, but I'm glad you decided to tell me. We'll work it out, okay?"
She cuddles closer and
I revel in the softness of her, relishing that I can hold her in my arms, and
feel her warm breath against my cheek. During the time she was gone, I felt
as my right arm had been ripped off. With B'Elanna, I am complete.
What she doesn't know is
that I would not have left her behind. If she had truly decided to stay in the
Delta Quadrant, running from the demons in the Alpha Quadrant, my choice was
clear: I would have stayed also.
Janeway and Chakotay's admonishments aside, the segregation between Maquis and Starfleet continues.
Somehow, it just happens.
The duty assignments are
given out arbitrarily, yet I notice the Maquis take to the second level of engineering
while the Starfleet engineers stay on the first level. In one thing, the lines
blur and they are united: uniformly, they all stay out of my way.
I stand in front of the
warp core, hands on hips, surveying the situation. The right thing to do - what
the captain and Chakotay would want me to do - is to break up the teams and
shift people around.
But I can't lie - my loyalties
lie with the Maquis. Once a Maquis, always a Maquis, and we know that whatever
trials are ahead of us in the Alpha Quadrant, we Maquis will stick together
while pompous Starfleet asses rack us for crimes committed seven years ago.
I imagine claiming "principle
of the matter" is not an acceptable defense strategy, so we might as well
leave our principles en masse in the Delta Quadrant.
It's not that we Maquis
are afraid of the consequences, it's just we need to solidify our ties with
those who will stand by us, no matter what. Why try to work on a relationship
when you know that the other person won't give you the time of day once D-Day
(as I've started to think of our return to the Alpha Quadrant) arrives.
"Vorick," I approach
the Vulcan. "How are things going?"
"I have finished realigning
the plasma manifolds," he says. "They should be operating at peak
"Good job," I
look over his work. As usual, Vorik's penchant for perfectionism shows clearly.
"Do you mind helping Janus-"
I pause as trepidation
crosses Vorik's face. I grab his shoulder and propel him into a quiet section
of Engineering, well away from the others.
"Is there a problem?"
I ask sharply.
"I had intended to
work with Lieutenant Carey on the-"
I tell him fiercely. "Joe can handle the job himself. He doesn't need you
to help run a diagnostic on isolinear chips. A first year could do it alone.
I want you to help Janus realign the relays. Is that clear?"
Vorik nods and I release his shoulders. I let my breath out slowly, my eyes still on Vorik's face.
"I know what's going
on," I tell him softly. "Don't think I don't see it and I know what
everyone's thinking. We're going home and eventually, we're going to go our
own ways, but that's in a few days. Right now, we're still on Voyager and we're
still one crew. Do you understand?"
I turn to look back at
Engineering; action has all but stopped and most eyes are turned to me. I can
see the challenge unspoken in their expressions and I know they are daring me
to say something, but I find that I cannot. Everyone might as well know that
I too want to run in the opposite direction and get as far away from Starfleet
as I possibly can.
"Back to work, everyone!"
I call out. I look back at Vorik. At least I won't have to lie to Janeway; I
did try, only my heart wasn't in the effort - but she does not need to know
"Do not let me down,
He nods and heads to the
second level to work with Janus. I lean back against the wall and watch his
progress. Janus looks visibly disturbed at Vorik's arrival and voices rise in
dismay as Vorik begins to work. After a few minutes, Janus joins in.
The problem is, I can't
walk the talk. I understand instinctively what Janeway is saying and I know
that we need to remain one crew and not promote separate factions; it's just
that my heart belongs firmly with the Maquis. I never wanted to wear a Starfleet
uniform and even now, sometimes I look at myself in the mirror, staring at that
mustard yellow and black fashion faux pas and cringe.
It was much better on the
You didn't form alliances
nor did you have thoughts. You just were. The Queen dictated, you listened,
and not for a moment, did you feel remorse or pity for your actions.
There are advantages to
being a drone.
No wonder Seven kept trying
to form her own little collectives when she first came on Voyager.
I brush my hair away from my face, tucking it behind my ear, before joining Nicoletti.
Janeway lives in some kind
of Utopia, a Borg kind of world, I think. She can spout philosophy about staying
together, but guess what? I don't buy it. Not for a single minute. It's not
worth expending the energy on something I don't believe in and never have I
believed in Starfleet or anything remotely associated with that stuffy establishment.
I am Maquis.
Don't try to tell me that
Starfleet sees anything about me other than that one fact.
And don't try to convince
me Starfleet cares because it doesn't. When it comes to the Maquis, Starfleet
ranks us somewhere below the common terrorist but slightly above the Genoran
I guess it's always good
to know where you stand.
We slip into the Alpha
Quadrant when most onboard Voyager are still sleeping. I only notice because
I'm at the helm and the senior staff is on the Bridge.
"We're being hailed,"
Harry tells the Captain.
Janeway is on her feet,
The enormous face of one
Admiral Rodney McArthur fills the screen. If he sits any closer to his viewscreen,
we might be able to see his pores.
"Welcome home, Captain,"
the Admiral says.
"It's good to be back,"
been made for your arrival at Starbase 87," the Admiral says.
says. "We should be there in about eight hours."
"It's good to see
you again, Kathryn," the Admiral continues. He looks around the Bridge,
his gaze sweeping over each one of us. "We have a lot to discuss when you
get to the Starbase."
"I look forward to
"Until then," the Admiral bestows a smile upon the Captain; I'll bet he was a real heartbreaker, say, fifty years ago.
The viewscreen goes blank
and is immediately replaced by the blue and white Federation/Starfleet logo.
"Now that's a sight
for sore eyes," Harry declares. "Real proof that we are finally home."
"It doesn't feel any
different than the Delta Quadrant," B'Elanna says. I can extrapolate, from
the tone of her voice, exactly the way she is standing, shoulders back and stiff,
arms crossed stubbornly across her chest.
"Except that the star
maps in our database actually match up with a known sector?" Harry offers.
"It's like a birthday,"
B'Elanna argues back. "You officially get a year older on a specific day
but it doesn't feel any different than the previous day or even the day before
"Your comparison is
flawed. The Alpha Quadrant and birthdays have nothing in common," Seven
"I'm just saying,
I don't feel any more at home in the Alpha Quadrant than I did in the Delta
Quadrant. Is that all right with you?" B'Elanna is spitting fire now.
Janeway gets up from her chair, but there is a smile in her voice.
My wife bristles.
It's odd. We have been
married for three days now yet this is the first time I have actually referred
- even if only in my thoughts - to B'Elanna as my wife. And like so many other
things, the transition from girlfriend to wife was so subtle, I never even noticed.
B'Elanna's right; it should
have felt different when we crossed from Delta to Alpha. There should have been
fireworks or, I don't know, but there should have been something. Instead there
Janeway however looks like
a cat that just swallowed the last bit of catnip left in the galaxy. If her
smile gets any wider, her ears are going to have to move back to make room.
Chakotay looks tense, unbelievably
tense. In some ways, he looks like the man I remember from five months ago,
the one who couldn't make up his mind about what to do about the Borg.
I have to cut him slack
though; I wouldn't have known what to do in that situation.
If ever I was face to face
with the Borg Queen, I think my first instinct would be to hop into the Delta
Flyer and hope against hopes that I could outrun the cube. And then, when they
did finally catch up to me, I would hope that assimilation would be relatively
I know now, after talking
to B'Elanna, that assimilation is not painless and that even after de-assimilation,
the pain lingers, carried on the backs of nanoprobes still stubbornly flowing
through her blood.
"Do you think they
have a welcome party for us?" Harry asks.
Harry would be the one
to ask. Sometimes, I want to smack my friend to try to get some of that naivete
out of his head.
"I wouldn't expect
so," Chakotay responds even before Janeway's lips part. Janeway's head
whirls around and she looks at Chakotay sternly; to his credit, he does not
"I would think there
would be some kind of fanfare," the Doctor says. I have no doubt that the
Doctor has already prepared some kind of slide show for the Alpha Quadrant;
left to his own devices, he would certainly tour the galaxy, showing off indigenous
species of flora and fauna from the Delta Quadrant. Every presentation, of course,
would feature a long-winded speech filled with more adjectives and adverbs than
necessary. "After all, we have been gone for seven years. Surely there
would be some interest in our return."
"Too much interest,
if you ask me," Chakotay mutters.
B'Elanna catches that;
she is quick, my wife is.
"What do you mean?"
"No, I want answers,"
B'Elanna says. "Is there something we should know? Captain?"
Janeway's eyes are hard;
diamonds couldn't cut the glassy surface of her expression.
There is utter silence
on the Bridge; we are all waiting with bated breath.
"If you're concerned
about what Starfleet intends to do with us," B'Elanna says, "you don't
need to be. We already know so it's no use saying nothing at all."
Janeway clears her throat.
Seven tilts her head questioningly; unfortunately, the Doctor has yet to cover
body language with her and so, she remains in the dark, unversed in the subtleties
of silent communication.
"That's enough, Lieutenant,"
Janeway says sharply.
Janeway's tone suffocates
all conversation on the Bridge. B'Elanna bends her dark head over her console
and Chakotay moves uncomfortably in his seat. Even the Doctor seems perturbed
though I doubt it's because of anything B'Elanna might have said.
So we enter the Alpha Quadrant
just as we left it: at odds with each other.
Starbase 87 hangs in space,
tilting at an awkward sixty-degree angle, some of its decks held together by
force fields. Some of its communication array towers are bent or broken off
completely. Construction crews in EVA suits are tethered to various spots on
the station, bouncing off of the panels as they conduct repairs.
It is not the most inviting
place I've ever seen. Even the Borg cube looks like the lap of luxury in comparison.
The minute Tom pilots the ship smoothly into the docking bay, I flee from the Bridge, not waiting for Janeway's dismissal. At this particular point, I am beyond reprimands.
Instead, I retreat to the
holodeck, the quietest place on Voyager and it isn't long before Tom joins me.
"I thought you might
be here," he says.
Once again, I'm running
the beach program. Today, there is a light wind blowing through the palm trees.
In the distance, we can make out the faint shimmers of a sailboat gliding across
the seemingly smooth surface of the water. I have picked late evening so I can
watch what I believe is my last sunset as a free woman.
I am still in my uniform,
but have stripped off my shoes and socks, letting my toes dig into the sand.
"Are you all right?"
Tom asks, sitting on the lawn chair directly behind me. "I was worried
when you stormed off the Bridge like that."
"She was lying,"
I answer, my gaze focused straight ahead. "I despise that."
"What do you want
her to say? That yes, there will be a special committee working on an extra
special homecoming for the Maquis?"
"If that's the truth,
then yes, that's what I want her to say."
"Is this another pity
party, B'Elanna? Because I'm getting tired of this."
"I'm not feeling sorry
for myself," I tell him. "I just want whatever is going to happen.
I'm here now even though I don't want to be and if I'm going to prison, I want
them to just tell me. I want Janeway to tell me. I think she owes me that much."
I don't turn around, but
I can imagine Tom leaning forward, his forearms on his knees, and his fingers
knit together in nervousness.
"Have you talked to
the Doctor lately?" he asks softly.
"I am not suffering
from post-traumatic stress or whatever that is," I shoot back.
"I think you are,"
Tom says. "You need medical help."
"I don't think so,"
I get to my feet, rubbing the sand off of my pants as I rise.
Tom catches my arm and
pulls me down on to the chair next to him. "Chakotay said as much, Tom.
Said that Starfleet hasn't forgotten; that they are just waiting at the airlock
Tom rubs my shoulders,
easing the tension out of them, "And if it's true?"
"I don't know,"
I say. "I guess it doesn't matter, does it? It was only a matter of time.
This could have happened anytime, ten years ago or today. Except it's much worse
today, much worse."
"You don't know for
sure what's going to happen."
I turn to smile at him,
putting my fingers to his lips, and then tracing the strong curve of his jaw.
"I'll miss you,"
I whisper. His hand tightens on my shoulder.
"I suppose I can give
you tips about New Zealand," he says. "You know, give you the ins
and outs of the place."
"That would be nice,"
"It's not so bad,"
he says. "Food's terrible."
"That's what I hear."
The sun is now a thin sliver
in the distance, lavender blending into a periwinkle sky tinged with gold.
"You can have the
house ready when I get back," I tell him. "Ten, twenty years, you
should have it perfect."
Tom holds my hand in his;
his sweaty palms are clammy against mine.
"It better not be
that long," his voice is very low. "I know we haven't quite seen eye
to eye for the last few weeks, but I want you to know that I will do everything
I can if, and I say if, you do end up in prison."
I touch his cheek with my palm and somehow, he gathers me into his arms and we lay back down, my cheek against his chest.
I love moments like this
when all is silent with the exception of our breathing and our hearts. Sometimes,
I try to match my breath with his, thinking that this simple act of living can
be another way of binding us closer together.
His fingers run through
my hair, his nose just above my head.
I tighten my hold on his
shoulder, thinking that the might be the last time we're together and then I'm
suddenly and inexplicably furious - if we had stayed in the Delta Quadrant,
we would not be in this situation, facing the very real possibility of saying
We fall asleep like this,
our bodies curled together.
When I wake, the holodeck
is pitch dark.
"Tom?" I whisper.
"What is it?"
his voice is groggy, still heavy with sleep.
I look around. "Dark. Very dark."
"It's nothing, B'Elanna,"
he says. "It's just before dawn."
"How do you know?"
"They say that the
darkest hour is just before the sun rises again," he mumbles.
I shift my weight so I'm
lying almost completely on top of him. Our lips meet hungrily and his hands
are suddenly everywhere as are mine.
We don't speak as our bodies
mesh together, as he sinks deeply into me, his mouth nipping at my cheek. My
hands rest on the small of his back as I inhale, memorizing his scent, the way
his body fits mine so perfectly, and of course, the way his breath blows warm
against my skin.
The sun comes up and we
lie there, our hands intertwined, still not speaking.
At some point, Tom sits
up, gets dressed and then holds his hand out to me. I understand instinctively
and again, he grabs me by the waist.
he says. "It doesn't matter. I'll wait for you."
I touch his cheek gently,
We are still sticky with
each other and I can smell myself on his skin. When we part ways at the holodeck
door, I return to my quarters but I am reluctant to wash his scent off of me.
I shed my Starfleet uniform
on the floor, kicking it out of the way as I slip out of bra and panties on
my way into the bathroom. I activate the sonic shower, leaning against the wall,
barely feeling the gentle pulses against my skin.
When I emerge, I don't
look at my discarded clothes, but rather head to the closet and pull out the
brown-red tunic and brown pants I discarded seven years ago.
I look in the mirror, hoping
to see some of Starfleet left in me, but I have rejected that persona as easily
as my now despised uniform.
I am ready when Chakotay
appears at my door. Like me, he is no longer wearing his Starfleet uniform.
"Ready?" he asks
in a low voice.
"Yes," I answer. And with those whom we had formerly called friends, still in their Starfleet uniforms, watching, Chakotay and I leave Voyager.
~ continued in "Lines in the Sand: Night" ~