stares around the table. His eye is twitching; I wonder if he knows. Up down
up down up down
Harry is to his right, Neelix to the left. The Doctor sits opposite me, ecstatic at being called to this meeting. Then Seven and finally me.
We have nothing to say except for those items related to business. Back when Janeway was here commanding, these meetings would start with snide comments, discussion of off-duty plans, follow-ups on other things. Now we sit here in silence, watching Chakotay search for words in his head - words that ultimately mean nothing to any of us.
"When should we give up?" Chakotay finally asks. "It has been
sixty-two days now."
He doesn't need to tell us how long it has been; we all know to the minute how long it has been. Seven shifts in her chair looking distinctly uncomfortable. She had said, not too long ago, that she wished it had been her who had gone aboard the Borg cube; at least she knew what to expect and she did not fear renewing her ties to the Collective as the rest of us would.
"Give up?" disbelief is evident in Harry's voice. "You're not serious."
"I did not mean to imply that we would leave them with the Borg," Chakotay's voice is sharp. "I simply asked how long should we wait before we prepare a full frontal assault?"
"We do not have the weapons necessary to defeat the Borg," Seven says icily.
"If we start planning now, we could," Chakotay says reasonably. Yes, of course. We could plan from now until the year 7250 and we still would not prepared to meet the Borg head on. Unlike the Borg, we have no friends we could invite to this particular party. We haven't exactly parted on good terms with about ninety percent of the alien species we have come across here in the Delta Quadrant.
"It would be suicide mission," the Doctor, the one of us who cannot truly die, points out. We all turn to look at him.
"We know that," Harry says snidely. "Any encounter with any species in the Delta Quadrant is never pleasant."
"Please," Chakotay says. He turns to face Seven. "How are repairs progressing?"
"Repairs to Voyager are complete," Seven says.
"Efficient," the Doctor says. Evidently even the Doctor is not immune from this contagion of sarcasm. Seven nods at him, one eyebrow nearly reaching to her hairline.
"Tom? Do you have anything?" Chakotay asks.
"No," I say. "Just tell me where you want Voyager to go and I'll get you there."
Neelix takes this moment to bring up his weekly concern about morale.
"The crew is terribly depressed, Commander," he tells Chakotay. "You need to tell everyone what is going on. Either the Captain is coming back or she's not."
I want to tell Neelix that morale will improve if only he would stop serving leola root but one look at Chakotay keeps my mouth shut.
Chakotay sets his jaw, looking as defiant as I've ever seen him. At this moment, if Chakotay were facing twenty Cardassians, armed only with a dagger, I would put the odds on Chakotay. He wears his determination well; whether he can follow through is another story entirely.
"She's coming back," he says. "Seven, Harry, get this ship ready. We're going after the Borg."
"Do you ever think about the Alpha Quadrant?" B'Elanna asks. We are lying in bed, both of us flat on our backs, staring up at the ceiling. "Or is that a stupid question?"
"It's a stupid question," I say. "I think about it daily."
"What do you think about? Other than a shower?"
"Definitely my father."
She sighs a little sigh.
"I don't think about it much," she admits. "I don't have anything to go back to. Isn't that sad?"
"You have me," I say in a teasing voice.
"Is it enough?" she asks sadly.
"I'd like to think it's enough," I tell her. I prop myself up on my elbow to look down at her. She turns her head slightly towards me. "I know what you mean though."
"I'm glad. I don't want you to be angry with me for anything."
"That's hard, B'Elanna. You know that."
I'm joking and she knows it, but her expression remains serious.
"What if we don't make it?" she whispers.
"I don't like to think like that."
"I mean, honestly. We might not make it. We could die out here, Tom,"
her voice grows high-pitched and her fingers clutch at my shirt. "So
many times we've come close and what if our luck runs out?"
smooth her hair away from her face. This is the B'Elanna who gets me every
time - the one who is afraid and vulnerable. In times like this, I want to
fold her into my arms and assure her that nothing - nobody - will ever hurt
her. Promises like those are hard to keep so I don't make them. The last thing
I want is to join the elite club of people who have let B'Elanna Torres down.
intend to see my family again," I tell her. "I have to believe it's
going to happen."
don't know if I'm that strong."
is silent, her skin cold and clammy beneath my palm.
"B'Elanna? It's all right," I say. "I can believe for both of us.
believes enough for all of us; it's not his fault that morale is deteriorating
and it's not his fault that the rest of us cannot summon up enough courage
to face the Borg yet again. The Kazon maybe, Hirogen we can handle, but the
Borg? No. None of us want to go there again. We know we have to, but we don't
have to like it.
can feel Chakotay's gaze on me.
he says. "I will want you at helm."
course," I answer.
now, Chakotay is standing, hands akimbo to hips. He regards us dispassionately,
probably wondering if he should ask the Doctor to give us some kind of stimulant.
can't help it. We all possess a healthy sense of self-preservation. It is
only, um, human, I suppose to feel this type of trepidation.
do it," Harry drags himself to his feet. Good old Harry. Maybe he will
earn that combat promotion yet. God knows he deserves it after all this time.
If taking out a Borg cube doesn't do it, then I don't know what will.
will run scans from Astrometrics to locate the cube," Seven offers. Downright
generous of her, I suppose.
will work," Chakotay says. He sounds like he's trying to convince himself,
that he's not betting the house against something that is a sure loser.
we'll die trying," I crack but no one laughs. Harry is looking at his
hands, examining his nails in minutia. Seven skewers me with her eyes. Really
need to work on that sense of humor, Seven.
Tom," Chakotay says. "Dismissed."
halfway out of the room when Chakotay calls my name again. I turn. Chakotay
is standing with his back to me, staring out into space.
I understand what you're trying to do," he says. "I'm afraid all
of our nerves are fried right now. The tension is getting to us."
is a time for everything-"
hold up my hand though Chakotay can't see me.
got it," I said. "I'm sorry. I can't help myself."
that you do," Chakotay says sharply. He turns around. "I'm not any
more enthusiastic about going after the Borg than you are but I'm not willing
to wait anymore. The longer we delay the inevitable, the harder it will be
to get the Captain, Tuvok and B'Elanna back."
understand," I say.
in the corridor, Harry is waiting for me, wearing his typical eager beaver
did he want?" Harry practically pants in my face.
is not allowed. All jokes are banned."
face breaks into a broad grin - the first genuine smile I've seen from him
got to get to Engineering," he says. "Seven told me not to keep
her waiting. It would decrease
nod, "See you later then. I'm going to take a look at the helm, see if
there are any modifications or realignments that need to be taken care of."
We part ways and I head back to the Bridge.
you always wanted to fly?" she asks. She looks cute like this, her curly
hair streaming down past her cheek, as she lays half across my chest, her
chin propped on her hands.
"Always," I say sleepily.
The sun is warm, caressing. Yes, B'Elanna did this one well. She won't accept
the praise for recreating the Virgin Islands, but I intend to thank her best
as I can. This beach program is rapidly becoming my favorite, far surpassing
Fair Haven and Captain Proton; this is a program for just B'Elanna and me.
always wanted to be an engineer," she mumbles. "I used to take things
apart because I was so mad. Especially when they didn't work and then my mother
would be angry. I would be so afraid of her anger, I would try to put them
back together before she found out. I reassembled my first replicator when
I was ten."
laughs, a gentle laugh, sweet and loving.
could say that," B'Elanna says. "But I think my mother would have
preferred that I learned how to hunt targ or make a blood pie or even engage
in ritual bat'leth competitions."
is," B'Elanna rests her head on my chest, turning so her eyes are focused
on the water. "Would your father have wanted something else?"
know what my father wanted. A diehard Starfleet officer who could carry on
the legacy with honor and glory."
like he's Klingon."
ways, yes. Very attached to duty and honor and responsibility. No sense of
humor. None at all."
sighs and wraps her arms around my chest.
could stay like this forever," she whispers. "Right here, it feels
you ever afraid it will change?"
I laugh and then try to sit up, no mean task when you have a half-Klingon
draped across you. B'Elanna nicely shifts position and I settle back into
a reclining position and she leans against me.
I'm very afraid," she admits.
you think anyone else knows?"
just you and me."
good," her fingers find her way to mine. Intertwine and squeeze. Then
she tips her head back against my shoulder and I tilt mine towards her.
like neither of our parents got what they wanted, did they?" she whispers.
"No," I say in the second before my lips meet hers.
can go right on this ship. Day seventy-four and we're here, hanging out in
space, almost dead, but not quite.
haven't even seen the Borg yet. No, we met the enemy, a nebula, and in the
space of six minutes, we were conquered.
is furious. I think. I can never tell any more with him. I sense a lot of
frustration, anger, impatience, all of this jumbled up within him. It all
manifests itself in periodic outbursts and Chakotay is subjecting the Bridge
crew to a fine display now.
Janeway would never throw a temper tantrum on her bridge. No, ma'am, she wouldn't ever think of losing her composure like this. But then this is Chakotay, usually calm and unruffled, and now completely unnerved. I wonder if there is something else going on with Chakotay, something else that we don't know about.
do you think of the Captain and Chakotay?" B'Elanna is whispering across
the table, her hands flat in front of her, her chin nearly in her food.
Captain and Chakotay," B'Elanna smiles. "You know
shrug, "Maybe. Maybe not."
should listen to gossip a little more," B'Elanna says.
you should listen a little less."
still think there is something there."
ought to think a little less too."
in dangerous territory, helmboy."
am I not?" I ask.
grins then, full and wide, ear to ear.
"Good comeback," she whispers back. "But I'm right. You wait and see."
and Chakotay. Could they? I'm sure there about a thousand Starfleet regulations
against a relationship between captain and first officer and Janeway is the
last person to go against Starfleet. But then, this whole situation is not
exactly normal and I bet we could throw the regulation book right out the
airlock. No one except Tuvok would really care, I imagine.
and Chakotay. Now that would explain everything.
damn, damn!" Chakotay exclaims again.
would be amusing if the situation wasn't so serious.
report!" Chakotay barks as I rapidly try to evaluate the damage done
to the helm.
like there is a power drain on deck fifteen," Harry says.
down there," Chakotay says. Harry looks less than enthused but disappears
into the turbolift.
Chakotay looks like a madman, pacing back and forth, wringing his hands like
some spurned heroine in a bad romance novel. Dramatics become our first officer
and fascinates me. Before today, I had seen more emotion from a rock than
is helm?" Chakotay is now breathing down my neck. I imagine that he can
read minds and he must know that my thoughts, these days, are never good.
good. No systems compromised that I can see," I report.
Get down to Engineering and give Seven a hand."
swing around and head for the turbolift. Already the ship is shifting, lurching,
giving way to a new realization: we have lost inertial dampers.
jog to Engineering, nearly running over Naomi Wildman, who is anxiously standing
against the corridor as a console spits sparks above her head. I would move
her but there is no time.
either Naomi's hair or Voyager.
settle for a quick, "Naomi, move! Go back to your quarters!"
she obeys, I don't know; I'm already turning the corner.
is dictating orders efficiently; she is a master at multitasking. Thankfully,
she is no longer running Engineering as her own little collective; she stays
away from renaming personnel, finally understanding that designations are
less efficient than calling someone by his or her given names.
Paris," she acknowledges me coldly. It amazes me how her hair is completely
in place, not a bit of her ruffled in any way. Voyager could explode around
her but Seven would manage to escape without a single spot on her clothing.
"There is a problem with the plasma relay in conduit thirteen."
Harry gets to vacation down on deck fifteen and I get to cool my heels in
conduit thirteen. But I offer Seven my cheekiest smile and take the data PADD
in hand, I crawl through conduit thirteen. It's the narrowest of the Engineering
conduits, stuffy and hot also. I strip my jacket at the entrance and crawl
through, feeling the perspiration running down my back.
The ship lurches again, not at all good for the stomach. I hope Seven gets right on those inertial dampers.
I find the offending relay by its bluish-orange sparks. I roll onto my back and remove the metallic plating, already hot.
I drop the cover behind me and then reach for the toolkit. Immediately, I
can see the problem. Two of the wires are burned, fused together. The short-circuit
blew out at least six of the isolinear chips in the relay, causing the backup
in plasma, which continues to eat through the rest of the wires in this section.
I work as quickly as I can, muffling my groans as the heat burns at my fingers.
dream about this stuff," B'Elanna says. She is leaning against the console,
relatively at ease despite us being on view for the entire Engineering department.
thought you dreamed about me," I tease in a low voice, leaning forward
for a kiss but she dodges me.
B'Elanna says in her best schoolteacher voice. "Behave."
So what were you saying?"
she jabs a finger at a schematic. "You see how I did the wiring through
here? It's all in parallel instead of serial."
see that," I answer noting the white lines in the diagram.
way when one goes out, they all don't go out," she looks enormously proud.
"It's so simple but it took me forever to figure out. Last night, it
just came to me, in a dream. I had to come right down and implement it."
that's where you were."
again that reproachful tone.
great work, B'Elanna," I say sincerely. "Congratulations."
beams at me, "Really?"
you fishing for compliments? You know how good you are."
I?" she is deadly serious.
I say softly.
"You're right," she smiles. "I am good."
wiring in this section is exactly how I remember it. Parallel wires running
the full-length of the conduit. I clip the two that are burned and yank them
out. The panel hisses at me and throws sparks. I wait a second before removing
the damaged isolinear chips and then quickly replace them.
ship rocks again and I knock my head against the sidewall.
I say, taking stock of my injuries. Six burned fingers, one concussion. None
of this was in the job description when I signed up. Hell, the Delta Quadrant
wasn't even in there.
maybe it was in the section under "get out of jail free." Yeah,
right next to the "all expenses paid" fine print.
I'm going to have sit down with Janeway when she gets back, take another look at that job description.
I put the panel back in; replacing the burned wires will have to be done at another time.
I crawl back out the conduit and back into Engineering. By now, Harry has emerged from the bowels of Deck Fifteen, sooty, dusty and a bit rumpled, but triumphant all the same.
dampers are back on line," Seven says. Even in that monotone voice, her
words are music to my ears.
Around us, there are frantic shouts as sparks erupt around us. Panic mode is what we do best; we're so used to be in trouble that calm is what gets us every time.
got the plasma relays patched," I say. "They're good for now."
drain patched and rerouted," Harry says. "We should be good to go."
nods. I smile. God, we're good.
three of us troop back to the Bridge where an anxious Chakotay is waiting
repairs completed," Seven says. "There are still some areas needing
attention but impulse power is now possible."
work," Chakotay nods towards the helm. "Tom, start scanning for
the Borg. Seven, Harry, continue repairs as necessary."
tap my replacement on the shoulder and he slides out. I take a quick look
at our bearing and tap in a new speed at impulse.
have been scanning for the Borg for twelve days now. Hide and seek in the
Delta Quadrant and Voyager is it. I don't know where the Borg are; they are
better at this game than we are.
Borg haven't even left behind their usual breadcrumb trail of destroyed and
assimilated colonies. They have simply taken our people and vanished.
is now relatively calm and has settled into the Captain's chair. He sits rather
uncomfortably, shifting from side to side. After seventy-four days, I would
think he was used to sitting there.
guess is that Chakotay likes command if it's his ship to command, but this
is Janeway's baby, Janeway's crew and he would like nothing better to turn
us all back over to her. He is, in a word, a glorified babysitter, and we
follow him numbly because we don't know what else to do.
to be fair to Chakotay, he does have a lot on his mind and it's evident in
the new creases beneath his eyes and the perpetual downturned corners of his
says he still comes to the cargo bay to check if there has been any contact
and it disturbs her to respond in the negative.
sign of them, sir," I say turning around.
I might," I face Chakotay. "Shouldn't we wait until the repairs
are finished before searching out the Borg?"
I turn back to the console. My instincts are right; Chakotay can't wait to get rid of us.
Go to part IV
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