I find Seven in the cargo bay examining a painting.
"The Doctor did this," she says. "I find it quite a good use of color."
I stare at it. Three squares, yellow, red and blue, against a white background. Geometric, angular, modern, precise, call it what you will, but beautiful it's not.
"It is interesting," I tell Seven.
"That is all?" she looks disappointed.
I sigh; I do not particularly want to get into a discussion about the merits of the Doctor's artwork right now. It is possible, after all, to hurt this particular hologram's feelings and I have a feeling we will need him well-disposed to all of us when it comes to getting our people de-assimilated.
"The Doctor said you were at Unimatrix Zero last night," I say getting right to the point. Seven nods.
"Yes," she says. "I see no sign that the virus has been spread. They do not remember being there once they leave. I continue to give them instructions to find the Captain and the others, but it is useless and not an efficient method of retrieving them."
"What do you suggest?" I ask, as if we have the power to make these command decisions.
Seven contemplates my question as she places the painting aside.
"Commander Chakotay is correct. We must face the Borg. Now that our ship repairs are completed, we must devote all of our resources to that task."
She says it so dispassionately and it surprises me. Extermination of the Borg is not in Seven's make-up and it's certainly not what we're after, but for once, she is completely in agreement with all of us: we must attack and we must do it soon.
It is, as the ancient saying goes, a true Kodak moment.
Our renewed sense of vigor has come in the aftermath of the repairs. After all, if we can survive an ionic storm in the midst of a nebula and emerge fairly unscathed, why not play those odds against the Borg Queen and her minions?
"We are on day eighty-three," Seven says. An acute awareness of the obvious and of stating it, that is Seven's special talent; one of her more endearing traits, actually. "Time is running out."
She's right. I figure by now B'Elanna is completely assimilated, her temper now positively glacial and her movements jerky instead of fluid.
cold," she whispers. I rub her hands together, clasping them between
won't be long," I say.
glances down the vast expanse of mountain.
isn't like skiing in the holodeck," she says shivering. "It's colder."
pull her towards me and wrap her in my arms.
was a bad idea," I whisper into her ear. "I'm sorry."
just want to get
warm," her eyes are closing.
"B'Elanna, wake up! Stay with me, B'Elanna. Voyager will be here soon B'Elanna "
Seven is looking at me oddly. I shake my head, rubbing my hand against my
sorry, just tired," I smile. "Double shifts, you know."
see," she says in that tone of voice that clearly means that she does
not. I sigh. I think about telling her about some of my thoughts, about how
memories of B'Elanna now have that quality of a fond reminiscence. I don't
claim not to bleed over the loss of B'Elanna Torres; I doubt I will ever get
over losing her. But now, I've gotten used to her being gone, used to waking
up in the middle of the night alone.
It's amazing how much time has passed since I last saw B'Elanna and I can't say it hurts any less; time, however, has taught me to deal with her absence.
I don't know how much I can hold on
can. I'm sorry. I promise to make it up to you."
I'm sorry," her eyes flutter open. "I know how much this trip meant
eyes close and she is deadweight in my arms. I rub her arms, her hands, her
cheeks, and even pinch the side of her neck. She is cold, through and through.
In that moment, I think I have killed her. Because I wanted to go skiing on a real mountain instead of in the holodeck, I killed her.
Seven and I, shoulder to shoulder, head to the turbolift. She is going to Astrometrics to run yet another long-range scan to locate the Borg. I am going to the Bridge to take my place at the helm, to point Voyager somewhere in the vicinity of the Borg.
The atmosphere on the Bridge is calm, almost light-hearted. Even Chakotay
looks fairly relaxed.
morning, Tom," he says in a cheerful tone.
nod my greeting and then cast a look back at Harry. What's up? Harry shrugs.
slide into my seat, check on our heading. Chakotay doesn't seem to be inclined
to change. Why bother? One direction is as good as any other.
have a good feeling about this," Chakotay says to no one in particular.
feeling?" I ask.
like that," I can hear the grin in Chakotay's voice. "We're getting
shiver. In my mind, I can see armies of drones, stiff-legged and unsmiling,
streaming out of their alcoves and into the eerie glow that permeates Borg
cubes. I see them with their weapons, all of them aimed directly at Voyager.
I hope Chakotay has a plan; I hope it's a good one.
you mad at me?"
she says in mid-shiver as we sit in the sickbay, getting thoroughly fussed
over by the Doctor. He won't admit it, but B'Elanna is his favorite. He tolerates
me, but loves B'Elanna. No doubt I will hear about this outing for the rest
of my sickbay career. Another incentive to get home quickly.
the very least, I owe you a trip to Fair Haven," I smile.
but that," she says. "I'd like to see your Captain Proton program."
the Doctor scoffs as he waves a tricorder over B'Elanna. "If you ask
me, I don't understand your fascination with such
raise an eyebrow and B'Elanna smiles in spite of her raging fever and chills.
you have to ask," I say in what I hope is a dignified voice, "you
will never understand."
Doctor gives B'Elanna this look as if to say, what are you doing with this
shrugs and squeezes my hand tightly. I don't need much more reassurance than
this. I nearly kill her on a mountaintop and yet she still loves me.
She loves me.
turn to face Chakotay, banishing the millions of Delta Quadrant butterflies
that have chosen this very moment to congregate in my stomach.
loves me. I've never been more sure of this fact as I am as this very moment.
ready," I tell Chakotay, but I'm thinking of B'Elanna. Thinking of how
I promised to wait for her and how she promised to come back. No matter what
has happened between us, no matter will happen, she loves me and I am confident,
beneath that Borg technology, she still loves me.
I would do anything for her. This I'm sure of. I once said I was confident
of getting back to the Alpha Quadrant, that it was sure to happen, and nothing
bad would happen to us on the way.
now know that I was wrong, so wrong, and that was what B'Elanna was trying
to tell me all along.
I will bring her home or die in the attempt.
is optimistic at our daily staff meeting. She is downright giddy, I think,
almost like a schoolgirl in love.
she says. "I was at Unimatrix Zero. There is good news."
look at her.
I ask, holding my breath.
virus has been spread through the Borg cube," Seven's lips turn up into
a semblance of a smile.
succeeded," Harry says. "They did it."
drones have agreed to incite a rebellion," Seven says. "They will
lower shields at a precise time which will allow us to retrieve our people
without further battle."
remember, right?" Chakotay asks. "They remember once they leave
Seven nods. "They remember everything I tell them. They remember who
they once were."
all sit in stunned silence. After all this time - one hundred days - we have
are some who are asking for assistance from Voyager," Seven says.
sort of assistance?" Harry asks.
would like to be returned to their homeworlds," she says.
possible, we will accommodate them or find some way for them to return home,"
Chakotay promises. "Is Janeway
Seven says. "She was not present but the others remember her. They say
they will ask her to come to Unimatrix Zero next time."
want to ask about B'Elanna but I don't. Seven senses my tension because she
turns to me.
Tuvok and Lieutenant Torres are alive," she says. "And are functioning
as part of the Collective."
is the cube now?" Chakotay asks.
have the coordinates downloaded," she passes a PADD to me. "We will
rendezvous with the cube at the precise time on the PADD. At that time, the
Queen will be incapacitated and the shields will be dropped. We can then beam
out the Captain, Commander Tuvok and Lieutenant Torres. I have asked that
the drones that wish to come to Voyager meet in a specific location so we
can transport them out. Questions?"
surveys the room, but we are all too stunned to respond. Finally, I clear
are we waiting for?"
You have your orders."
file out. I do not know about the others, but my heart is in my throat, throbbing.
will we find when we actually get there? Nothing, I've discovered, in the
Delta Quadrant is easy or straightforward. There is always a twist in the
plot, always some new way to torture us.
I slide into my chair at the helm, my fingers already flying over the console.
the coordinates to you now," Chakotay says, his voice unnaturally high-pitched.
them," I say. "Course laid in. Warp six."
still not detecting the Borg," Harry says in a worried tone. "Seven,
are you sure they will be there?"
can almost see Seven's face given the icy precision of her voice. Eyebrows
arched all the way to her hairline, her jaw tight, and her head tipped slightly
to the side.
will be there," she says. I imagine Harry shriveling up there on the
spot in the face of Seven's anger. I doubt that he will ever question Seven
again. In the world inhabited solely by Seven and the mini-collective made
entirely up of minors, inaccuracy is highly inefficient. Damn if Harry didn't
know that already.
the scanners in Astrometrics," Chakotay says helpfully.
I can only imagine the look Seven is bestowing on our First Officer. Remembering my earlier reprimand from Chakotay, I keep my eyes squarely on the viewscreen that is nothing but blackness and blurred stars.
long have we been out here?" B'Elanna asks as she leans over the edge
of the railing, staring down into the rushing water below.
couple hours," I say, cupping her elbow in my hand.
I meant out here in the Delta Quadrant."
really, Tom," she says. "Do you ever think it might be better out
no?" she turns her head sideways to look at me. "You look at this
gorgeous gorge and you say that it might not better out here?"
is one planet out of millions, B'Elanna. There are gorges on Earth too."
sets her jaw firmly.
you saying you don't want to go back?" I ask. "Is that what you're
trying to tell me?"
leans forward so far that I grab her around the waist.
I say. "This is crazy. You can't do things like this. It scares me when
not reckless," she turns around and puts her hands on my shoulders. "You
don't have to worry about that."
just nearly threw yourself off of a cliff and you're asking me not to worry?"
I nearly yelling.
hate this. We take a short vacation on one of the million planets that we
are always passing by and inevitably, it deteriorates into something less
than vacation-like. Sometimes when we go to places like this, we see other
couples who are able to converse with each other civilly and actually don't
mind spending time together.
just saying that the Delta Quadrant is not such a bad place to be," B'Elanna
offers me a smile. "I wouldn't mind it at all."
is wearing that brave look; the one that says she hurts in ways I can't imagine
but somehow, she will make it through. Damn if it doesn't get me every time.
suppose it wouldn't be so bad," I concede reluctantly and am rewarded
with a grin and a kiss. We stand there for a few more minutes, listening to
the water rushing below us. The bridge sways gently as people pass us by.
I let B'Elanna go and she takes my hand as we make our way back to the transport
site where the others are waiting to return to Voyager.
know," B'Elanna says as she looks up at the sky. "Starships are
overrated as is exploring."
do you figure?"
you just want to stay in one place?" she asks. "Instead of watching
the stars go by, don't you want to watch them come out and then fade away
again in the morning?"
she does it again. My unsentimental darling getting downright teary-eyed on
me. And when she puts it like that, watching the same skyscape every night,
I know she is right and I can't help but feel that same urge for constancy
Damned if she hasn't crawled into my skin and knows me, my desires, even better than I do.
pass slowly when you are hunting Borg. In the background, the familiar argument
goes on. Harry insists that nothing is coming up on long-range scanners and
Seven argues the opposite. I finally twist around to join in.
they stood us up or not," I say. "We won't be in a worse position
than we were two hours ago."
says warningly, "Tom."
true," I say. "Either we find them or we don't."
will find them," Seven says stiffly. She looks at Chakotay and asks to
be dismissed. He gladly lets her go.
I say. "Don't go head to head with a Borg. It's not worth it."
falls over the Bridge and I realize the significance of what I just said.
Having done enough damage for the day, I turn back to my console.
one for Harry and Seven, zero for Tom Paris.
is all-aflutter. I have twenty minutes before I go back to the Bridge and
while I'm quickly swallow down leola root left-overs.
it true that the Borg have been located?" Neelix asks anxiously, his
eyes darting back and forth.
is true," I say between bites.
we're going after them?" Neelix says.
we're getting the Captain, Tuvok and B'Elanna back?"
meet Neelix's eyes for the first time since he sat down at the table with
definitely," I say.
lowers his voice, "Will they be like
push back in my chair. This is the question I've been contemplating from the
moment B'Elanna volunteered to go on this insane mission. Admittedly, her
moods drive me absolutely crazy. I can't keep up with that mercurial temper,
and I certainly can never tell what she wants from me at any given second.
But despite all of that, I would not change her for anything. It is who B'Elanna
is and if she was anything less, I do not know if I could love her the same.
guess is as good as mine," I say. "It's only been one hundred days.
For Seven, it was considerably longer. We'll just have to wait and see."
wonder what Mr. Vulcan will be like," Neelix says in that strangely childlike
manner of his. He tips his head back and forth in the same way Tuvok does
when he is thinking.
did not know that Neelix was so fond of Tuvok.
doubt Tuvok would find much honor in the adoration of one culinary-challenged
Talaxian, but then what do I know?
Tuvok will come back from the Borg party ship with a sense of humor and a
real smile or he will come back completely unaffected by his ordeal.
yes, but that's Tuvok. He either feels nothing or feels it completely.
I'd rather not get Neelix's hopes up; the chances that the dessert-baking
Tuvok will return are very slim.
probably won't be as much fun," I say as I clean up the gravy on my plate
with a slice of bread.
true," Neelix says excitedly. "But it will be nice to have them
back, won't it, Mr. Paris?"
looking forward to it."
ship feels empty without them, doesn't it?"
sigh. I like Neelix, really I do, but sometimes his insistent questioning
gets on my nerves, especially when I want peace and quiet.
then Neelix surprises me.
you nervous?" Neelix asks. His voice is very calm and gentle; for the
first time since B'Elanna left, someone is asking the question I dread answering.
And because it's Neelix, always so open and straightforward, I know I have
to be honest.
in my true fashion, I have to sidestep the question. Why give out more than
I have to?
simple a thought and one that I keep pushing away, but Neelix is right. I
have to hand it to him; he managed to zero in on the one emotion that I have
keep at arm's length, much as I keep B'Elanna.
me in, let me in," her voice whispers in my head, but I don't know if
I can. If - when she comes back, whom will I be letting in?
I confess. "Very nervous."
hours, thirteen minutes, twelve seconds. That's how long we have been waiting
and still no sign of the Borg. Seven has retreated to her alcove to regenerate
and somehow, both Chakotay and I have made our way there too. We sit on crates
opposite Seven's alcove. Chakotay is leaning forward, both elbows on his thighs,
his chin cradled in his hands. I lean back against the packing boxes directly
do they do that?" Chakotay says finally.
standing up," he says. "I wonder about that."
regard Seven's slender silhouette spotlighted by green light. Her eyes are
closed but I imagine that they are rippling the surface of her eyelids as
she moves deeper into REM sleep or whatever the Borg equivalent is.
don't know," I say. "Cows sleep stand up, don't they?"
must be thinking about horses," Chakotay answers. "Anyway, it's
not quite the same thing."
Horses, cows, Borg oh my. Sometimes I can't help myself. Ever since B'Elanna downloaded that old movie, The Wizard of Oz, I have been fascinated with this concept of a yellow brick road that ultimately leads you to your inner most desire or the theory goes. I still haven't got the concept of the man behind the curtain yet, but B'Elanna does.
always smiles at me when that part comes as if to say, "Do you understand?"
and I never do.
it's odd that I don't get it and mostly because it's a fantasy; a great, big,
giant fantasy about the things you already posses - you just don't know it
yet. I sometimes think B'Elanna is like that; doubting herself and never quite
sure of where she is going at any moment in her life.
suppose that's why she's always running to the next best thing.
the next Borg cube, that is.
It defies explanation and I probably should not even try to understand B'Elanna or the little man behind the curtain.
things are best left a mystery.
attention drifts back to Seven. She is absolutely stationary, erect and tense.
I wonder if she wakes with muscle soreness in the morning; I don't see how
she would avoid it. But then again, she has those magical nanoprobes that
apparently can fix just about any problem.
suppose if B'Elanna now has her own supply of such things, we may cut our
dermal regenerator use in half.
so quiet, Tom?" Chakotay asks.
I shake my head, "Just thinking."
"Anything in particular."
think she's there? Unimatrix Zero?" I ask. I nod towards Seven as if
there could be anyone else here on Voyager who could possibly take a jaunt
over to the Borg's version of the land of Oz.
knows?" Chakotay shrugs his shoulders. He sounds exhausted.
wonder what it's like," I muse. "I should ask Seven
told me about it," Chakotay says. My ears perk up. Kathryn? Chakotay
continues on and I can tell his eyes are glazing over as he stares at Seven.
"She says that it's a wilderness of type. Lots of species congregating,
interacting. They have relationships, friendships. It's very much like us
except when they
wake up, they are drones again, unable to remember
what they have experienced."
what does it feel like?" I ask. "Is it like Malnia Gorge?"
shakes his head, "No, I don't think so. Not like that. It's not as peaceful,
not as tranquil. She said she experienced a sense of urgency there, but that
could have been because of the particular circumstances."
suppose if the Borg Queen was hunting me down, I would be a little on edge
too," I point out.
knits his fingers together. I realize that this is the longest amount of time
the two of us have spent alone together. In the past, I've always avoided
direct contact with Chakotay and I think he feels the same. There is too much
unsaid between us to start communicating now.
always wanted us - Chakotay and I, that is - to talk more, get to know each
other, but I always put it off, always finding some other excuse. So she would
spend time with Chakotay and I would spend time with B'Elanna. Ne'er the two
worlds would meet.
now that B'Elanna, who wanted for Chakotay and I to trust each other, is not
here to witness it.
you afraid?" Chakotay asks in a very low voice as if he is afraid of
disturbing Seven and the children. "It's okay if you are. I am."
unfortunately, is one of those overwhelming, all-encompassing human emotions.
It grabs you and won't let go. Fear can either empower you or paralyze you
where you stand.
isn't so bad," I say.
what I hear," Chakotay cracks a smile, the first I've seen from him in
imagine we would all be near each other. We could visit."
nanoprobes," Chakotay says. "Who has more, who has the biggest,
like fun," I agree. "We could hold assimilation contests. See who
can assimilate the most people."
probably would get to the Alpha Quadrant faster on a Borg cube," Chakotay
point," I nod. Our eyes meet and Chakotay is the first to break away.
Already I feel better.
should do this more often," I say.
out in the cargo bay?"
glances at me, "Don't push your luck, Lieutenant."
some point during the night, Seven's eyes snap open; both Chakotay and I leap
to our feet. It's rare that Borg awake during their regeneration cycles; they
are not prone to the caprices of human nature which keep us tossing and turning
throughout the night. I suppose sleeping standing up would have something
to do with that.
is wrong," Seven says without preamble. "Axum has been deactivated."
friend," Chakotay lays extra stress on this last word.
is the one who was leading the rebellion," Seven steps out of her alcove.
She tosses a maternal look back at the Borg children and indicates the cargo
bay doors. "The message was not communicated."
wait until the doors close behind us and then Chakotay faces Seven in his
very best hands-on-hip pose. His face, earlier relaxed, has now turned grim
as he digests the meaning of Seven's words.
it did not work," he says in a low hiss.
Seven says. "I did see Captain Janeway today."
straightens, "How is she?"
is well. I have communicated to her."
now?" Chakotay urges.
plan proceeds," Seven says coolly. "Only it has been delayed by
twelve hours. Janeway has promised to see it through."
course. Kathryn Janeway would never make a promise she could not carry through.
She would rather die first and I think that she might get her wish this time.
for the first time, I wonder what the whole point of this exercise is. Why
is it our duty to rescue the Borg from themselves? Do we really need to be
the superheroes of the Delta Quadrant? If you ask Janeway, she would nod her
head in the affirmative most emphatically; we are Starfleet, we have a mission
to accomplish and our duty is to help those in need. Repeat ad nauseum.
think courage is admirable but recklessness isn't and sometimes, it's hard
to differentiate the two. Janeway is sometimes so gung ho that she loses sight
of what is really important. I suppose if she could, she would be dragging
all of the poor orphans of the Delta Quadrant back with us.
course, I would never say these things to Janeway or even to Chakotay. It
would be career suicide to even voice some of the thoughts I've been having
lately and I intend very much to keep the new pip.
least until B'Elanna comes back so she can see I didn't go ruin myself in
her absence by watching nothing but "I Love Lucy" reruns and playing
mindless comic book scenarios out in the holodeck.
I can be good. I can follow directions. She says stay out of the holodeck
and I obey.
am not entirely innocent in this respect though. The holodeck has lost its
charm and even Fair Haven, my favorite program, lies unused; it is too painful
to wander into Fair Haven and hear Michael Sullivan whimper after his Katie
O'Clare. And I wonder, if somewhere in Unimatrix Zero, Janeway has found her
own soul-mate drone to swap stories of the Delta Quadrant with.
we just wait here?" Chakotay demands. Evidently our first officer is
not concerned about what Janeway might be doing with her free time in Unimatrix
Zero, only what she will do. But his tone is more petulant, more of a "what
do we do now?" type of attitude. This surprises me about Chakotay but
then again, I don't know why I bother to understand anything anymore.
Seven tilts her head towards me. "We wait."
looks at me, "Any ideas, Lieutenant?"
shrug. What does he want from me? What kind of question is that anyway? But
then I should have known that the good times with Chakotay could last only
so long. Now it's back to business, brusque and authoritative again. I like
the other Chakotay much better.
good," I say. What else is there possibly to say? "Twelve hours.
What's another twelve hours anyway?"
We affirm this quietly and go our separate ways. On my way back to my quarters, I pass B'Elanna's and the scene of our last argument. I say the last argument because I do not count our conversation prior to her departure as an argument; that was more of a spirited discussion.
can't believe you would volunteer for this mission!" I yell. Thank goodness
there is a table separating us or I would surely lunge across and grab her
by the neck. My pretty little darling doesn't blink in the face of my anger;
I imagine she has battled holographic Klingons more frightening than yours
I want her to understand, want her to understand the consequences of what
she is doing. And more than anything, I want her, for once, to look before
Captain needs me," she says flatly. "If the mission is going to
heard all of that," I answer. "You can say it all you like but you
have to understand that it still makes no sense for you to go on this mission."
don't want to fight you, Tom. Not now, now about this."
puts her hands flat on the table.
support me in this decision, Tom. It's not easy."
know," I say. "But only if you let me try to change your mind."
won't work," she sets her jaw and I can see the one vein which runs down
the side of her neck throbbing with fury. I pace because nervous energy has
taken control of my body and I don't know what else to do. Back forth back
forth back forth
making me dizzy," B'Elanna says. "Stop that."
is crazy," I jab a finger at her and head towards the door.
you walk out on me!"
a fine one to talk; how many times has she walked out on me? Mostly, she doesn't
even justify her exit with anything but a toss of her head and a snort. She
is the queen of exits, managing to storm out with more grace and elegance
than any one person should possess.
should look that good.
me!" I yell back.
narrowly escape getting beaned in the head with a heavy pottery vase, a souvenir
of trip to Malnia Gorge.
So much for staying in one place for any length of time. B'Elanna has mastered the art of running while I stay where I am.
as I storm away from her quarters, I wish I had that kind of courage, that
kind of conviction. But as it is, I can only claim my own special brand of
least I have charm, I think as I bestow a smile upon a female crewmember exiting
the turbolift. That is something.
But not enough. Never enough.
Go to part V
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