Feedback address: email@example.com
Date in Calendar: 28 June 2007
Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Summary: After being imprisoned, Seven must adjust to freedom
Spoiler or Other Information: Tsunkatse, Someone to Watch Over Me and probably a few others
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD07
Disclaimer: These characters belong to other people, I am just taking them out for a spin
Note: This the first story I ever started, about four years ago. Thanks for forcing me to finish it.
Cold. Pain. Confusion. So many images. So much blood. So much pain. So cold.
The smell of the place alone was enough to make B’Elanna’s stomachs lurch. A quick glance at Harry let B'Elanna know he was similarly disgusted. Dank and dark, B’Elanna was reminded of similar rescues in which she had participated as a Maquis. Although she had to admit, from Voyager’s intelligence reports on the prison and what she had already seen, the Jotarans could give the Cardassians a few lessons in inhumane treatment. It was difficult to imagine anyone surviving the night, let alone five days in this place. Knowing it was a holographic environment somehow made it all the more disturbing. It was not apathy or neglect, but conscious choice that made this hell hole the Grethor it was.
B'Elanna could feel the desolate cold of the floor and the walls. It seeped through her boots and through her Starfleet issue socks, making her toes ache. She kept flexing her feet in a vain attempt to allow blood to circulate, thereby generating some heat. As perfect as her Klingon physiology was, with redundant organs that allowed her superior stamina and the ability to recover more quickly from injuries in battle, she could not withstand lower temperatures. Her extremities felt like ice. She could hear water dripping as it echoed through the cavernous hallways and her warrior's hearing also detected the scurrying of what she assumed were small rodents in the corners, fleeing the brightness generated by the flashlight strapped to her wrist.
Slowly edging along the wall, methodically checking each cell as they came to it, B’Elanna and Harry began to wonder if they would find anyone at all. All the cells so far had been empty, for which, to a certain extent, they were grateful. Their orders were clear. Not knowing the circumstances of any other prisoners’ crimes, they could offer medical assistance if needed, but could not free anyone other than their missing crewmember. They now both fervently hoped they wouldn't encounter any other prisoners because the thought of leaving even someone they didn’t know in such conditions was contrary to everything they both believed.
They were, however, running out of time. They needed to rendezvous with the other teams in twenty minutes and it would take at least fifteen minutes to reach the entrance to the prison. There were two more cells at the end of the hall they needed to check and then they would have to leave and hope one of the other teams had found something.
“Harry, why don’t you take the one on the left. I’ll check out the other one and then we can head back.”
Harry moved to investigate one of the remaining cells while B’Elanna stepped forward, opened the door to the final cell and shone her flashlight over the stone walls in search of her goal. The cell looked like all the others they had examined. The walls and floor of holographic stone were wet and slick in some places with a green substance that must have been the equivalent of fungus or mold on the Jotaran home world. The smell inside the room was even more unpleasant than in the hallway. The stench of mold combined with the distinct odor of the unwashed assailed the half Klingon’s enhanced senses.
A flash of movement to her right drew B’Elanna’s attention to the corner of the room. Swinging her flashlight toward the area, the beam of light illuminated a dirty, shivering figure huddled there. Naked in the corner sitting with her arms folded around her legs and her forehead resting on her knees was what looked like the object of their search, but B’Elanna couldn’t reconcile what she saw in front of her with arrogantly confident vision of singular strength she saw in her mind’s eye whenever she thought of…..
One day earlier
"You look like you had a good shore leave, Chakotay."
"Yes, Captain. You know, the aeroponics bay is lovely, but there is nothing like a real forest, surrounded by living creatures to settle the soul."
The Captain nodded approvingly, "Yes, the crew seems much more relaxed." She was thankful. The last several months had been difficult. A number of hard battles and waning reserves had the entire crew on edge. Coming upon a Jotaran trading vessel offering them the opportunity to replenish their food stores and dilithium reserves was just what the doctor ordered, but the offer of much needed shore leave on the Jotaran home world was a godsend. All told, the Jotarans had been gracious and generous hosts asking very little in return for all they had provided.
"I think we'll all be a little sad to leave," the Captain said as she and Chakotay headed for the senior staff meeting. Everyone was already assembled in the conference room with one notable exception.
"Where is Seven? Has anyone seen her?" Five blank faces stared back at their Captain. The sixth, belonging to Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres, was buried in a PADD.
Torres spared her Captain a brief glance before returning to her work. "It's not my day to watch her, Captain."
Janeway ignored the flippant remark and tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."
Janeway frowned when there was no response. "Seven of Nine, respond."
Sighing in frustration at the silence that greeted her, Janeway called to the computer, "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."
A dispassionate voice responded. "Seven of Nine is not on board Voyager."
Janeway's frown became more pronounced.
"Janeway to Icheb."
"Icheb, Seven hasn't returned from the planet and isn't responding to hails. I need you to scan the planet for her Borg signature."
"Stand by, Captain."
"Maybe she found some interesting Jotaran mating rituals to study," B'Elanna said. She was still annoyed that Seven had followed her and Tom around taking notes on their 'interactions'.
"Come on, B'Elanna," Harry piped up. "She's probably caught up studying some engineering gadget or something."
"I don't know, Harry. B'Elanna could be right. After all, there isn't anything to study about us anymore, is there B'Elanna?" Though almost six months ago, Tom was still upset about the couple's ugly breakup.
B'Elanna's nostrils flared. "Well if it wasn't for the fact you can't keep your hands off every woman you see, holographic or otherwise..."
"Icheb to Captain Janeway."
"Sensors do not detect Seven of Nine any where on the planet. However there is a building located in the government district of the capital that is surrounded by a dampening field. Our sensors cannot penetrate it."
"Acknowledged. Try to adjust the sensors to compensate. Janeway out." Janeway took a moment to rub her forehead, attempting to keep the headache that was building there at bay. "Senior staff to the bridge," Janeway said in clipped toned as she left the conference room.
Seven felt feather light kisses on her neck, moving up to her ear where she heard a whispered, "Annika, love, it's time to wake up."
"Mmmmm. I am fine where I am."
A throaty chuckle was the response, "I know you are, but we are going to be late."
"Don't tell me you've forgotten?"
Seven slowly opened her eyes to a vision about which she had always dreamed, but never dared believe she would see -- the soulful, loving, brown eyes of B'Elanna Torres.
Her right hand slowly reached up to touch B'Elanna's face. She reverently traced blood red lips, stately cheekbones, nose and, finally, proud forehead ridges.
B'Elanna closed her eyes as Seven continued her exploration, enjoying the feel of her wife's fingertips on her skin. She suddenly didn't care about running late. At that moment, she didn't care about anything except the gentle caresses being bestowed on her by this amazingly beautiful creature.
When B'Elanna opened her eyes, she saw tears streaking Seven's face and Seven looking at her as though she might disappear at any moment. B'Elanna reached up to wipe the tears away, "Be'nal? What is it? What's wrong?"
Seven's eyes opened slightly wider upon hearing the Klingon term for wife spill from B'Elanna's lips and more tears flowed.
B'Elanna began to be concerned, "Annika? Baby, why are you crying?
"I am happy," Seven responded quietly as she continued to take in B'Elanna's features. "I love you, B'Elanna."
Concern faded to relief at the answer. "I love you, too." B'Elanna leaned in and kissed Seven's tears. "I will always love you." B'Elanna caught Seven's lips in a tender, languid kiss. Seven opened her lips to welcome B'Elanna's questing tongue and, at that moment, Seven found Omega.
"Ensign Kim, open a channel to Prime Minister Vorath."
B'Elanna and the others in the bridge watched as the main view screen activated and a stately Jotaran male behind a desk smiled widely. A young man named Botal, the Prime Minister's assistant, or second, as he was called, stood behind and to the Vorath's left.
"Captain Janeway, I was just about to hail you and wish you a safe journey."
Kathryn Janeway returned the smile with one of her own. "Thank you, Prime Minister, but I am afraid we can't leave just yet. I seem to be missing a crew member."
"Yes. We think she may still be on your planet. We were hoping you could help us locate her."
"Of course. We will help in any way we can. Who is it you are looking for?"
"Her name is Seven of Nine."
Every instinct B'Elanna had flared in warning at the odd look she saw cross the Prime Minister's face.
Vorath looked almost confused as he said, "One moment Captain."
Janeway waited as Prime Minister Vorath muted the audio link and conferred with Second Botal, who was beginning to look decidedly uncomfortable. After several minutes, Vorath reactivated the audio link and spoke with some hesitation.
"Yes, it is here."
At the mention of the word "it" to describe Seven, Prime Minister Vorath had the entire bridge crew's full attention. Icy tendrils of dread began to crawl up Janeway's spine as she responded.
"Seven of Nine is a member of this crew. She needs to return to the ship so that we may continue our journey."
At that the Prime Minister looked even more confused and Second Botal more uncomfortable. "I don't understand. You want us to return your gift?"
"Yes, Captain....The Borg drone.... in return for the food stores and refined dilithium."
A tense moment of silence was broken by Janeway's steely voice. "There has obviously been some misunderstanding. It was never our intention to trade Seven of Nine for those supplies. We will return everything to you or arrange for some other kind of payment..."
"No. It belongs to us now."
"She is not property. She is an individual and has the right to..."
"It is a Borg drone and as such has no rights here. The Jotaran stance on the Borg is well known in this sector. Any drone found in our space is subject to immediate arrest and detention."
"On what charge?"
"Drones are arrested and punished for the Borg's crimes against the people of Jotar."
"Punished in what way?" Janeway demanded.
Vorath was beginning to tire of the conversation, however, and sharply responded, "In a way that is far more humane that what the Borg have done to billions."
"I must insist Seven of Nine be returned to Voyager."
"That is not possible. It has already been given over for study. When our scientists are finished, it will be disposed of."
"Prime Minister Vorath...."
"I wish you a safe journey, Captain. End transmission."
Voyager's view screen reverted to the view of the planet as seen from orbit. "Senior staff to the conference room. Now."
"I love you, Annika." B'Elanna kissed her way along Seven's jawline to the tender flesh behind her left ear. Her tongue traced the delicate ridges of Seven's ear before gently delving into it, causing a low moan to erupt from Seven's throat.
"You taste so good." As B'Elanna turned her attention to Seven's graceful neck, her left hand slid up Seven's stomach, coming to a halt when she reached the underside of her right breast. As her hand gently moved over Seven's mound in ever decreasing circles toward an already erect nipple, B'Elanna's lips made there way across a delicate collarbone and down her sternum, lips and tongue joining fingers as they teased the nipple through the cloth barrier of Seven's nightclothes. Allowing her tongue to continue its relentless assault on Seven's breast, B'Elanna laid her body fully atop Seven's.
Feeling the satisfying weight of B’Elanna’s body, Seven brought her hands to the back of B’Elanna’s head and gently held her there, not wanting the sensations to end. She felt B’Elanna’s hands glide down the sides of her body and come to rest at mid-thigh, where B’Elanna took the bottom edges of Seven’s nightgown and began to guide the fabric up toward her waist. Seven lifted her hips and released B’Elanna’s head, wanting to be rid of the garment entirely. B’Elanna released Seven’s breast, lifted the silken shirt over Seven’s head and tossed it across the room.
Taking a moment to look at the newly revealed skin, B’Elanna felt a low growl emerge as she raked her eyes over the perfect form of her beloved.
“You are so beautiful, Be’nal.”
Seven silenced any further conversation with a searing kiss that left them both utterly breathless. Releasing B’Elanna’s lips, Seven nudged B’Elanna downward. Taking her cue, B’Elanna slowly made her way down Seven’s body, making sure to lavish Seven’s neglected left breast with reverent attention. As she felt B’Elanna take her nipple into mouth, gently sucking, Seven’s hips began to rise and fall of their own accord.
Knowing what her wife needed, B’Elanna’s right hand made its way down to the apex of Seven’s legs and she dipped a finger into the molten wetness she knew she would find there. The moment she touched the evidence of her wife’s need, a fierce growl emanated from B’Elanna’s throat and vibrated through Seven’s still captured breast.
Seven gasped at the new sensations coursing through her body. She could feel a tight coil of tension gathering in her stomach and briefly wondered if she would ever feel better than she did right now.
The unspoken question was answered a second later when B’Elanna released Seven’s breast and began to gently lick and nip her way down Seven’s stomach toward the source of her arousal. As B’Elanna circled Seven’s clitoris with her tongue, her hand moved lower and entered Seven, slowly thrusting, first with one finger and then adding a second. Seven’s hips moved in time with B’Elanna’s fingers as they synchronized in a rhythm that could only take them higher.
Seven felt as though she was standing on a precipice, aching for release, when B’Elanna took Seven’s clitoris fully into her mouth, sucking as she used her tongue in a rapid motion to bring Seven into her pleasure. With the combination of sensations created by B’Elanna’s tongue and fingers, Seven hurtled over the barrier and, for the first time in her life, time was meaningless.
As B’Elanna felt the contractions lessen around her fingers, knowing her beloved was coming back to herself, she kissed her way back up Seven’s body to land a soft, undemanding kiss on her lips as she whispered “Mine”.
Foggily, Seven reacted to the kiss and, upon tasting herself on B’Elanna’s lips, was overwhelmed by a desire to possess the woman she had longed for for so long. As she increased the passion of her kisses, Seven reached around to slowly explore the prominent ridges along B’Elanna’s spine. As she felt B’Elanna’s hips begin to move against her thigh, she heard another growl as B’Elanna mumbled through a kiss, “Do you know what it does to me when you do that?”
Releasing B’Elanna’s lips and increasing the pressure of the caresses to B’Elanna’s spine, Seven looked deeply into the eyes of her Omega and said, “I intend to find out.”
As B’Elanna felt herself being turned onto her back, all conscious thought left her save the name of her everything.
The shaking figure never looked up but seemed to make an effort to make herself smaller, somehow hoping not to be seen or at least ignored, like a child convinced that if they couldn’t see you then you couldn’t see them.
“Seven of Nine?”
The naked form sighed in defeat and, with some effort, raised her head only to be blinded by the beam of a flashlight hitting her square in the eyes. After being immersed in complete darkness, Seven’s eyes could not adjust and she raised her fully human hand to shield her face from the harsh light invading the darkness. When Seven lifted her head B’Elanna could clearly see the toll the past five days has taken on the former drone.
The barely audible word sprung from B’Elanna’s lips without her even realizing it. Her rage then flared as she saw the ugly bruising to the entire left side of Seven’s face. Blood encrusted cuts were present on her forehead and jawline, their edges tinged red with infection. Her bottom lip was split in three places. The rest of her body hadn’t fared much better, with bruises and angry cuts marring her porcelain skin. The damage mostly focused near the various implants that still marked Seven’s body leaving no doubt she was being punished for having been a member of the Borg collective.
“There was no one down the hall, Maquis. We’d better… Oh God….” Harry’s face turned ashen as he took in the battered figure of Seven of Nine. B'Elanna blocked Harry's view of Seven's naked form with her own body, hoping to, at least, preserve a little of Seven's dignity.
“Harry, go see if you can find some clothes or blankets or something. We need to get her warmed up. Then head back to the rendezvous, tell them we found her and bring back help.”
“Yeah, OK.” Harry cast a worried glance toward Seven before leaving to find something to cover the tall blonde’s body.
As they reassembled in the conference room, the captain began to pace. "I want options and I want them now.
Tuvok responded, "Since it seems clear this situation can not be resolved diplomatically, a tactical solution appears to be the only option."
"Agreed. What do you suggest?"
"Several small search teams could infiltrate the facility and locate Seven of Nine. However, without detailed information about the prison itself, the probability of success is very low."
"Captain," Chakotay cut in, "we downloaded a lot of data from the Jotaran library system. There might be something helpful."
"Start looking Chakotay. Harry, work with Icheb on finding a way through that dampening field. Even if the transporters can't get through, you may be able to find out more about the facility."
B'Elanna spoke up quietly, "That'll take time, Captain. Time Seven might not have."
Janeway couldn't deny the truth of B'Elanna's statement. "Then we had better get started."
"Bridge to Captain Janeway."
"Janeway here. Go ahead."
"Captain, we're being hailed from the planet on an encrypted channel."
"Route it to the conference room."
A moment later, a very nervous Botal appeared on the view screen.
"I don't have much time," Botal said as his eyes darted nervously around his office, "but I would like to help you."
"Why?" a wary Janeway replied.
"Not everyone on the council agrees with Prime Minister Vorath on this matter. I was able to spend time with Seven of Nine. I found her to be....most interesting. She doesn’t deserve what is happening to her."
On instinct, Janeway decided to trust the young Jotaran. "We need a detailed schematic of the facility where she is being held."
"I anticipated that." Botal said as he typed in commands to his keypad. "I am sending it now."
"What are they doing to her?" The question came from the far end of the table where B'Elanna sat, the tension evident in her body.
Botal sighed and looked away before saying, "A normal drone would be interrogated for information about the collective before....before being deactivated. However, as you know, Seven of Nine is unique. Because she had regained her individuality, our scientists were quite excited about the prospect of studying her..."
B'Elanna's low growl interrupted him. "What. Are they. Doing. To her?"
Botal swallowed before answering quietly, "They are studying her remaining implants, of course...."
"And?" B'Elanna pushed when Botal hesitated.
"They are using a drug therapy to access her memories and dreams. They are...testing her with various holographic scenarios based on that information. They want to see how a severed drone responds to...emotional stimuli."
"In other words, she's being forced to relive the most horrific moments of her life. Just to see what she will do," B'Elanna clarified.
"It is....worse than that. They have access to her hopes, her dreams. They want to see how she will react to having those fulfilled.....and taken away."
A painful silence filled the room as each officer processed this information.
Botal was disturbed by a noise to his right. "I must go. Good luck, Captain, and....I truly am sorry."
"Thank you Botal," the Captain said as the communication terminated. Janeway turned to the assembled officers, "Tuvok, study the schematics. I want a rescue plan in one hour."
"We are so late," B'Elanna reluctantly pulled away from her warm cocoon with a sigh saying, "and as much as I would like to stay here all day, we shouldn't keep your parents waiting -- any longer than we already have, anyway." Placing another gentle kiss on Seven's full lips B'Elanna said, "Now go. Shower. I'll call and let them know we are running late -- again."
Seven could only stare at the door B'Elanna had just gone through. 'My parents?' Thoughts of the Hansens consumed her as she crossed to the ensuite and activated the sonic shower. When she looked up, her heart and mind froze. Staring at a reflection free of implants, without thought her right hand traced her own face in the mirror with the same reverence she had devoted to B'Elanna.
As her left, now fully human, hand lifted to trace the area above her left eye, she felt only flesh and not cold metal. Daring to look fully at her left hand, she was fascinated by the new texture and softness she discovered. As she examined the rest of her body, she found only smooth, porcelain skin that had once been marred by so-called enhancements. A sense of peace deeper than Seven had ever imagined washed over her and cleansed her soul.
B’Elanna took a few tentative steps toward Seven as she pulled out her med kit, trying to get a sense of Seven’s physical condition, but not wanting to move too suddenly and frighten her into withdrawing further. Concerned that Seven had yet to speak, B’Elanna tried to reassure the young woman.
“You’re gonna be alright Seven. We are here to get you out of here.”
Seven didn’t speak. She didn’t even move.
“The silent treatment, huh? Never figured you for the passive aggressive type. I always thought of you as the aggressive aggressive type.” B’Elanna said, laughing a little at her own joke. Seven was still unresponsive, so B’Elanna decided to take the chance that a more familiar adversarial conversation might bring Seven out of her cocoon.
“You could at least thank me for coming down here to save your worthless, cybernetic ass.” B’Elanna paused hoping for some kind of repost. When none was forthcoming she continued, “But I suppose gratitude is irrelevant.”
B’Elanna allowed the silence to continue as she focused on her tricorder trying to assess Seven’s injuries. As she studied the readings it became increasingly clear that, if not for her Borg enhanced body, Seven would almost certainly have died by now. And that was still a possibility. Seven’s inability to regenerate over the last five days was taking a toll on the young woman. Her minor implants had already shut down in order to divert the power needed to sustain her cortical node and her more significant cybernetic systems were beginning to be affected as well. In the last few minutes, Seven’s Borg enhanced hand had begun to twitch every fifteen seconds or so. B’Elanna knew she had to get Seven to her regeneration alcove soon or the blonde would not survive.
Still focused on her tricorder readings B’Elanna said, “Alright Seven, enough of the strong silent act. We need to get you back to the Voyager. Everybody wants you back on the ship, safe and sound.”
"You're very quiet. Are you sure everything is OK?" B'Elanna asked as she ran a hand through Seven's flowing hair.
Seeing the unwavering love in B'Elanna's eyes, Seven leaned in for another tender kiss. As the kiss ended, Seven leaned forward and as their foreheads touched she whispered, "Everything is perfect."
"Good." Taking Seven's left hand in her own, B'Elanna wriggled her eyebrows and grinned mischievously, "Let's see if you still feel that way after lunch with the in-laws."
Seven laughed as B'Elanna rang the door chime. The door opened to reveal the slight form of a fifty-year-old Erin Hansen. Tears once again came to Seven's eyes as she looked at the woman she had lost so long ago.
Erin Hansen's thumbs wiped away the tears before enveloping her daughter in a gentle hug. "Annika, honey what is it?" Mrs. Hansen said as she released her daughter.
Seven could only shake her head and say, "Nothing. I just....I have missed you." A confused look flitted across Erin Hansen's face as she shared a concerned look with B'Elanna.
"Honey, you just saw me two days ago."
"Is that my little girl I hear?" Magnus Hansen's booming voice drew Seven further into the house and she found herself in the arms of her father.
Erin took B'Elanna by the hand and asked, "What's going on?"
B'Elanna stared after Seven. "I don't know, Erin. She was fine last night, but, ever since she woke up, she's been....off somehow. She looks at me like she thinks I'm going to vanish into thin air or something. She says nothing's wrong, but....."
"Don't worry. I'll get it out of her, whatever it is. She can't resist her old mom."
"According to the information Botal provided, Seven of Nine is being held in this part of the structure," Tuvok said, referring to the diagram now displayed on the view screen. "We can safely transport the away team near the outer doors of the facility and gain entrance here. However, we have no way of knowing what kind of resistance we will encounter."
"Well, resistance is futile," the Captain rejoined with a wry smile.
"There's a bigger problem, Captain."
"What is it, B'Elanna?"
"According to the schematic, where Seven is being held there an active holomatrix and the dampening field will most likely affect our tricorders as well. Depending on what kind of program is running, it could take days to find her." B'Elanna paused before saying, "and there is something else to consider. I looked over the logs in Cargo Bay Two and Seven completed a full regeneration cycle before leaving for the planet. That was four days ago...."
"And she need to regenerate every three days in order to maintain her Borg implants," the Captain continued B'Elanna's thought.
"Exactly. Now with proper rest and nutrition, an extra day or two probably wouldn't be a problem, but I think it's safe to assume she hasn't had either. Her implants will begin to fail."
"Then we need to get her the hell out of there now. Tuvok, assemble your team and be ready in twenty minutes."
"Permission to join the away team, Captain?" Seeing the surprised faces, B'Elanna continued, "Look, Seven and I didn't always get along, but that doesn't mean I want her used as a lab rat. I've seen this kind of thing before, with the Maquis. I want to help."
"Permission granted. Dismissed. And good luck."
As Kathryn Janeway watched her senior staff leave the conference room, she tried to understand how Seven could have been missing for four days....and none of them had even noticed.
B’Elanna’s head shot up at the sound of Seven’s voice, ragged from lack of use and dehydration.
“This is all I could find.” Harry drew B’Elanna’s attention as he burst in carrying an armful of rags with which to cover Seven’s naked form. A glance back at Seven confirmed that she had again withdrawn into her near fetal position, head resting on her knees.
B’Elanna sighed at the loss of responsiveness from the former drone. She took the cloth from Harry saying, “Thanks, Starfleet. Go meet the others and bring them back here. Her implants are failing because she hasn’t been able to regenerate. I don’t think she’ll be able to walk.”
Harry hesitated, not wanting to leave the two women. He had always had a huge crush on Seven and vaguely felt as though he should stay and protect her somehow. He stood lost in his thoughts until he felt B’Elanna’s hand on his shoulder.
“Hey,” she said softly. “We’ll be OK. Go on.” With a nod, he turned and quickly left.
B’Elanna studied the blonde for a long moment and slowly crossed to kneel in front of her. “Why do you think I’m lying, Seven?”
The blonde almost imperceptibly began to shake head, which still rested on her knees. Thinking she would not get a response, B’Elanna slowly tried to drape the fabric she held over Seven.
Faster than B’Elanna would have thought possible, Seven painfully grabbed both her wrists and looked her straight in the eye.
“You cannot deceive me again!”
B’Elanna was confused, but could tell by the lethal look in Seven’s glacial eyes that she needed to tread carefully. B’Elanna made an effort to keep her voice as calming as possible. “Seven, I don’t know what you are talking about. I am not deceiving you. I am here to rescue you.”
Once again Seven began to shake her head, not taking her eyes off B’Elanna. “I will not be deceived. You are not real.” Concerned this was another holographic illusion like so many others that had tormented her over the past five days, Seven lifted her face to the ceiling as if speaking to some unknown force.
“Do you hear me? I know the truth. This is not real.” With the emotion behind the outburst Seven automatically tightened her hold on B’Elanna’s wrists causing the engineer to cry out.
“Seven of Nine! Look at me!” When she had Seven’s attention, B’Elanna continued, “I am flesh and blood. I am B’Elanna Torres. We serve together aboard Voyager. I am here to get you out of this Kah’less forsaken place.”
Seven eyed B’Elanna suspiciously. “Why?”
Taken back by the unexpected question, B’Elanna wasn’t sure what to say. “Well…you are a part of Voyager’s crew…You belong with us.”
“No. Ensign Kim, Captain Janeway, even Commander Chakotay, perhaps, I could believe. Why would you, B’Elanna Torres, daughter of Miral Torres, daughter of the Klingon Empire, want to rescue me?”
B’Elanna locked eyes with Seven for a long moment before answering quietly, “Because I care about you, Seven.”
Seven returned B’Elanna’s gaze for what seemed like an eternity to the young Klingon before releasing B’Elanna’s wrists. Tears began to pool in one azure eye and a wistful smile crossed her mouth, reopening the wound on her bottom lip allowing blood to flow freely once again.
Breathing a sigh of relief that she had finally broken through to Seven, B’Elanna gently dabbed at the Seven’s lip with the remnants of cloth Harry had found, hoping to stop the flow of blood and offer some manner of comfort to the former drone. A small sigh issued from Seven’s mouth and her eyes closed, reveling in the tender treatment and leaning into B’Elanna’s touch for just a moment, before whispering brokenly “Now I know you are lying. B’Elanna Torres could never care for a worthless Borg drone. She has demonstrated as much on many occasions. Therefore you cannot be real.”
B’Elanna’s hearts constricted as she watched Seven’s tears fall down her bruised and swollen cheek, knowing that her actions, her callous disregard for Seven’s feelings, her relentless assertion that Seven was something less than human, was responsible, at least in part, for this beautiful creature’s pain.
Staring at the broken and helpless young woman before her, B’Elanna’s dishonor came into focus with startling clarity. She had treated Seven with the same wanton disregard with which she had always been treated herself by those who saw her as a half Klingon mongrel unworthy of dignity and respect. At one time, she had sworn an oath to prevent anyone from being treated as less than human, regardless of their heritage, and now she was as guilty and honorless as all her tormenters combined.
Seven continued to shake and weep uncontrollably.
Though not sure if it was wise given Seven’s physical condition, B’Elanna pulled a hypo spray out of her med kit and gently sedated Seven, who eased into unconsciousness. B’Elanna knew the others would be here soon and that Seven would not want them to see her so out of control. The selfish part of B’Elanna’s mind admitted that she didn’t want to see Seven like that either, since it reminded her of her own dishonor.
Dinner was filled with laughter, familiarity and a sense of family that Seven had thought previously unattainable. It surprised Seven that she felt so much for her parents. For so long she had blamed them for so much, but having them right here in front of her made Seven feel complete.
As B'Elanna talked to Magnus in the living room, Seven helped her mother clear the kitchen. Erin Hansen eyed her daughter carefully. While she had relaxed a little over dinner, her daughter still seemed pensive.
"Annika, are you sure nothing's bothering you?"
Seven gave her mother an amazed smile. "I am wonderful, mama. I never believed my life could be so...."
B'Elanna burst into the room. "Hey, what's taking you guys so long? We've been waiting for ages."
Seven gazed lovingly at her wife and said, "I am sorry, BangwI.. We were just..." As she stepped toward B'Elanna, Seven faltered as she felt a sharp pain behind her left eye.
"I am alright. I just need..." Before she could finish the pain increased as Seven felt an implant burst through her right cheek. At almost the same instant metal bands broke through the skin of her left forearm and hand as a scream tore from Seven's throat.
Horrified, both B'Elanna and Erin instinctually rushed forward to help the stricken woman, but as Seven felt hands touch her, she pushed them both back.
"Stay away. I don't want to hurt..." The pain increased ten fold as Seven felt other implants reassert themselves all over her body.
Unable to watch her daughter in such pain, Erin Hansen once again moved toward Seven, only to have her throat caught in a steely grip. Seven raised her left hand and B'Elanna watch in terror as assimilation tubules plunged into her mother-in-law's neck.
Seven watched as her mother's skin turned from a healthy pink to the deathly gray of the Collective. Then, suddenly, Erin Hansen's face morphed and Seven found herself staring at the assimilated face of Kathryn Janeway. Retracting her assimilation tubules, Seven dropped the limp body of her Captain and it dropped to the floor with a sickening thud.
Turning, Seven approached a frozen B'Elanna.
As Seven stepped closer, she could see her own eyes reflected in B'Elanna's -- eyes as cold and as black as space itself.
"Resistance is Futile."
"Most of the damage was focused around her implants, Captain. It appears they even attempted to remove some of them, but didn't realize how deeply they were imbedded into her musculature and skeletal structure. Naturally, I managed to repair most of the damage. An extended period of regeneration should take care of the rest."
As they Doctor gave his report, B'Elanna felt her rage at Seven's treatment make itself known. She couldn't rid her mind of the image of a shivering Seven huddled in the corner of that Grethor of a place, confined there for no other reason than who and what she was.
"Her physical condition will stabilize. I have her using the portable regeneration unit now and, although it is not as effective, it will sustain her implants until she is well enough to regenerate in her alcove. I am more concerned about her mental status. She was conscious briefly and believed she was still in the Jotaran prison, that her presence on Voyager was nothing more than an elaborate holographic deception. I tried to explain to her that she was, indeed, safe on board Voyager -- that what she was experiencing was real, but she refused to believe me. Of course, my actually being a hologram didn't help my case."
"She was like that on the planet too, Captain," B'Elanna spoke up. "She kept insisting that I wasn't real. She thought I was trying to trick her somehow. I finally had to sedate her."
The Doctor seemed to take this information in before saying, "I'm afraid she is completely disconnected from reality."
There was a lengthy silence in the conference room as everyone fought to wrap their minds around the situation. Finally, the captain's smoky voice cut through the tension.
"How can we help her, Doctor?"
"Hopefully familiar surroundings and time will convince her she is actually aboard Voyager and the horrors of that planet are behind her. She will, likely, be untrusting, even paranoid, for some time. Everyone will simply have to be patient with her."
"Understood, Doctor. Thank you."
"Can we see her?"
Everyone turned to look at B'Elanna. The animosity between the Chief Engineer and the former drone was legendary, so they were all surprised at the question. Normally, B'Elanna could barely stand to be in the same room with Seven. B'Elanna ignored the looks ranging from the Captain's confusion to Tom's astonishment to Tuvok's patented raised eyebrow. Only Chakotay didn't seem particularly shocked. However, B'Elanna's primary concern was not what the senior staff thought, but to regain her honor. She had decided her first step would be trying to help Seven recapture what she lost in the Jotaran prison.
Seven scanned her surrounding with a critical eye, although the 'privacy screen' the Doctor had erected kept her from seeing most of the area . Still, she looked for any flaws she could find in the holographic environment. It seemed exactly like the Sickbay as she remembered it, but she knew there would be flaws. It was just a matter of recognizing them.
"Can I see her?"
The Doctor looked up from the console where he and Tom Paris were studying data. "Certainly, but she hasn't spoken since this morning."
B'Elanna nodded and moved to the back of Sickbay. She stepped around the privacy partition that had been set up. With relief she noticed that Seven looked much better. The Doctor had healed all of her obvious injuries, including those to her face. Now dressed in her usual skin-tight biosuit Seven looked like -- well, Seven. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be asleep, but B'Elanna knew better.
"I know you aren't sleeping, You told me just the other week that you had yet to 'master that activity'," B'Elanna said, hoping that Seven would, at least, open her eyes. B'Elanna sighed when Seven's eyes remained closed, her face impassive. "You're looking better, anyway -- almost back to your old self."
B'Elanna knew Seven could hear her, but wasn't ready to respond. "Look, I just wanted to say that everyone wants you back.....functioning within normal parameters. Spike's dying to play Kadis-Kot and I need someone to fight with, so...." B'Elanna sighed as Seven continued to feign sleep. "I'll go. I just wanted to tell you......you're not alone, Seven."
That said, B'Elanna turned and left. After the engineer had rounded the partition, Seven opened her eyes..
"So, what's with trying to be the Borg's new best friend?" Tom caught B'Elanna's arm as she headed toward the Sickbay doors.
"Take your hand off me," she growled.
"Take it easy, Lanna," Tom said as he released her. "I only want to know why you're so interested in Seven's well-being all of a sudden. You don't even like her."
"Not that it's any of your business, Tom, but I know what she's feeling and, if I can help her, I will."
"Wasn't it you that said she doesn't feel anything? 'Once and emotionless drone, always an emotionless drone.'"
Hearing her own words thrown back at her brought B'Elanna's shame to the forefront of her mind. "Yeah, well, I was wrong. Seeing her in that place.....nevermind, you wouldn't understand," B'Elanna said quietly and left.
Having heard the exchange thanks to her exceptional hearing, Seven couldn't allow herself to believe the change in the fiery engineer. It was a trick -- another deception. It had to be.
B'Elanna made her way to her quarters while deep in thought. What Tom had said was true. She had never been shy about expressing her dislike for Seven. She had believed Seven was as cold as ice from the moment Seven had told her that guilt was irrelevant. In that single moment, B'Elanna had formed her opinion and nothing had changed her mind -- until she had looked into Seven's haunted eyes in a cell on Jotar and seen the truth.
Seven studiously ignored all her other visitors as well. The Captain, Chakotay and Harry had all been by to 'see how she was doing'. Finally, her lack of response caused them all to leave, but not without empty promises that she was safe now -- that she would, eventually, accept these fictional surroundings as her home. Naomi Wildman's visit was the most difficult, but Seven knew the Jotarans were only using her attachment to the girl to taunt her. After several minutes of silence, Naomi had given up as well and was escorted from Sickbay by her mother.
Seven knew she had to escape. She couldn't allow herself to stay here any longer. Her mind slowly turned over all the possibilities of escaping this simulation of Voyager until she was left with only one choice. All she had to do was wait.
Hours later, as soon as the Doctor had deactivated himself for the night, Seven instituted her plan. She got up from the biobed, removed her combadge and moved quickly out of Sickbay to make her escape.
B'Elanna hadn't been able to sleep. Thoughts of Seven had plagued her all day. Hoping to exert herself enough to shut her mind down, she had run a particularly strenuous Klingon battle program on Holodeck 2. Rather than sapping her energy, the program had left her feeling even more restless. It wasn't until she programmed an image of the Jotaran Prime Minister Vorath and proceeded to beat him to a bloody pulp that she felt marginally better.
She had been on her way back to her quarters, but somehow found herself standing outside of Sickbay. She stared at the doors in front of her wondering why she was suddenly so obsessed with Seven of Nine. Guilt was only a part of the answer. There was something else. Something that compelled her to walk through the doors of Sickbay and check on Seven one more time before trying to sleep again.
Not bothering to activate the Doctor, she walked through Sickbay and around the partition guarding Seven's privacy expecting to see Seven lying there. Instead she saw an empty bed. Filled with an uneasy sense of foreboding, B'Elanna backed away from the bed and activated the Doctor.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Oh, it's you. What can I do for you, Lieutenant?"
"Did you release Seven?"
"Of course not. She's not well enough to leave Sickbay."
"Then where is she?"
"What are you talking about?" the EMH asked, moving toward Seven's biobed. "She's right -- Where is she?"
"Computer, deactivate the EMH."
"Now see here--" was all the Doctor could say before vanishing.
"Computer, locate Seven of Nine."
"Seven of Nine is in Sickbay."
It was then that B'Elanna spotted Seven's combadge on the floor next to the biobed. With a growl she picked it up and threw it across the room. "Computer, scan the ship for Seven of Nine's Borg signature and report her location."
"Seven of Nine is on Deck Seven, Section Twelve."
The answer confused B'Elanna. Why would Seven be -- "Kahless, Seven, what are you doing?" The engineer took off at a dead run, still spouting orders. "Computer, seal the airlock on Deck Seven, Section Twelve. Authorization Torres, Delta Delta Nine."
"Reopen only on my authorization."
Seven stared at her only means of escape knowing what she had to do. She opened the outer door and stepped inside. As the chamber pressurized, she found herself staring at the controls of the outer doors. She knew she was condemning herself to death. Death was preferable to continued imprisonment. Steeling herself, she began to enter the commands that would open the outer door of the airlock.
B'Elanna had never run so fast in her life. If she had been keeping time she was sure she would have beaten her personal best from her track days back at Starfleet Academy. As she reached the airlock, she could see Seven already inside entering commands on the keypad.
At the sound of B'Elanna's voice, Seven paused and lifted her head but didn't turn. "You cannot stop me. I must leave."
"Seven, if you open that door you will die. You aren't on the planet anymore. Can't you get that through your thick skull? You are on Voyager."
Seven ignored the voice behind her and focused her attention on the keypad. As she finished the sequence necessary to gain her freedom, nothing happened. In frustration she turned toward the inner door to see B'Elanna Torres staring back at her.
"I sealed it. I'm not going to let you kill yourself."
"You cannot keep me here," Seven said as she turned back and began entering the Borg codes that would allow her to override the seal on the door.
Seeing what Seven was doing, B'Elanna did the only thing she could think of. "Computer, open the inner door of this airlock. Authorization Torres Delta Delta Nine." When the door opened B'Elanna stepped in and sealed herself in with Seven.
Never taking her attention off the keypad, Seven calmly said, "Your actions are not logical. If you are telling the truth, you will be killed as well."
"Then I guess we will die together."
The statement caused Seven to halt her movements, but she didn't look at B'Elanna.
"Seven, I know you're confused. You don't know which end is up right now, but you have got to trust me. If you open that door we will both die. I don't think you want that to happen. I know I don't want that to happen. Please stop what you're doing and come back to Sickbay with me." As B'Elanna spoke she slowly reached over and put her hand on top of Seven's.
Seven stared at their hands, joined together at the control panel. B'Elanna's touch was just as gentle and electrifying as she remembered it being, but those memories were not real. If that wasn't real how could what she felt now be real. Seven closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear her mind. Slowly she turned to the small woman beside her and whispered, "Are you a hologram or are you real?"
B'Elanna's hearts bled when she heard Seven's broken and desperate question. She looked into the blonde's haunted eyes. "Seven, I am real," she replied quietly as she turned her hand over in order to grasp Seven's more firmly. "Please trust me."
Never breaking the hold B'Elanna had on her eyes or her hand, Seven simply nodded.
B'Elanna sighed in relief as she tapped her combadge and said, "Computer, initiate site to site transport. B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine to Sickbay." They still stared into one another's eyes as they shimmered out of existence.
"You wanted to see me, Captain?"
"Yes, B'Elanna. Have a seat."
The Captain's use of the engineer's first name let B'Elanna know that this conversation was not about ship's business. She headed to the ready room couch and sat down. As Kathryn joined B'Elanna on the couch the engineer looked at her friend expectantly.
"The Doctor tells me you've been spending a lot of time with Seven," Kathryn said as a way of opening the discussion she wanted to have.
B'Elanna nodded. "Yeah, I've been trying to get her to open up about what happened on the Jotar, but she is still very distrusting. I'm trying to take baby steps with her. Make her feel more comfortable."
"Good," Kathryn said before pausing. “Tuvok was going through the security files from last night and he ran across something interesting.”
B’Elanna studied Kathryn carefully. She knew what her friend and captain was going to say.
“He noticed a late night site to site transport.”
“What were you and Seven doing in an airlock at 0130?”
B’Elanna struggled with how much to tell Kathryn. “Is this a conversation between friends or Starfleet officers?”
The question didn’t surprise Kathryn. “Friends.”
“She was going to….escape the simulation,” B’Elanna said simply.
“Oh, God,” Kathryn said. “How did you stop her?”
B’Elanna smiled wryly, “I locked myself in with her.”
“B’Elanna, You could have been –“
“I know, I know, but I didn’t know what else to do. She was so close to doing it, Kathryn.”
The Captain just shook her head. They were all searching for ways to help Seven, but the young woman was too distrustful and wary for any of them to make headway. B’Elanna’s voice brought Kathryn out of her thoughts.
“It’s ironic, right? I’m the one talking her out of the airlock when I’ve threatened to throw her out of one so many times.”
Kathryn smiled with a hint of mischief. “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but…..”
“I guess I’m the official Borg sitter now. How the hell did that happen?” B’Elanna’s smile took any sting out of the comment.
“You’ll let me know if I can help?”
“Yeah, but I think it will just take some time.”
The two sat in silence, thinking about their resident drone before Kathryn asked, “So, my friend, how many new ways have you thought of to torment Mr. Paris?”
An evil smile crossed B’Elanna’s lips as she leaned forward to confide in her friend.
“If what you say is true, then allow me to leave.”
“Seven, your physical condition is still very fragile, and, considering your little escape attempt last night, I can’t allow you to leave. At least, not by yourself.”
Seven was pacing sickbay like a caged animal. Her eyes darted around constantly, never settling to concentrate on anything. “I only wish to go to my alcove to regenerate. If you are who you say you are and I am on board Voyager, you would allow me to go.”
“The Captain asked me to be sure you had an escort.”
“If I am not a prisoner I should not require and ‘escort’.”
A new voice broke into the argument. “She just wants to be sure you’re safe, Seven.”
Doctor and patient had been so engrossed in their argument, neither had heard the doors open and B’Elanna enter. The engineer turned to the Seven and said, “If you’d like, I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”
“Will it be acceptable for me to leave if Lieutenant Torres ‘escorts’ me?”
“Yes, but I want you back here first thing in the morning. I need to check your condition.”
“I will not submit to any further medication.” All three people in the room knew Seven was testing the Doctor, wanting to see if her wishes would be respected.
“As long as you remain calm, I don’t see any need for any further medication.”
“I’ll see you in the morning, then.”
Seven hesitantly looked toward B’Elanna. The engineer recognized the uncharacteristic look of trepidation and wisely kept her distance. She gestured for Seven to preceed her through the doors. Once in the hallway, Seven stopped abruptly and B’Elanna almost collided with her. Seven seemed at a loss as to where to go.
“Where to, Seven?” B’Elanna wanted Seven to focus. She had seen too many of her Maquis brothers who had escaped Cardassian torture chambers become shadows of their former selves, unable to make the simplest choices for themselves. She couldn’t watch that happen to Seven.
Seven focused on B’Elanna. As she watched the engineer watch her, an idea formed. Seven wanted to see how far this holographic B’Elanna would go to elicit the reactions the Jotarans wanted. “I wish to go to Engineering.”
B’Elanna knew she was being tested and bit back the remark that came to her lips. “Alright. After you.”
The walk to Engineering was remarkably quiet. B’Elanna wanted to let Seven set the pace of any conversation. When they reached the turbo lift that would take them to the proper deck, B’Elanna stepped inside only to find that Seven had stopped and was looking at the small space with what could only be described as apprehension. “Seven, are you coming?”
Seven didn’t move or speak.
“Seven, what’s wrong?” B’Elanna asked quietly.
Seven hesitated before saying, “This space is very….confined.”
B’Elanna nodded, knowing that Seven was probably thinking of the tight confines of her cell on Jotar. She decided to make light of the situation by saying, "Well, we could get to Engineering by Jeffries tube, but I think you'll find that even smaller."
Seven nodded and stepped into the turbo lift. She looked around constantly as if she was waiting for something to happen. B'Elanna noticed Seven's breath deepen and her ramrod straight posture become impossibly straighter.
"Relax, Seven. It'll just be another minute."
Time seemed to pass more slowly until the turbo lift doors opened. B'Elanna immediately stepped into the hallway, followed closely by Seven, who paused to give the turbo lift a dubious glance before continuing to Engineering.
Once through the doors to her second home, B'Elanna released a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. The tension Seven was radiating was difficult to deal with, especially since she could relate to what the young woman was feeling, having been held prisoner before herself. "Seven, I'm going to check on a few things in my office." B'Elanna resisted the urge to ask Seven if she would be all right by herself, knowing the blonde needed to regain her confidence.
For her part, Seven was grateful B'Elanna had left her alone. She began to search the engine room for any flaws she might notice that would confirm her suspicions. No holographic simulation of Voyager could be perfect. The harder she looked, the more confused she became. Everything was as it should be. Every control panel, every Jeffries tube access, even the tool locker was just as she remembered it.
For a moment she let herself wonder if, in fact, she had been rescued. Perhaps what everyone had been telling her since her arrival had been true. Perhaps she was home.
"You about finished, Seven?" When B'Elanna had Seven's attention she continued, "I was going to head to the Mess Hall. Would you like to come or did you have something else in mind?"
"I do not require a nutritional supplement at this time."
"Really?" B'Elanna asked as she raked her eyes over Seven' noticeably thinner body. "When was the last time you ate something?"
Seven cast B'Elanna a suspicious glance before answering. "Five days, twelve hours, thirty six minutes, seventeen seconds."
"Kah'less, Seven. They didn't feed you at all?"
Seven studied the floor for a moment. "The food provided by the Jotarans was laced with a mood altering substance designed to make me more placid for their experiments, so I chose not to consume them."
"Seven, you need to eat something."
"As I am not yet convinced this actually is Voyager, I will not."
B'Elanna sighed. "Look, I don't know how to convince you, but this is Voyager."
Seven raised her ocular implant. "You own behavior serves to negate that hypothesis. You have never been so....solicitous towards me in the past. In fact, our interactions have been quite volatile. I fail to understand why you are being so...."
"I see your point." B'Elanna thought for a moment how to explain her sudden change of heart. "I admit that we've never really gotten along. Actually, you drive me crazy, but seeing you in that prison made me....reevaluate a few things and....Well, let's just say I'd like us to have, sort of, a fresh start and...." B'Elanna found herself floundering in unfamiliar territory. "Look, do you want to eat or not?"
Seven considered a very flustered B'Elanna for a long moment. "I should regenerate."
B'Elanna felt vaguely disappointed. "Yeah, OK."
"However, perhaps you are correct. I might function more adequately if I consume a meal."
B'Elanna grinned as she said, "I'm sorry. I think my auditory processors are malfunctioning. Did you just say I was right about something?"
"I believe I said 'perhaps', but further study is called for," Seven said with a smirk before turning and leaving Engineering.
Seven looked up from her nutritional supplement to see B'Elanna staring at her expectantly. Cocking an eyebrow, she asked, "Are you waiting for me to thank you for saving my 'worthless cybernetic ass'?
"No," B'Elanna laughed. "I was just wondering how you're feeling, actually."
"I am...fatigued," Seven admitted.
"I'm sure you are," B'Elanna agreed quietly. "Listen, I have some reports to finish, so why don't I walk you back to the Cargo Bay and tuck you into your alcove. You'll feel a lot better after you've had a chance to regenerate for a while."
Seven knew she needed a full regeneration cycle, but she was hesitant to end an enjoyable afternoon with B'Elanna. She was also loathe to be alone. Her solitary confinement on the planet had made her appreciate the value of companionship. Shaking off what she perceived as a weakness, she stood, placed her glass in the recycler and waited for B'Elanna to escort her to Cargo Bay Two.
Darkness enveloped her. The hypnotic dripping of water and the musty smell of her surroundings invaded her senses. She noticed something scratching her hand. Opening an eye, Seven recognized a six legged rodent native to Jotar. Even without the benefit of light, she knew where she was.
A door opened and hands grabbed her roughly as they has so many times before. Her limbs no longer responded to her commands. Her body was breaking down. She couldn't stop shivering. As she was dragged through the hallway to another chamber of horrors, she was oddly grateful for the pain. At least it was real.
Blinding light and voices she couldn't quite make out permeated her fog. She fought to hear what was being said. Distantly, she knew her auditory functions were failing. She knew she was nearer to the end. She could feel a needle puncture her skin and the oppressive fog that consumed her became more dense -- harder to fight.
She forced her eyes open and used her diminished resources to focus on the faces looking down at her. Their lips were moving, but she couldn't hear what was being said. She watched as the lone female Jotaran scientist was handed a laser scalpel. She saw the woman's lips form the words cortical node just before the scalpel was activated. The distinct odor of burning flesh wafted through the air and she felt the skin above her left eye being cut open. She struggled to remain conscious, wanting to look her executioners in the eye, showing no fear. Absently, she thought that meeting her death like a warrior would make B'Elanna proud.
"Regeneration cycle complete."
Seven's eyes opened and the familiar confines of the Cargo Bay came into focus. She stepped out of her alcove not knowing if this was simply a respite from the torture or the beginning of another nightmare.
"Seven to Captain Janeway."
"May I...have a moment of your time?"
"Certainly, join me in my ready room. Have Icheb bring you up."
There was a pause before Seven responded, "Acknowledged. Seven out."
Kathryn had been waiting for Seven to contact her. She had gone to see the tall blonde several times when she was in Sickbay, but Seven had never responded to her, which had disappointed the Captain. In many ways Kathryn thought of Seven as a daughter. Watching her growth as an individual after being severed from the Collective made Kathryn very proud, although she knew Seven had a long way to go with respect to embracing her humanity. Kathryn's biggest fear was that Seven would regress behind her cool Borg exterior after her imprisonment by the Jotarans. Kathryn only hoped she could help the former drone in some way.
From the Doctor's reports she knew that Seven had been out of Sickbay for almost twenty four hours and that she had found an unlikely escort -- B'Elanna Torres. Seven and the engineer had had a volatile relationship ever since Seven had joined Voyager. Kathryn had hoped that the two could find some common ground since they were so alike in many ways, but that hadn't seemed meant to be. The two brilliant women had butted heads at every turn in the past, so this new development was surprising, but B'Elanna had shown nothing but concern for Seven since B'Elanna had rescued her. Something had happened in that prison that had changed B'Elanna. Kathryn knew that B'Elanna's report about the rescue, while factually accurate, had, most likely, left out a few things.
Kathryn was pulled from her thoughts by the hiss of her ready room door opening. Befor entering, Seven turned to Icheb and said, "Please remain outside. I wish to speak to the captain in private."
"Of course, Seven," Icheb responded.
Seven strode into the ready room looking, to the casual observer, as though nothing was wrong. She seemed as composed as ever, but Kathryn noticed a haunted distance in Seven's eyes that belied her outer calm.
"How are you feeling, Seven?"
"I am functioning within normal parameters, Captain."
Kathryn nodded, clearly not believing Seven. "Why don't we sit down?" she asked as she walked toward the couch.
"I would prefer to stand."
Kathryn smiled at Seven's typical response. "I know, but humor me, please."
Seven nodded and sat down stiffly on the edge of the couch. They were both silent for a few moments while Kathryn looked at Seven intently, hoping the young woman would open up about what she was feeling.
Seven was uncomfortably aware of Kathryn's scrutiny. If this was, indeed, Kathryn Janeway, Seven had no doubt the Captain would want to engage in a 'philosophical discussion' about her experiences on the planet and Seven wasn't prepared in the least for such a discussion.
"How are you adjusting to being back, Seven?"
Seven hesitated. "As I said, I am functioning within normal parameters, Captain. In fact, I would like to resume my duties in Astrometrics."
Kathryn's eyebrows shot up. "Isn't it a little soon, Seven. You've only been back a few days. I think you need more time to --"
"Captain, I do not require more time. Resuming my regular duties would be more helpful to me than any additional rest."
Kathryn smiled. "Seven, I can appreciate the fact that you crave your regular routine." Kathryn paused, not quite knowing how to continue. "However, I am also aware that you still don't fully trust your surroundings. I also know that B'Elanna stopped you from hurting yourself the other night. I'm not sure it's wise for you to return to duty until you're feeling more like yourself." Noticing that Seven had become more and more agitated during her speech, Kathryn placed a soothing hand on the young woman's knee. "Do you understand my position, Seven?"
"You are correct regarding my misgivings about the reality of this place, but I fail to see how keeping me from my work and your continued insistence that I be 'escorted' around the ship will improve my 'trust in my surroundings'."
Kathryn knew Seven was right. If she continued to feel as though she wasn't trusted to be by herself, Seven would never feel more at home. "You're right, Seven. How about a compromise? Give me your word you won't pay anymore late night visits to the airlock and you can move freely about the ship unaccompanied."
"And returning to my duties?"
Kathryn considered that for a moment. "How about this? You can begin working shifts in Engineering. That way B'Elanna can keep an eye on you and, as you get more comfortable, we'll talk about you returning to Astrometrics."
Seven looked at Kathryn with a critical eye. The notion that it was necessary for her to be supervised filled her with distrust, however, the thought of spending more time in Engineering, specifically with B'Elanna, appealed to her. The engineer had been very kind to her since her return. B'Elanna had volunteered to accompany Seven when she was off duty, sharing meals and simple conversation. Seven found that she craved more time with the woman, feeling content and relaxed in her presence, but she was also unsettled by those same feelings. They were perilously close to the way she had felt during the holographic simulations during her imprisonment and, while she knew none of that had been real, she was also unwilling to lose B'Elanna's company.
Kathryn watched Seven as she thought. "Well?"
Seven returned her attention to the Captain. "That is also acceptable."
"Good. As soon as the Doctor has given you a check up you can report to B'Elanna."
"Thank you, Captain." Seven stood and left.
Kathryn watched Seven pass through the doors to the ready room. "You're dismissed," she whispered to herself. Tapping her comm badge, Kathryn braced herself for her next conversation. "Janeway to Torres."
"B'Elanna, I've just given Seven permission to return to duty."
The surprise in B'Elanna's voice didn't escape Kathryn's notice. "Yes, but I've assigned her to Engineering for the time being. I was hoping you could keep an eye on her."
There was a pause before B'Elanna answered. "No problem, Captain. I'll keep her busy."
"Good. Let me know if there are any problems."
"SEVEN, WHAT IN THE NAME OF KAH'LESS ARE YOU DOING?"
"Increasing the efficiency of the plasma intake manifolds."
B'Elanna took a deep breath and tried to reign in her temper. "You are supposed to be repairing the plasma conduit, not fiddling with intake manifolds."
"This is a more efficient use of my time."
"Vorik has been waiting for you to make that repair so his team can continue to run their diagnostic."
"You did not inform me that the repair was needed immediately."
"For the millionth time, Seven of Nine, if I tell you to do something, just do it. Don't ask why. Don't decide for yourself that there are other things you should be doing. And don't tell someone else to do it while you do whatever the hell you want to."
Seven simply raised an eyebrow in response, which only infuriated B'Elanna further. Staring at Seven's impossibly smug demeanor, B'Elanna knew that all of the Vulcan meditation techniques in the universe wouldn't help her today.
"Don't give me that look either. Don't look at me like you've never heard any of this before. You have an eidetic memory, so I know you haven't forgotten what I've told you. You refuse to acknowledge my authority, even though both the Captain and I have talked to you about protocol until we were blue in the face. You are the most insufferable, arrogant, uncooperative, overbearing, egotistical, selfish, unreasonable woman I have ever known and, I swear to Kah'less, if you do this kind of thing one more time, I will drag you back to Deck Seven, Section Twelve and throw you out that airlock myself. Have I made myself perfectly clear?"
Seven looked at B'Elanna, whose every muscle was tense and whose chest was heaving with the exertion of her tirade. After a moment spent studying the dark woman, Seven simply tilted her head and said, "I do not recall either yours or the Captain's facial features ever turning blue."
B'Elanna closed her eyes and tried to breath, like Tuvok had taught her, in an effort to remain calm. "Get out," B'Elanna said through clenched teeth.
"I have not completed --"
"I don't care! Walk away while you still can. Don't come back until the start of Alpha shift tomorrow."
Seven nodded and made her way to the exit. Before she reached the doors, she stopped and turned. "Lieutenant Torres?"
"I am beginning to believe this is Voyager."
Seven turned and left leaving an angry and confused B'Elanna Torres standing in the middle of Engineering.
"You did that on purpose," B'Elanna said as she entered the Cargo Bay.
Seven looked up from her workstation. "To what are you referring?"
B'Elanna stopped, settled her weight on in her left hip and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "That little 'incident' in Engineering. You did it in purpose. You were trying to get me to lose it."
Seven looked at B'Elanna unapologetically. "Yes."
B'Elanna shook her head and sighed. "Are you trying to drive me crazy?"
Now Seven looked confused. "Of course not."
"Then why, Seven?" B'Elanna waited as Seven hesitated.
Seven found that she couldn't look at B'Elanna while she tried to formulate an answer to her question. She didn't like to examine her experience in the Jotaran prison and wished she could delete it from her memory circuits, but she thought B'Elanna deserved an answer. The drone looked anywhere but at B'Elanna as she answered, "When I was....on the planet, my captors used holographic simulations of familiar people and surroundings."
"I know that," B'Elanna said quietly.
"My interactions with your holographic double were always....non-adversarial, as have our interactions in the last several days. I was trying to determine if you would react in a more familiar manner when faced with a confrontational situation."
"OK." B'Elanna was concerned that Seven had yet to look at her during her explanation, so she tried to catch the young woman's eye as she asked, "So, did they simulate the whole crew?"
"No. Only you." Seven consciously ignored her memory of assimilating Kathryn Janeway.
B'Elanna's forehead creased in confusion. "It was just you and me aboard Voyager?"
"We were not aboard Voyager." Seven was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, but B'Elanna didn't notice.
"Where were we?"
Seven felt her cheeks begin to flush as she remembered the more intimate moments she spent with B'Elanna. She quickly directed her nanoprobes to compensate for the irregular blood flow. "I do not wish to continue this conversation. It is time for me to regenerate."
B"Elanna finally took notice of Seven's discomfort. In fact, for a moment, she though the former drone was blushing. "Look, I didn't mean to upset you. I was just curious. Get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning."
B'Elanna watched as Seven stepped into her alcove and closed her eyes.
Instead of leaving, B'Elanna watched Seven regenerate wondering why she felt so energized. Then B'Elanna realized she always felt this way after a fight with Seven. Before she and Tom had broken up, they would work off her 'excess energy' together. While the sex was, most often, disappointing, B'Elanna was usually able to expend enough energy to get to sleep. When Tom's stamina was particularly low, she would head off to run a battle simulation on the holodeck. 'I guess that's where I'll end up tonight.'
Just as B'Elanna was about to leave, the doors to the cargo bay opened to reveal the Captain. Kathryn was just as surprised to see B'Elanna as the Klingon was to see the Captain.
"Hello, B'Elanna. I thought I would stop by and see if Seven wanted to have dinner, but I guess I'm a little late. She doesn't usually begin her regeneration cycle now."
B'Elanna looked sheepish as she said, "Umm....that might be my fault. I think I upset her a little."
"Yes, I heard something happened in Engineering today."
"Huh?" B'Elanna looked confused for a moment before realizing what Kathryn was talking about. "Oh that. That was nothing, really."
"You kicked her out of Engineering."
"Just until tomorrow."
"Honestly, Kathryn. It's par for the course. It was no big deal."
"Then why is Seven upset?"
"I'm not exactly sure."
"Then why do you think it's your fault?"
"She was talking about the planet and I guess I asked one too many questions."
"Well, at least she's talking to someone." Kathryn snuck a side-long glance at her Chief Engineer. "I'm a little surprised it's you, though."
Rather than taking offense as Kathryn feared she would, B'Elanna just looked at Seven's peaceful face and said with wonder, "Yeah, me too."
Kathryn had known that something had changed for B'Elanna on the planet and, looking at B'Elanna's face as she watched Seven, Kathryn could see that the change was even more profound than even the dark woman realized.
"Come on," Kathryn said as she dragged B'Elanna out of the cargo bay by her arm. "You, me and a couple of drinks. I think you have a lot to tell me."
"I don't know, Kathryn," B'Elanna started as her fingers traced patterns in the condensation on the outside of her glass. "Seeing her down there, she was so....vulnerable. I never thought...." B'Elanna sighed and rubbed her forehead ridges in frustration. "Before I only saw her as an emotionless Borg drone who was always on my last nerve. That's all I wanted to see, but now...She's funny and brilliant and beau---" B'Elanna stopped abruptly as she realized what she was about to say. Eyes wide with surprise met Kathryn's amused expression.
"And what?" Kathryn challenged with a knowing look.
B'Elanna sprang up from the couch and started to pace the Captain's quarters, in active denial of what she and Kathryn had both realized. "No, no, no, no, no," B'Elanna began to chant.
Her mantra was interrupted by Kathryn's amused voice. "B'Elanna, you're going to make yourself space sick and you're wearing a hole in my carpet."
B'Elanna stopped and turned on her friend. "I'm glad you find this amusing, Kathryn."
"Good, because I really do." Kathryn laughed when B'Elanna shot her an annoyed glare. "B'Elanna, you like her. There's nothing wrong with that."
"She's my nemesis!"
Kathryn only began to laugh harder.
"I'm leaving now."
"No, B'Elanna. Wait. I'm sorry," Kathryn said, trying to control herself, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. "It's just that I don't think I've ever heard someone use the word 'nemesis' in a sentence before."
B'Elanna stared at Kathryn for a moment before collapsing into laughter herself. It took several minutes for the two to control themselves enough to speak.
"Oh God, that felt really good," Kathryn said as they both settled down.
"Yeah, it really did. I can't even remember the last time I laughed like that." B'Elanna smiled before sighing, "What am I going to do, Kathryn?"
"You don't have to do anything, sweetie," Kathryn replied with a tender smile. "Just be her friend and see what happens from there."
"But does she....I mean, would she....Ah Kah'less, I can't even string a sentence together," B'Elanna said as she sighed and leaned back into the couch.
"B'Elanna, Seven is much more complex than most people give her credit for. She has all the same feelings the rest of us do. She just spent most of her life suppressing them. It's not that she doesn't want to express things like hate...or love. She just honestly doesn't know how. Her past with the Collective has affected her in ways I can't even begin to imagine. She was taken not to long ago and forced to fight for her life in the Tsunkatse tournament. Combine all of that with what she went through on Jotar...." Kathryn left the sentence unfinished. "Just keep spending time with her and see what happens."
B'Elanna nodded her head, but still seemed unconvinced.
"What is it about this that bothers you so much?" Kathryn asked. "Is it that she's a woman?"
"No, no. It's not that. I've been with women before, but...."
"But Seven hasn't."
"Kathryn, she hasn't been with anyone." B'Elanna paused as a strange feeling settled in the pit of her stomach. "She hasn't been with anyone, right? I mean, you two haven't..."
Kathryn's eyes grew impossibly large as she understood the implication of B'Elanna's question. "NO! B'Elanna, Seven is like a daughter to me, so.....no."
B'Elanna breathed a sigh of relief. "It's just that you do spend a lot of time with her and there have been a few rumors." B'Elanna quickly put a placating hand up. "Not that I believed any of them, but you know how fast gossip travels."
"Warp speed, I know. It's all right, although I'm certainly not happy about these rumors." The Captain made a mental note to have a word with Chakotay about ways to bring the rumor mill aboard Voyager to a grinding halt. "Just know that if you and Seven develop something more than friendship in the future, there is no one that would be happier about it than I would. Except for, maybe, Seven," the Captain finished under her breath.
"What? What did you say?" B'Elanna had heard the Kathryn mumble something, but couldn't make it out.
"Nothing," Kathryn said with a sigh. "I just think that if you take things slowly, you might be pleasantly surprised."
B'Elanna looked at Kathryn suspiciously for a moment before saying, "I should probably go. Thank you, Kathryn."
As the engineer began to leave, Kathryn called her back. "B'Elanna?"
"Just out of curiosity," Kathryn began almost shyly, "why didn't you believe the rumors about me and Seven?"
B'Elanna just smiled. "Because you're her mentor -- her teacher -- and you're a woman of honor. I knew you wouldn't take advantage of her like that."
B'Elanna stopped as the door to Kathryn's quarters opened to let her out. "Besides, it would have broken Chakotay's heart," she said with a grin as she exited, leaving a speechless Kathryn Janeway gaping like a fish as the door slid closed.
B'Elanna was up half the night trying to decide what to do about her growing attraction to Seven of Nine. 'Would Seven be interested in me in a romantic sense?' She decided to do what she did best and analyze the situation like she would a problem with the engines or the power grid. She took out a PADD and started to make notes of everything she knew to be true.
The Jotarans used holograms to show Seven her hopes and dreams.
They wanted to fulfill those dreams and then take them away.
They used a holographic representation of me, and no one else aboard Voyager.
Seven and this holographic me had spent time alone, not on board Voyager, but somewhere else entirely.
I upset Seven when I tried to ask about it.
B'Elanna paused and looked back to the top of the list. "Seven's dream was to be alone with me?" she asked herself quietly. She started to smile as a plan began to form in her head. "I guess I'll just have to give you want you want, won't I?"
At the beginning of Alpha shift, B'Elanna was waiting in her office pretending to do paperwork. Her plan today would either work like a charm, and change her life forever, or make her look like a bigger ass than Tom Paris. B'Elanna looked up as Seven strode through the doors of Engineering. 'Right on time.' She stood up and walked out to meet the former drone.
"Good morning, Seven. How are you today?" B'Elanna asked cheerfully. She smiled inwardly at Seven's suspicious look.
"I am well, Lieutenant. Thank you for asking."
"Good. Grab a repair kit. We have a lot of work to do."
Seven stiffened. "We?"
"Yes, Seven, we. As in you and me. We're getting our hands dirty today," B'Elanna said as she grabbed a repair kit for herself.
"We are going to replace bad gel packs and repair plasma conduit in Jeffries tubes twelve through twenty."
Seven looked confused. "You and I will be doing this?"
"Yes," B'Elanna said simply while she waited for Seven's inevitable protests.
"That is an inefficient use of our time."
"Be that as it may, that's what we're going to do."
"They are minor repairs that do not require the talents of the two most skilled engineers on Voyager."
"Seven, I need you to search that eidetic memory of yours and access what I told you yesterday. Do you remember?"
Seven sighed and came perilously close to rolling her eyes. "You are the most insufferable, arrogant, uncooperative, overbearing, egotistical, selfish, unreasonable woman I have ever known and, I swear to Kah'less, if you do this kind of thing one more time, I will drag you back to Deck Seven, Section Twelve and throw you out that airlock myself," Seven finshed with a raised eyebrow.
B'Elanna smirked and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "The part before that, Seven."
After a moment Seven said, "For the millionth time, Seven of Nine, if I tell you to do something, just do it. Don't ask why. Don't decide for yourself that there are other things you should be doing. And don't tell someone else to do it while you do whatever the hell you want to."
"Exactly. I'm glad you were paying attention. Let's go."
Seven stood still as B'Elanna crossed to the hatch leading to the Jeffries tube and opened it. Her attraction to B'Elanna was something that could not be controlled no matter how hard she tried. The thought of spending so much time in such close quarters with the engineer was not something she had anticipated and, as such, she was unprepared. She only hoped she could control her physical responses long enough to complete their work and retreat to the safety of her alcove.
B'Elanna turned and saw Seven standing where she had left her, deep in thought. "Seven, come on. Daylight's burning."
The strange colloquialism brought Seven out of her stupor. "There is no daylight in space."
"It's just an expression, Seven." B'Elanna motioned gallantly to the access door. "After you."
Several hours later, Seven was sure the day would never end. Being in such close quarters with B'Elanna Torres brought back many sensations she remembered from her fantasies. Once again she wondered how the holograms generated by the Jotarans could be so real.
"Seven?" B'Elanna had turned to ask Seven to hand her a tool when she noticed the blonde was lost in thought. She had come to recognize Seven's expression. B'Elanna had see her like this before, when Seven was lost in memories of her incarceration. She reached out an gently rested her hand on Seven's forearm. "Seven?"
B'Elanna's touch brought Seven back to the present. She stared at the hand on her arm and found herself saying, "How was it so real?"
"On...the planet. How were they able to make things so real -- so perfect?" Seven asked, almost to herself, still concentrating on the warmth generated by B'Elanna's hand.
B'Elanna took a moment before answering. She knew this was an important moment. Seven hadn't directly addressed her imprisonment before. "Seven, it was perfect - and don't take this the wrong way - but, I've thinking a lot about that, actually, and I think it was perfect because it was you."
Seven's head shot up to look at B'Elanna, a protest springing to her lips.
B'Elanna quickly held up her hands to stem Seven's argument. "I don't mean that it was your fault, Seven. I just mean they stole things from your mind -- that perfect eidetic mind of yours -- so, of course the simulations were flawless. You remember every tiny detail of everything. If it had been me or Kathryn, there would been mistakes in the holograms because neither she nor I could remember everything as perfectly as you do."
"It would not have happened to you or Kathryn. You are not Borg. This happened because, as much the Captain, or even I, deny it, I am still Borg. I always will be and people will always hate me because of it."
"Only the ignorant and small-minded would hate you because of who you are, Seven."
"You do," Seven whispered sadly.
B'Elanna closed her eyes and dropped her head. She gathered her courage, looked into Seven's desolate eyes and said, "Seven, I know you think that, but I don't hate you. I've said some awful things about you in the past. I admit that, but I think it's because I have never known anyone like you before. You infuriate me and challenge me and you make me feel......small." B'Elanna closed her eyes in shame at the admission. "You are so brilliant, Seven. So brilliant and so beautiful. Sometimes I don't think I can ever measure up in either department, so I say things and do things --"
"B'Elanna, you are my superior in both," Seven interrupted quietly.
B'Elanna stared at Seven, shocked by the young woman's admission. She instinctively knew that now was the time to ask for the answers she had been wanting for days. "Seven," she said gently, "tell me what the holographic simulations were like. You said that we spent time together away from Voyager. Where were we?"
Seven averted her eyes. Her experiences on the planet were moments of happiness that she thought would never be repeated. She was hesitant to tell B'Elanna about them, not only because she was sure the engineer would react negatively. Irrationally, she thought if she told anyone -- gave those memories to another -- she would lose them forever.
B'Elanna watched as Seven struggled with the decision she had asked her to make. "Seven," she whispered. B'Elanna reached out and touched Seven's cheek. lowly she drew the other woman's face up to meet her own. "Please tell me where we were."
Tears welled up in Seven's human eye as she looked into familiar pools of brown. "We were.....home."
"Home? You mean Earth?"
"Yes, we were on Earth, but...."
"But what, Seven?"
"We were in our home."
"Our ho--?" B'Elanna stopped and gathered her thoughts. "Seven, we shared a home together? We lived together? Were we friends? Lovers?"
"Be’nal," Seven whispered reverently.
The dark woman's mind froze as she processed the word she could barely hear fall from Seven's lips. She couldn't speak as she tried to wrap her mind around the meaning of Seven's word. 'Be'nal? Seven and I were married? That was Seven's dream?'
Seven could no longer bear B'Elanna's silence. Obviously, the engineer could not fathom such a close relationship with her. Seven fortified her inner defenses and said, "There is no need to worry, Lieutenant. It was simply a foolish illusion. I am fully aware you would neither want nor tolerate such a relationship. I will leave you alone in the future." Seven gathered her tool kit and turned to crawl down the Jeffries tube to the nearest exit.
Seven's flight shook B'Elanna out of her stupor. She quickly followed the former drone. "Seven, wait!"
Seven stopped and turned around. "Lieutenant, it is not necessary for you to respond. I would prefer to be left alone."
B'Elanna grabbed Seven's arm to prevent her from running again. "Seven, don't go. We need to talk about this."
"Any further conversation on the subject would be pointless."
"No, Seven. It wouldn't be pointless."
"Yes, it would. I have decided that a romantic relationship with a member of this crew would be inadvisable. I do not have the emotional capability to sustain such a pursuit."
B'Elanna raised an eyebrow. "Really? When did you decide that?"
Seven hesitated before answering, "Now."
Maintaining her hold on Seven's arm, B'Elanna took the opportunity to move closer to her. "Why wouldn't you be capable of a romantic relationship?"
Seven looked down and whispered, "I am Borg."
B'Elanna shook her head and moved closer. "You're not Borg, Seven. You are a beautiful woman."
Seven began to shake her head. "No, I--"
B'Elanna silenced Seven by placing her thumb against her lips. She looked at the woman in front of her and knew what she had to do -- what she needed to do. "Shhh. You are so beautiful." She leaned in and pressed her lips against Seven's. An overwhelming sense of peace washed over both women as they allowed the kiss to deepen. After a several minutes, they reluctantly broke the kiss and rested their foreheads together. With awe, B'Elanna whispered, "Be'nal."
Seven closed her eyes and released a content sigh. She pulled back slightly and looked into B'Elanna's eyes, once again mesmerized by the woman about whom she had so often dreamed. "You are real."
B'Elanna smiled, caressed Seven's face and said, "I am real."