Strengthofhope

Author: Amy Elizabeth

Rating: Pg-13

Disclaimer: O they aren't mine. Get over it. I'm not making any money off them, I'm still broke. 

Synopsis: Some things are too important not to say. Six months of desperation might be enough to make a difference. 

Author's Notes: Taken forever to be done! (As my beta-readers can attest too However I really hope you like it And Feedback is loved!!
DbleGem22@hotmail.com

Strength of Hope

He woke up. There was nothing exceptional or abnormal in this action. It was an action performed by innumerable beings in the far
reaches of galaxies. Yet to him it was a challenge. A heavy-hearted act, one that drained him of whatever energy he had upon waking
from the dreams he endured night after night. That reminded him, taunted him. They stole his sleep, his soul it seemed occasionally.
Yet, in some perverse way, they were a measure of comfort. They were a constant, always there, never disappointing him. Beyond this
though they never let him forget. He would always know what he had done. These dreams were his last memories of her. 

In his sleep he could see her, something he would never do again upon waking. He could hear her melodic voice, though it was ridden
with anguish and fear. And the pain the dreams made him endure, to relive night after night, reminded him of his living. Even though he
had wished that he had gone with her, he had not. In the waking world the same bell greeted his ears that had always done so, the
same chair awaited him at the bridge, the same room waited for his return, and the same bed brought him back to her nightly. The
most painful reminder, however, was the rhythmic feel of the warp core gently humming underneath the belly of the ship. The constant
pulses of energy from the core, the very heart of the ship. The engines were always the same rhythm; Carey made sure he kept them
that way. 

Tom drug himself out of the warm embrace of his sheets, shivering at the near frigid temperature of the room. The sheets were warm
but still lonely. Never a substitute for a lover's arms. His uniform, neatly folded sat on the blue chair in the corner of the room. She had
always wanted it like that. He removed the pants and shirt from the chair and sat. It was the one she had always sat on, her favorite.
Tom now found it was his too. He had relived the whole scene in his dreams that night before. His hands could still feel the sting of
hitting the Conn. of the Delta Flyer; still his throat was sore from his screams, and his ears still ringing from hers. Her screams filled his
thoughts on a regular basis. Her anguish --her pain-- so open and raw, begging him to save her. 

*Something, * he sighed, *You failed to do. *

" Its dark, Tom." This simple statement betrayed so much in her voice. 

" I know B'Elanna, I'm coming." He kept his voice steady, strong, optimistic. Feelings he was truly void of. 

" Itís cold too." She was trying to hold on, he realized, to keep talking. Her last hold.

He glared at the panel in front of him, as if that action would make it go any faster than it was. His panic was becoming real. It gripped
him like a cold hand, wringing hope from his every pore. He could see her. In the dark, alone, bloodied. This image, he knew, would
haunt him throughout life, no matter the outcome of his mission. He urged his ship forward, pleading with whatever gods watched out on
them that he would get to her. He could hear her labored breathing over the open comm link. It was a constant, like a rhythmic beat
that assured him of her life. 

" Tom...I'm.." The breathing slowed, it became softer and lower. 

' B'Elanna, what's wrong...what's happening?" His heart beat raced. There was no spoken answer but only the sound of her heartbreaking
scream. The universe stopped, his heart stopped, and he could only wish time would stop. Her scream filled his ears, made them ring
with the pure agony in the chords. He could hear his own frantic shouts issuing from his mouth, not able to understand. He was in slow
motion, the deck spun, he throat ached from the frantic shouts of desperation for her to answer him. His ears only registered her sobs
and screams. In those moments he knew what true pain was, true agony. Then the screams stopped. 

There was absolute silence.

Except for the rhythmic beat of the engines

And of pounding of his heart

But there was a beat missing.

Her breath. 

When he had gotten to her last known coordinates he was greeted only by debris. How could this simple mission go so wrong? He
remembered the calm, quiet people of the Narti. He remembered how grateful they were when B'Elanna and her team had beamed down
to assist them in repairs with their faltering power systems. It was simple, they had offered supplies, and Voyager had offered
assistance. It was a common ordeal. Why did they turn on Voyager? Tom couldn't understand. The team had come back, B'Elanna
hadn't. Her shuttle had been delayed to finish the final adjustments. As usual the chief had to come back last. She always came back
though, ever mission, every time. However, as Tom knew now, this time B'Elanna never came home. 

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Her eyes opened. However, she could not say she had woken up. Waking up implied that she had indeed slept. Yet she could not say
she had truly slept in months. She could remember sleep. That much she could say. She could still feel the embrace of the warm sheets
and of her loverís arms. She could feel the tingle of his warm breath on her shoulder. And most of all the image of his peaceful form
lying next to her. Yet here in this barren room there was no comfort, no warmth, no him. 

The taste of dirt was a common one to B'Elanna Torres; its distinguished taste coated her mouth, her body. And it seemed as if it had
dug so deep under her skin it had penetrated her soul, coating it with a sense of dread and doom. Yet as she lay there she could hear a
faint noise. It had begun to rain, thought she could not see it, the soft pitter patter on the roof alerted her of the planet's tears, falling
on the ground, washing away the bad and old, and with its touch giving way to the new and cleansed. She lay there, listening to the soft
rain, and felt the loosening of the dirt in her soul; she could see the sun through the clouds. It could of all been in her imagination, but
wasn't that all she had left? 

He had once been her sun. That ray that promised life and breath, even in the total darkness. Her entire life had been a lonesome
road, she had never stopped to look back over her shoulder, never stopped to rest, never bothered to feel sorry for herself, it didn't
help anything anyway. Yet he had taught her differently, she had a stop, a shelter to run to when she was sad, lost, lonely. He was her
silver moon, that guided her, let her stop, gave her hope. Yet she had never told him.

She had cursed herself for this. Knowing now she had died to him, without him knowing how much she cared. It was a trend with her, love
and stay silent. If anything was to let her survive this prison was the far distant hope of being in his arms again, and to be the brave
B'Elanna Torres and let him know she loved him. Life was too short to not tell those you love so. He was her life, yet she was too proud,
too independent, too scared to let him in. What a coward. And now he thinks her dead, himself alone, on the lonesome road. And he
might never know. 

It was these mornings that she thought of this the most. The mornings when she woke early and lay silent on the cold earth. When she
had slept the little she had that night she had dreamed of her friends, who had long forgotten her. She could see her Harry, growing up
so quickly. It was almost a pity he had to lose so much innocence so abruptly. She could see Chakotay, his calming presence and cool
head. She missed him, he was like her father, and she longed to be back where they were. She could see little Neelix, blundering in the
kitchen, cooking something B'Elanna would die for at that moment. But mostly she saw him, his blue depths, filled with love. Yet at the
same time she saw his pain, and echo of the feelings he must of felt, a long time past. Her heart was with Tom. 

She had no idea how long she had been in the mines. Days passed as months, months as years. Time had no meaning, no ways of
passage. For there was no future, no past, no present, just the pain and hopelessness that the guards instilled in each prisoner. She
had been made a number, an insignificant. Things moved as in a slow motion picture. She was alone. Yet she knew, in her heart, who
she was, and who she should be, and who loved her. And that alone gave her the strength of hope. 

She remembered the night she was taken. However many months ago that was. She was in a damaged shuttle, after leaving the range
of the Narti homeworld. She was, as always, the last to come back. The repairs of their power conversion systems had been successfully
completed. Her mind on the warm shower and bed back home, she hardly noticed the large, unfamiliar ship approaching her from
behind. A warning klaxon sounded, alerting her of the approaching vessel. Before she had a chance to process the warning the ship had
fired. She had sent a distress signal that Voyager had responded to quickly. But not quite fast enough. She couldn't remember much
after that. She had blacked out. 

When she had awoken she found herself still on the shuttle. It was dark, except for the small red lights blinking overhead. She
struggled to her knees, a sharp numbing pain shooting up her side. The stars of space no longer shone through the windows put a wall
of rock was all she could see. And a person. A tall man, his back was to her. His white hair stuck out in the shady cavern. It was long,
twisted into a ponytail down his bare back. His skin was a blue-gray, which also was noticeable in the low lighting. She couldn't remember
ever seeing anything like him before. She tried to raise herself off the ground. Her arms seemed limp and inactive. Yet in the end she
managed to get herself nearly off the ground when a burst of red hot energy had flooded through her back, sending her into a state of
blackness. But not before one image shot through her mind. And as she descended into the helpless blackness his face looked
longingly at her, and it seemed to be whispering.." I love you."

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She had ended up here, in a slave mine. Deep beneath the rocky surface of this unknown planet. And now she just laid there, the
morning lights beginning to come on as the nightly shift ended. As she quickly rose to adjust her dirty dress, a bag in essence. This was
a new sector for her; she had relocated here after the completion of the tunnel she had lived in since she had arrived there. She had
begun to make connections in that old tunnel; it was a contingent of all women. They were bonded in some perverse way, they worked
together, sweated together, and even sometimes, after the days long work, they would actually talk together. They told stories around a
small flame the guards would leave. Every night a different person would weave a tale that reminded each of them of home, of the
people they knew they were. One woman had been a mother of six. All of her children had died at the hands of their captors, in a raid of
their small family craft. Her husband was sent to a men's contingent, she had no idea where he was, if he was alive or not. Another was
an ambassador to her people; she had been abducted on a trip to a homeworld nearby her planet. One was but a child herself, just
reaching the age of 15 before her capture. She had watched her mother die. Her brother and father had been drug away to a men's
camp. She didn't know where they were. As B'Elanna had sat there she realized why she was captured. There wasn't a reason, a logical
explanation; she had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She had always known the universe was out to get her. Those
women and girls had protected each other, watched out for the others. They had all heard the horror stories of the different contingents;
especially the mixed gender ones. They heard stories of brutal assaults, rapes, killings. It scared the hell out of each of them. 

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Part 2 SOH

The commander of the Operation Mega 31 watched the laborers move the large chunks of ore from one section to another. He knew this
was a monotonous job, not much brainwork going on down there, no doubt. His experiment was going well, with the labor as efficient as
it was now; he would be finished before the year slipped by. This particular sector was doing nicely, they had just begun on this tunnel
and it was already cleared greatly. He sighed deeply. He felt like a monster, these people worked like animals, slaving away to their
deaths. He hated that. But they weren't Kartin, they were just migrates, people from whatever planets in whatever quadrants... not
achieved Kartin. He knew his government wouldn't even allow the use of the lowliest peasants on this work. That's why they supplied him
with a wealth of migrates. Only impure migrates. Impure. They definitely looked that way, large streaks of ore covering their faces, dirt
clinging to their hair, their clothes loose and hanging off thin bodies, and their eyes-- their haunted eyes-- were frightening, like dead
souls living in barely breathing bodies. They would haunt his dreams occasionally, screaming at him, taunting him. His heart almost
ached at the thought...yet he knew his research would save millions of his people. Millions, at the cost of hundreds. Hundreds of poor,
unlucky people. He violently shook the idea out of his head. Millions of his people would live. The workers should be proud, he thought,
they were saving millions. 

*Million of their captors* His blue-gray hand trembled as he ran it through his white hair. He looked down again at the haunted bodies,
working endlessly, young and old, of so many races. Then he saw her, the woman he had captured from her shuttle, the fiery one that
was so full of life. The scientist within him had recognized her talent, an unspoken energy that told of great intelligence and creativity.
And the man within him saw her beauty and life, an unbelievable grace and raw edge that made her irresistible. Yet he had to leave her
to the mines, everyone that was brought here came to the mines. Yet as he watched her he realized her strength, she hadn't become
haunted. She was strong still, moving with that grace. He caught a look at her eyes as she glared at the unmovable rock, still filled with
fire and intelligence, she was magnificent! He watched as she analyzed the rock, trying to figure out a way to move it. He was captured
by her intensity and concentration. She eventually decided not to try, to save her strength and energy on more efficient manners. Smart.
Very smart. He found himself admiring her silent movements. 

"Sir, incoming message from Regale YeaSer." the commander turned around, sadly, not wanting to go away from admiring the woman in
the mine. 

" Yes, guard, patch it through." He walked off the platform into his makeshift office, mind troubled over the woman below.

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Days had passed since that first day he had watched the woman whom he was so fascinated with. Every day she seemed to grow
stronger, not weaker, he had to wonder what kept her going. Something big, something special, something worth living for. Not many
here had that. Most had seen all they loved and cherish destroyed, their lives ruined and torn apart before their very eyes. It killed him
to know that, he wasn't a monster after all. It wasn't his policies that the prisoners were captured under. The government took care of
that. He just ran the experiments and figured the problems. He was a scientist, a simple man. His people needed his work though. The
epidemic that had swept through the lower continents had to have a cure. And he was the only one who could help, and this ore was
necessary, it was all necessary. He had to stay convinced to that. Yet as he watched his subject, he cursed himself. Who knew how many
talented, respected admired, people from so many diverse cultures died and wasted away in these mines. Hell, if this was reversed he
could be in their places, the brightest mind of his planet, wasting everything in the mines. It was a scary thought. And who knew that
woman he watched she could be the brightest mind in her world too. Life could be quite ironic and unfair. Too bad he couldn't change
that. He sighed and left the platform for the day. 

---------------------------------------------------------------

B'Elanna was done. The day was finally over. At least that was what the dimming lights told her. The guards would stay around a while
longer, until the dinner bell rang that called them back to their warm quarters, multiple wives, and beds. Animals. She was alarmed at
how weak she was beginning to feel, the ever-drowsy feel of wanting to lie down kept trying to overcome her. It scared her. She sat on a
bench alone, trying to wipe the smudges of dirt from her face, succeeding only in making the lines bigger and more ingrained in her
face. She couldn't be weak; she had to make it home, back to Voyager, back to Tom. She couldn't give up. She knew, though, in the
back of her head that Voyager was gone, in a starry trail. Who knows, maybe they were home, safe on earth. Tom could be married,
with children. They could have all forgotten her. Forgotten her. She knew why she was getting weak, hope was fading. It had been
months at least, maybe longer. They were gone and she was doomed to die, alone and forgotten in a cave on some godforsaken
planet, working to the day she fell over dead. It was an unspeakably horrible fate. She looked up from the dirt directly into the eyes of a
guard; it made her uncomfortable as his eyes blatantly appraised her small frame. She felt her muscles tense, she had heard of the
woman that had disappeared when a guard had taken her, she was never heard from again. The tales of what happened to her made
B'Elanna's blood run cold. Now as she carefully avoided the guardís lust-fueled stare she made sure to watch his movements. She
couldn't afford to be taken from here; it was safer than anywhere he would have her. She had tried for days to think of an escape route,
especially after she had come to this sector. The platform that overshadowed the compound must lead to an exit, of some sort. She had
seen people come and go from it, bringing devices that resembled PADDs and science equipment. If only she could get up there. Yet
guards and a series of authorization codes guarded it, even at night. She couldn't get through. Yet as she continued to watch the guard
a small, unedited plan etched into her mind. If she went with him, she could escape. No, as she thought it through it wouldn't work. She
had no idea where she would go. And there was no Voyager to beam to. She thought some more as the guard seemed to concentrate
on some readings on his device. Nothing came to her. There were no options. Gods! A not so unusual burst of rage swept through her.
She could do nothing to help herself; it frustrated the hell out of her. She looked back over at the guard, as he seemed to be moving
towards her. She shook her head gently, trying to erase the image she saw in his eyes. There was no mistaking that gleam. He grabbed
her arm roughly and pulled her to her feet. 

"You." His voice was rough and muffled, his breath stank of something rotten, " You will come with me, slave." Revulsion radiated
through her, and an overwhelming want to vomit shook her. She fought the instinct to pull away and fight. She knew she couldn't
escape, he was armed and well fed, she was bare and malnourished. She tried to stand her ground bravely, keep her chin up and her
eyes unafraid. Maybe this would be ok if she just stayed still. Even as she thought them she doubted her own reassurances. And though
every part of her screamed to fight, her senses made her stay solid. She had to live, not for her, for Tom and for Voyager. Wherever
they were, under whatever circumstances, she would live for their memories. And hers. The guardís hands began to slowly move off her
arm and she automatically tensed. 

"Scared?" He leered at her and moved his hands to cup her buttocks, sending the waves of nausea back through her system. "Nothing
to be scared of my dear." He lazily kneaded the firm muscle. She abruptly pulled away, no longer able to endure his touch. 

"Time to go." He seemed a little unsettled by her lack of response to his advances, not that that seemed to deter him. He was used to
getting what he wanted. Sadly for her, as she was helplessly drug through the unconcerned crowd of dying people, it looked as if he'd
get it again. She could only hope she lived through it. 

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The commander heard a small disturbance in the work area underneath him. No doubt another guard had selected a female to take. He
shook his head, it was awful, but he couldn't stop them. By law they had the right. Yet there was an awful feeling in his stomach this
time. He stopped the scan he was running. 

*The woman! * It was her. She had been taken. He ran from his office, just to see a large, burly guard dragging the woman he had
been watching, the fiery one, through the crowds. Her beautiful face still filled with pride, whatever fear she harbored masked. Her strong
body tense and bold. Her eyes unseeing, concentrating no doubt on that reason she stayed so strong. 

"STOP!" He didn't know why he shouted, breaking the quiet murmurs and the gasps and looks of concern. The man, however, stopped
and looked up and the woman he drug halted abruptly and crumpled against his back before erecting herself. "Guard bring that woman
to me. And return to your post." He summoned some men behind him to go down and make sure that happened.

"Sir, I have chosen this one to warm my bed tonight. You can not take her." His voice was full of a hearty lust and haughtiness. His
mouth formed a leer. 

"I need her for the experiment. She is the one I have been watching. You will have to reselect tomorrow, *Guard*. " he stressed the last
word, accenting the difference in importance. He wasn't usually so bold, but he had to save this woman. She couldn't be taken in such a
way. He wouldn't let it happen. The guard's face twisted into an angry snarl.

"Yes *sir*." The last word was a growl. But he left the woman alone. And walked, sulking to a corner. The commander would have to
have him relocated, not a difficult task. He watched as his aides helped the woman to the doors. She shook off their hands and walked
proudly by herself. Yes, he decided, this woman was special.

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B'Elanna walked into the lift that would take her to the platform. Her mind was racing. She had been lucky, yes, that burly guard's hands
were far away from her now. Yet now she was on the way up to some platform she had watched for days. She had vaguely recognized the
man who had saved her from the guard. She had seen him when she had ended up here. The white hair, the bluish skin, it all added
up. She didn't know what he wanted her for, yet she was grateful for the assistance. 

*What if he wants the same thing* The voice in the back of her head nagged. She couldn't be sure he didn't. The doors parted before
her. The man's back was to her bent over a console of sorts. The guard indicated she should go over to him and then left to resume his
position, keeping a wary eye in her way. She slowly walked over and made her way around the table to look at him. She absorbed the
console and its various buttons, the first real piece of technology she had seen in months. She looked at one of the charts. A star chart. 

"Hello." His voice laced through her thoughts, making her focus.

*He's safe* The thought came unbidden. His eyes were gentle and clear of lust and somewhere in them she saw an admiration. 

"Hello." She spoke softly, not used to the action. 

" I am Commander GerDal, a scientist for my people." His face had a glint of regret and sadness etched in. "I am sorry for the sins of
my race. Especially Guard FreDer. He has irresistible urges sometimes, as so many of these guards have succumbed to. My people are
not a savage race, I assure you." B'Elanna felt the usual anger in her rise to the top as the man tried to explain why she had been
taken and forced to work and spend her days away from her family, her love. Yet as he spoke the anger, at least towards him, began to
soften. Why she didn't understand, but she could tell he didn't really want the suffering. "We need this ore and this labor to help cure an
epidemic and make ways to clear our pollution that is killing millions of innocent people, especially the children."

"At the cost of hundreds of innocent people" She hadn't meant to speak but she found she couldn't silence herself." Hundreds!
Hundreds of innocent men, women, CHILDREN!" She began to shout, "Who don't really give a damn about your world! Who had their
lives ripped away and thrown into a state of total despair. Who die *alone*, wondering where their families are, if they had forgotten
them. WHO WANT TO BE TREATED WITH DIGINITY. WHO WERE PROMINATE HAPPY PEOPLE WHO WANT THEIR LIVES BACK!." The
shouting had erupted into a full out roar. " WHO WANT TO BE PEOPLE AGAIN. SCREW YOUR WORLD TO HELL!!!!!" She slammed her fists
into the wall. "DAMN YOU!!!!" She threw herself against the wall. "Damn you to hell." The last words were spoken softly as she sagged
against the panel. GerDal's eyes were wet as he walked slowly over to her. His voice was soft, 

" I know. And I'm sorry. I can't make that up to you. I am but a scientist, a respected one. But not enough to make this go away. I work
for the government, they make these decisions. They are not mine. I work as fast as I can. When I am over, they are free. That is the
way it works." He lifted her from the wall. " I've been watching you. You are special Ms...." He didn't know her name, 

" B'Elanna Torres. Of the Star Ship Voyager, chief engineer." She shook her head ruefully, "Well, I used to be, before this godforsaken
planet." GerDal looked confused, but only momentarily. 

"You need to be cleaned up. Come with me." 

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When she returned to the room where GerDal worked it was with satisfaction. A long equivalent to a sonic shower did an immense
overhaul to her after months of using a rag and a small amount of dirtied water. She had found a simple jumpsuit to where when she
had emerged; it was tan and quite comfortable. She had been fed, fruit and cheese. It was only a small amount, to readjust her
stomach to food. Yet even as she received the small, simple comforts of a real meal her thoughts were on the mines below, the women
and girls she had become friends with. Alone, afraid, to suffer the same fate she had almost been doomed to. 

Free, she remembered what GerDal had said, they would free them once he had discovered a cure. It was almost unbelievable but she
had no reason not to trust him. She had to help. When she entered the room GerDal was banging his fists against a console.

"Work I tell you. WORK!" He slammed his palm against it with a resounding smack. He looked up, startled, as she entered. "I am sorry
B'Elanna. I didn't hear you coming." He gave her a once over. " Much better. How do you feel?" 

" Better, cleaner. What's wrong with the panel." She walked over and began to tap a series of buttons. They weren't unlike a Bolian
design she had seen in the Maquis. She tapped in a few more commands and the panel illuminated and started to buzz. GerDal was
standing a few feet away, amazement written in his features. 

"How did you do that?" 

" I began by doing a bisectural resequencing...." He held up a hand. 

"I'll let it be your secret." He gave her an approving look. "You, B'Elanna Torres, can be of great help to me, if you would." He waited for
a response. She carefully judged her options in her head. There were none.

"Yes, I suppose I will." She paused, " The prisoners will be freed if you succeed....correct?" His face took on a hopeful look, 

"Yes, yes they will. I only hope I can finish soon...." He smiled a gentle smile. " I think I can, with your help. But first I have a surprise
for you." 

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He walked her to the door of his office, the back one, away from the mine. She found herself in an alien corridor, a star ship corridor.
The bulkheads were covered in various panels, holding schematics, stats, and charts. 

"It's a ship." She thought aloud. "I've been on a ship." She looked at GerDal confused. " How? I've been living in a cave, where I can
hear rain, the multiple tunnels, the ore...." She couldn't begin to comprehend the meaning of her newest discovery.

"Here." He opened a file on a nearby panel. " Where the laborers are is here." He pointed to what seemed to be a long, two deck series
of rooms. "They are imaging rooms. Capable of creating environments. You only saw a small portion. The caves. There are processing
rooms, delivery rooms, sorting rooms, research, numerous places. We receive the ore in large sums where the labors, like you were,
move it where it is taken to processing and so on."

"A massive holodeck." She muttered.

" Holodeck? I see you have similar capabilities where you came from." He smiled at the new hope etching into her features. 

"May I see your star charts, where we're headed." She knew Voyager route...maybe, just maybe they were similar. 

"Of course. Here." He tapped in a command. The star charts appeared and she began to sort through them. Section 200.56...it was in
the right direction. Right trajectory, right speed. It was as close to a miracle as B'Elanna had ever dared hope for. 

*What if they really left you B'Elanna? They could be home. They could be dead. They could be ahead of you, behind you. You don't
know. You can't. Youíre alone B'Elanna. All alone, just like always, your families gone again. And youíre ALL alone. * The intensity of the
wave of emotion that swept through her caused her to gasp. That little, taunting voice was right. She couldn't know! She was a missing
casualty, dead to them for months. She couldn't even hope to find them again. It was all lost. Maybe she wouldn't die now, but she was
still doomed to spend her life lost and alone. Forever wondering where they were, if they cared she wasn't there. She was alone, with no
hope. It was an awful feeling. For all the months spent in that mine, real or not, she had dreamed that somehow, someday she would
be with them again, in Tom's arms, safe and loved and respected. She realized now how futile that hope was, how truly hopeless it had
been. Yet she couldn't help but be thankful she had it, it kept her alive. Kept her strong, kept her proud. Now she felt naked, exposed,
for all to see. Unprotected, unknown, unrecognized. Just another lost face in a sea of unfamiliar people, never again to see the warm,
friendly faces she had lived with, loved. 

He must have noticed her forlorn look for his face seemed to begin to echo her pain.

"What is upsetting you." He tapped the star chart and it disappeared. "Is something wrong?" He waited quietly as she focused her
attention off the small voice in her head and back on him.

"No, no. Your ship seems to be going the same way mine was." He jumped in,

"That is good B'Elanna! Once we create a cure, you can reunite with your ship" He smiled, this was wonderful. He would get this woman
back to her people. He would correct at least one sin against this one person. He sighed internally, yet he could not correct the hundreds
of sins he had below his feet. 

"No. No. Who knows where they are." He could hear the pain filled tone in her voice, bellied by an unspeakable regret and longing."
They could be light-years away from us. Behind, ahead, home. There's no way of knowing." She closed her eyes and rested her forearm
against the panel. He just stood silently, waiting for her to regain her composure. He heart went to her, knowing fully that his people--he
himself in many ways-- had taken her from this ship. Her people. Ignorantly and without reason. She was just an innocent person,
caught unguarded and unaware. So many were taken in that way, families brutalized, ships and colonies destroyed. He wanted to die of
the shame that thought brought. The shame this woman had brought to the surface and hung in a pendant heavily around his neck. He
wore that pendant as a reminder now, a ever growing passion and desire to finish his work, to save the dying in the decks below him,
and the ones that would soon be brought. He wouldn't argue with this woman, knowing it was futile and would only serve to cause her
more pain and anger. Now he needed her mind, the magnificent intelligence it was, to help him finish, to put an end to this madness.
Before her he had always been disturbed by the death and destruction caused by his people for his research. He had always made sure
to watch the prisoners, humble himself, encourage himself to speed up. Yet seeing this pain this close, having a living, breathing person
next to him, plagued by pain served to make him that more desperate. That more ashamed. 

"So, how about we go cure that epidemic..." She straightened herself out, seemly a little embarrassed about her show of weakness. She
gave a grim smile. 

"Yes, I suppose we should." 

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Part 3 SOH--

The days seemed to drag on just as long as the ones that had passed in the mines. Yet her mind didn't register it. It was too involved
in her work. She wasn't trained to perform the delicate procedures and complex medical equations. B'Elanna doubted even most trained
medical officers in StarFleet could perform what GerDal could. He was a brilliant man, and every day-- despite whatever anger her soul
harbored-- she grew to respect him more and more. Despite her inability to help in the medical realm she did have plenty to do in the
systems. Did he have *any* trained engineers around here? He must... but she didn't see any. Or any evidence they had done any
work. The systems were running, that much she could give them. But only at fifty percent, no wonder he hadn't gotten the readings he
desired. They were making great progress. She was glad for that. The office was empty; GerDal often left her alone for hours on end
while he took scans and samples different places. And his daily trips to the mines. She always opted out of that, not because she was
too busy or too scared. She was just...just too tired of it. She could remember every sight, every smell, rock, person, and sound.
Everything, down to the tiniest detail. She didn't need to see it again. So B'Elanna would stay in here, head buried once again in
wonderful, challenging equipment. It gave her infinite relief. Machinery had always taken her mind off her troubles. Made her forget
whatever had blocked her way. Given her the calm to jump those hurdles. Now she sat, on the metal floor, in the middle of the
semi-dark room. The star chart had been called up by some guard, seeing where the next deposit of ore would be retrieved. 

*And to remind you not to give up hope* Her thoughts had been coming unbidden often lately. Yet this one was right. She couldn't. It
was too much a blessing to have this ship going in the same direction. 

* A little uncanny and unreal too.* The little voice chimed in. But even uncanny and more unreal events had occurred dozens of times in
the Delta Quadrant. She slowly rose from the cold metal floor and made her way to the illuminated panel. She tapped a series of the
oval buttons. 

*Deti 4....Eri 5....A class 3 star....a gas cloud...." Eri 5 sounded vaguely familiar. They were still going in the right direction. She placed
her hand against the cold, smooth surface. Her fingers gently traced the path the ship would take. Scanning the panel before her she
searched for the communications device. If she could only send a message across subspace. There was always the chance VOYAGER was
in range. And a chance was all she needed. Finding the right series of buttons she began to type out an encoded message to VOYAGER.
She made sure to add her signature code to it, so it would attract interest from them. 

"Torres to VOYAGER. Are you...." She jumped as the door swished open behind her. As she turned she hit her palm against the panel to
send the message, hoping that no one would detect it. Or at least think anything of it. "GerDal. How did the results test?" She tried her
best to act as if he had startled her from only simple star charts. Thankfully he was so absorbed in the blue PADD device he held that he
hardly noticed her controlled panic. 

"Well." GerDal placed the PADD among the others. "But not well enough. It's just not killing the virus!" He picked a PADD from the pile
on his right side, "Maybe if I...." B'Elanna tuned him out. She never understood what he said, just as he never understood her. They
both just talked to the air, venting frustration and working out problems aloud. She nodded every so many words, pretending that she
was following then gave up and let him talk to his air. She set herself to work; praying by some act of whatever gods ruled that VOYAGER
would hear her. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Incoming message Captain.." Harry Kim paused. " It--it has a StarFleet code on it!" His voice held that audible mixture of confusion,
hope, excitement, and longing that they all felt as those words were spoken. 

"StarFleet Mr. Kim? Are you sure?" Kathryn Janeway jumped up and made her way to the upper level of the bridge and peered over his
shoulder at the Ops station. 

"Yes ma'am. It's StarFleet all right. But this code, here," He pointed to a series of numbers embedded into the message, "It looks
familiar."

*B'Elanna's code.* Janeway immediately recognized it. Could it be? After this many months? So far away? Logically it wasn't possible.
Yet logic was often beaten by a chance. She couldn't be sure. 

"Play the message Mr. Kim. Maybe that'll give you your answer." She didn't dare say her idea aloud. It would only serve to torture those
on the bridge if it wasn't her. Especially Tom...

"To--es to VOYAGER. A-- You..." The message ended abruptly as they heard a door open in the background. It was her. The message
was choppy and short at best but the familiar, long missed voice of the chief engineer was not mistaken. The reactions on the bridge
varied drastically. Harry sat with an astounding look of shock on his face. Chakotay looked as if he had heard a ghost. And Tom....Tom
looked as if the dam inside his had broke, she wasn't sure he would be alright as she watched the varying emotions play across his face.
This past few months had been harder on him than anyone. Yet now, after hearing the voice they thought they would never again, it was
as if a dam broke within each of them. Releasing demons and emotions they had thought were buried. Tom had the most. 

"Mr. Kim give me a stardate on that message." Her voice sounded feeble to her. 

"Yester-- Yesterday ma'am. Yesterday at 21:00 hours." He gained strength in his words even while stumbling over them. No one could
blame him.

"From where?" She began to move back towards her command seat. 

" 3 light-years to the port side." He had turned a pasty white. The bridge was silent. She was alive. Close. The door in the background
alarmed her. If she had been caught? She mentally hit herself, there wasn't any time. They had to find her. 

"Well. Tom set a course." She broke the silence. "Engage." 

----------------------------------------------------------------------

She was alive. *Alive*. His fingers trembled violently as he punched in the course. The course to her. Was this a dream? He couldn't
help but wonder. 

*Ow. Not asleep* He reached down to massage the shin he had hit against the bulkhead. Yet he still couldn't bring himself to believe
what he had heard. Six months was a long time. Long enough for him to bury hundreds of emotions he never knew he had. She had
been closer to him than he had ever known, ever thought possible. The day she died....he couldn't even begin to explain, not even to
himself. The first actual emotion he remembered was the overwhelming desperation. Frantic panic and total chaos assaulting all his
senses, clouding his mind and filling his soul. His heart felt as if it would explode if he didn't do *something--*anything.

Then, as if in the eye of a hurricane, the total shock set in. He couldn't register anything. Nothing was felt, thought of, experienced. It
wasn't a calm, just total helpless feeling. It was enough to drive him crazy. 

Denial soon replaced that shock, filling his mind with the thoughts that she would be awaiting him somewhere-- *anywhere*. He would
return to his quarters, check messages scan PADDs for any information. He refused to believe she was dead, he couldn't. It was too
painful, too unreal. 

Realization slowly came. And it was a painful coming. She was gone. Really gone. Forever. There was nothing he could do. Not with
anything the universe could offer him. He was forced to let it go, let *her* go. 

Anger, needless to say, quickly ensued. Anger with the universe, anger with his friends, her, whoever had taken her from him, and
mostly himself. He had let her down. Left her to die. He wasn't fast enough. Wasn't good enough. It burned at his soul, igniting a flame
that would burn eternally. That flame would eat at him, burn in him. Taking away the cool calm he had lived by, the confidence, the
optimism. Everything was replaced by the flame. His lively blue orbs had been filled with a red, angry glaze. His words, no matter how
kind, were underlined by a small, angry undertone. 

Time had worn that flame down. Not that he felt any comfort, or felt any less responsible for her death. He felt it everyday. The awful
weight pressing down on him, crushing him making him unable to breathe. He felt it everytime he passed engineering, everytime he
noticed the empty seat in the briefing room, all the trips to the holodeck, the messhall. And every night. The cold space next to him that
once was filled with his lover. He was just tired now. So very tired. 

And now the whole universe had changed. He didn't know what to feel. Relief, happiness, excitement? He couldn't find those emotions
anywhere. He only felt an uncertainty. And the tiredness. 

-----------------------------------

GerDal monitored the data the newest formula was giving out. It looked promising, that was a start. He adjusted the refinement beam
and bent down over the scanner. 

"Still a difference." He shook his head, not quite right. But he was on the right track, and that was what mattered. B'Elanna was
underneath a console on the far side of the room. She was worrying him. Lately she had become despondent, absorbed in her work. She
was waiting for something. Something big. Yet he couldn't figure out what. 

" B'Elanna I am going to the bridge. Will you be alright?" He turned off the scanner, planning on going to the bridge to gather a few
information discs he had left. 

"Yes." She didn't even look up from her work. He doubted she even registered what he said. He sighed. 

" Good then. See you at dinner B'Elanna." They had begun a ritual of eating together. It was a simple affair. Eating was the main thing
they did, occasionally interrupted by a few simple comments. 

" See you." He heard her hit her hand against a panel, followed by a muttered curse in some language he was not used to. The doors
opened with a near imperceptible noise as he approached. With one last, curious glance at B'Elanna he left. 

----------------------------------------

On the bridge it was relatively silent. The lone monitoring officer was walking from station to station checking systems. GerDal
recognized the young man, from the base on Kartin prime. ReReal is he remembered correctly,

"Can I help you sir?" The young officer's obsidian eyes glanced up from the controls. 

"No. I'm just gathering some infor..." The panel began to sound under the younger man's hand. 

"Detecting a ship sir. " ReReal paused, reading the information, 

" Unknown species, heavy weapons system, and heavy shielding. "

GerDal made his way to the panel. The communications indicated an incoming message. 

"Open the channel." ReReal pressed the button and a strong, female voice permeated the bridge. 

"I'm am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS VOYAGER. Please identify yourselves." 

"Yes, Captain. I am Dr. GerDal of the Kartin vessel TREAL. How many I be of assistance?" The woman that belonged to the voice that
filled the bridge appeared on the screen. It was strikingly familiar. 

*She reminds me of B'Elanna*

" Hello Dr. GerDal. I am wondering if your vessel can be of assistance to us." She paused. " We are looking for a missing crew member.
We have thought her dead for months. However we received a call from her hours ago, from near this position." The woman's eyes
seemed to be scanning him for any chance he would lie to her.

" This crew member's name?" If it was B'Elanna ship....

" It was my Chief Engineer... B'Elanna Torres." Janeway's face twisted into a look of pain at the mention of her lost crewmember. "Would
you have any information for us?" The woman paused, anxiety written across her features. 

GerDal knew the rules. The prisoners were prisoners....they couldn't be freed. The cure hadn't been discovered yet. And without B'Elanna
he didn't think it would be for a long time. GerDal also faced imprisonment, death, or torture. A number of awful things if he let this
vessel know what the Kardin were doing to these people. The Voyagers would think him a monster. Yet, as he thought of her he realized
that B'Elanna was more than a prisoner, she had become his friend. His colleague. And her happiness would mean more to him than
anything this life could offer him. GerDal could right this wrong he had done. At least this one. The chance was knocking at his door,
literally. He wouldn't let this go...

"No Ma'am. I'm afraid we have no informa..." It was ReReal.

"Hold your tongue guard." GerDal interrupted, noticing the shocked expression on the bridge monitor's face. GerDal's intentions must
have been sitting on his sleeve because the young man's face suddenly flooded with realization. 

*Smart boy* ReReal motioned for the Captain to wait and shut off the sound. 

"You can't be serious." ReReal looked at him as if he had grown another head. " You'll be killed. This'll all go down the drain. MILLIONS
WILL DIE!"

"MILLIONS ARE DYING!!" GerDal shouted back. "Millions of innocent people." ReReal glared at him, slowly backing away.

"I can't stop you. But I will not take part in this. You will be reported." With that he left the bridge. No doubt to go make an official report
that would not only end GerDal's career but his life. He reopened the comm link, 

*Right this wrong GerDal. Now. * The voice in the back of his head was suddenly filled with more life and determination than he had
heard in years. 

"Yes captain. I have more than information on your officer."

----------------------------------------------

Part 4 SOH--

Kathryn Janeway stood on the transporter PADD, flanked by Tuvok and Chakotay. She was almost shaking with anxiousness. There was
something wrong with this ship. The bridge was sorely undermanned, there was obvious dissent among the ranks, also they had too
much power...for something VOYAGER couldn't scan. 

And they had B'Elanna. 

But Janeway couldn't focus on all of that. She had to get her crewmember back, the rest could wait. With a nod to the ensign at the
controls the room faded into a shimmer of blue light and the familiar tingle overcame her body. She was off. 

The first visible thing that formed into her line of sight was a smooth, gray bulkhead. The panel was lit by small, bright buttons. The
final details faded into focus, the sharper lines and fine prints now visible. She sensed the presence of the men behind her. Tuvok,
ready for anything, yet completely composed. Chakotay was also ready, busily scanning for hidden dangers. 

"Hello." A tall, thin blue skinned man stepped forwards. "You must be Captain Janeway." His eyes seemed haunted. The skin beneath
them sagging and dark in color. He gave her a wearied smile. " I am pleased you found us." 

" So am I." Janeway paused, indicating to her officers. "This is Commander Chakotay-- my exec. And this, " She jerked her head in
Tuvok's direction, " Is my security officer, Lt. Commander Tuvok." 

GerDal nodded briefly then glanced nervously at the panel next to him. 

"We must hurry Captain. I am afraid my crew is not pleased about this transition." He motioned to the door.

"Are you the captain of this ship?" Janeway towards the door. 

"In a way. I'm in charge of what goes on here. The guards follow my directions. But there are ways of getting around that with little
thought." He peeked his head out of the doorway. "Clear." 

" Do they know we're here?" Chakotay moved to walk just behind his captain's shoulder. 

"No. My bridge monitor officer was on the bridge while I was talking with you.... but he does not know I have brought you here." He
sighed deeply, " He would have to be publicly killed if he did." He stopped at a door and pressed in a series of numbers. "This is my
private lab. No one is allowed in here without my permission. We are safe here."

The doors parted to reveal a roomy, largely white room. The walls were littered with panels of brightly lit diagrams of odd figures. A table
dominated the center of the room; it was covered in an assortment of tools and what appeared to be PADDs. Five white chairs sat in the
corner of the room, circling an octangular table. GerDal motioned for them to sit. 

"Because of our short time I'll give you the briefest of overviews of the operation this ship is meant for." He took a deep breath. This
wouldn't go over well. GerDal knew his time was almost up anyway though. Once his crew found out....his government would find out. He
had violated the most sacred rule...no contact with outsiders, unless it was to conquer them. And to bring them about a classified
vessel..to *return* a prisoner...it was an unimaginable crime. One that would entail an unimaginable punishment. 

*You've already thought of this! It's too late to take it back! For the gods sakes!! Do something *right* for once you damned coward!*
The image of those starving, dying people filled his mind. They were beneath his feet, slaving away, dying one by one. And it was all his
people's fault. He wouldn't let them get away with it. Not this time.

" We are the Kardin, Captain. A space faring race from a sector quite far from here. This vessel is a 'ranging' ship. We are in search of a
certain ore that fuels my experiments." He paused, taking in a deep breath before continuing. "You see Captain, my people are dying.
A plague has begun to eat away at our population. Millions were sick and dying off." 

*Stick by your guns boy, you can do this* Yea...easy for the voice to say. GerDal drew in another deep breath 

" I am the top scientist and doctor on our planet. I worked for months to find a cure. While hundreds died weekly. I discovered an ore
on a few neighboring planets in small amounts that was a necessary block to my cure, I had to have it. But they supply we had quickly
ran out....and I was getting so close. My government decided we needed to go in search of it. We attempted to trade for it...but no one
was willing. So my government, in its rashness, decided to begin to take things by force. Like people." The Captain's eyes seemed to be
gaining the look of comprehension. 

"We needed the ore mined from uninhabited planets. But none of our people, according to our government, were lowly enough to do
that. Only outsiders. You see captain my people are bigots. Plain and simple." GerDal hung his head, 

" We used force to collect people in situations where they could not fight back. Smaller crafts, usually family or near home devices. Or
peoples we had conquered. The guards are brutal Captain. Anyone, no matter of race or reason, is captured. Those who are unfit to work
are killed. Those who can are put into our 'mines' here on the ship. They process the raw ore." 

GerDal's blue eyes took on a sad, far away look. 

" I am not a monster captain. And I wish everyday this were not the way it was. But I am but the scientist. I can not change this." He
moved his hand to rub the bridge of his nose, obviously pained by what he had told. 

"The cure is still not ready, but I am so very close. And once I finish then the prisoners are set free." He shook his head bitterly, "But
they are so far from home. They'll probably never get back. Gods, we are monsters." He buried his head in his hands. 

"How will *you* get home?" Janeway had remained quiet through out his "confessional". 

" We have a technology that allows us to travel large distance at a time. I know little more than how to activate it." He sat back in his
seat, eyes still closed.

Janeway reeled. 

*Large distance?* She looked over at Chakotay, who seemed to be on the same page. 

"But as far as B'Elanna goes...." GerDal interrupted Janeway's calculations. "She happened to as unlucky as the rest of the people who
happen to work in our mines."

"Mines?" Tuvok had remained relatively silent since their arrival. 

"Yes, two decks of imaging rooms. They are able to recreate environments." The darker skinned man nodded, seemingly familiar with
the technology as the B'Elanna had been. 

"If she's in the mines. How do you know her? And how did you know about us?" The other man, the one with the odd pattern on his
head, looked confused. 

"I rescued her from the mines. I had been watching her. She seemed incredibly intelligent. She had remained strong and viable
throughout her long stay in the mines." GerDal gave a small smile, " One of the guards decided one day to take her, not an uncommon
practice unfortunately. I wouldn't let him. She was too special. I had her brought to me." His smile had faded. " B'Elanna has assisted
me since. She informed me of where she was from and that we were going in the same direction. I planned on finding you, after the
cure was found. However, it seems B'Elanna took matters into her own hands." The captain smiled a tight smile,

"Yes, that sounds like my B'Elanna." She looked on the verge of anger...though it seemed she was confused where to direct it.

"I can not say I condone your people's actions. In fact I can honestly say I'm disgusted." GerDal understood, it made it no easier to
digest, but she was right. "And if I had the option I'd remove your prisoners and blow this death trap to hell." She gave no reaction to
GerDal's grimace. " But I don't. And you seem like a decent person. You are putting your life on the line for B'Elanna." She offered her
hand to him. GerDal just stared.

" You shake it. It's, for this case, a signal of a deal. We'll help you in anyway we can. With the cure, and mostly in getting the prisoners
home. " GerDal accepted it. 

" I just hope you can." 

-------------------------------------

B'Elanna stood outside GerDal's office slightly confused. He had awoken her a few minutes before with "important news". Had he found a
cure? She tapped in the code he had given her. 

"GerDal? You called....?" She stood at the door, unsure if she was dreaming. GerDal stood from the table in the corner of the room,
quickly joined by three individuals, clad in outfits B'Elanna never thought she'd see again. 

"Cap..Captain? Chakotay?? Tuvok?" Her world was spinning. Her message must have gotten through! B'Elanna just stood there, her hair
sweeping down over her shoulders her hands limp at her sides.

Janeway moved slowly around the table. The older woman stopped directly in front of the half-klingon. A gentle and familiar hand
pressed against B'Elanna's face. Kathryn didn't say a word and neither did she. It wasn't necessary. The captain enveloped her in a
warm, comforting hug. Like a mother would her child. B'Elanna's arms went up to her back; she was overwhelmed with the joy that was
setting her senses on fire. She closed her eyes and squeezed Janeway even tighter. Relief flooded through her system, millions of
emotions swept through her every nerve. Janeway reluctantly let go as Chakotay came to stand next to them. B'Elanna drew away and
smiled up at her old mentor. Memories began to flood back as she wrapped her arms around Chakotay's neck. It was all so familiar. As
if none of the past months had happened. She noticed GerDal against the bulkhead. He seemed worn, but there was a determination in
his eyes. She drew away from Chakotay and walked over to the tall blue man. She smiled her thanks and then reached to wrap her arms
around his neck too. He shook in her embrace, his pent up emotions beginning to take him over. 

"Thank you...."

It was time to work. GerDal bent over his console once again. He had managed to safety get the Voyager officers off his ship. B'Elanna
had opted to stay, though he could tell she would've liked to go right back and not wait. But she had to stay and help, the cure was so
close. And if she suddenly disappeared...all hell would break loose. GerDal respected her for that. He had seen the happiness, the
unadulterated joy that had spread across her face as she viewed her shipmates. The absolute joy. GerDal could not remember a time
when he had witnessed such a reunion. The demons in his heart had settled for a moment as he had watched Janeway tenderly touch
her friend's face. He would forever remember those moments. 

*There are hundreds of more moments waiting to happen below you. * His semi-smile faded at that sobering thought. His demons did
not stop with B'Elanna. Though he so wished they could. 

ReReal, the young bridge monitor, had avoided him for a while now. The ship was out of communications range, the message would be
sent as soon as their jump was completed. GerDal grimaced; the heavens knew what that would cause. Thankfully ReReal hadn't told
anyone. Since he had left the bridge ReReal had no idea the Voyagers had been there. The console beeped under his fingers, startling
him from his musings. He bent over the panel, 

*This can't be......*

------------------------

Part 5 SOH--

B'Elanna, for the second time that day, stood outside the door to GerDal's office. And she was no less confused. The doors opened upon
her command, revealing the back of the scientist in front of the large table in the middle of the grand room. 

"GerDal?" She carefully approached his side, as not to startle him. 

He jerked his head up at her, his eyes blazing with revelation, disgust....and a certain fear. 

"B'Elanna...I have made a terrible mistake." He shuddered slightly. His voice haunted, scared.

"What? What have you done?" Her hand went unconsciously to his shoulder, very much afraid of his answer. 

"I discovered the cure..." His voice faltered, leaving B'Elanna more confused than before. 

"What? That's great GerDal!" What could possibly be wrong?

"No. No itís not." His voice dropped the fear still loud in it though " It was all a hoax. This entire disease." B'Elanna's brow furrowed. 

"How is that possible?" The frail man shook his head, shoulders slumping. 

" I don't know. I can't begin to comprehend the implications in this. Look. " He selected a PADD from the top of a stack. 

"My government created a "sickness". One that is impossible to cure." 

"But....you found one.... a cure..." She handed back the PADD. 

"No. I discovered a biological weapon." She didn't understand. 

"You see, this sickness is actually a complied genetic code. Mixed from dozens of races. The ones we abduct. When I attempted to get
rid of the 'virus' I was, in essence, trying to rip apart the genetic strands. When I succeeded.....I created a powerful biological weapon....
capable of tearing apart genetic codes." He shuddered again at the image that filled his head. "I created a monster." 

"Oh gods...." She reread the PADD, suddenly seeing it in a new light. 

" I don't know why I didn't see it before." He rubbed the bridge of his nose. 

" Why did your government do this? Didn't they know you'd find out?" She sat the PADD down, an instinctive fear written on her features.

" Another question with no answer. I probably wouldn't have seen it. The only reason I did was because pressed the wrong scan button."
His hand shook with fear at what might have happened.." I might've been the reason for the death of hundreds of races...." Would the
pain ever leave? 

B'Elanna gently rested her hand on his shoulder. 

" But you won't be. You know now...you can stop this!" GerDal looked up from his hands. A sudden determination filling his eyes. 

"Yes...yes I will." 

*Even if its the last thing I do. *

" A biological weapon? Able of tearing apart genetic codes....." Kathryn Janeway fought the urge to close her eyes at the horror that
thought evoked. 

" Yes. I have to prevent this from being used." His voice, filled with desperation faded into the background as Tom Paris stared past the
blue skinned man, concentrating on the woman behind him. Her hair was longer, lighter. He watched her hands twitch, a gesture so
familiar and yet so alien to him. He sat in awe of her presence, completely awash in shock and sudden longing. He knew she couldn't
see him, hidden behind the limited range of the viewcreen transmitter. She chewed at her lip thoughtfully. Her back was rigged her
expression strong and brave. 

*Somethings will never change....And I thank god for it.* Yet even as he thought that he knew things wouldn't be as they were when she
returned. For, inevitably, things do change. He had changed, she had too. He couldn't say he wasn't afraid of that. His life, before she
left, had been right where he wanted it. Happy, calm, with the woman he loved. Now, after months of pain--and the demons, he wasn't
so happy. Wasn't so calm. He was tired, he was older.... he had a different spin on things. A tainted spin. 

Now, he hadn't become cynical. Or even pessimistic. But his eyes had been opened. Opened to the unending empty regions of his heart
that had been ripped open with gusto. 

He knew she had been hurt too. In a different way. She had been abused. That thought brought back some of the anger that had
seemed forever quelled in him. The thoughts of someone hurting her, breaking her will and forcing the passionate half-klingon into a
state of submission brought back some of the familiar Tom Paris. The one he could remember. The one that really felt. He was still in
there. 

The tiredness was beginning to ebb. And a longing began to take over his soul. Lighting a spark in his blue eyes, as they stared into her
dark depths. He knew he would never meet another that could do that. 

Light that spark. He felt the beginnings of the uncertainty to melt away with that spark. He would always love her. He couldn't help it. 

Kathryn nodded to the frazzled scientist over the coded transmission. They only had a few minutes more before it was possible for the
bridge to register the outgoing link. 

" I suppose all we can do is destroy the research." GerDal shook his head at the statement. 

" Not possible. This ship is a library. The work was recorded in dozens of different files, many unerasable. It was protocol...." He
smacked his head in anger. " How could I not see this?!" His voice held a note of contained fury and desperation. Janeway couldn't help
but sympathize. 

" You weren't suppose to." His eyes remained closed. "What can we do?" *Short of blowing the ship to high heaven...* She left the
thought silent. 

"Blow up the ship." Janeway smiled a tight, ironic smile. *Of course...*

"I'm not ready to do that yet." GerDal looked up, the desperation evident in his eyes. 

" Then what Captain! This ship can NOT go home. It would spell the death of millions." 

"You have innocents aboard...that need to go home." Janeway began to wonder how this was possible. 

" The mines detach and have their own thruster and support systems." B'Elanna stepped forwards. "Their designed to survive on their
own after they have served their purpose." She paused. "They usually float until the food runs out and the people on board die away."
Her eyes closed at the thought of her once fate. 

"We must go Captain. I'll contact you again as soon as itís safe." The image blinked out, leaving the vast array of space in its wake. 

*This universe can be too damned confusing. *

<hr>

"The subspace jumping system! Don't you see?!" B'Elanna hit the table in her excitement. 

"No. I honestly don't." GerDal's eyes remained close, as they had been for a good half hour after they terminated their contact with
Voyager. 

" Look!" She commanded. His left eye propped open. 

"Fine. What?" She pointed to the schematic of the two engines. One the main ship, one the mines. 

"The subspace folding device can be segregated from the fourth terminal here...without tripping anything..." His one open eye registered
confusion. She decided to begin again, 

" Alright in the simplest terms... The subspace jumper can be removed from the main systems, without setting off any alarms. And then
transported and installed in the mines. When the ship tries to activate the jumper...the mines will be sent home!!" 

GerDal shot up suddenly filled with interest. 

"You can do that? With out being caught?!" This woman still never failed to amaze him. 

"With a bit of help." She smiled her familiar half smile. "If I can be let into your engine room, " She accessed a diagram of the systems
on a panel behind her, "... here, next to the jumper systems. They're close to the scanning equipment. So I can always make the
excuse I'm working for you. And your people are used to me by now. All I'd need would be twenty minutes...and I'd have it." Her half
smile reached a full grin. "Then I could go down to the engine room of the mines and install it. Your staffing is very low on this
ship...and the intelligence levels aren't too high. I think I'm a good enough liar." It was GerDal's turn to smile. 

" I think so too." He grinned even wider, feeling lighter by pounds, " This is crazy enough to work, B'Elanna. And I think we may just be
stupid enough to pull it off." 

"Amen to that." 

<hr>

"And we'll send you the details once the operation is complete." Kathryn Janeway watched as her chief engineer shut off the detailed
panel behind her. It was an insane plan. But if anyone could pull it off it was B'Elanna. 

"We'll keep a lock on you B'Elanna, just in case. Out." B'Elanna nodded and terminated the signal before it was registered on the bridge.
It was the night shift on GerDal's ship, only one or two engineers would be in Engineering this late. She had spent the night before
familiarizing herself with the alarms and fail-safes in the jumper system. She'd performed many infiltration missions but she was still
glad to have the help of the commander of the vessel. The irony was astounding. GerDal had given her every access code, every alarm
shut-off code-- all she would need. Yet her heart was still pounding. Despite her familiarity with the kind of job she had performed few
missions that had ever been *this* personal to her. She knew, first hand, every horror she was fighting against. And she feared the
greater ones she was fighting to prevent. GerDal was watching her out of the corner of his eyes. 

"Are you ready?" He picked up a box filled with tools she would need hidden under simple PADDs that would look like they would need to
be scanned. "I've called down, they know your coming and your cleared. There's only two men down there at the moment and they
shouldn't give you much trouble." B'Elanna nodded and took the box from him. 

"Yea...I'm as ready as I'll be." She opened the metal box and searched through the tools. "Good. Looks like everything's here. I'll
check in once I have the module." With that she nodded once to GerDal, spun on her heel, and left. 

<hr>

"7894856.7883 Alpha." B'Elanna tapped in the initial sequence GerDal had given her to access the panel. The door in the bulkhead gave
a satisfying click and swing open. She had gotten into Engineering with ease. Only one man had been visible, knee deep in circuitry. The
other had logged out for the evening. Now B'Elanna sat in front of a dimly lighted panel, hidden behind a metal door. 

*Now...to take out the connector cable....* She keyed in another security clearance. Swish. It read green. One by one she removed
pieces, keying in security codes. After a good 30 minutes she sat back on her heels and scanned over her work. She had removed every
essential piece that needed to be installed in the mine's systems. She bit at her lip and she rechecked all the connections. She had
replaced the system with a mock up VOYAGER had helped her create. it would imitate the readings and the actions of the real system
until the bridge tried to use it. The entire thing was simplistic and lacked many important security back-ups. The mines were meant to
be used as a back up to get home if the normal ship couldn't. So the mines had the exact connectors to make the jumper system work.
It was too easy. B'Elanna knew she had to be that much more careful....because the easiest things are so often the hardest. 

Dirt. The first thing that assaulted her senses as she stepped off the platform and into the 'mine' she had lived in so very long. She had
never looked down upon this place since she had left. She didn't need to be reminded of what it held. She knew. Knew all too well. The
faces she saw now were mostly unfamiliar. Must be the new recruits. To replace the dead. Her friends. The dead. It was the same cycle.
As B'Elanna made her way through the crowds of dirty, ragged people she spotted a girl in the corner, she was obviously new, her rags
still showing some traces of brown where the black ore would soon fill. The girl cowered against the corner of the wall, scared, obviously
lost and separated from someone. It was all too familiar to B'Elanna. The potent smell of death and suffering filled her nostrils as she
tried to shake it off. The weeks living on the platform had not rid of the stench. But it had deafened it. 

*Stop B'Elanna. Focus. You can save them. If you Focus.* The guards were beginning to notice her as she walked calmly towards the
back engine room of the imaged mines. 

"And who are you." She stopped at the sound of a burly voice behind her. 

"Doesn't matter much to you." She handed the guard a PADD with her authorization codes on it. She recognized him. She had watched
him haul out a young girl on one of her first nights in this sector. It took all of her control to keep from decking him. He seemed
unhappy about letting her pass. Too bad he couldn't stop it. 

" Fine." The guard turned away and B'Elanna let out a small sigh. Almost there. She quickened her pace slightly as she reached a small
concealed panel. Right where GerDal said it would be. After quickly consulting her PADD she tapped in a short sequence into the panel.
Silently a rock disappeared and she stepped into a gray, dimly lit room. As she stepped through the rock reappeared behind her as
silently as before. 

*And I made it. Now for the fun part.* The ship was ridiculously undermanned, underguarded, and unaware. However they never thought
the top scientist would turn against them and they never thought a prisoner would have the intelligence to do this. They just plain never
thought. And it helped her immensely. 

_._._

"I'm done GerDal. VOYAGER had the parts waiting for me when I arrived." B'Elanna finished packing her case. She had just finished
putting the parts into their correct places, everything read green, "B'Elanna out." She closed the comm line and walked towards the door.
The rock disappeared and she stepped out of the room. 

*All Clear.* She thought as she rounded the corner. 

"Stop." She looked up into the barrel of a disrupter. " I know what youíre doing." B'Elanna backed away from the man with the gun. It
was ReReal from the bridge. His voice was low, trying not to gather much attention. "I know what youíre trying to do. I won't let you." He
seemed distressed. He grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the room. "Both of you. Don't you understand? Understand what you
could do!" His sudden shout had drawn curious looks from nearby prisoners. He quickly lowered his voice, "I don't think you do. My life.
My people's lives. How dare you." B'Elanna tensed under his hand as he drug her towards the platform, kicking sickly prisoners from
their path. It again took all of her strength to keep from fighting him here. But if she called too much attention to them..the whole plan
would be ruined. It was good that this place had at least taught her a great deal of patience. Yet as he kicked a younger girl from his
path she couldn't control her tongue, 

" How dare I?" He stopped and turned towards her as her words left her unbidden, his eyes were feverish. 

"Don't forget who has the gun." She backed down, unwilling to die when she was so close. "Good... you understand," He smiled a twisted
grin. " It'd all be so much easier if you just understood all of this." He pulled them into the elevator that would lift them to the entrance
to GerDal's office. "But you don't.... You can't. You aren't one of us. You are impure." They were near the top level. He lifted the gun.
His hand trembled. 

"You'll just have to die." He pushed her against the back of the lift. "Just die." His finger reached against the button. B'Elanna prepared
herself to duck, to turn, to do something. Then the red beam struck out....and hit him square in the back as the lift doors opened to
reveal GerDal with a disrupter of his own. ReReal fell forward, unseeing in his dead eyes, to a heap at B'Elanna's feet. She shakily
climbed over his body and towards GerDal. He motioned for a guard to remove his body. She heard him murmur some explanation to
the guard, who seemed to accept it. GerDal then pulled B'Elanna into his office. 

" That was too close." She pulled her boots off. 

"Yea, tell me about it." She placed her boots against the far wall. She shivered a little, as if trying to shake off the quick near disaster,

"How'd he find out?" GerDal shrugged, 

"Scanned, guessed. Maybe he heard." He gave a grim smile. " I guess we'll never know." He shook his head. "Poor boy must have gone
crazy over this. He could have never known." Then GerDal shivered a bit too. 

----------------------------------

Part 6 SOH--

B'Elanna was scared. No other way to say it. Flat out scared. She had dreamed about this for months, longed for it, cried for it. It was
here. She was going home. But she could barely suppress the urge to vomit. All this time. Would they recognize her? How would they
react? How would he react? 

*Focus. You aren't done yet. Focus.* The little voice pushed her again. At least her plan was in order, once she went to Voyager, briefed
the Captain, and gathered the medical supplies she would transport back to the lab with the doctor and various medical staff to help
treat the sick before they were sent home. In the mean time VOYAGER would transport the guards to a planet nearby with supplies. The
conditions the prisoners would have been left in. They would be left a signal to contact their government so maybe eventually they would
be rescued. B'Elanna couldn't help but hope they weren't. She took a deep breath and tapped her communicator. 

" Beam me over." 

How many times had she seen that panel? The familiar gray curve and lighted buttons, the smiling face of the transporter operator. A
million different times, in dozens of conditions, and in an infinite amount of moods. Yet now it made her want to cry. The image faded
into view completely as the shocking familiar beam let her go. She swayed under her own weight but quickly found her feet as the
Captain stepped up to help her down. 

" Welcome home B'Elanna." The dark orbs meet the Captainís gaze. Complete, desperate happiness filled her. 

"Ni...Nice to be...Nice to be back." She stumbled over the words. It was all too much. 

*Focus.* The same little voice. 

"I bet you have a lot of catching up." The captain escorted B'Elanna from the room. B'Elanna didn't meet her Captain's gaze, just
focused on the far end of the hallway,

"Yea, yea I do. But first we have some people to save."

"And that's the plan." She breathed out, meeting the Captain's eyes, the only ones she had been able to meet the whole briefing. She
was quite acutely aware of the other's eyes upon her. Extremely aware of a particular pair. Extremely. 

"So we have the Medical team ready. Right Tom?" Chakotay turned towards the blonde man. B'Elanna couldn't make herself look. 

" Yes. All ready." He sounded haunted. Distant almost. Like he'd seen a ghost.

*He has* That little voice was still there.

* But stay focused.* The same damn reminder. 

"Good. Then lets get this on the road." Chakotay stood and looked at Janeway. 

" Yes. Dismissed. Med. team meet in the transporter room in ten minutes." They all filed out, eyes still on B'Elanna. She stared straight
at the panel. The Captain stood. 

" You can breathe now. It's over." B'Elanna looked up.

"No. Not yet. Not for a while." Janeway's expression looked saddened. 

" I know. But I still have more faith in you than ever. You'll make it. We all care for you and we'll try and make it the easiest it can be."
B'Elanna smiled. "But I do have one question before you go B'Elanna. The jumping system....." 

" We can't use it." She looked towards the floor now. " It can be used only to send that ship home now. Unless you want to wait to see if
another ship comes for those guards we don't get to use it. The pieces can be mocked by us, but we don't have the materials to make
it. They come from certain ores found only on their planet. I did all the research." Her eyes closed. " I'm sorry." 

" There is nothing for you to be sorry for." B'Elanna gave a grim smile. 

" I guess I understand now why you destroyed that array. You wanted to save people. And I didn't understand. I hated you for it. Yet
now I am almost thankful you did. And now I'm in your shoes." Janeway patted her shoulder, 

" Some of the best lessons in life are the most costly." B'Elanna nodded and was silent for a moment. 

" Yea. But now I have to go learn mine."

"Tom? Are you alright?" The doctor came to stand next to his main assistant in the transporter room as they awaited B'Elanna's arrival.
It was still odd to think of it that way, her being alive. 

" I don't know." It was the most honest answer he could give. Part of him was hurt by her obvious avoidance of his eyes. The other part
was grateful. He had seen her, living, breathing before him. In the same room. If there were ever angels....he had seen one. He could
hear her screams echoing in his ears, see the image he had imprinted in his mind of her last moments. They made him want to scream,
gather her in his arms and feel that she was really there, that she wasn't going to fade away, hear her say something to him, look into
her eyes. He wanted to make her better. Wanted to love her. But at the same time he was afraid of her. He had heard what they had
done to her. And he would see in a few moments. He didn't know what that would do. He knew nothing. And it was an awful feeling. 

"Let's go." It was her voice. Taking charge...like it was before. Like it should be. She strode in, still dressed in the tan jumpsuit she had
come over in. He avoided her eyes, knowing he had to focus to make this work. She obviously felt the same way. They all stepped
aboard the platform, phasers ready. They never knew what was ahead. 

The lab came into focus, empty except for the small scientist hovering over a console. As he heard the hum of the transporter behind
him he spun around, 

"Oh thank the gods you're back." He rushed up and took the PADD from B'Elanna. "Are you ok B'Elanna...is everything set?" He looked
at the rest of the team. A dark haired man stood at the front, eyes scanning materials, patiently. Behind stood a blonde woman, eyes
looking pained and saddened, locked on B'Elanna. A balding man stood next to her holding a large medical kit, he must have been in
charge. On the far side, opposite where B'Elanna had stepped forward from stood a blonde man, with deep, tired, pained, and loving
blue eyes, GerDal watched this man watch B'Elanna. This was the one, he decided, this was B'Elanna's strength. He could tell. Her voice
broke him from his musings, 

"Yea, we're all set. Just get your guards to the bridge and VOYAGER will take them from there." Her tone was short and abrupt. The
quicker she had this done the sooner she could wash her hands of it. She went to the console to activate the broadcast beam that would
send GerDal's message to every part of the ship. And then watched as he stepped out the door onto the open platform. 

"I'd like to make an announcement." He paused from effect, making sure all eyes in the mine were on him as he held up a vile in one
hand and read from a PADD in the other, "The mission is complete." He paused again; the workers simply looked at him, bewildered
and lost, the guards stood at attention silently, "Would ALL personnel meet on the bridge immediately. All. Thank you." The guards still
stood silently. GerDal made a concerted effort to grin, "We are successful." A roar of victory arose from the guards below, a deep
guttural cry. B'Elanna closed her eyes and shut off the beam. The pain evident in her movements. GerDal moved back into the lab. All
traces of his smile gone. 

"All set. They should all be there in a minute. Then you treat the wounded and prepare them for jump; your ship transports the guards,
and then destroys the main ship. All perfectly in order." GerDal hung his head. "All perfectly." B'Elanna moved to him and placed her
hand on his shoulder. 

"It'll all be over soon GerDal. This nightmare will end." He looked up at her, 

"Yes it will B'Elanna. Yes it will."

GerDal stood before the door to his bridge. A vile of liquid in his hands. And a stack of PADDs. All of his research. All the information.
B'Elanna had purged every bit from the computers. It would all be gone in a little while. He looked down on his vest, adorned with the
multitude of ribbons and awards he had won. His lifetime of genius and distinguished achievements. All destroyed with the discovery of
the worst biological weapon he had heard of in his lifetime. And he had created it. They had used him. He had used people. It was a
terrible cycle. He turned around and looked back down the hallway of his vessel. The last time he would look upon them. He then turned
towards the ceiling, offering a small prayer of forgiveness and peace. He then tapped the commbadge the Voyagers had integrated into
his vest to look just like another award. 

"GerDal to Voyager. When I say the word." There was no response. There wasn't supposed to be. 

*Goodbye my vessel.* He turned back towards the large door. 

And the walked through it. 

" Go down now. It's clear." B'Elanna stood with her back to the medical teams behind her. A number of more volunteers had been
beamed in. "As soon as you all are in place I'll turn off the imager. There will be a significant amount of shock. Be prepared. Dispense
clothing and food to everyone you can, then find leaders for designated sections. Then all the group leaders check in with me and I'll
start the start up sequences and start beaming you all back over to Voyager." She closed her eyes quickly and then turned and opened
them. "Be gentle. They've had a rough time." Then she nodded and the teams quickly filed out to take the lifts and stairs down to the
caves. So far so smooth. She waited in silence until the reports started to file in. 

"Chakotay ready."

"Wildman ready."

"Untz ready."

"Peterman ready."

"Doctor ready."

The different teams reported one by one. Finally the last one called in, 

"Paris ready." Despite her attempts she flinched a little. 

"Acknowledged." He didn't respond but she pressed on. 

"All teams prepare for shutdown in ... 5-4-3-2-.... 1." She switched the lever down. She could hear the gasps from the office. 

B'Elanna buried her head in her hands. All she could do now was wait. Wait and hope. 

Dirt. It was all Thomas Paris could see. Everything and everyone was coated in deep brown soot. He drew more than a few curious
glances as the workers huddled around their small fires, clung together, their piles of rock and ore forgotten a few feet away. 

"I can't believe Lt. Torres was captured here for so long." The comment came from an ensign behind him. Tom didn't want to believe it.
The prisoners were alarmingly thin, bones showing through the smudged skin. A group of children sat around a pile of soot where some
were drawing in the dirt with their little fingers, others had taken to lying down and resting. Their hair, if they had any at all, was matted
and stringy. Tom opened his medical kit and nodded to the others to follow suit. There had to be over eighth dozen prisoners in this
corridor alone, it would take a lot to get these people ready to fend for themselves when they got home. They would need leaders, at
least one engineer, a doctor of some sort, a pilot, and someone who could manage weapons. Considering that these people had all
been captured from space-faring vessels Tom was confident they could find at least a few people that could get them home. 

"Who are you?" It was a woman, a small one, from a nearby fire. "What do you want with us." She looked a little better off then some of
the others huddled near her; she must have been new. 

"We're here to help. I'm Lt. Thomas Paris of the USS Voyager. We're here to send you home." The woman looked dubious but his words
had attracted the attention of all the prisoners in the room. 

"Really. Are you in association with these guards and people of the planet?" She motioned to the caves around her. 

"No, we are here to free you and punish the people who have captured you." Tom went with the simplest version he could think of. The
rest was just too damn confusing. The prisoner still didn't seem to convinced but she must of thought it couldn't be much worse so she
stayed silent. Tom couldn't blame her. Trusting anyone here would be hard to do. And she was right; it didn't get all too much worse. 

"First of all we need you to tell of if any of you are infected with any disease or illness." Tom scanned the room several hands rose
timidly from the huddled masses. "Would you please come here?" Tom spoke gently, trying not to frighten them. Many looked dubious
even more terrified, but in the end they came up and lined up before him. He nodded to the team behind him to go to work. Then he
turned around and looked to the wall, drawing on some strength he hit his commbadge, 

"Paris ready." He flinched a little at the dead, almost harsh sound of his voice. 

"Acknowledged." Her voice floated through the air. He squeezed his eyes shut tight. It was like hearing a ghost while standing in her
grave. He shuddered. He opened his eyes at the shocked screams and gasps. When he did he was greeted by cold steel walls where rich
dirt was once. He turned back to the group of dumb-founded prisoners as they stared at the square room. Tom watched, as the children
didn't blink from where the pictures had once been. It was a large room; each wall had a small door that lead away to where another
corridor would be. 

"What's happened?"

"Where are we?"

"Is this a ship?"

The questions suddenly began to arise as the shock faded away into chaotic confusion. Tom turned back around to the group, ready to
give the speech B'Elanna had instructed the to before they had left, 

"You have been....."

" You have been a part of the victory of our people. We are now heroes in our land. Names to be remembered." GerDal stood on the top
of his bridge and looked down on the guards and assistants on the lower level and to his sides. "There will be no more death, no more
suffering." GerDal felt a twinge of guilt at this. There was a plague, one instituted by his government and he also knew some of this
soldiers had family at home affected by this plague. Their family wouldn't be getting this cure. As they all thought they were. 

*There is no cure.* GerDal had to remind himself. *Least not one they gave you information to solve.* Well he would end this now.
GerDal then looked on his crew and hit his chest, right where the commbadge was, 

"No more death." GerDal then watched as the faces of the guards contorted into shock and confusion as the Voyagers locked on to them
and beamed them away at GerDal's words. 

"Voyager to GerDal." It was the Captainís voice, filling the now empty bridge, "Transport is complete." 

"Acknowledged Captain. I will await B'Elanna's signal to begin the jump." He then closed the channel and sat in his chair. It was almost
done. 

"All of the guards are on the planet and their supplies are there. GerDal is awaiting our signal on the bridge. B'Elanna out." Tom switched
off the panel B'Elanna's message for the teams had come on. It was time for his team to report back to the lab. They had managed to
inoculate any serious diseases and basically clean up the rest, handing out blankets and food. Tom's team had also been charged with
selecting someone who could handle leading this ship home. He had picked the woman who had originally spoke up. Her name was
Gerdi, she had been captured a few weeks earlier from a medical ship traveling nearby. She had knowledge of medications and bodily
functions; she'd make a fine doctor till they could get these people back to doctors of their own species. So with her in tow they signaled
for their beam out and then watched as the now sterile room faded from their sight. It didn't bother Tom at all to leave. It still felt like a
grave to him. Her grave. He couldn't make himself believe that she had been down there, sick, hunger, so very thin. He would never get
that image from his head either. These past months would haunt him his whole life, no matter what happened from here. The lab faded
back into view, B'Elanna's back towards them still as she tapped a few more instructions into the consul. She turned around as they
appeared behind her, 

"Everything alright?" She directed her comment towards Tom but focused on the wall above is head. 

" Yea, it went fine." He didn't look directly at her either. He wondered how long they would go on like this. Not looking at each other, not
talking. He wondered when they would be ok. If they would be ok. How they could be ok. She nodded and then looked at screen. 

"I'll transport all the team back. Except for you and your select for the crew." She then looked at the crew and nodded to them. As they
nodded back she signaled for their beam out, leaving just her, Tom, and Gerdi in the lab. 

------------

Once all the teams had come back and been transported out B'Elanna stood on the auxiliary bridge with the new crew of the ship for the
trip home. The captain had been selected by Chakotay, a young man who had captained a survey vessel near the home planet of his
captors. Gerdi, the med officer selected by Tom was shifting through the supplies left by Voyager. The weapons officer seemed eager,
and the pilot had already taken his seat. 

"You will have to take all the prisoners to their homes. We have compiled a list of the planets and their coordinates. The ones that lived
in this sector have been taken back." She had already given them the run down on the systems and the mission. They were, however,
all experienced space travelers. She had no doubt they would accomplish this. They all nodded and the new Captain accepted the PADD
from B'Elanna and started scanning through the names. 

"Good luck and safe travel." B'Elanna looked once more at the new crew, nodded and left. 

-----------------

Outside the bridge B'Elanna was greeted by Chakotay. He put his hand on her shoulder. 

"They are going to be alright. They'll make it. They're in good hands now." She smiled softly at the ground. "And now B'Elanna we need
to get home ourselves. It's time to put this behind us." She looked up. 

" I know." He smiled gently at her as she looked back at the floor. "I prayed for this Chakotay. Every night and every morning. With
every rock I moved and every time I tossed and turned because I was too hungry or sick to sleep I hoped I see everyone again. And
now I'm leaving and going back." Chakotay looked down at her, his brown eyes understanding, 

"But now you're scared. Unsure. This has become safe. And where you're going you thought you may never see again." She smiled
again and nodded. 

"We're all here for you B'Elanna. We are your family. And eventually it will all make sense again." He broke into a smile, "And your
engines have been whining for you." At that she smiled too, 

"Then I better hurry back." 

-----------------------------

The transporter room faded into view again for B'Elanna. The same sight that had always greeted her. She stepped down with Chakotay
and walked with him in silence to the turbolift and the bridge. As she stepped off the lift and onto the bridge it was as busy as she ever
remembered it being. Janeway turned around as the doors opened, as did the rest of the bridge. For the moment all the motion
stopped. The silence was deafing. 

"Welcome back." Janeway smiled and the nodded for her to join her at the command center. B'Elanna made her way past Harry Kim, who
stared at her in undisguised relief and happiness. Then passed the conn station who's occupant stared more at the floor. She didn't
blame him. She felt like staring at the floor too. Chakotay had gone around the other way, and then stood by his seat. She stepped up
next to Janeway, 

"Everything's ready." Janeway then nodded to Tuvok who opened a channel to GerDal, 

" The lower ship is awaiting the jump. Then once it's gone we'll transport you over and destroy the ship." GerDal nodded on the other
end. His eyes held a sorrow B'Elanna noticed but didn't understand. It was over now. Why was he sad? He locked eyes with her for an
instant. She couldn't express what she saw if she was asked, 

"GerDal out." And then he was gone. 

------------------------------

GerDal sat on his lonely bridge, surrounded by his PADDs of research. His awards, his treasures. He leaned over the console and hit the
intership communications channel on, 

"Brace for jump in 10-9-8....." He positioned his hand over the launcher. "4-3-2-.....1" He hit the codes in. He knew inertial dampeners
prevented him from feeling the lower part of his ship disappear but he could swear he felt it anywise. 

*Godspeed.* He then looked directly ahead at the image of VOYAGER. He couldn't go. He had done enough in this universe. He was a
weapon now, his genius a danger to those around him. He couldn't let himself to be the destruction of anymore. He hovered over the
shields. Janeways voice filled the deserted bridge, 

"Prepare to beam over GerDal." No, he couldn't. His people would chase this ship. GerDal held the information that would make them
supreme. No one else could ever hope to discover. They wouldn't let him go. He had to take his genius to the grave. He wouldn't hurt
these people.

He raised his shields.

"No Captain. I can't. The universe isn't safe with me in it." He locked eyes with B'Elanna as the young ensign informed his Captain that
indeed they could not get a lock on him. 

*I'm sorry B'Elanna. I'm sorry for this all.* He then hit the self distract sequence.

"Self Destruct in 1:15 and counting." His computer began the countdown. He heard the Captain shouting something, but his eyes stayed
locked on B'Elanna. 

* I really am sorry. * 

She didn't move or make any noise. 

* I feel a peace. * 

"50 seconds." 

*I did something right. *

"GerDal..." 

*No Captain. *

"30 seconds."

*Goodbye B'Elanna. Remember me. *

"Pull out of range, keep trying to get him."

*Goodbye. *

"10 seconds"

*Peace. *

"5 seconds."

*It's over*

Light. 

The shockwave from his ship tipped VOYAGER on her side as she rode it out. The lights flickered briefly before the power stabilized.
B'Elanna stood on the command platform, still not moving or talking. He was gone. He sacrificed himself. 

"Did we get him?" It was Janeway. B'Elanna didn't move, of course they didn't. He was among the debris that was his ship. Or at least
the part that wasn't sent back to a distant sector. She knew that. She should have known before. 

"No Captain. He's gone." Harry delivered the news as softly as he could, possibly hoping that she wouldn't hear and she'd never know.
Sweet Harry. Janeway hung her head, then stared out on the debris. 

"Set course Mr. Paris. Towards the Alpha Quadrant." She looked back on B'Elanna, who had yet to move. "Are you alright?" B'Elanna then
broke from her reverie. 

"He was a good man. He saved me." She looked back into the debris. "He did the right thing." At Janeway's startled look she added,
"He died with peace. It made him happy." She felt as unfeeling as she had accused Seven as being. But at the pit of her stomachs she
felt certain happiness spreading through her. He had been let free. He had his peace. He wanted that. His burden had been let go. And
it was time she let hers fly. 

----------------------

Joe had been more than willing to give B'Elanna back her position. Something she would be ever grateful for. Though her quarters had
been virtually untouched she felt uncomfortable in them. They held a great number of memories in them. Ones she wasn't ready yet to
deal with. So her engines had been a great escape for her. Carey had done an all right job on keeping them going. However Chakotay
had been right, they were desperate for her. Harry had been an angel to her, leaving her alone mostly but eating with her when they had
a shift off together. He would fill her in on what had happened during her absence. He always gave her as much space as she needed,
and was always there when she needed to talk. Or to just be reminded she wasn't dreaming. 

Neelix had adopted a different approach to her altogether. He showered her with attention and visited her often on his off-hours.
B'Elanna willed her self to be patient. He had missed her as much as she had him. And his food tasted better to her than it ever had. 

Janeway and Chakotay had played parents and taken her aside to talk dozens of times. Both had agreed she should take it easy until
she was used to being home again. All B'Elanna cared about was that Janeway had given her the engine room back again. 

Seven acted as if nothing had happened. Though B'Elanna couldn't wait for the day she let her curiosity get the better of her and finally
inquired as to what B'Elanna went throughout. It was bound to happen. 

Tuvok had asked if their meditation sessions would be resumed. She actually found herself eager to have that time again. 

She had seen a great deal of the doctor, the dear doctor. She couldn't say much on that. At least some things never change. 

Then that left the pilot. She still hadn't even meet his eyes. And she had been back for a week. She couldn't say anything on him. She
still missed him. He still wasn't there. 

She sat on her couch going through the engine reports, wrapped in a blanket. She looked up as the door chime buzzed, expecting to
see the little Talaxian with another message or what not. 

What greeted her was something different altogether. 

Blue. Filled with pain, uncertainty, fear, and underneath it all a love. He stood at the entrance seeming uncertain on if he should come
in. She just nodded. 

"B'Elanna." 

"Tom." He looked her dead in the eyes again. 

"I still ran. I still thought you would still be here. Every day. I never gave up you would be back. I could hear you breathing. I would
wake up and the morning would chase away every ghost of the dreams of you. And I'd be alone. That was the hardest part. You never
kissed me goodbye. I could have choked on the words I never said. I prayed that some day I'd have the chance to. I clung to every hint
of you. I swore that I could feel you. Lying next to me when I couldn't see in the dark. When the Captain called engineering I always
longed to hear you answer her. I got so tired. So hopeless. But I never stopped loving you. Though I could have killed myself for not
telling you. And now your are here. Right before me. And it took me this long to come say this to you. I don't know what going to
happen. But I know that you are the most important in my life. I was hardly able to breathe when you weren't here. That scares me. But
I can't ignore it. Or change it. I couldn't live with myself not telling you." He stopped and just looked. Unable to say anymore that made
sense. She moved from the couch and kneeled at his feet. Her hand rested on his cheek. 

" Thank you." It was all she could say. Her lip reached up and gently brushed against his. When she opened her eyes she smiled gently.

" I don't know what's going to happen either. But I lived because I wanted to come home to you. You made me live. And I can't ignore
it. Some things you can't be comfortable doing. I'm scared. But I need you. I hate it. But I don't want to live without you." He smiled
now too. And he kissed her. 

And the mines melted away

They would come back 

The six months were forgotten

At least for a few moments

But when they did come back

She wouldn't be alone. 

--------------------------------

AND I AM SOOOO DONE!!! Sorry

This has taken me months!

Feedback would be ADORED! 

DbleGem22@hotmail.com