Title:  Aurora: Changes
Author:  Julie Evans
Email:  Juli17@aol.com
Rating:  PG13
Codes:  AU, P/T, J/C, All
Summary:  Alternate universe, further adventures of the
former Voyager crew, now colonists on the Delta quadrant
planet they named "Aurora."  Sequel to "Down the Rabbit
Hole," "Into the Looking Glass," and "Founding Aurora."

Archive:  Okay to archive to the ASC, PTCollective Archive,
and the BLTS.  All others please ask author for permission.

Disclaimer:  Star Trek and its characters are the property
of Viacom/Paramount.  I am borrowing them for fun only not

General notes:  This is the fourth story in the "Aurora"
series.  The previous stories in this series are "Down the
Rabbit Hole," "Into the Looking Glass," and "Founding

It's been two and a half years since I've written in the
Aurora alternate timeline.  In the meantime the characters
on the TV series went places that I didn't necessarily
foresee from my mid-season 4 perspective (the period when I
finished "Founding Aurora").  I see the characters
differently as colonists on a planet where they expect to
live out their lives than I see them as Starfleet officers
on a ship juggling their personal lives with their sense of
duty, and always with the constant goal of getting home on
their minds.  I think they would be different people, in
both subtle and dramatic ways, in two such different
scenarios.  But the characters in the two timelines do
share the same pasts.  The emotional scars that they carry
and the issues that affect their lives in the series
timeline would exist in the Aurora timeline too.  As she
has on the series, I figured at some point even on Aurora,
B'Elanna in particular would have to face herself and her
long-standing insecurities and resentments about her

Timeline notes:  This story takes place about 14 months
(Earth calendar) after the conclusion of "Founding Aurora."
In relation to the series timeline, the events in this
story unfold during a period concurrent with the early
sixth season of Voyager, shortly before B'Elanna
experienced the Klingon afterlife (or a vision of it) in
the episode "Barge of the Dead."  Let's just say ;-)

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Patti, who graciously allowed
me to reference her version of how B'Elanna acquired Toby
the stuffed targ (relayed in her wonderful story "No Good
Deed").  Thanks also to Jim Wright for his Delta Blues
reviews, which are always the ultimate reference to verify
those little facts and points of accuracy from the
episodes.  And a big thanks to Janet for beta reading, and
for her invaluable comments and suggestions.

Aurora: Changes
by Julie Evans

November 34th, Aurora calendar.  Early morning:

She'd awakened to find his side of the bed empty, and cold.
He had left without waking her.  His boxers and t-shirt
were crumpled up on the floor next to the bed, as if he'd
quickly stepped out of them, and the closet door was wide
open.  His cobalt blue jumpsuit, the one he liked to fly
in, was gone.  So was his flight bag.  There was no note.

He was gone.  And for several moments she thought that he'd
simply left them.  Then she remembered, but the sudden
racing of her heart had flared her temper again, and she
threw the covers back furiously as she got out of bed.

B'Elanna slammed the closet door and stomped into the other
bedroom, her bare feet slapping on the cold hardwood floor.
She stopped just inside the doorway.  M'Kaela was asleep in
her crib, curled on her side.  She invariably pushed her
blanket off during the night, but now it was tucked snugly
around her.  Her teddy bear, the rather seedy teddy bear
that had once been her father's, sat on one side of her,
and her arm was wrapped possessively around the other
little bump whose head poked out from under the blanket.

B'Elanna frowned.  Obviously Tom had come in here earlier,
before he had slipped out of the house completely.  She
hadn't felt or heard him get out of bed.  But then they'd
gone to sleep last night as far away from each other as
possible in the confines of their shared bed.

Tom had stopped see his daughter, to tuck her in again and
kiss her cheek.  Far more than he'd done for his wife.  It
was an unfair judgment, but she figured with the way things
had been going between them lately that he'd gotten out of
bed without sparing even a second glance at her.

B'Elanna slipped out of her daughter's room and walked
slowly back into her own, her gaze falling on the bed in
question.  The sheets were rumpled and the blankets were
thrown back from either side and gathered in an elevated
lumpy line in the middle of the bed, rising softly like
some impenetrable separating wall.

B'Elanna bit her lip hard at the unwelcome emotion that
suddenly welled up in her, then she turned away from the
bed, pulling her nightgown over her head and letting it
fall in a heap to the floor.  She stared down at the snowy
white folds of the heavy cotton gown, the one Tom had given
her after they'd come home from Aurora's first official
Christmas party at Neelix's last year.  Even if she didn't
see herself as the long white gown type, she had
appreciated that it was very warm.  And she'd found Tom's
arousal when she wore it amusing if a little bizarre.  Tom
had called it a "bastion of purity" that screamed "hands
off" so loud that he couldn't see her in it without getting
aroused and immediately wanting to "breach the

She kicked the gown out of her way.  He certainly hadn't
tried to breach anything last night.  She'd worn the gown
admittedly to bait him, to remind him of what he wasn't
going to get.  He'd known what she was doing and had
returned her defiant look with a deliberately indifferent
look of his own before crawling into bed and turning his
back to her, settling in as close to his edge of the bed as
possible.  She'd told herself that was what she wanted as
she'd gotten into bed then, leaving enough space between
them to accommodate several bedless people.

B'Elanna strode to the bathroom and shoved the shower
curtain out of the way.  It was what she had wanted.  It
wasn't as if she'd lain awake for hours, wondering if he
was asleep, wanting desperately to hear him say something--
anything.  It wasn't as if she'd held her breath at his
every movement, wondering if he would reach for her and
touch her in reconciliation, unwilling and unable to
stretch her own hand across that gulf between them for fear
that he would push it away.

And it wasn't like she would admit that, to him or to
herself.  She gave the shower knob a vicious jerk and a
hard steady stream of water poured out.  He hadn't reached
out, he'd simply gone to sleep while she'd tossed and
turned.  Then he'd left this morning without a word to her.
Well, to hell with him.  He could stay gone for all she

With that angry and completely untrue thought, she stepped
under the full spray of water and winced at how hot it was,
but she didn't adjust the controls.  She focused on the
hard pelting of the scalding water on her skin, welcoming
any way to bury the emotions that were alternately making
her hot and cold inside.


"Good morning, B'Elanna."

Kathryn greeted the younger woman who strode toward her
with M'Kaela strapped securely to her back.  Kathryn smiled
at the child, who was peering over her mother's shoulder,
her amazing dark blue eyes, the color of deep sapphires,
appraising her surroundings with alert curiosity.  "And
hello to you, M'Kaela."

M'Kaela's red bow mouth, so like her mother's, turned up
into a delighted smile.  She uttered one of her several
dozen mastered words, "hi," followed by a quickly babbled
succession of mostly indecipherable words, with "Kat," her
term for Kathryn, somewhere in there, as B'Elanna came to a
stop in front of Kathryn.  Kathryn chuckled at M'Kaela's
enthusiastic greeting and ruffled her cap of soft dark
curls, then pulled her hand away before M'Kaela's small
fingers could latch onto it.  She knew from experience just
how strong M'Kaela's grip could be.  Kathryn looked at
B'Elanna at that moment, and her smile slipped a little.

B'Elanna's mouth definitely was not turned up into a smile,
and she looked tired.  She and Tom sometimes did in the way
parents of a child fourteen months old in human
developmental terms were apt to look, especially two
parents whose skills were critical to the colony right now
and who put in as much work as they did.  Still, Kathryn
could see it was more than that.  B'Elanna looked troubled.

B'Elanna must have recognized the concern in Kathryn's
gaze, because her mouth did turn up then into a small
smile, though it was far from reaching her eyes.  "Good
morning, Kathryn.  We're just on our way to breakfast."

Kathryn nodded.  "I'll join you then.  I was just on my way
there myself."

Kathryn fell into step beside B'Elanna as they walked
toward the Mess hall.  Cafe Neelix, she reminded herself
ruefully.  Neelix had renamed the place during the surge of
renaming that had occurred during the previous summer, from
names that were functional and reflective of their
Starfleet origins, to names more suited to the planet-bound
village that was now their home.  And since food production
had stabilized at a level comfortably above mere
subsistence, and the original functional housing they had
built had been slowly transformed into comfortable and
technologically proficient, if still simple individual
homes, communal dining was no longer a necessity.  Even so,
the social interaction gained from dining in a communal
atmosphere was a pleasure most indulged in at least once a
day, and often more.  Cafe Neelix was never without several
dozen customers at meal times.

Kathryn and B'Elanna stepped into the grassy square, now
renamed Voyager Common, carefully making their way over the
blue-green grass still slick with morning ice.  The New
Sonoma site was located in a dryer, warmer area of the
northern temperate zone, and winters there were not so
harsh.  And while it was almost winter here, summer was
approaching there.  Tom and B'Elanna would be among the
first to take up residence there, in a week if all went
according to plan.

Kathryn snuck another glance at B'Elanna's set face.
"B'Elanna, are you all right?"

The question was asked softly, an invitation to share, and
B'Elanna hesitated briefly before she answered.  "I'm
fine."  Her voice was quiet but firm and she didn't look at
Kathryn as she spoke, but stared straight ahead.

They walked past the several plumfruit trees with their few
leaves that hadn't fallen poking out from their spidery
branches.  Kathryn wanted to say something, but she knew
B'Elanna didn't react well to being pushed, so she remained
silent as they stepped onto the duracrete pathway that
surrounded the common.

"He just...left."

Kathryn barely caught B'Elanna's softly spoken words, and
it took her a moment to realize who she was talking about.
Tom had gone with Chakotay and Tuvok to the New Sonoma site
this morning in the Sagan.  Kathryn had gotten up early to
have breakfast with Chakotay, but they had become otherwise
occupied and hadn't quite gotten around to breakfast.  She
hadn't felt like eating alone after he'd gone, which was
why she now found herself on her way to Cafe Neelix.
Kathryn heard something angry but also oddly bereft in
B'Elanna's tone now.  She stopped abruptly, and B'Elanna,
surprised by the action, stopped too and stared at her.

"B'Elanna, you knew Tom was leaving to go to New Sonoma
with Chakotay and Tuvok for a couple of days," Kathryn said
quietly, not sure why B'Elanna would be so bothered by
Tom's departure.  He'd been shuttling people back and forth
to the colony site on a regular basis for months, though
he'd only stayed overnight on occasion.  "We all talked
about it the other day."

"Dada," M'Kaela said, recognizing her father's name.  Her
fingers were curled in her mother's hair, and she yanked
hard.  B'Elanna didn't wince; she just shook her head once
and pushed her daughter's hand away distractedly.  "No,
M'Kaela."  She looked directly at Kathryn.  "I remembered
after I woke up and he was gone.  He didn't even say

Kathryn heard the hurt in B'Elanna's voice.  M'Kaela
apparently sensed her mother's distress.  She frowned and
murmured "Mama" as her hand that had previously tugged
B'Elanna's hair rested lightly on her mother's cheek.
B'Elanna reached up and absently stroked her daughter's
hand.  It had obviously been a more serious fight than
usual.  "B'Elanna, everyone fights sometimes--"

"I know," B'Elanna said, cutting her off.  She shook her
head, and forced a smile.  "Forget it.  It's nothing."  She
pulled her daughter's hand from her cheek.  "Come on,
M'Kaela, let's go with Aunt Kathryn and see if Neelix has
any of that applesauce left that you like so much."

B'Elanna turned and marched away, leaving Kathryn to match
her stride.  Kathryn had assumed that B'Elanna hadn't been
at the shuttle landing field to see Tom off because she
hadn't wanted to expose M'Kaela to the chilly dawn air, and
that she and Tom had said their goodbyes at home.  That was
obviously not the case.  Kathryn was used to seeing Tom and
B'Elanna's strong personalities and tempers clash, and
she'd certainly seen them flare up with each other on
little notice, but their quick tempers usually cooled just
as quickly.  She'd always suspected that their
temperamental natures probably led to some pretty
satisfying make up scenes.  Not this time, apparently.

"Hey, Mick!"

M'Kaela's uncharacteristic somberness disappeared, and she
erupted into several small squeals as Harry pecked her
cheek.  She reached out and grabbed his hair and pecked him

"What a grip you have little girl," Harry said, grinning at
her as he gently disengaged her hand from his hair.  He
smiled at B'Elanna and Kathryn.  "Good morning, ladies."

"Doo," M'Kaela said, reaching down and squirming against
her mother's back, as B'Elanna and Kathryn exchanged
greetings with Harry and Kes and young Andrew.  Though
Andrew was actually two months younger than M'Kaela, he was
already at a developmental level equal to that of a human
three year old, a testament to the contribution of the
genes he had inherited from his Ocampan mother.  Andrew
smiled sweetly at M'Kaela from his mother's side.

The group walked together through the brightly painted
yellow doors of Cafe Neelix, and after quick greetings were
exchanged with the two dozen or so other colonists
breakfasting there, they found themselves an empty table.
Neelix had not only changed the name but had made the place
his own by substantially altering the original functional
decor.  Gerron and Michael Ayala had refashioned the
existing long tables, and added some smaller, more intimate
tables, made from the same strong hardwood trees that
populated the local forests, these of the blonder variety
than the reddish wood that had been used to build most of
the housing.  Each table was covered with a bright yellow
and blue tablecloth, and adorned with a vase filled with
the blue and white teardrop shaped wildflowers that bloomed
in the nearby grassy meadows in the spring, and that Megan
and Kes had replanted in the colony's greenhouse for year
round enjoyment.  The walls were now covered with several
murals painted by Sue Nicoletti, vaguely impressionistic
street scenes from her hometown of Sorrento.

Neelix rushed over as they seated themselves.  M'Kaela
crowed, "Neex" and he immediately cooed over her, and
ruffled Andrew's dark hair.  "I've got several baskets of
waterfowl eggs," he announced cheerfully after he'd
effusively greeted them all, and had set a pot of coffee on
the table.

Neelix had discovered that the duck-like birds that
frequented a calm inlet of the nearby Bajor river, and a
larger lake now called Rynax Lake ten kilometers distant,
laid very edible eggs, with a flavor only slightly stronger
than that of Earth's chicken eggs.  Additionally, the birds
were quite mild-natured, and unafraid of the colonists, as
were almost all the animals on Aurora.  With the help of
Tabor, Neelix had constructed a small pond several hundred
meters behind his cafe, and had added "coops" to house the
birds in cold weather, when they would normally fly north
to warmer climes.  Sure enough several dozen of them had
remained there throughout the last winter, and were now
quasi-domesticated.  Neelix took their eggs as they laid
them, and like blissfully unaware chickens they simply laid
more, adding one more item to the colonists expanding diet
of local foods.

After Neelix left them with promises of omelets garnished
with tomatoes and local mushrooms, Harry initiated the
conversation as Kathryn inhaled the sweet aroma of coffee
from the pot and began filling everyone's cups.

"I guess Tom, Chakotay and Tuvok are well on their way to
the New Sonoma."

Kathryn was watching B'Elanna strap her squirming daughter
into the high chair next to hers, one of the several Neelix
had commissioned from Gerron for the growing number of
additions to the colony.  Andrew sat on a small booster
seat between his mother and father, watching M'Kaela's
struggles placidly with his dark eyes, as passive a child
as M'Kaela was active.  "They left two hours ago," Kathryn
finally answered Harry's question, pulling her attention
from the two children.

"And I'm left here to finish the diagnostics on the
Cochrane's new helm controls," Harry said with a mock pout.
"Tom has a knack for escaping tedious situations."

Kathryn knew Harry's gibe was a meaningless one in a long
series of them, and that Tom and he enjoyed knocking each
other in jest, but she saw B'Elanna's head shoot up, and a
quick look of irritation crossed the engineer's face before
she could control it.

"He'll be back tomorrow," Kathryn said to Harry, though her
eyes were on B'Elanna.  "I'm sure anything he
left...unfinished will be fixed then."  B'Elanna met
Kathryn's gaze for a long moment, and her face relaxed just
a little as she turned to her daughter, who was happily
flipping her spoon off her tray.

"Harry doesn't mind working on the Cochrane," Kes said,
giving Harry a gently admonishing look.

"I don't mind it," he agreed.  "I'm just a little jealous
of Tom getting to go back and forth to New Sonoma so often.
I can't wait until the transporter is ready and we can hop
over there in a few seconds instead of a few hours.  I miss
my buildings."

"*Your* buildings?" Kes asked, her husky voice dry with

Harry shrugged.  "I helped design and build them," he said.
"I didn't get a chance to do that here."  He'd spent all
his time then with the computer core they had managed to
salvage from Voyager, modifying and adapting it to make its
systems and applications more attuned to the needs of the
new colony.  "I didn't know how much I'd enjoy that, or
that I would be good at it."

"We've all discovered hidden talents and abilities in
ourselves," Kathryn said.  Certainly many of the skills
useful on a starship were wasted on a fledgling colony, and
skills not needed on Voyager were vital to survival on a
new planet.  "I suppose that had to happen in a situation
where we had no alternative but to adapt.  Though sometimes
it does amaze me that we've done it so easily."

"It's not amazing at all," Kes said in a soft unequivocal
voice.  "I wouldn't have expected anything less from anyone
here.  It's not surprising that we are building something
good and enduring."

Kes rested her hand lightly on Harry's arm, and he smiled
contentedly at her.  Kathryn knew it was because of Kes
that Harry had adapted so quickly here.  Harry had a strong
sense of family, a need for that kind of connection in his
life, and Kes's ability to infuse his life with that
deepest sense of belonging had allowed Harry to more
readily accept the loss of his family he had counted on
seeing again in the Alpha quadrant.

One family replaced by another.  It had been that way for
everyone.  None of them were any different from Harry in
their need for closeness and connection.

"It's not surprising," Harry finally agreed with his wife's
assessment.  "But I still can't wait to start building our
house in New Sonoma.  And there is plenty of other work to
do.  Jesse and Shaun have finished the plans for the winery
and press building."

Kathryn had seen Jesse Molina and Shaun Mulcahy's plans for
the hacienda style building, set to be erected within the
next year as the first grape and olive harvests would be
ripening.  Jesse had already stepped into the position of
resident vintner.  Two more of her former crew who had
unveiled personal talents untapped in Starfleet, but
invaluable on Aurora.

"I for one am quite fond of the haphazard design of New
Lourdes," Neelix said from behind Kathryn's shoulder.  He
began to set the plates of hot food he was carrying on the
table.  "It has charm.  And the red wood gives everything a
nice rustic flavor."

"We did a pretty good job considering that we had no time
to preplan," Kathryn agreed as Neelix set a steaming omelet
in front of her.  "It may be a mix of local woods,
duracrete and pre-fab, but it did turn out pretty well,
even if it lacks 'theme'..."

Harry grinned at Kathryn's teasing use of that word.  Both
Tom and he liked to refer to New Sonoma's building plan as
a "theme."  "Hey, I love New Lourdes.  Neelix is right, it
does have a sort of rustic charm, even if we just erected
everything haphazardly.  But it is fun to plan a whole new
town, with a cohesive design."

Kes traded tolerant smiles with Kathryn.  Harry was as
detail-oriented as he was enthusiastic.  Even B'Elanna
looked mildly amused as she settled M'Kaela with her bowl
of applesauce and scrambled eggs.

The conversation stalled a bit as they all dug into their
omelets with appreciative gusto, then eventually drifted to
the subject of the site to site transporter that was nearly
ready to be put into use.  Harry managed to drag B'Elanna
into that conversation as they discussed the final tests
she and Joe had planned for the transporter, and how it
might eventually be expanded into a fully functional
transporter system capable of beaming them anywhere on the
planet, once the ryanamite extraction was complete and it
had all been converted into usable form.

Kathryn listened to them as she finished her breakfast, and
her thoughts centered on the aura of contentment she sensed
among everyone now, including herself.  After two and a
half years here--or two years by the planet's rotation, as
they were slowly starting to rethink the passage of time--
Aurora had truly become their home.  There were occasional
moments of melancholy, and spats among friends and lovers,
but they all passed quickly enough.  She looked at
B'Elanna, who was involved now in her conversation with
Harry, comfortable as always with her technical data and
equations.  Whatever had happened between Tom and her,
Kathryn was sure it was temporary too.  It would be
straightened out once Tom returned.


November 34th, late morning:

"Tom, is it possible that you are going to shut up any time

Tom stared at Chakotay, who was seated beside him in the
co-pilot's seat of the Sagan.  Chakotay wasn't looking at
Tom, he was looking out the front viewscreen at the
landscape passing below them.  They were flying along the
eastern edge of the Northern Temperate Sea, the second
largest body of water on Aurora after the Western Sea that
covered a significant area of the equatorial and southern
hemisphere of the planet.  Neither was near the size of
Earth's greatest ocean, the Pacific, since Aurora was
nearly fifty-five percent landmass compared to Earth's
thirty percent.  On Aurora it was the land that surrounded
the bodies of water, rather than vice versa.  The Northern
Temperate Sea they were shadowing right now was a fairly
shallow sea, and along the shore the water pooled into the
rocky coves in shades of clear turquoise.  Further out the
water was deeper, transformed into a shimmering cobalt

Tom turned over one of the rocky tree-dotted promontories,
reminiscent of the topography of California's central
coast, or areas of the Italian and Greek coastlines along
the Mediterranean, and steered their course inland.  "I was
just trying to pass the time, Chakotay.  Tuvok hasn't

"I would prefer that you desist from speaking," Tuvok
replied immediately from his seat directly behind Tom.
"You have indulged in inconsequential chatter without pause
for nearly three hours, and without allowing Chakotay or
myself to speak."

"I'm sorry, Tuvok," Tom said sarcastically.  "Did you want
to add something 'inconsequential' to the conversation?"

"It has been a dissertation, not a conversation, and no, I
have no desire to discuss any of the generally frivolous
subjects you have broached."

Tom rolled his eyes at Tuvok, then glanced at Chakotay.
"Have I been boring you too, Chakotay?"

Chakotay shrugged.  Truthfully he couldn't disagree with
Tuvok's assessment of Tom's extreme loquacity since they'd
taken off on the Sagan.  It was in marked contrast to his
somber silence when he'd first approached the Sagan on the
landing field.  While it was true that Tom was rarely at a
loss for conversation, particularly idle conversation, he'd
been outdoing himself this morning.  "I don't mind
conversation, Tom, if you'd actually like to discuss
something of consequence."  He could have added, "like
what's bothering you" but he had a pretty good idea, and he
knew Tom would rather cover with meaningless chatter than
actually talk about it.

Tom's eyes remained on the landscape they were gliding over
now, the straw-colored hills dotted with trees and
separated by small valleys that surrounded New Sonoma.
"Nothing comes to mind."

"I do agree with you about the bay we passed a while ago,"
Chakotay said as Tom cut speed for their imminent descent.
"It did look like a woman's profile."  In reality it only
bore a superficial resemblance to a humanoid profile, but
he'd known where Tom's thoughts were.  "I think it looked a
lot like B'Elanna in fact.  We should name it B'Elanna's
Bay, now that we've started adopting more personally
meaningful names, instead of 'western' this, or 'greater'
that.  I think B'Elanna would be flattered."

Actually Chakotay thought B'Elanna would probably be
annoyed, but his words did get a reaction.  Tom snorted.
"B'Elanna, flattered?"  He shook his head.  "I wouldn't
count on it, Chakotay.  She hasn't been in a very receptive
mood lately."

Chakotay met Tuvok's impassive gaze.  They were a small,
close colony, and there certainly wasn't anyone who didn't
know that there had been tension between Tom and B'Elanna
during the past couple of weeks.  Tension wasn't unusual
between them, in fact it was a given considering their
intense personalities, but it was usually short-lived.
Adding in the stress of adjusting their lives to raising a
bright and active almost toddler, he'd expected that they
were simply experiencing a difficult phase not uncommon in
relationships, a small rift that would heal itself
naturally.  He looked at Tom again, but before he could
speak, Tuvok did.

"If you wish to unburden yourself and seek advice to foster
the stability of your relationship with B'Elanna, that
would be an acceptable topic of conversation."

Tom's head jerked around and he stared at Tuvok, his mouth
dropping open slightly.  Chakotay barely managed to keep
his own mouth closed.  Although Tuvok had become more and
more adapted to living with predominantly human companions
since they'd been on Aurora--after all, Tuvok knew that he
was now stuck with them for his lifetime--a willingness to
discuss the emotional turmoils of those around him was more
than Chakotay had expected.  He couldn't help wondering
facetiously if an advice column could be far behind.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow at the quick grin Chakotay couldn't
quite suppress.  "It would be a preferable subject to more
idle conversation, and if we might be of assistance to Tom,
it would serve a purpose."

Chakotay was sure he heard a very slight hesitation in
Tuvok's voice when he used Tom's first name.  The Vulcan
still had some difficulty shedding his lifelong habit of
formality and addressing his former crewmates, now fellow
colonists, by their first names.  He glanced at Tom, who
had now closed his mouth.  "Tom?"

"Thanks for the thought, Tuvok," Tom said shortly.  He
turned once more to face the viewscreen.  "But everything
is fine.  Since I've been talking too much, I'll just shut
up now."

Chakotay sighed.  He hoped it really was only a small rift
between Tom and B'Elanna, and that they wouldn't let it go
any further.  With the emotional scars they both carried,
he was well aware that small problems often loomed large,
especially when they both fell back on their established
withdrawal patterns and let the wounds fester.

"We're coming to New Sonoma now," Tom said, sounding

The low whitewashed buildings of the village came into view
as they approached over a broad hill west of the site, a
hill that Jesse Molina had flagged as the perfect vineyard
site.  Other gently sloping hills where future fruit
orchards would stand surrounded the new town.  The weather
here was drier and milder than in New Lourdes, and would be
more suitable for certain crops, like grapes, and olives
and nuts, and citrus fruit trees.  To the south was a
wooded ravine where a small river flowed by, a river they
had named Ktari River, the new colony site's source for

They approached the site and flew over the residential
section, where two dozen houses in the low rambling style
Tom jokingly called California-Mediterranean-Spanish were
gleaming with recent whitewash, and bright red or blue
tiled roofs.  Then they flew over the center of the village
with its cluster of newly constructed buildings arranged
around a central plaza.  The move in phase would be
staggered, but within the next several months a third of
the colonists would be living here primarily, though with
the site to site transporter in operation, primary
residence wouldn't be much of a factor.  The colonists
could come and go between the two villages as often as they

They passed the still empty outer warehouse buildings, and
descended toward the marked landing site just past the new
shuttlebay hanger.  A few moments later, with deft handling
of the recently upgraded helm controls, Tom set the Sagan
down on the short grass without so much as a bump.


The Meeting hall in New Lourdes had been transformed in the
past year also.  Harry and Tuvok had updated and added to
Voyager's original secondary computer core, and two walls
was now taken up by the computer complex, containing all
the information they had saved from Voyager's database,
along with controls for the force fields, satellites, and
the remote sensors they had placed around the planet as
they'd slowly mapped it.  They'd also linked the individual
residences with remote monitors to access data from the
main computer core, an improvement over their early
reliance on datapadds.

The large table from Voyager's senior officer's briefing
room still dominated the middle of the main room, and a
short corridor off the back wall led to the latest addition
to the Meeting hall, another large room dominated by a
transporter platform.

A transporter wouldn't eliminate the need for shuttles
entirely, and in fact Tom was in the middle of designing a
new one with the input of several colonists, including
B'Elanna, Harry, Pablo Baytart, and Gerry Culhane.  But it
was important for the growth of the colony to have
instantaneous access to the new site.  B'Elanna, Joe and
Sue had cannibalized the transporter relays and parts from
their dwindling fleet of original Voyager shuttles, and had
spent months transforming them into a new transporter
system.  It was currently limited to site to site transport
between New Lourdes and New Sonoma, but B'Elanna was sure
that eventually they would be able to transport to any
coordinates on the planet.  It had been the ryanamite, and
B'Elanna's considerable engineering skills, that had
revived the most complex technology the Federation had to
offer, that they had originally thought lost with Voyager.

"Margin of error is .00000000312," Kathryn said from her
position at the main console, reporting on the latest test.
B'Elanna stood at Kathryn's side closely scrutinizing the
readings, and Joe stood next to the transporter where
several small containers had reappeared, concentrating on
the scanner in his hand.

That margin of error was lower than one out of three
billion, virtually zero in practical terms.  It was better
in fact than the margin of error had been for Voyager's own
transporter system, and far superior to the transporters
the Federation had relied upon less than a hundred years
ago.  But no one wanted to take any chances at all when it
came to transporting the colonists, particularly B'Elanna,
who was very much a perfectionist about her work.

B'Elanna made a small "hmmph" sound now, of approval or
disapproval, Kathryn wasn't sure.  "What is the residual

Joe looked up from his scanner.  "Twenty seven percent
below norm."  He closed the scanner and looked down as
M'Kaela tottered out from beneath the control platform,
where she'd been amusing herself chattering nonsense and
banging her fist on one of the supports.  She lost her
balance as she tried to negotiate the raised transporter
platform and landed on her rump.  Joe grinned at her as she
stared up at him with her deep blue eyes, her expression
annoyed rather than teary.  He reached down and ruffled her
curls.  "Hey, princess."

"Why doesn't anyone ever call her by her name?" B'Elanna
grumbled as she made a minor adjustment to one of the
transporter controls.

"Nobody ever calls kids by their names," Joe said.  "Well,
except you."

B'Elanna gave Joe a sharp look though he didn't see it.  He
was still busy trading smiles with M'Kaela.

"It's just a matter of personal style," Kathryn said.  "My
father called me pet names even when I was grown.  And my
grandmother never called my anything but Kathryn Elizabeth
from the day I was born."  She smiled at B'Elanna.  "It
didn't have any relation to how much either of them loved
me though."

B'Elanna looked at her daughter, who had one fist curled
tightly into one of Joe's pantlegs and was busy trying to
use him as leverage to get up onto the transporter
platform.  "I'm not sure Tom knows her real name.  He's too
busy calling her 'angel' or 'sweetie' or 'pumpkin'."

"Tom's never at a loss for an affectionate name for his
daughter," Kathryn agreed.  He wasn't at a loss for
affectionate terms for his wife either, and she'd heard him
speak them when the two had assumed no one else could hear
their conversation.  Kathryn didn't add that observation
though, not only because she knew B'Elanna struggled to
maintain some sense of privacy under very communal living
conditions, but because she was also aware that B'Elanna
and Tom were not on the best of terms at the moment.

"Tom does love this little angel," Joe said, still grinning
at M'Kaela.

"And I don't?" B'Elanna snapped.

Both Joe and Kathryn looked at her in surprise.  "Of course
you do, B'Elanna," Joe said quietly.  "I didn't mean to
imply anything else.  I was just thinking in the terms
of...a father's love."

Joe's suddenly pensive gaze moved back to M'Kaela, who had
released him and began toddling toward the control platform
again.  Kathryn knew he was thinking of his own two sons,
whom he would never see again.  Although Joe had begun to
rebuild his life here, most recently with Sam Wildman,
Kathryn knew he could never completely recover from that

B'Elanna must have realized what Joe was thinking too,
because she said softly, "I'm sorry, Joe."

Joe shook his head quickly.  "Don't be."  He paused, and
when he spoke again his voice was wistful.  "I'll always
miss my boys.  But I enjoy seeing all the children being
born and raised here.  Tom's a good father to M'Kaela, and
you're a good mother, B'Elanna, even if you sometimes doubt

B'Elanna looked at her daughter, who was crawling around
under the control console again.  M'Kaela looked up at her
mother and Kathryn, her expression mischievous, and she
murmured a stream of babble, punctuated by a few
recognizable words like 'mama' and 'no.'

"No?" Kathryn asked dryly, smiling down at her.

"No," M'Kaela repeated forcefully.

B'Elanna sighed.  "That's her favorite word."

Joe chuckled.  "Of course it is."  He moved his gaze from
M'Kaela, who began pounding one hand on the console
imperiously, to B'Elanna.  "I do know that it's a hard job
raising a child, and it certainly makes for some adjustment
in a marriage."

B'Elanna shot Joe a sharp look, but Kathryn's look on him
was more thoughtful.  "Are you going to be needing my
services as a former Starfleet captain one of these days,
Joe?" Kathryn asked.

Joe clearly understood Kathryn's meaning.  She only
performed one service bestowed on her by her Starfleet
captaincy --officiating marriage vows.  "Maybe," he said
noncommittally.  He turned toward the transporter platform
and played with the settings on the scanner in his hand,
and murmured again, more softly and more definitely,

Kathryn and B'Elanna shared a pleased look with each other,
and B'Elanna actually cracked a genuine smile, albeit a
small one.  Samantha was a good woman, and very good for
Joe.  The losses they'd both suffered had created a bond
between them.  And over the past several months Naomi had
come to consider Joe her surrogate father.

"Tuvok to New Lourdes."

"Kathryn here."

"Kathryn," Tuvok's deep voice floated over the commlink.
"I am ready to commence the transport sequences."

No "hello," or "we arrived safely," or any other gratuitous
pleasantries from their Vulcan friend, Kathryn reflected
with amusement.  Of course their safe arrival was implied
by Tuvok's contact.

B'Elanna made no move to indulge in pleasantries either.
She got right to the point.  "I'll initiate the sequences
here first."  Her fingers skimmed over the controls as
M'Kaela chose that moment to grab at the leg of her
mother's jumpsuit, wanting to be picked up.

"Up!" M'Kaela demanded.

"No, M'Kaela," B'Elanna said firmly.

"We have several small containers that we just sent and
retrieved on a test run," Joe said.  "We'll send those over

"Very well," Tuvok agreed over the link.  "Receiving
transponders are at optimal levels."

"Good," B'Elanna replied.  "I'll boost the signal now--

Kathryn reached down and scooped up M'Kaela, who had been
tugging insistently at B'Elanna's pantleg again, undeterred
by her mother's "no."  B'Elanna flashed Kathryn a grateful
look as her hands moved over the controls again.  "Look,
M'Kaela."  Kathryn pointed as the containers on the
transporter platform began to shimmer.  M'Kaela followed
Kathryn's gesture and her small mouth fell open slightly as
she fixed her fascinated gaze on the growing sparkles on
the platform.

"The signal is received--what...?"

Kathryn and B'Elanna looked at each other as Tuvok's voice
rose uncharacteristically in surprise.  A second later
Tuvok spoke through the link again, his voice abrupt.
"Stand by."

B'Elanna pulled back on the signal and the shimmering
effect of the transporter faded as the small containers
took their completely solid shape again.  M'Kaela looked at
Kathryn in confusion, clearly upset that the light show had


Tuvok didn't answer Kathryn's query, and Joe moved over to
the control platform, his look on B'Elanna questioning.
B'Elanna shrugged.  "The signal was fine."

"More?" M'Kaela asked, pointing to the transporter

Kathryn shook her head distractedly, wondering what had
happened to divert Tuvok's attention so suddenly, and for a
moment she wished she had initiated some gratuitous
pleasantries and had asked about Chakotay and Tom.  She
would like to know where they were at the moment.

"Hey!"  Harry burst in from the main room, followed closely
by Celes.  "One of the satellites in the northern
hemisphere just picked up an intermittent signal.  The
readings indicated a small ship, but the signal was masked,
either by unknown substance in the hull or by some sort of
cloaking device."

"Near New Sonoma?" Kathryn asked, already suspecting the

"It looked like it was headed in that general direction
before the signal disappeared," Celes said.  "It either
recloaked, or crashed."

B'Elanna turned and spoke again into the commlink, her
voice tense now.  "Tuvok, what is going on over there?"

Surprisingly Tuvok answered immediately.  "Something
crashed nearby.  The satellite feed here indicates that it
was most likely a small ship."

"That's what the readings here indicated too," Harry said.
"But we couldn't tell for sure.  And we weren't sure if it
crashed or cloaked itself."

"It crashed," Tuvok said firmly.  "We will investigate from

"Tuvok, we can send back up--"

Tuvok cut off Kathryn's reply.  "The crash shook the ground
heavily here.  My tricorder indicates that the site is
approximately one and a half kilometers from here, near the
river.  We can reach the site quickly, and we will exercise
appropriate caution.  I will report back shortly."

"Tuvok, are Tom and Chakotay with you?"  B'Elanna's voice
was rushed, as if she was afraid he might cut off

"They are here," Tuvok replied.  "We will contact you
within the hour to update you on the situation.  Tuvok

"Tuvok--damn!"  B'Elanna slapped the console at the
unmistakable sound of the channel being closed.  "Tom and
Chakotay have their commbadges," she said.  She quickly
readjusted the signal.  "B'Elanna to Tom."

There was no answer, only static.  Harry squeezed in next
to B'Elanna and ran his fingers quickly over the comm
station.  "There's some sort of local interference--
magnetic resonance, and some residual radiation, probably
from the crash.  It may be only temporary--"

"Radiation?" Kathryn asked.

"Only in small amounts according to the initial readings,"
Harry said.  "But we can check again to make sure the
remote transmitters haven't picked up any serious leakage."
He patted B'Elanna's shoulder, and smiled at Kathryn.
"Don't worry.  A tricorder will detect any dangerous
radiation, and I'm sure they'll take appropriate
precautions, as Tuvok said."

"I'm sure they will," Kathryn agreed.  But she couldn't
help a feeling of disquiet.  If there was only a little
radiation leakage then the ship was mostly likely intact.
They'd become used to being isolated on Aurora, and the
thought that someone else had come across their planet,
intentionally or not, was a little unnerving.  Should
anyone on the ship have survived.

M'Kaela, who had been surprisingly quiet and still in
Kathryn's arms, whimpered a little in the tense silence, as
if she sensed the sudden grave moods in everyone around
her.  B'Elanna took her from Kathryn and she brushed her
lips over her daughter's forehead before hugging her
distractedly.  Her thoughts, like everyone else's, were
clearly elsewhere.


In fact Chakotay and Tom weren't "here" in the way Tuvok
knew his answer might have been interpreted.  They were
here in the more general sense of the word--somewhere on
the colony site.  They'd gone to inspect the new duracrete
walkways in the residential section that had recently been
laid, to verify that they had set properly in the spate of
late spring rains that had fallen during the previous week.
Tuvok had remained in the Meeting hall to check the status
of the recently installed computer system, and to assist
with the additional transporter tests B'Elanna had
scheduled for today.

The seismic survey Ryan Mackenzie and Lindsay Ballard had
conducted when they'd first been considering new colony
sites had shown that this area was prone to occasional
though usually moderate seismic activity.  It was nothing
that plexisteel mixed in with the stucco they'd used to
construct the buildings in New Sonoma couldn't withstand.
And a temblor had been Tuvok's first suspicion when the
ground shook briefly beneath him.  But the roar just before
it had sounded different than the roar of the ground as a
temblor rumbled through.  His quick foray outside after
he'd told Kathryn to stand by had confirmed that something
had crashed.  The smoke from the impact was visible to the

Tuvok made his way back through the Meeting hall, stopping
at the main storage locker to retrieve several items, and
then winding around clusters of crates and boxes and even
pieces of furniture waiting to be moved to the main
buildings of the village, and to the adjoining residential
section.  Over the past few months most of the colonists
had either been directly involved in constructing the new
colony's buildings, or had helped install the underlying
cables and conduits for the electrical grids, lay pipes, or
make furniture for both the main village and the new
residences.  Only the cadre of engineers like B'Elanna and
Joe, who had spent most of their time refining the
ryanamite and then working on the transporter system, had
been excused.

Despite the number of items that had been beamed to New
Sonoma in the past couple of weeks since B'Elanna had
deemed the transporter ready for inanimate objects, Gerron
and Michael's hastily constructed warehouse behind their
shop in New Lourdes was still filled to capacity with more
furniture waiting to be beamed over to New Sonoma.  Tuvok
had built several pieces of furniture in the traditional
Vulcan style himself, a craft that he found both relaxing
and conducive to deeply focused thought.  He would be one
of the forty-three colonists who would move into the first
phase of the residential section in two weeks, just in time
to escape the cold winter that was already starting to set
in at New Lourdes.  Vulcans had no predilection for cold,
damp weather, though they had more resilience to deal with
it than Klingons or Bolians.

Tuvok stepped outside again, surprised that Tom and
Chakotay hadn't already burst into the Meeting hall.  The
residential section was to the west, so he'd known
immediately that they'd been in no danger.  But they had
certainly felt the impact.  He looked up at the sun, to the
north and not quite overhead yet since the summer solstice
was approaching here.  The sun shone many hours longer here
now than in New Lourdes, but the hour, shortly after noon,
was virtually the same at both sites, since they were
situated within a hundred kilometers of each other's
longitude, by intent.  He rounded the side of the white
stucco and duraglass Meeting hall, and almost collided with

"Tuvok."  Tom said his name almost distractedly, then
glanced across the round expanse of Sacajawea Plaza that
was covered with the fine yellowish grass indigenous to
this region.  The trees were scarcer here, and the few that
adorned the plaza had slightly twisted gray trunks with
wide branches and sparse foliage similar to Earth's
cypresses.  Tuvok followed Tom's intent gaze to the narrow
plume of smoke that was visible over the roof of two
warehouse buildings across the plaza.

"It looks like it's near the river," Chakotay judged.

Tuvok silently agreed with that assessment as Chakotay and
Tom both turned to him.  Though they were no longer on a
starship there was still a tendency to defer based on their
previous positions.  Some of those positions had translated
usefully to Aurora.  No one doubted that Tom was the best
pilot on Aurora, or that B'Elanna was the most gifted
engineer.  But Tuvok's position as security chief had no
real place here.  Security on Aurora consisted merely of
safety measures against the weather and the few dangerous
animals that inhabited the same space.  At least it had
until now.

"It will be most expedient to go on foot," Tuvok stated.
It would also be prudent not to immediately expose their
technology to any possible survivors, even the lesser
technology contained in a shuttle.  "It will be necessary
to be armed, since we do not know what or who we will

Tuvok handed out the phasers he had collected in the
Meeting hall, and then gave Chakotay the tricorder.  "The
radiation leakage appears to be minimal but we should
monitor it regularly."

Chakotay nodded as Tuvok turned to Tom.  "I also retrieved
a field medikit in the event that there are survivors who
require treatment."

Tom took the medikit Tuvok offered him with a frown, not
looking happy at that possibility.  The doctor had given
several of the colonists recurrency training as medics, and
Tom had been one of those chosen.  He was the best equipped
of the three of them to deal with any potential injuries.

"Tuvok, did you talk to anyone in New Lourdes?" Chakotay

"I spoke to Kathryn and apprised her of the situation.  The
satellite feed there also monitored the crash.  I told her
that we will make contact within the hour with further
pertinent information."  Tuvok glanced at Tom.  "B'Elanna
was there also."

Tom nodded, and fingered his commbadge for a moment,
frowning.  Then he dropped his hand.

"Let's go then," Chakotay said.  "The sooner we get a look
at the ship the better."

Tuvok led the way as they headed across the plaza toward
the plume of smoke.


Less than fifteen minutes later, after a brisk pace set by
Tuvok through the lightly rolling grassy fields, they came
to the Ktari river that meandered from the low hills east
of New Sonoma to the Northern Temperate Sea ten kilometers
to the west.  Its meandering course formed nearly a half
circle around the new colony site at a three kilometer
distance to the east and half that distance to the south.
In the mid-summer and fall it was more a stream than a
river.  After the winter rains it swelled into a small
river.  As they moved out of the lightly wooded area that
lined its banks, the site of the crash became clearly
visible on the other side of the river.

Tuvok led the way into water.  The riverbed was twelve
meters wide at this spot, and fortunately the water rose no
deeper than mid-thigh as they crossed on foot.  Tom was
glad he'd worn his lighter weight flight jumpsuit instead
of the jeans Tuvok and Chakotay had chosen to wear.  Though
the weather was warm as befitted late spring, and their
clothing would dry, it was still uncomfortable.  A bridge
would be a good idea in the near future.

They moved past several trees on the opposite bank of the
river that were singed, and past more trees had been
flattened by the ship as it crashed.  Smoke continued to
rise from the charred ground, and from the front of the
ship that was now visible as they came upon it from the
port side.  It was far smaller than Voyager, though several
times the size of a standard shuttle, and Tom noted that it
was still in one piece despite the heavy damage.  It had
crashed at a steep forward angle--not surprisingly--and the
forward section of the ship was severely mangled.  The aft
section was dented and bruised, but it appeared to be

"The radiation level hasn't changed," Chakotay said.  He'd
run a radiation scan several times as they'd approached,
and had reported that leakage was minimal.

Tom's attention was on the medical tricorder he carried.
"I'm reading lifesigns in the aft section of the ship," he
said.  "Maybe two dozen, humanoid, species unknown."

Tuvok was already searching for a way to get inside the
ship.  There was a closed panel next to what appeared to be
a large set of bay doors.  The cover was partially buckled,
and Tuvok wrapped his fingers around the edge and pulled.
Even with his strength, it barely budged.  He aimed his
phaser at the upper edge of the panel cover and sliced
across the dented metal.  Chakotay joined him and they
pulled together, forcing the panel cover off to reveal a
dozen control buttons and switches inside.

"I'm reading another lifeform," Tom said.  He hesitated for
a moment, as he tried to interpret the reading, hoping he
was wrong.  "It's faint, but it has mechanical
components...and it looks like a Borg signature."

Tuvok continued testing the control switches without pause,
but Chakotay looked at Tom.  "Is it Borg?" he asked with
some alarm.

Tom frowned at the tricorder.  "I don't know.  It's so weak
that if it is, it must be injured.  Can a Borg be injured?"
He'd always heard that if a Borg drone was injured, it was
immediately deactivated and cannibalized for parts.

"I thought they either regenerated, or were destroyed,"
Chakotay said, echoing Tom's thought.

"Speculation is pointless," Tuvok said.  "We will know the
answer when we get inside."  He tried the final switch, to
no avail.  The power source had clearly been interrupted.
"We can use our phasers on the bay doors, but such an
effort would likely drain most of their energy."  Tuvok
continued to inspect the control panel as if a logical
answer would come to him.  "However, it may be our only

"There must be a manual override code," Tom said
impatiently.  Eschewing Tuvok's methodical approach, he
pressed his fingers over several of the top row of buttons,
alternating the pressure of his hand against the panel.

"That is not likely to produce any--"

Tuvok's words were interrupted by a painfully loud
screeching noise that made them all wince.  The bay doors
began to slide open.  The space widened to about twenty
centimeters before their progress was halted by the
severely buckled condition of the doors.  But it was

Tuvok looked at Tom, and Tom smiled triumphantly, even
though he knew it had been sheer blind luck.  "I guess I
just have the magic touch, Tuvok," he quipped.

"You were the recipient of fortuitous chance," Tuvok
corrected, and then he stepped through the partially open
bay doors.

Tom and Chakotay followed closely behind, and Tom's smile
faded once they crossed the threshold.  They entered into a
narrow bay with several lifepods lining the walls, some
still in their holds, some jarred loose from the impact.
Obviously there hadn't been time for any of the crew to get
to the bay area and escape in the lifepods before the ship
had crashed.  Tom found that odd, given that the ship had
entered the atmosphere intact, and that all the damage
appeared to be from the impact rather than from any
previous collision.

"The lifesigns are concentrated past those doors," Tom
said, pointing to the double doors that led out of the bay
and into the interior of the ship.  They were damaged too.

Tuvok stepped over some debris that had fallen from the
partially collapsed ceiling, following Chakotay, who had
already begun moving in that direction with his tricorder.

"These doors have been fused shut, from the other side,"
Chakotay reported, his voice perplexed.

Tom looked at Chakotay.  "You mean someone did it on

"It looks like it."

Tuvok glanced down the two other corridors that went off in
opposite directions in front of the doors, perhaps to other
lifepod bays, or cargo bays.  "Is there another route we
can take to reach them?"

Chakotay shook his head, studying the map the tricorder
provided.  "Looks like the doors separate this bay along
with several other compartments--storage or cargo bays
maybe--from the rest of the ship.  There are several access
tubes that go to the engine section, but they appear to be

Tuvok nodded and aimed his phaser at the doors.  Tom and
Chakotay understood his intention and did the same.
Together they cut through the fused section of the doors.

"I hope they're not feeling too hostile to visitors," Tom
said as Tuvok pushed at the cutaway section.  Offhand he
couldn't think of very many Delta quadrant species they'd
met who *weren't* hostile to visitors, which was not a
comforting thought.

Tuvok led the way through again, phaser loose in his hand,
but obviously ready should he need it.  Tom followed suit,
his hand resting near his phaser, and Chakotay brought up
the rear.  They were greeted by the sight of at least two
dozen humanoid beings, huddled along the two walls of a
wide corridor, some with obvious injuries and coral
splotches of blood on their clothing.  An adolescent poked
his head out from behind two adults, who spoke to him in
anxious tones in their own language.

"We are here to assist you," Tuvok told them immediately.
Like Tom and Chakotay, he was wearing his commbadge, a
precaution whenever they traveled from New Lourdes, despite
the fact that the comm signals were sometimes lost in the
magnetic interference the blanketed Aurora.  Universal
translators were imbedded in the commbadges, though up to
this point they'd never needed them.

Tom didn't know if the brief words spoken to the adolescent
had been enough for the universal translator to grasp their
language since none of the group responded to Tuvok.  Tuvok
spoke again, in a calm, even voice, "We are the inhabitants
of this planet.  I am Tuvok, and this is Chakotay, and Tom.
We observed your ship's descent and impact, and we wish to
offer our assistance."

Two of the men were standing slightly forward of the rest
of the group as if they might be the de facto leaders.  The
taller of the two men took a step forward.  His loose
layered clothing was in muted brown and green tones that
would provide camouflage on a planetary surface.  It didn't
do too badly against the drab brown interior of their ship
either.  "We appreciate your assistance in freeing us from
our damaged ship.  We require nothing further."

Tom held up his medikit.  "It looks like some of you are
injured.  We have medicines, and regenerators that can mend
broken bones."  His gaze strayed to a woman sitting on the
floor with a blood soaked cloth wrapped around her head.
She leaned heavily on the man next to her, moaning softly.
"We also have a doctor who can take care of any serious

"We have medical knowledge," the tall man replied shortly.

"But our medical supplies are in the infirmary," the man
supporting the injured woman said.

The tall man frowned, and his dark eyes in his leathery
face flashed with annoyance, but he said nothing as Tom
moved to the woman's side and began scanning her with a
small medical scanner he pulled out of the medikit.

"If it's past the end of this corridor, I doubt you'll be
able to retrieve anything," Chakotay said.  "Everything
forward of this section is just tangled metal."

"Was there anyone else on board?" Tuvok asked.

The tall man understood his meaning.  "Our two pilots
stayed at the helm trying to control the crash so that the
rest of us might survive."

"They succeeded," Tom said softly.  And paid with their
lives.  They all knew there was no way the pilots had
survived in the crushed forward part of the ship.  "She
will be okay," he said, nodding to the injured woman.
"It's a superficial cut, and she has a concussion."

"You were fortunate that your pilots controlled the crash,"
Tuvok said.  "And that this section sustained minimal
damage.  The lifepods would have ensured your survival.
However, it appears that the doors leading to the pod bay
were fused shut intentionally."

The tall man nodded at Tuvok's pointed observation.  "It
was necessary weeks ago to separate that area of the ship
from the main living areas and the engine room."  A hard
look crossed his face.  "We found ourselves stuck with
unwanted passengers."

Tuvok's eyebrow rose, and he looked at Tom.  Tom recalled
the other lifeform, the possible Borg, and he immediately
began scanning with his medical tricorder.  "There it is.
In a storage or cargo area maybe...one level above the pod
bay.  It's the same one, faint, and with both biological
and mechanical components..."

"Is it Borg?"

Tuvok addressed the tall man, but the shorter man next to
him spoke for the first time.  "It *was.*  We are not sure
what it might be now.  It was already partly disassembled
by the other one when we last saw it."

Tuvok's eyebrow rose.  "The other one?"

"The alien creature," the tall man said.  "We did not seal
off half of our ship because of one Borg drone."

Tom adjusted the scans on the medical tricorder.  "I don't
see..." he paused, as an anomalous reading flashed across
the tricorder screen.  "There is something else that might
be a lifesign.  It is some sort of biomatter, but it's not
like any I've ever seen.  It also keeps disappearing, like
it's phasing in and out or something."

"It is not like anything we have ever seen either," the
tall man replied grimly.  "Or ever want to see again.  It
is from...someplace else."

Tuvok moved close enough to Tom to look at the readings,
which were inconclusive, but biological.  There for a
moment, then gone.  If it was an animal, it was of a
species unlike any other.  Tom met Tuvok's gaze and Tuvok
murmured, "Interesting."

"The Borg, when it still could speak, called the creature
'Species 8472.'"  The second man's mouth twisted into a
harsh smile. "The Borg threatened to assimilate it, but was
not successful."

Tom looked at Chakotay and Tuvok.  If the Borg gave it a
species designation, that implied that the "creature" was
intelligent.  And something was tugging at Tom's memory,
but he couldn't quite pin it down.

"How did it get aboard your ship?" Tuvok asked.

"The Borg assimilated much of our home planet six decades
ago.  The few hundred of us who survived and were not
assimilated hid in a vast system of old mines.  It was a
safe haven for us.  Then, several months ago the Borg
returned, this time with some of these creatures chasing
them.  They were involved in a battle, part of a war
between them.  They were too busy fighting each other to
notice us, and we are adept at hiding.  But their battle
was poisoning our planet's ecosphere and eventually we knew
we had to leave.  We took several small ships that we had
hidden carefully, and we escaped, each ship going in a
different direction in the hope that we might maximize our
chance of survival.  We did not know that one of the
creatures had invaded our ship until we were over a day
away from Sikari.  It killed twelve of us, painfully,
before we were able to seal it off in the bay section.  It
has been there for over a week now, with the Borg."

Tom remembered now something that B'Elanna had said, about
Voyager, in the alternate timeline she'd briefly visited.
That Voyager had come across a species that had taken on
the Borg and was winning, until Voyager had helped the Borg
chase them back out of the galaxy.  He recalled that the
species had no known name, simply a Borg designation

"How did the Borg drone get here?" Chakotay asked.

The tall man shrugged.  "It was left behind by the Borg, or
it was looking for raw materials...we do not know.  It hid
from the creature for a while, but finally they must have
met.  For whatever reason the creature has not killed the
Borg, and the Borg cannot assimilate the creature.  When we
viewed the Borg drone through our video monitors in the
cargo bay recently, we saw that it was partially
disassembled, but alive.  It does not speak as far as we
can tell.  But neither does the creature."

"It may communicate in some other way than speech, perhaps

"It only kills!" the shorter man interrupted Tuvok sharply.
"You cannot communicate with it.  It will only kill you if
you try."

"If it becomes necessary, then we will kill it," Chakotay
said, and Tom looked at him, a little surprised.  The alien
was obviously dangerous, but it wasn't like Chakotay to
think about killing it without considering every other

"It is difficult to kill," the tall man warned.  "We tried
with laser weapons and compression grenades and we were
unsuccessful.  We only managed to injure it when it invaded
the engine room and one of our engineers tricked it into
the warp matrix field by leading the way."

Chakotay and Tom looked at each other.  Leading the way?

"The engineer died, but the creature escaped.  Even injured
it moves quickly.  And it does not need to breathe as we
do.  It spent much of its time crawling on the outside of
the ship."

"Crawling on the outside..." Tom's voice was incredulous.
"In space?"

"Yes.  We think that is how it damaged the engines after we
sealed off the engine room.  That is what caused us to
eventually crash here."

Tom looked at his tricorder again and frowned at Tuvok
"The tricorder's completely lost the reading."

"Maybe it's dead," Chakotay suggested, sounding as if he
hoped it was.  Tom couldn't help but agree.

"Or it has left the ship," the tall man said darkly.  The
rest of the Sikari looked alarmed and Tom realized that
they hadn't secured the outer doors into the pod bay,
though they hadn't had any reason to think of doing it.

"The readings are erratic," Tuvok pointed out impassively.
"We do not know that it has left.  But we must find it now.
Do you have any weapons?"

The tall man pulled a menacing looking rifle from the folds
of his clothing.  Tuvok's eyebrow rose, and Tom would never
have guess it was there.  "We are not a people inclined to
war," he said.  "We avoid contact with others to avoid
conflict.   But we will defend ourselves if necessary."  He
shook his head.  "However, we used up most of our weapon
power trying to fight the creature.  This is all we have
left, other than hand weapons for hunting food, but they
are in the sleeping quarters that are now unreachable."

Tuvok looked at Tom.  "Chakotay and I will go search the
bays for the alien," he said, and Chakotay nodded his
agreement.  "It may be dead.  If it we can't find it, we
will deal with that problem when we must."

Tuvok looked at the tall man again and raised an eyebrow.
"It would facilitate conversation if we knew your name."

The man seemed to hesitate for a moment before he answered.
"My name is Larem." He motioned to the shorter man next to
him.  "This is Timbeti."

"Larem, I suggest that you gather what you can and prepare
to leave the ship now.  The radiation leakage is minimal
but prolonged exposure is not advisable.  It may be several
days before it tapers off and you can begin any salvage

"We will accept this course of action since we have no
other option."  Larem turned to Timbeti, and handed him the
rifle.  "I will leave you in change of protecting the
others, while I accompany Tuvok and Chakotay to search for
the creature."

Tom watched Tuvok nod slightly, accepting Larem's offer
without comment.  "Tom will accompany your people off the
ship and offer medical assistance," Tuvok told Larem.

Tom was agreeable but he had something else on his mind.
"We should call New Lourdes," he said quickly.  Despite the
fact that they'd been almost at each other's throats for
the past few days, a fact he was sorely regretting right
now, he knew that B'Elanna would be worried about him.

Tuvok tapped his commbadge, and it issued forth only
static.  "As I expected.  Though the radiation is minimal,
it is enough to interfere with communications.  We can try
again outside the ship, but I suspect we will have to wait
until we can use the comm channel in the Meeting hall to
contact New Lourdes."

Tom nodded none too happily.  He watched Tuvok and Chakotay
leave with Larem to search for the alien, and to retrieve
the Borg drone if it was alive.  Though Tuvok hadn't said
it, Tom knew he and Chakotay wouldn't leave it here.

As Tom helped the injured Sikari woman to her feet with the
assistance of the man he assumed was her mate, he tried to
push down the guilt he was feeling over the way he'd
practically snuck out of the house this morning, hoping to
avoid a continuation of the argument he and B'Elanna hadn't
finished last night.  He had other things he should be
thinking about right now, like the fact that if this
Species 8472 creature was as dangerous as the Sikari
implied, and as his hazy recall of B'Elanna's description
of that alternate Voyager's encounter with them would
indicate, it could be disastrous if it got loose on Aurora.


B'Elanna wanted to howl in frustration.  She wished she
could do exactly that, but there were a dozen people in the
Meeting hall now, and giving vent to her temper wasn't an
option.  It had been almost an hour and still no word.
"Isn't there any way to reach them?"

Harry started a little at B'Elanna's sharp tone, and looked
at her.  "Our signal's fine.  But you know how unreliable
the commbadges can be on Aurora.   Add to that the crashed
ship's residual radiation.  It's obviously interfering with
their reception."

Everything Harry said B'Elanna already knew, and she
sighed.  "Sorry."

Harry squeezed her shoulder.  "They'll be okay, B'Elanna.
It's only been forty-five minutes.  It's just signal

B'Elanna nodded.  "I know."

"And whatever you and Tom are fighting about, you'll both
solve it together."

B'Elanna scowled at Harry.  Did *everyone* know she and Tom
had been fighting?  "And what makes you think--"

"Gotta go, B'Elanna," Harry said, stopping her.  "Mort's
signaling me."

B'Elanna growled a little as Harry pushed past her.  She
looked across the room, where Mortimer Harren was pointing
out something on a display to Ahni Jetal.  Probably some
new satellite data, since he'd become their satellite
expert in recent months.

She shook her head.  On Voyager the man had driven B'Elanna
to distraction with his rotten attitude until she'd finally
exiled him from main engineering to deck fifteen.  When
they'd first arrived on Aurora, he'd been just as
antisocial, hardly talking to anyone, doing only as much as
was required of him, then using the computer system half
the night to study his exotic particle physics theories.
A year or so ago Ahni had taken it upon herself to draw him
out, practically forcing him to join in the activities of
the colonists.  She'd proven to be as stubborn as he was,
ignoring all his rebuffs until he finally gave in.  A few
months ago he had started to get involved with the
satellite program, and now he was in the midst of doing a
complete upgrade and redesign, one that both Tuvok and
Harry found impressive.

Well, Mortimer had always been smart.  But B'Elanna still
couldn't figure out what someone as cheerful and social as
Ahni saw in someone as belligerent and hostile as Mortimer.
And now they were moving in to one of the newly built
houses in New Sonoma together.

B'Elanna frowned.  Tom hadn't been surprised at all.  He'd
just said that opposites attract and that everyone wants to
be loved, even the ones who spend a good part of their
lives trying to run away from it until the right person
finally convinces them to take a chance.  B'Elanna had
pretended not to recognize the similarities, but of course
she had.
Ahni moved away as Harry arrived, but she trailed her
fingers across Mortimer's back as she did, and his hand
reached back and caught hers for a moment as he began to
talk to Harry.  B'Elanna rolled her eyes and turned around,
and almost bumped into Kes.

"They make a good couple, don't they?"

B'Elanna looked at Kes.  And Kes looked right through her,
as usual.  She shrugged.  "She puts up with him for some

"He puts up with her too," Kes said, with one of those
thoughtful smiles on her face.  "They both have strong
personalities but opposite temperaments.  They balance each
other I think.  And even though they fight like..." her
brow furrowed.  "What's that phrase Tom uses?  Ah,
yes...even though they fight like cats and dogs, I have no
doubt that they make up with just as much passion
afterwards.  I hear that can work quite well."

B'Elanna narrowed her eyes at the deliberate implication
she knew Kes was making.  Kes just gave her an innocent
look in return, and then she changed the subject.  "They
haven't been in contact yet?"

Kes didn't have to use names.  B'Elanna shook her head.
"No," she said shortly.  "Interference."

"They'll be okay."

B'Elanna nodded at that reassurance.  Again.  "I'm going
back to the transporter room.  You coming?"

Kes said that after an odd little hesitation, and B'Elanna
looked at her closely.  It occurred to her that it was kind
of strange that Kes was here.  "Is something wrong, Kes?
Shouldn't you be finishing your doctor exams or whatever in

Kes smiled a little.  "I can't do them all in one day," she
said as they walked into the transporter room.

Joe was at the control console while Kathryn was on the
transporter platform letting M'Kaela play on the dozen
round brightly lit pads.  "Your daddy called this a giant
twister game, M'Kaela," Kathryn was saying as M'Kaela tried
to straddle two pads with both hands and feet, her bottom
in the air.  "That was some twentieth-century kind of game
or something.  You know all about your father's fascination
with Earth's twentieth-century, or you will--"

Kathryn looked up and smiled as she saw B'Elanna and Kes.
She left M'Kaela playing on the transporter platform and
joined them next to Joe.

"The transporter is ready for the final field test,"
B'Elanna said abruptly.

Joe, Kathryn and Kes all looked at her, only in mild

"We've performed every check possible," B'Elanna added, in
a tone that dared anyone to comment.

"That's true," Joe said agreeably.

B'Elanna knew Joe wasn't the type to rub it in, though he'd
said the same thing to her several days ago when she'd
insisted on setting up one more series of tests as an extra
precaution.  She knew he and the rest of the engineers
wondered why she was taking so long to give the system her
final approval.  Harry had told her teasingly that she was
being very particular, and even Chakotay had hinted that
maybe she was being overly cautious.  Oddly, Tom had been
the one who'd told her that she should go at her own pace,
and give her approval when it felt right.  "There's no
reason to wait," she said now, a little brusquely.

No one argued with that, and they all knew why B'Elanna had
suddenly moved up her timeframe.

"You can beam me over for the field test," Joe suggested.

"I'll beam over," B'Elanna corrected him.  A 'field test'
beam-over was a formality, since none of them had any doubt
the transporter was in prime condition and completely safe.
But it was tradition for the designer to beam over first,
to inaugurate the system and prove its safety.  B'Elanna
had designed it, so she would do it.

"Okay," Joe acquiesced easily.

"And then we can find out what's going on over there,"
B'Elanna added with determination.

"Let's give them a few more minutes to contact us," Kathryn
suggested.  "In the meantime we can get a team together in
case they do need our assistance with the ship, or with any
survivors."  She looked at Joe.  "Joe, why don't you have
Harry round up a couple of volunteers who can be ready to
beam over right after B'Elanna."

Joe nodded and headed back to the main room of the Meeting
hall, and Kathryn looked at Kes.  "Kes, I'm glad you're
here.  We might need your medical expertise if there are
any injuries--"

"We don't even know if there are survivors," B'Elanna said
sharply.  Harry had already tried to use the local
satellite sensors to scan the downed ship, but the
satellite sensors were not powerful enough to detect
lifesigns.  It did confirm that the ship was heavily
damaged.  "That ship sustained a lot of damage--"

"I did sense something a while ago, when the ship first

Both Kathryn and B'Elanna stared at Kes.  Though Kes had
been working with Tuvok to enhance her telepathic skills,
they knew Kes's skills were generally short-range.
"Something?" B'Elanna asked Kes sharply.  "From whoever is
on the ship?"

Kes nodded.  "The impression I got was brief and
indistinct.  I sensed anger, darkness, doom...but I
couldn't separate the emotions or tell whether they were
from one entity or many."

"You sensed this while the ship was crashing?" Kathryn

"Yes.  When I called Harry from Sickbay, he told me the
satellite grid had just registered the ship's descent, so I
knew that you were already aware of it.  I didn't have a
chance to mention what I sensed, and it was so vague I
wasn't sure that it means anything."

"Anger and doom..." Kathryn repeated.  "Obviously they knew
they were going to crash and weren't happy about it."

As if anyone would be, B'Elanna thought.  Kes hadn't
mentioned fear.  Being angry rather than afraid might be
admirable, but it also alarmed B'Elanna.  "They were angry
that they were crashing?"

"I honestly couldn't tell how the emotions were directed,"
Kes said.  "I assume so," she added uncertainly.  "For me
to even be able to read them at all at this distance must
mean the alien or aliens aboard that ship are strongly
telepathic.  Or may have been."

"Do you think they're dead?" B'Elanna asked, her voice
hopeful.  If there was any chance that whoever was on that
ship might be hostile, dead hostiles were far easier to
deal with than live ones.

Kes shook her head.  "I don't know.  I got only that brief
burst of emotion, then it was gone.  I don't know if they--
or it--simply stopped broadcasting, or died."  She looked
rueful.  "I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but it
happened so fast--"

"It's all right, Kes."  Kathryn put her hand on Kes's
shoulder.  "Any information you can give us is better than

"I thought if I came here, I might get a better impression,
if there is anything to read."


Kes looked down at M'Kaela, who'd gotten tired of playing
on the transporter platform and now stood staring up at
them.  Kes squatted and smiled at her.  "Andrew's with Sam
and Naomi, M'Kaela.  I left him there since Uncle Harry is
busy with the satellite data, and I thought he might get in
the way here."  She patted M'Kaela's head.  "Not that you
are in the way, sweetheart."

"Oh, never," B'Elanna said dryly.  Truthfully she'd gotten
used to having M'Kaela underfoot, and she could usually
find something around for her daughter to amuse herself
with while she was working.  Though as often or not M'Kaela
was with Tom, or sometimes playing with Naomi at Sam's.  Or
with one of a dozen other people in New Lourdes.

"I did bring some medical supplies with me," Kes said as
she set the bag she'd had over her shoulder on the floor.
"And I have something for you, M'Kaela."  She reached into
it and pulled out a kala fruit, an indigenous fruit that
looked like a large strawberry but had a banana-like
flavor.  "I thought you would be here with your mommy and
might like this."

"Fuit," M'Kaela declared, accepting it from Kes and showing
it to her mother.  B'Elanna smiled briefly as M'Kaela sat
down happily at her feet and began eating it.

"If there are any survivors to be treated, I'll go over
with the first team," Kes said.

Kathryn nodded.  "Let's recheck the sequences then," she
suggested to B'Elanna.  "That will take a few minutes."

"Right," B'Elanna agreed, moving her fingers rapidly over
the control console.  "If Tuvok and Tom and Chakotay
haven't gotten back to New Sonoma and called us by that
time, then we'll just go over there and see what the hell
they're doing making us wait so long."

"I'll go check on Joe's progress," Kes offered.

"Good idea," Kathryn said.  "Tell him to see if Michael is
back yet."

B'Elanna looked at Kathryn.  Even if Michael Ayala's
specialty on Aurora was furniture making, and growing corn,
he had been Tuvok's second in command on Voyager.  B'Elanna
appreciated Kathryn's sense of precaution.  In fact, she
planned to bring a phaser herself and join the team when
they beamed over after her.

"And if you sense anything else, no matter how vague, let
us know," Kathryn added.

It was an unnecessary request, but Kes nodded before she
stepped through the door.  B'Elanna watched her leave, and
then began rechecking the sequences with Kathryn, pushing
down the apprehension she was beginning to feel.


November 34th, mid-afternoon:

They'd found no sign of the unknown alien in the cargo bays
of the Sikari ship, but they had found the Borg drone--or
former Borg drone.  A female, stripped of most of her Borg
implants, apparently by the unknown alien.  Or not so
unknown.  Chakotay couldn't help but recognize the
designation Species 8472 from what Kathryn had told him
after her encounter with the Traveler.  He knew Kathryn had
been left with the impression that the species that would
decimate the galaxy had come from somewhere else--somewhere
outside the galaxy.  And he knew Kathryn didn't expect any
of them to ever show up on Aurora.  He wondered now if the
Traveler had thought this too minor an incident to mention,
or if Kathryn's memory of that night had been too fuzzy to
recall this detail.

Of course, Kathryn had been given the impression that they
would remain alone on Aurora for many years, yet here were
two dozen refugees.  Perhaps the Traveler had kept certain
developments to himself for his own reasons.  It was a
disquieting thought.

The Borg stumbled, and Chakotay steadied her, though she
seemed not to notice his touch at all.  He looked at her
closely again.

She was clearly human.  That was odd enough, in the Delta
quadrant.  Her pasty skin was mottled and scarred where the
Borg circuitry had been removed recently and with little
finesse.  Small tufts of blond hair grew from the several
spots on her head that weren't scarred from the Borg
hardware.  Her left eyepiece was partially torn out, and
the lens was dark.  The neural implant remained, but how
fully it was working was questionable, since she didn't
respond at all when Chakotay or Tuvok spoke to her.  She
appeared to be in a completely catatonic state.

He was disappointed that she couldn't communicate, and tell
them more about this Species 8472.  Since they hadn't found
the alien alive or dead on the Sikari ship, that meant only
one thing.  It was now somewhere outside the ship.  Which
was one reason why he kept his hand on his belted phaser as
he walked.  The other reason was just in case the Borg
drone unexpectedly became aware of her surroundings.

"They are at the river," Tuvok said.

The Sikari leader, Larem, pointed at the same time.  He had
searched with them for the Species 8472 alien, but he had
made no move to assist them with the Borg drone.  In fact
he had watched them from a distance, disapproving.  Now he
led the way toward Tom and the rest of the Sikari, some of
who were using the river water to wash their wounds.

Timbeti stood with the Sikari's laser rifle watching the
trees as they approached.  Tom was using a dermal
regenerator on the woman with the head injury.  Chakotay
was glad to see that everything around them was
undisturbed.  It was clear now that the alien had left the
ship while they'd all still been inside.  They just had no
idea where it had gone.

Some of the Sikari looked up as they reached them, and one
uttered something in a loud voice, a word that didn't
translate--probably a curse.  Several of them backed away
when they saw the mutilated Borg female.  Tom looked up
also, and his expression ranged from dismay to pity.

"She is catatonic," Chakotay said to the obviously alarmed
Sikari.  "She can't hurt you."

Larem brushed past the Borg drone, giving her a look of
disdain.  His lack of fear seemed to translate itself to
the rest of the Sikari, who relaxed, if only marginally.

"We should return to New Sonoma immediately," Tuvok said,
as he scanned the trees surrounding them.  "We are wide
open to attack from the alien, should that be its intent."

That was enough to make everyone tense again.

"It is not dead?" Timbeti asked redundantly.

"No." Tuvok's answer was blunt.  "It is advisable to seek

Tom helped the woman he'd been treating to stand while her
Sikari mate supported her.  He glanced warily at the
surrounding trees himself as he approached Tuvok and
Chakotay.  When Tom reached them he ran his medical
tricorder over the Borg woman.

"Human," Tom said with surprise, verifying Chakotay's
suspicion.  "Dehydration, malnutrition, abscesses where it
looks like the Borg components were just...ripped out.
Jeez, this was pretty vicious."  He shook his head, giving
the Borg drone another pitying look.  "Incipient breakdown
of several biological functions, and little higher brain
activity.  I can't tell if that's permanent, but her neural
implant is only functioning at base levels."

"Why does she not have the eating alive disease?" Timbeti
asked, sounding angry.

"The what?" Tom asked.

"It's from the creature," Larem said grimly.  "Those who
were not lucky enough to be killed outright when the
creature attacked us on our ship developed a disease that
ate away at their flesh.  They died after several days of
intense pain and deterioration."

"Charming," Tom muttered.

Timbeti glared at the Borg.  "We saw Borg drones on Sikari
with the eating alive disease also.  Why did the creature
allow this one to survive?"

"I'm not sure she's going to survive," Chakotay said.  They
would leave that for the doctor to deal with.  Right now
they had other problems.

"We should leave it here," Timbeti said.  "Maybe it will
draw out the creature."

Tom looked sharply at Timbeti.  "That's a little heartless,
don't you think?  She may have been Borg, but right now
she's pretty helpless.  She can't hurt you."

"It is unwise to tarry here any longer," Tuvok said

Chakotay agreed.  "Let's go."

Tuvok led the way, his keener senses alert to every move
around them.  Chakotay waited for most of the Sikari to
fall in line behind Tuvok and then brought up the rear with
Tom, who joined him after checking that the injured woman
was steady enough to walk with her mate's assistance.
Chakotay guided the unresponsive Borg drone, after several
of the Sikari went to great lengths to avoid any accidental
contact with her.

They crossed the river, and moved through the dense trees
near the riverbank, carefully watching everything around
them.  The Sikari male closest to the rear glanced at the
Borg several times.  Finally he spoke to Tom.  "I suppose
you do think we are heartless," he said, motioning toward
the Borg.  "But the Borg destroyed our civilization and
left us with no choice but to hide on our own planet."

"Those of you who weren't assimilated," Chakotay pointed
out before Tom could speak.  "Whoever this woman was, I
doubt she asked to be assimilated either."

The Sikari shrugged.  "Perhaps not.  But whoever she was,
that person is gone.  That was destroyed forever by
assimilation.  What is left of her now is not capable of
sympathy for us, nor can we feel much sympathy for her."

Tuvok chose that moment to stop the group as they came out
of the trees and into the more open grassland.  The
whitewashed buildings of New Sonoma a kilometer away
gleamed in the midday sunlight.  "I suggest we use caution
as we approach the village."  Tuvok looked at Larem, who
had been walking almost abreast of him.  "From your
description of the fight between the Borg and this Species
8472, we must assume the alien is intelligent and
technologically adept.  It may well look for refuge in one
of the buildings."

Chakotay heard Tom's murmured "great" at that unpleasant
possibility and he echoed the sentiment.  Chakotay knew
just how technologically adept this Species 8472 was.  It
was no simple "creature," as the Sikari referred to it.  It
was vastly intelligent and resourceful, if even a small
part of what Kathryn had been told about their future
actions were true.  In short, it was far more dangerous
than a wild animal.

Tom pressed his commbadge as they resumed their course, and
a brief surge of static issued from it.

"I think you'll just have to wait until we get to New
Sonoma, Tom," Chakotay said.

"Yeah." He actually growled a little in frustration.
Chakotay wondered if he'd learned that from B'Elanna.

"You know, whatever it is, there's an easy solution."

Tom looked at Chakotay, nonplused, and then suspicious as
he realized what Chakotay meant.  "Really?" Tom drawled

"Hug her."

Tom's mouth dropped open and Chakotay couldn't help but

"That's your easy solution," Tom asked sarcastically.  "A


Surprisingly Tom didn't smirk; he just shook his head
slowly.  "Some issues aren't solved that easily, Chakotay."

"No, but hurt feelings can be soothed that easily,"
Chakotay said.  He suspected Tom knew that, but reaching
out and putting himself on the line wasn't something that
came easy to him.  Or to B'Elanna.  "And if you hug
B'Elanna, she'll hug you back, and it'll go from there."

Tom just gave Chakotay a skeptical look, not about to give
even a millimeter.
The Borg woman stumbled a little over a branch, and
Chakotay steadied her, pulled into the present again.  He
felt a little guilty almost forgetting about her presence,
even though she was unaware of the slight.  He met Tom's
eyes again.  It wasn't his business, but he decided to fire
one more salvo.  "Since I know you love B'Elanna, and
wouldn't do anything to really hurt her, I'm sure you'll
take care of it as soon as we get back to New Lourdes."

Tom held Chakotay's gaze for several long moments, before
he dropped back slightly, bringing up the rear.  Tom's face
still gave away little, but Chakotay was sure beneath the
coolness in Tom's eyes he'd also seen a slightly contrite
flash of acknowledgement.

Chakotay looked at the whitewashed buildings in the
distance.  At their modest pace the village was less than
fifteen minutes ahead.  As much as he didn't want to
confront this Species 8472, Chakotay found himself hoping
the alien was waiting for them in the village.  He'd rather
face it down now than have to live with the possibility of
its unexpected reappearance hanging over their heads if it
disappeared and remained free on Aurora.


"Okay, everything checks out," B'Elanna said impatiently,
switching off the diagnostic mode.  "Let's just do it now."

"Joe will be back any minute," Kathryn said.  "He should be
at the controls.  He's the one who's helped you build

B'Elanna frowned.  "If he doesn't get back soon--"

"He will," Kathryn said.  Hopefully with Harry and Michael
and several others.  Not that she was really concerned yet,
she told herself, but just in case they needed help with
the alien ship--

"I should have done the field test days ago," B'Elanna
said, sounding both regretful and frustrated.

Kathryn shook her head.  "B'Elanna, I know you're worried
about Tom."

B'Elanna's expression stiffened, then she shrugged.  "Tom
can take care of himself.  And he's with Tuvok and
Chakotay.  Why would I be worried?"

"Because you love him," Kathryn said simply.  "The same
reason I'm worried about Chakotay, even though I know they
are both with Tuvok, and they are all resourceful and self-

B'Elanna didn't speak for a moment.  Then she shook her
head.  "One minute he's thoughtful and sweet, and the next
minute he's being pushy and annoying, and acting like a..."

"Pig," Kathryn supplied.

B'Elanna's lips quirked just a little.  "Yeah," she

Kathryn knew that was what B'Elanna used to call Tom in all
seriousness when she'd first met him, until she'd gotten to
know the real man underneath all the posturing.  Then the
word had become an affectionate joke between them.  Most of
the time, anyway.

"What did you fight about?"

Kathryn expected B'Elanna to deflect her bald question, but
to her surprise B'Elanna answered.  "How to decorate
M'Kaela's room."

Kathryn's eyebrows rose, and B'Elanna immediately looked a
little sheepish, as if she hadn't meant to blurt that out.
Kathryn followed B'Elanna's gaze as she looked down at
M'Kaela, who had wrapped herself with the blanket her
mother had given her and was now asleep

"Her room in New Sonoma," B'Elanna clarified.  She looked
away, and her mouth twisted a little in disgust.  "I guess
that sounds pretty silly."

Kathryn shrugged.  It did, but she'd been in enough
relationships herself to know that arguing over the most
inconsequential things could escalate to the point where
deeper issues reared their ugly heads.  "I've heard of
sillier things, believe me, B'Elanna."

"I guess it got a little out of hand," B'Elanna said.  She
sighed.  "We...moved on to other things."

"To the things that are really bothering you?" Kathryn
asked softly.

"Or bothering Tom," B'Elanna muttered.  "If he wouldn't be

B'Elanna's voice trailed off and she slapped her hand
lightly on the console in obvious frustration.  "So it was
pretty much Tom's fault?" Kathryn asked.

B'Elanna stared down at console she'd just hit for a
moment, then shook her head slowly.  She looked at Kathryn,
and sighed again.  "No.  It wasn't all his fault."

"Well, I can only think of one thing to do then."


"Hug him and tell him you're sorry."

B'Elanna stared nonplused at Kathryn.

" If you do, so will he.  And he'll mean it."

"You know that for sure?" B'Elanna asked sardonically.

"Don't you?" Kathryn asked gently.  She knew Tom, and
B'Elanna knew him better.

B'Elanna looked startled for a moment, and then a little
chagrined.  The door slid open then and they both turned as
Joe walked in, followed by Kes and Harry.  Kathryn was
sorry that ended her conversation with B'Elanna.  "Later,"
she murmured, getting a quick nod from B'Elanna before her
attention turned to the new arrivals.

"Michael should be here in a couple of minutes, with
Gerron," Harry said.

"Good," B'Elanna said, not disguising her eagerness.
"Let's get started."

B'Elanna was already around the console and on the
transporter platform by the time Joe got to the controls.
He smiled.  "In a hurry, Chief?"


At Harry's anxious tone, everyone looked at Kes, who was
gripping the end of the control console.  Her brow was
furrowed as if she was concentrating intently--on something
unpleasant.  Harry wrapped his hands around her shoulders,
steadying her.

"No...." Kes shook her head as if clearing it.  She looked
at the curious gazes around her.  "I sensed  it again."

"It?" Kathryn asked.  "As in just one?"

"Just one that I can sense," Kes said, her voice a little
shaky.  "I think it was trying to contact me, to tell me
something, but I pushed it away."

"Why?" B'Elanna asked sharply.

Kathryn was curious herself.  If there was a telepathic
alien on that ship they certainly wanted to know its

"It was too powerful," Kes said.  "If I didn't block it, it
would be too strong for me."  She looked at Harry,
confused.  "I don't know how I know that, but it's
dangerous to me."

"Great," B'Elanna said angrily.  "If it's dangerous to you,
then it's probably dangerous to Tom and Chakotay and

That unfortunately made sense.  She'd assumed a small ship
couldn't hold too much danger, especially a heavily damaged
ship, but now Kathryn felt the first stirrings of real
foreboding.  "Did you sense anything about its intentions,

Harry was rubbing Kes's shoulders as she shook her head.
"Yes.  Something about...the weak perishing."

"Maybe it's dying," Harry said hopefully.

Kes looked unsure.  "I don't know--"

"Whatever's on that ship, we need to get over there!"
B'Elanna said sharply.  "We can't wait any longer for them
to contact us."

Kathryn was definitely inclined to agree.  "Michael and
Gerron will be--"

"Initiate the sequence, Joe," B'Elanna said, as she hopped
onto the transporter platform.  "By the time I'm over
hopefully Michael and Gerron will be here."  She shoved the
phaser she'd retrieved earlier into her belt.  "We'll find
out what's on that ship, and make sure Tom and Chakotay and
Tuvok are okay."

Kathryn saw no reason to argue with B'Elanna joining the
team.  She planned to do so herself.  "Chances are as soon
as you beam over they will show up in the transporter
room," she said, trying to believe her own optimism.

"Just fashionably late," Joe commented lightly as he moved
his fingers over the controls.  "Initiating primary

Kathryn watched Joe's fingers work, recalling how they'd
all felt about the transporter coming online, and finally
having the ability to move back and forth between New
Lourdes and New Sonoma instantaneously.  Under the
circumstances she couldn't enjoy this moment as much as
she'd expected to, but she still appreciated it.

"Initiating secondary sequence," Joe said.

Kathryn looked at Kes and Harry.  Harry had one arm around
Kes and was saying something in low tones to her, perhaps
reassuring her.  She looked unhappy and apprehensive.

"Okay, buffers are set...and...active transport now--"


Kathryn's head shot up at B'Elanna's shout, and she
realized that it wasn't only B'Elanna's voice.  Harry had
shouted at the same time.   B'Elanna was already shimmering
in the state of mid-transport--and so was the small figure
on hands and knees behind her.

Kes gasped and Joe cursed, but he didn't reverse the
transporter.  "It's all right.  It's perfectly safe."

Kathryn knew that was true, and that Joe believed it whole-
heartedly.  But his voice still shook a little.  Kathryn's
heart beat wildly in her chest, but she knew that was just
the momentary shock.  No one had noticed that M'Kaela was
even awake, let alone moving around.  They'd all been too
intensely focused on Kes, and then B'Elanna's quick
decision to transport, to hear M'Kaela rousing.  And though
there was nothing in reach that could endanger M'Kaela in
the transporter room, including the transport process
itself, Kathryn knew they were all silently berating
themselves for their momentary inattention.  And B'Elanna
would be too.

Joe removed his fingers from the controls as the shimmering
figures faded away entirely and looked at Kathryn.
"Transport complete."


B'Elanna materialized on the transporter platform at New
Sonoma.  One part of her mind registered the effects--the
brief sense of disorientation that years of transporting
had desensitized her to unless she was deliberately
focusing on the effect, and the flash of blankness of being
"between"--momentarily not existing at all in form.  It had
all been within the expected parameters--in fact she had
felt it less than even on Voyager's transporters.

The other part of her mind had been focused on her last
sight as the transporter effect had taken her--M'Kaela
crouched on the edge of the platform.  Though the
transporter could be security locked to only transport
specified lifeforms and objects--as starship transporters
could and were--there was no need for such security
measures on Aurora.  It was less energy intensive for the
transporter to transport everything on the platform,
whatever number of people or objects might be in range.  So
M'Kaela had automatically been pulled into the effect.

And as the transporter effect dissipated M'Kaela's mouth
opened in astonishment and dismay.  She had never
experienced a transporter and the sudden disorientation had
not surprisingly confused and frightened her.  B'Elanna
picked her up just as she let out a wail.

"It's all right, M'Kaela," B'Elanna said over her
daughter's loud cry.  She rubbed one hand soothingly over
her back.  "It didn't hurt you.  If you were a little more
patient I would have carried you through the first time so
you wouldn't have been frightened."  She shook her head as
she stepped from the platform to the floor.  "But I don't
suppose patience is something you inherited from either
side of your family, is it?"

"Kathryn to B'Elanna."

B'Elanna had reached the control console just as Kathryn's
voice came through.  She activated the two-way link.  "I'm
here.  I'm fine, and so is M'Kaela."

"I'm sorry about that B'Elanna," Joe said, his voice
contrite.  "I didn't even see her until it was too late."

"Neither did I," Kathryn said.  "I thought she was still

"No harm done," B'Elanna said roughly.  "I didn't see her
either."  She looked at her daughter, who had quit crying,
though tears still shimmered in her blue eyes.  "I didn't
know you could move so fast."

M'Kaela looked confused at the near admiration in her
mother's voice, and murmured a close approximation of the
word "fast" as B'Elanna ruffled her hair and kissed her

"The beam over was textbook from here, B'Elanna," Joe said.
"M'Kaela was never in any danger."

B'Elanna snorted.  "Of course not."  She smiled
triumphantly at her daughter, who smiled back.  "It worked
as perfectly as I knew it would."

Joe chuckled, and B'Elanna heard some additional commotion
on the other end.

"B'Elanna, Michael and Gerron are here."

That reminded B'Elanna of why she was in New Sonoma.  To go
look for Tom and Chakotay and Tuvok.  And give them all a
piece of her mind if they were fine.

"Kes will beam over with us and we can send her back here
with M'Kaela," Kathryn said.

"That's fine--"

A sudden rustling noise made B'Elanna whirl around.  She'd
barely acknowledged her surroundings when she'd arrived.
She'd simply picked up M'Kaela and moved to the control
console.  Now she looked past the transporter platform to
the far side of the room, where boxes and crates were piled
haphazardly along two walls.  She also hadn't noticed how
dim the room was, set at low illumination as it was right
now.  There were shadows everywhere among the boxes, and
her eyes were still adjusting from the brighter light of
the New Lourdes transporter room.  But she was sure she'd
heard something.  Maybe some small animal had gotten in

B'Elanna registered the low conversation going on through
the comm link again just before Kes shouted.


Harry spoke urgently.  "Kes, what is it?"

"B'Elanna, beam out!"

Kes's voice was alarmed, almost frantic.

"Kes, what--"

"It's there!"

B'Elanna reached for the transporter controls just as there
was another rustle across the room.  Her eyes scanned the
shadows again.  She couldn't see it, but she could sense it
now.  It was no small animal that had wandered in.  A
shiver crawled across her skin as every alert went off in
her mind and body.  M'Kaela sensed danger too, or she felt
her mother's sudden alertness, because her arms that had
been relaxed around B'Elanna's neck tightened, and she
whimpered as Kes shouted over the comm link.

"The weak will perish!"

B'Elanna turned to set the transporter controls for timed
beam out when M'Kaela let out a sudden squeak.  B'Elanna
whirled around.  In the shadows something was watching her,
something with a slitted yellow eye.

"B'Elanna, get on the platform!  I'll beam you from here!"

B'Elanna's muscles tensed to move the handful of steps to
the transporter platform, but before she could even take a
step the eye shifted, and the rustling erupted into a full-
blown explosion of noise.  Something leapt out, moving in a
blur, faster than B'Elanna would have imagined possible.  A
fraction of a second later it landed on the transporter
platform right in front of her.  M'Kaela screamed.


"Don't activate the transporter!" B'Elanna hissed.  She
shifted M'Kaela and pulled her phaser out of the belt of
her jumpsuit, and aimed at the...creature.  It was huge,
reptilian, and its yellow eyes looked at her with shrewd
intelligence.  And cold calculation.  Much of its body
looked...scorched, as if it had been injured, but it could
clearly still move just fine.  B'Elanna knew it had come
from the ship, and she tried not to think about the fact
that it had probably already crossed paths with Tom and
Chakotay and Tuvok getting here.  "Daddy's all right," she
murmured to M'Kaela, and to herself.

"Something's on the transporter, and it's not B'Elanna!"

B'Elanna heard Joe's voice over the link but her attention
was trained on the alien as she started to move, not toward
the transporter platform but down into a crouch next to the
control platform, pushing M'Kaela behind her into the open
area below the console.  M'Kaela didn't want to go, and
B'Elanna ruthlessly jerked her daughter's arms away from
her neck, shoving her under the console.  She inadvertently
smacked M'Kaela's head on the underside of the console, and
M'Kaela howled in outrage and pain.


"Beam it over here, Joe!"

B'Elanna heard Kathryn's cry and then Michael's terse
order, but her attention was diverted.  Her eyes had stayed
locked on the alien creature as she'd kept her phaser
trained on it while she pushed her daughter to safety, or
as much safety as she could provide.  The alien had paused,
perhaps wary of her weapon, but now it tensed again, its
whole body preparing to move.  B'Elanna flicked the phaser
setting up to its highest setting, not even considering
taking a chance on anything lower, and fired, aiming at the
scorched area.

The alien's screech was earsplitting as the beam hit it,
and it leapt again with lightning speed off the platform,
in the opposite direction from B'Elanna.  She'd winged it,
barely.  And now it stared at her with unconcealed

"It's not on the transporter."

"The weak must perish.  It must kill to survive!"

B'Elanna ignored the voices over the commlink.  She spared
the briefest glance toward M'Kaela, who was huddled under
the console, her eyes wide with apprehension, too stunned
by what was happening or too frightened by the alien's
screech to move.  "Stay there, baby," B'Elanna murmured as
she sidled toward the door, intent on diverting the alien's
attention.  If she could get it to follow her out into the
main hall, it would be away from M'Kaela.  And maybe she
could beat it back in here and beam M'Kaela and herself
out.  "Come on, you bastard," she hissed.  "Follow me..."

The alien crouched to leap toward her, and B'Elanna fired
again as she moved, and again the alien shrugged it off,
not even slowed down as it leapt at her.

"Joe, now!"

B'Elanna ran for the door just as Michael shouted over the
commlink, but the alien was on her before she was halfway
there, its weight slamming her across the floor and
knocking the breath out of her.  The phaser flew from her
hand, and she smelled its sour breath, and felt its body
crushing her--then it leapt off her.  She felt a burning
sensation as heat spread across her stomach, heat and
wetness.  The alien's eyes looked at her triumphantly
before it turned away.  She heard M'Kaela scream again,
more in outrage than fear, and she tried to reach for her
phaser.  She had to get up, to save M'Kaela, but her arms
were too heavy to lift.  In her fading consciousness she
heard the hum of a transporter, and voices, and the loud
whine of phasers...


They'd heard M'Kaela's scream just as they'd stepped into
the main room of the Meeting hall.  The two Sikari who'd
come in with them to look at the transporter system, whose
workings Tuvok had begun to explain, stopped dead in their
tracks.  Tom was momentarily stunned at the sound of
M'Kaela's scream, but he was only a moment behind Tuvok as
he ran toward transporter room that was connected through a
short corridor at the back of the room.

Several things raced through Tom's mind as he followed
Tuvok, not the least of which was how M'Kaela could
possibly be here.  He realized immediately that B'Elanna
must have decided to do the final test run now.  He'd
thought she had a couple more adjustments in mind before
she was going to give it her final okay, but they hadn't
spoken very civilly to each other in the past day or two,
so maybe she'd moved her schedule forward.  Or she'd
decided to move it forward at the last minute because
they'd been out of contact with New Lourdes for longer than
expected.  But that still didn't explain why she'd bring
M'Kaela with her on the first test run, especially since it
wasn't safe with the 8472 alien loose, though B'Elanna
didn't know yet--

The horrifying realization hit him just as Tuvok burst
through the door, at the same time that he heard a high-
pitched angry screech.

The alien was already here.

Tom almost ran into Tuvok as the Vulcan halted just inside
the doorway, aiming his phaser.  Tom stumbled around Tuvok,
noticing that several people stood on the transporter
platform, including Kathryn, Gerron and Michael.  Michael
was firing a compression phaser rifle and Tuvok fired his
phaser in conjunction with Michael's beam, as did Gerron
and Kathryn.  Tom blindly joined in, and he saw the alien
then, as it was hit in the midsection by the concentrated
phaser fire.  It's screeching scream as it leapt away was
almost loud enough to make Tom drop his phaser and cover
his ears.  It moved with amazing speed for something so
large and landed on the other side of the control station,
backed against the wall.

There was a movement under the control console, and Tom
realized with horror that it was M'Kaela.  She looked right
at him as she crawled out, her face streaked with tears as
she stood up on shaky legs and held her arms out.  She said
a word he couldn't hear over the phaser whine and the
alien's repeated screeching, but he recognized it anyway.

Tuvok moved quicker than Tom could have, ducking around the
transporter platform toward M'Kaela, firing as he went.
The alien tried to leap, but this time it only made it a
meter or so away, right into the far corner.  A half dozen
phaser beams coalesced on it again, including Chakotay's,
who was now behind Tom.  The beams sliced deep into the
blackened and scorched midsection of the alien, the old
injury from the warp matrix encounter, Tom assumed.  It
tried to leap again, but the combined and relentless
assault was finally too much for it, and it collapsed into
the corner, scorched and burned, its one eye visible to
them slowly closing as it apparently died.

M'Kaela was in Tuvok's arms, not a place where he spent
much time, but she seemed comfortable enough with her arms
wrapped securely around the neck of someone safe and
familiar, considering the uproar that had just occurred.
Though it had all happened in less than a minute, the time
had seemed to stretch as it played out.  Tom saw Kes for
the first time as she walked toward the alien, her
concentration intense, and her expression almost
trancelike.  But he paid little attention to that as his
eyes roved quickly the room.  He'd had no chance to look
anywhere but toward the alien and M'Kaela in its path.  So
it wasn't until now that he finally saw B'Elanna, sprawled
on her back against the near wall past the control
platform, covered in blood and perfectly still.


Tom's phaser dropped from his hand, and he ran toward her,
his heart in his throat, and his vision blurring for a
moment.  He dropped to the floor, barely noticing the blood
that soaked into the knees of his flightsuit, though he
couldn't help but see how quickly it was seeping out of her
body, pooling on the floor beneath her.

Her jumpsuit had been shredded across her abdomen by the
claws of the alien, the teal blue one that was her
favorite--she'd be ticked about that, he thought absurdly
in some distant corner of his mind.  Her skin was shredded
too, though the severity of the damage was partly concealed
by the amount of blood.  He saw the rise and fall of her
chest, though the movement was slow and shallow, and he bit
his lower lip viciously to force down the panic that welled
up in his throat, not noticing the stinging pain he

He had only peripherally registered conversation around
him, B'Elanna's name being said, and Kathryn calling out
Kes's name loudly, as he frantically pulled at the sleeves
of his flight suit.  Before he could get to his t-shirt,
another shirt was placed gently over B'Elanna's wounds.
Tom glanced blankly at Chakotay, who knelt on the other
side of B'Elanna.  Then he used the shirt to quickly apply
pressure with one hand while he reached for his medikit
with the other.  A moment later, a much smaller hand closed
over his.

"Tom, move the shirt away."

Tom immediately moved the blood-soaked shirt as Kes
ordered.  She knelt on the other side of B'Elanna as
Chakotay moved back, setting the controls on a vascular
regenerator, one more powerful than the small field one
he'd been reaching for in his medikit.  Her face was pale,
but her voice was calm and firm as she spoke.  "Chakotay,
Gerron, get something to lay B'Elanna on--a plank of wood,
a duraplas panel, something with solid support.  As soon as
I stabilize her we'll get her to the transporter platform.
Kathryn, tell Joe to be ready, and tell Harry to have the
doctor waiting."

Everyone moved to do Kes's bidding immediately as she
positioned the vascular regenerator against B'Elanna's
abdomen, all trusting completely in her judgment.  She was
about to take her final medical exams, and was nearly as
skilled as the doctor now.

"Tom, give B'Elanna twenty cc's of platelisin."

That was in his medikit and he quickly prepared a hypo as
Kes worked on B'Elanna.

"I sealed off the vascular damage temporarily," Kes said
after several more seconds, tossing the vascular
regenerator unceremoniously back into her bag.  "But she's
dangerously low on blood."  Kes reached for a hypo from her
own bag.  "I'll have to give her a hemo-stimulator."

Tom knew from his own lesser training that a hemo-
stimulator could dangerously speed up the heart, but as he
pressed his hypo against B'Elanna's upper chest, he could
feel how faint her breathing had become.  The priorities
were clear

"Done."  Kes slipped the hypo back into her bag.  "She's
stable for the moment."

Stable, maybe, but her breathing was still shallow and her
face was as pale as Tom had ever seen it.  He hugged her
briefly and gently even though she couldn't hug him back.
"You'll be okay, B'Elanna," he whispered against her too
cool cheek.  He swallowed and blinked tears away, not
caring much if anyone saw them.


Chakotay and Gerron were already there as Kes spoke, with a
flat duraplas panel they'd wrested from base of the control
platform.  Tom slipped his arms gently beneath B'Elanna's
head and back, taking most of her weight as Kes kept her
legs steady.  They had B'Elanna on the panel in a handful
of seconds, and Chakotay and Gerron carried her quickly
toward the transporter platform.

"The doctor is here," Harry's voice said over the comm

Joe's voice followed quickly.  "Ready to transport."

Tom had one hand cupping B'Elanna's head and the other
resting over her hip, trying to keep the jostle from
affecting her as Chakotay and Gerron moved up onto the
platform.  Tom quickly took Chakotay's place while Kes
remained at B'Elanna's other side.  He saw as they took
their final position that Kathryn was holding M'Kaela now,
soothing her and trying the keep her face averted.  Tuvok
had moved over with Michael to examine the alien in the
corner.  The transporter effect started to take hold of him
and his jaw clenched as he realized that no one had said
for sure that the alien was dead.

He just knew it had damned well better be.


"It is dead," Tuvok said as the transporter effect
dispersed behind them.

Kathryn heard him and looked past the control console.
She'd tried to keep M'Kaela's gaze away from the alien and
from the transporter platform, but she'd seen her parents
being beamed out at the last moment, and her eyes were
still focused there.

"What did Kes say to it?" Chakotay asked as he moved to
join her.

"I think it said something to Kes," Kathryn murmured.  Kes
had walked toward the alien almost as if she was in a
hypnotic state.

"Kill first," Tuvok repeated the words that Kes had spoken.

Which was strange, Kathryn thought.  Kes had said something
like "it must kill to survive" right before they'd beamed
over.  The alien had seemed to think it was acting in self-
defense.  "Did you sense anything from it Tuvok?"

"No," Tuvok said.  "However Kes's telepathic abilities far
outdistance my own."

"Kes said something else," Kathryn recalled.  Right before
she'd gotten Kes's attention, when she'd seen Tom run
toward B'Elanna and had shouted at Kes to help her.  Thank
gods that had broken whatever trance Kes had seemed to be
under.  "Kes said it wanted to go home.  Whatever that

Chakotay shook his head.  "I'm not sure I care about what
it meant.  Right now all I'm worried about is B'Elanna."
He hit the commlink.  "Chakotay to Joe."

Joe didn't wait for the question.  "They're here and on
their way to Sickbay, Chakotay.  The doctor was hovering
over B'Elanna telling Tom that she'd be fine."

"She was attacked by the creature?"

Kathryn turned and stared at the two figures standing in
the doorway.  They were tall and humanoid, with craggy
faces, and they were wearing loose, dark clothing.  They
caught M'Kaela's attention and she stared at them with
equal curiosity.

Chakotay introduced them.  "Kathryn, this is Larem and
Timbeti of the Sikari.  It was their ship that crash-
landed.  They and twenty-three more of their brethren were
on the ship.  The alien...stowed away with them."

Kathryn saw their looks of relief and satisfaction at the
sight of the dead alien, and figured that the alien had
made itself no more welcome on their ship than it just had
here on Aurora.

"We express our sorrow for your loss."

Kathryn looked hard at the taller man, Larem.  "She was
only injured.  Our doctor can heal her wounds."

"Your doctor cannot repair the eating alive disease that
will consume her."

Kathryn stared at Chakotay as M'Kaela squirmed in her arms,
having suddenly lost patience.  "Mama!" she demanded,
pointing at the transporter platform.  "Dada!"

Though M'Kaela had caught sight of them leaving mercifully
Kathryn knew she didn't understand her mother's condition.
Kathryn had tried to keep her from seeing the blood, but
M'Kaela still knew something was wrong, and she wanted her

"We'll go back over now, M'Kaela," Kathryn said soothingly.
"Your mommy and daddy are talking to the doctor and Kes for
awhile.  I can take you over to see Naomi.  You can play
with her and Flotter."

Though M'Kaela loved playing with Naomi and her pet
rabbitdog, she showed no interest now.  She looked at
Kathryn with a mutinous expression and shook her head.

Kathryn sighed and the one named Timbeti nodded at M'Kaela.
"Is she the daughter of the woman who was attacked?"


"It is good that she is too young to know that she has lost
her mother."

Kathryn glared at the man.  "She *hasn't* lost her mother,"
she said, her voice icy.

Larem placed a hand on Timbeti's shoulder, and spoke to
Kathryn.  "He does not mean to be unfeeling.  It's simply
that in our experience one does not survive an encounter
with the creature Species 8472.  The disease it afflicts
has always been fatal to us.  We hope that your doctor is
more skilled than ours and can save her."

Kathryn stared at Chakotay, and he nodded slightly.  He'd
already heard the name and had obviously recognized the
reference.  She looked at the "creature" again.

"We are only aware of the progress of the condition among
your people," Tuvok pointed out to the Sikari.  "And among
the Borg.  B'Elanna is human and Klingon.  Her reaction may
be different."

"The Borg?" Kathryn asked.

"The Borg have apparently encountered this alien species
and have not been successful assimilating it," Tuvok told
her.  "They have also been susceptible to the infection
caused by contact with the alien."

M'Kaela squirmed as Kathryn looked at Chakotay again,
rubbing M'Kaela's back as she did so.  They would have to
talk about this disturbing turn of events later.

"A Borg drone also ended up on the ship," Chakotay told
Kathryn.  He looked at Larem.

"She is standing where you left her," Larem said, with an
apparent lack of interest.

Kathryn decided that she was starting to feel dizzy with
all these revelations.  What had started out as a normal
day on Aurora was becoming crazy.  She looked at Chakotay
almost accusingly.  "Are you telling me there is a Borg
drone here?"

"Yes," Chakotay said.  "But most of her Borg technology has
been removed, and she's basically catatonic.  She's also

Kathryn stared at Chakotay, nonplused.  "Human?"

"Mama," M'Kaela said, wriggling harder in Kathryn's arms.

"It's a long story," Chakotay said.  "I'll tell you all of
it, as soon as we figure it all out."

"Can this Borg drone make contact with the Collective?"
Kathryn asked.

"Unlikely," Tuvok answered.  "Her neural implant is
severely hampered."

"The Borg have been very busy fighting this war with the
Species 8472," Larem spoke.  "And they do not seem to be

Kathryn gave Chakotay another disturbed look.  There was no
time to talk about it right now though.  She wanted to
stay, but she knew she would be playing catch up compared
to Chakotay and Tuvok.  She'd have to let them deal with
this for the moment.  "Come on, M'Kaela," she spoke to the
restless child in her arms.  "Let's get you back to New

"Joe, stand by to beam over Kathryn and M'Kaela," Chakotay
said over the link as he walked to the transporter platform
with Kathryn.

"We'll figure out everything here, and I'll bring the Sagan
back to New Lourdes," Chakotay said, kissing her quickly
before she stepped onto the platform.  "Let me know about

Kathryn nodded, glancing at Tuvok and Michael, who still
stood alert next to the downed alien--the Species 8472
alien.  She looked at the two Sikari men, who with two
dozen others of their kind were now stranded here on Aurora
too.  A hundred questions swirled her head, but right now
she had to get M'Kaela taken care of, and find out about

"Ready, Joe," Chakotay said.

"We're going for a ride now, sweetie," Kathryn said as she
hugged M'Kaela.  "I'll be back shortly," she promised
Chakotay right before the transporter effect took her.


November 34th, mid-evening:

Tom stood by B'Elanna's bedside, his expression unreadable.
Kes had seen that expression on his face many times, since
the earliest days on Voyager.  She knew he'd had long
experience at hiding his feelings, at masking his emotions
whenever they threatened to overwhelm him.  But Kes could
see deeper than his expression.  She could literally feel
the turmoil inside him.

She looked at B'Elanna, who lay motionless on the bed,
still unconscious.  It had been a close call.  She had lost
a lot of blood from her injury, and despite the quick
measures they had almost lost her again getting her from
the Meeting hall to Sickbay.  But the doctor had stabilized
her again, and after two hours of surgery he had repaired
all the damage, including the nick to her lower aortal

"B'Elanna..." Tom murmured her name as he brushed his
fingers over her cheek.  Then he reached down and smoothed
the thermablanket that covered her, and his hand lingered
for a moment over her abdomen.  Kes knew he was recalling
how she'd looked when they'd first found her--when he'd
first seen her--after the alien had attacked her.  His hand
tensed and he shuddered a little.  He turned to look at Kes
as he pulled his hand away, finally sensing her presence,
and the anguish he felt was clear on his face for a moment.

"Tom, the surgery was a complete success," Kes said,
touching his arm.  "The doctor repaired the internal
damage.  Her skin will be red and probably sore for a few
days, but that will go away."

Tom nodded, his expression composed again, with effort Kes
knew.  The doctor had told him about B'Elanna's condition
already, and now his gaze moved to the bioreadings above
B'Elanna's bed.  "What about that?"

Kes knew Tom was referring to the indicator of the alien
cells in B'Elanna's body.  There had been half a dozen in
her blood stream when the doctor had started the surgery,
and the doctor hadn't been able to remove them, even so few
of them.  In almost three hours time they had multiplied to
two dozen.  The doctor had spoken with one of the Sikari
over the commlink, and the doctor had told Tom that in fact
the progress of the cells very slow compared to the
experience of the Sikari.  He considered that a good sign.
"So far they aren't affecting B'Elanna the way they
affected the Sikari, Tom."

"So far," Tom said, his voice grim.  Kes knew he'd already
heard the details from the Sikari about the "eating alive"
disease.  "But the cells are multiplying."

"Very slowly," Kes said.  "Her immune system is fighting
the invasion with some success, and the doctor is analyzing
that reaction right now, along with the structure of the
alien cells."  Tuvok had taken several skin and fluid
samples from the alien at the doctor's request, and had
holoimaged the alien's body before he and Michael had
burned it.  The doctor had immediately put the computer to
work on the samples.  "The doctor will find a way to
eradicate the alien cells from B'Elanna's bloodstream."

"I'm glad to hear it."

Tom and Kes turned from their perusal of B'Elanna's
bioscans at the sound of Kathryn's voice.  She walked over
to Tom, and though he looked stiff and unreceptive she
hugged him anyway.  A moment later he hugged her back, his
face crumpling just a little before he pulled away again.

Kes knew Kathryn had been busy dealing with the beam over
of the Sikari, but she had kept tabs on B'Elanna's
condition over the commlink.  Now Kathryn glanced at the
bioreadings, and then looked at B'Elanna.  Her hand was
still on Tom's shoulder and she squeezed it gently.
"B'Elanna knows how to win a battle when she sees one."

Tom looked cautiously hopeful at the optimism in Kathryn's
voice.  "Where's M'Kaela?"

"She's with Sam and Naomi," Kathryn told him.  "I dropped
her off there before we started beaming the Sikari over.
She's fine, Tom."

Tom was silent for a moment.  "Did she see..."

Kathryn clearly understood Tom's reference, and she shook
her head.  "I don't think she saw anything, Tom.  There was
so much commotion, and I kept her gaze averted.  She only
saw B'Elanna when you were beaming out, and Kes was
blocking most of her view."

Tom looked relieved.  "Thank you," he said softly to

"But she has been asking for B'Elanna.  And for you."

Tom glanced at B'Elanna.  "I'll go over there and see her
as soon as I can."

"Andrew is over at Sam's too," Kes said.  She could see the
indecision in Tom's gaze.  She knew he wanted to stay with
B'Elanna, but he didn't want to leave M'Kaela without his
support either.  "I'm sure Naomi is keeping them both
occupied for the moment."

"Naomi does take her responsibility as older sister to the
rest of the children quite seriously," Kathryn said,
smiling a little.

Kes knew Naomi saw herself in that role with the other six
children on Aurora who were all younger than her.  She'd
forgotten to ask Harry if the Sikari had any children among
them.  "Did you convince any of the Sikari to come to

Both Kes and the doctor had offered to treat them for any
injuries or any other conditions they might have incurred
during their travel on their small ship, but Tuvok had
informed them earlier that the Sikari had declined further
medical assistance.  And Kathryn shook her head now.  "They
expressed appreciation for the medical aid we gave them, or
should I say, that Tom gave them, but they said they
required no further treatment."

"Their injuries were mostly cuts and bruises," Tom said.
"There was one broken arm, and the woman named Thallan had
a hairline skull fracture and a concussion.  I did suggest
to her husband that the doctor take a look at her, but she
seemed to be okay."

"They seem to be an independent-minded people," Kathryn
said dryly.  "They accepted our offer of the old dormitory
building for shelter, but I'm not sure how long they'll

Harry had given Kes the same impression of them when he'd
stopped by Sickbay right after B'Elanna's surgery an hour
earlier.  He'd had brief contact with several of them as
they'd beamed over to New Lourdes, and he'd said they were
a reclusive bunch.  Her own contact with them had been even
briefer.  In the transporter room at New Sonoma she'd
sensed their presence in the next room, and she'd felt
their fear of the 8472 alien, and their disdain of the Borg
woman, but she'd sensed no ingrained hostility in their
nature and no antagonism toward the colonists who'd
assisted them.  But she'd been too overwhelmed with the
attempted forced telepathic contact by the 8472 alien to
spend much time reading the Sikari.  She pushed away that
last memory.

"It will probably be a day or two before we have a chance
to work something out permanently," Kathryn added.  "I have
told them that they are welcome to join our colony if they
wish to stay."

Kes had expected nothing less.  "Maybe they will stay then.
If they are in the old dormitory, I will stop by later and
with my medical bag and check on them."

"Let them come here like everyone else if they want medical
attention," the doctor groused as he approached.

"I'd just be making a house call, Doctor," Kes said.  She
knew the doctor was still annoyed at their refusal of his
services.  "I wouldn't mind."

Tom's attention had only been half on the conversation, but
now it was focused on the doctor.  "Did you discover

The doctor's mildly annoyed expression disappeared as he
looked at Tom soberly.  "The alien's cells are extremely
complex.  They have the most densely coded DNA I have ever
seen.  I'm not sure how long it would take me to decode

"Do you have a guess?" Tom asked sharply.

The doctor hesitated for several moments before he answered
flatly, "Years."

Tom's eyes widened, and his expression fell.  "You mean you
haven't figured out a way to get the alien cells out of
B'Elanna's body."

"No," the doctor admitted.  "However I am pursuing several
different possibilities."  He moved to the other side of
B'Elanna's bed, and pulled a hypo out of his coat.
"B'Elanna's immune response is far stronger than that of
the Sikari, or the Borg.  If I can isolate the exact
components of that strong response perhaps I can enhance

"Enough to eradicate the alien cells?" Tom asked as the
doctor pressed the hypo to B'Elanna's arm, taking a blood

"I hope so."

Kes heard the uncertainty in the doctor's tone, but Tom
either didn't hear it or wanted to believe.  He touched
B'Elanna's arm as the doctor moved away, rubbing her skin
gently where the doctor had pressed the hypo.  "Your immune
system is fighting them, B'Elanna."

Kes had felt Harry's presence before he entered the main
Sickbay ward, and now she saw him pass the Borg woman, who
lay as motionless as B'Elanna several beds away, before he
moved across the room to join them.

Harry gave Kes a quick peck on the cheek, and looked at
B'Elanna.  "She looks good," he said, pleased.   He moved
his gaze to Tom.  "She's going to be just fine."

"Of course she is," the doctor said haughtily, as if there
was no doubt at all.

Kes saw an opportunity.  "B'Elanna is stable and sleeping
peacefully right now.  Tom, why don't you go see M'Kaela."

Harry as always seemed to read her mind, in that odd way
humans had with their mates that was both less and more
than telepathy.  He immediately joined in her complicity.
"I'll go with you, Tom.  We can stop by Cafe Neelix too.
Neelix cooked up a gigantic pot of stew tonight.  He
figured with all the new arrivals and all the commotion
going on today that he would just make enough for everyone
on the planet, and then some."

Kes met Kathryn's amused smile.  That was Neelix--when in
doubt, feed.  But Harry's effort at lightness fell a little
flat with Tom, who looked at him blankly.

"That is an excellent idea, Harry," the doctor said

"I'm not really hungry--"

The doctor speared Tom with one of his uncompromising looks
that preceded a lecture.  "Given all this 'commotion'
today, I assume you have not eaten since breakfast, Tom.
It will not do B'Elanna any good if you pass out at her
bedside from lack of nourishment, and it would certainly
irritate me.  Go get something to eat."

Tom was hardly likely to pass out, and Kes knew his concern
over irritating the doctor was nonexistent.  He gave the
doctor an obstinate look, and it was Kathryn who offered
the argument that swayed him.

"I'm sure Neelix will whip up something for Andrew and
M'Kaela too," Kathryn said.  "That way you can spend some
time a little time with M'Kaela and reassure her."

Though Sam had no doubt fed the children, the mention of
reassuring M'Kaela did it.  Tom frowned and looked at
B'Elanna.  Then he nodded reluctantly.  "All right."

"I don't expect B'Elanna to wake up for several hours yet,"
the doctor said, in a milder tone.  "If she wakes up, or
anything changes I will contact you."

"Knowing B'Elanna, by the time we get back here she'll be
awake and she'll be giving you hell for keeping her here,
Doc," Harry said with a grin, and the doctor harrumphed.
Harry stepped around Tom and dropped a quick kiss on
B'Elanna's forehead.  "See you later, Maquis."

Tom leaned over too and kissed B'Elanna gently on the lips.
He whispered something inaudible before he straightened.
Kes didn't have to hear the words to know that he'd said,
"I love you."

Kes squeezed Tom's arm as he walked by and smiled at him
encouragingly.  She watched Harry and Tom leave, Harry's
arm draped companionably over Tom's shoulder, though Kes
knew it was there as much to gently prod Tom out of

"Do you really think B'Elanna can fight this off?" Kathryn
asked, once they were gone.

The doctor looked suddenly grim.  "It's possible," he said.
"But not probable.  Although something in B'Elanna's immune
system is impeding the alien cells' progress, it hasn't
actually eradicated any of them, or even penetrated the
cell lining in any way.  If I can enhance that resistance
of her immune system, it might at least halt the progress."

Kathryn frowned.  "You mean she might have to live with
these aliens cells permanently in her?"

The doctor hedged.  "They are very active and virulent.
Her immune system would have to remain in a permanent
fighting state--"

"Which it can't," Kathryn said curtly.

"No," the doctor admitted.  "But I'll come up with a

"When will she wake up?"

The doctor was starting to look a little frustrated at
Kathryn's endless questions.  "I don't know.  Soon, maybe.
But if I do enhance her immune response, she could remain
unconscious while her body's fighting harder."  He sighed,
and looked at B'Elanna.  "Believe me, I'm doing the best I
can, Kathryn."

Kathryn nodded.  "I know, Doctor.  I know."  She glanced at
the Borg woman.  "What about the Borg?"

Kes followed Kathryn's gaze across the room.  The doctor
had assessed the woman's condition an hour ago, after
B'Elanna was out of surgery and settled.  Though the woman
was not aware of her condition, and bore no pain from it,
Kes felt sympathy for her mutilated state.

"She's not much of a Borg now," the doctor said
caustically.  "She's in pretty sorry shape.  I can fix the
physical damage, though the neural implant is a problem.
Even though it is only functioning at autonomous levels, I
don't think it can be removed."

"I seem to recall that Picard's neural implant was
removed," Kathryn said, her gaze on the Borg woman
thoughtful.  "He was the captain of--"

"I am familiar with the case," the doctor interrupted her
sharply.  She speared him with a flinty look.  "The
information is in my database," the doctor continued
smoothly.  "But my scans of this woman indicate that the
connections of her neural implant are entangled very deeply
with the synapses of her human brain.  My guess is that she
was assimilated as a child.  She probably spent time in a
maturation chamber, and the resultant combined growth makes
it very difficult to separate all of her internal Borg
components from her human organs."

"It looks like most of them have already been separated,"
Kathryn said, her voice harsh as she looked at the Borg

"The outward components, and not with any finesse or mercy,
I can assure you," the doctor said with disgust, though
that fact was obvious to them all.

"So will she survive?"

The doctor nodded at Kathryn's question.  "Despite her
appearance now...yes.  She will survive.  As I said, I can
halt the organ degeneration, and replace her ocular implant
with a prosthetic eye.  I can repair the cosmetic damage.
And I can realign her neural implant so that she will
regain her higher brain functions, and her memory.  But I
will have to design a way for her to regenerate her few
remaining Borg components, including the neural implant, on
a regular basis."  He gave the Borg woman a curious look.
"For some reason the alien didn't infect her with its

"Why not?" Kathryn asked.

The doctor shook his head.  "I don't know.  Maybe it was
gathering information, trying to find another weakness to
exploit, though apparently it already had one of those.  Or
it was curious, and trying to know its enemy."

Kes shook her head at Kathryn's glance.  She'd learned
nothing about that in her brief contact with the Species
8472 alien.  Kathryn didn't press her and she was glad of
that.  Instead Kathryn looked at B'Elanna, then back at the
Borg woman, and her lips compressed tightly.  Kes knew what
she was thinking.  However bad she looked right now the
Borg woman would survive to build a new life on Aurora,
whether she would appreciate the fact after being a Borg so
long or not.  And B'Elanna, who looked healthy right now
except for her pallor, did not have the same assurance.

"It will be a couple of days before the regeneration of her
human body is complete," the doctor said, still looking at
the Borg woman, and not noticing Kathryn's conflict.  "I
have asked Kes to start that physical process.  Then I will
repair her neural implant." The doctor turned back to
Kathryn.  "But at the moment I have something else that
requires my concentration."

Kathryn looked mollified as the doctor held up the hypo
with B'Elanna's blood sample.  And though Kes felt for the
Borg woman, she too wanted the doctor's skills focused on
B'Elanna first.  "I will take care of that, Doctor," Kes
said.  "I will also start searching the Federation database
to see if we can find out who she was--is."

"A human Borg out here in the Delta quadrant," Kathryn said
thoughtfully, shaking her head.

"What's odd about that?" the doctor asked.  "The Borg are
in the Delta quadrant."

"It's odd if she was assimilated as a child," Kathryn said.
"That had to have been fifteen or twenty years ago.  And I
don't recall any known contact with the Borg before the
Enterprise's initial contact."

"Perhaps we can wait for her to regain consciousness and
ask her how she got here," the doctor said dryly.

"If she was a young child she may not recall her human
history, Doctor," Kes said.  "And we will have to call her
something when she wakes up."

The doctor rolled his eyes.  "Fine.  Feel free to do your
research.  In the meantime I am going to get back to work."

"I'll be right here, Doctor," Kes assured him before he
could ask.  The monitors in the lab would inform him
immediately if there were any changes in B'Elanna's
condition, but none of them wanted to leave her alone, even
for a minute.  She could begin the Borg woman's
regeneration and research her origins on the monitor here
in the main ward.

"I think I'll sit with B'Elanna for a while also," Kathryn
said.  "I told Chakotay to check for me here when he gets

The doctor nodded.  "Good."  He turned to leave, then
looked back at Kes as if he had remembered something.  His
eyes narrowed.  "Are you feeling any after-effects, Kes?"

Kes shook her head.  "I'm fine, doctor."

The doctor accepted that silently and took one more
automatic glance at B'Elanna's bioreadings before he walked
away.  He paused at the foot of the Borg woman's bed and
paused, his brow furrowing as he looked at her with an
oddly thoughtful look on his face, as if something had just
occurred to him.  Before Kes could ask him if something was
wrong he turned away and strode into the lab.  She looked
at Kathryn, who wasn't watching the doctor's departure.
Her gaze was focused on B'Elanna.

"B'Elanna." Kathryn murmured the name with obvious concern
and affection as she reached down and touched B'Elanna's
still hand.

Kes knew how close Kathryn and B'Elanna had become on
Aurora.  On Voyager, B'Elanna had seen Kathryn Janeway as
her captain and perhaps her mentor, and Kathryn had seen
B'Elanna as a brilliant protege and maybe something of a
willful daughter.  But on Aurora, those barriers of status
and position had disappeared and had left them with the
opportunity to relate to each other as equals--two women
with very strong personalities to be sure, but with much in
common--and a strong friendship had resulted.  Kes had no
doubt they would be friends of a sort had they remained on
Voyager, but that barrier of status would have remained,
and she doubted their relationship could have had the same

Kes suspected the same would have been true with Kathryn
and Chakotay.  As captain on a starship she would never
have allowed herself to pursue her feelings for Chakotay as
long as he was her first officer.  How much they would have
missed, and now it was hard for Kes to imagine them without
each other now. Though not as impossible as it was to
imagine Tom and B'Elanna being without each other.  Despite
their volatile relationship, and the particular tension
that had infused it lately, she'd come to believe that Tom
and B'Elanna would have found each other no matter the
circumstances, on Voyager or otherwise.  However the paths
of their lives had crossed, they would have inevitably
merged together.

Kes also knew without a doubt that Tom would be devastated
if B'Elanna died, and her own sense of how strong Tom's
despair would be hit her and made her wince.

"Kes, are you sure you're really all right?"

Kes met Kathryn's concerned gaze.  She knew Kathryn
suspected that she was still affected by the unwanted
communication with the 8472 alien, so she addressed that
instead of her real thoughts.  "I'm fine.  It was
disturbing at the time, but I'm okay now.  Thanks to
Tuvok's training."

It was true.  Tuvok's lessons had taught her how to
discipline her "gift."  Even a year ago Kes didn't think
she could have repelled the 8472 alien's efforts to force
itself completely into her mind.  Or that she would have
recognized in some instinctive way that she needed to
protect herself from its full power.

"I'm glad Tuvok trained you then," Kathryn said.

Kes sighed.  "I just wish I could have been stronger.  I
might have been able to understand the alien's motives
better if I could have communicated more directly with it,
but I knew it was too powerful for me.  The isolated
thoughts that I got ended up being so...enigmatic."  Her
first impression that it intended only harm had changed
into the impression that it believed its aggression was
truly a matter of self-defense.  And there was its final
desire to go home.  Worst of all, she'd sensed one more
thing about it.  It was a juvenile of its species, in some
adolescent stage of its development.  She'd left that out
in her recall to Kathryn and Tuvok, and even to Harry.  "If
I could have...talked to it, maybe things could have been

"Don't apologize for that, Kes," Kathryn said.  "It all
happened so fast, none of us could have changed anything,
including you.  And I would much rather the alien be left
something of a mystery to us than for you to have been hurt
by it too."

Kes nodded, and Kathryn's gaze drifted to B'Elanna again,
who lay there so unaware of the conversation around her.
Kes noticed on the bioreadings that several more alien
cells had appeared in B'Elanna's bloodstream, and she
looked away from the monitor, forcing resolve into her
voice.  "She'll be all right, Kathryn.  The doctor will do
whatever it takes, and so will I."

"Good," Kathryn said flatly, as if that settled it.
"M'Kaela needs her mother.  And Tom..." she smiled a little
sadly at Kes.  They both knew how much Tom needed B'Elanna,
and vice versa, fighting or not.

Kathryn pulled the chair against the wall over to the
B'Elanna's bed and sat down.  "I'll sit with her until Tom
gets back.  You can do whatever you need to, Kes."

Kes nodded and watched Kathryn brush her fingers gently
over B'Elanna's cheek.  So far there was no outward sign of
the alien cells very slowly spreading inside her.  She
looked peacefully asleep, unaffected by the slow alien
invasion of her body, as if she might wake up at any
minute.  She was holding her own right now.

"Stay that way, B'Elanna," Kes wished silently.  "Stay that


November 35th, late evening:

An entire day had passed since the doctor had taken the
sample of B'Elanna's blood the previous evening, and the
sense of frustration that had built in him now made him
wonder if he should excise all the emotion subroutines from
his program.  It would certainly be easier to treat his
patients if he didn't care about them so much.  Especially
when the treatment was barely succeeding.

B'Elanna's condition had remained stable for several hours
the previous night, while the alien cells had only slowly
multiplied, though she had remained unconscious.  But in
the dark early morning hours, with Tom by her side again,
her immune system had started losing the battle, and the
alien cells had begun to multiply with increasing speed.
Then the invasion started to make its presence known in the
way the Sikari had described.  B'Elanna had become
feverish, and had started to moan in distress.  The doctor
knew the agony must be intense indeed for B'Elanna to react
so strongly given her high pain threshold.  Tom had spent
most of his time stroking her flushed skin, and his touch
seemed to calm her, more than the pain suppressors the
doctor had administered, which had no discernable effect at
all.  B'Elanna had become semi-conscious, but delirious,
and not truly aware of her surroundings.  She'd murmured
fevered words occasionally, some unintelligible.  More than
once she'd spoken Tom's name, and M'Kaela's.

The alien cells had also made their way to the surface, and
tendrils of alien biomatter had appeared on B'Elanna's face
and body, suffocating her own cells.  The doctor had made
no progress decoding the alien DNA, but he had isolated the
T-cell behind B'Elanna's early resistance to the alien cell
invasion.  He'd quickly formulated a way to multiply the
presence of that T-cell in her bloodstream, and had
administered the formula in the early afternoon.  The
result had been positive as far as it went.  The progress
of the alien cells had been halted, and no more were
forming.  But those already present remained.  It was a
stopgap measure at best, a temporary line held inside her
body between the alien cells and her immune system.

Now, ten hours later, the doctor was convinced that no
biological reaction could destroy the incredibly dense
alien cells.  He had to find a way to penetrate those alien
cells, which weren't only packed with DNA, but seemed to
exist in a fluid state, constantly changing their
structure.  No biological cell or reaction known to
Federation science could keep up with their mutations.  But
he'd come to the conclusion that perhaps something non-
biological could do it, if the proper adjustments were

The doctor walked into the main Sickbay ward, toward
B'Elanna's bed.  Her condition remained the same, except
for the fact that she'd lapsed into deep unconsciousness
again once her immune response had kicked up, and her fever
had abated.  Though he knew from the high endorphin levels
in her body that the pain remained, her comatose state kept
her from feeling its effects, which the doctor could only
consider a blessing for her, and for Tom.

Tom sat beside her now, her hand clasped firmly in his.
He'd left her side for only brief periods of time over the
past twenty-seven hours, and the doctor knew he wouldn't
have done that if it weren't for his daughter.  M'Kaela
needed her father's comfort, since she didn't understand
why her mother didn't come to her, and she certainly
couldn't be allowed to see B'Elanna in this state.  Someone
or other had managed to get Tom to eat a couple of meals
during that period, in the guise of feeding M'Kaela too.
But he hadn't slept at all and the exhaustion was very
apparent in the deep lines on his face.


Tom turned and looked at the doctor, asking immediately,

The doctor knew that every time he checked on B'Elanna Tom
was waiting to hear him say that this was it.  That he'd
found the cure, the way to eradicate the alien cells from
B'Elanna's body.  He could only shake his head.  "Not yet.
And I've come to the conclusion that nothing biological can
eradicate these alien cells."

"There has to be something!"  Tom sprang up and dropped
B'Elanna's hand, his expression angry, and as frightened as
the doctor had ever seen him.  "She's fighting it off!"

"Her body is resisting the alien cells right now because
I've elevated the T-cells in her immune system.  But the
alien cells are not being eradicated.  And at some point
her resistance will start to weaken again."

"Then elevate her T-cells more," Tom said, almost

"I've enhanced her immune system as much I can," the doctor
said.  "It's the Klingon part of her immune system that is
resisting so hard.  But B'Elanna is genetically half-human
and unfortunately those human cells show virtually no
resistance at all."  In fact he'd also suppressed the
response of her human immune cells, since they seemed to
actually assist the speed of the invasion.  If someone
fully human had been infected by the alien cells, the
doctor was sure he or she would be nearly "eaten alive" in
the sense the Sikari had described at this point.

"If she was fully Klingon could she overcome this?"

The doctor didn't like the intent, almost manic look in
Tom's eyes.  "I can't be one hundred percent sure, but it's

"I give you my permission to do it."

The doctor's brow furrowed.  "Do what?"

"Replace her human genes with Klingon genes."

The doctor didn't know what to say for a minute.  Clearly
forty hours plus without sleep was keeping Tom from
thinking straight.  That and the fact that he was beside
himself with worry.  The doctor spoke gently.  "I can't do

"Why not?" Tom asked.

"Genetic manipulation is a very complicated process," the
doctor said.  "It's one thing alter genes in a fetus to
correct abnormalities, but to alter genes to the extent
you're suggesting in an adult is almost impossible."

"The Vidiians did it," Tom pointed out.  "And you did it to
B'Elanna when you reinserted her Klingon DNA afterwards."

"I don't have the Vidiians technology," the doctor said
sharply, immensely glad of that fact.  "And there's a big
difference between gene insertion and removal.  On Voyager
I returned B'Elanna to her natural state, which is a
hybrid.  If you recall she couldn't live then without her
Klingon DNA, and she can't survive in the end without her
human DNA either."

Tom closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them.  He
looked at the doctor bleakly.  "Look at her, Doctor.  Is
this surviving?"

The doctor looked at B'Elanna.  "In fact, that's exactly
what it is, Tom.  And even if I *could* replace her human
DNA and make her fully Klingon, and *even* if a full-
throttle immune response could destroy the alien cells,
both of which are a very long shot---even with all that, as
B'Elanna is now there is no chance that she could survive
the transition."

"Besides, how would B'Elanna feel if she woke up to find
out she was fully Klingon?" a voice asked behind the doctor

The doctor turned and looked at Chakotay, whom he hadn't
heard come in.  He knew the answer to that question.  He
remembered how B'Elanna had reacted to taking back her
Klingon DNA years ago after the Vidiians had experimented
on her.  And though Tom had no issue at all with B'Elanna's
Klingon side, he knew that B'Elanna certainly did.

Chakotay's question was a meaningless question one, since
the doctor had just pointed out that it couldn't be done,
but Tom looked hard at Chakotay, who met his gaze with
equanimity though not without sympathy.  Tom turned his
gaze away first.  He touched B'Elanna's forehead, brushing
his fingertips over her ridges, one of the few areas on her
face that hadn't been affected by the alien cell growth.
He pressed his lips tightly together for a moment, and then
he turned back to Chakotay, his emotions under control,
though barely.  "At least she would wake up.  And the
doctor wouldn't be just giving up."


The doctor interrupted Chakotay, his voice irate.  "I am
*not* giving up on B'Elanna!  I've been her doctor
since...well, since I've been in existence!  I delivered
her baby.  I consider her a friend, and I'm not going to
let her die.  I've come up with a new approach, and I will
make it work!"

Both Tom and Chakotay stared at the doctor.  It was
Chakotay who asked the question.  "What approach, Doctor?"

"I was trying to tell you this before we got sidetracked,"
the doctor told Tom, his voice still a little aggrieved.
He looked at Chakotay.  "Borg nanoprobes."

If Tom and Chakotay had been startled at the doctor's first
outburst, they were positively speechless now.  The doctor
would have smiled with triumph at their expressions if the
situation weren't so critical.

"They adapt far more quickly than individual living cells,"
he explained.  "If they can be modified to attack the alien
cells, they may be fast enough and efficient enough to
infiltrate them and destroy them.  I simply have to
reprogram them to hide their intent so they can penetrate
the alien cell wall before it knows what is happening and
mutates.  I've already started experimenting with some of
the nanoprobes from the Borg--from Annika," he amended,
recalling the woman's name Kes had uncovered.

"There's no chance they could be harmful to B'Elanna?"
Chakotay asked

The doctor wanted to tell Chakotay to take a close look at
B'Elanna right now, but he held his reaction to a scoff.
"The nanoprobes?  Of course not.  Once I've modified them
they won't hurt B'Elanna at all."

"Then do it," Tom said, without hesitation.

The doctor knew Tom would have no objection to using Borg
technology.  Tom's only concern now was saving B'Elanna's
life.  "I'm working on it," he said mildly.  "It will
probably take me another twenty-four hours to modify the

Tom's face fell a little.  "Twenty-four hours..."

"Her immune system will hold out that long, Tom," the
doctor said.  "I'm not worried about that at all."

Tom nodded slowly, obviously not happy that B'Elanna would
remain like this for even another day, but he accepted it.
"Are you sure this will work?"

"I think it will," the doctor said honestly.  He added
reassuringly, "It's absolutely her best shot, Tom."

"Then I know she'll take it, Doctor," Chakotay said,
perhaps as much for Tom's benefit as his own.  He looked at
Tom.  "B'Elanna's nothing if not a fighter."

Tom's lips quirked just the tiniest bit, and he looked at
B'Elanna, with some private emotion on his face.  "Yes, she
is that."

"I have to get back to work on the nanoprobes," the doctor
said, feeling a satisfying sense of purpose.  He couldn't
tell Tom that he was a hundred percent sure this would
work, but to the depths of his programming he was sure he
could make it work.  He *would* make it work.

"Tom, I came here to get you," Chakotay said, as if he'd
just recalled why he'd suddenly shown up in Sickbay.
"M'Kaela is very restless tonight."

"She's not asleep yet?" Tom asked.

"No.  She's asking for you...and for B'Elanna."

The doctor thought he understood Chakotay's intent.  "Tom,
B'Elanna is..." he hesitated saying unconscious, "resting
comfortably," he amended, though they all knew that wasn't
completely true.  "Nothing is going to change anytime soon,
and I'll keep monitoring her--"

"I don't want her to be alone," Tom said flatly.  "I know
she's not conscious, but I want her to know I'm here. That
someone's here--"

"I understand," the doctor said.  Kes had left two hours
earlier at his insistence after spending twelve hours in
Sickbay with Tom and B'Elanna, and with their other
patient, Annika.  Before the doctor could come up with an
alternative plan, Chakotay spoke again.

"I don't want her to be alone either, Tom.  In fact Tuvok
should--" Chakotay modified his statement, "is here."

"Tuvok?" Tom's voice was surprised as he turned and saw
Tuvok approaching.

"I understand that M'Kaela requires your presence, Tom,"
Tuvok said.  "I will sit with B'Elanna and monitor her
condition while you are gone."

"Uh, you don't have to do that, Tuvok--"

"It is not an imposition," Tuvok said, forestalling Tom's

The doctor couldn't quite see Tuvok carrying on a
conversation with B'Elanna while she was unconscious, as
Tom and most of the others who had stopped by to see her
were apt to do, but he knew Tuvok's attention would not
waver.  Tom glanced at B'Elanna, still looking undecided
and a little troubled.

"Children need the reassurance of a parent's proximity when
the other parent is unavailable for a period of time,"
Tuvok said.  "B'Elanna would want you to comfort your

Though Tuvok's tone was impassive, the doctor thought he
detected a personal note in that comment.  Sometimes it was
easy to forget that Tuvok had left a family behind whom he
would never see again.  Whatever pain he felt over that
loss he kept deeply buried beneath his stoic Vulcan
exterior.  And it was unlikely that his loss would be
alleviated by another relationship, which was happening for
others who'd suffered similar losses.

Tom seemed to be thinking the same thing, because he looked
a little remorseful.  "You're right, Tuvok."  He leaned
over and touched B'Elanna's cheek, barely seeming to notice
the alien cells discoloring her skin.  "I'll be back soon,

"Tuvok volunteered..." the doctor murmured as Tom kissed
his wife, and Tuvok settled into the chair.

"Several people volunteered," Chakotay said in a near
whisper.  "Tuvok just did it with the most resolve."

Any and all of the other one hundred fifty two colonists
volunteering wouldn't surprise the doctor at all, since
they were all one extended family now, but Tuvok
volunteering did surprise him a little.  Perhaps it

"I'll be back shortly, Tuvok," Tom said.  "As soon as I get
M'Kaela to sleep."

"I will stay whatever length of time is required," Tuvok

Tom nodded.  "Thank you, Tuvok."

"Gratitude is not necessary," Tuvok said.  "However, you
are welcome."

After one last look at B'Elanna Tom joined Chakotay.  Then
he turned back to the doctor.  "Doc, about before...I'm

"I understand your frustration, Tom."  And for all his
annoying quirks and his often impudent attitude, the doctor
knew how much Tom loved B'Elanna.  Still, he gave Tom a
parting glare for good measure.  "And I meant what I said.
I'm not going to let anything happen to her."

"I know," Tom said softly.

The doctor watched Tom leave with Chakotay, then he looked
at Tuvok.  The Vulcan's impassive gaze was focused on
B'Elanna.  "You know that if Kathryn and Chakotay's devious
plan works and Tom falls asleep, he won't wake up for some

Tuvok quirked an eyebrow.  "I would expect not, Doctor,
since to my knowledge Tom has not slept for over forty
hours.  He is only human after all.  As I stated, I will
stay as long as necessary."

The doctor nodded.  "Good."  For Tom's sake, he hoped Tuvok
was here all night.  "In the meantime I have a lot of work
to do to get the nanoprobes ready to save B'Elanna."

"I have no doubt that you will be successful, Doctor,"
Tuvok said assuredly, and with that he returned his full
attention to B'Elanna.