Aurora: Changes-- Part Two:


December 1, early morning:

//"B'Elanna, what is the big deal?"

"I'm tired of having this argument, Tom!"

"Fine.  All you have to do is be reasonable--"

"*What* did you say?"

He wasn't intimidated by her silky tone.
" don't slam the door--"

She slammed it anyway.

He followed her outside.  "Drop it, Tom," she warned him.

"I don't understand your objection, B'Elanna.  It's part of
her heritage, just like it's part of yours, even if you
want to pretend it doesn't exist--"

"It doesn't MATTER, Tom.  Haven't you noticed that we're in
the Delta quadrant?  What difference will it ever make out

"If it won't make any difference, then why won't you let me
have Sue paint the mural on the wall?"

"I let you recreate that book of Klingon fairy tales--"

"Oh, yes, that was big of you to *let* me."

She fumed at him.  "It's ancient history--"

"It's your history, B'Elanna.  And it's M'Kaela's.  That's
all any of us have of our homes now, of our heritage in
this galaxy.  History.  And it does matter.  I'm not going
to let you deny M'Kaela just because you deny yourself."

"It's not denial," She said icily.  "Why should M'Kaela
have to suffer through what I did trying to figure out
where she belongs?  It's only confusing.  If I could have
saved her from it altogether, I would have."

"What's that supposed to--B'Elanna..."

He sighed and followed her back into the house.

"The answer is no, Tom," she said flatly.

"It's not only your decision, B'Elanna.  She's my daughter

She stared coldly at him.  "I'm done talking about this
right now."

"Fine."  He shook his head in disgust.  "Fine.  So am I."
He stalked off.

They didn't speak to each other again the rest of the
evening.  Or the night.//

//He needed to talk to her now.  No matter what had
happened before he had to make her hear him.



"Are you awake?"

"I don't think so, Tom.  I'm in a coma right now."

"Oh.  Right.  B'Elanna..."


"I need you to wake up."

"I'm trying, Tom."

"You know I'll do anything if you'll wake up.  Anything."

"I know."



"I'm sorry we fought."

"Me, too."

"And no matter what I've said, or how much we've argued,
you know..."

"What, Tom?"

"That I love you, so much."





"I do know that.  I've never doubted it.  Ever."

"Good.  M'Kaela misses you too.  She needs you."

"She has you right now."

"Don't say that."

"Why not?"

"She needs both of us.  B'Elanna..."


"We need you to wake up.  Soon."

"I will.  Soon...."//

"B'Elanna..." Tom murmured her name in the darkness as he
woke up.  For a moment he thought she was there, and that
everything was fine.  Then he remembered, and his heart
plummeted.  She was in Sickbay, fighting for her
life...where he should be.  He almost jumped up, when he
realized that a small warm body was curled up against his


He'd lain down next to many hours ago now?  By
the dim light coming in the window it was almost dawn.
He'd only intended to cuddle her and comfort her until she
fell asleep, and then get back to B'Elanna's side.  Instead
he'd fallen asleep too, and he suspected that had been
someone's plan all along.  Maybe several someones.

He brushed his fingers over M'Kaela's silky curls.  Her
eyes were closed and her lips were slightly parted.  She
was breathing in soft even breaths, still sound asleep.
Her bottle was on the floor next to the mattress, the
mattress Chakotay had taken off the bed in their spare room
for M'Kaela to sleep on--and as it turned out, Tom.
B'Elanna had quit breastfeeding a month ago, and M'Kaela
was on solid foods, along with the doctor's baby formula
made especially for her, in a cup now.  She only got a
bottle at night.

Tom put his arm around M'Kaela and hugged her gently so he
wouldn't wake her, and smelled the baby scent that still
clung to her, the mixture of sour milk and baby soap and
powder.  "Mommy will be home soon, angel," Tom whispered
into his daughter's hair.  His daughter who looked more
like her mother each passing day.  His heart twisted a
little, and he gently kissed the top of her head.  "I know
you miss her.  So do I.  I dreamed about her--"

He frowned.  That argument they'd been having for days...he
dreamed about that.  That stupid fight.  And the last words
they'd spoken to each other--

M'Kaela murmured in her sleep and turned, pressing her face
against his shoulder, and resting one small fist on his
chest.  He waited for her to settle for a moment, and
kissed the top of her head again.  "It was a good dream,
pumpkin," he said, recalling the last part.  "Mommy said
she's going to wake up soon.  She's knows how much you need
her--how much we both need her.  And right now I'm going to
go be with her and make sure she comes home, okay?"

He carefully extricated himself and repositioned M'Kaela's
head on the pillow as he spoke soothingly.  She accepted
the change and snuggled deeper into the blankets.  He
brushed her hair away from her cheek and arranged the top
blanket closer around her to ward off the slight chill of
the room.  "I'll see you later, angel--"

Tom was halfway off the bed when he realized that someone
was standing in the doorway.   He stood up all the way,
still in the rumpled clothing he'd worn the day before.

"Good morning, Tom."


He didn't mean to sound cool, but it occurred to him that
he'd been asleep for six or seven hours, when he should
have been with B'Elanna, and neither Kathryn nor Chakotay
had bothered to wake him up, on purpose he was sure.

"It's five fifteen," Kathryn said almost conversationally.

Tom ran a hand through his hair.  It felt sticky.  He
looked at Kathryn accusingly.  "I should have been back in

"I just spoke with Tuvok five minutes ago.  He said
B'Elanna is the same.  She's holding on just fine, and the
doctor is making progress with the modification of the

"Thanks," Tom said, a little grudgingly.  He glanced at

"Don't worry about M'Kaela, Tom," Kathryn said.  "We'll
take care of her."  Her voice softened.  "She needed you to
be with her last night.  You're her father, and your
presence soothes her."

Tom nodded.  "I know," he said.  He smiled a little
ruefully, remembering the way he'd hugged her when she
flung herself into his arms last night.  He'd buried his
face in her hair, feeling absurdly comforted by her need
for him.  "She soothes me, too.  But we both need
B'Elanna."  He picked up his shoes.  "I have to go."

Kathryn took a couple of steps forward.  "Take a shower

"I don't have--"

"You smell, Tom," Kathryn said bluntly.  She raised her
eyebrows.  "Chakotay brought some clean clothes from your
house.  They're in the bathroom.  Go."

Tom's eyes narrowed a little at Kathryn's commanding tone.
Once a captain, always a captain, he thought silently.  But
he'd been wearing these clothes for two days now.  And he
was sure he did smell.  He walked past her, keeping his
gaze on her hard to let her know that he wasn't doing it
just because she said so.

She didn't bother to contain her smile.  He shook his head
as he entered the hallway.  "I'll be quick."


He turned around.

"I have coffee and some rolls.  You can take them with

Her voice brooked no refusal.  He knew better than to
bother arguing, but he smirked a little.  "Yes, *maam*."

"And Tom..."

He stopped at the bathroom door and turned around again.

"Whatever happened between you and B'Elanna, you know that
she loves you as much as you love her."

He met Kathryn's knowing gaze silently for several moments.
When he spoke his voice was low but certain. "I know."

December 1, early afternoon:

Chakotay and Kathryn walked out of Cafe Neelix.  Neelix had
had a full house for lunch, and the place had been almost
too warm.  Outside it was cloudy and not warm at all, and
they both pulled their thermal jackets tighter to ward off
the chill.  From the sky it looked to Chakotay like the
first snow of the season might be arriving soon.

Chakotay didn't mind winter at all.  He'd grown up on a
colony with severe winters.  Kathryn was used to them too.
So they hadn't included themselves in the first phase of
house building in New Sonoma, electing to let some of those
who really wanted to relocate to the warmer climate of New
Sonoma go first.  Like B'Elanna, who was looking forward to
not having to deal with the cold New Lourdes winters on a
regular basis anymore.

Now that the transporter was operational, moving between
the two colonies would be as quick as walking across the
Voyager Common from the Meeting hall to Cafe Neelix.  It
would be easy enough to maintain two homes, as they all
eventually would.  If there was a severe winter storm in
New Lourdes, they could go to New Sonoma in a minute, and
enjoy the summer sunshine.  And regardless, they could
work, eat, and sleep in both villages during the same day--
he could eat breakfast with Kathryn at home, go over to New
Sonoma to help build the next set of homes, meet Kathryn
for dinner at the restaurant Mario Gennaro was planning to
open in his friendly "cooking rivalry" with Neelix, then
join in an impromptu game of soccer or baseball on New
Sonoma's Sacajawea Plaza, and return home for coffee and a
good book snuggled up next to Kathryn in front of the

In reality, being linked through a transporter now was like
living in one big village, with the freedom to move about
at will.  Or it would be.  But those pleasant thoughts of
the linked villages had been temporarily suspended.
Despite the readiness of the transporter, no one had
actually started moving their belongings and themselves to
their waiting houses in New Sonoma, least of all Tom.

Kathryn paused in the middle of Voyager Common to adjust
her jacket against the cold.  "I can't believe they really
want to live in the mountains," she said, shaking her head.
"In caves."

The Sikari had left early in the morning, after spending
two nights in the original women's dormitory.  They'd
expressed their thanks for the medical assistance and
shelter, and had accepted a small store of grain and other
nonperishable edibles from the food warehouses in addition
to what they'd been able to salvage from their ship so far.
But they'd refused all Kathryn's offers to join the
colonists either at New Lourdes, or at New Sonoma.  "They
lived for years as refugees on their own planet after the
Borg decimated their civilization," Chakotay said.  "I
suppose they've become comfortable with their own

Kathryn turned and started walking across the common.  "But
the mountains in the Northeast Sector?  They're not exactly
hospitable.  And what about the zebra cats?"

Chakotay couldn't help himself.  "They're more hospitable
than the Southern Transarctic Mountains."

Kathryn stopped and turned, giving him a sharp look.  He
smiled knowingly, and he was sure he saw a hint of a
reluctant smile in return.  "Apparently the Sikari are used
to living in the mountains, and in caves.  And we told them
about the zebra cats.  They seemed to think they could
handle them."

Kathryn shrugged.  "Well, I suppose if they choose not to
accept the obvious advantages we can offer them, we can't
change that."

Chakotay shrugged back.  "No, we can't."  He looked across
the common in the direction north of the residential
section, where the mountains of the Northwest Sector were
just visible in the far distance.  "Aurora has nearly twice
as much habitable land as Earth.  Yet the Sikari chose to
settle only fifty kilometers away from New Lourdes."  He
turned back to Kathryn.  "Interesting that they chose to
remain so close, don't you think?  Maybe they'll prove to
be less reclusive than they appear once they get used to
being here, and get to know us a little better."

"Maybe," Kathryn said, her own gaze taking in the mountains
in the distance past the planted fields of the colony.
"You and Larem did seem to hit it off."

"I understand the position he's in, feeling responsible for
a group of people who have no home to call their own any

Kathryn looked at him for several moments, then nodded.  "I
guess you do."  She slipped her arm around his back.  "But
they've found a home now, just as you did--as we all did."

Chakotay couldn't agree more.  He wrapped his arm around
Kathryn's shoulders and kissed her forehead.  "That we

She was studying him thoughtfully.  "Still, I think you
missed your calling.  You're a natural born diplomat."

Chakotay's lips quirked.  "You think so?"

"More so than I am."  She smiled at him ruefully.  "That
was always the hardest part about being a Starfleet captain
to me.  I've never been much for pussyfooting around the
truth, or worrying about taking people's feelings into
account.  I'd rather just lay the facts on the line, and
let the chips fall where they may."

Chakotay laughed.  "I think you're being a little hard on
yourself, Kathryn.  Determination and sticking to your
principles come in handy for a Starfleet captain.  And you
were very good at getting people to bend to your will."

"Is that your way of saying I'm headstrong?" Kathryn asked

Chakotay grinned.  "Kathryn, I'm not sure I've met anyone
more headstrong than you.  Except maybe B'Elanna.  You two
have a lot in common, you know."

"I suppose we do," Kathryn agreed.  She smiled.  "Of
course, you and Tom have a lot in common too."

Far less in common in personality than Kathryn and
B'Elanna, Chakotay thought, but he nodded sagely.  "We both
love stubborn and intractable women."

Kathryn's eyes narrowed at his teasing smile.  "Very
funny."  She looked across the common at Sickbay, and she
was silent for several moments  "I'm not sure how Tom would
survive without her."

Chakotay knew how, though he dreaded to think of the
possibility.  He'd watched Tom with M'Kaela when Tom had
come over to put her to sleep.  Tom had clung to her almost
as much as she'd clung to him.  He adored his daughter.  It
would be hell for him to lose B'Elanna, but he'd survive
for M'Kaela.

"He'd hang on for M'Kaela," Kathryn said softly, mirroring
Chakotay's own thought.

"It's immaterial, Kathryn," Chakotay said.  "B'Elanna will
be fine."

"Of course she will," Kathryn said firmly.  "She's stubborn
and intractable after all."

Chakotay smiled at her sly look.  "Exactly.  And her spirit
guide is as fiercely stubborn as she is."

Although Chakotay knew Kathryn still had her reservations
about the value of spirit guides, she smiled.  "I suppose
it is, if she couldn't kill it."

"And the doctor has the cure almost in hand," Chakotay

Kathryn nodded.  "I do wonder how B'Elanna will feel
knowing that Borg nanoprobes saved her."

Chakotay knew that B'Elanna had a strong sense of ethics,
and a fairly rigid sense of right and wrong.  She had no
love for the Borg, no more than any of them did, but he
suspected that she would accept the gift for what it was,
given the payoff.  "When she's holding M'Kaela again, and

"As I will be," Kathryn said.  "I wonder how grateful
Annika will be when she wakes up."

Since Kes had discovered the Borg woman's name and previous
history, they'd all begun to refer to her by her human
name, Annika.  It was certainly less awkward than "the Borg
woman."  And it was inevitable that she would join their
colony.  She had no where else to go.  But there was no way
to know how she would react when she woke, since she'd been
Borg almost all her life.  Probably badly.  If she had any
memory of her human life before she was assimilated, it
would be vague at best.  "It will be disorienting for her
at first, but she'll adjust."

"I guess she won't have much choice," Kathryn noted, not
without sympathy.  Then she shivered a little.

"Cold?" Chakotay asked, squeezing her shoulders.

"A little.  But it's bracing."

They'd been standing in the common for several minutes, and
Chakotay noticed that the wind was starting to pick up.
"Let's get over to the Meeting hall."

"There's Harry."

Chakotay followed Kathryn's gaze.  Harry was stepping out
of Sickbay.  They crossed the rest of the common to meet

"How's B'Elanna?" Kathryn asked immediately as they came
abreast of Harry.

"The same," Harry replied.  His tone was sober but his
expression was encouraging.  "She's hanging in there.  Kes
says the doctor is pretty close to finishing the
modifications on the nanoprobes.  He thinks he can have
them ready to insert into B'Elanna's bloodstream within the
next few hours."

"Good," Kathryn said, pleased.  "Tom?"

"He's hanging in there too," Harry replied.  "At least he
doesn't look like he's going to collapse any minute since
you managed to trick him into a few hours sleep."

Kathryn gave Harry a stern look.  "Why does everyone think
I tricked Tom?"

Chakotay shrugged.  "Because you did?"

That earned him an equally hard look.  "I did not trick
him, Harry," Kathryn said.  "M'Kaela *was* restless.  Yes,
I knew if Tom laid down next to her to get her to go to
sleep he'd pass out, he was so dead on his feet.  But I
simply made the suggestion, and then let nature take its

"I applaud your suggestive powers then," Harry said,
grinning.  "And you did Tom a favor.  I'm on my way over to
Megan and Gerron's right now to get Andrew.  M'Kaela's
there too, so I told Tom I'd check on her."

Chakotay and Kathryn had dropped M'Kaela off there this
morning before they'd met with the Sikari.  Megan had
offered to watch her, and playing with Megan's and Gerron's
nine month old son Daelen would hopefully keep M'Kaela from
yearning too much for her parents.

"We're headed for the Meeting hall to go over the transport
schedule," Kathryn said.  "Gerry and Amanda are getting
ready to move their belongings tomorrow."

"I guess they want to get settled in pretty quick," Harry

Chakotay didn't doubt it, since Amanda Lang-Culhane was
eight months pregnant.  Tom and B'Elanna had originally
planned to follow right after them, but now that schedule
would likely be altered.

"I'll see you in the Meeting hall later," Harry said.
"Mort and I are finishing up on the satellite upgrade.  In
a few days it should be several times more sensitive.
Hopefully we won't be surprised by a ship again."

"Hopefully not," Kathryn murmured as Harry raised a quick
hand in farewell.

They watched him walk into the common, and Kathryn frowned.
"We shouldn't have been surprised by a ship at all.  And if
we'd known more about what was on it, B'Elanna would never
have beamed over to New Sonoma alone.  *You* wouldn't have
gone over there without more backup."

"We had no way to know," Chakotay said, his expression grim
"But more to the point, if we could have communicated over
the commbadges we could have warned you.  And warned
B'Elanna."  Chakotay shook his head.  "I didn't think of
anyone transporting over--"

"You're right, Chakotay," Kathryn said abruptly.  "It's
pointless to second-guess ourselves now.  But we do need to
do something about making the commbadges more reliable
through the magnetic fields, or other kinds of unexpected
interference, so the next time someone isn't close to a
main commlink in town or in a shuttle, they can still
communicate if they need to."

It didn't happen often, but she was right.  "Harry has
started tinkering with some new redesigns, and B'Elanna
thinks they have definite merit."

Kathryn nodded.  They both knew that strengthening the
signals in the commbadges was high on B'Elanna's project
list.  "It won't be any time too soon."  She shook her
head.  "I still don't know how that ship ended up here,
when there weren't supposed to be any ships..."

It took a moment for Chakotay to realize what she meant.
"Because of what the Traveler said."

Kathryn nodded, looking troubled.  "I got the impression
that we would be alone here for many years."

"Maybe he didn't know everything.  Or maybe he didn't tell
you everything he knew."

Kathryn shook her head.  "I wish I could remember it all

"It was just one small ship," Chakotay said.

"With a Borg in it," Kathryn said.  "And Species 8472."

Chakotay knew Kathryn had been brooding about that, though
they'd had little time to talk about it yet.  "It was only
one, and Kes got the impression that it was left behind,
separated from its kind.  I don't think we'll ever see
another one."

Kathryn nodded.  "I'm glad Kes protected herself, but I
can't help wishing that we could have talked directly to

"So we could convince it that we aren't its enemy?"
Chakotay asked.  "That no one in the galaxy is?"

"If what the Traveler said is true, there might have been a
chance..." Kathryn's voice trailed off.

"*If.*  We can't be a hundred percent sure what will
happen," Chakotay said.  Though with the Sikari's mention
of the Borg losing the war, he didn't hold out much
optimism.  He knew the Traveler's dire predictions still
haunted Kathryn.  They haunted him too.  "And we'll never
know if it, or more of its kind might have reasoned with
us.  We can't change anything now, Kathryn, except what we
do here on Aurora."

Kathryn nodded.  "I know."

Another gust blew at them, definitely the harbinger of a
storm moving in.  Chakotay put his arm around Kathryn
again, and by mutual consent they headed for the shelter of
the Meeting hall.  He remembered something he'd wanted to
ask her.  "Speaking of Sickbay, Kathryn..."

She smiled up at him.  "When B'Elanna's better, I'll check
in with the doctor.  Don't worry."

"Good enough," Chakotay said.  Despite the tensions of the
past two days, that had never been far from his mind.  But
he could wait until everything else was back to the way it
should be before focusing on that hopeful possibility.

Chakotay ushered Kathryn into the Meeting hall ahead of
him.  Fighting the wind that slapped at his face, he shot
one last glance at Sickbay, where soon the doctor should be
delivering a cure to B'Elanna.  He recited a quick silent
invocation, drawing on the power of the talismans and the
lore of his own faith, entreating B'Elanna's spirit guide
to keep her strong and protected until then.


December 1, early evening:

Tom was glad to be alone with B'Elanna.  Almost everyone in
New Lourdes had come into Sickbay at some point over the
past two days, or had stopped him to talk briefly when he'd
left Sickbay to see M'Kaela, always with words of optimism
for B'Elanna and words of comfort for him.  Kathryn and
Chakotay had come by several times, and Harry had stopped
in at least half a dozen times a day, ostensibly to see
Kes, but always coming to sit with him by B'Elanna's
bedside for a few minutes.  Tom appreciated the sentiments.
He appreciated the fact that everyone cared deeply about
B'Elanna, and that they cared about him.  He appreciated
all of their support, especially for M'Kaela, but he was
starting to feel like he was suffocating under all the
concern and sympathy.

He didn't want sympathy.  He wanted results.

He was even glad that Kes had gone to the lab for a while
with the doctor.  He knew what she'd been doing.   He
didn't completely understand the scope of Kes's telepathic
and empathic abilities, but he knew she had learned to
harness and focus that power under Tuvok's tutelage, until
it was a palpable aura around her that touched others when
she wanted it to.  He'd felt that calm and serenity
blanketing him when she was nearby.  He knew she projected
it because she thought he needed it, and maybe he did.  But
he didn't *want* to be calm.  He wanted to be angry, to
fight against this.  To fight for B'Elanna.

He reached out and smoothed her hair back from her
forehead, as he'd done a hundred times in the past two
days.  Her skin felt cool and dry, as it had since the
doctor had elevated her immune response over twenty-four
hours ago, which had produced some sort of truce in her
body between her immune system and the alien cells.  Before
that her skin had been hot and feverish, and she'd moaned
and twitched in obvious distress.  The few times her eyes
had opened, they'd been glazed with fever and pain even
though she hadn't really been aware of her surroundings.
He wasn't sure she had even been aware of his presence
though she'd moaned his name more than once.  He'd stroked
her gently and murmured soothingly to her, wanting to do
anything that would lessen her suffering as the tendrils of
alien cells started to creep across her skin.

He'd been so relieved when the doctor had injected the
immune booster and it had stopped the alien cells from
growing further and had halted B'Elanna's agony, that he'd
had to turn his head away for a moment so the doctor
wouldn't see the tears in his eyes.  He didn't know if the
pain was really gone, or if her unconscious state was so
deep that she simply couldn't feel it anymore.  He was just
glad she couldn't feel it, though it was almost as hard
seeing her so motionless and silent.  It was so unlike her.
B'Elanna was rarely still; she radiated energy and
intensity.  Even when she was ostensibly relaxing, he could
almost hear her mind working, and he could feel the
vitality coiled in her that was almost like a force she

Tom took her hand in his.  "I know you're in there
somewhere, B'Elanna, fighting, and refusing to give up.
Even if you can't see me I'm right there next to you,
bat'leth swinging, fighting with you.  I want you to know

Though doctor had said that B'Elanna probably couldn't hear
him, nor would remember anything he said to her, Tom had
kept talking anyway.  If there was anything that projected
a sense of normalcy to B'Elanna, he figured it was him
talking too much.  He smiled at that thought, then sobered.
"I know you probably don't like the bat'leth reference, but
it just keeps entering my mind.  Maybe because it's your
Klingon DNA that has resistance to the alien cells."  His
lips quirked, though his eyes remained serious.  "I always
knew there was something I loved about your Klingon side.
It's keeping you alive."

He rubbed her palm, feeling the rough tendrils of the alien
growth, and he frowned.  "Confession time, B'Elanna.  I
told the doctor to replace all of your human DNA with
Klingon DNA if it would save you.  Don't worry, he didn't
do it, mostly because it wouldn't work.  And I figure if
you ever find out about that, you'll kill me."  He looked
at her still hand in his.  "But you'd have to be alive to
kill me, B'Elanna, and that's all I care about.  I hope you
can understand that."

Tom was silent for several moments, and then he cleared his
throat.  "Anyway, it turns out that Borg nanoprobes may be
the key.  I know that won't make you much happier."

He looked at the Borg woman several beds away.  Her left
eye had been replaced with a prosthetic, and Samantha had
helped Kes repair all the outward physical damage.  Now she
looked almost completely human, except for the neural
implant that still remained above her left eyebrow.  Kes
had even stimulated her hair follicles, and her head was
covered with a soft cap of blond hair.  In a day or two,
once the doctor rewired her implant, she would regain

"Her name's Annika," Tom told B'Elanna.  "She was human
before she was assimilated.  One of us.  Now she's going to
be human again.  Which will probably be a hell of shock to
her when she wakes up, since the doc says she was
assimilated as a child.  But when the doctor cures you,
it'll be partly thanks to her that you're back with me, and

Tom sighed.  "M'Kaela misses you, B'Elanna.  Everyone has
been so good about taking care of her so I could be here in
Sickbay with you.  Sam, Kes, Harry, Kathryn...she's with
Megan and Gerron right now.  You know how she likes to try
and teach Daelen to walk.  Of course you know..."

He smiled a little sadly.  "She's always happy to see me,
about as happy as I am to see her.  But I'm not enough.
You're her mother.  She needs you.  So you have to wake up
for her, do you hear me? Soon, like you promised."

Tom shook his head.  "Okay, maybe I dreamed that.  But it
felt like you were really there.  So I'm holding you to it.
You said soon.  And I need it to be soon, because M'Kaela
needs you, and so do I.  I miss you so much."

He kissed her hand gently.  "B'Elanna, I'm sorry for
everything.  I don't care how we decorate M'Kaela's room.
We can put 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Peter Rabbit' all
over the walls if you want.  And M'Kaela doesn't have to
learn about Klingon history.  The past doesn't matter to
me.  Just now.  As long as you and M'Kaela are with me here
on Aurora, that's all that will ever matter to me."

Tom pressed his forehead against B'Elanna's hand for a
moment.  A soft sound behind him made him pull away, and
turn around.

The doctor and Kes stood at the foot of B'Elanna's bed.
Tom didn't know how long they'd been standing there or how
much they'd heard.  He only noticed that Kes was smiling,
and then he saw what the doctor was holding in his hand.  A

"Is that it?"

The doctor held up the hypo, a broad smile on his face.
"This is it.  I've modified the nanoprobes and run them
through several trials.  They kill the alien cells every
time."  He moved to the other side of the bed.  "One dose
should do it.  I predict that in an hour's time B'Elanna
will be completely herself again."  The smile was still on
his face, and he added smugly, "I'd predict half an hour,
but I wouldn't want to be too presumptuous about my

Tom was more than fine with the doctor's arrogance.
"Either way, Doc, I'll spearhead the campaign to name a
continent after you."

"You don't need to go that far," the doctor said, as he
positioned the hypo.  Then his eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
"Though that is an intriguing thought..."

"Shall we just get on with it, Doctor?" Kes said from Tom's

The doctor gave Kes a brief, reproachful look as he pressed
the hypo against B'Elanna's upper arm.  "It should only
take a minute or two to start seeing the first results."

Tom felt Kes's hand on his shoulder and this time he
welcomed the calm that seemed to blanket his tense body.
He entwined his fingers in B'Elanna's slack ones.  "Come
on, sweetheart..."


"I see."

Tom heard the terseness in Kes's voice, and the same in the
doctor's.  Kes moved her hand away from his shoulder as he
looked up at the bioreadings.  Every indicator was
dropping.   "Doc, what's going on?!"

The doctor didn't even acknowledge Tom's alarmed question
as Kes moved to tray at the foot of the bed.  "Kes, ten
cc's of cordrazine."


"Her body is adjusting to the nanoprobes," the doctor said
quickly to Tom as he took the next hypo from Kes.

"Adjusting?!" Tom almost shouted.  The indicators were all
still dropping--quickly.  He watched in horror as
B'Elanna's vitals bottomed out into a flat line.


B'Elanna stared at her surroundings, curious and slightly
perplexed, though it didn't immediately occur to her to
ponder anything but what she was seeing at the moment.  She
was in an immense hall, its floor and walls made of ancient
looking gray stones.  A mist rose everywhere, shrouding the
ceiling--if there was one--and making the place warm and
humid, not unlike Q'onos could be.

And this place was Klingon.  That much was obvious from the
extensive array of weapons that hung everywhere on the
walls--ceremonial daggers, bat'leths, dirkas, swords,
battle axes, even very ancient looking spears and spiked

She was not alone in the hall.  Figures moved around, some
mere shadows in the mists, though others passed by close
enough for her to see them more clearly.  Klingons, of
course, all wearing the traditional leather and metal of
warriors.  They didn't seem to notice her presence as they
moved about, some wandering alone, some in pairs speaking
guttural Klingonese in low tones.

Her eyes were drawn to another movement in the mists.
Something was prowling there.  It was large but carried
itself low to the ground, and as it moved into view she saw
that it was a targ.  Its eyes looked straight at her as if
it knew her, and she felt a tingle of familiarity.  It
couldn't be...

Though she glared at it, the targ kept its gaze locked with
hers, and its eyes were shrewd and alert.  "I almost killed
you once," B'Elanna growled.  "Don't tempt me again."

Her voice echoed against the nearest stones, and though the
targ was too far away to hear her, it gave her an
imperturbable look.  Two male Klingons passing by paused in
front of her.

"New one," one of them barked.

The other gave her a disparaging look.  "Half-breed by the
looks of her."

"Mongrel," the other spat contemptuously as they walked
away.  She aimed a venomous look at their retreating backs
before she turned back to the targ.  But it was gone, slunk
off somewhere into the shrouded mists.  Even though she
couldn't see it, she had the eerie feeling that it was
watching her.

She'd paid little attention to the Klingon woman walking
toward her as she scanned the mists, trying to spot the
targ again.  It wasn't until the woman was almost upon her
that she looked closely at her.

"Mother?"  B'Elanna's mouth dropped open in astonishment.
"What...?" her voice faded away in stupefaction.

"Hello, daughter," Miral said, her deep voice just the way
B'Elanna remembered it.  And the sarcastic edge was still
intact too.  "It's nice to know that you recognize me after
all this time."

"It's only been ten years," B'Elanna said, with her own
edge of sarcasm.
Miral eyebrows rose as she looked her daughter up and down.
"I see you've been in a battle."

B'Elanna looked down, and for the first time noticed what
she was wearing.  Klingon body leather that tightly hugged
her slender form, much like her mother was wearing, and the
other Klingons she'd seen here.  But hers was dirty, and
stained in several places with blood.  Red blood faintly
tinged with purple, that she knew with a skip of her heart
must be her own...and something else too.  She touched some
of the yellowish fluid that was smeared on her sleeve.  It
felt greasy, and it looked more like some kind of
electromagnetic fluid than blood.

"And you now wear your hair in the Klingon style."

B'Elanna's hand flew to her head.  Her thick hair was
curly, and untamed.  "I don't wear my hair like this," she
said sharply.  "And I haven't been in a battle..."

B'Elanna paused as a memory tugged at her.  She *had* been
fighting something.  For her life.  Something relentless,
determined to defeat her...and she couldn't afford to lose.
Tom had been there, by her side, encouraging her--



Her life--it all came flooding back to her in a rush.  Why
wasn't she on Aurora?  *Where* was she?  She looked at her
mother, who was watching her with grim curiosity.  "What is
this place?"

"You don't recognize it?"  Miral shook her head, and gave
her daughter a look of mild disgust.  "Why should I be
surprised?  You never listened to anything I told you--"


"This is the Hall of Transient Souls."

Though B'Elanna had done her best to avoid listening to
most of her mother's endless recitations of Klingon lore,
especially those about the endless permutations of the
Klingon afterlife, she hadn't been able to forget all of
them.  They had given her nightmares as a child.  She
recalled now that the Hall of Transient Souls was some sort
of waystation, a place for those whose final fate was
undecided.  Her eyes widened as the implication struck her.
"I'm dead?  You're dead?"

Her mother, who looked quite alive and healthy, shrugged.
"I suppose I must be."  She looked around the hall.
"Though I can't recall how long I've been here.  Perhaps
quite a while..." She looked at B'Elanna.  "Waiting for

"Me?  Why would you be waiting for me?"

"To find out if I will be allowed into Sto-Vo-Kor," Miral

"Are you saying *I'm* holding you back?" B'Elanna demanded.

"Unfortunately you were never much credit as a Klingon,"
Miral said sharply.  "And you are my daughter."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes.  "Right," she said derisively.
"My actions reflect on you.  Another ridiculous point of
Klingon honor."

Miral's voice was cold.  "Whatever your opinion of Klingon
honor, B'Elanna, your inability to achieve it stains me."

B'Elanna snorted in disgust.  "Fine.  I absolve you of
family obligation.  Disown me if you want."

"That's the second time you've offered me that option," her
mother said, her voice surprisingly more sad than angry.

B'Elanna remembered those words she'd thrown at her mother
the last time they'd spoken.  She wondered why her mother
didn't just take her up on it.  "I mean it, Mother.  I
don't want to hold you back."

Miral didn't answer; she simply looked at B'Elanna keenly.
"Truthfully, I'm surprised I'm not on the Barge of the Dead
being taken to Gre'thor.  You must have conducted yourself
with some small amount of honor since I last saw you."  She
glanced at B'Elanna's clothing again and frowned.  "Or you
died honorably."

"I'm not...dead."  B'Elanna's automatic denial trailed off.
She couldn't be.  She didn't remember dying.  She'd just
been in New Lourdes...yesterday?  The day before?  "I was
on Aurora..."


"It's a planet in the Delta quadrant that we colonized
after Voyager self-destructed," B'Elanna said quickly, her
mind still distracted.

"Voyager...that was the Starfleet ship that disappeared,
along with the Maquis ship on which you served."  Miral's
expression was inscrutable for a moment.  "You were
presumed dead."
"Sorry to disappoint you," B'Elanna said caustically.  "I
wasn't--I'm not dead."  Her declaration sounded unsure even
to her.  "This must be a dream, or an illusion."

"A Kos'ara?" Miral asked skeptically.  "It looks pretty
real to me."

B'Elanna touched the wall beside her.  It felt solid, as
solid as everything on Voyager had felt when she'd switched
timelines briefly.  She looked around for something
different here, something that would tell her this wasn't
any kind of reality, that it was all in her mind. Maybe the
mists that hid anything beyond a few dozen meters, the
shifting shadows beyond...and the targ.  They could all be
a dream, though how did she really know what the afterlife
looked like?  Maybe the reality of the afterlife was a
dream.  She grasped for something to reassure herself.  "I
can't remember how I got here."

"Neither can I," Miral responded.  "But does that really
mean anything?  I also cannot remember where I was right
before I was here."

Neither could B'Elanna.  She'd been in New Lourdes,
carrying M'Kaela, talking to Kathryn--but was that
yesterday, or days ago now, or longer?  Everything after
that was a haze, permeated by the sense that she'd been in
a fierce battle, fighting for her life.  A battle that she
might have lost.  She shivered.

"I never thought you would be afraid of dying, B'Elanna,"
Miral said, with less scorn than surprise.

B'Elanna wasn't afraid of dying.  This was just a bad time.
What losing her do to M'Kaela?  And to Tom.  "I have a
daughter," she said shortly.  "She needs me."

"A daughter..." Miral echoed.  Her surprise transformed
into a flicker of pride that crossed her face for a moment.
Then her lips twisted.  "I hope she really does need you,
more than you ever needed me."

B'Elanna scowled at her mother's harsh response.  Whose
fault was that?  "I did need you, Mother," she said
angrily.  "I needed you to love me and accept me for who I
was.  I needed you to accept the part of me that was

"What makes you think I didn't?"

B'Elanna glowered at her mother.  "You tried to make me a
Klingon.  You force-fed me all your endless Klingon rituals
and lore.  You wouldn't let up, no matter how much I
refused to do your bidding!"

"Maybe it seemed that way," Miral said sharply.  "But what
need was there for me to glorify your human side when you
already reveled in it?  It was your Klingon heritage you
wouldn't accept."

"Because you tried to ram it down my throat!"

"All I tried to do was make you accept who you are!"
Miral's voice rose to match B'Elanna's, and her voice
hissed between bared teeth.  "Hiding from it, wearing a
scarf over your head trying to pretend that you were
something you're not, didn't make it go away!"

"I wore a scarf because the other children--" B'Elanna
stopped in mid-shout.  What was the point?  Her mother had
never been someone she could go to for sympathy or comfort,
then or now.

"Called you 'turtlehead'," Miral finished for her.   She
shook her head at B'Elanna's startled expression.  "Did you
really think I didn't know about that, B'Elanna?  Human
children can be cruel.  All children can be cruel."  She
frowned.  "But perhaps I forgot that you were a child too,
and weren't old enough to dismiss such childishness for the
ignorance it was."

That sounded almost like an admission of fallibility from
her mother, something B'Elanna had never heard.  She
recalled what she'd thought all those months ago when she'd
first held M'Kaela as a tiny baby--that her own mother must
have wanted the best for her, even if they'd never agreed
on what was best.  "Maybe you were trying to do what you
thought was best--"

"And you never believed that I might know better than you,"
Miral said, with some haughtiness.  "I pushed you, but not
because rejected part of you, or wanted you to be only
Klingon.  I just wanted you to accept that part of yourself
and draw strength from it so you could be happy, and proud
of who you are."

"Who I am?"  B'Elanna gave her mother a bitter look.  "Who
I am, mother, is a hybrid.  A half-breed."  She'd just been
reminded of that again.  "Not Klingon enough for you, and
not human enough for my--" she bit back the word, "For
everyone else. You never understood what it was like to be
a...a mongrel, neither one or the other.  The truth is, I
didn't belong anywhere.  And if I was still on Voyager, on
my way back to the Alpha quadrant, I would have saved my
daughter the pain I had to go through."

Miral's eyes narrowed.  "What does that mean?"

B'Elanna had never even told Tom what she'd thought about
when she'd first found out she was pregnant, what part of
her had wished she'd had the power to do.  "I would have
removed her Klingon genes, so she could be something
besides a mongrel."

Miral looked at her daughter, appalled.  "It is a good
thing the Klingons here cannot read what you hide in your
heart, B'Elanna, or there wouldn't be any question of your
destination.  Or mine."  She turned and stalked away
several steps, as if she was about to leave for good, then
she whipped around, piercing B'Elanna with an accusing
look.  "You say you weren't good enough for me, and that I
denied part of you.  But it was you who denied *me* by
being ashamed of your Klingon heritage.  It was *I* who
wasn't good enough for you."

B'Elanna saw the injured look that cross her mother's face
briefly, and she wanted to deny the accusation.  But was
true.  She had been ashamed of her mother, of her strident
Klingon ways on Kessik that earned snickers behind her
back.  Sometimes she'd hurt for her mother, but mostly she
had blamed her mother.

"Just as your own daughter isn't good enough for you,"
Miral added harshly.

B'Elanna's eyes widened.  "That's not true!"

"You would have killed her so you could have a different
child--a *human* child--"

"It wasn't like that!  I just thought to spare her..."
B'Elanna paused, and swallowed, faced suddenly with the
knowledge that her mother was right.  If she had been on
Voyager with the technology available she might have
followed through with her wish, and M'Kaela wouldn't even
exist.  Some other child would.  "I don't know if I would
have done it," she said quickly, terrified that she might
have given the chance.

Miral shook her head.  "Perhaps I did fail you, if you
believe I would have rejected any part of you, B'Elanna, or
that I would have loved you more if your genes were only
Klingon," she said, only sadness in her voice

"I never said I believed that," B'Elanna denied, though she
knew in her heart she had thought it, often.

"Or perhaps you think your human mate would love his child
more if she was only human," Miral said, making her own

"No," B'Elanna said immediately.  Tom couldn't love any
child more than he loved M'Kaela.  He didn't care about her
Klingon genes; he'd never cared.  If B'Elanna had ever
suggested altering their child's genes, the fight they'd
had recently would have been nothing--  "Why do you assume
he is human, Mother?"

"I know of no Klingons in the Maquis or on the starship
Voyager," Miral said.  "Or in the Delta quadrant.  And I
know your overwhelming attraction to all things human, so
whom else would you choose as a mate?"

"Tom is my husband," B'Elanna corrected sharply.  And her

"And you no doubt consider him worthy to be your husband
simply because he is human," Miral said derisively.

"I consider him worthy because he's a good man," B'Elanna
said shortly.  "He has a past.  But so do I."  She'd never
deny that to her mother.  It didn't matter.  Living with it
and surmounting it had made him the man he'd become.

"A dishonorable past?" Miral guessed scornfully.

"A past is just that," B'Elanna said.  "People can change,
and overcome dishonor.  Even Klingons have done so."

"On rare occasions," Miral acknowledged, then added
sharply, "And with much effort."

"Exactly."  B'Elanna knew how much effort Tom had put into
overcoming his past.  She shook her head.  "The funny thing
is, he'd like you, Mother.  He's the one who wants to teach
M'Kaela about Klingon culture."  And she'd stopped him at
every turn.  She recalled now how intensely they'd fought
about that.  She frowned.  "He's always wanted me to
embrace it too."

"That is commendable, for as long as it lasts." Miral's
tone left no doubt of her skepticism.  "Tell me more about
this perfect husband of yours."

B'Elanna snorted at her mother's sarcastic tone.  "Tom is
not perfect, Mother.  Not even close.  He's done things in
his life he regrets, as I have.  He's stubborn and
pigheaded, and sometimes we fight a lot."  Sometimes?  Her
lips quirked.  "But he's also loyal and dependable.  And he
loves me."

"Perhaps he does," Miral conceded.  "Now."  Her expression
on her daughter was both regretful and cautionary.  "But it
doesn't mean he won't change his mind later."

B'Elanna knew her mother was using her own marriage as a
base of reference.  "Tom will never change his mind."

Miral laughed harshly.  "Maybe not.  If you're on a planet
in the Delta quadrant with no ship on which to escape
again, I don't suppose he *can* leave you."

"He *could,*" B'Elanna said flatly.  He'd left this
morning--or was it a day or two days ago, or even more?
The concept of time eluded her at the moment, but even
though he'd left without saying goodbye, and that had hurt
a little, she realized now that she hadn't doubted in her
heart that he would come back.  "But he won't."

"You sound very sure, B'Elanna," Miral said.  "Nothing in
life is that certain."  She gave her daughter a shrewd look
with a surprising hint of compassion.  "You should know

"Some things are certain, Mother," B'Elanna said.  She'd
doubted that too, for a long time.  She'd trusted in very
little, because of her father's active departure from her
life.  But she knew that no amount of persuasion or threat
could make Tom leave his daughter, and never see her again.
Even if they'd remained on Voyager, or had made it back to
the Alpha quadrant, even if unthinkably she and Tom just
couldn't make it together, she knew he would never walk
away from his daughter.  He'd give up his own life before
he'd hurt M'Kaela.  "For instance, nothing short of dying
could tear Tom away from his daughter."

Miral heard the absolute conviction in B'Elanna's voice.
"You believe that, don't you?"

"I know it."

"I hope you are right," Miral said, her tone almost gentle
in its gruffness.  "If you are, then I am glad for you,

B'Elanna realized her mother truly meant it.  "Are you
giving me your blessing, Mother?" she asked incredulously.

"I would not go that far," Miral said, with a note of dry
humor in her voice.  "Besides, you do not need my blessing,
B'Elanna.  But I am pleased that perhaps this human husband
of yours does have some honor," Miral granted.  "More honor
than--many humans."

B'Elanna knew her mother had been about to say "your
father" before she'd stopped herself.  She'd rarely
considered how her mother might have felt, being deserted
by her husband.  She'd been too busy with her own pain,
even when she wasn't a child any more.  And she'd blamed
her mother for chasing him away, for being too Klingon,
though her mother had never in her life pretended to be
anything she wasn't.  Her father had known who she was when
he'd married her.  "I'm sorry that Father didn't stay."

Miral snorted.  "Do not be sorry for me, B'Elanna.  I
recovered.  I was angry with him for leaving me, even hurt.
For a time.  But it was for leaving you that I never
forgave him."

B'Elanna understood that now.  She looked around.  "If I
really *am* dead, at least I know that M'Kaela has her
father, and that she will always be safe and loved."  As
much as she would miss them both, there was that knowledge
to comfort her.  They would have each other.


Both Miral and B'Elanna started at the sound of a booming
voice behind them.  They turned to find a tall broad
Klingon male standing a meter away from them, his dark gaze
on B'Elanna.  His tangled hair fell nearly to his waist,
and a dozen weapons hung from his belt.  Even for a Klingon
he was imposing.  Miral's eyes narrowed on him.  "There is
no need to shout when we are standing right here."

The Klingon male gave her a measured look, then returned
his implacable, derisive gaze to B'Elanna.  "I am Naktor,
doorkeeper of the Hall of Transient Souls.  It is time for
you to go."


"Doctor!"  Nearly a minute had passed and Tom's voice was

The doctor's voice by contrast was completely calm, while
B'Elanna's vitals remained fixed.  "Ten more cc's of
cordrazine, Kes."

"She's dying!"

"Her body is adjusting to the nanoprobes.  Her immune
system was overstimulated and is trying to reject them--"

"Then take them back out!"

"Give it a minute, Tom."  The doctor kept his voice level,
not bothering to tell Tom that he couldn't take them out.
He looked at B'Elanna's vital signs and willed them to
move.  "Come on, B'Elanna..."


B'Elanna looked at the fierce Klingon who stared at her
with indifference.  "Go where?"

Naktor looked at her as if she was half-witted.  "To battle
of course.  To where else does a *Klingon* go?"

"I will go with my daughter," Miral said.

Naktor turned and speared Miral with prohibitive look.
"You will not.  Your paths are not joined.  Not yet

"What battle?" B'Elanna asked, wishing now that she had
listened to more of her mother's stories.  She wondered
what weapons she would need.  A wide variety, from the
looks of Naktor's weighted-down weapon belt.

Naktor looked contemptuously at her stained and bloodied
clothing.  "Back to the battle you have not yet finished,"
he said brusquely.  "It is not your time to be here yet."

Not her time... Did he mean that she was going back to
Aurora?  "I don't understand--"

"Of course you don't understand!" Naktor barked.  "You know
nothing of this.  It would be advisable if you *learn*
something about it before you return again."

"If you are sending me back to Aurora--"

"Are you questioning my judgment!" Naktor bellowed.

She glared at him.  "I never said--"

"There is no need for you to speak at all," Naktor cut her

"I want to know what is going on," B'Elanna demanded.  "If
I am not dead, why am I here--"

Naktor laughed, and it was not a particularly friendly one.
"Dead?  You are dead, but you will not stay that way,
however you might wish you could take the easy way out.
The battles here are nothing compared to the battles of the
living.  Those you shall not escape so easily."

"Who said I wanted to escape?" B'Elanna replied hotly.  "I
never asked to be brought here."  She wanted to go back to
Aurora.  She had unfinished business with her daughter.
And with her husband.  But there was also one other person-
-  "What about my mother?"

"She is not your concern.  I will deal with her once you

"She *is* my concern, and I want to know--"


Naktor roared right in her face, and that the last straw
for B'Elanna's temper.  She stuck her face even closer to
his and shouted, "Go to--"  She stopped abruptly and her
snarl faded as she realized what she was about to say.

Naktor bared his teeth in a feral grin.  "I have been
there.  And you may go there yet!"

"I think not," Miral told the doorkeeper coldly.  She
looked at her daughter with an expression that was mostly
tolerant amusement.  "I see some things about you will
always remain the same, B'Elanna.  Your stubbornness...and
your blind courage."  There was satisfaction in her voice.
"I am--"

"Enough of this!"

Miral turned to Naktor.  "I have had enough of you
interrupting me!"

"I see the qour-fruit does not fall far from the tree,"
Naktor said with a scornful smirk.

"I will say goodbye to my daughter."  Miral's tone was
uncompromising.  Naktor's eyebrows rose and the two squared
off, glaring at each other with eyes flashing and sharp
teeth bared.

Finally Naktor grunted.  "Make it quick.  You have your own
battle to complete."

With a final dismissive look at B'Elanna, Naktor stepped

"Daughter--" Miral's voice softened.  "B'Elanna.  I am
pleased that my grieving for you those years ago was for

Her mother had grieved for her.  B'Elanna was both
gratified and regretful.  "I'm sorry you didn't know--"

Miral shook her head.  "It is of no consequence now.  You
have a life to go back to...and a daughter to raise."  She
looked pensive for a moment.  "I hope you will do for her
what I could not do for you."

"You did your best for me, Mother," B'Elanna said softly.
"I know that.  Wasn't it some Klingon philosopher who said
that intention is the cornerstone of honor?"

Miral's eyebrows rose and her lips twitched.  "I am
appalled that you would call a Klingon a philosopher.  But
I am impressed that you recall the saying."

"I guess some of your lessons did get through to me,"
B'Elanna said with a small smile on her face.  "It just
took a longer time than you thought for them to sink in.
And I will pass them on to my daughter--to your

Miral looked at B'Elanna thoughtfully for a moment.  "It is
another dictum of Klingon honor that there is nothing more
honorable than to put your child's welfare above all other
consideration.  You have learned that, B'Elanna, and have
chosen a father for your child who places that above all
else also.  Doing so you honor me."

B'Elanna was speechless for a moment at her mother's open
praise.  "Thank you, Mother.  I'm just sorry you can't meet
your granddaughter."

"As am I," Miral said.  "But I think we will all meet again
one day, when our battles are honorably won.  Perhaps I
will even meet that husband of yours..."

B'Elanna smiled at her mother's dry tone.  "He will look
forward to it."

Naktor cleared his throat loudly and then spit copiously on
the stone floor.  He raised his heavy eyebrows and nodded
with satisfaction, clearly impressed by his own effort,
before he glared at meaningfully at Miral and B'Elanna.
B'Elanna rolled her eyes.

"Males," Miral said with disgust.  She gave her daughter a
conspiratorial look.  "Are they not the same everywhere?"

B'Elanna smiled.  In many ways, both good and bad, they

Miral looked at her daughter for a long moment.  Then she
raised her left hand and dropped it heavily on B'Elanna's
right shoulder.  "I am proud of you, B'Elanna.  *All* of
you.  If you have doubted it, do not any longer.  Q'pla."

Instead of twisting her right arm around to Miral's left
shoulder in the traditional Klingon mother/daughter
gesture, B'Elanna stepped forward and hugged her mother.
"Q'pla, Mother," she said, smelling briefly the familiar
scent of her mother, a scent she had known all her life.  A
scent she had missed for too long.

Miral returned the hug without restraint for several
moments before they pulled away from each other.  Neither
spoke as Miral turned and walked away.

It was Naktor who looked at B'Elanna again, his gaze stern.
"When you return, B'Elanna, daughter of Miral, perhaps you
will understand fully the concept of Klingon honor.
Winning a battle is not always having the strength and
courage to achieve a victory against outside enemies.
Sometimes it is having the strength and courage to win the
battle within yourself."

With that, Naktor turned and followed in her mother's wake.
As the two disappeared into the shadowed mists, B'Elanna
felt a momentary urge to run after her mother, to join her
in her battle.  But she knew she could not.  She had
somewhere else to be.  And others who needed her--

B'Elanna's eyes narrowed as something slunk in the shadows
where her mother and Naktor had disappeared.  She knew
before its form cleared the mists that it was the targ.  It
looked at her again, its eyes knowing and expressive, as if
it was trying to tell her something.  It stared at her for
several long moments, its gaze beckoning, before it turned

Somehow she understood what it wanted, and she didn't
hesitate.  She ran after the targ, ignoring the curious
looks of the Klingons milling nearby, determined to catch
up to it.  She could just make out its form ahead as she
moved into the mists, expecting them to part for her.
Instead the mists deepened and moved over her like a
blanket, enveloping her...


"Doctor, something's happening!"

The doctor nodded at Kes's words as they watched B'Elanna's
bioreadings.  The readings crept up just slightly.  "That's
it, B'Elanna," he said encouragingly.  He spoke to Tom,
"Her immune system accepting the nanoprobes..."

Tom held B'Elanna's hand tightly in his as he watched her
vital readings moving slowly but steadily upward.  "Come
on, sweetheart..."

"The alien cells are starting to fade from her skin," Kes
said from the other side of the bed.

Tom looked at B'Elanna's cheek, where one of the tendrils
of alien matter was visibly fading away.  "It's working."
He looked up at the doctor who stood next to Kes.  "It's

The doctor smiled broadly at Tom's fervent words.  "Of
course it's working.  B'Elanna's Klingon cells tried to
protect her, but once they recognized that the nanoprobes
were attacking the alien cells, they quit fighting against
themselves."  He looked up at the bioreadings again.
B'Elanna's vitals were back to near normal levels, and
number of alien cells was dropping rapidly.  "It's
progressing more quickly than even I expected."

Kes brushed her hand over B'Elanna's arm.  "They're almost
gone already.   She's on her way back, Tom."

Tom managed to return the Kes flashed at him.  He was
happy--ecstatic...and a little shaky.  He pressed his
forehead to B'Elanna's shoulder for a moment, blinking back
moisture and swallowing the lump in his throat, before he
looked up again.  He brushed his fingers over B'Elanna's
cheek.  The alien cells were gone, and her skin felt
neither too hot nor too cool to the touch.  It felt warm,
and alive.   "Thank you, Doctor.  I owe you."

The doctor cleared his throat before he spoke.  "I was just
doing my job, Tom."  Then his eyes narrowed contemplatively
and he added, "Though I believe you did mention a

Tom grinned openly at the doctor's droll tone, and the
spontaneous ease of his reaction felt good.  He
felt...light.  "It's yours, Doc.  As soon as you give
yourself a name."

Kes let out a low, husky laugh, and the doctor gave her a
sharp look.

Tom noted with relief that B'Elanna's vitals were now
normal.  And the alien cells were all gone.  Then she
twitched, and Tom grabbed her hand again.  "B'Elanna--"

B'Elanna sat up quickly, as if something had startled her.
She stared right at Tom, fully conscious though her eyes
were clouded with confusion.  But she was very, very much

"Hey," Tom said softly to her, his voice trembling just

Recognition dawned in her eyes.  "Tom...?"

He took the force of her movement easily as she launched
herself at him and hugged him tightly.  "I'm alive," she
murmured happily against his shoulder.

"Of course you're alive, B'Elanna," the doctor said.

B'Elanna pulled away from Tom and looked at the doctor.
Then she closed her eyes for a moment.

"Lie down," the doctor demanded, pressing B'Elanna's
shoulder from the other side as Tom gently lowered her to
the bed.  "You need to rest.  You've been through quite a

B'Elanna opened her eyes and stared at the doctor.  "I
know," she said simply.  She looked at Tom, her eyes still
a little dazed.  "Where's your bat'leth?"

"My..." Tom stared at her.  "B'Elanna, did you hear me
talking to you?"

B'Elanna looked bewildered.  "I was in a battle.  You were
there.  Then I was in the Klingon Hall of Transient Souls.
I thought I'd died..."

"You were in a deep coma, B'Elanna," the doctor told her.
"It's possible that you were dreaming in that state, and
that you even heard some of Tom's words."

"It wasn't a dream," B'Elanna said.  "I died."

"Your heart did stop for a minute or so," the doctor
acknowledged.  "But you didn't die.  And you're here now,
on Aurora, where you've been all this time."

B'Elanna frowned.  "It seemed real."

"Sometimes dreams are very real," Tom said gently.  "I
dreamed that you promised me you would wake up soon."

B'Elanna looked at him.  "I did," she said.

Tom kissed her cheek.  He wasn't sure if she meant that
she'd promised, or that she woke up.  He didn't know if
she'd heard him somehow in her unconscious state, or if
she'd had some sort of vision, but it was all the same to
him.  She was here, now.  "Yes, you did."

"My mother was there," B'Elanna told Tom.

"Your mother?"

B'Elanna nodded.  "She was waiting for me, to find out if
she would go to Sto-Vo-Kor.  My dishonor was affecting

Tom had read about the scope of Klingon honor, including
the way an entire family might bear one member's dishonor.
Though he found many tenets of Klingon culture intriguing,
even admirable, he didn't like that one.  He said
vehemently, "B'Elanna, you did not dishonor your mother."

"I did," B'Elanna disagreed.  "By not accepting my Klingon
heritage.  You said it yourself."

Tom shook his head.  "B'Elanna, I never meant-"

"It's all right, Tom," B'Elanna interrupted him.  "I know
what you meant.  And my mother and I...we worked it out."

B'Elanna looked amazingly happy about whatever had
transpired.  "Good," Tom could only murmur, feeling
confused but gratified to see that look on her face, and
sorry that he hadn't done anything to put it there

"It wasn't my time," B'Elanna said.  "I was sent back to
fight my battles here."

Tom frowned.  "With me you mean?  B'Elanna, I'm sorry about

B'Elanna squeezed Tom's hand.  "Not with you.  With

He didn't quite know what she was getting at, but he didn't
really care at the moment.  "I'm just glad you came back,
B'Elanna," he said fervently.

"The targ..." B'Elanna murmured.  "I followed it..."

Targ?  For a strange moment Tom thought of Toby, but then
he remembered her spirit guide, the one she told him she'd
tried to kill the first time she'd met it under Chakotay's
guidance.  She'd been furious that it was a *Klingon*
spirit guide, and a targ at that.  He'd never put much
store in the concept of spirit guides, but he supposed
anything was possible.

"I knew I had to come back, for M'Kaela, and for you--Tom!"

B'Elanna lurched forward and her eyes on him for a moment
were wild.  Despite her illness, her grip on his hand was
almost punishing.  "That creature..." her gaze was fearful.
"Where's M'Kaela?"

"She's fine, B'Elanna," Tom reassured her.  "You distracted
the alien long enough for us to get there.  M'Kaela was
still safe under the control console.  You were the only
one it hurt."

B'Elanna relaxed at his words.  "I want to see her," she
said softly.

"I believe Kes is taking care of that, B'Elanna," the
doctor told her.

Tom hadn't even realized that Kes had left.  He gave the
doctor a grateful look, then turned back to B'Elanna.  "She
really is fine, B'Elanna.  I've been with her as much as
possible.  But she's missed you."

"I know," B'Elanna said.  She closed her eyes and squeezed
his hand.  "I know you'd never let anything hurt her.  And
you'd never leave her..."

Tom looked at the doctor, who nodded, letting Tom know that
B'Elanna's fading in and out a little was normal.  He
kissed her brow.  "Not her, and not you, B'Elanna.  Ever."


Tom looked up at Harry and Kes.  They were both smiling,
and Kes was holding M'Kaela, who was looking at her mother
a little apprehensively.  She held her arms out to Tom as
Kes walked around the bed.  Tom took her, and rubbed her
back soothingly as she wrapped her small arms around his

"Mama?" M'Kaela murmured the word hesitantly, her head
cradled in the crook of Tom's neck as she looked at her

Tom knew M'Kaela sensed something was different.  She'd
been in Sickbay before, but she'd never seen her mother on
a bed here.  And right now B'Elanna looked...frail.  "Mommy
is okay, angel.  She's feeling much better."

B'Elanna opened her eyes then, and saw M'Kaela.  She smiled
with both welcome and relief, and raised her arms.  "Hi,

That was enough for M'Kaela.  Though her mother rarely
called her anything but her given name, she had no doubt
that those raised arms were just for her.  She nearly
jumped out of Tom's arms before he could sit her down on
the bed.  Then, with almost deliberate care given her
naturally exuberant nature, she draped herself over her
mother, her small arms stretched across her mother's body
as if to shield her, and her head resting on her mother's
chest.  B'Elanna's arms closed firmly around her daughter,
holding her there.  They stayed that way, as if neither of
them had the slightest intention of moving.

"Well, it is pretty close to M'Kaela's bedtime," Harry
murmured, his hand squeezing Tom's shoulder.  They traded a
look, and Tom returned Harry's happy smile.

The doctor however rolled his eyes.  "I suppose you'll be
expecting to stay here all night too," he said irritably to
Tom.  "This is not a hotel you know--"

"I'm sure Tom will be fine in the bed next to B'Elanna's,"
Kes said, giving the doctor a measured look.  They all knew
his grousing was mostly for show.  She set the bag she was
carrying on the aforementioned bed.  "Here are M'Kaela's
things, Tom.   Her bottle is in there."

Tom smiled.  "Thanks, Kes."  He looked at B'Elanna, who was
already asleep, her body resting from her ordeal.  M'Kaela
was awake, but her blue eyes were content and a little
drowsy.  She rarely wanted to go to sleep at her allotted
bedtime without a fuss, but he had a feeling that she would
doze off easily tonight as soon as he gave her her bottle.

"I could stay a little longer," Kes offered.

"Go," the doctor said brusquely.  "You've been here all
day.  Get some dinner, and spend some time with Andrew.
And Harry."

"Gee, thanks for adding me in, Doc," Harry said.

"You're welcome," the doctor replied dryly.

"Tom, we'll stop by the Mess hall, and have Neelix send you
something over."  Harry held up his hand before Tom could
protest.  "Everyone will want to hear the good news anyway.
If they haven't already."

"I'll be back in the morning, Doc," Kes said, as Harry
draped an arm around her shoulder.  "By then B'Elanna will
be awake and more alert," she gave Tom another encouraging
smile, "and we can move on to our other patient."

Kes looked across the room, and Tom followed her gaze.  He
knew Annika was almost fully recovered, except for the
final restoration of her neural implant.

Tom looked at the doctor again as Kes and Harry took their
leave, fully expecting some sarcastic comment or another
complaint about the crowds in his Sickbay.  Usually he
enjoyed trading acerbic jabs with the doctor, but the last
couple of days were catching up with him and he just felt

"Do you have everything you need?" the doctor just asked

"Uh...yeah," Tom said, stammering just a little.  "Thanks."

The doctor smiled a little smugly, obviously deriving a
moment's satisfaction out of catching Tom off guard.  "I'll
be in the lab working on Annika's neural implant, though I
don't expect you'll need me tonight."  He glanced at
B'Elanna, with M'Kaela curled half on top of her, and his
eyes softened.  Then he cleared his throat and looked at
Tom again.  "B'Elanna is perfectly fine.  All she needs now
is sleep."

With that pronouncement, the doctor departed, leaving Tom
with B'Elanna and M'Kaela.  M'Kaela's eyes were heavy, and
once Tom gave her her bottle her eyes closed as she
snuggled in comfortably next to B'Elanna, one arm still
over her mother's stomach.

A short while later Kathryn and Chakotay brought his
dinner, looking happy and relieved at the sight of
B'Elanna, healthy and peacefully asleep.  He ate with
surprising relish while Kathryn and Chakotay relayed
delighted messages from the rest of the colonists.

After they left Tom stretched out on the bed next to
B'Elanna's, resting on his side.  Tired as he was from the
past couple of days, he didn't fall asleep immediately.
Instead he watched B'Elanna and M'Kaela sleep for a long
time, thinking that he could do just that forever, until he
succumbed to exhaustion himself.


December 6, early evening:

The setting sun streaked pink across the sky as Kes and
Annika walked into the common.  It was cold, and there was
a thin layer of snow on the ground, the first of the
season.  The storm that had broken on them the night
B'Elanna had turned the corner toward recovery had been
surprisingly strong, though the forcefield had kept most of
the wind and the heaviest part of the snow out of New
Lourdes.  Kes was bundled in her thermal jacket, which kept
most of the cold out.  And the sunset was beautiful.

She noticed that Annika barely looked at it, let alone
appreciated its beauty.  She stared straight ahead, toward
their destination, bundled in her own warm green thermal
jumpsuit and jacket.  Beauty was "irrelevant" to the Borg,
and despite three days of attempted orientation by Kes and
the doctor, Annika clung hard and fast to her Borg

It was to be expected.  She couldn't change overnight what
she'd been for twenty years.  It would take time, and
patience.  Like anyone ripped from a familiar existence and
faced with adapting to the completely unknown, Annika
resisted.  Kes could sense the walls that enclosed her
emotions.  Emotions that were foreign to most of her
existence, but that were part of her human genetics.
Emotions that she didn't understand and that scared her,
even if she'd never admit it, or perhaps didn't realize it.
She covered that fear with a cool cloak of indifference,
seeking comfort in rational Borg observation, usually
tinged with her Borg sense of superiority.  Annika
dismissed most of what she was told as "irrelevant," but
Kes knew that she did not forget any of it.  One effect of
her long Borg existence was an eidetic memory.

Kes smiled at Joe and Samantha, who had spotted her across
the common, as both now raised a hand briefly in greeting.
She returned Naomi's enthusiastic wave.  Annika didn't
respond to their gestures, though Kes knew Joe and Sam, and
Naomi, included her.  Quite a few of the colonists had
stopped by Sickbay in the past couple of days to welcome
Annika.  Annika had remained remote and haughty,
discouraging their overtures.  But Kes knew her friends.
They would keep trying.

"That's Cafe Neelix," Kes told Annika again.  They had
already walked around the village once the day before, when
Kes had shown Annika the layout of New Lourdes.  But she
always liked how Cafe Neelix looked at night, with the warm
yellow light shining out of its windows.  Welcoming.  A
symbol of community and camaraderie.  She tried to impart
that to Annika now.  "You can always find thirty or forty
colonists in there eating dinner, sometimes more.  It's our
primary place to socialize with each other.  Neelix is
almost always there.  And he loves to throw parties.  In
fact, next week there will be a Founder's Day party.  We've
started commemorating the day we landed here, unintentional
our arrival was.  I hope you'll decide to come."

"I do not anticipate an interest," Annika said in her
deliberately pitched and carefully modulated voice.

Kes noticed that Annika's eyes followed Joe, Sam, and
especially Naomi, as they entered Cafe Neelix.  "Well, if
you change your mind, you will be welcome."

Kathryn and Chakotay stepped out of Cafe Neelix at nearly
the same time, greeting Joe, Sam and Naomi.  Then they
spotted Kes and Annika as they crossed from the common to
the duracrete pathway.

"Good evening, Kes," Chakotay said.  "And Annika," he
added, giving her a warm smile.

Annika's nod was barely perceptible.  As the informal
leaders of the colony, though they might discount such a
role, Kathryn and Chakotay had come to see Annika several
times.  The main topic of conversation each time had been
Annika's request to be returned to the Collective, or to be
given a shuttle to attempt the return herself.  A request
that was always refused.

"Annika, I'm glad to see the doctor has finally released
you."  Kathryn gave her a sympathetic smile.  "I'm afraid
he can be a little overprotective of his patients."

Annika ignored Kathryn's friendly overture.  "I dislike
that form of address."

"Annika?  It is a very beautiful name--"

"It is not my name," Annika stated sharply.  "I am Seven of
Nine, tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One."

"That is not a name," Kathryn said, her voice patient but
firm.  "It is a Borg designation.  I think you can see that
calling you Seven of Nine, tertiary...whatever would be a
little too much of a mouthful for us.  I think you'll get
used to your human name.  Your parents chose it for you,
after all."

Annika gave Kathryn a decidedly cold look, which didn't
faze Kathryn in the least.  "I understand that you will be
moving into Chakotay's old house," Kathryn continued.  "I
think you will be comfortable there."

"It's small, but it's cozy," Chakotay said.  "And if you
have any questions or need any help finding anything, you
can ask me."

"That will not be necessary," Annika said coolly.  "It will
no doubt be...sufficient."

"Once you get familiar with the colony we can build a house
to your specifications," Chakotay told her.  "That's one of
our ongoing projects on Aurora, building houses.  And if
you don't like the cold, you may want to make your
permanent residence in New Sonoma--"

"The weather is irrelevant," Annika said.

"Not to everyone," Kathryn answered dryly.  She smiled
again.  "If you decide to give us a chance, Annika, I think
you'll come to like Aurora.  We're building a good life

Annika looked around her critically.  "It is simple,
lacking in technological sophistication."

"True," Chakotay agreed amiably before Kathryn could speak.
She gave him a narrow look.  "But simple can be good

"Simple is inferior," Annika said flatly.  "In the

"Annika."  Kathryn held her hand up.  Her voice was not
unkind but there was a hint of steel in her tone as she
spoke.  "The Collective no longer matters.  I know this is
new to you, and you did not choose to be here.  It was
certainly as much of a surprise to us.  But we cannot
return you to the Collective--"

"I can return without your assistance, in a shuttle,"
Annika said.

"We can't spare a shuttle," Kathryn told her.  "And if we
could, it is unlikely that you would ever find the Borg.
By your own admission they have endured heavy casualties as
a result of their war with Species 8472."

Kathryn did not state the third reason, that if the
Collective still existed and Annika found them, Annika
might lead them back here, willingly or not.  No one on
Aurora could or would take that chance.  Kes suspected that
Annika was aware of that unspoken objection.  And Annika
had not offered assurance of the colonists' safety should
she return to the Collective, because she could not assure
it, and as a Borg she had no experience at lying.

"I know it's difficult for you now, Annika," Kathryn said
more gently.  "But I hope you will eventually be content
here.  You were very fortunate to have survived at all, and
it would be irrational for you to dismiss this chance at a
new life when there is no other option open, wouldn't it?"

Annika raised an eyebrow at that appeal to reason.

"Everyone here would like to be your friends," Chakotay

"I do not require friends."

Kathryn smiled at Annika's pronouncement, unoffended.
"Perhaps not.  But someday you may want them.  When you do,
you'll find plenty of them here."  She slipped her arm
through Chakotay's.  "Goodnight, Kes.  And Annika."

Chakotay repeated the farewells, and Annika watched the two
of them walk away, her face expressionless.  Finally she
turned back to Kes.

Kes rubbed her arms and gave Annika a friendly smile, the
kind she knew she would have to offer hundreds or maybe
thousands of times before Annika one day returned it.  But
patience was a virtue Kes had in abundance.  "Shall we go?
I know the cold is irrelevant to you, but I'm beginning to
feel it myself."

Annika kept pace with Kes easily as they walked quickly
into the residential section.  "That is Megan and Gerron's
house across the street," Kes pointed out, "and Sam and
Naomi's next to it, then Tom and B'Elanna's, though they
are residing primarily in New Sonoma now.  And here is the
house I share with Harry and Andrew."

Kes had stopped momentarily in front of her house.  The
lights were on, and she knew Harry and Andrew were there
waiting for her.  "Yours is the next one, right past ours."

Annika's hesitation as they reached the walkway to
Chakotay's old house--now hers--was barely noticeable, but
Kes saw it.  Kes led the way up the walk, and pushed the
door open.  "There is no lock on the door since we've never
used them on Aurora.  But if you do want one, I'm sure
Tabor or even Harry could make one for you."  Kes pressed
the light panel in the entryway.  The living room lit up.
It was small, but the red wood paneling made it feel warm
and cozy.  That, and the fact that Harry had turned on the
thermostat.  "I'll give you the tour."

"That is not necessary--"

Kes ignored Annika's protest.  The tour was brief, as there
were only four rooms, including the small bathroom.
Chakotay had left behind most his original furniture when
he'd moved in with Kathryn.  In the bedroom, Kes pointed to
the open closet.  "The doctor gave Mark Chapman your size,
and he replicated some basic clothing.  There are several
jumpsuits like the one you're wearing, and a robe.  In the
drawers there should be several sweaters, and jeans, and
some undergarments.  Mark was a little unsure about the
latter items." Kes smiled, remembering Mark's reaction to
replicating even the most modest undergarments.  "If they
don't suit you, you can recycle them for something else.
In the summer you may want to replicate some lighter
dresses and shorts, though by that time we should have our
first cotton crop in and Jenny Delaney and Golwat will be
taking orders for clothing."

  They ended in the kitchen.  "There are some basic
foodstuffs in the cupboards and the refrigerator," Kes
said.  "But you are welcome to eat at Cafe Neelix any time.
Many of the single colonists eat almost all of their meals

"I have observed that most of the colonists have formed
paired relationships," Annika said, speaking for the first
time since they'd started touring the house.  "Sex is the
typical method of moderately advanced species' to
facilitate reproduction, though it is inefficient."

Kes tried not to smile.  "It is the most enjoyable method

Annika frowned.   She had nothing to say to that.

"We've also been here two years in Aurora's calendar,
longer by the Federation calendar most of the colonists
knew," Kes said.  "Humans and the others here, including my
own people, the Ocampa, are social species.  We form
relationships because we desire close companionship, and
emotional intimacy."  She added thoughtfully,  "Though
there are still over four dozen colonists who are
unattached, including yourself."

Annika gave Kes a suspicious look.  "I have no desire to
form an attachment."

"You may someday," Kes said.  "And you may want children."

"I have no interest in children."

Kes had seen Annika watching the children curiously--Naomi,
Andrew, M'Kaela, and the others.  Though she'd only seen
them briefly, Kes had noticed that Annika seemed to soften
just a bit around them.  She planned to use that, but right
now she let the subject drop.  "Later this week the doctor
will move your regeneration chamber in here so you won't
have to go to Sickbay every day."

Annika looked at the bed.  "Sleep is wasteful and

"But it is enjoyable when you are tired," Kes said.  And
even more enjoyable when someone else was there to share
your bed, but she kept that thought to herself.  "You'll
experience biological fatigue now, though the doctor said
that you may only need three or four hours of sleep in
conjunction with an hour's regeneration."

Annika followed Kes back into the living room.  Kes walked
to the small desk in the corner by the window, with its
computer monitor Harry had brought over at her request
earlier in the day.  "This is hooked up to the main system
that includes the entire database of Federation knowledge
and the cultural archives."

Annika looked at the monitor dismissively.  "I have access
to the combined knowledge of eight thousand four hundred
and seventy one civilizations, including most of those
within the Federation."

"I know you have access to Federation science and
technology through your implant," Kes replied.  "But the
Federation database also includes cultural history,
literature, art, and music from over a thousand
civilizations.  Though that information was irrelevant in
the Borg Collective, you might find it valuable."

"How so?" Annika asked.

Kes was surprised that Annika didn't outright dismiss the
idea.  "History and the arts are very important aspects of
life for most cultures.  Learning about them will help you
understand those around you better.  And help you
understand your own humanity."

Annika looked disdainful at the thought.  "I have no desire
to understand my humanity."

"Art, and music, and literature also have intrinsic value.
They bring enjoyment on their own merit."  Which Kes knew
would also be a step in Annika's understanding of her
humanity.  "Though you can also study them simply to
further your accumulation of knowledge."

"I will consider that," Annika said after several moments.

Kes hid her smile.  She would mention the information on
Annika's family history later.  One step at a time.  "I
think I've shown you everything.  I have to get back home
now, since Harry probably has dinner ready."  Though she'd
already asked, Kes had to try one more time since she hated
leaving Annika alone.  "Are you sure you won't join us?"

"I do not wish--" Annika paused and Kes wondered for a
second if she was going to say "to intrude." Instead
Annika's expression froze and she finished, "for company at
this time."

Kes nodded.  "When you do, you know where to find me.
You're welcome anytime."

"Thank you."  Annika said the word hesitantly, as if she
was unfamiliar or uncomfortable with it.  "Perhaps I will
accept your invitation another time."

That was progress to Kes.  She decided to take her leave.
Annika followed her to the door.  "Goodnight then," Kes
told Annika as she opened the door.

"Goodnight," Annika said, almost as reluctantly as she'd
said thank you.

Kes could sense Annika's disquiet that she was leaving.
She knew Annika wasn't ready to indulge in social niceties
that she didn't yet understand or appreciate.  But neither
did she want to be alone, in silence and solitude that was
so different from the multitude of voices in the Collective
that had always been there for her.

"I have found Earth's classical music, and the concertos of
the Vulcan postmodern period to be soothing company," Kes
told Annika as she stepped onto the porch.  "They are on
the database."  She waved and walked down the path, leaving
Annika watching after her.  When she turned onto the
duracrete sidewalk and looked back, Annika had closed the

Though Kes felt sympathy for Annika on her first night of
truly individual existence, away from not just the
Collective, but the buffer of the often frenetic atmosphere
in Sickbay, she knew Annika would have to reach out in her
own time.  She could be encouraged, and welcomed--and Kes
knew everyone here would do that--but she would have to
take that step to reclaiming her life from the Borg by
herself.  All she needed was time, and there would be
plenty of that ahead for Annika.


"Here's your mom."

Kes smiled at Harry as she entered their house, and at
Andrew as he ran toward her.  She swung him up in her arms
and walked across the living room, noticing the multi-
colored wooden blocks on the floor, many of them piled into
a neat tower.  "I see you've been busy, Andrew."

"I'm building," Andrew said solemnly.

"When you grow up, we'll let you build the next colony
site," Harry told his son as Kes came into the kitchen.  He
gave his wife a quick kiss.

"Dinner smells good," Kes said.

"Yellow salmon," Harry said, referring to the fish in the
Bajor river that spawned upstream, as a fish called salmon
did on Earth, though he had told her that Earth salmon was
more orange than yellow, and had a heavier consistency.
"Sautéed, with new potatoes and banya beans."

Kes smiled, suddenly hungry.  As much as she enjoyed
socializing with everyone at Cafe Neelix, some nights she
liked it when it was just Harry and her, and Andrew.  She
set her son down.  "You can finish building if you want,

He nodded happily and skipped off to the living room.

"So how is our newest colonist?" Harry asked.

"Adjusting," Kes said.  "It will just take some time."

"She couldn't have anyone better than you helping her,"
Harry said gallantly.

"She'll need all of us as friends," Kes said.

"She'll have us," Harry said.  He grinned.  "We are one big
happy colony after all.  How will she ever resist us?"

"Eventually she'll succumb," Kes agreed with a small smile.
"Did Tom and B'Elanna get everything settled?"

"Yeah," Harry said.  "They are now officially living in
their house in New Sonoma."

Harry sounded vaguely glum about that.  "Harry, they're
only a few minutes away by transporter," Kes reminded him.
"Not to mention a fraction of a second by commlink.  And
with all the crossover work, we'll probably see them almost
every day."

Harry smiled ruefully.  "I know.  It just seemed odd a
while ago to look out the window and not see their lights
on across the street."

"In a few months we'll be building a house there too," Kes
reminded him.

Harry nodded, brightening a little.  "Oh, and Tom did
invite us to dinner next week."

Kes arched an eyebrow.  "Are you and Tom going to cook?"

Harry grinned.  "How does a barbecue sound?"

"Dangerous," Kes said, teasing him.

Harry frowned.  "Hey, we only almost burned down the house
once," he said glibly.  "And speaking of cooking..." he
turned his attention to the fish he was sautéing.  "Dinner
in about ten minutes.  Why don't you rest on the couch and
watch Andrew build a colony from a handful of blocks, and
I'll let you know when it's on the table."

Kes nodded.  It had been a long week, and she'd spent a lot
of hours in Sickbay, willingly, but it had been tiring.
Sitting down for a few minutes sounded nice.  "Okay."

She pecked Harry on the cheek, and a few moments later she
was stretched out on the couch, watching Andrew build his
block tower.  She felt a rush of love for her son as she
watched him, knowing how lucky she was.  During her most
recent physical the doctor had declared her extremely
healthy.  Compared to many of her Ocampa brethren, who'd
been enslaved and half starved, she had lived a pampered
life once she'd joined Voyager, always having plenty to eat
and excellent medical care.  The doctor told her she would
live well past the average Ocampan's nine years, perhaps to
the nearly ancient age of twelve or thirteen.


Kes looked at Andrew and smiled as he pointed to his
finished tower and said, "All done."

"And you did a wonderful job, Andrew," she told him.  He
crawled up into her lap and cuddled comfortably in her
arms, his eyes proudly on his creation.  She kissed his
dark silky hair.  "I'm proud of you."

When she was pregnant the doctor had told her that the
individual genetic influences in hybrid offspring could
vary widely from child to child.  Kes couldn't help being
glad that Andrew's human genes so strongly modified his
Ocampan genes.  He would grow about three times as fast as
a human child, but far slower than an Ocampan child.  She
treasured the opportunity to fully experience each stage of
his slower development, though that meant he would be in
his young adulthood when they would be separated.  She
might never get to know her grandchildren should they come
one day, but her time would be long enough, and she would
cherish every minute of it.  She already did.

Kes hugged him again as his satisfied gaze remained
steadfast on his constructed tower.  She glanced at Harry,
who was busy juggling plates and pans in the kitchen.  When
she transcended to her next existence, to the incorporeal
realm of Ocampan evolution, she knew her only regret would
be that she would have to leave Andrew and Harry behind.
Harry would be in his mid-thirties then, very much in the
prime of his life as a human.  He would likely live another
eighty years or more.  She didn't want him to live all that
time alone, but as quickly as everyone was pairing off in
the colony, he might not have a choice.

Kes knew it was unlikely that the original colonists would
ever have anyone else with whom to form relationships and
share intimacies.  She couldn't be sure about the Sikari,
of course.  They were reclusive, but out of wariness rather
than from a truly solitary nature.  There was a chance that
they would eventually seek social interaction with the
colonists in New Lourdes.  And other ships could follow in
their wake, though she'd sensed that Kathryn and Chakotay
had doubts it would happen any time soon.  Kes had also
sensed that they knew more than they said, but she didn't
try to delve any deeper.

But not everyone on Aurora had formed a lasting
relationship yet.  Some still remained alone out of choice,
like Tuvok, or because they simply hadn't connected with
anyone yet, like Lindsay Ballard, or because they weren't
ready, like Annika.

Kes knew it would take Annika a long time to adjust to her
own humanity.  Forming friendships would be hard for her,
let alone an intimate relationship.  But somewhere down the
line, once Kes had moved on, if Annika was ready, and Harry
was available, Kes would not be averse to them finding
intimacy with each other.

And Annika was not the only possibility.  Kes knew that
Harry and Lindsay Ballard had once had a brief interest in
each other, one that they had never made the effort to
develop beyond their initial mutual attraction, for various
reasons.  If she and Neelix hadn't already been at the
point of falling back to the simple friends they were, and
her relationship with Harry hadn't subsequently happened so
quickly because of their unexpected arrival on Aurora, she
thought Harry and Lindsay might have rekindled their
nascent attraction over time.  And it could still happen
one day...

Kes smiled, wondering what others would think if they could
read her thoughts, sitting here considering who should
succeed her as her husband's next wife.  But she loved
Harry, and once she was gone nothing would make her happier
than to think that he was living the life he deserved, a
full life with a loving companion, and perhaps even more

"Dinner is served."

Andrew scooted from her arms at his father's announcement
and bounded toward the dining room.  Kes stood, dismissing
her own thoughts.  They were just stray, undeveloped
possibilities for the distant future.  That would come much
later.  For now, it was the present that she cared about
and wanted to live as she always did, fully and savoring
every moment.

She walked to the dining room to join her husband and son.


December 6, mid-evening:

Tom looked at his daughter, who sat on the polished wood
floor in front of the double glass doors, already dressed
for bed in her aqua sleeper, engrossed in lining her
stuffed animals in a row.  He smiled as she chattered in
mostly untranslatable baby talk, telling them something
only she could understand.  She didn't acknowledge his
presence--or perhaps she did, by her contented play.  She
knew her mother and father were both right here, all
present in her world again, available when she wanted them.

After a final glance at M'Kaela, Tom stepped out onto the
veranda, feeling the cool evening breeze brush over his
arms.  In New Lourdes winter was settling in, but here it
was almost summer, and the day had been warm.  Now that the
sun was about to set, the air had cooled, though it was far
from cold.  B'Elanna obviously appreciated that fact
because her face was tipped up as if she was embracing the
evening air, and her lips were turned up in a small
satisfied smile.

He stared at her for several moments as she leaned with
arms braced against the railing, her slim body outlined by
the snug coral cotton dress she'd changed into earlier.
Her feet were bare, and the breeze teased at her hair, and
played with the skirt of her dress that fell into soft
folds around her calves.  She looked relaxed and almost
serene, as if she was thoroughly enjoying the quiet moment,
though he knew her mind was probably sifting through a
dozen different things at once.  And though he also knew
her appearance was deceptive, her small stature and slender
limbs made her look fragile, especially in the light of
recent events.  He shivered a little and pushed those
memories away.  He reflected instead that he'd kill him if
he ever suggested that she was in any way fragile.  Or
challenge him to an arm-wrestling contest to prove him
wrong--which she'd win.  She always did.

She turned around and caught the smile that lifted his
lips, and she was silent as he walked toward her.  Some
emotion must have shown in his eyes, because she looked at
him curiously, and then touched his cheek.  "What?"

"You look beautiful," he said simply.

Even after all their time together she still often rolled
her eyes at his compliments, or made some dismissive
remark.  But now she just smiled, and he kissed her, almost
chastely, letting his tongue just trace her upper lip
briefly.  After all, M'Kaela might come out at any moment.

"What do you think of the view?" he asked as he pulled away

She turned and looked out over their backyard.  To be
precise, they had no fence, and the whole of the
countryside was their communal backyard, shared with the
other three dozen or so who were part of the original
settlers in New Sonoma, and with the rest who would
eventually follow.  The back of their house faced north,
and the low hills of golden grass rolled off into the
distance, dotted with copses of trees--the ones they called
Aurora cypresses for their similarity to Earth's cypress
trees, the native yellow citrus trees with their lavender
blooms reminiscent of jacaranda blossoms, and even some
scraggly pines.  Soon enough they'd add groves of orange
and olive trees, and Bajoran kumsar trees.

Further in the distance, now only dark purple shadows in
the low sunlight, were the Bolian Mountains.  In the winter
they were snow-capped.  The slopes were gentle, not the
craggy inclines of the Northwestern Section peaks, and
there were no zebra cats.  They had great local ski

"It is a nice view," B'Elanna murmured, echoing Tom's
unspoken sentiments.  "And I like the weather."

Tom knew how much she appreciated that.  "Even if it does
get a little cold and rainy in the winter, we're only a
transport away from summer in New Lourdes."

"The rain might not be so bad," B'Elanna said. "As long as
it's not snow."  She turned around and looked at Tom,
resting her hips against the railing.  "I love the house."

Tom smiled.  Though they'd drawn up the plans together
months ago and she'd come to see the construction in
progress several times, B'Elanna's engineering skills made
her the busiest person on Aurora, especially while she'd
been determined to get the transporter on line.  She hadn't
seen the completely finished product until after the doctor
had released her three days ago.   "So do I.  Even if it is
a little bare at the moment."

They'd left most of their furniture at the house in New
Lourdes, knowing that they might have occasion to stay
there from time to time.  But some of the more personal
things they'd brought with them, and the few pieces of
furniture Gerron and Michael had made for the new house to
get them started.  Even with the transporter and the air-
sleds Billy Tefler and Janice Lamont had designed and built
for just that purpose, moving their things had been a lot
of physical work.  But they'd all begun to appreciate that
there was satisfaction to be found in physical work, and
few missed the complete reliance on technology they had
become accustomed to on Voyager anymore.

"We have what we need right now," B'Elanna said.  "The rest
we can add piece by piece."

Chell and Karen Jarvis had already moved wood and other
supplies into one of New Sonoma's waiting buildings to
start a furniture-making enterprise in New Sonoma.  Tom had
spent a few hours with Gerron and Michael back in New
Lourdes, working on a rocking chair for M'Kaela's first
birthday.  He had little experience, but he'd found that he
liked making things.  He had the thought now that he would
like to make some of the furniture for their house.  "I
guess we do have plenty of time to get everything the way
we want it."

B'Elanna seemed to hesitate for a moment, and her
expression was a little cautious when she spoke again.  "I
talked to Sue about painting the murals for M'Kaela's

Tom was silent for several moments.  Painting in any
artistic sense was certainly not a talent either he or
B'Elanna possessed, and they had always intended to take
Sue up on her offer even before the murals had become a
subject of some acrimony between them.  Tom's mouth twisted
ruefully at the memory.  And though they'd talked around
the subject since B'Elanna had been released from Sickbay,
neither of them had brought up the murals directly, until
now.  He had no intention of letting something so trivial
come between them again.  "M'Kaela is pretty taken with the
Alice in Wonderland characters."

"She also likes the pictures in Mar'chQ B'lagh," B'Elanna

"You don't have to do that, B'Elanna--"

"I want to," B'Elanna said firmly.  "You were right.
M'Kaela should learn about both sides of her heritage."

During their first night together after B'Elanna had been
released from Sickbay she had told him about her experience
in the Klingon Hall of Transient Souls.  He knew how
affected she'd been by seeing her mother again.  Over the
past three days they'd been so busy preparing to move
they'd had no time to talk any more about it.  What little
private time they'd had together at night before they fell
asleep, they hadn't spent talking.  But he knew she'd been
rethinking her rejection of her Klingon heritage and
history because of that meeting with her mother.  "I'm
sorry I was so pushy about that, B'Elanna.  I didn't have
any right to keep--"

"I pushed as hard as you did," B'Elanna said, interrupting
him.  "And any decision that concerns M'Kaela is one we
both should make."  She put her hand lightly on his arm.
"I'm sorry I tried to shut you out."

Tom clasped her hand in his.  "I know you haven't always
been comfortable with your Klingon side, B'Elanna--"

B'Elanna snorted at that understatement.  "Truthfully, I'm
still not all that comfortable with it yet," she admitted.

"Does that mean we can't build a bat'leth battle court in
the backyard?" Tom asked teasingly.

B'Elanna gave him a narrow look, but there was a hint of a
smile playing around her lips.  "Let's save that for a
while."  Then she sobered a little.  "Talking with my
mother did make me realize that I have to come to terms
with my...Klingon side.  It is part of me, and I can't keep
trying to hide from it."

"You know I've never wanted you to hide any part of
yourself from me, B'Elanna," Tom said softly.  "I love
every bit of who you are.  And who M'Kaela is.  I would
never want to change any part of either of you."

B'Elanna looked past Tom, into the house where M'Kaela sat
still rearranging her stuffed animals.  "Neither do I," she
said almost in a whisper.

There was an almost ragged edge of emotion in her voice,
and Tom tugged her hand, until she finally turned to face
him.  "B'Elanna--"

"So we're agreed on M'Kaela's room," she said firmly.

Whatever had upset her for a moment had passed, and he
sensed that she wanted it that way.  He nodded.  "Right.
One wall will be Alice in Wonderland, and the other wall
will be Mar'chQ B'lagh."

B'Elanna's lips quirked at the droll tone in Tom's voice.
"It's a contradictory combination, don't you think?"

Tom shrugged.  "Half human inspired creativity, half
Klingon fierce passion."  His gaze on B'Elanna was
meaningful.  "Contradictory maybe, but also endlessly

B'Elanna shook her head.  "If you say so."

"I do," Tom said.  He leaned forward and brushed his lips
lightly over hers.  "I do.  And I'm immensely grateful the
doctor for bringing you back to me."

"I am too," B'Elanna said.  Then she scowled a little.  "I
just don't like those nanoprobes inside me."

She'd asked--actually, demanded--that the doctor remove
them but he'd told her that once they were in her
bloodstream, they would stay forever.  "They're inactive,
unless the doctor does something to activate them," Tom
reminded her.  "The doc says they'll probably be in all our
bloodstreams eventually, since they are so efficient at
delivering medication and shoring the immune system.  We'll
be glad of them if any more virulent strains of that fever
Ken Dalby had should reappear, or anything else unexpected.
The nanoprobes can fight off microbes and viruses almost

"I know," B'Elanna said grudgingly.

"I'm grateful to Annika for that too," Tom added, "even if
her assistance was involuntary."

B'Elanna snorted.  "She needs to change her attitude."

Tom knew that B'Elanna was not completely sympathetic to
the ex-Borg.  They had visited Annika two days ago because
B'Elanna had felt honor bound to thank her, as had Tom.
Annika had been coldly dismissive, pointing out that
whatever benefit B'Elanna had received from the nanoprobes
had not resulted from any intent on her part so gratitude
was irrelevant.  Or something to that effect.  That had
been enough for B'Elanna to roll her eyes and walk away,
though Tom couldn't help feeling sorry for Annika.  "She
was a Borg for a long time.  It's got to be hard for her to
even remember how to act human.  But she'll get used to us

B'Elanna's expression was skeptical.  "Maybe."

"And with all the Borg knowledge the doctor said she has
retained, she'll probably be an asset to the community,"
Tom added.

B'Elanna looked at him sharply.

He actually thought that Annika would be a great asset to
B'Elanna, and would help lighten her heavy workload.  The
other engineers were all very skilled, but none had
B'Elanna's spark of creative genius.  With her Borg
knowledge, Annika might come close.  But he decided now was
not the time to mention that.  He just noted offhandedly,
"There's always something that needs to be done here."

B'Elanna didn't comment on that.  Instead she looked
puzzled.  "I think she was on Voyager."

"Annika?" Tom asked, confused.

"Yes.  When I was on the other Voyager, there was a woman
onboard who had been rescued from the Borg, unwillingly.  I
only saw her once from a distance, but she had the same
build and coloring as Annika.  And someone--Harry I think,
referred to her as Seven of Nine."

Shortly after M'Kaela had been born B'Elanna had told him
in detail about her experience on that alternate Voyager
months earlier.  She'd been uncomfortable enough with the
concept that it had taken her that long to even discuss it
with him.  As unlikely as her experience had seemed, he'd
recalled how strangely she--the other B'Elanna--had acted
that particular night, and how she'd wanted to tell him
something.  It had all made an odd kind of sense.

"When we were in Sickbay the other day she told the doctor
not to call her Annika, that she was Seven of Nine, adjunct
to some unimatrix whatever."

Tom nodded, remembering.  "It could be a coincidence.
There are probably seven of nine adjuncts to thousands of
different unimatrixes in the Collective."

B'Elanna shook her head.  "I'm sure it's her.  And I'm also
sure the Sikari was the name of the planet where that
B'Elanna was infected by Vorik's pon farr."

Vorik and his long-reaching pon farr, Tom thought.
B'Elanna had told him about the log she'd read of that
alternate incident, so similar to what had happened on
Aurora, yet with such a different end.  He'd been
immediately grateful for the way it had worked out here,
emotionally tumultuous as it had been for them, since he
and B'Elanna had ended up together.  Maybe that other Tom
and B'Elanna had too--eventually--though they would
probably never know.  "The Sikari planet is only eighty
five light years from here.  And Vorik's pon farr happened
in both places only a couple of months after we landed
here, so I guess it's not so unusual that they've shown up
on Aurora."
"Maybe," B'Elanna said.  "And that the Borg and Species
8472 fought a war in both timelines?"

"We were the same people until two and a half years ago,"
Tom said.  He'd quit trying to wrap his mind around *that*
concept, that one of him had become two of him in an
instant.  "It's not unlikely that we would have a lot of
similar experiences."

"Right down to the same Borg drone dropping into our

That one was hard to explain away.  He just shrugged.
"Maybe there is some sort of strange convergence of events
between our two timelines, and maybe our fates do stay
connected in some inexplicable way no matter where or when
we are."

B'Elanna stared at him.  "Tom, you scare me when you get

Tom smirked a little.  "Sorry.  Luckily it happens so

There was a small noise behind them, and they both turned
to find M'Kaela staring up at them.

"Hi, pumpkin," Tom said, smiling at his daughter.

M'Kaela raised her arms to him, and Toby dangled from one
hand.  The little stuffed targ had become her favorite
sleeping companion since she'd spotted it at the top of her
parents' closet a few months earlier.  Once Tom had let her
see it, she'd refused to let it go again.  B'Elanna had
been a little irked about M'Kaela's newfound devotion to
Toby, though B'Elanna had kept Toby secure herself ever
since Tom had given the stuffed animal to her during their
second year on Voyager, initially as a joke.  When they'd
first moved in to their house in New Lourdes, he'd been
stunned to find out that B'Elanna had even kept Toby, let
alone taken the time to stuff him in her duffel and bring
him with her to Aurora.

Tom glanced at B'Elanna now as he lifted M'Kaela in his
arms.  He knew B'Elanna's objection hadn't been because she
wasn't more than willing to give her daughter anything she
had, but because M'Kaela's preference for a targ over a
white rabbit, a pink pig, or his old teddy bear implied a
potential direction of interest B'Elanna would have
preferred M'Kaela never pursue.  Toby had been one more,
albeit minor thorn in their quarrel.

"Dada, toe."

"Throw?" Tom asked, understanding his daughter's request
perfectly.  It had become a nightly ritual.  He tossed her
in the air and she squealed with delight.  Once she landed
safely back in his hands she demanded again, "Toe!"

"Higher?" Tom asked, and then he flung her straight up in
the air.  She wasn't the least bit afraid, she never was.
She just screamed gleefully again, though this time she
lost her grip on Toby and he fell to the ground.

"And we wonder why she doesn't want to go to sleep,"
B'Elanna said dryly as Tom caught M'Kaela securely in his
hands again.  There was a hint of a smile on her lips as
she leaned over and snatched poor Toby from the spot where
he'd plunked on the deck.  She made a small show of
brushing off Toby, and them handed him back to M'Kaela, who
beamed and tucked him securely under one small arm.

"Dada, toe."

Tom met B'Elanna's meaningful gaze and smiled before he
spoke to his daughter.  "No more, oh fearless one."  He
bussed M'Kaela on the cheek and she giggled.  "It's your

M'Kaela's giggle faded.  She frowned mutinously and shook
her head, then pointed to the sun, its swollen lower edge
just now touching the hills to the northwest.

"I know it's still light, but that's because it's summer
here," Tom explained, even though M'Kaela couldn't
understand the concept.  In New Lourdes it would have been
dark for nearly three hours now.  "It's almost eight p.m.
After your bedtime, sweetie."

M'Kaela looked prepared to protest loudly, then she
unexpectedly acquiesced and rested her head on her father's
shoulder.  She'd toddled all over the house today while
they'd been moving their things in, without even a nap.
Tom knew she had to be tired.

"Boo..." M'Kaela murmured against her father's shoulder.

Tom looked at B'Elanna who raised her eyebrows.  "Ah,
blackmail.  Okay, I'll read you one book.  Doctor Seuss?"

M'Kaela raised her head and nodded.  B'Elanna brushed her
hand over M'Kaela's hair and smirked.  "Your daddy's a

"And I admit it," Tom told M'Kaela.  He resettled her in
his arms.  "Come on, angel.  We'll stop by the kitchen and
get your bottle.  Kiss mommy goodnight first."

M'Kaela twisted and stretched out her arms, clutching her
mother around the neck as soon as B'Elanna leaned forward.
"Goodnight, baby," B'Elanna said as she kissed M'Kaela's

Tom used the opportunity to kiss B'Elanna's temple.  "Back
in a few minutes," he promised, as M'Kaela unwound her arms
from around her mother's neck.  "Doctor about
'Cat in the Hat'?" he asked M'Kaela as he carried her in
the house.  He didn't need the book.  "The sun did not
shine, it was too wet to play.  So we sat in the house all
that cold, cold, wet day..."


B'Elanna watched Tom go, animatedly reciting Doctor Seuss
from memory.  Tom had started reading to M'Kaela when she
was six months old and she'd been enthralled ever since.
B'Elanna was more than happy to read to her daughter, but
it was Tom who was the born performer, reading with
enthusiastic expression and pantomiming the characters from
Mother Goose, or Doctor Seuss, or Alice in Wonderland with
ease.  He'd even produced a reasonable facsimile of a
fierce Klingon growl for Mar'chQ B'lagh, eliciting wide-
eyed fascination from M'Kaela.

B'Elanna frowned a little at the memory of her recent
objections to Tom reading the Klingon fairy tale to
M'Kaela.  It had been an angry reaction incited by their
original argument, and she regretted it now, even though
the matter was resolved between them.  They had both
apologized to each other profusely that first evening after
she'd come home from Sickbay, verbally and otherwise, and
there hadn't been a millimeter of space between them in
their bed that entire night.

She heard Tom's voice through the open door still reciting
Doctor Seuss to M'Kaela, though it faded as he moved
further down the hallway.  She smiled a little and shook
her head.  Harry had said it months ago--M'Kaela was a
daddy's girl.  That innocent comment had stabbed B'Elanna a
little, and not because she doubted that her daughter loved
her.  M'Kaela had clung to her for two days after her
release from Sickbay, until she'd felt secure that her
mother was safe and wouldn't disappear again.  B'Elanna had
felt the stab remembering how her own father had once
called her "daddy's girl."  And her mother had used the
term later and less kindly, though perhaps she'd been
derisive in an effort to break that bond that she thought
was only hurting her daughter.  For years B'Elanna had
resented seeing the other girls on Kessik with their
fathers, fathers who saw and applauded their daughters'
every achievement, fathers who hadn't left them and never

M'Kaela would be like those other little girls, growing up
secure in her father's love and acceptance, knowing that he
would always be there.  B'Elanna was fiercely happy for her
daughter, and if she sometimes felt the tiniest bit wistful
when she watched Tom with M'Kaela, she kept that to
herself.  Though she suspected that Tom knew.

B'Elanna leaned on the railing again and stared at the sun
sinking behind the hills, only a red sliver still visible.
Her mother had been right.  She'd never allowed herself be
completely happy, even when she'd felt satisfaction in her
passion for the Maquis cause, and later pride in her
position as chief engineer on Voyager.  Even the love of a
husband and daughter hadn't completely quelled the deep
anger from her childhood that had always been inside her.

She *had* found a measure of contentment on Aurora, but the
resentment and turmoil over her Klingon heritage had just
been shoved down deep, ready to erupt, as it had when Tom
had suggested introducing M'Kaela to more facets of Klingon
as well as human culture.  The idea of a mural of Klingons,
that she would have to look at every time she stepped into
M'Kaela's bedroom, had been the final straw.

Since seeing her mother B'Elanna had realized that she
didn't want her daughter to do what she'd done--spend years
mediating an internal war between the two sides of herself,
and losing.  She wanted M'Kaela to find the balance between
the two, to accept both instead of living in the constant
turmoil that she had.  And though she knew her quick temper
and her single-minded intensity would always be part of
her, for the first time she could feel that deep-seated
anger and resentment loosing its grip on her.  It felt

The sun disappeared, leaving behind glowing streaks of pink
and purple that stretched across the sky.  To B'Elanna's
right the buildings on the north side of the main village
were illuminated by the low lights that lined the central
square--Sacajawea Plaza.  Right now it was empty of people,
as were most of the two dozen other houses around them.
Only Gerry and Amanda, Ahni and Mortimer, and Chell and
Golwat had gotten settled in so far.  But in another week
the rest of the houses would be occupied, and the buildings
of the village would be bustling with busy people.

Funny that as busy as she'd always felt on Voyager, with
some failing part or system always in need of attention,
she was even busier here.  The transporter, the satellites
and commlinks, the engine designs for a larger and more
useful shuttle--along with the constant construction, and
growing crops--the work here for was never-ending.  And
with the whole planet for them to spread out on, it would
probably always be that way.  But she'd never shied away
from hard work.

The isolation was a little more difficult, but even Tom,
who had an even more restless soul than she did--and a
natural desire to fly and to see new horizons--had found
something worthwhile here in the security of community and
family.  Something that soothed a part of him that needed
connection, the kind that he'd once forfeited because he'd
burned his bridges behind him and had had no place to call

B'Elanna knew her mother understood the attraction of
colony life.  She'd stayed on Kessik to pursue her work
even after her husband had left.  But her passionate nature
had never changed, even in the end...


She turned at Tom's voice.  He stepped onto the veranda,
carrying a bottle of wine and two glasses.

"M'Kaela's asleep," he told her.  "I didn't get past the
first story.  I think she was too tired from exploring the
house today to fight it."

B'Elanna took the glasses from him as he popped the cork on
the bottle.

"Ktarian merlot," he told her.  "Hopefully next year we'll
start bottling our own wine, but for now this will do."

"For what?" B'Elanna asked, an expectant smile on her face.

"To celebrate the first night in our new house," Tom said
as he poured wine into both glasses.

"How are we going to do that?" B'Elanna asked slyly.

"Oh, I can think of a dozen different ways," Tom drawled,
setting the bottle on the wide railing.  "But they all end
in the same place."

B'Elanna smirked at his provocative tone and the wicked
smile on his face.  This latest, most serious fight they'd
ever had, along with her illness, had been the longest
period they'd ever gone without each other, over a week.
But their passion had returned ten-fold over the past few
nights.  And it showed no signs of abating.  She licked her
lips slowly, her action completely intentional.

"But we do have all night," Tom said, his eyes glittering
in the dim light as he raised his glass to hers.

"That's good, because it may take all night.  Again."

Tom smiled, and kept his eyes on her as he took a long sip
of wine, a definite promise shining in their blue depths.
After a moment his expression grew more serious.  "What
were you thinking about when I came out?"

"My mother," B'Elanna said quietly.  "I was wondering if
she's really dead."

Tom didn't offer her any false assurances.  "I don't guess
we can really know."

"I know the doctor thinks it was all a hallucination, but
it was real...well, some sort of reality," she amended.

"A vision," Tom suggested.  "You met your mother in

Tom wasn't teasing her; he was looking at her solemnly.  "I
never believed much in that stuff," B'Elanna replied.  She
smiled a little sheepishly.  "At least I didn't think I

"Maybe you should talk to Chakotay about it some more," Tom
told her seriously.

B'Elanna shrugged.  "Maybe.  I'm sure he'd love to know
about the targ."

Tom's eyebrows rose.  "Your spirit guide?"

B'Elanna saw the hint of a smile on Tom's face.  She had
told him once about her one spirit guide journey with
Chakotay, cut sadly short.  "Maybe.  But I didn't try and
kill it this time," she said dryly.  Her eyes narrowed
thoughtfully.  "Though it did stay out of my reach, maybe
on purpose."

Tom laughed at that, and she glared at him for effect.
"Maybe it did," he agreed.  He shook his head.  "I'm just
glad that your spirit guide was there to watch over you."

She heard the gratitude in his voice, and his willingness
to believe in whatever had helped pull her through, without
reservation.  She supposed if the targ had been her spirit
guide, it had done its job, despite her animosity at their
first meeting.  "So am I.  I'm not happy that I nearly
died, because I know how much it scared you."  She touched
his free hand.  "But I'm glad that I saw my mother again,
and got to talk to her.  It made me face some things about
myself, and about her."

"Then I'm glad for you," Tom said.  "But mostly I'm glad
that it's over."  He shuddered a little.  "You scared me
out of ten lifetimes."

She squeezed his hand.  "I'm sorry."

Tom raised her hand to his and kissed it lightly.   He
looked at her with unusual gravity.  "If you had died, I
would have regretted forever that our last words to each
other were so angry."  He shook his head. "I was disgusted
with myself because I didn't reach out to you that night. I
wanted to, but I stopped myself ten different times."

B'Elanna looked at him closely.  Maybe he hadn't been
sleeping as soundly as she'd thought.  "Why?" she asked,
knowing she might as well ask herself the same question.

"I was afraid you'd pull away again," Tom said simply.

"I wouldn't have," B'Elanna said softly.

"Next time we fight..." he paused, and his look on her was
almost amused.  There was no point in him saying they
wouldn't fight anymore, because it was just in their

"I know there will be a next time," B'Elanna said, smiling
a little.  "Just don't leave again without saying goodbye."

Though she'd said it lightly, Tom looked at her searchingly
for a moment, and if he sensed some serious undertone.  He
set his wine glass aside and slid his arms around her
waist.  "B'Elanna, even if we get angry with each other
sometimes, I love you.  And M'Kaela.  You know I would
never leave and not come back, don't you?"

She set her glass next to his and slipped her arms around
his neck.  She did.  They kissed briefly, a quick melding
of tongues, and she tasted the wine on him.

"I'm happy with you, and M'Kaela," he said as they pulled
apart a little.  "And I'm happy with this house too."

So was she.  Amazingly they hadn't argued once about the
design.  They'd both wanted the same things.  Open space,
lots of windows, and five bedrooms...  "We do have plenty
of room to...grow," she said wryly.

Tom grinned, understanding her meaning.  "You mean we'll
eventually fill all those bedrooms?"

B'Elanna smiled back.  "If you want to."

Tom gave her a definite "are you kidding" look.

"In a year or two," she added.

"That will be a lot of decorating to do," Tom pointed out.

"We'll get around to that eventually too," B'Elanna said.
"Once all the other work here is done."  She remembered an
offhand comment Joe had made about the transporter.  Her
glance strayed toward the deserted village.  "I want to
check those transporter buffers.  Joe said something today-


B'Elanna looked at Tom, startled for a moment.  He was
shaking his head, looking a little exasperated.  "I assume
you don't mean tonight.  And the doctor said you should
take some time off for a few days."

B'Elanna snorted.  "He just said that to annoy me."

Tom looked at her appraisingly. "We could always take a

"A vacation?"  B'Elanna echoed.

Tom made a small amused sound low in his throat.  "You make
that sound like an unheard of concept.  People do take
vacations you know.  Though maybe not Klingons."

B'Elanna smirked.  "Actually they do.  They go on a nice
bloody hunt."

Tom's lips twitched.  "I was thinking more along the lines
of a trip to the beach.  There's a beautiful white sand one
only twenty kilometers from here.  We could take M'Kaela.
She's only seen the ocean so far from the vantage point of
a shuttle."

B'Elanna had to admit the idea actually sounded nice.  And
she did have a fondness for beaches.  "I'll think about it.
Maybe in a couple of weeks, when everyone's settled into
New Sonoma, we can squeeze in a day or two and take

"Okay," Tom agreed readily.  Then an eager gleam entered
his eyes. "And once Pablo and I have time to build the
ground cars, it will be a lot more convenient getting
across short distances than relying on the shuttles."

B'Elanna's eyebrows rose.  They'd had this particular
argument before.  As arguments went this was the kind that
they thoroughly enjoyed, that roused their combative
instincts into good-natured banter.  She frowned
deliberately at him.  "Air cars are a lot more practical,

"But not nearly as fun," Tom said.  "Besides, Gerry and
Lindsay are working on the air car design.  There are uses
for both versions."

"Maybe."  B'Elanna conceded that point.  "But your design
of a..." she hesitated.  "What did you call it?"

"A hotrod," Tom said, his eyes lighting up.  "A '69 Camaro
to be precise.  It was a classic."

"Right," B'Elanna muttered.  "And even in its day I'm sure
it was completely impractical."  She gave him a
disapproving look.  "An internal combustion engine, Tom?
Do you know what those things do to the environment?"

"Okay, we can modify the engine for electricity," Tom said,
being surprisingly agreeable.  "It's the design that counts
anyway.  And just wait until you ride in it.  With the top
down and the wind in your hair--"

"The wind in my hair?" B'Elanna asked dubiously, wondering
if that was actually supposed to be an attraction.

"You can feel the speed that way, and the freedom."  Tom
grinned broadly.  "Trust me, you'll love it."

"Maybe," B'Elanna said grudgingly, though she knew she
probably would.  It was hard not to be affected by Tom's
enthusiasm sometimes.

"And by the winter I should also be able to start working
on a sailboat."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes, but she couldn't help smiling at
Tom's eager plans. Even though they'd had little time on
Aurora to pursue hobbies that weren't in some way useful to
their survival on Aurora, now that they were prospering,
more leisure time would come.  Tom's ability to relax so
completely and have fun was one of the things that had
attracted her to him, even if it had made her a little
envious back when she'd first met him--enough to derisively
dismiss his playfulness as irresponsibility, despite the
fact that he'd always come through when it counted.  She
hadn't often had much time or use for that kind of fun for
its own sake before she'd met Tom.  She gave him a
mischievous look now.  "I guess we do deserve a"

Tom's eyebrows rose at that.

She massaged his neck with expert strokes.  "And speaking
of fun, we have a brand new bed that we haven't...slept in
yet.  Don't we need to christen it or something?'

Tom smirked.  "We could break a bottle of champagne over
the headboard, but that might make it a little
uncomfortable to sleep in, with champagne all over the

"Then I guess we'll have to find some other way to christen
it," B'Elanna said archly.

Tom smiled seductively back.  "I know four or five ways.
But first..." He disengaged her arms from around his neck.
"Before we go in, I have one more part of our new home
inauguration to share with you.  A small demonstration of
the music system."

They'd included a music system in the plans, because Tom
certainly wouldn't be without one.  "I installed the it
myself," he said as he stepped into the house.  He paused
just inside the sliding door, and his hand disappeared
behind the wall.  "And I added in a little bonus."

A moment later the soft slow strains of music drifted
around B'Elanna.

He stepped back out onto the veranda and looked at her
expectantly.  "What do you think?"

She listened to the rich, full sound of the music
surrounding them on the veranda.  "Not bad."

"Not bad?" Tom asked incredulously.

"Okay, not bad at all," B'Elanna amended, with a droll

A low, sultry voice began to sing the lyrics to the music.
It was something 20th century, which fit Tom's tastes, but
she also recognized the song now from the Doctor's summer
"Concert on the Common."  Though several colonists had
participated, including Harry playing his clarinet, and Sue
on her oboe, it had mostly been a forum for the doctor to
impart his newfound interest and self-professed talent at
singing.  Besides several opera pieces he'd also done a
rendition of this particular song.

"There's a someone I'm longing to see,
I hope that he'll be
Someone to watch over me."

B'Elanna looked at Tom, who smiled and extended his hand
toward her.  "May I have this dance?"

She took his hand and moved smoothly into his arms.  He
slipped one arm around her waist and she rested her head on
his shoulder.  The soulful, haunting words of the song
drifted over them, and as they began to sway together she
could hear Tom singing along very softly against her hair.

"To my heart she'll carry the key.
And this world would be like heaven
If she'll follow my lead,
Oh how I need,
Someone to watch over me."
Tom's hand crept slowly down, coming to rest well below her
waist.  She smiled and followed suit, placing her hand
firmly on his jean-clad butt.  She squeezed lightly,
pressing them more intimately together, a promise for
later.  He chuckled, knowing full well what kind of night
was to come.

But first they danced.


Kathryn was standing on the porch, wrapped in her thermal-
lined jacket, staring contemplatively at the sky when
Chakotay walked outside.  It took her several seconds to
realize that he was there, but when she did, she turned to
him and smiled as he held out a cup filled with steaming
herbal tea.

"Thanks," Kathryn murmured, wrapping her hands around the
warm cup.  She sighed.  "I'm not going to like this, you

Chakotay's eyebrows rose.  "The tea?"

Kathryn shrugged.  "It's all right.  But I meant, how will
I live without coffee for the next seven months?"

Chakotay grinned at her plaintive tone.  She wouldn't like
it but he knew she would do it.  Kathryn had no lack of
determination.  "The doctor said you can have half a cup a

Kathryn rolled her eyes.  "Just enough for me to be
reminded of what I'm missing."

"Neelix says his decaffeination process is just about
ready," Chakotay said.

"I guess that will be better than nothing," Kathryn
replied.  She took a sip from her cup.  "Thanks for the

"Did the doctor say anything else?" Chakotay asked.

Kathryn shook her head.  "He said I'm healthy, and I
shouldn't have any problems at all with my pregnancy."  She
was silent for a moment, and an oddly vulnerable look
crossed her face.

"What?" he asked gently.

Kathryn smiled just a little tremulously, and pressed her
free hand over her stomach.  "It's hard to believe that
there's a baby growing inside me."

Chakotay put his hand gently over hers.  "It's amazing, but
I believe it."

"I honestly never thought I'd be a mother," she said, with
conviction in her voice.  "Oh, I guess I fantasized on
occasion that somehow I would be able to do both," she
amended.  "Be a Starfleet captain and have a family too.
But I know how difficult that is in reality."  Her voice
was wistful.  "Deep down, I knew children would never be in
the cards."

"You were wrong about that," Chakotay pointed out softly.

Kathryn gave him a faint but genuine smile.  "I guess I
was.  But I'm also not a Starfleet captain anymore."

Chakotay looked at her curiously.  They'd never spoken much
about Mark.  Chakotay had no insecurities about Kathryn's
past relationship, but he'd wondered occasionally.  "Didn't
you think that one day Mark and you might have children?"

Kathryn shook her head without hesitation.  "No.  We had
very mobile lifestyles.  We spent more time apart than
together."  She shrugged.  "Don't get me wrong, our
relationship worked well for us they way it was.  But it
was what it was.  I don't think we would ever have
progressed to marriage or children."

She didn't sound regretful at all, and Chakotay was happy
about that.  "I guess he didn't want kids then."

Kathryn looked at Chakotay oddly.  "I never actually asked
him," she said ruefully.  "If he did, and just never got
around to saying so, then I hope he found someone else more
suitable for him.  I hope he found someone else period."

"I'm sure he did."  Chakotay couldn't say he cared all that
much one way or the other, but he knew Kathryn would like
it to be so.

"Cold?" Kathryn asked him suddenly.

Chakotay realized that he was rubbing his arms.  He hadn't
bothered to put on his jacket, and the cold was starting to
seep a bit through his flannel shirt.  "I'm fine.  Though
maybe you shouldn't be out here."

Kathryn gave Chakotay a long look and obviously saw the
teasing glint in his eyes.  "The baby's plenty warm," she
said dryly.  She looked up at the sky again.  "And I was
just looking at the stars..."

Chakotay followed her gaze.  Since they'd arrived he'd
thought it curious how much the sky here looked like the
sky from Earth.  The stars didn't form the same
constellations of course, but the way they were scattered
across the sky rather than densely packed was similar, as
was the view of the Milky Way.  It stretched across the
sky, a distant band of light obscured here and there by
dark regions of stellar dust.  On the other side of that
band, almost equidistant from the center of the galaxy as
Aurora, was Earth--

"I wonder if anyone else will come."

Chakotay looked at Kathryn.  Her face was still turned up
to the sky, and there was a little furrow in her brow.  He
heard both apprehension and curiosity in her voice.
"Eventually," he said.  "Or sooner."

When Kathryn gave him one of her patented exasperated looks
at his cryptic answer Chakotay just smiled.  "Does it
really matter?" he asked.  "Whenever they come, we'll just
deal with it."

Kathryn slipped her arm around his waist.  "That's one
thing I like about you, Chakotay.  You live in the

"It's the best place to be," Chakotay said categorically.
He wrapped one arm around her shoulders.

Kathryn smiled.  "I guess you're right.  Our life is
working out quite well here, surprises and all."

"It is," Chakotay agreed.  "We're prospering and growing,
in more ways than one."

Kathryn looked thoughtful for a moment.  "I wonder how Tom
and B'Elanna are enjoying their first night in their new

"You wonder *how*?" Chakotay asked meaningfully.

Kathryn pulled back a little and gave him an admonishing

Chakotay just grinned at her.

"Whatever they're doing," Kathryn stressed the word
"whatever" primly, "I'm just glad they are fine again."

"I think they're more than fine," Chakotay said.  "Whatever
issues they've been dealing with, what happened to B'Elanna
put those into perspective and made them realize again what
is really important."

"It certainly scared Tom," Kathryn said, a sympathetic look
on her face.

"A close call like that is enough make you realize what you
almost lost," Chakotay said.  A sudden image of Kathryn
unconscious in the snow, so pale and white that he was sure
she was dead flashed through his mind.  He pushed it away;
it still came to him on occasion enough in nightmares.
"And B'Elanna was affected too."  The edginess that was
such a part of her hadn't been as noticeable to him in the
past few days.

"She's seemed almost tranquil the last couple of days,"
Kathryn agreed.  She looked at Chakotay.  "Whatever she
experienced while she was unconscious, it obviously made
her reevaluate some things."

Kathryn spoke as if she understood that concept.  And
B'Elanna had told them a little about her experience in the
Klingon afterlife, about seeing her mother--or a vision of
her mother.  "I guess dying and seeing your mother in the
afterlife might do that," Chakotay agreed.

"Her heart stopped for sixty seconds," Kathryn pointed out,
unable to resist being precise.

"Who knows where the mind or soul can travel in what to us
seems like sixty seconds," Chakotay said.  "And a vision's
not necessarily less real than what we see around us now."

Kathryn's lips quirked.  "I suppose I do know that.  And I
still feel certain of one thing the Traveler said."

"What's that?" Chakotay asked.

She smiled up at him.  "That we're going to survive here
just fine."

"We're going to thrive here," Chakotay corrected her.  "We
already are."  He shivered slightly.  "Though I have to
admit I'll thrive better if we go inside where it's

Kathryn laughed, and kissed him lightly on the lips.  "All
right."  Then she glanced toward the sky again, and paused.
"The aurora's starting."

He looked at the horizon above the trees.  Sure enough the
bright bands of the aurora were starting to ripple across
the sky in shades of green and yellow.  They played out
almost every night of the year in Aurora's strong magnetic
fields, both here and in the northern hemisphere.  If Tom
and B'Elanna were outside, they were probably looking at a
similar display.  But he suspected that they were otherwise
occupied.  "Let's go in."

Kathryn let him lead her inside, and he closed the door
behind them while she hung her jacket on the rack.  He had
already started a fire in the fireplace and it was roaring
nicely, and in less than two minutes they were snuggled up
together on the couch.

"I do love winter," Chakotay said into Kathryn's hair as
she settled next to him.

Kathryn snorted.  "I thought you were cold."

"I'm warming up," he said softly.

Kathryn pulled the woven throw that was draped over the
back of the couch down over their legs.  The sky patterns
in azure, turquoise, salmon, white folded together as she
reached toward the coffee table where she'd set her cup of
tea.  She left that and picked up the paperbound book next
to the cup instead.

"Jane Eyre?" Chakotay read the cover.

"I haven't read it in years," Kathryn said.  "I replicated
it with my monthly rations."

Some things they hadn't got around to producing from raw
materials yet, such as clothing, electronics, and personal
items like books.  The replicator came in handy for those
things, and it was another piece of vital equipment that
Chakotay knew was on B'Elanna and Kathryn's long list of
items to be refined and expanded so it could be used more

"What about you?" Kathryn asked, glancing at the bookcase
now half-filled with the bound books they both preferred to
read over a datapadd.

"I think I'll just watch the fire for awhile," Chakotay

Kathryn gave him a thoughtful look, then she smiled and
resettled herself against him and opened her book.  He
could almost hear her sigh deeply with contentment, the
same contentment he felt.  He slipped his arm around her
waist, letting his palm rest flat over her stomach, and she
pressed her free hand over his.

He did watch the fire, but he watched Kathryn too.  And he
couldn't help remembering the dream he'd had the night
they'd spent in the Southern Transarctic Mountains.  It
wasn't unusual that he remembered it, since he remembered
most of his dreams.  To him they were full of meaning.
They weren't always premonitions of the future; in fact
that was a rare occurrence for him.  But that night, in a
cave sheltered from the cold, he'd dreamed of sitting in
front of a warm fire with Kathryn, dreamed of them cuddling
each other and laughing together.  He'd dreamed of holding
his wife, and of a baby to come.

Perhaps that dream had been a premonition, and in it he had
seen his own destiny.  Or he had just wanted it so much
that it had happened, and he'd made his own destiny.

Either way, it was his life now.  He kissed the top of
Kathryn's head gently, though she was too engrossed in her
book now to notice.  Or maybe she did, because a fleeting
smile touched her lips.  Then he settled back and watched
the fire some more.


Kathryn's Journal--
Tues, December 6 (Earth calendar, June 27, 2376):

I'm starting to get used to writing these new dates, but I
can't quite let go of the Earth dates yet.  It's the same
for everyone on Aurora.  We still struggle between the two.
Most of us are just so used to calculating in
Earth/Federation time. Especially when it comes to
children's development we tend to think in Earth months and
years.  Tom and B'Elanna celebrated first M'Kaela's
birthday in conjunction with the Earth calendar, on what
would have been March 18th.  By Aurora's longer rotation,
M'Kaela was born a year to the day that B'Elanna made her
turnaround toward recovery in Sickbay.

But our focus is slowly changing, as we adapt more and more
to the natural order here.  One of these days we'll be
totally conditioned to Aurora's longer year.  One day I
might even quit recording the Earth date here.  Or maybe
not.  It's still a way for many of us to remember our
origins, and those we left behind.

New Sonoma added three more colonists today, Tom, B'Elanna,
and M'Kaela.  It odd to think that they are 6000 kilometers
away right now, half way across the planet.  It's only a
few seconds by transporter, but it still feels strange not
to all be in the same small village.  And by the end of
next week all the new houses there will be full with forty-
three colonists living in the northern hemisphere.

Meanwhile the Sikari are now settled in the Northeast
Sector, somewhere in the labyrinth of caves in the
mountains there.  Exactly where we don't know with pinpoint
accuracy, though we could pick them up with sensors on a
shuttle flyover.  But it's their choice right now to remain
secluded, and we'll respect that.  Tuvok and Jim Hargrove
did go with two of the Sikari this morning to remove
several final items from their downed ship.  Larem insisted
that we salvage the ship itself for metal and parts as
payment for our assistance.  It wasn't necessary, but we
did accept the offer.  It's clear that they also don't want
to be beholden to anyone.

I suppose we may see the Sikari from time to time.
Chakotay thinks so, once they feel more secure in their new
surroundings and on Aurora in general.  Kes agrees.  The
Sikari have several adolescent children with them, and it's
certainly possible that they may have more children.  Kes
expects that they will be like almost all races, and it
will be the children who will facilitate more contact even
while the adults give up their cautiousness more slowly.

We shall see.

We also have our newest colonist, Annika Hansen.  She moved
into Chakotay's old house tonight.  She is not at all happy
about being here.  I sympathize with her, since it must be
very difficult to rediscover her human self and try to
readjust to it after so many years as a Borg.  Still, we
have dropped her into our midst "cold turkey" as the saying
goes, and we'll expect her to immediately begin
contributing to our community.  Coddling her would only
delay the process, and I have a feeling that she would
despise any sympathy or special treatment from us in any
case.  Though we all hope to eventually be her friends, Kes
is the one who has taken it upon herself to befriend Annika
first, and with her usual unwavering determination.  Kes
has such a persuasive way that I know even Annika won't be
able to maintain her distance forever.  I feel sure that
Annika will accept us, and herself, eventually.

We are growing as a colony in other ways too.  We have
seven children here now, from Naomi Wildman to Mario
Gennaro and Lina Keoto's almost two-month-old daughter,
Roxanna.  And very soon there will be an eighth.  Amanda
Lang-Culhane is due to deliver her baby in three weeks.
Billy Tefler and Tal Celes are expecting their first in
four more months.  And today the doctor confirmed that I am
pregnant.  I felt certain that I was, but I didn't want to
write it here until the doctor confirmed it.

That sounds superstitious of me, doesn't it?  Chakotay
would be amused.  But it just hasn't quite sunk in yet,
that I will be a mother in seven months.  Or six months by
Aurora's calendar.  When I first sat in the captain's chair
on Voyager, ready to take her out from Deep Space Nine on a
short mission, I certainly never could have dreamed where I
would be a little over five years later.  I never would
have wanted to dream this as my future.  My hopes and
ambitions back then had a different focus entirely.  But I
find myself now with no regrets at all over how my life is
turning out.  I even find myself wondering sometimes about
how my life would have gone if we hadn't ended up here on
Aurora.  And if I would have ever been successful getting
Voyager back home.  I know there would have been
satisfaction in that, but I wonder if I would have found
the same kind of happiness in that achievement.  And in my
life afterwards.

Who knows?  Chakotay said it tonight, and he's said it
before.  Whatever comes, we just deal with it, and we go on
from there.  That's the only real control we have over our
own lives, going on from those moments where everything
suddenly changes, and making our destiny over again from
that point, each time it happens.  As we are going on with
our lives here, adapting to changes once again.

Poets on Earth for centuries said that the three most
meaningful words someone can say are "I love you."  Two
centuries ago a novelist in the Orion sector said that the
three most valuable words that can be offered are "Let me
help."  And a decade ago a Bajoran monk said that the three
most comforting words to remember are "life goes on."  No
matter what unexpected twists and turns life takes, many of
them painful, but as many joyful, it is true.  Life
continues.  Life goes on.

As it does for us here on Aurora.


The end.

"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss.  Copyright 1957 by Dr.
Seuss Enterprises.

"Someone to Watch Over Me" by George and Ira Gershwin.
Copyright by WB Music Corporation.