Title: Phoenix Fire

Pairing: C/P (predominantly)

Chapter Eight (8/?)

Summary: Miles O'Brien thinks about the current situation. Julian Bashir makes his decision. Tom resists. Seven of Nine speaks. Chakotay broods. 

I am an individual.

--- Seven of Nine.

Miles sat at his console, staring at the data with bleary eyes. He didn't bother to touch the plate of moichi next to the mug of half-finished coffee; the traditional Japanese rice-cake remained uneaten. With a wry grin, he poked at it. He never liked moichi with its elastic chewy taste. Keiko had gotten the Japanese dessert from Osaka for the New Year Celebration but he had steadfastly refused to consume the sticky white-colored cakes. 

He smiled and went back to his task. The moichi could wait. He could probably give it to Jadzia or Kira. 

The station had become more crowded these past few days. Quark's bar was packed with the personnel of two large starships and the holosuites had a brisk business. According to Jadzia, the "Vulcan Love Slave" was the most popular (or most notorious). Miles could still remember seeing Worf's disapproving frown when the joined Trill blithely gossiped about recent station news over several glasses of synthenol. Sometimes, Worf could be uptight and Miles wished that the Klingon would loosen up a little. 

All of them had their differences. They had argued over philosophies and ideologies. Sometimes, they had almost come to blows. Yet, somehow, they managed to get things done. The DS9 crew tended to overlook their differences in times of crisis and worked out a compromise of sorts. 

Miles wondered about the Voyager crew, currently placed under tight surveillance, and he shuddered. Admittedly, he hated the situation. Everyone did. Kira, Jadzia, even Julian who looked rather stressed lately. The young doctor had politely refused to play a game of darts and the engineer shrugged. The poor man appeared more haggard than usual and most of the times, he could see hurrying across the Plaza on his way to the Infirmary. There was whispered talk about some operation but even the medical staff whom Miles was acquainted with was evasive. There was also the topic of the Borg woman and how that was linked to the Enterprise, resting at her designated berth. 

Picard, Miles thought about his former XO. Wolf 359. Locutus of Borg. All these left a queasy feeling in his stomach. He had sleepless nights about Wolf 359. He could still remember it as though it had only happened a few days ago. 

Yet, as much as he hated the Borg for what they had done to millions of civilizations, Miles found himself sympathizing with the half-Borg woman now contained within the Infirmary. He felt, not for the first time, the complexity of the matter, the multi-layers and levels that baffled him. There were politics involved. Politics, Miles grumbled to himself, power play

Keiko's smile and her twinkling eyes came to his mind. So did the memory of seeing his daughter sing at the school, her sweet voice filling the place with its innocence. With a sigh, Miles O'Brien took another glance at the moichi and wondered about peace.

*** *** ***

Julian Bashir felt as if he was talking to a wall. A hard unyielding wall. 

"Tom, I need your consent," he persisted, his tone urgent. He was also getting a tad impatient. Thomas Eugene Paris was unmoved.

The blue-sapphire eyes pinned him down with their intensity. Banked fire was seen there, curbed rage that burned deep within. Tom had insisted on getting back to his wheelchair and now, he sat in it, his back straight and his head held high. 

"Bring me back to my crew," the answer was cold with a steely edge. 

"Tom, by goodness's sake," Julian's patience went down a notch. "I have orders!"

"On whose orders?" There was a feral glint in Tom's eyes now, reminding the doctor of a trapped wolf or a caged hawk. 

Julian turned away, stiffening. 

"My crew waits for me," Tom stated coolly. "Or better, do what you are ordered to do and free Seven."

"You know I can't."

"Bullshit, Julian."

"Don't get vulgar with me," the doctor snapped but Tom only laughed. Julian bristled instantly and he had to force down his frustration rising in his chest. Tom was stalling. Julian frowned. Tom was a different man. He was no longer the nonchalant man he used to know. There was purpose in him. 

"Doctor," a nursing aide came over, holding a plastic cup in her hand. Julian nodded and she walked away quickly. 

"Glucose," the doctor's lips quirked in a slight smile. Tom took it and sniffed its contents.

"Probably poison," Tom said but Julian's face was sincere. Or, he thought he saw sincerity. He took a sip, then another. He soon finished it. The water was sweet and refreshing, soothing his dry throat. 

He experienced as if he was floating in a state of calm. His body became limp and Tom felt his eyes drooping. Immediately, he knew that he was drugged. Anger bubbled upwards and he swore, glaring at his enemy. "Fuck you, Julian. I will fight youuuu …We…will f…ight you…" His words slurred and Tom struggled to stay awake, even though Julian's face blurred with the edges becoming feathery. "Fu..ck…you…you lying…basta…rd…"

Tom's head dropped to his chin. But Julian could see the clenched fists. Even in his drugged state, Tom fought on. 

"I am sorry, Tom." Julian whispered softly, motioning to his assistants. " I am really sorry…"

*** *** ***

Seven of Nine watched the Starfleet officers walk into her 'prison'. Yes, that was right. A prison. She gazed at the group, led by the bald captain. 

"Locutus," Seven spoke in her low authoritative voice. "We meet again." 

"Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One," Jean-Luc Picard stared back bravely, at the beautiful woman standing before him. 

"I am Seven of Nine," a ghost of a smile played on her lips. "But my friends call me Seven."

Picard stood back. The tone of certainty struck him forcefully. She knew what she was talking about. She wasn't like Hugh, the Borg whom the Enterprise had rescued and lost. 

"I know that you seek answers," Seven continued, regarding him with her icy-cold expression. "That is not relevant."

"You have to help us."

"I am no longer from the Collective. I have broken away from the Borg. I am an individual."

Picard's frowned deepened. Her tone was casual, haughty even, as if she was batting away an annoying pest. 

"So am I," he countered back. Two security officers walked up behind Seven but she only glanced at them coldly.

"You seek to capture me," she said.

"We seek your help."

"I am an individual," Seven stated again. "I am no longer Borg."

"You are half-Borg," Picard nodded and the officers inched closer. 

Seven's expression was unchanged. She walked past Picard, glancing at him. Then, followed by the officers, she headed towards the door. 

*** *** ***

The silence in the 'debriefing room' made Chakotay edgy. He found himself pacing like B'Elanna. 

Only an hour ago, he experienced a premonition. Something had happened to Tom and he was helpless. 

Chakotay swore and his oath turned heads. Kathryn Janeway had a bemused smile on her face. But the rest of the crew bore expressions of weariness, of exhaustion. The place was getting to some people already.

He must fight on, for Tom's sake, for Voyager's sake. 

For the Maquis, a voice said in his head. 

He closed his eyes, thinking of the tranquil mountaintop with the green grass and the crystal stream. He drank deep from the inner peace taught by his father and generations of Native Americans. Calm seeped into his nerves like a healing river. He needed that. 

Tom, I need you, he groaned softly. The memory of blue eyes and a dazzling smile kept him going. The memory of a familiar touch, a gentle caress on the cheeks, caused Chakotay to moan inwardly. His body seemed to throb with pain; he doubled upon himself, hissing softly. He hurt

"Chakotay?" Kathryn's voice was distant. It bore a hint of concern. "Chakotay, what's wrong?"

"Leave me," he ground out. His head felt as if it was about to implode. He breathed slowly, to calm himself. Gradually, the pain faded away, leaving behind afterimages of colored sausages. He blinked, shaking his head. 

A cool hand rested on his face. It was Kathryn, her face scrunched up in a frown. Her grey eyes observed him closely. "Chakotay, what's wrong? Are you in pain?"

"Someone just dumped a bag of bricks on me," Chakotay joked but he felt cold inside. They are doing something to Tom and he can feel it in his bones!

The captain of Voyager didn't chuckle. Her frown only deepened. "Do you need medical help?" Her tone was firm, serious. 

Chakotay made a negative sound. He glanced over at the watching crew. B'Elanna and Harry appeared equally concerned. Tuvok was the usual unruffled Vulcan but the Native American was sure that the security chief was worried. Neelix poured some water from the flask and gave to Chakotay who nodded his thanks. Ayala walked over with a folded blanket; he wanted his friend to rest. 

Touched by this display of concern, Chakotay gratefully accepted the blanket. His head throbbed faintly but the moment seemed to have passed. What was happening to him? He realized that he was disturbed, very much so. 

They had to get out of here. Out from this prison.

He exhaled explosively and willed the appearance of the kind-eyed silver wolf. She sat on the mountaintop, waiting for him.