This story is dedicated to Melanie Torpey, who graciously sent me a complete copy of "Hope and Fear" after I missed the first half! Thanks, Mel, you‘re fantastic!
The disclaimer‘s at the end. This story takes place....oh, probably somewhere early in the fifth season. Enjoy, and send all feedback firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
by JoAnna Walsvik
"Computer, increase temperature by ten degrees Celsius," B‘Elanna Torres mumbled, searching for her blanket with numb fingers. Sleepily, she wondered why her quarters were so cold.
Neither the heat nor her search changed for the better. "Computer, acknowledge."
There was a laugh from somewhere above her. "I don‘t think it‘s going to answer you."
Her eyes flew open at the sound of a deep, unfamiliar male voice. She pulled herself into a sitting position, but immediately regretted the movement, for it caused her head to nearly split in two. She managed to choke back a scream, and instead uttered a small moan and squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to lessen the agony.
"Easy," the unknown voice said with a note of caution. "The sedative will wear off completely in a few hours, but until then I‘m afraid you‘ll have a rather nasty headache. Breathe deeply and the pain should ease a bit."
B‘Elanna did as the voice advised. The fierce throbbing inside of her skull dwindled to a dull ache that was still painful, but much more bearable. She opened her eyes and gingerly turned her head towards whoever was speaking to her.
Her gaze fell upon a young alien, about her age, with thick, rust-colored hair and stormy gray eyes. His complexion was flawless, except for a thin red scar that started just below his left earlobe and continued to the base of his neck, where it disappeared underneath his mud-colored tunic. Two narrow, oblong ridges protruded from each side of the bridge of his nose, dipped down and swept over his cheekbones, and then disappeared once they reached the tips of his eyebrows. Small ears, a sharply defined nose and a long, thin mouth with pale lips completed his features.
Although he did seem faintly familiar, B‘Elanna couldn‘t identify him or his species. At the moment, though, her head ached so badly she could barely remember who she was.
The alien smiled. "Good morning, Lieutenant. It‘s good to see you awake—you‘ve been unconscious for almost two days. Oh, by the way, I adjusted the temperature; is it satisfactory?"
"It‘s fine," she said, dismayed at how weak her voice sounded to her ears. "I‘m sorry, but I don‘t know who you are."
"Hmmm." His piercing eyes studied her intently. "I suppose the sedative is affecting your memory."
"Sedative? What sedative? What am I doing here?"
"Wait for a few minutes and I‘m sure your recollections will return to you. Until then, I‘ll try to prompt your memory. Do you, by any chance, remember the Xaladian embassy?"
The word echoed in B‘Elanna‘s head and caused a torrent of memories to flood her brain, bringing back the events of the past few hours.
Voyager had dropped into orbit around a class-M planet populated by a very reserved but essentially friendly race called the Xaladians. According to information obtained at a trading post a few weeks ago, Xalad‘s people had been severe isolationists until only five years ago, when their aged monarch had died and his granddaughter had taken over the throne. Sources had said that the new queen was an intelligent young woman with radical ideas, and she had decided to integrate Xalad with its neighboring systems and trading posts, a movement that had been gaining popularity even while their former ruler had governed. The planet had a rich wealth of minerals, metals, and cuisine to offer, and within three years of their initial foray into the realm of commerce, Xalad‘s trading business had flourished.
Although there was still a small faction opposed to interaction with other species, for the most part the general population of Xalad approved of the new boost to the economy and welcomed the opportunity to meet with other races.
Captain Janeway had seized the chance to acquire more supplies and had immediately set a course to Xalad. Voyager and her crew had been greeted warmly and invited to visit Xalad in order to view the merchandise available for purchase.
The captain had accepted the invitation and taken Neelix and B‘Elanna Torres with her. The former was eager to view the foodstuffs while the latter was interested in any materials that could be of use to Engineering.
It was while the three officers were at the Xaladian embassy, meeting with the Queen Lemari and the Xaladian Council, that the entire building had suddenly been plunged into darkness. All of the computer systems had crashed, the emergency lights and systems had failed to come online, and, for some unknown reason, even the commbadges of the Starfleet people had stopped functioning.
In the ensuing panic, as hundreds of people had struggled to vacate the windowless council room, B‘Elanna had tripped, fallen, and been nearly trampled by the crowd of frenzied Xaladians. By the time she was able to regain her footing, the entire room had been almost completely emptied. While she was blindly trying to reach an exit, someone had violently grabbed her and pressed something to her neck. The next thing she remembered was waking up and feeling terribly cold.
As B‘Elanna gazed at her new surroundings, she realized that she was in some kind of cell, about the size of Voyager‘s brig, with dingy beige walls, floor, and ceiling made of some kind of hard-polymerized substance. There wasn‘t a visible light source, but the room was well illuminated.
In the corner, neatly folded, were a thin white blanket and a small pillow. An alcove off to the side revealed what appeared to be a small bathroom, but other then that there was no evidence of a door or window, nor any other form of escape. B‘Elanna glanced at the alien and idly wondered how he planned to leave.
He was still gazing at her with an amused smile resting on his lips. Familiarity stirred the hazy cobwebs of her mind like a strong wind; she knew this alien from someplace, but couldn‘t recall where. The answer was right there, but she just couldn‘t...
Suddenly, realization struck her like a bolt of lightning. She had seen this man with Queen Lemari in the Council Chamber. "You—you were an assistant to the queen."
"Correct. Your memory has returned, I see."
"You kidnapped me." Eyes narrowed, fists clenched, B‘Elanna began to rise to her feet. Despite her aching head, she was ready to do battle.
She stopped short when the alien pulled a nasty-looking weapon, considerably like a smaller version of a Starfleet phaser rifle, from a holster at his side.
"Please, don‘t give me any trouble, Lieutenant. I really don‘t like weapons, and I‘d hate to see such an attractive face turn into charred flesh."
Reluctantly, B‘Elanna sat back down, willing herself to stay calm. A fiery temper wouldn‘t help the situation—or her—at all. "Do you have a name?" she asked.
Her captor chuckled. "Of course. I am Lereb Olber, Third Attendant to the Sovereign Ruler of Xalad, Her Majesty Queen Lemari Artimn. However, you may call me Lereb. And your captain introduced you to the queen as Lieutenant B‘Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer of the Federation Starship Voyager. It‘s an honor to make your acquaintance."
"I wish I could say the same."
"Oh, come now, B‘Elanna—may I call you B‘Elanna?"
She shrugged, keeping her expression neutral. "You‘re the one with the gun."
Lereb clapped his hands in a delighted, almost childlike gesture. "I‘m glad you‘re being so cooperative. Well, B‘Elanna, I assume you‘re wondering exactly why you were kidnapped."
"Yes, the thought had crossed my mind."
"You see, I belong to an illustrious group of Xaladians known as the Isolationist Faction. Our goal is to remove Xalad from the company of the common galaxy rabble and return to our former state of seclusion," Lereb intoned, sounding more like he was reciting from a book then merely giving a simple explanation. "Until now, our pleas to return to solitude have been ignored by the queen as well as the rest of Xaladian society. Now that we have taken nine members of the Xalad Ruling Council and a visiting alien hostage, we have demonstrated that we will not cease in our attempts until we are successful."
He‘s a lunatic, was B‘Elanna‘s initial thought, but she kept her comment to herself.
"Actually, you weren‘t meant to be kidnapped at all," Lereb continued. "The Faction had merely intended to capture the last ten Council members out of the Council Assembly Chamber. However, you tripped and fell behind, and became one of the ten—a stroke of pure luck on our part. After we had taken you, our leader realized that you were a very valuable asset. One of our queen‘s most visible shortcomings is her kindheartedness, and she will not allow an innocent alien to die because of her beliefs. She has no choice but to concede to our demands and relinquish the throne of Xalad, or face the consequences."
B‘Elanna took a deep breath, steeling herself for the response she anticipated, and asked, "If the queen refuses your demands, are you going to kill me?"
Lereb‘s gaze met hers, and in the gray of his eyes she saw no ambivalence. "Yes. If necessary."
She felt her heart sink but kept her chin up, determined not to display any fear. "I see."
The Xaladian rose to his feet, revealing a thin, lanky frame. He kept his eyes locked on hers. "I give you my word that you will not be tortured during your stay here. If we are forced to terminate you, your death will be quick and painless. Despite what you might think, we are not a bloodthirsty people."
"How comforting." Despite her best efforts, she couldn‘t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
Lereb, however, didn‘t seem offended. "You might want to try and get some rest," he said, gesturing towards the blanket folded in the corner and the pillow resting on top of it. "The effects of the sedative will wear off faster if you sleep."
Although she had no intention of doing what he suggested, B‘Elanna moved to the corner to appease him. Lereb watched her for a few moments and then nodded, satisfied.
He pressed his hand on a portion the wall, and the material beneath his fingers began to glow with a crimson light. A low-pitched chime sounded, and part of the wall disappeared to reveal a darkened corridor beyond.
"I‘ll return shortly with food," he promised, and left the cell.
An instant after his exit, the missing section of the wall reappeared. B‘Elanna inspected it carefully, but without a tricorder she couldn‘t even find evidence that a door existed. Holographic, maybe? her tired brain thought, unable to come up with any other theories. Her headache had subsided for a while, but it was now growing worse. She decided to do as Lereb had advised and rest. Once she was stronger, she could formulate an escape plan. With luck, Captain Janeway already had one, and she‘d be back on Voyager and having dinner with Tom in a few hours. Until then, all she could do was wait, and hope.
When B‘Elanna woke, her head was still pounding. Trying to stand only made her dizzy, so she contented herself with sitting up and leaning against the cell wall. *I thought Lereb said that sleep would make me feel better, not worse,* she thought, taking deep breaths in an effort to lessen the pain. As before, it helped, but only slightly.
She was about to attempt to stand again when a portion of the wall opposite her began to dissolve. A moment later, Lereb entered the room, carrying a covered tray. The door materialized behind him before B‘Elanna could get more than a glimpse of the darkened corridor she had seen before.
"Good evening, B‘Elanna," Lereb said, smiling brightly. "I‘ve brought you some supper."
He knelt and set the tray in front of her, removing the cover with a flourish to reveal a soup bowl containing a reddish-brown broth, a plate of a purple jelly-like substance, silverware, and a steaming cup of something crimson. "Katela soup, farnok jelly, and a hot cup of kimian tea."
B‘Elanna peered at the tray. Although the food looked a great deal better then what she ate in the Mess Hall, she was tempted to refuse it. Her grumbling stomach informed her otherwise, however, and she picked up the spoon. "It‘s not drugged or anything, is it?"
"Of course not," Lereb said, straightening his shoulders indignantly. "I gave my word that you wouldn‘t be mistreated while you were here." He eased onto the floor, sitting against the wall opposite her. "Go ahead, try it."
The soup looked the safest, so B‘Elanna carefully sipped. The broth was tangy and flavorful, and considerably better then leola root stew. "It‘s good," she admitted, sipping another spoonful.
"I‘m glad you approve."
The jelly was a little too sweet for her taste, but the tea was spicy and warm. B‘Elanna was savoring the crisp flavor when Lereb suddenly broke the silence.
"Are you married?"
Her hand, lifting the cup of tea to her lips, paused in mid-air.
"I don‘t mean to be intrusive. I‘m just curious. Do you have a husband?"
B‘Elanna decided to answer him. "No, I don‘t."
She hesitated for an instant before answering, softly, "Yes."
"What‘s his name?"
"Is he an officer on your ship?"
"What does he do?"
"He‘s the pilot."
"Is he any good?"
Her chin soared. "He‘s the best."
Lereb‘s grin softened his entire face. "You love him very much, don‘t you?"
She almost asked what business of it was his, but the honest curiosity she saw in his face changed her reply to a simple, "Yes, I do."
He nodded, and his questions stopped just as abruptly as they had begun. B‘Elanna took advantage of his sudden silence to ask a few questions of her own.
"What about you? Are you married?"
He quickly looked away, but she didn‘t miss the sudden pain that leaped into his eyes. "I used to be," he said, his voice almost inaudible to her ears. "Her name was Kerilynn."
Lereb didn‘t reply at first. "She was killed two years ago," he said at length. "She was attacked by an offworlder."
B‘Elanna was taken aback. "Oh...I‘m sorry."
"That‘s how I got this," Lereb continued, absently tracing the scar on his face with his forefinger. "We were walking home from the Palace when an alien assaulted us. He had a knife, and I jumped in front of Kerilynn to protect her, but he stabbed me and I lost consciousness. When I woke up in the hospital, the doctor told me that the alien had killed my wife for the bracelet she‘d been wearing on her wrist. The bracelet I gave her for our first wedding anniversary."
"Was her killer ever arrested?"
Lereb‘s eyes hardened. "No. He was able to escape in his ship before Xalad security officers could apprehend him."
"Is that why you joined the Isolationist Faction?"
His head jerked up instantly, and he stared at her for a long while, silent. "Yes," he said finally. "I suppose it is."
B‘Elanna set her cup down, slowly and deliberately. "Do you think that I‘m responsible for your wife‘s death?"
"You? No, of course not."
"Then why," she asked, crossing her arms over her chest, "am I here?"
Lereb‘s voice and expression were pained. "You‘re here because the Faction‘s leaders decided that hostages would be the most effective method of getting our point across to the queen."
"Do you agree with them?"
"Well...I don‘t believe in endangering innocent lives, but this situation called for drastic measures. Nothing else was working."
"Did you ever stop to consider that the reason nothing else was working was because no one on Xalad wants to be isolated? That maybe the Xaladian people actually like interacting and trading with other species?"
His lips tightened into a thin line. "It‘s for their own protection."
"Protection against what?"
"Offworlders, of course."
"Offworlders like me?"
Lereb visibly started. "No, dangerous offworlders."
"Such as the one who killed your wife."
"So how do you know who‘s dangerous and who‘s not?"
"That‘s why Xalad must remain isolated. There‘s no way to tell."
"Better safe then sorry."
"And exactly how many Xaladians have been hurt or killed by offworlders?"
"Since the Emergence five years ago, there have been between twenty and fifty deaths or injuries as a direct result of an encounter with an offworlder. I‘m not sure of the exact number."
B‘Elanna regarded him with dark, pensive eyes. She slowly drew her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her chin on her knees. "What if something bigger happened?"
"Something bigger?" Lereb‘s forehead knitted in confusion. "I don‘t understand."
"An invasion, for instance. What if another race tried to conquer Xalad?"
"That‘s preposterous! I can‘t imagine—" "Hypothetically speaking, then. What would happen?" "Why, Xalad would fight back, of course."
"What if their technology was more advanced? What if their soldiers largely outnumbered yours? Then what would you do?"
"I—we‘d—" He tried to stammer a reply, but was unable to think of a suitable response.
"My point exactly. You wouldn‘t have information from other species to inform you of an incoming invasion. You wouldn‘t have updated technology as a result of trade with more sophisticated races. You wouldn‘t have allies to fall back on. You‘d be isolated. Alone."
He stared at the floor, speechless.
B‘Elanna lowered her voice. "Xalad would be defeated. The death toll would be more then twenty-some people. Much more."
"But that‘s only a hypothetical situation!" Lereb distractedly rubbed his hands together.
"Hypothetical, yes, but plausible."
He jumped to his feet and moved towards the invisible doorway.
He reached to "unlock" the door, but his hand trembled and he slumped against the wall, his head drooping. "Why are you telling me this?"
B‘Elanna got up as well and followed him. "I want you make your leaders understand that isolationism might not be what‘s best for the people of Xalad."
He turned to face her, so abruptly that B‘Elanna was nearly knocked to the floor. "Why would you care about Xalad‘s people?"
"Because I don‘t want to be held hostage," she said, her voice quivering with emotion. "I want to go back to Tom, and Engineering, and my friends. I don‘t want to be cooped up in this claustrophobic little cubicle with nothing to do except sleep and eat. I want to go home!" She turned away, tears pricking her eyes, and took deep breaths in an attempt to regain control of herself.
Lereb frowned, his gray eyes troubled. "I don‘t like this any more than you do, but my hands are tied. My leaders have made their decision and it‘s my duty to stand by it. I‘m sorry."
B‘Elanna refused to answer him. She faced the wall, her body rigid and unyielding. Lereb gently touched her shoulder, but she shook his hand off.
"If it makes you feel any better," he offered, slight hesitation in his voice, "your captain is very upset by your abduction. She says she won‘t rest until you‘re safely back on your ship, and I tend to believe her."
B‘Elanna whirled around to face him, her eyes wide and anxious.
"You‘ve talked to her?"
"No, not personally. She transmitted a message on all subspace frequencies, and we picked it up over our comm system."
She gazed at him with renewed hope, her chin lifted and her dark eyes glittering. "I certainly hope the Faction is taking her seriously. She means what she says—I know from experience."
He nodded, his expression solemn. "I don‘t doubt it."
"Then tell that to your leaders."
Lereb opened his mouth to say something, but changed his mind after she turned, once again, to face the wall. He picked up the tray and quietly left the room.
It was only after B‘Elanna heard the door disappear that she dared to let her true feelings show. Slowly, she sank to the floor and buried her head in her hands. She missed all of them so much—the captain, Harry, Tom...especially Tom.
The last time she‘d seen him was the night before she had beamed to Xalad, when they‘d had dinner together in her quarters. She‘d been excited about the Away mission, solely because of the prospective supplies that Engineering would receive, and Tom had teased her mercilessly the entire night. He‘d managed to work her up into a rage, and right when she was about to knock him into the next millenium, he‘d smiled, kissed her cheek, and told her that he loved her. Instead of losing her temper, she‘d laughed and kissed him back. Later, they‘d fallen asleep on her couch and barely awakened in time for their duty shift the next morning.
It was only a few hours later that she‘d beamed to Xalad. Tom was supposed to have met her for dinner after she returned. B‘Elanna wished there was some way to let him know that she was safe and unhurt—for the moment, anyway. There was no telling what her captors might do, despite Lereb‘s assurances that she wouldn‘t be harmed.
Lereb, however, continued to puzzle her. He seemed like a reasonably polite person, and under different circumstances she might even like him.
The death of his wife must have presented him to the Isolationist Faction as the perfect target. He worked closely with the queen in the Palace, he was relatively young and intelligent, and he was very easily influenced. The recruiters from the Faction most likely waited until he felt the most hurt and vulnerable—probably the day of his wife‘s funeral—and then sweet-talked him into joining their little group with promises that what happened to his wife would never happen again, if they succeeded in their quest to remain isolated.
"Damn terrorists," she muttered. "They don‘t care who gets hurt as long as they get their way."
Well, if the captain wasn‘t going to give up, then neither was she.
There had to be a way out of this cell, and she intended to find it.
Two unproductive hours later, B‘Elanna had searched every single millimeter of her cell but was no closer to finding a way out then she had been when she began. As far as she could figure out, the door system seemed to work only when a specific handprint was placed on a precise location on the wall. She could find neither the location nor the inner workings of the device, or any other way out. The entire search had been for nothing.
Briefly, she wondered what would happen if she refused to eat unless she was returned to Voyager. That would get their attention. On the other hand, the food here wasn‘t that bad, and she really didn‘t have the strength to starve herself. The sedative she‘d received the day of her abduction was still wreaking havoc within her body. Her headache had returned with a vengeance, and had brought with it a bout of dizziness and a faint touch of nausea.
She sank into her makeshift bed in the corner of her cell, fervently hoping that Captain Janeway was already implementing a rescue plan. If so, then maybe she‘d be back on Voyager by tomorrow, or even sooner. Sickbay had never been more appealing than it was right now. Hell, even the doctor‘s cracked sense of humor would be welcome.
Tomorrow, B‘Elanna decided, she was going to work twice as hard to find a way out of there. She was one of the best engineers in the Delta Quadrant—according to Tom—and she of all people should be able to escape from a prison cell, even one as complex as this. She just needed a good night‘s rest to regain her strength.
"Tomorrow, Tom, I‘ll come back to you," she whispered, and drifted off to sleep.
End of part 1 |Click here for Part 2