Lost and Found
by JoAnna Walsvik
Chakotay was the one who found them.
He had asked the captain to be the one who went through her quarters, the one who distributed her personal effects to her friends. To see if she had left any kind of will or bequest.
I should have done it. Goddamnit, I should have been the one. But I was too spineless, too afraid to face the truth. The truth that she was really dead.
It shouldn’t have happened. It was a simple mission. A distress call from what seemed to be a tiny science vessel
orbiting a small, barely habitable moon next to an uninhabitable C-class planet. We answered, they said their warp core was badly damaged, and she went over to fix it with an engineering team. Simple as that. It appeared to be harmless.
But, as the old saying goes, appearances can be—and, in our case, certainly were—deceiving.
Right after she and her team beamed aboard, the vessel’s shields went up, their torpedo tubes and phaser banks became operative, and their warp core activated. We received a nasty transmission stating that our engineering team was "needed" elsewhere and if we cooperated, no one would get hurt.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t worried. I figured Harry or Tuvok would come up with some magic trick to get us past their shields so we could transport them back, or at least a way to disarm their weapons to buy us some time. I was sure that some way, somehow, we’d get them all back and there’d be a happy ending once more.
I guess our luck had to run out sometime.
We eventually got most of the engineering team back. Just as I had predicted, Tuvok had come up with a way to disarm their shields for a window of a only a few seconds, but long enough to transport our people back. While Voyager fired her phasers, as a distraction, Tuvok fired his beam and deactivated their shields.
But, somehow, there was a transporter glitch and only four of the original five members made it back to the ship. Then, everyone on the bridge watched the viewscreen in horror as the ship blew up.
We later learned, from the surviving engineering crew, that once we started firing phasers, the crew of the "science" vessel became frightened. They knew that Voyager was capable of beating the living tar out of their puny little ship, and they were determined to go out with a bang.
Bang. They set their auto-destruct sequence. Bang. Their ship blew up, only seconds after we grabbed most of our people out of there. We barely had time to raise the shields before—bang.
They other ship went down in a blaze of glory...taking Voyager’s chief engineer with them.
I can vividly remember the seconds before the explosion—Captain Janeway called down to the transporter room to see if there were any injuries. The transporter chief’s voice came back, panicked and stunned. "There was a malfunction in the system, Captain—we didn’t get Lieutenant Torres. She’s still over there."
Boom. The other ship exploded...and just like that, she was gone. Blown up. Dead.
It’s been one week, yet so much has changed. The corridors are quieter, the Mess Hall is hushed—it’s like everyone’s in a state of perpetual mourning. We never knew how much we’d miss her until she was gone.
Chakotay took it hard—very hard. He’s still walking around with that stunned look on his face, the same look that’s on mine. He can’t believe she’s dead. He can’t believe that his best friend, the woman he’s known for years and years and who stuck by him through thick and thin in the Maquis is really and truly gone. Forever.
The entire matter is still under investigation. The captain insists on knowing just what exactly went wrong with the transporters and who, when, where, how, and why. It’s her way of dealing with her grief, I guess. Everyone has a different way. The captain wants to bury herself in data and facts. She wants answers, to maybe find out why this whole thing happened. Anything to avoid facing the reality.
Harry—the kid is moping. I’ve never seen him quite so crushed. She was a good friend to him, and vice versa. He loved her like a sister, and, although she would have never, ever admitted it, she felt the same way about him. He was the kid brother she had never had—yet, in a way, she looked up to him. Maybe it was because he represented everything she had wanted in life but had never gotten—an innocent, carefree life with two loving parents, a Starfleet career, an easygoing nature with a temper that wasn’t quite as quick to ignite as hers was. The two of them have always been close, ever since they were trapped together on the Ocampan homeworld when this whole voyage began. Now that she’s gone, he can’t seem to conjure up even the slightest glimmer of a smile.
Not that I blame him. The whole ship’s that way. Even Kes and Neelix, who weren’t really that close to her, can’t seem to even act cheerful. How can they, when no one else can either? The doctor’s brusque and uncivil with everyone now, even the captain. He’d probably deny it if confronted, but he feels something over her death. B’Elanna was his doctor, in a way. He knew that if something went wrong with his program, she wouldn’t rest until she fixed it. He appreciated that more then she ever knew, and now that it’s too late to tell her so, he’s angry at himself. A grief-stricken hologram.
Even Tuvok seems rather subdued. Again, he and B’Elanna weren’t that close, but he respected her abilities. Tuvok can recognize talent when he sees it, god knows he’s had enough experience. The guy’s over a hundred years old, and he’s seen a lot. He knew she had talent—hell, it wasn’t talent, it was genius. B’Elanna was a wonder with Voyager’s engines, and Tuvok respected that. But he never told her so, not that he would have. He’s Vulcan. They don’t give compliments except on extremely rare occasions. But I bet he’s wishing now that he had said something to her.
And me. I’m kicking myself over and over again for not saying something to her. She knew I was interested. She knew I loved to flirt with her. She knew I was hoping that we’d actually go on a real date someday.
But she didn’t know that I loved her.
I don’t know when it started. Maybe after we were trapped together in the Vidiian prison. Nah, it wasn’t then. But after that experience I began to see her in an entirely different light. Instead of a gruff half-Klingon who snarled at anyone who came too close, she was an suspicious, frightened girl who was awkward because she was frightened. When she was human, I could see all of that. I really didn’t get the chance to "meet" her Klingon side, but I could see that she was the barrier B’Elanna built around her heart. She didn’t let anyone get close because she didn’t want to get hurt. Again. She had loved her father, and he had left her, and it had hurt so bad that she didn’t ever want to experience that kind of pain again so she constructed all sorts of defenses to prevent it from happening and I was just starting to break through them...!
And then this had to happen. I thought I was making progress, I really did. A huge breakthrough came when we were trapped on Sikaria and, while under the influence of the Pon Farr, she admitted that she wanted a relationship as much as I did. Later, she all but said that she hadn’t meant it, but...when we were down there, when we were kissing, I could tell she meant what she said. Pon Farr or no Pon Farr, she had been telling the truth. She had felt something, but had been to afraid to admit it, and that by her own admission!
Afterwards, when we flirted—and yes, it was flirting—I could sense something different within her. Before, when I’d say something insinuating, I felt like I was always oh-so-politely snubbed. After Sikarian, though, the flirtation was—well, mutual. Instead of feeling rebuffed, I could see this tiny little glint in her eye that made me feel encouraged, like she wanted it to continue.
So, I continued. And every so often, it seemed like I’d get a hint of something more—like when we were trapped in the Nyrian ship habitat. After we escaped, and she came to me in the holodeck, her words were so simple. "Things were pretty chilly there for a while. Feels good to be warm again." She hadn’t been talking about the habitat. She had been talking about our fight, and she had been thanking me for saving her and not letting her give up when she wanted to. I could have said something then.
Or when I was rewriting that "Insurrection Alpha" program for the holodeck. When I suggested a steamy love scene between the helmsman and chief engineer, she snorted and said, "Oh, that’s realistic." But there was something—it’s hard to describe, but it felt like, on the inside, she was privately agreeing with me. Like it was something she wanted, too. But I never said anything to her.
And now it’s too late. It’s too damn late.
Anyway, three days after B’Elanna’s death, Chakotay went to the captain to request permission to clean out her quarters. The captain was hesitant at first—she knew that if she gave him permission, it would be accepting the fact that B’Elanna was gone -- but finally she said yes. So Chakotay went.
And he found them.
They were sitting in a little box in her closet, neatly stacked and labeled. She always was organized. And they were recent, too. She must’ve updated them every few weeks, as soon as she thought of something new to add. I never knew about them. No one did.
But there they were—ten computer chips, tidily arranged in that little box, each one labeled with the name of a crewmember. On the top of the box, there was a note—"Please distribute in the event of my death."
"In the event of my death". She had known this could happen someday, and she was actually prepared for it.
There was a chip for each one of the senior officers, and one for Lieutenant Carey as well. Chakotay distributed the chips at the next briefing—Lieutenant Carey was already there as the new chief engineer. I remember that just before the briefing started, he remarked, "You know, three years ago I would have been ecstatic to get this job. Hell, three years ago I thought I deserved it. But now, I’d gladly become the lowest-ranking ensign on board if only she could come yelling and screaming into Engineering."
We assured him the feeling was mutual.
After the chips had been distributed, the captain excused us all to our quarters to read them. I remember feeling apprehensive when I slipped mine into the slot on my terminal. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what she would say.
Then, her face appeared on the screen. She smiled—she actually smiled at me—and began to speak.
"Hello, Tom. If you’re hearing this, I guess I’m dead. I’m glad somebody found the chips—was it you? Well, it doesn’t matter now. I don’t know how I died, but, as my mother would say, I hope it was an honorable death. And if it wasn’t—oh, well. I never cared much for Klingon tradition anyway." She laughed, and smiled again, and it made my heart skip a beat. It wasn’t fair, it just wasn’t fair! For what had to be the hundredth time I asked myself, why did she have to die?
On the screen, B’Elanna became serious. "I made these chips so I could tell everyone what I didn’t have the guts to say while I was alive. Especially you, Tom. I don’t know if you had any idea how I felt about you—I think you did, I could see it in your eyes—but it’s time I stopped denying the truth."
She took a deep breath and seemed to look straight at me. I could feel my heart doing somersaults in my chest as she opened her mouth to say what she needed to say.
"Tom, I love you. I don’t know how or when it started, but I do. I think I realized it when we were on Sikaria. Everything I told you in those caverns was true. I did want a relationship, but I was too afraid. I’ve been—hurt—before, and I didn’t want to ever take the chance of hurting again, even with you. I was too afraid of the pain."
She laughed again, a short, ironic chuckle. "Yes, I, the big bad Klingon, was afraid. I’ve been scared of a lot of things—when you were trapped in the holodeck with the "Insurrection Alpha" program, I was scared that I’d lose you. Do you have any idea how hard it’s been for me to keep these feelings inside whenever you were in a dangerous situation? Each time I was scared to death that you’d be hurt, or, worst of all, killed. And when you came back alive and unharmed, I was so relieved it was all I could do not to tell you so. I should have. I really should have, but, as I said, I was afraid. I guess it’s to late to do anything now."
She paused for several seconds, letting her confession sink in. "Tom, I want to apologize for stringing you along like—like I have been doing the last few months. I know you wanted something more, but you always respected my feelings, and I appreciate that. I just wish I had acted on my feelings while I was still able to. And who knows, maybe someday I will. Maybe someday I’ll erase this chip and record another message, not for a friend who wants to get closer but for someone closer who’s also a friend. I hope so. But if not, I’d like you to know that I’m really, really sorry."
She paused again, and when she looked back at me, those dark brown eyes seemed to burn into my soul. "Tom, I have one last request. Please, don’t take my death too hard. Klingons don’t mourn death, they celebrate it. Get on with your life. Marry, have kids, enjoy life. Don’t waste time moping over me. The years on Voyager were the best years of my life, and I’m glad that I had the chance to experience them—and have friends like you." She looked at me with a funny, lop-sided grin. "I’ll miss you, Paris, even if you were a pig." Her face softened slightly. "Good-bye, Tom. I hope—I hope you find your home someday."
The screen went blank.
For the longest time, I just sat there, unbelieving, unable to comprehend what I had just heard.
She had loved me.
She had loved me, damnit, and I had loved her, and it was too late to do anything about it!
Raising my hands to my cheeks, I discovered that they were wet. I was crying.
I hadn’t cried in—in years. Lots of years. Parises don’t cry, that’s what my father had told me. Parises never show negative emotion. The bottle it up inside and never let it out.
And here I was, bawling like a baby. All I could think was, *She loved me too.*
I reflected over her last words -- "I hope you find your home someday." Not "I hope you get back to the Alpha Quadrant" or "I hope you make it home," but "I hope you find your home someday." She knew that I had never considered the Alpha Quadrant my home, not with all the bad memories that remained there. She knew I was still searching for my place in this vast universe. And her last words to me expressed a hope that I’d one day find it.
I had a feeling I was never going to stop crying. She had expressly stated in her last message that she didn’t want me to grieve, but for now all I could do was sob.
When I reported back to the briefing room a few hours later, my eyes weren’t the only red ones. Everyone, excepting Tuvok, looked like they had just spent the last three hours in tears, even the doctor. That could have been a figment of my imagination, but he did look rather tearful.
We got down to business, but there wasn’t much to do. Tuvok reported that Voyager was ready to leave this godforsaken place in a few hours, as soon as they completed the last few scans that Captain Janeway wanted. I, for one, would be glad to leave. This desolate moon held too many horrible memories.
After the official business was done with, we all just sat there. Nobody said anything at first, but then, suddenly, the captain spoke. "She thanked me for giving her another chance at life. Throughout the entire chip all she talked about was how I turned her life around and made it worth living again. But I never once told her how important she was to this ship, or how much I valued her expertise. Not once." Captain Janeway’s voice was shaking.
"She said that she loved me," another voice, also shaking, revealed mournfully. To my surprise I discovered that it was my own. "I never told her that I felt the same."
Everyone turned to stare at me. I couldn’t bring myself to meet their gazes, so I stared at the shiny veneer of the tabletop. Someone—I think it was Harry—said, "Oh, Tom."
For a long while, no one spoke. We were all too busy wallowing in our own misery to have much in the way of conversation. Suddenly, Tuvok’s commbadge chirped, startling us all.
"Tuvok here," he answered calmly.
"This is Ensign Ayala in the bridge," a nervous voice said.
"Sir, I think you’d better take a look at some of these readings. They’re—they’re rather odd." There was a queer catch in his voice that piqued my attention and I, as well as the rest of the senior staff, followed Tuvok onto the bridge.
"These are the results of the last scan we conducted on the debris of the alien ship and the moon," Ayala said, pointing to a diagram on the console. "We ran a level-four electroscopic analysis—we weren’t really expecting to find anything, but we did. There was a barely discernible power surge from the ship right before it exploded."
"From the overloading warp core," Captain Janeway reasoned.
"No," Ayala said, shaking his head. "That’s what we initially thought, too, but when we compared the surge to the explosion the power signatures were radically different. The surge was from a transporter. Or at least something like it."
"A—a transporter?" Chakotay repeated, wide-eyed.
"That’s right," Ayala nodded. "Someone from the ship transported to the surface of the moon right before the explosion."
"It was B’Elanna," I breathed. Somehow, I was absolutely certain. She had saved herself. She had found a way. "She did it. She knew the ship was about to explode so she transported to the moon."
The captain looked from me to Ayala, her excitement mounting.
"Is it possible?"
"Yes, it is!" Carey exclaimed. He had been a part of the engineering crew who had transported over to the alien vessel. "She wasn’t with us when we were transported. We were on their bridge and she was in their engineering room, where the main transporter controls were located. It’s very likely."
Kathryn Janeway flew into action, smiling for the first time in a long while—or at least it seemed that way. "Mr. Kim, scan the moon," she ordered. "Any sign of B’Elanna?"
Harry quickly complied, but shook his head. "There’s too much interference in the atmosphere. I can’t get clear readings on anything. All I can tell you is maybe."
"We’ve analyzed the course of the alien transporter beam," Ayala added helpfully. "It was directed towards a mountainous region in the center of the southernmost continent in the northern hemisphere, one of the more habitable spots on the planet."
"Can we beam through the interference, Mr. Kim?"
Harry studied his readouts for a moment. "Yes, Captain. It’ll take about an hour to modify the transporter to match the polaron frequency in the lower ionosphere, but we can do it."
"Get started. This is top priority," the captain ordered.
"Aye, aye, captain."
"Mr. Paris, I want you and Mr. Chakotay on the away team," she continued. "And take Kes with you, just in case she’s hurt."
"Yes, Captain." I felt like I was walking on air. We were going to get her back, I could feel it. We were going to get her back!
The transporter set us down on a large, flat plateau. We were surrounded by ugly brown mountains. Some were so tall they seemed to disappear into the clouds, but on others you could clearly see the pointed peaks. Some mountains had cliffs jutting out of their broad, rocky tops, and others were dotted with caves that penetrated their stony cores.
The moment I was released from the transporter beam, I slapped my commbadge. "Paris to Torres. B’Elanna, do you read?" Nothing but silence. "Paris to Torres, please respond."
"Tom," Chakotay called from the edge of the plateau, were he was perched with a tricorder in his hand. "Down here. I’m getting some faint lifesign readings from one of the caves."
"I’ll go on ahead to make sure it’s safe," I told Chakotay, making my way down the side. "I have more experience with rock climbing."
He nodded, but I could tell that he knew that I wanted to be the first to reach her. B’Elanna told me once that Chakotay can be a great guy when he wants to be. I didn’t believe her then, but I do now.
"B’Elanna?" I called once I reached the bottom of the plateau. I checked my tricorder and, sure enough, there was a lifesign reading up ahead, in one of the nearby caves. Faint, but steady. It was her.
I kept calling, but she didn’t answer. She was either asleep or unconscious. I prayed it was the former and not the latter. I didn’t really know who I was praying too. My father had brought me up to believe that there were no gods and that man evolved from hominids, like all scientists believed. But surely, somewhere in the universe, there was a god who watched over half-Klingon chief engineers. There just had to be.
The lifesign readings grew stronger as I approached the largest cave in the mountain’s foundation. She was in there, all right, but she still wasn’t answering my shouts.
"B’Elanna?" I peered inside the cave, my voice echoing in the stillness. Still, there was no reply, and I waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Then, I saw her. She was lying on the floor of the cave next to the ashes of a long-dead fire, and several large boulders and gravel were strewn around her. In fact, she was half-buried in them. My stomach twisted in knots as I realized what had happened. A rockslide.
Instantly I rushed to her side. "B’Elanna," I cried, scanning her with the tricorder. She was alive, but her breathing was labored. From what I could tell from the tricorder readings, there was no internal injuries, so I gently slipped my arms beneath her inert body.
"You’re going to be okay, B’Elanna," I assured her, even though she couldn’t hear me. As gingerly as I could, I carried her out into the sunlight. She was a lot lighter then she looked -- I could carry her with no problem whatsoever.
We reached the mouth of the cave, and I carefully laid her down, keeping her head and upper torso cradled in my arms. Kes and Chakotay were just starting over the ridge, Kes carefully keeping her medical kit close to her so she wouldn’t drop it. I guess she knew we needed it.
Just then, someone wonderful happened. B’Elanna’s eyes fluttered open and she gazed up at me, her black eyes clear with recognition. "Tom?" she asked weakly.
"Yeah, it’s me," I replied, smoothing her hair from her forehead. "Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay."
She smiled, a weak smile, but beautiful nonetheless. "Took you long enough."
"We thought you were dead. We just found out today that you transported—thank God Captain Janeway insisted on those last few scans—and, B’Elanna, we found the chips." I knew I should be concentrating on her medical needs, but I had to let her know how I felt before another second passed. Time was too precious to waste, something I had learned firsthand.
For a moment, her brow furrowed in confusion, but then she realized what I meant. "You did?" Her tone was one of relieved embarrassment—relief that we had found them, but embarrassment at what she had said to each of us. No wonder, as they were meant to say what she hadn’t had the nerve to tell us to our faces.
"We did. And B’Elanna—I love you too."
Before either of us could say anything more, Chakotay and Kes reached the cave opening. Kes immediately opened her medical tricorder and began to scan B’Elanna, while Chakotay grinned down at his friend, taking her hand in his.
"Hey, Torres," he said affectionately, "if you wanted attention all you had to do was ask. You didn’t have to fake your death, you know."
She rolled her eyes, managing to feebly grin up at him.
"Sure, next time I’ll just blow up the warp core."
Chakotay laughed as Kes snapped the tricorder shut. "We should get her to sickbay," she said quietly, but her tone was urgent. Chakotay didn’t hesitate to slap his commbadge.
"Chakotay to Voyager. Four—" he smiled at B’Elanna as he said it, "—to beam directly to sickbay."
She was lucky. She was very lucky, in fact. The doctor said that if she’d have stayed down there a few days more, she might not have made it. We came just in the nick of time.
When she was strong enough, B’Elanna told us what happened. Once she realized the ship was about to explode and that Voyager hadn’t gotten her, she managed to break free of her captors and reach the transporter panel. She picked a set of coordinates and energized just as the ship blew. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the plateau. She found shelter in one of the caves, the cave we found her in, and waited. The rockslide had happened that morning after she had accidentally bumped into some loose rocks that set off a chain reaction with some larger boulders. From the way she shuddered as she talked of the whole experience, we didn’t make her elaborate. We were just glad to have her back.
I think B’Elanna was a bit amazed at all the attention she received once she was released from sickbay and returned to work. Her staff told her over and over again how happy they were that she was back, the doctor actually thanked her for all of the time she had spent working on his program, and Captain Janeway called her into the ready room one day. I don’t know what the captain said, but when B’Elanna came out she had a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
We were all happy to have her back—and I most of all. I have to admit, it was a bit bewildering, going from stark grief to abject elation all in the period of a few hours. I caught myself staring at her a few times, unable to believe that she was real. It seemed like some wonderful dream that would dissolve if I dared to believe it was really happening. But it wasn’t a dream. She was really here.
And she loved me. She said that to me, many times, after her release from sickbay and our first real date as an "official" couple. I said the same to her. In fact, I couldn’t say it enough.
I know one thing for sure—I’m never going to take B’Elanna or anyone else for granted again. Life is too precious and death too unexpected. She really could have been taken from us. We were just lucky yet again. Another happy ending, like always.
There’s an ancient hymn from Earth—"Amazing Grace"—that has a line saying what I mean. She was lost, and then she was found. And I’m never going to let her go.