Out in Thirty Days
"Okay, Carey. What in the world did I ever do to you to deserve this?" The lieutenant had barged into her former office, waving the data padd in her hand dangerously.
"Good morning to you too, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna paused, remembering a time when she had bloodied the poor man's nose. But she knew they had patched things up a long time ago. She smiled sheepishly.
"Sorry. Morning." She let out an audible sigh. "You put me...and Seven...alone...in a shuttle together," she emphasized the last part.
Her eyes widened in shock. Carey chuckled from having too much fun at the lieutenant's expense.
"Look, you're the expert at dilithium extraction. I need you out there. "nd Seven needs the experience."
"Harry and I can do the job quicker," she reasoned.
"Yeah, but he and Nicoletti are already paired with other team members. I need the experienced paired with the inexperienced. Besides, Seven didn't seem to have a problem with it," he mentioned.
B'Elanna raised her hands in mock surrender. "Alright. I'll just...deactivate the airlock doors before we leave the ship...."
Seven of Nine had been waiting in the Shuttle Bay for fifteen minutes before Lt. Torres showed up. Dressed crisply in her brown biosuit, the ex-drone had set aside extra time to prepare herself and the shuttle for the away mission. The lieutenant tossed Seven a case full of equipment, which she caught without trouble.
"Let's go," B'Elanna told her curtly as she slipped past the Borg into the narrow aft section.
Seven quirked her brow in mischief, and followed the half-Klingon into the small craft, storing the case along the way. She favored the Class 2 shuttle for this away mission because it allowed two individuals at the conn to sit next to each other. Lt. Torres preferred to control the helm, but that was alright because Seven preferred to observe her.
B'Elanna noticed, with her keen senses, even while tapping in course adjustments. "You're staring at me."
"Yes," admitted the ever honest blonde, while monitoring the sensors.
"Why?" She sounded irritable, but it had been a bad day yesterday.
"To determine your attractiveness," replied Seven, without missing a beat.
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Well, sorry to disappoint. I'm pretty unattractive for a Klingon. I'm too short and thin for a warrior, and my brow ridges are flat."
Seven disagreed, "Actually, I have done extensive research on what Klingons find attractive in mates. Though your brow ridges are less prominent than a full Klingon female, your ridge pattern is considered very elegant, and is a feature of many women pictured in popular-culture Klingon holozines. "nd anyone associated with you would hardly find you small, Lieutenant."
Seven said this with an entirely straight face, while the look B'Elanna gave her was absolutely priceless, a mixture of astonishment and embarrassment. B'Elanna looked away so Seven wouldn't see her blush from the roots of her hair to her fingertips. Recovering, she wondered why in the universe would Seven research this stuff if she was the only Klingon on board Voyager. She shook her head to dispel the disquieting thoughts.
"Lieutenant," the ex-drone inquired, "why did you allow Captain Janeway to proceed with Lt. Carey's plan?"
"Carey is the Chief of Engineering, and he felt that was the right course of action," answered B'Elanna neutrally, punching in the new coordinates.
Seven of Nine quirked her brow. "Even though it could have cost the lives of the crew."
"We're alive aren't we."
"As a matter of coincidence."
"We don't know that for sure. Just drop it, okay, Seven," B'Elanna requested decisively.
Seven looked down at her hands in confusion. "I do not have any object to let go of?"
"I mean, I don't want to talk about it."
"You refrain from expressing your personal thoughts frequently. Do you not find it uncomfortable?"
"I shoot my mouth off enough about other things."
"I would not betray your confidence," Seven said quietly.
B'Elanna paused briefly but did not answer Seven, nor spare her a glance, before returning to piloting the helm. Seven resumed her duties as well, since there was nothing left to say. " few minutes later, the mutual silence was broken by the computer, announcing they had arrived at the designated sector.
"I'm heading for the nearest planet, class L. Setting up orbit in two minutes," informed B'Elanna.
"The planet appears be uninhabited by humanoid life. Only dense vegetation with unsophisticated life forms," noted Seven from her scans.
"Huh, maybe Neelix would like a few specimens for his next menu," joked B'Elanna, in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
"I could always forgo the ingestion of organic sustenance, in the event," quipped Seven.
For the first time today, she saw B'Elanna crack a smile. It was such a pleasing sight that Seven felt her heart's pace quicken. B'Elanna ordered the engines to a halt, enabling the shuttle to drift in orbit around the unspoiled planet.
"We're in orbit."
"I will begin scanning for the dilithium."
Seven turned to her long-range sensors, and calibrated them to search the subterranean surface for dilithium crystals. B'Elanna readied the transporters, and went to the aft to retrieve the geological equipment.
"I have located a large vein of dilithium. Beaming a sample on board," the ex-drone informed.
"Got it. I'm scanning for impurities."
B'Elanna retrieved the large chunk of dilithium with a pair of tongs and placed it under the sensor hood at the science station. She also took a piece, and ran it through a series of chemical conversion tests.
"Sixty-six percent dilithium. Adequate, but too much impurity for my taste. It might take too long to purify back on the ship for the amount that Voyager needs," B'Elanna said, as she walked back to her seat. "Let's survey a few more samples elsewhere."
A blip on her conn panel informed B'Elanna there was a ship approaching fast, coming in from the stern. But before she could complete hailing them, it opened fire on their shuttle. The jolts knocked the two women around. B'Elanna broke orbit, not bothering to stick around for a replay of yesterday's physical activity. She tried hailing again but the alien ship would not respond. The vessel was twice the size of their Class 2 shuttle, and looked more bulky than sleek, with a dark angular appearance.
"Why are they attacking us?" asked Seven, as she reinforced the shields.
"I don't know. Maybe claim jumpers. Fire phasers, see if that backs them off," ordered B'Elanna.
Seven reserved her questions for later, and aimed for the vessel's weapons and propulsion. She scored several hits but their weapons remained undamaged, and the vessel continued to pursue. Their shuttle was maneuverable but the spatial charges were damaging their secondary systems. B'Elanna sent out a distress call to Voyager and laid in a course for a nearby asteroid field.
"Lieutenant, I hope you do not intend to pilot us through that?" Seven obviously wanted a negative answer.
B'Elanna would have enjoyed teasing the Borg's discomfort except she was worried herself. It was easy watching Tom fly shuttles. Her skills were a different matter.
"Hold on," was the only thing she could say.
Steadily, they weaved their way around the large masses of rock. The alien vessel seemed to have a more difficult time, their flying pattern unstable. Seven must have damaged their propulsions more than she thought originally. They turned the corner around another rock only to find more waiting directly in their path. B'Elanna reversed the thrusters and pulled the shuttle upwards, barely clearing the asteroid, but the shuttle's bottom scraped against an edge leaving a piece of the hull plating behind.
"Whoops. Well, I've had enough. Let's get out of here," B'Elanna remarked, glancing over to the ex-drone, as she veered the shuttle the shortest distance vertically out of the vicinity.
Seven appeared unamused by the whole experience. If looks could kill... "The alien vessel has sustained heavy damage to its hull. Apparently, they were not as successful navigating through the asteroid belt."
"They're firing torpedoes, but they're way off," B'Elanna reported.
The lieutenant took the shuttle in a sharp break as the torpedoes sped past them far off to starboard. However, the torpedoes then turned back heading towards them and exploded 20 meters ahead of their flight path. Normally, B'Elanna would have passed right on through, but instead something inside her made her try another hard break to port.
"The torpedoes have created a massive electromagnetic pulse!" shouted Seven.
It was too late. The wave struck the shuttle on the starboard side, washing over the ship's systems, causing a chain of failures that traveled from one circuit to the next. The computer consoles in the aft section were blowing up one at a time as the EMP passed through.
"Attempting to counter the EMP!" B'Elanna yelled, forcing her hands to touch the console, receiving multiple shocks in the process.
"It's working, but it is also creating a feedback surge!" noted Seven.
"Navigation is damaged! Laying in a course for a class M planet, 5000 km ahead."
Seven stumbled over to the EPS conduits, while the shuttle shook as the inertial dampers failed. She removed the access panels, and began tearing out the non-essential conduits, trying to interrupt the EMP's pathway. They were shooting through the thermosphere, with little helm control and structural temperatures rising. B'Elanna searched for a flat surface to land on, amid the dry rocky terrain.
"Seven, what are you doing?!" B'Elanna demanded from the helm.
"I'm attempting to stop the feedback surge!" she explained.
"Get away from there! You're going to get fried!"
"I must stop the surge, or we will lose navigation!" Seven refused.
B'Elanna swore a string of curses, before she turned to hear the worst sound she would ever hear for the rest of her life, a scream of pain erupting from Seven when the EM surge traveled through her Borg-enhanced hand. Seven was unconscious when she was thrown to the floor as the shuttle hit turbulence. B'Elanna was forced to stay at the helm, piloting the shuttle as it tore through the skyscape, watching the yellow-orange land approach faster and faster. She pried a broken panel fragment away from the landing controls, and punched the descent thrusters. It was the last thing she remembered doing before her face hit the console.
B'Elanna woke to an insistent calling of her name, slowly lifting her head off the helm. She was suffering from what must have been one of the worst headaches she ever had. Her right brow felt wet and swollen, after sweeping it gingerly with her hand. She concluded she had a cut there above her brow. She peered at the window, but it was covered with the orange dirt.
"Lieutenant," came the beckoning again.
B'Elanna fought through the haze, and swiveled the seat around in search of her crewmate. She staggered over to where Seven sat propped up against the bulkhead in the midsection of the shuttle. Seven was awake, though she looked a bit battered with her hair tousled up, and she wasn't moving.
"Seven, are you hurt?" asked B'Elanna, with a hint of fear creeping into her voice as she checked the Borg's neck pulse.
"I am damaged. I feel pain but it is minor." Her voice was shaky, and her breaths came in short pants. "However, I am finding it...difficult to move my left arm, mainly below the elbow, as well as my left hand and lower leg. My right upper arm is weak, but functional. "nd I am unable...to see through my left eye."
"Hold on," B'Elanna told her while she searched the interior of the wrecked shuttle, flipping the debris over.
"ll the consoles in the shuttle were dead, and it seemed the equipment as well. B'Elanna finally found the medkit and survival sack among the junk. The EM pulse shorted out everything the crash didn't take care of. Only one partially damaged tricorder was left functional, and B'Elanna used it to scan over Seven.
"It looks like the EM surge depolarized your Borg neural synapses, traveling from the periphery to the spinal column and ending at the base of your cranial matrix. Same goes for your ocular implant at the nerve level. The synapses aren't repolarizing like they should, at least for your affected limbs. We're lucky it didn't travel into your cortical implants." B'Elanna tried to appear calm, but her face was paling by the minute as she examined the limbs, frozen in their natural resting positions.
"A drone's neural network is reinforced with interneurons that allows for adaptability, especially when damaged, as well as with an insulated cranial casing," explained Seven. "It is why our minds are able to survive longer than our bodies, to prevent unnecessary dismantlement."
"I'm sorry, Seven. Even if I knew how to fix this, I don't have the equipment," B'Elanna apologized, placing a hand on her shoulder.
The ex-drone remained quiet, and B'Elanna was at a loss for words. She took that time to scan the area around the shuttle, noting the vessel that had attacked them had landed 45 km away from them. Three prominent life signs were also present, possibly more.
"One thing's for sure, we have to get out of here. I think our pursuers are going to come after us, and we don't have any working phasers. We need to find a better place to camp, and wait for Voyager to find us," B'Elanna remarked, wiping her injured brow with a scrap of cloth.
Seven struggled to sit up high, pushing off with her right arm. Her face was grim but determined. "You must go, then. I am damaged beyond repair, and I cannot make the journey. Please deactivate me before you leave."
"Don't be silly, Seven," B'Elanna chided.
"I am never silly! Do not dismiss my suffering so easily! I do not wish to be taken prisoner alive," Seven replied angrily, her eyes brimming with anguish.
"And I am NOT abandoning you, so you can forget about me 'deactivating' you!" she shot back, though regretting it immediately, knowing Seven was probably very frightened at this moment.
More gently this time, B'Elanna told her, "You're going to get through this. Have a little faith in me, Seven. I'm going to get us out of here, and back to Voyager." She took Seven's human hand in her own, squeezing slightly to emphasize her point, searching those big blue eyes for understanding.
"I cannot walk. I will only slow us down. You're chances of survival are greater if you go alone...," Seven argued, but squeezed back.
"Yeah, well, I need your brains, not your body in this case. Besides, you can use me as a crutch," B'Elanna pointed out, releasing her hand as she stood up to salvage what could be useful. "fter a brief moment's thought, she picked up the lump of dilithium and stuck it in the knapsack along with other items. She walked over to the hatch and lowered it gradually, letting in a hot blast of dry air and a chalky scent. " big gust of wind blew in a splattering of dust and sand over her boots.
Taking one look of the landscape, B'Elanna blurted, "Oh, ffffffuu--...."
Seven watched curiously as B'Elanna stripped off her jacket and over-shirt down to her tank top. " minute ago, the Klingon had unceremoniously picked her up and carried her over to the chair. She adjusted the straps to the survival pack and placed it on Seven's back, pulling the Borg's arms through the straps. Next, B'Elanna slipped the jacket under her posterior, and began fashioning some sort of harness around the Borg's pelvis with her collar pips. The lieutenant turned around, and slowly eased the stiff knee around her hip, while Seven followed suit with her other leg. B'Elanna then tied the sleeves of her jacket around her waist, nestling Seven's pelvis against her own. Finally, the Klingon put her own arms through the sack straps and pulled the blonde snugly against her back, folding the arms over and around her shoulders.
"You intend to carry me through the desert," noted Seven with some disapproval. "As I said before, you will have a better chance of survival if you proceed alone. You are behaving irrationally."
"And you don't know me very well, do you? I'm NOT leaving you here," B'Elanna answered adamantly.
The ex-drone sighed in defeat, and rested her chin conveniently on a strong shoulder, snuggling her face next B'Elanna's.
"Comfy?" B'Elanna asked, amused, feeling a nod in response on her cheek. It was a moment she would remember for a long time, the way Seven's softness felt against her own, and she suppressed the urge to capture Seven's arms and hold them tightly to her.
B'Elanna stood up from where she knelt, surprised at how heavy the Borg was compared to her lithe appearance. She hooked her wrists under those slender knees for more support.
"Kahless, what do they feed you?" she commented.
Confused, Seven replied, "I ingest the same sustenance as the rest of the crew."
"That, my dear drone, was a rhetorical question."
B'Elanna had been walking for close to an hour, across the rough, occasionally sinking, yellow-orange sand and over the rolling dunes. They headed towards a settlement about 75 km north of their crash site. Though Klingons tolerated higher temperatures well, even B'Elanna felt a little baked from the heat that emanated from the sand. Her skin glistened with her perspiration, and was already turning shades darker under the constant rays of the sun. Her muscles were beginning to strain. Seven did speak much during the whole time. She seemed to wilt from the oppressiveness of the heat, though her biosuit supposedly cooled her temperature. B'Elanna wondered if she had missed any other injuries when she scanned Seven. She decided it was best to stop for a rest, and squinted at the landscape, looking to find some sort of cover.
The low landscape was interrupted by the jutting peaks of a few rocky hills. She trudged them over to the nearest one, depositing her bundle safely in the shade of an overlying cliff. B'Elanna handed Seven a canteen of water and some Star Fleet rations, hoping food would rejuvenate the Borg. She rummage through the survival pack for items they'd need for the remainder of the hike.
Seven handed back the canteen, and B'Elanna took one much need, long guzzle of water, swallowing audibly. She noticed that Seven's cheeks began to look a bit red, and took out the salve to apply to their skin.
"You did not consume any nourishment, Lieutenant," Seven noted, as B'Elanna sat down, cross legged, next to her.
B'Elanna wiped her hands clean, and began massaging the salve into Seven's skin, wherever exposed, with surprising gentleness. Gone was the gruff and unreasonable bearing that Seven had been accustomed to. Seven wondered if it was B'Elanna who had changed her behavior or if it was her own perceptions that had changed.
"I'm not hungry. We have to move on soon. The attackers are less than a day behind us, but I want to find us adequate shelter before nightfall," explained the lieutenant. "I think we only have a couple of hours left."
Seven noticed how close B'Elanna's face was to her own, so absorbed in the task of applying the substance onto the skin of her neck. The Lieutenant normally preferred to keep her personal space like so many humans, so Seven took the opportunity to examine B'Elanna with her eye. After she was finished with herself, B'Elanna re-packed their supplies, leaving out two solar goggles to put on both of them. B'Elanna pulled back her dark, unruly hair and adjusted the goggles on her face. Both women peered through the spectacles at each other, biting back the laughter at their ridiculous appearance, and wondering if the sun hadn't already baked the sanity out of them.
The trek was exhausting. B'Elanna thanked her lucky stars that she had spent so much time the past two weeks with Harry in the Holodeck, getting into shape. She was strong, but the hike proved almost too much of a challenge for her, as she struggled to stay alert and steady on her feet. She was breathing hard through her mouth and was beginning to see spots. The only thing that drove her to put one staggering foot in front of the other was the fact that Seven was depending on her. Seven made an effort to encourage her, even though the ex-drone had been falling in and out of sleep during the whole journey, going so far as to call her a "toDSaH," Klingon for simpering coward wanting to be rescued, at one point.
The lieutenant took out the tricorder and scanned the fifty meter tall rock formation ahead of her. "t last, the tricorder confirmed they had reached the location of a few caves that B'Elanna had been hunting for. Dusk was fast approaching, as the horizon became a patchy painting of pink and red, and the temperature dropped continually. B'Elanna sniffed the air, observing that the night was going to be cold. She eased her way up a craggy path up the small cliff, and by then Seven was awake again, pointing out directions from the tricorder to her.
B'Elanna stepped into the largest cave, empty except for several stalagmites in the center, and no signs of a current tenant. She sat Seven down against the slope of the deeper wall of the cave, on the other side of the stalagmites, and proceeded to set up a simple camp, after prowling the perimeter. There was no wood for a fire, even though she had the flint. She resigned herself to inflating the insulated sleeping bag, and helped Seven over onto its cushiony surface. By then, the darkness was quickly descending, and she activated a glow lantern, their only light source, made from a chemical reaction of two substances. B'Elanna unpacked the rations, and this time she ate some herself, famished after a hard day of exertion. She was about to line the entrance to the cave completely with rock towers as a primitive alarm system for the night, when Seven interrupted her.
B'Elanna dropped what she was doing and scampered over to the reclining woman. Seven had sat herself up by the time the lieutenant reach her. The ex-drone started to say something but hesitated, not looking her crewmate.
"Is there something you wanted, Seven?" B'Elanna inquired carefully.
Seven sighed pensively. "I do not need to do it often,...but I require a moment to eliminate body fluid," she said with some distaste and apprehension. "I believe I will need assistance."
"Oh.... Well, everyone's got to do it sometime. Frankly, I was running out of excuses to disappear for a few minutes now and then," replied B'Elanna, trying to put the Borg at ease.
She helped Seven to a nice secluded location outside the cave, and undressed her partially, trying not to catch a glimpse of the skin revealed. B'Elanna turned her back politely, while Seven hung onto the waistband of the lieutenant's uniform to do her business, balanced on one leg. B'Elanna decided to hum one of the Doctor's favorite ditties, though badly, perhaps trading one embarrassing moment for another. She was never good with comfort words.
At last, they settled down for the night, each woman taking her side of the sleeping bag, quietly struggling within her own thoughts, and wondering why Voyager had not reached them by now. B'Elanna felt a keen sense of responsibility to protect Seven. Janeway would shove her out the airlock before she could say "Starfleet," if she didn't get Seven back in one piece. She knew how fond of Seven the Captain had become over the years. What their relationship was, B'Elanna tried not to speculate, but what she couldn't do was drown out the idle talk she overheard in Engineering frequently. She felt the Borg shift for the third time, and turned over immediate to see if the woman was comfortable.
"Can't sleep, Seven?" B'Elanna asked as she propped herself up on her elbow, and peered at the beautiful, but obviously troubled face.
"I can't stop thinking about my own predicament," replied Seven, resolving for a supine position. "As a result, I am having feelings of anxiety."
"I'm sorry. I wish I could help you in some way," B'Elanna sympathized.
"You have, Lieutenant. You have carried me through the desert, tended to my needs, and shown me much patience."
"I must say, you've handled it well. Much better than I would have," commented B'Elanna, admiring Seven's bravery despite the circumstances. "You'll be fine, once Voyager rescues us, and the Doctor has a look at you."
"I'm surprised your nanoprobes aren't repairing some of the synapses by now," she questioned, taking out the tricorder, and scanning Seven one more time.
"My nanoprobes are able to repair injuries, however, their ability is boosted by my periods of regeneration. The damage may be too extensive this time.... I must also tell you there is a possibility that the depolarization will continue, and eventually overwhelm the safeguards of my cortical matrix as well. My cognitive function will most likely be affected," Seven added, the normal confidence with which she spoke absent.
"I won't let that happen. I'll do everything in my power to prevent that," B'Elanna swore with quiet intensity.
"What will Captain Janeway do, if I am damaged beyond repair?" Seven asked, suddenly afraid.
"She'll have everyone working day and night for a cure. And we'll all do it willingly. And if the Doctor can't find a solution, then we'll ask every person we meet in the Delta Quadrant until we do, even if it means knocking on Borg Queen's backdoor."
"Will...will you deactivate me, when the time comes, when there's nothing left of me to save?"
"No, because I would never give up on you," B'Elanna asserted. "I mean, Captain Janeway would never give up on you, Seven, you know that."
Seven did not respond, but B'Elanna could see the hint of tears in her eyes, before she turned back onto her side, facing away from the half-Klingon. The freezing chill was creeping upon them. B'Elanna could see it the way her breath misted. She shivered under the cover, mentally cursing it was not a good time to be Klingon.
"You are cold." " statement more than a question.
"SSSSssssss...a little," B'Elanna admitted.
Slowly, she felt Seven slide closer to her until B'Elanna felt the Borg's warm back pressing into her arms and chest.
"What are you doing?" she asked a bit panicky.
"Conserving body heat."
All of a sudden it didn't seem so cold anymore. The Lieutenant's body temperature was definitely on the rise, and if she didn't do an adequate job before, she really cursed her Klingon physiology now. Hesitantly, she placed an arm around Seven, wondering if it was appropriate. She waited but heard no objections. Finally exhausted by the day's events, she promptly fell sleep.
It was close to dawn but still pretty dark when B'Elanna woke to a brief clattering of stones hitting the ground. Seven moved under her arm as well, glancing over her shoulder at B'Elanna. The half-Klingon sat up, and scanned the entrance to the cave, but found no movement. She motioned for Seven to remain quiet as she stealthily crept past the stalagmites to the opening of the cave. She had no weapons on her except a short blade from the survival kit.
Seven watched vigilantly as B'Elanna stepped over the stones, and disappeared through the entrance. There seemed to be an interminable length of silence, then she heard sounds of a scuffle, of footfalls, muffled voices, and scattering of rocks and pebbles. Someone howled, obviously in pain, but it was a male's voice. "fter that, the silence resumed. Suddenly, B'Elanna stumbled through the entrance, stopping herself in time from colliding into one of the stalagmites. Unarmed, she turned, snarling at the three individuals who now appeared at the opening, as they shined their bright lights into her face.
"Ah-ah," advised one of the larger figures, tipping his gun that was pointed at Lt. Torres. He was a good foot taller than the lieutenant, and twice as thick. "We wouldn't want to cause any more injuries now, do we?"
"Owwww, I think she broke my arm, Kal," whined the smallest of the three, who was rubbing his forearm.
"Shut up, Vek, you big wuss!" the one called Kal barked, making the other male cringe.
The third figure, who had not spoken yet, approached Seven with his rifle cocked in readiness. She watched him silently with a piercing glare, as he made his way across the cave. She didn't recognize his species. The three humanoids looked similar enough, each with brown hair cropped closely to the scalp, narrow faces, webbed necks, and yellowish-tanned skin.
"Get up." He told her, with no preamble or hostility. He was burly, but moved with skill and confidence.
Slowly, she positioned her paralyzed limbs into the correct alignment, and pushed off on her right side, balancing herself until she was erect.
"This one's injured," he reported impassively to the one who was undoubtedly the leader of the group.
"Bring her here," Kal commanded.
"What do you want with us?" demanded B'Elanna. She never cared for foul-smelling brutes, and these reminded her of Cardassians back home in the "lpha Quadrant.
"We want your power crystals, of course. We searched your ship but it was gone."
Meanwhile, the third male grabbed Seven under her left arm with his meaty hand, and steadied her as she hobbled over next to B'Elanna. Then, he stepped back behind his leader.
"We don't have any, as you can see for yourself, except for a small sample," answered B'Elanna coolly.
"You know what the coordinates are. We don't want you going back there with reinforcements," Kal answered back, looking over the Klingon, unabashed.
"Well, then, we swear that we won't. We aren't interested in that particular deposit or that planet," offered B'Elanna.
"Then there is the matter that you brought down our ship. I didn't like that," he added, his voice hardening briefly before returning to its seductive, or rather, sleazy tone.
The other two males watched as Kal began circling the women, brazenly appraising their bodies. In all matters, they obviously deferred to him. It made B'Elanna feel filthy just by standing there, and she couldn't hide her expression of contempt.
"We'll have a little fun before we kill you." He stopped next to Seven, and brushed the back of his coarse hand along the side of her face. She twisted away from him, apparently repulsed by the whole act.
"Hey! Leave her alone!" B'Elanna roared, charging in between them.
The sudden movement caused the burly one to cock and aim his rifle at the lieutenant. The whole situation caused Kal to laugh.
"Is it necessary to kill them?" the burly one questioned.
"I didn't ask for your opinion!" railed Kal.
"We'll do 'em and kill 'em, yeah, Kal," agreed the coward.
"We know the coordinates to other deposits. Kill us and you will never obtain the information," lied Seven.
"Oh,..." Kal snickered, "You'll tell us well before we even kill you."
"PetaQ!" swore B'Elanna, spitting out her venom.
He slapped her for it. But it barely fazed B'Elanna at all, who gave him a withering look, even as blood dripped from the old clot above her right brow. The Cardassians back home were the vilest of creatures, and Kal was nothing compared to them.
"Our captain is coming for us. Touch us, and you'll be hunted down like the animal you are. You'll wish you never met us!" threatened B'Elanna.
"Ah, yes. We figured as much,...that someone might come looking for you," admitted Kal. "But we made it look as though your shuttle crashed into an asteroid and was completely destroyed."
B'Elanna looked away in disgust. It only made Kal cackle again.
"Tie them up!" he ordered, and moved away to make room for the burly one.
Seven felt her arms being pulled behind her. Everything in her body screamed for her to get away from this place. If she ever regretted becoming human again, it was at this moment, a moment of true vulnerability. "s if her assimilation had not defiled her body enough. She was frightened for herself and for the lieutenant, who seemed hell bent on dying before her. Seven dreamed of being Borg, of pummeling these beings and taking pleasure in their assimilation. Kal approached her again, leering at the display of her attributes with no obstruction to his view. She was completely nauseated.
"I think I'll enjoy you very much," he told her. Then he pushed her, and she flew back a few feet landing hard on her ass.
B'Elanna had been eyeing a sharp piece of flint on the floor next to Kal during the whole exchanged. Once again she stepped between them. Kal was clearly annoyed by her interference, sneering at the engineer.
"Why don't you try it on someone who isn't injured. Or maybe you're just not man enough," taunted B'Elanna.
He slapped her again, and this time she fell down, at his feet. Seven almost called out to B'Elanna, but she refused to show these inferior monsters weakness. The half-Klingon would die of disappointment.
B'Elanna turned over and gazed up at him. "Huh, you have your mother's touch," she insulted.
Kal pulled B'Elanna up, and punched her forcefully in the gut. Then he tossed her onto Seven. B'Elanna coughed once, but started to laugh. Kal turned away from them, and addressed his lackeys.
"Call the ship. Give them the coordinates and tell them to pick us up here tomorrow when they're done with the repairs," he ordered the burly one. "Set up camp. Orn, you take first watch."
Turning his attention back on the two women, Kal added, "You'll get yours, in due time."
"Good, 'cause I'm exhausted, Kal. After you made us walk all day and night," whimpered Vek, as he put down his pack along the far wall where the women had slept, away from the cold wind near the entrance.
Kal and Vek settled quickly into the cave, while the burly Orn stood watch near the entrance. Other than Orn checking in on them once in a while, the two women were largely ignored, left to sit on the freezing ground. Seven was relieved to have the space and the stalagmites between them and their captors, who were, within minutes, snoring away in the background.
"Lieutenant," Seven whispered to B'Elanna, who was leaning against the wall of the cave, facing the entrance. She was hidden under the shadows. "Are you damaged?"
"No," came the hushed answer.
"Why must you provoke their leader, Kal? I do not wish to see you injured in such a manner again," Seven told her, frustration evident in her tone.
"Seven, sit back," B'Elanna instructed quietly.
Seven did as she was told, and leaned against the wall directly behind B'Elanna's back. She felt the lieutenant press against her, as well as a sharp object poking into her thigh. The ex-drone glanced down to find a shard of stone in the Klingon's right hand. Her mouth dropped in astonishment.
"I need you to huddle close,...to hide what I'm doing," B'Elanna whispered, as she eyed the hulking one named Orn, who sat just outside the opening.
Gradually, B'Elanna began to saw through her bindings, stopping occasionally only when Orn got too close. To him, it appeared that the women were huddled together for warm, and he left them alone. Though their proximity was done for another purpose, Seven was grateful for the reassurance from the physical contact with the half-Klingon. Dawn was poised to arrive soon, and B'Elanna wanted to be free before then. Escape under the cover of darkness was essential. "t last, she reached the last few threads of her bindings.
"Seven, I'm almost free," B'Elanna breathed. "I'll get you next."
"Do not. You must escape while the one called Orn is away from the entrance," Seven pointed out.
The burly one had drifted off further outside the cave, since she had not seen him pace in front of the entrance for more than twenty minutes.
"I told you once before, you're chances of survival are greater alone. Not burdened with a drone who is half-paralyzed," she added.
B'Elanna looked over her shoulder at Seven, her gaze reflecting the inner conflict of knowing Seven was right but feeling reluctant and fearful. Seven returned the look with one of her own. The lieutenant eased backward and whispered in her ear.
"Whatever happens, remember, I won't abandon you."
B'Elanna kissed the Borg on the forehead, got up and slinked towards the entrance to the cave. " moment later, she was gone. Seven sighed and leaned her head against the wall. Her friend and protector was gone, and she was left alone in the company of cruel beings. Silently, she wept and waited for morning to arrive along with the consequences.
It didn't take long for the first rays of dawn to shine into the cave, enfolding Seven in their warmth, as the last vestiges of night languidly receded. Soon her captors would rise and find her companion missing. Seven steeled herself for the confrontation and the unwanted advances of the leader of the riffraff band, Kal. The coward had begun to stir, Seven observed, twitching his leg and rubbing his nose, after two hours of sleep. Finally, the sniveling noises woke Kal, who stretched and glanced around the cave. Noticing the obvious change immediately, he jumped up from his bedding, and kicked Vek into consciousness.
"Wake up, damn it! The pesky one's escaped!" Kal bellowed, grabbing his weapon from the ground. "Orn!"
When he got no answer, he stalked over to the mouth of the cave, and peered outside, not finding the brawny man.
"Orn!" he shouted again, and still he received no response. He looked over to Vek, who had finally put things together in his brain and figured out that the half-Klingon, the one who almost tore his arm off the night before, had run off.
"Vek, go and find out what happened to Orn!" he ordered. "That bitch is dead when I get my hands on her."
Vek scrambled over to his pack to get his rifle, and ran out of the cave before Kal could kick him in the ass again. He hated being humiliated, especially in front of the females, even when they were about to be raped. Kal walked over to Seven, and grabbed her roughly by her frozen arm, hauling her to her feet. His face was twisted in anger at being made a fool of.
"Where is she?!" he demanded.
Seven only glared at him in defiance, and replied, "I do not know."
"Your friend escaped and left you here to die. Now you're going to suffer the consequences!" he snapped, shaking Seven violently.
"BaQa' jay'!" Seven cursed, trying to twist out of his grip.
Kal seized the back of her head, loosening her hair from her bun, and pulled her face toward his, planting his rancid lips against hers, before she quickly tore away from him.
"Qovpatlh!" she cussed. She kneed him in the groin, but lost her balance in the process, crashing hard onto her side.
He recovered and was about to claw at her again, when a familiar voice stopped him.
"You're going to pay for that," came the low growl.
Discretely, Kal reached for his weapon, and spun around to shoot, but B'Elanna fired first, knocking his weapon out of his hand. She shot at his weapon one more time as he tried to lunge for it, exploding it into pieces. Then she tossed her disrupter aside, and hurled herself at him. The last thing he saw was her fist flying towards his face.
"Uhh! I can't believe you're unconscious already!" B'Elanna yelled, jerking the limp figure by the collar. "How am I supposed to kill you now, PetaQ?!"
"Lieutenant!" called out Seven, who hated being ignored.
The Klingon dropped him to the floor, and kicked him one more time in the ribs for good measure, before retrieving her weapon. B'Elanna ran over to the Borg, and hugged her fiercely for a brief instant. She took a knife, which once belonged to one of their captors, and cut Seven free of her binds. Seven clasped her arm around B'Elanna's neck and embraced her, afraid to let go. B'Elanna rubbed her back soothingly until she felt Seven relax and withdraw slightly.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yes," Seven answered, relieved to see her lieutenant and somewhat satisfied that her enemy had been punished.
"Come on, help me tie the creep up," B'Elanna requested, tilting her head towards the figure lying in the dirt.
Seven nodded. And B'Elanna, still holding the blonde closely, helped her up and over to the prone body.
As they tied Kal's arms and legs together, Seven asked, "What happened the other individuals?"
"When I got out of the cave, I saw Orn perched on one of the rocks around the bend of the path. I tried to knock him out with one blow so he wouldn't make any noise, but I guess he had a hard head. He didn't cry out, though. He told me he'd give me a fighting chance. Suffice to say, they're not as strong as they look. If you were back to your old self, you'd have more strength in your left pinkie than all of them combined," explained B'Elanna.
"I waited for dawn behind some rocks, 'cause I knew they'd come looking for Orn. I stuffed Orn into one of the other caves. I thought, maybe, I could use him as a hostage to trade for you. Then I saw that Vek walk out of the entrance so I took the opportunity. I had to kill the whimpering coward, though, because he would have screamed."
B'Elanna frowned at the last part, remembering the way the man's blood had spilled from his throat. But she found a look of understanding in Seven's eyes, and did not dwell on on the memory. It was good to see that the Borg was largely unhurt by the ordeal. Seven smiled slightly, realizing that B'Elanna hadn't gotten farther than perhaps a hundred feet from her the whole time they had been separated.
"You did not leave me?" Seven asked, her doe eyes shiny with unshed tears.
The Klingon shifted uncomfortably. "I couldn't.... Besides, once I took out Orn, I knew I had a working plan. I told you I would never abandon you."
Breaking off Seven's gaze, B'Elanna went back to work, leaving Seven to ponder over her words. B'Elanna lugged the unconscious Kal to the deeper part of the cave, hiding him under the brutes' smelly bedding. Then she stole all their weapons and re-packed their survival gear.
"Let's get out of here, before the reinforcements arrive," B'Elanna noted.
"Agreed. We should also take their outer garments, as well," Seven suggested.
"You're right. Good idea," complimented B'Elanna, eyeing their cloaks.
The lieutenant resumed her role as Seven's own personal shuttle service, gathering Seven against her back, and feeling the reassuring weight and warmth. They set out towards the settlement to the north, once again, hoping to reach it before nightfall, as they were halfway there.
"Honestly, Seven. Where did you learn to swear like that? Janeway's gonna wash your mouth out with soap if she hears you," teased B'Elanna as she made her way down the rocky passageway, away from the stone formations.
Seven proceeded to tell B'Elanna at length, just exactly where she obtained her long list of colorful epithets, from the date she heard it to the context in which it was used. To put it mildly, Seven would have made even the Klingon's mother, Miral, very proud.
They reached the edge of the settlement by nightfall. The trek had improved when the sand gradually turned harder to orange-reddish dirt and gravel. Seven was able to walk using B'Elanna as a crutch, giving the Klingon a breather. They hid from the occasional stray hovercrafts that passed by, not knowing whether the inhabitants of the planet were of the welcoming, or at least indifferent, sort. They ducked again in an alleyway, when another craft floated by with a bunch of boisterous, obviously drunk aliens of various species, and concealed their faces with their stolen cloaks.
Seven had her eyes closed, B'Elanna noticed, as she rested against the wall of the structure. She looked tired. B'Elanna should have known Seven had been pushing herself beyond her limits, even though the Borg had vehemently denied it several times during the course of their hike. They were out of water and low on rations, and they were going to need shelter for the night. Unfortunately, the two women had no currency to speak of. The lieutenant assisted Seven over to the bottom of some stone steps to sit down and rest, away from the sparse lamps that lit the wide roads.
B'Elanna heard footsteps and the clops of an animal coming down the street. She peered around the corner to see a solid-looking humanoid walking along side a four-legged beast of burden. The animal was fairly large, its height above the waist of its owner, and reminded her of small pony back on Earth. It stopped to nibble on a bush, standing next to a fence that enclosed a two story, stone and clay structure, typical of the houses that lined the streets. The house was unadorned, with a flat roof and small but numerous windows, carved out of the clay coating, and light emanating softly from them.
"Ay, Fessi, why do you always stop right in front of the house, after our little walk?" the man asked. "There are so many other bushes along the way."
The man sighed and tried to push against the animal's behind to try to get it to move on inside, but the animal didn't budge, content on continuing its sampling of the sweet leaves. The man raised his hand as if to strike the animal on its backside, but instead lightly tapped it in resignation. Dramatically, the man sighed again, loudly, and sat down on the bench next to the bush, resting his elbow on his knee and propping his face in his hand. The lamp illuminated him so that B'Elanna could see him clearly. He was middle-aged, had dark brown, almost black hair that was short, and his face and nose were quite broad. He had a stoutness about him, that was neither threatening nor clumsy however. The man dressed simply in a tunic, trousers and short coat, that were made of plain, unrefined material.
"Okay, have it your way. Even if I've had a long day of work, and I still kept my promise to walk you every night. I'll just sit here and probably fall asleep, while I'm at it, until the next morning, and then Moka will have my hide," the man complained.
The animal seemed to notice his master's lament, and rolled its eyes. Finally, the animal decided it had enough of teasing his master and moseyed on through the gateway. Noticing his triumph with that particular strategy, the man grinned lazily and proceeded to trail in after the animal.
It was now or never, and the lieutenant made a split-second decision. After witnessing his gentle manner with which he handled the animal, B'Elanna had an impression that this man would not turn them away. Pulling Seven along, B'Elanna caught up with the man before he could close the gate.
"Please, Sir. Could you offer us some shelter for the night? We are weary travelers passing through," asked B'Elanna.
The man held the gate open but raised his hand to refuse.
"Please... I know we have no money, but my friend here is not well. I'm strong, and I can work in any form of labor to repay you," she pleaded.
The man paused, and seemed to think for a moment. He squinted at them both in scrutiny, noting the way the other figure hung onto the woman who had spoken. Seven lifted her head to look at the Klingon, who had just begged another individual for her benefit.
"Come inside," the man invited, perhaps after seeing Seven's fragility for himself.
"Thank you," B'Elanna responded simply. Placing Seven's left arm around her shoulders and supporting the ex-drone, she followed the man inside the gate, past the front enclosure and into the house. The common room they entered was neatly kept, with a long table in the center, chairs along the walls, a fire and mantle on the far side, between the kitchen and an archway that led to the interior of the home.
"Please, warm yourselves by the fire," the man said, pointing to the hearth.
B'Elanna moved Seven over to one of the chairs by the fire. The ex-drone was grateful for the chance to rest after the day's journey. She pulled her hood down, revealing the blonde hair that cascaded to her shoulders, and let out a deep breath. Just then, they heard another pair of footsteps, and saw a small elderly woman shamble into the room from the archway.
"What's this?" the woman inquired, examining the two strangers in her home, her broad, round face wrinkling more so that usual.
"Ah...two travelers who'd like shelter for the night," informed the man. "I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced. I'm Dannan, and this is my mother-in-law, Moka."
B'Elanna spoke, "I'm Bey, this is Ani. We're new here, and we were separated from our family about a day ago. We had to cross the desert, and as a result, we ran out of supplies."
Seven decided to keep silent and let the lieutenant continue the story, finding it quite interesting herself. The two individuals appeared harmless, unlike the men who attacked and tried to kidnap them.
"Ay, two women alone...in the desert. How awful..." interjected Moka. "You both must be tired. Dannan, don't just sit there like a log. Get these two some water."
Dannan walked over to the pitcher in the kitchen and brought back cups for the two of them. They thanked him, and drank eagerly, Dannan observed.
"You said "ni is not well. Should I call a physician?" asked Dannan, looking over at Seven who had been quiet all this time.
"That will not be necessary. My condition cannot be cured by medical means at this time," Seven explained.
"We're grateful for the shelter tonight. I will do everything I can to repay your kindness, and we won't be much trouble," B'Elanna told them, distracting away from Seven.
"Please..." Dannan raised his hand, unused to all the fuss. "You've thanked us enough. We have an extra room, stay for as long as you need to."
"Yes," agreed Moka. "Get your strength back. It's been a while since we had company, and frankly, I'm beginning to get bored with this big lug," she jested, pointing her thumb at her son-in-law. "You must be starving. And I have lots of leftovers."
Moka shuffled over to the stove and began heating up the dinner that remained. B'Elanna sighed with relief, and leaned back into her chair. She and Seven were finally safe for the time being, as they had not been ever since they crashed on this planet. Dannan excused himself to prepare the spare room for the two new guests.
"Come...come to the table," Moka suggested good-naturedly, waving them over. "The food is almost ready."
B'Elanna once again tucked herself under Seven's arm and helped her over to a seat at the table. Dannan watched the action without comment from the archway before helping Moka with the plates. Suddenly, they heard a gasp which came from Moka.
"Dannan, look at her hand." She gestured to Seven's Borg-enhanced hand with its metal casing.
"Ay, seems to be cybernetic," he noted. Then he stared at Seven, taking in her implants, her hand, her apparent paralysis and put everything together.
"Are you an android or other machine of some sort?" he questioned.
Before Seven could answer, B'Elanna replied for her, "She was stolen as a child and raised by a race called the Borg. They were the ones who gave her cybernetic implants. We, that is, my family, rescued her from them, and she has been part of us ever since."
Seven was taken aback by B'Elanna's admission. "ll this time, she had not been entirely sure that the crew of Voyager, except for a few, actually thought of her as part of the crew, let alone Lt. Torres.
"Ah, now I understand. Your cybernetic implants are malfunctioning," he added, proud of his deduction.
The two women exchanged glances, amazed that someone understood their situation so quickly. He seemed to notice their stunned silence, and tried to reassure them.
"I'm a robotics technician. I repair damaged assistant droids and other artificial intelligence modules in town," he explained. "I have a home workshop here. I might be able to help you, though I doubt I have anything as sophisticated as your systems. We have heard of the "Borg" from deep-space travelers, but they have not come to this sector."
"Thank you, Dannan," B'Elanna acknowledged. "Perhaps, we may be able to find something that will repair Ani's malfunctioning systems. And I'd be happy to assist you with work, for the hospitality you both have shown us, as I have some experience with robotics."
"Later, later. You must eat and rest for now, and think of such things in the morning," insisted Moka. "We must fatten you both up. And when you are done, we'll see about dessert."
Dannan ceased his questioning for the night. He could never argue with Moka. B'Elanna stared at her plate, which was covered with heaps of food. It reminded her of the time she and her mother visited Qo'noS when she was eight, and her grandmother had piled her plate in a similar fashion, except some of the Klingon dishes were still moving on her plate. She still remembered what she had thought at the time. '
The half-Klingon looked over to Seven who regarded her plate with similar doubts, with the quirk of her brow. Still she was famished enough to try the daunting task, and found that Moka was quite a wonderful cook. Finally, when they couldn't possibly fit anything else into their stomachs, Dannan led them to the back of the house, to the spare room.
"I took the liberty of leaving out some bed clothes. They belonged to my late wife. They may be a little big on you both, in different ways," he noted.
They thanked him once again for his kindness, then Dannan bid them goodnight, as it was extremely late, and politely closed the door behind him. Seven scanned the small room. On the left, there was a cot, big enough for the both of them. "long the far wall, there were a couple of chairs, a closet, and to the right, a night table with a basin, pitcher of fresh water and towels. " cool breeze came from a small window adjacent to the cot. The furnishings were modest, but spoke of comfort and good craftsmanship.
B'Elanna dropped their sacks on the floor of the room, sat Seven on the bed, and brought over the water and basin. She helped Seven remove her clothing from behind, and placed a towel around the Borg to keep away the chill. Then B'Elanna wiped away most of the grime of the past two days from Seven's skin, wherever the blonde couldn't reach, and dressed her in one of the soft nightgowns Dannan had provided. "t last, she tucked Seven into the bed, knowing she was exhausted. She dimmed the lanterns, before she began tending to herself. Slowly, she peeled off the uniform that practically adhered to her, and washed herself off as best she could under the circumstances. Luckily, the room was fairly warm. Finishing, she wrapped herself in what seemed to be a sarong, and replaced the basin and pitcher on the table. B'Elanna walked over to the bed, and was surprised to find Seven's eyes open, watching her.
"Still awake?" she asked, keeping her voice neutral, as she sat down on the bed, and hesitated briefly before sliding under the covers.
She propped herself up on her right side, resting her face in her hand as she spoke to Seven, who was lying on her back, now gazing at the ceiling.
After a moment went by, Seven asked, "Did you experience fear when we were held captive?"
"Sure I did," B'Elanna admitted.
"You did not appear so, Lieutenant."
"I think you better call me Bey, to keep up the pretenses, "ni," she emphasized humorously. "But to answer your question, I was afraid. But I've also been in that situation before, when I was in the Maquis dealing with Cardassians." Her voice hardened slightly.
Seven looked at her with concern. "Were you damaged?"
"Yes," B'Elanna responded softly. "But nothing I haven't been able to put behind me."
She reached out tuck Seven's hair behind her ears, but kept her hand on the slender shoulder closest to her, stroking the tangled blonde locks free.
"Yet you still harbor hostile feelings against their species?" Seven questioned.
"Yeah, I guess I do. I've never had any good encounters with their kind, none of the Maquis did."
"I, too, harbor ill feelings toward the individuals that attacked us. I do not believe my opinion of their species can be changed." Seven frowned, as the memories of the previous night were still fresh on her mind.
"I'm afraid I'm not the best example of what you should do in this case," B'Elanna replied, at a loss. She paused, then said, "What do you think Janeway would say? Seven thought about it for a while. "I believe she would say that I should not judge a whole species of beings based upon the actions of a few individuals. That I would be a better human being for not doing so."
"That does sound like the Captain," B'Elanna noted, with a tired smile. "When you first encountered the Hirogen, the experience was unpleasant. They kidnapped you, treated you like prey, and threatened to hurt you."
Seven nodded, and let B'Elanna continue.
"But when you were forced to fight in the Tsunkatse matches, you met and befriended a Hirogen, or rather he befriended you. What I'm saying is,...you got past your previous bad experience, and discovered the individual that was worth knowing. Even though you ended up fighting each other, but that's a different thing. My point is...you are a much better person for it, unlike a stubborn ex-Maquis like me."
Seven smiled slightly, lifting her brow as she analyzed what B'Elanna said and came to the conclusion that the lieutenant had made a logical point. B'Elanna understood such matters a lot more than people gave her credit for, believing that emotions ruled her actions more often than not. B'Elanna watched as a look of comprehension appeared on the Borg's face, and subsequently, it seemed to relax Seven.
"Think you can sleep now?"
"Yes. Thank you, Lieuten... Bey." Seven corrected herself. She turned over onto her left side, with her back to B'Elanna, and asked, "Would you hold me the way you did last night?"
B'Elanna felt her heart skip from the request, but quietly she moved up and spooned Seven from behind, placing her arm around the lithe figure as she did the night before. Sighing, she nuzzled her face between Seven's shoulder blades, and didn't move from there until the morning.