DARK ROSE

 

By cygirl1

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount. I am not making profit from this story.

 

SUMMARY: B'Elanna/Seven and Janeway/ Female. Voyager has made it back to the Alpha Quadrant but along the way, Seven and Harry Kim are stranded in Romulan Territory and fall into the hands of the Tal Shiar. B'Elanna and Tom, with the help of Romulan allies, attempt a rescue.

 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the sequel to my story Your Love Is An Oasis. I would suggest you read that story first to get some background information on how B'Elanna and Seven got together. In addition, it would help you understand some of the teasing and puns.

 

The events in the episode of MUSE, in Season 6 of Voyager, are mentioned.

 

Women Warriors At The River Of Blood is a novel mentioned in Voyager. B’Elanna was reading it in the episode ‘Real Life‘.

 

Vulcan Love Slave is a Holosuite program that is mentioned in Deep Space Nine and in several ‘Trek’ novels. The sequel is Vulcan Love Slave. Part Two: The Revenge.

 

In my story, Voyager never ran across the Borg Children. Voyager makes it back home earlier than seven years: More near six years and nine months. PG17 for some four-letter words, descriptions of consenting sex between women, unwanted sexual advances toward one of the main characters (NO RAPE), and violence, but not in the extreme.

 

The following story has some Romulan words and phrases:

 

Romulus: Ch'Rihan or sometimes seen as ch'Rihan

 

Romulan People: Rihannsu

 

Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. Rihannsu identify themselves with the Four Elements.

 

 Frahdha’nia Kholairlh-a nahi: What in the element’s name. An exclamation of surprise.

 

 Jol-ao-au: I love you.

 

Klivam: Derogatory word for Klingon.

 

Lagga uh’ j hu: A flower for an Angel.

 

Mnhei'sahe, “The ruling passion." Which centers on honor, duty, courtesy and strength.

 

 

 

 V-ri nanov: Adopted mother.

 

 

 

 

 

x

 

Sela is encountered in Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is the daughter of an alternate time line Tasha Yar and a Romulan official. This version of Yar went back in time to serve on the Enterprise-C, which was captured by the Romulans. (See The Next Generation episode of "Yesterday's Enterprise") Yar agreed to become the concubine of a Romulan official to save her fellow crewmembers. This union led to the birth of Sela, around 2345.

 

Yar attempted to escape with her daughter in 2349, but Sela did not want to go and revealed the plot. Yar was discovered and executed. Sela grew up to become an operative for the Roman Empire and a military officer. In my story, I have her serving as a Tal Shiar officer. Sela's first appearance was in the episode "The Mind’s Eye", and later in the episodes "Redemption, Part II" and "Unification. I and II"

 

x

 

Chapter One

 

“Time. 0600.”

 

“Computer. Lights at one quarter.” Seven’s voice was at a lower octave than usual having just awoken. She remained still, not wanting to extricate herself from the warmth of her wife’s body spooned behind her, feeling the soft breasts pressed against her back and one arm draped around her waist. She heard a groan close to her ear, feeling the soft warmth move against her, and then a soft mouth and nose nuzzle the back of her neck under her hair. The arm that was around her waist moved upward, and she felt a soft warm hand gently cup and squeeze her right breast. She felt hot, moist breath in her ear then a sharp nip on her earlobe. “We do not have sufficient time to engage in making love.”

 

“Uhm, how much time do we have?” B’Elanna enquired in a sleep-roughed voice.

 

“Fifty-six minutes and twenty seconds before we present our final report at the senior staff meeting. Captain Janeway will no longer tolerate our tardiness.” Seven turned over on her back and pulled B’Elanna over and on top of her, drawing her head down for a kiss.

 

B‘Elanna softly growled, “So what. The captain doesn’t have a beautiful woman in her bed when she wakes up in the morning or she would understand. Besides, we’ve only been late a couple of times.”

 

“Twelve times since we returned to duty one hundred and twenty days ago.”

 

“Big deal,” B’Elanna snorted. “That works out to what? Once every ten days.” She ran the tip of her tongue in the crease around the rim of Seven’s ear, causing her be’nal to feel a delicious shiver course down her spine.

 

Seven groaned but managed to say, “Incorrect, as we have had seventy meetings to date. One day out of every 5.833 is the correct correlation.”

 

B‘Elanna chuckled and said, “Who’s counting? Besides, we were late for only a couple of minutes--five at most.” B‘Elanna straddled Seven’s waist and placed her hands beneath her be’nal’s generous breasts, lifting them slightly and sighing. She watched as the pink nipples hardened and the areolaes pebbled. “Uhmm, I can’t leave these beauties pining for my attention now, can I?” She leaned down and taking a nipple between her teeth, lightly bit and flicked her tongue over it.

 

Seven squirmed and groaned, pulling B’Elanna down for a hard kiss, wrapping her legs around her be’nal.

 

B’Elanna abruptly pulled away, slid off her be’nal to stand by the bed, reaching her arms up high and arching her back in a long feline stretch, her breasts pert and stomach muscles taut. “Well, I guess you’re right, duty before pleasure.”

 

Seven quickly sat up, reached out catching B’Elanna by her right arm, and pulled her back in bed and on top of her. “You are correct. It is your duty to attend to my pleasure before we proceed with our schedules.”

 

B’Elanna melted into her be’nal and laughed. “If only all duties were so pleasurable.”

 

x

 

Captain Janeway entered the Conference Room, took her seat at the head of the table, and quickly looked around her, noting that all of her senior staff were here save for her Astrometrics Officer and Chief of Engineering. It was now two minutes until 0700 hours. She had given precise orders that no one was to be late to this meeting due to its importance. She couldn’t very well start without Seven and B’Elanna. The two informed her last evening of the final simulation of the transwarp coil, and Janeway planned this meeting to discuss the preparations that they would require for a successful trip back to the Alpha Quadrant.

 

Tuvok was perusing a padd and Chakotay was rubbing his tattoo with his index finger; something the Commander often did while thinking or waiting. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Tom nudging Harry while looking at his wristwatch and whispering a countdown, a smug look on his face. No doubt, he expected to win on a wager involving the two absent officers. She heard him whispering, “Six, Five, Four...” and was just about to nail him with a force ten stare, when the door whisked open at the count of ‘one’, and her two wayward officers entered. She quickly noticed the sour look on Tom’s face and the smile on Harry’s. She then knew for sure they were betting to see if the two officers would make it on time to the meeting.

 

She let her glance rest on the two arrivals, and smirked when she saw B'Elanna’s flushed face. She had a suspicion that that look came from dallying in bed too long with her wife, as was further evidenced by the dazed look in her eyes. Seven, of course, was immaculate. She could go through a velocity match and five minutes later look like a cadet for a Starfleet recruiting poster.

 

Seven had taken to wearing her hair in a loose ponytail held at the base of her neck by a wide gold hair clip, with nary a strand out of place. Since her and B’Elanna’s ordeal on the desert planet, she had taken to wearing a Starfleet Science Officers uniform, and Janeway thought she was far more alluring in a uniform than in those skintight biosuits, as was demonstrated by the generally approving glances of the crew when she passed them in the corridors.

 

She was also more approachable since embarking on her relationship with B’Elanna, and Janeway noticed that she smiled more frequently. Crewmates had now taken to greeting her in the hall and she returned their greeting with a slight smile and comment, rather than walking on by as if they didn‘t exist or were unworthy of notice.

 

That wasn’t the only change. Since marrying Seven, B’Elanna was more patient with her crew and less volatile when things didn’t go right. She was more willing to delegate responsibilities, and worked within her schedule instead of working 10-11 hour days, unless there was an emergency that required more time to resolve. She had taken to wearing her hair in a more attractive and Klingon manner; the loosely flowing waves a reflection of her more relaxed attitude. She didn’t seem as angry and easy to take offense as she once had. Yes indeed, marriage was definitely good for B’Elanna, or to be more precise, it was Seven who was good for B’Elanna. All it takes is the power of love and a certain Borg. Resistance is futile.

 

Janeway cleared her throat and said, “Now that everyone is here, we can begin. As you are aware, Seven and B’Elanna have been working diligently on perfecting a viable transwarp coil that will return us to the Alpha Quadrant. I’ll let them give you an update.” She looked expectedly at the two women.

 

B'Elanna smirked and facetiously said, “You want the good news first or the ah…flip side?”

 

Janeway, in good spirits answered, “Give us the good news.”

 

“All simulations show that it works.” There was a few seconds of silence before everyone started talking at once.

 

Janeway held up her hand for silence, clearing her throat before inquiring, “And?”

 

“We will need to equip the Delta Flyer with a small reflector array as it needs to follow in Voyager’s wake. The Flyer will be within Voyager’s transwarp bubble and the array will strengthen the transwarp signature, preventing the conduit from closing prematurely. Hmm, Seven, you give them the rest.”

 

Seven utilized a projector, which created a three dimensional star chart above the middle of the table. “We have constructed a coil based on that which the Borg utilize. Since the coil is composed of actual Borg components and those designed along Borg specifications, we could not improve the compatibility of the unit to operate efficiently with Voyager’s warp core power for the time needed to reach the Alpha Quadrant. Our simulations show that the transwarp corridor opened for a period of 2.47 minutes before collapsing, which would allow us to go a distance of 20,000 light years. This would put us in this sector and close to the border that separates the Delta from the Beta Quadrant.” A small area in the star chart lit up. “We found that if we elongated the warp bubble to a distance of at least 1000 Kilometers behind Voyager, it would facilitate an increase in time to 3.01 minutes. We would reach this area of the Alpha Quadrant.” She used her control padd to highlight the area. “Voyager’s array can only be used to keep the corridor open in its forward progress. We tried mounting a small array on Voyagers aft position, however, the power required to stretch the warp bubble drains needed energy from the forward array, causing the integrity of the field to collapse. The simulations show that if we mount a small deflector on the Delta Flyer, we can extend the bubble to the required amount needed. The corridor will collapse but not before we achieve our objective of reaching the Alpha quadrant.”

 

All eyes were  on the display with the pinpoint of light blinking in the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway’s expression showed a fleeting glance of worry before she went back to ‘Captain Mode’. “That puts us right at the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone.”

 

Seven said, “Yes, Captain. We have a seventy-eight percent chance of making it to Federation Space and a nineteen percent chance of making it to this point.” A pinpoint of light activated just barely inside the neutral zone.

 

“That leaves three percent,” Commander Chakotay noted.

 

Seven activated another pinpoint of light a small distance from the neutral zone but well in Romulan space.

 

Janeway smirked and said, “That’s hardly a risk after what we have gone through out here in the Delta Quadrant.”

 

Tom piped up, “If that’s the bad news, then I don’t think we’ll be losing sleep over it.”

 

Seven looked at Tom and replied, “That is the good news. The negative aspect is to keep the Delta Flyer within the transwarp bubble at a precise distance from Voyager of 200 meters. Any deviation will cause the aft bubble to collapse, expelling Voyager and the Delta Flyer from the corridor and into the Delta Quadrant, or somewhere in the Beta Sector, perhaps even in Romulan space. We have boosted the engines of the Delta Flyer to obtain a maximum warp of eight. This will facilitate a sufficient entry into the transwarp bubble in Voyagers wake. Voyager must not exceed warp eight. The ideal speed for optimum safety would be at warp 7. 2.”

 

Tom said in his self-assured voice, “Piece of cake. With me at the helm of the Flyer you’ll be having dinner in Federation space on the same day we leave here.”

 

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “It’s not going to be a ‘cake walk’, Tom. We will need you to pilot Voyager. The main turbulence occurs as the transwarp coil tears open space in front of Voyager to create the corridor. If Voyager is unable to navigate the eddies and deviates even slightly, it could cause the projected signature from Voyager to the Flyer’s reflector to fluctuate and collapse the bubble in her wake. That‘s why Seven and I will be in the Delta Flyer trying to adjust for any fluctuations.”

 

Janeway looked at both women and said, “Who will insure the steady operation of the transwarp coil and handle any problems that may arise in Engineering?”

 

B’Elanna glanced down at the table before looking at Janeway. “Well, I’m training both Carey and Vorik to handle the transwarp coil and make any adjustments to the deflector. They are both able to take care of any engineering crisis that may arise.”

 

“Is it necessary for you to be on the Flyer or can Seven handle the array?”

 

“Er, I thought I would go along as pilot.”

 

“I see. Well, I will go over your report before I make any final decisions as to what personnel are to go where. When can we have Voyager and the Flyer ready?”

 

Seven replied, “In approximately sixteen days, Captain.”

 

“Start right away. Take whatever personnel you need to get the job done. Our next transmission from Starfleet is in seven days. I will send them a packet with the information and expected place and time of arrival. It will be their decision if they want to contact the Romulans and try to get their cooperation if we should end up in Romulan space. Do we have any questions?”

 

Chakotay looking at Janeway, inquired, “Do we inform the crew, Captain?”

 

“Yes. They need to know. I had rather them hear the facts from us than have any wild speculations flying about at warp ten. Everyone needs to do his or her part in helping to achieve the success of this. We will give them the facts, both positive and negative. I want to know from all of you what the feelings of the crew are about this so we can address any concerns. Now on to other business…”

 

x

 

B‘Elanna walked beside Seven and said, “Uhh. I’m starving. Let’s get breakfast in the mess hall. I thought the Doc would never shut up about that damn home brew Ensign Jackson and Watson are making. It has to be at least 120 proof. Any fool that would drink that stuff deserves to feel like a photon torpedo exploded in their guts and head.”

 

Seven entered the turbo lift with B’Elanna. “Deck two. It is obvious that you have knowledge of Ensign Jackson and Watson‘s endeavor of producing a prohibited and obviously dangerous substance. As an officer you were obligated to report this to the Captain, were you not?” Seven’s ice blue eyes bored straight into B’Elanna’s surprised, dark brown ones.

 

“Err. Well, I ah…“ B’Elanna said sheepishly. She glanced at Seven and noticed that the ice blue stare did not waver. She sighed resignedly and said, “Okay, I had a small taste. A very small taste. A teensy weensy taste. I didn’t report them because every Starship, Maquis ship, and merchant ship, I have been on has a secret still that the Captain doesn’t know about, or turns a blind eye to. They probably had one on Noah’s ark, too. I’m sure Janeway knew someone on the ship had one, but didn’t want the details. Hell, she probably had a nip or two herself. If some of the crew hadn’t over indulged and told old Doc, she would have let it go. Now, it’s in Voyager’s log and Janeway has to follow the rules. If I know Jackson and Watson, despite having to scrub out the plasma conduits for a week, they‘ll be back in business. Hopefully, they will stick to making wine, like they used to do.”

 

She gave Seven a big smile and hoping to change the subject, added, “I think I could go for a big plate of banana pancakes and a side order of hash browns. Especially after that workout you gave me this morning.” She then wiggled her eyebrows up and down.

 

Seven maintained her icy demeanor and said, “You are attempting to divert my attention from the subject.”

 

The turbo lift stopped at deck two, and before the doors opened, B’Elanna quickly grabbed Seven by her chin and planted a kiss on her lips. The turbo lift doors swished open, B’Elanna stepped out and waited for Seven. Smiling coyly, she said,  “Was I successful?” She noticed the corners of Seven’s lips quirk up in a small smile, and took her be’nal’s hand in hers as they proceeded to walk the few yards to the mess hall.

 

There was still a lingering smile on Seven’s slightly upturned lips as she replied, “Perhaps.” She gave B’Elanna’s hand an affectionate squeeze.

 

Many of the crew in the mess hall greeted them. None offered them a seat, as the two were still considered to be in the Honeymoon stage, preferring to eat breakfast alone. On the occasions when they didn’t take meals in their quarters, they would gladly accept invitations or invite others to dine at their table in the mess hall. Seven would listen intently to their conversations, often joining in, asking questions in a polite voice, and smiling at their jokes. She even surprised the crew with her dry humor. The gossip making the rounds was that B’Elanna had managed to melt the Ice Queen, and Seven had tamed the Klingon.

 

Seven took a chance on Neelix’s Tagrath grain hot cereal with a dollop of replicated honey, and a glass of milk. B’Elanna used her replicator allotment for banana pancakes with maple syrup, and milk. They found a table by the window, and B’Elanna no sooner took a seat before she started eating her pancakes, and said around a mouthful, “Good, but not like my Nana could make.”

 

Seven took a sip of her milk and said, “You make that observation every time you consume them.”

 

B‘Elanna quickly swallowed her next bite. “It’s true. She made them from scratch and the maple syrup was the real thing. When we get back to the Alpha Quadrant I will make you the real thing with real bananas and maple syrup from real maple trees.”

 

Seven looked across the table at her mate. “B’Elanna, we have not discussed, nor have we made plans, for our future when we arrive in the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“I know. If it’s okay with you, I would like to go to Qo'noS, make peace with my mother, and learn more about my Klingon heritage. We don’t have to stay long.”

 

“We will stay as long as you desire. If you like, we can make our home there.”

 

B‘Elanna’s smile was sappy. “You really are wonderful bang'wI.” She paused and then added, “I don’t know about a home there. Is there anywhere you would like to live? I know you have relatives on Earth. Maybe you would like to visit them for a while…maybe live on earth. I’m not adverse to that. Some of my father’s relatives still live on Earth.”

 

“I have no desire to live on Earth, or for that matter, anywhere else, except with you.” She looked at B’Elanna tenderly and said in a soft voice, “Wherever you are, bang’wI, is my home,”

 

B‘Elanna gave Seven a melting look and sighed. “You say the most wonderful things and you’re a wonderful be'nal. I feel the same way. But, I do think you need to see your relatives. I know your aunt and cousins have contacted you through the array. It‘s important for them, I think, to meet you and you to meet them. They are a part of your parents’ history. And through your parents, they are a part of your history.”

 

“I will visit my father’s sister, Irene Hansen. I believe I have an obligation to inform her of what occurred to her brother and my mother. It is an obligation I am not looking forward to performing.”

 

B‘Elanna reached across the table and rubbed the back of Seven‘s Borg hand. “I know. You know I’ll be there with you to give what support I can.”

 

“Yes. You are an exceptional mate. Thank you.” Seven took a sip of her milk before adding, “We need to decide our futures as far as careers. I know that Starfleet has pardoned the Maquis, and since I was born a Federation citizen, and married both a Federation and Klingon Citizen, Captain Janeway believes that Starfleet will not take me into custody as a threat to the Federation--”

 

B’Elanna interrupted and snarled, “If they touch a hair on your head they will rue the day they were born.” She continued in a calmer voice, “I sent a copy of our wedding certificate through the array to the Klingon Embassy on Earth. Since you are my be’nal, you are a full citizen of the Empire. I doubt Starfleet would want to start a confrontation. Klingons are warriors, but believe me, they have their romantic side and would champion our cause.”

 

Seven’s mouth flicked up at the corners in a decidedly seductive smile, and her voice sounded almost like a purr when she said, “Yes, I have personal experience with their… romantic side.” The look that accompanied this comment made B’Elanna tingle. Seven continued, “I have also read Women Warriors At The River Of Blood, which was very informative on Klingon romantic and sexual customs.”

 

B‘Elanna drew her head back slightly in obvious surprise before blurting out, “Gee, Seven, I thought I recycled that thing. It’s fiction and has nothing to do with reality, especially the sex scenes.” B’Elanna then gave Seven a salacious look and softly growled, “Believe me ‘be’nal, you’re so good in the love making department, you could write a manual on it.”

 

“That would be plagiarism, as I obtained my information on how to perform Klingon sexual practices from, Women Warriors At The River Of Blood.”

 

B'Elanna's eyes widened slightly in mild alarm. Kahless. I have to delete ‘Vulcan Love Slave’ from my collection of holosuite programs before Seven finds it, or she’ll think I’m into all that stuff and wasn’t just curious.’ She then smugly smiled. Yeow, with a be’nal like Seven, I don’t need no stinking holo-sex programs.

 

Chapter Two

 

Seven knelt on the deck by an open panel, making final adjustments to the deflector on the Delta Flyer. “Mr. Kim. A micro spanner please.” Harry Kim handed Seven a micro spanner and resumed reading his padd. Seven had selected Harry to help her install the reflector array in the Delta Flyer.

 

Janeway had called a meeting earlier that morning and announced that Harry would pilot the Delta Flyer as he had a hand in building and designing it, as well as a familiarity with the deflector, as he and Seven were working to install it. Seven would monitor the deflector in the Delta Flyer and B’Elanna would monitor the transwarp coil on board Voyager. Tuvok would handle Voyager’s deflector. B’Elanna was not too pleased that she wouldn’t be with Seven on the Delta Flyer, but understood why Janeway needed her on Voyager, as she knew the transwarp coil inside out.

 

“So, Seven? You and B’Elanna make any plans for when we return to the Alpha Quadrant?” asked Harry.

 

“We shall disembark on Earth, where we will proceed to the Klingon embassy. There, we will finalize my citizenship as a citizen of the Klingon Empire. We will proceed to stay with Captain Janeway, either at her residence in San Francisco, or at her mother‘ residence, while I arrange to visit my aunt. We will proceed to visit my aunt and I will attempt to explain to her what occurred to my father and mother. I am not looking forward to it. Following the visit to my aunt’s, we will return to Captain Janeway’s residence and obtain times and dates for a trip to Qo'noS. Captain Janeway might be able to obtain passage for us on a Starfleet vessel instead of a civilian starship. We will depart Earth. Depending on whether we are provided Starfleet passage, or that of a civilian ship, it will take us approximately--"

 

“Uh, Seven? That’s not what I meant. Have you and B’Elanna decided where you are going to live? And what career paths you will each pursue?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh. Uh. I guess you have plenty of time to decide that when we get home.”

 

“Indeed.” Seven closed the panel and stood up. “We will now commence with testing procedure 15 Alpha.”

 

“Right, 15 Alpha.” Harry activated a communications console and said, “Lieutenant Torres, commence with testing procedure 15 Alpha.”

 

Acknowledged, 15 Alpha has been initiated.”

 

Seven viewed the control panel while entering in the data. After a few moments, she announced, “The test was successful.”

 

B’Elanna still had the communications line open. “That’s great. It looks like we’re on schedule for the day after tomorrow. Let‘s call it quits for now and head for the mess hall. Bring Starfleet, he‘s treating.”

 

Harry suspiciously asked, “Wait a minute. Why am I treating?”

 

I know you have a zillion replicator credits stashed away. No way you’re gonna be able to spend them all in two days. So, as your good friend, I thought I would help you get rid of them.”

 

“Oh, yeah. Right. Actually, I only have twenty-seven. Tom has been mooching off me since Neelix cleaned him out a few months ago.”

 

Hey, that’s what Tom PetaQ gets for running bets on my love life. I thought by now he would have come up with a new scheme to fill his coffers.”

 

“Well, ever since his big loss, he has had a run of bad luck and owes everybody.”

 

Ha. You know Starfleet, by helping him out you’re just feeding the beast. I bet he has a pool betting on when Voyager reaches home. At least he learned his lesson and won’t involve my personal life in his little schemes anymore.”

 

Harry was silent for a little too long and Seven noticed him grimace.

 

Despite not being able to see Harry, B‘Elanna noticed the strained silence. “Starfleet, you would tell me if he was making betting pools on me or Seven, wouldn’t you?"

 

“Ah…sure, B’Elanna,” He hesitantly answered.

 

Hmmm. Okay, good. Now back to those twenty-seven credits you have. It’ll be a big steak and baked potato with sour cream for me. Oh, and a big piece of Texas toast, too. What will it be for you, Seven?”

 

“I shall have chicken Parmesan, baby asparagus sautéed in butter, and a dinner roll.”

 

“Wait a minute. That comes to over twenty credits. I won’t have any left for my dinner,” Harry groused.

 

Seven smirked and answered, “It comes to exactly twenty-six credits. You shall have one credit left.”

 

Well, it is your lucky day, Starfleet. One credit is enough to get you a glass of tea to wash down Neelix’s Leola Root Surprise. See ya, B‘Elanna out.”

 

Harry looked beseechingly at Seven, and whined, “That’s not fair.”

 

“Fair is irrelevant,” Seven replied in her Borg monotone.

 

x

 

Captain Janeway looked at her Senior Staff seated around the conference table. She had listened to the various reports on the ship’s readiness to undertake the mission to return to the Alpha Quadrant. “Starfleet has been informed of our approximate time and place of arrival tomorrow. They will have several ships, not only at the expected points of arrival, but also ships at various distances surrounding those points if we should arrive at a different location. The Romulans have agreed to assist us if we should emerge from the corridor in their space. I think their cooperation has something to do with the fact that we were allies in the Dominion War.”

 

She then smiled and continued, “I have some important news for three of you here at this table. I put in a request for promotions and appointments to Starfleet, and they have been approved.” Janeway fixed her gaze on Ensign Harry Kim and allowed her smile to broaden. “Let it go on record that Ensign Harry Kim has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, Jr. Grade. Congratulations, Lieutenant Kim.” Janeway stood and motioned Harry over to her, and amidst the applause and cheers, pinned a black pip on his collar next to his gold one.

 

“Thank you, Captain.” Harry was all smiles.

 

“I want to thank you, Lieutenant, for your outstanding service to me, the crew, and this ship.”

 

Harry took his seat and Tom patted his back in congratulations.

 

Janeway remained standing and reached for a small envelope on the Table. “For her outstanding Service to me, this crew, and Voyager, Annika Hansen has been awarded the provisional rank of Senior Lieutenant.” Every one clapped and B’Elanna threw her arms around Seven’s neck, giving her a hug.

 

Seven gave B‘Elanna a questioning look, not knowing quite what to do. B‘Elanna looked at her wife with pride and said, “Go ahead and take it, Seven, you earned it.”

 

Seven rose from her seat and walked up to Janeway, who attached the oblong gold bar with two horizontal gold stripes onto her collar. She grinned and said, “Seven, thank you for all you have done for us. You’ve come through for us many times.”

 

“Thank you, Captain Janeway. I will serve to the best of my ability.”

 

“Of that I have no doubts,” Janeway said with her trademark lopsided smile.

 

Tom Paris looked over at B’Elanna and smirked. “Hey B’Elanna, she outranks you now. Guess she will be giving you orders.”

 

B’Elanna smiled good-naturedly and said, “And this will differ, how?” This caused everyone to laugh. Seven went back to her seat and B’Elanna reached over and squeezed her shoulder, looking at her be’nal with pride. Seven gave B’Elanna a pleased smile.

 

Captain Janeway reached for another envelope. “I have one more. For her outstanding service to Voyager, Lieutenant. Jr. Grade, B‘Elanna Torres, has been awarded the rank of Provisional Lieutenant Commander.”

 

Tom exclaimed, “What! Two whole jumps in rank. Gee, she’ll be bossing me around.”

 

Seven hugged a surprised B‘Elanna who rose from her seat and walked over to Janeway who pinned her Lieutenant Commander Bar on her collar. “B‘Elanna, we wouldn’t have made it this far without your expertise in engineering. You have done an outstanding job.”

 

Chakotay gave a “Hear, Hear” and among the cheers and clapping, B’Elanna took her seat next to Seven, who hugged her neck.

 

Janeway said, “Well folks, we have a big day tomorrow. I know with all the excitement it will be hard for many of us, as well as the crew, to get any work done. Just check to make sure there are no problems that we can‘t handle. Try to get some sleep tonight. I want everyone awake and aware tomorrow. We have come this far and I don‘t want any miscalculations because of fatigue to ruin our chances. Try to impart this to the crew also.”

 

The Doctor spoke up, “I don’t want any calls in the wee hours of the morning due to injuries received because of rowdy behavior or over indulgence in synthehol.” He looked at Tom and sniffed, “I heard all about the ‘Last Night in the Delta Quadrant’ party you’re throwing. I will be keeping an eye on things.”

 

Tom said, “Hey Doc, it’s the last time we’ll be at Sandrines and Fair Haven you know? Everybody has an invite to drop by and have one last blow out on the good ship Voyager. Many want to say goodbye to some friends from these programs. They may be holo-characters, but we have become attached to them over time. Surely, you can understand that.” Tom gave his best winning smile and added, “ We hope to see you there too. You know we need a piano player and a crooner at Sandrines. Who better to fill that role than yourself? You know all the good tunes, you’ll be ideal. So, how about it?”

 

The Doctor seemed to preen and smiled smugly. “What time do the festivities start?”

 

“They’ll be going on all day and well into the night so the different shifts can attend. I’ll spread the word to the crew that you’ll make your farewell appearance as Voyager‘s primo star and virtuoso. They will mob the place,” Tom said smoothly.

 

The Doctor’s smile seemed to grow even larger and he actually puffed out his holographic chest. “You can count on me. I can’t let my adoring fans down.”

 

Janeway tried to control her desire to smirk at Tom’s obvious play to the Doctor’s vanity. “I’ll be dropping by Sandrines for a few games of pool. Tom, it’s your final night to try to take my crown away as Voyager’s top Pool Player. Think you have the moxie to pull it off?”

 

Tom gave the captain a feral smile. “Better powder up that cue, Captain, I’m going to run the table tonight.”

 

Janeway gave him one of her lopsided grins and facetiously said, “Oh? And to do this, what handicap do I have to play with? Blindfolded and one hand tied behind my back?”

 

This caused everyone to laugh and it was with an upbeat air that Voyager’s senior officers left the conference room.

 

x

 

B’Elanna entered her and Seven’s quarters, and saw that the lights were on, which indicated Seven was home. She went into the bedroom, and not finding her be’nal there, went into the bathroom. Seven was in the sonic shower and B’Elanna leaned against the sink, a big smile on her face, as she viewed the warm flesh tones through the opaque shower door. Even though the glass did not allow for a clear view, she could still make out the luscious curves of her be’nal. After a couple of minutes the sonic shower stopped, and Seven emerged from the shower, seeing  B’Elanna, she smiled. “B‘Elanna, have you finished your duties for today?”

 

B’Elanna walked the few steps over to her and wrapping her arms around Seven’s waist, pulled her close while tipping her head up for a kiss. “If you’re referring to my work duties, yes.”

 

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye in question. “What other duties are there?”

 

B’Elanna quickly licked the cleft in Seven’s chin and replied, “My wifely duty.”

 

Seven gave B’Elanna a seemingly innocent look and said in a seemingly innocent voice, “You are going to prepare our dinner?”

 

B’Elanna chuckled and facetiously replied, “Why yes. Is there anything particular you would like tonight?”

 

Seven put her left arm around B’Elanna’s’ shoulder and her right hand behind her head and drew her close, her lips a breath away from B’Elanna’s. “This.” She pressed her lips against B’Elanna’s in a searing kiss and softly  moaned, deepening the kiss, which elicited a growl from her wife. Seven drew back slightly, her breathing quickening. She nipped B’Elanna’s bottom lip,  moved to her neck, and lightly bit the throbbing pulse point, eliciting a deeper growl from her wife.

 

B’Elanna took Seven by her  hand and drew her into the bedroom, stopping by the edge of the bed. Seven reached out to unfasten B’Elanna’s jacket and then drew it off. She next pulled her wife’s gray uniform shirt over her head along with her black undershirt leaving her be’nal’s chest bare. Seven softly stroked the caramel breasts, noticing with satisfaction that the brown nipples had hardened. She ran her hands along the sides of the trim waist before lightly guiding B’Elanna to sit on the edge of the bed.

 

Seven knelt and removed B’Elanna’s boots, and tugging down the pants and undies, dropped them to the deck. Still kneeling, Seven ran her hands up the outside of B’Elanna’s legs then to the silken inner thighs, parting them. She placed gentle kisses on the smooth flesh, nipping softly with her teeth. B’Elanna groaned and shivered as Seven’s silken long hair brushed across her thighs. Seven looked up into her be’nal’s dark eyes, molten with desire, her own, liquid blue and questioning. B’Elanna groaned again and quivered lightly, her voice roughened by desire. “Oh yes, bang’wI. Please.”

 

Seven lowered her face to B’Elanna’s apex, breathing deeply the rich, heady aroma of her be’nal’s arousal. B’Elanna shivered, groaning again as she felt Seven’s warm breath tickle her pubic hair and soft fingers separate the wet folds of her labia. B’Elanna fell all the way back upon the mattress, opening her legs wider, entangling her hand in Seven’s hair and gently urging her to the source of her fire. Seven drew her fingers through the slick, warm wetness and gently massaged the hard knot above her be’nal’s opening. She removed her fingers and touched her tongue along the wet opening and up to the protruding bud. She flicked the bud with her tongue and then forcefully licked along B’Elanna’s crease, tasting the slightly salty and bitter essence of her wife‘s arousal.

 

B’Elanna sucked in her breath as she felt Seven’s lips and tongue caress her center. She groaned and began to move her hips in rhythm to the oral caresses. She lost all rational thought as her bang'wI took her to that place where all that existed was this primal fire, stoked to such heat, that she felt as she were the great cosmic core gone nova, filling the void with stars and light. Time and place had no meaning. She did not know if seconds or centuries passed, until a voice pulled her back into the now. “I have you be’nal.” She felt herself cradled in warm arms, and the soft press of lips on her forehead. She turned into the warmth, pressing her face into the soft breasts, and cried from the sheer joy of loving this woman and having this woman love her in return.

 

Seven continued to stroke her wife’s hair and back while whispering her love into her ear. B’Elanna took a shuddering breath, pushed Seven down on the bed, and gently settled her weight on her be’nal. She kissed her deeply, feeling Seven’s lips move against hers, and tasted her own essence. She parted from the kiss long enough to say, “Now bang'wI, I will return to you the fire you have kindled in me.”

 

x

 

Seven stroked B’Elanna’s bare back as her be’nal nuzzled her ear and purred, “Hmmm, you have worn me completely out. I’m not moving from here until the alarm goes off.”

 

Seven reached her hand down to B’Elanna’s posterior and pinched one of her cheeks.

 

“Ouch! That hurt, ” B’Elanna protested.

 

“That was the purpose.”

 

“What did I do?”

 

“You have failed to perform your...wifely duty.”

 

B‘Elanna blew a puff of air through her mouth in surprise and said, “What…your cortical node must have failed. We’ve been performing our wifely duty for the past two hours.”

 

Seven propped herself up on her elbow and smirked. “That is not your primary wifely duty. Your primary duty is to prepare our dinner.”

 

“You had rather eat than make love?” B’Elanna asked in disbelief.

 

“No. However, I have not eaten since breakfast and making love has depleted my energy. I wish to replete my energy in order to resume making love.”

 

B‘Elanna snickered and replied with growl in her voice, “Hmmm. Well, I guess I will need to replete my energy if that’s your plan.” She lightly smacked Seven on her behind and said, “So, be’nal, you can replicate me a hamburger with all the fixings, and a chocolate shake…oh, and serve it to me in bed.”

 

“That is not my duty. Your duty is to prepare our nutrients and my duty is to wash dishes. We agreed to this when on the desert planet.”

 

B‘Elanna complained, “Gods, Seven, you haven’t replicated anything to eat once. Throwing dishes in the recycler does not count as washing them.”

 

Seven answered, almost indignantly, “That is untrue. I have replicated breakfast fifteen times and dinner eight times since we have been sharing these quarters.” Seven sighed and fluffed her pillow, lay her head down, and turned slightly away from B’Elanna, saying in her Borg monotone. “Very well. We shall forgo nourishment and attempt to sleep. Tomorrow we shall go to the mess hall for breakfast. Perhaps that will be sufficient to regain my strength for our journey to the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

B‘Elanna sighed resignedly. “What will it be?”

 

“A peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich, and a glass of milk.”

 

B’Elanna replied in a nasal voice, “Yes, dear.”

 

After a few minutes, she returned and handed Seven a tray. “Anything else, Your Highness?"

 

“This will suffice… for now.”

 

B’Elanna crawled back in bed beside Seven and leaned back against the headboard. Seven leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Thank you, bang‘wI. You are an exceptional mate.”

 

B’Elanna reached over to the tray on Seven’s lap and took her plate. “Just keep remembering that, bang’wI.” She took a bite of her burger, chewed and swallowed. After eating a few more bites, she said, “This is our last night in the Delta Quadrant. Hard to believe we have been here almost seven years. In a way, it seems like a lifetime, but in another way, it seems like yesterday.”

 

Seven took a sip of milk, and looked at B’Elanna for a few long seconds, before asking, “Do you regret your time here in the Delta Quadrant?”

 

B‘Elanna answered right away, “At first I did.” She smiled gently and let her gaze search Seven’s face before saying sincerely and softly, “Now? No. How can I regret what happened when it brought me you? If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t get to know you better when we first met. I should have listened to what my heart was telling me, instead of fighting you all that time.” B’Elanna leaned over and kissed Seven’s cheek.

 

Seven smiled, her teeth showing and her eyes bright with little crinkles at the edges. “You did listen to your heart, your Klingon heart. It told you I was your mate and you acted in the Klingon way. It demanded that you challenge me to see if I would be a worthy mate.”

 

“Yeah, you were a challenge all right. I guess being half Klingon it took longer for me to understand what was really going on. I was a real PetaQ to you, and to make matters worse, I hooked up with an even bigger PetaQ. That I truly regret. What a waste of time.”

 

“The past is irrelevant. We are together.”

 

“Forever, bang‘wI. I just wish I could be with you on the Delta Flyer tomorrow.” B’Elanna took Seven’s Borg hand and kissed the fingertips. “I’m all wound up tight about tomorrow. I doubt anyone will get much sleep. I bet Sandrines will be jumping until early in the morning.”

 

“Do you wish to attend Tom’s …bash?”

 

“Not at all. I want you all to myself. I have plans for you, my dear,” she said and wiggled her eyebrows, a salacious grin on her face.

 

Seven smiled at this, and inquired innocently, “Plans? What are the specifications of these…plans?”

 

“Me, you, here in this bed, doing things. Delicious things to each other that we both enjoy. Things you do so very well,” B’Elanna replied in a sultry voice.

 

Seven lifted the implant over her left eye. “Things? Could you be more precise? Perhaps give me a demonstration of these…things?”

 

“I can do better than that. I can give you a lifetime subscription to these things. They come complete with their own special bio-molecular unit, and a lifetime guarantee of providing you with the utmost enjoyable activities and pleasure. The only requirement you have to do for keeping your unit working at peak performance, is to operate it several times a week, as often as you like. In fact, the more times the better.”

 

“Maintaining the unit will not present a problem. I accept your generous offer. Now, I would like to utilize my unit and experience these…enjoyable activities. What is the procedure for activating the unit?”

 

“The unit is activated by using the owner’s distinct genetic code. The only thing you have to do is place your lips against the matching part on the unit, and it’s done.”

 

With that, Seven pressed her lips against B’Elanna’s who deepened the kiss. After a few long minutes of passionate kissing, B’Elanna pulled a hair’s distance away and breathlessly said, “Bio-molecular Unit is activated.”

 

Chapter Three

 

B’Elanna walked with Seven to the Delta Flyer. Harry Kim was already inside at the helm checking the systems for the last time. The two boarded the Flyer and B’Elanna drew her wife’s head down for a kiss. “Have a nice flight bang'wI. I’ll be thinking about you while we’re going through the corridor.”

 

Seven leaned in for another kiss. “I will expect you to greet me with a kiss…our first kiss in the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

B’Elanna smiled and said, “Our first kiss of the millions to follow.” B’Elanna let her gaze linger on Seven’s face for a few moments then added, “Well, I’ll see you in a little bit.” Seven nodded and with an effort, tore her gaze from her be’nal’s, and walked into the Flyer to the helm, taking the seat behind Harry. B’Elanna stood in the opening of the Flyer and said loudly to Harry, “Hey, and Starfleet. You take care of my girl.”

 

Harry turned and shouted back, “Hey, Maquis, she’ll be taking care of me. See you in the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“Sure thing.” B’Elanna looked at Seven and their gazes met, their eyes bright, and saying what they did not need to voice.

 

“God’s Speed, bang’wI,” B’Elanna mouthed in a whisper.

 

Seven’s enhanced Borg hearing heard, she smiled and also replied in a whisper, “Good Journey, bang’wI.”

 

‘B’Elanna could not hear her but read the movements of her lips, smiled, and walked out of the Flyer, heading toward Engineering.

 

x

 

“Delta Flyer, we are engaging transwarp in 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, mark,” Tuvok said over the comm system.

 

Harry and Seven’s view from the Flyer’s window was of the rippling vortex of blues and violets opening around Voyager. They could not see the front of Voyager as she plunged through the opening eye of the storm, but they did have a good view on their viewscreen of the back portion of the warp bubble at a safe distance closing behind them.

 

Harry fingered the controls and announced, “Voyager is maintaining a steady course, as are we.”

 

“The array is functioning within acceptable parameters. We should emerge in one minute twenty six seconds.”

 

Almost a couple of minutes passed before Harry looked nervously at his controls and readings, and declared, “Damn, Voyager must have picked up some turbulence. She’s starting to bounce a little. Not to worry, We’re still within safe parameters.”

 

Seven announced coolly, “Collapsing corridor field has progressed to within 800 meters of the Delta Flyer. We are now within forty-eight seconds of the targeted point.”

 

Harry was concerned now, his voice strained when he said, “Damn! Come on Tom…keep her steady.” He now said with alarm, “Voyager is careening too much and at too rapid a speed!”

 

Seven’s voice was at a higher pitch, reflecting her concern, “Array has lost contact with transwarp signal. Corridor is collapsing. We have fifteen seconds remaining to reach the designated point. Ten seconds, four seconds--”

 

The Delta Flyer suddenly shook by the forces of the collapsing corridor. When the swirling lights around them cleared, they found themselves in a clear star field.

 

Seven quickly accessed the scanners. “I am not detecting Voyager‘s signature. Nor do I detect any debris.”

 

Harry looked over at Seven, concern on his face and asked anxiously, “You think they made it through?”

 

“Yes. The collapse caught us at three seconds before emergence at the terminus point. My calculations are that the collapse did not catch Voyager and they have emerged in the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“Any idea where we are?”

 

Seven accessed the various readings and after a few long seconds, announced, “My astrometrics readings show that we are in the Beta Quadrant.”

 

“Where in the Beta Quadrant, or do I want to know?”

 

“We are in Romulan Space.”

 

“Oh boy. I hope that they are going to help like they said they would. I hope they are still on good terms with the Federation. After all, we were allies in the Dominion War.”

 

“That may be correct. However, given the history of the Romulan Empire, both past and present, good terms do not necessarily mean cooperation. We shall plot the quickest route to Federation Space.”

 

“Should we send out a distress call?”

 

“Send out a distress call on all channels. If the Romulans intercept it, they will search for a Federation vessel with a Federation ship design and power signatures. Our vessel utilizes components that are Borg, and a few from other Delta Quadrant species. I can disguise our weapons array. This may enable us to escape detection or be perceived as none threatening until we can determine if there is a threat.”

 

“That’s a good idea, Seven…er, Lieutenant.” Harry hadn‘t had time to adjust to Seven’s new rank.

 

Seven ignored his breach of protocol and said, “It is not my idea. I assimilated this particular tactical idea from Species 1091.”

 

“What species is that?”

 

“Romulan.”

 

x

 

Captain Janeway held tight to the arm of her Command Chair. She felt as if her teeth would rattle right out her mouth and her eyeballs would fall out onto the deck. She watched as Tom fought to keep Voyager within the transwarp Corridor. Come on, Tom, just a few seconds. Suddenly the shaking stopped and the viewscreen showed that Voyager was in clear space.

 

Before she could call for a damage report, Tuvok reported, “Captain, we are being hailed by Federation Vessel, Embolden.”

 

Janeway looked at Chakotay, her second in command, and said, “My, that was quick. Chakotay, check the status reports.” She quickly faced the view screen and drew herself up to attention. “On screen.”

 

The placid features of a Vulcan Starfleet captain greeted her. Her voice was evenly modulated, “Welcome home, Captain Janeway. I am Captain Dasal of the U.S.S Embolden.”

 

Janeway smiled, “Captain Dasal. I take it that we are in the Alpha Quadrant?”

 

“Actually, Captain Janeway, you are in the Federation portion of the Beta Quadrant.”

 

“Ahhh. Federation Space at least. Are there any other ships in the vicinity?”

 

“We are to maintain station keeping until Federation vessels, Liberty, Vladimir, and Exeter, arrive in the next hour. Admiral North is aboard the Exeter. In the meantime, Captain, is there any assistance that you may require?”

 

“Thank you, Captain Dasal. I have not had time to go over any damage reports. I will contact you shortly.”

 

“Understood, Captain. Dasal, out.”

 

Janeway went back to her Command Chair with a beaming smile on her face. “Well, it looks like we made it.”

 

Tom turned in his seat with a stricken expression. “Captain. The Delta Flyer is nowhere in the vicinity.”

 

Janeway sprang to her feet and looked at Tuvok who said, “I have scanned the surrounding area and have not detected the Delta Flyer's signature, nor have we received a distress call.”

 

Janeway set her features into a firm mask, only her eyes showing a stricken look. “Do another search, go through any information we gathered on our way through the corridor. They can’t be far away if we were able to make it through the corridor. I’ll contact Captain Dasal from my ready room.”

 

x

 

B’Elanna sat on the edge of her chair and looked around the Exeter’s conference room table. To her right was Captain Janeway, and to her left was Tuvok. At the end was seated Admiral North and across the table were Captain Carlos Leon, and his Second in Command, Commander Fariso.

 

Admiral North had their attention as he spoke, “We have to do this by the book. Romulan Admiral Telir is to rendezvous with us in two hours. What I’m going to tell you next is not general knowledge outside of Starfleet Command, and I expect it to stay here. Our operatives in Romulan space have been sending reports to us for the last six months, and it appears that there was an attempted coup by the Tal Shiar, and certain members of the Senate, to take over Romulus. It was unsuccessful. However, the Tal Shiar, under the command of General Sela, has its own base of operations and a fleet. For years now, they have been stock piling supplies and building defenses on various planets in the sector that you indicate as a possible location of the Delta Flyer. They have also supplied various other factions of non-Romulan species that wish independence from the Empire, with weapons and ships. Including the enslaved inhabitants of Romulus’ sister planet, Remus. The Empire has stretched its fleet and forces thin in trying to squash out the various rebellions. The Tal Shiar has enough ships, weapons, and resources to prevent the Empire intruding on what they consider their domain.”

 

B’Elanna could no longer contain her fear and anger and rose from her seat, facing Admiral North with a belligerent stare. “So, what you’re basically telling us is that we cannot expect any help from the Romulans, nor from Starfleet. Is that what you’re saying? You’re going to sit back and do nothing?”

 

Janeway put her hand on B’Elanna’s arm and calmly said, “B’Elanna, let’s see what options we have.”

 

B’Elanna glared at Admiral North, who glared back. She took her seat, her face flushed and teeth clinched.

 

Admiral North looked at B’Elanna with sympathy. “We are not going to abandon them. We are going to do everything we can to get them back quickly and safely. We will have to work with the Romulans for this to succeed. I’m asking, no, ordering you, Commander Torres, to hold your tongue unless we consult you. You could jeopardize everything. Is that understood?”

 

B’Elanna looked down at the table top, then back up. Her eyes held a hardness that glittered like jet. “Understood… Admiral.”

 

Janeway reached behind B’Elanna and patted her back in affection and support. To come this far and then to have this happen.

 

x

 

Admiral Telir looked directly into the eyes of Admiral North. “I am aware that the Federation has knowledge of the problems that our Empire faces. You have your spies and agents, perhaps in the Senate itself, and we have our…sources in the Federation.”

 

Janeway studied the Romulan Admiral closely. She was an older woman, in Human years, perhaps in her 60’s, but it was hard to tell with Romulans. She could well be over 100 years old.

 

She let her gaze settle on Telir‘s aide, Adjunct Vlara. She looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties. She appeared more Vulcan than Romulan due to her smooth forehead. Then again, her features and fair coloring were more like the Vulcan/human hybrids one occasionally saw. Her hair was a rich seal brown, curling softly around her face and almost to her shoulders, and not in the ugly, severe military cut that was now popular among Romulans. Her face was a soft oval, unlike the angular features of most Vulcans and Romulans, and her eyes were large and expressive. Janeway had not managed to get close enough to note the color clearly, but from where she sat, they appeared hazel. Her nose was not too small or large. It was slightly pug in an attractive way. Her mouth was small and well shaped. She was not what one would call beautiful, or even pretty, but she was attractive in a race that Janeway had never found physically appealing. Romulans always looked too stern and foreboding to her: The women harsh and angular , especially with the current fashion of dark lip coloring and unbecoming haircuts. Janeway knew she shouldn’t judge other species by her more Earth centric standards of beauty, but still, one couldn’t help certain cultural biases. The young woman quickly turned her gaze to Janeway, causing her to blush at being caught staring, and turning her attention back to Admiral Telir.

 

Admiral Telir said, “Your crewmen are indeed in the section of space that you have pinpointed. One of our ships, close to that sector, received their distress signal and relayed the information to me. I will be honest, if it has not happened already, the renegade Tal Shiar will soon apprehend them. They will quickly investigate the source of the communications, as well as any unusual singularities appearing in the sector controlled by them. The most we can do is to have our operatives pass on any information they receive. If there is a chance to get them out, our operatives will take it. The chances are very slim that you will see your people again, unless the Tal Shiar were to use them in trade for something they want from you or us. You can rest assured that the trade would be to their favor and would not be accepted by us or your Federation.”

 

B’Elanna quickly stood, flinging back her chair, and tersely declared, “No! God damn it, no! I’ll not accept that. You can let me take a small shielded shuttle into the area. I’ll find them!”

 

Admiral North barked, “Commander, you’re out of line.”

 

B’Elanna ripped off her officer’s bar, slammed it down on the table, and shoved it towards the Admiral. “I don’t answer to Starfleet anymore. I’ll get them back without Starfleet’s help.”

 

Janeway looked beseechingly at the distraught woman and calmly said, “B’Elanna, please, take your seat--”

 

“No!” B‘Elanna turned blazing eyes on Janeway and in a barely controlled voice stated, “Thank you, Captain. It has been an interesting ride. But this is my stop. We are not far from Klingon Space, and I request passage there…Please. Contact the nearest Klingon ship and tell them a citizen of the Empire, and Maquis Freedom Fighter, requests passage home.” With that, she turned and left.

 

Admiral Telir questioned, “Maquis? The ones in our space are  Maquis?”

 

Janeway looked at Admiral Telir and said, “No. One of the two is her wife and the other a good friend.”

 

The Romulan Admiral raised her eyebrows, a thoughtful look on her face. “Ahhh. The Universe sometimes exacts a bitter payment for every sweet success.”

 

Janeway sighed. “She won’t give up on finding them, and neither will I.”

 

Admiral Telir nodded her head. “I will assist as much as I am able.” She looked toward the Starfleet admiral. “Admiral North, I need as much information as you are willing to share on the two lost individuals, and their ship. With your permission,” she looked at Janeway, “and if Captain Janeway is agreeable, I would like to meet with her and Commander Torres, face-to-face. Perhaps we can come up with a viable plan of action.”

 

Janeway held her breath and looked at Admiral North.

 

He smiled and said, “Agreed.”

 

x

 

B’Elanna left the transporter pad and rushed out from the room, leaving the ensign operating the controls feeling some dismay at the look of rage on her face. There was no one in the corridor or in the turbo lift when she exited the lift, and hurried to her quarters, sealing the door behind her. She went into the bedroom and looked around, her sight settling on Seven’s bathrobe draped over the back of the lounger. She picked it up and brought it up to her face, breathing in deeply the scent of her wife. A primal scream of rage and anguish issued from deep in her chest, and catching her breath, she screamed again. Still holding Seven’s robe, she threw herself face down on the bed, and screamed until her voice was hoarse. She turned over on her back, staring up at the ceiling, wondering what she could do, and how she could awaken from this nightmare.

 

Her comm badge beeped but she did not acknowledge it. Tears welled up and leaked down her cheeks, neck, and down into her hair.

 

She didn’t know how long she lay there until she pushed herself off the bed and went to the replicator. “Computer, double rum straight up.” The small glass of spirits materialized and she quickly grabbed it, drinking the contents down in one swallow, and then she threw the glass across the room where it shattered against the view window. “Computer, double rum straight up.” Another drink materialized and she again downed the contents, repeating her action of smashing the glass against the window. “Computer, one bottle of light rum.”

 

You have insufficient credits to purchase this item.

 

“Damn. Computer, double rum, straight up.” a glass of the clear liquid materialized, and she once again drank down the contents in one swallow, and threw the glass against the window, feeling some amount of satisfaction as the glass splintered.

 

She was just about to see if she had enough credits to get another drink when she heard the chime at the door. “GO AWAY!” The chime sounded again and she sat on the couch, ignoring it. The chime kept pealing, making B’Elanna angry, and she screamed, “God damn! I said GO AWAY!”

 

There was silence and then the door opened, and Captain Janeway walked into the darkened quarters, stopping and looking around, her eyes not yet adjusted to the darkness. “B’Elanna?”

 

She was startled when she heard a hoarse voice from the dark growl out menacingly, “Get the god damn hell out of here!”

 

Janeway swung her head toward the voice and saw B’Elanna outlined by the faint glow of the running lights on Voyager. She walked over to the couch. “May I sit down?”

 

B’Elanna sprang up and stood close enough for Janeway to see the dim light reflecting from the black pools of her eyes. B’Elanna’s voice was dangerously low. “Get. Out.”

 

Janeway did not budge. She could smell the alcohol on B’Elanna’s breath. She reached out her hand only to have it slapped away, and she said sincerely, “B’Elanna, I haven’t given up. I came here to go over some ideas with you on retrieving Seven and Harry. I’ll not let this go. If I have to, I will resign my commission and find some way to search for them.”

 

B’Elanna stopped breathing for a moment, and then asked in a surprised voice, “You’d do that?”

 

“In a heartbeat. Seven is like a daughter to me, you as well. Harry has been loyal and I’ve grown quite fond of him. And you know, I never leave my people behind. Let‘s sit down and see what resources we have to work with.”

 

B’Elanna hesitated for a second, searching Janeway’s face, before sitting down on the end of the couch. She placed the heels of her palms against her eyes trying to stymie the flow of tears. Janeway sat beside her and pulled her into a hug. B’Elanna hugged her back and placing her head on her captain’s shoulder, cried. Janeway let her cry, rubbing her back in comforting circles.

 

Finally, B’Elanna sat up and rubbed the tears from her eyes. Janeway got up and went to the bathroom and replicated a washcloth, dampened it with cold water, returned to the couch and handed it to B’Elanna, who wiped her face.

 

“Captain, what can we do?” B’Elanna asked beseechingly.

 

“What we’ve always done. Bend a lot of rules, break a few, and make up our own. We may have an ally with Admiral Telir. She has invited us to dine with her on board her ship, and give her information on Seven and Harry that would assist her in searching for them.”

 

“Do you trust her? I mean, the Federation is on friendly terms right now with Romulus, but these are Romulans."

 

“Yes. I think she is sincere in wanting to help. I’m not so naive that I believe she won’t gain something out of this. My greatest fear is that she wants the information on the transwarp coil. Or, it may be as simple as wanting to establish better relations with the Federation. The Empire could use some allies right now. Let’s float some ideas around. And, If you don’t mind, I would like to call Tom in on this. He has expressed a desire to help.”

 

B’Elanna looked like she was about to object and Janeway put her hand up to forestall her as she added, “I know he can be immature and a pain. But, he also has an active imagination and may come up with something. Besides, Harry is his best friend and he wants to help.”

 

“You’re right. Knowing Tom, he probably already has an idea. I just hope it doesn’t involve ray guns and rocket packs.”

 

x

 

Vlara went to her desk in her quarters and pressed her fingertips onto a three by four inch recessed green lighted area on the  polished black top. A drawer slid open and she removed a flat green leather folder. She sat in her chair, and placing the folder on the table, flipped it open. There was a picture of her and her father taken on the day of  her acceptance as a Senatorial Page at the Imperial Senate Training School. Her father was a handsome man, as far as humans went. He was fair-haired and blue eyed, a color combination very rare on Ch’Rihan and very much sought after in concubines and slaves.

 

She had loved him very much, even though his station in life was that of a slave. Her mother loved him also, in her own way. Her mother chose him as part of her share of a war prize after the Romulan victory at Narendra III.

 

Starfleet prisoners were often executed after information was obtained from them. Save for those that caught the eye of some senator, military official, or upper caste citizen. Starfleet prisoners made poor slaves in that they felt it was part of their duty to escape captivity. Her father’s name was Richard Vincent and he had served as a Lieutenant in the science department on board the Federation Starship Enterprise. His capture followed the destruction of his ship at Narendra III. He resided on her mother’s ancestral estate on Campus Prime, which was located on a small habitable moon of the gas giant Dothus, in the Corunian system. There was no way he could escape; the only ships permitted on the moon were supply ships and certain military ships. That did not keep him from trying. Once he hid away in the grain bay on the monthly supply ship that delivered supplies to their home. He was quickly apprehended after the broadcast, on subspace frequencies, of his missing status. His punishment had been confinement to his room for a time, and when allowed to wander the estate, loyal servants of her mother watched him around the clock.

 

Her mother never physically or mentally abused him. She was a patient woman and treated him kindly. She knew he was trained as a biologist and had a love for nature, so she would take him for walks among the estate’s forest and fields. Much of the moon’s fauna and flora remained unstudied and unrecorded. Her mother offered him the task of doing this and he readily accepted. She even told him to name the plants. He would share with her mother, his findings and they would discuss the various aspects and characteristics of the different species. Not long after that, a friendship grew between them, which led to love, as much as was possible between two persons of unequal social class.

 

For political reasons her mother had never married any of the available Rihannsu in her class. She made him an official concubine. He could never be a citizen, but was accorded certain respect due to the position of her Mother. She was born two years after his capture, and was the couple’s only child.

 

She was a full citizen, due to her mother’s status and social class. Her mother was often gone on missions, leaving her father as her primary caretaker. He seemed satisfied with his life on Campus Prime and she never learned of his past until after her graduation from the Imperial Senate Training School.

 

He told her of his background as a Starfleet officer, and most shocking of all, revealed that he had a wife and three children in the Alpha Quadrant. His children had been thirteen, ten and six years of age when he left for a six-month tour. They would now be adults. His wife had most assuredly thought him dead and had probably remarried. His one wish was to tell them that he had not died and that he loved them. He assured her that he loved her. He made her promise that one day she would get word to them, and if he still lived, tell him what she had learned of them. She had promised him that she would carry out his wishes.

 

That had been nine years ago. He died four years ago from the sting of a harvester bee while studying plant life along a nearby creek bed. The bee sting was painful but not fatal to most mammals. It appeared he was allergic to the sting and his death occurred within a matter of minutes.

 

At the time of his death, she was serving as a civilian adjunct to her mother. Their ship was near the Neutral Zone when word reached them. She was shaken and saddened. It was a solemn homecoming for her and her mother.

 

They interred his body in the family mortuary vaults. There was the customary feast in his honor, attended by all the servants and military staff alike. As is the Romulan custom, his family and friends recalled various anecdotes concerning his life with them, with both laughter and tears.

 

He had left a letter for her, and one for her mother, with instructions to open them in the event of his death. Her mother did not share the contents of the letter to her but did share with her his last request. That she, his daughter, one day visit the Federation and carry private letters that he had written to his children and wife. She knew this of course, as her letter contained the same request he had made to her personally.

 

The recent events with the lost Federation craft and crewmembers might open up a way for her to go to the Federation planet of Earth. It was her mother’s desire that she journey in person to carry out this last request. It was a matter of honor to carry out the last wishes of a loved one.

 

All she needed was for the Federation to allow the visit. It would help facilitate matters smoothly if she cultivated a friendship with a member of Starfleet.

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway was an honorable person according to the data and research they had on her. It would not hurt matters that the Federation also viewed Captain Janeway as a hero. If her mother could help Janeway recover her lost crewmembers, then perhaps Janeway could help her. If this action resulted in better relations between the Federation and The Empire, it would give her mother a power point to use in her future position as a member of the Senate, perhaps even as Proconsul someday. After all, it was not only who you were that mattered, but also who your friends were.

 

x

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway looked with appreciation at her reflection in her bathroom mirror. She admired the fit of her new formal Starfleet uniform, how the white dress jacket brought out the red in her hair and flattered her figure. She always hated the old former dress uniform: A red sack that made her look short and dumpy. One last sweep of the brush through her hair and she was ready. She was looking forward to dining with Admiral Telir. She hoped B’Elanna would be on her best behavior, after all, the old earth saying that you got more bees with honey was tried and true.

 

She met B’Elanna in transporter room one and immediately noticed that she was also wearing the new version of the Starfleet dress uniform. Her white jacket had a yellow shirt and gold trim. Janeway noticed with pleasure that B’Elanna still had her provisional rank bars, indicating that she had not carried out her threat to resign…yet. She also noticed her engineer's drawn face and tired eyes. “The new dress uniform looks nice on you B’Elanna.”

 

B’Elanna smiled faintly and looked Janeway over. “As does yours, Captain. The person who designed these needs to be awarded a medal.”

 

Janeway saw that the smile never reached B’Elanna’s eyes. “Well, then. Let’s see what plans our guest has.” She turned her attention to the ensign at the transporter controls. “Ensign, two to beam over at set coordinates.”

 

“Aye, captain. Permission has been granted.”

 

Both women materialized on a transporter pad and were met by Vlara who gave them the typical Romulan military salute consisting of clinched fist and arm, quickly drawn to the chest. “Captain Janeway, Commander Torres, welcome aboard. If you will please accompany me.” Vlara’s voice was surprisingly warm and the sound possessed a deliciously rich throatiness that made the hair on the back of Janeway’s neck prickle in a pleasant way. The young woman had not spoken at their first meeting.

 

After a short walk down a wide corridor, Vlara stopped at a wide door, which parted to allow them to enter into a large living room. This was obviously the Admiral’s personal suite. Their host greeted them cordially. “Captain Janeway and Commander Torres. Welcome. Please, this way.” She led them to another room that contained a set table with a number of food items already in place. “Please, Captain, sit here.” She indicated a seat at the end of the table. “Please, Commander Torres, here. She indicated a seat to the Captain's right.

 

Vlara took the seat across from B’Elanna. Admiral Telir sat at the other end of the table, and after a few seconds, two servers entered with carafes of various liquors, stood at the elbow of the Starfleet officers, and taking their glasses, poured in a small amount of blue liquid. Captain Janeway recognized it as the rare and prohibited Romulan Brandy: That is, prohibited in the Federation.

 

Admiral Telir stood and lifted her glass. “I believe it is an Earth custom to toast success with a drink of spirits, Captain Janeway?” Janeway nodded and Admiral Telir continued, “To your return home, Captain, and the safe return of your crewmen.” Captain Janeway nodded and took a sip of the spirit, finding that it went down easily and left a slight licorice aftertaste. One of the waiters immediately refreshed her glass. Admiral Telir was still standing and looked toward B’Elanna. “To the safe return of your loved one, and friend, Commander.” B'Elanna nodded and threw back her head and swallowed the sapphire liquid in one gulp.

 

Admiral Telir was an excellent host. The food was delicious, and the conversation touched on everything from the recent Dominion War, to some of Voyager’s adventures in the Delta Quadrant. Janeway was surprised at the seemingly candid discussions on the brooding Civil War with the Remans and the mutiny of the Tal Shiar.

 

The Admiral was an astute listener and seemed to enjoy Janeway's anecdotes of their adventures in the Delta quadrant.

 

Janeway glanced often at B’Elanna and noticed that she seemed to have relaxed. Whether this was due to the amount of Romulan Brandy she consumed, or their host’s interesting portrayal of events while Voyager was missing, from the Romulan point of view of course, she did not know. Perhaps it was a combination of both. Janeway also glanced on many occasion at Adjunct Vlara. For the most part, the young woman seemed to be engrossed in the conversations, only speaking when confirming a specific event that Admiral Telir was relaying. Several times, she would catch the young woman looking at her, only to lower her eyes or look elsewhere. However, the last few times she caught the young woman staring at her she was amused to notice a smile and the cutest dimples that she had ever seen. Janeway returned her smile. She is very lovely when she smiles. She had a feeling that there was something more than an officer and commander relationship between the two women. Perhaps, they were lovers. Before she could ponder more on their connection, her host made a surprising announcement.

 

“Captain Janeway, Commander Torres. I wish to help you retrieve your two crewmembers. With your permission, Captain, I wish for Commander Torres to stay aboard my ship and work directly with me to achieve this goal.”

 

Before Janeway could answer, Admiral Telir looked at B’Elanna. “Commander Torres. What I am formulating could very well cost you your life, but it is the only solution I have at the moment.”

 

B’Elanna’s eyes glowed and her color heightened. “Admiral. Trust me. I would give my very life to have my be’nal safe. My only question is, when do we start?”

 

Janeway interceded, “I would have to hear your plans before I could approve them. It may be out of my hands anyway, Starfleet would have to be informed and give their permission.”

 

B’Elanna immediately reached for her provisional rank bar, and taking it off, laid it on the table. “I resign my commission, Captain.” She looked at the Admiral. “Admiral Telir, when do we start?”

 

Admiral Telir looked at Captain Janeway, her face neutral. “Captain. I would like for you and Starfleet to approve this mission. I believe it could open up promising possibilities of friendship between our governments.”

 

Janeway nodded. “I agree and I will do what I can to facilitate things.”

 

Admiral Telir smiled and said, “I have a personal favor to ask of you, one which I think in your role as a Starfleet officer you may be able to perform.”

 

Here it comes, thought Janeway. Her eyes did not blink as she stared directly into the Admiral’s eyes. “That favor would be?”

 

Admiral Telir looked across the table at Adjunct Vlara. “Take my daughter back with you to the Alpha Quadrant to visit with her family there.”

 

Janeways eyes widened and she turned to gaze at Vlara. Vlara returned the look with a smile and said, “Yes, Captain, my father’s family. He is dead, but it was his wish that I carry messages to his family…my family. On my honor, as his daughter, I promised him I would do so.”

 

Janeway saw the sincerity in the young woman’s eyes. “I …see.” She looked at B’Elanna and saw the pleading look in her eyes. She directed her attention to Admiral Telir, giving one of her trademark lopsided smiles, and said, “I’m sure we can work something out.”

 

Admiral Telir nodded and motioned to her staff to fill the glasses with more sapphire liquid. “On my honor, Captain Janeway, I will do what I can do bring your crew back to you safely.” She stood, lifted her glass and looking at B’Elanna, and then at Janeway, said, “Let us toast new friends, old friends, and loved ones far away. May the universe smile on them and grant them success, happiness, and good fortune.”

 

The other three women stood and lifted their glasses and swallowed the contents to honor the toast.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

 

Seven of Nine checked the various indicators on the Delta Flyer's monitors, while Harry slept in the Flyer's aft area. So far, the only sensor readings had been those of a few cargo ships at a far enough distance away to avoid any contact. She had fine-tuned the various sensors to detect any tachyon particles in the vicinity that would indicate the presence of a cloaked ship. Realistically, she knew that the Romulans were already aware of their presence in Romulan space, and that a search for them was already in effect.

 

She knew that their identity as a Starfleet vessel remained unknown, due to the various Borg and Delta Quadrant components in the weapons signatures, arrays and shielding. Any ship close enough to scan them would undoubtedly be concerned more with the Borg signatures, as that would pose the greater threat to the Romulan Empire.

 

Seven wanted to evade capture for as long as possible. This would give them time to get that much closer to their destination, and in the event of their capture, send out a burst of communications as to their last location, which would have a better possibility of reaching the Federation.

 

True, the latest information had the Romulans as allies during the Dominion war, but it could be as Janeway had once told her, “Even your worst enemy can ally with you in the face of a bigger threat. I did that with the Borg to fight species 8472, and they did not keep up their end of the bargain.” Now that the war for the most part was over, the old status quo could be in effect.

 

She and Harry were in agreement to avoid capture as long as possible while maintaining their present course. She estimated reaching their destination in approximately three months at their present speed and course. They had plotted the course back to the Alpha Quadrant using the coordinates from where they had emerged, and where the expected exit point of Voyager would have been. The accuracy of this method was in doubt due to the nature of wormholes themselves, but it was the best method they had going for them.

 

By following the supposed path, they could also scan for Voyager if she had emerged from the wormhole before reaching the plotted emergence point. Seven had a gut feeling, as B’Elanna would say, that Voyager had made it safely to the Alpha Quadrant and that B’Elanna was now engaged in searching for her. B’Elanna was intelligent enough to use Voyager’s recorded data of the trip through the wormhole to get an accurate estimate as to The Delta Flyer's emergence point.

 

The Flyer’s cabin lights were off and the only lights that lent any luminescence to the interior darkness were from the few instruments and the star field outside the cockpit. Her eyes gazed at the stars that appeared as pinpoints of light that elongated on either side of her vision as they passed. Those straight ahead were a constant beacon toward the Alpha Quadrant and to her heart and home, her be’nal, B’Elanna.

 

There was not a waking hour that did not go by that she did not think about B’Elanna, and her smile, her voice, her scent, and her taste. B’Elanna was the last thought she had when claimed by sleep and the first when waking. Her B’Elanna was in her dreams, holding her and telling her that she loved her. She would cry silently into her thin bunk pillow when she realized her be’nal was far away.

 

She heard Harry stirring behind her and smelled the aroma of tea. “Hey Seven, can I get you anything…tea or something to eat?”

 

She turned and acknowledged him. “A cup of hot chicken noodle soup, please, and a glass of milk.” She had informed him to call her Seven, and not lieutenant , when it was just the two of them. She had yet to become accustomed to her new designation…Lieutenant Annika Hansen.

 

She noticed that Harry wore his slate gray shirt and his black pants. They both looked fresh and she assumed that he had run them through the sonic shower to remove any grime or odor.

 

They had a small replicator on the Flyer, but it did not have the capacity to replicate complete uniforms, and its main function was to replicate food items. There was also a thirty-day supply of Starfleet rations in self-heating packets and containers. Plus a thirty-day supply of emergency ration bars. She hoped the replicator would continue to operate so that they would not need to resort to ration bars.

 

Seven, at one time, would have deemed the flavor irrelevant, but after almost four months of eating a varied menu of foods provided by her be’nal, the thought of ration bars was along the same line as the nutritional milk shakes she had consumed in the past: Unacceptable.

 

She found out that she had a particular fondness for chicken, as it had a very similar flavor to the iguanas that B’Elanna had prepared for their meals when they were stranded on a desert planet together, some months back.

 

Harry handed her the tray with the hot cup of soup and glass of cold milk, then took the seat at the console behind Seven, who occupied the pilot’s seat. “Anything of importance out there”?

 

“Negative. There does appear to be an increase in freighter traffic and Ion trails. It appears to originate and terminate in a star system five light years away, which has an M class planet.”

 

Kim accessed his panel. “Yeah, looks like the system is in our path. Maybe we should detour around it.”

 

“Negative. I have formulated a plan that may assist us in passing through this area of space undetected.”

 

Harry quickly looked in Seven’s direction. “Okay. I’m for anything that will get us back to the Alpha Quadrant faster.”

 

Seven input data into her console. “We shall use the ion trails left by freighters to mask our own trail.”

 

“Yeah, Seven, but in order to do that, we would have to get in a vessel's wake. How would we avoid detection?”

 

“We shall use long range sensors to detect a vessel headed in our direction. We will drop out of warp and shut down all systems, save for life support. When the ship passes, we will maneuver at the speed of the ship and enter the ion trail, then maintain the same warp speed as the vessel.”

 

“That could work. But if the freighter enters the system and heads to, say a space station, then what?”

 

“If that occurs, we will drop out of warp and travel at impulse speed to another point in the system and repeat the procedure with a ship heading in our designated direction.”

 

“I guess that could work. Don’t tell me this is another trick the Borg assimilated from the Romulans.”

 

“It is not. It is a …trick…I learned from B’Elanna. The Maquis used it often to evade their enemies.”

 

“A Marquis trick eh? What other kinds of tricks has B’Elanna been teaching you?”

 

Seven turned in her chair and gave Harry a level look, her implant lifting to her hairline.

 

Harry, realizing how that sounded, turned red and sputtered, “Ah...I didn’t mean it like that, Seven, I, ah, honest, I swear... I just wondered what other Maquis tricks she ah…honest…”

 

Seven turned back to her console and smirked. B’Elanna is correct. Harry is such an easy mark.

 

x

 

Dr. Damar stood back from the biobed with a smile on his taunt features, and looking B’Elanna’s face over, said, “All done. I must say, the results are better than I expected. You make a very good looking Romulan, Commander.”

 

Tom Paris gave B’Elanna a leering wink, and said, “Hey, you make a very cute Romulan. Not that you weren’t cute to begin with.”

 

B’Elanna brought her right hand up to her forehand, feeling the absence of her Klingon ridges, and the wide spaced v-shaped ridge in their place. “Give me a mirror.” Dr. Damar turned to one of his assistants and nodded his head.

 

B’Elanna turned on Paris and snarled, “You’re next flyboy. I can’t wait to see how your little cosmetic surgery will turn out.” An assistant handed B’Elanna a mirror, and she quickly brought it up to her face, her eyes growing wide. “OH MY GODS!” she brought her left hand up and touched the points on her ears and the heavy ridges over her eyebrows. “I’m not ME anymore.”

 

A voice answered from the doorway, “No you’re not. You are D‘len and Lieutenant Paris is your brother, Tomos. You are both traders in fine wines and spirits from the Romulan Empire, and even rarer spirits from as far away as the Federation itself.” Admiral Telir stopped in front of B’Elanna, inspecting her closely, a half smile on her face. “Very good, Dr. Damar. You are not only a superb doctor, but an artist as well.”

 

Dr. Damar smiled smugly. “Thank you, Admiral.” He turned his attention to Tom. “If you will sit on the table, Lieutenant Paris, I will apply my artistic skills on you.”

 

Tom asked shakily. “You did say the procedure is reversible didn’t you Doc, I mean Doctor Damar?”

 

Dr. Damar smirked, His dark brown eyes crinkling at the corners. “Of course, but I assure you I will do such fine work on you that you may never want to go back to looking…Human.”

 

Tom smiled weakly and got up on the table vacated by B‘Elanna.

 

B‘Elanna smirked and turned to Admiral Telir. “So, we are wine merchants? I gotta tell you, the only thing I know about spirits is drinking them.”

 

Admiral Telir replied, “Not to worry, we have eight days to reach your embarkation point. That is eight days for you to learn enough about wine and spirits to convince all but a true connoisseur that you are knowledgeable in the product. Just avoid an in-depth conversation with a connoisseur. Or have Lieutenant Paris dazzle them with his…wit, and his ability to flatter.”

 

“Hey….” Tom said. Only to be stilled by Dr. Damar.

 

“Please, be still, I almost sliced your right ear off.”

 

B’Elanna smirked. “I see Paris’ reputation as a smooth talker has preceded him.”

 

Admiral Telir nodded. “Of course, Commander. I know all there is to know about both you and Lieutenant Paris. We have obtained a considerable amount of information in the short time we had. I know a lot about your personalities and your likes and dislikes. I know most of your history and even your psychological makeup.

 

B’Elanna frowned. “I don’t even want to know how you came by any of that.”

 

Admiral Telir laughed. “And you shan’t. Even the Klingons and Cardassians have their ways of finding out about anybody in our respective military and government, as we do theirs. Just as the Federation probably has the same on every Romulan who serves in the military and senate.”

 

B’Elanna lowered her voice. “You think you could show me what you have on Captain Janeway?”

 

Admiral Telir drew her head back and gasped in mock surprise. “That, Commander, is classified information and only one with General or Admiral Rank is privileged to review. And only if it pertains to a mission.” She smirked. “You are known as Voyager’s unofficial source of gathering and disseminating…information. Perhaps you could fill in the blanks that are missing on your Captain. Hmmm?”

 

B’Elanna blushed and sputtered. Before she could come up with a suitable answer, Dr. Damar proclaimed, “Another masterpiece.”

 

B’Elanna took one look at Paris and said, “Wow, your own mother wouldn’t even know you.” She turned to Doctor Damar and discreetly winked. “But, Doctor, it looks like you made his ears too large and they are lopsided.”

 

Apparently, Dr. Damar understood the meaning of a wink. “Oh, yes. Hmmm, well, I don’t have time to rectify the error. I’m afraid he’s stuck with them.”

 

Tom quickly grabbed the mirror off the end of the bed and stared hard into it, then displayed an amazed but pleased look on his face. He grinned and touched the points on his ears and the v-shaped ridges above his now slanted eyebrows. “Ha. What are you talking about, why I’m still a handsome devil. Bet I have the Romulan girls lining up for a night out with me. You did a damn fine job, Doc. Of course, you had something to work with.”

 

B’Elanna snorted and rolled her eyes.

 

Dr. Damar slowly looked Paris up and down, pursed his lips, and said, “Why don’t you drop by my place for dinner and some… conversation…later tonight, say 1900, and tell me how much you admire my work. You know, we still have to darken your hair and change your eye coloring. And we can easily do that in the comfort of my quarters.”

 

Tom Paris was suddenly at a loss for words and his eyes darted around, not focusing on the Doctor’s face. “Well. Hee, hee, Ah…

 

It was all B’Elanna could do to keep from bursting out with a belly laugh at the sight of Tom’s face turning red and his obvious loss for words. ‘Wait until I tell Seven this one.’ Her laughter died in her throat as she immediately realized that her be’nal was far from her. She felt her jaw ache and her throat tighten from the anguish of her loss. She battled to squash the negative emotions assailing her. Closing her eyes tightly she wrestled down the feeling of despair. You are alive my be’nal for I still breathe and my heart still beats. I’ll find you. I promise.

 

x

 

Janeway gazed at the dimpled, smiling face across from her. Damn, she is cute, downright lovely when she smiles. She absently rubbed her tingling left hand on her pants legs. For the last five days, ever since coming aboard Voyager, Vlara had been her dinner guest. The young woman was witty and had a way of describing things that Janeway found most interesting and refreshing. Janeway loved the sound of Vlara’s voice and how it could sometimes cause delicious goose bumps to skitter along the back of her neck. The young woman was an attentive listener, often asking Janeway to elaborate on points she was making, and on Voyager’s adventures in the Delta Quadrant.

 

Voyager was now eight days out from McKinley Station and home. There were reports that she still had to complete for Starfleet, and conferences over communications with the brass.

 

Admiral North often beamed over to Janeway’s ready room to discuss different issues, and to catch her up on almost seven years of Federation history, as well as changes in Starfleet policy. She had had several lunches with Admiral North, Captain Leon, and his first officer, along with Chakotay and Tuvok. However, she preferred to spend her nights in the company of the young human-Romulan hybrid across from her. Vlara was not at all taciturn, as she believed most Romulans to be. She did not have that saturnine olive look of most Romulans, or even Vulcans. Her coloring was more Northern European, except for the softly waving fine dark sable brown hair, which she wore shoulder length. Janeway surmised that her blood was more in the red spectrum than in the green of both Vulcans and Romulans, as evidenced by the few occasions she blushed. Her eyes were light brown with green flecks and Janeway noticed that when excited the green was more prominent. Janeway had also noticed that she was close to her height, solidly built, with curves, and not lanky and wiry like most Romulans.

 

Janeway had learned that the young woman‘s role in the Romulan military was not that of an officer at all, but as a liaison between the Romulan senate and Admiralty. She had told Janeway that her true wish was to become a botanist as her father had been, but her mother’s house had always served the Empire as military officers and senators, so it was tradition that she pick one of those two fields to serve in. She chose the governmental branch, and started training as a senatorial aide. However, she did manage to cross train as a botanist through the Imperial Institute of Sciences, earning the equivalent of a B.S degree.

 

She had given Janeway a little insight into the machinations and complex underpinnings of the Romulan Senate, which Janeway had never learned in her political science classes.

 

“Captain Janeway. Am I taking up your time?” Vlara inquired softly.

 

Janeway drew herself out of her reverie. “No. Not at all. And please, when we are alone in settings like this, call me Kathryn.”

 

Vlara smiled and said, “Kathryn,” causing Janeway to draw in her breath at the richness of the sound.

 

Janeway said, “I was just thinking…I know that you have one brother remaining on earth who wishes to meet you. But you have not mentioned where you will be staying?”

 

“My brother is making arrangements for me to stay in an Inn. Ah…I believe he referred to it as a hotel.”

 

“I see. I was wondering if you would be averse to being my guest during your stay on Earth. My mother has plenty of room and would not mind you stay with us during your visit.”

 

Vlara looked closely at Janeway and smiled, her dimples in evidence. “I would not want to impose. You have just returned after a long absence and I would only be a fifth leg on a coliby.”

 

Janeway smiled lopsidedly. “I seem to recall that coliby is the Romulan equivalent of our horse. And no, you will not be imposing. True, I will be busy with Starfleet for the next few weeks, but I believe you need a base of operations and also contact with Starfleet on a regular bases.”

 

Vlara replied, “I see. Your invitation was prompted by Starfleet no doubt, to keep me under surveillance?”

 

Janeway grimaced and put up her hand, palm out, in denial. Damn Katie, she thinks you are spying for Starfleet. “No. I’m putting this badly. Starfleet has not approached me, nor I them, with the purpose of keeping you under surveillance. I won't lie and say that they will not keep an eye on you, but I will tell you honestly, I won’t be doing that. I gave my word to your mother that I would look after you and assist you in contacting your two sisters who are serving in Starfleet. That is what I met when I said you needed to stay in contact with Starfleet on regular bases.”

 

Vlara blushed, looked down and then back up into Janeways eyes. “I apologize. I am a grown woman, yet my mother worries needlessly. If it would not inconvenience you, or your family, I would be honored to be your guest.”

 

Janeway smiled then replied, “I must tell you that my mother is a Traditionalist and pretty much lives a Traditionalist life.” Seeing the puzzled look on her guest’s face, she continued, “Traditionalism is a way of living life as it pretty much was lived by the average North American citizen 200 years ago. No replicators, food is organic, and dishes prepared by actually blending the ingredients and cooking them. Clothes are often tailored from cloth composed of natural materials. No sonic showers, but aqua showers--that sort of thing.”

 

Vlara’s eyes opened wide and she smiled. “Ah, pretty much how we do things in my home on Campus Prime. I myself am considered a good cook. Perhaps we can trade recipes. No?”

 

Janeway laughed. “My mother is the cook. I replicate, and sometimes not too successfully. I think you and she will get along very well.” Janeway felt almost giddy with the knowledge that the young woman would be her guest. She thought briefly why this was so, but brushed any thoughts but friendship into that part of her mind labeled, Danger. Do not open.

 

x

 

Seven relinquished her seat at the cockpit to Harry and proceeded to go to the back of the shuttle to take a sonic shower and clean her uniform. She had taken to removing the jacket and leaving on the slate blue sweater. She quickly shed her clothes and let her hair down before stepping into the small sonic shower and setting the cleaning cycle for five minutes. When through, she deposited her uniform in the shower for 2 minutes, and removing it, once again dressed. She took a seat on a small fold down chair set in the bulkhead, and pulled on her socks and boots.

 

They had successfully entered the commerce zone of the solar system by slipping into the ion trail of a large freighter, and had blended in with the busy space traffic. They received only one hail. This occurred when they dropped out of warp and into one of the lanes that would head in the direction of the Alpha Quadrant.

 

The Spaceport Controller had inquired if they were having problems as they had stopped in one of the busiest lanes. Seven, had put on the audio only, and answered in perfect Romulan standard, that she was testing a craft she was thinking of purchasing. The controller snorted and stated he hoped she did not purchase it from Craket Used Crafts, as he sold nothing but clunkers. Seven raised an eyebrow, looked at Harry in puzzlement, and silently mouthed, “clunkers?”

 

Harry had snickered and whispered, “Junk”

 

She had answered, “Yes, it is a vehicle that Craket has for sale. Thank you for your warning.” The Controller passed them on through.

 

 Seven’s ability to lie convincingly, and so easily, impressed Harry. “Ah…Seven. I didn’t think Borg lied.”

 

“They do not. However, I am also human.”

 

That was all she had to say for Harry  to get the meaning.

 

It was not soon after that incident that they located a freighter heading in their direction. They slipped behind its ion exhaust, and had been following it now for seven days at warp six. They kept a monitor on the freighter's communications for any indication that their presence was discovered, or their identity known. So far, the only communications were the normal chatter to other freighters and communications with different clients and prospective clients.

 

Seven spent her off time writing love letters on a padd to give to B’Elanna. Granted, with her eidetic memory, she had no need to commit them to a padd. However, she wished to give the padd to B’Elanna as a gift when they were reunited and have B’Elanna pursue them at her leisure. Besides, Seven had a feeling of shyness come over her at the thought of repeating each letter verbally. She regularly and on a daily basis, before their separation, had told B’Elanna many times that she loved her. However, committing the words to a padd was somehow more profound. She found she was able to go into detail about her feelings for her be’nal. She even waxed poetic. She compared her mate to a dark rose, one whose beauty and scent were enticing, and only she was able to hold the soft petals to her breasts without fear of the thorny stem pricking her. She commented on the beauty of B’Elanna’s eyes, comparing them to the richest amber gems, with mystic depths that reflected the fire of her soul. How she loved to breathe in her be’nal’s breath, which was life itself, and sustained her. The taste of her mouth, rare nectar and intoxicating, driving her to take all that B’Elanna could give, and for her to give all that she was to B’Elanna. The sound of her voice, that both soothed and inflamed. Seven even complimented her intellect and other mental virtues.

 

As Seven wrote these things, she felt comforted, as if her words conjured up B’Elanna before her. She was comforted, yet melancholy at the same time because her be’nal was not there with her.

 

Seven was beginning a new padd of her love letters when Harry exclaimed from the cockpit. “Seven. Two Romulan war ships have uncloaked at 7000 meters and have demanded that the freighter come to a halt.”

 

Seven felt both hot and cold at the same time before her nanoprobes regulated her temperature. She had a feeling of dread. The Romulans had discovered them, of that, she was sure.

 

She resumed the comm station behind Harry and scanned the readings. She reached for the controls of the communications array to send a message blast containing their location, hoping it would reach B’Elanna or Starfleet. Before she could facilitate the action the communications array blinked for an incoming message. She put it on both audio and visual, routing it to the small viewscreen in front of the cockpit. She faced the small screen as the image of a Romulan officer appeared on it, who quickly surveying them, announced, “Federation craft Delta Flyer, you will surrender and make no attempt to escape. We will retrieve your vessel by tractor beam to enter our cargo bay. Remain where you are until further instructions. We are scanning your vessel, and any attempt to send a message, or delete information from your computer banks, will result in your immediate destruction.”

 

Harry turned in his seat and looked at Seven, uncertainty and fear in his eyes.

 

Seven glanced quickly at him, her features bland. It did not surprise her that the Romulans knew who they were. The Collective's assimilated information on this Species contained the fact that they were superb at gathering information in clandestine ways, and quickly. She turned her attention back to the small screen. “We will do as you have instructed.” After all, what choice did they have? Surrender willingly or be blasted to so much space dust. The former course held out the hope of escape or rescue, the latter was unacceptable as that meant she would never see her be’nal in this lifetime.

 

Chapter Five

 

B’Elanna eyed the portly, or should she say, fat Romulan male who was leering at her. “Hey. Wait a damn minute. No way am I gonna pretend I’m his spouse. That just isn’t going to fly. Understand?" she said forcefully.

 

There was silence for a moment as Admiral Telir considered B’Elanna’s comments. Tom tried not to snicker. B’Elanna glared at the Romulan agent, com wine merchant, she recently met. Efok was his name. He had offended her from their first introduction by slowly looking her up and down, in a lascivious way, as if she were a sweet morsel he would like to eat. He was doing it now. B’Elanna hissed, “If you don’t stop leering at me, I’m gonna snatch your eyes out of your head and shove them up your fat--”

 

Admiral Telir quickly interceded. “It is the best solution to our problem. Efok is a trusted agent, as well as a wine merchant, and has customers among the Tal Shiar. It would be fitting to take his new wife and her brother on his business trips to teach them the trade and to introduce them to his clientèle.”

 

B’Elanna still was not mollified, and baring her teeth in a false smile, directed her gaze to a smirking Tom Paris. “I got the perfect solution. Tom PetaQ can be the blushing bride, or whatever.” She smiled with gleeful malice at Tom’s widening eyes and his gaping mouth.

 

Efok answered quickly, his voice having all the charm of a used shuttle salesperson, “My dear, D’len, my reputation as a lady’s man is well known in the section of space we are about to embark upon. Your friend would not do. I am a successful merchant, and believe me, when I say that you are the sort of beautiful woman my clients are used to seeing in my company. They will think I am fortunate to have such a lovely wife.”

 

B’Elanna sneered. “Hey, creep. Any beautiful woman, or for that matter, any woman at all you have ever been seen with had to be bought, or you got her drunk on your wine.”

 

Admiral Telir said, “Trust me, Commander. Efok receives invitations to all the houses of the elite, and that of the Tal Shiar. He attends many of their social functions and dinners. He has a way of soliciting information at these events that no one else can. Posing as his wife will entitle you to accompany him and be another set of eyes and ears to gather information.” She looked forcefully at the smirking fat merchant. “I give you my word, if he should step out of line with this pretense; you have my permission to spill his guts…after the mission is completed, of course.”

 

Efok immediately replaced his leer with a sober look and nodding to both B‘Elanna and Admiral Telir stated, “I give you my word I will act in a courteous manner toward the young lady. But it may require a hug or chaste kiss in public so that people will think we are blissful newlyweds.”

 

B’Elanna screwed her mouth up as if she tasted something vile. “Listen, you. I’ll be the one to decide when public displays of  affections are to be initiated. Got that?”

 

He smirked again. “Of course, my dear. I do love a spirited and bossy woman. Tell me my dear; is it true what they say about Klingon women? That they are so passionate that they often break the bones of their paramours?”

 

B‘Elanna gave him a feral smile and slowly raked him up and down with her eyes. “Not only that, my dear, but my house is entirely female and we kill our husbands after mating and devour their hearts. It assures that our unborn children are properly nourished while in the womb.”

 

Efok blanched and pulled his tunic collar out from around his neck. “I see.”

 

Admiral Telir tried not to laugh and roughly cleared her throat before saying, “Well. Let’s discuss your route and review all recent information over dinner tonight, shall we?”

 

x

 

Kathryn finished unpacking her Starfleet issue suit bag and placed her three new Starfleet issue uniforms in her closet. She had replicated the new pattern on Voyager when they had entered the Alpha Quadrant two weeks ago. Her Traditionalist home did not have a replicator, which necessitated her need to bring the uniforms, and other personal items, with her, including several pieces of civilian attire.

 

She looked around her old room, noticing that her mother had kept it dusted and clean.

 

Gretchen and her sister, Phoebe, had never given up hope that she was still alive, lost somewhere in the vast regions of the universe. Now their dear daughter and sister had returned to them, alive and safe.

 

Alive and safe, she remarked to herself as her thoughts returned to her two lost crewmembers, Seven and Harry. The last news she had received was several days ago from Admiral Telir, who had sent her a brief message stating that the Tal Shiar had sent out a search party to look for a ship that was thought to be Borg. Janeway had no doubts that this was the Delta Flyer.

 

B’Elanna Torres and Tom Paris were now aboard Admiral Telir’s flagship, and on a mission, with the help of the Admiral herself, to rescue the two.

 

Tom had volunteered to go out of loyalty to his friend Harry, but Janeway knew that he did it for B’Elanna and Seven, too. Tom, ever the one to try and lighten the serious mood of the situation, had said the real reason he was doing it was so he wouldn’t have to go through the entire official Starfleet debriefing, and to have his dad, Admiral Owen Paris, raking him across the coals.

 

Admiral Telir had been receptive to having Tom Paris accompany B’Elanna on the mission when she found out he was perhaps, one of Starfleet’s top pilots, and had brought both shuttles and Voyager through more scrapes and battles over the past six and a half years than Janeway could name.

 

She was jarred from her reverie by a light knock on the doorframe, and looked up to see Vlara regarding her with a small smile.

 

Kathryn smiled and said, “All unpacked and ready to go down to dinner?”

 

“Yes, thank you. I hope I am not inconveniencing your sister by using her room during my stay.”

 

“No. Not at all. Actually she rarely uses it as she has an apartment and studio a few minutes away in Bloomington, as well as a small flat in Paris.”

 

“Oh. Are they centers for art and culture for your planet, as Brilharde and Tollusad are for Ch’Rihan?

 

 “Paris is one of the many cultural centers for art, cuisine, and fashion here on Earth. There is also Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and New York, to name just a few.”

 

Vlara looked thoughtful. “I will have to learn my father’s heritage and history since it is part of who I am.”

 

“I will point you in the right direction. Now, let’s go down for dinner. I assure you, my mother is a great cook and her dishes, in my opinion, rival any cuisine in the galaxy.”

 

She stepped out the bedroom door and Vlara linked her arm through Kathryn’s and smiled. Kathryn took delight in the warmth that radiated from the woman’s nearness, but quickly reined in the feelings of arousal that also accompanied it. She is just being friendly Katie, it is a cultural thing’ She remembered seeing a group of young Romulans in San Francisco, who were with a special envoy to the Federation, linking arms in pairs and threes with same sex as well as opposite sex companions, while seeing the sights. She learned it was a cultural idiom for friends to do when walking together on their free time, and did not indicate a romantic involvement. She was flattered that the young woman thought her a friend and felt at ease with her.

 

Over the two weeks it had taken her to get home, she had dined every night with the young woman, and after dinner they would discuss everything from politics to stories about their childhood. On four occasions Kathryn had taken her to the holodeck to teach her the ground rules for velocity, admiring Vlara’s graceful moves and her ability to keep her on her toes. Kathryn had won all games and Vlara was a gracious loser, unlike Seven, who hated to lose in both physical and intellectual pursuits.

 

They had stopped briefly at Star Station 5 where Kathryn and the Voyager crew had been guests of honor at a dinner hosted by the station’s commander and his senior officers. They all wore their new dress uniforms and Kathryn had invited Vlara to attend with her.

 

Kathryn had Vlara meet her in her quarters and was impressed, and pleased, at the young woman’s appearance. She wore a soft green robe of emerald and light green, which she belted at her waist with a light gold and green sash. Her delicate pointed ears had small emerald stone studs in the lobes. The colors made her eyes sparkle and the green was very much in prominence. Kathryn thought her quite lovely and was pleased at the admiring looks given to the young woman as she escorted her through the station. She arranged to have her seated next to her at the dinner.

 

Vlara was a pleasant and an interesting conversationalist, and had a nice sense of humor. Something Kathryn appreciated in a dinner companion. The young woman had asked her the night before if there were any set ritual to a formal dinner that she would need to observe. Kathryn informed her of the silverware placement and on what items of food to use them, and how the use of the fingers to pick up food was considered uncultured, unless it was bread and certain specific food items. She had looked at Kathryn with a slightly bewildered look and stated she would follow her lead. Other than that, Kathryn informed her that burping loudly after a meal was not acceptable, even though many cultures did practice this. Vlara laughed and assured her that Romulans did not incorporate this in their culture. However, in certain provinces, when a guest desired an additional helping of food, they banged their plates on the table, and did the same with an empty glass or goblet for more drink. Kathryn had laughed and told her they would reserve that practice for rowdy taverns and spaceport bars.

 

Kathryn groaned in delighted fullness as she pushed her chair back from the table. “Mom, you don’t know how much I missed your cooking. Gods, I will be getting fat.”

 

Gretchen looked across the table at her daughter, a satisfied smile on her face. “I have yet to serve dessert, Kathryn. I hope you left room for your favorite.”

 

“Caramel brownies?” Kathryn asked with a grin.

 

“Yes, and Phoebe has agreed to make coffee to go with them.” Gretchen looked commandingly at her younger daughter, seated to her left.

 

“The pot is all set up and the only thing I have to do is turn it on,” Phoebe said as she got up and quickly went to the kitchen, returning a few seconds later.

 

Kathryn noticed that Vlara seemed to be enjoying the varied foods that Gretchen had served. Chicken and homemade dumplings, dinner rolls, deviled eggs, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Vlara had even asked Gretchen if she could have seconds on many of the items. Gretchen had smiled and told her to help herself to as many servings as she pleased.

 

The conversation had been light. Mostly concerning the happenings around the community. Conversation then turned to a darker subject, the recent Dominion war.

 

Soon, Phoebe announced enough of the bad news, and began to regale them with stories about her latest exhibits and the peccadilloes of her artist cohorts. Kathryn noticed, with some envy, that Phoebe looked like she hadn’t aged a bit in the almost seven years she was gone. She now wore her chestnut hair in a soft, curling bob, just below her ears and looked almost pixyish. Her eyes were a bright blue and still retained that mischievous glint that Kathryn remembered. She always thought Phoebe the beauty of the family, and had to admit that she was envious of her sister’s height, which was three inches taller than her own five feet, five inches. How she kept her figure so trim was a mystery, as Phoebe abhorred exercise and ate like the proverbial horse.

 

“Mrs. Janeway. Thank you for the wonderful meal. I enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps you can give me some of your recipes,” Vlara said.

 

This compliment pleased Gretchen, and she smiled warmly, and said, “You’re welcome. I will be glad to give you any recipe you like. Do you like to cook?”

 

“Yes. I have several recipes that I will trade, if you desire. Your chicken is very similar to the hlair, which is our main poultry on Ch’Rihan. I believe you would have ingredients that could substitute for the ones we use.”

 

“I would be delighted to share recipes.” Gretchen looked ruefully at her daughters. “Neither of my daughters have an interest in cooking. Kathryn always preferred replicated food to freshly cooked dishes. Phoebe always prefers eating at  restaurants.”

 

Both women protested, Kathryn replying, “Mom, believe me, after tasting Neelix’s concoctions, and after eating replicated dishes for the past few years, I have come to appreciate how good we had it growing up and eating your delicious food.”

 

After dinner, they retired to the living room to enjoy coffee and brownies. Both Gretchen and Phoebe asked Vlara about life on Romulus and her home, Campus Prime. It was then that Kathryn learned that Vlara’s birth name had been Valarie, given to her by her father, and Romulized to Vlara, which was also the name of a small hawk found only on Campus Prime.

 

Vlara had been in touch with her brother, and next week was to meet with him. Phoebe volunteered to accompany her to Rome where he currently lived, and show her the way around. She also volunteered to show her some of the ancient art galleries and buildings. Vlara agreed, her eyes shining with obvious excitement.

 

Conversation turned again to events closer to home. Phoebe looked at Kathryn over her cup of coffee and said, “I saw Mark about a month ago.”

 

Kathryn replied nonchalantly, “Oh. I hope he’s doing well and is happy. Last I heard he was married to his secretary.” That had been in the ‘Dear Jane’ letter she had received while in the Delta Quadrant.

 

Phoebe scrunched up her face as if she smelled a bad odor. “He was with his little woman, who apparently has a pie in the oven.” She glanced over at Vlara who was trying to follow the conversation. “That means she is pregnant. Oh, and Mark was Katie‘s fiancé. They were planning to be married until she got herself lost in the Delta Quadrant.” She turned her attention back to her sister. “Katie, it was worth getting lost so you didn’t end up married to him. Gods, I would be volunteering for deep space missions if I were married to Mr. No Personality.”

 

Gretchen interceded, “Phoebe…”

 

Kathryn held up her hand. “That’s old history. Believe me, looking back, I know that in the long run it would not have worked out. I mean, I was the one that kept postponing the wedding date. That right there should have told me I didn‘t want to commit to him. I‘m glad he decided to go on to someone else, because if he had waited I would have had to break some unpleasant news to him.”

 

All of a sudden, a voice in controlled outrage declared, “What? He has no honor. For you I would wait forever….” Vlara seemed to realize what she said and blushed deeply. “I mean…for Romulans it is customary for those who are betrothed to wait at least nine years for their intended, if they are lost while serving on board ship. The universe is often a dangerous and unforgiving mistress and it could be that one is stranded on a planet, or being held prisoner, and will one day return.” She bit her lower lip and went silent, staring at her cup.

 

Kathryn glanced quickly at her mother and sister. She noticed that Phoebe had a small smile on her lips, and her mother was staring intently at Vlara, a pleased look on her face, and turned the same stare onto Kathryn.

 

Kathryn stared back, puzzled at the expression, and then understanding dawned. Oh, no. She‘s reading more into this than there is. Isn’t she? She cleared her throat, “I think I’ll have another cup of coffee, anyone else?”

 

x

 

Seven and Harry, following the orders of their captors, exited the Flyer with their hands on their heads. A young female officer had quickly looked her and Harry over, and then said, “Follow me."

 

Their captors flanked them as they followed the officer. They came to a transporter and were ordered to stand on the pad. Seven felt herself dematerialized and then rematerialize. She looked around and saw that she was in a small, eight by eight foot cell that contained a sink and a toilet in one corner, and a fold up bunk against the left wall. Only the front afforded any view out, and from that area, she detected the slight hum of a force field. Across from her cell was nothing but a wall. She heard Harry’s voice come from a cell next to her.

 

“Seven. Are you there?”

 

“Yes. I am in a cell.”

 

“Ah, me too. I guess we wait to see what happens. I mean, the last I heard from communiqués that Starfleet sent us, we are kind of allies with the Romulans, you know, helping each other against the Dominion. Maybe we will be out of here soon, ya think?” Harry was nervous, by the tone and timbre of his voice.

 

Seven hated to disillusion the young man, but it was not the Romulan military that held them, but their secret service, the Tal Shiar. She had noticed the uniform differences in the halters and belt’s they wore. The information she had on the Tal Shiar was that they were a separate branch from the military, and often operated on principles that had nothing to do with military laws, or even those of the Romulan Empire. They were ruthless and a law unto themselves. Not even answerable to the Senate, to whom they only gave lip service.

 

She wavered in her answer but decided honesty was best in this instance. He would, perhaps, need to prepare himself for the possible difficulties that might lie ahead. The Borg had assimilated a few Tal Shiar operatives in the past. She accessed information from her cortical node, and knew that they would use any brutal means necessary to obtain information they needed, and to ‘persuade’ cooperation in their many nefarious endeavors. “They are Tal Shiar.” There was silence for long seconds.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Rest assured, Mr. Kim. As your commanding officer I will endeavor to protect you and negotiate a release.”

 

“I know that, Seven…ah, Lieutenant. I just don’t want any heroics. You forget I was the one who promised B’Elanna that I would look after you.”

 

Seven smiled wryly. “Indeed, Mr. Kim. I cannot forget. After all, I have an eidetic memory.”

 

They had passed the time over the next couple of days playing word association games back and forth. They received two meals a day. However, their captors would not communicate with them, even at Seven's most imperious Borg command that they comply.

 

Seven rested against the wall of the holding cell. They had been in captivity for two days now. When she was not in conversation with Harry, she studied the minute vibration of the ship’s engines and tried to pick up the muted sounds of conversations. Now, she noticed the vibration change slightly, and the sounds differing. It alerted her to possible changes in the ship's speed, or perhaps, it had reached its destination. She had no more finished that thought when she heard footsteps approaching and saw an officer and four guards, weapons drawn, stop in front of her cell. The force field immediately dropped and a guard motioned for her to exit the cell.

 

Seven saw that the officer in charge was a centurion, by the style of her rank belt. “You are to come with us. No questions.”

 

“Hey, where are you taking her? What’s going on?” Harry’s voice was frantic.

 

The guards ignored him, and Seven fell in step behind the officer, flanked on each side by two guards, and the other two guards behind her.

 

They went down the corridor and to a turbo lift, the doors swished open and they entered. The officer and two of the guards entered with her. “Deck one,” the officer stated, her eyes never once wavering from Seven’s face. Seven lifted her eye implant and returned the scrutiny. Seven thought it probable that the Tal Shiar taught their soldiers this technique to intimidate their foes and prisoners. It would be hard for one to guess their intent if there were no facial expressions.

 

The doors swished opened, the officer turned, and Seven followed her out into a corridor. The two guards flanked her, one on either side. The officer stopped at a transporter room and ordered Seven up on the transporter, where the officer and two guards, joined her. Moments later they materialized on a transporter pad, exited into a long wide corridor, and continued on to stop in front of a set of large double doors that had a guard on each side.

 

The two guards at the door saluted with a quick motion of their right arm with clenched fist across their chest.

 

The officer ignored them and tapped a comm badge on her right harness belt. The doors immediately slid open and the officer ordered Seven in. The room was dark, except for a bright spotlight shining on a small area of the floor.

 

“Stand in the light and do not move,” The officer ordered before turning around. Seven heard her footsteps recede and exit the doors where they had entered.

 

Her surroundings, save for the spotlight she was under, were dark and in shadow. She immediately sensed she was not alone. Her enhanced hearing could detect breathing seven feet in front of her. She quickly adjusted her visual implant and was able to see a female figure of about five feet, seven inches, standing before her in the shadow. The first thing she saw was the short cropped blond hair, and the second, the uniform with the insignia belt sporting the rank of General. Her night vision had problems making out the color of the eyes, but she easily discerned the general shape of the rest of the face. She quickly assessed her cortical node for information that would indicate the identity of this particular Tal Shiar commander.

 

The voice surprised her with its sudden declaration that pierced the surrounding dark. “Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One. Severed from the Borg Collective by Kathryn Janeway, captain of the Federation Ship, Voyager, on Star Date 51003.7. Or do you prefer to be called by your human name…Annika Hansen?”

 

She almost stated that she preferred the name Seven, but for some reason, found her preferred name coming from this stranger distasteful. Her friends called her Seven. Her be’nal called her Seven. Let this one call her Annika. That name invoked in her feelings of trust betrayed by those that were supposed to protect her. Coming from the General’s lips it would remind her that this woman was not to be trusted. “Annika.”

 

The General nodded her head and smiled. “Annika. The name given to you by your parents, both scientists, Magnus and Erin Hansen. They too were assimilated by the Borg. Information recovered from the Raven’s records contains much interesting data on the subject of their studies.”

 

Seven knew that the Tal Shiar were thorough, but to have this much information and this quickly, was surprising. No, not surprising since Janeway would have forwarded Voyager’s logs through the Midas Array, and they would contain all the records that they had managed to savage from the remains of Raven. It was obvious the Tal Shiar had their agents within the halls of Starfleet itself.

 

Seven had finally found the information she wanted from the assimilated memories of a Romulan operative, assigned aboard the USS Enterprise as an ensign during the Battle of Wolf 359. She was Admiral Sela then. A member of the Romulan Military. Now, apparently, she was no longer a member of that organization. “Sela. Daughter of Starfleet Lieutenant Tasha Yar, who was aboard the U.S.S Enterprise, under the command of Captain Rachel Garret, when it was captured in 2344 at Narendra III by the Romulans. She became the Concubine of Romulan General Kaonz of the Tal Shiar, who fathered you. You betrayed your mother when she attempted to escape…

 

“Silence!”

 

Footsteps approached and General Sela stepped into the light. Her eyes glaring, she looked into Seven’s eyes, almost challenging her. Then she abruptly smiled, but Seven noted that the smile did not reach her eyes.

 

“I see Voyager’s data banks were not lacking in intelligence information.”

 

Seven almost revealed where she actually got the information. However, she decided that the less she revealed about what the Borg knew, and how they obtained it, was in her own best interest.

 

Sela looked her over carefully, focusing on the implant over her left eye. Then the one on her right cheek. She looked down at her left hand. “Hold up your left hand,” She demanded.

 

“I will not comply."

 

Sela smirked. “Let's get one thing straight, Lieutenant Annika Hansen. You are in no position to deny my request. I can make it very unpleasant and very painful for you to refuse.” She paused and then continued, “However, the information I have on you indicates that you can take a lot of pain, even torture, but your crewmate, Lieutenant Harry Kim, would be unable to take much of what I can give him. Now, hold up your left hand.”

 

Seven knew that General Sela would not hesitate to carry out her threat. Sela was ruthless. Seven obeyed. Sela looked closely at the Borg hand and then stared Seven in the eyes as she reached out to feel the mesh.

 

“It is warm, not like metal at all. Your medical records sent to Starfleet indicate that you still have your assimilation tubules, show them to me.”

 

Seven sighed and protruded her tubules. She was satisfied to see that Sela looked slightly sickened at the sight of the two squirming worm like strands. Sela took a step back. “Put them away.”

 

Seven retracted her tubules and stared at Sela.

 

“Now, Annika. Here are the rules. They are quite simple. You will cooperate with me and I will assure that you, and Lieutenant Kim, will remain unharmed. If you do not cooperate, I will have you witness firsthand the methods we use to gain information. I know that Lieutenant Kim probably has less of the information I need than you do, and it would be a shame to have him suffer the side effects of our methods when you will eventually tell us what we want anyway. If he succumbs to the side effects, then we will apply the methods to you. Believe me, ‘resistance is futile’.” She laughed at her own joke. Then she sobered and asked, “What will it be Annika, cooperation or foolish heroics?”

 

Seven frowned and said factually, “I know of no Federation secrets that I can impart to you. We were lost in the Delta Quadrant, and only recently returned. Nor was Captain Janeway in the habit of keeping me informed of any communiqués she may have received from Starfleet.”

 

Sela smirked. “I know that. What I want is the information you have on that transwarp coil you and your half-breed wife constructed. Give me that, and you and Lieutenant Kim can enjoy your little stay without fear of harm.”

 

Seven said, “The information you request will not give you the results you desire. You will fail in constructing a transwarp coil for your use.”

 

“Oh? And why is that?”

 

“You need certain Borg components to integrate into the transwarp coil.”

 

Sela smirked and said, “Tell us which ones we need and I will be able to obtain them.”

 

Seven blinked in surprise and stared at the woman. It suddenly dawned on her that Sela was being factual. She could obtain the needed parts.

 

Sela laughed at the fallen look on Seven’s face. “My lovely Annika. You were at Wolf 359, were you not? You know that many of the small Borg craft never returned to your cube because they received damage and could not form a transwarp conduit to escape. You also know that many made their way to the Beta Quadrant. Your collective never saw them again.” Sela continued facetiously, “Why is that, Annika?”

 

Seven said nothing. One thing was certain, she would only give them information piece meal. And information that she would encrypt with certain Borg codes that would cause massive malfunctions when triggered by certain Borg frequencies, which she could broadcast over subspace and hyperspace, when she made it back to the Alpha Quadrant.

 

She was sure she would make it to the Alpha Quadrant. She knew with some kind of hidden sense or intuition, as B’Elanna called it, that she and Harry would make it there. She knew in her heart that her be’nal, and Captain Janeway, had correlated where they left the slipstream, and her be’nal was already on her way to find her.

 

“Now. Your stay here will be long, very long. Short of some intervention by the Gods, you and Lieutenant Kim will never see the Alpha quadrant. I want to make your stay with us comfortable, and I will assign you both quarters. You will both be under constant surveillance, and we will monitor your time spent with each other, so there will be no plots to escape. If you attempt to escape, I will punish you...severely. I will assign you two assistants. Both are officers of junior grade. If you need anything, within reason, they will obtain it for you.” Sela paused and once again looked Seven up and down with keen interest. She had a small smile on her face when she said, “You will dine with me tonight.”

 

Sela next pressed the communicator on her harness, the door opened, and two young officers entered, one female and the other male. “This is Ulan Glaria and Ulan Spar. They are assigned to you and anything that you need, within reason, they will do for you or obtain for you.” She turned to them and ordered, “Show her to her quarters.”

 

x

 

Seven was surprised at the size of her quarters. They rivaled Janeway's quarters on Voyager. She had a living area with a combined dining area, and a small replicator. The living area had a low divan and many large pillows on the floor. The dining area had a low table with two low couches and two chairs. Seven knew from her studies that Romulans often reclined while eating, especially on formal occasions, much like the ancient Greeks and Romans on Earth. She wondered if Sela would follow this custom when she joined her for dinner, or use the Romulan military custom of sitting in a chair to dine at a table.

 

She noticed the two large transparent aluminum windows that overlooked a lush blue and green garden under turquoise skies. She surveyed the outside with her infrared vision and knew this was no hologram. There was a door that led to the garden.

 

To her right was a door that led to a good-sized bedroom with a neatly made double bed. Both living room and bedroom were decorated in pale mauve and turquoise. Leading off the bedroom was a bathroom complete with a sonic shower as well as a large hydro tub set into the floor. There was a large mirror placed over a long counter area, which had two sinks. In one corner was a commode. She noted that there were a few brushes, combs, and other toiletries on the counter.

 

She went back out to the living area and to the computer console located against the far wall. She sat in the chair by the computer console and studied the computer’s manual control pad. She would try a vocal command first.

 

“Computer. What is my location?”

 

You are in Sector one cabin four.

 

“Computer. What facility is this and where is it located?”

 

Tal Shiar headquarters in Sector 24, the Geggis system on Geggis Supreme, in the Province of Qulpar in Rihanaia City.

 

“Display a map of the beta quadrant and indicate the location.”

 

The screen displayed a map of the quadrant. Apparently, Sela was not concerned with this information. She was delighted to see that the location was not far off the path they would have taken to get to the Alpha Quadrant, and the path that B’Elanna would surely take as the quickest route to get to the point where the Delta Flyer came out of the transwarp corridor.

 

Computer, display a schematic of this facility.

 

That is restricted information.

 

“Computer. Give me the location of Lieutenant Harry Kim.”

 

Lieutenant Kim is in his quarters.

 

“Open up communications with Mr. Kim.”

 

The screen showed the symbol for the Tal Shiar and cleared to show Harry’s face.

 

His eyes widened in surprise. “Seven. Am I glad to see you.”

 

“Likewise. You are well?”

 

“Yeah, so far. I have my own room, but can’t leave unless I get permission, and then only under guard.”

 

“Likewise. Our calls are monitored, as are these rooms. Can you discern the location of your room?” Seven hoped their communications would not be terminated at this point.

 

“Uhm, I have a window that looks out on a garden area, which is about six meters below me. I must be about one story up.”

 

“I am on the ground level. Perhaps it is the same garden, there is a round fountain surrounded by blue flowers.”

 

Harry said, “Yes, that’s what I’m seeing, too. I must be right above you. There is a small balcony, but the door is locked and I can’t open it.”

 

Seven, could not of course, establish his exact location and give hers, but she surmised that he was either right above her or very close. She hoped to prolong their conversation with small talk. She felt that whoever monitored them would lose focus on their conversation if it were not interesting.

 

“Perhaps we will be able to venture outdoors together and enjoy the esthetically pleasing surroundings of the garden.”

 

“Well, it would be nice to walk among real trees and smell real plants growing. Maybe we can have a picnic lunch outdoors soon. I can’t complain about my room though, kind of small, but I do have a replicator and a small bathroom. The replicator is for food only. You know, the food isn't half-bad. It sure beats a lot of what Neelix served. I‘m told I will be provided appropriate clothing. The computer only lets you have so much information. There are a lot of novels and games I can access, though. So I guess it‘s not too bad. It sure beats sitting in a cell.”

 

Seven knew Harry was nervous by his continuous chatter. The door chime interrupted her. “I will contact you later. Seven, out.”

 

She did not have a chance to give the command to enter, when the door slid open, and her two guards entered. The male carrying what appeared to be garment bags, went to her bedroom and deposited the bags on her bed. The female stepped in front of her with a smaller bag. “I am to instruct you that dinner is at 1900 hours and you are to wear the items in this bag.” She handed the bag to Seven and said, “We will be here at 1855 to escort you to the quarters of General Sela. Please be ready.” With that, both guards exited her quarters.

 

“Computer, time.”

 

The time is 1756 hours.

 

She had plenty of time to investigate the clothing the General had given her.

 

Chapter Six

 

Seven paced her quarters with agitation. She was not looking forward to the dinner she was to have in General Sela’s quarters. She felt a great amount of trepidation concerning this event after viewing the garments given to her by the guard.

 

Her face still blushed as she thought about the contents of the bag. There was a small ice blue sheath which would require only her bosom to hold it up, its length was a good three centimeters above her knee and split to her thigh on the right side. There was a matching pair of silky ice blue briefs, in Seven’s opinion, very brief, only a lacy V in front and back. The only other items were a pair of soft step in shoes. There was no way she would wear what B’Elanna termed ‘seduction lingerie’ for anyone but her be’nal.

 

She felt a certain queasiness as her thoughts quickly ran down a list of all the possibilities that General Sela had in mind in connection with the outfit she had provided. Was she expecting sexual interactions as part of assuring that she and Harry would remain free of harm? Or, was this the expected attire when one dined with a Romulan dignitary? If the former, what would she do if Sela threatened to harm Harry if she did not acquiesce to her desires. Would she, or even could she, have intimate relations, even to save Harry’s life. One part of her rationalized that it would only be hollow motions and not anything related to what she and her be’nal shared. Their sharing was spiritual as well as physical.

 

The Borg had purged many assimilated references to social and sexual interactions from the collective as being irrelevant. She could find no Romulan information to indicate the proper dinner wear. She had looked through the other clothing provided and found them to be more acceptable, even though they had the military cut and style to them. She would wear the set that consisted of a pale gold tunic and matching trousers, and her Starfleet issue boots. The material was soft and silky and had a sheen that was appealing. It was casual yet elegant. She also received more functional underclothes that she could don. Her mind made up, she went to take a sonic shower and dress.

 

x

 

Seven stood in the lush surroundings facing the large table, which was set with a variety of dishes, and decorated with numerous candles. Seven had a sinking feeling when she saw the muted lights and realized this was a romantic setting. She saw that this was also a dinner for two, as there were only two dining couches. Besides her and the two guards, there were two other species present, an Andorian and the other Human. They stood to the side by a serving bar, dressed identically in simple cream smocks, their heads bowed slightly, seeming to focus on the floor. Seven surmised that they were servants, or slaves. Many upper caste Romulans took enemy captives as slaves and concubines. Sela‘s own mother had been a captive and kept as a concubine.

 

She heard a door open on her left and General Sela entered. Seven noticed that she was dressed similarly to herself. Her tunic was black and belted with a red sash, her trousers, gold. Sela’s expression had been what Seven thought of as anticipation, which quickly changed to a scowl when she stopped two yards away and gave Seven a discerning look. Her face flushed red and she barked out, “Why are you not wearing what I requested?” She looked from Seven to Ulan Glaria.

 

The young Ulan swallowed hard. “I did as you ordered, General.”

 

Sela returned her gaze to Seven. Seven noted the fury in the eyes and decided it was prudent to answer. “I wished to wear this garment instead.”

 

Sela put her hands on her hips and said in a harsh voice, “You wished? My wishes come first. What you wish is of no consequence. Where are the items located that I ORDERED you to wear?”

 

“I placed them back in the package, and placed it on my bed.”

 

Sela looked at Ensign Glaria and ordered, “Go to her quarters and retrieve the package and bring it to me.”

 

Glaria saluted and hurriedly exited. It would take her only a few minutes to retrieve the items, as Seven’s quarters were only four doors down from those of the General.

 

Sela turned her back to Seven, went to the side bar, and poured herself a glass of sapphire blue liquid. She turned back around and looking at Seven, smiled and took a slow sip, continuing to stare at her over the rim of her glass, her eyes slowly raking Seven’s body and then focusing on her face.

 

This continued until Ensign Glaria entered and handled the bag to Sela.

 

Nodding, she looked at the two guards and ordered, “You two, to your post.” They saluted and quickly exited. She next looked at the two servants. “Out.” Both nodded in deference and quickly went through a side door. Sela next focused on Seven, her eyes became dangerously bright and intense. She motioned at the outfit Seven wore with her right hand. “Take those off.”

 

Seven looked at her in shock, her breathing stilled.

 

Sela’s smile disappeared and her eyes hardened to blue ice. “Here Now. Take them off.”

 

Seven swallowed and stood straight in her old customary Borg pose, her hands clasped behind her back. “I will not comply.”

 

Sela tapped a small jewel on her tunic, apparently a communications device. “Centurion Lodar, I have need of your services. Bring the Federation Officer, Kim, to my suite at once.”

 

Seven looked sharply at Sela, assessing her with her cold Borg stare, and in a decidedly Borg voice said, “State your intentions.”

 

This caused Sela to laugh and then she paused and narrowed her eyes, looking Seven over slowly, taking her measure. “My lovely Annika, how forceful and commanding you are, how…very refreshing and should I say, stimulating. Your very voice and bearing tell me you are a woman who loves to take the lead. Tell me, do you command that little half-breed wife of yours. When you make love to her, do you take her and bend her to your will. She is part Klivam and it is a fact that they are passionate and often violent lovers. However, you, you are Borg. You are strong and arrogant. The Borg Queen herself groomed you to succeed her and rule. Tell me, Annika, does your little half-breed beg you to take her and make her come?”

 

Seven was both appalled and angered. She ground her back teeth and it took all her will power not to leap on Sela and throttle her. She noticed that Sela‘s respiration had increased, and she could gage with her Borg implant, a slight increase in temperature. Seven knew that Sela was aroused. “You are…disgusting.”

 

Sela swallowed the remains of her drink and smirked. “Disgusting, am I now?”

 

A chime at the door interrupted them. “Enter”

 

A heavyset older Romulan entered, followed by Harry Kim, dressed in a lounging robe and barefoot. He wore a look of fear on his features. He was flanked by four guards, two on each side of him.”

 

“Now, Annika, see what results you have reaped by disobeying my command.”

 

She nodded to the Centurion, who smiled in glee, and then he nodded at the guards. One stepped behind Harry and held his forearm around the lieutenant’s neck. The other two held his arms on each side. The Centurion quickly, and with much force, punched him in the stomach. Harry would have bent over except for the Guards holding him up. The Centurion forcefully smashed Harry’s face with his fist. There was a resounding crunch, which resulting in a splattering of blood from his nose and mouth.

 

Seven made a move toward her friend but the fourth guard held a weapon on her. Sela quickly stated, “Move and I will kill him, and no amount of begging or pleading by you will stop me.”

 

Seven shouted, “I will do as you say!”

 

Sela ordered, “Enough, Lodar. Take him to the infirmary for treatment, and then return him to his quarters.”

 

Lodar saluted, and the guards dragged a dazed and bleeding Harry out of the double doors.

 

Seven trembled slightly, her nanoprobes working hard to keep her from vomiting. True, as a Borg drone, she had witnessed pain and suffering of those she assimilated, and even the removal of limbs from those that were awaiting assimilation. Now, her humanity had found its way back to her. What she now witnessed sickened her. Harry was a friend and she had caused him to experience pain.

 

Sela poured herself another drink and tuned to her, raising her eyebrow inquiringly. “I‘m waiting.”

 

Seven pulled the tunic up and over her head, letting it fall to the floor. She would not look at Sela. She next removed her boots, loosened her trousers and slid them down her legs to pool around her feet, and stepped out of them. She stood straight and stiff, clad only in a soft white chemise and panties.

 

“Take off the rest.”

 

Seven swallowed hard, closed her eyes, took her chemise off and let it drop to the floor. She next slid the simple pair of white briefs down her calves until they pooled at her feet, and stepped out of them. She stood embarrassed and ashamed. There was a time that nudity would not have mattered, now, she knew the social taboos and the erotic nuances that nudity entailed. Only for her be'nal would she willingly display herself like this.

 

She heard the soft approach of steps and opened her eyes quickly. Sela stood only a few feet away now, raking her body with hot eyes. She walked around to Seven‘s back and Seven felt a hand pull the pins from her hair, and heard them tinkle on the marble flooring where they fell. She felt a hand run through her hair, felt the soft gold mass fall about her shoulders and down her back. She felt the heat radiate from the General and heard a slow drawn in breath through the nose, as if she were being scented. She felt a warm exhalation of breath below her right ear, which caused her to shiver involuntarily, feeling the goose bumps skitter across her neck and back. There was a soft caress at one, and then the other, implant below her shoulder blades, the ones used to draw power during regeneration. The caress continued down her spine and the small of her back, over the tops of her hips, where her abdominal implants terminated. She detected steps as Sela continued around her, and felt a gentle stroke on the implant on her right arm.

 

Sela stood back in front of her, looked at her breasts and the thin band that followed their bottom curve and continued around her ribcage. She shifted her gaze lower to the two thin bands that girded her hips and dipped down to her apex. She did not touch Seven.

 

She returned her gaze to Seven’s eyes, hers bright and her breathing quick, and mouth slightly parted. Her voice was soft and at a lower decibel when she spoke, “You are the Shalora Jewel that the Imperial Symbol of our first Empress holds in her beak. There is no jewel that is more beautiful. Idonana, the power that embodies the Four Elements, made it from a star. She gave the jewel to our first Empress as a token of her great love. Perhaps, you are a gift to me from Idonana herself to show that she loves me. For I am the one who will bring the Empire back to its former glory.”

 

She stared for a few seconds longer and abruptly handed the bag to Seven. “Dress.” Seven took the bag, donned the panties, and slid the ice blue sheath over her torso smoothing it down her thighs. She stepped into the soft slippers, bent, and retrieved the pins where they had fallen on the floor. She smoothed back her hair into a twist and was about to pin it.

 

“Leave it down.”

 

Seven, finished now, looked at Sela. She knew she had to be careful here. “What are your intentions?"

 

Sela momentarily looked confused at the question, then smiled, and replied, “You want to know if I will require any sexual favors from you, do you not?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Very well. Let me say this and you must never repeat it, or I will make you sorry. I have never forced my attentions on a woman, nor required her to please me, unless it so pleases her. I require certain things in a sexual encounter that may surprise you, Annika. I am a general, a leader, and billions obey my commands. I decide the fate of thousands of worlds. I can destroy a city, or a planet with a word and none dare disobey me. If it was my desire, I could have any man or woman I want, even the spouses and lovers of my officers. None would say a word, or even dare look displeased about it. That is not what I want, or desire. I do not want to lead in matters of passion or desire. I desire to be led--to be taken. I need to be taken…made to forget who, and what I am. I need to know that it is not Sela the General, but Sela the woman, who is desired and sparks passion. Do you understand, Annika?”

 

“I…do not know. However, I do not desire you or want you. I belong to another. All that I have, and all that I am, is hers. I will not, and cannot, give you what you want. Even if you were to order me, I would only be able to go through the motions, which would be devoid of meaning, with no passion or love. Hollow. The only emotions they would evoke in me would be loathing and hate. ”

 

Sela smiled wryly and said, “Oh my exquisite jewel. In time you will give me what I desire, what I crave. You will do this willingly and of your own accord. Deny it all you want, but I will be yours and your taking of me will bind you to me.

 

“You were created to rule and to take what you want. This is part of your nature as the successor to the Borg Queen. You are relentless in your pursuit of your desires. Yes, desires. These Borg drones are but mere automatons, but the Queen, she is more, much more than an emotionless automaton. She feeds on power. She feels pride and satisfaction at what she has accomplished. She even feels love and possessiveness. Her pursuit of you tells me that.

 

“You, my lovely Annika, you were fashioned by her hand and infused with her desires. I can give you what you truly crave and want. Power over billions, power over the universe. Even the mighty Borg Queen will bow before you, when you finally stand by my side. I will surrender to your passion and you will have your fill of me and still want more. I will be your addiction, Annika. Our union will shake the very foundations of the universe and reverberate over all four Quadrants.” She saw Seven’s obstinate and confused look, then forcefully said, “Do not dare deny it for I have the control now.” She then smiled and said, “Let us to the table and dine. I want to hear of the Borg and who better to tell me but a former Borg Princess.”

 

Seven said nothing, but reflected on Sela’s words, finding them disturbing and obviously coming from a delusional and unbalanced mind. The part of her thought process that was still Borg analyzed Sela’s statements and found them illogical. She is flawed, weak, damaged. She shall be terminated.

 

Chapter Seven

 

B’Elanna exited the plush and opulent quarters that Efok assigned her on his ship. In the nine days that they had left Admiral Telir’s ship, they had come across six freighters, none bearing any news of foreign ships, or anything out of the ordinary with the renegade Tal Shiar.

 

She was getting frustrated, and to boot, plenty fed up entertaining freighter captains every other night and having to play Efok's demure little wife.

 

Efok’s ship, Tat be Qual, or Free Spirits in Federation Standard, was more than what she seemed. Granted, she had a cargo bay full of rare, and not so rare, wines and other spirits, but she also sported state of the art warp engines capable of sustained speeds of 8.9, and short burst of 9.78 warp, as well as a cloaking device. State of the art Romulan devices masked the true nature of her engines. Any scans done would show ordinary industrial engines only capable of reaching warp seven.

 

Efok had a nasty, hulking, vampire looking engineer, named Brod, who she later learned was a Reman, a native of Remus, Romulus' sister planet. He gave her the creeps, but Tom seemed to get along well with him, swapping stories and boasting of their romantic conquests. B’Elanna had warned Tom that he had better not mention that they had once been more than friends, or she would divest him of his manhood, and he would be able to find employment on Risa as a joy boy, and he could employ his tongue, which he loved to wag, on pleasuring female Hortas and giving oral umox to Ferengi. This must have worked, as there was no indication from Brod that Tom was telling him anything.

 

She was, however, glad that Tom was with her. He encouraged her to keep up hope and she often went to him when she needed to talk. He told her he was honestly happy for her and Seven, and that he had never seen her so content. He conceded that he was at first jealous of them, but after seeing them together, he knew they were right for each other. He even apologized for making the bet that none on Voyager would have her. However, B’Elanna thought he was sorry that he had lost his entire stash of rations, but she did make him promise that he would never bet on her or Seven or anything to do with their relationship ever again.

 

Efok entertained many clients aboard his vessel and it had small, but opulent guest rooms and a large opulent dining and entertainment area, with tables, chairs, and couches.

 

It was attending social functions and dining on the couches that she hated the most. At these functions she had to share a couch with Efok. She had to feel his fat belly against her back, and his breath on her neck, during the dinners as she reclined in front of him. The first time she had to dine this way, he nuzzled her neck and attempted to kiss her cheek. She had viciously reached back and grabbed his genitals, squeezing hard, until she heard him groan in pain. After that, he was more subdued in his actions, but still sickened her with his display of ‘my sweet and my dears‘. He had to have a special couch that was a little larger than most, due to his rotund size. She supposed she should be grateful he had a fat belly, as she would kill him if she had felt a particular part of his anatomy poking her throughout the meal.

 

Tonight would be different though. They were coming to a planet that boasted a busy spaceport to attend a banquet that would be crawling with not only Captains of various vessels, but dignitaries from other planets and colonies.

 

Tom and Brod would be busy taking a little tour among the many bars and taverns that catered to the crews of various freighters and cargo vessels. Brod told Tom that crews of freighters were always full of information, and when plied with enough spirits, would sing it out on the street corners. He had grinned, looking even more menacing with his sharp teeth bared, and stated, “The right amount of fermented juice, and they will confess to screwing their brother’s wife.”

 

B’Elanna was relieved that the banquet did not have a couch big enough for both her and Efok to share, and that she had one all to herself.

 

So far, the talk was all about commerce and very boring. She had no interest in the price of grain on Dosoil. And almost screamed when the conversation turned to the difficulties of cleaning out  cargo holds after transporting farm animals.

 

She picked a small nut from her plate, and while no one was looking, tossed it at Efok who was on the next couch. It hit him on the side of his head and he turned and looked at her. She motioned with her head and eyes to get the topic onto subjects that were more useful to their needs.

 

There was a pause in the conversation and Efok quickly changed the topic. “You know, I heard something a week or so ago from a freighter captain heading to the Ocelor system. He said something about the, ah…authorities…looking for information on a ship that may have contained pirates that were operating in and around the Brasling system. I, for one, am heading that way and sure don’t want to run into any pirates.”

 

A slightly tipsy freight company owner, by the name of Granor, guffawed and said, “Pirates? Not on your life. It was smugglers, and the Tal Shiar caught them. I know that for a fact.”

 

B‘Elanna perked up at this, and Efok inquired, “Oh, and how is that, Granor? Was it perhaps one of your ah…ships that got caught?" Everyone laughed at this as it was a fact that many freighter captains, and owners of freight lines, dabbled in smuggling.

 

Granor hrumphed. “I read the report from the captain of my ship the Blue Nova. When they left the Nolido system a small vessel apparently left with them, concealed in their Ion exhaust. You know, to disguise their exhaust trail. Well in sector twenty-eight, two warships stopped them and apprehended the ship and its crew. The commander of one of the warships ordered them to go and said he was sure they did not know that they had company, and he would not levy a fine against them. My captain was then ordered not to scan the vessel, and to keep on his way. Well, he did as he was ordered, you know them being Tal Shiar, and all. He states he did get a visual of the craft on his screen, and it was a small craft, about the size of a shuttle. Looked like it couldn’t carry much, and only big enough for about four people. He had never seen that type of shuttle before, and the strange thing is, it had symbols on the side that were not Romulan, or any that he was familiar with. Anyway, he states that it wasn’t much later when these two warships passed him, not even cloaked, and headed toward Tal Shiar headquarters on Geggis Supreme. Probably the poor crew is dead by now, or wishing they were.”

 

Everyone shook his or her head in pity and one guest said, “A person can’t even do a little harmless bartering these days without it being a capital offense.”

 

A short time later Efok begged tiredness, and amongst much guffawing from the others that he wanted to leave the banquet to be with his pretty wife, he and B’Elanna returned to the ship.

 

x

 

B’Elanna paced up in down the small conference room. Seated at the oblong table were Tom, Brod, and Efok. She stopped pacing and addressed the others, “It’s them. I know it is. The fucking Tal Shiar has them. Gods we got to get them out.”

 

Efok had a sober expression on his face. “ Granted I don’t know all there is to know about your crewmates. But I do know you used some kind of device to get from the Delta Quadrant to the Alpha Quadrant, and some kind of Borg technology was involved. That fact alone is very valuable to General Sela. She will keep them alive if they have information she can use. She is not one to torture or kill. That is, if they cooperate. Besides, they are Federation citizens and serve Starfleet. She could use them in the future as a bargaining tool. There is a good chance that both are alive.”

 

B’Elanna looked at him disbelievingly and tersely said, “Not one to torture and kill? Great Gods, Efok, you must not know her as well as you think!”

 

“I know her well, about as well as anyone could know one such as her. I have sold my goods to her, and also sold certain information to her that she was able to use against her enemies on Romulus--”

 

B’Elanna growled and grabbed Efok by his collar. “You fucking PetaQ. You’re a double agent. Gods, you probably sold us out to her and are just delivering the goods.”

 

Brod immediately broke B’Elanna’s hold on Efok and Tom held B’Elanna back.

 

Efok coughed to clear his throat and still clutching at his neck, said in a squeaky voice, “I play the role of spy for Sela. Admiral Telir, and certain members of the Senate, go along with this. I feed her information that does prove correct, but not to the detriment of the Empire. She pays me quite handsomely, and I am able to gain information from her. So far, what I have told her has resulted in what she thinks of as gains for herself. Actually, they are, but very small ones. Ones that are really of no consequence. This has built her trust in me.

 

“She will invite me to dine with her and her officers. These banquets of hers almost always include the spouses and lovers of her officers. I always have a good amount of spirits set aside for her, as well as delicacies that are difficult to come by. I provide the entertainment, so to speak, by regaling them with gossip I have obtained on my travels. The spirits will flow and tongues will wag, and this is at the reception before the banquet, when officers socialize, gossip, and tell jokes. I tell you, just play your role as my pretty wife and you will know the whereabouts of your friends the first night of her banquet.”

 

B’Elanna closed her eyes for a second to compose herself. “Okay. That sounds like the easy part. How do we get them out?"

 

Efok smiled, “I have the schematics to the main headquarters building. I know where her brig is and the location of her quarters, as well as where most of her troops are located.”

 

B’Elanna snorted and wryly said, “Oh, and these places aren’t guarded, and we are just going to walk right in and shut down the whole place. Hmm. If it were that easy why hasn’t the Empire just waltzed right in and done it before?”

 

Efok laughed and winked at B’Elanna. “My dear wife, that’s just what the Empire is doing now, isn’t it.”

 

“Okay. So we waltz into the joint, and somehow get by security, I somehow find my wife and Harry, and we somehow escape. We would have more luck looting the Ferengi Great Vault. We have two prisoners we have to free and I bet they aren’t walking freely down the halls. Every door in that place will lock down and every move we make will be monitored. That place would be like stirring an ant hill with a stick, soldiers pouring out of every nook and cranny.”

 

“I won’t lie, it will be hard but not impossible. I have a device that will shut down anything that operates by a plasma or electrical impulse, for twenty-six minutes and within a three-mile perimeter. Not a phaser, weapon, door lock, transporter, or containment field will work during that time. No messages will be able to pass to orbiting warships, nor will they be able to contact the compound.

 

Tom exclaimed, “Wow, I would like to see that.”

 

Efok smirked. “You can see it and I will show you how to activate it, but I’m not giving you the specs on how it works. Top secret, and Admiral Telir would execute me if the Federation, or anyone else, got their hands on it.”

 

B’Elanna interjected, “Wait a minute. If it shuts down all electrical and plasmic impulses, what about Seven’s Borg implants, and how the hell is our ship going to escape?”

 

“A dampening field. This ship has one and I have several small personal fields. I’m sure you will be able to get one to your wife.”

 

“Provided I am allowed anywhere near her.”

 

“Leave that to me, my dear. There will be an opportunity. I’ll see to that.”

 

B’Elanna sighed. “That will be the easy part. But what about the rest, what’s the plan?”

 

“Seize the opportunity when it presents itself, of course. Plans will be made according to what we discover. Plans made too far in advance are prone to failure.”

 

Tom said, “In other words, play it by ear?”

 

Efok looked stumped for a moment and then brightened. “Yes, ears, eyes. Utilize them all. When the opportunity is right, we act. We will formulate a password. When it is broadcast, the field will be activated, and the ship ready to depart.”

 

B’Elanna laughed ruefully. “You know, I thought I left my Maquis days behind. We always had a plan to back up a plan. When both failed, we used to play it by ear. It was those times when we had our greatest success…and some of our biggest flops. Hell, after dealing with Cardies, this might just work.”

 

She looked at Efok through slit eyes. “But, there is something about this whole thing that is bothering me. Secret weapons, spies...No. Something isn’t right. The Romulans are getting more out of this than the good will of the Federation. What is it?"

 

Efok looked sheepishly at B’Elanna and said, “Sela”

 

x

 

Kathryn rubbed her temples with her left hand, and held a cup of Phoebe’s coffee in her right. Ever since the hearings wrapped up earlier that morning, she had been working on a major tension headache. That wasn’t what set it off though. It was the offer of the rank of Admiral that did it. For a grueling nine days of closed-door hearings, in front of dour faced admirals with accusatory tones of questioning, she had no idea that this would be the outcome.

 

“So, Katie, do you get to use any of that long leave time you accrued in the almost seven years away from home?” Phoebe asked.

 

Kathryn was seated in the living room of her childhood home with Gretchen, Phoebe, and Vlara. She had arrived home less than an hour earlier, and informed her family of the promotion. She looked pointedly at Phoebe. “I plan on taking two weeks off to get situated back in my home in San Francisco. Phoebe, not that I want to kick you out, as you are welcome to stay in the guest room, but I would appreciate it if  you removed your canvases and art supplies. Gods, you’ve turned it into an art studio.” She had stayed in her home during the nine days of her questioning by Starfleet, and had found that Phoebe was using her living room as an art studio. The smell of turpentine and oil made her feel light headed.

 

“Hey, no problem, I’ll have it cleaned out by the end of this week.”

 

Kathryn said, “I’ll have to get my furniture out of storage and move it back in.”

 

Phoebe said, “I think Vlara and I can help with that.” She turned and smiled sweetly at Vlara, who nodded her head in agreement. They had just the night before returned from a trip to Paris and Europe.

 

Vlara had visited her half brother for a couple of days, and Phoebe had taken her shopping in Paris, London and Rome. Vlara had been quiet about her visit to her brother. Only saying it went well, but giving no indication that they would contact each other in the future. She had also communicated with her other two siblings who were serving with Starfleet, and sent them the communiqués from their father.

 

Phoebe had talked to Kathryn twice during the weeklong trip and had informed her that Vlara seemed depressed after the visit with her brother. Phoebe's cure for depression, or the ‘funks’ as she called them, was simple, go shopping. She firmly believed in shop therapy to pull one out of the funks.

 

Kathryn had conversed with Vlara on two occasions, cheered when the young woman excitedly told her of the shops she and Phoebe visited, and the clothing she had purchased. She had thought that Phoebe had truly found a soul mate, but then she wondered if there could be some chemistry other than friendship between Phoebe and Vlara. This thought disturbed her for some reason. Whom was she fooling? She knew the reason. She herself was attracted to the young woman, and she had a feeling that Vlara was attracted to her.

 

However, things just couldn’t work out for a romantic relationship between them. Kathryn had her upcoming change in rank, and Starfleet to take up her time. Besides, Vlara would not stay in the Federation, but would be returning to the Romulan Empire, and Kathryn was not prepared to have a broken heart when the young woman went home. A long distance relationship between the two was out of the question. Different quadrants and different factions. Factions that at the best of times were wary allies, and at the worst, had the capacity to destroy each other.

 

Vlara pulled Kathryn out of her reverie by asking, “Kathryn, have you heard any news from my mother, I mean, Admiral Telir, on your missing crew?"

 

Kathryn sighed softly. “Just a communiqué stating all was proceeding according to plan. That was over a week ago. Admiral Paris is keeping me informed of any news on that front. Damn, I wish I could do something more than just wait.”

 

Gretchen saw the worried look on her daughter’s face. “Well, you know the old saying, no news is good news. From what you told me of your officers, they can accomplish the impossible.”

 

Janeway snorted then answered, pride evident in her voice, “The impossible and then some. I am worried about them. But I also know they can take care of themselves, and get out of sticky situations, as they have done in the past.”

 

Gretchen changed the subject. “So, have you set a date for the official ceremony to celebrate your new rank?”

 

“No, Mom. I’m going to delay that until I have my lost lambs back home. Officially, I am admiral, and when I come back from vacation I will start my new role as such.” Smiling she turned to Vlara and said. “So, Vlara, tell me about all the sights you saw and what your impressions of Earth is so far.”

 

For the next hour both Vlara and Phoebe filled her in on all the sights they had seen, and things they had purchased.

 

x

 

Kathryn went out onto the front porch to enjoy the evening twilight. She saw Vlara sitting in the swing, pushing it back and forth with her foot. “May I join you?"

 

The young woman smiled and scooted over to make room on the swing. “Of course.”

 

Kathryn settled herself next to Vlara, feeling the warmth radiating from the young woman’s slightly higher temperature, and smelling a light scent of some delicate perfume, reminiscent of vanilla. “It‘s about time for the fireflies to be out and about.” A lone whistle pierced the night. “That‘s a whip-poor-will, a native bird of this area. They hunt insects in the evening and dawn.”

 

“It is close by. Listen, I hear another. Is that its mate?”

 

“Could be. I’m not an authority on the mating habits of birds.” Nor on Romulans. No Katie, don‘t go there. “You haven’t said much about your visit with your brother and his family. I don’t want to pry, but you seem a little down whenever they are mentioned.”

 

Vlara sighed, “It was cordial but…how do I say this…cold. Do not mistake me. He was pleasant, as were my two sisters, when I conversed over Starfleet communications with them. I would like to thank you for arranging that.”

 

Kathryn patted Vlara’s hand. “No problem, I was glad to help.” She stilled to see if the young woman would continue. After a moment she did.

 

“My brother has two children, my nieces. One nine and the other five in your years. The youngest asked me why I made her grandfather a slave. Her mother immediately tried to hush her. I told her that he was not a slave, that he was my father. She asked why we did not let him return to the Federation. What could I say?” She looked at Janeway with sad eyes. “He was a slave. Granted that he had certain freedoms given to him by my mother, the fact remains, he was owned by my mother. He was never allowed to return to the Federation, to his home and family. He was never charged with crimes against the Rihannsu Empire. There are many in the Empire who no longer believes that a civilized nation should own another being. Even my mother feels it is wrong. She took my father as a slave because he would have been executed otherwise.”

 

Vlara gave a small chuckle and continued, “My father told her this was not so, and the real reason was that my mother was taken by his fair hair and blue eyes. If she could have done so, she would have freed him, and as much as it would have hurt, she would have let him go, even back to the Federation. Rihannsu law does not recognize emancipation. Once a slave, always a slave.”

 

Kathryn inquired, “Is there no…movement or party to change the laws?”

 

“Many Rihannsu continue to cling to the old ways. They see change as a threat to what it means to be Rihannsu. However, there are many, like myself, who believe without growth and change in the direction of peaceful coexistence with others, we will perish as a nation.”

 

Kathryn thought for a moment. “I see. Are you a follower of Ambassador Spock?” She saw Vlara’s features take on a guarded look, and added, “Whatever you tell me, I will not repeat. I give you my word.”

 

Vlara looked at her closely and after a moment, said, “Yes. It would mean my discharge from service in the Senate, as well as disgrace for my family, and possible censure of my mother if it were known. Yes, I am a follower of Ambassador Spock as is my mother. If we do not embrace our sister, Vulcan, and subscribe to her path of working in harmony with those that are not Rihannsu, we will eventually find ourselves outnumbered, and we ourselves will be conquered. We must forge alliances with the Federation and others. We must learn to trust and treat those that are not Rihannsu with trust.

 

“Rihannsu are very loyal to each other. We give our word to each other and it is held as a sacred bond. To break our word is a disgrace to the whole family. However, we do not keep our word to outsiders. They are to be duped, fooled, and taken advantage of. But, if I or any other Rihannsu should say to you, ‘On my honor, I speak the truth.', or, ‘On my honor, I will keep this bond between us' believe it. For honor, or as we call it, mnhei’sahe, is the highest virtue among my people. My mother has sworn this oath to you. She will help you get your people back. This is a very Vulcan thing she has done, to keep her word with foreigners. This is one of the many tenets that Ambassador Spock teaches.”

 

Kathryn said, “Yet, his beliefs have already put a wedge in the Romulan governing body, has it not?”

 

“You are talking about the schisms within the Tal Shiar and some in the Senate. It is not so much about Ambassador Spock’s teaching, as it is General Sela’s ambition that has caused this divide.”

 

“General Sela. Her mother served aboard the Enterprise along with your father.”

 

“Yes. Her mother was a concubine for an Admiral, who later became a General for the Tal Shiar. Sela followed in his footsteps. It was his ambition, and now Sela’s, that Ch’Rihan should expand its border past the Neutral Zone and into Klingon space. There are rumors that she helped to orchestrate a coup on Qo'noS. The Tal Shiar thought to weaken the Klingon Empire and set up a puppet ruler who they could control. Her plot failed, and then the Dominion War came into play, and all efforts were diverted to protecting Ch’Rihan against a greater threat.” She paused for a moment and continued, “It is thought that she is the one who ordered a preemptive strike into the Gamma quadrant against the Dominion, as a way to get rid of her rivals in the Tal Shiar, and to weaken the Senate.”

 

“Why would she do that?  I mean, I can understand her getting rid of rivals, but this was a blow to Romulus.”

 

Vlara snorted and said, “A blow to us, yes, but not to Sela. She has long thought that Ch’Rihan should maintain its course as an Empire built on conquest. I should rephrase that and say, she is of the mind that Ch’Rihan should return to its distant past, and aggressively conquer other worlds, confront the Klingons, and provoke the Federation into war. Now, with many of those opposed to her plans gone, she has mutinied against the Senate, and has taken what Tal Shiar believe in her ways with her to build an army that she hopes to use to conquer Ch’Rihan, and then the universe.”

 

Kathryn asked in surprise, “Is she insane?”

 

“Yes, Kathryn, she is, and there lies the danger. She is not only mad but has an army in which she is the sole leader. Many do not believe she has restoring the Empire to its former glory as her goal. Many believe she wishes to restore the monarchy, and to become Empress, as in the old days.”

 

“Do you believe this?"

 

“I am not sure. I do know that we must find a way to stop her. I do know she must not get her hands on technology that would increase her chances of carrying out her goals, whatever they truly are.”

 

Kathryn smiled wryly and said, “Ah, I see. And it complicates matters that Sela may well have in captivity one of the most brilliant minds in the galaxy, that contains not only Borg technology, but also a method to travel great distances in seconds. And I thought your mother was helping us retrieve my crew as a favor for me helping you. And will she be willing to give me my crewmembers when they are found? Or will the Empire use them to gain the same information?”

 

Kathryn could not make out Vlara's features in the dusk, but heard the hurt in her voice. “Kathryn, I will not pretend that my mother did not have other motives. Her best interest is in preserving the Empire. It is her sworn duty. A duty you as a Federation officer are familiar with. You, or I should say, the Federation is benefiting from this. You are getting your crew and something that the Federation has wanted for centuries: Open communications with Ch’Rihan, and on good terms. You know this will lead to that goal. You agreed to help me because it was in the best interest for the Federation.”

 

Kathryn was about to protest, when Vlara held her hands out, palm first, to forestall her and continued, "You are an honorable and kind person, Kathryn, and would have more than likely helped me anyway. Tell me, Kathryn, was it not in your thoughts that by helping me you would help the Federation? You know my mother is the highest-ranking military officer in the Empire. Her cousin is the Praetor and she is related to half the senate. She has their ears and they listen to her. However, my mother is an honorable person, and she would have helped you find your crew for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. She has promised on her mnhei’sahe to help. This I do know. This I tell you in confidence. She has not told the Senate that one of your crew is the scientist who is most connected with the creation of the transwarp coil. When found, she will not probe her mind for information. The Empire is at a crossroads. One to peace and prosperity, the other to destruction, and possible annihilation. There are those in power who secretly believe in Sela’s goals. To have the transwarp device would send us down the road to ruin. We would believe we are invincible. The short-term gain is not worth it. You will get your crew back, unharmed by her.”

 

Kathryn sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Vlara was right. When she agreed to help her, there was the thought of helping the Federation fulfill the goal of bettering relations with Romulus. She quickly changed the subject. “When do you plan to return to Romulus?" She realized that that could have sounded like she wanted the young woman to leave. This was far from the truth.

 

“Have I worn out my stay already? I suppose I have carried out my father’s wishes, and nothing is holding me here. Could you arrange for me to return, say in a couple of weeks? Phoebe wants me to attend a gallery showing and also show me more of Earth.”

 

Tell her to stay longer. You want her to stay. You want her. “I was hoping you would stay longer…as long as you like. You are a Federation citizen through your father. I have plenty of room at my home in San Francisco and I would appreciate your company.” Kathryn gave a lopsided grin and continued, “Besides, Mom would be glad for you to stay here. I think she would miss you and your recipe sessions if you left.”

 

Vlara gave a scintillating smile and said, “I would like to stay longer. For some reason, I am not as homesick as I thought I would be. On Ch’Rihan, there is a saying that all those of Rihannsu blood wither if too long gone from her, and the spirit soars when home. It is strange, but I do not feel that way. I am here on this fair planet and my spirit soars. The sun and her light feel right, the air and sea, and the soil, smells right. It is if all four elements on your planet call to me. I feel as if I belong. Perhaps your Earth speaks to me through my human side, perhaps in a strange way, I am home.”

 

Janeway smiled, her own spirits soaring. “Then perhaps I should say, welcome home.”

 

Chapter Eight

 

Seven walked beside Harry down the winding flag stone path. This was the sixth time she and Harry had been allowed to have face-to-face contact in the more than four weeks since their capture.

 

The morning sun had yet to melt the thin mist that veiled the small pond, and lower lying areas, in the well-tended garden. As always, their assigned ‘assistants’ accompanied them, but remained ten paces behind.

 

Seven had been explaining to Harry the problem she was having integrating the Borg parts that Sela had been able to provide her, into the transwarp core she was instructing the Romulan scientists on how to construct.

 

“Gee, Seven, that is just bad luck that those parts were defective,” he replied sheepishly and with a slight smirk on his face. “So, how long is it going to take them to find some good ones?”

 

Seven‘s voice held no emotion and was evenly modulated. “It is uncertain. Perhaps two weeks. I am not privy to the methods used in obtaining such parts. It is, however, unimportant how they obtained the parts. Only that they are undamaged. Even with the parts, there is no guarantee that the device will function. The age of the Borg components may determine if the device functions at optimum levels.”

 

Harry could read between the lines and determine that Seven would insure that the device would malfunction. Fortunately, for him, he had very little knowledge on constructing the transwarp coil. His knowledge was in the construction of the reflectors needed to increase the width of the transwarp bubble. He had told them all he knew, knowing that it would be a simple thing for them to wrench it out of his mind. Besides, the Tal Shiar scientist had the Flyer and could easily figure out how the reflectors worked.

 

The computer system on the Flyer had very little information pertaining to the transwarp coil, and for good reason. Shuttlecraft were vulnerable, due to size and speed, to being captured by hostile forces, and nothing of importance was ever, as a rule, contained in their computers. Besides, Seven was a walking computer herself. Anything there was to know on the transwarp coil was stored in her cortical node. He supposed, no hoped, that the Tal Shiar were not cognizant of that fact, or Seven could find her life and health at jeopardy.

 

Except for the beating that he took, their treatment had been humane. Seven had later apologized and stated it was her fault, as Sela wanted her to reveal certain information, but she had refused.

 

Harry had a strong feeling that General Sela was using his continued fair treatment as a tool to force Seven into cooperation.

 

He nonchalantly asked, “You doing anything else now that you have to wait for the needed parts. I mean, anything on the transwarp system.”

 

“No. General Sela has her team analyzing the Flyer's varying Borg shields and weapons array. She states this activity will require her team to use their mind and keep them sharp. I believe she was being facetious.”

 

“Hmm. You still dine with her every night?”

 

“No,” Seven quickly answered.

 

Harry waited for Seven to elaborate. When it was not forthcoming, he said, “Oh. Okay.” He couldn’t help but wonder if Sela was requesting more from Seven than just a companion for dinner. He inwardly cringed when thinking General Sela would require Seven’s presence for more prurient pursuits. He didn‘t know what he would do if that were the case. He knew what he would like to do, but that was out of the question. He would die before he could carry it out. Seven was strong and could take care of herself. He had had occasion to see her use her Borg enhanced strength. What bothered him was suspecting that Seven would do things to protect him. What lengths would she go? He didn’t want to know.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by his guards telling him their time was up. He smiled at Seven. “Give me a call. I have a great Romulan card game we can play over the computer with each other. I might have a chance of beating you in this one.”

 

“Chance? It is a game that depends on random choices and events?”

 

“Well, pretty much so. How else am I going to win a game against you? Any game that uses logic you win.”

 

Seven cocked an eyebrow. “Perhaps they have a game similar to Kadis Kot. That is a game of both chance and skill. Naomi Wildman wins at least 42 percent of the games we have played.”

 

Harry replied dryly, "Gee Seven. If Naomi can do that well, I guess I have a chance to beat you.”

 

Seven smirked and replied, “Perhaps.”

 

x

 

Seven slowly sipped her drink as she listened to yet another diatribe against the failings of the Romulan Empire in living up to its destiny, which was to rule the whole universe. In the month since she had been a ‘guest’ of the General, she was required to dine nightly with her, save for two nights a week, as Sela needed to conduct meetings and other business.

 

Tonight, Seven wore a midnight blue gown with long gossamer sleeves. The skirt was full and fell to just below her knees, with silver threads shot through the material. Her slippers were silver, with flat heels.

 

After that first night at dinner, when Sela showed her displeasure at Seven’s thwarting of her stated wishes, she had dressed in whatever Sela required. She had to admit that most of the choices, since that first dinner, were not vulgar or tasteless. She would gladly wear them under other circumstances, those being if B’Elanna had picked them out for her. She would then wear them proudly, and be pleased that B’Elanna would look at her with desire and pleasure.

 

Instead, she had to wear them for Sela, and it displeased her to have Sela rake her eyes over her as if she were some prized possession. She was sure that Sela considered her as such. She was relieved that Sela only directed looks her way. They made her uneasy, but better looks than having Sela touch her intimately. She did not know if she would be able to tolerate demands for  a physical involvement. She shuddered, thinking of Sela’s hands near her. Sela had touched her body only once, and that was at their first dinner together when Sela had her strip. However, Sela had touched her hair twice by taking it down from the customary twist. This was at their first dinner together, and then later at their second dinner together when Sela let her hair down from its twist. After that, she had taken to leaving her hair down for dinner, not wanting to invite the General to touch her. B’Elanna was the only one that she would willingly, and with pleasure, allow to let her hair down.

 

B’Elanna. Her bang'wI, her be’nal. She wondered how long it would be before B’Elanna found her. She thought once again of being in her arms, of feeling her heat next to her when she slept, and felt a lump in her throat.

 

“Do I bore you my lovely Annika? You sighed. I must be boring you. Perhaps you sigh because you miss that little half-breed wife of yours. Hmmm. We have talked of many things, the Borg, the Delta Quadrant, even your Captain Janeway. We have not really discussed that little wife of yours. I wish to hear about her and why you picked such an inferior species as a Klivam to be your mate.”

 

Seven glared at her.

 

“Oh, excuse me. Only half Klivam.” Sela said facetiously. “Is it true what they say about Klivam females? They scratch and bite in bed, and lovemaking is a battle. Have I somehow misread you, Annika? Is it the Klivam who conquers you, instead of you conquering her and bending her to your will? Tell me of her, Annika?”

 

“I will not dishonor her by discussing her, or what is private and between us,” Seven coldly replied

 

Sela smirked and said, “Oh? Why, you have already told me, Annika. You told me that you wish to breathe in her very breath, as it sustains you. The taste of her mouth, rare nectar that intoxicates you. That you give her all that you are…”

 

Seven flung herself off her couch, went around the small table to stand before Sela, and demanded, “Where is it Sela? It is mine and does not belong to you.”

 

Sela remained reclined on the couch, smirking, and replied, “Oh? You would tell me what to do, Annika? Your little ship and everything on it is mine. Even you, Annika. You’re mine. You just haven’t accepted it yet. You know, that little padd was the cause of my having to discipline some of my scientists. They were so intent on the computers and engines that they failed to do a thorough search of your cabin, until a week ago. There in plain view, or should I say, beneath the pillow on your cot, was this little gem. Instead of giving it to me, they opened it up. I threatened to cut the tongue out of the scientists who read it, and tell what they have read. They assure me they have already forgotten what was in it.”

 

Sela stood up and reached under the cushion she had been reclining on and retrieved the padd. “Ah, here it is. If you want it, Annika, feel free to take it from me.”

 

She held it out with one hand, and as Seven reached for it, she put it behind her back. “Take it from me, Annika. If it is so important, take it from me.”

 

Seven stepped up to within a foot of Sela and reached around her back for the padd. Sela backed up against the couch, still clutching the padd behind her. Seven tried to reach around her again. This caused her to press against Sela’s front. Seven felt Sela’s breasts against hers, and she heard Sela moan, and felt the heat from her body.

 

Seven immediately realized the mistake she made. She was giving Sela what she wanted. Seven stepped back, as if burned, and put her hands behind her back and drew herself up into her Borg stance, the stance she used when upset or angered. She replied in her Borg voice, “It is of no consequence. I do not need words on a padd to tell my be’nal how I feel when I once again see her.”

 

Sela snorted. “My lovely, Annika. You will never see her. She is not coming for you. Nor is your Captain Janeway or Starfleet. Your little Klivam has forgotten about you. It was one thing for her to…fuck…you when 40,000 light-years from home. It is another thing to have a Borg as a spouse, now that she is home with her family and friends. You, my dear Annika, would shame her. She would be sleeping with the enemy. No, dear. She will not come for you. You were just someone to fuck for a while.”

 

Seven’s nostrils flared with her attempt to control her anger and she gruffly said, “You lie. She is honorable. We took The Oath. She would not dishonor me, or The Oath.”

 

Sela smirked and said, “You think I lie. Believe me, I would know if she, or Starfleet, were looking for you. I have my people in places to know. I have one of my operatives here now, and he has informed me that there has not been a whisper in Romulan Space of a lost Federation ship. Romulus knows of even a stray meteor that crosses into her space. And there have been no reports of Federation, or any other ships, crossing the Neutral Zone. You don’t believe me? Ask him yourself. He will be at a dinner I am hosting for my senior staff tomorrow night. You will be there. Ask him yourself.”

 

“It proves nothing if he does not know. I know and that is all that matters.”

 

“We shall see. I expect you to treat me with civility tomorrow night. I know that you are not an actor, and I don’t expect you to fawn over me--”

 

“You are correct. I am not an actor. You cannot force me to pretend that I have any feelings for you, beyond those of the contempt I already possess.” Seven paused before adding, “I will, however, treat you civilly.”

 

Sela facetiously said, “Oh, you are too kind. Thank you, my lady.” Her expression turned more serious and she said, “You also will be treated with civility by me and my officers. I have passed along the word that my officers, and guests, refer to you as Lady Annika. You are more than just a slave or servant. As for your acting abilities, I do believe my lovely Borg Princess, that in time you will not have to act. Time is on my side, and you are here with me for all time.”

 

Seven’s implant over her eye quirked upwards and her voice was at its most Borg. “Then you do not understand the concept of time.”

 

Sela laughed. “Enough. I believe all of my officers will be jealous of me. Your distance and aloofness will tantalize them and they will envy me. They already wonder what we do all these nights together. I must say, you would not be pleased that whenever two or more of my officers get together, we are the most popular choice of conversation. Not pleased at all, that it is speculated that you are indeed pleasing me in the most delightful way.”

 

“They are delusional,” Seven spat out. It upset her to think that others would perceive that she and Sela had a romantic, and worst of all, a physical relationship.

 

“No they’re not. They have no delusions…illusions maybe. You are in my quarters almost every night, looking so beguiling. Your stay here is long enough for dinner and ah…dessert. They are just misinterpreting the data.”

 

“Their false speculations do not displease you?”

 

“Quite the contrary, it pleases me. To have such a beautiful woman dine with me, and please me in other ways, only adds to my mystique as a powerful leader. I am a powerful woman and power, my lovely Annika...power has its privileges. And believe me, you are a privilege that only one as powerful as myself is entitled to enjoy. You are a status symbol. They are reminded every time they see you with me that in order for me to have such a woman, that I am powerful."

 

Seven thought then of a phrase she once heard, ‘trophy wife’. Tom Paris had referred to his latest stepmother as a trophy wife. She had asked B’Elanna what that meant. B’Elanna had said it was a status symbol among older and successful persons to have a spouse who was beautiful and usually younger, much younger, than they were. It meant that they had power and influence to attract a person whom others considered desirable. B’Elanna had laughed, and stated that Seven was her trophy wife. Seven had disagreed, and stated that B’Elanna was her trophy wife. They had disagreed in a teasing way, until laughter and teasing led to passion and lovemaking, as it often did. Seven was disquieted that others thought she would forget her vows to her be’nal and cheat on her.

 

Seven coldly stated, “I shall inform them otherwise.”

 

Sela sobered and then commanded, “You will not. I don’t want you discussing what goes on behind these doors with anyone. DO I make myself clear?"

 

“Yes. But it is a lie.”

 

Sela smugly smiled and said, “For now it is, but it won’t be for always.” Before Seven could reply, she continued, “Now. You may go and rest for tomorrow. I don’t want you going to the lab. I want you well rested for the banquet. I have picked something special for you to wear. I think even you will approve.”

 

Seven nodded and reached over, taking the padd from the table. Sela looked at her, a smirk on her face, but didn’t say a word. When Seven returned to her quarters, she would erase what was on the padd. She knew every word by heart and she would tell those words to her be’nal in person. She would put all that she felt into her voice, into her eyes, and into her touch, coloring it with the texture and richness of her love and devotion.

 

x

 

B’Elanna sipped her drink as she stood by Efok’s side, playing her role as his wife. They had arrived some twenty minutes earlier and were mixing with Sela’s officers and guests, prior to dinner.

 

She listened to the officers' conversations with only surface attention, her thoughts were on her be’nal and she was impatient with wanting to see her, and to ascertain for herself, that Seven was indeed there, and safe.

 

B’Elanna wore a silken black and rose tunic and pants. Around her neck was a gold pendant that was actually a device that would counter-act the power-dampening field generated by the deadening device. She was to give the pendent to Seven to protect her implants when they activated the  power-dampening device. Also, on her person were two small hand held weapons that used a gas to project a small pellet at great velocity to incapacitate or kill an adversary. The deadening device would have no impact on these weapons, since they required no electrical or plasmic impulses to operate.

 

Efok told her and Tom about his conference with General Sela earlier in the day. And how easy it was to gather information from the unsuspecting woman. Sela had asked him for any information that he may have obtained regarding a Federation ship lost in Romulan Space, and if a rescue party, or any unknown ships, had crossed the Neutral Zone. He had reported that all was quiet on the border, except for the miraculous appearance of a Federation craft called Voyager, which had supposedly been lost for close to seven years in the Delta Quadrant. He reported that Admiral Telir had quickly arrived in the Neutral Zone, had met with a Federation Admiral, named North, to ascertain that the Federation would not cross the zone and into Romulan territory. There were no other suspicious actions noted.

 

Efok had snickered when telling B’Elanna and Tom that he told General Sela that he had an interesting conversation with a Freight Company Owner about possible pirate activity, and a small ship, the Tal Shiar took into custody. Sela had then informed him that she had in her possession a very interesting ship, using Borg and Federation technology, and two of the crew. She would not elaborate only to say that one member of the crew was very special, and would be present at the formal dinner she was hosting that evening.

 

B’Elanna’s attention was brought to her present surroundings by a pause in the buzz of conversation. One of the officers near her said in a low voice, “I see our General is displaying her jewel tonight.”

 

Another officer answered, keeping her voice low, “If that jewel were mine I would keep it hidden from public view, lest a thief attempt to steal it.”

 

The first officer snickered, “A jewel like that would never come into your possession. She is one of a kind. Our like could never acquire such a one.”

 

B‘Elanna looked in the direction of the officers’ focus, and caught her breath. There was her bang'wI. No, surely she was dreaming. This creature was no mere mortal, but one of the angels in the Christian storybook her Nana used to read to her. She was dressed in a gown of silky gold. The bodice molded to her shapely breasts, with a V-neck dipping between them. The gown was off the shoulders with attached gossamer gold sleeves reaching to the wrist. A long flowing skirt followed the thighs and long legs down to the ankles. The angel seemed to float across the floor when she moved. Her hair was down and around her shoulder, a shower of radiant gold. She looked like some mythical goddess or queen. B‘Elanna thought, She is a queen, the queen of my heart.

 

The vision stopped moving, and it was then that B’Elanna noticed the woman who held her by her right elbow, in a proprietary manner. General Sela. B’Elanna saw the smug look on Sela’s face. She wore a silver and gray silk military tunic, but it had a gold shoulder sash adorned with badges of rank and honors. The material of the sash matched that of Seven’s gown.

 

B‘Elanna felt a cold rage infuse her and wanted to strike the woman down for daring to touch her be’nal, and flaunting her as property. She, however, controlled her rage but vowed that later she would settle things with the General. She watched as Sela stopped to converse with several of her officers, and then move on toward where B’Elanna was, guiding Seven by the elbow. B’Elanna held her breath, knowing that her be’nal would see through the disguise, and hoping that she would not give her away.

 

Sela beamed as she introduced Annika to her officers, and to Efok. Seven stilled for a moment, her eyes widening as she looked at B’Elanna. There was recognition there, but she recovered nicely. Efok immediately put his arm around B’Elanna’s waist and said, “General Sela and Lady Annika, let me introduce my wife, D’len.”

 

Sela smiled and looking B’Elanna over, replied, “Why, Efok, she is very lovely. You were not exaggerating when you earlier sang her praises.” She addressed B’Elanna this time, “Welcome D’len. I hope you find your stay here enjoyable. I will try not to keep your husband away too long on business.”

 

“Thank you, General. These apartments are magnificent. I have been admiring the art work.” She turned to Seven and said, “Lady Annika, that dress you are wearing is divine. Efok has promised to buy me many new gowns on this trip…would you mind giving me the name of the boutique you purchased this from, or perhaps, the name of your tailor?"

 

Efok quickly broke in and complained, “Dresses and jewelry, I will soon be a very poor man.” He addressed Sela and the gathered officers, “General and officers, let us to the bar and leave these two beautiful ladies to discuss fashion. I have a very rare spirit from Tolas that has to be tasted to be believed.”

 

Sela hesitated as if deciding to go along with Efok’s request, and then looking at Seven, said, “Annika, I will leave you here to converse with Lady D’len, until dinner.” She gave her one last look that seemed to say, behave.

 

B’Elanna searched the room, spying a secluded area with a divan and table. “There Lady Annika, let us to that spot to talk.” Seven nodded and they both headed toward the place indicated. B’Elanna noticed that one guard accompanied them, but he managed to stay twenty feet away and was trying to be discreet.

 

Seven seated herself on the divan, and B’Elanna right beside her and said, “That is a very beautiful dress.” She whispered low, “Oh, bang'wI, I have missed you. You are unharmed?”

 

Seven quickly replied, “It is a gift from General Sela. She has given me many such gifts. Perhaps we can arrange a time for you to come to my quarters and see them. I am unharmed. bang'wI, I knew you would come for me.”

 

Seven’s eyes were soft and liquid as they focused on B’Elanna. B’Elanna felt both cold and hot and fought the urge to hug her be’nal to her. She swallowed hard and said, “I would be delighted, lady. Perhaps we can do so tomorrow. I have many pieces of fine jewelry that may interest you. They are wedding gifts from my husband. How is Harry?"

 

“Perhaps, I will be able to provide a lunch for us in the gardens. They are aesthetically pleasing. He is well. They monitor our quarters. The gardens remain unmonitored by listening devices. I am however, guarded when I visit them.”

 

“Oh, that sounds wonderful. It has been a while since I have been planet side and enjoyed the outdoors. I would enjoy lunch and discussing fashion. I love you.”

 

Before they could continue, the dinner gong sounded, and the guard accompanied both women to the dining area.

 

Seven could not relax as she reclined on the couch. She had to share it with Sela, who was reclining behind her on the slightly elevated back portion, so that she was easily able to view those around her, and reach over Seven to the platter containing food. Seven could feel Sela’s arm graze her own, as the General reached over to pick a morsel of food. She felt the heat from Sela’s body against her back and thighs. Seven controlled her revulsion and instinct to jump as if some insect were on her. Being this intimate with Sela made her appetite almost nonexistent and she picked at the food. She was sure Sela had arranged the sharing of a single couch to impress her officers. She hoped that Sela would not decide to carry this practice on to their customary dinners together.

 

Seven had glanced frequently at B’Elanna, who was reclining with Efok, to the left side of the table and two places down. She notice that B’Elanna’s features were flushed and her eyes dark and glinting. She could tell it was an effort for B’Elanna to control her rage at seeing Seven in such intimate contact with the General. She inwardly cringed, knowing that B'Elanna was thinking that Sela was partaking of what belonged to B’Elanna alone. She knew that B’Elanna would not blame her, would not think that she was a willing participant. Still, she felt guilty, even though nothing occurred beyond Sela viewing her naked and touching her implants, back and hair. She knew that B’Elanna would punish Sela for even doing that much.

 

There was a lull in the conversation and Seven, who had been quiet up to that point, looked at B’Elanna and said, “Lady D’len, I have been admiring your necklace, it is aesthetically pleasing.” She felt Sela’s body jump slightly as if surprised. Perhaps she was, since, so far tonight, Seven only spoke when spoken to and then in short answers. 

 

B’Elanna answered with an expression of seeming delight, “Thank you, Lady Annika. Efok gave it to me as a wedding gift. He has given me many beautiful pieces. I will bring them with me to show you at our luncheon tomorrow.”

 

Sela leaned close against Seven, speaking softly into her ear, “Luncheon? What is this about a luncheon?”

 

Seven replied, “I have not had time yet to ask your permission. Earlier, Lady D‘len expressed an interest in seeing the beautiful items of apparel that you provided me. I informed her that I would arrange for her to visit me in my quarters, with your permission of course. I thought I could also show her the gardens and we could have our lunch there.”

 

Efok, overhearing the conversation, chuckled. “General Sela. This is a plot. My wife will come back from this soirée and demand that I buy her gowns. She will bore me with details of how beautiful the ones Lady Annika has, and hers but rags in comparison. Your own lady will rave on about the beautiful jewelry my wife has and demand that you provide her with pieces that will outshine them.”

 

B’Elanna pushed her elbow back and into Efok’s stomach, causing him to exhale sharply, and groused, “I have been on this trading trip for weeks now with nothing to do but read the same novels over and over, and entertain your trading cronies while listening to their boring talk of merchandise and profits. I meet someone who appreciates the finer things in life, and wish a little time to talk about them, and you accuse me of having ulterior motives. I wish to show Lady Annika those gorgeous pieces of jewelry you gave me, and you make a joke of it.” B’Elanna pouted nicely and went back to picking morsels of food from the platter, a displeased expression on her face.

 

Seven was impressed by her wife’s acting skills and glad that she had an opportunity to witness them firsthand. A few months earlier, B’Elanna’s shuttle had crashed on a planet and she was forced to participate as an actor for a playwright. When she returned to Voyager, she had told Seven about the play she acted in. Seven made a mental note to have B’Elanna recite some of her scenes.

 

There were snickers around the table and Efok held up his hand in surrender and said in a sincere tone, “I apologize my sweet, and to you also, Lady Annika. I do understand that some feel about clothes and jewelry as I do about fine wines.”

 

Seven noticed that Efok was rolling his eyes behind B’Elanna’s back when saying the last part. She heard Sela snicker at this. Sela replied, “If my lady wishes, then I give her permission to receive Lady D’len as her guest.”

 

Seven lowered her voice and replied, “Thank you.” Her eyes, however, were on B’Elanna.

 

x

 

Kathryn was getting a headache from all the clashing colors, optical lighting, and strobes that the large canvas incorporated.

 

She had arrived a few minutes before, on an invitation from Vlara to meet her, and Phoebe, at the gallery showing in San Antonio. Phoebe wasn’t showing any of her work here, she was attending to support an artist friend of hers from Qo'noS.

 

The title of this work was ‘Targ Hunt’. Kathryn wasn’t a fan of  this type of abstract art. She preferred pieces that were more realistic in nature. She sure couldn’t see anything resembling a Targ in this piece.

 

She looked over to where Phoebe and Vlara were talking to the artist and his admirers. She noticed, with a pang of jealousy, that Vlara and Phoebe were holding hands. Now Katie, don’t go reading anything into that, it’s just a cultural affectation. Nothing going on there. You’ve seen Vlara every night now at Mother’s, and would know if there is something between the two. She was thinking about walking over to make her presence known when Vlara glanced up and saw her, smiled widely, and said a few words to those in the group, and still smiling, walked over to her.

 

“You have come. Phoebe said that you would find some excuse at the last minute not to attend.” She reached out and took Kathryn by the hand, smiling and showing those two gorgeous dimples.

 

Kathryn couldn’t help but smile back. “Well, I am still a little tired from doing all that moving yesterday. I wouldn’t be able to move a muscle if I had it all to do myself. Thanks for helping out.”

 

“You are very welcome. How was your first night in your dwelling?”

 

Kathryn smiled at Vlara’s use of the word dwelling, instead of home. “Strange, after being away for so long. I finally managed to fall asleep after reading up on some Starfleet memorandums.”

 

Phoebe, had just walked up, and apparently overhearing her sister’s comment, said, “Gods, Katie, you’re supposed to be on vacation, can’t you enjoy yourself a little?”

 

Kathryn quipped back, “Who says I’m not. I just needed something to put me to sleep, and what better way to do it than start on Starfleet memorandums. “

 

Phoebe exclaimed, “Surely not the ones for the past six years or so.”

 

Janeway rolled her eyes. “No, Phoebe. A lot of those I read while in the Delta Quadrant, after we had contact with Starfleet through the array. These are the more recent ones.”

 

Phoebe changed the subject. “I thought you would beg off coming. Have you picked up some appreciation for abstract Klingon art while in the Delta Quadrant?”

 

“Not on your life. I just thought I would drop by and see if I can interest you two in dinner tonight at Chan Yongs in San Francisco. My treat of course. Call it payment for helping me move.” She let her eyes settle on Vlara.

 

Phoebe noticed where her sister’s interest lay and smirked. She covered it quickly by saying, “Well, I have an invitation to attend a little dinner get together with the artist and gallery owners. I really don’t see how I can get out of it. Of course, the invitation includes Vlara. I told them I would ask, but…” turning to Vlara she said, “…these things are boring for someone outside the art field. As much as it pains me to say this, my sister will be much more entertaining.”

 

Kathryn punched Phoebe on the shoulder lightly and looked at Vlara. “We can make it another night if you wish.”

 

Vlara smiled and turned to Phoebe. “Tell the artist I am honored, but I have another commitment.”

 

Phoebe gave Kathryn a quick wink and said, “No problem. You might want to stay at Katie’s tonight. Knowing her, she will want to show you some of the Bay by moonlight, and it will be late when you get in. Not that I mind picking you up at the transporter station.”

 

Vlara looked at Janeway expectantly. “Would this be a problem?”

 

“Not at all. I have the spare room already made up. You know, we could get up early and I could take you for a tour of Starfleet Headquarters.”

 

Phoebe snorted, “Starfleet Headquarters! You sure know how to show a girl a good time, don’t you?"

 

Kathryn blushed but was relieved when Vlara said, “I would enjoy doing that.”

 

Kathryn smiled and said, “I can introduce you to some old friends and colleagues, and we can have lunch in the cafeteria.”

 

Phoebe had a pleased expression on her face as she said, “Well, looks like you two have a…date…if you will excuse me, I see someone I must talk to.”

 

She quickly departed leaving a red-faced Kathryn who glanced at Vlara, relieved to see that the expression on the young woman’s face indicated that she had no idea to what Phoebe had really been implying.

 

x

 

It was a pleasant evening, Kathryn thinking that dinner was a success. She had ordered a platter of the different varieties of oriental style foods and enjoyed watching Vlara try each one. She took pleasure in the young woman’s obvious enjoyment.

 

At the conclusion of their dinner, Vlara looked suddenly sober, and said, “I am concerned that your friendship with me may present problems with your career in Starfleet.”

 

Kathryn looked momentarily surprised and inquired, “How so, because you are Romulan, or because your mother is Admiral, and one of the most powerful people in the Empire?”

 

Vlara glanced down and back up, meeting Janeway’s eyes. “Both.”

 

Kathryn smiled, reached across the table, and covered Vlara’s hand. “There is nothing to worry about. I choose my own friends and Starfleet has no say in that. They are well aware that you and I are in daily contact with each other. I will not lie to you and say that your name has not come up in conversations I have had with a few colleagues. They are aware that you have family here and were carrying out a family duty.”

 

Kathryn paused for a second as if weighing some decision, then said, “I must confess, I have other reasons for wanting to take you to Starfleet headquarters. I do want to show you around, but Admiral Shanmir approached me and asked if I thought you would be interested in a civilian position as an advisor on Romulan culture. Since protocol and diplomatic functions are under his auspices, I think he would like to have more knowledge of the social customs of Romulus.”

 

Vlara looked somewhat surprised. “What you are saying, Kathryn, is that Starfleet and the Federation would perhaps have need of this knowledge in the foreseeable future, that is, if the current overtures of agreeable cooperation between Romulus and The Federation should lead to formal diplomatic relations. What did you inform this Admiral Sha…“

 

“Shanmir. I informed him that you were a cultured Romulan, from the highest social caste, which he already knew. That you are amiable, intelligent, well-spoken, interesting, a good conversationalist, and have an open mind. I also informed him that I would let him judge that for himself when he meets you.”

 

Vlara pursued her lips and said, “I am flattered, but why did you not inform me of this when you made the invitation earlier to tour Starfleet Headquarters?”

 

Kathryn said one word, “Phoebe.”

 

Vlara smiled in understanding. “Phoebe has made it known to me that she does not like Starfleet. She would cast their offer in the worst light possible.”

 

Kathryn smirked. “Exactly. The Admiral approached me yesterday. Rest assured, it was probably discussed by other Starfleet Admirals, and agreed upon prior to the inquiries of Admiral Shanmir.”

 

“I will think on this tonight. I do find this offer interesting.”

 

Kathryn gave her trademark uneven smile and said, “Oh, and I was telling only the truth when I described you to Admiral Shanmir.”

 

Vlara flushed, bit her lower lip, and shyly looked at Kathryn through lowered lashes. “Thank you.”

 

Kathryn thought the reaction endearing. Watch it Katie. You could fall hard for this one. Then she mentally sighed and added, Who am I kidding? I’m falling and falling hard.

 

They left the restaurant, but the notorious San Francisco fog had rolled in and made a walk around the Bay impossible. They decided to go back to Kathryn’s home.

 

Kathryn opened the front door to her home, allowing Vlara to enter before her. “You know where everything is. Just make yourself at home. I‘m going to make some coffee, would you like a cup?”

 

“Yes, thank you. I’m going to use your facilities.”

 

Kathryn went to her kitchen area and instead of using the replicator, used a percolator. It was an old tried and true method of brewing coffee by using real beans. Kathryn had missed this in the Delta Quadrant. To her, this was the way coffee was intended to be prepared and enjoyed. And it was great that Vlara had discovered she liked the brew, while staying at her mother's home. She also enjoyed it black, a woman after my own heart. She sighed and her thoughts ran to another meaning for the phrase. I can only dream.

 

The coffee was ready and Kathryn poured two cups. Turning quickly, she bumped into Vlara, who had come up behind her. Both hot cups emptied onto the chest and arms of the young woman, who cried out and quickly, and stepped back, holding her sodden blouse out from her chest, a pained looked on her face.

 

“Oh my gods!” Kathryn exclaimed, quickly putting the now two empty cups in the sink, and turning back to Vlara, said, “Take your blouse off quickly, while I go and get the dermal regenerator.”

 

Kathryn hurried through her bedroom and into her bathroom. She reached into one of the drawers, found the small household emergency dermal regenerator that was a part of her first aid supplies, and hurried back to the kitchen.

 

Vlara had her shirt and chemise off, and was at the sink holding a wad of wet paper towels against her chest and breasts, her eyes closed in obvious pain. Kathryn placed her hand on the young woman’s right shoulder and turned her around. “Here, let me tend to that.” She sucked in her breath on seeing the red areas and slight blistering of the flesh on Vlara’s upper chest and the tops of her breasts. She waved the regenerator over the scalded area, seeing the redness subside. She continued for around a minute, running the regenerator only a fraction from the skin. Her hand felt the heat radiating from Vlara’s body.

 

 She couldn’t help but notice the hardened coral nipples on well rounded, pert breasts. Kathryn thought, these would nicely fit in my hands. She then realized what she had been thinking and tried to step back. However, a pair of soft, but firm arms grasped her around the shoulders and pulled her tightly against the objects of her admiration. She looked up, stunned, and her mouth was captured by a soft pair of lips, and held in a firm and hot kiss. She stiffened and then relaxed, putting her arms around the young woman and drawing her closer. Her tongue entered into warm, wet velvet softness, caressing and being caressed. Suddenly, she felt the velvet warmth leave her mouth and Vlara pushed her away, a breathless cry bringing Kathryn to her senses.

 

“I…please…forgive me,” Vlara said nervously and attempted to turn but Kathryn gripped her by her arms and brought her forcibly against her, placing a hot long kiss on Vlara’s mouth.

 

Vlara deepened the kiss and melted into Kathryn. She groaned and Kathryn caught the sound in her mouth and returned it. They parted then, leaving both women shaken. Kathryn searched Vlara’s face, seeing the eyes half-lidded and laden with passion. She said in voice made gravelly by passion, “I’ve wanted to do that for some time now, and more, much more. It would be so easy to let this lead to something we may both regret. We need to talk.”

 

Vlara stared long into Kathryn’s eyes and said, “Yes. I agree, we do need to talk.”

 

Kathryn looked down at the naked breasts pressed against her front and stepped back. “Go over to the couch, I‘ll get you one of my shirts.” She hurried off to her bedroom, and opening a drawer, she snatched out a slate blue tee shirt emblazoned with a Starfleet emblem on the front. She had noticed that Vlara was very close to her in height, with Vlara more filled out in comparison. She thought this shirt would fit Vlara, as it was a little big on her.

 

Kathryn returned to the living room and handed the shirt to Vlara, turning her eyes away as the young woman dressed. She sat down on the couch next to Vlara, and saw the young woman staring intently at her folded hands, her mouth quivering. She cupped the young woman’s chin, forcing her gaze up to look her into her eyes. “Talk to me Vlara. Where do you want to go with this? I’m on unstable ground here.”

 

Vlara sighed and felt her eyes tear. “I am in love with you, Kathryn. I love you and I don’t know what to do.”

 

Kathryn leaned over and kissed each eyelid, catching the tears before they fell. She searched Vlara’s face, and said,  “I can’t say that I love you, Vlara, but I am so close. I think of you when I wake and when I fall asleep. I’m not one who loves easily. I’ve been hurt before. I don’t want to go into this and then lose you when you decide to go home. I can’t do that. What is it you want Vlara?”

 

“I want to give my love to you, Kathryn. I want you to love me. I look at you and see my tomorrows. I would not leave you if you let me into your heart. For me it would be forever.”

 

Kathryn swallowed hard, and felt the ache in her jaws and behind her eyes, which meant she wasn’t far from tears. She drew Vlara to her and the young women wrapped her arms around Kathryn and eagerly kissed her.

 

Breathless, Kathryn broke the kiss and said, “I’m not sure of the cultural nuances here. I would like to explore the possibility of a committed relationship with you. Is there some custom I must adhere to?”

 

Vlara’s eyes had a bright twinkle, with a decidedly mischievous look. “Yes, you must present my mother with a gift of fine spirits and food, and request that you be allowed to court me, and that your intentions are honorable.”

 

At seeing the stumped look on Kathryn’s face, she added, “I am only teasing. It is an old custom many still practice. But no, it is up to the two individuals involved to decide to court, much as it is with your North American mating customs.”

 

Kathryn lifted her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh, and you know this, how?"

 

“I have a particular interest in North American mating customs and have been studying them of late,” Vlara said with a grin.

 

Kathryn reared back slightly, humor crinkling the corner of her eyes. “Am I to be a field study then?”

 

Vlara smiled, her dimples deep, and Janeway thought she was absolutely adorable. “No. But I do need practical application of the various methods I have studied.”

 

Kathryn laughed heartedly. “What you need is a study partner. I think I can provide that. I must tell you though, I‘ve not studied Romulan mating customs. You may have to help me out there.”

 

“They are quite similar in many aspects to human mating customs. I’m not an expert, but I believe I can give you some …assistance.”

 

Kathryn then looked unsure. “You’ve not been involved with anyone?”

 

Vlara gave Kathryn a shy look. “No. I have never found anyone, until now, that I have these feelings for, or wished to involve myself with, in…that way.”

 

“I see.”

 

“You think because I am inexperienced, I may find that this is not what I want. I can only say, you make my blood heat and my heart beat fast. Your very being pulls me, both body and soul, to you. I am sure that it is the ancient stirrings of the blood fever, the desire to mate, that I am feeling. It is not that rare that many Romulans instinctively know their mates upon meeting them. Kathryn Janeway, from the moment I met you, I was drawn to you. I may have not known why, but now I do.”

 

Kathryn smiled and drew Vlara tightly against her, kissing her deeply. She too felt an ancient human stirring and the desire to mate, to give love and take love. To share all her hopes and dreams, fears and desires with this young woman, and perhaps, to share all of her tomorrows with Vlara.

 

Chapter Nine

 

 “Oh, Lady Annika. That spot by the fountain looks nice. Let’s take our lunch there.” B’Elanna motioned to a soft carpet of blue grass that butted against the side of the large round fountain. The spot they chose had a yard high border of blue and coral flowering growth, and  was just barely big enough for the two women and their picnic basket.

 

B’Elanna winked at Seven, causing the young woman to raise her left eyebrow, and glance furtively at Ulan Glaria, who was setting a blanket on the ground and placing the large basket on it. However, the young Ulan had not noticed the exchange. Seven was usually accompanied by two guards wherever she went, but in the last few days, only one guard accompanied her. Seven did not know the reason for this, and decided it was unimportant, since it met one last set of eyes to spy on her.

 

B’Elanna looked at Seven and smiled, drinking in her wife’s beauty and noticing how the sunlight made her gold hair shine, giving her an ethereal look. Earlier, she had been in Seven’s quarters pretending to ohh and ahh over the fine gowns and wardrobe Sela gave her, so the guard wouldn’t get suspicious. B’Elanna’s blood had boiled when thinking about Sela giving her be’nal such intimate and personal gifts. Gifts that only she, B’Elanna, had the right to give. It was all B’Elanna could do to keep from going into a blood rage and ripping the garments to threads. The cold fury must have shown in her eyes, as Seven had looked at her and blanched. B’Elanna tried hard to dampen her underlying rage, and it had torn at her very soul to think that Seven thought she was the cause of her dark looks.

 

Seven settled herself on the blanket and B’Elanna beside her. The guard had no choice but to leave the small area and go back to the main path, some 25 feet away. Seven reached into the basket, brought out a small device, and placed it on a blanket. Immediately the sound of mellow music issued forth. “I thought we might enjoy music in these surroundings.”

 

B’Elanna smirked, knowing that the music would serve to drown out their conversation. “How very nice. Yes, it is does set the mood.”

 

Seven removed the carafe of wine and the food from the basket, putting them on the blanket before. “Please, select what you wish.”

 

B’Elanna’s eyes were melting as she gazed at Seven. So that no one would over hear her above the music, she softly said, “I wish for only you bang'wI. Gods, how I wish I could take you into my arms. You don’t know how I ache to hold you.”

 

Seven swallowed hard, her breathing coming through parted lips. “I do know. I have no other wish but to hold you also.”

 

They stared at each other, and B’Elanna saw Seven suddenly grab a glass and start pouring. “Here Lady D’len. Try this, it is a local drink made from the juice of a fruit tree that grows in profusion here. I find it quit refreshing.” B’Elanna then heard a soft rustling nearby and surmised that Seven’s acute Borg hearing had picked up the guard’s movements. After a few seconds, she could hear the sound receding.

 

She took the glass from Seven and chuckled lightly. “Bet she is bored out of her wits at our conversation.”

 

Seven smirked, “Indeed, I find I am bored discussing fashion.” Her eyes softened and she added, “However, I am not bored at hearing the sound of your voice.”

 

B’Elanna smiled. “Seven.” She said the name with all the love she felt. Both women stared at each other for long seconds, and then B’Elanna took the gold pendent from around her neck, and said loudly, “I wish to give you this gift, Lady Annika. I believe it becomes you. I got it on Telokso III. Many believe that it imbues the wearer with protection against misfortune. Here, let me fasten it around your neck.”

 

Seven turned her torso slightly, and B’Elanna slid over on the blanket behind her and placed it around her neck, quickly placing a kiss on the nape. She whispered low in Seven’s ear. “Don’t take it off for any reason. It has certain properties that will be needed to escape here.”

 

She slid back and Seven turned, her hands fingering the filigree work.

 

“It looks wonderful on you Lady Annika.” B’Elanna reached over and deliberately knocked the carafe of juice over, drew her breath in sharply and said with distress, “Oh, how clumsy of me.” Both women quickly stood, looking at the spreading stain on the blanket. “I am so sorry. Perhaps we can have your servant get us another carafe and blanket.”

 

Seven smirked and called loudly, “Ulan, Ulan.”

 

A few seconds later Ulan Glaria appeared. Seven indicated the spilled carafe and wet blanket. “We will need another carafe of plimal juice, and a blanket. Please, go back to my quarters and obtain these items.”

 

Ulan Glaria looked flummoxed, and then replied, ‘Lady, my orders are to stay with you.”

 

Seven stood up to her full Borg height, seeming to tower above the young soldier, and said in her most cold Borg voice, “You were also ordered to obtain for me items that I may need, were you not?” She looked the young woman up and down disdainfully. “I shall inform General Sela that you would not perform this simple request for me. I shall get it myself.” She bent down to remove the blanket from the ground, and said to B‘Elanna. “This garden is secured with force fields. Perhaps this Ulan is delusional and thinks that I have the ability to walk through them.”

 

B’Elanna had retrieved the carafe and glared at the young Ulan. “Our luncheon is ruined.” She looked at Seven, her expression angry. “For what it is worth lady, I shall tell Efok to inform General Sela that her staff is woefully under trained. Perhaps she will get you a new servant. One who is more attentive to her Lady’s needs.”

 

Glaria sighed, reaching out her hand for the blanket and empty carafe. She took them and said, “I will return shortly with what you have requested.”

 

When she had disappeared out of sight, B’Elanna said, “Here is the plan…”

 

x

 

Sela took a sip of her drink and eyed the necklace around Seven’s neck, motioning to it with her glass, she asked, “I’ve seen that somewhere. Ah, yes. Last night. Efok’s wife was wearing it. How did you come by it?”

 

Seven stood a few feet away, having just arrived for dinner. Tonight, she wore a sedate, light gray tunic with a black belt. Sela did not pick this outfit, Seven did. Many nights Sela did not request that Seven wear a particular outfit, and Seven always tended to pick the less reveling pieces. She did not care that she still drew the fascinated stares of those that encountered her in the facility. Seven continued to wear her hair down at dinner, not wanting Sela to decide to let it down for her, thus touching her in so intimate a gesture.

 

“D’len gave it to me today at our luncheon.”

 

“My, but you surprise me by wearing it. It seems strange that you would even be interested in such. I’m sure the Borg did not have use for such irrelevant items as jewelry.”

 

“They do not. I, however, am no longer Borg. I find the artisanship and design aesthetically pleasing. If you wish, I shall remove it.” Seven mentally held her breath.

 

“No. If it pleases you, leave it on. It will give me the incentive to purchase pieces for you. Though, my dear Annika, you yourself are a jewel and do not need to wear them.”

 

Seven bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement of the compliment, not because she agreed, but wished Sela to think that she was thawing to her presence and comments. This was a dangerous game she was playing, but if it meant Sela thought she was becoming used to her captivity, and no longer as adverse to Sela herself, it could mean that their chances for B’Elanna’s plan to work were good. She just had to arrange to see Harry Kim in the gardens again and slip to him one of the pistols B’Elanna had slipped to her, and give him a brief outline of the plan.

 

Sela again looked carefully at Seven. “I can’t imagine that you have anything in common with Efra’s wife, what was her name…D’lon…”

 

“D’len.”

 

“D’len. A pretty woman, but no doubt her world revolves around fashion, parties, and common gossip of whose spouse is sleeping with whom. I imagine you were somewhat bored.”

 

Seven forced a small smile on her face. “You are correct, Sela. Her interests do lie in those things you mentioned. However, I find her company to be entertaining. She is widely traveled and has many descriptive and interesting stories concerning the various…customs of some of the local cultures on many planets.”

 

Sela snorted. “I would have never thought you would be interested in anthropology. Physics, stellar phenomenon, and technology seem to be what we have mostly discussed. Perhaps I am boring you, and should expand our dinner discussions to include varying cultural aspects of different species and such.”

 

“You are not boring. I find our discussions interesting and informative. However, since my time on Voyager, I have always taken an interest in the different cultural aspects of many species, including an appreciation for art, music, and literature, from many worlds and times. Captain Janeway has a holo-program that she created. It is the studio of one of Earth’s most renowned artistic and scientific minds of his times. I found it…stimulating.”

 

Sela smirked and said, “Perhaps I should start collecting pieces of art and antiquities from various planets, and see how stimulating they are.”

 

Seven said, “D’len has many items of art and antiquities on her ship. She has invited me to dine with her, and to see and discuss them. She states that Efok will be more than pleased to allow her to entertain me. She also extended the invitation to you. She has many fine and rare foods that cannot be found anywhere else in this sector, and states her brother, Tomos, knows how to prepare them.”

 

Sela thought for a moment. “I’ve been on Efok’s ship for dinner before. His dining room is opulent, as is the general living area of his ship. Not to my taste, but the food is delicious. I will check my schedule and get in touch with him on a date. Now, I have many delicacies prepared for our consumption. Let us to dinner.”

 

Sela walked the few steps up to Seven and lightly grasped her elbow. Entering the dining room, Seven’s spirit sank as she saw only one couch, for two, at the table.

 

x

 

Seven combed her hair about her shoulders and then brought her left hand up to feel the pendent that hung around her neck. Its bright gold went well with the new wine colored gown she wore. B’Elanna had warned her to keep it on her person always, as it would offer protection when the plan for her and Harry’s escape fell into place.

 

She smoothed the gown about her ankles and rearranged the small handgun more comfortably into the top of her short, suede boots. She would have to be careful in her walk and not show the tops of her boots, which went only a few inches above her ankle. She wondered if B’Elanna would think her beautiful in this gown. Then she abruptly thought, She would hate it, as it is a gift from Sela. At that moment, she wished she could tear the gown from her body and rip it to threads.

 

Perhaps, in a way, it was fitting that this would be the last time Sela would see her in a gown that she chose. After tonight, she would never have to dress in clothes chosen for her by Sela, nor dine with her captor again. She had to trust in the plan that B’Elanna, Tom and Efok had set in motion. How could it fail? Sela was walking right into the brig, so to speak. The only problem was, if Harry could manage to extricate himself from his captors.

 

It had been two days since B’Elanna had managed to sneak to her the two small hand weapons. She kept one for herself and the other she had given to Harry that morning in the garden.

 

She had requested that she have permission to play a game of Kadis Kot with Harry in the garden, since the weather was mild, and she had not had the chance to see him in person in over five days. Sela granted her request, and Seven had Ulan Glaria carry a small ground table, and a cushion for her to sit on. Seven carried the Kadis Kot game.

 

Harry was waiting for her with his guard, which on this occasion had been reduced to one. She led him to the area that she and B’Elanna had used two days before. The table was set up and she sat on her cushion, opening up the game. She had told her guard to return to her quarters and get another cushion for Harry, as she did not want him sitting on the hard ground. Glaria had left to do so. This only left Harry’s guard. She set up the board quickly and took out the game pieces. “I believe I have lost a game piece. It must have dropped out of the box while walking here.” Harry looked around the table, Seven looked at his guard and said, “Ulan, please help us look, I believe I could have lost it on the path here.”

 

Harry’s guard immediately began to search the ground and retrace their steps. This was all the opportunity that Seven needed to quickly take the small gun from her boot and pass it to Harry. His eyes had grown large and he had looked bewildered, but quickly hid the piece in his boot, pulling his trousers’ leg back over his boot tops. Seven said in a whisper, “Tonight, all power will go off. Get to the garden and exit the back. Go to the spaceport. Third pad down…” She broke off quickly as the two guards had returned, but noticed that Harry understood her.

 

The small spaceport was right next to the gardens, and Harry had told her previously that he had a good view of the ships berthed there. Mostly they were small shuttles and small private ships. The port was too small for large warships. She was hoping he could break the door to the balcony, drop the short distance to the garden below, and make his escape, as the force fields would be inoperable.

 

The door chimes interrupted her thoughts; she did not have to answer it, as her guard would wait a few seconds and enter. Seven went to her living area and folded her hands behind her back, Ulan Glaria stopped just inside the door. “Lady Annika, I am to accompany you to the General’s quarters first, and from there, you we will proceed to dinner aboard Tat be Qual .”

 

Seven nodded her head and preceded Glaria outside the door, and down the hall to Sela’s apartments.

 

Seven waited in the anti chamber and was soon joined by Sela, who looked her over appraisingly. Sela smiled and said. “How lovely you are.” She turned and went to a small side table and retrieved a small dark maroon oblong box and bought it over to Seven and handed it to her, smiled and said, “Lagga uh’ j hu.”

 

Seven looked carefully at the box, wondering what it contained.

 

“Open it. I assure you, it’s harmless.”

 

Seven glanced up, noticing that Sela’s eyes were bright, and she wore a small smile, as if pleased.

 

Seven looked back down at the box, released the small gold clasp that held it shut, and lifted the lid. There among soft wine velvet was a round faceted clear stone. It caught the light in glittered in rainbow hues. A diamond she thought and then saw that it had an iridescent gold sheen. It was set in a simple gold frame and attached to a slim gold chain.

 

“Well? I picked it out myself. It is very rare gem from Catslittay in the Ocelor system.”

 

“It…it is esthetically pleasing. I thank you.” Seven kept her eyes on the gem, not wanting Sela to read in them her true feelings, those of anger. This was a gift only her be’nal had the privilege of giving her.

 

Sela reached for the box and took it out of Sevens hand. She removed the jewel and put the box on the side table. “Here, let me put it on for you. Now, D’len will envy you tonight.”

 

Seven panicked for a moment. That would mean she would have to take off the pendant that B’Elanna gave her.

 

She said quickly and a little too forcefully, “No. I will put it on.”

 

Sela looked somewhat stricken and said, “Is my touch still so …distasteful to you? Don’t think I haven’t noticed the way your body stiffens, and the little flinches you give, when I touch you. Here, you put it on. However, know this Annika. I am growing impatient waiting for you to come to me. I find myself wanting to take you.” She paused looking at Seven’s wide eyes and stepped forward, grasping her face and planting a kiss on her lips. Seven did not move, nor did she return the kiss. Sela broke the kiss and drew back slowly. “Yes. I find myself wanting you very much, willing or not.”

 

Seven wanted to rub the hateful kiss from her lips and snarl and scream at Sela, but held back, lest somehow it ruin the plans for dinner and escape. She slipped the gold pendent from over her head. Sela reached for it and placed it in the empty jewel box. Holding the ends of the slim chain in her hands, she slipped the necklace around her neck, and using her Borg enhanced left thumb and forefinger, quickly snapped the tiny clasp off. She looked at Sela and said, “Sela, I believe I need your assistance. I cannot seem to secure it.”

 

She handed the jewel to Sela and turned around lifting the golden mane from around her shoulders and baring the back of her neck. Sela looked closely at the piece and said, “It is broken. This is unforgivable. How dare the artisan sell this to me in this state. I hope you aren’t too disappointed. I will have it repaired in plenty of time for you to show it off at another dinner.”

 

Sela took the gold pendant from the box and stepped up to Seven, placing the pendent over her head. She smoothed out the long chain and allowed her hand to trace the length to where it fell at the beginning of the valley between Seven’s breasts. Seven felt Sela’s knuckles graze her skin. It took all of her will power not to shudder and draw back. Sela leaned forward and drew Seven into her arms and kissed her cheek, then slid her lips to Seven’s. Parting only slightly, she ordered, “Kiss me, open your mouth for me.” Seven parted her lips and felt Sela’s tongue slip between her teeth and stroke her tongue.

 

Seven repeated mentally, over and over, This is irrelevant. It means nothing, this is nothing, this holds no relevancy.

 

Sela drew back slowly, her pupils dilated. She stepped back and searched Seven’s face with hot eyes, as if looking for some reaction. She ran the tip of her tongue along the top lip before saying, “I am vacillating on whether to send my regrets to Efok and spend some…quality time, with you tonight.”

 

Seven was silent. She would not meet Sela’s eyes.

 

She heard a sigh. “However, I do not want to disappoint you, or his wife, and what I have in mind can wait until after dinner.”

 

There was silence again, as if Sela was waiting for Seven to comment on what she had said.

 

Seven thought to break this silence, she did not want Sela’s hot stare on her. It was too easy to read what lay beneath the meaning of quality time. “Again I…I thank you for the gift. It is aesthetically pleasing.”

 

Sela smiled. “I am pleased that you like it. I find that I enjoy buying things for you. Expect many more gifts of jewelry in the future. We should go now. It is time. I thought we would walk through the gardens to the spaceport. It is beautiful at night. I have programmed the fountains to reflect varying hues of colored lights, and I do not believe you have seen the night sky. I believe all three moons are in the sky tonight.”

 

There was a chime at the door and Sela looked up. “Enter.” Two Tal Shiar, of high rank, entered and saluted. “Yes. What is it?”

 

“General. We just found this on the prisoner, Kim.” He turned and motioned for the other officer to step forward, this officer handed Sela a small hand weapon: The one Seven had given Harry. Sela studied it for a moment. “Where did he get this?”

 

“He would not say. His guard noticed that his gait did not seem right, and suspected his boot was bothering him. Kim denied this. When he was bathing, his guard checked his boots and pants and found this in the leg of his trousers. We have Kim in the brig awaiting your orders.”

 

Sela turned her gaze on Seven, frowning. “What do you know of this?”

 

“Nothing.” Seven knew that she had to deny knowing anything. She was not accustomed to dissembling, despite having to do that on several recent occasions, and hoped by keeping her comments short, Sela would not know she was doing so.

 

Sela gave Seven a hard and searching look, and then turned to one of her officers and ordered, “Have her taken to her quarters. Search her quarters for weapons, or anything else unusual. Have two guards keep an eye on her at all times. I will interrogate the prisoner, Kim, myself. Contact Efok and tell him that I regret that we will not be able to dine with him tonight, due to important business that just came up.”

 

Before Seven left the room with her guards, Sela looked at her and softly said, “My Annika, It would sadden me greatly if you knew about this. If you have any knowledge at all, tell me now, and I will be very lenient with you.”

 

Seven stood straight in her Borg pose, her hands behind her back, and her voice cold. “I know nothing.”

 

“Very well. I shall have to punish you if you are lying.” She raked her eyes slowly down Seven’s body and back up to her face, leering slightly, and then motioned with her head for Seven to go.

 

Seven turned and followed her guards.

 

x

 

“What do you mean they’re not coming? What did they say?” B’Elanna demanded, her tone strident.

 

Efok wanted to hold his hands over his ears at B’Elanna’s loud voice. “That important business just came up that Sela must attend to, and she sends her regrets. I tried to get more information, but the guard was tight lipped. I have a bad feeling about this. We need to decide our next course of action.”

 

Tom stated, “Hey, Brod and I have made a few friends among the soldiers here in the port, maybe they know something. We could contact them on the pretense of going out to a tavern, and talk them up.

 

B‘Elanna looked at him and ordered, “Do it now. I too have a bad feeling about this. Damn! we were so close. I have to get in touch with Seven. Trouble is, they won’t let her have direct outside communications. I have to get permission to talk to her over the com.” She ran to the communication console, and looked impatiently at Paris, who was busy talking to someone.

 

He closed the channel and said, “Orders are everyone is confined to base tonight. They are not letting anyone communicate unless it is over official channels. Hell, they‘re blocking out the video portion for some reason. I couldn‘t even get a look at who I was talking to.”

 

B’Elanna bumped Paris out of the chair and sat, quickly pushing in the code. “Yes. This is Efok’s wife, D’len. I would like to speak to Lady Annika, it is urgent… What do you mean I have to go through a senior officer… Well, get one.” B’Elanna held her breath and a few long seconds later, stated, “I see. Well, when can I expect to be able to speak to an officer in charge… What is going on, all the officers at some party… Oh. Then I will call later.”

 

B’Elanna cut the channel and blew her breath out in frustration. “No communications by civilians allowed until further orders, and all personnel are ordered to their post.”

 

Efok sighed, “This is bad. If they have a general lockdown and forbid troops from contacting the outside, that could mean there is something internally that is going on, something among the ranks or …It does not bode well. We need to make a decision, and a plan, quickly. The prisoners would more than likely be in their quarters in an emergency. Unless, of course, it involves them, then they might be in the brig. We will use the deadening device. D’len, we must go though the garden and try to get your friends out that way. Sela is another matter. She will surround herself with guards. I will just have to go to plan B--kill her.”

 

B’Elanna asked, “And you’re going to do this, how?”

 

“Detonate a photonic bomb. It’s already in place, hidden amongst a shipment of wine. In fact, it looks like a bottle of wine.

 

B’Elanna looked at him with her mouth half open.

 

Efok, laughed. “Don’t worry. It’s set to go off ten minutes after the deadening device's effect dies. Quite simple you see, the timing device on the bomb will activate when the deadening device shuts down. Then, BOOM. We should be well clear of the area by then.”

 

“Uh-huh. Didn’t think it important enough to tell Tom and me I suppose. Plan B, huh? And this from the man who states he plans everything when needed. What if we can’t get Seven and Harry out, then what?”

 

“Unfortunately, they will be casualties of war.”

 

B’Elanna’s face flushed dark red and she snarled, shaking in her rage, “This wasn’t about saving my friends at all was it? It was always about Sela“.

 

Efok sobered and answered, “Truthfully, as far as Admiral Telir was concerned, it was about freeing your friends. However, Admiral Telir herself is a game piece. My true orders come from the Proconsul himself, and yes, his goal is Sela dead or alive and the destruction of the renegade Tal Shiar. The Empire‘s survival depends on this. It may seem that I have no honor in my actions. However, one thing I am, and that is a loyal Romulan. My loyalty to her is not for sale, and I will do what it takes to help keep her safe. My honor is for Ch’Rihan alone.”

 

B’Elanna closed her eyes, her rage making her tremble, she stated through clenched teeth, “Efok, I should kill you now, but I need you. Pray to all the gods you hold dear, that I get my wife, and friend back. Because, I will kill you if I don’t.”

 

“I’ll help you do that B’Elanna.” Tom put a hand on B’Elanna’s shoulder, his eyes cold blue steel, and stared hard into Efok’s eyes.

 

Efok nodded and said, “Here is the plan.”

 

x

 

Two guards stood menacingly in front of the inside door to Seven’s quarters. They watched her intently as she sat on the sofa, their weapons drawn. Two other guards had searched her quarters thoroughly by taking her clothing from the closet, and riffling through her dresser drawers, as well as searching the cushions and pillows, and searching her bed.

 

They had allowed her to have privacy to get out of her gown and dress in a tunic and trousers. She had also donned a pair of high top boots, and slipped the pistol into the top of one. She thought of taking the gun and shooting them, but knew she would not get far. She thought of at least thirty-three plans of action she could do to distract them, and disarm or kill them, and 126 reasons why they would fail.

 

She had to act. If she could access her computer, she could plunge her tubules into the auxiliary frame, perhaps access the main frame, shut down all power to the facility, and escape through the garden, to the ship, and to B‘Elanna. Perhaps then, she and B‘Elanna could free Harry.

 

She turned her thoughts to her be’nal. She was in danger also. Just then, all lights went out and there was a silence so profound, that Seven could only hear the surprised intake of breath from her guards. B’Elanna. She drew out her handgun, and using her Borg enhanced implant, accessed her night vision and shot both guards. The only sound was the buzz of the pellets ejected at great velocity, and the thuds of her two guards hitting the deck. She quickly went to the door leading to the garden and using her Borg strength, tore it open.

 

She heard running footsteps. The moonlight and her Borg vision let her see clearly that it was B’Elanna and two others, dressed as Tal Shiar, one was Efok, and the other she thought to be Tom, by the general body shape, though the face was Romulan. She ran a few steps forward and flung herself into B’Elanna’s arms, hugging her tightly. B’Elanna returned the hug and both women drawing back slightly, started to rain kisses on each other’s mouth and face.

 

Efok hissed, “Come on. Save that for later. We must get your companion. We can see no movement from his room.”

 

Seven said in a low voice, “Sela’s guard discovered the pistol I had secreted to him, 56. 4 minutes ago. She is interrogating him.”

 

Efok answered, “I know where he is. Tomos and I will get him. You two go back to the ship. Leave, if we are not back by 2108 hours.”

 

Seven replied, her voice strained, “No. I will not go. I will assist in freeing Lieutenant Kim. I am his commanding officer.”

 

B‘Elanna stated, “We do this together.”

 

Efok huffed, “Very well then.” He looked at Seven and said, “You are our prisoner and we have orders to take you to Sela. There is no light so we will not be recognized.”

 

They entered Seven’s quarters where all three rescuers took out small lamps. Seven heard a faint hiss, and  dry scraping sounds,  immediately each device omitted a bright light. Seven surmised that the devices operated by using gas and ignited by a small device, which produced a spark when struck against a hard object.

 

Efok noticed the two bodies at the door, and stepped over them. He tried to pull the doors open, but the lack of electrical impulse had sealed them shut. Seven stepped forward and using her Borg strength, quickly and efficiently tore them open.

 

Efok stared at her in shock. “ Frahdha’nia Kholairlh-a nahi?”

 

Seven replied, “I am Borg.”

 

“I…see.” He then replied under his breath, “I wouldn’t mind being assimilated by you.”

 

B‘Elanna, who had overheard the remark, shoved him hard from behind. All four stepped through the door. B’Elanna and Tom, who were on each side of Seven, followed Efok who headed the group.

 

“The halls were empty, but the corridor ahead had the sound of movement. The small lanterns cast enough light to see at least twenty ahead.

 

 They heard a challenge. “Identify yourself.”

 

Efok smoothly answered, “Major Govor. I have orders to take this prisoner to Sela in the Interrogation room.”

 

There were two Tal Shiar, their rank was difficult to make out, but they did wear thin officers’ belts, indicating they were of the lower ranks. One of them said, “Major, all the lifts are out. You will need to take the stairwell down. I will show you.”

 

“I know where it is. You are blocking the hallway. Find a room and get out of the way until the lights are on, unless you have orders to stay here.”

 

“Right away, Major”

 

They quickly passed the officers, hurried down the corridor, and turned a corner. Some three doors down, Efok stopped and tried the door to the stairwell. It too was sealed. He motioned Seven forward and she easily forced it open.

 

Going down two flights, they came to another door, and Seven repeated her action. The door opened to a wide corridor. Immediately, a guard challenged them. “Halt. Do not move.”

 

Efok and Tom played their lights over the faces of four Tal Shiar.

 

Efok sneered, “Out of my way, General Sela wants this prisoner, and I am already late due to this power outage.”

 

One officer stepped close. “Get that light out of my face. This is Colonel Wansor. All orders go through me and I issued no such orders. Who are you?” While saying this, he drew his weapon, not knowing that it would be ineffective due to the deadening device. The other three Tal Shiar followed suit.

 

Efok sneered. Wansor pulled the trigger and looked stunned when nothing happened. Efok had drawn his pistol, and quickly shot all four officers. The party stepped over the bodies and up to the large door. Seven forced it opened and the others stepped in.

 

“What is the meaning of this? Who are you?” Efok turned his lamp to the voice and saw Sela standing with two officers. They had their weapons drawn. He methodically shot the two officers and turned his weapon on her.

 

“My dear, General. I believe you have a dinner date to keep. You will arrive a little late, but I’m keeping the meal warm for you.”

 

“Efok! You’re behind this. You won’t get out of here alive. Who are you working for?”

 

“Ch’Rihan. Now shut up. You can either be dead now, or keep your mouth shut and follow us. What is it to be, General?”

 

B’Elanna, Seven, and Tom went to the chair were Harry Kim was strapped, with a wire cage like contraption surrounding his head. Seven unhooked the device and Tom looked his friend in the eyes.

 

“He’s alive. Hey Harry, can you hear me. Come on, buddy, we have to get out of here.” Seven and Tom helped him up to his feet and supported him between them. He moaned, “Where am I?”

 

Tom let out a relieved breath, and said, “With Friends.”

 

It was easy to retrace their steps and exit the building through the gardens. They met only two other Tal Shiar and these Efok quickly dispatched. Sela threatened what she would do to them, but B’Elanna cuffed her up beside her head and said, “My choice was to kill you on sight. If you don’t shut up and move faster, that’s what I will do.” For the short trip to the ship, Sela remained quiet.

 

Once in the ship, Efok ordered Brod to leave as fast as they could, or in ten minutes they would go up with the compound.

 

The ship took off at such a fast speed, the inertial dampeners did not have time to kick in, and the g-forces threw all six onto the deck. The inertial dampeners kicked in and Sela made a move for B’Elanna’s weapon, only to feel herself snatched back forcefully by the nape of her neck and a cold precise voice state, “Touch her and I will terminate you.”

 

All were on their feet again, except for Harry.

 

He was conscious, but weak and confused. Tom knelt beside him. “Hey, buddy. You‘re safe now and we’re on our way back home.”

 

He looked confusedly at Tom. “Tom?”

 

“Yeah, me and B‘Elanna had a little cosmetic job done to fit in with the local population. Come on now. Let’s get you treated and cleaned up.” He helped his friend up, and led him through a door.

 

Sela looked at B’Elanna and Seven, who were standing beside each other. She sneered and said to Seven, “My dear, Annika. I am sorry to see that your little wife is ruining our beautiful moments together. Tell her about them, Annika. How you crave being in my arms.”

 

B’Elanna growled, and Seven sneered and said, “You are delusional.”

 

Sela looked at B‘Elanna, and said in a silky voice, “You know, I fucked that pretty wife of yours…many nights. I had her begging me to make her come. And she did, so beautifully and so many times while I held her in my arms. It was my name she screamed--”

 

Before she could finish, B’Elanna screamed in fury and slapped her hard across the face, knocking the woman to the deck and then she fell upon her, with her hands around Sela's neck. Efok quickly interceded and pulled B’Elanna off. It was all he could do to restrain her. “Ignore her. Do not give her the satisfaction of thinking that her words have wounded you, or that you believe them.”

 

“Let me go, Efok. She dies now!”

 

Efok pushed his gun barrel to B’Elanna’s forehead. “She is too important to the Empire. You, however, are not.” Seven made a step toward them, but Efok stopped her. “I will kill her. Now, here is what you are going to do…” he looked at B’Elanna, “Both of you need to go to your quarters and calm down. I’ll take the prisoner to a holding cell. I guarantee, she is not going anywhere. Now. I’m letting you go. Your wife needs you.”

 

He let loose his hold and waited until both made a move to go. He turned to Sela and said, “I have a room prepared just for you, Sela. It has all the comforts you will need. A cot, sink, and toilet. Room service will provide you with two meals a day. No need to tip the staff.”

 

x

 

B’Elanna led Seven to her quarters. Seven preceded B’Elanna through the door, hearing the door swish shut behind her, but she did not turn. She felt her be’nal’s arms encircle her waist, turning her gently around. She opened her eyes and met the dark liquid amber of B’Elanna’s gaze. She lowered her head to the strong shoulders of her be’nal and cried, her sobs shaking her.

 

“Shhh, bang'wI. It’s all right. You’re here with me. You’re safe now.”

 

Seven felt soft hands stroke her back and soft kisses in her hair. B’Elanna led her to the bed and guided her to sit on the edge where she brushed the hair from her face, and the tears from her eyes.

 

“Look at me, bang'wI.” She felt warm hands cup her chin, and lift, until her gaze was on the concerned eyes of her be'nal, noticing that they too were brimming with tears. “It‘s okay. I have you now. I won't let you go. Oh bang'wI, everything will be okay. Trust me.”

 

Seven tried to swallow past the lump in her throat, and in a tremulous voice, said. “I do trust you. I trust you with all my heart and soul.” She looked intently at B’Elanna and started to quiver. “I am afraid.”

 

“Afraid? Of what bang'wI?”

 

“That you will believe what Sela told you. That you will believe that I betrayed our vows.”

 

B’Elanna felt her heart breaking, and said tenderly but with conviction, “Oh no, bang'wI. Never, never. I know she is lying. I love you be’nal, trust in that--believe in that. That will never change. Never.” B’Elanna reached over and pulled the cover down on the bed. “Here, you’re exhausted. Why don’t you rest for a while?”

 

Seven clenched B’Elanna’s arm tightly and said beseechingly. “Do not go. Do not leave me alone."

 

“I’ll stay as long as you like.” B’Elanna helped Seven out of her tunic, and her chemise, she removed Seven’s shoes and then her trousers, drawing them down her hips and letting them fall on the floor. She guided Seven to lie back upon the pillow. She then removed her own tunic, boots, and pants, sliding in next to Seven, and reaching down to draw up the covers over them. “Computer. Lights out.” Darkness surrounded them, except for a small night light near the door of the bathroom, and the cold streaks of starlight outside the viewport next to the bed.

 

Seven shivered, a reaction to all that had happened. B’Elanna drew her be’nal’s head to her chest and stroked her back. “Rest, bang'wI. I have you for now and for always.” She nestled her cheek into Seven’s hair and breathed in the scent she had missed so much the past few weeks. She felt the shivering cease and soon heard Seven’s relaxed and even breathing, indicating that she was asleep.

 

B’Elanna couldn’t help that her mind played out Sela’s words, “You know, I fucked that pretty wife of yours…” B’Elanna wanted then to get up and pay Sela a visit, to make Sela suffer and beg to die quickly. She felt bile rise to her throat at the thought of Sela touching her be’nal and forcing her to…No, don’t think it. Now was not the time for revenge, Seven needed her. She needed to be an anchor for her be’nal, strong and steady, the lee side of an island, shelter from the raging storm of raw emotion. She let her mind turn inward to that calm place that Tuvok had showed her, and drifted to sleep.

 

x

 

Seven woke slowly. She felt the warmth under her cheek and inhaled deeply, taking in the aroma that let her know she was home, and safe in the arms of the one person who was her world. She was almost afraid to open her eyes, thinking that this might be a dream.

 

After a few more moments of just enjoying the feel of her wife’s nearness, she began to feel the stirrings of want and desire. She turned her head and nuzzled the soft breast next to her cheek. There was a groan from beneath her and she felt soft, gentle arms enclose around her. She rose up on her right elbow and felt soft breath waft across her cheeks. She lowered her mouth to the softness of her be’nal and they moved their lips gently together. The kiss strengthened and deepened, soon the kiss progressed to open mouths, taking the very breath from each other.

 

Seven put her left leg over her be’nal’s hips and moved against the warm thigh. “I want you, bang'wI. Please, let me love you, please, love me.”

 

B’Elanna lifted her thigh up and pressed the warm flesh against Seven’s juncture, feeling warm wetness. Seven moved slowly against her, and pressed her breasts against those of B'Elanna. She dropped her head onto her be’nal’s shoulder, her breathing becoming short and harsh. B’Elanna whispered in her ear, “Yes bang'wI, I’m yours, I love you, for now and always.” Seven increased the thrusting of her hips and B’Elanna met it with the upward movement of her thigh. Seven rose up, placed her hands on the mattress on each side of her wife, and leaned into them.  Her breathing  was rapid and harsh, and in the faint light, B’Elanna could see that her eyes were tightly shut, her mouth open. Then, Seven’s strokes became shorter and faster, and she threw back her head, exposing the beautiful long neck, like a swan’s. Seven groaned loudly for long seconds. She stopped all motion for a moment, and B’Elanna felt her tremble and the flow of warm wetness on her upper thigh. Seven  looked into B’Elanna’s eyes, her own eyes liquid silver in the reflection of stars and the dim light. She started to undulate her hips again and continued to stare into B’Elanna’s eyes, soon, she closed them tight, and groaned, her mouth open as she screamed out, “B’Elanna!” and collapsed into the waiting arms of her be’nal, her tears flowing freely. B’Elanna stroked her and whispered through her own tears, “You are so beautiful, so very beautiful when you climax, bang'wI. Seeing that, it shatters me, shatters me into a billion pieces.” She kissed the tip of Seven’s nose. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

 

Seven nuzzled the side of B’Elanna’s temple and said, “Now it is your turn to shatter me.”

 

x

 

Seven slipped quietly down the corridor. She had left an exhausted B’Elanna sleeping soundly. She felt regret at having to extract herself from the warmth of her spouse, and the heady scent that lingered from their lovemaking, but she had a certain duty to perform.

 

She had drawn up the ship’s schematic on the small computer in B’Elanna’s quarters and located where she needed to go.

 

She stopped in front of a set of doors. They were sealed of course, but this would not keep her from entering. She put her left wrist up to the lock pad and inserted the small slim tubules. The door hissed open and she entered. There were two cells side by side. The first contained her goal.

 

The occupant was awake and sitting on the edge of her cot. She quickly stood up and smirked, saying sarcastically, “Ah, you grace me with your company, Annika. What brings you here? Did you miss me?

 

Seven did not answer. She stood in front of the cell and looked at Sela. She pressed a recess on the side of the cell and the force field dropped. With speed that seemed faster than light, she stepped forward and roughly pushed a surprised Sela against the back wall, her right forearm squeezing the General’s throat. Sela struggled, but could not break the grip. Seven held up her left hand, making sure Sela saw it. She extended her tubules. They wiggled beyond her wrist like two blind worms, looking for a source to anchor. Seven let them skitter across Sela’s cheek and down to her throat. Sela tried to scream, but could not suck in air. Seven hissed close to her face, “You shall cease fabricating events that never occurred between us. You shall not disparage my wife, our relationship, or me. If you persist, I will grant you your heart’s desire. I will assimilate you, you will then be mine, no thoughts of your own, no action that but those I dictate. You will be mine to command, a slave to my every wish. Resistance is futile. Do you comprehend?”

 

Seven did not wait for an answer, but quickly removed her forearm from Sela’s throat. She turned and exited the cell reactivating the force field. Not looking back, she made her way back to the warmth of her spouse.

 

Sela huddled on the floor, her back against the wall, whimpering and trying to fight down the nausea.

 

Chapter Ten

 

Kathryn fought the fog of sleep and tried to make sense of the words. Someone shook her, and from a far distance, she heard someone calling her name.

 

“Kathryn, get up, you have a message on your comm console. Wake up.”

 

She jerked into awareness and quickly slipped out of bed and over to the comm console, which was persistent with its intermittent beeps. The display screen showed the Starfleet seal and a streaming message. ‘Incoming from Starfleet Command’.

 

She hit the receive button and sat in the chair. She waited a few seconds, and the seal of Starfleet Command dissolved. The torso and face of a young Vulcan Lieutenant appeared on the screen. She had turned off the video portion on her end so that the young officer would not be able to view her, in all of her naked glory, but he would be able to hear her.

 

“Admiral Janeway, here.”

 

“Admiral. I have a message for you from the Romulan Star Empire. It is a recording and was received twenty-seven minutes ago.”

 

“Put it through”

 

She heard soft footsteps closing in behind her and the feel of her robe being draped over her shoulders. Then the feel of soft warm hands resting on her shoulders. The screen showed the image of the Imperial Romulan Bird of Prey and cleared, Admiral Telir’s face appearing.

 

“First let me say, congratulations on your promotion, Admiral Janeway. That however, is not my main purpose in contacting you. Your missing crewmembers have been successfully found and all are well. We are to rendezvous with them in six days. We will then proceed to coordinates 6467 in the neutral zone to facilitate their return to Federation Space. We should arrive at that point eighteen days from now. I hope that you can personally make the trip to receive them. If possible, I would like to see my daughter again. Admiral Telir, signing off.”

 

Kathryn exclaimed, “What. That’s all? No details? What am I to read into this? What about B’Elanna and Tom, no mention of them.”

 

Vlara knelt, put her arms around Janeway’s shoulder, and smiled. “My mother is deliberately leaving out pertinent details. You never know who is monitoring communications, even those over secure channels. What she is saying is that everything went well. All of your crewmembers are safe.”

 

Kathryn brought her hands up to her face and covered her eyes. She emitted a sobbing laugh of relief. Then the tears came. They were safe, and she would go to the Neutral Zone to welcome them home. She felt warm arms enfold her and she leaned her head onto a soft shoulder.

 

Kathryn felt somehow protected by this young woman. And free. Free to do something she had not done in years. Cry.

 

She remembered the years of struggle to reach home and those she had lost along the way. Their  faces were etched into her memory forever. She was their Captain. They had looked to her to protect them. She felt that she had failed them.

 

As part of her command training, officers learned that they would lose crew to accident or war, and that they would have to make the decision to send some to their deaths to protect the innocent and the many. She had accepted this responsibility. She would not have been a good officer if she had not. She recalled the many eulogies she had given over the almost seven years of their journey home. She had done what was required, laid them to rest, and returned to her duty as captain. She steeled her heart and never grieved. She had to be strong for her crew. They would see tears as a sign of weakness. Even in the privacy of her quarters, she did not allow herself to cry for she feared that giving in once was like an alcoholic saying they will have just one drink.

 

Vlara just held her. She did not try to stop the tears. Perhaps she knew that Janeway was crying, in not only relief at hearing the good news about Seven, Harry and the others, but crying for the ones who weren’t coming home. Finally, when the tears and crying stopped, Janeway lifted her head from the young woman’s shoulder. “I’ve soaked your robe. I’m sorry.”

 

“Don’t be. I’m here for you, Kathryn. For your tears of joy and your tears of sorrow. Never hold those back from me. Or from yourself,” Vlara said tenderly.

 

Kathryn knew then that Vlara understood.

 

Kathryn tried to give a force ten stare to the young woman and said with mock severity, “And just what were you doing sneaking up behind me and eavesdropping? This was a private communiqué from Starfleet, you know. It could have contained top-secret information and I would be forced to take drastic measures.”

 

Vlara snickered. “Oh, and what would those…drastic measures be?"

 

Kathryn grabbed the young woman and brought her against her, feeling the warmth of her body through the thin silk robe. She kissed her forcefully, and after a few moments, she broke the kiss and standing up, brought Vlara up with her, still holding her tight. “Do I need to demonstrate more drastic measures?”

 

Vlara replied, “Hmm, I believe so. However, I am chilled. Demonstrate them in the warmth of our bed. I promise I will not try to escape.”

 

They walked the few feet to the bed, and Kathryn slid out of her robe and let it drop to the floor. She caught a glance of a white body sliding under the covers and holding them open for her. She quickly slid into place beside her lover, taking her in her arms and kissing her deeply. Arousal was already on the surface and easily stoked.

 

It had been five weeks since that night in Kathryn’s kitchen when she had accidentally doused Vlara with hot coffee. That night they took their relationship to the physical level, and Kathryn found that she could not get enough of the young woman, surprised that they had made love almost every night. Maybe she was making up for all those years on Voyager when she went without. No, that wasn’t it. She couldn’t remember a time when her libido was in warp drive this high…not even in her younger days, or with prior lovers. It was Vlara that ignited this inferno of all consuming want and need.

 

And need her she did, and in so many ways. It was not just about the physical, but the emotional, as well. This quiet and unassuming young woman from a distant world had managed to slip behind her defenses and make Kathryn Janeway do what she had never done before, not in her role as a Starfleet officer, or in her private life.

 

Surrender.

 

x

 

B‘Elanna looked in the hand mirror and smiled. The transformation from Romulan back to her former human-Klingon visage, was done.

 

At one time, she hated the forehead ridges, but now she was glad to have them back, as well as her wavy hair. They were a symbol of what she was and she would proudly wear them. She put the mirror down and looking up at her be’nal wagged her eyebrows. “I’m back”. The huge smile of delight on her be’nal’s face caused her heart to skip a beat.

 

Seven smiled and said with obvious delight, “I have missed your ridges. You were…acceptable as Romulan, however, I prefer you as Klingon.” She leaned over and kissed each ridge gently.

 

Dr. Damar cleared his throat. “Off the table and out of here, you two. I have to now call Lieutenant Paris in and undo all of my artistic creation.” He sighed dramatically, “A pity, he is so becoming as a Romulan.”

 

B’Elanna slipped off the table and took Seven’s hand. “Thanks Doc. I’ll recommend you to any of my old Maquis acquaintances who may be looking for a change of face.”

 

“Please. Don‘t.”

 

B’Elanna laughed and the two exited the medical bay. Looking at her be’nal, she inquired, “What would you like to do bang'wI? Admiral Telir says we’re welcome to go to their mess hall and their entertainment facilities.”

 

Seven squeezed the hand holding hers. “I would like to return to our quarters and look at your ridges for the next few hours. I have missed them.”

 

B’Elanna stopped and smiled up at her be'nal. “You know, I think they need to be kissed and stroked, they itch a little.”

 

Seven looked concernedly at her be’nal, her left eye scanning the ridges. “Should we take you back to Sick Bay? And have Dr. Damar scan them?”

 

“Of course not. He did say there might be a little discomfort, but that it would subside after a few hours. But I think the symptoms would subside quicker with a little loving attention,” She stated hopefully and with an enticing smile.

 

Seven leaned over, gave her ridges a quick kiss, and said, “Then I shall provide them with all the loving attention they may require.”

 

They entered their quarters, and Seven had B’Elanna recline on the bed. She placed two pillows underneath her be’nal’s head, and then started  lightly stroking and kissing her be’nal’s ridges.

 

B’Elanna contently purred, “Uhmm. That feels so good.”

 

B’Elanna was almost drifting into sleep when Seven said, “Starfleet should give you and Tom a medal of valor for what you two accomplished.”

 

“Hey, bang'wI, as far as Tom and I are concerned, this wasn’t a Starfleet mission. We would have done this without their permission.” She looked into Seven’s eyes. “I would have gone to the deepest pits of Gre’thor to get you, bang'wI.”

 

Seven leaned down and kissed her ridges. “I know. However, Starfleet, and the Federation, both need to recognize that you eliminated a threat, not only to the Romulan Star Empire, but also to them.

 

“ Sela had ambitions to control not only the Empire, but to destroy the Federation and conquer the Klingon Empire. Sela informed me that this was indeed her plan. Admiral Telir herself has stated this. That is why she has put in recommendations for the Order of the Talon to be awarded to you and Tom. That is one of the highest civilian awards that can be given for service to the Empire. Not to mention, the great monetary rewards you and Tom are to receive for facilitating Sela‘s capture and destroying the rogue Tal Shiar headquarters. ”

 

“Those mean nothing. I mean, they do mean something, but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if I didn’t get them. My greatest award, and reward, is having you back again…safe…where you belong…” she took Seven in her arms and kissed her, saying against her lips, “…with me.” . At that point, B’Elanna’s stomach let out a long and undignified gurgle.

 

Seven smirked and said, “I intend to be with you. However, I believe you require nourishment first, in order to be with me.”

 

“Oh?” B’Elanna’s smile then widened on seeing the meaning in Seven‘s words. “Ohhh. Well, get thee to the kitchen wench. I’m starved.”

 

“You have forgotten. It is your wifely duty to cook and mine to do the dishes. However, since our quarters do not have a replicator, we will have to go to the officer’s mess hall to obtain our daily requirements of nourishments. Perhaps they have chicken on the menu.”

 

B’Elanna smirked. “I have it on good authority they regularly serve kopa.”

 

“Kopa?”

 

“Yes. A dish made from a reptilian species very similar to iguana. I had it a few times when last aboard, and it does taste like iguana…or chicken.”

 

“Acceptable.”

 

x

 

B‘Elanna and Seven took their trays over to a table where Tom and Harry were dining and in conversation with Efok.

 

The Romulan agent, seeing them nearing the table, rose and bowed. “Ah, join us ladies. Grace us with your presence.” He leered at B’Elanna and said, “My dear, wife, you are even more lovely as a Klingon. You are surely one of their goddesses.”

 

B’Elanna rolled her eyes and said, “Efok. Please, not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

 

Everyone laughed except for Seven, who looked concernedly at her spouse’s forehead and said, “B’Elanna, perhaps I should take you to see Dr. Damar.”

 

This caused everyone to laugh harder.

 

B’Elanna looked at her be’nal and said, “I’m fine. It’s a joke. I’ll explain later.”

 

B’Elanna and Seven seated themselves, and Efok quickly clued them in as to their conversation. “We were just discussing what we would do with our reward. You know, I’m going to have to find a new route to ah…ply my trade. I’m thinking about trading with the Gamma Quadrant. I’m sure there are some fine spirits to be had from that Quadrant. Only thing I would need to do would be to get a permit from the Federation to travel through their space and use the Bajoran wormhole. I was hoping that you and Tom could be references for me.”

 

B’Elanna snorted. “Efok. You would have us lie. Gods, you’re a spy. We would be serving time in a penal colony if we vouched for you.”

 

Tom wryly said, “Been there. Done that. Not going back.”

 

Efok affected a hurt look and said, “You wound me, both of you. After what we went through together, why, I thought we were like family. Besides, you are wrong. I haven‘t always been a spy. I really did start out as a wine merchant. I’m through with this spy business. Just because we got Sela, doesn’t mean some of her cohorts aren‘t still on the loose. She probably has a few on Romulus in high places. No. I want out of the sector for a while and off the sensor screen. What better place to be but in another sector.”

 

B’Elanna considered this for a second and said, “Well. I’m not going to lie. However, if you apply and someone asks me about your reputation as a merchant, I will tell them that you are an excellent wine merchant, and as far as I know, honest in your dealings with customers.”

 

Tom agreed. “Yeah. Me too. I guess we do owe you.” He looked at his friend Harry and then Seven. “We couldn’t have done this without you. But you have to agree, you probably couldn’t have done it without us.”

 

“Agreed. If ever either of you are in need of employment, your old jobs are available.” He winked at B’Elanna and added, “Or should I say, your old position is available.”

 

B’Elanna who glared at him and said, “Hey, Efok you been guzzling your stock? Look at what’s sitting by my side and say that again would you.”

 

He smirked and said, “Oh, that’s what I’ll miss about you, my dear; your affable and gentle personality.”

 

B’Elanna gave him a narrowed eyed look and changed the subject. “So, your guest of honor all settled in?”

 

“As far as I know, Admiral Telir has her in solitary confinement. In two days, we are to meet with Subadmiral Gatho. Sela will be transferred to his ship and taken to Romulus, tried for treason, found guilty, and executed as a traitor. I know you Federation types are soft hearted and don’t want to know the method of execution.”

 

B’Elanna thought back to the prior four weeks of their return trip to rendezvous with Admiral Telir. She had had only one brief encounter with Sela during that time. A day after Sela’s capture, B’Elanna had gone to the brig and stood in front of Sela’s cell. Strangely, Sela did not say a word, just glared at her. B’Elanna had told the woman if she dared utter her wife’s name in anyway, shape or form, and told another lie involving her wife; she would cut out her tongue and stuff it up her rear. Sela said nothing and after a few seconds, dropped her stare, looking at the floor. B’Elanna had almost been disappointed that Sela didn’t challenge her, as she was prepared to drop the containment field, go into her cell, and work her over.

 

She spent the rest of the trip tending to her spouse, holding her tight, and listening to her talking about her ordeal. Seven had told her about Sela having her strip and viewing her naked body…of Sela touching her and kissing her. B’Elanna could tell that Seven was upset, and may have had some feelings of guilt that she had somehow encouraged these actions from Sela. B’Elanna knew it would serve no purpose in ranting and raging, and threatening to kill Sela. These emotions would only upset Seven. Her be’nal needed her gentleness and support. B’Elanna reined in her rage and comforted her spouse by telling her that she was not to blame for any of Sela’s actions, and whatever happened, it did not change how she felt about her. She still loved her with all her heart and soul.

 

She felt her be’nal‘s arm brush hers as they finished up their meal, and asked her, “You want dessert?”

 

Seven leaned close and whispered into B’Elanna’s ear, “Yes. However, I wish to delay dessert until we are in our quarters.”

 

B‘Elanna smiled in anticipation.

 

x

 

Admiral Kathryn Janeway stood on the bridge of the USS Venture, Vlara beside her. They were within minutes of the rendezvous coordinates with Admiral Telir. Captain Shanna Mason gave orders to reduce the speed to warp six on entering the Neutral Zone. Two Defiant class vessels acted as their escort.

 

Kathryn  had left earth two weeks ago, bringing Vlara with her. Before the Admiral’s message, she had feared the possibility that if she had to meet the Romulan Admiral again to get her people back, Vlara, seeing a way home, would have a change of heart, and decide she did not want to remain in the Federation. Thankfully, they lay to rest those fears.

 

This occurred on the night of Janeway’s message from Admiral Telir informing her of the success of freeing Seven and Harry. After the message, they had returned to bed and made love. Their sweet lovemaking, and her emotional letting go earlier, had left her feeling fragile. She was so much in love with Vlara, but had yet to tell her. She was afraid that if she said the words, ‘I love you’, it would somehow hurt her more if Vlara left.

 

She had held Vlara as she slept, listening to the even breathing, and feeling the warmth of her body, and wondering why it was that she couldn’t trust Vlara when she said, “I love you, Kathryn. I will stay and not leave.” She knew Vlara was sincere. But she was still afraid that Vlara would leave, as had Justin, when he died, and later Mark, giving her up for dead and marrying another.

 

These thoughts continued to torment her until Vlara suddenly cried out in her sleep and flailed about. Kathryn gently shook her awake and Vlara opened her eyes, and threw her arms around Kathryn, crying, “Don’t send me away, don’t send me away.”

 

Kathryn soothed her, wondering if the dream was just coincidence, or if Vlara had some telepathic ability that allowed her to pick up Janeway’s own fears. “It was just a dream, darling. I’ll not send you away. I love you.” She had said it. Her heart stilled and she held her breath.

 

Vlara also stilled for a moment, and asked in a quiet voice, “You love me?”

 

Kathryn smoothed back the hair from Vlara‘s face and brushed her lips against hers. “Yes I do. With all my heart.”

 

Vlara held her tight. “Say it again. Say you love me.”

 

“I love you.”

 

“Again.”

 

“I love you. I want you with me. Always.”

 

“Jol-ao-au. I want to stay with you always.”

 

That night, all Kathryn’s and Vlara‘s fears of a future together were vanquished. They had talked until dawn of making a life together, of sharing all of their tomorrows with each other.

 

Kathryn was brought back to the present by the communications officer announcing, “We are being hailed, Captain.”

 

Captain Mason ordered, “On screen.”

 

Kathryn straightened her tunic, stood at attention, and gave Vlara a quick smile. The screen immediately showed Admiral Telir sitting in her Command chair. Behind her could be seen the smiling faces of Kathryn’s lost lambs.

 

Admiral Telir smiled and said, “Admiral Janeway. As you can see, the mission was a success. I am arranging for your crew to beam over as soon as you are prepared to receive them.”

 

“That can be arranged right away.” She looked at her crew and smiled. “I’ll meet you in the transporter room. Seven, Harry, welcome home. I‘m glad this had a happy ending. All of you are assigned quarters. I want you to rest tonight, and tomorrow we will have a briefing at 0900 hours.”

 

B’Elanna smirked and said, “Kahless, so it’s true, an Admiral eh? I mean…yes, Admiral Janeway.”

 

Kathryn gave B’Elanna a force ten glare before turning her attention to Admiral Telir. “Admiral Telir. Thank you. It would be an honor if you would join me for dinner tonight so I can thank you personally. There are things I think we both need to discuss.” She looked at Vlara who was standing beside her. “As you can see, Admiral, I have brought your daughter with me. I can beam her over when I receive my crew. She has some important issues she would like to discuss with you.”

 

Admiral Telir briefly turned her attention to her daughter and nodded, a small smile on her lips. “Vlara. Welcome back, my daughter. I have missed you.”

 

“Mother, I have missed you, also. I will see you shortly. Admiral Janeway is correct. There is something I need to discuss with you right away.” Vlara glanced at Janeway and smiled.

 

Admiral Telir’s expression was slightly puzzled. “Very well. I will see you shortly.” She looked at Janeway and said, “I would be honored to dine with you, Admiral Janeway. Until then.” The screen cleared to show only a Romulan bird of prey hanging in the perpetual night sky against a backdrop of stars.”

 

x

 

Kathryn almost cried when her crew stepped off the transporter pad. She thought her smile would crack her face. She dropped all formalities and hugged each one of them.

 

She watched as Vlara stood on the pad waiting to beam out. Vlara smiled and disappeared in a sparkle of particles.

 

Kathryn settled her crew in their quarters and returned to her own. She was assigned her own VIP suite. After the Dominion war the Galaxy class Starship functioned mainly as a diplomatic ship taking dignitaries and admirals to different assignments, summits, and important meetings.

 

The suite was spacious and had two bedrooms, as well as a large formal dining room. Vlara had stayed with her. She was assigned one of the bedrooms by the Venture’s staff, but of course, shared her bed. Kathryn did not know if Captain Mason was aware of the true nature of Vlara’s relationship with her. It was general knowledge, at Starfleet Headquarters, that she and the young woman were lovers.

 

There was not much that escaped notice by Starfleet Command, if it involved one of their senior officers or Admirals.

 

She had introduced Vlara to most of the Admirals and their staff the morning after their first night together.

 

Kathryn received a few interesting and assessing looks from some of her peers when introductions where made. She supposed she was still in the phase of ‘afterglow’. There was not much she could do to hide it. Making love to Vlara was just so very wonderful. She couldn’t help beaming proudly when introducing her.

 

Vlara was not intimidated by all the brass. No doubt, having a mother as an Admiral, and being a senatorial aide, had taught the young woman how to act around high-ranking Military and Civilian dignitaries alike.

 

It was apparent to all that she was affable, intelligent, well spoken, and a good listener. Admiral Shanmir had been impressed. Even though his Vulcan features remained neutral, Janeway could see a satisfied glint in his eyes at Vlara’s agreement to become a civilian instructor in Starfleet’s protocol department. Kathryn knew her pride in the young woman’s acceptance was showing.”

 

x

 

Admiral Janeway, dressed in her Dress Whites, stood with Captain Mason by the transporter pad, awaiting the arrival of their guest of honor. There was a sparkling shimmer of four ghostly forms on the pad, and Admiral Telir, Vlara, and two Romulan officers materialized.

 

Kathryn’s smile was genuine as she welcomed the Admiral aboard and made the introductions to Captain Mason.

 

Admiral Telir’s features were cool, almost cold. Janeway glanced at Vlara, and her heart immediately froze at the stricken look on her face. Her eyes were slightly reddened and swollen as if she had been crying. Vlara looked at Janeway and shook her head slightly, glancing quickly at her mother, indicating some problem there. Oh, no. She disapproves of our relationship, or that Vlara is staying in the Federation. Or both.

 

A Starfleet honor guard escorted her, and the Romulan Party, to her quarters where the dining room was set. This was to be a private dinner between the two of them. The two Romulan Offices remained outside the dining room doors, along with two Starfleet Honor guards. Vlara had excused herself and gone to her assigned room.

 

Kathryn cleared her throat. “Admiral, may I offer you a drink? I have a wonderful sherry from my home planet I think you might enjoy.”

 

“Thank you,” Admiral Telir coldly said.

 

Kathryn poured the drinks and both women stood assessing each other. Kathryn was just about to ask the Admiral if she and Vlara had talked, knowing that they had, when the admiral beat her to the punch.

 

Admiral Telir studied Janeway as she sipped her drink, then said, “My daughter has told me of her involvement with you and that she intends on remaining in the Federation, and  working for Starfleet. Also, that she intends on attending a place of higher learning to get a degree in botany.” She then added harshly, “I trusted you, Admiral Janeway. I put her into your care while she was away from her home. You have betrayed my trust by seducing my daughter, and taking her away from me, and her family obligations.”

 

Kathryn replied in her best diplomatic voice, “Admiral, with all due respect, there was no seduction involved. I fell in love with Vlara and she with me. She made the decision to stay in the Federation and to work for Starfleet. If you feel she has somehow betrayed Romulus...that is not true. Her acceptance to work in the protocol department is in fact, a service to Romulus in that we can learn more about you and apply what we learn in facilitating smoother relations between our two societies.”

 

Admiral Telir thought for a moment, sighed and replied, “I do not feel she is a traitor. She has, however, turned her back on her family obligations. My family has a long and proud history of serving the Empire, both as military leaders and governmental leaders. Vlara was to carry on that tradition. It is a matter of Mnhei'sahe. She has dishonored the family."

 

“As I said before, Admiral, she is serving Romulus in helping, hopefully, to pave the way for better understanding. You should be proud of her. She is one of the most honorable persons I believe I have ever met. No doubt, she learned her honor from you. Your family, if you think about it, has the honor of having one of its members leading the way toward a viable peace between the Federation and The Empire. This can only benefit both the Romulan Empire, and the Federation in the long run.”

 

Admiral Telir paused for a moment in thought. She took a sip of her drink and looking at Janeway said, “Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I have been too hasty in forming opinions. I love my daughter very much, and she will be far from home, among strangers.”

 

“Not among strangers. My mother and sister are very fond of her. They welcomed her as a part of my family. She is starting to form friendships within Starfleet, as well as making friends outside of that institution. She has a personality that draws others to her. She will not lack for friends or family. I will be there for her.”

 

“You speak of her as being a part of your family, yet you treat her as you would a concubine. Why have you not offered to marry her? She talks of a committed relationship with you, but you have not offered to formalize a union. Committed in the Empire means marriage.” She looked at Janeway coldly and spat, “You dishonor her.”

 

Kathryn thought, this is the real reason she is angry. She feels I have dishonored her family.

 

“I want to marry her. However, I want to give her time to see if that is really what she wants. I don’t want to rush her into anything she may regret down the road.”

 

Admiral Telir’s face darkened and she said with barely controlled anger, “Admiral Janeway. It is obvious that you have no understanding of the Romulan psyche and nature.” She continued with a more modulated voice, “My daughter is Iikhe Graes. It means born old. She has genetically inherited certain ancient traits that have generally disappeared since the settling of Ch’Rihan. She has told me how she recognized you as her mate. This is an ancient ability found only in a minority of Romulans, and perhaps, more common on Vulcan. You have mated with her and she accepted the mating in a psychic bond that will be broken only by death. This bond is so strong that some believe mated pairs often have the ability to know when a mate is in danger, even though far away, and they have the ability to know what their mates are feeling. She will not leave you. Perhaps it is you who see yourself as having regrets down the road.”

 

Kathryn was silent for a moment. This would explain how Vlara seemed attuned to her moods. How she always seemed to know what Kathryn needed emotionally, and yes, physically. “I will have no regrets, Admiral. My only regret would be if you should disown your daughter, or disapprove of her choices in what she chooses to do with her life, and who she chooses to spend it with.”

 

“No. I am her mother and love her. My fears are a parent’s fears. I will be able to accept that what she does in the Federation is honorable.” She then gave Janeway a forceful look and said in a terse voice, “However, I would take it as an insult to my family if you do not marry my daughter.”

 

Janeway smiled and said with enthusiasm, “I will gladly, and with all my heart, marry her. However, will you regret her choice of mate? I am not Romulan.”

 

“No. Neither was her father. But, in my heart he was my mate and I would have made it so in front of the eyes of Romulus, if our laws allowed.

 

“You, Admiral Janeway, are an honorable person. You come from an honorable family with a history of long service to your Federation. You will do right by my daughter. Perhaps destiny is being fulfilled. Perhaps by this joining of our two cultures, it will bring greater harmony and peace between our peoples. Admiral Janeway, I accept you into my family. You are a most honorable addition.”

 

“Thank you, Admiral, I am proud to be called a part of your family. Call me Kathryn.”

 

“Kathryn. You may call me V-ri nanov.

 

“Now. Let us call my daughter, and your wife to be, and tell her that we have come to an agreement. Then we will talk of things that are important to the future of my Empire, and your Federation.”

 

Kathryn nodded her head in agreement, smiled lopsidedly, and said, “By the way Admiral, I have a crate of Earth’s finest wines here on this ship for you, as well as some food items I think you will enjoy. And my intentions toward your daughter are honorable.”

 

Admiral Telir threw back her head and laughed.

 

Epilogue

 

Three Months Later. 

 

Seven contently held her wife  in the languid aftermath of a bout of passionate lovemaking. She watched the star field streak by the viewport with no particular thoughts. Her mind touched on many subjects, her and B’Elanna’s appointments by Starfleet to head up a department devoted to further development of transwarp engines. B’Elanna and Tom’s recent ceremony of recognition for their service to Starfleet, when they were awarded the Medal of Valor. Admiral Janeway and Vlara’s recent Traditionalist marriage at Janeway’s home in Indiana. And her and B’Elanna’s upcoming visit to Qo’noS to visit B’Elanna’s mother. Admiral Janeway had secured transportation for them on the USS Florida, which had an assignment to visit Qo'noS. They would arrive in another two days.

 

Seven felt some apprehension at meeting Miral, B’Elanna’s mother. B’Elanna had told her that Miral would love her as a daughter. After all, it was Seven who was tutoring B’Elanna in learning to speak and write Klingon. Also, it was Seven who had fully embraced that part of B’Elanna that was Klingon, in turn, making her be’nal proud to be Klingon. Still, this was B’Elanna’s mother. She thought it would be much easier if she were on her way to meet the Borg Queen. At least, with her, she knew how to relate.

 

She was brought out of her reverie by her be’nal stirring beside her, and drawing her close, nuzzling her ear. “Hmmm. Come here, you. Sorry I fell asleep. I’m just regaining my strength from that last round of lovemaking. Now, where were we?”

 

“Recovering. From our last round of lovemaking.”

 

B’Elanna snorted in amusement. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

 

“Yes, approximately thirty- nine minutes and fifteen seconds ago. Right before initiating your recovery period.”

 

“Well, that is definitely too long ago.” She moved her mouth down Seven’s cheek and over to her lips, capturing them in a long and intense kiss. She parted and said with great tenderness, “I love you, be’nal. For now, and for always. You are my destiny, my Sto-Vo- Kor. Did you know that?”

 

Seven was both touched and amused. “That is very…romantic for such a tough Klingon Warrior as you to say.”

 

“What?” B’Elanna said in mock surprise, and then added, “Klingons have their romantic side. Look at all those operas. I’m romantic, you have said so many times.”

 

Seven nipped her nose. “True. You are very romantic.”

 

“You can be pretty romantic yourself, for a former Borg drone. In fact, tell me something romantic right now.”

 

“I love you.” Seven said with a smile.

 

“Hmm. Can you elaborate?”

 

“I love you in infinite measures of both time and degree.”

 

“You‘re getting there. Continue.”

 

Seven smiled and then thought about the time on the Flyer when she was separated from her be’nal. She thought of the feelings that she had written for B’Elanna on a padd, intending to give it to her later, only erasing it after Sela had found it. Those words were etched forever in her heart.

 

“You are to me a dark rose. Your beauty and scent entice me to hold the soft petals of your love to my heart, without fear of the thorny stem wounding me. The taste of your mouth, rare nectar, that intoxicates me beyond all reason…”

 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

Blackjack