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Voyager's Captain's Holiday


When Janeway decides to take a holiday with Seven and B'Elanna,events take an unexpected and dangerous turn.

Scifi / Adventure
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Voyager's Captain's Holiday

"Why will she never do as she's told" Captain Janeway asked the Doctor. They stood in Cargo Bay two,looking up at Seven of Nine, who regenerated in her alcove, oblivious to their presence. "You're sure she's capable of sleeping?"
"Absolutely certain, After that ,hmm, unfortunate business on board the Equinox." His usually smug countenance showed a mixture of guilt and sheepishness.. "She felt her Borg cortical implants posed a security threat to Voyager and asked for as many to be removed as possible" "I know, for once she asked my advice about what she should do" " I've carried out the procedure very slowly , trying to remove as many implants as I could safely, without disrupting her neural pathways. At the same time devised a procedure, which I think you'll agree is unique in federation medical history, of stimulating her synaptic impulse to generate neural tissues. Then I......" "Doctor, I'm due on the Bridge in ten minutes...Perhaps you'd come to the point." The Doctor looked disappointed. "Well to cut a long story short, the part of her brain responsible for inducing natural sleep has started to function and I told her so. But she continues to insist on using this alcove. It would be much healthier for her to sleep in a bed like the rest of your crew." "I've provided her with comfortable quarters, talked to her, pleaded with her ,even given her a direct order. She just won't co-operate" Captain Janeway pressed a button, thereby rousing Seven. The former drone looked puzzled at their presence. "Why are you here?" the Captain asked sternly."It was time for me to regenerate" "I gave you a direct order to sleep in your new quarters .If you disobey again I shall be forced to punish you." Seven stepped down from the alcoves towered over the Captain who met her gaze firmly "Sleep is inefficient, I choose to regenerate. Now if you'll excuse me have work to do in Astrometrics" She strode off without a backward glance. Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath, fighting to contain her irritation "She is going to obey orders in future" she almost spat the words at the Doctor. "I suppose I could sedate her every night " he replied," however that could induce a dependence on the drugs and render her unfit for duty. The only other option is to remove the alcove but there's always a possibility she could need it under special circumstances. Not to mention her probable reaction. But as long as it's there, she'll insist on using it.'' "I'll not be beaten that easily." A sudden gleam sparkled in the Captain's eye". But what if the alcove were there, but not Seven ? The Doctor looked taken aback. Before he could say anything the captain continued. "I seem to recall you telling me several months ago, that you'd completed Seven's skin treatments." "Certainly I have, Captain. Her last session of dermal regeneration was three months ago, But I believe you were too preoccupied by the shipboard crisis at that time to take note of it. "So she could wear normal clothes?" "I suppose so, but I thought she looks rather fetching in her skin regeneration suits. Don't you think ?" "I think it's time she accepted her humanity and dressed like the rest of the crew as well as sleeping in a bed and I propose to see that she does .She's a healthy young woman and apart from a few remaining implants, a human being . I intend to see she starts acting like a normal member of my crew .She should spend less time in sickbay or in an alcove and learn to be more like the rest of us. The Doctor looked rather disappointed. "But Seven is unique, And I'm sure she benefits from my daily scans." The Captain laughed ."It's just as well you're a hologram, Doctor, or I'd suspect you of ulterior motives .Things are going to change where Seven is concerned." "But how. You're not going to confine her to quarters or the Brig are you ? I wasn't aware that any Federation regulation made sleeping in a bed compulsory. The Captain patted his shoulder "All will be revealed, Doctor .I'll see you and Commander Chakotay in My Ready Room at 0.900. tomorrow . And not a word to Seven." With that, she turned and left the bemused Doctor staring after her

................................................................. ..

Captain Janeway sipped her coffee while studying the computer monitor on the table in front of her .She smiled as she made notes on her PADD. The door chimed "Come in !" she called, gulping down the rest of the coffee. Chakotay and the Doctor entered and at the Captain's bidding took their places either side of her. "I expect you're wondering why I asked you here for this meeting," she said.

" I assume it's something to do with Seven but I can't think what you can suggest that I haven't already tried. I told you so yesterday"

"What has she done this time ? You'll never get her to do what she's told. I did warn. you." Chakotay sounded exasperated.

"Don't underestimate me ,Gentlemen. I have a plan. Tell me , Doctor "she said ,with a seemingly abrupt change of subject ,"What do you think would be of most benefit to my health at the moment?"

"You're overworked ,constantly under stress and often complain of headaches and insomnia. What you need, Captain, is a holiday. Not that you ever take my advice!"

Kathryn Janeway beamed at him "On the contrary, Doctor. I intend to take at least a week's leave. And I intend to take Seven with me. I've been studying this star chart and making enquiries. There's a very pleasant planet, Ferreva, in the next star system .A Class M world ,friendly and hospitable inhabitants, who haven't run into the Borg as yet ,a temperate climate, sandy beaches, no predators or infections diseases, colourful markets. In short the perfect place for a holiday. I've been in touch with their Government. They've invited me and a few crewmembers to spend as long as we like there. And if we make a favourable impression, we'll all take a holiday there. Some shore leave is long overdue."

Chakotay looked doubtful."I'm delighted you plan to take a holiday, Captain,but how will you persuade Seven to do so?"

Janeway laughed."I shall tell her it's an Away Mission for which her unique skills are required."

Chakotay and the Doctor grinned at her ingenuity. Janeway wrapped up her meeting and headed to Engineering to discuss the "away mission" with B'Elanna. It would be interesting to see how the three of them fared on a planet instead of Voyager As Janeway walked towards the Turbolift, she almost bumped into a very preoccupied Samantha Wildman.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Captain,I was lost in thought and didn't see you." Samantha Wildman looked rather flustered.

" Is something troubling you, Samantha?You can always talk to me about it. Is it about Naomi ?"

"Yes it is and it's a rather delicate matter." Janeway ushered her towards the turbolift. The doors closed. "You can tell me anything, in complete confidence." She placed a reassuring hand on Samantha's shoulder.

"Well, it's not that I'm not grateful to Neelix and all he's done for Naomi, but she's growing up now. On the Ktarian homeworld ,she'd only be a few years from marriagable age. She's on the verge of becoming a young woman ,despite her youth in human terms, and I feel it's time Neelix stopped encouraging such notions as monsters under the bed. I'm happy for her and Neelix to be friends, but I feel there should be a little more distance between them from now on. I'd like our quarters to be reserved for myself and Naomi, especially when we're preparing for bed, without his continued presence. But I don't want to hurt his feelings. Can you understand Captain?"

Janeway nodded." I do. Growing up is a difficult time especially for a young girl, despite all our medical advances. I think I might have the solution.I'm planning a holiday with several crew members, including, Seven,whom I know is Naomi's friend. How would you like it if I were to take Naomi along too ? I'll "promote" her to Captain's assistant for the duration. She should like that and it will give you a chance to make a clean break from having Neelix around at bedtime, without hurting his feelings.The only drawback is,that I plan to be out of contact with Voyager while we're away, as We're on leave. But should Naomi feel homesick, I'll return her at once. We're going to a nice peaceful planet in the next star system. I'm sure Naomi would enjoy playing on the beach" Janeway felt like clapping her hand over her mouth. She hadn't told her senior staff yet, about that part of the plan, and was sure they wouldn't be very happy about it. She was sure, though,that Seven would be even more difficult, were she in constant contact with the ship. Also, on holiday, she'd no intention of having to deal with Voyager's day to day problems. They could contact her in an emergency. That would have to do. Her own behaviour rather surprised her, she wondered if it were an effect of the Meld and seeing how B'Elanna had suffered from never having any fun.

Samantha Wildman broke into her reverie." That sounds a wonderul idea, Captain,thank you. I'm sure Naomi will be delighted. She's never seen the sea."

"So I have your permission, then, as her mother, as long as Naomi likes the idea?"

"Most certainly, Captain.I'm off duty, so I'll go and talk to Naomi now." Janeway smiled as Samantha left the Turbolift as she continued to main Engineering. B'Elanna was hard at work as usual. Janeway beckoned her over and explained her plan. " I thought ,since we shared the Meld, we should spend some time together and relax," she concluded.

B'Elanna gaped open mouthed at her before spluttering. "Relax with Seven ! You must be joking ! No,thank you ,Captain I'd rather work on modifying the Warp drive. Take Harry or someone instead ! He's so overworked that sometimes he can hardly keep his eyes open."

Janeway didn't let herself be provoked. " I'll bring Harry along as well, if you think I should, though how he'll feel with so many women, I've no idea, but as he always seems to have had rather a crush on Seven, he might help her enjoy herself. Then you and I could spend time together. But you are coming. You need some fun. Pack your most comfortable clothes. I'll see you in Shuttlebay 2 at 0.800 tomorrow. She turned and left without another word. Captain Janeway called another special briefing that evening for Chakotay, Tuvok and the Doctor, explaining she'd decided to extend her holiday to a fortnight and would only contact the ship in event of an emergency.

As she anticipated her senior staff were aghast. "But Captain, what if you require medical assistance as the shuttles have very limited medical supplies? I should come with you," said the Doctor.

"And the security risk," protested Tuvok "

I've never known you behave like this before ,"grumbled, Chakotay.

"Gentlemen, you're missing the whole object of the exercise." Janeway said firmly" "We need to be isolated for it to work, Seven needs to stop thinking she needs constant medical attention, and Starfleet regulations allow officers to be out of contact, while on leave. And I've calculated, I'm due for ten months leave, never mind two weeks ! And I can't see what could possibly go wrong on a peaceful planet ,where we've been invited as guests . And in the very unlikely event, that anything did, Voyager could be there within the hour. I'm even taking Harry along if you Gentlemen think I need male protection, and shame on you, if you do !" Janeway concluded the meeting with detailed instructions about what they should do in her absence and which crew members were to fill in for them. She sensed that their grumbling would resume the instant she left the room.

Her strawberry hair flowing behind her and singing a new song that her Mother had taught her. It was from her Father's side of the family and although she hadn't know him at all, she felt him close by! Naomi rushed through the corridors of Voyager like a woman on a mission. An away mission to be exact! And the Captain's Assistant at that! She wasn't watching where she was going since she ran head long into B'Elanna!

"Hey, slow down. Where's the fire?" B'Elanna grinned at the little girl. "Fire? "

There's a fire?" asked Naomi.

"No. Never mind it's just Paris creeping into my personality I suppose! Where are you heading?" B'Elanna replied, trying to dismiss Tom from her brain.

Naomi quickly offered her answer, "I'm off to see Seven! I'm so excited about the sea and I've only heard Neelix tell me of a holographic one that he and Kes ran! Oh, I can't wait! And to be there with Seven will be such fun...." B'Elanna became mildly distracted. Since the meld Tom had wanted to know everything and well, she just couldn't open up! But the meld had made her more sure of herself and of him and even he had noticed that! Now here was Voyager's child standing before her. Naomi often made B'Elanna think of a child herself! But she and Tom had discussed it and firmly believed the Captain when she had promised to get them home! In fact B'Elanna depended on it! The word fun broke her daydream. "Fun? Oh, yes, Seven will be lots of fun! In fact, I was just giving her orders about the away mission and she is quite sure she doesn't want to participate! Since I have failed and you are the Captain's Assistant, perhaps you could take charge of Seven? See that she has a good time and enjoys herself. What do you say?" She was bent over hands on her knees watching Naomi eyes dance.

"Yes! I'll do it! Tell the Captain, I will be responsible for Seven. She won't have to worry now!" Naomi grinned. B'Elanna turned and headed down the corridor, "The Captain will be very pleased at that!"Naomi burst into Astrometrics startling the hard at work Seven.

"You should not enter like that. I could have lost vital data! Not to mention hours of I could have devoted to research." A stern Seven remarked.

"Never mind all that, Seven, We are going on an away mission together! Won't it be fun? I'm to be the Captain's Assistant. She's promised to give me a special tour of our shuttle tonight !"

B'Elanna was back in her quarters when Tom knocked at her door! Hand behind his back. "What do you have there?" B'Elanna asked trying to see behind him.

"Just like you to ruin a surprise!" He smiled as he produced a dozen roses with a grand gesture of his arm!

"Tom! How sweet! I'm still going!" She snatched the roses and headed inside.

"But, Lanna, come on. First you just came back from an away mission which nearly killed you and then Janeway put you in a mind meld that almost did everyone in. Are you sure you want to be on an unknown planet with her? I mean I know she's quick on her feet, thinks with her head and all that, but really! She's starting to push this Mother Hen thing way too far!"

B'Elanna cut him a look, "Have you forgotten I don't have my Mother? She's gone! I mean I know she's with me but Janeway's physical and my Mother herself would be pleased to have me follow in her foot steps!"

Tom looked hurt, "That's not what I meant. I didn't mean to bring your Mother into this! You're missing my point completely!"

She placed the roses in vase and added water. "I know. She's been on my mind since the meld. She had such great intentions for me. Always pushing me. Just like the Captain! I mean what she did for me? My Mother would have been honoured to know her! And I feel she's telling me to go. Almost like she's insisting."

He rolled his eyes. "Let me guess she's communicating through the Captain? Please, Lanna, you can't believe that!"

She roared at him "Out! Get out! I wanted to leave on a high note, on good terms, but you. You are impossible! Sometimes I could just snap! You make me so angry!" He tried to put his arms around her and she pulled away. He put a weakness in her that most man didn't. Why did she tolerate him at all?

"Must be love." he smiled with arms out stretched.

"What?" she snapped. "I said it must be love. Let's face it. You could just rage on me. Snap me like a twig. Wound my ego, but you don't. I could just give up on you. Find someone else a little less complicated. A lot less work. But I won't! It's Love!"

She let him embrace her and they retired to her bed. It would be the last time the would have together to be intimate for two weeks. This would have to be quite memorable!

Janeway was packing her belongings and explaining her plans to Tuvok. "Are you sure I shouldn't accompany you to the planet?" He asked.

"Not unless you are flirting with me, Tuvok. I do believe you are too old for me! But I will be fine. You know I can take care of everyone, you've taught me well. have someone take these to the shuttle it's time to go." Kathryn Janeway found she was truly looking forward to having a break from Voyager, recent events had drained her energy more than she cared to admit, and now the only part of her life on Voyager, that she were certain were entirely private, her dreams, were somehow being invaded by Chakotay's presence.A break would good for everyone. She'd been so obsessed with her mission to get home, she'd forgotten that rest and relaxation were an important part of life. When she arrived in the Shuttlebay few minutes early, a rather anxious looking Samantha was already there with Naomi, who looked ready to burst with excitement. "I know, you'll take good care of her,Captain, but as her mother, I worry. Are you sure she'll be alright? We've never been apart for so long before !"

Janeway smiled at them both before saying earnestly to Samantha" If she's pining for you. I'll bring her back at once, and Samantha, you have my promise, I'll guard her with my life ! But rest assured. We're going to the most peaceful planet in the Quadrant. Friendly people, no savage animals and no dangerous diseases." Janeway briefly grasped Samantha's hand to seal the promise and then stood back to allow her and Naomi to say their farewells. Next to arrive was Harry, his uniform more immaculate than ever and a wide grin on his face. "Good to see you,Harry!" Janeway greeted him. "I hope you've brought your bathing costume. I don't expect you to keep that uniform on for long ! Would you like to take the Conn, as you rarely get the chance ?" Harry flushed slightly as he eagerly agreed to take the pilots seat. The Shuttlebay was quickly filling with people .Janeway started to wonder was anyone actually on duty today, as she'd left Chakotay orders to map the star system while they were gone, sufficient to occupy everyone, but unlikely to overtax Voyager's systems with so many senior staff away. Neelix arrived and started fussing round Naomi. Janeway flashed a knowing look to Samantha .Tuvok arrived and insisted that they go equipped with hand phasers, despite Janeweay's insistence that they wouldn't be needed. Eventually,it seemed easiest to agree if it would keep her old friend happy. Seven strode into the Shuttlebay accompanied by the Doctor, who was insisting that she borrow his camera.

Seven came face to face with the Captain, her tall frame towering above her." I not understand the relevance of this mission." She snapped. " Naomi Wildman informs me that it is to have fun. Fun is irrelevant. I have no need for such frivolous activity. I will not comply!"

Not for the first time, Janeway wished that she were at eye level with Seven, as she knew full well that the former Drone used her height to try and intimidate. She said crisply " You will comply. That is an order. I need you on this mission to..."She thought quickly" Evaluate the effect of ultra violent radiation on the skin, experiment with the effects of silicon compounds when applied directly to the flesh and investigate retail therapy as a means of elevating serotonin levels in the brain."

Even the Doctor was impressed at Janeway's novel manner of describing sunbathing, walks on the beach and shopping. He beamed at Seven" It's an important geological and medical mission ,Seven. You will benefit from it. Please use my camera to record your data"

"As you wish." Sulkily, Seven took the camera from him and entered the shuttle.

B'Elanna was last to arrive. accompanied by Tom. They both looked slightly flushed, whether from passion, or yet another argument, even Janeway's practised eye was unable to determine. At least, B'Elanna seemed more willing to come than her attitude the previous evening had suggested. Janeway ordered them to say their farewells, reassured Tom and Samantha that their loved ones would be safe, assured Tuvok yet again that she wasn't being reckless, and told the Doctor for the umpteenth time that his services were much more likely to be needed by those remaining aboard Voyager, as he'd pronounced the five of them all in the perfect health, that very morning.

At last they were all aboard the shuttle, Harry took the Conn, Janeway requested clearance from Chakotay which he gave adding" Have a good time !" The shuttle bay doors glided open revealing the vastness of space. They were on their way ..........................

Janeway was extremely glad, that she'd chosen to bring Naomi, as otherwise the atmosphere in the shuttle would have been highly uncomfortable as B'Elanna and Seven were keeping as far apart from each other as the confines of the small spacecraft would allow, while Seven checked a wide variety of scientific instruments she'd brought with her ,all the time questioning the relevance of the mission. Naomi had other ideas and was bubbling with excitement. Janeway suggested ,that as Captain's assistant, she could tell her what she knew about the various astrological phenomena they were passing. The young girl's knowledge and enthusiasm were infectious, and even Seven managed a brief smile. Janeway started to relax, remembering her own love of science when she was a young girl. She'd always wanted to be a scientist, until a twist of fate had propelled her into command. Although she loved captaining a starship, she'd never expected to have to fulfil the Captain's role for six long years without a break .The stress had already driven her once to the verge of a breakdown and she was determined not to let it happen again. She was intending to enjoy this rare holiday. If everyone was getting along well, why not disperse with all protocol for the duration ? It would be so pleasant just be Kathryn ,the woman again for a short time, instead of always having to be the captain, burdened with so many responsibilities. The shuttle started to rock slightly, breaking into her reverie . "What's going on Harry ?" she asked.

"We're encountering turbulence. Sensors are detecting an ion storm. I'm attempting to compensate." Harry pressed buttons frantically. Janeway and Seven rushed to his side.

"The sensors and navigation are off line. Attempting manual override. It's not working !" B'Elanna had now joined them .The shaking grew worse. Knowing she could rely on her chief engineer ,Janeway rushed to where a now scared Naomi was curled in her seat. "I'm losing control!" Harry shouted his voice rising in panic.

" I've managed to get manual sensors working. There's a Class M planet about half a light year away." Seven announced.

Janeway heaved a sigh of relief. "Feed Harry the coordinates, Seven" She ordered." Harry, make for the planet .I know you can do it !" The shuttle started a rapid descent Janeway curled herself around Naomi ,protecting the child with her own body. "Brace for impact !"She shouted above the chaos. The shuttle shuddered to a halt, scraping against a variety of objects. The starboard engine exploded on impact showering equipment over the floor. Naomi screamed as Janeway held her tightly. Harry had made a superb landing in the circumstances, as they all stood up shaken but unhurt, apart from Harry ,who's forehead was gashed from the flying debris .The automatic fire control systems were mercifully still operational and they appeared to be in no immediate danger. "Well, done, Harry." Janeway said "You've saved all our lives! Now is everyone alright ?" They all replied in the affirmative. "I'd better fix that cut for you, Harry," said Janeway looking for the medkit .To her horror, it had caught the full force of the blast and nothing was left of it save a few twisted pieces of metal ,a medical tricorder ,an antiseptic spray and an old fashioned bandage replicating device , none ,of which were much use to Harry .She found a clean handkerchief and dabbed at the cut, spraying it with the antiseptic .

Harry looked rather sheepish at all the attention. "Don't worry, Captain." He said ."I think it's stopped bleeding and it doesn't hurt ,well not much anyway"

B'Elanna had been surveying the damage ."We've lost an engine, sustained damage to the hull and environmental controls. and the Communication systems are completely burnt out .I believe I could get us airborne again ,but it could take days, even weeks .The replicator is working and so are the weapons and transporters."

"Well that's some good news" Janeway said encouragingly, giving Harry's face one last dab with the handkerchief. "We won't starve and I'm sure we'll soon be on our way again."

"I knew this mission was an error on your part, Captain. "Seven remarked grimly.

Janeway glanced at Naomi, wide eyed with fear and shot Seven a warning glance "Nonsense." she said far more confidently than she felt. "It's an adventure .That will be fun won't it Naomi ?" The young girl nodded doubtfully. "Well, we'd better explore our surroundings and see if we can find help to repair the shuttle and a way to communicate with Voyager .Harry, you stay here with Naomi, Seven ,B'Elanna ,you're with me."

The three women stepped cautiously out of the shuttle and discovered just what an amazing feat Harry had accomplished as they were in the middle of a forest. The air was oxygen rich, but very cold .B'Elanna immediately started to shiver. Janeway called back to Harry. "As the transporters are functional ?,Beam us out of this wood, or it will take hours to reach civilisation if there is any !"

A moment later ,they were at the edge of the forest. A small dwelling was the only building in sight, maybe half a mile away. "Stay under cover," Janeway instructed B'Elanna and Seven." This could be a tricky first contact situation .I'll go and investigate .Ignoring their protests, she set out alone in the direction of the building


Seven snorted "How foolish the Captain is sometimes. Bringing us on this ridiculous expedition and now going off alone.!"

"The most foolish thing, I've known her do is bring you on board Voyager ! "B'Elanna snapped. Their argument grew increasingly heated. Janeway reached the building and was walking round it cautiously , when a humanoid alien ,appeared from a side entrance, carrying a whip. Before she could react, he had used it to extract the phaser from her hand .His appearance was similar to a Hirogen, except that his skin had a yellowish hue .He picked up the phaser and pointed it at Janeway .She glared at him.

"Stand by that tree !" He ordered. The universal translator picked up what he was saying, confirming Janeway's suspicion that he was some type of Hirogen. She reluctantly complied .As she reached the tree, a manacle like device on a chain shot out of the ground and fastened itself round her ankle .She fell to the ground on her knees. The alien advanced menacingly. "You're trespassing!" he snapped." I don't like intruders. Now tell me how many there are of you ?"

Janeway staggered to her feet and looked him. in the eye." I'm alone." She said "And I don't care for your hospitality .Let me go at once !"

An evil grin spread across the alien's features."I don't believe you. No one would come here alone .I'll give you one last chance to tell me the truth .Your next denial will be the last words you ever speak, as I want all of you !"

Janeway thought of Naomi, so trusting and innocent, of B'Elanna, only just beginning to open herself to loving relationships, of Harry ,who'd come to her fresh and eager to please from the Academy, and of Seven, slowly regaining her humanity .Her own death would be a small price if they could survive. "I'm alone" She said firmly.

The alien, kicked out at her contemptuously, leaving her clutching her ribs in agony. He took a small device from his belt. "Several of you would have been worth trading as hunt slaves." He said. "One isn't worth the trouble. Still you'll save me from having to hunt tonight for my pets !" He activated the device and the ground opened at Janeway's feet. Out sprang two tiger like creatures, on long chains .Janeway shuddered, trying not to show her fear. This was a far worse death than she'd ever anticipated. To her surprise the creatures just looked at her. The alien lashed out at them with the whip, striking her across the face in the process .It was a cruel instrument. weighted at the tip ."Eat foolish beasts, "he commanded. "Here's fresh meat for you!"

The animals sprang. Instinctively, Janeway flung her arms across her face and throat to try and protect herself, wondering even as she did why she was prolonging the agony .The creatures leapt up, tearing her uniform and digging their sharp claws into her unprotected flesh. She bit her lips, struggling not to scream, or B'Elanna and Seven would come to her rescue and meet with a similar fate. Nor was she going to give her tormentor any satisfaction. Again and again the creatures sprang and tore at her flesh, urged on by their master's whip Her iron self control at last faltered and an involuntary scream issued from her lips.............................

Seven and B'Elanna were becoming increasingly heated as they traded insults. "How many people on earth will welcome someone who was a terrorist?" Seven snapped"

And how popular will a former Borg be? How many people did you asim..." B'Elanna's voice trailed away, as an overwhelming sense of terror swept over Her ,followed by excruciating pain. Momentarily she was puzzled ,as an all too familiar argument with Seven could hardly cause such sensations .Then she remembered, Tuvok had told her that she might at sometime in the future sense strong emotion from the Captain. "The Captain's in trouble. We must help her." She told a thoroughly bewildered Seven.

"We were ordered to stay here. We must comply .And on what grounds do you suspect that Captain Janeway may be in trouble ?"

" I just know. Come on, she went in that direction.!" At that moment they heard the scream. Both women started running, faster than they knew they were capable of.

"Set phasers on stun and fire simultaneously .We may only have one chance. "Seven gasped as she ran.

B'Elanna nodded .Much as she disliked Seven, she admired her tactical skills. Neither could have anticipated the scene of carnage outside the building. They managed to approach undetected ,as the alien was obviously enthralled by the gruesome spectacle of a victim being mauled .Seven ,ice cool ,fired almost instantaneously at the Alien and one of the animals. B'Elanna fired on the other ,but only succeeded in breaking the chain. The creature fled at amazing speed. B'Elanna rushed to the Captain's side. Janeway appeared to be badly injured and what remained of her clothes hung limply in rags .She initially appeared unconscious but her eyes fluttered open, as B'Elanna cradled her battered body, while Seven removed the shackle. She opened her mouth to speak, but her words were so faint that B'Elanna had to lean close to catch them.

"B'Elanna" she whispered looking at her with expressive pain filled eyes" You take charge. .get everyone home, I failed, you Harry, Seven, much more than crew, dear friends, I love ..."Her eyes closed and she went limp.

B'Elanna's eyes filled with tears. She struggled to focus as she tapped her Comm. badge. "Harry beam us back to the shuttle at once!"

Seven broke in" Delay that order, one moment, Ensign." Before B'Elanna could say anything she drew her phaser, set it on the highest setting and turned the beam on the prone forms of the alien and his tiger like creature. She then used a wide dispersal beam to set fire to the house. "Your emotionalism could cause our discovery." She explained to a scowling B'Elanna. before telling Harry to energise.

Harry stared in sheer open mouthed horror as they energised in the shuttle. He could hardly bear looking at the Captain's ravaged body. She meant so much to him. At first he'd been in awe of her, but ever since the day she'd so tenderly comforted him as he came back to life, he'd looked on her as a combination of heroine and maternal figure, replacing the mother on earth, whom he missed so much.

They carried the Captain to one of the beds and gently laid her down. Seven brought the medical tricorder ."She's dead." She pronounced grimly ."Most unfortunate .She was my protector."

"You unfeeling..! "B'Elanna began before the full horror of Seven's words had sunk in ,then as the meaning hit her ,she began to howl in Klingon fashion."

Seven clapped a hand over her mouth." Quiet she hissed ."We'll all be discovered.!"

Harry who was crying quietly asked. "Can't we revive her ?" "How? The med kit was destroyed ."

Seven was running further tricorder scans. "Old fashioned artificial respiration!" B'Elanna took a deep breath, ready to begin.

"This is strange "Seven announced ". The injuries are insufficiently severe to cause death .I believe she's been poisoned. yet the poison levels in her blood are falling rapidly."

" The Captain told me." Naomi, who everyone had forgotten, tugged at Seven's sleeve.

"Be quiet, Naomi Wildman. The time is inappropriate." Seven said sternly.

"But the Captain said." Naomi persisted. "I told you to be quiet." Seven rebuked her.

Naomi refused to give up. "The Captain, she showed me." Naomi, tired of being ignored, started trying to prise open a panel under the flight control station. Harry suddenly had a vague memory of something he was told at the academy.

"What did the Captain tell you Naomi?" he asked gently. "She said we kept some special medicine here. Perhaps it would make her better."

Harry's memories of a final year lecture on emergency backup systems came flooding back. He used his phaser to blast open the panel to reveal a very small emergency medkit. He remembered now that it's contents were few but vital. It contained several colour-coded hyposprays. Grabbing the white one, he pushed past B'Elanna and Seven and applied it to the Captain's neck. They held their breath and waited. B'Elanna murmered, "Please Captain, Come on! Live !"

After a few seconds, which felt like eternity, Janeway coughed and opened her eyes. She had a far away, ecstatic look on her face, which quickly turned to bewilderment. "Father, Justin?" Where are you ? You were here just now "Then the memories came flooding back. Eyes wide with terror she screamed "The creatures ! Run for your lives ! No No!"

B'Elanna was sobbing again, this time with joy and relief." You're safe now .It's B'Elanna I'm here." She soothed. The Captain's numerous injuries were starting to bleed.

Harry produced another hypo, this time coloured green .He injected it, explaining "This one should stop the bleeding and prevent shock." As full consciousness returned it was obvious that Janeway was in severe pain ,as she moaned and writhed on the narrow bed.

"Where's the painkillers and sedatives?" B'Elanna asked. "There aren't any, or any instruments." Harry said looking sadly at the Captain "It's a very basic kit for dire emergency. Just the drugs needed to keep someone alive until a Doctor arrives We're expected to use the standard kit, which of course was destroyed. I don't know what else we can do for her."

B'Elanna took a deep breath. "We had to manage with less in my Marquis days. The best we can do is get those rags off her ,bathe her injuries with antiseptic and bandage them up."

Harry looked flustered and rather embarrassed. "Well, I'll leave that to you ladies. I'll start repairs on the shuttle and keep a look out for whoever did this"

"Wild beasts and their owner." Seven explained. tersely" I killed two of them them, but one creature unfortunately escaped. We must be careful in case it finds us."

B'Elanna was gathering their sparse medical supplies."Fetch some blankets, Naomi" She told the young girl and then go and help Harry."

Janeway appeared to be becoming delirious as B'Elanna and Seven tried to remove what remained of her uniform.

She struggled and cried out. "No, don't touch me it's against the treaty. I won't tell you anything!" "I believe she thinks Cardassians are torturing her." B'Elanna guessed, familiar with their practices.How can we calm her, she wondered. throwing a blanket over the Captain she called Naomi over and asked her to help.

"B'Elanna and Seven want to help you, so please let them Captain. Please get well." Naomi's innocent pleading seemed to calm Janeway and she offered no further resistance. B'Elanna was vaguely surprised to find the Captain had a gold locket round her neck and the remains of silken underwear clung to her body. When the last scraps of cloth were removed she wished for the first time in her life that she were fully Klingon ,as no Klingon was prone to squeamishness or the waves of nausea ,which welled up in her throat the sight of the angry deep scratches and lash marks, which covered every inch of the Captain's body apart from her face and neck which were unmarked apart from a mark on her cheek where the whip had caught her , one hand ,which had been sheltered by her arm , and her feet, which had been protected by sturdy Starfleet footwear. . The imprint of the alien's boot was clearly visible across her ribs B'Elanna felt she would either scream with rage at how anyone could inflict such cruel injuries on her friend, or herself collapse at the horrible sight. She suddenly remembered an old folk remedy, and called for Naomi to bring her some ginger tea from the replicator.

She sipped the soothing drink, watching Seven take yet another Tricorder reading." No Broken bones or internal injuries, sustainable blood loss, extensive bruising and lacerations. Curious, most interesting."

"What?" B'Elanna struggled to keep her temper under control." How can you find such horrendous injuries interesting ! Have you no feelings ?"

Seven ignored the outburst. "Note the pattern of these scratches .The creatures were obviously trying to go for her throat, usual hunting behaviour, see they eventually bit her here on the shoulder, that's when she was poisoned. The poison obviously only lasts long enough to kill the victim, and then dissipates to enable the prey to be safely consumed .However in most hunting species ,if the animal can't reach the prey's jugular, they attack the internal organs, yet the scratches across her chest and stomach are not especially deep, as no organs are exposed. It's almost as if the creatures didn't want to kill her"

" I'm not interested in what they were thinking." snapped B'Elanna. "It's trying to undo the damage, I care about. Her arms are the most badly injured , as she used them to try and protect herself. We'd better bandage them first. And cover her with the blanket .instead of gawping at her as if she's an exhibit in a museum !"

The Captain was a truly pitiable sight. Her battered body was shaking like a leaf, though whether with pain, fear, or cold, it was impossible to tell. Naomi brought some hot water, to which they added the disinfectant and began the long painful task of cleaning and bandaging the wounds. Seven showed little aptitude for the task, so eventually, she held Janeway upright while B'Elanna bandaged her wounds The after effect of the Meld resulted in her feeling the Captain's pain almost as if it were her own and found the task one of the hardest things she'd ever done. Janeway bore their ministrations stoically. as she drifted in and out of consciousness There were tears in her expressive eyes and she flinched and moaned when an especially deep scratch was cleaned , B'Elanna kept giving her sips of water, wishing fervently they h ad something better to offer.

At last they were finished, and Janeway lay bandaged like an ancient Egyptian Mummy and cocooned in blankets. With propped up to help her laboured breathing, with pillows under her to cushion her injured body and limbs She appeared to fall into an uneasy sleep. . As it was growing dark, B'Elanna suggested they take it in turns to sit with the Captain, keep watch and sleep .It had grown increasingly cold and they pushed the beds close together for warmth, as well as raiding their luggage for extra clothing. Naomi, with the blissful ability of youth to sleep through anything, was the only one to get much rest that night. The Captain had become feverish and seemed to be reliving the events of the last years as if overcome by guilt for everything that had happened. B'Elanna couldn't catch everything she was saying, but made out phases such as "Ought to get home ,My fault ,The Equinox, Ransom, Lessing . Tuvix, who should choose ? Her right or mine Seven?"Kes, Why? Let everyone down. All my fault!" B'Elanna became increasingly concerned. If the Captain were to continue in this way of thinking, she'd loose her will to live .She was all to aware that Janeway like herself was at times prone to bouts of depression , which could be devastating without physical injuries to contend with as well .She looked so frail and tiny and B'Elanna realised how much she relied on her natural charisma and strength of personality, to command a crew ,who were mainly much taller and physically stronger than she was. Janeway was becoming increasingly agitated; staring vacantly ahead, she started pleading "Hold me! I'm afraid! They're coming !" B'Elanna knelt beside her and tried to cradle her together with the pillows that cushioned her injuries.

She lay quietly for a few minutes before pushing B'Elanna away and screaming., "No more torture ! Stop! I won't tell you!"

Seven, who'd been helping Harry came over to assist ."I suggest we try using some of my Borg nannoprobes to heal her injuries." She said. "I can extract them using what equipment we have."

"No. " B'Elanna said vehemently. "The doctor said after our assimilation that he could only remove all traces of Borg technology once, and that was because of the virus we were protected by. Your nannoprobes could reaasimilate the Captain, and she said she'd rather die then spend her life as a Borg ! I can't say I blame her !"

" We should attempt it." Seven insisted. "After all, she's made us accept treatments we found unacceptable !"

"All the more reason, we shouldn't do the same!" snapped B'Elanna, her voice rising.

" No ,no way !" Harry hearing the raised voices joined them."B'Elanna, Seven, can't you be friends ,just for once ?"he pleaded." The Captain's life depends on us now. We must put our differences aside to help her." " Seven, when you were a Drone, you must have assimilated many species who'd know which plants could be used to cure fevers. Is there anything growing here we could use ?"

Seven seemed a trifle taken aback by the suggestion. "The Borg use repair Drones and technology." She replied. "We had no use for such knowledge."

"Think, Seven, Try to remember ,you must have the knowledge somewhere." Harry urged her.

She was silent for a few moments, furrowing her brow as she thought. "I'm starting to remember." She said "Species 2371 based their culture on plants ,which they believe came from their gods. They even developed a plant based warp fuel. That is why we assimilated their knowledge. I believe I could find medicinal herbs if I used the Tricorder to help analyse them.

B'Elanna smiled at Harry. By trying to be a peacemaker, he'd obtained some valuable information from Seven. Naomi was awake by now, so B'Elanna suggested that she and Seven should go and find some medicinal herbs. The Captain was feverishly tearing at her bandages, and it was all B'Elanna could do to restrain her. She realised she was learning a great deal about the value of patience ,She tried to soothe Janeway by holding her hand and gently stroking her fingers.

Much to her relief, Seven and Naomi quickly returned with a handful of curious purple leaves, which Seven boiled to produce both a drink and an ointment, taking constant tricorder readings while she worked "This will suffice" she announced, tasting the brew. "It is non toxic to humanoids and has strong fever reducing and infection killing properties."

B'Elanna tasted it and grimaced. "It tastes foul! Let's hope it works."

The Captain now seemed too exhausted to protest and swallowed the brew at Seven and B'Elanna's urging. They used the ointment to apply to the most severe wounds. "Why does Ensign Kim not assist us ?" Seven asked suddenly. "We would be more gainfully employed fixing the engines than nursing."

B'Elanna answered rather impatiently."Well, he's no medical training." "Neither have we. You have not answered my question .I will ask him then."

"No, Seven, don't. You'd make him feel uncomfortable. He wants to help, but as he's a man and the Captain's a woman ,it's more appropriate for us to take care of her. It might be different, were he trained as a medic, Didn't your mother explain such matters to you.?"

"I was assimilated when I was six years old. We had no opportunity for such conversations."

B'Elanna unexpectedly felt a flash of sympathy and understanding for Seven and wished She could take back her last caustic remark. Although ,she'd never got on well with her mother, at least, she'd been there and despite having an unhappy childhood she'd fared far better than Seven in her maturation chamber .Maybe they had something in common after all. "I'm sorry, Seven," she said "I didn't think."

Seven accepted the apology with good grace .She continued applying the ointment ,approaching the task as if she were repairing machinery. B'Elanna thought of what she's said about repair Drones and realised Seven herself had spent most of her life as more machine than human, and still tended to see life in somewhat mechanistic terms. B'Elanna wasn't sure whether the Captain was asleep or unconscious, as she'd initially flinched as they'd applied the ointment but now lay still with her eyes closed. Seven scanned with her Tricorder. "Her vital signs are stable ."She pronounced. "She's in no immediate danger. I think we should consume breakfast now. We need to remain in a healthy condition."

They ate with Harry staying by the door clutching a phaser in one hand, Seven preferring to stand, and Naomi and B'Elanna sitting on the bed adjacent to the Captain. They ate waffles and syrup, not very nutritious but it boosted their energy levels. B'Elanna started organising their duties for the day .She decided there was no reason why Naomi shouldn't take a turn sitting with the captain and suggested that she do so while she helped Harry and Seven slept. Seven protested. "I regenerate .I do not require sleep .I will assist Mr Kim, while you rest.

B'Elanna was so exhausted that she didn't argue. she just wished she weren't so cold. Taking an extra blanket ,she lay down on the bed ,she'd pushed up alongside Janeway's .Naomi sat quietly reading between them both. It was warmer staying close together


B'Elanna woke with a start. It was going dusk again. She must have slept for hours. She sat up stiffly. Seven brought her a cup of tea. "Why did you let me sleep so long?" She asked.

" You were tired and would have proved inefficient." Seven replied.

"The Captain?" She hasn't awakened, but I believe the fever is abating. "I'll sit with her now. It's time Naomi went to bed."

"We took turns all day .I believe the repairs are progressing quite well." Seven helped Naomi prepare for bed and went back to take over from Harry ,who also lay down to sleep. B'Elanna got a snack from the replicator, dimmed the lights and prepared herself for a long vigil.

She was starting to nod off again when a familiar voice said. "Is there any coffee?" Delighted she spun round. Janeway was awake. B'Elanna placed her hand on the Captain's forehead. The fever had gone .She felt like hugging her ,but refrained for fear of hurting her further and contented herself with a beaming smile .

"I'll get you some coffee if you promise to drink a glass of water first. It's good for you. Remember, you left me in charge !"

"In future, I'll remember how bossy you are! Can you help me sit up .And no more of that horrible brew you gave me earlier !" B'Elanna gently helped Janeway into a sitting position, propping her up with the pillows. It was obvious every movement was painful, but although she still looked frail ,she seemed much more like her normal self ,and thirstily drained both the water and the coffee that B'Elanna held to her lips. It was clear she was well aware of most of what had happened.

"Thank you for stopping Seven using the nannoprobes. "She said." I should have been more considerate about you not wanting Cardassian treatment .The truth was, I couldn't bear to loose you and instead of saying so ,I came down on you too heavily"

"Don't worry about that .I understand, I know Tom had something to do with your decision too .I gave him a piece of my mind! He drives me mad yet, I love him. I haven't told anyone else yet, but he's asked me to marry him." B'Elanna had meant to keep the news to herself, but felt if talked, it might distract the Captain from the pain she must be feeling. She could tell her ribs were hurting as her breathing was so laboured.

Janeway looked delighted. "I'm so pleased and if you love him, as I know you do, go ahead with my blessing. You're lucky to have found someone. Don't throw the chance away. I was twice engaged ,but one fiancé was killed and the other dumped me ,I've not been lucky in love. If only Kashyk had been genuine, he was so handsome, but then of course, so was Michael."

B'Elanna was a trifle taken aback, as it was so unlike the Captain to talk about her private life. She said nothing, though ,as she realised she probably needed to talk to distract herself from their situation.

" Even in this light, I can see you raising your eyebrows. I know you didn't approve .nothing very much actually happened, though. Trust Tom to programme his characters with all the attitudes of Nineteenth Century Ireland, when a gentleman's greatest fear was "getting a girl into trouble" as they put it in those days. No amount of tinkering with the programme changed that. Holodecks aren't the ideal place for romance, either Imagine if the power went off and you were left in a bare room with an audience! I wouldn't put that past Tom's sense of humour! I'm glad in the long run as I'd have despised myself for it as, I acted like a silly teenager, as how could I be in love with someone who could never love me? I felt so stupid afterwards and guilty about endangering Tom and Harry to save the programme I think I must have been slightly crazy at the time ,fancying I was in love with someone who never truly existed, handsome though he was !"

" "B'Elanna smiled ruefully." I know , I was upset, because I thought you'd hate yourself afterwards, if Tom and Harry had been hurt or you'd been um, together with Michael . I've never engaged in casual sex myself either, though, I've had my own Holodeck adventures ! When I was at that Klingon school, I fell for a hologram of Kahless the unforgettable .Not that it went very far, as when we progressed to the biting stage, his wife appeared with a Batleth and I had to run for my life ! But don't tell anyone, especially not Tom .I'd never hear the last of it !"

Despite the pain any movement caused, Janeway found herself laughing until the tears rolled down her cheeks." "And I always thought you hated all things Klingon! Not to mention Holograms !"

" Maybe that's the reason why. It put me off Klingon romance for good. Then I Thought no –one human either would want me, that's why I'm so glad to have found Tom I've much more confident since we shared that Meld. I think I'd eventually like to have Tom's child "

"I'm determined to have a child myself one day .I'm thankful these days women have so much longer for childbearing." Janeway confided

"You'd make a wonderful mother" B'Elanna said warmly." I wish my mother had been more like you." Her tone became very sombre. "You care so much you were willing to give your life yesterday, but why ? We weren't even on Voyager, as I know all about the Captain and the ship stuff."

"You should understand me well enough to know, I couldn't let that thug have you, Seven, Harry and little Naomi to torture .I had to try and save you."

"I wouldn't have expected you to act differently .I just were I were more like you" B'Elanna's tone was both warm and wistful .She felt near tears. Never the sort to enjoy showing her feelings, she changed the subject. "It's time to change your bandages. That ointment seems to be working. So I'm using plenty of it !." B'Elanna discovered she found the task even harder now Janeway was fully aware of what was happening. She felt clumsy and ill at ease, almost embarrassed at the situation. She attended to the task by arranging the blankets in such a way that only a few inches of flesh were visible at a time The gashes looked were clean and gradually starting to heal but it would take a long time and leave hideous scars. She kept awkwardly apologising "I'm sorry, I'm a hopeless nurse, this is so undignified, you must be so cold and I know the ointment must sting!"

"Stop fretting, B'Elanna." Janeway found she couldn't bear to look at the state of her limbs and body and mentally resigned herself to a lifetime of long sleeved outfits, assuming they got off this planet, which she'd every confidence her resourceful crew would accomplish ."You're doing well, as I know how squeamish you are .It's strange to think that people had to treat wounds this way for centuries, as dermal regenerators are a fairly recent invention. At least, I've good friends to take care of me"

B'Elanna managed a smile as she secured the last bandage. "We could do with Kes here, though, couldn't we ."She said "She was an excellent nurse." "I often wonder how she's getting on .Did she ever find peace or finish her transformation?" The two women wistfully reminisced about Kes and the events of the last few years until Janeway felt tired and fell asleep after B'Elanna made her drink some more water. Seven then took over and allowed B'Elanna some rest.

The next day Janeway was able to walk a few steps supported by B'Elanna and Seven but it was all too obvious that although she'd eventually recover, without proper medical facilities ,her progress would be painfully slow .A less strong willed and stubborn individual would have been unlikely to have survived at all. Nevertheless, B'Elanna became increasingly worried as the days progressed, she could sense that the Captain was becoming increasingly depressed and frustrated at being so incapacitated and B'Elanna herself was finding the responsibility of being in charge a heavy burden. However had Janeway borne it for six long years, if she found it so hard after less than six days ? She began to understand why the Captain sometimes seemed a trifle irrational as a lesser woman would have succumbed to the stress long ago. She knew Seven had done her best to destroy the evidence, but how long would it be before their presence was discovered? It was fortunate that they were in the middle of a forest, and it seemed that the planet lacked any sort of air travel facilities ,as they'd not heard anything pass overhead .Harry or Seven were on armed look out constantly, but for how long would their luck hold ? Naomi was proving a great asset, She'd been combing Janeway's hair and entertaining her with tales of the latest Flotter story she'd asked Tom to programme for the Holodeck. Naomi reluctantly finished her story and went to take some food to Harry, who was on look out duty . B'Elanna prepared to change the Captain's bandages again. She'd found it easier to take over all the nursing duties and let Seven work on repairing the engines ,as Seven was happier tending machines than people. It troubled B'Elanna to realise that until recently, she'd been much the same. She'd come to understand Seven much better over the last few days.

" I wish I'd been as good as Naomi at having fun when I was a child." Janeway mused "I was always more interested in studying. I'm sure Naomi will get over any Holodeck crushes at a sensible age such as 16 ! I used to play with Flotter as a child and hardly ever set foot on a Holodeck again until I came aboard Voyager."

"Well you didn't have the advantage of Tom's programming before." B'Elanna said a trifle acidly "If only he spent as much time with me as he does on those programmes !Now sit up and keep still while I make a start on these dressings.! " It still felt strange to her ,giving the Captain orders like this.

"Your hands are so cold. poor B'Elanna, whatever was I thinking of bringing you out here and telling Voyager not to contact us for two weeks. Everything's my fault .Tuvok says I'm reckless .I should have listened !"

"Stop that!"B'Elanna said, "Please .It was the fault of a freak storm that we're here .And even I know there's nothing in the rulebook about keeping in contact when on holiday !I just wish it were a little warmer .My Klingon side again .I can live with it now, but I'd rather be human !"

"Yet you reacted in true Klingon fashion when you believed I'd died. I was surprised how upset you all were."

"Of course we were. But how could you know that .You were dead at the time ?"B'Elanna was astonished.

A shout from Harry interrupted their conversation. "Some sort of animal's coming this way!"

Before anyone could stop her, an excited Naomi has run to the entrance, pushing past Harry. "Go after her, Seven !" B'Elanna ordered. "I must stay here with the Captain."

"No, Give me a phaser and I can look after myself" Janeway insisted "Protect yourselves and Naomi!"

Before B'Elanna could protest, Naomi called "Mr Tigerman wants to meet you !"

"She's with an alien that looks rather like a tiger, except that it's walking upright and can communicate." Harry explained. "It appears to be injured .Should we offer what assistance we can ?"

B'Elanna's reaction was to grab a phaser with one hand and throw a blanket over Janeway with the cover concealing her completely. She silenced her muffled protests with " Stay still and keep quiet !"

The alien was now standing in the doorway ,it was tugging at the collar round it's neck with surprisingly hand like paws, now that the vicious claws were retracted. "It's the creature that attacked the Captain!"B'Elanna cried. "Stand back, Harry and Naomi ,it's time it got it's just desserts !" It was all she could do not to fling herself at the creature in blind fury.

"He wants to be our friend." Naomi announced happily.

" I believe it wishes to somehow communicate with us. We should discover what's it's intentions are."

Seven cautioned "What are you mad!" B'Elanna raged. "This creature will kill us all if we don't strike first !Prepare to fire!"

"Don't hurt him! He wants to be friends!" Naomi begged.

"Wait B'Elanna! I don't think it wanted to attack me .It was goaded to do so." Janeway's head emerged from under the concealing covers." Harry, you remove the collar but keep weapons on heavy stun. "

Harry configured his phaser to cut through the metal collar. The creature threw itself at their feet. To their amazement it began to communicate with Naomi telepathically. The youngster spoke his words aloud" I come, require punishment under rules of my people. We not want killing, the master ones, they catch us and make us kill for sport. Make us wear collars, stop us speaking with their technology. Us revere life, only eat dead. Killer must die. our law. We live peaceful many years, then master ones come, take our world ." Seven was analysing the remains of the collar with a tricorder. "He's telling the truth. It's a telepathic jamming device .When these beings are captured it obviously prevents them from any form of communication and makes resistance futile. A highly efficient device. Naomi finished reciting the message and they watched him as he paced the small craft. Strong muscles flexing as he strolled round the shuttle. His nostrils flared as he seemed to smell something. "Prey." he said under his breath. "She is here. I must see her! Remove blanket!" Naomi looked scared as she relayed these instructions.

B'Elanna stepped to the bed stood over it. Janeway actually appeared to be obeying B'Elanna's earlier command. She was once again terrified and trembled beneath the blanket. She was depending on B'Elanna to defend her. Fear had set in. The terror of the attack hadn't left her yet, it would take time to recover. Thank God she was on this planet, on Voyager she couldn't allow herself to be weak even for a short time. B'Elanna stood firm. This was it. The moment she had dreaded all her life, this would be a good day to die and in a way she couldn't have wished any more! She reached deep inside herself and summoned her wild untamed side, the Klingon she had buried inside her. She bellowed a Klingon war cry and raised her arms!

Naomi screamed and ran and stood between the Tigerman and B'Elanna. "I won't let you kill him! He didn't mean to hurt the Captain! He called her 'Prey' because that is all he's known her to be called. I don't think he intends to eat her!" Naomi spoke with tears streaming down her face.

This creature effected her emotions. Harry wondered out loud, if the creature was communicating these emotions to Naomi or if she was more responsive because she was still a child .B'Elanna stepped aside a fraction and Janeway peeked out once again. She had been right, he didn't intend to attack her. He looked different in this light, soft and furry yet sleek. She thought she'd like to stroke him. Tigerman pulled back the blanket with his paws she raised her face to him. He caressed Janeway's her cheek. He felt like silk. She closed her eyes and fell into a soft bed of darkness.

Harry stood firm, phaser in hand ready to go! He almost flinched when Tigerman touched the Captain, but he waited as instructed. "I hate to break up this tender moment, but what the hell are you doing to the Captain?" he demanded.

B'Elanna leaned against the wall, she was warm and relaxed. Tigerman had also closed his eyes and appeared to be in a deep trance. Janeway felt Tigerman but that was all. She didn't feel the shuttle around her or the blanket, only the silkiness of his touch. There was a brief tug almost at the centre of her chest, something that was attached there inside. It too felt like silk or a web. It was wrapped around her breastbone and her ribs. Maybe it was attached to every bone in her body she wasn't sure, but he wanted it. It held tight to her bones not wanting to go and yet something in Tigerman tugged harder. Janeway started to labour to breathe. Tigerman's eyes immediately opened and he touched her lips. She calmed and her breathing eased .

Harry had rushed to Tigerman's back and jammed the phaser into his sleek neck. "This is no longer on stun. Have you got that? Do you comprehend what I'm saying?" Harry's eyes were cold.

Tigerman stepped back. "I have much sorrow. Much guilt. No more. You must put me to death." As Naomi spoke the words aloud ,he lowered his head to Harry. Harry didn't know what to do. More than anything he wanted the creature dead. But he was unsure of what to do next. Janeway didn't seem to fear the creature and instructed him not to harm it. He wanted to honour her orders. Seven walked over to Harry and forcefully removed the phaser from him. His knuckles had turned white from the gripping the weapon and now his fingers tingled as if his hand had been asleep.

He retreated and sat down and watched Seven as she spoke with the creature via Naomi "When did you first make contact with the master ones? How were you defeated? Why did you fail?" Seven was almost the same height as the creature.

B'Elanna snapped at her, "I don't think their failure really matters right now, Seven. It's more important to find out what their technology is. Maybe there's something I can use to get the shuttle repaired and back to Voyager. Your mechanical expertise could use a little help! The Captain needs more than a couple of hyprosprays and our TLC. She needs immediate medical treatment! I don't care about what species he is or when or where you may or may not have assimilated his race!"

B'Elanna spat out."Stop it!"

Harry yelled. "Enough already! Grow up, both of you! I've had it up to here! B'Elanna you check the Captain. Find out just what he did to her. See if he harmed her. Seven take Tigerman outside and ask him whatever you want, just get the vital information we need first! Put your Borg curiosities aside! Naomi come with us, I think a small trip right outside of the shuttle would do all of us some good don't you?" Harry grabbed the phaser from Seven and took Naomi's hand. He led her outside. His eyes ever watchful of their surroundings. Everything seemed peaceful outside. The air felt much fresher.

He started to relax." What happened?" B'Elanna anxiously asked the Captain. "He was reading my mind. It puzzled him why we're not telepaths .I told him we knew of mind readers like the Betazoids and Kes. I'm sure she could have communicated with him easily .I don't even know if he understood me .I believe he means no harm but it frightens me to have him, being so helpless.!"

B'Elanna felt alarmed, it was so unlike Janeway to admit to any weakness. "But what did he do to you?"

She persisted "I just don't know. You'd better look, but not until he's gone. We'll have to face facts, B'Elanna, Even if I were treated by the best Doctor in Starfleet this very moment, it would be impossible to do much about the scarring, The Dermal Regenerators only work properly up to forty-eight hours after an injury. I'll never again be able to wear anything sleeveless or low necked Short skirts are out of the question!."She said bitterly." I shudder if I glimpse my own flesh, I don't know how you endure it when you change the bandages .I never thought I cared how I looked, but when something like this happens !" She sounded near tears.

B'Elanna yearned to give her a comforting hug, but had to content herself, with gently stroking her hand , for fear of aggravating the injuries. " I'm just rather a squeamish person, but don't tell Tom that, or I'd never hear the last of it!" She tried to lighten the atmosphere. " I'm happy to look after you after all you've done for me, and I'd never turn away whatever you looked like ! I'm sure the Doctor will think of something and if not, well Klingons think anyone without a few scars is a coward !"

Janeway managed a wan smile .She kept looking warily towards the open door where Seven and Tigerman were communicating, with help from Naomi Their conversation .if you could call it that, seemed to drawing to a close.

Seven came towards them. " He says his people will give us the alloys we need to repair the shuttle." She announced .He's contacting them now and they'll give the materials to Harry and Naomi ,as she seems the most easily able to communicate. Their people are called the Rexitima. They're a reclusive species who prefer to avoid outsiders. They never evolved the ability to speak because of their advanced telepathic abilities, but their civilization is being destroyed by the ones they call the masters, species 3419,actually an off shoots of the Hirogen. They trap them with those collars and leg shackles rendering them incapable of summoning help. I believe we could be of assistance. I noticed that our Communicators functioned normally within the Hirogen compound."

B'Elanna laughed harshly."Are you joking Seven ? Why should we help them, and even if we wanted to, how could they pin Comm badges on their fur ?"

"I was considering Sub Dermal tracking devices, as all shuttles carry a considerable number. They could use those if their leaders carried badges to keep track of those who left their settlements."

"It would violate the Prime Directive!"snapped B'Elanna.

" I did not believe you so concerned with Starfleet Regulations, Lieutenant !"Seven retorted.

Janeway was starting to get a headache to add to her throbbing body and limbs. " I feel refusing help would be based on my personal feelings rather than the Prime Directive, "she said "After all these beings have an advanced civilization and have asked for our help. It's not as if we're arming them. Maybe if they could keep out of the way of those that hunt them, it would prevent anyone else meeting with my fate. Give them what they need to set up a warning system and tell their leader, I can forgive him, but I'd like him to leave now."

B'Elanna was not happy but could see the logic of the plan. Seven and Naomi explained it to Tigerman, who gave Janeway one last sad glance ,bowed deeply and left. Seven had obviously enjoyed her "conversation" with Tigerman. "A unique Species ,unlike anything known to the Borg ," She informed B'Elanna and Janeway. "It's highly unusual for a telepathic species to communicate telepathically with non telepaths. They are carrion eaters, and they use the poisons they secrete to sterilise their food. This is no doubt, why you have not succumbed to blood poisoning, Captain, despite the initial adverse affects .I believe their secretions to .."

"It's all very interesting, Seven," Janeway said wearily,"But tell me some other time. I think Harry would be glad of your help with the materials to repair this shuttle."

"But I was going to explain how.."

"Not now, Seven, can't you see the Captain's tired!" B'Elanna hustled her out. She hurried back to Janeway, who was trembling .Her breathing was laboured and her voice showed her increasing agitation. "B'Elanna, please, see what he did to me!"She pleaded." I feel nervous. I don't want to hear about being digested or whatever Seven was saying."

B'Elanna pulled back the blankets. The bandages looked untouched. "There's nothing." She reported." I 'd guess the Web was just a device to enable you to understand his thoughts

"Well, change the bandages, wash it away! I don't want it touching me ! What if it does more damage ?"

B'Elanna sighed. She'd had to display more patience in the last few days, that in her entire lifetime. Wearily ,she fetched hot water and clean bandages. The torn flesh looked no different while the bruises on Janeway's ribs were turning a lurid shade of purple. B'Elanna scanned with a Tricorder and gently ran her fingers over the area, that the alien's Web appeared to have touched, but apart from Janeway's painful flinching, nothing yielded any results. While she was sitting up, B'Elanna told her to look for herself ,that she had not been poisoned, branded or otherwise harmed further. Eventually she seemed satisfied and lay down again, complaining of a headache. as B'Elanna applied fresh bandages to the upper half of her body. The wound on her shoulder didn't seem to be healing at all, if anything it looked angrier and deeper than ever. B'Elanna offered to massage the back of her neck to try and ease the Tension, especially as the Captain seemed to need the comfort of a friend's touch,. Eventually she stopped trembling and lay relaxed with her eyes shut.. "You're much gentler than the Doctor." she said at last.

"This was one of the few things, I did for my mother." B'Elanna replied. "I've had plenty of experience, though it was years ago. You could always send for me when you've a headache. I suppose I should have reprogrammed the Doctor before he became so self aware ! I wonder if his bedside manner will ever improve ?Remember when Kes tried to teach him with that holographic virus ?" Janeway didn't answer .She was asleep.

Harry, Seven and Naomi had Returned ,so B'Elanna checked the materials they'd brought, while Naomi sat with the captain. By the time, they'd eaten their evening meal, it was nightfall, and time for Naomi to sleep .Harry took the other bed, while Seven stood guard. B'Elanna resumed her place by Janeway's side.

"Would you like me to take over, while you rest?" a concerned Harry asked. "I'll wake you if she needs you I care about her too ,you know."

"Thanks, Harry, but you rest now, I couldn't sleep yet .My mind's too active."

Seeing he couldn't persuade her, Harry lay down and was fast asleep in minutes. B'Elanna envied him. Her mind was in turmoil .She'd never felt so exhausted ,yet she couldn't rest. She was increasingly worried about the Captain, especially the bite wound on her shoulder. She feared old fashioned stitches were called for, but she was certain her stomach wasn't strong enough for the task, and how would they do it, hold the Captain down or stun her with a phaser? Both options seemed equally barbaric. And then her bruised ribs were making it difficult for her to breathe. What could they do about that ? Janeway had grown restless again. B'Elanna sat so the Captain could clutch her hand if she wished, which she kept grasping so tightly, that B'Elanna had to struggle not to cry out. Whenever she tried to get up to stretch her legs, Janeway would plead ."Don't leave me !" B'Elanna was becoming increasingly afraid for her friend, as the Captain was acting more like a frightened child, than the strong woman that B'Elanna and her crew mates had been able to reply on to lead them during the past years. She felt so angry that anyone could have reduced her to this. She tried to force herself to think of something other than The Captain's condition. Now they had the raw materials ,they should be able to get the shuttle up and running. But how long was it going to take if Harry and Seven had to make most of the repairs on their own? B'Elanna's own head was throbbing now .She felt she could scream with misery and frustration at their current situation. She wondered if the recent Meld with the Captain was giving her the strength to keep her temper ,but on the minus side, it meant she felt her pain and anguish almost as her own.

The lights were dimmed for the night, but it seemed to be getting brighter. B'Elanna wondered if she were starting to hallucinate under all the stress. Then She heard a dull thud, as Seven slumped to the floor. A bright vortex of sparkling energy was coming towards them. B'Elanna jumped up and tried to draw her phaser, as the vortex moved towards the Captain, but found she was rooted to the spot. The vortex hovered over the captain and the blankets were lifted up and floated in mid air. Light enveloped the Captain's body and she cried out, as her very being seemed to shimmer and glow, as if no longer solid ,fusing with the light, phasing in and out of the space time continuum. Powerless to intervene and transfixed by the dazzling brightness B'Elanna watched with a mixture of awe and fear .The light was terrifying, beautiful, alluring. She tried to keep her eyes on the Captain, but she seemed to have merged with the light, enveloped in it's radiance. B'Elanna felt the room starting to spin. Then everything went black.

B'Elanna returned to consciousness with a start. To her surprise ,she felt fully alert immediately, though she's no idea for how long she'd been unconscious. She rushed over to the Captain. Janeway still seemed to glow slightly with an almost unearthly beauty but she lay deathly still. Strangely, the bruise on her face had disappeared . B'Elanna felt for a pulse But could detect no sign of life, although her body was warm Her laboured breathing was silenced and her hands lay limply across her chest. Certain she was dead, killed by some unknown life form, and feeling it was too late to try reviving her.

B'Elanna fell on her knees beside her weeping bitterly "Why oh, why did it have to end like this? "She sobbed. "I've tried so hard, and I couldn't help you when you needed me. You were the best and truest friend, I ever had .I loved and admired you. Now I've lost you! Kathryn, Oh, Kathryn !" B'Elanna had recently wished to call her by her name, but had never dared breach protocol. Now it no longer mattered. She sobbed as if her heart would break .Just as she'd finally found a friend and mother figure, to loose her like this !

" B'Elanna! What's the matter?" She lifted her bowed head at the sound of her name and to her amazement saw Kathryn Janeway smiling at her, looking very much alive. She slowly sat up, stretched out her arms to B'Elanna and held her in a fast embrace ,B'Elanna continued to sob ,this time with relief and joy, as she clung to her friend, Captain and surrogate mother Overcome with emotion, Kathryn sobbed too. At last B'Elanna collected herself sufficiently to ask, "What happened I thought you were dead !"

"Kes came for me, but it's a long story. I feel wonderful ! Not only well but ten years younger !" B'Elanna suddenly remembered how the slightest touch had caused Kathryn such pain only hours before."Your injuries ?" she queried " The pain, it's all gone! I can hardly believe it" She started to tear at the bandages, ripping at them frantically ,B'Elanna, cautiously assisted her and gasped in amazement.The deep ugly gashes had completely disappeared. Tentatively, fearing some sort of Illusion, she traced a gentle finger along the Captain's arm and shoulder to where the deep bite wound had been.. The skin was unblemished, no trace of the injuries remaining leaving it, as soft and supple as young Naomi's. They feverishly tore off the remainder of the dressings. Every gash, bruise, bite and whiplash mark had disappeared . Janeway turned herself away from B'Elanna. "My back ?" she enquired.

"All your wounds have healed, B'Elanna assured her. "It's like a miracle, though I seem to remember hearing Kes once did something remarkable for Seven."

"She developed remarkable healing powers when she started to transform. "Janeway explained. "But she became afraid, of loosing her physical form completely, that's when she became consumed with fear and hatred and tried to destroy us. After she came back, she realised we weren't to blame for her transformation and decided to let go and leave her physical form, which caused her powers to intensify .That's how she could heal me. Tigerman summoned her, using his telepathic abilities. I'll tell you the rest when I've had something to eat and seen how the others are ." She started to rise from the bed and then blushed, suddenly realising her state of undress ."Could you find me something to put on B'Elanna?" she asked. "I can hardly walk around like this ! I'd frighten poor Harry to death if he saw me !"

B'Elanna grabbed a loose caftan from amongst her own processions, which the Captain slipped over her head. She immediately went over to where Harry lay sleeping soundly. She smoothed back the hair from his forehead and noticed that the gash from the shuttle crash had disappeared.He too was healed. Janeway tucked the blanket under his chin and went over to Seven, who was lying on the floor ,flat on her back snoring, sleeping naturally, maybe for the first time in her adult life .Janeway placed a pillow under her head and covered her with a blanket too. Naomi appeared to be having a pleasant dream, as she smiled in her sleep. "I'm going to have a shower and get dressed." She informed B'Elanna. "Then we'll eat breakfast. Some coffee would be nice." As she went towards the bathroom, she felt she could dance for joy at being able to walk there unassisted ,instead of having to be half dragged ,half carried by B'Elanna and Seven. Her usual air of calm authority was already returning . B'Elanna started to feel as if a great weight had been lifted .She didn't even feel so cold anymore and took off two of the extra sweaters she'd needed since they landed on the planet and went to the replicator.

As Janeway emerged dressed in a clean Starfleet uniform, Harry woke up. Seeing the Captain back on her feet, made him leap up in amazement. A beaming smile of delight spread across his face .He looked as if he wanted to hug her ,but held back, fearful of breaching protocol. Janeway took the initiative and threw her arms round him. "You're well again. It's a miracle." he cried! What happened ! I've been so worried about you?"

B'Elanna brought the breakfast and as they ate, Janeway told them her story. " The Web Tigerman used was actually a telepathic homing device, "she explained.

"But we couldn't find anything!"B'Elanna protested.

"It's an internal device, invisible to our scanning technology .Kes assured me that it would melt away in a few days, much to my relief, as after my Borg experiences, I don't want any more foreign bodies inside me. Tigerman had to use it though, to enable him to learn how he could help ,and then Kes used it find me. She's now living in a realm of pure energy with other highly evolved beings such as the Zalkonians, that I've read about. She told me that one day humans will evolve to the same level. She's blissfully happy now she's realised her true potential and can be with others like herself. She took me to where she lives for a brief moment and it was so beautiful, I can't really describe it, like being bathed in light, warmth and love. Those that live there are near immortal, not bound by time and space like we are"

"But how did she cure you? "Harry put his hand to his forehead. " Strange my injury has vanished too !"

"It's a process of cellular regeneration." Janeway explained ."Rather painful but highly effective. In nature , as cells are damaged or die, the DNA coding allows them to regenerate. The healing process is a good example. Kes was able to accelerate the process and repair the damage at a sub atomic level. She said I was weary and she's regenerated nearly every cell in my body .It should even extend my lifespan by several years !I feel almost like a young girl again !" B'Elanna fetched a Tricorder and the readings showed the Captain to be in perfect health with a complete lack of the usual cellular degeneration. A scan of Harry's face showed a similar result. She then scanned Seven and discovered one of her cortical implants from deep within her brain had disappeared, which explained why she was finally able to sleep naturally. They finished their meal .It was still dark outside. .Seven and Naomi continued to sleep peacefully. " As soon as it gets light, I can start helping you to repair the shuttle. I'll keep a look out until then." said Janeway. "B'Elanna, you get a couple of hours rest. You've hardly slept for days. I couldn't have had a more devoted nurse !" B'Elanna looked pleased but rather embarrassed at the praise. She protested that she wasn't tired. but the Captain insisted she lie down and tucked the covers round her herself. For the first time in days, B'Elanna felt warm safe and protected. She fell asleep almost at once . Janeway stood gazing at her for a few moments, overcome with affection and gratitude. Whoever would have thought that this complex young woman who'd hated her so much when they first met, would have become such a staunch and loyal friend ? The last few days had been a nightmare ,but would have been infinitely worse without B'Elanna .The Mind Meld they'd shared had finally enabled them to fully understand each other .Janeway had never been so helpless as during her time on this planet, and needing to be cared for like an infant ,would have been excruciatingly embarrassing with anyone other than a friend like B'Elanna, who understood her so well, and fought like a tigress to protect her .Seven had tried her best, but seemed unable to differentiate between an injured person and a damaged warp nacelle, approaching both with an equal degree of cold efficiency. She continued to snore loudly. Janeway wished she had an audio recording device, as she was sure Seven's reactions would be well worth seeing. Once she woke up. She stifled a giggle and joined Harry who was making calculations on what they needed for engine repairs.

When Seven and Naomi finally awoke, about an hour later Naomi was delighted as Harry, but less surprised to see the Captain back on her feet. "I knew Mr Tigerman would find a way of making you better!" She beamed delightedly at Janeway. "I asked him to help you and he did, didn't he?"

"Yes, I suppose, he did. And you helped me get better too ,together with B'Elanna and Seven" She gave Naomi a quick hug and then delighted her by asking her to help them repair the shuttle.

Seven's reactions were more muted, though anyone who knew her well, could tell she was happy too. " I am glad to see that you are no longer damaged, Captain, but the manner of your recovery is highly perplexing, as I appeared to have been unconscious at the time, and Naomi Wildman informs me ,I was engaged in an activity which she refers to as snoring, which I to do comprehend .Please elaborate."

Trying not to laugh, Janeway explained everything to her while they worked on repairs . Seven appeared highly sceptical. The work progressed rapidly now that Janeway and B'Elanna were able to add their considerable expertise and by noon, they were almost ready to leave. "Ferreva is only three light years away from here, according to the computer. We should be there in under an hour and the shuttle can have a thorough overall by their engineers, while we enjoy our holiday."

"Would it not be more advisable to return to Voyager in light of what has happened ?"Seven enquired.

"You're not getting out of this mission so easily ! I'm determined to have this holiday. We've still over a week left before the others will join us .And as regulations don't require detailed reports of activities while on leave, I propose we give a somewhat edited version of events that happened here to the others. Agreed ?"Janeway's tone was pleasant but brokered no argument.

Seven, naturally had other ideas" I would have thought detailed reports were in the best interests of ship's security."

" But not in our best interests. We'll tell them ,we sheltered here after a storm, I was slightly injured, but with help from the planet's indigenous population, we were able to proceed to Ferreva .I've no intention of enduring months of recriminations from Chakotay, Tuvok and the Doctor ,not mention questions about Kes.!"

"And then there's Tom." B'Elanna added" He'd try to make me take his place helping the Doctor !"

"And tease me about crashing the shuttle!"Harry added.

"Mummy might be cross too." Naomi sounded worried. "Then I'd have to stay on Voyager all the time with her !"

The Captain nodded her agreement. "All very good points ,which underline what I said. We must also remember Tigerman's people are very reclusive. So, you'll co-operate, Seven ?"

" I will comply."

"Good, now let's prepare to leave. I've had my fill of this place." Despite her words, she looked a trifle uncertain.

"I want to say goodbye to Mr Tigerman, first," Naomi said rather plaintively.

"Perhaps we can." Janeway said unexpectedly "Take my hand, close your eyes and think about him, closing your mind to everything else." Naomi eagerly did as she was told. " Now we wait and see." said Janeway.

B'Elanna shook her head."This is crazy!" she muttered under her breath. After a few moments of silent waiting, a familiar figure appeared through the trees. Tigerman appeared and bowed deeply to Janeway and Naomi.He carried two small carvings of himself and gave the first to the delightedNaomi. She smiled happily, stood for a few minutes in silent communication andthen ran to B'Elanna, Seven and Harry to show them her gift.

As Tigerman approached her ,Janeway felt tense and wondered if she'ddone the right thing in humoring Naomi, as this was the alien, who'd nearly killed her, yet at the same time sent Kes to restore her health. Hesitantly,she held out her hand and accepted the gift he proffered. Then he clasped her outstretched hand tightly and her mind was flooded with his thoughts. The ground seemed to spin, and the only physical sensation she was still aware of, was how soft his fur was ,rather like a domestic cat's. Then he releasedher hand, bowed deeply and left. She staggered slightly ,B'Elanna rushed to her side. "Are you all right? I thought this wasn't a good idea!" "I want to be alone!" Janeway made off into the forest.

B'Elanna grabbed a phaser. "Stay in the shuttle !"She instructed theothers. "I'm going after her !"

She soon caught up with Janeway, who was pacing round a forestclearing ,visibly agitated and emotional. "I told you I wanted to be alone ! Go back to the others !"

With a woman as stubborn as the Captain, being equally stubborn was theonly tactic likely to succeed. "I'm not letting you out of my sight again on this planet. It's far toodangerous .And if you order me ,I won't obey !" Janeway gave her a furious look, which was almost immediately replaced by remorse. She sat down on a fallen tree trunk. B'Elanna hovered but respectedher demand to be left alone.

After a few moments, she gestured for her to sit beside her. They sat for a while in silence. Eventually Janeway said."It was so difficult, so overwhelming, I didn't want to make a fool of myself. I'll be relieved when that web has finally dissolved .I still find it hard facing him , after he'd inflicted so much pain on me ,yet his thought are so benign and contrite , Seven killed his mate ,yet he forgives her. He probed so deeply in my mind ,reawakening thoughts ,I believed I'd managed to suppress .I thanked him forsending Kes, and he said I'd an inner wound that only she could heal. You see, I always thought I'd let her down, that I should have tried harder to keep her with us .She was such a good friend, and yet she was the one member of my crew I couldn't keep."

"She wanted to go." B'Elanna said gently.". I thought you were troubled,though, even when you were feverish, I thought I heard you calling her name. But she made the choice, not you."

"I know, but after she came back so bitter and lonely, I kept thinking how preoccupied I was at the time with Seven and repairing the ship. I felt it was all my fault. And then the relief last night to know she was happyand fulfilled at last, and not angry with me any longer. Tigerman sensed all that when he summoned her .He's promised to keep in contact with her, as a link between her realm of being and this one. I told him I felt no anger or bitterness towards him .His people should besafe now they've the sub dermal communicators. They plan to unite and drivethe Hirogen away, and even if it violates the Prime Directive, I sincerely hope they do !"

"And so I "B'Elanna said firmly. "What did he give you ?" Janeway opened her hand, which had been clasped tightly shut. On her palm lay an exquisitely carved miniature of Tigerman. "Who would have thought beings that appeared like wild animals could be so artistic?" She mused. " I've learnt the universe is full of surprises. Now, come on ,the others will think we'vebeen captured or got lost!"

Janeway rose to her feet. "A taste of command has gone to your head, " she laughed. They made their way back to the shuttle. This time Janeway insisted ontaking the Conn, insisting, that after nearly a week of lying down ,it was time she did some work. They were almost a Ferreva when she turned to Naomi and said. "I don'tthink I need a temporary Captain's assistant." Naomi looked crestfallen. "No, I believe I need a permanent one! You've proved invaluable over the past few days , Naomi, so I hereby promote you to Captain's Assistant with all the rights and duties the position entails. I warn you, though, you'll have to work hard and spent time studying with me. Do you agree, Naomi ?"

" Oh, yes, Captain, thank you Captain !" Naomi was ecstatic.

"There is no such position in the Starfleet hierarchy" Seven objected

"A Captain can use her discretion ,according to the situation on the ground to appoint extra personnel to relevant positions, according to need .Article 65.Section12a,if you want to check the rule book. I require aCaptain's assistant ,so I'm appointing one. It's a Captain's privilege !"

"Congratulations, Naomi !"Harry smiled at her. "But watch out she might work you as hard as she does me !"

The Ferreva docking station was approaching. Janeway turned to the others. "Once we're through with the formalities. I want you out of those uniforms!"she instructed. "That's an order !" "What !"

Harry gasped "It's not a naturist colony is it ?" B'Elanna could hardly suppress her giggles.

"Of course not!" Janeway laughed ."We're on vacation so we must all have some new holiday clothes to wear." She took a deep breath "And for the week ,while there's just the five of us, I'd like us just to be like any other group of holiday makers and forget about protocol .So call meKathryn. We can be equals here .I just want us to relax together as friends ,especially after all we've been through together!"

Harry looked stunned, Naomi didn't seem especially interested and Seven cleared her throat and said rather awkwardly. " In that case, I will explore my humanity further. You may address me asAnnika ,for one week only ."

It was late afternoon and the sun was starting to slip below the horizon promising a spectacular sunset. Earlier that day ,they'd walked arm in arm along the sea front, sampling ice creams and a concoction that tasted like candyfloss, but was bright blue in colour. Ferreva's climate was perfect, the sun's mellow warmth tempered by a refreshing sea breeze. Kathryn and B'Elanna sat side by side on the beach,dangling their bare feet in a shallow rock pool .B'Elanna was wearing a floral print dress with a jacket, as her Klingon half felt a chill ,even here .Kathryn was wearing a sleeveless blue sun dress, cut low at the back and also revealing a considerable amount of cleavage. Harry had gaped openmouthed when she'd emerged from the shop. " I never thought I'd wear anything like again, so I'm determined to makethe most of the fact ,I can !" Kathryn had explained. B'Elanna felt like cheering. It was wonderful to see her friend'sconfidence restored so quickly. The dress suited her ,too ,showing off hercolouring and flawless skin to their best advantage. Naomi was building her first sand castle and enjoying every minute of it, though the results looked more like a spaceship than a castle. Most surprising ,though, was Annika ,who wearing, a red dress, with a navy floral pattern, which she'd reluctantly chosen at Kathryn's insistence, was learning to paddle with some assistance from Harry .As she stumbled unsteadily in the water, Harry caught her hand and she didn't push him away. Kathryn smiled .This was turning out better than she'd ever dared hope. "What are you thinking?" asked B'Elanna "That I believe this mission will be a success ! And because of the last few days rather than despite them. as all the hardships we've faced have brought us so much closer together."

B'Elanna nodded "I've never enjoyed a holiday so much. It's just a pity we'll all be here together for such a short time."

Kathryn lay back on the beach staring out to sea. " I'm determined it won't be for the last time. Every year from now on, wherever we are, let's find a nice planet and have a few days relaxing together, just the five of us, and of course in the future our children and maybe even grandchildren!"

"Agreed!" said B'Elanna." it's a promise!" They smiled at each other as the sky turned a glorious hue of red and gold.

The End:

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