DISCLAIMER: All characters, their ship, their toys and the universe they live in belong to Paramount.  I only do this for my own pleasure and that of anyone else who might enjoy reading this tale.  No infringement intended.  I get no financial gain from this (just ask my creditors)

NOTE:  Once again TPTB left out the best parts.  They never seem to have the camera in the right place at the right time.  It's OK though-'cause I have filled in the missing pieces for you--What we didn't see in 'Unimatrix Zero'

 'UNI' MATES


 



 

RATED  PG

Chakotay had been in Sandrine's with Tom, for hours, they had to do something --- sitting on the bridge was doing no one any good.  It had been fifteen hours and still he had to wait at least thirty more.  In the last four hours, they never did manage to finish even one pool game.  They drank everything they could reach; it had no effect. True it was synthehol, but he should have felt something.  Something besides this deep stabbing fear that was consuming him.  Tom felt it too, he knew, but his situation was different, at least he and B'Elanna had been able to openly acknowledge their relationship.  He and Kathryn never got that chance.  He and Kathryn--was he the only one who thought of them like that?  No, others did and she did too.  He knew she felt the same way, even if she would never admit it.  He saw it in her looks, felt it in her touch, heard it in her voice. Yes, he knew he was right.

     They were in the ready room, she was telling him she wouldn't do this without his complete support.  She was nervous, more nervous than he'd ever seen her.  He wanted to tell her no. Don't do it!  But, he knew she believed in the plan, knew she felt she could do it, needed to do it,  so instead, he pledged his support.  God, why did he let her go?  Because he had to and he knew it.

~~~~~~~~~~
"I'm guessing it didn't go well."  The Captain had just returned from her 'trip' unimatrix zero and he had accompanied her to her ready room.

"Let's just say we ran into a little trouble. Have a seat, Commander."

"I prefer to stand."

"The collective has found a way to infiltrate unimatrix zero.  It won't be long before they learn enough to destroy it from the inside out.  She hesitated for a moment  "I plan to stop them."

"What have you got in mind?"

"The people there are vulnerable, they don't have the ability to take action in the  real world.  We're gonna give them that ability."

"How?"

"The Doctor and B'Elanna are working on it.  I know what you're thinking.  We'd be violating half a dozen Starfleet protocols and if the collective ever learned we were involved we'd be putting Voyager in the middle of a civil war."  She put up her hands to starve off any comment until she was finished. "Valid objections.  Chakotay, we've had our disagreements and there have been times when I've chosen to proceed without your support, but this can't be one of these times. I won't do this without my First Officer."

"The way I see it, risking the safety of Voyager is a small price to pay if we help these people.  This could be the turning point in our battle against the Borg."

"I'm glad we agree 'cause I almost talked myself out of it."  She tilted her head and smiled at him.

"Somehow, I don't think you were ever in danger of doing that."  He returned her smile.

     She came down the stairs and stood in front of him.  She was standing close, closer than even she normally stood.  She looked up and smiled, the crooked smile, his smile.  Her hands at her sides, her blue eyes moist and tinged with fear, something she never let anyone else see.  She was afraid and well she should be.  This was perhaps the most dangerous mission she had ever undertaken and the odds were not in her favor.  He wrapped his arms around her and she laid her head on his chest.  He held her close for only a minute or two and she let him.  When she stepped back, the Captain's mask was firmly in place.  She had silently asked for his strength and he had given it.

     He was grateful, if a little surprised at the ease of persuasion, that she had consented to taking Tuvok and B'Elanna with her.  Three against the Borg wasn't really any better, but it made everyone just a little more comfortable.  The preparation went well, if you could prepare well for what almost amounted to a suicide mission.  The shielding on the flyer had been modified, the virus was ready and all that remained was the walking delivery system.

     She waited on the bridge until they were in range. At first he thought it strange she hadn't gone in her ready room, but as he watched her snuggle into her command chair he began to understand.  She needed to be here, on her bridge, in control, maybe for the last time, certainly the last for a while.  She needed to force the Captain to remain in place and not to give into the fear Kathryn felt.  They were ready.  The call had come and she sat for a minute more.  She reached her hand out to him and he took it, holding on as long as he could, before she was forced to get up and let go.  She passed command to him and crossed to the lift.  One more time, just before leaving she silently turned to him, one last look for reassurance and she was gone.

     Everything had gone according to plan after that.  Voyager stayed close as long as she could.  Then, he gave the hardest order he had ever given in his career.  Voyager was under attack, they were attempting to provide cover for the Captain's mission, at least a little distraction.  Consoles exploded, wires sparked, the bridge rocked and filled with smoke, but they stayed close and kept fighting.

"Their life signs are destabilizing."  The Doctor reported above the battle.

      Harry looked up momentarily stunned, Tom and Chakotay shared a pained look.

"So far so good."  Chakotay gave Tom one more look and worked his way to the command chair. Clinging to the railing as they rocked once more, he turned to Tom.  "You can take us out of here now, Tom."   And Voyager left her Captain behind.

     They had been assimilated.  He tried not to think about what that meant, not to let the horrible picture enter his mind; he couldn't prevent it.  What he had to do now was make Voyager his own.  She and Tuvok were one with the Borg, which made it necessary to change all of the command codes.  He had to wipe out all the previous codes and authorizations, everything they knew was now, common knowledge in the collective.  As it stood now, Tom was his second in command, Joe Carey was his chief engineer and Seven his chief tactical officer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     He paced his quarters, he tried to reason with himself, he would be no good like this.  He needed to rest, needed to be in complete control when the time came to get her back, -and he would get her back.  He made himself a cup of tea, hot spiced Vulcan tea.  Tuvok had introduced them to this and they shared a cup before retiring almost very night.  He finished his tea and went to bed.  Sleep eluded him for a long time, when it came it was restless.

    The voice echoed in his head, saying over and over "We are the Borg, you will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile.  We are the Borg, you will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile." They came forward in their robot like fashion, he backed away.  A drone grabbed for him, he knocked it down, another came from behind, he evaded it, a third walked up to him, a single voice said "We are the Borg, you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."  He didn't fight, it grabbed him.   He didn't resist; he would be assimilated.  It looked at him with unfocused, clear blue eyes and he surrendered.  He woke with a start, his heart pounding, his body drenched in sweat; he was alone in the dark.

"Computer light's 1/2 illumination."  He sat on the edge of his bed, head in hands.

     This was not working, he couldn't sleep.  He pulled on his pants and left his quarters, it was only a few steps away and a different world entirely.  He keyed in his override and entered.  Turning the lights to only one quarter, he wandered around her living area and into her bedroom.  Suddenly the lights came on full.

"Freeze."

  He turned around to find a security team, phasers drawn.  They immediately lowered their phasers, when they saw him, two of them backing out of the room.

"Sorry Sir."  Lieutenant Gallagher stammered.  "The computer notified us of a security breach in the Captain's quarters.  I didn't realize it would be you."

"It's alright Lieutenant. I should have disabled the alarm.   I just forgot, with the Captain off the ship it would be set."  He ran his fingers through his hair looking every bit as distraught as he felt.

"Yes, Sir. No problem."  She started to leave.  "Sir, please reset it when you leave."

"Yes, Lieutenant, thank you"  He turned back toward Kathryn's bed.

"Hey, measuring for curtains, al...."  Tom didn't get to finish before Chakotay spun around and landed his fist squarely on Tom's nose.  "Jeessse."  Tom grabbed his face and stumbled to the hallway.

     Chakotay ran after him, but Lieutenant Gallagher and her security team stepped in between them.

"It's all right Lieutenant,  it was just a reflex.  Tom, god are you OK?"  Chakotay stepped around a hesitant security team.

"Fine."  He  nodded to the Lieutenant, too.

"Come inside, before the whole ship is in an uproar."

"No man!  I'm not gonna get blood on her carpets."  Tom smiled and shook his head.

"It's OK.  I promised to have them cleaned before she gets back anyway."  He put an arm on Tom's shoulder, guiding him inside and nodding a dismissal to the security team.  "I'm sorry.  I just..."

"It's OK.  I should be careful what I say.  Hey, I was only joking."

"I know."  He sat heavily on the couch.  "You couldn't sleep either?"

"Not a chance. I tried, tossed and turned, no good."

"How's the nose?"

"OK,  not broken or anything.  Security must think we're nuts."

"Aren't we?"  He laughed.  "Know what I was doing in there?"  He pointed to Kathryn's bedroom.

"What?"

"Smelling.  Her perfume, her pillow, everything;  it smells like her."

"Yeah, I've got a pillow like that."

"Guess this is what the women used to feel like when their men went off to war."

"Helpless, stupid,and useless?"

"Pretty much."  He walked to the replicator.  "Want something?  Kathryn's buying."

"Blood on the carpet, using up her coffee rations?  Yeah, that'll work.  She'll come back just to kick your ass."

"Yeah, and I'll love every minute of it."  He ordered two beers and brought one over to Tom "Here might as well enjoy."

"None of my business, don't punch me OK?  But what gives?  You two ever gonna get together or what?"

"I'm working on it."

"Man, you been working on it for six years!  Gods she's a tough one."

"Yep, but I think things are gonna change."

"What makes you think so?"

"I don't know.   Maybe wishful thinking, maybe she was just scared,  but she was different before she left and."  He took a swig of his beer.  "Hell, maybe it is just wishful thinking.  I don't know, but I'm ready for this to change and I think she might be too, after this."

"Hope so for both your sakes.   Hell, for everyone's sake."

     They sat there most of the night, than showered and reported for duty.  They still had almost twenty four hours to wait.  Harry had the bridge and now they sat together again in her ready room.

"Paris, it wasn't so long ago that people wouldn't have believed this, the two of us together." He laughed "And I only punched you once."

"Damn! Getting along with you!  Is there nothing we won't do for love?"

"Hey, you are no picnic, but Kathryn and B'Elanna both  think you have redeeming qualities, so I guess you can't be all bad."

"Gee thanks."

"Sick bay to Ready room."

"Chakotay here, Doctor."

"Yes, and Mr. Paris as well?"

"Yes, why?"

"Enough is enough.  I have been monitoring you two and it is time to do something about your condition."

"What condition?"

"Neither of you have slept or eaten since They -- well since the beginning of this away mission."

"Doctor..."

"NO!  This is an order and you will comply or I will relieve both of you from duty."

"What do you want?"

"Report to sick bay.  You are both going off duty from the next ten to fifteen hours.  You will rest and eat and that's and order.  I'll be waiting. Doctor out."

"Well, guess he told us."  Chakotay laughed. " Guess we're on our way to sick bay."

"Great!  The Captain, Tuvok and B'Elanna are with the borg and you and me are confined to sickbay, that means --- god --- Harry is senior officer!  Our fate rests in Harry's hands."

"Well at least he's gentle, god help us."  He got up.  "Let's go.  As much as I hate to admit it, he's right, we need to be in top shape in a few hours."

     They reported to sick bay and after a few scans and some vitamin boosters the doctor prepared a hypospray for each of them.

"In the interest of comfort and privacy, I will allow you to take these back to your quarters and use them.   I am monitoring you, so I will know if you don't use it."  Chakotay started to protest.  "Commander, you will sleep. This can be very quickly and easily reversed, so no need to worry. At the first sign of trouble I will have you on the bridge in a flash."

"How long are we off duty.?" Tom asked.

"Fifteen hours, -unless of course something happens.  This will keep you out for most of that time and I included a suppresser so you should not be bother by dreams."

"Well, sounds like you have it under control, shall we Tom?"

"Not like we have a choice; it's almost like having the women around."

"Due to your current level of stress,  I will over look that remark"  The Doctor handed them each a hypospray.  "I will give you half an hour to shower, change or eat something, however you choose to prepare.  Then I expect to find you sleeping."

"Understood, Doctor."  Chakotay nodded and walked toward the door.  "Think your right, Tom."

"I heard that!"

     Tom and Chakotay parted company at the lift, each headed for their own quarters.  Chakotay walked past at first, but decided to go back; this time he remembered to disable the security alarm.  He looked around for a few minutes, then took a shower and settled himself on her bed,  He just felt better here.  He used the hypospray and drifted off into a pleasant sleep surrounded by her  wonderful scent.

~~~~~~~~~~

     Seven had alerted the doctor to a problem just five hours later.  He sent her to awaken Tom and headed off to get Chakotay himself.  He entered his emergency override and was startled to discover, the Commander's quarters empty.  He looked everywhere, twice.

"Computer, locate Commander Chakotay."

"COMMANDER CHAKOTAY  IS ON DECK THREE SECTION  3010 --THE CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS"

"Really!"  The exasperated doctor left and headed next door.  He entered angry, ready to give the Commander hell for not informing him of his whereabouts, and then he saw him.  Curled up on her bed, hugging a pillow, that fortunately wasn't the Captain, because she surly would have been crushed by the force of his grip.  "Commander"  He spoke softly as he administered the hypospray. "Commander."

"Huh? What?"  He opened his eyes and they filled with panic as soon as he saw the doctor.  "What's wrong?"

"Seven has alerted me to a problem.  She wishes to see you in cargo bay two immediately."

"What sort of problem?"

"I don't have details.  She said the Captain wants to talk to you."

"The Captain?!" He was up and out before the doctor could answer.

      The Commander arrived in cargo bay two on the run.  Seven, Tom and Ensign Vorik were already there and the doctor was close behind.

"Seven, What's going on?"

"Commander the Captain wishes to speak with you.  We must hurry."  Seven stepped into her regeneration chamber and the Doctor was putting a monitor on him.  "Ensign Vorik will perform the meld so that you and I may go to Unimatrix Zero.  Hurry the Captain is waiting."

       Chakotay did as he was told and took his position next to Seven.  Vorik held both their faces in the traditional manner and soon he was there.  It was beautiful, green and fragrant, he looked around for a minute.  She was there, coming out from behind a bush.  Kathryn smiled and touched his face, then stepped back.

"Commander, the Queen is aware of our plans, once she assimilated me our thoughts were one.  You must take action to prevent the destruction of millions of drones.  The Queen is in the sphere, Unimatrix one and is headed here.  She wants to reach this cube before she begins to destroy her own people.  She wants me.  You must stop her, disconnect her from the hive mind, if only for a short time.  Destroy her if you can."

"Captain, How..?"

"No, don't speak to me about it.  Once I go back she will know everything I know.  If you destroy her or Unimatrix one, the collective will be disconnected and they will have time to launch their rebellion."

"Alright.  She's on the way?"

"She will be here in two hours; be ready.  I have to go, my time is almost up."  She smiled and stepped closer to him.  "I'll be waiting for you."  She touched his face again.  "Chakotay, I..."  She was gone.

"Her regeneration cycle has ended."  He had forgotten Seven until she spoke.

"Seven?"  He turned surprised to see her without her borg implants, her hair down and softly brushing her cheek.

"Annika, here I am Annika."  She smiled.  "We must go."

     He awoke in cargo bay two; now he knew what Kathryn meant about the head ache.  His head pounded, the pain in his head was almost as great as the one in his heart.  They needed a plan and they needed it fast.  He spun around to face Seven. He hesitated a moment, this was Seven, not Annika any longer.

"Seven, let's go.  We have to find a way to get to the Queen, before she gets to Kat --- the Captain."

"Yes, Commander."

     Seven followed him to the bridge.  Tom was waiting there  with Harry and Joe Carey.  This was now the senior staff and they needed to find  the solution and they needed it fast.  Silently they filed into the briefing room, sitting around the table, waiting.  Chakotay filled them in on his brief visit with the Captain and opened the floor to suggestions.

"Commander, we must disrupt her command module."  Seven started them off.  "If we do that, she will be severed from the collective mind and unable to control their thoughts."

"Seven, isn't that located in the heart of that sphere?"  Tom couldn't see how they could get there.

"Yes, it would be necessary for us to infiltrate unimatrix one."

"We can't get close enough,  They would destroy us long before we reached the sphere."

"No, Tom wait.."  Joe interrupted.  "The sphere will be headed directly for the cube the Captain is on and concentrating on that.  If we slipped someone past, maybe in an escape pod, no warp signature to attract them, it might get past."

"And we could use a portable transporter, if it's close enough it will work."  Harry agreed.

"How do we get this person back?"  Tom still wasn't convinced.

"Once I have disabled the command module, the sphere will be defenseless."  Seven offered.

"You?  Seven, I'm not sure you would be the best choice."

"Commander, I believe I am the only choice. "  She looked around at the nodding heads.  "You must stay in command. Mr. Paris' skills will be needed at the helm.  Mr Carey can cover tactical and engineering.  Mr. Kim will be occupied scanning and retrieving the Captain, Mr. Tuvok and Lieutenant Torres and hopefully myself.  I was once part of unimatrix one;  I am familiar with the sphere and would be most efficient at reaching the command module.  Once I have disabled it, you will be able to retrieve the others and then myself."

"We will need to deploy the pod between the sphere and the cube, before the queen gets here."  Joe outlined his idea.  "That way the pod won't move, the sphere will come past it to get to the cube."

"And we will need to limit communication.  Once the pod is launched, you will be on your own until you reach the command module; communication would risk detection."  Chakotay wasn't totally happy, but he understood the reasoning behind this plan and it was the best they had.  Time was short.

"This will need to be done quickly, I suggest we set a course for that location as soon as possible."  Seven rose.  "I will prepare the pod."

"I'll ready the portable transporter."  Joe got up, but looked to Chakotay for conformation.

"OK.  Tom, set a course in the direction of the sphere.  Harry, reinforce the shielding on the pod.  Seven, prepare an enhanced transponder; we want you back."

"Aye, Commander"

"All right People, let's do it!"  He stood. "Dismissed."

     The pod was readied and launched inside of an hour.  Voyager backed off slightly, trying not to draw undue attention to Seven's position.  They waited.  The waiting was the worst part.

"Commander?"  Tom smiled back at him, Chakotay nodded for him to continue. "We're doing it again."

"Doing what, Tom?"

"We just sent another woman out to fight the borg."  Both Tom and Chakotay laughed out loud, the rest of the bridge crew just stared.

"Did I miss something?" Harry gave them each a strange look.

"Yeah, sort of an inside joke, I guess."  Tom replied "We.."

"Commander, I'm picking up the Sphere."  Joe's report cut Tom off.

"Has it detected Seven?"

"No Sir.  Not that I see."  Harry looked up . "They have picked us up.  We are being hailed."

     They watched as the lights dimmed and the power reduced everywhere on the bridge.  Then the screen lit up and the Queen smiled at them.

"Hello, Harry, soon." She tilted her head slowly turning her vacant eyes toward Chakotay.  "Commander, how is Voyager faring without her Captain?"

"We're fine.  Just waiting for her to get back."

"Commander, let's not be foolish.  She is brave, your Captain, even now she conquers her fear and tries to resist me, but she is foolish and now she is mine."

"Is there a point to this conversation?"

"I want to wish you well on your journey home.  Without your Captain.  If you do not leave, I will be forced to assimilate you."

"We won't be leaving without our crewmen, but you knew that already."

"Yes, such great loyalty.  But is that all, Commander?  Since our thoughts are one, I am privileged to insight about her connection to her crew and to  you, personally.  I find it irrelevant, these petty emotions,  but interesting.  She loves you; very curious."  She watched his face, his expression didn't change, but he blanched,  "Is this what you risk your ship and your crew for?  Would they find it sufficient reason?"

     The screen went black.  Everyone looked at Chakotay, in silence.  He looked at the blank screen for a long moment.

"What's Seven's position?"

"Just coming into transport range."  Harry scanned his console.

"Set a course for the cube."

"Aye Sir"  Tom turned back to his console, adjusting their course.

     The first volley hit them, the bridge rocked, smoke filled the air.  They fired back, aiming carefully; their crewmates were on that cube.

"Evasive maneuvers, Tom.  Joe careful with those phasers.  Harry can you see them? "

"Nor yet, Commander.  It's gonna be tough to lock on them in their borg state."

"Keep on it, Harry."

  Voyager ducked in and out of the firing range of the cube.  The sphere was closing fast.  No word from Seven, they had to try to get the Captain before the Queen.

"Commander, I have B'Elanna"

"Transport her to sickbay"

"Locking on.  Got her!"

"Bridge to sickbay"

"Doctor here, Commander.  I have Lieutenant Torres."

"Acknowledged.  Stand by for more."

"Aye, Commander."

"Harry?"

"Nothing, Commander.  I'm Scanning."  Harry recalibrated his sensors.  "I'm gonna need more power."

"Reroute all secondary power systems to sensors and transporters."

"Aye all secondary power rerouted."  Joe called out.

"I've go Tuvok---can't get a clear lock--more power."  Harry punched at the console.  "Got him. transporting."

"Doctor to Bridge That's two."

"Acknowledged.  Stand by."

"Nothing Commander, using a deflector pulse to boost sensors."  Harry worked feverishly. "I can't find her."  The lights dimmed. "Power draining, Commander?"

"Commander."  The face of the borg Queen once again filled the screen.  "I thought better of you.  Are you looking for this?"  She stepped back and allowed him to see two drones holding Kathryn, one on each side.  "Go home, Commander She is mine. Go home before we assimilate you."

"We want her back."

"Well she is mine now, good night."  The view screen went dark and suddenly the firing stopped.

"Commander it's Seven.  I'm receiving her signal; she wants a beam out."

"Can you get a lock?"

"Yes, but ---only Seven"

"Get her out of there"  Chakotay racked his brain for a solution.  God, Kathryn, this is your field.  What would you do?

"Harry, can you locate her?"

"Yes, but I can't transport the beam isn't strong enough."  Harry punched buttons again and Seven materialized on the bridge.

"Commander the Captain is in the command center.  I have disabled the module; it will be hours before they can repair it."

"Joe reroute all power, replicators,  lights, life support ---everything!  Give us all you've got.  Harry, get ready.  Tom, bring us in as close as we can."

"Aye"  Rang in a preoccupied chorus across the bridge.

"I've got her."

"Commander, She's home"  The doctor called.

"Tom, take us out of here."

"Aye."

      When they were a safe distance away, Chakotay handed the bridge off to Harry and he and Tom went to sick bay.  They said nothing on the five deck lift ride.  Chakotay stared at the doors and Tom shifted his weight from one foot to the other.  They entered sickbay to find Tuvok sitting up arguing about returning to duty.

"Commander, tell him he must rest."

"Tuvok, good to see you."  Chakotay looked him over, he looked good a little weary but good; Vulcan discipline.  "Indulge him, take some time to recuperate."

"Aye Sir."  Tuvok laid on the bio bed.

     Tom checked on B'Elanna, the doctor had removed her borg implants and she lay unconscious on a biobed.  She still had no hair, and a few dark red marks from where the implants had been removed, but to Tom she looked good; like she was sleeping.  He glanced to the surgical bio bed where the Captain lay: she didn't look as good.  The Doctor was leading Chakotay away from her, toward the office and Tom followed.

"Gentlemen, be seated please."  The Doctor closed the office door and took a seat behind the desk.  "As you can see Mr. Tuvok has had all of his implants removed and due to his strong Vulcan physiology, he is well on his way to total recovery.  Lieutenant Torres is also free of borg implants, although she is still unconscious. I don't foresee any problems with her recovery, Klingons are a notoriously strong race.  The Captain, will take a little longer.  I have yet to remove all of the implants, in fact there is a neuro processor which I feel will need to be left in place for a while, yet.  All three will need time for the nano probes to be completely released from their bodies, this should take a few days.  B'Elanna's hair should rapidly be restored to normal, I would say by tomorrow, she will not show any physical signs of her assimilation, as Tuvok does not now.  Again it will take longer with the Captain,  I can not restore her hair until I remove the neuro processor and the nano probes may also take longer to dissipate with human physiology.  There are several other implants, which still need to be removed from the Captain, but I want to wait until her condition is more stable, perhaps later today.  The psychological effects will also differ.  Tuvok will no doubt control his reactions with meditation and we can expect B'Elanna to manifest hers through aggression.  A word of caution, Mr. Paris, handle her carefully and duck.  There may be physical violence as well.  I expect the Captain's reaction will differ here as well, she tends to withdraw, to internalize such things.  You, Commander must make sure she has and outlet.  She will probably experience, depression, fear, anxiety, as well as anger.

"Doctor, why is her condition so much worse, just because she is human?"  Chakotay was concerned at the  prognosis.

"Yes, in part.  Humans tend to have a longer recovery period, but I believe the Captain was 'treated' to a second assimilation process, when she was brought aboard the sphere.  It appears she received a stronger dose of nanoprobes, she had several more implants, the nature of which seemed to be repetitive.  I'm not certain what the Queen was trying to accomplish, but I am confident of a complete recovery.

"Doc. how long before B'E wakes up?"  Tom was nervous.

"I intend to wake her when we are finished here.  I will release Tuvok to his quarters and if someone can stay with her, I believe B'Elanna can be released as well."  He looked from one to the other.

"Sure, Tom you take her home.  If you're needed I'll have some on relieve you."  Chakotay waited for the doctor to look up.  "And the Captain?  How soon can she return to her quarters; she will fare much better there, I think."

"Yes, I agree Commander.  You understand she will need supervision?"  Chakotay nodded his agreement.  "Good, I believe I will release Tuvok, then we will see to B'Elanna's condition.  Once this is settled, Commander and if her condition warrants it I may remove additional implants and we can see about getting the Captain to a more comfortable place."

"All right Doctor, you and Tom see to B'Ella.  I'm going to check in with Harry and I'll be back before you move on to the Captain.

"Very well, Let's go Mr. Paris."

     Tuvok was released to his quarters.  The Doctor woke B'Elanna, she was disorientated and weak, but reasonably well.  It took only a short time to begin to see the B'Elanna they all knew, loved and feared.   She readily agreed to Tom's supervision and returned to her quarters.  Chakotay joined the Doctor, at the Captain's side.

"Will you wake her first?"  Chakotay stood next to her biobed.  She looked small and frail, in spite of the heavy implants that glared at him.

"Yes, but I want to be sure of your ability to carry this through, first."

"What do you mean,  carry what through?"

"Well, look at her.  She will look like this for days yet, maybe a week.   No hair, borg implants, pale and shallow."  He watched Chakotay look at her, the pain was evident on his face.  "Commander, if you react badly to her appearance, chances are she will too."

"Wha...?"  Chakotay looked up at the doctor, trying to grasp his meaning.  "Oh--no, it doesn't matter.  I hate her pain-but--I-I don't care what she looks like, Doc."

"Yes, but SHE needs to understand that.  It may be very important psychologically."

"I'll be careful; she'll be OK."  He ran his fingers through his hair.  "Can you wake her now?"

"If you're ready,"  Chakotay nodded and the Doctor administered the hypospray.  "Captain?"  He spoke softly watching her eyes flutter.

"Kathryn?"  Chakotay leaned in close, placing his fingers lightly on her reddened cheek.  "Kathryn, can you hear me?"

"Chakotay?"   Her voice was weak, her eyes opened and fluttered closed, then slowly opened and focused on his face, a smile crossed her face.

"Hi."  He gazed at her and the doctor realized he needn't have worried,  The love that shone through those eyes could convey nothing but beauty.  "Welcome home."

"Captain, how do you feel?"  The Doctor asked.

"Awful.  How should I feel?"

"That's about right."  The Doctor smiled at her.  "We have more work to do, but I wanted you to be stronger."  They heard his voice he was sure, but he knew he wasn't getting through.  "I'm going to leave you alone for awhile.  I'll be back."  He walked away, someone mumbled a thank you, he wasn't sure who.

"You came for me."  She smiled, at least nothing interfered with her crooked little smile.

"Did you think I wouldn't?" He brushed his fingers along the reddened scar on her cheek.

"Not really.  Not if you had a choice."  She reached and took his hand. "B'Elanna, Tuvok?"

"OK.  Tuvok, well he's fine, he's well, Tuvok.   B'Ella's doing good, Tom took her home."

"Good.  The queen?"

"Disabled.  Seven knocked out the command module.  Will keep them busy for hours,time enough for the others to get a good start."

   They smiled silently for a long time, she squeezed his hand as a tear rolled down her cheek.  He brushed it away.

"I'm sorry, but if we are to get the Captain out of sickbay tonight I'll need to examine her. Commander will you excuse us?"  The Doctor rejoined them.  Chakotay nodded and started to back away.

"NO."  She held his hand.  "Please."

"Captain, I need to examine you, rather thoroughly.  Why don't you let the Commander wait in the office?"

"No, I want him to stay." She turned to Chakotay.  "Do you mind?"

"Not at all.  Doctor is there any medical reason I shouldn't?"

"No, you won't endanger her, if that's what you mean."

"Fine, I'll stay."  He came in closer

"Very well."  The doctor rolled his eyes and gave them a stern look, but they didn't notice.

    He proceeded with his examination and except for an occasional gasp or grunt, a little flinch now and again, they didn't even know he was there.  They gazed into each others eyes as if the rest of the universe didn't exist; maybe it didn't.

"Captain, Commander---Captain." The doctor grew louder.

"Yes, doctor, what is it?"

"Thank you, for noticing me Commander"  They said nothing. "Well, yes, I believe I will leave the remaining implants until tomorrow.  At that time we should be able to remove all but the one neuro processor."

"You will eventually remove it, won't you doctor?"  There was slight evidence of panic in her voice.

"Yes, yes of course.  I prefer to make sure you are in top shape, then I will remove it.  Maybe a week."

"Can I go home? Come back for the procedure tomorrow?"

"Yes, I'm giving you two hyporsprays. The first is incase you experience any pain; I don't think you will. The second is to help you sleep.  The Commander is going to stay with you..."  She looked at him and he smiled.  "Doctor's orders, Captain"

"Certainly Doctor."   She didn't look in his direction but she heard Chakotay chuckle.  "What ever you say."

"Yes, of course.  The Captain following my orders, a natural occurence."  He smirked at them, much like Tom would have.  "Since you are in the mood to follow orders, might I suggest a site to site transport."  She nodded. "Oh and Captain  no bath, a sonic shower if you must, no water."

"Yes, Doctor."  She smiled as she accepted the hyposprays and Chakotay called for transport, lifting her up off the bed.  They shimmered away, leaving the doctor shaking his head.

   They materialized in Kathryn's living area, Chakotay carried her to the bedroom.   She was wearing only the sheet from sick bay as  he carefully set her on the bed.

"Let me find you something to wear."  He looked the dresser than back at her.  "OK give me a hint--what --where?"

"In there, a night gown, but I would like that sonic shower."  She smiled at him trying to pick out something for her to wear.  "The blue one will do."  She sat on the edge of the bed. "I think I'll need some help."

"OK."  He threw the nightgown over his shoulder and move next to her.  He looked down slightly helplessly.  "How?'

"Help me up.  Let's see if I can walk."  She laughed. "You look terrified. I don't think you will have to bath me."

"Too bad."  He helped her up and into the bathroom.  He brought in fresh towels and hung the nightgown on the rod.  "You OK?"

"I think so.  I'll call if I need you."

"OK,  He backed out leaving the door slightly ajar."

   It was long and slow but Kathryn managed her sonic shower and getting dressed.  While attempting the latter she caught sight of her self in the mirror.  Most noticeably at first was her bald head.  Not only did she have no hair but she had red ridges where implants had been, she had dark red marks on her face and she could see the ugly steel gray of the neuro processor in her skull.  Kathryn had marks on her body and on each leg and her left breast there were gray black implants.  She shuttered at the sight: borg.  She pulled the nightgown on to cover her marred body, and stood staring at her reflection.

"Kathryn, are you alright?"  He was just outside the door.

"Huh? Yes, I'm fine."  She managed to pulled herself back from that far away place.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, I think you better."   She tried to take her eyes from the mirror, but he saw where her attention was focused.

"Here let me help."    He put one arm around her and supported her as she walked, he noticed the tear slip out of the corner of her eye.  "Where too?"

"I know you probably have orders, but I would really love a cup of coffee."

"What took you so long?"  He helped her to the couch and brought her a hot cup of coffee.

"God, it smells wonderful."  She took it but their eyes never met.

"Feeling better, now?"  He sat next to her.

"Yes, thank you."  She shifted to set the cup on the table.  "So how long are you on duty?"

"I'm not on duty.  I'm only helping my best friend."

"Oh." She looked down and he raised her chin so she looked at him.

"What's this?"  He brushed a tear away.

"Just being silly. A bit tired I guess."

"OK, finish you coffee and I'll tuck you in."

     She finished her coffee and he helped her to the bedroom.  She climbed into bed and true to his word he tucked her in snugly.

"You OK?"

"I think so.  Are you..?"

"I'll be right here.  I'm going in the other room to check on things; I won't be far."  He brushed a kiss on her forehead, touched her cheek and smiled.  "Sleep well, good night"

"Good night."  She rolled on her side and watched him go, the door was slightly open and she could see the stream of light from the other room.

      Chakotay checked in with the bridge, everything normal, all systems functioning, repairs progressing.  He sat at her desk and began his report.  He checked on her a few times, she seemed peaceful enough, he finally scrunched himself up and tried to rest on her couch.

     At first it was only a hint of a sound, he wasn't sure he hear it.  Then it happened again and he sat up to try to locate it, suddenly it was loud and terrified. The scream came from the other room and he was at her side in seconds.  He knelt next to the bed trying to calm her, she wrenched free from his grasp and cried out.  He jumped on to the bed and took her in his arms, trying to soothe her, wake her from this nightmare.

"Kathryn, Kathryn."  He held her, shaking gently, rocking, until her eyes opened and finally focused.  "Kathryn--it's OK, you're OK."

"Chakotay, oh my god, Chakotay!"  She looked at him with tears in her eyes and fear on her face. "I remember it---now."

"What, what do you remember?"

"Assimilation.  God, I remember."  He held her and she place her head on his chest, holding on tight.  "It hurt---I never though about it--I didn't think--drones felt things"

"You weren't a drone when they started."

"No, but each one; I can still feel each implant."  She looked up.  "Even  later, when the queen had me,  I could feel them ..."  She put her hand on her neck.  "Here first, the nano probes. I could feel them too, like they were alive, something crawling through my body.  They were taking over and my body.  I couldn't fight them.  My mind was screaming, fighting, but I couldn't win."

"It's over now and very soon they will all be gone."

"She wanted me to be like her.  These implants, the ones on my legs, the extra ones, they were to prepare for disembodiment, so I could be like her."

"She told you that?"

"Yes, I remember now.  She said I would be like her, disembodiment was wonderful and I would thank her.  She wanted me to work with her, to put down the rebellion.  She said you wouldn't come back.  That the crew wouldn't let you.  She took care of it. What?  What did she do to the crew?"

"Nothing, threatened, you know."

"She told them something--she said--she told them---my thoughts...."  She was quiet while she tried to sort it out.  He wondered what to say.  "What did she tell them?"  She lifted her head so she could see his face.  "Chakotay, tell me what she said."

"She said your thoughts were one."  Kathryn nodded.  "She said you were brave but foolish and that we should leave without you or be assimilated."

"Is that all?"  Kathryn remembered now; her thoughts were one with the queen also.  "She told you what I couldn't.."

"Yes."  He watched her face, there was no regret.

"I do love you."  She placed her hand on his cheek.  "I never told you---but I think you know."

"I know."  He brushed a light kiss on her lips.  "And if they had doubts, the bridge crew, now knows too."  He chuckled and was relieved to see a smile on her lips.

"I don't think you have to have a neuro link to know that."

"No."  He hugged her.  "I love you, Kathryn."   She laughed out loud, he held her at arms length and studied the laughing face..  "Well, that's some reaction."

"Chakotay, there is no one in the entire delta quadrant who doesn't know that!"  She laughed again.  "Gods Chakotay, look at me! I have metal sticking out of my body, scars on my face, no hair and deep ridges in my head--do you see any of that?"

"Yes, I see it--so?"  He traced the line down her cheek.  "You're still beautiful."

"Only to you, Chakotay, only you."  She laid back on her pillow.  "Will you stay with me?"

"If you want."  He laid down in the space she made for him.  "Yes, this beats the hell our of that couch.  Think you could get a bigger one?"

"No room--guess you'll just have to sleep here."  She rolled over, resting her cheek on his chest, he wrapped her safely in his arms.  She heard him breathe in deeply several times. "What are you doing?"

"Breathing in the scent of your hair, well if you had hair, it would smell wonderful.  It does, you know--it will--you will have hair again ---won't you?"  He chuckled again, a sound she loved to hear.

"Go to sleep."  She punched his side, then snuggled closer. "Good night."
 

           The next day the doctor removed all the implants, except the neuro processor.  The Captain remained in her quarters, communicating with the crew through a comm link, except for Chakotay.  It was another ten days before the doctor felt comfortable enough to remove the processor, by that time all the other scars and physical manifestations of her assimilation were gone.  Two weeks after her return the Captain prepared to make her first public appearance.

      She spent an extraordinarily long time with each detail.  She carefully picked out her clothes, no uniform tonight, she fussed with her makeup and played with her hair, styling it over and over.

"Kathryn, are you finished yet?"  An exasperated Chakotay came into the room and flopped on the bed.

"Almost."

"That's what you said an hour ago-- this is getting ridiculous."

"I don't want the crew to worry.  I need to look OK."

"The crew? God Kathryn, you have been at this for hours--the crew doesn't care! I'm starved, please can we  go eat?"

"I just want to.."

"I have never seen you like this.  When did you get so vain?"

"Vain?  I'm not--this isn't vanity--it's---it's..."  She came over and sat on the bed.  "My god ---when did that happen?  Look at me, I've never been like this."  She shook her head.

"Kathryn, whenever, you have been doing your make up and hair for a lifetime tonight---"  He flopped back on the bed.  "Please can we go? I'm dying of starvation here."

"OK--OK" She leaned over and kissed him.  "Let's go."  She was holding herself above him , her hair softly falling around her face, the smile--his smile firmly in place.  She kissed him again and he rolled her to her back.

"Wait, maybe I'm not so hungry."   He brushed a few stray hairs off her cheek, she reached up to bring his lips back to hers. "You'll mess up you makeup."

"Who cares."

The End
 

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