I realize the time and need for personal time. I hate interrupting others while they are having it. But sometimes, duty gets in the way.
"Bridge to Lt. Torres." I said. "Report to engineering on the double." I said. We were getting ready to launch a probe and needed her.
A short time later, I was surprised to learn that B'Elanna had put Seven in charge of the probe launch. B'Elanna had seemed on edge lately, sort of out of it. Call it concern. She has been my friend-one of my closest for a long time.
I will call it concern.
A Malon freighter caught a hold on our probe. Tom made the comment that he thought they'd be coming back. I suppose his comment had merit considering what happened with the last freighter. If Kathryn had been lacking action within the void, I think the Malon were going to be 'just what the doctor ordered.'
Kathryn opened a channel to their vessel. "Starship Voyager to the Malon vessel. That probe belongs to us. Release it immediately." I could tell by the tone of her voice that she meant business. Harry reported that there was no answer. Kathryn asked Tom how long it would take for us to get there. He told us it would be two hours at least.
"They'll be long gone." Kathryn said under her breath. Tuvok suggested if we instructed the probe to release a poloron beam, that it would make the tractor beam release it. Kathryn ordered him to get on it. It was successful, but the Malon ship was still in pursuit of the probe. Since the probe couldn't outrun the freighter, Kathryn thought it might be wise to send the probe, 'in for a closer look' at a class six gas giant it had observed earlier today.
Time to find out if Borg modifications had helped it any.
The Malon were still not answering us. What did they want with a probe? It would be of no use to them. It entered the upper atmosphere. Stupid Malon were following it into the gas. Talk about desperation.
Well, if you want the pretty picture, it was one less Malon we had to worry about. But the question now becomes, "How do we get the probe back from that gas giant?"
Kathryn called a staff meeting of the senior officers. I was surprised when B'Elanna didn't show up. Usually if she were late, she would hail one of us and tell us to start without her. Today, we didn't hear a word.
"The probe is stuck in a deep layer of liquid hydrogen and methane about 10,000 kilometers below the outer atmosphere. It's not responding to commands." Harry informed us.
"Any good news?" Kathryn asked.
Seven piped up. "It is still intact and can be repaired." Sure, but how were we going to get it?
"If we can get it out of there." I replied. I know I didn't want to become part of some fireworks display like the Malon freighter had when it went in after the probe. About this time, the doors hissed open to reveal B'Elanna. About time she showed up.
"Sorry I'm late." She said, coming in and sitting down in her chair. Nothing more. No reason. Just 'I'm sorry.'
"We were just discussing how to retrieve the probe," I said, bringing her up to speed on what she had missed. "Is there any possibility of transporting it out?" I asked her. B'Elanna usually had some rabbit up her sleeve.
She was too quick, too ready with her answer, as if she hadn't thought it out, thought of another way to do something.
"No." She said, settling herself.
"Just--no?" I asked, spreading my hands in a gesture of 'come on B'Elanna, give us more to work with then that'.
"I don't see how we could get close enough." She said, simplifying the answer. She did have a point, but it just wasn't like her.
I wasn't letting her off the hook. She wasn't Chief of Engineering for nothing. "Is there any way to boost transporter range?" I asked her.
"Not in that kind of atmosphere." She said. Hmm, back to square one, it sounded like. I was about to say something when Tom interrupted.
"Well, if we can't transport it out, we'll just have to fly in and grab it." Tom said. Fine, but we were rather low on shuttles and I know Kathryn wouldn't like the chances of sending a pilot in there after the shuttle. Especially when you consider the fact that we basically had only Class II shuttles at our disposal.
"Perhaps you weren't paying attention when the Malon freighter imploded." Tuvok said. Pretty funny comment from a Vulcan.
"We won't be going in a Malon freighter, Tuvok. We'll be going in our new shuttle craft." Okay, had Harry pulled a shuttle out of his pocket? Even Harry chuckled at Tom's statement.
"Here we go again." Harry said.
"Let's face it. Class II shuttles just don't cut it in the Delta Quadrant. We've needed something bigger and better since we got here. It' s time we built it."
"Tom," I interjected, "we've been through this, I don't know how many times. We all appreciate your enthusiasm. . ."
"Speak for yourself, commander." Harry interrupted.
I continued. "bottom line. We don't have time to design and build a ship from scratch."
"I knew you were going to say that, so I've given us a head start."
We were introduced to the Delta flyer. Tom had incorporated all sorts of modifications to the shuttle. Everything, he'd thought out, designed. He used a little from everyone. Kathryn was impressed. She wanted to know when we could have it up. Inside a week, Tom said, if we worked around the clock. Harry seemed eager to jump in. As did Seven. B'Elanna didn't seem as eager as I thought she would be at the prospect of seeing a new ship built from scratch. As Tom said, an engineers dream.
Kathryn told them to get on it. The prospect was almost frightening. But well worth it if worked out right. We all left. B'Elanna a little bit behind. And even slower to leave, Kathryn.
Something was on her mind.
We arrived at the planet. As expected, the probe was 10,000 kilometers within the methane, still intact.
"We're not alone. I'm reading massive Theta radiation. It's being dumped by a Malon freighter, approaching from the far side of the planet." About time, we received an incoming hail. "They're hailing us." I said.
Well, he got to the point quickly. The Malon told us to leave the planet immediately. Kathryn as her usual self, gave a retort that almost bordered on sarcastic. "I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Captain Janeway." She said.
"I know very well who you are. You're the person responsible for the destruction of one of our freighters and the deaths of nine Malon citizens." His tone was condescending and rude. Kathryn, from experience, hated dealing with these types of aliens.
"I'm very sorry lives were lost, but you're leaving out an important detail. Your people were trying to steal a probe from us. We warned them to stay away from the gas giant, but they didn't listen." Kathryn was using measured speech. In simpler terms, I wouldn't want to be in the way.
"I'm taking your probe as compensation for our losses." He said. Compensation for their own stupid mistake? I don't think so. Neither did Kathryn.
"That's going to be rather hard." I said, rising. "It's stuck beneath the atmosphere of the same gas giant that crushed your other ship." These Malon are almost as bad as Ferengi in some regards.
"My people are experts at salvage operations." He said. Sure. Then why did one explode while trying to get closer?
"Well, Mister. . ." Kathryn began. We hadn't the pleasure of learning this Malon's name.
"Vrelk. Controller Vrelk."
"Vrelk." Kathryn repeated. "We have a little expertise of our own. We're a very determined crew. So, my suggestion is that you leave orbit and in the future, if you come across anything that bears the insignia of the USS Voyager, head in the other direction." Damn, that was good. I wonder what set that one off?
"You're making a serious error. . ." Vrelk said, as he stepped closer. Kathryn turned her back on the view screen.
"End transmission." She said. Kathryn walked back over to where I was standing. "Why would people in the business of toxic waste disposal, be so anxious to get hold of a probe?" Good question.
"It's not just any probe. It's multi-spatial technology." I pointed out. "Maybe they think it will help them find new places to dump their garbage." I said. I know that didn't bode well with Kathryn, considering what we found when we were in the void.
The look Kathryn gave me. . .I knew she was thinking the same thing.
Kathryn was pacing the bridge. As she came around, she looked at me. "What are they still doing here?" After all, she had been pretty clear in her discussion with Vrelk.
"Apparently, they're not willing to give up on the probe so willingly." I said.
"The question is, how do they expect to get their hands on it?" Kathryn asked. We were more modernized then they were and we were having to build a special shuttle to withstand the methane in the giant.
Tuvok, as expected, had an answer for her. "It is reasonable to assume, they're waiting for us to retrieve the probe, at which time they'll attempt to steal it again."
"Maybe." Kathryn said. "But they have to know we're prepared for that. If they were planning to fight, you'd think they'd call in reinforcements, try to outgun us." She had a point. So far, nothing.
"Sensor's don't show any other Malon ships in the vicinity." I said, checking on data. About that time, Kathryn got hailed from Seven. Apparently, Seven hasn't grasped yet, that shouldn't be ordering Kathryn anywhere. Seven reported that she had important information regarding the Malon freighter. Kathryn got that gleam in her eye and took Tuvok.
Wonder what they're up too.
Kathryn had reported back to the bridge and had told me about what Seven had uncovered. We were keeping an eye on the Malon. They decided to release some of their 'garbage'.
"The Malon are venting Theta radiation cloud. Our shields are down to 89%." I reported. Kathryn sucked in a breath. Nope, she wasn't pleased.
"Ensign, back us off." She said.
"Vrelk is hailing."
Kathryn hesitated a moment. She was tiring of this little game of his. "On screen." She finally ordered.
Vrelk was sarcastic. He made comment about the radiation dumped, our shields. Kathryn let on nothing.
"Our shields are fine." Kathryn said. He didn't seem to happy about that news. He threatened us with more releases of radiation, sighting how our shields probably couldn't take the prolonged exposure. Technically, he was right, but Kathryn was far from letting this little trouble maker know that.
"And I told you, we're not leaving." Kathryn told him.
He brought up that he knew we were building a vessel and we knew that they were building a vessel. That his was under two days away from being launched.
"Well, if you're so far ahead, why bother trying to scare us away?" Kathryn said. Once again, she was measuring her speech.
"Just trying to save you the embarrassment of losing." He said and transmission was cut.
Kathryn got up with an exaggerated "Ugh." She was getting irritated.
"Think they're really two days away?" I asked her, watching her walk across the deck.
"He's probably bluffing, but we're not taking any chances." Kathryn made comment on how we needed to speed up production on the shuttle and I commented on the fact we needed to shore up the shielding in case Vrelk decided to let us have some more of their 'garbage'.
"Good idea. Janeway to Lt. Torres." No answer. "Computer, location of Lt. Torres."
"Lt. Torres is holodeck one." The computer replied. Kathryn looked at me. Something about that look said what wanted before the words left her mouth.
"Get down there." She told me.
I didn't know what I expected to find when I got there. From little pieces I received from Tom and others, such as Neelix, B'Elanna had not been herself. It was becoming disturbing. Very disturbing.
I got in there, having to force the doors. I stepped into a representation of the new shuttle. Safeties turned off and B'Elanna unconscious on the floor.
"Computer, freeze program!" I ordered. I quickly made my way to her, feeling her neck for a pulse.
"B'Elanna," I said, more to myself. What had she been doing, what was going through her head. "Chakotay to sickbay, medical emergency." I said.
Damn it. B'Elanna, what's happening to you?
Kathryn had talked to B'Elanna when she had woken up in sickbay. Needless to say, Kathryn was worried. Especially when Kathryn had taken her off the shuttle project and said she wasn't sorry for it. That tipped Kathryn off majorly.
She had Tom and I meet her in her ready room.
Tom had no idea how B'Elanna was getting the injuries the doctor had found. He said that she didn't complain about being hurt, nor, had she been talking much to Tom. For as thick as those two are with each other, I find it hard to believe that she wasn't talking to him.
"It's almost as if she's intentionally trying to hurt herself." Kathryn said. I know this was disturbing her.
"You think all of these injuries have been happening on the holodeck?" I questioned. I suppose I knew in the back of my mind that it had to be. If she'd been injured in engineering, as she said, there would be reports somewhere logged.
"Any ideas what kind of programs she's been running?" I asked Tom. He shook his head.
Kathryn looked at me. "You're thinking the same thing I am."
"I hate to go digging in someone's personal holodeck programs, but she won't tell us what's going on, I don't think we have much choice."
"Tom, what do you think?" Kathryn asked. He had a stake in this too. It was B'Elanna. The two were an item.
Tom thought about it moment, coming to a decision, the only one I knew Kathryn would go for. "He's right." He said.
"Start digging." Kathryn said, with barely a hesitation. It was the only way. B'Elanna has too many of us concerned for her own good.
We left the ready room.
When I found out exactly what B'Elanna had been doing on the holodeck, I knew something was wrong. No safeties, nothing. The most dangerous programs she could withstand.
I went to her quarters after digging through months of records, I thought it was time for some answers. At first, she didn't answer the door. It's amazing what an override can do.
I entered her darkened quarters, B'Elanna lying on her bed. I knew she wasn't sleeping as she said. She thought it was the doctor making a house call. She told me that the doctor said familiar surrounding would speed her recovery, that she was suffering from clinical depression.
"Are you depressed?" I asked her.
"What are you, the new ships counselor?" She said. It was so unlike her to act this way. Why now?
"This is ridiculous. I don't report a few scrapes and suddenly, Janeway thinks there's something wrong with me. Typical Starfleet." She said. I guess I should have picked up on that one. The Starfleet remark.
I told her she'd been running the programs without safety protocols. B'Elanna told me that she had run a few without, that she had put no one at risk and that they were something she could handle.
"What do you say you and I pay a little visit to the holodeck? You can show me some of the programs you've been running." I suggested. I wanted this to come from her. I really didn't want to force it from her.
"Sure. Maybe if I can see what you've been up too, I convince the captain there's nothing to worry about."
"She's taken away my holodeck privileges." B'Elanna said with a false smile.
"Consider them restored." I said. Believe me, I take no delight in what I was about to do to her.
I went to the door, it opening. I turned back toward B'Elanna hoping I wouldn't have to drag her there.
I took no delight in what I was about to do.
B'Elanna and I went to the holodeck. She walked ahead of me, her walk a pale imitation of her usual strut. As we approached, I grabbed her arm and fed in my own codes. I wasn't going to let her buffalo her way out of this one. No way in hell.
"Computer, access program Torres-theta-one." I ordered. That obviously stirred something inside her. She wasn't happy. I could see the fight already beginning.
"What are you doing?" She asked, frightened. I said nothing as I grabbed her arms and drug her into the holodeck. I drug her kicking and resisting all the way in there.
"Computer, freeze program!" She ordered.
"Computer, belay that command!" I countered. I wanted answers. Whatever demon's were haunting B'Elanna, I wanted to know about, to see.
Carnage, destruction, death. Maquis. Why now? Why, after all this time, had B'Elanna resorted to this?
"TURN IT OFF!" She screamed.
"Not until you tell me what it is." I said, thrusting her away from me.
"You know what it is." She yelled at me. I reached out and grabbed her again. She wasn't getting off the hook that easily.
"Who's this?" I demanded.
"Li-paz," She said, trying to avoid the sight in front of her. "Don't you recognize him?"
"Oh, I recognize them all" I said, truly upset with her now. I was angry at her for pulling this all up. "Meyer...Nelson...Sahreen! You created a program to watch all our Maquis friends get slaughtered! What I want to know is why!"
"I thought we came down here to talk about safety protocols. This has nothing to do with that." Didn't it? Why was what Kathryn wanted me to find out and what I wanted to find out.
"I'm not so sure. The logs show you only ran this program for 47 seconds--the day after I gave you the news about the massacre. Then you shut it down and started running the most dangerous programs you could find with the safeties off. Why?!"
B'Elanna tried to leave, run from this. I wasn't about to let her. I put my foot down and decided that she was going to face this. I sealed the doors, not letting her escape me.
"You can't do this!" She yelled at me.
"The hell I can't! You're not going anywhere until you tell me what's going on." I said, equally adamant about finding the answers. "B'Elanna," I said, lowering my voice. It wouldn't benefit either of us if we were both angry and yelling. "Why are you intentionally trying to hurt yourself?"
"I don't know." I actually believed her.
"Are you trying to commit suicide?"
"No." She said.
"Then why?" I wanted to know.
B'Elanna thought a moment. "Because...because if I sprain my ankle, at least I feel something."
"What do you mean?" I asked her. This meant nothing, so far.
"I'm not trying to kill myself! I'm trying to see if I'm still alive."
I still didn't understand. What did this have to do with her behavior. I looked around at the holographic bodies of our friends, our comrades from a lifetime ago.
"How do you feel when you see them?" B'Elanna asked.
"Sad. Angry. Maybe a little guilty that I wasn't there to die with them."
"Not me," B'Elanna said quietly. "I don't feel anything at all."
"B'Elanna, the Maquis were like our adopted family. I can understand you trying to block out that kind of pain--"
"You don't understand," B'Elanna emphasized. "It's not just the pain. I don't feel anything--not about my dead friends, not about Tom...you...my job...." I didn't know what to say. She caught me, her words now striking home, making sense to me.
"Maybe you're afraid if you let yourself start to feel something you might not be able to stop. You can't just shut off your emotions, B'Elanna. Sooner or later...You're going to have to let yourself grieve."
"Why? Just so I can go through it all over again? When I was six, my father walked out on me. When I was 19, I got kicked out of Starfleet. A few years later, I got separated from the Maquis. And just when I start to feel safe you tell me that all of our old friends have been slaughtered. The way I figure it, I've lost every family I've ever had!" But there was a difference. You can't hold onto something forever. Change happens.
"B'Elanna...You have a new family now...Here on Voyager and you're not going to lose us. You're stuck with us!"
"You can't promise me that." She said.
"No, I suppose I can't. Losing people is inevitable, and sometimes it happens sooner than we expect...But I can promise you that the people on this ship aren't about to let you stop living your life or break your neck on the Holodeck. You're going to have to find another way to deal with this."
"I don't know how." B'Elanna finally admitted.
"Then we'll figure it out." I told her, giving her a show of tangible support. "Together."
About this time, Kathryn hailed me from the bridge. "We're under attack. Report to the bridge immediately."
I was still worried, but now, maybe she'd be a little more forthcoming in what was bothering her. "You'd better go." B'Elanna said. I knew she wasn't healed, but perhaps it was a step in the right direction.
I entered the bridge to the sight of the Malon vessel giving us a halfhearted attack. I stepped down to my seat. "Why are they suddenly picking a fight?" I asked.
"I believe they're attempting to distract us, Commander," Tuvok answered. "While they launch their new shuttle craft."
While we watched, the Malon launched their shuttle. Ahead of us. As the expression goes, the race was on.
Tuvok said the Malon shuttle was close. It wasn't too late for us to catch up. I said as much. Kathryn decided it was now or never. She contacted Tom and told him to go for it. Take our new shuttle and run for the border.
There was still the issue of the micro-fracture problems. Kathryn asked Tom about it.
"We're keeping an eye on it, but we sure could use an extra hand."
"Chakotay's on his way." Kathryn said, looking at me. Whether I liked it or not, I was now volunteered for shuttle duty.
I was walking down the corridor toward the shuttle bay when I heard someone running to catch up. I wasn't surprised that it was B'Elanna. She hadn't put the rest of her uniform on. "Let me go." She said, almost pleading with me.
I was about to just go on, not wanting to deal with her hurtful instincts. "I am not out to get myself hurt if that's what you're thinking. I just want to do my job." For some reason, for the fact that this was B'Elanna, I believed her. But I had to make sure.
"I thought you weren't interested in your job anymore."
"If that hull breaches, I should be there. I'm still the best engineer we've got." She had a point, but I wasn't ready to bite yet.
"I can do this. I need to do this!" Something in her tone convinced me. The tone of voice that I had heard in Kathryn's voice. The tone that meant the words. I knew she was being straight with me.
I held up the case I carried. I knew that I may be taking a chance, but if I didn't give it to her, what would happen. She took it from me and smiled. First one I'd seen from her in quite sometime. She ran down the corridor toward the shuttle bay. I watched her leave and I smiled.
Maybe B'Elanna will be all right after all.
I headed back to the bridge.
I arrived on the bridge. Our shuttle had just taken off. It's amazing, you know; the rapport between Kathryn and I. One look and I knew what she was thinking. Was B'Elanna okay to be handling this? Without a word, I reassured Kathryn.
Our feisty little Klingon engineer was on her way back.
"The delta flyer has docked." Tuvok reported.
"And the Malon?" Kathryn asked.
"They're a little preoccupied," I said. "Seems their shuttle craft's having a problem climbing out of the gas giant's atmosphere."
Kathryn smiled. "Get us out of here, Ensign--warp two."
I ran across B'Elanna not long after the shuttle returned. "B'Elanna. I heard you did a hell of a job. So? How are you?" I was naturally curious. She had done a magnificent job on the shuttle when the going got rough, but I needed to see for myself. As a friend.
She looked at me, I think to measure her words. "You mean am I back to my old charming self? I don't know." At least now she was being honest with me.
"Give it time." I told her. I smiled and turned away from her, heading for who knows where.
I hadn't taken more then a few steps when I heard B'Elanna call after me. "What you did down in the Holodeck today...Thanks. But if you ever do anything like that again, I'll break your neck."
I smiled at her again and continued on my way. At least B'Elanna seemed to be back track to her usual self.
I was beginning to miss my old friend.
Later, I began thinking about what happened to B'Elanna. In the recent few weeks, two of the women I care for the most, have been through self induced hell. First, Kathryn. Caring around guilt for something she did four years ago. Willing to sacrifice herself to save an innocent species from annihilation. She secluded herself from those who care about her.
Then there's B'Elanna. She took out her frustrations the only way she thought she could. Trying to make herself feel something. Both needed a shakedown. Both needed a different look into reality.
The two strongest women I know. I hope their demons have been pushed aside.