1-20 Aftermath

1-20 Aftermath

Part three of Sharawonga

After the excitement of recent events Voyager and her crew try to settle down to normal life again. They watch as alliance form and worry about another, as Seven of Nine finds that the emotions that go with love are too painful to bare...

Voyager and the characters aboard her (except the Colonel and additional characters) in this story are copyright of Paramount. No resemblance is intended to any person alive or dead.

The story line and the Colonel are my own.

Constructive criticism and comments are welcome on e-mail story@rgower.f9.co.uk .

If like me you like to know why things occur like they do, I would heartily recommend you start at chapter 1-01 Castaway.

This story is rated PG13

©R Gower 2000

The Colonel awoke the day after his return from their exploits with the Dilhangran, almost fully recovered after the Doctors patient ministrations. He was alone in the alcove he quickly established, though he could hear the Doctors voice outside, treating somebody. He felt a slight sense of loneliness and sorrow that Seven of Nine was not there when he woke, then beat it back with a feeling of guilt, he had run out on her in an attempt to rescue two Felongran Cubs. That rescue had led him to need rescuing himself from an even greater danger and he had relied upon her to carry it out. She undoubtedly felt she had more important things to do.

Gently he slid of the couch and tested his strength, finding it adequate he sauntered out of the alcove to find who the Doctor was talking to. He found him talking to a green skinned crewman, with what looked like burns to his face and hands.

That power conduit was supposed to have been made safe by Seven, the crewman complained. It shouldn't have blown up!

Keep still, the Doctor scolded. I need to keep this regenerator over the affected area for a few more minutes.

I think recent events have been too much for most of us to handle even Mrs Samuels, the Colonel interrupted gently, announcing his presence in the conscious world.

The crewman stiffened as he realised that his complaining had been overheard by the most dangerous person on the ship to upset. Especially as that man was the husband of the object of his complaint. He glanced fearfully in his direction. I'm sorry, Sir! He spluttered. I didn't know you were still here. But she was supposed to check the conduits on Deck 11 yesterday afternoon.

You know the procedures, Crewman. If you have a complaint you take it to your superior, they will follow it up. You don't bring it to the Doctor and whinge, the Colonel pointed out bluntly. But as I know about it, I will ask her for you. Would this be the conduit in section 11? If I remember she has been keeping an eye on it since it was last replaced because of an overload. An overload that she traced to crew quarters, yours I believe Crewman Carlile?

The crewman swallowed hard. The Colonel being reasonable seemed even more dangerous than him threatening violence. He visibly shook, annoying the Doctor further.

We don't have the same facilities to entertain ourselves as officers do, he protested weakly. We don't figure high on the privileges roster, so getting a Holodeck is almost possible and we can't use the Mess! We need to use our quarters, he protested weakly.

The Colonel held up his hand to stop him. I used to be a simple rifleman. I know what Barracks are like and how they seem to compare to the Officers Mess, he pointed out. I can tell you officers country is not all it's cracked up to be. It's why a developed a preference for detachments, he said. We all lived in the same state then, usually wet, dirty and scared. It is a great leveller. Would you like to compare stories of cramped and difficult spaces?

The crewman shook his head quickly as the Doctor shut of his regenerator, then fled quickly.

He does have a point, the Colonel admitted to the Doctor. The Other Ranks Mess always tends to be more boisterous than the Officers Mess.

He also has a point that the conduit was due to be checked by Seven, the Doctor added. But I don't think anybody has seen her since she returned.

The Colonel turned in surprise. Not being seen socially isn't dreadfully unusual. Not doing something she is expected to do is. Has anybody actually talked to her? After all her first official holiday went rather drastically wrong?

She doesn't come to me for sympathy, the Doctor pointed out. I think the Captain was intending to, but I don't know if she did.

If I may be released, then I'll go and find her, the Colonel promised. I think I owe her a major apology anyhow.

The Doctor nodded his acceptance and he left the room.

He did not search her out immediately, but went to seek out Captain Janeway. He found her in her Ready Room.

Permission to Report for Duty, Ma'am? He snapped crisply and saluting.

She looked up surprised, then delight showed across her face. Up all ready! I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow at the earliest! She pronounced.

He grinned. You can't get rid of a bad penny like that, he said lightly.

She grinned at the ancient proverb. You aren't a bad penny, you're a good and shiny one. And I'm going to need your help over the next couple of days. We've made quite an impression on the Cathors and you have been the main instigator.

Her face fell again as something else crossed her mind. I'm very sorry about the way your honeymoon went. I think you had better go and talk with Seven. She's taken the last couple of days pretty hard.

He pounced on the worried implication. She thinks I deliberately put myself in danger? He guessed.

She nodded and watched him seem to sag infront of her.

Seven wants me to change and I don't know how, he admitted. I am trying, Ma'am. But there are things that are going to take time and others.. he trailed off defeated.

Perhaps you should get her to explain what she wants from you? She suggested sympathetically. Take as much time as you need to sort it. I need you both too much, I know that now, I don't think I did before.

He nodded silently and spun out the room again. She noticed he hadn't saluted, perhaps there were the beginnings of change, she thought pensively. She hoped it was going to be for the better.

It took him an hour to track down Seven of Nine, she had curled up into a ball in the corner of Cargo Bay 2 and was sitting rocking quietly, looking vacantly into space. He watched her for a moment, then sank down beside her and waited for her to recognise his presence.

She had been sat there for over twelve hours after finding that the Alcove that so often provided answers to her more difficult questions, had failed to provide a single one to the turmoil she was feeling. Without the Colonel's patient help in overcoming them she did not know where to start in her attempt to work them out. She was left trying to answer them for herself and finding it more difficult than she had thought possible, as she ran over the events of the previous few days.

There had definitely a satisfaction of belonging to somebody, even amidst the hostile stares of the Felongran in the resort. That must be a factor in love, she decided. It existed when he had started to talk to the Felongrans, bolstered with pride when he had leapt the rail to attempt to rescue the cubs, tinged perhaps with shock that he had reacted so quickly.

But there was his refusal to leave the remaining cub, when she had pleaded with him to rest after the exhausting battle with the fast flowing river. What had she felt then, frustration, fear that he may be overcome. That dreadful word pride crept in again as well and stared at her with its cold eyes. She knew well enough what he was feeling, it was he always felt in these situations, duty. It was his duty to rescue somebody, it was all the goal he ever seemed to need, it seemed so easy for him. That thought added bitterness to the growing list of conflicting emotions. Bitterness that he seemed to be able find something that satisfied him so easily, whilst she barely seemed to make progress in her own goals.

Then there was the horrifying moment he had disappeared over the fall. The horror of losing something she had only just found to be so valuable, had been such that after the first few moments of panic her mind had closed down around it, allowing her cold Borg side take over. She didn't like that idea either, but it had helped her carry on despite the pain, she granted her logical mind that benefit.

Then she had felt joy at finding him again and the dread as he had marched off again to do what he felt he had to do, leaving her fearful for his safety again. The conflicting strains had been too much over too short a period for her newly gained emotions to stand. She had felt them before, she knew, even aboard Voyager. There had been the advanced Borg that her nanoprobes had produced with the Doctor's emitter in a transporter accident. She had watched it develop, then sacrifice itself for the protection of the ship, the emotions she had felt had left her shaken then. But even then she had still felt she lived in a remote world. This time the losses had seemed so personal and intimate and could have gone so badly wrong.

The questions without answers swung around and around her, never getting close enough to be caught and she didn't know what to do with them.

Finally she spoke. You have recovered?

The figure crouched beside her half turned towards her before replying. Physically yes! Thank you. I apologise profusely that our holiday was curtailed.

You could have been destroyed. She ignored the apology.

Her voice was cold and lacked emotion, worse than when he had met her, he realised.

He nodded. I could have been, he admitted candidly. But I have something to come back to now! It makes a big difference.

Yet you insisted on risking your existence in the prosecution of your duty.

It had to be done, there was nobody else. What would you have me do? He asked softly.

I do not wish to experience the feelings I have felt over recent days again. I lost my humanity trying to control them.

If you lost them then why are you worrying now? He asked, seeking her hand. Your emotions let the part of you that was better able to cope take over.

She pulled her hand away.

he said carefully. Your emotions are what you have become, what you are. Yes they are powerful, it is what makes us human and we learn to deal with them as best we can. You have never criticised me for being what I am or doing what I feel I must and I have never criticised you, because we know who and what we are. But we have and are changing each other.

Do you know the first thing I asked and looked for after the waterfall? He asked.

She looked at him, her blue eyes now soft with tears, and shook her head weakly.

I asked for and looked for you. I have never said or done anything like that in action. I felt alone and wanted somebody, you, to look after me, he grinned briefly. I have never wanted to be looked after before, but I wanted you to be with me. Just as I am always there when you need me.

She did move then, moving closer to the tall soldier, silently sliding her arm around his back and resting her head against his shoulder. He responded in kind, gently squeezing her closer to him.

I do not like these powerful emotions, she complained in a whisper. It was easier as a Borg, before you came.

You wish me to leave you? He asked softly. If that is what you think is for the best I will comply.

She pleaded, panicking that he may misinterpret her comments. I do not wish to lose the feeling of comfort and belonging.

Then you will have to get used to the possibility of pain as well, he commented. Neither of us is exactly in a risk free occupation. You should be able to understand reasons for that better than I can, he whispered, kissing her hair. It is described by science.

She looked at him sharply. Human emotions are too erratic to explain with science, she retorted, suddenly feeling on more solid ground.

Can't it? He grinned in relief as his sweetheart suddenly came alive, arguing about things she knew about. The science I was taught long ago was, Every action has to have an equal and opposite reaction', if that one has gone as well then I'll be sure to tell Sir Isaac Newton when I'm finally let back into Hell.

I do not know Sir Isaac Newton, she pointed out, settling back after his clumsy teasing.

He was an old Earth Scientist, claimed to have been the inventor of gravity, with the fateful word Ouch!' when an apple fell on his head, he described. He also created the three basic laws of energy and put the human race back several hundred years.

You are attempting to tease me! She flashed back. Advances in Science can only result in the increase of knowledge.

He grinned more warmly. he admitted. But it is nice to have you back and that is an advance that has nothing to do with Science. Have I told you how much I love you?

You will do so! She demanded, grazing his neck with her teeth.

Is that all you love me? He protested, turning towards her fully. We can do much better than that. Then we can go an have some dinner?

His mouth closed fully over hers and they slid to the deck.

You have recovered! Chancellor Guthorn exclaimed in delight at the Colonel, the following morning.

The Colonel responded sharply, standing at full attention and saluting. Seven of Nine standing in close attendance beside him.

There is no need to be so formal, the Chancellor protested animatedly. After all you called me a stupid old fool' the other day. I don't imagine that is a formal address for a leader from your planet.

The Colonel blushed. I apologise for the reference, Sir! I have no defence for the use of a phrase derogatory to you, Sir! It will not happen again.

The Chancellor bellowed in laughter at the soldiers discomfort. I see there are a lot of things you can teach our younger knights, he observed. Backing out of calling a leader an old fool is one of them.

If the cap were to fit sir. I would be sure to advise you, Sir!

And you made that sound as though you have used it when you meant to. I think I will take your nervousness as a compliment, but not perhaps for my fighting skills, the Chancellor commented happily, turning to Seven of Nine.

Mrs Seven of Nine, my beautiful rescuer. Thank you! He bowed deeply before her and kissed her hand, to her obvious embarrassment. I believe it is the duty of a knight in your culture to come to the rescue of beautiful women, not the other way round.

Perhaps I should have left you with the Dilhangran? Seven responded neutrally.

I can quite see what your husband sees in you, the tall Cathor replied by way of an answer. Beautiful, calm and a far better sense of humour. I am sorry that I allowed him to get hurt. Please forgive me. He bowed again to her.

Do you want to wait for Princess Madila, or shall I escort you to the Conference Room so you will be ready for her, The Captain injected before things got out of hand, she could almost sense the Chancellor starting to flirt with the ex-Borg. I believe she has been delayed.

The Captain had decided that the Cathors and Valorians should continue their discussions for an alliance, not to letting it die in the shambles of the Peace Conference on Sharawonga and had invited them aboard Voyager to continue their relationship accordingly. The Chancellor was the first of Voyagers visitors for the day.

Of the events on Sharawonga, there had been little good news, she knew. The Felongran fighters had returned to the planet after recovering the cubs from Voyager, and they had sent a message stating that the Dilhangran had gone and the conference had broken up, leaving Sharawonga in peace for the time being. But there were rumours abroad that suggested that peace had become a lot less stable than its hitherto precarious balance, she didn't want to think of her new friends fighting on their own.

I think I will wait, thank you, Captain Janeway, he decided. Perhaps you will permit me to talk to Seven of Nine for a few minutes longer alone?

A little reluctantly she agreed and directed the Chancellor to the room next door. Seven of Nine dutifully guided Guthorn as the Captain had directed.

You aren't entirely human are you? He pointed out.

I was human but I was part of the Borg collective before being freed by Captain Janeway and Voyager, she admitted carefully.

I have never met them, but I have heard of them, he claimed. This must be a very brave crew to have been able to rescue you?

They are resourceful.

He smiled slightly at the correction. The Colonel is a very brave man though? He speculated.

He is determined and takes risks, she admitted.

That is probably as good a definition as any you will find, he agreed.

He will fail one day, she claimed, her unhappiness tingeing her calm voice.

He picked up on her feeling of resignation. If I were to give you both the opportunity to live safely together, could you persuade him to stay on Cathor?

Her voice was sharp.

I think there is going to be a war in this sector, the Chancellor explained sadly. Colonel Samuels is the greatest fighter and survivor I have ever seen. And his tactics are very different to ours and at least as effective. I would like to see him teach our knights the same way as he trained the two you had aboard Voyager.

He will refuse, he has orders from his own commander to serve Voyager, she snapped hotly.

But the only thing he really cares for is you, my dear, Guthorn pointed out. He would give up everything if he thought he could keep you safe.

She stared at him levelly. He has accepted my protection. If he feels the need to perform his duty he will do it, then trust me to keep him safe.

Please consider it? He begged.

Seven of Nine nodded a grim agreement before moving towards the door again.

He believes your race created the Borg, she said as a parting shot. You are proposing to ask him to create a force that could create a bigger danger than them.

The Chancellor followed her, mystified by the strange statement. He would have to try and make sense of it later, he decided, as the transporter shimmered into life.

Princess Madila was at least as pleased to see the Voyager crew as Guthorn had been and showed it more, wrapping her arms around an astounded Seven of Nine and Colonel Samuels. The later blushing firmly and hotly under the attention.

I'm sorry, she gasped, suddenly realising the embarrassment she had caused. But I'm so glad to see that you are both well. And we are allowed to demonstrate that pleasure in our culture, she trilled happily.

"However it is unseemly in my culture and occupation, Ma'am!" The Colonel stammered, blushing hard.

"You make the stuffy Cathors look like freedom," she teased, embracing the Chancellor warmly. "It simply won't do."

Grinning widely the Captain led her two guests away before the Princess could embarrass the Colonel further.

Captain Janeway watched the activities of her two guests with acute interest, they seemed to have become a lot closer than simple leaders of their respective races. As chairman of the Conference, she was required to mediate between the two to achieve the best solution for both parties. In practise, she had little to do, the two parties had long come to an agreement that they wanted to form an alliance. Now they were simply trying to agree the final terms.

Finally Princess Madila leaned back in her seat. I think we have an agreement, she trilled. We will provide you with a base for a flotilla on Valoria, as you will for us. With a standing patrol from Cathor acting as a joint fleet under our control whilst in our sector. Two joint crewed exploration ships. And a home for upto five million Cathors on Valoria the final selection to be at our discretion. I think my mother the Queen will agree.

What is Cathor getting out of this? asked the Captain curiously.

The Princess will supply data on their defensive systems and fighters, Guthorn answered quickly. They are superior to ours. Her yacht took a direct hit from the Dilhangra and was not severely damaged.

It doesn't sound much, the Captain pointed out.

They are giving as much as they have, Captain.

We shall seal the agreement with a party, Madila claimed cheerfully. As a thank you to our Star Fleet friends, Chancellor?

Of course, Your Highness, Guthorn agreed quickly. There are people from my ships you will need to meet.

Your crew are all invited, Kathryn. It will probably be the last time I will see some of them to be able to thank them personally, she added conspiratorially.

I will ask those that are available, the Captain laughed, thankful that things seemed to have succeeded so well. I assume that you particularly want the Colonel to attend?

And Seven of Nine, they sing and go so well together, the Princess insisted.

The first thing Captain Janeway did after she saw her guests off, was to seek out the Colonel and Seven of Nine.

The Colonel she found in the Cargo Bay, searching a rack of discarded parts.

What are you looking for, Colonel? She asked.

Steel, Ma'am, he responded neutrally. My old blade was thrown in here. I was hoping to find enough to make a new one.

Why not come into the twenty-fourth century and use the power sword Marine Gwyndal gave you? She asked curiously. Or even replicate one?

It's the weight, Ma'am, he explained. The power sword is poorly balanced, it feels uncomfortable to use.

Mind you I'll probably start carrying it in my pack, it does have a lot of uses, he admitted.

I asked Ensign Kim earlier if it would be possible to replicate a decent blade. He was less than certain. My old sword was less than half inch thick, but there was over a 1000 layers of steel in it, each layer had particular properties. That is why it was so flexible and easy to keep sharp. So I will have to work out how to forge one.

Well it won't be tonight, she laughed. Princess Madila wants you to be a guest of honour tonight, along with Seven.

His face fell at the invitation. I was hoping to spend a private evening with Mrs Nine, Ma'am. She is less than happy with my actions on Sharawonga. I wanted to try and make amends.

I'll try and make sure you get back in plenty of time for that, Colonel, she promised turning to go.

Seven was as expected working in Astrometrics.

You will come to the Valorian leaving party? She prompted quickly.

Party, Captain? Seven queried blandly. If they are leaving I see no benefit in such an irrelevant activity.

When people you like leave it is customary to see them off with a social event, the Captain explained patiently.

So I should have had a Party' when the Colonel disappeared? The ex-Borg demanded harshly.

Captain Janeway sighed and wondered if Seven was being deliberately obstructive. No, Seven. Those would be very different circumstances. There would be nobody happy to see him go like that!

You like the Valorians but are glad they are leaving?

That is illogical. Why should you be glad that somebody you like leaves?

It is traditional, Seven! The Captain exclaimed, holding up her hands in resignation at the circular argument. We have few enough friends in this Quadrant! Besides there is the alliance between the Cathor and Valoria, that should be marked with some sort of celebration!

Both you and the Colonel were expressly invited by the Princess, she added hopefully.

I will consider the request, Captain, Seven agreed obliquely.

What's up, Seven? The Captain sighed, finally picking up and accepting the signals. Are you having problems with the Colonel?

Seven protested quickly.

Too quickly, the Captain picked it up.

With your relationship? She hazarded the guess.

My feelings for him, Seven admitted. I find his company necessary for my efficiency and, she had to search for her next word. She placed it carefully.

I did not wish him to rescue the Felongrans, I was afraid he would be irreparably damaged. When he fell over the waterfall I felt pain at the loss. When I found him again, he continued to perform his Duty' to rescue Chancellor Guthorn. There was more pain because he was hurt again. I do not wish him to be hurt! I do not wish to experience those feelings again!

There was real pain in those blue eyes Captain Janeway decided, as Seven's admissions died away.

You are not the only person who loves him and gets upset when he gets hurt, Seven, she consoled gently.

You will prevent him getting in that position again? Seven demanded harshly.

The demand staggered the Captain.

I can't promise that Seven. You know that! She protested in alarm.

He isn't Star Fleet, she pointed out, still rattled. Even if he was, he will always act for the protection of the crew and ship, no matter what I commanded. If not for us, then for you. There is no way I can stop him, except hold him in the Brig. I'm not even sure that would stop him for long.

If he was actually a crew member, there are times that I would have to put him in danger simply because he is the only person on the ship that could cope with the situation, same as I do with you and everybody else.

I wish him to be protected, Seven pleaded.

I'm not sure anybody can do that! Captain Janeway exclaimed.

Or I wish to be alone and avoid the feelings I have felt, Seven announced.

You know you can't do that either! The Captain bristled.

Seven listen to me, she started urgently. You love him. He is as much a part of your life as your alcove, even more than that, probably. I have never seen anybody as in love as you two are. You knew what the Colonel was like when you fell in love with him. It was among the reasons that you fell in love with him for, the way he protected you and everything around you. You can't change him or stop him doing it as quickly, or as completely as that!

I wish him to be mine, or not at all! Seven responded desperately, tears now clearly showing.

He is, the Captain assured her slowly and forcefully.

But right behind you comes anybody else who is in danger. You know that, you've read the records we have.

His love does not mean much to him! Seven sniffed.

It and you mean everything to him! The Captain protested. But so does his duty. If something comes along that he can do, then he will react. That is who he is. You don't think he can be everything, You', want him to be and still be Him!

He will do anything for you, she continued, reasoning gently. But he needs to be what he is, otherwise you will having nothing left of him. You can't change him like the ships sensors, with a push of a button, it is selfish of you to try!

Seven of Nine looked at her, anger now behind the tears. You believe I am being selfish? She demanded. What of his desire to serve others?

Yes you are! The Captain snapped. It will push him away from you!

She turned for the door, then stopped. Before you were married, he came to me for advice, she said reflectively. He was terrified that you had fallen in love with him simply because he was the first person that really spent time understanding you. He was scared that it wouldn't last.

I told him in no uncertain words he was wrong, that you loved him for what he was. I wonder if I should apologise to him for being wrong?

She left, leaving Seven of Nine to consider the statement.

The Captains party gathered in Transporter Room 2, ready for beaming to the Valorian ship. The Captain quickly tallied up her complement. There were two crewmen and an ensign in addition to her normal deck crew, but Seven of Nine was missing.

Where is Seven, Colonel? She queried in surprise.

She said she was feeling a little drained, Ma'am, he responded quietly. She believed a couple of hours in the machine would do her some good.

I'm surprised you turned up then, she said, thankful that he had.

Personally, I think she is still upset with me and wanted some time on her own, he whispered in her ear. I would appreciate getting back as early as possible.

I'll try, Colonel, she promised as they beamed away.

Captain, I thought you were bringing Seven of Nine! The Princess trilled as the appeared aboard the Valorian yacht. I was so hoping to talk with her!

She wasn't feeling particularly well, Your Highness, the Colonel answered formally and bowed before her.

Nothing severe? She demanded, concern showing on her face.

If it were, Your Highness, I would not be here, the Colonel assured her. But you will forgive me if I leave as soon as is polite?

Of course, after I've had my dance, she giggled suddenly.

Your Highness, he bowed again.

The Voyager party were escorted to the dining hall.

Captain Janeway, Colonel Samuels, they were greeted in turn by Chancellor Guthorn.

The Captain responded happily.

If you will pardon me, I'd like to talk with your Captain for a moment? He announced to the small Voyager contingent. He took her arm and led them to a quieter corner of the room.

I would like to ask you for a favour? He confided quickly as he pulled a drink from a passing waitress and handed it to the Captain.

If it is possible, the Captain agreed readily, accepting the drink and taking a sip.

I would like the Colonel to join the Knights!

The Captain choked on her drink, the green fluid spilling down her mouth. You're not serious! She spluttered.

He sighed and tried to avoid her eye's. I wish to offer him the opportunity to stay on Cathor and train our knights for combat, he admitted. My offer also extends to Mrs Nine and will give her the opportunity to keep him safe and alive.

You don't know him as well as you think do you? She snapped. He has sworn an oath to protect Seven, my crew and the ship. He won't break that. Even if he did, do you think he would be happy just training people? He will want to lead them into battle, because he will think it his duty to protect them!

I will prevent that, he promised. When I met you on Sharawonga I was impressed by your honesty and intelligence. Even so, when you told me about the Colonel I did not entirely believe you. Until I watched him in action on the Dilhangran ship. He is the greatest Knight I have ever seen in action.

There was a time when the Cathors were the greatest fighting force in the Galaxy, he declared, suddenly unhappy. But time has passed and now there are few of us that are capable of producing the sort of defence necessary to combat an enemy. The Colonel could change that.

You still have the most powerful fleet I've seen, the Captain pointed out.

Oh yes! We have the ships, the Chancellor agreed bitterly. But it takes more than Star Ships to win a war, surely you have seen and accept that?

The Captain thought over past events. she admitted. He does seem to have the ability to solve problems and isn't phased by the danger.

I can't stop you asking him, Chancellor. He isn't part of my crew, she agreed. But I doubt he will accept and he won't go without Seven agreeing and being happy about it. I will be less than happy to lose a valuable member of my crew.

Dinner was declared and the Chancellor gallantly offered the Captain his arm. Cautiously she accepted it.

Seven of Nine had spent an uncomfortable hour convincing the Colonel he should go to the Valorian party without her. She had desperately tried to hide her feelings from him. She knew full well if he realised how unhappy she was, he would have insisted on sitting with her until she finally told him about her feelings. She did not want him to know about them, they would hurt him to the core and he would take the sole blame.

She knew more about his life than anybody else aboard the ship, she had entered much of it into the ships logs for the Captains information. But there was also a lot that she could not bring herself to record. She therefore knew how much of himself he had placed in the oath he had sworn to protect her, everything, and that included continued protection from himself as well. She was terrified what his response would be if he thought that she was unhappy with her relationship.

Her talk with the Captain had thrown more factors into the maelstrom of emotion that she could feel welling up inside her. Now she was uncertain whether any of her feelings were a direct result of him, but a result of the way she thought about him. She needed time to think by herself.

In the end he had accepted her story that she was in need of regeneration, though she suspected that he could see through her deception, and had unhappily escorted her to her alcove before kissing her gently and leaving her to set her alcove into action.

She sat quietly on the step of the alcove and considered her position. There were too many conflicting emotions for her to understand at once. She was desperate for help, but there was only one person she felt she could trust or would be prepared to help her the way she needed. As the target of her frustration, she could not go to him to receive it. Not for the first time she wondered how humans coped with the confused world that formed their minds.

It was a dejected Seven of Nine that finally rose from her seat and stood in the Alcove for welcome oblivion.

The Captain found herself sitting beside the Princess and Guthorn at the table with the Colonel sat opposite. She barely noticed the conversation as it flitted across her, lost in her own thoughts.

Would the ship be in any lesser position to get home without Seven or the Colonel, she wondered. Could they have found a way out of the events that had overtaken them, or had they just relied upon him to save them when they had made mistakes.

Her reverie was broken by the Chancellor speaking to her. Tell me Captain. Seven of Nine told me that you believe we created the Borg race. Can you explain the reason? We have never met a Borg vessel.

It's the Colonel's theory, he pieced it together, she said, looking across the table at him.

Perhaps you should explain, Alan!

He looked surprised at the sudden use of his Christian name and looked around as if trying to find the person she was talking to. Suddenly he realised who her target was, blushed and grinned sheepishly.

Sorry, Ma'am! The only reason I remember I have a name at all is because it's on my Dog Tags, he apologised to the amused table.

The Borg. Yes! He hummed for a moment before continuing. You don't know them and they don't know you. But it was a Borg cube that intercepted the Cathor crystals and in your own system. If they were Borg at that point, they would have had half dozen ships sat on your planet long before now. Or they would have destroyed themselves, that being the closeness of their linking to the Unimatrix.

As it is Mrs Nine has no recollection of any Borg action before they found your crystals. They must have been an advanced race even then. They don't appear to have a home planet. I understand that the Queen at Unimatrix 1 is from an assimilated race so there is no core race. Somebody created them.

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that they were a race that took slaves and were even more highly dependent on technology than we are. The crystals did their work when they were picked up and they carried out mass suicide, leaving the slaves. Perhaps they dressed the slaves in the armour they use now. They must have been oppressive masters, they would have been brainwashed any how. Either way they were left with and took control and carried on doing what they had been forced to do, but as their own masters.

I wouldn't worry. It's not something that you could use in Court, but it is a story that would allow all the little bits we have to join up, he admitted as he finished lightly.

Why didn't the slaves die with their masters? the Chancellor challenged with a grin.

The Colonel shrugged. They had already lost their minds, it isn't a particularly difficult task. I could destroy yours in a few months if I made you a slave. That is the general idea behind slavery, you make living machines. It doesn't even seem to be difficult with electronics either. But it is difficult to destroy the mind of someone that doesn't have one and doesn't know who they are!

Your theory has some validity, the Chancellor admitted guardedly. But there are flaws.

I'm sure there are, Sir, the Colonel admitted quickly. What is done is done and it can't be undone. It wasn't your personal fault, but it is worth remembering if you invent the perfect weapon again, without knowing how to destroy it.

You don't believe in weapons that can stop wars? Guthorn challenged.

Not especially, Sir, the Colonel admitted, then continued seeing the Chancellors question form. If you have the most devastating weapon the World, Galaxy or Universe, you can choose your own theatre, has ever seen, somebody will come along and decide it is a splendid idea to test it out. The trouble is the people who get hurt tend to be the ones for whom the result doesn't actually matter. Civilians, sometimes even soldiers. The stupid bastard that starts it rarely has to see or endure the results.

So you prefer war?

It is more honest, Sir. But it is something I would rather not face given the opportunity. I don't know a soldier that has been on the battle line that does, the Colonel said sadly. If there was never another one I would not lose sleep over it.

Then why did you become a soldier? The Princess suddenly demanded.

It is what I did best, he said simply. But I look forward to the day I'm unemployed and I'm able to make my wife as happy as she deserves to be!

The Captain who had been listening carefully to the Colonel's statements, stiffened at his last. She is happy, she insisted quickly.

The Colonel accepted the statement at face value, but she could see he did not entirely agree with the sentiment.

I agree, Kathryn, the Princess backed Captain Janeway up. If I am as happy in my union as I believe Seven is, then I will be very happy indeed.

Chancellor Guthorn and I intend to be joined in our own Union, she announced. It will formalise our alliance.

The announcement took the whole of the Star Fleet contingent by surprise. Characteristically it was the Colonel who found his voice first.

If it is for personal reasons, Your Highness. I wish you both the best of what you want, he declared.

If it isn't then I would scrap the alliance, politics isn't worth giving your whole life for, he continued in more sombre tones.

It is for personal reasons, the Princess declared leaning to kiss her new fiance.

And you, Sir? The Colonel questioned.

Madila made an offer no man can resist! The Chancellor grinned sheepishly.

In that case. My congratulations to you both, the Captain interrupted with a laugh. Don't take any notice of the Colonel's cynicism. You wouldn't believe the fight we had getting him to accept Seven of Nine!

Both the Princess and the Chancellor laughed.

Perhaps we can help you to make Mrs Nine happy, Colonel? The Chancellor suddenly offered.

The Colonel asked, suddenly cautious.

I wish to offer you the post of First Knight of Training? He declared. You would never need to fight, and you could return to your wife every night. That is what you want, is it not?

No, Sir! The Colonel protested. I am not a mercenary, Sir. I have my orders and have given my word to follow them.

But you want your wife to be happy. Your safety would make her happy! The Chancellor argued

Mrs Nine will never be happy being a house wife, Sir!

The Chancellor opened his mouth to argue further but was stopped by the Captain. You've had your answer, Chancellor. It is the one I told you you would get from him, she said sternly.

Perhaps there is a possibility of a compromise, Ma'am? The Colonel offered thoughtfully.

Compromise, Colonel? The Captain questioned suspiciously.

The Cathors are going to repair the ship. We will be dry docked for about four weeks, or so I'm told. You're going to need Seven of Nine to help oversee the repairs and I will be in the way, the Colonel explained. So perhaps I could train a few of his Knights to train others. It will keep me amused for a while and I will still be able to see Seven when we are free. Is that acceptable, Chancellor?

The Chancellor nodded eagerly.

It sounds fair, the Captain agreed.

The Colonel rose quietly. In that case, if you will excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen. I will have to obtain approval from my better half.

He bowed formally to the Princess and saluted her. Thank you, Your Highness, for accepting me at your table. I wish you the best of fortune in the future.

I was so hoping to have a dance with him, the Princess sighed in disappointment as he stalked out of the room.

The Colonel found Seven of Nine, as expected, still standing in her booth. He sighed and settled on a container to await the end of her regeneration cycle.

It was almost 05:00 before Seven of Nine stirred from her unfeeling coma. Out of habit she glanced at the container that Colonel Samuels invariably used to wait for her to come out of her enforced slumber. She was unsurprised to find him sat there, but was less than certain that she appreciated his presence. The feelings' that had forced her into the alcove were still present and his presence, she knew, was not going to help her overcome them.

He rose and approached the alcove, stopping short to offer a deep bow. That was unusual, she thought, he hadn't come close enough to take hold of her.

Good Morning, Miss Nine, he declared formally.

That was almost alarming, she decided. In the few days in which they had been married he had almost managed to lose all of his customary formality when they were alone.

Permission to escort you to your quarters, Ma'am? He asked, still very straight. I would like to talk with you in private, please?

He offered his arm for support as she stepped down from the alcove. She accepted it. she decreed, more calmly than she felt.

Reaching their quarters he settled her on a comfy chair and presented her with a mug of tea before settling on the second chair. They regarded each other, almost uncomfortably, for several minutes before either spoke.

Chancellor Guthorn asked me to go to Cathor to train his Knights to become soldiers, even offered you a place to help me make up my mind, he announced.

She stiffened nervously. You accepted? She asked.

Of course not! He almost spat the words. I have my duty here and you wouldn't accept being a house wife. But I did offer to train a few Knights to tell their arse from their elbows on a battle field whilst Voyager was in orbit being repaired. Subject to your approval?

I know I've upset you dreadfully, I'm fairly sure I know why and I know that the last person you want to see right now, is me! The Colonel claimed quietly. I know that, otherwise you wouldn't have been less than honest last night. You think I don't care for you as much as perhaps I ought. That I deliberately go out to try and get hurt, possibly even killed.

Seven of Nine stiffened in her chair again, he knew what she was feeling, she thought. She made to protest, but he stopped her with a raised hand.

You could be right, perhaps I do! He admitted unhappily. For most of my life I've been doing exactly that, usually in an attempt to protect people I've never met from a danger they have undoubtedly brought upon themselves. It has become a habit, a personal fixation. Until I met you and you turned me upside down and inside out, it has been one of the few things about me I have been proud of. It has made my life seem worthwhile and has protected me from the silly things I am scared of. Like being loved.

The problem is I don't think I can break the habit and in the end there can be only one possible outcome. Perhaps I should have tried to scare you off me more. I knew that I would hurt your feelings and that the emotions would scare you. The truth is I was too selfish and weak to try. I apologise for that, I should have tried harder.

I do not wish to be left! Seven pleaded. I wish to understand my feelings!

But you can't explain them to me because they flare up too painfully for you to think clearly. You think you might hurt me and I will find them too difficult to accept? The Colonel pointed out. Now you are wondering if I was such a good catch? Whether you want to be involved with a man that will undoubtedly get himself killed trying to protect somebody you don't know? Whether you can live with the pain I have and undoubtedly will continue to inflict on you?

I love you. I will never leave you. When you need me I'll be there for you. You know that! he exclaimed. But I don't want you to feel caged in something you can't live with. Without hope of release. Perhaps a few days to consider your problems, without the fear of me turning up will give you a chance to come to your own decision. Then you can tell me what you really want from me?

She regarded him through her own misted eyes and saw the pain behind his steel grey eyes more than matched her own.

Your proposal is acceptable, she agreed eventually.

He leaned forward and took her hand in his, then kissed it tenderly. If you need me, remember I will come running, he whispered. You are the most important thing in my life. It hurts me more than physical wounds if you are unhappy.

Seven of Nine suddenly found herself blinking away tears. You should leave, she said quickly.

With a last kiss on her hand he did so. Leaving her to wipe away her own tears and compose herself.

The Colonel was beamed to the Cathor warship two hours later. He was met by Chancellor Guthorn, Dean Haldor, the ships Captain and a knight he had never met before.

Permission to come aboard, Sir! He announced crisply, slamming to attention and saluting.

Permission granted, Colonel Samuels, the Dean accepted in amusement.

The strange knight stepped forward.

Second Knight Cystine. I am honoured with your presence, Colonel Samuels, he introduced himself, bowing before the tall human.

Not for long, the Colonel snapped irritably, regarding the knight coldly.

He appeared to be about forty, 5'6 tall and broad across the chest. The Knights characteristic beard, below the flattened nose, a full and bushy grey.

Thank you for coming, Colonel Samuels, the Chancellor intercepted, trying to be welcoming. Will your wife be joining us?

His face dropped when the Colonel looked at him in restrained fury.

No she won't, Sir, he responded calmly. But I may wish to visit her aboard Voyager at periodic intervals?

I'm sure that can be arranged, the Chancellor agreed affably. We have a group of volunteers for you to test for acceptability. Second Knight Cystine will guide you.

You had better show me what I am going to train then, Mister Cystine the Colonel suggested.

Hurriedly he was led away to a huge hall located in the centre of the ship. It was over 200 yards across, easily engulfing Voyagers shuttle bay, he realised. In the centre were a party of some seventy knights, loosely gathered together, flanking them were Gwyndal and D'Argoniac the two knights he had already trained.

These are the first volunteers Colonel, Cystine announced hurriedly.

He grunted in reply before opening his mouth in a voice that rumbled through the hall. Corporals Gwyndal, D'Argoniac. Get this shower into something that resembles a parade, three ranks, at the double!

The two marines started at the sudden command and promotion, then rapidly and none too gently started to push knights into three rows.

Finally they turned to their former commander and saluted him smartly. Parade ready for inspection, Sir! Gwyndal reported formerly, keeping his face blank.

Thank you, Corporal, he responded neutrally, returning the salute.

Grimly he strode up and down the three columns, before taking position at the front and addressing them.

I am Lieutenant Colonel Samuels, he snapped, his voice echoing through the chamber with the force of his words. You will address me as Sir'. Corporals Gwyndal and Argoniac as

I have been invited to teach you to be organised and professional army, how to fight an enemy and survive. I will do so and I don't care how I do it.

We are Knights, we can fight! a voice protested from the ranks.

You think so do you? The Colonel growled, approaching the individual. I wouldn't take you on a picnic!

He faced the man squarely and pulled the long knife he was using in place of his broken sword. The knight looked at it him in alarm.

This is known as a sword bayonet, 18 of sharpened steel. It is specifically designed to puncture the chest of an enemy, parting his ribs so that it can puncture the heart and lungs, he growled threateningly. I've been using weapons like this nearly all my life. I can assure you it is lethal. If you know what to do with it.

He turned it over and handed it to the red faced knight, thrusting the handle into his hand.

If you can fight you should be able to kill me with it, he snarled. Here's the knife. Now kill me! Lets see if you can stand the sight of blood?

The knight looked around wildly.

What are you waiting for? The Colonel jeered. After all, you have my weapon and you claim to know how to fight, kill me!

Desperately the knight lunged at him, to find his arm grabbed, as the Colonel twisted past the blade, then smashed across an updrawn knee. He screamed in pain as he felt the arm break, then again as the Colonel twisted it. His shriek was cut short by a vicious uppercut caught him under the chin. He collapsed to the deck.

Corporal Gwyndal. I will see this man in private after his wounds have been treated, the Colonel announced to the shocked Corporal, retrieving his bayonet from the fallen man and returning to his position at the front.

Anybody else think they can fight? He demanded from the appalled company.

There was silence.

I was going to say I am an absolute bastard to those that fail to follow my rules. But I don't need to, he commented. I keep my rules simple. You will do as you are told, you will fight like bastards, you will act with absolute honesty, you will not fail this regiment. I have a long list of punishments for anybody that wants to break my rules.

Does anybody want to resign now? I'm sure Mr Cystine can find other duties, he offered the choice.

Two hands raised tentatively from the crowd. Corporal D'Argoniac, remove those two to a safe place, then we can start turning these people into real soldiers! the Colonel commanded, nodding at Cystine.

I'll start with you and any other bugger who thinks he can command in a couple of days, Mr Cystine, he warned.

Cystine looked at him with shock and horror showing behind the beard. I am a Second Knight! He protested in horror.

Corporal Gwyndal, was also a Second, the Colonel pointed out mildly. What is the point of giving you real soldiers if you don't know how to use them responsibly?

To command these men in combat, the standards you must set for yourself have to be higher and they have to see you reach them. You have to be tougher, think quicker, be better. Then they will follow you where you want to lead.

Seven of Nine emerged from her quarters and hour after the Colonel had departed. Furtively she looked around making sure she was unobserved before straightening up to her full height and strode purposefully towards her Astrometrics domain.

She had agonised about the decision for the Colonel to join the Cathors for a period. Again she had argued with herself, going around and around her feelings like some never ending carousel. But no sooner had she identified one and thought she had a handle on it, it was knocked out of her grasp again by another and more powerful one. At that point she wished fervently she had never met the Colonel, or he had died before she had got involved with him.

Now she had resolved to try and live without him. It wasn't a perfect answer, she knew that. He would return to the ship in a few weeks, but perhaps her desires for him would be subdued enough for her to accept his presence.

She made Astrometrics without being challenged, but was faced with a new problem. There was nothing there for her to do. Any long range scans she carried out would be rendered ineffective by the time they were required. Normally she would have engaged in her second duty, examining and testing the power distribution system. But that would mean she would come into contact with the crew, she couldn't face that, not yet.

Reluctantly she turned to the computer and started to make out her log. Listing her feelings about the situation she was in.

It was an appalled Second Knight Cystine that reported back to Chancellor Guthorn and the ships senior officers.

The human is an animal, Sire. he protested. He almost killed a junior knight that tried to answer him back. Then he made them run around and dive to the ground, he did that for over an hour, it almost led to the death of another three. Now he is getting them to stand straight and walk like he does. We can't learn anything from him!

The Chancellor held up his hand to stem the torrent of complaint.

I watched him fight on the Dilhangran vessel. I watched him take on a Mankron, injured and unarmed. Could you? I have also read the records that Captain Janeway provided, Guthorn commented. He will train the knights to fight as well as he does and how to combat those that fight like he does.

You have talked to the two that returned from Voyager? He asked mildly.

Cystine nodded.

The methods are not unlike their experience?

Again Cystine nodded.

When he completes the training then our knights will be the finest in the galaxy and undefeatable. It will be of benefit when we have to go to war with the Felongrans again. They must be completely annihilated next time.

Observe him well, Cystine. Find a way we can contain him. We may not be able to use his known weakness for his wife, Guthorn recommended. I shall tell Captain Janeway that he is settling in well. Then we will have to find a way to persuade him to stay. We will start by making it difficult for him to be contacted. Haldor arrange a damping field around the areas he will normally be using.

Gwyndal was also troubled by the Colonel's approach to the Knights in the hall. He approached him about it, as he escorted his commanding officer to his new billet.

Permission to speak, Sir?

You wish to know why I hit that man so hard, Corporal? Colonel Samuels asked shrewdly.

The truth is I don't know, he admitted. Perhaps it's because I haven't got a lot of time to get their attention before making them into soldiers. Or perhaps it is because I don't really want to be here. My wife is not happy with me and it hurts, probably more than the broken arm I gave out.

Gwyndal showed him into his new a smaller cabin, barely twelve feet square and without windows, it felt like a box room compared to his quarters on Voyager.

These will be adequate, Sir? Gwyndal inquired, mindful of the Colonels quarters aboard Voyager. There is an office next door I can clear for you as well?

Sufficient, Corporal, thank you. I doubt I will be spending much time in here, the Colonel sighed.

Reveille 06:00. Make sure they are up and suitably dressed, he commanded dismissing the knight with a salute.

Gwyndal returned the salute, turned smartly and left.

It was a worried Captain Janeway that chaired the staff meeting a week later in the Conference Room. She didn't like the deal that had been struck by the Colonel with Chancellor Guthorn. She knew the reason why he had done so, they had discussed it at great length before she agreed to him departing. Seven needed to think about their relationship, but she was less than sure with the cold light of the days after the decision that his reasoning was valid.

Certainly the condition of unqualified subservience Seven of Nine seemed to want to apply to the Colonel was more than anybody could give, certainly not the Colonel, no matter how much he wanted to. She could almost understand Seven of Nine's desire to behave so possessively. The Colonel was the first person she had truly got involved with, the first that hadn't been afraid of her and above all the first person to have taken an obvious, close and personal interest in her feelings, fears and protection. But it had laid her open to new and extreme feelings that she could not control.

Since she had all but separated herself from the crew, preferring to spend her time in either Astrometrics or back in the Cargo Bay. Rarely venturing elsewhere and certainly not socialising with others. She had almost slipped back into being a dispassionate Borg again.

Guthorn's report that the Colonel had settled happily into the new role that he had, Chosen', to accept, did not fit the Colonel she thought she knew either. His dedication to Seven of Nine was known and extreme. The fact that he was willing to separate from her was, as he had stated, a simple function of him wishing to protect her from anymore hurt that he might inflict, she had no doubt of that. But she doubted that he was enjoying the experience. She had not dared to try and tell him how Seven was reacting, fearing his reaction. It was disturbing her that the three occasions she had tried to contact the Colonel to get a report from him directly, via the communicators had resulted in no response.

His voluntary absence was having an effect upon herself as well. She was missing his calm dogged support and gentle observations. Even his formality and the ever varying intonations of Ma'am', a term she hated from almost everybody else, that could convey so many meanings, approval, disagreement, questions. She felt safe with him on her ship. Her own protector, that simply picked up her mistakes and put them right. She smiled at the thought, then sighed wistfully. She would have to talk with Seven of Nine and make sure the conditions existed for him to return before they left the sector.

The meeting also highlighted other benefits of the Colonel's presence.

Four crewmen have been briged for a disturbance in the Mess yesterday, Tuvok announced, first to report.

That is the first we've had in over six months, why have they started now? The Captain demanded.

The Colonel always seems to appear before they get carried away, Neelix explained. It is amazing to see the way he can solve an argument.

If he can't he takes them to the Holodecks and either puts them in a boxing ring, or through physical calisthenics. When he has finished they are too exhausted to argue anymore, Chakotay laughed. I was quite sceptical about how well it would work when he asked me the first time. But it does seem to work, if the problem is caught early enough. Not Star Fleet, but crude and effective.

You are supposed to manage crew affairs, the Captain pointed out stonily.

He always reports the events to me and if he wants to take the more physical approach he requests permission first, Chakotay assured her. The truth is that he has more time to understand crew problems than we have. He also knows more about the crew personally than the computer and always manages to be in the right place at the right time. I think it prevents a lot of minor squabbles.

People think they can talk to him privately, Kim voiced. If you watch him marching down the corridor, you'll see him stop by everybody he meets and has a talk with them, or help them in someway.

I do that! The Captain protested.

But you are the Captain, Chakotay pointed out. He isn't, he doesn't appear as part of the ships authority.

I'm beginning to wonder how much he does do aboard this ship, even without a specific duty, she mused, still aggrieved. No wonder he never seems bored.

Now about the Cathors reworking of our warp drive, she continued in a more business like manner. B'Elanna are you happy with what they are proposing to do?

They are proposing to strip out the converters and replace them with their own designs, she reported. They are quite different but look as though they are more than 40% more efficient. I tested them on the holodeck. A maximum warp of 9.99 could be maintained for at least four weeks. If we can strengthen the shields enough we might even be able to break Warp 10 without assistance and hold it for several hours.

Tom Paris whistled. That would be a big step nearer home! He exclaimed. Even being able to sustain warp 9.9 for extended periods would trim 5 years from the trip!

Seven of Nine strode in as he finished looking composed. Captain. I wish to make an observation and recommendation, she announced calmly coming straight to the point and without apologising for her lateness. She took up her classic At ease' position, standing straight, hands behind her back.

Oh! What about? Captain Janeway asked in surprise. It was the first time Seven of Nine had volunteered to speak for three days.

The Power Relay on Deck 11 section 9 is showing signs of overloading, Seven responded blandly. I believe that the overload may be traced to the crew entertaining themselves in the crew berths. They should be commanded to refrain from the action.

It is a problem, the Captain admitted. But I'm not banning them relaxing.

The relay will fail catastrophically again, Seven pointed out coldly. Continued repair and replacement is an inefficient use of time and resources.

We'll try and upgrade the circuit while the ship is in dock, the Captain offered.

The modification will require a major restructure of the power distribution system.

Then you had better work out what we need to do, the Captain suggested with a smile. Liaise with B'Elanna over the modifications.

she responded still calm.

Anything else? Captain Janeway queried.

I've been invited to learn how to fly their fighters, Tom Paris announced.

Take the opportunity, the Captain recommended.

I was hoping to investigate some of their historical records, Chakotay announced. I may be able to put some more flesh on the Colonels suggestions about the Borg and their creation.

That might be useful, the Captain admitted, still a little peeved that her second in command had allowed the Colonel virtual free reign in handling crew social matters. But I will need you here to help control the Cathor work parties. I think the Doctor and Ensign Kim had better handle the investigation.

Seven, you are to gain as much astral information as you can and feed it into the Astrometrics Suite. They can have as much of ours as they want, provided they give as freely, she commanded.

the Borg agreed.

Meeting dismissed.

They stood and headed for the door.

How are you coping without the Colonel, Seven? Captain Janeway asked quickly as Seven of Nine strode purposefully for the door.

The question stopped her short. Slowly she turned to face her Captain.

I believe I have adapted to cope with the condition for the time required, she said slowly.

You seem to have taken a huge step backwards. You are nearly as much a Borg as you were when we first released you, the Captain opined.

It has been a difficult adjustment, Seven of Nine admitted coldly.

I have given your comments on selfishness some consideration and have matched them with the contents of some of my log entries, she added uncomfortably.

The results?

I will be happy when he returns, she said simply turning to leave again.

He may need convincing, Seven! The Captain called after her as the door opened.

Despite her assurances to the Captain, Seven of Nine was still feeling the absence of the Colonel deeply. She had spent three days in self imposed solitary confinement after his departure trying to come to terms with the feelings of hurt and loneliness.

Her loneliness and vulnerability had been particularly impressed upon her when she had stepped from her alcove the morning after his departure, and had consciously searched for her protector. Slowly the reason for his absence and the previous days discussions flooded back. They had hit her like a hammer blow. As had the Captains final comment as she had left the Conference Room. The only defence she could find, was to resort to her Borg habit of being remote to the point of surliness. It was proving to be as difficult and uncomfortable to maintain as the feelings that had prompted it were to understand. It was an uncomfortable realisation for her, she needed to know the Colonel was near to feel any degree of confidence to be near humans.

The Captain was correct, she would have to find a way of convincing her tall beau that she wanted him to return. It was that thought in her mind that she turned towards Engineering to discuss the power distribution modifications needed to reduce the loading on Deck 11.

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, she announced bluntly entering Engineering and targeting B'Elanna at a console. I wish to discus modifications to power distribution on decks 10, 11 and twelve.

B'Elanna looked around sharply at the cold intonation. She had heard that Seven had resorted to her Borg nature, but had not witnessed it until now.

I don't have time just now, Seven, she claimed mildly. Come back in an hour.

Insufficient, my requirements may affect your plans whilst the ship is being serviced.

The chilling voice forced B'Elanna to turn towards it's owner in some concern. It had taken years for her to learn to accept the ex-Borg. Then she had suddenly become a lot more human and thanks to various mishaps and respect for the Colonel, they had finally become friends that could talk. This old face was less than acceptable. It made her fear for her friend.

B'Elanna took her arm and guided her for the door. I think we need to talk, she said quietly.

Vorik, keep a track on the input regulators, there is a fluctuation. It is within tolerance, but it could move again, she quickly ordered her number two, then guided Seven of Nine back down the corridors to her old quarters.

You are missing him, aren't you? She asked quietly as the door closed behind them. That is why you're trying to be a Borg again isn't it?

Seven nodded uncertainly. He is of benefit, she admitted. I wish to experience his company again. The Captain thinks he may not wish to return and I will have to convince him. I do not know how.

He thinks he has upset you, you will have to show him that you have forgiven him, B'Elanna mused aloud. If it was Tom and me, he would come along with flowers and chocolates. I'm a sucker for those.

Neither would be appropriate for the Colonel, Seven pointed out coldly.

I doubt they will, B'Elanna agreed. But there will be something that would.

The Captain also believes I am being selfish wishing him not to put himself in danger. Is that the case? Seven of Nine queried suddenly on shaky ground. She believes it will force him away from me.

B'Elanna sank back into her chair. I don't know, she admitted pensively. I suppose it depends on why you don't want him to do what he does.

I suppose, if you want him to always be close to you. So that he can follow you around like an unintelligent poodle. Then yes it is, she suggested. It's not unlike Tom and me. I can't stop him taking sudden fancies, there has to be some independence even in marriage. I know he will always be back.

Except that in the Colonel's case he will ultimately fail to return, Seven of Nine pointed out coldly.

I know, B'Elanna responded unhappily. But he has offered and given everything else to be with you, can't you be satisfied with that? After all you are the only person he accepts help from voluntarily!

I saw him when he thought you had been hurt, she added gently. It ripped him in half. If the Captain lets him leave the ship, the separation will hurt him and keep hurting, long after you forget him. Remember how he held to the memory of his former wife, he still blames himself for her death!

Seven of Nine stared at her for several. She had never known the Klingon think and speak so sensitively.

You are suggesting that he is incapable of adapting to my requirements? She demanded uncertainly.

He is adapting to try and match them all the time, B'Elanna responded quickly. But you can't change him from what he is.

Perhaps I should consider your statements as well, Seven agreed slowly after a few moments reflection. She turned to leave.

Didn't you want to discuss how to modify the power distribution? B'Elanna queried innocently.

Seven stopped in mid stride. she admitted uncertainly. I believe it will be possible to take additional feeds form section 9 on Deck 12 and section 14 on 10. There is a suitable route for power conduits beside the Turbo Lift shaft. However the conduit will have to be reinforced. These are the specification of the schematics. She held out a PADD.

Sounds a little Heath Robinson', B'Elanna mused, accepting the electronic notepad. I'll have a look at it and get back to you this evening.

Will you be alright till then?

There is no reason to believe otherwise, Seven of Nine announced stoutly, resuming her earlier crisp tones.

Seven of Nine turned for Astrometrics as soon as she left B'Elanna's old quarters. A new sense of resolve firmly implanted in her heart and a germ of an idea forming in her mind.

The short discussion with B'Elanna had suddenly snapped a lot of things into place. Of course she loved the Colonel. The fact that he seemed resistive to others protecting him had been the challenge that she had taken as her personal goal. It was a battle that she was still engaged in and she was winning. A flash of pride suddenly filled her. She was the first and only person he looked to for support aboard the ship. Yes he used others to help, but she was the only person that he trusted totally.

She set a computer search going for information and waited for what appeared to be an age before the information she required appeared. She set herself down to study it in fine detail.

Chancellor Guthorn was as good as his word, as Voyager entered orbit over the planet Cathor the following morning, she was immediately guided into a massive space dock alongside the Chancellors own vessel. By the Captains estimation the dock was capable of safely docking eight Galaxy Star Ships and dwarfed Voyager, as did the warship she was docked with.

The docking formed the first chance she had of seeing the Colonel as he marched his new company of Marine Knights towards disembarkation. He had obviously been busy with them. They now looked nothing like the rest of the round shouldered shambling crew, but marched erect not looking to either side as he drilled them down the corridor. He also looked different, his face gaunt and strained. He didn't look in her direction as they marched past.

She was joined for a moment by Gwyndal. He doesn't think Seven of Nine will want him back, Captain, he whispered urgently.

It is making him drive them hard and himself harder! I don't think he has slept for properly for three days. When he did I think he cried for what he thinks he's lost. It makes him drive himself even harder. He can't live like that! He continued rapidly, his concern showing. Please, Captain. Make sure your repairs are complete quickly and take him with you.

The Chancellor says he is happy, the Captain pointed out.

He would, the knight grunted, before hurrying after the rapidly disappearing company.

Something in his tone made her turn to Chakotay. Find where he is being stationed, she whispered. I need to go and talk with him.

She turned and went in search of Seven. She found her in the metallurgy lab working on the replicator.

I thought you would have joined us, just for the chance of seeing the Colonel, she chided.

I am aware of what the Colonel looks like, Seven responded calmly not looking up from her work.

I have found it impossible to contact him, she added.

You've tried your implant? The Captain asked.

Affirmative. The attempt was also unsuccessful, but not unusual. He has to be concentrating on it to pick up signals over any distance.

The news that Seven had not been able to contact the Colonel either, on top of Gwyndals warning words worried the Captain. She shrugged it off as she watched Seven carrying out another modification to the labs replicator.

What are you upto? She asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

Lieutenant B'Elanna Paris suggested I should find something that would prove I had forgiven the Colonel, she explained.

So, what has that got to do with the replicator? The Captain demanded.

The Colonel's sword was broken in his last skirmish. I intend to replace it, Seven declared. It seems the most pertinent way of proving that I accept and wish to continue our relationship.

I have examined historical texts on the manufacture of iron and steel blades. I have found that the construction of a blade is extremely complex and beyond the design parameters of standard replicator technology, she continued. The flexibility and longevity of a blade is directly related to the perfection of the iron crystals and the number of layers it is created from. I do not possess the skills or time to forge a replacement. I am therefore attempting to enhance this replicator using Borg technology to manufacture the replacement.

The Captain nodded, impressed by the idea. Sounds good, she admitted. How much have you had to enhance it by?

In excess of a 30% increase in resolution. I have modified some of the layers to use more modern materials to improve it further, Seven admitted, refitting the cover to the replicator. I believe I am ready to test the adjustments.

She activated the controls and they watched as a thin barely visible sliver of metal appeared. Seven of Nine opened the access hatch and commenced an intimate inspection of the creation with a tricorder.

Each layer will have to be inspected for any grain irregularity, she explained to the mystified Captain. Any irregularity will cause a weakness. The process will take five days.

I'll leave you with it then, Captain Janeway announced. When you have it complete we'll go and find the Colonel.

Chancellor Guthorn watched, impressed, as the Colonel paraded his much depleted company of men on the parade ground that had been made available to him. He had prophesied that the Colonel's approach to training combat troops would show a difference in quality and he had been proven correct.

Compared to the Knights that shared the same barracks, there was a tangible difference in the way they moved, stood and operated. It looked strange to see them moving as if they were one body of uniquely coordinated movement. It was, he reflected, also frightening. It promised uncompromising ferocity with economy of effort, all directed at a single goal.

This was a unique approach to him, typically Knights operated in small 'Pods' of between three and six Knights. Where they were required to act against a larger force, a number of pods were simply thrown together. The Colonel also divided his men into small 'Platoons'. But the similarity stopped there. Whereas the Knights operated in loose cooperation with each other, the Colonels operated in strict coordination, not only with themselves but the other platoons as well.

He had just watched a demonstration of the Colonel's Knights, or Marines as the Colonel insisted in describing them, in action. They had overrun a fortified position held by six times there number of Knights. The stun markers showing that only six of his own men had fallen in the attack, whilst the defenders had been wiped out soon after the Marines' had reached their position.

Now he was berating them for having lost that many.

From the original seventy he had started with, they had been whittled down to fifty, as he had found those that couldn't match the standards he demanded. In front of them stood a smaller party of five others. Four of these the Colonel had selected from a group of forty Kights of Second level or higher that had volunteered to try and command this strange force. Marine Gwyndal was among them, having won the Colonel's approval and was now effectively the senior Knight, or Major' in the Colonel's terminology. The fifth was the Knight he had almost killed for claiming he could fight. The irony that he had passed the Colonel's tests and had been placed ahead of at least six First Knights, was not lost on the Chancellor.

The original Second Knight, Cystine, had declined the opportunity of being trained by the Colonel.

The Colonels opinion of him had plummeted through the floor when he had found out, leaving Guthorn with no option except to remove him.

With a guarded compliment, the Colonel finally dismissed his men, ranking them as, Good enough to join the Guards'. The Chancellor made a mental note to get the Colonel to explain the rankings of the strange regimental formations he was quoting.

The Colonel turned to him and saluted as they marched away. The demonstration met your approval, Sir? he asked formally.

It was impressive, the Chancellor agreed enthusiastically. "They are the ultimate Knights! Cathor will be secure again with some validity to trust our power supremacy."

"They are good," the Colonel agreed. "But not perfect. That will depend upon who you put in command. Nor will you be able to make it a huge army, without losing their value. It is a regiment that they should be proud to serve in, because it is an achievement to qualify," He continued in explanation.

The Chancellor nodded. You ranked them as Guards', surely that is insufficient? A guard stands by a door?

The Colonel grinned tiredly. British Army traditional rankings, Sir. At the top come small specialist regiments like the Special Air Service and Boat Squadrons, small commando units. Then come the hard nuts. The Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines, even my own. They are trained to get behind the most hostile enemy lines and create havoc. Then come the Guards Regiments, the best trained of all line regiments. Followed closely and in loose order by Light Infantry, Fusiliers then the Territorial volunteer regiments.

I thought you were the best, that is what Gwyndal claimed? Guthorn challenged.

I am the best I've met, the Colonel offered modestly. I'm still here so I must be. But it is all in the deployment. You use Commando's to destroy a target. They aren't there to fight all day. If you need to take and hold a position behind enemy lines until relief arrives, then you look to hard fighting regiments. Which one you chose depends upon the best delivery source. Marines for sea landings, Para's for air drops, the Rifles to form a bloody trail.

The Chancellor pondered the explanation for a few minutes before speaking again.

After lunch I have a presentation to give. The Knight Council wish to present you with the Knight Order for your services, both here and on Sharawonga. I will also bestow the position of Supreme Knight. In command of your 'Marines'.

The Colonel looked shocked. I am grateful for the honour, Sir. But I am not permitted to accept, he declared.

It was the Chancellors turn to look shocked. It is our highest honour, and the rank is second only to my own, he protested.

I cannot accept either without express authority from my Commander in Chief, the Colonel insisted. Besides I won't be here for much longer.

Your Commander being Captain Janeway or Seven of Nine? Have you heard from either recently? Guthorn demanded cynically.

Neither, Sir! The Colonel responded bluntly. My CinC is or was on Earth. I cannot forward your offer to Her Majesty to obtain approval. Even if I could I doubt I would. It would be inappropriate, I fulfilled my duty nothing else.

As for contact from Voyager, I've heard nothing, he admitted. But my orders are to serve them.

Perhaps they have decided they don't need your presence anymore? Certainly Captain Janeway didn't appear to concerned about your return when I saw her yesterday. She didn't even enquire about your health, The Chancellor commented mildly.

the Colonel agreed. But I can only accept that from Captain Janeway as a written instruction, countermanding previous orders, Sir.

Now it's my turn to ask questions, Sir. Why have I had so many difficulties contacting Voyager, Sir. I tried to beg some more tea from Mr Neelix yesterday and I couldn't get through!

There has been unusual solar activity, it has blocked almost all communications with our ships in orbit, the Chancellor declared quickly.

The Colonel nodded. Thank you, Sir. I was sure there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. I'm not being jammed at all.

Of course not, the Chancellor protested. I'm still hoping to see your lady wife joining you!

The Colonel grinned. I doubt that will happen, Sir. There can only be a couple of days before I rejoin her again on Voyager.

Now if you will excuse me, Sir. I really ought to get some lunch before the next drill. You are of course welcome to join me. It is only sandwiches, I'm afraid. But I have been introduced to the most mouth watering pastries I've every tasted, courtesy Major Gwyndal. I think I could actually grow quite fat on them!

I know the items and I would gladly join you, but I have other matters to attend to, the Chancellor declared.

The Colonel accepted the statement.

He watched the Chancellor climb into his transport before setting off for his office and the promised sandwiches.

I think I owe you a big thank you, Major, he commented in amusement, as he was joined by Gwyndal. You are right the Chancellor does want me to stay. He offered to make me a Supreme Knight' and give me a Knight Order'?

They are our highest rewards, Sir. You would be worthy of them, Gwyndal stated gently.

But not as a bribe, Major. Now where are these wonderful cakes you promised me?

The Chancellor was unhappy and he made sure that his staff knew.

He has found out about the dampening field! He stormed at his aides. You assured me he wouldn't know about it!

We can modify the frequencies, Sire, an aide offered.

It's too late for that, the Chancellor snapped. Voyagers repairs will be complete in a couple of cycles. We have to make sure that he believes he is no longer required and get him away from the planet. Once they have left he will have no choice but to stay with and serve us.

We could create a message from Captain Janeway, Sire? another aide offered. We have a good sound print of her voice, it can be synthesised.

We could also send him and his men to Harketh to help in the flood relief, that would appeal to him, the Chancellor mused. Very well arrange it. Do one from the Colonel resigning his position on Voyager. Broadcast them tonight!

Captain Janeway listened incredulously to the third replay of the discussion she had with the Colonel the previous night. It made no more sense now she was awake than it did then.

It had started off amicably enough, with him apologising for not contacting her sooner, blaming pressure of work. That at least was feasible, she admitted to herself, knowing how the committed the Colonel became when he had started on a project. It was the next part that didn't, and it made even less sense now she was replaying it to Chakotay, Tuvok and Seven.

The Knights are proving to be excellent pupils, Captain, the recording read. But they need supervision.

I've been considering Seven's problems. I can't in all reality impose myself upon her any longer. She will be better off without me. I have decided to stay here. Please tell her my decision, say I am sorry for what I have done and stop her doing anything silly.

But she wants you back! The voice of the Captain exclaimed. She wants you as you are!

I will only hurt her again, it wouldn't be fair on her. It is better she just forgets me!

It has been a pleasure to serve with you and your crew, Captain. I wish you well on the remains of the voyage. I'm sorry I can't be with you to see it completed.

The recording stopped dead at that point.

Tell me what is wrong with this recording? She demanded.

He's breaking his vow and his direct orders, Tuvok volunteered immediately. We know that is almost impossible for him to do.

There was no emotion, Chakotay claimed. What he is proposing would cut him to the quick, there would be something there!

He referred to me as Captain' not Ma'am' and he called Seven, the Captain added. He always uses Mrs Nine' when talking formally and he is always formal with me, even now!

Do we agree there is something not right?

General consent appeared from around the table.

So what do we do?

We should attempt to see him, Seven of Nine announced.

Captain Janeway nodded her approval. Have you completed that replacement sword yet?

The sword Seven of Nine had set about replicating had proven more difficult to produce than she had imagined possible. Her five days replication time had turned into four weeks as she fought with the enhanced replicator to produce the perfect blade, never accepting a single fault as each microscopically thin layer of steel was formed. She was now thoroughly impressed by the skills of the craftsmen that produced the weapons without sophisticated sensory equipment.

The last regeneration of the blade was completed at 05:00. It will be completed today, she claimed confidently.

In that case you and I will go and find him as soon as it is finished, the Captain declared. Bring it with you.

The Cathor's repairs to the warp drive are complete. They just need testing. So we will be ready to leave in a couple of days. The Colonel WILL be aboard when we leave, she vowed.

The Colonel was also having difficulty with the discussion he was having with Captain Janeway.

I haven't tried to contact you, she announced over a crackling link. There has been nothing to report. There has also been some sub-space interference, so if you've tried to contact us, you would have failed.

he responded neutrally.

Things are no better now, but the repairs are almost complete so I thought I ought to advise you, she paused.

Advise me of what, Ma'am? The Colonel asked cautiously.

Seven has decided that she can't live with the discomfort you bring.

The shock from the blunt statement had him collapse in a chair. I can find a spot below decks, Ma'am? He pleaded. I am vowed to the protection of your ship and Mrs Nine. I am prepared to continue to do so no matter what the cost!

I can't afford to bring you back because of what you might do to her. I'm sure you agree, the Captains voice continued heedless of his plea.

Absolutely, Ma'am, he assured her, swallowing hard.

I am sorry Colonel, she said finally. Thank you for being so understanding.

The link was lost in a sea of static. It left him breathing hard and puzzling at the news the Captain had supplied.

His musing were interrupted by the arrival of Major Gwyndal. I have an order for us, Sir! he announced quickly, coming to attention as was the Colonels requirement.

Who do they want us to kill? the Colonel asked mildly.

Nobody, Sir! There are major floods on Harken. We are to join a relief party to assist in a rescue mission.

It is an unusual order, Sir. Knights do not usually get involved in natural disasters, Gwyndal commented.

But you aren't a Knight anymore. You are a disciplined soldier, you go where ordered and do what you're told. Perhaps they have realised that upstairs, wherever that is, the Colonel pointed out, deep in thought.

Tell me Major have you ever known Chancellor Guthorn to lie? He asked suddenly.

No, Sir! Gwyndal responded in shock. Why, Sir?

Oh, nothing really, the Colonel was blase. It just seems a little convenient with the news I've received from Voyager. It seems they don't want me back.

He shrugged. Well we had better run a light drill today and get the men packed for transport, Major. Equip them with full packs, but light arms only. It will probably be a little messy.

Major Gwyndal saluted and left. The Colonel followed him and took his position in the centre of the parade ground waiting for his adjutant to parade the Marines.

It was there he felt a prickle in the back of his neck. He knew that feeling, it was the implant in his neck coming alive. He concentrated on it for a moment, then scanned the hills that surrounded the barracks. His eyes finally resting on the small knoll that stood about a mile from the camp. He stared at it hard, before his attention was brought back to his more immediate concerns as the Marines fell in for him.

You are all going for a little jolly tomorrow, he announced, there were flashes of interest from the men.

We are going to Harken to fish a few people out the water. With that in mind I've decided we will have an easy day today. There were even a few wary smiles forming, easy days over the last five weeks had been rare.

I'm going to see if you are capable of getting within 100 yards of me without me seeing you.

Major Gwyndal and I will station ourselves on the knoll. All you have to do is creep up and show yourselves at a range of not more than 100 yards. Those that achieve it will have until 17:00 to do as they please. Those we tag will run our practise route with full kit, he beamed at them.

Captain, release them in twenty minutes, he commanded.

Come along Major, at the double please.

The Colonel and Major Gwyndal set off at a quick jog towards the knoll that had attracted the Colonel's attention earlier.

The Captain and Seven of Nine lay on the brow of the hillock that had attracted the Colonel's attention. The Captain had decided to take a leaf from the Colonel's book and had elected to be beamed to this point. From here she could physically see what the conditions were before she suddenly arrived. Chakotay was waiting in a shuttle above them to transfer them to the Colonel's office as soon as she was happy he would be there.

They saw the Colonel look in their direction and were surprised when he started marching directly towards them.

Surely he can't have seen us here? The Captain hissed in alarm. We're over 2000 metres away! Who is with him?

It is Marine Gwyndal, Seven responded, her artificial eye having better acuity than the Captains. You wish to withdraw?

No, we might as well see him here as anywhere, the Captain sighed.

He arrived with a breathless Gwyndal less than twenty minutes later.

Lovely day for a picnic, Ma'am? He suggested cheerfully as he joined them, offering a salute. Permission to join you ladies?

The Captain stared at him then grinned, trying to ignore his gaunt and haggard face. He was in as bad a state as Gwyndal had claimed in their snatched conversation during disembarkation. I'm not sure you are reputable enough, she teased, joining in the light hearted banter. Last time we were together I recall you rolling around on top of Seven.

The Colonel blushed. I don't think that will happen again, Ma'am, he responded more seriously.

What can I do for you, Ma'am? He asked formally. I was under the impression after our talk this morning that neither you or Miss Nine wished to have my company?

I haven't talked to you in nearly five weeks! The Captain spluttered. I haven't been able to raise you and nor has Seven! I came to find out what you meant in our discussion last night!

I haven't been able to contact you, Ma'am. I believe there were Solar Flare's or some such interfering with communications, Ma'am, the Colonel announced guardedly. Certainly that is what I was informed.

There have been no phenomena that would cause an interruption to communication, Seven of Nine opined.

The Colonel looked at Gwyndal sharply, he looked as puzzled as the Colonel felt. Major I think you had better keep an eye open for our would be sneaks. Make sure none get close enough to find the Captain or Miss Nine, he said quietly. There is something going on.

Gwyndal turned away and peered over the ridge ready to spot the oncoming Marines.

Miss Nine, could you assist the Major, please?

Seven nodded quietly and took a station by Gwyndal.

The Colonel sank to his knees before the Captain. Perhaps we had better tell each other what we told each other last night, Ma'am? he suggested.

Quickly they explained the communications they had each received.

The Captain finally sighed. I thought I could trust Guthorn!

If it's any help so did I, Ma'am, he admitted. If Miss Nine is adamant about her wishes, we now need to work out what we need to do.

The Captain opened her mouth to speak, but was waved down by the Colonel. Excuse me, Ma'am, he whispered. But a couple of my more enterprising men are trying to approach from the rear. I'll just be a moment.

He crawled away for a few minutes, then returned wearing a smile. Some people never learn. Just because you are creeping through the back door doesn't mean you don't need to keep your head down, he muttered.

Now, Miss Nine, are you sure you want this old fool back? he asked quietly. I haven't changed a great deal in the last five weeks you know?

In response she silently handed him the long package she had brought with her.

Carefully he unwrapped it, then whistled. It's gorgeous, he whispered, examining the blade and the fine engraving along its side, then testing the edge with his thumb. It's better than that, it's perfect. But are you sure, you know what it means? How did you do it? I don't see you working over a forge for six weeks?

Seven hissed at him emphatically. It is an enhanced copy of your original sword. There is no defect in its manufacture. You will not be able to break it.

He lifted his eyes to her. If I do, I'll know where to go for a replacement. You've even seem to have matched the engraving, he added in wonder.

I was uncertain as to the meaning of the markings, they were replicated also.

Nor do I, he admitted. I imagine it's on the line of Health and fortune to it's user and death to the enemy'. But it means something more to me now. With Love', perhaps?

He slid it back into its scabbard and handed it back to her. I think you had better keep it safe for me. Until I return properly. I'm not killing anybody here!

I know I said I wasn't going to roll around on the floor with Miss Nine, Ma'am. But would you consider turning a blind eye for a moment? He asked.

I'll go and help Gwyndal, the Captain offered with a smirk.

Thank you, Ma'am. He pulled Seven of Nine into an embrace that had her leaning into his chest as he fell backwards.

I have missed you, he whispered as he kissed her. Thank you, for having me back!

she murmured from his neck.

They were disturbed a few minutes later by the Captain and Gwyndal returning.

Fourteen reached the designated range, Sir he reported. I sent them back to barracks as you requested. Captain Janeway has explained the circumstances. What do you wish us to do, Sir?

The Colonel sighed as Seven of Nine levered herself upright from his chest. I think you and the others should go to Harken as ordered, Major. That will keep you and them safe.

What about you, Sir? Gwyndal demanded. You are our commanding officer!

You've earned that position, Major. You know the values I've set, act on those. But never think about what I would do, it will be wrong for you. As for me, I'm going home and it will take a damned sight more than Chancellor Guthorn to stop me.

We're taking you with us, the Captain decided, reaching for her communicator.

Hold hard a moment, Ma'am! The Colonel protested quickly.

Voyager isn't ready for sea yet, he pointed out. He paused for a moment as if thinking of something else.

Is that the right term? He asked curiously.

No, but I know what you mean, she agreed. Go on! You have already thought of something else.

I won't leave my men until they sail, Ma'am, he pointed out. It would cause suspicion and while Voyager is sat in their dry dock you can't afford that. So make sure everything is, Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion', as we used to say, when I was a lad. Then have a Thank You' party for our beneficent hosts. That way all deals will have been completed satisfactorily so there can be no ramifications for anybody, except Chancellor Guthorn and myself. I'll gate crash the party when you depart.

I was going to anyway, if only to say good bye to Mrs Nine, he admitted with a shy grin. You wouldn't get away without me, Ma'am. Not whilst she is with you.

You would have been discovered, Seven of Nine claimed.

Only when I thought it safe to be, the Colonel agreed. I could hide a company on Voyager and nobody would be any the wiser.

The Captain nodded slowly the suggestion made sense. Her ship would be fully repaired and ready inside 48 hours. The modified engines would mean they could outrun the Cathors if they tried to pursue. We'll do it, she agreed. You will be safe until then?

He'll be safe, Captain, Gwyndal interrupted. We will see to that.

There is one thing else, Ma'am, the Colonel added. Don't tell the Valorians, unless you have to. I don't think the Chancellor is as politically motivated as he seems at the moment. He just wants to be proud of his home being the greatest planet in the Universe, and both races have a lot to gain.

I wasn't even thinking of it, the Captain protested.

You would, Ma'am, he grinned. I will see you in the day after tomorrow, don't forget to send me an invitation, otherwise I might not get past the guards.

Come along, Major. We have leave passes to prepare, he finished, standing to return to the Barracks.

He turned before he made six steps and saluted. Your humble servant, Ladies, he declared and bowed low before them, to the Captains obvious delight.

This is so very good of you, Captain, Chancellor Guthorn complimented Captain Janeway as she greeted him on his arrival aboard Voyager for the farewell party. I am truly sorry that Colonel Samuels was not able to join us. There has been a disaster on Harken, some ten light years distant. I had to send his men there with several core of Knights to help in the rescue operation. He insisted going with them.

He does have a habit of taking his duty seriously, the Captain agreed honestly.

How have you taken his decision, Miss Nine? He enquired politely, turning to the ex-Borg. I am sorry it went the way it did.

His decision is satisfactory, she declared blandly. Also an honest answer, if understated. Apart from a twinge of regret, when she realised that the Colonel would not return immediately with them from the hill top, she was extremely satisfied with his decision. The crew had even noticed her smiling as she hurried about her duties, childishly trying to make the forthcoming party arrive just that little quicker.

Well your journey will be much quicker now, the Chancellor commented, turning back to the Captain. I understand our dock has fitted the latest drive configuration, Voyager will be as fast as our destroyers now! Still it is a small reward for the services you have provided and Colonel Samuels' service will be invaluable. When he leads his men into battle.

You stated that you wished him to train Knights, Seven of Nine intercepted immediately. You stated that you wished to keep him safe. That is what you promised, when you offered the option of staying on Cathor.

He will lead the Marine Knights into action. It will only be one action. That will be all we need to show our superiority, the Chancellor predicted confidently. After that it will not matter. If he survives he will be hailed the hero and saviour of Cathor, if that matters to him.

He was brought up short by a stinging backhand blow, delivered by Seven of Nine. Rapidly followed by a graceful leg swinging around and catching him in the side. The Chancellor collapsed to the ground winded, holding his stomach and side. Around the room there was stunned silence and nobody moved at the sudden action.

You declared you would prevent him going into combat, she cried in desperately. You lied. The Colonel believed you were honourable and honest. We trusted you!

There was anger on the Chancellors face as he rose to his feet. We need the Colonel to prove we are still superior, he hissed defiantly. If he dies in the process it will not matter, there are others he has trained that will survive.

Seven hit at him again, her slender hand balled into a fist as it aimed for his Solar Plexis. The Chancellor was more prepared for the blow. He blocked the blow and grabbed her hand as she struck and twisted. The action turned Seven of Nine around and he started to lever upwards, pushing her forward and over. Before striking her in the small of the back making her squeal in pain.

I should kill you for your attack, he snarled.

Touch her again, Sir, and I will be forced to rip you in half! A firm voice announced from the door. Everybody span to see the Colonel marching in.

He had intended not to join the party, believing it better for the Chancellor not to find out about his disappearance, until after Voyager had departed. But he had been drawn to the doorway in the hope he would be able to pass the message to Seven of Nine that he was indeed aboard. Perhaps she would make her excuses and join him, so he hoped. He had arrived in time to see his beloved strike out at the Chancellor.

You are supposed to be enroute to Harken. I saw you board! Why have you disobeyed my orders? The Chancellor snapped, not releasing Seven of Nine's arm.

You are not my commander, Sir! The Colonel reported. General Fletcher provided my orders and Captain Janeway has not rescinded them. My duty is aboard the USS Voyager.

As for seeing me board. Well, I got off the other side. At the moment I am acting on my own behalf. You have assaulted my wife, he added dangerously.

Release My Wife! He barked the order, unhitching his Knights Power Sword from his belt and activating it.

There are thirty knights here, do you think you would survive? The Chancellor snapped drawing his own sword and waving it threateningly over Seven of Nine.

Possibly not, the Colonel admitted. But you wouldn't either!

Seven of Nine sensed a slight lessening of the Chancellor's grip and lashed out with her foot, driving her heel into the inside of his leg. He released his grip of her arm as he sagged from the painful kick. Before he could recover, the Colonel was between him and the woman he had held captive.

Your honour is badly tarnished, Chancellor, he said harshly. You tried to play politics with us and didn't do it very well! You tried to get me to stay on Cathor by clumsy deceit and are now threatening an unarmed woman. We however have done everything we promised we would do and a little more.

I suggest you retire now and work at making the Princess a perfect husband. That will require you to relearn the meaning of honesty. Let us go, Sir. Peacefully. You are too honest to be a successful politician.

The tension in the room was tangible, it could be cut with a knife, as the crowd watched nervously for the outcome of the battle that was sure to come.

Chancellor Guthorn looked up at the shimmering blade that was being held steadily less than six inches from his face, then at the hard face of the man that held it. Weighing his chances of defeating him. The chances, he decided, ranged from slim to non-existent. He could see death in the eyes of the tall human.

I am sorry, he declared crestfallen. You are correct. I did wish you to remain with us. I believed you would be able to build an ultimate fighting force, to protect Cathor and defeat our enemies."

"You may rejoin Voyager and the ship may continue on her way. My apologies are particularly extended to you Captain Janeway. I have wronged you. I am sorry I cannot make a recompense suitable, his voice appeared to be full of remorse.

He rose slowly, the Colonels sword still hovering close to his face as he did so. Slowly he deactivated his and held it out to the Colonel. We will leave now. There will be no attempt to stop you, he promised starting for the door.

One of the Chancellor's bodyguards inadvertently activated the blaster of his sword with a nervous twitch, the bolt mercifully striking the wall harmlessly, after narrowly passing the Colonels head. The sudden sight and sound of it flashing past the Colonel had him on him in a flash. Do you really want to die, son? He asked quietly. I could beat the Chancellor, you will be no contest!

The guard dropped his weapon.

Tuvok, escort the Cathors to Transporter Room 1, Captain Janeway announced, snapping to her senses. Get them off my ship!

Tom, get to the Bridge. Set us on course for home, Warp 9 as soon as they have left, she continued.

Numbly the Colonel watched the Cathors leave, before turning to the Captain. I'm sorry, Ma'am, he claimed. I neglected to ask permission to step on the ship. May I do so now? He asked, slamming a salute.

She laughed weakly at him. Granted, Colonel!

Seven of Nine slid up behind him and placed his arm around her quivering body.

We will have to talk about these violent urges of yours, he suggested quietly. They can get you into all sorts of trouble, if you're not careful!

We will discuss the matter, after we have discussed your dereliction, she agreed, cattily.

Well I can see you have a lot to talk about, the Captain observed. You had better start on it now. You have 63 hours before your next shift.

Good Night, she dismissed them, heading for the Bridge.

She was unsurprised by the salute and crisp that escorted her to the exit. It felt good to have some formality in her life again, she decided she had missed it. She was stopped though by Seven of Nines comment.

"I believe this party was a logical one, Captain," she said mildly.

"Oh! How so?" The Captain asked cautiously.

"I believe a celebration of the departure of our Cathor friends was appropriate," Seven declared. "Their leaving is satisfactory."

Captain Janeway grinned. "I suppose it was," she agreed quickly, then continued on her way.

End of Series!

Authors Note

This is the last of this particular series for the time being, as it seems to be nicely wound up. There is a third series in preparation and I will start posting as soon as I can see an end coming. For the time being I thank all that have read this small(?) offering and special thanks to those that have commented upon it. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have had writing it

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