1-26 Home Sweet Home Home Sweet Home

Continued from Final Conflict

Desperately short of supplies and suffering from shipwide system failures, Captain Janeway and her team are forced to abandon their stolen Borg transport and take refuge on a primitive planet. Seven of Nine becomes a Goddess and they find that they may not have been as successful as they first thought.

Voyager and characters (except the Colonel) 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.plus.com.

If like me you like to know why things occur like they do, I would heartily recommend you start with The Colonel.

This story is rated PG13

©R Gower 2001

I wish you would cheer up a little, Colonel! Captain Janeway chided hopefully. Almost single-handed you've destroyed the greatest threat to the Galaxy. You should be dancing in the corridors, instead you wander around as if we had lost!

She, the Colonel, Tuvok and Seven of Nine had been aboard their stolen Borg scout ship for four days, trying to retrace their route and catch up with Voyager and the Colonel's attitude for those four days would have lead anybody who did not know better that they had indeed lost to the Borg. The Captain had decided to follow the pattern of events that she had established aboard Voyager and had commenced a daily meeting for everybody to voice their opinions openly, so that they could all learn of their problems. This was the first meeting and she was obliging by being the first to speak.

Permission to speak, Ma'am? The Colonel responded quickly.

He had automatically handed control of their fate back to her, as soon as he was sure that the Unimatrix had been destroyed and had taken the role of simple Quartermaster and crewman just as soon as Tuvok had awakened the day before, or as close as the Colonel would ever be. He was confirming that subordinate role, even now, by asking for permission to speak in an open discussion.

Captain Kathryn Janeway, bold commander of a Federation Star Ship, was none too sure she deserved the post of commander of their small vessel, why he had given it to her, why she had accepted it, or even if she should be grateful. Especially after her limited success aboard the Unimatrix when compared to the Colonels own endeavours that had led to its destruction.

She smiled. How can I ever refuse?

Your prerogative, Ma'am, the Colonel assured her.

Carry on, Colonel! She almost laughed at his deference to her.

I had valuable help, the Colonel pointed out. But before we all go awarding ourselves Victoria Crosses, it should be noted we haven't destroyed the Borg. All we've done is put a dent in their plans. There are other Unimatrices and they will pick the baton up sooner or later. As for being happy. I will be, when we get back to Voyager. Until then we haven't won, it's a draw. Besides the Captain isn't dancing in the aisles either!

I think I know what you mean, the Captain admitted. It did feel like an anti-climax. I wish I knew why?

Because we were there, the Colonel offered sagely. The scale passed us by, quite normal. I think we may need to do some serious thinking though, Ma'am?

Go on! She prompted in resignation.

Our food and water supplies can't last as far as Komos, Ma'am, the Colonel stated. I lost my pack on the Unimatrix, so the only food we have is what was left in my webbing. Even if we rationed ourselves to a Tommy a day we only have food for another six or seven days. This ship isn't able to replicate the required food and it is struggling to keep up with water as well.

It was disturbing news. They had eked out an existence with the ration pack that was in the Colonel's voluminous webbing for the four days they had been aboard. That was now finished and the last meal had been one of the Colonel's Tommies', a simple pancake of flour, water, yeast extract and salt. They might supply the nutrients required to allow people to march and fill stomachs, but they were not food'. Whilst not as tasteless as a ration pack, too salty for that distinction, they were very much a supplement of last resort. After her first taste the Captain thought she had a good handle on why the Colonel liked Neelix's food. On a scale of 1 to 10 of quality, Neelix ranked about 3. Tommies came at least four points below and the Colonel had lived on them, sometimes for weeks at a time.

The Captain queried.

Seven of Nine looked up. She was showing signs of strain, the last four days had been busy ones for her. She was the only person aboard who had any idea of how to control the Borg scout ship they were on and whilst she had been able to teach the Captain the basics of how to monitor the crafts systems and progress, the Captain was a long way from being able to control it.

Borg do not consume food as nutrients, Seven pointed out. It is unnecessary for the ship to produce food and I do not have the abilities to reprogram the replication system to the level required. It was a gauling admission for her to make.

Nor do the Borg have the same requirements for fluid consumption, she continued. The Colonel has requested at least two litres per day per person. That is 120% the nominal capacity of the ships replication system. It is placing strain upon the replicators.

Can't we survive on less? The Captain switched her attention to the Colonel again.

No, Ma'am! He said pointedly. The Borg don't sweat and this ship runs hot. Any less and there is a real danger to health from dehydration.

There are other problems, Seven of Nine interrupted.

Go on! The Captain prompted with a sigh.

The ship is suffering system failures due to the lack of contact with the Collective and the requirement to maintain services not normally required by the Borg, especially the environmental and power systems. I am unable to maintain control of all the systems within satisfactory tolerances, Seven admitted.

How serious is it?

I am uncertain. The vessel was docked with the Unimatrix for extensive repair to the power and distribution systems, after receiving damage beyond the capabilities of the crew and regeneration systems to recover. That is also the reason why the crew were not present. All systems are equipped with fail-safe mechanisms, they are normally linked with the Vehniculum aboard the ship. In our current state they are unable to operate for an extended period without manual adjustment. We have had to drop from Transwarp due to the system overloads and are progressing at Warp 7, weapons are also inoperable.

The Captain thought for a few moments. I can't see Chakotay not coming to look for us, that will shorten our journey, she said at last. But we don't know how soon he will be able to track us. Nor will he know we are aboard this scout ship. Tuvok, can you modify a Borg transponder as a beacon for Voyager to follow?

Tuvok agreed. However such a beacon might also be intercepted by others and we have no defences.

We will have to take the risk, the Captain announced. Seven, can you find a planet where we may be able to gain supplies? I don't want to eat any more of those Tommies', otherwise I'll end up as cynical as the Colonel!

There is a primitive planet within two days voyage. It is not significantly off of our course, Seven agreed.

Put us on course, then go and rest. You look absolutely drained, The Captain demanded

She looked speculatively at the Colonel, as if challenging him to offer a magical alternative she had missed.

I'll tuck Mrs Nine in, Ma'am. Then see what I can find to hold water? he offered getting up.

Captain Janeway watched him march away with mixed feelings. There were times that the Colonel seemed to be testing those around him. She had a feeling he was testing her. Seven of Nines response to her question seemed too immediate for it not to have been planned. She wondered if she had passed the test, it seemed important.

What can you tell us about the planet, Seven? Captain Janeway asked curiously as they crowded around the small Borg view screen thirty hours later.

From the screen the most notable thing were the clouds, ranging from off-white to dark black, with occasional flashes from lightening making them glow eerily. Where there was a break in the cloud cover, the planet looked a lush green and brown. But it still did not look like a hospitable planet, the Captain decided.

The planet is heavily forested, Seven described. Atmosphere is comparatively high in Carbon Dioxide compared to Earth specifications. It makes it susceptible to heavy rainfalls and maintains a high ambient temperature in the region of 30 Celsius. There was an indigenous race, species 08, the Calhards, population approximately 150,000.

An early Borg conquest? Tuvok suggested.

Affirmative. The race was believed extinct, Seven continued, calmly. However there was no significant change to the environment for other indigenous creatures.

Can we track anybody we send down? the Captain questioned.

I can track the Colonel's implant. Tracking others will be difficult, we have no form of mobile communications, Seven announced.

I don't like sending people on their own on an Away Mission, but it looks as though I have no choice, the Captain mused.

How much time will you need to obtain sufficient supplies, Colonel? she asked, accepting the inevitable, she was going to have to rely upon the Colonel's practical experience.

I'll need a couple of hours to look around, before I can say, Ma'am, he opined. After that it will depend upon what I can find, or catch.

She nodded her acceptance of the simple statement. Can you manage on your own?

There was concern in the question. It was answered with a grin from the Colonel. You are proposing to put the primitive thug, that destroyed the capital of an advanced race, on to a primitive planet. What was the question again, Ma'am?

She grinned at the light hearted bravado. Let me put it another way, Colonel. Can you find food that we can eat?

He shrugged. If it is similar to the things I've seen, then yes, Ma'am. If not it will take longer and we will have to experiment a little. But if Mrs Nine and the Commander can test the items I find, it needn't hurt?

Okay. But keep your channel to Seven of Nine open. If there is any trouble she can pull you out immediately.

Twenty minutes later the Colonel, with half a dozen assorted containers, materialised in a small clearing carefully chosen as being rich both in animal and plant life as well as providing the essential water, but surrounded by thick brambles.

Ouch! Dam and bugger! He cursed mildly as he thrust himself through the thorns to gain the trees beyond.

There was a problem? He heard Seven of Nine challenge over their private link.

No, duck. I frequently dive through brambles for the fun of it, he thought back. But if you could move your landing point a 15 yards in any direction, I will be grateful?


From there he looked around in the curious half light of a tropical jungle.

His landing site was a curious mixture of thick bushes, like the ones he had landed amidst, and trees. The ground was a thick layer of leaf litter that effectively prevented undergrowth. Most of the trees appeared to be not unlike those he was familiar with in the jungles of earth, their scaly bark covered in green and yellow moss. A range of creepers drooped down from their lower branches about ten feet above his head. Much further above his head he could hear the chattering of birds and other creatures, none of which he recognised. It all went with the sticky humidity, that had him sweating as he stood there.

Other sounds that reached his ears were the constant drip of water from the trees above. Whilst it did not seem to be actually raining, there must have been rain recently, he reasoned. Another small tinkling sound had him moving slowly from where he stood, studying the ground intently, searching for the water that Seven of Nine had declared was there from her scans.

He almost missed it, but from beneath an solitary stone there was a trickle of water emerging in a small spring. Cautiously he tasted it. It seemed a little peaty, but otherwise sound. It was a start, he would be able to send water up. But finding food was going to require a lot more work.

Carefully he dug the first of his containers into the soft earth and channelled the trickle of water into it. It was going to take sometime to fill, so he started to explore a little further afield. He found a range of fungi that looked as if they might be suitable, so he carefully gathered those as well, along with a few nuts he found upon the floor and berries that were growing upon his landing site. But the pickings were at best poor. The fungus would barely last them a day, if they proved edible and he was never certain about mushrooms.

Trapping animal life might have to wait until nightfall, but that would be at least seven hours away.

I think we may have drawn a blank here, he passed his thoughts on to the waiting Seven of Nine. I am filling a water container and have half filled another with possible food. But finding anything more suitable is going to take too long.

I shall transport you back, Seven of Nine agreed.

He felt the fuzz of the transporter beam take him away.

Permission to come aboard, Ma'am? the Colonel announced as he reappeared aboard the ship, sub-consciously checking that he was still in one piece after the transfer. Like almost everything about this time he still found the transporter difficult to totally rely upon.

the Captain breezed, hiding her disappointment that the Colonel had found so little during his four hours on the planet.

Tuvok, examine the stuff the Colonel did find. Then we can decide what to do next.

Tuvok and Seven of Nine had been busy, the Colonel noticed. Between them they had managed to construct some form of tricorder using Borg components and were now examining the meagre supplies he had brought up.

Captain, we are able to eat the nuts and about half of the fungi, Tuvok reported fifteen minutes later. The water we can drink.

Put me back down, Ma'am, the Colonel urged, pained by his own sense of failure. A different place will have different foliage. Where I went the first time had plenty of food, but most of it was in the tops of the trees and I'm not Tarzan. Somewhere more open may be easier?

Seven, can you identify a better position to place the Colonel?

I am uncertain. The planet is heavily forested. I will carry out further scans.

Seven of Nine turned to a control console and plugged herself in to gain better control of the ships sensors. She had almost completed her scans when the lights dipped.

There has been a failure in the ships power conversion system, Seven announced quickly, breaking her link. I will attempt a repair.

Tuvok, help her! The Captain demanded immediately.

Seven of Nine and Tuvok left, leaving Captain Janeway and the Colonel to sit quietly to await the return of the systems.

Why did you give command to me when we left the Unimatrix? Are you testing me again, Colonel? She asked quietly as the silence gathered.

He questioned in surprise.

I want to know! She demanded uncomfortably.

No, Ma'am! He refuted stubbornly. You are the commander of the ship and our destiny. It is my privilege to serve you. I would never test your authority aboard your ship. If I give an impression otherwise I apologise unreservedly.

In the darkness she smiled. You often give the impression that you are looking over my shoulder, watching me, she explained quietly. I'm never quite certain what you are judging me for.

I often do, he admitted. I watch the Captain, because it is where I can learn the most about the strange home I find myself in and the stranger people I find myself living with. Sometimes I watch the Captain in concern, because of the strains she puts upon herself. But there is no judgement involved, Ma'am.

A shudder and explosion ran through the ship, interrupting further conversation. It had the Colonel leaping to his feet before the last echoes died away and running in the direction Seven of Nine and Tuvok had taken. The Captain sat non-plussed for a moment, before scrabbling to her feet and chasing after the Colonel.

He stopped her at the entrance into the generator room, as the heat hit him.

What are you waiting for? The Captain demanded trying to push him out the way.

He was as mobile as a rock.

With respect, Ma'am. I think you may be better placed outside? Whatever went pop is not going to leave anything pretty.

We go together. You are going to need help! The Captain insisted, still trying to pass him.

Very good, Ma'am!

Together they entered the small room. The full force of the heat hit them as they entered, almost throwing them back and scorched their lungs as they tried to breath. A glimpse was all they needed to spot a mound in the centre of the room and they struggled towards it, to find Tuvok laying prone over Seven of Nine.

In one movement the Colonel leaned forward and grabbed both by the arms and started to drag them out the room. The Captain seeing him pull them to safety with some ease, risked another look around.

She could see a gaping hole in a power conduit. It and the hole glowed with the heat from the fire within. It told its own story. The power conduit had overloaded and exploded. It was a freak event anywhere and potentially disastrous. She could see a control panel nearby so she struggled towards it, trying hard to remember what Seven of Nine had tried to teach her about how Borg circular patterns of Borg controls operated the systems.

For a moment she glared at the panel, then stabbed at a pad and was rewarded by the glow fading. Satisfied the immediate problem was subsiding she turned and staggered after the Colonel.

She found him back in the main control centre, gently mopping the faces of Seven of Nine and Tuvok. Silently he handed her another cloth to wipe hers with.

How are they? she asked huskily.

Mrs Nine is a little scorched, Ma'am. She will be okay in an hour or so, after her probes have done their job, he opined quietly. Commander Tuvok I don't know about. I think he took almost all the blast. There are deep wounds in his back and his left leg is a mess. I've bound what I can but I've nothing to treat him with here.

I can't get us to the surface, the Captain pointed out crouching beside Tuvok. And I don't want to abandon our transport so easily. How quickly can you wake Seven?

I suppose she might wake a little quicker in the alcove? the Colonel suggested. If you could activate it for me while I get her in place?

The Captain nodded and led them to the Alcove Seven had programmed to match her requirements.

Satisfied that Seven of Nine was satisfactorily in its supernatural grasp, the Colonel took the Captains arm and led her away.

Permission to speak, Ma'am? he asked urgently.

You are going to anyway, the Captain sighed.

If you order me not to, then no, Ma'am.

I already know what you are going to say, Colonel. You think the ship is lost and we need to get to the planet, she prophesied.

If you already know what I was going to say then you are of the same opinion, Ma'am, he suggested. If this was Voyager with her full complement of crew, the damage could probably be repaired. As it is we have Mrs Nine. The ship has a severe problem with power, otherwise the lights would not be flickering like they are. She can't cope on her own and we will be merely concerned bystanders, because neither of us know enough about the ship or its workings to act independently, he explained urgently.

The Captain sighed, I can't get us off the ship, she admitted. I've no idea how that part of the ship works.

At least if we prepare now we might be able to rescue a few items that will be of use to us? He offered.

Like what? she snapped.

The Commanders transponder? Perhaps the core of the transwarp drive? Mrs Nine told me that you have stolen and used one before? The Colonel suggested.

You think Voyager will find us on this planet? She challenged.

It's a lot bigger than this ship, so if we can keep the transponder thing working?

I make the decision. And we wait for Seven of Nine's report on the level of damage, the Captain decided.

He agreed crisply, saluting. Could I request your assistance to dismantle the important parts of the drive?

Seven of Nine stepped from the Alcove an hour later, still feeling a little groggy, but otherwise operational. She was surprised that instead of just the expected Colonel waiting patiently for her, there were two faces waiting expectantly for her. The Captain was there as well, she turned away respectfully as the Colonel approached and embraced Seven of Nine.

Will you stop getting yourself hurt, he whispered gently in her ear. It puts years on me!

It was unintentional, Seven of Nine assured him, wrapping her own arms around him to place her own kiss on his neck.

The condition of Commander Tuvok? She demanded releasing the Colonel again.

the Colonel admitted. What happened?

There was an overload in a main power conduit. We were unable to terminate it before it became critical. The Commander shielded me from the explosion.

Can the damage be repaired, Seven? Captain Janeway asked, moving to join them.

Not satisfactorily. We have insufficient crew to maintain the power systems.

Can we continue to Komos with power as it is?

Seven of Nine considered the question carefully before responding. No. I will not be able to maintain life support and power.

The Captains face dropped at the news. You were right, Colonel, she said sniffly. Seven, find us a landing spot and prepare to abandon ship. The Colonel has found a number of items he thinks will be of benefit to us. Check them over, add anything else you think of benefit and beam them down first. We leave as soon as you are ready. She walked away to sit and wait beside Tuvok.

I think I have upset the Captain, the Colonel commented sadly.

Seven agreed thoughtfully. From past observations, it is more likely that she is unhappy because she is about to lose her ship?

With the last of the power from their ship, Seven located a spot on the edge of a wooded glade for their new beam down site.

The first thing the Colonel did when they arrived was to make a close inspection of Tuvoks injuries. The better natural light revealing more than the flickering green glow aboard the Borg vessel. He did not like what he found under the quickly applied bandages.

Captain Janeway asked, seeing the Colonel's concerned face.

He looked sadly up at her. I don't know if I can treat him, Ma'am. We honestly do not posses the medical kit to do much and I don't know enough about the flora here to do much with that!

We have to do something? She pleaded desperately.

Take Mrs Nine and search for any dead animals, the deader the better and cobwebs, he suggested. Bring them here. I might be able to splice the cuts up so nature can take its course. But he has lost a lot of blood, so nature might decide there is only one course. If he was human he would be dead by now! I'll get a fire going.

He looked up at the sky before continuing. We have about four hours of daylight left. We have to bandage the Commander up and construct some sort of shelter in that time.

Thirty minutes later Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine returned from their exploration. Seven was bearing a number of cobwebs she had carefully pulled from between branches and laid across her arm. The Captain was timidly bearing what looked like a decomposed squirrel, bearing it at arms length as though it might bite her, her face a picture a face of disgust.

The Colonel rose to greet her and took the dead animal from her, noting with satisfaction that the skin was moving.

he declared, ripping the skin open with his pocket knife and pulling a small handful of maggots from inside the skin. The Captain almost reeled away from the stench of rotting flesh, but stood mesmerised as the Colonel dropped the maggots into the deep cuts in Tuvoks leg and back, then laid Seven's cobwebs over them. Finally wrapping the bandages tight across the top. Satisfied he threw the remains of the creature upon the fire that was now crackling brightly beside them.

What did you put those maggots in there for? They might set up an infection, The Captain demanded after taking a deep breath from the revulsion. I can understand the cobwebs, they are supposed to stop the blood flow!

The Colonel looked up in surprise. Well done, Ma'am. You are correct about the cobwebs, perhaps there is something I've missed in Star Fleet training? The maggots are there to stop infection.

She looked at him puzzled, unable to understand what he meant, but unwilling to demand a more thorough answer.

He gave her one voluntarily. Cuts as deep as these must heal from the bottom out, Ma'am. Otherwise they will become infected. If I simply cautorize the wound he will be a cripple and it still might not work. This way anything that becomes infected will become food for the maggots, they won't touch healthy tissue.

Does it work? She asked, not believing him.

I'm here! The Colonel assured her. Now we had better make a shelter, he announced getting up.

Come along, Ma'am, not giving her a chance to voice her further concern for his operation.

Mrs Nine will look after the Commander for an hour or so, he suggested, giving Seven of Nine a warning glance.

Don't you ever give up? the Captain pleaded queasily.

Not while there is breath in my body, Ma'am, he announced cheerfully, picking up a sheet of metal he had scavenged from the ship. We need shelter. It will rain tonight.

Seven of Nine wisely said nothing. She remembered the Colonel's actions when they had been stranded before. Forcing everybody to work hard, before they could come to terms with their disastrous circumstances. It had seemed harsh, callous and survivalist at the time, but it had been essential to their survival, she had realised afterwards. He was doing the same here, stopping the Captain from brooding about losing her vessel and Tuvok.

The Colonel gripped the Captains arm firmly and pulled her after him as he set off for some thick bushes he could see about 200 yards from their small fire.

We don't need the Ritz, he commented lightly as he marched. We will have to find somewhere better tomorrow. But we do need it to be wind and rain proof. I do not sleep well with water trickling down my neck.

What do you want me to do? the Captain sighed, surrendering to the forceful commands of the soldier.

A little hedge laying, he said calmly. We need to create a weatherproof wall for our backs. The tin sheet we can use for a groundsheet. I'll show you how, then I'll have to find something for the front and sides.

Deftly he demonstrated how to notch and pull the stems of the bush over and interlace them with others to keep them in place, then stood back to watch as the Captain grappled with the problem.

Never did anything like this in Star Fleet survival courses, she grunted, as a branch snapped upright again, narrowly missing swatting her in the face.

That, Ma'am, the Colonel claimed. Is because Star Fleet survival courses don't last long enough to find out how unpleasant things can get and they leave you everything except the kitchen sink.

Satisfied she was going to cope he left to find materials for the rest of their primitive shelter.

He returned nearly three quarters of an hour later, to find that the Captain had erected a sizeable wall and was even filling the gaps she could find with smaller branches and leaves.

He enthused. Are you sure you haven't done this sort of thing before, Ma'am?

Captain Janeway glared at him, then broke into a laugh. It was obvious, she admitted. I could see daylight through the wall!

He grinned back. You would be surprised how unobvious it can be, he claimed. It wasn't to me the first time. Made damned sure the second though. I nearly drowned that night!

What is next? She prompted.

Roof and walls, then a lot more thatching, he grinned.

It was almost pitch dark by the time they were satisfied with their small shelter.

The Colonel gave it a quick once over' before standing back and admiring their hardwork.

I think we can drag Commander Tuvok and Mrs Nine over, he decided at last. With a little luck she has the kettle on?

He offered an arm to the Captain, who took it gratefully, straightening her back painfully before they returned to the fire.

Seven of Nine, as the Colonel had predicted, had water boiling for them by the time they reached the fire. Automatically she handed out the two cups that Colonel had brought with them.

See! What did I say! Mrs Nine is the perfect wife! He declared happily, ignoring her frown. Always ready with the important things in life. Like the Tea!

The task is made easier by the implant, Seven pointed out. I sensed your approach.

He grinned and kissed her quickly on the cheek. The wonders of technology, he declared.

Commander Tuvok behaving? He added.

He is developing a fever, Seven of Nine diagnosed.

To be expected. We'll damp him down, then I'll carry him to the shelter. If you can remember how to carry fire in a pot?

Seven of Nine glared at him. I am Borg! She declared imperiously. Borg do not forget!

How could I forget, he mused happily. Nobody else could put up with me. Now, ladies, if you will permit, I'll deal with the Commander?

The Captain had watched the performance between Seven of Nine and the Colonel, unsure whether to laugh, or be shocked on Seven of Nine's behalf. He was displaying totally different attitudes to those aboard Voyager and she did not like them. Here he was alternating sternness and an almost condescending frivolity, so unlike his normal stiff but friendly formality.

He wasn't like this the last time? Was he? She questioned Seven of Nine as the Colonel passed out of earshot.

Not when we were alone, Seven of Nine affirmed bending to the fire to ladle burning embers into the former kettle.

Then why is he like this? The Captain demanded.

For your protection.

Seven of Nine's simple statement jolted the Captain from confusion to open annoyance. She demanded.

Seven of Nine looked up at the Captains angry face. He is attempting to stop you from thinking about our current position and the status of Commander Tuvok, she said simply. His actions were efficient.

I don't need protection! The Captain snapped, turning on her heel and stalking after the Colonel. She was followed a few minutes later be Seven of Nine bearing the now glowing pot on the end of a stout stick.

She arrived at the new shelter in time to witness the argument between the Colonel and the Captain.

The Captain started hotly, standing over him.

He looked up mildly from covering Tuvok with his combat jacket.

I'm not one of the crew, to be bullied and diverted!

No, Ma'am! He acknowledged.

I know how bad our position is!

Don't give me that innocent look! The Captain snapped getting into her stride. I know you are trying to distract my attention. I was embarrassed by how you were carrying on with Seven. It was not the way you naturally behave, so why start it here! And no more Ma'am' nonsense! She stormed, not letting the Colonel speak.

I'm in command. Tuvok is a member of my crew, as are you and Seven. I do not take your instructions and you take my instructions. Do I make myself clear? She finished.

The Colonel slowly stood up and turned to face the Captain, willing himself into controlling what he was going to say.

I acknowledge your command over the Commander, Ma'am, he said quietly. Though he is not in a position to count for much at present. I acknowledge your overall control over Mrs Nine, aboard Voyager, or any other space vessel, provided she is in agreement. I do willingly place myself at your disposal aboard any space vessel, as per my orders.

I am even prepared to accept that as a commissioned Flag Officer' in a navy you may technically outrank me ashore and am generally prepared to give way to you on those grounds and my understanding of HM Regulations, where to do so is appropriate and your experience exceeds my own, he admitted.

Captain Janeway allowed herself to relax a little, but tensed again as he continued firmly.

But right here, in the circumstances we are in, rank means sod all, Ma'am! And you know squit about how to survive here. I have lived in conditions like this for months, not knowing what is safe to eat, how to treat injuries without magic sprays. That is what I have done for most of my life. It is called survival.

I know how much the Commander means to you, Ma'am. I know you are going to brood over his fate and whether there was an alternative to what happened. But there is a time for that later, when you are home. Here it will kill you! My goal is to get you to survive for as long as it takes. If you think my actions were wrong you can Can' me again, when we get home to Voyager. Until then I will bully you. Yes, I know I am bullying you! Embarrass you, threaten you, terrify you, abuse you. You will undoubtedly end up hating my guts. But we will survive. That means more to me than any prison sentence you want to name!

You have accepted my instructions before, Ma'am, because you thought I knew what I was doing, he reminded her more gently. Why worry about them now? You've said before. This is my sort of situation. Nothing to use, almost hopeless position. Its what I lived with, it is almost home' to me. Trust me, Ma'am?

The Captain relaxed, a little. There was a lot in what he had said. She had never had to live on a planet with so little. The thought of having to create shelter for them would have crossed her mind, but she would have had little idea of how to do do so. She might even allowed herself to think about their plight, but she had little real idea of how to survive, none at all about how to treat Tuvok. But she was not going to let him get away scot free. Very well, Colonel. I accept you have the experience. But treat Seven that way again and I'll kill you!

The Colonel relaxed. Agreed, Ma'am. I was already intending to make my apologies to Mrs Nine as soon as we had a moment together. If you wish I will make a formal and public apology to her now? he offered, turning to Seven of Nine, who was busily trying to rebuild the fire infront of the entrance to the shelter.

You'll do it better in private, the Captain decided. I'll give you fifteen minutes. She turned and disappeared into the night.

You told her what I was doing? The Colonel asked Seven as he crouched beside her.

She asked, Seven of Nine agreed. Captain Janeway is not inclined to panic. She would realise your intentions.

I know, he admitted wistfully. But we would have passed the difficult stage by then. Still, thank you for playing along. It was perfectly done and I am sorry if it seemed wrong. Besides it made her think of something else other than how little we've got!

He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her tenderly.

She wrapped her arm around his head and turned the kiss into a lingering one. You will be adaptable, she volunteered.

Captain Janeway returned thirty minutes later, after wandering lost in her own thoughts of inadequacy and depression, finally reconciling herself to the fact that she was going to have to take the Colonels strict command again. Silently she sat down beside the Colonel.

What happens now? She asked quietly.

We rest, the Colonel said simply. Tomorrow we need to find water, food and a better campsite. That sorted we can get that transmitter working.

And Tuvok?

We try and stop him burning up and don't leave him alone, Ma'am, the Colonel agreed. But he is out of our hands.

The Captain thought about the statement. Aboard Voyager the Doctor would have deployed hypo-sprays, regenerators and all sorts of other equipment that would keep him alive and generally aid his recovery. Here there was only the Colonel's almost cavalier treatment and casual acceptance. It was difficult to accept the difference. Tuvok was, or had been, her most loyal and dependable officer and friend. Now he may well be dying, due to a silly accident. Unconsciously she rubbed her eyes, they were stinging.

It was an act noticed by the Colonel in the firelight. He reached over and held her wrist.

I'm sorry, Ma'am. I do know how much the Commander means to you, he whispered. You know if I can do something I will. But just at the moment all you and I can do is pray and rely upon him being as stubborn as his CO.

I don't believe in a God, she sniffed.

Perhaps you should? He might not be a talker, but he listens well, he offered softly. Now I suggest you and Mrs Nine get some rest. I'll stand guard and watch over the Commander.

Captain Janeway smiled weakly at him. I know you will do your best, Colonel. And you will force us to do what you believe is for the best, she admitted. But I don't like being sheltered from the truth. You think Tuvok will succumb to his injuries, don't you? She could not bring herself to use the term die.

The Colonel considered her question. I won't shelter you, Captain. But I won't necessarily tell you everything at once. As for Commander Tuvok. I honestly don't know. I am told by the Doctor that Vulcans have good recuperative powers. Whether that is natural, or because they respond better to his technology I don't know. He may recover, he may not, I may have to amputate that leg. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Vulcan healing trance? She offered hopefully.

The Colonel shook his head sadly. As I understand it, Captain. He would need to be at least in touch with the outside world to start with. At the moment I doubt if he knows it even exists!

She nodded an acceptance and crawled into their small shelter, Leaving him with Seven of Nine.

The Colonel signalled to her to follow and moved a little way away.

She is lost, Seven, he commented, taking Seven of Nine in his arms. You know more about survival than she does and there are a lot more nasty shocks to come. Please, watch over her?

Seven accepted. Who will watch over you?

He grinned. I have a stubborn streak a mile wide running down my back and a beautiful wife waiting to remind me of it!

The embrace and kiss had them staggering under the mutual passion. Just remember I love you above all else. No matter what happens! He pleaded as they broke apart.

Seven of Nine said calmly, turning to return to the shelter.

She checked Tuvok as she crawled in and found him feverish but calm. The Captain was a different matter. Seven of Nine could see her chest heave in silent sobs.

She studied the Captains heaving form for a moment, deciding whether to call the Colonel for help. Remembering the Colonel's plea, she lay beside the Captain and wrapped her slender arm around her, pulling the Captain tight to her own body in compassion.

The Captain gripped the arm tightly to her and slowly settled.

Outside Seven heard the Colonel start to sing softly. The words she recognised, they were the ones he often used when he was uncertain of his fate, The Lord's My Shepherd'. That was satisfactory, she decided. Like the Captain, she did not believe in deity's, but she accepted that the Colonel found them helpful and she believed in him with all her Soul'. That was an abstract term for her to accept as well, she decided. He would know exactly what to do by the morning. With that thought firmly in her mind, she also slept.

The Captain woke early in the morning and found she was clutching a slender blue covered arm and a soft and warm body laying behind her, almost curled protectively around her. As if stung, she released it, pushing it away from her. Then almost guiltily pulled it back again as she started to remember the events of the previous day, grateful for the sense of warmth and comfort it seemed to offer.

Behind her Seven of Nine stirred, her own recuperation interrupted by the Captains movements. She tried to slide her arm back in shock at it's location. The Captain held on to it firmly, then allowed it to slide away, before turning to its owner.

I'm sorry, Seven. I didn't mean to wake you! The Captain apologised.

It is 05:30, Seven excused. It is time to wake. Apologies are not relevant.

The Captain smiled. 05:30 was the time that the Colonel awoke aboard ship and seemingly everywhere else, almost with Seven's metronomic efficiency. She reached out and hugged her sleeping partner in childish fashion. I'm sorry anyhow! She insisted.

Please don't tell the Colonel about last night. His opinion of me must be near the floor as it is! She continued in a nervous whisper.

It will not be necessary, Seven whispered back, picking up the Captains nervous mood.

The comment did not entirely pacify the Captain. It was ambiguous, given her current frame of mind. But she was unlikely to get a better explanation from Seven. How is Tuvok? She asked instead.

Seven reported, turning to leave the shelter.

Good Morning, Ladies! The Colonel boomed at them as they emerged. Water for tea is on and I will prepare breakfast in a few minutes. I trust you slept well? He finished looking hard at the Captain dishevelled face.

She felt the gaze as it bored through her to see her mind. She tried to meet and match it with her own, knowing she was going to fail. Quite well, thank you, Colonel! There were no interruptions?

First night, the Colonel confided with a grin. Always quiet on the first night. That's why I volunteer for the first night of guard duty.

Okay, so what is for breakfast. Not Tommies? The Captain asked hopefully. The Colonel's infectious good humour starting to get to her.

Can't go wrong with Tommies, the Colonel protested in mock distress. But I have found some mushrooms, so I'll griddle those for those with more discerning palettes?

I think you and Mrs Nine should make the first foraging party, Captain? The Colonel suggested when they had finished their meagre meal. Mrs Nine knows what to look for, and it will give me a chance to rest and check over the Commander properly?

It was a proposal that was acceptable to the Captain. She was far from sure she could face a morning with the Colonel constantly driving her on. Though there was a sneaking suspicion she would not be a lot better off with Seven of Nine, the similarities between the attitudes they displayed had never been more evident than they had been for the last few days.

As the two women walked away the Colonel turned to other matters. First came Tuvok. The Commander was still unconscious and feverish. But he was not twisting yet. With infinite care the Colonel removed the dressing from the leg and inspected the wound and its surrounds. It still appeared to be clean, but there was a slightly sweet smell to the leg. It prompted him to inspect further down before changing the bandaging and put the old ones in water to boil.

That task completed he investigated the near surrounds, erecting small traps to attempt to trap some of the small squirrel like animals that seemed to infest the trees near the camp. He also loped a few straight branches and fashioned them into spears. There was nothing springy enough to make a satisfactory bow, but the trees reminded him of ash, he hoped that they would fire harden to create strong tips to his make shift weapons.

Finally he settled to rest to await the return of the Captain and Seven of Nine.

A small glint of light made him look up, shading his eyes he could see two small figures hurrying away. They were too far to catch, but they appeared to be humanoid. He assumed that he had been spotted. Uncertain if they were friendly he made his preparations.

How well do you think we will do? Captain Janeway asked Seven of Nine as she was led away.

I do not know, Seven of Nine was inevitably as honest in her answers as she was calm in supplying them. I am aware of how to test possible food, but I am not familiar with the range of plant life the Colonel is. It will require a certain level of experimentation. We must also find the water supply, the Colonel is less efficient without adequate supplies of tea.

The Captain smiled. The Colonel's addiction to strong tea was as well known aboard Voyager as her own for coffee. Perhaps we had better find a substitute for when his supplies run out? She teased.

Seven of Nine seemed to consider the suggestion for two whole seconds before answering solemnly. A wise precaution.

The mornings stroll over the alien countryside reminded the Captain of walks her parents had insisted on taking her and her sister on as a child. It had been a vain attempt to separate her from her science books. Her parents knowledge of the natural things around them was not exceptional and she had been a reluctant participant. The outdoors was something that happened to others. It had a habit of being cold and wet or hot and sweaty and was definitely not satisfactory.

Her attitude had not changed much now she was approaching middle age. She could still live quite happily not having to commune with nature.

She wondered what Seven really thought about it. She had spent most of her life not even knowing that nature' existed. Now she was married to a man who was more at home living with it, than in a bed. Not interested in the science but in its physical attributes, what could it be used for? Food, shelter or protection?

It was a question she brought up as Seven of Nine stooped to inspect a green broad leafed plant.

We have agreed to disagree upon the subject, Seven admitted, tugging at the plant. He has a distaste for enclosed spaces but accepts them as necessary. I prefer the order of technology, but have learnt to accept that order does not exist in many places. It makes us efficient.

Like being able to find natural food? the Captain suggested, as Seven of Nine toppled backwards, pulling up a dark tuber.

Seven of Nine looked up at her gravely. As a human I must consume food for nutrients I am unable to absorb all that is required from the alcove. It is not efficient, but must be done. The Colonel is capable of obtaining food and rendering it palatable in conditions where I cannot achieve the same. It was logical to learn some of his knowledge.

The Captain agreed. So what have we got? It looked decidedly unappetising and natural to her

I believe the Colonel may refer to it as a beetroot, Seven of Nine admitted less certainly, knocking the dirt off it. If it proves edible, he will probably create a soup. There are more of these plants, we will need to collect several kilogrammes.

The Captain was impressed by the level of knowledge seemingly displayed by her ex-Borg companion and willingly applied herself to the task of pulling more of the almost black tubers from the ground as Seven of Nine pointed them out.

Thirty minutes later they had managed to extract enough of the bulbs to satisfy Seven of Nine. She had also found several herbs that she thought may be usable so they had found their way into the bag they were carrying as well.

There are eight humanoids observing us, Seven of Nine commented, as they cleaned their hands off on broad leaves. They are carrying primitive weapons.

800 metres in the trees, towards the west. I saw movement.

Captain Janeway glanced towards the thicket Seven of Nine identified, but could see nothing. I think we had better make for the camp, she suggested, a premonition hitting her. She did not expect primitive cultures to be friendly to strange beings.

Carefully they rose and started to retrace their route.

We are being followed, Seven of Nine announced a few minutes later. They are moving to intercept.

This time the Captain did see dark figures moving. She altered their course to take them away from them and towards another standing of trees about 1500 metres away and picked up the pace.

They are pursuing and gaining, Seven observed, striding out to match the Captains new quicker pace.

Can we reach the trees before they catch us? We might be able to avoid them.

Seven examined the distances between their pursuers and the trees. The pursuers were no more than 500 metres behind and the trees were still over a kilometre away. If we run? She offered.

They stepped up the pace again to a quick trot, then into full flight as the baying of their pursuers reached them.

They had reached the trees, their pursuers hard on their heels, when Seven of Nine caught her foot and sent them both sprawling headlong. Seven of Nine fetching herself against a tree.

The Captain screamed in desperation, rolling over and reaching for her companion.

Seven of Nine barely moved at her insistent prodding, out cold.

The Captain looked up in time to see the first of the ebony black figures reach her and cuff her sharply with a club.

A small groan from the shelter made the Colonel look around from his lonely vigil. Quietly he crawled to the entrance and looked in, to find a pale but conscious Tuvok trying to look around.

Good afternoon, Commander.

Tuvok gazed at the tall soldier silhouetted in the opening. My status? he whispered hoarsely.

the Colonel admitted.

Location of the Captain?

Out with Mrs Nine looking for food.

Tuvok considered the statement carefully. We are stranded, he said at last.

For a while, the Colonel admitted again. Can I interest you in something to drink?

Slowly Tuvok nodded an agreement, then coughed violently. The Colonel, fearful of the additional damage that the Vulcan would do to himself, dived in and held him firmly to prevent him thrashing.

Quietly Tuvok settled again.

Hurts like the devil, doesn't it? The Colonel offered softly. I'm sorry but there is nothing I can do!

You are correct, Tuvok agreed hoarsely. I will control it.

The Colonel turned and crawled out, to find himself looking at the tip of a spear.

The first thoughts that went through his mind as he looked up along the shaft were ones of shame at having been trapped, then grudging respect for the owner of the spear that was so professionally held at his throat. It had been a long time since anybody had crept up on him like this.

At the end of the six foot spear stood a seven foot humanoid, his skin was a dark as ebony, flat nose, thick lips and short frizzy hair, the archetypal Kenyan, the Colonel decided, linking the alien being as he always did with the things he was familiar with on Earth. He was dressed in a heavy leather jerkin and what the Colonel could only describe as leather knickerbocker' trousers ending just above the knee. If it had not have been for the spear he would have laughed in embarrassment, he had not seen anybody wear them since he was a child in the orphanage.

Watching the strangers face carefully he slowly brought his hand up and gently moved the point of the spear to one side.

Okay. You have me what are you going to do with me? He asked gently.

He did not expect a response. But his action seemed to excite the alien. Caffer. Outrethau! He screamed.

Immediately the Colonel was surrounded by another eight spears. He froze where he knelt.

The spears waved at him, indicating that he should stand. He did so slowly, keeping his hands in the open fearful of eliciting a violent response.

Finally standing his arms were grabbed and bound tightly behind him. He noticed with cool detachment that they did a professional job with that as well, binding the elbows tightly together.

A prod from a spear forced him to take a step forward, before he turned.

My friend! He protested, nodding at the shelter.

I'm not going anywhere without him! He continued, ignoring the jabbing spears.

The aliens seemed to get the message. Two of his captives ducked into the shelter and dragged Tuvok out. He screamed as one pulled him by the injured leg. They then slung him over the shoulder of another member of their party and urged the Colonel forwards, forcing him into a quick trot.

Captain Janeway woke slowly and painfully from the cuff behind the ear she had received during capture. Unintentionally she groaned aloud as she turned over to examine the surrounds. She appeared to be in a low stone hut. A thick pillar in the centre seemed to be supporting the roof. The only light appeared to be coming from the open doorway, it made the features inside the small building indistinct shadows. Beside her she could just make out the form of Seven of Nine, carefully she half crawled have slid towards the recumbent figure and was grateful for the moan that emanated from it when she shook it.

She called softly.

It prompted Seven of Nine to wake with a start, then groaned when she tried to sit upright.

Take it easy, the Captain urged. We seem to be safe for the moment.

Good morning, Ladies! The Colonel's voice announced his presence in the room.

The voice seemed to be coming from the pillar. Curiously the Captain crawled towards it to find the Colonel bound to it hand and foot.

They caught you as well? She asked in surprise. It seemed an almost impossible event.

Regret, I was captured without a struggle, Ma'am, the Colonel admitted. The natives are very good and I was particularly dumb. Could you check the commander, please. I suspect some of his wounds have reopened, our friends were not wildly gentle with him. He is over by the far wall.

I didn't think it was possible for you to be captured, the Captain commented as she dutifully moved to check Tuvok, finding him sweating hard and unconscious.

Nobody is perfect, Ma'am. Bound to find somebody better at things than me if you look, the Colonel opined.

Behind him Seven of Nine crawled up and set about his bindings.

Released he passed a guilty look at the Captain, before lifting Seven to her feet to wrap an arm around her and placing a lingering and loving kiss.

It was another private moment that the Captain found embarrassing, forcing her to turn away for a few moments before asking. How are you going to get us out of here? Wherever here is?

Regretfully the Colonel released Seven of Nine and rubbed his wrists to return the circulation. I have no plans at present, Captain. We can't use the door as there are two large gentlemen out there waiting for us. I suspect they are as adept with their spears as they are at creeping up on people. The walls are brick and stone and it will take too long to dig through the thatch. Besides as we are still alive, I don't think they aren't as primitive as they look, so I propose to do nothing until we have something more to go by.

That is unlike you, Colonel. You don't like being a prisoner? The Captain challenged.

The Colonel shrugged. We aren't in a desperate position yet, Mrs Nine tells me I work better when things are impossible.

There are other good reasons to avoid trying to run around if there is a possibility of any other solution, Captain, he added quietly.

There was something in his voice that made the Captain look at him hard. What is it? She demanded.

He took her arm and led her to a far corner of the room before speaking. The Commander, he whispered. I smelt gangrene earlier when changing the dressings. I'm not desperately sure there isn't serious damage to his spine either, there doesn't appear to be a lot of response from about the middle of his chest down. We couldn't drag him around the countryside, even if we got clear!

The Captain slumped in shock and horror from the Colonel's diagnosis. He caught her and gently lowered her to the ground.

She knew of the way limbs rotted under gangrene, but she had never seen it. It was so easy to prevent, then remembered that it was only easy to prevent aboard a Star Ship, with proper medical treatment. As for paralysis. She tried to envisage Tuvok in a chair, it did not work.

You said those maggots would stop infection! She pleaded desperately. You must be wrong about the paralysis!

I hope I am and they have! He said bitterly. The wound itself is as clean as a whistle. But they don't carry blood to the places it has to reach! Please, Captain. I need your permission to do the amputation if and when we need to and it will need all of us to do the job. Mind control or not it is going to hurt if he is awake!

Are you sure? How much? When? Will it save his life? She asked numbly, the questions tumbling from her as she tried coming to terms to the prospect of a legless and paralysed Security Officer.

Perhaps it is just Vulcan healing? She suggested frantically.

The Colonel's voice was low and urgent. The lowest I can go is the top of the gash in the leg, about halfway up the calf. Provided we can amputate before it spreads. The rest I don't know, but I don't want to take the risk of being right and not treating him. Down a leg, he will still have a chance, even if I'm wrong. He stands none if I'm right and we do nothing!

He knelt, waiting, watching her face intently until the Captain finally looked up, swallowing hard. Very well, Colonel. You may proceed, if and when it becomes imperative. But if he wakes I want him to know first, she said bravely.

He'll know, Captain, the Colonel promised. This is field medicine at its most brutal. Awake or not, he'll know about it.

Horrified by the implication she staggered out of the door to be met by two spears pointing steadily at her breast. She had a feeling that they might not be such a bad solution, but complied to their implied command and stepped back into their quarters.

The Colonel in the mean time knelt beside Seven of Nine as she examined the Commanders condition for herself.

His temperature is dangerously high, Seven of Nine observed calmly.

There is a severe infection in the leg, the Colonel pointed out. If I lift you, could you have a look at the roof and give an opinion of how long it will take to get out?

Seven of Nine looked at him sharply. You did not tell the Captain the truth, after you promised not to protect her?

The Captain has enough on her plate, the Colonel said nodding in the direction of the huddled Captain. I told her the truth as I saw it. But as we have nothing else to do, it pays to check. I think the thatch is a good two feet thick.

You are seeking to prevent me from thinking about the condition of Commander Tuvok? Seven of Nine challenged.

The Colonel thought for a moment before replying. Not you especially, he decided. There is me as well. I don't like cutting people up in cold blood. Trying to find a way out will give me something else to think about.

Silently Seven of Nine rose and inspected the roof. We should try at the edges, she announced offering herself to be picked up.

Thank you! He whispered, kissing her on the neck, before wrapping his arms around her thighs and lifting her clear of the floor.

Quickly Seven poked at the reeds, pulling a few strands clear, before signalling her desire to be dropped down again.

Your supposition was correct, she said, pulling out a few strands that had lodged in her hair. We will not be able to cut our way out of the roof using the small knife available to us.

She walked over to the where Captain Janeway sat and silently sat beside her. They were joined a moment later by the Colonel, who quietly sat between them. He hesitated for a moment, then quietly he extended his arms around them and pulled both close, taking what comfort he could from their physical presence. Automatically, Seven of Nine laid her head on his shoulder turning slightly to put her arms around him. The Captain hesitated for a moment, resisting, embarrassed by what was being offered, then gratefully followed Seven of Nine's lead.

You may let go, Kathryn, the Colonel whispered. We are all friends here. Nobody will say anything!

Even in her desperate state, the Captain noticed the deliberate change in the Colonel's address. It made her think for a moment, then squeezed him tighter. Guilt made her look up and seek Seven of Nines face. Seven of Nine nodded at her, giving silent approval and she buried her head on the Colonels shoulder again.

Why are you always so calm? The Captain asked quietly after a while. Even when the Unimatrix was destroyed, you showed nothing. Yet you are feeling something?

The Colonel was spared supplying the answer by a procession of the tall native guards ducking through the door and surrounding them, spears poised.

Regretfully all three straightened up from their comfortable repose and watched warily as two more, a male and female followed.

These were obviously something a little special. Their dress was more elegant. Gone were the hard wearing leather jerkins and knickerbocker trousers of the warriors. In their place where gaily dyed woollen smocks decorated in beads and taffeta. Between them they carried a box about two feet cubed. They placed it reverentially infront of the party then prostrated themselves.

The Star Fleet party looked at each other in stunned and silent surprise, all baffled by the strange act.

Finally the Colonel shrugged and moved towards the box, then tutted heavily as his way was blocked by spears. He looked apologetically at the Captain, who also tried to move forward. Her path was blocked in similar manner.

Well they brought it here for some reason! The Colonel expostulated in frustration. Come on Mrs Nine, third time lucky?

I will also be prohibited, Seven prophesied, crawling forward slowly.

It was with mutual surprise that she found she was allowed not only to approach the box, but remove its lid and peer inside. One glance was all it took to recognise the devices that lay inside, She straightened and turned back to Janeway and the Colonel who were watching her intently.

There are four Borg translation devices and a neural link. They are of old and less efficient design, but appear to be operational, she said. How do you wish me to proceed?

Put one on! Both the Captain and the Colonel exclaimed together.

Carefully she withdrew one of the three inch square devices and placed it in its design position against the implant below her left ear.

Before her the two figures looked up nervously. We humbly beseech you not to make us disappear exalted one! The female begged. We humbly apologise for our delayed greeting we were not aware of your exalted presence.

Apologies are irrelevant, Seven of Nine announced in surprise.

We will arrange our contestants immediately, exalted one! They chorused in alarm. We have some prepared to contest your servants!

Sacrifices are not required! Seven tried to say, but they were beyond reasoning as they bowed and scraped their way backwards towards the door, rapidly followed by the guards.

What was all that about? The Captain asked in bewilderment when they were finally left alone.

It was a puzzled Seven of Nine that turned back to them. I believe they have decided I am a deity. They wish to make sacrifices to me.

Well that makes three of us at least! The Colonel suggested with a grin. No worries. You tell them not to, we all have a nice cup of tea and we all finish friends?

They seem insistent and they require your assistance. I believe they require you to assimilate them.

That could be a problem, the Colonel admitted. I assume they don't intend to be willing and I assume they won't be impressed if we don't assimilate them?

It would be a logical assumption, Seven of Nine agreed.

I do not possess the powers that are attributed to a deity, she added.

Actually I think you would make a good deity, the Colonel opined. You have all the qualifications. Arrogance, confidence and ability. Just put them together, like the Captain and I do?

I do not know how! Seven protested.

Of course you do, the Colonel encouraged. Just think of all the things Lieutenant B'Elanna Paris and the others have told you you shouldn't do and do them but with a little more aloofness. When you get right down to it command is all about bluff, persuading people you know what you are doing. That's about right isn't it, Captain?

The Captain started. I suppose you are right, she conceded doubtfully.

Now how about practising on the chaps outside and see if they can be persuaded to bring our gear up? Just remember they are something disgusting that you have trodden in and you will do fine, The Colonel continued, ignoring the doubt in the Captains voice.

Seven of Nine nodded doubtfully.

I will comply, she stated and stepped towards the doorway.

The two guards outside stiffened as she passed into the daylight, but did not point spears. It gave her some encouragement.

My drones require the equipment they brought. You will lead me to it, she commanded haughtily.

The two guards hesitated, torn between their earthly orders to guard the hut and the commands of the goddess.

Comply, or be assimilated, Seven demanded again. My drones will not attempt to escape.

A guard genuflected deeply towards her and signalled she should follow, before leading her away, glancing behind at frequent intervals to ensure she was following.

From the doorway both the Captain and the Colonel watched as she was lead away.

Considering what we have, what do you expect to gain from our equipment? the Captain asked quietly.

Absolutely nothing, except a confident Seven of Nine and perhaps a chance for you and her to fix the Borg devices so we can all understand what is going on, the Colonel admitted. There are some tools in my webbing that might allow you to do something.

She will be insufferable when we get back to the ship, if she does it, the Captain opined. Can she hold it up?

I hope so, Captain, the Colonel admitted to his own concerns in the answer.

And I'm not arrogant! she protested suddenly. Certainly not a patch on you!

Of course you are, the Colonel disputed cheerfully. You couldn't be a Captain if you weren't. Just you've learnt to hide it better than most. Mrs Nine doesn't have to learn that here.

Seven of Nine observed the surroundings with her usual obsessive interest as she was guided. The building that she and her compatriots were housed in, like the ones she was now passing, were sat on a gentle hill, and were all simple single story huts, with white walls, thatched roofs with no windows or doors. She risked a glance inside a building, but saw little there except what looked like bedding.

The path she was following included a drainage ditch half full of water draining the steady fall of rain, she suspected that it also formed an open sewer as a few unidentifiable objects floated past her. Occasionally the path was metalled with slabs of rock. Towards the bottom the buildings became larger and second stories became more evident, with apertures for windows and wooden shutters to cover them. The rain and the shutters gave an inclination as to why this race were so disinclined to windows.

At the bottom of the hill she was faced by a wall ten metres tall.

Unperturbed her guard turned and headed for an arch in the wall. This one she noticed as she passed through, possessed metal gates, though they were open and suggested that they had not been closed for a long while.

The arch led into a short tunnel then into an amphitheatre about forty metres diameter. Dominating the far side was a single large building. It was there that her guide was leading her to. At the door he bowed deeply to her and indicated that she should pass through, then ran as she stepped past.

Inside she found herself in a torch lit hall and faced by several of the tall black men, all wearing the gaily coloured smocks she had seen earlier. As one they fell to their knees before her.

Their subjugation gave her a moment to adjust to the flickering torch light that predominated in the hall she appeared to have walked into and start making out details.

The hall was nearly as large as the amphitheatre outside and almost totally empty except for a statue near the opposite wall, carefully she tried to identify its form, then took a deep breath of surprise as the form of the Borg Queen smote her visual senses.

She barely noticed the twisted figure that emerged from the shadows until it spoke. Exalted one! How may your humble servants assist?

I wish, Seven of Nine started, then remembered herself. You will return the equipment my drones arrived with and a doctor to treat the injured drone! She commanded assertively.

Yes, Exalted One! The figure stated.

There will also be no contests or assimilations!

The contest must proceed! The priest screamed, then doubled up in a painful fit of coughing.

Examining it, Seven of Nine realised it was a woman, but unlike the other priests in the temple was dressed in a black cloak with a cowl that was drawn close around her head. The twist in her body appeared to be giving her some difficulty and she coughed painfully. A stump of an arm appeared to hold the chest against the racking cough.

Seven of Nine took a step towards the priestess, but she shied away from her, seemingly fearful of being touched by a Goddess'.

You will comply! Then we will be released! Seven snapped back, then turned on her heel and marched out to prevent further argument.

She slumped a little coming into the gathering evening and checked to see if the twisted priestess was going to follow and argue further. Satisfied that she was not, Seven of Nine quickly made her way back towards the others.

She arrived to find that the Captain had fallen asleep, slumped against the Colonel.

The Colonel gave her a weak smile. Things are catching her up, he whispered in explanation. So I persuaded her to sleep for a while. She'll be as right as rain when she comes round.

You hit her? Seven of Nine suggested with an interested eyebrow.

He protested vehemently. That leaves bruises so she would know about it.

Seven of Nine, deciding it was wise not to ask further questions, settled beside him. She slid her arm around behind him and settled as best she could. You will not attempt to perform such acts upon me, she warned.

The Captain awoke feeling much relaxed some hours later finding all was in darkness and her head on something firm but comfortable. She straightened slowly and explored her pillow carefully to find it attached to a body at one end and a knee at the other.

I suspect it is a good thing it is dark, Captain. Our blushes must be well beyond the ears by now? The Colonel whispered cheerfully. With your permission. I will surrender guard to you for the remainder of the night. Mrs Nine is sleeping on the other leg.

Fine. And I'm sorry for sleeping like that, she agreed. You must have been awake for nearly three days solid. What time is it?

No apologies, Kathryn. You sound a lot better for the rest! The Colonel responded evenly. Time, somewhere after midnight, the guard was changed a little while ago. Good Night.

That was that, the Colonel dropped into sleep, still leaning against the wall, leaving the Captain to make best use of her time.

The Captain gently waved a hand over him and found as he had described Seven was laying curled up beside him, her head on his thigh hands gripping it firmly. His hand gently resting on her shoulder, as it had been with hers.

She reflected on the easy sense of security that the scene must have provided, two women sleeping together on the lap of the same man, as she crept closer to the door to keep watch, until the others woke up.

I don't understand? The Captain protested after Seven of Nine had finished her briefing of her short expedition. Why take the Borg Queen as a Deity? Why did this race survive at all when it is so close to Borg Central.

I do not know, Seven of Nine admitted.

I can think of several reasons, Captain, the Colonel suggested looking up from his work. He was busily cleaning Tuvoks wounds using water and cloths supplied by the native Calhards, when they had supplied food with the coming of dawn, though there was still no sign of their sparse possessions.

The Captain smiled weakly in recognition. I thought you might. Carry on?

First the reason for their continued existence is easy, the Colonel explained. No matter how big the massacre, there are always survivors. Not enough to cause a problem perhaps, certainly scared and in hiding. After a Borg visitation I suspect there would not be a lot left of whatever civilisation there may have been, so their survival would be a brutal test. People can become quite savage when it comes to survival. Look at me!

the Captain accepted the argument. I can see the argument for that. But why not take the planet, apart from the rain it isn't a bad place? And why worship a Borg?

Primitive cultures will take anything that they don't understand as a deity, the Colonel pointed out. Look at Earth cultures, the Greeks, Romans et al. They worshipped everything. Maybe Queen Borg used the planet as a holiday home? She and a dozen drones would probably impress the locals. As for taking the planet, perhaps the Borg didn't need it? We are fairly close to where the prime Unimatrix was based, so it isn't of great strategic value as a supply base and Mrs Nine says it was an early conquest?

I suppose it is all plausible, the Captain agreed, with some scepticism still evident in her voice. But I think there is more to be learnt in the temple.

I quite agree, Captain. I think we ought to go and have a good poke around tonight.

How is Tuvok? The Captain asked in concern, seeing the Colonel tie off the last of the new dressings.

The Colonel shrugged. I doubt he'll be coming with us anytime soon, Captain. Or anything much at all. I don't know if his wounds are healing or not to be honest they seem to open and close of their own volition. All I can say is that they are clear of infection.

And his leg?

No better or worse. He is burning up though!

Will we have to operate?

Again the Colonel shrugged. I'm trying to put it off, Ma'am. I couldn't smell anything when I changed the bandages this time and the discolouration seems to have gone, so I'm hoping I was mistaken. I'll keep a close eye on it.

They settled to wait for the evening to arrive. Seven of Nine and the Colonel sitting close to each other each with an arm around the other, the Captain noticed. These small symbols of their close relationship were starting to play on her mind. It appeared to be all they needed for mutual comfort. For a moment she was tempted to join them, to seek a comforting arm from one or other, to shelter her from the feeling of loneliness that was growing upon her.

She was not certain if it was tact, diplomacy, heroics or something else that had her sit beside and grip Tuvoks hand instead.

It certainly seemed to puzzle the Colonel, he crawled over to kneel beside her. The Commander is too far gone to offer much, Kathryn, he whispered, gently placing a large hand on her shoulder.

Again she noted the change of address and friendly actions. For a moment a flash of anger took her and she slapped the hand off.

Will you not join Seven and I to see what the Calhards have offered for breakfast?

I'm not hungry, she lashed out. Why are you trying to be friendly?

Because I'm what feminists used to scornfully call a Male Chauvinist Pig, Duck. I won't let any woman suffer on her own if it is avoidable, whatever her rank, he answered simply, not turning a hair at the seeming hostility in the challenge and resolutely replaced his arm around her waist. Besides, I've been in your position. My closest friend laying mortally injured beside me. I know how it feels, as though the world is disintegrating around you?

The Captain found herself melting in the powerful arm, that was settling around her. I suppose there is no harm. But won't Seven get jealous? She whispered back.

Seven knows loneliness as well as I do and I asked for permission first, the Colonel admitted gently.

With a shy grin, the Captain allowed the Colonel to lift her to her feet and support her as they walked back to Seven of Nine.

They were disturbed again a short while later by the return of the two priests and three women. All five bowed deeply to them as they scrambled to their feet, then turned to Tuvok. The Colonel sprang towards him to stop them.

The two priests started to babble at Seven of Nine in their strange language.

Finally Seven translated. You should allow them access to the Commander, she instructed. The women are the village healers.

Cautiously the Colonel complied then watched keenly as the women knelt beside Tuvok and started to remove his torn jacket and the dressings underneath. Finally he knelt beside them as they started to apply a dark salve to the smaller abrasions and repack the deeper ones with what he quickly established as a form absorbent sponge and more maggots. Cautiously he dipped a finger into the salve and smelt that, his nose wrinkled in disgust at the strong smell. Wintergreen and paraffin? he muttered in surprise, before wiping it off on the back of his hand and feeling a warm numbness spread from the treated area. If that don't get him running like a four year old nothing will!

Satisfied with their efforts he stood up again. Bit kill or cure. But they are doing better than I can, Captain, he answered the Captains unasked question with barely a glance in her direction. It won't kill him outright, so I think we can leave them to it.

In the mean time the priests were continuing their discussions with Seven of Nine.

They wish to show us their village, Seven reported at last. They have decided to comply to my commands not to offer sacrifices. Commander Tuvok will be cared for while we are away.

The Captain queried.

They aren't waving spears at us, so I don't think they are intending to kill us yet and the stroll will undoubtedly do us all some good, the Colonel agreed happily.

The two priests led them from the building, talking animatedly to Seven of Nine as they went and ignoring both the Captain and the Colonel as they went. Seven of Nine however glanced nervously behind to ensure that her two friends were indeed following, before relaxing a little.

Perhaps they are intending to talk us to death? the Captain muttered under her breath after they had been walking for some fifteen minutes. Not once had she seen either of the tall priests stop to draw breath. What are they saying?

Wild guess, I'd say they are beseeching the Goddess' to stop trying to wash their houses away? the Colonel suggested lightly, pointing at a hut that had been engulfed in mud and the Priests had become particularly animated about. Plus a few other well chosen complaints about any other deity they think she might not think a lot of. In my experience priests are not unlike farmers, they like to complain a lot.

You're enjoying this aren't you? The Captain challenged with a grin and gripping his arm.

Actually, Yes I am, the Colonel admitted. For the first time in a month there is fresh air and nobody threatening to try and kill me. Admit it Captain, it is a pleasant change for you as well, without frivolous questions being asked?

The reply he got was a flash of a smile, before she released his arm again as Seven checked that they were still following.

Finally the priests took them up the hill on the opposite side of their small village, to a small dam that checked the flow of a stream, forming a pool in which children were playing with much squealing. The pool itself was fed by a fast water flume at the far end. There they were bade to sit as four Calhards approached bearing more baskets of food, before they bowed their way away again, leaving them to enjoy their meal.

The Captain descended upon the baskets with some enthusiasm, suddenly realising the size of the appetite she had gained from the walk. Whatever else they have or haven't got, she declared pulling out what she took to be something like a chicken leg coated in spices and sampling it. They can cook!

Never heard of Kentucky Chicken, Captain? The Colonel asked cheerfully offering the basket to Seven of Nine. I believe that originated from your neck of the woods?

Never heard of it. You keep forgetting that Earth is nothing like the place you left behind, the Captain reminded him, finishing her mouthful.

And you keep reminding me, Ma'am.

Now what was the purpose of the tour, Seven? The Captain asked as her hunger was sated.

Periodically there are violent storms in the hills behind the village, Seven of Nine explained. They precede high rainfall here. At such times the river that feeds the pool becomes a torrent and the dam overflows or is washed away and it causes heavy damage to the settlement. It has happened three times in the last ten years. They believe another torrent is due. At other times there are droughts, this causes the river to dry up. The water in the pool cannot service their needs for more than a month. They wish not to suffer either and wish me to prevent it happening.

Nothing much then! The Captain whistled. Colonel, do you think we can help them?

I'm not an engineer, Captain, he pointed out. I'd rather leave that to you and Mrs Nine. Tell me where to dig and I'll get them shovelling. But I don't think this is a good place to start. Besides the kids will lose their paddling pool!

They turned to watch the cavorting children.

It is childish and dangerous, Seven observed, as one child after another came shooting down the flume that fed the pool.

Not as dangerous as jumping from third story windows, which is what I did for kicks as a kid, the Colonel remarked getting up. In fact it looks as though it might be quite fun! Anybody want to help me find out?

I think Seven and I'll watch you test it first, the Captain laughed.

I will examine it, Seven of Nine declared getting up to follow him and casting a defiant glare at the Captain.

The Captain watched in amusement as the two of them worked their way around the pool to the top.

There were three children at the top when Colonel and Seven of Nine reached it. They all stood back respectfully as they arrived. One the Colonel reckoned was about twelve and had obviously used the flume before. The other two, a boy and girl appeared to be younger and more hesitant. He guessed that they had not.

With a signal he suggested that the oldest should demonstrate and watched with interest as he readily settled himself between two rocks then let himself slide away.

Satisfied, Mrs Nine? He challenged as the boy disappeared. Or would you like me to take you down?

Seven of Nine had not intended to physically try the ride, more to watch the Colonel to make a fool of himself. His challenge and the gaze of the two expectant children prompted her to step forward. Your navigation will be inferior. I will go down with the male child, she declared.

She turned and spoke quietly to the two children then took the boy to the gap that formed the start of the run. Carefully she stepped into the crevice and felt the strength of the water trying to carry her down, then determinedly sat down in the torrent, gripping the rocks firmly. Place the child on my legs, she demanded calmly.

With a grin, the Colonel picked the boy up and placed him carefully between her legs. Hold tight! He shouted as the childs hands gripped the material of Seven's suit. He wished it was him, but there would be a chance later perhaps.

In one quick movement Seven of Nine let go of the rocks and wrapped both arms firmly and protectively around the child and they slipped from sight.

The Colonel watched her go with a grin of amusement at the defiant display, that became a barely suppressed laugh as a thin scream smote his ears. Then turned to the girl. Coming, Duck? He asked, settling himself in position. Almost reluctantly she stepped forward and onto his lap. She gripped his belt tightly as he let go and held onto her.

If Seven of Nine was unsure as to why she had allowed herself to be challenged into trying the water slide, she was even less sure why she screamed as she and her passenger tobogganed down together. It was not frightening as such, she realised. But there was exhilaration, even at the point where they were almost turned upside down when they careered around overhanging rocks, screaming seemed like a logical response. The ride also finished too quickly to fully assimilate the sensations, she decided as they were launched onto the surface of the pool and sank gracefully.

Spluttering to the surface again she was met by a face full of water, which seemed to be the standard welcome for users of the ride. At least until they realised who they were splashing. It subsided quickly.

She turned in time to see the Colonel come shooting out and hitting the water with a splash, a much larger one than she had made she noted carefully.

He too was met with the customary showers of water when he emerged, with Seven of Nine leading the onslaught. He responded in like fashion, sending scoops of water at Seven of Nine as he moved resolutely toward her. Finally he managed to place an arm around her.

I thought this was childish? He laughed pulling her close for a kiss.

He was met with the full force of her raised eyebrow. It was an interesting experience, she excused quickly.

The Colonels attention was diverted by his erstwhile passenger pulling on his hand to repeat the exercise, preventing him replying as he would have wished. Shall we? He asked.

Seven of Nine gripped his arm firmly and led him back to the edge of the pool and up the side back to the beginning of the ride again.

Two hours later they were joined by Captain Janeway. The sight of Seven of Nine appearing from the flume, child on lap, had caught her by surprise. It had simply not occurred to her that the sober ex-Borg would try something that childish, even with the Colonels encouragement. She had then watched in fascinated amusement as Seven of Nine repeated the experiment several times, sometimes on her own, at others with a child on her lap and finally in the lap of the Colonel. Her subsequent attempt to push him under water had the Captain splitting her sides in laughter.

I hate to stop you two children from playing! she laughed. But we have things to do?

I was testing relationships with children, Seven declared, though she managed to look a little guilty, even as she looped her hair back into its bun.

And your excuse, the Captain challenged the visibly blushing Colonel.

Rest and Relaxation, Ma'am. You wished me to Cheer up', he asserted. Before tonights events?

Still laughing the Captain led them back towards the village, the two priests in close attendance.

They were returned to their hut, two burly guards taking station beside the door, barring all attempts to leave again. Despite the day time casualness it was evident that it would not be appreciated having them wandering around the village at night. Prisoners exercise is now formally complete, the Colonel noted as he tried, to be met by two spears.

He returned and examined the still unconscious Tuvok instead. The fever had returned, but was not as severe as it was he admitted and the wounds that were not healing had obviously stopped bleeding. All in all they medicine girls have done well, he admitted.

Tired but relaxed they settled to wait for the evening.

With the arrival of darkness, Seven of Nine stepped boldly through the doorway, to find that the guards that had greeted their return had gone again. Puzzled she looked around for them, but found no sign.

The guards have gone, she reported back to the relief of everybody. They had struggled hard to find some reason for Seven of Nine to demand the presence of her drones' on a nocturnal walk. In the end it had been decided that Seven of Nine was not to say anything, simply to rely upon their awe at her superiority. The only one that seemed to be happy at the proposition was the Colonel, the Captain thought he was simply being biased.

They were about to step out into what appeared to be an overcast night, when Tuvok groaned aloud. It had them darting back to kneel by his side to check his pulse and temperature.

I think one of us will have to stay behind, Captain, the Colonel opined. The Commander is coming around. He can't be alone when he does and he won't be pleasant.

He paused for a moment to think before continuing. You and Mrs Nine carry on, I'll stay until he is awake enough to know what is happening. Keep in the shadows and remember if you are caught and they think you are desecrating their temple they are likely to be very unpleasant in very short order.

Captain Janeway nodded gratefully and rose to follow Seven of Nine as she passed through the door and into the night.

The Colonel tried to settle to the task of keeping the now twisting Tuvok company in the gloom of their small open prison. Silently he gripped Tuvoks hand. Takes more than bloody minded mind control doesn't it? he whispered in sympathy.

A small noise made him stiffen and hold his breath thirty minutes later. It was such a small noise it would have gone unnoticed normally in the normal course of events, but it did not fit here. It was the chink of metal on stone, and he had not seen a lot of metal here until now.

For two whole minutes he sat still listening for more noises, his senses jangling violently in his head, then exhaled slowly and silently. He shifted his position slightly and disengaged his hand from Tuvoks, to be ready for what happened next as he sensed figures moving silently in the darkness around him.

In a sudden burst of movement, he suddenly rolled back, bringing his legs up and kicking hard at the figure his instincts knew was there. A leg connected with something violently and he heard it grunt as it staggered from the blow. He rolled and lashed with the other leg, snaring what he thought of as an assassin legs sending him over onto his back. Still rolling he brought himself to his knees then to his feet, gained his balance then stamped hard on the nearest part of the figures anatomy, a leg, while wildly looking for the other one he knew was there.

A faint green glow caught the Colonels attention and he lunged for it in a powerful rugby tackle, even as the realisation hit him as to what the glow signified. There were Borg on Calhard!

He struck it firmly in the midriff sending it staggering against the wall. Before the Borg could gain its balance the Colonel was lifting it up over his shoulder, then dropped it head first to the stone floor.

It lay stunned for a moment allowing the Colonel to return his attention to the first Borg that was starting to gain its footing. Its head was the recipient of the Colonel's steel toe capped boot, sending it reeling again. The blow would have fractured the skull of any human, but the Borg was made of sterner stuff. It started to regain its feet again. Seeing the action the Colonel was upon him again, taking the head in a powerful armlock he dragged the Borg at a full charge until its head smashed into the doorway lintel. Slowly the green light of the eyepiece faded as with a final twist of the neck the Colonel dropped it and turned to face the second that was even now approaching him.

A noise behind him made him spin again, to see two Calhard warriors shadowed in the doorway, their spears bared. Not waiting to see whose side they were intending to join, he leapt on them. Bringing his hands together he clubbed at the first sending him crashing to the floor, then span tripping the second.

Both released their spears which the Colonel snapped up in one fluid movement as he regained his feet and charged at the remaining Borg, both spears bared. The two spears took it in the chest, the fire hardened points passing easily through the breast plate as he thrust and out the back. The continued charge smashed the Borg back to the rear wall. The two exposed points of the spear splintering as they came into contact with the hard stone wall.

The short contest was completed by another skull cracking blow from the Colonels boot sending the drones head smashing against the wall for the third time. The drone slid to the deck and made no more movement.

The Colonel turned to see what had happened to the Calhards, prepared for their assault. They had disappeared. Then he too slumped to the floor in exhaustion, the combat had taken less than three minutes, but he had thrown everything into it.

He lay there for a few minutes to regain his breath, before carefully standing and peering through the doorway. He could see nothing. That was not a complete comfort, he decided. The Calhards black skin would make them difficult to see in the dark and they had crept up on him before. Finally he made his way back to Tuvok.

I've got to find the Captain, he whispered quietly. But I've got to get you out of here and hidden first. There could be more Borg drones!

He was encouraged by a moan from the Commander. Quickly he removed his combat jacket and shirt, laying them on the ground behind Tuvoks head, dragged the commander onto them and proceeded to button both tight around him. It was not a perfect stretcher, but they would immobilise the injured Vulcan, it was relatively waterproof, offered some camouflage and gave him something to drag him by. This he proceeded to do in quick order, out of the hut and around the back into the hedges.

The Colonel found what he wanted within twenty yards, a thick bramble bush and dragged Tuvok into that, ignoring the vicious thorns that were scratching at him. Carefully he built a small windbreak around Tuvok using branches, then left him with a whispered warning to stay quiet and still. It was not a perfect solution and he suspected would be quickly detected if the Calhards were to start a search using their fieldcraft, but he hoped it would be adequate protection from the Borg for a while.

From there he set of down the road he had seen Seven of Nine and the Captain take earlier.

Seven of Nine led the Captain quickly down the path she had followed earlier that day back to the amphitheatre and temple. The sound of subdued chatter and once even laughter emanated from the small buildings as they passed, several had sprung what looked like thick curtains across their doorways dim light filtering past the edges giving even deeper shadows than before, but they were not challenged There seemed to be nobody guarding the amphitheatre or temple either. Not at the entrance or inside. They slipped through the shadows, keeping close to the walls, until they reached the statue.

The high priestess came from behind the statue, Seven of Nine stated calmly. We should investigate there.

Like two children on a night raid to the kitchen refrigerator they crept around the statue and down the passage that they found there. Peering expectantly into crevices as they went, unsure of what to expect. They found their equipment in a small alcove. From the small pile Seven of Nine found and extracted the Colonel's sword and silently slung it on her back before they continued.

The passage ended in a cavern a full fifty metres in diameter and they could see a faint light emanating from it.

Whatever they thought they may have expected, it was not the suite of advanced control panels they found when they stepped from the passage and they stopped to stare at it in bemusement.

Seven of Nine was the first to recover from the shock and cautiously approached the suite of controls to examine them more closely.

It is a communication and astrometric system, she claimed at last.

The Captain demanded quickly, moving up beside Seven. Certainly not the Calhards, they are using torches and candles in their homes!

There is a combination of Borg and other technology, Seven stated finally. It is old but remarkably powerful.

Could it have been the original Calhards, they must have been an advanced race when the Borg arrived? The Captain asked in fascination, running a hand over the strange controls. Could we use it to contact Voyager?

Seven of Nine considered both questions carefully before answering. We require more data before ascertaining the exact nature of the equipments history, it has been extensively modified. It can be configured to contact Voyager, but I am unfamiliar with the technology. I will have to study it further.

She turned back to her study of the controls.

Perhaps you should investigate more of this facility, Seven suggested after a few minutes of the Captain watching her intently.

The Captain's smile was one of guilt as she took the hint. Fine. I'll also keep a watch for the priests, she agreed.

She stepped around and behind the system that was engrossing Seven and disappeared from sight, leaving Seven engrossed in her own investigation.

She returned fifteen minutes later looking worried. Seven, I think there is a problem!

Seven agreed quietly. This system was activated earlier todays. It is producing a broad beam Borg signal. I believe it may attempting to contact a Borg Unimatrix for assistance.

Have they had a reply? The Captain asked in alarm, her own findings momentarily forgotten.

Not yet, Seven admitted. I have terminated the transmission.

Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One. You and Captain Janeway have been resourceful and troublesome, but your efforts will ultimately be futile!

In alarm they both span and examined the twisted figure and the six Calhard warriors that were approaching.

The Borg Queen they realised together She still bore the scars from her meeting with the Colonel and his sword. Two massive scars marked her neck and chest where it had cut into them, her left hand was still missing. The head was lopsided from the obviously hasty repair after the Captain and Seven had dislodged it.

You were destroyed with the Unimatrix! The Captain heard herself gasp as she backed up beside Seven of Nine against the control panel.

Queen Borg almost smiled, though it looked more like a sneer. We are efficient. We were transferred to my command ship before the complex was destroyed. I underwent emergency repair from my drones.

You believe the Borg are controlled by a single Unimatrix? the queen continued to sneer. You are so limited in your minds, there are sixty. The Borg will rebuild to a level of greater perfection!

The Captain sensed Seven of Nine reaching behind her and guessed she was feeling for the sword on her back. Briefly she wondered if she would be able to use it, then stepped away from her in an effort to distract the Borg Queen.

You don't appear to have had a lot of success in contacting another Unimatrix with this equipment, the Captain claimed loudly stepping sideways to circle the queen. And you don't have any drones to protect you, I terminated the three in the alcoves at the back. So all you have are the primitives you despise!

Are they really any better than our primitive, the Colonel. After all it was his idea to destroy your Unimatrix, not mine or Sevens, the Captain continued to taunt warming to the task. We used to be afraid of the Borg. Now I see how wrong we were. You are just another small time megalomaniac, with petty dreams and ambitions. It was the Colonel who pointed out that your stolen technology and knowledge doesn't help you, it hinders you, because you can't employ it. You can see how right he was. He destroyed the Unimatrix despite all of your confidence and technology. Now you are here on the primitive planet of one of your conquests, trying to be a God' and contacting somebody to help you escape. Why? Because you were beaten and can't survive without the technology. Why not just admit it, perhaps we will offer peace and help you to learn about the technologies you've stolen for everybody's benefit?

Nor will you have the benefit of your primitive, the queen sneered confidently. He has been terminated!

The Captain heard Seven gasp, then saw the giant blade of the Colonels sword flash as she finally withdrew it from its scabbard. Seven of Nine took a step forward, carrying the blade in both hands low and purposeful. She also recognised the look of determination on her face as she moved and frantically tried to distract the Borg queen further.

I don't think you can terminate the Colonel, she claimed, stepping forward to match Seven of Nines approach. Certainly not with drones and he allowed himself be captured by the Calhards. Or are you thinking the lack of weapons will render him ineffective?

For an instant the Borg queen seemed to hesitate, but regained her composure and turned to face Seven of Nine. Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One. I can control your mind. You will terminate Captain Janeway! Comply!

Seven of Nine staggered as a look of pain flashed upon her face. The sword dipped in her hands. I will resist, she gasped desperately.

The Borg Queen insisted again, her brow furrowing in an effort to wrest control of Seven of Nines mind.

The sword dipped again until the point touched the floor, then lifted slowly again as Seven of Nine turned towards the Captain and advanced slowly, staggering drunkenly as she fought her own war against the unconscious thoughts that were driving her forward.

The Captain watched in alarm as Seven of Nine advanced upon her the sword coming up. she hissed desperately. You are an individual. You are Seven of Nine-Samuels. The Colonel's Collective, she is trying to take him and everything he means to you away from you!

Seven of Nine hesitated and the sword started to droop again.

The Queen screamed this time. The force of the mental blow driving Seven of Nine to the ground with a scream of pain.

The scream was answered by another louder and full of rage as the Colonel barged through the six warriors that were guarding the passage. He ripped a spear from the nearest shocked and clearly terrified guard and cuffed the next two sharply behind the ears with it, sending them to the floor.

It diverted the Borg Queens attention for a vital few seconds as she turned to identify the new player. Terminate him! she screamed at the remainder of the guards.

Dutifully the nearest lunged at the Colonel. The Colonel was ready for it, stepping smartly to one side. He span and threatened them with his own spear in one hand whilst gripping the one that had tried to impale him. He kicked its owner hard in the shin and pulled his spear clear from his surprised hand, turned it and drove it hard through his foot. The Calhard fell to the ground screaming in pain as he tried desperately to free himself.

The Colonel turned again and continued to advance upon the Borg Queen. You have hurt my wife! He hissed harshly. You should have taken the Captains offer of surrender. I will not offer one.

The Borg Queen looked sharply at the three uninjured guards and one, a little braver than the rest, threw his spear at the Colonel. It struck him in the back, just below the ribs. He stiffened in pain then reached behind him, sliding the spear out. He seemed to examine it for a moment then threw it hard at the Borg Queen.

It struck her a glancing blow that made her stagger towards the still doubled up Seven of Nine. Regaining her balance, she stooped and wrapped a handless arm around Seven of Nines throat and dragged her to her feet.

You have lost! She screamed in victory as her other hand came up to Seven of Nines throat. I will assimilate Seven of Nine, then she will terminate you!

It did not slow the Colonels inexorable advance. I can treat her and she cannot assimilate me, he claimed.

Captain Janeway realising she had to do something to stop the events going beyond all possibility of control, saw the Borg Queen stagger as Seven of Nine struggled in her arms. The space between the queen and the fallen sword was increasing. She dived for the blade, sprawling on top of it. Gripping it firmly by the handle she rolled to her knees and drove it upwards at the figure of the queen, taking her just beneath the chest. At the same time Seven of Nine levering hard released herself from the neckhold and span away. It gave the space the Colonel needed to launch himself at her, landing upon her as she sprawled upon her back. Blindly he started to pummel the Borg Queen, beside himself with rage, each massive blow distorting the already twisted face beyond recognition and making the Captain shiver, shaken not only by the ruthless violence of the Colonel, but at her own actions as well. She slowly rose and threatened the remaining warriors until they sensibly turned and ran.

It was Seven of Nine that finally stopped the Colonel. She knelt carefully beside him and wrapped her slender arms around his shoulders, bringing his strong arms to a reluctant halt. She has been terminated, she said quietly, clamping her hand across the wound in his back and hoping nothing vital had been damaged.

He collapsed into her as the fury that had been driving him drained, leaving him pale, shivering and crying. She was trying to take you away from me! He sobbed pitifully, wrapping his own bleeding hands around her. It made me so angry!

Captain Janeway crawled up beside both of them. Seven, get him out of here, she whispered. I'll follow in a moment.

Slowly and with much help from the Captain, Seven of Nine lifted the Colonel to his feet, then they staggered slowly back up the passage, Seven of Nine supporting him. The Captain took a last look around the battle scene and was about to follow when she saw a faint glimmer of flashing light from the skull of the Borg Queen. She knelt to inspect more closely.

From behind a flap of skin that had been sprung by the incessant hammering it had received from the Colonel, lay a metallic skull. The Borg Queen had been even more machine than life form than they had thought, she realised uncomfortably, no wonder she had been able to repair herself.

Small diodes still flashed weakly from its surface suggested even after that much punishment it was still operating. Slowly she rose and retrieved the sword, then with all the force she could muster, drove it through the cyborg skull then twisted. Here actions were rewarded by brief flashes of sparks as the last of the electronics shorted themselves out and the lights finally died.

She stood and watched it uncomprehending of her final actions for several moments before slowly walking away.

She found that quite a crowd had formed around their erstwhile cell. Some eighty Calhards had gathered silently around the doorway. They parted respectfully for her to pass between them then closed again as she ducked in.

The first thing she saw was Seven of Nine putting the final knot to a bandage around the Colonels chest.

Where is Tuvok? The Captain asked in concern seeing the Commander was missing.

I hid him after we were attacked, Ma'am, the Colonel spoke weakly as he stood. I'll go and collect him now. Slowly he walked out leaving the Captain and Seven alone.

For a moment they sat in silence before Seven spoke. I am sorry, Captain. I tried to resist the commands from my implants. I was not strong enough. I would have complied to the Queens instructions. I lost my humanity by Borg command. She looked the Captain in the eyes seeking some form of understanding.

Captain Janeway slid a hand out and grasped the ex-Borgs wrist. We all lost control, you, me and the Colonel, she consoled gently. It was Humanity' that drove the Colonel to do what he did to protect you. I don't think there is anything wrong with that, provided he knows what he did.

He knows, Seven of Nine agreed quietly. He thinks it was inappropriate.

He will need your help to overcome it, the Captain said quietly.

Further discussion was interrupted as the Colonel returned, dragging the commander behind him. One Star Fleet Lieutenant-Commander, a little damp, alive, awake and almost certainly uncomfortable, though I doubt he'll admit to that, Ma'am, he declared almost happily as he lay Tuvok down again.

It's started to rain again so the locals have all gone home, he added. I think all the action for today has been completed.

Quickly the Captain and Seven turned to Tuvok to find him as the Colonel had stated awake. The fever he had been suffering from had broken as well, leaving him pale and weak.

Welcome back! The Captain exclaimed thankfully, grasping his hand fiercely. Can we remove the jacket, Colonel? She called.

She called again, realising that he was not beside her. She turned to find the reason for lack of immediate reply and found the Colonel missing.

Seven. Find him, she demanded quickly fearful of his intentions.

He will be safe, Captain, Seven assured her, moving to comply.

She found him quickly, sitting with his back to the wall behind the hut. You should return to the shelter of our dwelling, she suggested taking up a classic at ease position and ignoring the rain. It is not yet clear that we are safe here.

He looked up at her shadowed figure. I'm always there when there is danger, he said quietly. It's the peace I find difficult. It gets more difficult to switch from one to the other. I nearly missed it today.

You did not fail, Seven of Nine pointed out shrewdly.

Only because I had someone to catch me. But it was close, damned close, he declared sadly. One day she might not be there to stop me.

Just give me a few minutes to finish collecting my thoughts and I'll be back, he continued more firmly. Quickly, before you collect your death of chill!

I will wait for you, Seven of Nine declared stubbornly.

The Colonel smiled and reached out a hand for her to grip. I'll come quietly. Just help us up?

Quietly they returned to the shelter of the hut, to be met by the Captains quizzical gaze.

Lieutenant-Colonel Samuels reporting ready for duty, Captain! He assured her, taking position by the door intent on keeping guard.

Seven and I'll keep guard, Colonel, the Captain informed him quietly. You need to rest. Seven, get him to settle, then rest yourself.

He made to protest, then sighed. Very well, Ma'am, he agreed with as much grace as he could muster. And moved in from the doorway a few feet, before laying himself out across the floor, resolutely taking a position that would trip anybody who entered. Guard or not he would know when people entered.

The Captain in her turn sighed and accepted the situation, settling to keep a quiet watch as Seven of Nine also settled behind her husband, her arm encircling his chest protectively.

Why is he so stubborn? the Captain mused aloud.

It would mean he would have to surrender otherwise, Captain, Tuvok replied weakly.

Captain Janeway woke with a start as light filtered into their hut through the doorway. A glance around showed that the Colonel and Seven of Nine had both disappeared and Tuvok was still sleeping. Guiltily she rose stiffly and stretched before approaching the doorway. There she found the Colonel carefully nursing a small fire and wearing a bright woollen smock like those worn by the priests.

The point of standing guard, Captain. Is not to fall to sleep, he chided. He turned and offered a mug to her.

Mrs Nine and I went to the temple this morning and chased them around a little for our kit. There is a set of clothes here for you and a couple of proper blankets for the Commander.

She accepted the cup gratefully and took a sip before asking. Where is Seven?

She said she wanted to work out how the equipment down there worked, the Colonel explained. I think she has become quite fascinated by it. Besides the locals seemed quite insistent. She will be back a little later.

Will she be safe? The Captain queried in mild alarm at the proposition of the Colonel leaving her alone.

Quite safe, the Colonel assured her cheerfully. It seems we have been given new names. Apparently I'm Gwaith Fornadd Paroithag'.

Which means?

Something along the lines of the Giant that Protects the Goddess', or so Mrs Nine translated.

The Captain smiled. I almost approve of the title, it is fitting at least. So what names have Seven and I received?

Mrs Nine was referred to as Forniau Bwiathar', she neglected to translate for me, he confessed. I get Forniau', the Goddess bit, but have no idea as to the other word. You are referred to as Fornadd Dramboidd', or Helper of the Goddess'. All rather silly really but the Calhards seem happy.

I think they are getting a new dose of religion, he added. There were a couple of new rocks in the courtyard and several chaps wandering around them with hammers and chisels.

Statues? That is against Star Fleet rules! The Captain exclaimed.

It will upset them greatly if you object, the Colonel pointed out. Besides Star Fleet needn't know and it was all I could do to stop them putting a third one up.

So you've stopped them creating a statue for you? the Captain laughed.

Of course! He seemed shocked that she should think otherwise.

Still grinning she turned to examine the smock and leather shorts that the Colonel had indicated. The material was coarsely woven but surprisingly soft to the touch.

Wind and rain proof as well, the Colonel commented in approval, noting the Captains examination. Significantly superior to Star Fleet issue.

She grinned shyly at him and disappeared into the hut to try it on. She returned five minutes later and demonstrated the new garments to the Colonel.

He dutifully whistled the display, and she glared fiercely at him.

It is probably a good job I'm married, Miss Kathryn Janeway. Otherwise I might be quite tempted to make improper advances, he teased.

I doubt it, the Captain responded mournfully. I can't compete against Seven and I feel like a sack in this!

I could tailor it for you? The Colonel offered helpfully.

I might take you up on it, the Captain agreed. I remember the dress you made for Seven and the suit! She settled beside the Colonel to enjoy the sun while it lasted.

Thank you for what you did for Seven yesterday, she said after a few minutes of reflection. All you have to do now, is to get her to admit she enjoyed herself.

I'm working on it, the Colonel confessed. Mrs Nine missed most of her childhood. I try to make the best of any opportunity to show her what she missed.

It strikes me you are succeeding rather better than anybody could have hoped, the Captain declared.

Well we both have some discoveries to make, Ma'am, the Colonel declared. Most of my childhood memories are bruises. It is nice to be a child and enjoy yourself once in a while. No matter what your age?

Are you challenging me to try the water slide, Colonel? The Captain teased.

Only if you wish to, the answer was smooth. But it might be better to find somebody that can help you feel that you want to be that young first?

It was a curious suggestion the Captain decided. It would require some thought before she responded to it. She wondered again how much he knew about her and the feelings of loneliness that sometimes haunted her.

Seven of Nine returned at lunch time with a number of Calhards bearing baskets of fruit and cooked meat. She looked decidedly pleased with herself, the Captain decided, then caught her breath at what she was wearing. The Colonel had neglected to inform her what the Calhards and offered her to wear and she had assumed it was another of the died woollen smocks. She had not expected a tight bikini top and low slung shorts that clung tight to the calves. Her bare stomach and arms clearly showed the small Borg implants on her right arm and below the right breast. Nor had she expected a fine trace tiara, that sparkled with small point jewels, to be placed on her head.

You didn't tell me about that! The Captain whispered in ferocious jealousy.

I didn't know, Ma'am, the Colonel hissed, unable to drag his own eyes from the apparition. Last I saw was another woollen cloak. Mind you it suits, don't you think?

The Captain shrugged non-committaly, then spoke up. You've got something to report, Seven?

I have contacted the ship, Captain, Seven of Nine reported, taking her classic stance, hands behind her back, chest out, seemingly not noticing the stares she was receiving from all around her. Commander Chakotay reports some damage, but she is underway. Arrival in three weeks. I have also used the facilities to plan a new route for the Alpha Quadrant. It will require checking using our own Astrometrics suite, but should be acceptable.

That is good going, how did you manage it? The Captain complemented.

There is much additional Borg circuitry within the systems structure that I recognise. Deducing the function of the remainder was comparatively simple, Seven admitted sitting herself beside the Captain. It was made easier by the neural net I placed upon my head. She indicated the tiara with a dismissive wave of the hand.

I have also detected three other Borg Unimatrices, she whispered so that the Colonel did not hear. They are transmitting signals, but they appear to be random and disorganised. I believe there may be conflict regarding superiority. Should I tell the Colonel?

The Captain looked at the Colonel as he examined the food offerings and shook her head. I think, unless they are a danger to us, the less he knows about the situation of the Borg the better, she whispered back. Otherwise he might decide to visit them as well!

Mind, if you should find out more about what they are upto, it might be enlightening? She suggested.

I shall comply, Seven agreed as the Colonel dragged a basket back towards them.

As we seem to be the First Contact' we had better make the most of it, the Captain declared as they finished lunch. It'll keep us doing something useful for the next three weeks.

Seven and I, will find out as much about their history and culture as we can. You Colonel will help them find a new site for a dam and flood relief. Then we can design a proper reservoir and flood defence.

I was about to suggest something similar, Captain," the Colonel admitted. "We need to pay them in some way and we need something to drive us. I will look for a possible site, starting tomorrow morning.

That's agreed then, the Captain sighed. Now Tuvok, how do we look after him?

The village healers will care for him, Seven of Nine declared firmly as she rose. I will obtain guides for the Colonel and adapt the remaining Borg translators for your use.

Three weeks later found the Captain sitting on an arete, looking down upon the civil works that the Colonel and the Calhards had started and had nearly completed. He had found that the river that fed the pool above the village forked several kilometres above it and had followed that into the next valley. There it had broadened into a valley over a kilometre across and eight long with a narrow but deep lake of its own held in check by a high lip at its narrow lower end, where the river had cut a new gorge to drain the valley again. It was across that lip that they had started to construct a dam, filling the gorge. He had sketched out what he thought would be a suitable design for her approval and she and Seven had dutifully calculated capacities and commented upon the design. In retroflection, the Captain decided, he had a much better idea of what the dam he was proposing was capable of than she had.

It was not an impressive dam in its engineering, she reflected certainly not a patch on the mighty Victoria or Michigan dams on Earth. But it was a marvel all the same, considering the tools the Calhards had at their disposal.

It appeared as a deep Vee shape where it blocked the river's cutting, barely twenty metres tall at its deepest point tapering to less than five where it met the cliffs at either end, 70 metres long and six wide, it had been built using massive tree trunks, culled from the forests in the plains below for its backbone, then heavily reinforced by earth and rock, hand dug from the bottom of the valley itself. It meant that the original valley lake would be over 50 metres deep when it was full and hold enough water for the Calhards to survive a drought of more than six months, yet the largely soil wall would not be washed away in the resultant floods. It stood as testimony to the hard work that the natives had put in under the direction of the enthusiastic Colonel and the ever efficient Seven of Nine.

All it needed now was Voyager to open the entrance to the stream that fed the valley and the Captains part of the small miracle would be complete.

That only left Tuvok as a cause for concern. Under the ministrations of the village healers and the ever watchful eye of the Colonel the visible injuries had healed, leaving nothing more than scars from the explosion and he was now awake for several hours during the day. But he was still paralysed from the waist down.

It was at Tuvoks request, during one of these periods of consciousness, that the Colonel had started carrying out what she considered to be some pretty violent physiotherapy on the commander, to help in the healing process. So far they had yielded no positive results.

"Tuvok said you would be here, Captain!" The quiet sound of Chakotays voice made her jump.

"How long have you been here?" She stammered in surprise and turning to look up at the smiling face of her second in command.

"Couple of hours," he said softly. "We've beamed Tuvok back to the ship, along with the Transwarp Coil you seem to have acquired. The Doctor is tutting around him now. All we need to get underway is the rest of the party?"

"Not until we've finished here!" The Captain protested quickly turning back to the view before them.

"An impressive piece of work, isn't it?" She drawled happily, indicating the valley before them.

"Couldn't this be taken as breaking the Prime Directive?" Chakotay asked with a hint smile as he sat beside her.

The Captain frowned in perplexity as she considered the question. "I don't see how," she said finally. "The Calhards already had contact with other races and that is hardly advanced engineering they are doing."

"Besides it was either this or have the Colonel finding me things to do. I know which I would prefer," she added with a laugh.

"So do I!" Chakotay agreed in consolation. "I'm amazed you are still on speaking terms."

"We nearly weren't!" She grinned.

"I watched Star Fleet Terraforming engineers building a dam once," she continued more seriously. "Ten times bigger than this obviously, but it was all built from precastings. All they did was snap it together and it took them six months. Here the whole village has been working night and day using nothing more than shovels and they've done it for themselves, without concrete or replicators. That is impressive! It is what exploring should be about!"

Chakotay looked at her in surprise. I thought you didn't like roughing it? he asked in surprise.

I don't, she smiled back at him. But the last few weeks, it's felt as if we are achieving something. It has been satisfying?

She has learnt to relax a little as well, she commented, pointing to a slender figure picking her way around the rocks below, heading in the direction of the dam. They have made her a Goddess', you know.

So I heard. Another of the Colonels tricks? Chakotay grinned.

The Captain shook her head. They did it themselves. I'm merely her helper and the Colonel's her protector. It seems to be fairly accurate here.

From their vantage point they continued to watch the activities below.

The Colonel was on his knees in the original stream bed examining the sluice gate and runners that had been mounted across the original water course. Of all the aspects of the dam this was the one that was proving the most troublesome and the most vital for its continued existence. Put simply, it refused to lift more than half way up its two metre travel. Carefully he mounted a scaling ladder as he felt along the length of the crude runners that it operated upon and felt another knot from a branch that had been loped off. He sighed, the Calhards for all their enthusiasm missed the most obvious faults.

Take an axe to this lump here, Moiraidd, he demanded of his attentive assistant. Then check the rest. Any lumps like this will make the gate difficult to open when the dam is full. Then whoosh goes the dam.

He climbed down from the rickety ladder and looked around. The sun was starting to drop below the shoulder of the valley, bathing it in golden glows and deep shadows. It was almost time to finish for the night. Down the steep valley sides he could see a slender shadow approach and looked up to find its owner. A slender figure whose hair formed a glowing halo around her head as it bobbed from her movement.

Ah my Goddess of Light approaches, he declared happily, taking a step towards her.

Not just light, Master, Mairaidd claimed from the ladder. Forniau Bwiaddau, brings new life!

The colonel looked up at the craftsman in some surprise. Not yet she hasn't, he blurted. But thank you. Now I know why she didn't translate.

He continued towards her.

There are problems? Seven of Nine demanded without preamble when they met.

Nothing that Mairaidd and his axe can't fix, he assured her. But you weren't entirely honest with me the other day, when you agreed at my attempt at translating your title?

The definition was accurate! Seven protested quickly, a faint blush coming to her tanned features.

Definition yes, but perhaps not the meaning, the Colonel teased. Still either will suit me quite nicely. You are my Goddess of Light. We will have to work at making the other one true. Come on. We've enough time for me to have a quick bath before the evening meal. Then an evening with you in my adoring arms will make up for being economical with the truth?

He placed an arm around her and squeezed, before leading her back to the well trodden path to the village.

I want this rock blasted out to a depth of about three metres below the water level, Captain Janeway explained to Lieutenant Caerey and Ensign Wildman the following morning. That way we think the majority of the river will follow the stream to the new reservoir, but won't stop all the flow to the old one.

They were standing on top of a wide rock outcrop that formed a restriction at the point where the river forked into its two smaller streams.

Why not simply block the old stream, Captain? Caerey asked cautiously. It would be easier.

It is the most convenient supply of water for the village, the Captain explained. The new river will be over a kilometre away and they have no plumbing as such to bring it closer. Can you do it?

Yes, Captain, they agreed readily, making her laugh.

She left them to mark out the target area to rejoin the Colonel and Seven of Nine where they were waiting on the far bank.

Tell me you haven't done this before, Colonel? The Captain challenged nervously. Do you want to give the order to fire?

Never tried to move a river, Ma'am. As for giving the firing order. It's your boat up there. The honour is all yours.

He turned to Seven of Nine. Mrs Nine, I have a pressing urge to try the water slide just once more. Just in case all the wonderful science of the Captain's gets it wrong and I never have the opportunity to do it again. Besides I'd hate to see her cry if it doesn't work, he grinned. Would you honour me with your presence?

The Captains calculations are accurate, Seven of Nine protested loyally.

The Captain laughed at the gentle teasing and retaliated in similar vein. If it doesn't I'll knock a path through with that giant chip on your shoulder, Colonel.

Which one, Ma'am? I find I am particularly well balanced, he declared. Chips on both shoulders.

Both! I should know better than try and get the better of you. Now disappear if you want to, she demanded in mock despair, turning back.

From the other side of the river she saw Ensign Wildman waving to her to show that she and Caerey had completed their marking up, then turn and slip away to a safe vantage point.

She touched her communicator. Captain to Voyager. Fire! She drawled.

For thirty seconds she shielded her eyes as the brilliant beam of Voyagers main phasor armament vaporised the rock along the precise path she had calculated.

Slowly the outcrop reappeared from the clouds of steam as the river overcame the heat of the glowing rock. There was a loud cracking noise, followed by an equally loud groan, almost matched by her own groan, as an extra sliver of rock split off the parent and into the pool that Voyagers phasors had created.

I think that was a very clever touch, Ma'am, the Colonel commented stepping beside her, Seven of Nine holding his arm. I would never have thought of overcutting and letting the rock fill the hole up again to form a weir when it split. I'd have simply built one.

She looked at him sharply, trying to determine if he was making fun of her, but his face suggested admiration. I didn't, she admitted. I didn't know what contraction to allow from the phasors. I just over compensated.

Still. I didn't do too badly considering all I had was a slate to work with! She declared brightly. I thought you were taking Seven for a swim?

I wouldn't miss your moment of triumph for all the tea in China, Ma'am!

You can't make tea like yours from China tea! The Captain laughed. You almost had me believing you were impressed by my mathematics!

Never had much time for maths, Ma'am, the Colonel admitted more seriously. General Fletcher's father once told me it was the results that counted. How you get there doesn't matter greatly, just as long as you got them honestly. And we've scored there.

Now. Seven has informed me that Mr Neelix has been so good as to send some proper tea and I haven't had any for nearly a month. Care to join us in a He offered an arm to her.

The Captain took a shy look at Seven of Nine. May I?

It is appropriate, Seven declared.

Still smiling, the Captain refused the Colonels arm, but took Seven of Nines instead and they walked down the hill back towards the village.

Their arrival in the village was greeted by a large body of silent Calhards that closed around them as they passed, blocking their return to their quarters and respectfully directing them down towards the temple.

What's going on? the Captain whispered in alarm.

Both Seven and the Colonel shrugged, showing their joint ignorance, until they came within earshot of the temple and the general sounds of a party.

The Colonel suggested as they entered the amphitheatre. I wonder if they get as wild as in Belize?

It certainly looked similar. Around them were gaily died cloaks and tassels as the Calhards danced themselves into a frenzy to the incessant beat of drums and strange deep throated flutes.

Carefully they were ushered forward towards a small party of Voyager crew, led by Chakotay, who were studying two statues.

It's a good likeness of the Captain, Chakotay commented aloud to B'Elanna, seeing the Captain appear from the corner of his eye.

B'Elanna agreed, playing up to the prompting. They have really captured her scowl and the pointed chin. Everything!

I don't scowl! Captain Janeway protested indignantly, pushing forward. Do I?

Then she looked up at the gently smiling effigy of herself, its eyes open in wonder, hand held out as if offering something, legs slightly apart. Chakotay and B'Elanna both laughed at her.

Only when the Colonel and Seven have pulled a fast one on you, Kathryn! Just as they have done now, Chakotay claimed. They took off when you let go of Seven.

I guess they have important things to do, she drawled, then caught herself as her face broke into the same soft smile that emblazoned the statues face. She scowled for the effect before looking at Sevens, to the renewed giggles from B'Elanna.

Seven's is better, she declared lightly. Except for the sword on her back I can see her like that on Voyager arguing with me over something or other.

Isn't there one missing? B'Elanna asked.

The Captain grinned wolfishly at her. If he won't let me mention him in the logs, what chance have they got of making something as obvious as this?

A young priestess gibbering excitedly, pulled at her sleeve. Fornadd Dramboidd. Come! Must see!

Puzzled over the young woman's insistence, Captain Janeway followed, beckoning for the others to do so as they entered the temple. They followed her into a brightly lit recess.

I thought the Colonel, Gwaith Fornadd Paroithag, had forbidden it! The Captain cried, as she was met by another statue.

Paroithag not always here, the priestess pointed out pragmatically. We hide when he come. Is suitable?

Critically the Captain circled the stone. It depicted the Colonel on one knee, hands resting on his massive sword, looking up almost adoringly. A set of small wheels at the base showed how careful the priests had been to ensure that the statue could be moved at a moments notice.

They can carve! Chakotay whistled. I can see the arrangement of them now.

So can I, the Captain admitted uncomfortably. It shows just who is in charge and it's not the Colonel or me.

Still the Calhards are doing something that I haven't worked out how to do yet. They are recording his passing. Find me a holo-imager, I fully intend to embarrass him infront of his children, she laughed before turning to the nervous priestess. Very good!

The Colonel had, as Chakotay had correctly observed, led Seven of Nine from the amphitheatre as soon as attention had been drawn to the Captain. Our destination? Seven of Nine asked as the Colonel led her on from the village. She suspected she knew where they were going and was not unprepared for the event, nor would she be an unwilling participant.

I meant what I said earlier, I want to try that slide for the last time, the Colonel declared. Tomorrow we become dull spacemen again. I'd like one more chance for a little fun with water, ideally with the beautiful young woman I love.

Seven of Nine was quiet for a moment before replying. Your proposal is acceptable.

You will not require the slide, she added, taking the lead and turning to the path that led directly to the pool.

You should remove your garments before entering, she observed as they reached the rocks that surrounded the pool.

Without waiting to see if he complied she deftly pulled at the ties of the skimpy Calhard clothing, letting them drop to the floor, before lowering herself into the cold water and wading to the centre of the pool to await his arrival.

I remember the first time we were like this, he commented dreamily as he followed her a few moments later.

I tried to wash your hair and back. But was too frightened to do more, even this, he said pulling her into an embrace and kiss. For a few moments their teeth and tongues clashed as Seven gripped him hard.

What a fool I was, he sighed when they broke for air.

Your actions were appropriate to your values, Seven of Nine offered. It was when I found a satisfactory level of human company. You may complete the task you commenced then.

No soap, the Colonel pointed out.

Irrelevant, you will adapt.

He slid around behind her, embraced her, then nibbled her neck as he started to massage. You know the Calhards have a prophesy about us? He whispered. About the Mother of Light. After she was cast from heaven for being too aloof. She wandered for some time, lost and alone, before she befriended an equally lost giant. He was terrified of her beauty and power, but he adored her, vowing to protect her from all evils. Until one day she realised that she loved him and managed to trap him for a mate. The parallels are rather plain, don't you think?

Did they have offspring? Seven of Nine whispered, thrilling to the intimate touch.

I think we will have to find out, Moiraidd didn't get that far, the Colonel answered, lifting her easily onto a large flat rock, before following her.

Their love making was gentle and passionate under the stars, the water slapping at them as they wrapped themselves in each other. Finally they dozed in each others arms, occasionally waking long enough to kiss the other tenderly. Until they were woken with a start by a thin scream.

Captain Janeway took a last reflective stroll around the Calhard village as the party started to die down. She could have brought Chakotay with her on her evening stroll, just as she often did for her strolls around the ship. There was something comforting about his presence, the mild manner and amused looks, as they talked together about events in the past or to come, that had allowed her to take him as her closest friend and confidant. But that was all he was, she told herself, there was no room in her life for a lover. Not until Voyager was home, or there was no hope.

Hope. There had been times when even that robust feeling had looked distinctly weak, she reflected as she found herself following a well trodden the path up the hill. But she had never lost it, even though it looked as if it might lose her a lot of other things, ship, crew and friends. Now it was starting to feel as though it was paying off. They had fallen into deep perils and shaken them off again so many times that hope wasn't needed anymore. She knew that she would get her ship and friends home again. If asked where the certainty came from she would not be able to supply an answer. It was just a feeling. All she needed to do was complete one small challenge and see two others come to a fitting conclusion to prove it to herself.

She reached the top of the water course that filled the small pond above the village and gazed at the small cleft that marked the start of the water slide, steeling herself to take the ride, knowing it was the beginning of the proof she sought for her conviction. Slowly she removed her uniform, folding it neatly and placing it where it would remain safe and dry, reducing herself to nothing more than the leather underwear that the Calhards had provided. Equally slowly she stepped into the cleft, feeling the cold water drag at her foot, before lowering herself to a sitting position, grasping the slippery rock firmly either side.

Not firm enough. Before she was settled her grip was broken and she was whisked into the tunnel that formed the slide. She screamed loudly in surprise, then again, louder, as she felt herself turn upside down where the water ricocheted through a tight bend. She barely had time to regain her breath before she was ejected onto the pool. She rose spluttering from the cold water, hitching up her shorts, which had seemed to slid down during the short ride, as she did so. She turned resolutely for the bank, climbed out and walked back up the side towards the top again.

The Colonel and Seven of Nine looked at each other in surprise and delight as the Captain shot out the end of the slide. They continued to watch as she silently climbed out of the pool and walked off again.

If she isn't back in ten minutes, then I'd say she has done what she came for, the Colonel suggested.

A single run is insufficient experience, Seven of Nine hissed back with feeling. She will try again.

Silently they continued to watch from their hiding place in the shadows, until the scream came again. This time the landing in the pool was not as unceremonious, but was equally wet. The Captain emerged, wiping her hair from her eyes, then stopped. I know you are there and you were right, Colonel. It was enjoyable. But you or Seven say anything aboard the ship about it and I'll have you polishing shuttles for the rest of the trip home! She declared loudly looking fixedly towards the shadows that hid them.

Our lips are sealed, Ma'am! The Colonel called out happily. But it is still better with company!

They watched as once again the Captain hitched up her shorts and climbed out again.

Seven of Nine turned back to her man. There are other occasions where a single experience is insufficient, she declared, rolling on top of him, propping herself up with an elbow upon his chest, then running the finger tips of her left hand down his sides and thigh and up again, feeling him squirm under her.

He moaned, before reaching up and pulling her down again.

Captain Janeway emerged purposefully from the Turbo Lift and stopped nonplussed, as she was met by almost half the crew all applauding her return. She coloured in embarrassment until it died away.

We wanted to welcome you home, Captain! Neelix announced standing at the front of the crowd. B'Elanna thought you might have regrets about leaving, being a Goddess and things. We thought we ought to remind you that you belong here taking us home!

How could I forget! The Captain laughed. Besides I wasn't the Goddess they looked to. But it's nice to be home again and at least able to think I am in charge.

Now this is a Star Ship and you all have duties. So lets get to them and head home, she commanded. Lieutenant Paris, set course for the Alpha Quadrant, warp eight. We've lost some ground in the last month. We need to make up ground again.

It took her another fifteen minutes to reach her command chair as the crew all tried to personally welcome her home. In the end she sank gratefully down upon it, before turning to the broadly smiling Chakotay.

Home, Sweet Home, at last, she sighed.

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