The Lady Of Shalott

When she looks in the mirror she cannot see herself any longer. She sees a human woman, with smooth light brown skin and silky brown hair, not the woman with forehead ridges and fuzzy hair that she has seen her entire life. Not the woman who looks like a watered-down version of her mother. Not her self. The woman in the mirror has no element of her mother anymore, and B'Elanna cannot recognize her.

She doesn't look in mirrors anymore. They only make her want to cry, and she's trying so very hard not to be that weak.

Every day she gets up and goes to work. Tesserand Institute didn't used to be a Starfleet installation, but since quasi-martial law was imposed and Starfleet took over part of the civilian government, the advanced physics think tank has fallen under the complete control of the Starfleet science and advanced engineering division, and their desperate quest to find some way, any way, to break the blockade on the planet. B'Elanna does not actually believe this to be possible, but if she stops going to work, she will admit the Q have defeated her, and a Klingon never admits defeat, even if she's not a Klingon anymore. Besides, when she's working she can almost, almost feel alive.

When she is not working there is nothing but numbness.

Tom is so kind, so gentle to her, trying so hard to cajole her out of her apathy, find things she'd like to do, feed her foods she enjoys, drag her to entertainments he thinks she'll like. She should leave him. It's not fair to him; she's dragging him down, and she doesn't even love him anymore. Not because of anything wrong with him; she just can't feel anything.

She remembers the passions she used to feel, how she and Tom didn't use to be able to keep their hands off each other. Remembers summoning Tom in his role as the Doctor's assistant to engineering on the pretext of a minor medical issue and closeting herself in her office with him. Remembers his silly crude jokes about how, if she can't concentrate on her work and she's suffering from discomfort, Nurse Paris has a hypo with the medicine she needs, right here, and he'd gesture at his crotch, and she'd shut up his stupid jokes with a hungry kiss even though they were kind of funny. Now the last time they had sex was a month ago, and it, like the several times before it, had involved Tom wheedling her and cajoling her and telling her it would be fun, it would feel good, wouldn't she like to feel something?, he loved her so much and she was still beautiful and in the end she just gave in to shut him up. He's stopped trying to persuade her anymore; he feels like she doesn't want him, and he's right, because she doesn't want anyone. Or anything. She should set him free, and go; it would be kinder to him. But he will argue, and plead with her, and she just doesn't have the strength to deal with it. So she stays.

Joe is no help. He keeps trying to prescribe her antidepressants. Klingons do not take medication for their feelings. She wonders if in fact Klingons would take medication for not feeling, except that this has probably never happened to a single Klingon in the history of life on Qo'noS, and she can't very well ask a Klingon whether honor allows one to take a drug to let passions return, since there are none on Earth and no way to contact any. She also wonders if there's a point to trying to live her life the way a Klingon would when her Klingon side is gone and she's an empty shell with all her passions scooped out the same way the Q scooped the Klingonness out of her. And then she wonders how she would live if she were to try to live any other way.

When the voices came, they were a thousand separate voices speaking at once in perfect unison, like an entire stadium at a political event, like the Borg but less mechanical, and the power in the voices blasted away the world so they were all she could hear, all she could perceive. And they asked her, "Human or Klingon, which do you choose?"

She was raised Klingon. Her mother was Klingon. She always thought of herself as Klingon. But she also always thought of herself as ugly, and violent, unable to fit in with the calm peaceful Humans that had surrounded her all of her life, and because she was violent they were violent and they mocked her, and because she was ugly her father had left her and her mother forever. If she chose Human she was choosing rationality, science, the side of her that was an engineer rather than the side of her that broke people's noses. If she chose Human she chose what Tom was, and Chakotay was. If she chose Human she would get to stay with Humans.

She hadn't known, in that moment, that the Humans would be blockaded on Earth, but she understood without knowing how she knew that Humans would go with Humans and Klingons would go with Klingons, and aside from her mother and teachers she really hadn't met many Klingons in her life and she didn't get along with them so well either and when she had been split by the Vidiians, her Klingon side had frightened and repulsed her. So she chose Human.

It was a mistake, and she lives with the consequences every day, but what else could she have done? She should never have been forced to make a choice. No one should ever have to choose giving up half of what they are.

When she had been Human the last time and she'd had her Klingon other-self, her sister side, with her, she might have been frightened by the Klingon and repulsed by her but she could see the woman's passion and courage and know where her own had gone. Now those things have vanished entirely, and she has no sister self to look at to find them. Maybe the Q put her Klingon self on Qo'noS or left her on Voyager or something, but if they were just going to split her why would they have asked which she wanted to be? No. They destroyed her Klingon self, and now there is nothing left but rationality and science and engineering, because all the parts of her that made life worth experiencing are gone.

If she kills herself she will go to Gre'thor. Or, perhaps, the Human Hell that John Torres had referenced when he swore but never really seemed to believe in much, the way most Humans didn't seem to believe in their ancient religions very much. Or perhaps, nothingness. Nothingness is an attractive option and this is Hell, but she doesn't want to go to Gre'thor because she doesn't want to be a coward, even though she is. When she hits herself with pain sticks to make herself feel something, it doesn't fire her blood, doesn't make her angry and push her into battle readiness, her veins surging with fire. It just hurts and it makes her want to cry. She is, in fact, a complete coward now. And she can't bear living this way. But she can't bear to let the Q win, either. Even though they already have.

She tries to pick fights with Tom to make herself feel something, but the effort is tiring and she's too apathetic and she just runs out of strength halfway through and starts agreeing with everything he says. She tries to pick fights with Annika, but it's like torturing a baby; Annika's tears and temper tantrums are so much unlike the Seven she remembers, it's as if they switched places, except that Seven was never apathetic and bored and depressed, only cool and aloof. Cool and aloof would be better than uncaring and unfeeling. B'Elanna wishes she could have that. Or, if she can't have that, to have what Tom and Harry and Captain Janeway and Commander LaForge and Commander Scott have, normal human emotions. Or, if she can't even have that, she'd take Annika's temper tantrums. At least Annika can obviously feel something.

Why don't humans feel this way? She's an ordinary full human, biologically, nothing wrong with her organically that isn't wrong with every other human too. But they can feel. Joe explains that Klingon adrenal response is so much higher than Human, Klingon emotions are genuinely much stronger, and the Humans can respond to their weaker, calmer Human emotions as if they're normal passions because it's all they've ever known, but her mental pathways were formed when she was half Klingon and Klingon hormones, Klingon adrenaline was surging through her blood and now that it doesn't anymore, she can't interpret the weaker emotions full Humans feel as feelings at all. He says that she does have love, she does have anger… she just has to search inside for them. Easy for him to say. He hasn't adjusted either; the last time she saw him stub his toe he hopped around the medward for ten minutes screaming curses, eyes streaming with his pain, shouting for a nurse to get him a painkiller. All the nurses ignored him and eventually he stopped hopping and pretended he was perfectly fine and hadn't just put on a ridiculous display of agony over a stubbed toe because he'd never adjusted to the ability to feel pain. She's hardly going to take his advice.

One of the physicists, a former science officer named Shahrazad Dhawan, acts the way B'Elanna remembers she used to. Dhawan argues passionately, she throws fits of rage -- not quite the way Annika does, but then, unlike Annika, Dhawan is not emotionally five years old -- she laughs and shouts and threatens people with dire pain if they don't run the tests she asked for right now, and B'Elanna wishes she were her. Dhawan is not part Klingon and never was; she has been Human her whole life, yet she can be what B'Elanna was once, when B'Elanna was half Klingon. It makes B'Elanna think that maybe, possibly, there is hope for her. And it gives her the strength she needs, to keep getting up and going to work and attempting to fight the Q with her brain, which is the only part of her she has left, instead of killing herself. Because maybe someday she might learn to feel again. Other Humans can; maybe someday so can she.

But that is someday. And this is now.

Nothing works. Techniques that used to be fairly reliable for managing time travel don't work – and they have here two scientists who claim to be from the Interplanetary Temporal Stability Corps of the 29th century, trapped here by the Q when the blockade came up, and nothing they suggest works either. It would be frustrating except that B'Elanna can't really feel frustration much any more either; she has no hope that anything will work, so she's not that disappointed when nothing does. She's only doing this because it's something to do and because it's not the Klingon way to admit defeat.

Occasionally she thinks about seducing Harry, mostly because Tom really will leave her if she sleeps with his best friend, and the drama it will create might make her feel alive for a tiny while, but it would ruin Tom and Harry's friendship and she can't do that to them. She doesn't even want sex, anyway. No man she's seen since she lost half her self has made any dent in the numbness she feels.

She misses Chakotay. He's in South America in First Nation territory, caught up in the conflict there. Sometimes she thinks about quitting her job here and going to help him, but it's too much effort and she's too empty. Better to stay here where there's the tiniest infinitesimal chance that she might actually do some good.

She does not live her life. She watches it. She participates but feels as if the person who is saying those things, coming up with theories, proposing tests, isn't real, or perhaps that she herself isn't real and she only thinks she's the person who's talking. She is not a part of life, only an observer, and without Tom or occasionally Captain Janeway to tell her to do things like eat she would succumb to analysis paralysis, her mind going around and around in circles, able to outline the pros and cons of every action she might possibly take in detail but unable to process them to a conclusion that tells her what to do. Decisions are impossible. The kind of decisive, spur-of-the-moment actions she used to take on the basis of intuition and the seat of her pants are a thing of her past now. If she were still in the Maquis she'd certainly have gotten herself shot by now.

She thinks about contacting her father. He's human, he must be here in the solar system someplace. She's never gotten around to it.

When she looks in the mirror she doesn't see anyone she recognizes anymore, so B'Elanna Torres has stopped looking in mirrors. But her whole life feels like a mirror, reversed and deceptively flat with only the illusion of depth like she's watching the world through a mirror held up instead of looking at it directly. Perhaps she is the mirror, the half-self living a half-life that the world is reflected in instead of being truly there.

The Klingons killed their gods, and if B'Elanna could kill the Q she would, for taking the stars away from everyone, for taking half her self away from her. But she is no longer Klingon and she no longer believes she can win a hopeless battle, or even that there's a point to fighting it. There just isn't a point to doing anything else, either.

Next: This is not justice. But this time he doesn't think he can make it stop.