Day 257, B'Elanna
B'Elanna was about to go crazy.
For a month, now, she and Harry been on the Nihydron ship, following Voyager (with Janeway) and the Mawasi ship (with Tuvok, Seven, Neelix, and the Doctor) on their journey toward the Krenim vessel, where Annorax was keeping Tom and Chakotay.
The Klingon in her nearly howled with impatience. But the human inside her nearly burst into tears. "I've received an authenticated message from Tom. He's given us the coordinates for the Krenim vessel, as well as the location of its temporal core." She'd stopped breathing upon hearing the Captain's words.
Tom was alive.
In that moment, everything in B'Elanna's crazy, torn-apart world had righted itself. She'd no longer been standing in the shambles of a starship, dirt caking her from head to foot, and lungs burning from leaking plasma fumes. She hadn't been exhausted and spirit-broken, or even the least bit tired. At those words, B'Elanna's ragged, bleeding heart had leapt in her chest, effectively healing itself.
For an instant.
Now, she was beginning to lose hope.
Would she ever see Tom alive again?
Tom sat at the table in his guest quarters aboard the Krenim ship, his fingers tapping out a rhythm that would have put the William Tell Overture to shame. His eyes fixated on the portable computer padd before him, his heart racing.
"Come on, come on," he murmured, nearly screaming with impatience. What was taking Obrist so long?
Habit turned his eyes to the wall, where he'd fashioned a makeshift calendar. He didn't need it; he'd made it simply to occupy his mind. Tom's eyes wandered over the tick marks showing how many days it had been since he'd last seen B'Elanna. He didn't even have to count them. The number was etched onto his heart, burning a hole through his mind every second that he sat there, helpless to do anything.
Suddenly, the padd started bleeping crazily, lighting up like a fireworks show. His heart vaulted into his throat, and he had to force the breath from his lungs.
Hunching over the padd, Tom deftly worked the controls until the information he needed was before him.
"Good work, Obrist!" he exclaimed in a whisper. Keying the controls as fast as he could, Tom concentrated on the task at hand. Purpose surged through him like adrenaline.
He had something to do now. Something that would help get him and Chakotay home. Back to Voyager, back to B'Elanna. Determination swept through him. He hadn't seen B'Elanna in a hundred eighty-seven days.
He wasn't about to make it one hundred eighty-eight.
From her seat at the engineering console on the Nihydron warship's bridge, B'Elanna monitored their temporal shielding. So far, everything was going according to plan. Shields were operational, communications were open and active, and the Krenim vessel was within visual range.
Well, almost everything, she corrected.
Tom hadn't been able to take the Krenim vessel's temporal core offline.
And, given that everything they'd planned hinged on the core's being disabled, B'Elanna was willing to bet that they were in trouble. Big trouble.
Briefly, she bowed her head, thinking of Tom and Chakotay aboard that monster of a ship. What would happen to them when Annorax realized their deception? And what about their accomplice, Obrist? How would he fare when his part in all this came to light? Would he live? Would Tom and Chakotay live? Better yet, would anyone survive this nightmare?
The Year of Hell.
Nothing had ever been more aptly named.
B'Elanna felt a hand on her shoulder, and she turned to see Harry standing beside her. For a moment, he said nothing. He just stood there, holding her gaze. Then, he tightened his grip on her shoulder and said, "We're gonna get them back. I know we are."
His words sent a wave of pain through her so strong that she shut her eyes. She sensed Harry crouching before her, and felt his hands settle just above her elbows.
"B'Elanna…look at me."
Slowly, she opened her eyes. Tears made her vision jerky and blurred, but she could still see Harry's face, the certainty etched onto his youthful features.
"We're gonna get them back," he repeated slowly, his gaze never wavering. "You have to believe that."
B'Elanna opened her mouth. She tried to find the right words, the words to express her pain and fear, but she couldn't. All she could think of was Tom's promise to her in the mess hall all those months ago.
"I'll be right back."
A tear dropped onto her cheek. "He told me…" A sob escaped her throat, and B'Elanna swallowed and ducked her head. When she could speak again, she met Harry's gaze. "He promised he'd come back," she choked out. "And now…I can't—"
"B'Elanna," Harry interrupted, giving her a little shake, "stop it. He's on that ship—" here he pointed to the viewscreen showing the Krenim vessel, "—and he's coming back. You have to believe that."
"I don't know if I can," she whispered, terror filling every corner of her body.
Harry's eyes softened, and he leaned forward to hug her. For a long minute, he was silent, letting his embrace speak all that his voice couldn't. Finally, he drew back, catching her eyes once more.
"Then I'll believe for you."
He looked around him, bewildered. One minute he'd been scrambling to disable the temporal core, and the next he was—where was he?
"Tom! Thank goodness you're here!"
He whirled just in time to receive a Talaxian bear hug.
"Neelix? Is that you? Where am I?"
"Aboard the Mawasi vessel," the friendly cook replied, more than a little puzzled. "Didn't you beam yourself here?"
"No, he didn't. Obrist did, just after he took the temporal core offline."
Chakotay's calm voice broke into their conversation, answering at least one of Tom's questions.
He realized that Neelix wasn't the only member of Voyager's crew on board. The Doctor, Tuvok, and Seven of Nine stood in various positions on what appeared to be the alien vessel's bridge. "Shouldn't you all be on Voyager?" he asked. "And where's B'Elanna? And the Captain and Harry?"
"Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim are on the remaining Nihydron vessel. Captain Janeway stayed aboard Voyager in order to pilot it." Seven's precisely modulated voice cut through the sudden silence that had befallen the Mawasi bridge crew.
"By herself?" Chakotay asked, incredulous. "Why?"
::Janeway to the Fleet.::
Their captain's voice cut through the haze of questions, snapping everyone to attention as if Janeway herself had just walked onto the bridge.
::Take your temporal shields offline. I repeat, take your temporal shield offline.::
Confused questions followed the ludicrous order, staid only by Tuvok's calm Vulcan obedience. Listening to his captain over the comm line, Tom pieced together that Janeway was going to ram Voyager into the Krenim vessel's temporal core in the hopes of destroying it and restoring history.
The ultimate kamikaze.
His captain was making a suicide run. Tom's blood went cold. In the chaos that followed, two thoughts registered in his brain.
One, he was going to die.
Two, he'd broken his promise to B'Elanna.
Day 1, B'Elanna
The alarm bells in her head sounded so loudly and abruptly that B'Elanna almost dropped the weekly Engineering report she was writing. As it was, she was certain she'd jumped, maybe even gasped, and hoped to goodness Seven of Nine wasn't around to witness her odd behavior.
Unable to shake her unease, B'Elanna lowered the padd and slapped her commbadge with a shaking hand. "Torres to Paris."
::Paris here:: came his reply.
She paused. He sounds all right, she thought. But then again, that doesn't mean anything with Tom. "Are you all right?" she finally asked, hardly daring to breathe.
::Yeah…:: he answered slowly, his confusion obvious even over the comm line. ::Why?::
"I…just wanted to make sure." B'Elanna winced. She sounded like a total idiot.
::B'Elanna, are you feeling all right? Maybe you should—::
"I'm fine," she interrupted, raising the padd once more. "I've got to go—Engineering report's due." She severed the line before he could order her to sickbay. That was the last thing she needed.
"petaQ!" she muttered to herself, returning to her work. "Next time, think before you make a complete fool of yourself."
Still, for a moment there, she'd actually feared for his life. It had been the strangest feeling—like she'd been somewhere else, on another ship. Watching as her friends met their deaths. Waiting for her own. And what was that phrase that had flashed through her mind? The Year of Hell.
Year of Hell? B'Elanna shook her head and walked into her office. "Get a grip, Torres. Save the worry for when you really need it."
Despite her acute embarrassment, B'Elanna couldn't help the relief that flooded her heart.