STANDARD DISCLAIMER:The characters from Star Trek: Voyager belong to Paramount/Viacom and whoever else has the legal documentation to back up their claim. No infringement is intended. They are borrowed only.
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:UPDATED As was bound to happen...or at least I had hoped it would...I finally found a reason for the style in which this story was written. And once I found the reason, a plot wasn't far behind. And once this plot came to light, well, the series that everyone voted for just sort of fell into place. That said, however, I will have to warn you. It is a complicated plot. It deals with a large, large span of time. And I will be using a very different medium to tell this story. Let's just say that I like the research idea and am keeping it as a running theme. So these are the things to be aware of: logs and such will be a running theme, this will be a complex story, and there will be original characters running amok throughout. And the usual stuff applies as well...same-sex loving relationships, cup of tea, yadda, yadda, yadda. Keep an eye out for the next in the series, Red Flags.
OTHER NOTES: Please feel free to e-mail me constructive criticism, comments, etc. at email@example.com
THANKS:To Shay, who sparked the Muses on this one and told me to post this even though I had originally planned to keep it just between me and her. I promise you that this only took me away from S/I for three days. Shay made sure. J
Raise a Bright Flag of Honor
It is said that when Mirari Toren was murdered 11 days shy of her 60th birthday, the petaQ moH who murdered her used the bat’telh of Mirari’s own mother, sealing his fate as The Betrayer for all time.
Mirari’s four grown children were unable to perform the death howl together as would have been proper for a Klingon warrior of Mirari’s honor and righteousness. Nor were they ever to see each other again. The House of Toren, a minor house of no power in the High Council of Qo’noS and created on the day of Mirari’s birth, was utterly destroyed on the day of her death.
Little is recorded of the fate of her four children. And what is known is almost legend now, tarnished by years of whispers and lies and exaggerations so that it is impossible to tell the shape of the truth. The patina of the past obscures it.
Mirari’s eldest child, Rinika Toren, 38 years old at the time of her mother’s death and the rightful heir to the House of Toren, simply disappeared. Unmated and with no children, the secrets she is said to have possessed at the time of her disappearance are feared lost forever.
Mirari’s only son, Kerhal Toren, 36 years old at the time of his mother’s death, took his wife, Wendy, and his two young sons to Deep Space 9. From there, the entire family disappeared without a trace. Legend has it that he had the faint ridges that marked him and his sons as Klingon removed and—with new faces and new names—the family slipped into the Gamma Quadrant, never to be heard from again. The secrets he is said to have possessed at the time of his disappearance are thought to have been passed down to his children’s children. Names that are lost to me now.
Mirari’s second daughter, Kemena Toren, 25 years old at the time of her mother’s death and a lieutenant aboard the Federation starship DaVinci, was notified of the tragedy and was given leave to attend the funeral rites with her partner of two years…one Lieutenant T’Safa, head of the science vessel’s archeology team. En route to Starbase 111, where they were to have picked up a transport to the family home, their shuttle disappeared without a trace. The official log listed it as an accidental overload in the shuttle’s systems. Both women were listed as Killed in Action and remembered with full military honors. The secrets Kemena is said to have possessed at the time of the accident are feared destroyed in the explosion.
Mirari’s youngest child, a daughter, was only 21 years old at the time of her mother’s death and the last one to see her alive. Three hours before The Betrayer stormed her home and cut her head off with her own mother’s blade of honor, Mirari Toren packed up the most precious of her belongings, thrust them at her youngest child, and delivered both into the hands of the most honorable warrior she knew. Her only instructions? Remember the Way.
K’Alanna Toren disappeared that very day. And I believe that the secrets she carried with her—the secrets that have been lost for over 500 years—are the last, best hope for the Federation.
Three years ago, a message arrived at Starfleet Headquarters. It was piggybacked on a carrier wave a hundred times as powerful as anything they’d ever seen before and the coordinates placed the origin of the message in the farthest reaches of the Beta Quadrant. It took twelve cryptographers and nine communications specialists a full month to extract and decipher the brief communiqué.
The Borg are here. They are coming for you.
The year is now 2999.
Six months ago, the first refugees from the Beta Quadrant crossed into our little corner of the galaxy. I know that the Borg cannot be far behind them. Without the secrets spirited away by K’Alanna Toren all those years ago, the Alpha Quadrant will be lost.
The following recording is the first step on this journey. It is my only possession and was given to me by my father’s mother on her deathbed.
My name is Jhral Toren, the last of the House of Toren.
This name and this family, this honor and this history—forged with the birth of Mirari, the Miracle, all those many years ago—dies with me unless I find the answers that I seek.
For those, I must go back to the beginning, her beginning.
Back to the USS Voyager and the unlikely love that gave her life…
Personal Log: B’Elanna Torres recording…
The cave-in was unexpected.
I still don’t know how the Hell it happened. Some bizarre tectonic shift? Trillions of years of geologic pressure coming to its natural conclusion? Some scuttling thing sneezing at the wrong place, the wrong time?
Whatever it was, of course it happened right over my head. Some luck I have.
The cave-in was unexpected. But then, so was my survival.
A ton and a half of rock dislodging over one’s head usually means the worst, you know? But not for me…no. More bad luck.
Seven saved me.
You don’t know what it was like, opening my eyes in that dusty, dank, airless pit and seeing her stretched over me, like some cybernetic shield.
"Are you all right, Lieutenant?" she asks, calm as you please. She’s bleeding from at least ten different places, mind you, and I can see parts of her that I know I’m not supposed to be able to see. But she’s still asking me if I am okay.
I say…something. I don’t remember. And try to move, to sit up, to help her. I can hear the shouts on the other side of the wall of rock we are now wearing and I know they are working on getting us out. But I don’t know if she’s gonna make it that long without medical attention. And having her die on me—literally or figuratively—is not something I want to live with.
"Please don’t move, Lieutenant," she tells me, before I have moved more than a finger. "I have a spinal injury. Movement will cause me pain." She takes a breath. "I have already tried."
The last part is said so quietly, I am not sure I hear it.
"We’ll get you out of here, Seven," I tell her. She says nothing but her eyes are open and clear and focussed on me. They look calm. They look like they always do—so damn blue, you think the sky is opening up in front of you and you think about leaping, just like that. Leaping right into that sky, no net, no nothing. Like maybe you could fly forever in there. And there would be no crash landing.
I swallow and turn away. I look at the rock wall, knowing our one surviving lamp—the one from my uncrushed helmet—will only last a few more hours. I have no idea how long it will take Chakotay and the others to get to us. I have no idea how much longer Seven will last. Her breathing is labored already. I can feel it against my belly.
I realize I have to tell them…tell them to hurry, what to expect, that she needs help, that she will die soon if they don’t get their scrawny asses through that wall of stone right now.
I tell her that I am going to reach for my com badge, that I am sorry for the pain that I am going to cause her. But I have to tell them. They have to know.
She says nothing, but I can see the steel set in her jaw and her eyes as she braces herself for the movement. I look at my chest, see the dusty glint of the badge, plan my hand’s course. Most efficient, least movement. I say a prayer to Kahless that the damn thing still works in here, hold my breath, and move.
My fingers connect, the badge chirps, and I almost sigh, dizzy with relief.
"Torres to Chakotay," I breathe, careful not to jar the Borg stretched across me more than is necessary.
"B’Elanna? Thank god. B’Elanna, hold tight. We’re working as fast as we can. Can you see Seven of Nine? She leapt backwards just as the cave fell in."
"She’s…" I look up and my voice leaves me. Tears are sliding silently out of the sky, making ruddy tracks in the gray dust on Seven’s face. I know that if she could, she would scream with pain.
"You have to hurry, Chakotay. She took the brunt of the cave-in. She thinks she has a spinal injury."
Silence is my answer.
His tinny voice responds. "B’Elanna, how badly is she injured?"
"I—I don’t know. Bad. She’s bleeding, I can see— " Seven’s eyes close and I have the feeling that she is embarrassed by the descriptions of her damaged body.
"Just get us out of here!" I growl.
"B’Elanna, we’re working as fast as we can, I promise. You know we can’t use the transporters in here—and we can’t use the phasers, either. The cave-in flooded this entire section with explosive gas."
I stare at the scrap of useless metal on my chest and resist the urge to rip it from my tunic and shatter it with a rock. I want to scream, I want to cry, I want to laugh all at the same time and I wonder briefly if I am in shock or just going insane.
"How long?" I manage finally. I don’t want to know because I know that however long he says it will take, it will be two minutes longer than she has. I know it. That’s my luck.
"An hour," he says and my eyes close. "Maybe more," he adds and I envision ripping out his throat. ‘He didn’t have to say ‘Maybe more’’, I think to myself. ‘He just said that to say something. To be melodramatic.’ I imagine all the ways I am going to make him pay for saying it.
I look at Seven and I see it in her eyes.
"We don’t have an hour, Chakotay," I say, my hand scrabbling over chunks of rock until it finds hers. I tighten my small fingers around her long ones.
It is an order and even though he outranks me, he replies, "Aye, sir."
I hear more shouting on the other side of the wall, a redoubling of effort.
"This will only take ten minutes, Borg," I say, cracking a smile I don’t feel. "Twelve at the most. He’s afraid of me. Always has been."
There is a tiny curl in her bloodied lips, the faintest smile. "He may fear you. I do not."
"You should," I mutter, mock-grumpily. "I could wipe the deck with you anytime, Borg."
The next thing I know, I’m waking up.
"What the Hell just happened?" I ask, my mouth dry and my voice groggy, even to my own ears.
"You have been unconscious, Lieutenant," says a soft voice. "You have a head injury. Possibly a concussion. You have been unconscious for approximately fifteen minutes."
A head injury? I inch my hand up to my head, a place where I feel pressure but no pain and sure enough my fingers come back sticky with dirty blood. I curse in three languages and tell myself that I can’t go under again, not for any reason.
The noises from the other side are closer and I wonder how far they have come, how soon they might get to us. Before I can move to ask, Chakotay’s tinny voice erupts from my chest.
"B’Elanna? There’s help on the way. A shuttle left Voyager a little over ten minutes ago. They should just be landing. We’re going to get you two out of there, I promise. How’s Seven?"
I look up. How is she?! How the Hell should I know? She’s broken, she’s cracked up, she’s splitting at the goddamn seams!
"I am…maintaining consciousness, Commander," she says quietly, forestalling the less than polite response that is perching like a sharp-taloned hawk on my lips.
There is silence from Chakotay and me as we let the implications of her statement settle over us. ‘Maintaining consciousness’ is a lot different than her normal response of ‘I am functioning.’ And we both know it. Strangely, I wonder how long Janeway is going to keep me in the brig for this.
"Hold on, Seven. We’re working—"
"Can you just go back to picking up rocks, Chakotay? We’re not really in the mood to chat." As long as I’m going to the brig, it might as well be worth something.
Another silence, sharper than the last one, follows.
"Understood, Lieutenant. Chakotay out." He stresses the word ‘lieutenant’ in a way that lets me know I am in for the lecture of my lifetime when this is over. Ha! His lectures don’t scare me. He has nothing on my mother. Her lectures drew blood.
"B’Elanna Torres, the commander and the others are working as fast as they can. Do not hold him responsible for this."
I look at her for a long time, wishing she would just close those damned blue eyes and leave me in peace.
"They aren’t working fast enough, Seven." I take a deep breath. "You might die before they reach us." I say the last part quietly, as if the volume of the words might make them less factual, less concrete.
"The Doctor can still reactivate me, Lieutenant. For up to 72 hours after I cease to function."
The writhing knots in my gut ease instantly when I hear this. I am nearly giddy. Of course the Doctor can reactivate her! Why had I forgotten that?
"If Captain Janeway permits it, that is."
The knots come back. And they bring friends. Big, spiky ones.
Surely Janeway would make an exception to her rule. Surely she would let it slide just this once. For Seven. For the Borg she rescued against all odds. Twice. I am trying hard to convince myself even though something practical inside me tells me that that’s my answer.
I push the thought as far away from me as I can.
"How did you know?" This is not really the question that I want to ask her, but it will do for now.
"How did you know, Seven? About the cave-in. You knew before it happened. I want to know how."
I am no longer looking at her eyes. I stare at the roof of the cave instead, the lamplight making giant toothy shadows out of jagged edges of rock.
"I heard the fissures rupture. An unexpected gas-jet must have triggered the collapse."
I swallow. I swallow again. The question I don’t want to ask sits on my chest, making it harder and harder to breathe. I know I will ask it. I know I cannot stop it. But still I try.
I don’t know how much time passes, but I do know that my ears are buzzing loudly and the light from my headlamp is dimmer by the time the question wrests itself from between my clenched teeth.
"Why, Seven? Why save me?" I have been no friend to her, no comrade. I have barely tolerated her for the two years she has been aboard our ship. Yet… Yet…
She swallows hard. Her breathing is shallower now. The pulse I have been checking periodically in her wrist has become weaker.
"Your existence is necessary to the continued function of Voyager, B’Elanna Torres. Mine is not. Voyager is my Collective now. It is my duty to preserve my Collective."
I fight the tears but I am too weary, too wired. The adrenaline that has been sustaining me is ebbing and I have no resistance to my Human emotions. I can feel my Klingon essence, dark and feral, but only from a distance.
She thinks I am worth more than she is, that because of my function aboard a stupid ship, I deserve to live and she deserves to die. And I have let her think that all this time. Let her believe that she was less than me, less than all of us. A sub-class of one. A disposable cog.
I face the truth of that in the belly of Hell. And then I face a darker truth. This is the truth that could destroy me, could damn me for all time. Because there is one thing that we Klingons value in this Universe…one thing above all others, no matter how far removed from Qo’noS we are.
Without honor, we are less than dogs, less than the lowest of creatures. And this truth strips my honor from me like meat from the bone.
If the situations had been reversed, if Seven had been standing under that segment of rock and I had heard the gas-jet rupture those fissures, I cannot be sure that I would have done what she did.
I cannot be sure that I would have thrown myself over her…
Personal Log, continued: B’Elanna Torres recording…
We were rescued, of course.
I suppose I should have mentioned that earlier, but this is the first time I have talked about this ‘on the record’ and everything seemed so hopeless then, so twisted and dank and impossible.
Of course we were rescued, though.
Sometimes I think a prerequisite of being aboard Voyager is the ability to survive no matter what. God knows, we’ve had our share of close calls and desperate situations. The Vidiians, the Hirogen, the Kazon, the Borg… These should ring a few bells. A few ugly bells.
Oh. And Seven didn’t die. She spent the better chunk of two months in Sickbay, but she didn’t die. Much to my relief and my constant horror.
I didn’t go to see her while she was in Sickbay. Not once. Not even for one damned minute.
I’m not particularly proud of that, but how could I? I was very busy. Torturing and maiming myself.
Not literally. Not like I did in the Holodecks after we found out about the Maquis, though looking back, I wonder why I didn’t go back to that. To be honest, I don’t think it even occurred to me, which is a wonder in itself.
No, I spent every spare moment of my time telling myself that I didn’t deserve to breathe the same recycled air as the lowest dust mite in the filthiest Jeffries tube on Voyager.
Yeah, you could say I was a little harsh. It would have been better for me to have died in that cave-in than to live thinking I had no honor left.
Seven made a full recovery, except for her abdominal implant, which had to be removed in its entirety due to ‘irreparable damage sustained during a geologic incident on the second moon of Granthis IV’. Well, that’s how the official medical logs put it—along with the fact that it had saved Seven’s spine from being severed completely in half. And while I may not have gone to visit Seven during her recuperation, I did read every official log on her surgeries and her rehabilitation. My reading levels sure fell off significantly when the Doc let her go, I’ll tell you that.
I avoided Seven even after she was discharged, which was harder to do now that she was eating in the mess hall more often and spending more recreational time with the rest of the crew.
I think I had managed to avoid her and everyone else for close to five months before Chakotay finally made his "valiant attempt" to turn me around. The Captain had pretty much washed her hands of me by then, not understanding that some of the worst injuries of that cave-in were still going untreated. I just ignored Chakotay and his bellowing.
Honestly, I just didn’t care anymore.
Until very late one night, as I sat sleepless in my darkened cabin, wishing that the ceiling would cave-in on me and do the job right or maybe a passing asteroid would break through the shields and take out my quarters.
The door chime made me scowl.
"Go away," I said.
The door chime rang again and I threw a boot at the door.
"I will not." The voice was calm and crisp…and it was Seven’s.
I just sat there, completely unable to move. After a minute, I heard her tapping commands into the control panel. Her Borg ingenuity made short work of my lockout codes.
The rectangle of light that held her shadowed form nearly blinded me. She stepped into my quarters and the door slid blessedly shut. I blinked at her like a stupid owl.
"B’Elanna Torres, I have had enough of this."
"You are behaving like a puqbe’ nuchpu’!"
I stood up.
"What did you just call me?"
How dare she come into my quarters and yell at me in MY language—and completely grammatically correct, too. That was going too far, even for her.
"You heard me, B’Elanna." Her voice was plain acid, slick and hissing.
And since when did she get to call me by my first name?
"I am NOT the daughter of cowards, you Borg bitch! You know nothing about my parents or my language or my people, you got that?"
I was in her face by that time, poking her in the sternum, practically howling in rage.
"Apparently, neither do you."
No, I didn’t hit her. I wanted to, but I didn’t.
I cut her more deeply with just words. Just a few stupid words.
"And what would you know about it, Seven of Nine? Your father sacrificed you and your mother to his only passion, his only love. Tell me, did he let some nothing drone assimilate the two of you? Or did he wait and do it himself?"
She slapped me. Hard. And I deserved it. I really did. The instant I said those words, I wished I could take them back. It didn’t bother me in the least that when she slapped me I flew five meters across my living room and into the bulkhead that edged one of my windows.
But it bothered her. More than I could have ever known at the time.
"B’Elanna?" There were tears in her voice and I would have been more surprised by that were I not spitting blood into my hand.
"No sweat. I deserved it."
"Not for that. You did deserve that."
I chuckled. Well, she was honest, at least.
"Then what are you sorry for?"
She knelt next to me, her right hand cupping my chin and tilting my face up to meet her eyes…those bright-sky eyes…so wide…all filled with the tears of the deep ocean…
"I’m sorry I lied to you…in the cave. About why I ‘saved’ you."
"You lied?" Until that moment, I didn’t think it was possible for her to lie.
"Yes." A tear slid down one alabaster cheek. She didn’t bother to wipe it away.
"Then…if you didn’t save me to preserve the Collective, why did you save me?"
Her eyes never left mine, not even a flicker. I fell into them even before she answered.
I could sit here for another hour or another year and still not explain exactly everything that happened in that next second…moment…eternity…
She leaned forward, her eyes becoming half-lidded, like full moons in the summer night sky. Every molecule of oxygen left my lungs.
She parted her lips. I pulled back.
"Shhh…" she whispered soft, like the sigh of silk against a bare thigh.
I might have whimpered.
Then…her lips brushed mine, starting at the split, feathering over the slowly oozing wound like a healing breeze. The tip of her tongue darted out and acquired a drop of my blood, stealing it away like a jewel.
We both groaned.
"Chal…" I moaned into her open mouth, pulling her close, finding and laying siege to those full, soft lips. "Chal… Sky…"
It was the first night I called her that. The first of many.
And it was the first night she called me jonwI’, Klingon for ‘engineer’. An odd pet name, I know, but from her lips it sounds so right, so sweet. I swear.
It has been three years since that night. Three years to the day.
She asked me for this story and I am giving it to her. As I would give her the heart out of my chest or any other thing she desired.
Because in slightly less than four hours, she and I will stand under the moons of Qo’noS and Earth, with all our friends nearby, and pledge ourselves to one another. She will wear a simple, sheer gown of ivory silk, swathed with lace and tiny, tiny beads. Her soft hair will fall loose around her shoulders and she will carry ruby roses as red as my blood.
I will wear black and red, a melding of my parents’ heritages. Something that befits both the Klingon warrior and the woman that I am. My hair will be swept up, leaving the nape of my neck bare for her, and I will carry ivory roses as pale as her skin.
When the captain concludes the ceremony, saying, "You may now kiss one another and seal your vows," I will kiss Annika, my Chal, and I will remember the honor she returned to me that night three years ago.
The honor I wear like a flag, forged in stone, forged in blood, forged in truth and sky.
I found the following bit of verse in an academy literature anthology. The author, date, and origin of it are unknown.
But the "twin moon" reference and the phrase "Blood and sky!" make me think of the joining contained in the logs above. For that reason alone, I include it here.
Raise a bright flag of honor, my friends!
The battle is won!
Twin moons send showers of ivory
upon two warriors!
Blood and sky! Mouth to skin!
Taste the battle spoils!
Breathe the hungry air!
Two houses are joined!
Two lovers are spared!
Raise a bright flag of honor, my friends!
This is a day to remember!
Traditional 24th Century Wedding Poetry,
translated from the tlhIngan (Klingonaase)
by E. Padrigin McKnight
Professor Emeritus, Klingon Studies 2847-2863
Starfleet Academy, Earth