A Fire of Devotion: Part 4 of 4: Hotter Than Hell: Chapter Six

The ship shuddered a second time as Captain Janeway left her ready room and entered the bridge, the red alert lights already on, and the stars in the viewscreen shifting to indicate that Tom Paris had already started evasive maneuvers.
“Report,” Janeway said as she moved towards her seat.
“A ship just de-cloaked off our port-stern,” Tom said.
“Can you identify them?” Janeway said.

“They re-cloaked before I got the chance,” Harry said.
The ship shuddered a third time.
“The energy signature of the weapon suggests a Klingon disruptor beam,” Tuvok said.
“Are you sure?” Janeway said, looking incredulously as Tuvok.
“Continue evasive maneuvers,” she said. “Hail them.”
“No response,” Tuvok said.

“They’ve de-cloaked,” Harry said. “It’s definitely a Klingon ship. An old one by the looks-”
The latest volley from the Klingon vessel hit Voyager hard, the ship shaking more violently than the last few volleys.
“Not old enough that they can’t hurt us apparently,” Janeway said.
“Port shields are weakening,” Tuvok said.

“It looks like an old D7-class cruiser,” Chakotay said, looking at the monitor in the arm of his chair. “They retired those decades ago. We can use a metaphasic scan to penetrate their cloak, easily.”
“Do it,” Janeway said.

“Bridge to astrometrics,” Chakotay said, “initiate a metaphasic sweep.”
“Aye sir,” Megan Delaney’s voice replied. After a few seconds she spoke again. “Got ‘em. Transferring the data to tactical.”
“I have them” Tuvok said.
“Fire phasers,” Janeway said. The viewscreen switched to a rear view, the aft phaser banks firing at what at what would’ve seemed to be empty space had Janeway not known better. The first blast struck true, and the antiquated Klingon cruiser quickly became visible. A second and third blast hit.
“Their shields are down,” Tuvok said.
“Hail them again,” Janeway said. She didn’t doubt for a second that the rest of the bridge crew was as curious as she was as to what an old Klingon ship was doing out in the Delta Quadrant. The age of the ship suggested the Caretaker had had nothing to do with this. Likely this was a ship that had come from the opposite direction. But why had a Klingon crew decided however many decades ago it was to head this way?

The face of the Klingon ship’s commander appeared on the viewscreen.
“This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager    “This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. Stand down.”
“We will not surrender to sworn enemies of the Klingon Empire,” the Klingon Captain said.
Well, that gives me a vague idea of how long they’ve been out here, Janeway thought.
“The Federation and the Klingon Empire signed a peace treaty over eighty years ago,” Janeway said. “A few… hiccups aside it’s still in effect.”
“You’re lying,” the Klingon Captain said.

“I’m not,” Janeway said casually, “but even if I were, your ship is no match for mine. I suggest we discuss this.”

“What is there to talk about?” the Klingon Captain shouted.

“The treaty for one thing,” Janeway said. “You can have access to our database. You’ll see it’s the truth.”
“Databases can be falsified.”
“Fair enough. How about the fact that I have a Klingon serving aboard this ship?”
“Impossible.”
“She’s my Chief Engineer,” Janeway said.
The Klingon Captain’s brow furrowed, seeming unsure what to do with this new information.
“I will meet this chief engineer,” he said.

“We’d be honored to have you as our guest, Captain…”
“Kohlar.”
“I look forward to meeting you in person, Captain Kohlar,” Janeway said.

The viewscreen cut off.
“So much for a ‘you’re welcome,’” Tom said. “Obviously I’ll want to be there when he meets B’Elanna, Captain.”
“Now, Tom, there will be security there, no need to be overprotective of her,” Janeway said.

“What? No, not like that. I just mean it’ll be hilarious to watch her kick his ass if he tries something,” Tom said, smiling.

Janeway couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m sure Mister Kohlar would not want to share that story with his crew. He wouldn’t want to admit that he got beat up by a pregnant woman.”

“Do you expect violence, Captain?” Tuvok said.
“Expect? Not really. But we should be prepared for it, just in case.”

B’Elanna Torres looked down at her stomach as she rode the turbolift up to the bridge, where she’d then be going to the briefing room to meet with this Klingon Captain who had had the nerve to open fire on her ship right in the middle of a routine dilithium matrix realignment.
“Barely three months in and I’m already showing,” she muttered. “I suppose I should be grateful that this is going to be relatively quick.”
“I wonder if Samantha Wildman is at all jealous,” Lieutenant Ayala, who was going to the meeting room with her, said. “She was pregnant for, what, a year?”

B’Elanna chuckled. “Just about. I guess you never know what you’re going to get when you cross species like that.”
“If I ever have kids,” Ayala said, “I should look into the data on that, figure out what combination would be the fastest.”
B’Elanna was prepared to lecture Ayala on how speciesist that sounded, but she saw his smirk and held back.
“That was a terrible joke,” she said, but she was smiling in spite of herself.

The turbolift reached the bridge, and the two headed for the briefing room. When they entered, Kohlar, flanked by Captain Janeway and Tuvok stood up, and with visible shock on his face looked at her stomach.
Already with this? she thought.
“You are with child,” Kohlar said.

Janeway gave her a look that showed she had no idea where this was coming from either. Tom Paris, seated on the opposite side of the table, tilted his head in confusion.
“Yeah,” B’Elanna said. “So?”

“Did you conceive during the holy month of nay’Poq?”
“That’s kinda personal isn’t it?” Tom said.

B’Elanna decided to humor this man, more amused than insulted at his apparent fascination with her baby. She held up her hand to let Tom know that she had this.
“I have no idea,” she said.
“It would have been fourteen or fifteen weeks ago,” Kohlar said.
“Sounds about right, though I wonder why you think that’s any of your business.”
“I’m curious about that myself,” Janeway said.

“I must return to my ship,” Kohlar said suddenly.
“Aren’t you interested in learning about the treaty?” Tuvok said.
“Here’s a copy of the Khitomer Accords,” Janeway said, handing Kohlar a PADD. He took it and glanced at it.
“Yes, fine, seems to be in order,” Kohlar said after barely even glancing at it. “I must return to my vessel.”
Why is he in such a hurry to get out of here? B’Elanna thought.
“Not until I have your assurance that you won’t fire on my ship again,” Janeway said.
Kohlar looked at B’Elanna’s belly for a few seconds. B’Elanna and Ayala shared a look, her crewmate and fellow former Maquis fighter appearing to be as confused as she was. She looked at Tom, who didn’t seem to know how to react to any of this.
“You have my word,” Kohlar said, his voice dead serious, as if he was afraid he wouldn’t be believed.
One minute he’s shooting at us, now he’s talking like he would be personally offended if we got blown up. What the hell is going on? B’Elanna thought.

Janeway nodded. She turned to Tuvok. “Escort Captain Kohlar back to the transporter room,” she said.
“Aye, Captain,” Tuvok said.
As soon as the two men were gone, Janeway looked at B’Elanna.
“Any idea what that was about?”
“Not a damn clue,” B’Elanna said.
“Wanting to know when the baby was conceived,” Tom said, “using the term ‘holy month,’ how quiet his tone got at the end of the meeting… If he were human, I’d think that he thinks our kid’s the second coming of the Christian messiah.”
“I don’t know much about Earth religions, Tom,” B’Elanna said. “You’ll need to explain that one to me.”

“It’s the truth,” Kohlar said to his crew, keeping his firm but not shouting. The last thing he needed right now was a fight. Most days he’d love a good brawl, it was a great way to relieve the tension of the long journey, but today was special.
“How can you be certain?” the ship’s second-in command, T’Greth, said, skeptical.
“The scrolls say; ‘You will find me after two warring houses make peace,’” Kohlar said, waving the PADD with the Khitomer Accords on them. “Our people and the Federation, our greatest enemy, are at peace.”
“So the humans claim,” T’Greth said. “These Accords may be a deception.”

“The other signs are present,” Kohlar said, smiling. “‘You will know me, before I know the world,’” he added, quoting the scrolls once more.
“The child is unborn,” one of the other crewmembers said, awe in his voice. “It does not know the world.”

“You interpret the scrolls well,” Kohlar said.

“We need to verify the evidence,” T’Greth said authoritatively. Kohlar normally respected his second-in-command’s skepticism but today it was terribly inconvenient.

“Your skepticism darkens my heart, T’Greth,” Kohlar said, regretting insulting his friend in front of the rest of his command staff, but as much as he disliked humans, they had the perfect saying for such things; Desperate times call for desperate measures. “What evidence did our ancestors have when they began this journey? Nothing, but their faith.”

Some of the other crew muttered to themselves. Kohlar could see he was already winning them over.
“Tell the others to prepare,” Kohlar said, moving up to the step that his command chair rested on, making him taller than the rest of his crew. “The Day of Seperation has arrived!”

The rest of the crew on the bridge, including a visibly reluctant T’Greth, got to work.

An alert sound from his console grabbed Harry Kim’s attention.
“Captain,” he said, “the Klingon ship’s warp core is going critical.”
“How is that possible? Hail them,” Janeway said.
Kohlar’s face appeared on screen, his bridge’s own alert lights own, consoles sparking in the background.
“I salute you, Captain,” he said. “You did more damage to my vessel than my engineer thought.”
He seems awfully mellow about this, Harry thought.
“We can send over a team to help you establish a containment field,” Janeway said.
“There isn’t time,” Kohlar said, his voice lacking the urgency one would expect to hear from someone uttering that phrase. Harry checked his console, but calm or no, Kohlar wasn’t lying.
“He’s right,” Harry said. “Their core’s going to breach in less than thirty seconds.”
“I’m requesting emergency transport,” Kohlar said, not even flinching when a console near the back to the Klingon bridge exploded.
“Captain,” Tuvok said quietly, but not so quietly that Harry couldn’t hear him, which likely meant the Klingons could hear him too. “Their crew compliment is two-hundred and four.”
Janeway sighed. “Erect force fields around the shuttle bay and transport them there,” she said to Tuvok. To Kohlar, she said, “Prepare your crew for evacuation.”

“Fifteen seconds to breach,” Harry said.
“If our shields are still down when their core goes up…” Chakotay said.
“Go to warp as soon as the Klingons are aboard, don’t wait for my order,” Janeway said.
“Yes, ma’am,” Tom said.
“Five, four, three…” Harry said.
“We have them,” Tuvok said.
The stars on the viewscreen streaked as Voyager moved away from the exploding Klingon cruiser. As they did so, Harry went over the scans of the Klingon ship from before it exploded, and thought he spotted something odd. He forwarded it to Tuvok’s tactical console right away.
Something’s off about this, Harry thought.

“Commander Tuvok,” he said, “could you give these sensor logs a second look? I could be wrong, but it looks like Captain Kohlar was lying about why his warp core went critical.”
“Why would he do that?” Chakotay said.
“I will review the logs,” Tuvok said. “If you are correct, Lieutenant Kim, Mister Kohlar will have a number of questions to answer.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” Janeway said.

Janeway stood as a security officer escorted Kohlar into her ready room. Tuvok stood by her side with a PADD.
“You spare us a dishonorable death,” Kohlar said,
Tuvok wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter.
“Sensor logs indicate that the containment failure was not caused by our weapons,” Tuvok said, handing the PADD to Kohlar.
“You activated a self-destruct sequence,” Janeway said, glowering at the Klingon captain. “I want to know why.”
“It was the only way to get us aboard Voyager,” Kohlar said.

Janeway had not expected this much honesty that quickly. She also found it odd how completely non-defensive Kohlar was. He didn’t try to deny it, but nor did he seem too apologetic about it. If this was some sort of plot to hijack Voyager, so far it had been the most polite hijacking she’d ever seen.
“Why is that so important?” Janeway said.
“It’s our sacred duty to be here,” Kohlar said, sounding more like a preacher than a Klingon in that moment. She looked at Tuvok and could tell that he was as perplexed by all this as she was.
“I don’t understand,” Janeway said.
“More than a hundred years ago,” Kohlar said, “my great-grandfather was part of a sect which believed that the Empire had lost its way. They discovered a sacred text. It told them to embark on a journey to a distant region of the galaxy.”
“You’ve been travelling for four generations?” Janeway said.
“My people have always known the voyage would be long and difficult,” Kohlar said, “but the Scrolls said we would be rewarded.”
“How?” Janeway said, unable to suppress her curiosity. Religiosity was not an attribute she was used to seeing in Klingons, not even those who believed that Sto’Vo’Kor was real.

“We would find the kuvah’magh, the savior of our people, the one who will lead us to a new Empire. The Scrolls instruct us to follow them wherever they go.”
“This is all quite fascinating, but what does any of this have to do with Voyager?” Janeway said.
“I believe the kuvah’magh is the unborn child of B’Elanna Torres,” Kohlar said.
Janeway mentally kicked herself for not putting two and two together sooner. The way Kohlar has looked at B’Elanna when he first came aboard, his unusual behavior after seeing her pregnant, the questions about the conception…
She is not going to like that, Janeway thought, wondering how she was going to tell B’Elanna about all this.
“Tuvok,” she said, “have the rest of the senior staff report to the briefing room.”

“You have got to be joking,” B’Elanna said, still having trouble processing what the Captain had just told her about Kohlar and his beliefs regarding her baby. She looked at Chakotay, Tuvok, Harry, and The Doctor, to see if they had as much trouble understanding all this as she did. “This has to be a joke.”
“Considering they blew up their own ship,” Tom said, “if it is a joke the Klingons are very dedicated to it.”
“From what I can tell,” Janeway said, “they take their beliefs very seriously.”
“Couldn’t they have just followed us?” Harry said.
“Apparently,” Janeway said, “their sacred text told them to cast off the old ways as soon as they found this kuvah’magh.”
“They saw their vessel as the last vestige of the corrupt Empire,” Tuvok said.
“I was hoping our daughter would be special,” Tom said, “but I never would’ve guessed she’d be a messiah.”

“This isn’t funny,” B’Elanna said. “They might be dangerous. What if they want to hurt her?”
“To them your baby is sacred,” Chakotay said. “It’s unlikely they would want to hurt her. But we can always provide you a security detail if that would make you more comfortable.”
“It would,” B’Elanna said. “Especially since I’m guessing booting them off the ship isn’t an option.”
“Regardless of their intentions,” Tuvok said, “the sheer number of Klingons aboard present a potential security threat. I would suggest we keep them confined to the shuttle bay until we can find a suitable home for them.
B’Elanna was inclined to agree, but Tom shook his head.
“That will bite us in the behind if we have to use a shuttle or the Flyer at any point before then,” Tom said.

“There are children and elderly among their number,” The Doctor said. “We can’t just lock them up.”
“I agree,” Janeway said. “Assign extra security to every deck, and make sure the Klingons know and abide by the rules. The bridge and engineering can remain off-limits. Cargo bay 2 as well, though in that case I’m more concerned about the Klingons accidentally harming themselves than us if they try to mess with the Borg equipment down there.”
“I’m sure Seven of Nine would be grateful to not have her regeneration cycles interrupted as well,” Chakotay said.
“Here’s another big question,” Harry said. “Where are they going to sleep?”
“We can have some of our people double up in quarters,” The Doctor said. “Others can take in Klingon roommates as well if they’re willing. Also, there are some empty quarters as well that we haven’t been using since, well… Oh, and there are of course the extra quarters we have on hand anyway for occasions such as evacuations of other ships, or for diplomatic entourages. It will still be cramped, but I believe we can manage.”
“I’m putting you charge of the arrangements then, Doctor,” Janeway said.
B’Elanna sighed. She still was having trouble accepting what she was hearing.
“I know this is going to be a pain in the butt,” Janeway continued, “but until another option presents itself, we’ll do what we can to make them comfortable. Dismissed.”
Everyone else started getting up, except for B’Elanna who just stared at the table.
“You okay, B’Elanna?” Tom said.
“Not really,” B’Elanna said, “but unless we get lucky enough to stumble across an abandoned ship Kohlar and his little cult can use I’m going to have to get used to this. I would suggest just dropping them off on the next M-class planet we find, but something tells me these people wouldn’t want to be separated from their chosen one.”
Tom gently squeezed her shoulder.
“I get that this is weird for you,” he said. “I’m a little worried to. But I’m sure everything will turn out fine. After all we’ve been through these past six years, an obscure Klingon religious sect doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
“Yeah, you say that now,” B’Elanna said, “but don’t get complacent. We’ve survived the Borg, Species 8472, the Hirogen, etcetera. But that just means we have to be more aware of the smaller threats. With our luck it would be someone who doesn’t even mean to hurt us who ends up doing us in the way the people who’ve wanted to couldn’t.”

B’Elanna let Tom help her stand up even though she didn’t really need that kind of assistance. Not yet anyway. Her stomach wasn’t that far out. But she knew it made him feel more useful.

“Well, all it took was two-hundred Klingons coming aboard,” Samantha said as she maneuvered her bed into place near Seven’s alcove, “but we’re finally properly moving in together.”
Seven almost laughed.
“At least we’ll have some privacy thanks to the adjustable partitions,” Seven said. “I doubt Naomi and Icheb will like having their beds out in the open.”
“Well, there’s only so many panels,” Samantha said. “Besides, it won’t be that different from when we were using my quarters. We can still send the kids to the holodeck if we need some alone time.” Samantha added a wink.
Seven smiled as she shook her head.
“You do realize they know full well what we’re doing when we ask them to leave us alone,” Seven said.
“Definitely,” Sam said, “but as long as they don’t ask for details, I’m good. I’m perfectly willing to have ‘the talk’ with both of them, they just don’t need to know the specifics about you and me.”
“A wise course of action,” Seven said, as she finished getting Naomi’s bed in place and started re-assembling her table and cabinet.
“Speaking of our kids,” Sam said, “are Icheb and Naomi spending any time with the Klingon children yet?”
“No,” Seven said. “Icheb believes it would be best to wait until the situation with the quarters are in order, and Naomi agreed.”
“And you?”
“Icheb’s thought process is a logical one,” Seven said. “I have not experienced moving homes on quite the scale the Klingons are right now, but I imagine it must require an adjustment period.”
“Makes sense,” Sam said.
Seven watched Sam perform her tasks, and wondered if now would be a good time to bring up a topic she’d been thinking about of late, ever since B’Elanna’s pregnancy had been made common knowledge aboard Voyager.

She started to say something, but then held back. She needed to speak with The Doctor first. She needed to be sure that what she was thinking of was even plausible before bringing it up with Samantha.
“Oh, hey, Annie,” Sam said, “I just realized, don’t you have a bridge shift today?”
“I do,” Seven said, “but it’s not for another hour. I believe I can accomplish at least one of the tasks I am currently focusing on before I need to leave.”

Captain Janeway walked into the mess hall, not surprised that it was more crowded than usual, but pleased that so far everything seemed to be going so well. As far as she could tell, the Klingons were doing a good job of adjusting to their new situation. She imagined their faith played a role in that, though wondered if that would hold forever.

“Captain,” Neelix said, smiling as he walked over to her with a bowl of Klingon food, “You must try the gagh.” Janeway chuckled, glad that Neelix was proud of his ability to recreate Klingon cuisine with limited resources.
“I’ll pass, thank you,” she said. “I’m glad to see you’re getting into the spirit of things.”
“Well,” Neelix said, “I’ve been fascinated with Klingon culture ever since I first read about them. I’ve asked B’Elanna to talk with me about, maybe teach me something that the books just can’t, but she made it clear she wasn’t interested in having that conversation. I look at this as a learning opportunity.”

“Thief!” Janeway heard one of the Klingons yell. She looked over and saw a female Klingon grab the collar of the male sitting across from her. “Touch my food again and I’ll kill you!”

“Okay everyone, let’s calm down,” Harry Kim said. Janeway wondered if she’d missed him when she walked in, or if he had come in after her, but he and Lieutenant Ayala were positioning themselves to intervene if the two Klingons came to blows.
“He took gagh from my plate,” the Klingon female said, before lunging at the male. Harry quickly got in between the two and grabbed the female by the shoulders holding her back.
“That’s enough,” he said.
The Klingon female at first looked like she was getting ready to strike Harry, but then she got a different look on her face; arousal. This actually made Janeway more worried.
“You have a fiery spirit,” the Klingon female said. “You will make a worthy mate.”
“Oh dear,” Neelix said.
“We should probably do something,” Janeway said.
“Like what?”
“I’ll get back to you on that.”

B’Elanna Torres was dragging out her work as long as she could get away with, but she knew there was only so slow she could get before her engineering team would figure it out. She didn’t want to admit that she was nervous to walk the halls, but it wasn’t her life she was in fear for. She simply did not want to deal with the reverent stares of the Klingons. Or rather, the staring at her belly. The more she thought about the idea of her child being a messiah, the less she liked it.
“Paris to Torres,” Tom’s voice said over the comm.
“I’m almost finished,” she said in reply.
“You said the same thing over an hour ago,” Tom said. “C’mon, you need your dinner, then your sleep.”
“Fine,” B’Elanna said, finally surrendering more to her own hunger and sleepiness than to her husband. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
She picked up a handful of PADDs and handed them out to the rest of the engineering staff.

“Have Gilmore take a look at the replicators,” she said, heading for the door as she walked. “They’ve already gone down once today.”
“Yes, ma’am,” one of the ensigns said. The fact that she couldn’t remember his name right off the top of her head only further cemented how tired she really was.
“Alright,” she said to the security guard assigned to follow her. She made it to the door, and nearly walked face first into a crowd of about half a dozen Klingons. One them gasped when he saw her.
“It’s her,” he said, and B’Elanna was afraid he was going to start genuflecting right there in the corridor. The others began chattering. She quietly stepped back into engineering until the door closed.
“On second thought,” she said to her guard, “I’ll take the shortcut.” She walked over to a nearby console, and initiated a site-to-site transport, materializing just as Tom was putting out the silverware.
“When you said ‘be there in a minute’ you weren’t kidding,” Tom said.
“A group of Klingons ambushed me outside engineering,” B’Elanna said. “I decided transporting myself would be easier than running the gauntlet of the devout.” She went over to the couch and sat down, groaning at her sore back. “I’m starting to feel like a zoo animal for everyone to stare at.”
“Well, at least you have a handsome cage mate,” Tom said.
“How much longer do you think they’re going to be onboard?” B’Elanna asked.
“I thought you’d be glad to have other Klingons around,” Tom said.

B’Elanna scoffed, but Tom continued.
“You’ve always told me how uncomfortable it is being the only one.”

“I guess I should be careful what I wish for,” B’Elanna said.
“Maybe you should talk to some of them,” Tom said. “Give them a chance.”

“You can’t be ser-”
The door chime cut B’Elanna off.
“Enter,” Tom said. B’Elanna wished he’d asked who it was first, even if there was a guard posted outside. She was surprised to see Captain Janeway enter. Tom started to help her to her feet so they could both stand at attention, but Janeway motioned for them to stay seated.
“Sorry to bother you, B’Elanna ” she said, “but I need your help. Ten of the Klingons have started a hunger strike. They say they won’t eat until you meet with their Council of Elders.”

“That’s ridiculous,” B’Elanna said, rolling her eyes and very badly wishing she could be anywhere else right now.
“Their faith is obviously very important to them,” Janeway said. “Just talk to them. Hear what they have to say. I’d rather not have people starve to death on my ship.”
“You can’t just force feed them?” Tom said.
“That would be against the law, Lieutenant,” Janeway said.
“They think I’m something I’m not,” B’Elanna said. “I don’t want to feed their delusions.”
Tom sighed. “We’re going to be with these guys for a while. We can’t avoid them forever.”

“I can try,” B’Elanna said.

“Would it make you feel any better if I went with you?” Tom said.
B’Elanna put her hand on her forehead, feeling a stress headache coming on.
“Fine,” she said, her tone making the ‘but I don’t have to like it’ implicit.

Tom heard the chanting as soon as he entered the cargo bay 1.
“mobaR, DoH’lo maj, Qo-vuh’makh,” they kept chanting over and over again, eyes closed, around an open flame. Tom wondered if they’d gotten permission for the makeshift camp fire, or if they had found a way around the fire suppression systems. B’Elanna let out a heavy sigh, and stood there, waiting for them to acknowledge her presence. Tom looked at her, at Captain Janeway, and back at the two security officers behind them. Even with all of them there, and none of the Klingons armed, he still felt nervous. And if he was nervous, he couldn’t begin to imagine how B’Elanna must feel.
One of the Klingons stood up and turned around. It was Kohlar, wearing an ornate robe over his standard Klingon uniform.

“You honor us with your presence,” Kohlar said.
“Look at her ridges,” one of the other Klingons, an older one, said, finally looking in their direction as well. He sounded angry. Tom took a step closer to B’Elanna, ready to step in if things went sideways.
“Morak was right,” the older Klingon said. “Your blood is not pure.”
“No,” B’Elanna said. Tom wondered if this meant she was off the hook for all the religious reverence she’d been getting. She certainly sounded like it to his ear. “My father is human.”

The rest of the Klingon began murmuring to each other, many of them sounding angry.
“Couldn’t you see this for yourself?” the older Klingon said to Kohlar.
“Yes, T’Greth, but-”
T’Greth cut Kohlar off. “Why didn’t you tell us?!”

“It wasn’t important,” Kohlar said.
“Not important?” T’Greth said, sounding offended. Tom was less worried for B’Elanna’s safety right now than he was that a small scale holy war was going to break out between T”Greth and Kohlar.

“We destroyed our ship because you said she was the mother of the kuvah’magh!” T’Greth said.
Kohlar took a step forward towards T’Greth, an apparent show of dominance, and yelled at him.

“Show me where it’s written that the kuvah’magh must have pure Klingon blood!”
“The prophecy wouldn’t lead us to a mongrel child,” T’Greth yelled, turning towards B’Elanna as he said the word ‘mongrel.’ B’Elanna seemed to take it all in stride, but now Tom was angry.
“Hey,” he said, “take it easy.” Tom said as he moved to stand right next to B’Elanna.
“Tom, what’re you doing?” B’Elanna whispered.
“Who are you? T’Greth said.
“The father of that ‘mongrel’ child,” Tom said.
“More human blood,” T’Greth said in an insulting tone. He turned back to look at Kohlar, disgust on his face. “Your kuvah’magh isn’t even half-Klingon.”
“I’ve spent half my life interpreting the scrolls,” Kohlar said. Tom had to admit he was impressed with the Klingon captain’s composure.
He’s actually more calm than I am, Tom thought. I’m about ready to punch T’Greth if he insults my unborn daughter again.

“I say that all the signs of the prophecy are here,” Kohlar continued.
“Liar,” T’Greth said, sounding as sad as he was angry. Tom felt a tinge of sympathy for him, even if he had just insulted his wife and child right in front of him. “You’ve led us to a false savior.”
T’Greth headed in their direction, and Tom reflexively reached for his phaser, forgetting he didn’t have one, but instead T’Greth just pushed past him, dejected, heading for the exit.

“Well, that could’ve gone better,” Tom said.
“Let’s go,” B’Elanna said. As she, Tom, and Captain Janeway entered the corridor, B’Elanna shook her head. “I knew coming here was a mistake.
“Lieutenant,” Tom heard Kohlar’s voice say. He and B’Elanna both turned around. “I need your help.”

“Any more ‘help’ from me and you’re going to have a holy war on your hands,” B’Elanna said.
“That’s what I’m trying to prevent,” Kohlar said.
“Come again?” Tom said, wondering where this was going.
“Is there someplace we can speak privately, away from the rest of my crew?” Kohlar said.
“Briefing room,” Janeway said. “You two,” she added, pointing at B’Elanna and Tom, “follow me.”
“Aye, Captain,” Tom said, still wondering where this was going. He looked at B’Elanna, and knew her expressions well enough to know she was thinking the same thing.
As soon as the four of them went into the briefing room, the guards waiting outside, B’Elanna sat down and spoke first.
“My baby’s just a baby,” she said. “Why do you keep doing this?”
“You may be right,” Kohlar said, shocking Tom.
“What?” B”Elanna said. “Then why-”
“We must convince my people that your child is the savior though,” Kohlar continued, looking ashamed.
“So, why?” Tom said.
“We’ve travelled more than 30,000 light years in search of this savior,” Kohlar said. “And in more than one hundred years we’ve found nothing. Nothing except for hardship, and isolation. When I saw Lieutenant Torres, when I saw that she was with child, I didn’t know if I was looking at the mother of the kuvah’magh or not. Perhaps she is. But what I am certain of is I saw an opportunity to end this wasteful journey.”
“So, you have doubts about the prophecy?” Janeway said.
“I believe my people have suffered enough,” Kohlar said, looking at Janeway. “If they accept B’Elanna’s child as the kuvah’magh, she will hold great influence over them.” He turned to face B’Elanna again. “If we find a suitable planet, you can tell them it’s our new home and lead them there. They will follow if they believe.”
“I’m not going to lie to them,” B’Elanna said. Tom started to think of something to say to try and get her to change her mind, thinking that it would be for the best as much for her own sanity as for anything else. but Kohlar spoke first.
“What’s the alternative?” he said. “My people staying aboard your ship? Draining your resources?”
Maybe you should’ve thought about that before blowing up your own ship, Tom thought.
“I agree with B’Elanna,” Captain Janeway said. “I don’t feel comfortable deceiving your people based on their faith.”
“Didn’t we do that with a couple of Ferengi several years ago?” B’Elanna said.
“That was different,” Janeway said. “The Ferengi were taking advantage of those people’s beliefs to exploit them, and we put a stop to it. This would basically be doing the same thing.”
“Perhaps you won’t have to lie to them to convince them,” Kohlar said, “not really. B’Elanna, if you study the scrolls with me, we may be able to interpret them in a way that appears consistent with the events of your life. Then we’ll bring those consistencies to the council of elders.”

“Well,” Tom said, “wouldn’t be the first time holy texts were creatively reinterpreted to serve someone else’s needs.”
“You’re not making me feel any better about this, Tom,” Janeway said.
“It is possible that the sacred scrolls were scribbled by a mad man in cave, or perhaps they were truly divinely inspired. I do not claim to know,” Kohlar said. “Either way, they’ve guided us for over a century. If my people start to believe that the scrolls have led them astray, there may be violence. That much I am certain of. This is not a threat, it is a concern.”
“I see,” Janeway said. Tom figured it was an easy choice to make, and he wondered why both her and B’Elanna were so reluctant.
“You’re doing everything you can to get your people home, Captain,” Kohlar said. “That’s all I’m doing for mine.”

“Alright,” B’Elanna said. “We should get started.”

“The more I read these,” B’Elanna said, stifling a yawn, “the more convinced I am that I’m not the mother of your messiah. According to this, ‘the kuva’magh will be descended from a noble house.’ I don’t come from one, and I’m pretty sure my husband doesn’t either.”
“Hey,” Tom said from the couch.
“We all have nobility in our blood if we go back far enough,” Kohlar said.
“So these scrolls can mean anything you want them to,” B’Elanna said.

“It is written that the mother of the kuvah’magh would be an off-worlder. Weren’t you born on a Federation colony?” Kohlar asked.
“A lot of Klingons are born off-world,” B’Elanna said, rubbing her eyes. “Interstellar empire, remember?”
“It also says you would’ve lived a life of solitude,” Kohlar said. “And endured many hardships.”
Tom whistled. “That does sound a lot like your life before Voyager,” he said.
“Yours too,” B’Elanna pointed out. She picked up one of the Klingon data pads scattered across her dinner table. “According to this one, I’m supposed to have won a glorious victory against an army of ten-thousand warriors. We haven’t encountered ten thousand warriors.”
“Unless you count the Borg,” Tom said.
“That’s a stretch, Tom,” B’Elanna said.
“Nah, if I really wanted to stretch I’d bring up all the times you and Seven of Nine ran your favorite combat simulations on easy mode.”
“Low difficulty setting,” B’Elanna said, “and that was to help her work out her grief over losing Edwin, not for fight training.”
“You mentioned the Borg,” Kohlar said. “I read about them in your databanks. Did you not help destroy one of their vessels?”
“Me and everyone else on the crew,” B’Elanna said. “By that logic Marla Gilmore or Captain Janeway are better fits to be the mother of the kuvah’magh.”

“That could still count as your glorious victory,” Kohlar said. He looked around her and Tom’s quarters as if he was deciding where to put furniture. It was the first time he’d taken it in since he’d arrived. It was a wonder to B’Elanna he hadn’t tripped over an ottoman or a chair yet. “Where are the images of Kahless? Where is your family crest?”
“They clashed with the carpet,” B’Elanna said.
“Don’t you honor any of your family’s traditions?” Kohlar said.
“We do the Day of Honor,” Tom said.
Kohlar nodded. He looked over the chronometer and smiled.
“There is one tradition we can honor together,” Kohlar said, laying out his robe on the floor. “It is midday. It is time to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors. You can join us if you wish, Mister Paris.”

“I don’t think-” B’Elanna started to say, but Tom stood up.
“I’d be honored,” he said. B’Elanna frowned. It was a source of annoyance to her that her husband seemed to care more about the history of her people than she did. The first Day of Honor they had done together, coincidentally the day they admitted their feelings for each other, had been his idea in the first place.
“Haven’t you made a Plea for the Dead before?” Kohlar said.
“Not since I was a child,” B’Elanna said. “And Mom, she didn’t do it every day. I don’t think it’s been a daily ritual for our people for decades.”
“The dead can’t rest in Sto-Vo-Kor if the living don’t honor their memory,” Kohlar said. He went down on one knee on the robe. Tom copied the gesture without being asked.
“Perhaps there is someone I can plead for on your behalf,” Kohlar said. “Who did you plead for as a child?”
“My grandmother, L’Naan” B’Elanna said, remembering the ritual now, despite not having performed it in nearly twenty years. “She died fighting the Tholians.”
“Mister Paris?” Kohlar said.
“I don’t have any names,” Tom said, “but I’d like to honor the thousands of Klingons who died helping us fight the Dominion, back in the Alpha Quadrant. B’Elanna and I might not have a home to go to if our peoples hadn’t been fighting side by side.”
Kohlar smiled.
“I believe that,” he said. “It would seem that when our people work together no force in the galaxy can stand against us for long.”
Kohlar took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.
“Kahless,” he said, “We implore you to remember those warriors who have fallen in your name. Lift them out of the cavern-”
“Of the cavern of despair,” B’Elanna said, surprised that she remembered the words. The two Klingons continued speaking the words, while Tom remained respectfully quiet.
“And reveal yourself to them in all your glory.”
“Remember Kolax, son of Amar,” Kohlar said. “Remember Talij, daughter of K’Rene.”
“Remember L’Naan,” B’Elanna said, “daughter of Krelik.”
“Remember,” Tom said, “the thousands who died in battle to save an entire quadrant of the galaxy from oppression and genocide.”
“Well put,” Kohlar said.

Seven of Nine walked into sickbay, just in time to see Harry Kim leaving with a bandage on his cheek, but not seeming to mind it was there.
“Hi,” he said. Seven pondered asking him what had happened, but then remembered there were Klingon females aboard, and decided it was best that she knew as little as possible.
“Ah, Seven,” The Doctor said. “I completed that analysis you requested.”

“I appreciate that Doctor,” Seven said, “howev-”
“There is some risk involved,” The Doctor said, seemingly not having heard all of what Seven had said. “However, if you and Sam do decide to go this route, I do not think your child will have any nanoprobes in their system. The risk is more in the delivery.”
“Doctor,” Seven said, “you’re getting ahead of yourself. I asked because I was curious. Samantha and I have not discussed having a child together.”
“Oh,” The Doctor said. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize-”
“I’ve come to realize that my contemplation of the matter stems from curiosity sparked by B’Elanna Torres’ pregnancy,” Seven continued. “I am uncertain that it is truly something I desire for myself, and even if I did I would not do it without Samantha’s consent.”
“Well obviously,” The Doctor said. “Adjusting her DNA would be simple, but I can’t do it without her permission.”
Seven nodded.
“In addition,” she continued, “there is admittedly a selfish reason as well as the practical ones. Sam and I have had some difficulties finding time together of late. Raising both Naomi and Icheb are the primary factors in that. I bear no resentment towards them, it is simply the reality of the situation.”
The Doctor smiled. “You wouldn’t trade away any of it though, would you?”
Seven nodded. “Correct. Perhaps once Icheb has fully matured, and Naomi is more capable of full independence, I will discuss the matter with Samantha. Until then, I think it best we keep this confidential.”
“I would do so,” The Doctor said, “even if you two were trying. After all, the DNA treatments don’t always take on the first try.”
Seven nodded once more.
“I apologize if I wasted any of your time,” she said.
“Oh not at all,” The Doctor said, smiling. “In fact, it proved to be a fascinating bit of research, trying to determine what effect pregnancy might have on you and your Borg implants. I started by-”

“I don’t need to know the details,” Seven said. “Not now anyway. Later, perhaps?”
“Certainly.”

The next day, B’Elanna Torres, after a full night’s sleep, felt she was as ready as she was ever going to be to make her, or rather Kohlar’s, case to the council of elders. She would’ve preferred to spend at least one more day with the scrolls, seeing as it wasn’t as though Voyager was in danger of leaving the Klingons behind at the moment, but Kohlar was worried that making them wait too long would cause problems not unlike the ones he’d hoped to avoid.
She passed by Harry Kim in the corridor as she headed to the mess hall, wearing traditional Klingon garb.
“Harry,” B’Elanna said, “what happened to your face.”
“Ch’Rega,” Harry said casually. “She initiated a Klingon mating ritual last night.”
“Oh, Harry,” Tom said, “Sorry to hear that.”
Harry shrugged. “Eh, I’ve had worse,” he said, pointing to the bite mark on his cheek. “At least she understands what ‘take it easy’ means.”
B’Elanna sighed. “Please tell me you’re not in lo-”
“It’s not serious,” Harry said, crossing his arms. “Not that it would be any of your business if it was. We’re all consenting adults here.”
B’Elanna raised her hands in a gesture of apology. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry. I just figured… You know, Libby.”
Harry nodded. “We’ve been communicating through Pathfinder,” he said. “She’s been seeing other people too. Nothing serious there either, at least not yet. I wish her all the best though if she does find someone. Right now we’re still looking at thirty years before we get home. I’m not going to be an asshole and expect her to wait that long, and she doesn’t expect me to either.”
“Well, hey,” Tom said, smiling. “I’m glad you two are having fun. You know, if this whole thing with the scrolls works she’ll probably be leaving us soon.”
“I know,” Harry said. “And so does she, sort of. Ch’Rega’s convinced they’ll find a planet to settle on fairly soon. She’s never been planetside her entire adult life. I think she’s looking forward to the change of pace. The last time she left the Klingon ship before Kohlar blew it up was a food gathering mission. Anyway, good luck with your stories, B’Elanna.”
With that, Harry went on his way, while B’Elanna and Tom met up with Kohlar outside the mess hall.
“Ready?” Kohlar said.
“As I’ll ever be,” B’Elanna said. The three of them walked in, and as soon as the formalities were out of the way, she began the prepared stories Kohlar had asked for, embellishing some of her own accomplishments aboard Voyager over the past six and a half years. And in other cases just making stuff up.

“..and that’s when they beamed aboard the Flyer, weapons firing,” B’Elanna said, walking around the table as she spoke, “Tuvok and Neelix fought valiantly, but there were too many Hirogen. I had to face ten of their fiercest hunters alone.”
Most of the crowd seemed to be going along with it, though she couldn’t tell if they believe her outright, or figured she was exaggerating but just didn’t care. Hell, some of them had probably done the same.

“My phaser was shot out of my hand,” B’Elanna said, finishing the story, “forcing me to take down the last hunter in hand-to-hand combat. It was a glorious fight.”
“Indeed it was,” Neelix said, as he poured blood wine into one of the elder’s cups. B’Elanna silently thanked him for going along, wishing she’d had time to let him know what she was planning to do.
“Your ancestors would be honored,” Kohlar said, smiling. He began pounding his mug on the table, and many of the other Klingons joined in. Tom did as well.
“You tell a good story,” T’Greth, one of the Klingons who didn’t join the pounding, said. “But that’s not why you’re here. Some say you are the mother of the kuvah’magh, the one who will guide us to a new homeworld.” It was clear in T’Greth’s tone that he didn’t believe it. As much as B’Elanna wanted to agree with him, she knew that she couldn’t. Not out loud anyway.

“Has your unborn child told you where it is?” T’Greth continued, his voice dripping with sarcasm, and a few of the other Klingons muttering in agreement with T’Greth’s vocal skepticism. He laughed, and the muttering Klingons joined him. A few others did too. B’Elanna felt like she was, as one of those old Earth comedians Tom liked might say, losing the room.
“The Scrolls say,” B’Elanna said, hoping her voice had the conviction that she personally lacked, “‘You will follow in my footsteps before I have made them.’ Yesterday we changed course. We are now heading towards a planet very much like Qo’Nos. So in a manner of speaking, you are now following my child to a new home.”

Some of the Klingons, the majority as far as B’Elanna could tell from where she was standing, were nodding.
“You deliver the words we want to hear,” T’Greth said angrily, “but it’s Kohlar who gives them to you. Are you his puppet in the bedchamber as well?”

“Watch it,” Tom said, standing up. “That’s my wife you’re talking about.”
“He speaks!” T’Greth said with mock amazement. “I didn’t think he had tongue.”
“Oh, I’ve got one all right,” Tom said, “and I use-”
“Tom, don’t you dare finish that sentence,” B’Elanna grunted.
“You see how he hides behind his female?” T’Greth said, riling up the crowd. The crowd murmered in agreement.
“Now wait just a damn minute-” B’Elanna started to say, before T’Greth cut her off.
“It is also written that the father of the kuvah’magh will be an honorable warrior.”
“I’ve led a few commando raids in my time,” Tom said. “That honorable enough for you?”
“Ha!” T’Greth said. “Would an honorable warrior refuse a challenge?”
“What challenge?” Tom said, crossing his arms. “You have to make one before I can accept it.”
“I haven’t made one yet,” T’Greth said, smiling in a way that made B’Elanna very nervous.
“That’s right,” Tom said, “you haven’t made a challenge. Just insults. And not very good ones at that.”
Half the Klingon’s laughed, and a few even applauded at Tom’s comeback, but that wasn’t a good sign to B’Elanna at all.
T’Greth did not seem offended in the slightest. In fact he smiled even more.
“True,” he said, “you have me there Mister Paris. So I will make my challenge now.” T’Greth picked up a carving knife from the table, and B’Elanna was ready to punch him in the face if he made a move against Tom. Instead, he stabbed the table. “You and I. To the death.”
There’s no way Tom’s going to
“I accept,” Tom said, pulling the knife out of the table.
Goddammit.
Many of the surrounding Klingons cheered, pounding their mugs on the tables. The only exceptions B’Elanna could see were Kohlar, who looked sad, and T’Greth who kept grinning. B’Elanna wanted very much to smack that grin off his face. She also wanted to punch her husband for having done something so stupid. If she wasn’t pregnant, she imagined she could easily do both.

Captain Janeway rubbed her temples, trying to will her headache away as she listened patiently to what Tom and B’Elanna were telling her.
“What was I supposed to say?” Tom said.
“How about ‘no?’” B’Elanna said.
“They were all watching,” Tom said, defensively. “There would’ve been a riot if I’d refused.”
Janeway hated to admit it, but Tom was right on that point. That unfortunately meant that she had only two options; let Tom fight and probably get himself killed, or find a way to put a stop to this without offending the Klingons, who had her crew nearly outnumbered, and certainly outmatched in terms of physical strength and experience. The latter was the least likely.

“What makes you so sure I’d lose?” Tom said. Janeway for a second thought he’d somehow read her mind, but realized that while she was thinking B’Elanna had been talking. Janeway mentally kicked herself for missing that.
“Oh please,” B’Elanna said.
“Look,” Tom said, “I have no intention of fighting anyone to the death, but wasn’t the whole point of this to get them to believe that we are the parents of their savior?”
“This has gone too far,” B’Elanna said, turning to face Janeway now. “We need to put a stop to this.”

“I intend to,” Janeway said. She tapped her comm badge and asked Tuvok to find both Kohlar and T’Greth and bring them to the briefing room. She had an idea. It was a longshot, but with any luck, when it was all over, T’Greth would be too angry at her to think about killing Tom. That came with its own set of problems, but as her grandfather used to say, “We’ll burn that bridge when we cross it.”
When both Klingon men walked into the briefing room, Tuvok standing behind them, Janeway stood up and began speaking.
“Gentlemen,” she said, “I’m afraid Lieutenant Paris had no authority to accept your challenge. If you want to fight, you’ll have to do it somewhere else. And seeing as we’re a good long ways away from anyplace with oxygen-”
“I told you this pahtk was not the true father,” T’Greth said to Kohlar in a dismissive, insulting tone.
“Want a blood test, you drunk piece of-” Tom started to say, but Janeway cut him off with a handwave.

“There will be no death matches aboard my ship,” Janeway said. “I don’t care how badly either of you want it.”

“The father of the kuvah’magh wouldn’t let a woman speak for him,” T’Greth said.
“Have you forgotten we have women on our crew, old friend?” Kohlar said. “Each one as brave in battle as you.”
“Klingon women,” T’Greth said.
“So?” Kohlar said. “You did not specify that when you insulted Mister Paris.”
“You knew what I meant,” T’Greth said through gritted teeth.
“We cannot have a battle to the death,” Kohlar said, “but we can still settle this matter like warriors.”
Janeway did not like the sound of that, but she knew she had to let this play out.
“What are you talking about, Kohlar?” T’Greth said.
“There is precedent for an honorable compromise,” Kohlar continued. “A non-lethal bout with blunted bat’leths. Victory goes to the first warrior to knock his opponent down three times.”
“Seriously?” Tom said, sounding offended. Janeway hoped that was an act and that Tom wasn’t going to undo Janeway’s effort to stop this fight altogether. “Where did that idea come from?”

“A coward, no doubt,” T’Greth said. “Even the human-”
“Was the Emperor Mur’Eq a coward?” Kohlar shouted, looking at both Tom and T’Greth with a look of deep offense.
“Emperor Mur’Eq?” Janeway said, genuinely curious.
“He was the one who instituted the rules,” Kohlar said, “to insure that his warriors would kill their enemies and not each other during a time of great war, when the enemy outnumbered us by legions. Mur’Eq could not afford to let an individual warrior’s pride to cost him a single man in that war, but he knew that honor must also be satisfied.”
T’Greth nodded. “Mur’Eq was one of our greatest Emperors, during the glory days of the Empire. I did not mean to dishonor his memory.”
Janeway sighed. She’d hoped to prevent a fight altogether, but she supposed this was the best she could hope for. The rest of the senior staff might think she could’ve done more, but as she found herself thinking a lot in recent years, she didn’t want to push her luck.

“Very well,” she said. “Tom?”

“I agree to these terms,” Tom said, looking at Janeway. He then turned to face T’Greth. “I’ll see you on the field of battle.”
T’Greth quietly growled his response. “I was about to say the same thing.”     He then turned around and left.

“That could’ve gone better,” B’Elanna said, “but I guess it could’ve gone worse too.”
“I will train you myself, Lieutenant Paris,” Kohalr said.
“I know how to fight,” Tom said.
“I don’t doubt that,” Kohlar said. “But I’ve known T’Greth my whole life. I know how he fights. I know his tells. You will need that to win. I take no pleasure in this, but in order for my crew to survive, I must dishonor my right-hand man.”
Tom nodded. “There’s no dishonor in doing what’s best for your people,” he said.
Captain Janeway nearly winced when she heard that, reminded of the things Captain Ransom had said to her to justify what he had done for the crew of the Equinox. She shook her head to clear the thoughts from her mind.
“Lieutenant,” she said, putting a hand on Tom’s shoulder. “In the future, talk to me before accepting any death matches.”

“I assume we will be using one of the holodecks for the arena for this fight,” Tuvok said.
“I’ve got some old Klingon battleground locations in my collection,” B’Elanna said. “Never used most of them, my Mom gave them to me. Might as well put them to good use. Well, to use anyway.”
“Look,” Tom said, “I know you’re not happy I accepted T’Greth’s challenge but-”
“Let’s have that conversation later,” B’Elanna said, starting to head towards the door. “I’m not in the mood right now.”
Tom sighed as she left, and turned to face Captain Janeway.
“I really did step in it this time, didn’t I?”
“At the risk of sounding mean, Mister Paris,” Janeway said, “I can at least say this isn’t the worst thing you’ve ever done.”
“Thanks. I think.”

B’Elanna watched as people started filing into the holodeck, the technology of the room managing to make people look further apart than they were. Crowding was still certainly going to become a problem though. She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to see The Doctor.
“Surprised to see you here,” she said. “I thought you hated this kind of thing.”
“I do,” The Doctor said. “I’m here in an official capacity. You’d be surprised how much damage even a blunted bat’leth can do.”

“Nah, I know,” B’Elanna said. “My Mom taught me how to use bat’leths with a blunted one.”
“I was under the impression that wasn’t standard practice,” The Doctor said.
“It’s not. It was her compromise with Dad,” B’Elanna said. “She didn’t seem to mind though. I forget sometimes that the two of them actually did love each other at one point.”
“Warriors, assemble!” Kohlar shouted. B’Elanna sighed, and handed the bat’leth she was holding to Tom, who was now dressed in standard Klingon warrior garb. Were the situation not so serious, she would probably be teasing him about he looked in it. She knew of some humans who could pull off Klingon fashion well, but her husband was not one of them.

“Today would be a very bad day to die,” she whispered to Tom.
“I’ll try to remember that,” Tom whispered back.
“Let honor guide you,” Kohlar said, holding his fist over his heart as both Tom and T’Greth took their positions. “Tagh!”
T’Greth began twirling his bat’leth around. It was a showy move, but terrible for fighting. If Tom had wanted to he could’ve struck right there, but Tom was holding a defensive stance with his weapon.

“I see fear in your eyes, human,” T’Greth said.
“The only Klingon I’m afraid of is my wife after she’s worked a double-shift,” Tom said.
I will make you pay for that one, B’Elanna thought.
T’Greth attacked, several times, but Tom managed to block each blow with surprisingly little effort. B’Elanna worried for a moment that T’Greth was holding back to lull Tom into a false sense of security, but T’Greth’s already sweaty face suggested otherwise.

A couple of times T’Greth broke though Tom’s blocks, but Tom managed to dodge each swipe of the blade, ducking and jumping at just the right times. The battle went on for a few minutes, neither opponent gaining any apparent ground. T’Greth was starting to look tired. She glanced at Kohlar, who seemed to notice it to, as the Klingon captain watched his second-in-command with unexpected concern.
Tom must’ve realized it to, because he finally went on the attack. T’Greth blocked every single one of Tom’s strikes, but only barely, and even managed to stumble once. He took a swing at Tom that, had it come from a healthy Klingon, probably would’ve taken Tom’s head off, blunted weapon or not. Except it was increasingly obvious that T’Greth was not healthy. Tom easily ducked the attack and pressed his own driving T’Greth to his knees. T’Greth’s labored breathing was loud enough that B’Elanna could tell looking at the crowd that everyone else heard it too.

T’Greth got back up, and took another swing at Tom, one so slow and sloppy that Tom didn’t even have to step back to avoid it. After that, T’Greth stumbled backwards, and collapsed. Tom immediately dropped his bat’leth and went to T’Greth’s side.
“Doc!” Tom yelled, as The Doctor was already pulling out his medical tricorder.

“It’s begun,” Kohlar said.
“What are you talking about?” The Doctor said.
“He’s dying,” Kohlar said.
“Typically I’m the one to make that kind of prognosis,” The Doctor said, clearly annoyed at Kohlar standing over his shoulder.
“It’s the nehret,” Kohlar said, “It kills all of us who aren’t fortunate enough to die in battle.”
“I’ll have T’Greth beamed to sickbay,” The Doctor said. “You can explain more there.”
B’Elanna touched Tom on the arm. “We should go too,” she said. “I have a terrible feeling about this.”
“I do too,” Tom said.

“It’s a retrovirus that destroys the cells by attacking the cytoplasmic membranes,” The Doctor said, pointing to an image on the console next to the bio-bed where T’Greth lay, still unconscious.
Captain Janeway, Kohalr standing right next to her, looked at image with concern. Virology was not her field of expertise, but she’d seen enough images like these from her chief medical officers over the years to know that this was a particularly nasty virus.
“Shouldn’t our bio-filters have detected it?” Janeway said.
“This is an insidious virus,” The Doctor said. “It didn’t come up when I scanned some of the Klingons who came aboard after their ship blew up. The ones who would let me anyway. The point is though, it lies dormant and disguises itself as inert genetic material. It could fool anyone right up to the moment it becomes active.”

“The nehret always comes without warning,” Kohlar said.
“Is it contagious?” B’Elanna said, her hands covering her stomach protectivly, Tom holding her hand.
“Now that I know what to look for,” The Doctor said, “I went over the data collected on the Klingons when they were beamed aboard. They’re all carriers.”

“Why didn’t you tell us your people had a disease?” Janeway said, looking at Kohlar angrily.
“And why have I never heard of the nehret before?” B’Elanna said. “I imagine Mom would’ve told me about something like this.”
“We do not think of it as a disease,” Kohlar said, “It’s more like old age.”
Janeway shook her head, annoyed at Kohlar’s calmness in the face of all this.
“Going back to B’Elanna’s question,” The Doctor said, “I’m afraid the answer is yes, it is contagious, but only to Klingons.”
Janeway looked over at B’Elanna, and was saddened by the worried look on her face as Tom tried to quietly reassure her.

“I would like to examine Lieutenant Torres,” The Doctor continued. “If you could give us some privacy, please?”
“Of course, Doctor,” Janeway said. She grabbed Kohlar’s arm with as much force as she could manage, even though she doubted he felt it, and all but shoved him towards the exit. She looked back over her shoulder as Tom and B’Elanna moved closer to The Doctor and began speaking to him.

She also thought she saw T’Greth’s eyes opening, but figured it best to let The Doctor handle that.

T’Greth felt somewhat better after he left sickbay. He had convinced The Doctor to let him leave to prepare for his journey to Sto-Vo-Kor. Despite his medical concerns, the hologram had agreed to honor T’Greth’s tradition. T’Greth did feel a little bit like a dishonorable liar, but he had been partially truthful. He was ready to go to his people’s afterlife. But that was not why he wanted to leave sickbay when he did.

While there, he’d overheard The Doctor tell B’Elanna Torres that she and her child had the nehret as well. When he had struggled to get out of the bed he’d been put in, she had yelled at him, as if it were somehow his fault that Kohlar, his captain, had failed to inform Captain Janeway of the illness he and the rest of his crew carried.

He entered cargo bay 1, where the council of elders resided, and wasted no time once he had their attention.
“The child,” he said, “is not the kuvah’magh.”
“But the father accepted your challenge,” one of the council said, standing up. T’Greth found it amusing that this man who was younger than him served on the ‘council of elders.’ The humans called it irony, he just called it an accident of birth. “He defeated you.”
“I was defeated by the nehret,” T”Greth said. “B’Elanna Torres and her child will fall victim to it as well.”

“Impossible,” the younger elder said.
“They both carry it,” T’Greth said. “I heard from her own mouth, and that of their doctor as well. I will kill anyone who makes it known that I said this, but this hologram is by far the most competent medic I have ever met. I would be honored to let him dress my wounds and send me back out onto the field of war. If he says it is true, then it is true.”
“The Scrolls say the kuvah’magh is younger than old age,” the younger elder said. T’Greth sighed. Clearly this one had bought into Kohlar’s stories more than the others, who merely listened quietly. As elders should. They would hear what he had to say, and they would decide what to do next. Though hopefully, they would listen to his suggestion on that matter.
“And stronger than sickness,” T’Greth said, wanting to be angrier at Kohlar than he was, but finding he lacked the energy for it. “I remember. This means she cannot be our savior.”

The council members all leaned close to speak to each other, T’Greth wishing he could hear their whispers, but not wanting to disrespect them by moving in close enough to do so.

“We should resume our search,” one of the elders said.
“Kohlar and many of the others will not agree,” the younger elder said.
“Then we must act alone,” T’Greth said. “For the good of our people. We will wait for our moment, and when it comes, we will seize Voyager.”

Seven of Nine wondered why T’Greth had decided to come to astrometrics, but T’Greth assured her that he was there to check on the progress of the search for a new homeworld.
She wondered why now of all times, especially with T’Greth being ill, a fact she couldn’t avoid learning about even though she didn’t feel it was any of her business. She shrugged.

“Very well,” she said, and went to the main console to pull up data on two planets she had just recently scanned as potential settlement sites. She had intended to present these to the Captain first, but saw no harm in sharing with the Klingon.

“On this planet,” she said as the computer generated image of an M-class planet filled the screen, “we found two potential sites for colonization on the southern hemisphere. I can prepare more detailed topographical scans once we’ve gotten a few light years closer.”
“I think I should join the survey team,” T’Greth said.
“Is that advisable,” Seven said, “given your current condition?”
“I do not wish to die inside these walls,” T’Greth said. “I want to spend my final days in honorable pursuits.”
Seven nodded.
“Understandable,” she said.
T’Greth laughed. “Not the response I expected from a human. I figured you would try to convince to me to keep fighting, to try and hold on no matter how much damage my illness did to me.”

“Seeing as it is your illness,” Seven said, “how you choose to deal with it is between you and your doctor. How I feel is irrelevant.”
“Would you keep trying to survive?” T’Greth asked. “If you were faced with a slow death from a virus?”
Seven thought about that for a moment.
“That would depend entirely on the context. What type of virus, the severity of the symptoms, the odds of treatment success… and how old my children were.”

“Ah, yes,” T’Greth said. “I have not met them but I heard there were children aboard. Both are yours? You seem rather young for a human to have two offspring already.”
“Well,” Seven said, wondering just how much she should share with this man she had only met today, and who just a few days ago threatened to kill Tom Paris. “They are not mine by blood. I still care for them as though they were, of course.”
T’Greth nodded, looking back at the screen. “I see we will be in transporter range of this planet fairly soon. I should prepare. Thank you for your time, Seven of Nine.”
Seven nodded politely as T’Greth walked away. On his way out he nearly walked into Samantha, who walked into the lab carrying a PADD.
After exchanging a polite but brief greeting with T’Greth, Sam walked over to Seven.
“Make a new friend, Annie?”
“Perhaps,” Seven said. “He is certainly more… complex than his attitudes towards Lieutenant Torres and Paris would suggest.”

“Hmm,” Sam said. “Well, both Naomi and Icheb have been peppering me with questions about Klingon culture. Perhaps I should have them talk to him. Unless you think he might try anything like a fight to the death again.”
“I doubt he would do that if he wanted to,” Seven said. “He seems fairly certain his illness will claim his life fairly soon.”
Sam frowned. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope The Doctor can come up with a treatment of some kind. At the very least we could save the other Klingons. And B’Elanna and the baby of course.”
“I believe he will,” Seven said. “I imagine in a few years Naomi will have a new playmate. Now, about this PADD you brought me.”

“That, yes,” Sam said, smiling. “Naomi has taken it upon herself to make plans for your birthday in a few months a little early. I figured you should know what she was up to so you wouldn’t be too put out. I explained to her you don’t like surprise parties, but…”
“There are very few things I would use the adjective ‘hate’ for,” Seven said, “but surprise parties definitely fall under that rubric.” She took the PADD and kissed Sam on the cheek. “Thank you for the warning.”

“Well,” Sam said, putting her hand to her head in an overly dramatic fashion, “I don’t like going behind my daughter’s back, but sometimes being a parent is about making hard choices.”
“Do you want me to get your fainting couch?” Seven asked, with a wink and a smile. Samantha laughed.
“I should let you get back to work,” she said, wrapping her arms around Seven as she spoke. She kissed Seven on the cheek and whispered an innuendo in her ear before leaving astrometrics.
“I think I am going to have a very happy birthday this year,” Seven muttered to herself as she watched Sam leave. Once she was gone, Seven returned to her work scanning the planet.

B’Elanna’s fingers twitched nervously as she entered sickbay, having been called there by The Doctor. He’d said it was urgent, but he didn’t sound panicked at all. Perhaps it was good news. Not that thinking it could be good news did anything to calm her nerves.

“You said it was urgent?” she said to The Doctor, not waiting for him to acknowledge her entrance.
“I need to conduct a more detailed bio-scan of your baby,” The Doctor said, getting straight to the point, something B’Elanna wished he would do more often. If he hadn’t been smiling in that moment, B’Elanna wasn’t sure how she’d react. But he was.
“You’ve found a cure? Already?”

“Perhaps,” he said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but what I’ve found looks very promising. Even if it isn’t a cure, it might be a treatment. And that’s always a step in the right direction.”
B’Elanna nodded. “Okay, do what you have to do.” She walked over to the nearest bio-bed and slowly got herself into it, right when the yellow alert lights went on.
“What the hell?” she said.
“Doctor to the bridge,” The Doctor said, tapping his comm badge, “what’s going on?”
“The Klingons have taken over transporter room 1,” Janeway’s voice replied. “They’re trying to beam the crew down to the planet. We haven’t been able to stop them yet from up here but we’ve slowed them down, trying to buy time for Tuvok and security team to get down there. Sickbay is secure right now, but disconnect your mobile emitter just to be safe so they can’t beam you off too.”
“I’m not wearing it right now, Captain,” The Doctor said.
“Good to know,” Janeway said. “Stand by. I’ll get in touch with you once the situation is resolved.”
“I should go,” B’Elanna said, trying to get up. “If they’ve cleared out engineering-”
“No,” The Doctor said, “I need to do these scans. If I can fix this nehret situation maybe that will help resolve this.”
B’Elanna sighed, and looked down, needing the physical reminder that she wasn’t in much condition to fight right now anyway.
“Fine,” B’Elanna said. “Make it fast.”

“Captain,” Tom said, “a bunch of Klingon just materialized outside the bridge.”

“They couldn’t beam us off so they’re going to try and get at us the hard way,” Janeway said, standing up and pulling out her handphaser. “Arm yourselves.”
Janeway saw Tom stand up and pull out his phaser. She glanced around quickly and saw Lieutenant Ayala had his out and was already aiming at the turbolift doors. Two other gold shirted officers had their phasers out too, one at Harry’s console, and the other at the main science station.
As the Klingons shoved their way through the doors, Janeway and Ayala each got off a shot that stunned one of them, his body falling in a way that blocked the two behind him from getting through. Ayala quickly moved to stun them, while Janeway turned in time to see T’Greth lead two more Klingons through the other entrance to the bridge, managing to duck the shots of the gold shirts, neither of whom were from security. Tom ducked behind his seat to avoid a phaser blast from T’Greth, firing back quickly. He missed T’Greth but struck and knocked down one of the Klingons behind him. Janeway fired her own phaser striking T’Greth in the chest. The last Klingon standing was taken down by a blast from each side by the two goldshirts. The fight for the bridge was over so quickly Janeway was pretty sure she hadn’t broken a sweat.
“Bridge to Tuvok,” she said.
“We have retaken the transporter room,” Tuvok’s reply came quickly. “There was only one Klingon manning the station, and there is no sign he had any other assistance besides the ones he beamed to the bridge.”
“We took care of them,” Janeway said. “Doesn’t look like this was a large scale takeover attempt. T’Greth and a half-dozen, tops.”
“That’s barely one percent of all the Klingons aboard,” Tom said. “I guess Kohlar and B’Elanna’s stories had a bigger effect than I thought.”
“Speaking of B’Elanna…” Janeway tapped her comm badge again, this time to call sickbay.

B’Elanna stood back and watched as The Doctor pressed the hypospray to T’Greth’s neck. Kohlar stood next to her, while two security officers stood even further back, ready to move at a moment’s notice if need be, and Captain Janeway standing next to The Doctor.
“Why am I not in Sto-vo-kor?” T’Greth said groggily as he sat up in the bio-bed.
“Because you are as healthy as a targ,” The Doctor said.
I’ll correct him on his pronunciation of that later, B’Elanna thought.

T’Greth looked confused. “The nehret?”
“Gone,” The Doctor said.
“We have B’Elanna Torres’ child to thank for it,” Kohlar said. T’Greth’s mouth hung open in shock.

“The fetus has hybrid stem-cells,” The Doctor said. “They contain Human and Klingon DNA. I used them to synthesize an antivirus.”
“The child cured me?” T’Greth said.
“Well,” The Doctor said, smiling, “I was the one who devised the treat-”
“Doctor?” Janeway said.
“Yes,” The Doctor said, “of course, the child cured you.”
“The kuvah’magh has healed all of us,” Kohlar said with unbridled excitement. If there had been some doubt before, it was long gone now. “She truly is our savior.”
B’Elanna decided it was best to keep her mouth shut. She still didn’t believe that her baby was part of some prophecy. But if T’Greth believed it, and that belief would get him and the rest of Kohlar’s crew off her ship…
T’Greth had no response. He simply looked at B’Elanna, awestruck. B’Elanna didn’t like that any more than he had looked at her with disdain and skepticism, but she accepted it.
“Kohlar, old friend,” T”Greth said, “I am so sorry I-”
“That you knocked me unconscious and beamed me off the ship?” Kohlar said. “I think I will let that slide, T’Greth. Sto-vo-kor is not ready for you yet.”
“But I acted so dishonorably, I-”
“Let’s call it a crisis of faith,” Kohlar said. “All is forgiven. Come, I want you at my side when we settle our new home.”

Seven of Nine, leaning against Samantha Wildman on one side of a mess hall table, listened to Tom and B’Elanna who were holding hands on the other side.
“So he gave B’Elanna a bat’leth that had belonged to his great-grandfather,” Tom said, speaking of the recently departed Kohlar.

“That’s… nice. I suppose.” Sam said.
“Hey, honey, how come you never give me a weapon as a present?” Seven said jokingly.
B’Elanna snorted, “Dammit, Seven, don’t do that when I’m drinking something.”
“Sorry,” Seven said, genuinely apologetic.
“Well, anyway, like Tom said he gave me the bat’leth, but as a gift for the baby when she’s older,” B’Elanna said. “He made me promise to tell her all about him, and about Klingon history and culture.”
“Like that was ever in doubt,” Tom said. “Even if we hadn’t met him. I think I’d be a pretty lousy father if I didn’t make sure my kid knew where she came from.”
“Good for you,” Sam said.
“You know,” Tom said after taking a sip of his coffee, “this is one special kid we’re going to have.”
“You’re just figuring that out?” B’Elanna said.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Sam said, “has this little adventure given you any ideas for names?”

“We have a list,” B’Elanna said.
“Maybe something with religious significance,” Tom said. “I mean, she is already the savior of an entire race.”

“Okay,” B’Elanna said, “one, not a whole race, just a warship crew. Two, you don’t actually believe that do you?”

Tom shrugged. “There are an awful lot of coincidences to explain.”

“I think he’s got a point, B’Elanna,” Sam said.

“Oh don’t you start,” B’Elanna said to Sam. She looked at Seven.

“Leave me out of this,” Seven said.

“I was going to ask you about baby names, smartass,” B’Elanna said.

“I was thinking either Sofie or Lucia,” Seven said.

“You just happened to have those on the tip of your tongue there, sweetie?” Samantha said casually, gently stroking Seven’s arm.

“You two have never talked about maybe having a kid together?” Tom said.

“No,” Samantha said. “I’m not dead-set against it mind you, it’s just that even if either Annie or I were talking about it, now is just not the time for a third kid in the mix.”

“Agreed,” Seven said. “Though i suppose I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it.” She looked Sam in the eyes. “Sorry I didn’t mention that earlier, Sammy.”

Sam looked perplexed. “No need to apologize. I’m willing to bet that you were thinking about it lately because of B’elanna, am I right?”

“Do you know me that well,” Seven said, “or am I just that predictable?”

“I thought Borg liked routine,” Tom said.

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