Feathers and Flowers


     "Mother! Mother!"  B'Elanna Torres Kim was sitting outside her
house reading a report when she heard her daughter's happy shout.  She
looked up to see the tiny five year-old riding on the shoulders of a
young man, apparently in his twenties.  Both were filthy.  The young
man, who had actually been born six and half years earlier, had a huge
bunch of bright wild flowers in his hand.  Carefully, he put the little
girl on the ground.

     "What have you two been up to?"  B'Elanna put down her padd, and,
heedless of the mud, hugged her daughter.

     "Palanka and I were down by the stream.  So many pretty flowers!"

     "Keshie!  Was anyone else there?"  There was a strict rule about
being near the water without an adult.  This was no holodeck and there
were no safeties.

     "Naomi was there.  And Aunt Megan."

     "Aunt Megan told us to take flowers back to village."

     "They're nice flowers.  Are they for your papas?"

     "For papas and Uncle Harry and Aunt B'Elanna.  Pretty flowers. 
Many pretty flowers by water.  Dirt dark there, and heavy.  Sun bright. 
Many bugs.  Flowers like that.  Some flowers not like that, live by
trees, but not so pretty."

     "That's very clever, Palanka.  Come, let's show all the papas the
flowers, and tell them what you learned."  She tapped the communicator
pinned to her sweater.  "Three to beam up, Mike."  

                           *  *  *

     "Kathryn, I can't keep the ship running much longer.  I'm putting
patches on the patches, and soon I'll have to start cannibalizing some
systems to support others."

     B'Elanna looked at the people she'd called to the emergency
meeting.  The senior staff of her family sat around the briefing room
table.  Kathryn Janeway, who was the person she most respected in the
universe.  Next to her, Chakotay - second on the list and always by
Kathryn's side.  There was an empty chair next to him.  It had been
almost ten years since that chair was filled.  Then Tuvok, who was
wearing civilian clothes and bottlefeeding his new son.  He was still on
parental leave, but she wanted his input.  Neelix, who was seriously
worried about food supplies.  Samantha Wildman, who had been the ship's
pilot for as long as that chair was empty.  And sitting next to B'Elanna
was her husband Harry, who somehow managed to stay sweet and shy after
all these years.

     Kathryn looked at the report.

     "What do you suggest, B'Elanna?"

     "We have two choices.  One is to find a spacedock.  By working
full-out for several months - and I emphasize months - we can get
_Voyager_ back on her feet again.  For that, we'll need to find a
peaceful space-faring race with whom we can trade something."

     Chakotay looked at her.  "And what's the second choice?"

     "If we don't find such a race, we need to find an uninhabited
class-M planet and land there. It would be much harder working in
gravity and atmosphere and we'd have to work from raw materials, and
there's no guarantee that those raw materials would actually exist, but
I believe we could do it.  It would take a couple of years, though, to
finish the job."  

     "It is obvious that the first option is preferable, but it does
run the risk of violating the Prime Directive."  Tuvok shifted the baby
to his shoulder.

     "On the other hand, we could take advantage of the situation."

     "Yes, Neelix?"

     "Our food supplies are running dangerously low.  The airponics bay
has been neglected since Kes died.  Would you need the entire crew to
help with the repairs, B'Elanna?"