Outside Main Engineering
Her face forcibly blank, Kalara walked down the same corridor she had raced down the day Ianto died. The day she lost Redemption
. Ever since returning to the ship, she had avoided this section. Partly because of the memories it held of Ianto's death, and partly because this had now become the domain of those Borg engineers Sarine had invited onto the ship.
Despite the good work they had done and the numerous reasons Damien had given her to explain why these Borg were not dangerous, she did not trust them. She knew enough history to understand what a menace they had been before the Dominion destroyed them. Having them on board ship… She held back a shudder.
Nothing had changed in the corridor, of course. Even Sarine knew enough not to flaunt his cyborg friends so blatantly. Nevertheless, the moment she stepped into the engineering section, the changes were obvious.
Most obvious of all were the alcoves at the back. They thrummed in a constant background chorus. She noticed that one of them was occupied by one of the engineers, a former human drone with a wig of long blond hair tumbling down over her Starfleet issue uniform. This time Kalara did shudder at the sight, turning away from the mess of wires, pipes and tubes that swarmed over the back of the engine room floor.
She picked out Sarine and a group of others almost immediately. She felt a surge of nausea in her stomach when she realised that one of the officers stood with the captain was Kane, the Borg Chief Engineer. Steeling herself, she began to walk towards them.
Sarine caught sight of her and whispered something to Kane. The Borg man turned, and to her surprise, he wore a wide grin plastered on his ghostly pale face. The smile widened as she drew closer and he took a step towards her, his arms open.
Kalara stalled, her feet dragging as she came to a stop. She frowned, not sure how to react. "Excuse me?" she asked finally.
"It is me, Kalara," Kane said, his eyes dancing. "It is Ianto."
Her nightmare came flooding back. She saw Damien again, holding Ianto's dismembered head in his bloody hand, while Ianto laughed and told her he was back. A shiver of ice raced down her spine, vanquished almost instantly by a surge of fiery anger.
She stalked towards the Borg, snarling, her hands clenching to claws at her sides. "I will kill you where you stand."
Kane seemed taken aback by her reaction and he stumbled backwards. Kalara glimpsed Sarine step forward, placing himself between his engineer and her, eyes dark and full of warning. Commander Ly’et followed him forward, grabbing at his arm. Sarine shrugged it off, his eyes locked on Kalara's like the targetting sensors of a phaser array. Of course. It had to be him.
She focused on the captain instead.
"Did you put him up to this... this sick joke?!"
To her surprise, Sarine's eyes actually mellowed slightly. She even saw a hint of pity there, which made her even more angry. His voice, when he spoke, was hard, but wrapped in sadness. "This is no joke, Lieutenant."
Commander Ly’et nodded from behind him. "It's true, Commander. This is Ianto."
Kalara felt confusion warring with anger. She looked from Prin to Sarine to Kane, and then back again, before finally coming to rest on the Borg engineer. "How is that possible?"
It was Kane who spoke, his words careful and slow. "Before my... death, I activated a data transfer that placed all of my memories within the internal computer. It had always been my intention, since the memories I carry of my father are much too important to lose. However, the damage caused to the main computer core during the Klingon attack prevented me from accessing any functional systems. It was not until Engineer Kane was able to repair all of the computer's bio-neural pathways that I was finally able to communicate."
Kalara blinked. Kane certainly sounded like Ianto but what he was talking about… She shook her head furiously. "This is impossible."
Sarine took over. "The chief informed me of Ianto's first attempt to communicate just before the launch. He also came up with this solution as a way of communicating. I..." He frowned. "I did not think it advisable but certain members of my senior staff talked me round."
Kalara glimpsed Commander Ly'et blush slightly, her dusky skin growing even darker.
"I was able to download part of my memory engrams into Chief Engineer Kane's implants. The rest of the link is provided by one of the chief's neural transceivers which I was able to modify."
Kalara looked away from the Borg. "And Kane?"
"He is still in here. Just... detached, slightly."
Despite herself, Kalara found herself beginning to accept what she was being told. The whole thing seemed amazing, and yet she couldn't help but be reminded of her dream. Could it have been a vision? A vision of the future? She had heard of such things before – her mother had even claimed to have received such a vision just before her daughter’s birth. But she didn’t want to accept that was what it had been. Because if it had… Then what did that mean for Damien?
"This is... disturbing," she said finally.
"I know it must be difficult," Commander Ly'et said, "but it is true. For want of a better explanation, Lieutenant-Commander Ianto's soul has lived on past his physical body."
"It is me, my friend," Kane said softly. For the first time, Kalara allowed herself to look into his eyes, and she knew. It was him. Ianto.
She felt her eyes burning. This seemed to go against everything that she believed in. She had made her peace with Ianto's death after the battle with the Klingons. She had held a service for him, had screamed his soul on to Stovokor. She had truly believed she would see him there one day. Now...
“How can you live? A soul without a body? Do you plan to continue sharing this body?” She was unable to keep the disgust out of her voice.
Ianto-in-Kane’s-body looked over at the captain, who sighed and shook his head. “That is the reason we called you here, Lieutenant.”
Commander Ly’et continued. “We need to find some way of allowing Commander Ianto to continue to interact with the outside world without the need of Chief Kane’s body.”
Kalara ignored the commander, her focus on Sarine. “And you want my help?”
The captain looked away, obviously uncomfortable. “You know this ship and its systems better than anyone, except Commander Ianto himself. We need your expertise to find a way of releasing him.”
Kalara felt a twinge of satisfaction at hearing him admit that. She considered the situation for a moment, still reluctant to accept to help the man who had destroyed her career. At the end of the day, though, she knew that she couldn’t say no. Not because of Sarine, but because of Ianto. She nodded.
“I will do what I can.”
“Good. Then I’ll leave you to it.” He turned to Commander Ly’et. “There’s a lot to do before we arrive in Laurentii space. I need you on the bridge when we arrive.”
“Good.” He glanced over at Kalara again. “Carry on.”
Kalara watched him out the doors, trying not to wince as a number of junior officers saluted him. That should have been me.
As soon as he was gone, though, she turned back to Ianto-in-Kane’s-body to find him watching her. He smiled, a frightening expression on the Borg man’s face.
“It is good to see you again, old friend.”
In a rush of emotion, the full import of what had happened washed over her. A smile spread across her face and she felt her eyes begin to tear up.
“I thought you were gone,” she said in a small voice.
“I was,” Kane said. “For a little while.”
The two looked at one another for a few moments, lost in the moment until Commander Ly’et interrupted.
“We don’t have much time here people,” she said. “Chief Kane is going to need his body back before we reach Laurentii space, so if we want to get started, we’d best get on with it.”
Kalara felt an irrational surge of anger at hearing Kane referred to as the Chief now that she knew Ianto was alive, but she smothered it, giving the commander a curt nod.
“Of course. Where should we start?”
Prin grinned. “I’ve been thinking about that and I may have a plan.” She eyed both of them. “Have you ever heard of the USS Voyager
“A pre-Occupation ship,” Ianto nodded. “However I do not… Ah.”
The reference meant nothing to her. She looked from one to the other, seeing the grins spread across their faces. “What?” she asked. She hated not understanding. “What are you talking about?”
Ianto's laughter was the only answer she got.