Chapter Twenty-Eight

When the time came, Buffy wisely let Megan do the talking and, when they broke for lunch, the two were strolling though the settlement-like town towards the shop that Jorva had pointed out to them earlier.

"Goddess, Jorva, these are gorgeous!" Buffy exclaimed, examining his wares.

"What you hold are bonding cuffs." Jorva told Buffy. "Yellini bond eternally, in mind, body and spirit. Cuffs match resonances of bonded." He lifted the sleeve of his tunic to show his own bonding cuff. "Once placed, cannot remove."

Buffy continued to admire the cuff, but now she had a thoughtful expression on her face. "What if the person has more than one bonded?"

"Then special cuffs are made." Jorva told her. He stepped up next to her as she ran her fingers along the intricate design. "You would like?"

"Yes," Buffy smiled up at him, "I think I would."

Megan looked at the cuff in her hands. It was opaque with a golden tint, and so intricately designed that she couldn't follow the lines. Buffy was right though. It was absolutely beautiful.

Jorva continued to smile as he watched them fawn over the cuffs, seemingly pleased with whatever he saw in their eyes. "Not all see beauty. Only when mind and soul open, can you see. Hard of heart, closed of mind, their eyes pass over without notice."

Buffy nodded in understanding. "Most of my people only bond with one mate, two at the most. I have several, but one that is above all others."

It was Jorva that nodded in understanding this time. While Buffy was focused on the cuff she was intently examining, Jorva placed a circlet on her head. "This is to acquire your resonance. I will set your cuff, then prepare others that will be for your mates. They will have some of your resonance, and when they are placed, you will feel as your cuff tunes to your mate's. Now come, meal is ready."

~~~ BtVS ~~ ST: Voyager ~~~

*Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway, I believe that I have ascertained the nature of the anomaly in the Equinox's warp signature.* Seven informed her captain an hour later.

"Come up to my ready room. I want Tuvok to hear as well." Kathryn responded. She was already in her ready room, working on reports. She had already recorded both her Captain's Log and her Personal Log. Until now, she had successfully pushed Ransome and the Equinox from her mind, knowing that if she thought about it too long, she would not be able to relive the situation objectively. She had no idea what she was flying into, but if there was even the remotest of chances that they had made different choices in this new timeline, she didn't want to jinx it with 'past' grudges. Sighing, she pressed her comm badge once more. "Janeway to Tuvok, please join us in my ready room once Seven arrives."


A few minutes later, the chime rang and Kathryn invited her officers in. She stood and moved around her desk to accommodate their preference for standing, and patiently waited for Seven's report.

"The anomaly in the ion trail is caused by modified dilithium crystals in the warp drive." Seven began. "Species 672, the Lazarians, developed a way to reconfigure power distribution to augment their weapons systems from their warp core. Modified dilithium, recrystallized with a tritum isotope, allowed their primary phasers to increase their damage potential by 65%."

Tuvok looked intrigued. "This is a marked improvement."

Seven nodded. "However, the isotope is unstable, and when introduced to the warp core, creates a gaseous radiation with effects similar to thalaron radiation. Contact with the gas will immediately eat away at any type of living organic."

Kathryn looked horrified. "How could they be running this type of thing and live if it's so deadly?"

"The gas is trapped within the core." Seven informed. "The only danger would be if there was a warp core breach, similar to the dangers of a plasma leak. However, the smallest fracture would be enough to start leaking the radiation. The Lazarians kept their warp core in a specialized chamber. How the crew of the Equinox are prepared to deal with a possible core breach, I cannot speculate."

"Can we adjust our shields to compensate?" Kathryn asked with a slight frown.

"We could boost our shields by cutting power to the decks that are as yet unused." Tuvok suggested. "Does this configuration cause anomalies in other areas?"

"In the Lazarian ships, it caused minor fluctuations in their shields." Seven answered. "I can not say if the same anomaly occurs on the Equinox, or if they somehow discovered a way to compensate."

"Do what you can." Kathryn told them. "I want the modifications in place before we intercept. Dismissed."

~~~ BtVS ~~ ST: Voyager ~~~

Buffy did surprisingly well on her first 'First Contact' mission, even by her standards. There was some uneasiness over the antagonistic way their Commanding Officer regarded her, but it settled as the Voyager crew demonstrated that their personal animosity did not adversely affect their ability to work together to benefit their people. It proved to the Yellini that they could put aside their differences when necessary.

Buffy spoke with the Yellini's version of scientists as Willow had asked. The only form of payment the Yellini requested was information about their peoples and their travels. After Laren assured the trading of information, the Yellini promised to have the items that they requested ready when they were prepared to leave.

Since the talks hadn't taken as long as they'd assumed, Buffy, Megan and Laren got to spend real quality time examining the wares of the marketplace before really getting down to the business of serious shopping.