by E. L. Zimmerman


As she had been instructed so many years ago, Ishanti imagined the winding tendrils of consciousness, the first of the six blessed steps to actualizing Zellian TeleConsciousness. Curiously, she realized that the tendrils she visualized had always been a mysterious shade of lavender, the same color of the ysynthimums blossoming in the flowerperch mounted outside her childhood bedroom window. Her eyes closed, concentrating, she reached those imaginary arms beyond the limits of her corporeal existence. Farther and farther, she stretched them into the maw, into the darkness, reaching past even the boundaries cautioned by the Exalted Arbiter of Zell. Reaching beyond one's psychic limits, she remembered his teachings, induced an irrepressible madness, and the madness was highly contagious amongst her people. Still, a far simpler madness propelled Ishanti onward, expanding the tendrils beyond the point of safety, of sanity, and, in return, for her reward, Ishanti sensed ...

... the void.

"Hey!" Geiger snapped, lightly tapping her on the shoulder.

Startled, she jumped. Catching her breath, she glared sideway at him, Geiger, such a dullard. A single-consciousness dullard, at that.

'Ishanti,' she thought, 'the mighty Zell.'

'The lone Zell.'

'The Zell who tamed Voyager.'

'Forever unheard.'

'Forever untouched.'

'Forever a burning emptiness, never to be extinguished.'

"Ishanti?" Geiger pried again. "Are you all right?"

' ... forever incomplete.'

Turning back to the power conduit, she droned, "I'm fine," and snapped the maintenance hatch back into position over the bio-circuitry.

"You're sure?" he tried.

Nodding, grimacing viciously at him, she spat, "I said I'm fine."

Pausing, he glanced back at her intently. Cautiously, he reached over and flipped the magnetic clasp on the maintenance hatch she had just placed over the circuit junction into the 'locked' position.

Apathetic, she stared at the clasp. "Oops," she said.

"If unsealed for more than one hour, that would've triggered an security alarm," warned Geiger. "That's not the kind of mistake you make. In fact, the Ensign Ishanti I know doesn't make mistakes. That's why she's the pet of B'Elanna Torres." Softening his tone, he glanced at her again. "Are you sure you're okay?"

In her mind, Ishanti instantly recoiled the tendrils and focused, instead, on the here and the now.

They had secured the final jamming circuitry into the last of Voyager's intricate communications relays. Once the units were synchronized from the bridge, communication with those on the surface of Rintella would be impossible.

'Then,' she thought, 'Tom Paris will assume command. Anyone opposing colonization can choose between joining us or spending the rest of a pitiful life in the brig.'

"Oh, yes," she finally answered Geiger, mustering up the faint glimmer of a smile. "Aside from a little headache, I'm feeling fine."

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