Farewell to Michael
It was a rare opportunity when Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager got to ‘play.’ Initially stranded seventy thousand light years from home, there was always something demanding her attention:aliens (friendly or otherwise), spatial anomalies, systems failures or simply the day to day maintenance of crew morale. Even with the myriad of distractions she and her command staff tackled, they had accomplished the epic feat of transporting their ship, most crew intact, more than 40,000 light years in just six standard Earth years. The pressure on the woman was enormous.
Occasionally, the Doctor would put his foot down and demand that the beleaguered captain take a break – use one of the holodecks, take a shore leave when possible, even just take time out to read or listen to music. It was this circumstance that the captain found herself in today.
The past two weeks had been horrendous. Voyager had picked up a distress call from an alien vessel and with little hesitation, changed course to investigate the situation and offer assistance if needed. The vessel turned out to be a fully armed warship, manned by a depraved band of space pirates. It was their modus operandi to lure sympathetic and unsuspecting ships, like Voyager, into an empty area of space, feign severe ship damage and injuries, vaporize the crew (except for a few choice females), and strip the ship for its’ value in parts and technology. There was no shortage of legitimate clients in the Delta Quadrant who were willing to look the other way in order to benefit from this corrupt system. Life was good.
Of course, when the brigand long-range sensors scanned Voyager, they knew they had hit the jackpot as far as technology. Squabbling immediately started between them over percentage cuts, female privileges, weapons dispersal and other things that pirates in any galaxy are interested in. As the gullible Voyager approached, the brigands covertly tapped into their computer, discovered a mere woman was captain (resulting in an immediate drawing of straws for that prize) and their hooting and joviality couldn’t be contained. Unfortunately (for the pirates, not Voyager), this was their undoing. With Voyager outpacing the speed of communication in the Delta Quadrant, tales of Captain Kathryn Janeway had not yet reached them.
Meanwhile, Voyager was running its own scans and had come to the conclusion that not all was as advertised with this alien ship. So, Voyager was fully prepared - red alert, shields up and torpedoes loaded - when the first pirate volley was launched. Needless to say, the pirates were no match for our compact, auburn crowned hero and her valiant crew. The battle was brief, Voyager the clear victor, the surviving pirates now cowed and begging mercy (which Janeway was generous with in her typical magnanimity).
These events were matter of course for the crew and after patching up a few hull breaches, they all expected they’d be on their way back to the Alpha Quadrant, little harm done. What they didn’t expect was the next series of attacks from the pirates’ client base. Voyagers’ destruction of the thieves’ ship immediately upset the very delicate trades balance that existed in this region and sparked numerous battles between private conglomerates and several alien governments. Voyager, the catalyst for this state of affairs, was everyone’s target. It took all of Janeway and crew’s considerable skills of negotiating, navigating and, when necessary, fighting to make their way out of that sector.
Once out of danger, the ship hunkered down on a tiny, uninhabited "M" class planet to lick its’ wounds. All personnel not recovering from injuries incurred during Voyager’s most recent folly, were busy working extra shifts to repair systems, mine the planet for whatever minerals they could use and collect foodstuffs. Even so, Chakotay was able to compile a shore leave schedule to allow everyone some time on the beautiful, sunny planet. Except the captain. She was busy trying to devise a way to make up for lost time. It was a marvel, even to herself, how they managed to break every known speed record, despite the weekly diversions, battles, breakdowns, missions of mercy and detours that were inevitably thrown in. If she didn’t get a promotion out of this…
* * * * * *
Now that the ship was back on course, at warp 5, to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway was under attack from an internal source – the Doctor. The ship’s human physician was killed in battle almost immediately upon their arrival in the Delta Quadrant. The Intrepid class vessel was equipped with the all the latest Federation gadgets, luckily (?) including a holographic projection of a fully qualified doctor. He’d always been a bit pesky and early on Janeway often found herself shutting the program down when she really couldn’t stand him anymore. However, circumstances necessitated the Doctor program to be run continuously, resulting in him gaining sentience. Janeway’d even ended up granting him the position of Chief Medical Officer - which at this moment she profoundly regretted. The CMO was the only entity (you couldn’t call him a person, really) on board that had the privilege of ordering the captain off duty. God, she hated taking orders from a hologram.
Be that as it may, the captain found herself with three days off, wandering toward the holodeck, in civilian clothes. She could have easily accessed the computer to determine holodeck availability, but honestly didn’t have enough energy to do so. Persons that did not know her intimately would think that a contradiction of Janeway’s personality type, but in reality whenever there was a sudden decline in workload, she experienced ennui. If the lapse was long enough, she was prone to full-blown depression. Her experience in the expanse known as the Void had precipitated one such bout. As days went by in that totally empty area of space, Kathryn felt herself sink lower and lower until she was barely functioning at all. But that was not the first time. Once, before Voyager, she had spiraled so far down as to contemplate ending her life.
She was insightful enough to be aware of the dangers of her psychological weakness and knew that at least some work would be beneficial. But where to draw the line? Reviewing a few papers here and there would inevitably lead to a question begging to be asked, a suggestion needing to be offered and so on, until she was just as inundated as ever. She certainly didn’t want to mention her propensity to the Doctor. His program excelled in areas of diagnosis, pharmacology, surgery, genetics, trauma management - just about any of the physical aspects of medical care. The one glaring omission in his program was the lack of psychology subroutines. The Doctor himself was at times distressed by this and even attempted to remedy the situation by embarking on a self-study course. It was a disaster, probably due to the fact that his acquired knowledge had to be superimposed upon a basic matrix that was patterned after its creator, Dr. Louis Zimmerman – a certified nut. The fact that Zimmerman was the programmer probably also explained the lack of psychological subroutines in the first place - his own experience with the profession being unsuccessful.
After musing over these issues, Kathryn had come to the independent conclusion that the best way to adhere to the Doctor’s orders and prevent her mind from entering its own black hole, was to spend the next three days ‘playing’ as hard as she could. She just had to get started – find something that would engross her interest. The holodecks were always a good place for that sort of diversion. It was easy to immerse yourself in a good holonovel and, nearing the appropriate deck, Janeway found herself anticipating the bit of romance and adventure she was sure to find there.
The trick was to get a couple of hours of holodeck time in succession. Kathryn knew this was the most likely time of day for just that occurrence. It was now 0700. The Alpha shift, the largest, with 105 crewmembers, would be starting their workday. A few early risers scheduled the scarce deck time before the shift, but they’d be gone by now. The Beta shift, 25 in number, would most likely be in bed. That left the smallest, 20-member Gamma shift with the greatest access to holodeck time. In fact, several of the Gamma crew were on that shift by request precisely for that scheduling advantage. Most likely, now at shifts’ end, they would be more interested in grabbing a bite to eat and relaxing for a few moments, than in racing to the holodeck. Of course, being the captain also has its advantages and with a single order she could have commandeered both decks for all three days had she the mind to. She didn’t. Concerns for crew morale and her own sense of fair play would never allow it.
As she exited the turbolift, the captain could see that all her reckoning had been in vain. Both doors’ red lights were on, indicating that both rooms were occupied. She stood there for a full minute, as the turbolift doors closed behind her, unsure of what to do next. She had been so confident that she would secure a suite, it was almost a shock to find them unavailable. Kathryn glanced at the log-in monitors with indifference, just because they were there and she had nothing else to attract her attention while waiting for the turbolift to return. What she saw piqued her interest. Seven of Nine was logged into holodeck 1 and was running, of all programs, Fair Haven. She hated to interfere, but it was just too great a temptation to spend time with her favorite ex-Borg and Michael Sullivan, her favorite holo-character, at the same time. Rather than burst in unannounced (very bad form – you never knew what someone might be up to during a holoprogram), Janeway tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."
"Yes, Captain," came the immediate and crisp reply.
"Seven, I’m outside the holodeck. Do you mind if I join you?"
The response was so long in coming, Janeway was sure she indeed had interrupted something. A thought that was vaguely unsettling for some reason. She was about to tell Seven that she changed her mind - had somewhere else to be – when the holodeck doors swished open, revealing the tall and shapely form of Seven of Nine.
"Captain," she began formally, "I thought you would be on duty at this time."
‘Well, so much for warm receptions,’ thought Janeway. She was getting the distinct feeling she was intruding and was wondering how she could effect a quick escape without making the situation even more awkward than it was. "The Doctor decided I needed some down time. I’m officially on vacation for the next three days. But how about yourself? Playing hooky from the Astrometrics Lab?" stated the captain dryly.
"Playing hooky?" questioned the confused ex-drone. "No, I am running the Fair Haven program. Is knowledge of the game of ‘hooky’ a requirement for enhanced appreciation of this program?"
Janeway couldn’t help herself. The tension of the past two weeks filtered through her body and coalesced in her lungs, finding release in a rather extended fit of undignified giggles. She honestly felt awful expressing amusement at the expense of her young protégé, but to her horror couldn’t seem to stop herself. She knew it was her raw nerves acting and had a sudden insight that the Doctor had been correct. She did need this break.
Seven’s stance stiffened to an even greater extent than was usual. She knew that her words were the source of the captain’s mirth, but could not fathom why. In the past 15 seconds, while Janeway was indisposed, Seven replayed the bit of conversation 27 times over in her memory, but could not discern anything that would be considered unseemly. Therefore, the only possible explanation was that she made an erroneous assumption. Once coming to this conclusion, it was easy to zero in on the word ‘hooky’ as the source of confusion. Satisfied that her analysis of the situation was correct, Seven wished nothing more than to remedy it immediately. She was uncomfortable. "Captain, perhaps you could explain ‘hooky’?"
With the goal of responding to Seven’s question as a focus, Janeway was finally able to get herself under control. She placed her hand on Seven’s shoulder as an emollient. "I’m so sorry Seven. It’s just that sometimes I forget how much you don’t know about the common cultural phrases that most of us have grown up with. You caught me by surprise," began Janeway apologetically, as she wiped a tear from her lash. Then by way of explanation, "Hooky is a term used by children when they skip going to school. They hide out for the day and say they ’played hooky’."
Seven quirked her eye implant at this piece of information. Did Janeway think she would be derelict in her duties in order to spend time on the holodeck? Worse, did she conceive of her as a mere child? Her reply was tart, "No, captain, I am not neglecting my responsibilities in Astrometrics. Ensign Bahaar is monitoring my workstation today. This is my scheduled recreational day."
Janeway knew she was making a mess of things: interrupting the program, inviting herself to join it, laughing at Seven and now implying criticism. The worst part, her intentions had been so good. She just wanted to spend some time with the woman, for God’s sake! Her expression sobered completely as she mumbled yet another apology and backed herself toward the turbolift. She was unprepared for Seven’s next question.
"Captain, would you be available to assist me with my new research project?" She was suddenly almost shy in her demeanor. Janeway was immediately intrigued.
"Um, sure, Seven. Do you want to meet somewhere later or close the program and start now?" the captain said, sure that she was going to end up angering her CMO by spending the day in Astrometric’s, performing complicated equations. She found she was quite willing to take that risk if it meant spending time with Seven, whose company she thoroughly enjoyed. The ex-Borg often approached life from an unorthodox perspective and that kept Janeway a little off balance – a situation that challenged her intellect and appealed to her daring nature.
Seven tilted her head quizzically, then realized that circumstances had reversed themselves and it was now Captain Janeway who misunderstood the situation. Seven prided herself on not laughing, although a ghost of a smile did pass her lips. Instead, she would explain. "This is my research," as she gestured into the holodeck.
"Fair Haven?" queried her captain. Not that she herself hadn’t done considerable research on at least one of the village’s residents. She just couldn’t see the 19th century agrarian scenario being Seven’s cup of tea, so to speak.
"Come in and I will explain." The ex-drone took a step back to make room for Janeway to pass.
Janeway allowed a soft smile to play on her lips as she grazed by Seven and entered the program. Getting into a holodeck was, after all, her initial goal for the morning – and she damned well liked having her goals met. No matter that she was sharing time with Seven and it was not a holonovel. It would suffice. "I’m sorry I wasted your time. How long do you have the deck reserved for?"
"The program has just started. It is reserved until 1300 hours. You need not be concerned about squandering my time. Your diversion has not negatively impacted on my objectives."
"Thirteen hundred! You have six uninterrupted hours of holodeck time! I believe that’s a record for one person," exclaimed Janeway. Most players used their allotments as they received them, including herself. There were ways of increasing time spent on the deck, most often doubling up with partners to run mutually enjoyable programs. Trying to snatch an unreserved hour was always good, since it didn’t count against your allotment (exactly what Janeway had been trying to do this morning). Trading replicator rations for deck time was another popular option, though the rate of exchange varied in direct correlation to Neelix’ daily menu. What amazed Janeway most was that her young friend had been able to schedule 6 hours in succession. She must have reserved this time weeks ago to pull that off. Multiple hours on one’s own were a true luxury.
Seven waited until the captain overcame her surprise at Seven’s scheduling prowess. She honestly didn’t understand what the fuss was about. It was only a months’ allocation. And the captain always insisted on scheduling Velocity using her own time. Seven wondered if the captain was part telepath as she heard her mumble that next week they’d use Seven’s time for Velocity.
Seven decided it was time to get to the point. "Captain, it is fortunate that you are able to join me this morning. I have arrived at the point in my research which requires the participation of living subjects, rather than only holograms," began Seven.
"To tell you the truth, that sounds a little ominous to me. I’m not sure I want to be a lab rat today," the captain’s wry grin belied her words as she scanned the village for signs of anything amiss. All seemed as she had last seen it, heightening her sense of curiosity regarding the nature of Seven’s research. She continued, "I wasn’t aware that you were fond of the Fair Haven program."
"I am not. Annika Hansen requested this scenario," came the cryptic reply.
Now Janeway was thoroughly confused. She had been under the impression that Seven and Annika Hansen were one and the same. "Could you start at the beginning and tell me what this is all about?" probed Janeway.
"I am attempting to do so, but you keep interrupting with extraneous comments," sighed Seven. Sometimes the captain could be exasperating. ‘But,’ she thought, ‘that doesn’t stop you from wanting to be with her.’
"I’m sorry," the captain said in a sultry, deep voice, head tilted slightly forward and eyes peering from beneath their lids. "I promise not to utter another word until you say I can."
Seven glanced at her and felt a flutter in her stomach. She immediately activated her cranial implant to adjust her visceral sensory functions, thereby terminating the annoying sensation. She noted that she had had to make similar adjustments four times this week, all while in the presence of Captain Janeway. It was troubling.
Without fear of further interruption, Seven launched into her explanation. "Voyager is now less than 30 thousand light years away from Earth. This vessel has traversed over forty thousand light years in 6 years time. I have made the assumption that Voyager will continue to apprise itself of every opportunity to maintain its current pace. Therefore, we may extrapolate that Voyager will return to Earth in approximately 4.5 years.
"Furthermore, I am also aware that the Federation has sent deep space ships to rendezvous with us during the last segment of our journey. In effect, we will be rejoined with Starfleet in a mere 2 years. Finally, my slipstream project is nearing the testing phase. I am confident of the accuracy of my most recent calculations and believe the implementation of this system will reduce our remaining time alone in the Delta Quadrant by an additional year." Seven paused and quirked her eyebrow at Janeway, as if she should be able to deduce the rest of the experiment from this rather tedious and oblique explanation.
The captain, true to her word, did not make a peep, but shrugged her shoulder to indicate that Seven should continue.
"It is my belief that the crew of Voyager has adapted to my presence – a Borg presence – because of your insistence that they do so as their commanding officer. Had it not been for you, my existence would have been terminated at once." Seven ignored the captain’s wince and resumed her monologue. "Once this vessel is again under control of Starfleet command, I will no longer be assured of your protection."
At this point, Janeway was having trouble containing herself and did in fact open her mouth to speak. Seven held up her hand to remind her of her promise and the captain immediately suppressed her reaction.
"I explored various options to prepare for this eventuality. After an exhaustive study of the history of human sociological interactions, I concluded a basic contradiction inherent in the structure of humankind. Despite the gift which nature has bestowed upon you, the ability to be individuals, to be unique, humans have historically exhibited very low tolerance for personal expression of that very uniqueness. People who are perceived as too different are often ostracized and even persecuted. As possibly the only ex-Borg drone that will exist in the Alpha Quadrant, I will be particularly vulnerable to these attitudes." Seven paused, trying to gauge Janeway’s reaction. Her lips were pursed and her eyes had narrowed, but Seven felt that the captain’s visage was thoughtful rather than angry. ‘Now to drop the bombshell (one of the Doctor’s phrases).’ Seven heaved a deep breath and continued.
"The logical solution to this conundrum is for me to adjust my behavioral patterns to conform as closely as possible to the parameters of a basic human psychological template. At the same time, I treasure my individuality and do not want to compromise my unique personality. Therefore, I decided to extract that part of myself which is human, eliminate the Borg influence, create a holographic simulation of it and study the being that immerged. It is my intention to emulate her, thus narrowing the differences between myself and the rest of humanity, while maintaining my true nature." Seven had obviously finished her explanation, for she assumed her normal stance, feet slightly spread, hands tucked behind her back. In the interest of clarity she nodded to Janeway, "You may speak now."
Released from her pledge, no words were able to find their way to her lips, mostly because the multitude of questions they composed were all jockeying for the privilege to be spoken first. They produced quite a dam in her cerebral cortex. Then, as if on cue, the captain saw what had to be the entity in question emerge from the pub and her heart clutched. In that instant, she saw all that the Borg had stolen from Seven.
The woman approaching her sparkled with enthusiasm and vivacity. Her gait had a slight sway to it, adding a sensuality that was unexpected and breathtaking. Errant wisps of golden hair filtered down over and behind her shoulders, creating the illusion of an ethereal glow as the sun’s rays lit the gossamer strands. But all these qualities were peripheral to her radiant smile, which encompassed all her features and made the recipient grateful for the privilege of having been it’s cause. Her features were identical to Seven’s, but oh, what a difference!
"Captain Janeway! I’ve been looking so forward to meeting you," the young woman held out both hands as she approached. "Seven has told me so much…" She froze in mid-sentence and cocked her head in Janeway’s direction. "You are Captain Janeway, aren’t you?"
"Uh, yes, and, uh, you are?" It was then that Janeway realized how foolish she must have appeared, eyes agog, mouth gaping and words stuttering out of it. ‘Like a first year cadet,’ she thought. ‘Very uncaptain-like.’
Seven, seeing no reason to delay her research, watched with interest. She decided it was time to come to her captain’s rescue. "Captain Janeway, I would like to present Annika Hansen. Annika, this is indeed the captain."
Janeway, grateful for Seven’s intervention, turned her attention to that familiar and comfortable presence next to her. "Well, Seven, you’ve done a remarkable job programming her, I’d have expected no less. But to call her by your birth name? How do you absolutely know if this would have been your personality?" Having realized that, charming as she was, Annika was merely a hologram, Janeway felt no qualm in dismissing her in conversation. Holograms were routinely programmed to ignore that sort of behavior from their corporeal counterparts. In this case she was mistaken.
"I assure you, I am Annika Hansen. Haven’t you told her, Seven?" interrupted Annika, suddenly mildly annoyed. "And by the way Captain, I’ll forgive the fact that you didn’t return my greeting, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak about me as if I wasn’t here."
Janeway’s head whipped around and she riveted her eyes on Annika. "Seven?" her tone begging her officer to explain.
"This may be a hologram, but yes, she is Annika Hansen," began Seven. "The holographic characters you are used to are created using a stock, preprogrammed wire-frame humanoid matrix, onto which specific physical and personality characteristics are superimposed. Even the Doctor’s program was created this way, although Louis Zimmerman made significant modifications to it."
"Seven, I know how holograms are created. I’m fairly fluent in the art myself," Janeway bristled with impatience. Although she knew that Seven was only trying to create a logical flow to her explanation, she felt it to be vaguely condescending. "I suppose what you are getting at is that Annika was created differently." She purposely maintained eye contact with the form before her to acknowledge her existence and avoid further conflict.
"That is correct. I created Annika by extracting samples of my own DNA. By analyzing the components of each strand I was able to determine traits specific to my humanity. The computer derived the holomatrix by synthesizing these traits into coherent patterns. Therefore, her personality is an integrated fusion of the complex behavioral patterns and tendencies that make up Annika Hansen."
"Rather than the patchwork programs we are used to," added Janeway for clarity.
"Exactly." Annika decided to speak up and let this Janeway character know what she was made of – quite literally. So far, despite the build up she had gotten from Seven, she couldn’t say the captain really impressed her very much. She began, "The biggest difference between me and your typical hologram, at least behaviorally, is that I am fundamentally affected by changes in the environment – I’m not talking the weather here – more like people I encounter, physical stresses I’m exposed to – the broad definition. Just like you, I adapt to new conditions very quickly. I learn. I am also highly perceptive and am able to generate a variety of responses to events I anticipate. Daydreaming, I believe.
"Moreover, due to the integrated nature of my consciousness, I can’t have one aspect of my personality deleted or amended, without creating a profound effect on its entirety. Something like removing an electron from a helium atom – you don’t end up with amended helium – you get an entire new atom, hydrogen." She could not have picked a more descriptive analogy. Janeway, a former senior science officer, understood precisely. "I would also be aware of such a change, just as a human would be aware of, say, changes following brain damage." She uttered this last statement almost as a threat. In a fleeting thought, the captain wondered why. Did she expect to be altered?
Annika indicated she wished to continue. Seven, quite proud of her achievement, encouraged her. "I am also physically different. Since my matrix is bound to an entire human DNA strand, I am, shall we say, solid. I contain all of the internal systems of a normal human. If you cut me, I bleed. If I am activated long enough, I get sleepy. I manifest all the physical needs you do."
Janeway raised her brows at this. The captain was beginning to appreciate how very complex the hologram standing in front of her was. She had always sensed a counterfeit aura surrounding anything holographic. Grass was always a little too green, water a bit too clear and people a bit too plastic. Annika was different. It especially showed in her eyes, which had been holding Janeway’s attention for some time now. The crystalline orbs echoed depth and understanding – and radiated a keen intelligence. Janeway broke contact as she realized how penetrating that stare was.
"I understand the Doctor has attained certain of these attributes by expanding his subroutines and using his artificial intelligence to imitate human behavior patterns. Whereas the Doctor has achieved a degree of sentience, I was created fully sentient. Multiply his abilities by a factor of 100 and you have me," concluded Annika, with a flourish of her hand.
Seven added the last piece of the Annika puzzle. "Because my Borg structure can interface with the computer, I was able to download a knowledge base that is appropriate to Annika’s age, inherent interests and learning potential. She now possesses adequate skills to perform as a Starfleet senior science officer."
Janeway briefly considered this last bit of information. In effect, Seven was claiming Annika to have an ambition and intellectual capacity rivaling her own. No wonder Seven and herself sparred constantly – and no wonder they were drawn to each other. Wasn’t there some ancient adage? Yes – "birds of a feather stick together."
Janeway now directed a portion of that considerable intellect toward the issue at hand: Seven’s research project. Because her own scientific facility was so acute, Janeway was immediately able to grasp the depth of Seven’s accomplishment, despite her officer’s simplified explanation of the process. After all, there were nearly 3 billion pieces of information making up the human DNA strand. To have analyzed each of those pieces for dominant/recessive traits, proclivity to trigger in the presence of certain environmental factors, analyzing those factors, and so on and so on – it was simply astounding. Perhaps for a team, working over a period of years, but for a single person (even if that person was part Borg)? All Janeway’s questions coalesced into a single word, "How?"
Perhaps due to many evenings spent together in lengthy philosophical conversation, Seven didn’t require further elaboration. Like an old married couple, they shared a certain prescience of thought. "I am flattered that you would consider me capable of identifying all 3 billion traits. However, it was only necessary to extract those traits specific to Annika Hansen. The 99% of DNA that is common to all humans was present in an existing Starfleet database. Therefore, I only had 30 million pieces of data to analyze."
"Oh, piece of cake!" thought Janeway. Before further thought on the matter could manifest itself, Janeway perceived that Annika was slowly moving toward her, having reinitiated eye contact. She was disconcerted that the hologram again seemed to be staring intently into her. Annika’s face glided to a mere few centimeters from hers. Janeway had to use all her strength of will not to shift backwards in order to protect her personal space. She was much more interested in discovering what the hologram was up to. She felt the humid warmth of Annika’s breath against her own lips, confirming the unusual presence of lungs in a hologram. A huge smile bedecked Annika’s face and she abruptly pulled back and turned to Seven, "You were wrong. Her eyes are definitely gray. Not a trace of blue."
Seven felt heat spreading over her face and knew she was flushed, whether due to being proved wrong or because of the topic, was unknown. Uncharacteristically, she stammered, "S-Sometimes they are blue."
"Oh, so Captain Janeway is a chameleon, too?" grinned Annika.
Janeway herself began to blush, imagining what sort of a conversation would precipitate a discussion of the color of her eyes. Annika looked back and forth between her companions’ rosy cheeks and her smile widened. "Well, now, maybe you both are chameleons." And with that she turned and headed back towards the pub. Over her shoulder, she yelled, "C’mon, we’ve been out here too long. My ale’s getting warm and my lover’s getting cold!" With that she disappeared through the pub door.
"Lover!" echoed Janeway. "My, Seven, how long has this program been active? She’s a pretty fast worker. Who’s the lucky lad - Flannigan?" The captain spoke in a mock brogue and displayed a cock-eyed smile, proving she was not ready for Seven’s next bit of news.
"I was hoping this subject would not be brought to your attention." Seven wished furiously, just this once, that she was able to lie. Unfortunately, she had not yet overcome this Borg weakness of hers to be truthful. "Annika Hansen has initiated a romantic relationship with Michael Sullivan. They have copulated 14 times in the past three holosessions."
Janeway felt a sense of surrealism enveloping her over this mornings’ events and revelations. This new bit stunned her even further. Which, Seven noted, delayed her ensuing rage by 2.03 seconds. "Fourteen times! In three sessions!" the captain sputtered, " I haven’t even…Seven how could you let her! You knew I was involved with Michael! Fourteen times! How could he do this to me! I thought he was in love with me. Fourteen times in three sessions! Is that even possible?" and so on.
Seven allowed the captain to vent in this manner for a couple of minutes before attempting to respond. Then she explained the whole sordid and cliched story: how Michael cried over his beer to Annika that he was lonely (his star-captain lover hadn’t been to visit him in months), how she didn’t understand him (she really had to brush up on her Irish poets) and how they had only made love once (in the bottom of a rowboat and he had suffered splinters). Seven went on to say, that as part of her research, she was restricted to observation only and was sorry she could not interfere in the actions of the holograms. She explained that perhaps Michael was not fully to blame. Their first attempt at copulation was unsuccessful due to Michael’s failure to achieve sufficient penile erection. He blamed this on feelings of guilt associated with betraying his star-captain.
"Oh, and how did they overcome that little obstacle?" smoldered Janeway.
"Annika altered his matrix. He now develops an acceptable erection anytime in response to her touch. It is efficient." Seven was obviously impressed by her counterpart’s solution.
Janeway was not. "She altered his matrix! That does it! I specifically wanted him left as he was. I am the captain on this ship. I will have Michael." Off stomped Captain Kathryn Janeway, vanquisher of Videan, Species 8472, Hirogen and lately, of space pirates, determined to reclaim what was hers. Even if he was only composed of photons and force fields.
* * * * * *
It was dark inside the pub. In the few seconds it took for the captain’s eyes to adjust from the brilliant sunlight she had just left, Annika scrutinized her and came to a quick decision. It didn’t take a transwarp designer to figure out what this was about. What Annika saw, was a determined and furious woman, hands clenched and jaw set. Her eyes blazed – Annika could now see they had indeed changed to blue – and her lithe form was tensed and ready to spring. So this was the Kathryn Janeway Seven had spoken so warmly of. Obviously a woman of passion and action. Annika found the package intensely exciting.
The couple she searched for was in the rear of the pub, seated at a worn oak table. The only other one present was Seven, who quietly stationed herself just inside the door to begin her research for the day in earnest. Michael spotted his beloved by the bar and nearly had a cardiac arrest – or whatever the equivalent would be in a hologram. The pint of ale that was halfway to his lips slipped from his grasp, shattering and sending the bitter amber droplets in all directions. He didn’t know about the conversation that Janeway and Seven had just had. Therefore, he proceeded to make the colossal mistake of trying to act as if nothing was amiss (aside from the spilled brew). He whipped an old, stained bar towel from his waistband and nervously began mopping up the mess, glass shards scratching at the ancient surface. Annika suppressed the urge to grin.
"Well, Katie, my love! It’s been such a long time, I thought ya’d forgotten about me. But I suppose a star-captain has better things to be thinkin’ about than an old bartender," started Michael in his Irish accent, muted by the Oxford education Kathryn had provided him. "So, what will ya be havin’ today, darlin’."
Kathryn’s first thought was ‘your head,’ but she didn’t say that. "You are not going to pull that with me! You are not going to make me feel guilty." She was one of those people who didn’t raise her voice when angry – she lowered it a register and assumed a gravelly quality. She sounded dangerous. Even Annika was suitably impressed. "I’m not the one who’s wrong here. I’ve been totally faithful to you." Even while she uttered the words, deep inside she saw another Kathryn. A miniature of herself, clutching her stomach and laughing hilariously. ‘Really, Kathryn, what does it matter to a hologram if you are faithful or not?’ But right now, her emotions were too strong and the mini-Kathryn was too small. A tsunami of a brain wave roared over the little figure and squashed her.
"Ah, so ya’ve found out about Annie and me. Well I can see there’s no use denyin’ it Katie. I’ve got ta tell ya lass, it’s almost a relief." Michael slumped into his chair, which some of the spilt ale had dripped on. When he rose again, it looked like he peed his pants.
Mini-Kathryn revived herself and crawled over to peer out of Janeway’s left pupil. ‘Don’t you find it annoying that he has to put an ‘ie’ on the end of everyone’s name?’ Janeway blinked and tossed her head, causing mini-Kathryn to keel once more.
The captain didn’t like the sound of his remarks. She had an inkling that Michael had already given her up. The object here was to get him back, she reminded herself. She was the captain and he was hers. It was a simple matter of privilege – why couldn’t they see that? "You said you loved me! How could you betray me like this? Don’t you know how this hurts?"
"Well, Katie, and that brings us to a rather sticky bit, doesn’t it. I mean who am I really? And who has betrayed who here?" Michael’s demeanor suddenly changed. He stood tall and squared his shoulders.
‘This isn’t right,’ thought Kathryn, ‘He’s on the offensive.’ Much of her fire dissipated at this unexpected turn of events. Very carefully, she picked her next words, "You are who you are. You are Michael Sullivan and I love you."
"Ah, but which Michael Sullivan do you love? This one?" he pointed toward his chest, "or the other one?" He gestured into the air.
"What are you talking about?" Kathryn had a very bad feeling about this.
Now it was Annika’s turn to pitch in. "We had a little problem with one of Michael’s subroutines," she began.
"Yes, I heard all about that," Janeway stated dryly.
"Um, well, when I accessed his database to correct the problem (‘gee, did Seven have to tell her everything!’), I noticed he had already been significantly altered. I felt it my duty, as a fellow hologram, to inform Michael." Annika was now sorry that she had. She noted her initial amusement at this absurd situation (even she knew a hologram could never really satisfy a Starfleet captain) was dissolving to be replaced by…compassion?
"I’ll just bet you did." retorted Janeway in a voice that could slice diamond.
"Annie explained all those changes and some, my learning for example, I must say I am obliged to ya for, Katie. Though it does get a bit frustratin’ bein’ just a bartender with all those ideas floatin’ around my head. But I was especially grieved to learn that I had a wife, dear soul, who is now – what is it you call it – deleted. Not even a proper burial for that one," crooned Michael, who did indeed appear to be quite heartbroken at his loss, despite the fact he had no memory of the woman whatsoever. He continued, "So ya see, Katie, ya can’t really blame the young lass here for your troubles. I’m afraid I’ve decided it’s over between us ‘cause I can’t really trust ya now, can I darlin’?"
Janeway was completed deflated by this little speech of Michael’s - mostly because everything he said was absolutely true. It was difficult to argue with truth when it was placed so blatantly in front of you. So she didn’t. Kathryn was nothing if not a realist. She would not bother to waste her efforts on lost causes. Even the battered mini-Kathryn felt sorry enough for her to stay silent. "I hope you have a nice existence Michael. I’m truly sorry for the pain I caused you. At the time I – well, I guess I got carried away with the idea of you. I was desperately lonely." The occupants of the pub now had to strain to hear, since Janeway’s voice had dropped to a broken whisper. "Be good to him, Annika." And with that she turned sharply on her heel and exited the pub, Seven in tow.
"Captain Janeway. Please," pleaded Seven for the captain to stop. She didn’t know what she could say, but knew she wanted to make things right. Seven knew it was her program, her research project, which caused Janeway to be deeply hurt. She should have forestalled it. She felt miserable about it.
Seven caught up with the captain as she was opening the holodeck doors. "Captain, please allow me to explain," desperation lacing the ex-drone’s voice.
Janeway paused on the threshold, refusing to face her protégé. Her words came haltingly, "I don’t think…there is any explanation necessary…I think I know exactly what happened…here this morning. I always sensed you were a little jealous over the time I spent with…and my feelings for…Michael. Now it seems you manipulated…a perfect plan to destroy it all."
"Captain, listen to me," Seven ventured to touch her arm.
Very deliberately, Janeway turned and caught Seven’s eyes, which, she noted idly, were as moist as her own. Very quietly she said, "All right then. Tell me Seven. Can you honestly deny it?"
For the second time that morning, Seven wished she could lie. Instead, she replied the only way she could, "No, I cannot."
* * * * * *