Kathryn slid deeper into the warmth surrounding her, taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. Finally, she began to feel the combination of hot water, wine, and soft music ease the taughtness of her body. Her mind, however, was another matter.
First, her Chief Engineer calmly informed her that their supply of dilithium had been contaminated. The compositor couldn't recrystalise, crystals were destabilizing, and they needed more dilithium fast. And with dilithium so abundant here in the Delta Quadrant Kathryn thought sarcastically.
As luck would have it they found a planet within two days that, B'Elanna assured her, had a suitable substitute. If only the negotiations had been as easy as finding the dilithium.
It's not that the Hashrians were difficult or demanding. On the contrary, they were eager to trade, and generally affable beings. But, their emotions were quite explosive. One minute they were peacefully working out details, and the next there was total chaos. And, they spent equal time rejoicing over some inconsequential tidbit as they did arguing over a perceived insult.
"I'd rather face the Borg Queen." Kathryn mumbled to her glass of wine. "Then I could walk away with a sense of accomplishment instead of a headache."
She couldn't blame her pain solely on the negotiations, though. No, the fight between a bar full of Hashrians and half of Voyagers crew on the last day of talks was just as much to blame.
Fortunately, it hadn't ruined the trade talks, only delayed them. Kathryn had never been more ready to get back to the stars than she was after dealing with all the hoopla. In fact, she politely, but firmly declined the 'going away' festivities the Hashrians had planned.
Still, it had taken them a full day to sort that debacle out. She, along with Tuvok, shifted from trade negotiations with the Hashrian Governors, to negotiating with Hashrian Enforcers over the charges against her crew.
Ultimately, everyone involved, both Voyager and Hashrian, claimed it was an unimportant misunderstanding not worth the time it would take to explain and all charges were dropped.
The Captain and her Chief of Security were not pleased, but since the Enforcers were letting her people go, they chose to hold their council until the ship left orbit. Then they personally questioned each participant thoroughly. To their dismay, the only thing they learned was the fight started over a woman.
Must have been some woman she mused.
Even Neelix, B'Elanna, and Seven had been caught up in the ruckus. Of course, she believed them when they told her they didn't participate, except when necessary to push their way to the exit. That they had no idea what started the fight was another story.
She knew one of them was holding back about that situation. But, Seven wasn't talking to her right now.
Seven. Kathryn sighed. What am I going to do about you?
Over the last few months their relationship had begun to evolve. Ever since she admitted to herself that her feelings for Seven weren't going away, but were, instead, getting stronger, something inside broke free. She had been more playful and flirtatious with Seven, as Seven had been with her.
Kathryn liked how it made her feel, and the things it made her yearn for. So, she decided, in this case, resistance was futile, and bravely took the helm.
She was going to ask Seven out. On a date.
Futile indeed, Katie. If Seven actually made a move on you, you would be nothing more than a puddle on the deck.
But Seven hadn't made a move, and neither had Kathryn. Then, after Hashri, Seven had grown distant. Oh, she was polite when she needed to be, but the easy comraderie they shared was gone.
Kathryn felt the absence keenly, though she was loathe to admit it.
Perhaps she had misread their interactions. Or, maybe Seven hadn't been totally aware of what she was doing, and once she was, it repulsed her. There could be any number of reasons behind the change, but since Seven made herself unavailable, it was all speculation.
"I'll be damned before I go down as Captain of that ship!" Kathryn groused.
Suddenly, Voyager dropped out of warp, and she was very thankful for inertial dampeners. It would be quite undignified for a naked Captain to be hurled across the room.
Kathryn knew she should let the Officers on duty investigate, but why go against nature? Being the Captain that she was, she hailed Engineering while dressing, and unceremoniously shoved the depressing thoughts of her love life aside for later.
B'Elanna was angry. She had been enjoying a nice dinner with Tom when warp engines went offline for no apparent reason. Diagnostics came back normal. Sensor scans showed no ships, planets, or foreign entities of any kind within three sectors. So, what had caused the warp engines to go offline to begin with?
And now the Captain was on her way. The Captain would want answers. Answers that B'Elanna didn't have, which in turn fueled her anger.
"Alright you bunch of petaQs! Run everything again. There's a reason this blasted drive stopped working, and we're going to find it before the Captain arrives!"
The swish of the doors caused B'Elanna to curse loudly in Klingon.
"Problems Chief?" the Captain asked nonchalantly.
"No, no, not a damn problem in sight, Captain. THAT's the problem!" B'Elanna fired off. "I've run every sensor, scan, and diagnostic I know of, and they all say the same thing. There's not a damn problem!"
Janeway quirked an eyebrow at her Chief Engineer. Hearing there was no immediate threat to her ship allowed the Captain to stand down, and the Scientist to take over.
"Well," Janeway smirked, "Starships don't typically drop out of warp randomly. So, let's take a look, shall we?"
"Yes Captain." B'Elanna's shoulders slumped minutely. She knew what this meant. The Captain was avoiding something, and she was using Engineering to do it. Kahless, now she'll never leave. Why can't she just go to Sandrine's like everybody else? Or better yet, Astrometrics! It's where she'd rather be anyway!
Shit, shit, shit! Pay attention Torres! B'Elanna turned to her console and began typing in commands. "Sorry Captain, this just really gets under my skin. You were saying?"
Janeway moved to a nearby console to run her own diagnostics. They discussed how other departments had been affected, as well as the results of the scans and tests they were running.
After putting the system through the standard paces, plus a few they created, they were still no closer to figuring out what happened.
Astrometrics wasn't much help, either.
Even with Borg enhanced sensors, Seven could not ascertain without a doubt if there had been an outside influence or not. There was evidence of a possible temporal anomaly, but it was only active for 2.4 seconds, and no bigger than a communicator, making the discovery inconclusive.
After several hours of investigating, and a brief staff meeting, it was determined that something must have slipped through the purification of the new dilithium crystals causing a "hiccup" in the warp drive.
With the warp engines passing yet another inspection, Voyager resumed her journey, and the crew returned to their routines.
Deep within the heart of Voyager, a silent command was given, and immediately obeyed. Operation Cupid had been initiated.
Janeway stared at her replicator in bemusement. Cautiously, and with great care to touch only the cup, she retrieved the coffee she'd requested. Taking a sip, she continued to contemplate the other item.
Obviously, someone had been tampering with the replicators again, but who? And, had they honestly meant to send it to the Captain?
Get a grip, Katie! You've faced down Hirogen, Vidiian, and the Borg Queen herself! Besides, it's not like it's a cornered animal about to strike.
Still, she hesitated before picking up the rose.
It was possibly the most beautiful rose she'd ever seen. The petals, a rich velvety red, were just starting to open. Anticipating the lightly sweet scent, she lifted the flower to her face, and inhaled deeply.
Only, it didn't smell exactly like a rose should.
Pulling back, she examined the petals more closely. With more curiousity now, she smelled it again. While she detected the subtle aroma she associated with roses, there was another distinct fragrance that she just couldn't place.
Walking to the viewport, she took small quick sniffs, to try and jog her memory. After a few moments, she'd only succeeded in making herself lightheaded.
It was time to report for her duty shift, anyway.
Replicating a vase, she placed the rose inside and set it on her table. Turning to exit her quarters she wondered what Seven would think of getting roses.
She'd probably say it was an inefficient use of-
"That's it!" she exclaimed. Backtracking quickly, she grabbed the rose once again, and sucked in a deep breath, confirming her suspicions. "I don't know how, but it smells like Seven."
This brought up a whole different set of questions.
Had Seven sent it, intending it for Kathryn? She definitely had the knowledge to reprogram the replicators in such a way. But, why would she do something like this? Where would she even get the idea from?
Kathryn did her best to ignore the little whisper of hope that this was exactly as it seemed. Her voice of reason contributed to her effort with, Borg do not 'woo'.
Janeway then remembered a recent conversation with Neelix asking permission to throw a Valentine's Day party. Seven must have found out about it, researched the ancient holiday, and in true Seven fashion, decided to test out her findings on her friend, the Captain.
That must be it she thought, somewhat convincingly.
Despite the minor twinge of disappointment, Janeway headed to the Bridge with relief that the replicators weren't running amok.
Seven stepped off her dais with typical aplomb. At her console she keyed the days activities into her log with standard efficiency. On the surface, she was her usual calm, cool self. Internally, no matter how many times they were deemed irrelevant, her dreams would not leave her be.
Seven did not like dreams. They were chaotic, inefficient, unprovable scientifically, irrelevant, and...frustrating, she admitted with a sigh.
While dreams were not uncommon for the ex-drone, she was still unaccustomed to the emotional turbulence they sometimes left behind. Normally, her cortical node could process them in the background without her having to engage them. Occasionally, though, the images would carry such a strong resonance that she would be forced to acknowledge them.
Such was the case with her most recent dreams.
They were quick glimpses of scenes, disjointed and incongruous, of dead plants, pieces of a chocolate-like substance, and an abundance of hearts with varying ratios.
And miniature humans, armed with some sort of projectile weapon. They flew about on wings that were dimensionally insufficient to lift them, especially considering their weight was disproportionate to their size.
Seven presumed they would be considered 'chubby'.
But, what stood out the most were the hands. They were in every scene, either giving or taking, yet always touching. Even now, the thought of those hands reaching up to gently cup her cheek caused her skin to tingle and her breathing to hitch.
Perhaps more so because she recognized them as the Captain's hands.
"Kathryn." Seven whispered reverently. If there was anything the former Borg wished for, it was to be enough for both Captain Janeway and Kathryn Janeway. If only she were socially adept enough, Starfleet enough, Officer enough, woman enough...human enough she thought sadly.
For that, Seven would give up everything. Even Omega.
Not too long ago it seemed the Captain was amenable to Seven as a lover. Their interactions had taken on an intimate tone, and they spent more time together, when duty allowed. Seven began to consider the probability of a permanent, romantic union with the Captain.
To her surprise, this pleased her exceedingly. Seven had thought love an unnecessary human trait. However, the feelings that being with the Captain generated made her reconsider the need for love.
Her need for love.
Then Voyager visited Hashri, and she was confronted with the full import of her erroneous assumption. She had misconstrued her relationship with Janeway.
However, after experiencing the pleasure of what she perceived as the Captain's affections, Seven found it unacceptable to settle for less than all of Kathryn Janeway. Yet, she did not want to give up any time they spent together. There was still so much she could learn from the one person she admired.
The one person she could admit that she loved.
But Kathryn did not love her. So, until Seven discerned how to deal with this unrequited love, she felt it best to put distance between them. It was more efficient to deal with this affliction now, while her emotions were still new. She was aware that her withdrawal hurt the Captain on some level, but she would adapt.
They both would.
Seven also knew that the Captain knew she was hiding something about Hashri. What the Captain didn't know, and couldn't know, was the pain Seven felt when she learned that she was, in fact, not enough.
The morning passed uneventfully for Voyager and her crew. Which was good for those wanting to get caught up on low priority tasks, but disconcerting for those that needed a distraction. And, downright bad news for those that became the distraction.
B'Elanna was thrilled with the maintenance her team would be able to catch up on. She was positive that logs that hadn't seen the lights of Engineering in years would be done by the end of the day.
That is, until Chakotay called.
The Captain was restless, on edge. No reports to complete, no aliens to confront, nothing to hold her attention. So, she was on her way to Engineering for a full scale inspection.
"Ghuy'cha'!" was the last thing Chakotay heard before closing the channel.
Meanwhile, Seven focused all her considerable attention on the most recent unsolved puzzle that did not involve her dreams. The unexplainable anamoly. Despite all her concentrated efforts, and much to her annoyance, the mystery refused to be solved.
When her internal chronometer indicated it was time for her mid-day nutritional intake, she promptly locked down Astrometrics and headed for the mess hall.
A new diversion was in order.
The handful of people in the mess hall paid no attention when Seven entered, other than to see who walked in. Which suited the former Borg, since it was a marked improvement from the distrusting and fearful stares she used to receive not so long ago.
"Neelix." She greeted their resident Talaxian on her way to the replicator.
Of everyone on Voyager, Neelix would seem the most likely individual to understand Seven's situation. Both were the only one of their kind on board and considered eccentric in their own ways. If only his personality didn't push her to the limits of her tolerance so effectively.
"Hello Seven! How are you today?" He asked cheerfully.
"I am...functioning." She responded hesitantly, unwilling to reveal any of her troubling thoughts, yet unable to lie, before placing her order.
"Ah...functioning." Aware that he had to tread carefully, he turned to clear a nearby table, and casually asked, "Something I can help you with?"
When Seven didn't answer, but stared at the replicator instead, he moved to her side to see what had her undivided attention. A huge smile broke out on his face, and he started to clap her on the back, until he noticed her expression.
"Uh, yes, well, looks like you got a gift, Seven. How exciting! Who's it from?"
"It is from the replicator." She said disdainfully while keying in commands and algorithms to backtrack and see who had altered the replicator's programming. She frowned at the lack of results.
Barking out a laugh, Neelix elbowed her gently.
"I see your humor is improving. Go ahead, open it and let's see what's inside." He encouraged.
Seven eyed the metal heart shaped container with mild trepidation. She understood the purpose of giving a gift. She did not understand why someone would knowingly give one to her.
She gasped when she picked it up.
"This device is cool to the touch." She observed. The sensors in her Borg hand told her the apparatus was temperature controlled.
Closer scrutiny of the seamless box uncovered a small button near the bottom point of the heart. When Seven pressed it, the top half vanished, exposing the chocolate covered strawberries nestled within.
"Hey, I bet this is a Valentine's present!" He said as he took the box. "And, since there's no note attached, I think that means you have a secret Valentine, Seven. Word must've spread about the upcoming party, and some brave soul chose you!".
For some reason, Neelix's display unnerved Seven, and she quickly reclaimed and resealed her gift.
"Explain." She commanded.
"Well," he began as he motioned for Seven to join him at a table, "Valentine's Day is an old Terran holiday where, once a year, people celebrated their love for one another."
Seven wondered how accurate Neelix's information was. She could recall several prior occasions where she had heard the Captain express her love for her family on Earth, but had failed to mention this Valentine's Day. The Captain typically did not fail.
"I do not understand. Did they not show their affection each day?" She asked.
"Oh, I'm sure they did, but they 'went the extra mile', so to speak, on this holiday." Neelix looked toward the ceiling and stroked his whiskers in thought.
"If I remember correctly, the mythos told of a human male named Valentine who made a great sacrifice out of love. It was such an inspiration, they decided to officially honor that day at the same time every year. So, it was declared a holiday, and named Valentine's Day."
"Indeed." Seven said. Humans did seem to have an excessive number of inane celebrations. She could hear Tom Paris say "Any excuse for a party!".
But, that still did not explain why someone deemed her to be a Valentine recipient.
"What of my...gift, and this secret Valentine?"
"Right. I think I read somewhere that traditionally lovers would exchange gifts on this day."
Seven quirked an eyebrow at this. Lovers?
"Sometimes," Neelix continued, "a person wanted to express a more, uhm, affectionate interest. But, they didn't want to be too obvious about it. So, they would ask that individual to 'Be my Valentine'. If the answer was yes, then they knew the interest was mutual."
Seven thought it would be more efficient to just ask. Then she remembered how she had not simply asked, and recognized the validity of the question.
"They were 'testing the waters'." She concluded.
"Yes, yes they were." He smiled fondly at her. She really was adapting to her human side quite nicely.
"Now, if someone wanted to let someone else know they were interested, but they weren't ready to reveal themselves, they might give a present anonymously. Thus making them a secret Valentine."
Seven eyed her gift with even more uncertainty now.
"Are you suggesting that someone on Voyager has a romantic interest in me, but they do not yet want to reveal their identity?"
"Looks that way to me. You sound surprised."
"Borg do not have secret Valentines. I am Borg." She tried to answer with her usual arrogance.
But, being the observer he was, Neelix heard the subtle inflection, and his compassion for this young woman grew. Both for what she had been through and still had yet to learn.
"You're only half Borg, Seven." He refuted softly. "You're also beautiful, intelligent, loyal, and trustworthy."
An unfamiliar warmth flowed through her body at his gentle words and she lowered her eyes in a rare bout of modesty. While she was inexperienced with what she was feeling, she knew Neelix believed what he said.
"Thank you Neelix." She murmured.
He smiled in return, and nodded towards the metal box she held in her hands. Strange that she did not recollect picking it up again.
"Apparently, half Borg do have secret Valentines."
A small kernal of hope blossomed within her chest. There were only two people on Voyager who knew of her affinity for strawberries. One was Naomi Wildman. Seven was 99.9% certain this was not constructed by the young Kataran.
And, if the other person were to ask Seven to 'Be her Valentine', she would respond with an emphatic 'Yes'.
Janeway leaned back in her chair with a deep sigh. She was exhausted, but pleasantly so. And, even though they found several places in serious need of cleaning, which her smudged uniform could attest to, she was confident that Voyager's Engineering department was in tip top shape.
Especially considering their situation.
All said and done, her impromptu inspection had been just the thing to occupy her for a while. She felt it had been good for B'Elanna and her team, as well.
It was obvious their Chief Engineer kept a firm grip on the department, and equally so that her people consistently met the demands placed on them. The Captain made sure to praise them for jobs well done.
A faint rumbling from her stomach caught Janeway's attention, and she looked at the chronometer. Damn, late for lunch again.
As she made her way to the replicator, her door chimed that she had a visitor. He's so predictable she thought.
Chakotay stepped into her ready room, then shook his head and chuckled as she ordered a black coffee.
"Another liquid meal, Kathryn?" He teased her.
She rolled her eyes at him and casually reached for her drink.
"Naturally, I-" She stopped mid sentence when her hand encountered something soft and fuzzy instead of warm metal. There, propped next to her coffee as if that's where it belonged, sat a small white bear. Between it's hands was a bright red heart inscripted with the words 'Be My Valentine'.
"What's the matter, Kathryn?" Chakotay asked with concern as he stepped up next to her.
He took in the stuffed animal she held, the heart shaped box still sitting next to her drink, and the expression on her face. If only I had known she would appreciate such gestures he thought remorsefully.
"Nothing, and something." She whispered.
When she once again reached for her cup she noticed the red and gold heart shaped box. And chocolates? She smirked.
"Kathryn?" He knew she hadn't intended for him to hear those barely spoken words. He could let the comment pass, but then he wouldn't know what she meant by them. And, he wanted to know what they meant.
Chakotay's voice pulled her from her thoughts. Gathering all three items, she went to the couch and indicated for him to sit with her. Impulsively, she decided to confide in her First Officer.
"Nothing's really the matter, Chakotay. I'm just missing something I thought I could've had." Briefly, she let herself imagine that these gifts were really from Seven, and how she would show her appreciation for receiving them.
"You see," she finally continued, "I've-" but she paused again. This wasn't easy for her to admit. She closed her eyes, pulled in a deep, cleansing breath, and slowly released it.
Then she looked directly at him.
"I'm in love with someone." She held his shocked gaze for a moment before returning to her presents. Sliding the top off the box of candies, she sought a small comfort in the smell of chocolate.
"I have been for a while now." She glanced at him, but he seemed lost in thought. So, she forged ahead.
"At first, I denied it to myself. Gave all the standard excuses from protocol, to age, to our combined track records. But, when I weighed them against my feelings, and the life we could have, the life I wanted us to have, there was no contest."
This time his gaze met hers encouragingly.
"Finally I stopped resisting, and it was in the stillness that I found the truth. As the Captain in me is willing to take risks for her crew, so the woman in me is willing to risk her heart."
They let the silence hang between them, both pondering the implications of what she had just revealed.
Chakotay was surprised, and yet, he wasn't. What she said caught him off guard, but it was more the fact that she had professed something so personal. Despite the touch of jealousy he felt, he genuinely did wish her true happiness.
But, why, after what should be an uplifting confession, did she still seem sad?
The longer Chakotay remained quiet, the more nervous Kathryn became. She certainly didn't need his approval, but she would like to have his support. However, she knew it wouldn't be easy for him, if her hunch about his feelings towards her were accurate. So, she tried to be patient and allow him to sort through the effects of the photon torpedo she'd just dropped in his lap.
He must've picked up on her growing unease, because he suddenly grasped her hand between his and smiled compassionately at her.
"I'm sorry, Kathryn, I wasn't prepared for that. Of course, as your First Officer, I stand beside your decision. I happen to agree it's a good one. As your friend, I'll pray to the spirits for your blessings." He gave her hand a light pat, then released it, only to have her reach over and squeeze his forearm in appreciation.
"Thank you Chakotay. Your support professionally and personally means a great deal to me."
"Is that who your gifts are from?" He prodded.
For the first time since they began this talk, Kathryn started to relax.
"I don't know who sent these and they're not the first. I was greeted with a lovely rose this morning. But, I doubt they're from whom I desire to have sent them."
Chakotay watched as Kathryn absently rubbed her fingers back and forth across the bear.
"Why do you say that?" He had his suspicions as several things over the last few months started falling into place. It made perfect sense, now that he was aware of it. But, he still felt somewhat stunned by the revelation. If he was right, that is.
With a calmness she didn't feel Janeway set the gifts aside, crossed one leg over the other, and clasped her hands atop her thigh. Come on Katie. Say it. Tell him.
"Because...she's been avoiding me lately." She compromised. Mentally she slapped her forehead. How hard was it to say a name?
Bingo he confirmed. So, their illustrous Captain Janeway managed to lose her heart to their stoic ex-drone. The spirits certainly had their work cut out for them.
"Well, what did you do?" He joked, trying to ease the tension he could sense in her, though she hid it well.
It worked. The Captain laughed as she settled in more. Crookng her arm along the back of the couch, she rested her temple against her knuckles, and popped one of the sweets in her mouth. She offered the box to her First Officer, but he declined.
"Mmmm," she moaned, "these are delicious."
He shifted in mild discomfort at the sound, all the while thinking he definitely should have tried giving her chocolates.
"I honestly don't know what happened. It started out slow and innocent. I didn't want to make her uncomfortable or frighten her any. Plus, I wasn't sure how she felt about any of this. Was she interested in this type of relationship? With a woman? With me? So, I tried to give her time to figure out how, or if, she wanted to respond."
"Did she respond?" Chakotay knew his patience wouldn't have lasted as long as he suspected Kathryn kept things 'innocent'.
"She did, and I was positive she felt the same way. We still kept it discreet, but there was less innocence and more innuendo. I decided it was time to take the next step, and ask her out on a date."
"By the lack of ships gossip I'm guessing you didn't ask, so what happened?"
"I wish I knew." Kathryn waved her hands in frustration, and rose from her seat to pace. With one hand perched on her hip, the other ran across the back of her neck.
"After the fiasco with the dilithium and the Hashrians, she started avoiding me. Suddenly, we were back to Captain and Borg. Our conversations are now strictly work related. Even those are kept to a minimum. And, she cut back on the time we spend together off duty."
Janeway paused to stare out the viewport. She knew she had inadvertently revealed Seven as her love interest. She was too relieved at finally being able to share this secret to care.
"Do you think it has anything to do with the incident on Hashri?" Chakotay was still amazed at that whole situation.
"Oh, I know it does." She answered with conviction. "I just don't know how. Every instinct tells me something happened down on that planet, Chakotay. Something that made Seven feel like she can no longer be around me. And, I don't know what else to do."
Before Chakotay could answer, the lights began flickering on and off repeatedly. Without hesitation they both headed for the bridge. The ship once again taking precedence over Janeway's personal dilemma.
"Come on Harry, it's supposed to be a party! Lighten up." Tom cajoled.
Harry wasn't sure how he could 'lighten up'. Not with a scantilly clad voluptuous brunette pressed against his side asking, in a breathy voice, if there was anything she could do for him.
"It's supposed to be a sweet and romantic Valentine's party, Tom, not some replica of one of Chaotica's gaudy harem rooms."
Tom had to laugh as Harry once again inched away from his 'hostess'. He was having too much fun harassing his friend to let him know this wasn't the real holodeck program for tomorrow night's festivities.
"I don't know, Harry, I think it kinda has a nostalgic feel to it."
Harry looked around the room. Everything was red, white, or pink, and heart shaped. From the doors to the tables to the patterns on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Even the couches in the lavoratories.
Not to mention all the balloons, streamers and something called confetti. He felt like he was in the bowels of some huge creature waiting to be digested.
'Nostalgic' definitely wasn't the first word he thought of to describe the place. Especially with that song playing in the background. Harry liked romantic music as much as the next guy, but hearing someone sing 'let's get it on' over and over was too forward for his taste.
And, he totally didn't understand the flying creatures. Tom called them 'Cherubs', and said they were harmless. Still, Harry ducked every time one of them swooped down to 'shoot him with an arrow of love'.
Sometimes, he really didn't get Tom's sense of humor.
"I still think it's over the top, even for you. And, I don't think the Captain will appreciate it,either."
Their attention was drawn to the holodeck doors. The split down the middle was in the form of a jagged line, which Tom thought was hilarious.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen." Neelix greeted. "Mind if I catch a sneak peek? The mess hall is quite abuzz with excitement. Seems nobody can wait to see what the 'dynamic duo' comes up with this time!"
Before either one could say anything, Neelix let out a yell and collapsed to the floor.
"We're under attack! Quick, call Security!"
"Computer, freeze program." Harry called. Tom was too choked up with laughter. He shot his friend a warning look, even though he couldn't stop his own grin, while he pulled the Chef to his feet.
"Sorry Neelix. They're Cherubs, and are actually part of the program." Harry admitted.
"Oh, I get it! They're those little cupid beings, aren't they?"
Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation while Tom beamed like a proud father. He knew this was somehow going to blow up in their faces.
With Tom showing Neelix the programs he'd created for the food displays, Harry checked a stubborn relay and mulled over the surprise they had in store for the Captain.
The crew understood that Janeway's title burdened her with more culpability and expectations than anyone else on board. And they knew she was totally dedicated to getting them home. But, they didn't like her using them as an excuse to give up everything, always sacrificing her personal life for them.
Since it was obvious she wasn't going to do anything about it, they decided to give a little push. Plus, it afforded them the opportunity to do something special for the leader they greatly admired and respected.
After all, if the rest of us seek companionship, why shouldn't she? Harry justified.
He just hoped their plan didn't anger or offend the Captain. When Tom suggested a twentieth century show called The Dating Game, they were all a bit skeptical. The basic principle seemed harmless enough and it was only one date. Besides, they felt at least two of the contestants held some level of interest to Janeway.
Now, to convince them all to play along.
Harry heard Tom yell "Wait!" a split second before there was a blinding flash of light, and he was thrown to the floor.
Rolling to his knees, Harry squinted through the debris to see Tom and Neelix climb to their feet. The disturbance had set all the decorations in motion and filled the room with floating confetti and bobbing bubbles.
"What happened?" Harry moaned from the force of hitting the deck.
"Nothing much, just routed a little too much power through the conduit. Already have it corrected." Tom responded casually.
"Yeah, well you get to explain it to the Captain." Harry stated.
"Nah, she probably didn't even notice." Tom said, unworried.
"We just had some type of explosion on her ship, and you think she won't notice?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Bridge to Holodeck 1. Report." Janeways crisp tone belayed any response Tom might've had. Harry crossed his arms and looked pointedly at his soon to be brig mate.
"Tom here, Captain."
"Tom? What's going on down there. Are you and Harry alright?" She asked with concern.
"We're all fine, Captain." Tom assured her. "We had a mild power surge, but everything's under control now."
"Very well. See that it stays that way, Lieutenant. Janeway out."
Somewhere within the arteries of Voyager, Operation Cupid fought to maintain its objective. The power surge caused foreign codes to fuse with its central matrix. When the sequences settled, there was a new directive. Operation G.I.O. was in town.
(to be continued)