“Seven of Nine to Janeway.” The young woman’s crisp voice interrupted the captain’s morning cup of coffee. “Captain, your presence is required in Astrometrics.”
Janeway sighed. No matter how hard she tried to impress Starfleet protocol on the former drone, she hadn’t been able to break Seven of an unfortunate tendency to give orders to the senior officers. Seven considered her direct speech to be a highly efficient method of communication, and she didn’t often condescend to phrase her statements in the form of polite requests.
Although, to be fair, Seven usually didn’t summon anyone into her imperial domain of Astrometrics unless she’d observed something that merited discussion. Seven took her duties very seriously, and she didn’t care for interruption any more than Janeway did.
Setting down her coffee cup, which was nearly empty in any case, Janeway touched her combadge as she headed toward the turbolift. “Janeway to Seven. I’m on my way.”
This region of space was sparsely populated, and Janeway hadn’t expected to find anything of note. In fact, the past few weeks had been remarkably dull. She’d been spending far too much time in her latest holo-program, in which she played the part of a medieval lady of the manor.
Seven glanced up from a console as Janeway entered Astrometrics. “Captain, I have detected a Borg distress signal emanating from an uninhabited system 2.4 light years from here. The prudent course of action would be to leave the vicinity at once.” Seven’s tone was slightly defensive, as if she already knew the captain wouldn’t accept her recommendation.
Janeway took a quick look at the display. “There’s no evidence of any Borg ships nearby. The Collective may not have received the signal. We should investigate and, if necessary, offer assistance.”
“Not one of the planets in that system has a breathable atmosphere,” Seven observed. “In all probability, if a Borg vessel crash-landed, there are no survivors still living.”
Asphyxiation on an isolated planet was a fate Janeway wouldn’t wish on anyone. “Then it shouldn’t take long to investigate. Set the course and inform the helm.”
The fourth planet in the system was approximately the size of Earth’s moon, with a thin, poisonous atmosphere containing only trace amounts of oxygen. Voyager entered orbit and began to scan for survivors near the wrecked Borg ship, a possibility that Tuvok initially calculated to be most unlikely under the circumstances.
Kim looked up from a sensor display. “I’ve found one life sign, very faint.”
The captain acted immediately. “Janeway to Sickbay. Prepare for emergency treatment of one drone transported from the planet’s surface.”
“Security force field activated,” the Doctor responded.
“Begin transport, Mr. Kim.”
Janeway stood up and began to walk toward the turbolift, turning a brief glance toward Tuvok. “You’ll accompany me to sickbay, Commander Tuvok.”
“Transport complete,” Kim announced.
“Mr. Paris, resume our previous course. Chakotay, you have the bridge,” the captain ordered as she stepped into the turbolift. Tuvok followed, and the doors closed behind them. The turbolift moved smoothly between the decks.
The doors opened again, and Janeway strode briskly into sickbay. Under the faint glow of a force field, a female drone lay unconscious on a bio-bed. Tuvok could see no visible wounds. Perhaps she hadn’t been seriously injured in the crash, after all.
The Doctor turned away from his patient to face Janeway and Tuvok. “The survival capability of the Borg is amazing. Somehow, she managed to completely restructure her metabolism to allow her to breathe the planet’s atmosphere while in a voluntarily induced coma. She could have survived like this for several more days, until the Collective came to rescue her.”
“Just as long as they don’t show up right now,” Janeway said.
Tuvok gazed at the still figure of the drone. She looked small and vulnerable lying there, a girl in armor, certainly not an evil would-be conqueror of the galaxy. He reminded himself that this one drone would be entirely capable of killing or assimilating the entire crew of Voyager if that force field weren’t in place.
“I’ve been gradually restoring normal atmosphere within the force field, to minimize the shock to her system,” the Doctor continued. “She will return to consciousness any moment now.”
Even as he spoke, the drone’s one eyelid fluttered, and the visual circuitry that had replaced the other eye focused on the officers. The drone lifted her head slightly and began to speak in a flat tone with more than a hint of accusation.
“Captain Janeway. You are known to the Collective. You seize Borg drones and assimilate them into your Voyager crew.”
“I wouldn’t put it like that.” The captain’s response was mild. “You were dying on that planet. Voyager answered your distress call. We don’t intend to hold you as a prisoner.”
The drone raised a pale hand to touch the force field, as if to refute Janeway’s statement. “You intend to reconfigure this body to resemble yours. To be altered in such a way is an unpleasant prospect. This drone does not wish to be assimilated into your collective.”
“Quite a familiar sentiment to several trillion recent victims of the Borg, I’m sure.” Janeway’s voice sharpened in frustration. “I’m not going to keep you here against your will. All I ask is that you take some time to become reacquainted with your former self, that you try to remember who you were before the Borg captured you.”
Closing her eye again, as if weary of the conversation, the drone gave the inevitable reply. “Irrelevant.”
“Not to me. Every life has value. Do you remember what you were doing right before you were assimilated by the Collective?”
The drone made no response at all.
“Maybe you were on a ship,” Janeway persisted. “Do you remember being on a ship, before you were assimilated?”
Tuvok watched the scene with quiet curiosity. Although the captain’s methods often seemed highly unorthodox, he had learned from experience that they were more effective than logical assessment would indicate.
Several seconds passed.
“Yes. I was on a ship,” the soft voice responded, with just a trace of returning emotion. “I was traveling with my grandfather. He was old and frail. The Borg considered his body to be of no use to the Collective. Efficiency demanded the termination of such a valueless life.”
She opened her eye again, a large dark pool in which the iris appeared as black as the pupil, and raised herself to a sitting position on the bio-bed.
“Captain Janeway, I no longer wish to serve the Collective.”
Touching a button to lower the force field, Janeway reached to embrace the drone, warm skin against hard metal. “Welcome home.”
Chakotay was walking along a corridor after leaving the turbolift, with his head bent over a padd and most of his attention on next week’s duty roster, when his peripheral vision picked up a stunning alien woman in a vivid orange dress. Her skin was so black that it seemed to shimmer with blue highlights, and her eyes were huge black orbs fringed with bizarrely long lashes. A filmy orange veil draped a bald head on which a few small Borg implants were visible.
She approached him and spoke with the purposeful directness of a drone. “Commander Chakotay, I require assignment of crew quarters.”
No alcove in the cargo bay for this one, Chakotay thought. Somehow, from the look of her clothing, he wasn’t surprised. That dress definitely wasn’t designed with practical efficiency in mind. He looked approvingly at the ample curves it didn’t quite cover, and then, with some embarrassment, glanced up to meet the steady gaze of those incredible eyes.
“Uh, sure.” He brought up vacant crew quarters on the padd and marked one as newly assigned. “Your name?”
No Borg designation, either. The woman answered with about twenty syllables of high, screeching sounds that probably couldn’t be reproduced by the vocal cords of anyone aboard Voyager. Chakotay winced.
“Would you mind if we gave you a nickname?”
“In an ancient language no longer spoken, my name means a small spider,” the alien female informed him. “Does your species have a woman’s name with a similar meaning?”
Chakotay thought back to his school days, to the Greek myths he’d thought such a pointless subject of study. “Arachne.”
She considered that for a moment. “It pleases me.”
As she decorated her new quarters to resemble a distant home she’d lost long ago, Arachne found that her attention kept wandering in a very unexpected way. Thoughts of Commander Chakotay intruded upon her decorating efforts, bringing with them certain distracting physical sensations that she eventually identified as sexual arousal.
The Borg did not experience such inefficient lapses in bodily control, she informed herself severely. Perhaps her body had been damaged by the prolonged exposure to the poisonous air on the planet where she’d been found. The proper course of action would be to return to sickbay and seek assistance from the ship’s doctor in correcting this unacceptable malfunction.
She left her quarters and had almost reached the turbolift before it occurred to her that she wasn’t a drone any longer, that she had the freedom to make her own choices. Which meant she didn’t have to configure her body in compliance with Borg standards of efficiency. She could even allow herself to experience feelings of pleasure, if she so chose. After all, the Collective wasn’t around to reprogram her.
A smile slowly widened across her face. Captain Janeway had given her much more than she’d realized. Arachne found herself thinking of the captain’s warm, soft breasts, the affection shown by her embrace earlier. Had that been simply a gesture of welcome, or did Janeway have a sexual interest in her?
It was a very arousing thought. Arachne let herself feel the pulsation of pleasure through her body, accepted it as a vital part of what she had now become. She intended to find out just what the captain would enjoy.
Janeway had just finished changing into a comfortable blouse and pants and was about to leave her quarters when the door chime sounded. Standing just inside the doorway, she said, “Come.”
An exotic black figure in bright orange swept past Janeway, bringing with her a pleasant, flowery scent. Arachne, she’d been told the woman’s name was. Seemed quite an odd name.
“I understand you’ve been assigned crew quarters,” Janeway began. “Do you find that they meet your needs?”
“They are entirely acceptable. I am finding Voyager to be, in many ways, a diverting environment.” Arachne took a step closer to Janeway, until their bodies were almost touching. “I wish to express my gratitude for your kindness in rescuing me.”
“We’re all glad to have been able to help.”
“I wish to express my gratitude to you personally,” Arachne continued, making her meaning plainer. The huge dark eyes seemed poised to engulf Janeway as the alien woman’s arms went around her back and the full lips, black as Arachne’s skin, pressed against hers.
Janeway pulled her head back. “I’m flattered by your interest, but we do have certain protocols aboard this ship. As the captain, I’m not allowed to take sexual advantage of any person on Voyager. You’re in an emotionally vulnerable condition right now, only days after your rescue. It would be unethical for any member of this crew to exploit your vulnerability.”
Arachne continued to hold Janeway, stroking her back in a gentle motion. “So you never allow yourself to feel pleasure? Only your duties are important? I understand what that is like. We have more in common than I had realized.”
This had to stop. Janeway opened her mouth to order the importunate woman out of her quarters, but somehow the words weren’t there in her brain. Arachne pressed her lips to Janeway’s again, her tongue exploring the captain’s mouth with thorough fascination before it withdrew. Janeway felt as if she were no longer fully inhabiting her body, as if she were just watching herself in a dream.
“Don’t be frightened,” Arachne purred, bending her head to kiss the hollow of Janeway’s throat. “I’ve made some small changes to the configuration of your brain. A few nanoprobes through your pores; it was quite a simple matter. But don’t worry, darling, I’m not planning to attach any cybernetic implants to your body. I find it very attractive as it is.”
Janeway stood mute and motionless, feeling neither pleasure nor fear, as the alien invader caressed her.
“We’ll have to dress you in something more suitable for that beautiful body,” Arachne said. Without having made any conscious decision, Janeway found herself following Arachne to the replicator, where something red and sheer had just appeared. She began to undress, her movements slow and trancelike.
Arachne smiled appreciatively as the last piece of Janeway’s clothing fell to the floor. “But you don’t need to put anything on just yet,” she murmured, her hands lifting and stroking Janeway’s breasts.
A dark tongue flickered over Janeway’s nipples and traced precise circles around her breasts. Janeway still felt as if she were outside herself somehow, looking at a dream-image with no consciousness or meaning.
With a slight frown, Arachne spoke again. “This configuration lacks effectiveness. I’m going to have to adjust your arousal system for increased sensitivity.”
The words fell into the silence of Janeway’s distant thoughts, without reflection.
“You’ll like this much better,” Arachne went on, in a reassuring tone, as her mouth once again fastened on Janeway’s nipple. A hand stroked the captain’s thigh.
Janeway felt an intense bolt of pleasure crackling through her body, leaving her crying out with delight, barely aware that the sounds she heard were her own. She clung to Arachne, whimpering as the alien woman’s fingers slid into the open wetness between her legs and thrust deeply into her. Within seconds, her body convulsed into the most fantastic climax she could ever have imagined.
Chakotay paced his quarters in growing irritation. The delicious smell of pork chops, mashed potatoes and baked apple rings on the candlelit table reminded him of how late Kathryn was for dinner. The food would probably be cold by the time she showed up. Of course, he could just get some more from the replicator, but that definitely spoiled the mood of an intimate dinner. It wasn’t like Kathryn to be so inconsiderate. She could at least have told him she’d be late.
Then he heard the door chime. About damn time, he thought, as he told her to come in. The door opened, and two female figures in bright, sheer clothing entered his quarters.
Although Chakotay had seen Arachne in the corridor earlier, he had to blink several times before his bemused brain identified the other woman as Kathryn. Her face was flushed and sweaty, and she wore a gauzy red blouse that revealed more than it covered. It was matched with the billowing shape of what couldn’t be anything but a pair of harem pants. Harem pants? On Kathryn Janeway?
The next thing he noticed was that Arachne had her arm around Kathryn’s waist and was caressing the captain’s thigh. Kathryn, her eyes half-closed, was positively panting with excitement. And both women were looking at him like they’d enjoy nothing more than to make him a part of whatever games they’d been playing.
A wide grin covered his face. This was certainly worth missing his dinner. He glanced from one woman’s scanty costume to the other and observed, “I seem to be overdressed.”
The alien woman looked him up and down, her gaze lingering on the bulge at his crotch, and declared, “That is a minor flaw, easily corrected.”
And then she and Kathryn began to rip off his clothes. Literally. The black Borg seemed to get off on the sound of tearing fabric. A moment later he was completely naked, with the shreds of his clothing around his feet, and Arachne was on her knees sucking his dick. She was damn good at it, too. Another application of Borg efficiency.
Kathryn whimpered incoherently and rubbed her pelvis against him like a bitch in heat. He could feel her wetness right through the harem pants. Weird as hell, but Chakotay sure wasn’t complaining. He’d been trying to get the captain into his bed for years. Two for one was even better.
Then Arachne pulled her head away and glanced at Kathryn, who immediately walked toward the couch and began to undress, without a word being said. Now divested of her costume, Kathryn lay down on the cushions with her legs spread and just looked at him as if words were irrelevant. Which he was quite willing to agree they were, as he followed her to the couch and got down to business.
Arachne’s hands trailed across his buttocks as he thrust into Kathryn’s wet, yielding softness. He could feel the alien woman’s presence inside his mind, sharing his pleasure, amplifying his sensations. Not that any amplification was needed. Chakotay felt as if he might burst with pleasure. Following Arachne’s unspoken instructions, he reached for the black Borg and rubbed his fingers through the wet stickiness between her legs. Just the way she liked it, he could feel that. He ignored the little warning voice at the back of his consciousness that had started telling him: You know, Chakotay, you’re being assimilated, this really isn’t a good idea.
His spirit guide definitely needed to learn when to shut up.
Kathryn moaned under him, lifting her hips to meet his thrusts, her heart beating faster than he would have thought possible. He could feel her pleasure, too, in the group mind that Arachne had constructed. As all three of them reached an impossibly powerful orgasm simultaneously, Chakotay had one last individual thought.
If this is assimilation, bring it on, baby.
Seven of Nine, having entered the search parameters into the computer, instructed it to begin scanning for evidence of Borg communications. Captain Janeway had shown herself to be extremely trusting when it came to letting former drones stay aboard Voyager. Seven had no intention of behaving so imprudently.
“Multiple interlink frequencies detected aboard Voyager,” the computer responded.
Seven knew there was only one possible explanation for this result. That woman had started to assimilate Voyager’s crew.
“Computer, locate the Borg female called Arachne and transport her to the brig.”
“Unable to comply. Location programs are off line. Transporters are unavailable. Access codes are required to restore normal function.”
“On whose orders?” Seven demanded.
“Captain Kathryn Janeway.”
She had to admit that made sense, assimilating the captain first. Commander Chakotay was probably a drone by now, too. You couldn’t accuse the Borg — any Borg — of not being logical. Speaking of which, she’d better get a phaser and go find Tuvok. At this hour, the Vulcan security chief would be in his quarters, meditating.
Taking a phaser from a weapons locker, Seven adjusted it to the highest stun setting. In her opinion, killing the woman would have been much more efficient, but for some peculiar reason Starfleet frowned on such actions.
The turbolift carried her to the corridor that led into the officers’ quarters. Seven pressed Tuvok’s door buzzer, but there was no response. This was quite strange, she thought. Tuvok had a precise and invariable routine.
Her enhanced hearing picked up a low moan from within Tuvok’s quarters, and at first she thought the security chief had been injured. As the sounds continued, however, Seven identified them as consistent with sexual activity. Vulcan physiology being what it was, this could only mean Arachne had reconfigured Tuvok’s body to enable functions usually dormant. Although why a Borg would want to indulge in such pointless behavior was beyond Seven’s understanding.
In any event, it did not matter. She was on her own. It was up to Seven of Nine to save the crew.
A few minutes later, B’Elanna Torres stood impatiently outside Tom Paris’ quarters, buzzing his door chime with the same lack of response. They had planned to watch one of Tom’s ancient and ridiculous television programs while munching popcorn, but for some reason, Tom was nowhere to be found. Unless there was a major emergency going on, which she doubted, Tom was going to be really sorry he’d stood her up.
She tapped her combadge. “Torres to Paris.”
The computer unexpectedly answered, “Communications are off line.”
Great, now everyone was going to start griping at her about lack of proper maintenance, although Vorik had just run a routine diagnostic on the comm system yesterday. He hadn’t found any problems at all, and Torres couldn’t imagine what could have gone wrong so suddenly. Maybe Seven of Nine had decided to run another of her strange experimental programs without bothering to inform anyone. One of these days I’m going to introduce the Borg twerp to the business end of a Klingon pain stick, Torres thought.
She turned away from the door and saw Harry Kim walking toward her with a peculiar grin on his face and wearing nothing but tropical-print shorts. He definitely looked drunk, although the replicators were programmed to provide synthoholic beverages, which couldn’t intoxicate a normal human. Could be Harry had bought some liquor or drugs the last time they’d done some trading at a space station. All these years in the Delta Quadrant could erode anyone’s Starfleet discipline.
“B’Elanna, beautiful, we’re having a big party in the mess hall,” Kim informed her, with a sweeping gesture in that general direction, “and it just wouldn’t be the same without you. Tom meant to come back here and tell you, but he’s having so much fun, it seems to have slipped his mind.”
Right, Torres thought as she followed Kim along the corridor, we’ll just see what slips where, soon as I get a hold of Tom Absent-minded Paris. He’ll be targ meat for sure.
The incredible noise coming from the mess hall could be heard throughout several of the surrounding decks. Seven of Nine adjusted the volume of her auditory sensors as she approached the doorway. At least the din made it less likely that she’d be noticed, Seven thought. The doors opened to reveal a scene that wouldn’t have seemed out of place at a Roman orgy.
More than half the crew, in a state of partial or total undress, were sprawled about the room on cushions and pillows. Most of them were engaged in an impressive variety of sexual behaviors with one another. Near the doorway, Tuvok and Neelix licked whipped cream and what looked like butterscotch syrup from one another’s naked bodies. Harry Kim, still wearing his shorts, seemed to be having a good time decorating them even further with chocolate sprinkles and maraschino cherries.
Other fruit was much in evidence, too, in a large basket on a table. A cucumber-shaped yellow variety seemed to be preferred for insertion into the not-so-private parts of several of the female participants. There were a few guys bending over to accept this delicious bounty, too. Seven’s first impression was that it looked quite painful indeed, but B’Elanna Torres didn’t seem to be complaining as she screamed at Tom Paris to shove it in even deeper. Paris, meanwhile, was being impaled in his nether orifice by a handsome young crewman and seemed to be enjoying it greatly.
On top of a central table, Arachne and Captain Janeway were using one of the cucumberlike fruits as a double dildo. Chakotay, wearing boxer shorts with a tiger-stripe print, stood beside the table stroking the backs of both women.
Seven of Nine took in this scene in a fraction of a second as she raised her phaser, took aim at the black figure on the table, and squeezed the trigger.
Arachne smiled broadly and spoke in a very cheerful tone indeed. “Well, if it isn’t Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One. Welcome to the party, my dear girl. I hope you’re not too disappointed that you couldn’t interrupt the fun with your pointless attempt at violence. There’s a damping field in effect throughout the ship; all phasers are inoperative. But you didn’t really want to shoot me, did you, Seven? You’d find it much more pleasant to come and join us. I know just how lonely you must have been during all those years as an individual.”
Kim took the useless phaser from Seven’s hand and tossed it into a corner. With his other hand, he stuck half a maraschino cherry to Seven’s cheek, just above the starlike Borg implant.
“I’m really going to enjoy decorating you, sweet thing.” He leered at her. “Maybe you can give me a cherry, too.”
“No, bring her to me,” Arachne commanded. “After she’s been assimilated, then you can have some fun with her.”
Kim took hold of Seven’s right hand, and two burly crewmen came up to her and grabbed her left arm. She could have broken their grip easily, Seven knew; it was plain that Arachne hadn’t given any of the crew Borg strength. The demented ex-drone hadn’t done anything but amuse herself sexually. But Seven allowed herself to be led toward the central table, her eyes fixed steadily on Arachne’s black orbs, on the spider at the middle of the web.
Arachne, still smiling, reached for Seven’s face.
Yanking her hand out of Kim’s grasp as if he weren’t even there, Seven lifted her combadge from her chest and slapped it firmly on Arachne’s shoulder, all in one smooth motion. The unmistakable shimmer of a transporter beam immediately surrounded the black figure, and then she was gone.
The officers and crew, blinking as if they had just woken from a strange dream, looked around the room in bemusement. Janeway stared incredulously down at the yellow fruit, which hadn’t vanished when her Borg partner was transported. She threw it aside in disgust, narrowly missing Chakotay, who ducked reflexively.
“Where is she?”
“In the brig,” Seven declared with a satisfaction that she couldn’t quite subdue.
Janeway slid down from the table, glanced quickly around for anything that resembled her clothing, and finally knotted a purple towel around herself and headed for the door. Chakotay and Seven followed. Although the custody of prisoners was part of Tuvok’s responsibility, the security chief looked far too dazed to do anything productive, as he stood with whipped cream and butterscotch syrup dripping from every part of his body. And no one else was even remotely crazy enough to get near the captain in her current frame of mind.
Seven of Nine, walking at a brisk pace between Janeway and Chakotay, entered the detention area to find Arachne pacing her cell furiously.
“How did you do that? I disabled all transporter functions.”
“You neglected to deactivate the transporters on the Delta Flyer,” Seven informed her. “An unthinkable oversight for a Borg. Evidently you were too busy with your peculiar ideas of amusement to give thought to all logical avenues of attack.”
Arachne ground her teeth.
“There’s an uninhabited M-class planet less than five light years from here,” Seven told the captain. “I recommend we maroon her.”
“A fate worse than death to a Borg.” With a nod, Janeway turned to face the captive. “We’ll give you back your transmitter, just in case you decide that you’d prefer to contact the Collective.”
“You can’t do this to me,” Arachne screeched. “I’m an individual.”
“That’s what we thought when you started assimilating us.”
Chakotay spoke up. “Are you sure we ought to be that severe with her? After all, there’s been no permanent harm done . . .”
Janeway gave her first officer a look that would have frozen the core of a star, and Chakotay shut his mouth. Trying to be helpful, he brushed a few chocolate sprinkles from the captain’s shoulder. Seven of Nine watched in astonishment as Janeway responded to his touch with a shudder and an involuntary whimper of pleasure.
“Seven, you’re in charge of the prisoner for now,” Janeway said a few seconds later, when she’d gotten control of herself again. “The senior officers are all in need of medical attention.”
The captain had a definite talent for understatement, Seven thought.
Neelix spent the whole night scrubbing every centimeter of the mess hall with the grim look of a man performing an exorcism, irritably refusing all offers of help. After he finished the cleanup, Neelix took a sedative and retired to his quarters, leaving the crew to fend for themselves when it came to meals. No one seemed to be particularly hungry, anyway.
Tuvok reported for duty precisely on time, as always, but he didn’t speak a word to anyone all day. Kim and Paris were also quite subdued, with nary a wisecrack to be heard. The bridge would have been completely silent if it hadn’t been for Chakotay, looking very cheerful indeed as he began to whistle a lively tune, apparently unaware of his lack of proper Starfleet decorum. He finally realized he’d better shut up when he caught a glimpse of Janeway’s foot swinging ominously, as if the captain would like nothing better than to give her first officer a good swift kick.
Torres wasn’t scheduled for duty, to the everlasting gratitude of her subordinates. She spent the day on Holodeck One, slaughtering an entire army of holographic Borg in hand-to-hand combat. Although time on the holodecks was rationed, and Torres had gone way over her regular allotment, no one had the balls to inform her of that fact.
At the end of alpha shift, Janeway went back down to her quarters and changed into a plain white cotton dress. She got a bowl of tomato soup and some crackers from the replicator, but the soup just sat there on the table getting cold while she stared morosely at it. Even her favorite music didn’t do much to improve her mood.
It had probably been a mistake to go into her quarters alone, Janeway thought, taking a sip of lukewarm tomato soup. She just kept thinking about what had happened when she’d come in here to change her clothes yesterday. Better do something else to get her mind off it. She asked the computer if the holodecks were in use at the moment.
And of course they were. B’Elanna’s body count had to be in the thousands by now, and she didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Janeway wouldn’t have minded killing a few Borg, too, but there were times when you just had to leave a Klingon alone. Maybe she’d try that program after B’Elanna left the holodeck or passed out from exhaustion, whichever came first.
In the meanwhile, Holodeck Two had just started a tropical island program. That would have been a good place to relax, except for the unfortunate fact that Chakotay was the one running the program. Just her luck. That beach simulation was probably crawling with cyber-strumpets, not to mention a Borg dominatrix in full armor who had turned up in one of his programs last year. She didn’t even want to think about the bizarre content of Chakotay’s sexual fantasies.
The soup was too cold to eat, and she really wasn’t hungry. Janeway decided she’d head down to Engineering and make sure that everything was running smoothly in B’Elanna’s absence.
Just as she approached the door, the chime sounded. Instead of inviting the visitor to come in, Janeway stepped out into the corridor, where she found Chakotay in shorts and sandals. He had beach towels over his shoulder and a picnic basket in his hand.
“A tropical beach can get kind of boring when you’re alone on it,” he explained, smiling at her with a look that held altogether too much familiarity for her liking. “Thought you might like to spend some time in the sun.”
“Don’t get any ideas, mister.”
He just kept on smiling at her with an expression that made it plain they’d already gone far beyond ideas. Which, of course, they had. Although half of her wanted to choke him, she had to admit the other stupid half was pleased that he’d started the program with her in mind, instead of the usual holographic babes.
“All right. But we’re using separate beach towels.”
“I already brought two.” Chakotay held them up.
“And I’m not wearing a bikini, either.”
“What you’re wearing will be fine. I hadn’t planned to swim, anyway, just to sit and listen to the sound of the waves.”
Janeway peered into the picnic basket, which contained chocolate chip cookies, synthoholic juice coolers, and of all things, several of those abominable yellow fruits Arachne had replicated in the mess hall yesterday.
“And all you’re going to do with that fruit is eat it.”
“There wasn’t much else in the mess hall,” Chakotay explained. “Arachne replicated a lot more of this fruit than she used, and it seemed a shame to let it go to waste. It tastes okay.”
Janeway’s personal preference would have been to beam it all into space, reduced to a molecular mist, or maybe to leave it for Arachne to eat when they marooned her. Of course, after years of exhorting everyone aboard Voyager to save whatever they could, Janeway supposed she really couldn’t complain about Neelix saving the stupid fruit. Although Chakotay should have known better.
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “And the Doctor has completely restored all of my physical functions to normal, in case you were wondering.”
“That’s good.” His smile broadened.
“And what’s more, you can just wipe that smirk off your face, right now, mister.”
“Yes ma’am,” Chakotay replied, in a disgustingly submissive tone.
Janeway would have liked to smack him right in the middle of that insolent grin, except that she had a sneaking suspicion he might enjoy it. She ought to just leave him here and go down to Engineering like she’d planned. He could go play with his holographic cuties on that beach of his. They’d probably like Arachne’s fruit just fine.
But Chakotay held out a hand to her, and she found herself taking it, although she couldn’t have explained why.
This wasn’t a promise of anything at all, Janeway told herself.