Disclaimer: Paramount stole from MGM. .."It's a twister, it's a twister". Oh well, if they want it so bad, they can have it. I'm just waiting out in the field waiting for it to land.
Holidays, birthdays, are all considered special on Voyager. Being so far from home, we need that sense of togetherness, ritual, familiarity. When Neelix mentioned to Kathryn that Kes' birthday was approaching, she pulled out all stops. She decided a surprise party, with the senior staff, on the holodeck, at Sandrine's would be the best place. I've always rather like parties myself.
We had darkened Sandrine's so there was only the fireplace and candles giving off light, giving the impression that no one was there. We'd even convinced the holo-characters to hide.
She walked in. "Hello?" She looked about. "Is anybody here?" She began back toward the door when we clicked on the lights and made out presence known with a hearty 'surprise'.
She asked why everyone was hiding. Paris told her that it was an old Earth custom. Neelix treated her to some punch. She became more surprised when she realized that the bartender was Doc.
How sweet it is. . . and how fun.
Seven layers of fudge. That's what Neelix made. . .sensory overload. Don't get me wrong. I like chocolate, but the idea that much. . . well, almost turns my stomach. Kathryn was having a blast.
I wonder when her birthday is.
As Tom was giving his gift to Kes, I got myself a glass of punch. As 'Bar Doc' gave me a cup, Neelix came over, not at all pleased.
"Did you see that?" he said.
"See what?" I asked, since I really hadn't been paying attention to what everyone was doing.
"He. . .he. . .he did a lovely wrapping job, don't you think?" I knew full well that wasn't what he was wanting to say. Something was bothering him big time. The chirp of the communications broke off any further discussion.
Kathryn answered Tuvok's hail, as he started to tell us what we had encountered, his voice became distant, echoing, twisted . . . like something was wrong with the communications system. Well, if Kathryn liked surprises, this one was sure to please.
Obviously, something was wrong with the conn system Kathryn decided we'd better cut Kes' party short. We left. Kathryn, Paris and I headed for the bridge. We discussed the problems en route.
"The first thing I want to do when we get to the bridge is establish a remote conn link to engineering. I want to know exactly what's going on."
"Aye, Captain." The turbo lift doors opened, but it sure wasn't the bridge. She didn't step out very far.
"Where are we?"
"Deck four," Paris answered.
"If the conn system is malfunctioning, the computer could be misreading our voice commands," I said.
Kathryn was, to say the least, perturbed. "It may explain why it took us here instead of the bridge," Paris said.
"We better try setting the controls manually," Kathryn said, heading back into the lift. I think all three of us found it highly annoying.
She started in again. ". . .and have somebody take a look at the turbo lift voice receptors, Commander."
"Aye, Captain." And the doors opened again. . .this time in Engineering. Kathryn took a few steps forward. She turned quickly.
"This is engineering. What's going on here?"
"It looks like we're dealing with more then just a conn system malfunction," I said, annoyed myself.
"Computer. Bridge!" Kathryn said. Or should I say, more like snapped.
We exited the turbo lift again, and found B'Elanna, Harry, Neelix and Kes outside Holodeck 2. Paris gave the understatement of the year.
"I don't suppose anyone here knows the way to the bridge?"
We all probably looked pretty stupid just about then.
Kathryn decided to have an impromptu staff meeting in Sandrine's. We threw around that the distortion ring was pushing everything toward the center of the ship, that it was just rearranging everything, that we were hallucinating. Point was, we weren't getting anywhere quickly.
B'Elanna suggested site to site transport. Paris would work with her. Kathryn and Harry would try through Jeffrey tube, I was going to go by foot, make a trail, maybe find out exactly what was going on.
Neelix volunteered to go with me. Kathryn wanted to be sure. "Is that all right with you, Commander?" I nodded in agreement.
After Neelix and I had fetched a couple of tricorders, we proceeded to begin mapping what was going on. Finally, Neelix broke the silence.
"Commander? I would imagine that you've had some experience with women." Well, I suppose one could say that. Not many, but experience, yes. I chuckled.
"Some." I couldn't help but smile.
"Oh, come now. Hah! Ah. . .a. . .handsome man like you? I bet women find you irresistible." I decided to cut to the point.
"Neelix, what's this about?" I stopped and faced him.
He stammered, this obviously being difficult. "Have you. . .have you . . .ah. . . ever been jealous?"
I scratched my ear. So this was what was bothering him. "Of course."
"I imagine most people who've been in love have been jealous at one time or another."
"I see. It's a perfectly normal response." He hesitated a moment. "Why. . .why is it so unpleasant?"
"Jealousy is about the fear of losing someone we love. There's no pain greater then that." We began walking again. "Neelix, are you afraid you're going to lose Kes to someone?"
"No, I mean. . .I don't think so. At least I certainly hope not. I just can't seem to stop these awful feelings."
"Nothing makes us more vulnerable then when we love someone. We can be hurt very easily. But I've always believed, that what you get when you love someone is greater then what you risk." I spoke from the heart. We have no control over whom we fall in love with or the circumstances. To quote an old song: Love hurts.
Baxter interrupted us, asking if we knew what was going on. "Not exactly," I told him. I made comment that he should make his way back to the mess hall, take anyone he found with him and stay there. Neelix and I continued on your way, eventually running into Tuvok. My next question would be. . . who the hell has the bridge?
To put it bluntly, he was as lost as the rest of us. When he couldn't raise me or the captain, he left Ayala in command and came looking for us.
I asked him what the status was when he left the bridge. The ring had penetrated the shields and was at the hull. The ship was being reconfigured all right. I turned to get Neelix, but he was gone. . . no where to be seen.
We continued, not running into Neelix or anyone else. Tuvok used logic on me to verify his plan. There is no logic to any of this. I told him it would increase our chances of success if he went his way and I went mine to the bridge. We met back up a few seconds later.
No logic in a maze that's constantly changing.
After a while, we all ended up again at Sandrine's. Paris and B'Elanna had no success with direct beam in. Kathryn had come into direct contact with it and was now unconscious. We'd lost Neelix. What else could possibly go wrong? I was worried about this problem, worried about Neelix. . .worried about Kathryn.
B'Elanna brought up a good question: How can we fix what we can't understand? Harry suggested a map. We fed the data in and came up with what was happening. The only area not affected so far was Deck six, where we were. But it wouldn't stay like that for long. Tuvok approximated 68 minutes until we were crushed.
Maybe it was a good thing that Kathryn wasn't conscious to see this.
We went over our options. With Kathryn unconscious, it was up to me, I figured we would give B'Elanna's plan a try. Tuvok interrupted.
"I feel compelled to point out that in my many years under Captain Janeway and tactical officer, she often demonstrated a tendency to follow. . ." I didn't allow him to finish.
"In case you haven't noticed, Captain Janeway isn't in any condition to make decisions. I'm in command. Is that understood?" I snapped.
"Yes, sir," he replied.
"Good. B'Elanna, you and Harry get down to engineering. Evacuate whoever's on duty, then initiate the warp pulse. Move it." I glared at Tuvok, he glared at me.
Maybe that conversation I had with Neelix was prophetic. I was jealous. Yes, I was Kathryn's first officer, but Tuvok was her friend. If it hadn't been for the fact that we needed to merge our crews, Tuvok would most likely had been her first officer. I envied the fact that she confided in him more then me, that she'd listen to his recommendations before hearing mine. I needed to become more then her executive officer, I needed to be her friend.
It began to shake in there. "They're heating up the warp core. They must be close to initiating the shock burst. Everybody take cover!" Actually, those small round tables do not offer much cover, but it worked.
Kes and the doctor hovered near Kathryn, who still hadn't regained consciousness. Without medical instruments, it was difficult to tell what was exactly wrong with her. I noticed some of her hair had fallen from that elaborate hair style of hers. I crouched down beside her.
"Can I talk to her?" I asked the doctor.
"I can't guarantee she'll hear you, or be able to understand you if she does."
Putting one hand near her head, the other on her arm, I leaned in as close as I dared.
"Captain?" I whispered.
She opened her eyes, which was good, but they focused, yet unfocussed on something that maybe only she could see. However, there was something very wrong with her. She spoke, but not in English, in some sort of alien tongue.
And that scared me.
"What's wrong with her?" I asked the doctor.
"It's possible the spatial distortions have damaged her speech center." Maybe it was even impairing her neural pathways. B'Elanna and Harry came back. The experiment didn't work, now it was becoming faster.
B'Elanna suggested Tuvok's idea about using the Navigational array. Tuvok told her there was no time.
We were out of time, because the rift was knocking on Sandrine's door and not asking permission before entering.
B'Elanna tried to make a holographic force field. That too failed. I told her every thing we had tried failed. It was twisting the ship, breaching the hull. B'Elanna argued as usual.
3 minutes. . .17 seconds.
And we do nothing.
Nothing but wait.
Tuvok suggested we let it crush us. I told him how illogical it was. While Tuvok was explaining his theory, Kathryn sat up like a woman possessed. Talking in that strange language of hers. Tuvok called her condition delirious.
"Whatever that thing is, B'Elanna, it's bigger and more powerful then we are. Maybe. . .maybe this is one bear we can't wrestle to the ground. Maybe, like Tuvok said, there's nothing we can do but let it happen and hope for the best," I told her. She told me to have it my way. I put a hand on her shoulder to let her know I understood.
I decided to check on Kathryn when Tuvok stopped me.
I turned with a breath of exasperation. "Yes, Mr. Tuvok?"
"I want to thank you for endorsing my recommendation."
"You know, Tuvok, I may never get another chance to say this; sometimes, I find you arrogant and irritating. But you're one hell of an officer."
"Thank you, sir. And since we are speaking candidly, may I say sir, that I've not always been particularly partial to your methods, either."
"I suppose it must have been tough for you to except my being elevated to First Officer over you?"
"I have always respected Captain Janeway's decisions. However, I suppose that particular decision did put me in a position I am unaccustomed to. If that ever caused me to make things more difficult for you, I must apologize."
If the situation had not been so serious, I may have cracked. A Vulcan apologizing? How common is that? How many times has that ever happened? I was moved. That took a tremendous amount of guts to say, especially to me, an outlaw.
While waiting, I decided that standing just wasn't me. So I took a seat and waited. Time to go over my life quickly with a fine tooth comb, pick out the wrongs, rejoice in the rights, take inventory of all that's happened since this voyage began . . . the friends I'd made, the new races we met, the endless wonders of space. Kathryn, how she made me see that there was more to me then some outlaw with no direction. I no longer blamed her, no longer blamed myself.
I felt that peace and it was a comfort to me.
B'Elanna came over. "Hi," she said.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to contact my spirit guide."
"Who knows what's going to happen when that ring hits us? We might be in for another long journey."
"I guess I could use a little spiritual guidance myself right now. Mind if I join you?" she asked.
"I thought you'd never ask," I told her. She sat down at the table with me. I felt her hand in mine and a clasped back the hand of one of my dearest friends.
And the rift hit.
Later, we were there, we weren't dead. A soft moan came from behind the doctor.
"Captain?" Doc asked. She opened her eyes and looked about. Her hair in total disarray. She sat up.
"I'm all right," she said, putting her hand to her head.
"You were delirious," he said.
"It was. . . some sort of message." She was looking at me.
"What was it?" I asked.
"Spatial distortion. . .it was. . ..trying to communicate with us." I looked at her with incredulity.
We went back to the bridge. She ordered full reports. We had a full crew compliment and no injuries. And to boot, 20,000 more gigabytes in our computer courtesy of whatever that was. And our entire database had been copied and downloaded.
Apparently, they wanted to find out about us, too.
Neelix came back, bearing that fudge cake. . . we had a party to finish. Kes asked for a photo of him to put in her new locket, where she could keep an eye on him.
Well, I suppose I'm in for one hell of a fudge hangover.