DISCLAIMER: Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I began to think of this story as a response to Rachel’s Challenge #46, wherein Voyager is so badly damaged that the crew must choose between continuing on toward the Alpha Quadrant with a badly damaged ship or to find an inhabited planet to settle on. Then I saw her two challenges, the “1001 Nights Challenge” and the “Epic Proportions Challenge,” and decided that I could roll them all into one story, composed of individual definitions but held together by the basic premise of the Challenge #46 and the “1001 Nights Challenge.” I have also long wanted to write a sequel to my story “The Strong Are Saying Nothing,” and this seemed a good place to work that in, as well. I am numbering the stories by the words to be defined and where they appear on the list provided by Rachel. This does not mean that the stories will not be sequential; however, I reserve the right to go back in time and fill in any gaps I find interesting to fill. Sorry if this confuses. Thanks to the Memory Alpha website for background on all things Star Trek.
CHALLENGE: Written as part of the 1001 Nights Challenge - choice.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Scheherazade Stories--#111-Choice
By Jillo


"So, that's it," stated B'Elanna Torres as she finished her report and looked around the table. "The Bussard collectors on both nacelles are shot. They're too badly damaged to be repaired. Those bastards really knew where to hit us," she grumbled.

There was a moment of silence as the department heads absorbed the news. Without the Bussard collectors, Voyager would have a difficult time collecting enough deuterium to fuel the warp core. And without the warp core, there was no warp speed. And they all knew what that meant. Limping home on the strength of the impulse engines would lengthen their already extended stay in the Delta Quadrant by as much as another 30 years. It meant, in effect, that many of them would never see the Alpha Quadrant again.

All eyes turned to Captain Janeway for guidance. She appeared to be about to speak a few times, but each time closed her lips and frowned deeply. Finally she broke the lengthening silence.

"You're absolutely certain, B'Elanna, that they're beyond repair?" It wasn't that she doubted her Chief Engineer's assessment. It was rather that Torres's pronouncement had a ring of finality to it that nobody wanted to hear.

Before the Chief could respond, Ensign Harry Kim, an eternal optimist, piped up. "But surely we can replicate the parts we need. We've done it countless times before." He looked around the table for confirmation. He felt his hope begin to rise again as heads nodded at his observation.

"Yeah. What about it, Seven? Can't you work a little of that old Borg voodoo that you do so well?" smiled Ensign Tom Paris at the Chief of Astrometrics. Seven of Nine had a few years ago improved the collectors' efficiency by 23 percent. She rewarded him with her raised Borg-enhanced eyebrow and glanced over at Lieutenant Torres before responding. Torres smirked at her and then answered the questions posed by Harry, a dear friend, and Paris, her longtime lover. "Replicating heavy machinery takes enormous energy. You both know that."

"Indeed," continued Seven of Nine. "Life support systems would become severely compromised were we to attempt such replications." She glanced at Torres again, who nodded at her assessment.

"So, we find another source of deuterium!" cried Kim. "We've done that before, too."

"Yes, we have," stated Janeway. "And that remains one possible course of action. In the meantime, I want to go to grey mode and proceed at three-quarters impulse power for the duration of this crisis. We'll use the warp drive only for an emergency. I'm sorry, Doctor," she told the EMH. Grey mode meant the EMH was offline until he was needed for medical purposes.

"I understand, Captain," he assured her, although it was clear to everyone at the table that he regretted this turn of events. The Doctor, perhaps more than anyone else aboard the ship, hated to miss a party.

"Yes, ma'am," said Torres as she entered the Captain's orders into her padd. Grey mode. Ugh. No holodecks. No personal replicator rations. Neelix's cooking. She sighed mentally.

"You mean like if we run into the Trabe again?" asked Chakotay with a grin, trying to lighten the mood. Voyager had barely escaped their latest encounter with the hostile and power-hungry species. If they encountered them again, they would not be able to respond with much.

Janeway smiled wearily at him. "All right, people." She looked searchingly at every member of the senior staff as her eyes went around the table. "We'll meet again at 0800 hours tomorrow. At that time, I want to hear your ideas for what we do now."

"What do you mean, Captain?" asked Harry.

"I mean exactly what I've said, Mr. Kim," replied the Captain. "What do we do now?"

The normally well-lit halls of the Intrepid-class starship Voyager were dim, the ship on Gamma shift lighting for the duration. Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres walked slowly toward the mess hall, her eyes on the padd she held in her hands. As Chief of Engineering, she felt that it was incumbent upon her to find a solution to their problem, but this time it would take a miracle, and Voyager appeared to have run out of miracles.

She entered the mess hall, the only operative spot on board at which people could gather socially now that the ship was operating on grey mode. She hadn't realized how much she would miss Sandrine's. "Well, looks like the joint is jumpin'," she said as she walked up to the counter. "Raktajino, please, Neelix," she told the little Talaxian. He was in his element. Never had so many crewmembers drifted to the mess hall at such odd times, needing his services.

"I'm sorry, Lieutenant, but no non-essential replications. Captain's orders. I can offer you this leola bark tea, however. It's very nutritious."

B'Elanna sighed. "Fine. Is there any sugar?" Grey mode was going to be a bigger pain than anyone could have imagined.

"Certainly!" he said and handed her the sugar bowl. "But I'd advise against it. Adding sugar masks the bracing, delightfully bitter . . . ." He trailed off as B'Elanna dumped spoonful after spoonful of sugar into her cup. He offered her a weak smile. "Enjoy, Lieutenant."

"Thanks, Neelix," she said as she turned to scan the room for a place to sit. The dim lighting made the mess hall almost appear like a romantic bistro. Almost. She chuckled at the thought. At a small table by the viewport sat Seven of Nine, absorbed in a padd. B'Elanna made her way over to her.

"A big, fat bar of latinum for your thoughts, Seven," said B'Elanna as she sat in the chair opposite the ex-Borg. "Please tell me that you've figured out how to fly the ship on leola roots."

Seven looked up and rewarded the Chief with a small smile. Those who did not know the former drone would not have recognized the pleasure at seeing the Lieutenant that was reflected in her smile. "Indeed, jonwI', that would solve a great many of our problems." They continued to hold each other's gaze for a moment. Their entire history might have been encompassed in the look that passed between them, as well as in Seven's use of the nickname, which was as close to an endearment as she had ever come. In the two years that had passed since their experiences on the Vidiian-occupied planet, their relationship had moved from antagonistic to friendly to downright intimate—on an emotional level. Their work brought them into frequent contact, and they had been together a great deal in the past few days since their encounter with the Trabe that had left them with a badly damaged ship and few options. And while they had never again engaged in physical intimacies, as they had on the planet when they'd feared for their lives, the experience—and their memories of it—had served to create a bond between them that neither had questioned.

"What are you working on there?" asked B'Elanna as she turned her head to try to look at the padd in front of Seven.

"I am trying to improve the efficiency of the impulse engines to conserve deuterium. I think that I can decrease the transfer loss in the power transfer grid by as much as .05 percent."

"Always thinking ahead, aren't you?" smiled the Lieutenant. "Well, every little bit helps." She took a sip of her tea and made a face. Seven smiled her little smile again at the half-Klingon's grimace. "Why do you consume the leola bark tea if you dislike it so?" came the logical question.

"Oh, who knows?" smirked B'Elanna. "Sometimes it's just comforting to sit and sip something warm." She grimaced again at her next swallow. "Then again . . . ," she sighed as she put down her cup. She raised her eyes and met those of the ex-drone again.

"So, what do you think?"

Seven raised her implant-adorned eyebrow. Earlier in their relationship she might have demanded that the Lieutenant clarify her rather open-ended question even if she had realized the nature of the inquiry. But the time for such games between them was past. Now, she spoke directly to her friend's implied concern. "The situation is dire, B'Elanna, as you know, quite well, yourself. We must find more deuterium within the next ten weeks or we will simply run out of gas."

Lieutenant Torres stared at the ex-Borg for a few seconds before bursting into laughter, turning heads from every corner of the mess hall. "You've been hanging around the helmrat too much, Seven," laughed B'Elanna as she wiped away tears.

Seven actually smirked. "I find that I have picked up several idiomatic expressions from a number of the crew over the years."

As if on cue, Ensign Tom Paris walked into the mess hall. "Here comes your 'helmrat' now, B'Elanna," said Seven as she indicated the grinning ensign with a nod of her head.

"Evening, Seven," he smiled at her. "There you are, Lanna." He bent down and kissed his girlfriend. "I've been looking all over for you."

"You could have asked the computer, you know," said B'Elanna, smiling, as Tom sat down between the two women.

"It's more fun walking through the ship. That way I get to talk to everybody." True to his gregarious nature, Paris enjoyed chatting with everyone he encountered. He was often found gallivanting around the ship during his off-time, engaging anyone he could in conversation.

"What's the good word, Seven?" he turned to the ex-Borg. "Got it all figured out, yet?" He pulled the padd she'd been working on toward him and glanced down at it.

"I am Borg, Ensign," stated Seven coldly, "not God."

Paris gaped at Seven for a moment before guffawing.

"Well, I never thought I'd hear you admit it," laughed B'Elanna.

"You really had me going, there, Seven," said Tom.

"And speaking of going," said the Chief, pulling Tom up by his arm, "it's time we turned in. We have an early briefing, you know."

"Indeed. Good night, B'Elanna, Tom," said Seven.

"Aren't you going to regenerate yet?" asked B'Elanna as she and Tom prepared to turn and leave.

"I shall stay here a little longer. I have some more calculations to make." Seven's clear blue eyes held B'Elanna's.

"Right," replied B'Elanna as she looked at her friend for a long moment. "Don't stay at it too long, okay?"

"I will not. Good night."

Seven stared at the mess hall door for a few moments after it had closed once the engineer and the helmsman had passed through it before returning her attention to the padd.

Captain Kathryn Janeway felt an unfamiliar sinking sensation deep within her as she scanned the faces around the conference table. Each member of the senior staff, including the Doctor, who'd been allowed to come back online for the briefing, had had his or her say, and their earnest desire to find a workable solution made her smile a melancholy smile. But beyond a few steps that they could take in addition to the ones already taken to decrease energy use and improve the efficiency of the impulse engines, there was little else the crew could do to rectify their situation. All signs pointed to a choice between two unsatisfactory options.

After a long silence, Janeway finally spoke. "We all knew that this moment, or one like it, could come," she began. "And now it has. I want to see two reports one week from today. Lieutenant Torres, you, Seven, and Ensign Kim will work on a report on the feasibility of continuing at or near our present speed in the hopes of finding a source of deuterium and a way to replace our Bussard collectors. Commander Chakotay, you, Commander Tuvok, the Doctor, Mr. Paris, and Mr. Neelix will work up a feasibility study looking at finding a planet on which we can ground the ship. We have approximately ten weeks—," and here she paused to look at Seven of Nine for confirmation, "with which to find either a source of deuterium or a suitable planet on which to live out the rest of our lives. Dismissed."

"Touching," sneered the Borg Queen at her recaptured ex-drone. "But your Captain's logic, as usual, was flawed. She presented you with a false dilemma. There are always other choices beyond merely two."

Seven of Nine tilted her head as she considered the Borg Queen's assertion. "You are correct," she told her. "Captain Janeway could have ordered me to contact the Borg and we could have been assimilated, thus obviating the necessity of finding either the fuel or a planet."

"Precisely," smiled the Queen.

"But your limited perspective clouds your understanding of the crew's mindset," chided Seven. "To be assimilated by the Borg is considered by the humans and other species aboard Voyager as a fate worse than death. So, you see, your suggestion was not an option at all."

"Perfection not an option? Whose perspective is limited, now, my dear one?"

"Your relentless pursuit of perfection has blinded you to the tragic beauty of the individual with free will when faced with choosing the lesser of two evils," stated Seven of Nine.

"And what is so 'tragically beautiful' about that?"

"When presented with such a choice, the character of the individual often reveals itself in its most elemental form. It is during such crises that the individual displays either great fortitude and strength of character or abject cowardice and weakness. Indeed, one often never knows who will be revealed as the most admirable, or most despicable, of individuals until such a moment."

"You have evidence of such revelations?" asked the Borg Queen.

"I have."


The End

Return to Voyager T/7 Fiction

Return to Main Page