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--#510 Journey
Deep into the Gamma shift, Captain Kathryn Janeway ordered yet another cup of black coffee from the replicator and stood, staring out of the viewport of her ready room, slowly sipping it. It went against her own orders to be replicating coffee while the ship operated under grey mode to save energy, but what was the point of being Captain if you couldn't have a good, goddamned cup of coffee when you needed one? She chalked it up to Captain's privileges and stopped worrying about the minor hypocrisy. She had bigger worries, bigger ethical dilemmas to chew on.
Her senior staff had reported that morning on their findings. The news could not have been more grim. Long-range scans revealed only primitively developed planets in reach within their ten-week timeline, and small deposits of deuterium spread scattered like jacks thrown on a floor by a small child. Voyager would need to travel in a zig-zag pattern from planet to planet to mine such deposits as each planet contained, resulting in the ability to create only enough fuel to power her from one planet to the next. Neither prospect solved their problems; in fact, they created more.
Why couldn't they have found a developed planet on which to settle? They would have had to negotiate with the locals for resources, occupations, living quarters, eventually, to be sure, but that was what Starfleet personnel did bestmaking first contact with aliens from around the galaxy. But no. They would have to make their way almost from scratch, coaxing a living from the ground by the sweat of their brows. No. Oh, no, no, no! She had not signed up for this. She did not fancy herself a pioneer, sodbusting, felling trees, log cabins, wild game on the table, the filth, the smells, the danger when a broken arm could lead to your death--. She shuddered. Once again, the thought that had been plaguing her since the meeting occurred to her. Without electricity, without the energy that they took for granted every moment of every day aboard Voyager, how could they maintain the Doctor's program? Then the more disturbing thought: Seven! Without the ability to regenerate, Seven would die. Unacceptable! In her fear, she had not even noticed the Borgism as it crossed her mind.
Tired of the vicious circle her mind had been spinning in all day, she dropped onto the sofa beneath the viewport, going over again all the implications of forming a colony on a primitive plant. But what was the alternative? Skipping from planet to planet only to mine enough deuterium to get them to the next system? And then, what? And what if they couldn't make it to the next deposit? What then? Grounding the ship out of sheer desperation or sailing off toward the Alpha Quadrant on impulse power for as long as the fuel held out like some convict ship, given enough provisions to be sent on its way to certain death for its inhabitants? And not a very pleasant death at that?
She looked around her ready room, her eyes caressing the sleek curves of the beautiful little ship. The thought of giving up Voyagerher shipwas intolerable. This was her command, and she'd be damned if she'd give up trying to bring her ship and crew home! She was a space-farer, damn it, not some homesteader. Somewhere along the line, she realized, she'd become a nomad. The romance of the journey had seduced her away from science. She had fallen in love with the thrill of command, of launching into the unknown, of encountering new species and forging new alliances. And if she were honest with herself, she would recognize that she was enticed by the danger, as well, by the frisson of fear that chased up her spine whenever she and her good ship and true found themselves in a tight spot.
But this wasn't just a tight spot. And she realized that she could hardly expect her crew to risk almost certain death to continue on their way, rather than take a chance with life on a planet.
"Hell and blast and damn!" she exploded as she shot to her feet and placed her hands on her hips, stalking around the small ready room.
"I'll take that as a 'come in'," smiled her first officer as the door hissed open, admitting him.
"Oh, Chakotay," she sighed, waving him in. "I'm glad you're here."
"Always glad to be of help," he told her. He looked around the ready room, his eyes taking in the empty coffee cups sitting on almost every flat surface available.
"Uneasy lies the head?" he gave his Captain a concerned look.
Kathryn rolled her eyes as she waved her hand and walked over to the replicator, collecting empties for recycling as she went. "What'll you have, Chakotay?" she asked him. "It's on me."
"I'll pass," he told her, eyeing her with concern.
"Coffee. Black," she told the replicator after recycling the empties. After the cup materialized, she picked it up and turned, indicating with her hand that the two of them should sit down on the sofa.
They sat and looked at each other. What could either of them say that would not be inadequate, that would not be horribly trite? It was a classic Starfleet no-win situation, a Kobayashi Maru-type dilemma, but this was no simulation.
Finally Chakotay spoke, as if reading her mind. "Captain Kirk said that he didn't believe in the no-win scenario, that there are always possibilities."
"Yes," smile Janeway, "and look what happened to him!"
What began as chuckles between them soon led to outright laughter, then devolved into roars, replete with aching sides and tears, the releasing of anxiety in a fit of gallows humor.
"Ah, old friend," sighed Kathryn as she sank back into the sofa. "It's funny that you should mention Kirk. I've been thinking lately of Ahab."
"Ahab?" asked Chakotay, his brow crinkling his tattoo.
"Melville. Moby-Dick. It's required reading as soon as you become Captain," she explained to him, "and has been ever since Kirk's battle with Khan Singh over the Genesis Project. Starfleet Command uses it as a cautionary tale against a Captain's personal obsessions driving himor herto the point of the destruction of her ship and crew."
"And you think that's what you're doing? Leading us to our destruction?" he asked her gently.
She turned to him sharply. "Aren't I? Haven't I been letting my own desire to get us home blind me to the dangers of continuing our journey? To the possibilities of giving it up and settling down and letting this crew have some rest, some peace?" She got up and paced around the small space. "Khan's relentless desire to avenge his wife's death by killing Kirk resulted in his and his fellow Augments' deaths. He had what he wanted," she pointed out to him, holding the flat of her hand out to him. "He had the Genesis device. He had a shipthe Reliant--but he couldn't let go of his hatred, his personal vendetta." She turned away from Chakotay and gazed out the viewport. "It cost him everything, everyone he loved . . . ."
"Kathryn, we've all had the same desire. We all want to go home. We've had our chances to stay in the Delta Quadrant. Remember the 37s?"
Janeway paused in her pacing and looked over at him in gratitude. Some members of the human colony they'd stumbled upon early in their sojourn had offered the entire crew the opportunity to settle on their planet. It had been tempting. But that was long ago, back when they still had the energy and excitement. The newness of their situation, the integration of the Maquis into the crew, the strangeness of the Delta Quadrant, all of it had tempered somewhat their consternation at finding themselves 75,000 light years from home. They were Starfleet. They were explorers. They were doing what they dreamed of doing since they were children. No one had taken the humans up on their offer, even though Captain Janeway had given her crew the choice. She smiled at the gratification she'd felt to find no onenot one crewmemberwaiting in the cargo bay to jump ship and remain planetside.
But things had changed. The stakes were higher, and they were weary. The constant stress of living aboard a small ship and facing unknown dangers every day had worn them down. Now, there was no telling how many, or who, would opt for abandoning their journey for a chance at a stable life on solid ground. If it were up to her, there would be no choice. They would continue on their way. But could she make that decision for all of them? Didn't Captain Spock once say that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few? Or the one? Would her crew see Seven and the Doctor as dispensable? As the price they had to pay for their own survival? And if they did? How could she simply consign Seven to her slow but inevitable death? She sighed in frustration as her mental turmoil brought her full circle once again, back to the conundrum that had kept her up this night.
"Are you willing to lose the Doctor?" she asked him, laying out for him the terrible consequences of one of their choices. "Can you calmly accept the loss of Seven of Nine?"
Chakotay spread his hands before him. "We don't know that for certain, Kathryn. We might be able to find a way to keep them both."
"Back to Kirk's 'possibilities'?" she gave him a weak smile. "I would have to be absolutely certain that we could do this without losing either Seven or the Doctor." She beseeched him with her eyes.
"Let's give the crew a chance, Kathryn. When have they ever let you down?" Chakotay asked with a smirk.
Janeway gave him a wry look. "It's too late in the day to even begin to answer that question," she said.
He chuckled as he headed toward the ready room door. "Good night, Captain," he said.
"Good night, Commander," she said. She watched the door close behind him and stared at it for a long moment, suppressing the desire to call him back. She'd been comforted by his presence and didn't want to be alone again just yet.
Finally she shook her head slightly and walked over to the replicator.
"Scotch," she told it, "neat."
Seven of Nine finished speaking and looked at the Borg Queen for her reaction. She appeared to be thinking, considering the tale the ex-drone had told her. After a moment she gazed at her former adjunct with something like wistfulness.
"Your Captain did not want to lose you."
"No," agreed Seven, casting her eyes downward as the familiar wave of sadness washed over her again. Her eyes came back up. "She did not."
"Yet her motives were selfish. She wanted to keep you alive, but she also wanted to continue on her journey. She did not want to be a failure by not getting her ship back to the Alpha Quadrant," the Borg Queen charged.
"I do not believe that her desire to reunite her crew with their families and friends is selfish," retorted Seven. "She felt a great responsibility as it was her decision that led to Voyager's predicament in the first place."
"So she wanted to rectify an errorher error in judgment."
Seven dipped her head in acknowledgment. "Some would perceive her decision as being in error. She did not."
"Her perception, then, is what matters in her characterization of her behavior? Your Captain is an ideologue."
"She is not. She behaved in accordance with Starfleet dictates and directives. She saved the Ocampans from destruction."
"But at the cost of putting her own crew into a perilous situation."
"It was either that or stand by and let the Ocampans die. That she could not do. She took a calculated risk. She determined that saving the Ocampans was her first priority when it became clear that she was in a position to do so, and that she could then consider ways of getting her crew back to the Alpha Quadrant." If the Borg Queen listened carefully, she would hear the ever-so-slight tone of impatience creep into Seven of Nine's voice. And she always listened carefully.
"An inefficient way of proceeding. She sacrificed her own people for the Ocampans and gained nothing by her action."
"She did not believe her sacrifice a vain or empty one."
"Once again, we are back to your Captain's ideology and megalomania. If she thought that her decision was right, it was, by definition, right."
Seven's patience gave out. "How different is this from your own methods? And how much energy do the Borg expend in contemplating the correctness of their own actions? Captain Janeway never takes an action such as this without first agonizing over it."
The Borg Queen smiled her cold smile at getting a rise out of her former drone. "The Federation believes that it is morally superior to the Borg, that its privileging of the sacrosanct individual is preferable to the Borg practice of assimilation of the individual for the good of the collective! The only difference that I see is that she is one, while I am the one who is many. I simply do not waste precious energy in pointless dithering over my decisions."
Seven of Nine bowed her head in defeat. She realized too late the futility of arguing with the Borg Queen. It was pointless to try to show her the differences between the humans and the Borg, between the Borg Queen, herself, and the Captain, when the Queen was so determined to ignore them. Then again, in her ruthless honesty, Seven could not help but admit, if only to herself, the kernel of truth in the Queen's argument.
Seven's reverie was interrupted by the smooth, low rumble of laughter emanating from the Borg Queen. She looked up at her and waited.
"Do not despair, little one," she told her. "I will return after you regenerate. I wish to hear another of your stories."
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