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 - bitterness.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Scheherazade Stories--#70Bitterness
Ensign Thomas Eugene Paris was slowly getting drunk. He watched the tiny bubbles of the replicated champagne rise in steady streams up the fluted glass before picking it up and drinking off its contents in one, long swallow. He didn't particularly like champagne. He'd replicated it several months ago as a surprise for B'Elanna. He'd been saving it for a special occasion. It had cost him a lot of rations, and he'd wanted to present her with it on an especially romantic evening. It had been a while since they'd had a real date. A Picard 2371, a priceless vintage. "Priceless my ass," he thought as he poured another glass. A lot of rations for a bottle of soda pop. He sat back into the cushions of his couch, staring at the cheerful bubbles and wondering how his life had suddenly turned to shit.
For someone a long way from home in a particularly hostile part of the universe, he reflected, he'd had a pretty good time. What with his Captain Proton holoprograms with Harry, his eternal tinkering with the engines that came his way, his building of the Delta Flyer, not to mention his job as chief pilot, he'd done all right. And then, of course, there were the women. He'd done all right in that department, too. But now, he frowned, he wasn't having any fun. By God, that was right, he realized, sitting up with the thought. In fact, he hadn't been having any fun for some time now. It had all started with this deuterium shortage business. Things had been going just fine before this latest fucking crisis.
He thought back through the past few months. B'Elanna and he were getting along well. She'd resisted his frequent importunities to move in together, but they had a strong relationship. They saw each other frequently. They still made love often, even after all these years. Of course, it wasn't as often as he wished, but still. The thought gave him pause. Just when was the last time? He counted the weeks backward on his hand. Could it be that long ago? She'd put him off since this deuterium thing, but now that he thought about it, she'd been avoiding intimacies with him even before that. There was always some excuse. She was tired. She had to work. She wanted to work out. He realized suddenly that he'd seen more of Harry Kim in the past month or so than he'd seen of his girlfriend!
And now, her stubborn refusal to see reason! Try as he might, he could not fathom her insistence upon staying aboard the ship when anyone could see that the better chance for survival was settling upon a planet. Oh, he missed home and life in the Alpha Quadrant and all, but they had to face the facts: they were never going to see the Alpha Quadrant again. He chuckled grimly. If the truth were known, they never really had a chance to begin with. So now they all had better just get with the program and focus on what was important, staying alive. Why couldn't she see this? And what was with Janeway? She'd made some questionable calls in their 10 years or so together on Voyager, but this took the proverbial leola root stew! Someone had to get through that stubborn red head of hers before it was too late, and time was running out.
He tossed off another glass of champagne and belched blearily. His head was going to kill him tomorrow at the briefing. Hmph. He wouldn't see B'Elanna until then! This was bullshit! She was supposed to be his girlfriend.
Was there someone else? The thought ate at him, and his stomach began to churn. He came to his feet suddenly and paced around his living space. No, there couldn't be. He'd know it. This was a small ship. You couldn't take a crap without three decks knowing about it. Growing more and more agitated, he decided to sort this out with her right now. He was out his door and halfway to the turbolift before he thought better of his plan and slowed his stalk to a shuffle. B'Elanna would let him have what for if he tried to force her into a confrontation now, this late into the night. She was probably sleeping after working so much overtime.
He turned and headed back to his quarters. He'd see her tomorrow and they'd talk. He'd make her see reason. He was sure of it.
As he had feared, Paris's head felt like a trip-hammer was banging away inside it, and his mouth felt like cotton batting. Goddamned champagne. It always affected him like this. He headed toward the mess hall on his way to the briefing. Maybe a cup of that vile leola bark tea would help with his headache. What he wouldn't give for a decent cup of coffee! Better get that idea out of his head. Coffee was just one on a long list of items he'd never experience again, and there was no sense in moping over what he'd lost.
"Oooohh," he moaned softly, rubbing his temples, as he walked down the hallway. In front of him, several paces away, two ensigns were taking up the entire hallway, ambling in no particular hurry to get to their destination, blocking his way. He was about to speed up and go around them, when one of them laughed loudly, causing him to slow down and shut his eyes tightly against the pain.
"You're kidding!" Ensign Jenkins cried to Ensign Lang. "Kissing? In the mess hall?"
"That's right!" replied Lang. "They were really going at it, too, according to Neelix. He came to the mess hall early and saw them as he walked in."
"Seven of Nine? The Ice Princess? And the Chief? But isn't she supposed to be going with--," Jenkins cast a glance behind her and saw Paris. "Good morning, Tom!" She cut her eyes over to Lang.
"Good morning, ladies," Paris replied smoothly. "Big day, today." Both women grew serious.
"Yes, it is," said Jenkins. "I guess we'll find out who we'll be flying with."
Paris's eyebrows shot up. "You'll be staying with the ship, then?"
"Yes," replied Lang as Jenkins nodded. "Voyager's home. I'm not leaving her."
"Me, neither," said Jenkins. "How about you? Are you going to settle?"
Was everyone on this ship nuts? he wondered. "I think the Captain is making a huge mistake," he said sententiously. "We need to stick together, and we need to get off this ship and use it as a resource as we get our colony established. That's the only way we're going to survive."
His pronouncement, made with such authority and finality, left the two women with little to say in response. Finally Jenkins spoke up.
"Well, Ensign Paris, I'm glad that the Captain is giving us all the choice in the matter. I'd hate to see a crew divided against itself. But isn't it better to allow people the option that better suits them?"
Paris had had enough of this conversation. It wasn't doing much to alleviate his hangover.
"Much as I'd like to continue debating this with you ladies," he said in a tone that left little doubt that he could think of nothing he'd like to do less, "I have an important briefing to attend."
He turned on his heel abruptly and headed toward the turbolift and the briefing room, the leola bark tea forgotten. As he waited for the turbolift, he rubbed the sides of his head as his headache seemed to expand to engulf his entire being. So that was it, was it? B'Elanna and Seven, her supposed nemesis? Well, they'd just see about this.
Every time the door to the briefing room swished open, Paris looked up from his seat impatiently. When the door finally admitted B'Elanna and Seven, he stared at Torres with such intensity that she felt his gaze and met his eyes. Upon seeing the accusation in them, she dropped her eyes and took a seat next to Seven and across from him. She refused to look at him again, focusing her gaze upon the Captain, who'd been waiting at the head of the table for her senior staff to assemble.
Kathryn Janeway waited a few moments until everyone was settled and looking at her expectantly. She picked up the padd that had been sitting on the table in front of her.
"I have here the list of those who have chosen to leave us and set up a colony on a planet," she told them. "While I can't say that I'm happy to have so many wishing to leave Voyager, I must allow them their free choice. Now that we know what we're dealing with, it's time to find a likely home for a bit over half of our crew." Slightly more than half of the crew had elected to settle, leaving the remainder, at 74, fully a quarter short of enough people to man the ship. It would be tough going, but what else was new?
"Seven, I want you to locate the nearest likely M-class planet for colonization. That will be our immediate destination."
"Captain," Seven replied coolly in her measured tones, "I have already identified a likely planet for colonization. It lies some 20 million kilometers away from our current position. At our present speed, it will take Voyager exactly 27.35 Terran days to reach it."
Janeway smiled warmly. "Well done, Seven." She let her gaze linger on Seven of Nine's beautiful features for a long moment. She was thankful to her core that she would spend the last of her dayshowever many there may be left to herin Seven's company. Finally she tore her gaze away and looked around the table.
"I'm sending to your duty stations the two lists, those who will leave and those who will stay. I want to meet again in three days' time. At that time, I would like to see plans made for colonization. I want an inventory of all materials aboard the ship. We will distribute these materials in proportion to the numbers of crew who are leaving versus those who are staying. I also want to know how much power we can divert to the replicators for replicating supplies that the colonists will need that we don't have in current stores. Any questions?"
Commander Chakotay spoke up again. "Captain, it's not too late to come with us. Surely you see the benefits of staying together."
Several pairs of pleading eyes looked at her hopefully.
"I've made my decision," she said, her voice lowered with emotion. "And you have made yours. Dismissed."
With that, she rose from the table and disappeared into her ready room.
Paris noted with alarm the look that passed between Torres and Seven as they rose from their chairs and turned for the exit.
"B'Elanna!" he called. "Wait up."
Lieutenant Torres paused and looked behind her at Tom. She turned to Seven and murmured, "I'll talk to you later." Seven nodded once and exited, leaving B'Elanna to deal with Tom.
Captain Janeway sat behind her console, choking down a cup of hot leola bark tea. It was fitting, she thought, that the bitterness in her cup matched the bitterness she felt creeping into her heart as she looked at the padd again.
She knew that she shouldn't feel this way, but it was difficult not to take the defections personally. She picked up the padd and scanned it again, willing herself to know the full measure of bitterness in her cup.
Some she could understand. Samantha and Naomi Wildman. She could see why Ensign Wildman would want to try to find a stable home for herself and her daughter. A space ship was not the optimal place to raise a child. But Seven would be bereft. She shook her head.
Chakotay. She had congratulated herself on her successful integration of the Maquis with her Starfleet crew. The naming of Chatokay to first officer was an especially astute move, if she did say so herself. Now, he was jumping ship. Well, she'd need a new XO. She wondered if Seven could pull double duty as XO and Chief of Astrometrics. They'd all be working several jobs in the coming weeks.
Tuvok. So much for loyalty. If she would have bet money on the one person who'd have stayed with her and the ship, she thought, that person would be Tuvok. At least Ayala was staying. It looked like she had a new Chief of Security.
Tom Paris. But not B'Elanna. Hmmm. She was obviously behind on the personal lives of her crew. She'd talk to B'Elanna later and see if everything was all right, that she wasn't staying with Voyager to avoid Paris.
Neelix. She winced again at his name. He had seemed so delighted to join with the Alpha Quadrant natives, seemingly throwing his lot in with theirs so optimistically, so whole-heartedly. Perhaps he couldn't leave the Delta Quadrant after all.
She sighed and put the padd down. This was getting her nowhere. "Janeway to Seven of Nine," she said into her comm. badge. Might as well get her new team assembled.
"So it's true!" Paris shouted. The briefing room had long ago emptied but for Paris and Torres. This was neither the time nor the place that B'Elanna would have chosen to tell Tom about her deepening relationship with Seven of Nine. Damn this small ship! But Tom would not be put off.
"I'm sorry, Tom," she said, knowing how ridiculously inadequate her apology was.
"You're sorry? We're together over six years and all you've got to say is you're sorry?" Paris's face was suffused with red. "How long has this been going on?" he demanded. A thought crossed his mind. "Wait a minute! Does this have anything to do with that time you and she were on that planet together a few years ago?" He looked at her intently. She couldn't hold his gaze.
"It does!" he exclaimed. "So, you've been doing her for two years?"
"No, Tom!" B'Elanna pleaded. "It's not like that."
"It's not, huh? Then tell me just what it's like." The sarcasm in his tone bespoke his anger and hurt. He waited.
"I didn't mean for it to happen," she began. She turned away from him and walked part way around the conference table, her arms crossed over her chest. She did not want to share with him the details of that night on the planet. But she owed him something. She owed him the truth.
"I love her," she turned and stated baldly, her arms dropping helplessly to her sides. "I love her," she whispered.
Chakotay to Ensign Paris. Tom's comm. badge chirped.
"Paris here," he answered after a few seconds.
Were you planning on joining us on the bridge today? Chakotay's voice held a warning.
"I'll be right there, Commander," he responded. "We're not finished with this," he told B'Elanna before turning abruptly and leaving her alone in the briefing room.
B'Elanna took a deep breath. Scowling deeply, she walked out the door and headed toward the turbolift and her day in Engineering.
The Borg Queen shook her head and chuckled mirthlessly. "You Humans! You turn your ship into a hotbed of unbridled emotions. It's a wonder your crew survived as long as it did in the Delta Quadrant."
Seven's chin came up. "It is our emotions that mark our humanity. We would not be happy without them."
The Queen's eyebrow shot up. "You have strayed too far from your Borg nature and training, little one. I have erred in placing you with them. They have seduced you away from usfrom me." She paused and reconsidered, her head canted to the side. "Or perhaps it was just the one who seduced you away, hmmm? What was it about the half-Klingon, half-Human hybrid that you found so irresistible that you would betray the Collective for these puny, emotion-ridden Humans and their tiny, insignificant ship?"
Seven stared at the Borg Queen as she tried to find an answer that she could comprehend. She gave up.
"I love her," she said simply.
"Clarify," demanded the Borg Queen.
"I cannot," said Seven.
"Define this 'love'."
"It is beyond my ability to define."
"Yet you say that it exists."
The Borg Queen frowned deeply. "Illogical. How can you say something exists when you cannot define its parameters? Its component parts?"
"It is ineffable," explained Seven. "One must experience it to know it."
"Show me," demanded the Queen.
Seven paled. "I cannot."
"I do not love you. I cannot 'show' you love if I do not feel it for you."
"Yet you can engage in 'non-procreative copulation' without loving that individual, can you not?"
Seven blushed and looked down. "I engaged in this behavior with a holo-character so that I would know what to do whenor ifI would ever fall in love. I wanted to know how it would feel if . . . ," she trailed off, realizing the trap into which she had stepped.
"Ah! So you can feel it for someone you do not 'love'!" cried the Borg Queen triumphantly.
"You can feel something, but it is not love," insisted Seven.
"Show me," ordered the Borg Queen again. "Or I will deactivate the Klingon."
Seven wiped away the tears as they coursed down her cheeks. "Very well," she said stonily as she took the first tentative steps toward the Queen.
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