A Fire of Devotion: Part 3 of 4: Sweeter Than Heaven: Chapters Two & Three

Chapter Two

Although she’d been at several weddings in her life, Captain Janeway had never officiated over one before. She knew the routine fairly well, having heard the standard speech given by Captains before. She’d even heard Tom Paris’s father give the speech once, but now it was her time to do this, and she had to admit she was excited.

There was also a fear that she would somehow mess it up, but it was a small fear, easily pushed aside until the ceremony was over and she could breathe a sigh of relief that nothing went wrong for Samantha Wildman and Seven of Nine.

What she couldn’t help but find bizarre about the situation though was where the ceremony was to be held. She’d assumed it would take place in the mess hall, since that’s where such events were usually held on a starship, even if Voyager’s mess hall was actually a post-launch addition to the ship, converted by Neelix from what had been the Captain’s private dining room. Even getting married on the holodeck wasn’t unusual. But instead, the ceremony was to be held in front of the wall of Borg alcoves in cargo bay 2.

“That is where my journey began,” Seven had said earlier that day when she and Samantha had come to her ready room to tell her their plans. “That’s the room I was in when I first realized I was no longer a drone, when I started to become human.”
When Janeway had suggested the mess hall, Samantha had chimed in with, “Hey, at least it’s not in the turbolift where we first met.”

Another unexpected choice was to have Marla Gilmore as a guest. Janeway knew of course that Gilmore had been the one to help Seven of Nine and Joe Carey escape their confinement, but she had had also been partially responsible for their capture in the first place. Perhaps Seven felt she owed Gilmore, despite that.

Janeway pushed those thoughts aside though once she reached cargo bay 2, making sure her dress uniform was as straight as possible as she stepped inside. Seven and Samantha were already there, both of them wearing their standard uniforms. Naomi was there, of course, talking to her mother. Marla Gilmore wore civilian clothing, as did Neelix who was standing guard over the cake Samantha had asked for as though he expected some armed men to come and try and take it. Harry Kim had his own dress uniform on and was talking to Gilmore and Seven.

“I’m not late am I?” the Captain said, smiling. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to face her.
“Not at all Captain,” Samantha said. “In fact, I think you’re early.”
“Good,” Janeway said. She’d actually known she wasn’t late, but didn’t feel like announcing her presence in any formal fashion. The dress uniform was formal enough for her as far as she was concerned.

Samantha and Seven, wearing their uniforms instead of anything more formal or traditional, shared a look. The later smiled and nodded at the former.

“Since everyone’s here,” Samantha said, “I suppose we could start early. Would that be alright Captain?”
“Of course,” Janeway said. Seven got to work letting everyone know that the ceremony was about to start, and soon everyone was standing at attention, except for Seven and Sam who held each other’s hands, and Janeway who stood in front of both of them.

The music of the couple’s choice, selections from a ballet called Coppelia, began playing while Janeway began the standard captain’s wedding speech.

“Since the days of the first wooden sailing ships,” she said, “all captains have enjoyed the happy privilege of joining together two people in the bonds of matrimony.”
“There is actually considerable disagreement amongst historians about that,” Seven said. Samantha laughed, as everyone else in the room tried not to.
“Honey, let her finish,” she said, trying to stifle her giggling.
“Sorry,” Seven said, looking genuinely apologetic. “That just sort of slipped out.”
Janeway grinned and shook her head.
“It’s probably just nerves, Seven, don’t worry about it. Anyway, as I was saying, it is my honour to unite you, Annika Hansen, and you, Samantha Wildman, together in matrimony.”

The rest of the speech continued on without any further pedantic interruptions. When it came time for the vows, Samantha went with the standards, ones based on western religious traditions on Earth that had over the centuries become increasingly secular and common amongst people from all backgrounds, even amongst non-humans.
Seven, on the other hand, had prepared her own.

“Throughout the past few years, I have often had people comment on my bravery for one reason or another. But they are wrong, because when it came time to pursue the thing that would have the greatest effect on my life after leaving the Borg collective, I stayed silent. I had feelings for you, but out of fear of failure I kept it to myself. Even when others,” Seven glanced at Harry Kim, “could see it and told me to take the chance, I did nothing.

“I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I thought you were too good for me. That you couldn’t possibly love me, because you were human and I was Borg. In the end, you were the brave one. You always were, from the time you first saw me, still just a lost drone, my skin still pale, and still covered in Borg technology. You were among the first to be kind to me. And you were the first to come to me, to make me face my feelings, to get me to tell the truth, and that is a large part of why I love you so much, Sammy. You bring out the best in me.

“I will never take you for granted. You are the one that I want. I don’t know if I’m worthy of you, even still. To me, you still seem better than I deserve when I spent eighteen years of my life causing so much pain, but I’m not going to let that bother me anymore. Because I can see it in your eyes when are together. When you say you love me, I know it’s true. I can hear it in your voice. Due to my own cowardice, I nearly lost that. It is through simple good fortune that I didn’t, and I won’t forget that.

“I love you, Samantha Wildman. I’m grateful you love me. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Thank you for being brave, for both of us. Thank you for choosing me.”
Seven stopped. Janeway knew she was supposed to say something else now, but was distracted by her own tears. She noticed that everyone else in the cargo bay was crying as well. With the ceremony being shown on all shipboard channels she had to wonder if there was a non-Vulcan, non-hologram on Voyager that wasn’t.
“Captain?” Samantha said. “Are you okay?”
“Fine, sorry,” Janeway said. She searched her memory for the rest of what she needed to for the rest of the ceremony, and sped them as quickly as she could without stumbling over the words. She pronounced the couple as officially married under the power invested in her by Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets. Sam and Seven fell into each other’s arms, kissing passionately, while the small group around them applauded. Naomi ran up and threw her arms around both Sam and Seven.
Janeway casually walked up to Harry Kim, and leaned in to talk to him quietly.

“I’m curious,” she said. “How is it you knew those two would end up together before even they did?”
“Because it’s happened before,” Harry said. “And now it’s happening again.”
“The Year of Hell?” Janeway said. Harry nodded. “Hmm. Maybe it is fate after all. Though obviously, Seven seems to think it better that she not see it that way, and I see no reason to discourage that line of thinking. I always thought it was kismet with Mark, and look how that ended up.”

Harry shrugged. “If there were a right answer for love captain, everyone who wanted it would have it. We do the best we can, and if it ends badly, it ends badly.”
“That is oddly less cynical than it sounds, Harry,” Janeway said. “Anyway, I think it’s time to send the happy couple off on their honeymoon to the holodeck.”
“No M-class planets nearby?”
“None that aren’t populated by pre-warp cultures,” Janeway said.

As they walked down the corridor towards their quarters, hand in hand, Seven of Nine and Samantha Wildman would nod politely at any crewmember they came across who congratulated them, but their focus was on each other. When she saw no one nearby, Samantha stopped walking for a moment.
“Annie,” she said, “I just want to thank you again, for what you said during the wedding. That was so beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Seven said. “I meant every word of it.”
“I know you did. I just feel both flattered and confused that you’d see me as the brave one of us. I don’t know if I could’ve faced some of things you have and come out the other side sane. Hell, that whole thing with the Equinox nearly broke me.”

“There’s more to bravery than simply keeping a cool head in a crisis, Sam,” Seven said. “But enough about that. I’ve finally figured where we can go on our honeymoon.”
“Holodeck 1 or Holodeck 2?” Sam said with a wink.
“Ha ha,” Seven said in a deadpan tone of voice. “I mean I believe I have chosen a program you will find satisfactory. I was researching the origins of my surname given at birth out of curiosity some time ago, and traced it an area of Earth called Scandinavia.”
Samantha’s jaw dropped. “Oh that is perfect, we could go skiing! I haven’t been skiing since my academy days.”
“Saunas are also a distinct possibility,” Seven of Nine added with a smile.
“I love you,” Sam said.
“I know,” Seven said.

“And with that, Lieutenant Torres,” the Doctor said, closing his medical tricorder, “you are finally clear for duty.”
“I can’t help but feel like you took as long as you did to clear me to punish me,” B’Elanna said.
“Punish you for what exactly? I mean besides the self-induced near death experience that both the captain and I warned you against of course?”

B’Elanna groaned. “Nobody likes a smart-ass Doc.”
“Well, then why am I dating you?” Tom Paris said, smiling.
B’Elanna just rolled her eyes and shook her head. My boyfriend the comedian, she thought.
“So,” the Doctor continued speaking after putting his medical instruments away. “did either of you happen to catch the broadcast of the ceremony this afternoon?”
“I slept through it, actually,” B’Elanna said.
“I heard it, and frankly I’m not amused,” Tom said.
“What do you mean?” the Doctor said.
“Good question,” B’Elanna added, crossing her arms.
“Seven’s speech,” Tom said. “Sets the bar pretty high for anyone else on this ship who might wanna get married before we get back to the Alpha Quadrant. I don’t know how anybody could top that.”
“It was certainly lovely,” the Doctor said, “but I honestly think you’re overstating things. What made what Seven said to Ensign Wildman so beautiful was its sincerity. As long as no one tries to go out of their way to just one up Seven of Nine, I’m sure anything said at any future Voyager weddings will be just as romantic and poignant.”
Well put, B’Elanna thought.
“Good point,” Tom said aloud.
“I suppose I’ll have to watch the recording of it after my shift,” B’Elanna said. “But for now, it’s back to engineering.”

“I’ll be on the bridge,” Tom said. He put his arm around B’Elanna’s shoulder and the two left sickbay together.

“Was it really that good?” B’Elanna said. “Whatever it was Seven said to Sam at the wedding I mean?”

Tom looked around, as if make extra certain no other crewmembers were within earshot.
“Just between you, me, and the bulkhead? I cried.”
“Damn, sounds like it was good,” B’Elanna said, genuinely surprised at Tom’s admission.

Marla Gilmore stared at herself in the mirror of the quarters she was forced to share with two of the other Equinox survivors. There were enough crew quarters for each of them to have their own of course, but a loss of that kind of privacy had been just one part of the punishment she and the others had been given by the Captain.

She didn’t complain though. Noah and Angelo were almost never here at the same time she was, the former being trained to work in Voyager’s astrometrics lab, the latter having been assigned to security division under Lieutenant Ayala’s supervision.
As for her, she took one last look at her pip-less uniform, clean and pressed, in the mirror before heading to her shift in engineering, working under the Vulcan engineer, Ensign Vorik.
I just hope someday I feel like I deserve to be wearing it again, she thought.

She headed to engineering, and when she got there she was once again struck by how quiet the place was at this time of ‘night.’ That could change at a moment’s notice if a crisis occurred, but as part of the night shift she wouldn’t have to carry much if any of the burden. As the old academy joke went, “night shift just means you watch the monitors for eight hours unless something comes up, then you go wake up Mom & Dad,” meaning the Captain and the First Officer.

She didn’t mind though. The last time she had been in charge of engineering, she’d followed an order that had led to so much suffering she honestly didn’t care that she was so far down the chain of command that the operation officer would be called down here to run things before she’d ever have to be in charge again.

“Miss Gilmore,” Vorik said in his usual formal tone.
“Hello Vorik,” she said. “What’s the schedule for tonight?”
“A routine cleaning of plasma injector ports,” he said.
“Sounds good to me,” Marla said.
Vorik raised an eyebrow, as he always did whenever Marla expressed enthusiasm for tasks that were normally considered boring by the rest of the engineering staff, but unlike the first time she’d done it over a week ago, he didn’t comment.

Such tasks were boring of course, but necessary to keep a ship running smoothly. She also knew that she could actually take the time necessary to do them properly, a luxury she hadn’t had on the Equinox for years. When she could do repairs, they were always rushed. More than once she’d had to bypass procedures in a fashion that would make a Federation safety officer’s head explode.

Brian Sofin, as well as Angelo Tassoni, being the sole surviving security officers of the Equinox, had been added to Voyager’s security team under the constant supervision of either Lieutenant Ayala or Lieutenant Anderson, depending on the day.

Unlike the regular officers though, they were not allowed to have phasers just yet, and mainly only took part in drills.

As far as Sofin was concerned, they were getting off light. It still amazed him that there were any people on Voyager at all who were polite to him. The majority were clearly uncomfortable, likely afraid of being betrayed again, but while no one had explicitly forgiven him, or anyone else from the Equinox as far as he knew, but others had expressed a degree of sympathy. He did not feel he deserved it.

When he entered the mess hall, dimly lit as per usual during a ship’s night cycle, the only sentient there was the Talaxian, Neelix, who was putting utensils away.
“Oh, hello,” Neelix said, and Sofin nodded back politely.
“Mister Neelix,” he said. “I apologize if I interrupted anything.”

“Not at all,” Neelix said. “Is there anything I can get you before I close up for the night?”

“No,” Sofin said. “I just needed a quiet place to do my daily report for Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. I’m afraid that Noah snores.”
“I can recommend an old Talaxian remedy for that,” Neelix said. “Did wonders for me when I had that problem. At least according to Kes anyway, assuming she wasn’t just trying to spare my feelings.”

“Kes?” Sofin said.
“My ex-girlfriend,” Neelix said. “She came aboard Voyager with me six years ago.”
“What happened to her?”
“That’s a much more complicated story,” Neelix said. “But one I’d be happy to share with you when I’m not headed for bed.”
“I don’t get it,” Sofin said.
“What?” Neelix said.
“How you can be so kind to me after-”

“You were in a difficult situation and made some bad choices,” Neelix said. “I hate to break it to you, Mister, um, I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name when you came aboard.”

“Sofin. Brian Sofin.”

“Brian. Got it. Anyway, Brian, there’s hardly a sentient alive without some kind of regrets. You did something bad, sure. But punishment is not my purview, it’s the Captain’s. And my empathy was, last time I looked, not on the list of things the Equinox survivors are not allowed to have while they’re on Voyager.”

“I guess not,” Sofin said.

“So, as I said, if you’re free during the day tomorrow, swing by and I’ll tell you all about Kes and what she meant, not just to me, but to the rest of this crew. It’s a great story,” Neelix said, smiling.
Sofin, reluctantly, smiled back. “I bet it is.”

Chapter Three

“You seem a little tense, Seven,” the Doctor said as he ran his medical tricorder scanner over her. “This isn’t any different from any of your other routine check-ups.”
“I’m aware of that, Doctor,” Seven said. “It’s… I must admit I feel a certain trepidation about the next few days.”
“Why’s that?” the Doctor said, curious what his patient and friend meant.

“The last several occasions I have been given what the Captain calls ‘time off,’” Seven said, “invariably something objectively bad happens within a week. It has happened on too many occasions to be mere coincidence.”
“Oh come now,” the Doctor said, surprised at Seven’s sudden superstition and paranoia.
Seven raised an eyebrow, and proceeded to list off a number of stardates. The Doctor recognized the dates.

“Okay, I see your point,” he said. “Still, it has been almost a week and we have not run into anymore Borg attacking viruses, nor has Samantha been involved in any shuttle crashes, and you haven’t been kidnapped even once this past month.”
“Most sentient beings are never kidnapped their entire lives. I’ve had it happen to me three times within the past year.”
“Look, if something bad happens to you in the next 48 hours I’ll confess to there being some sort of curse, if that’s what you want to call it,” the Doctor said. “That said, if there is one, Commander Chakotay is the one you’d want to talk to about that. Spiritual matters are well outside my expertise.”

“I will take that into consideration,” Seven said.
“Anyway,” the Doctor said, “you are in perfect health. This keeps up I may decide to lengthen the period of time between checkups on you and your Borg implants.”
“I’m curious why you have not done so already,” Seven said.

The Doctor felt a little uncomfortable at that comment, for one reason.
She’s got a point. Why haven’t I? he thought.

“Fair enough,” the Doctor said. “Let’s make it every three weeks instead of every two. Oh, before I go I forgot to mention some exciting personal news on my end.”
Seven nodded. The Doctor sighed
“Your enthusiasm is overwhelming,” he said.
“Your news, Doctor?”
“I have developed an addition to my program that will allow me to take part in the time-honored sentient tradition of daydreaming.” The Doctor smiled, proud of his accomplishment, and the expansion of his own sentience; another step on the journey from mere hologram to a full-blown photonic lifeform.
Seven of Nine’s facial expression did not change.
“Why?” she said.

“I suppose I owe you an apology, Seven,” the Doctor said.
Seven of Nine raised an eyebrow, ignoring the looks the rest of the senior staff sitting down in the briefing room were giving her.
“Had this occurred approximately one day earlier, you would,” she said, actually feeling sorry for how badly the Doctor’s new daydreaming protocols had started going. “However, we are outside of one full week after my return from my honeymoon. As such, this does not count as evidence towards any sort of ‘curse.’”
“Gee,” the Doctor said with that mock smile that Seven found so obnoxious. “Glad to know that you can keep your priorities straight.”

Seven sighed, and looked to the captain to say something, anything, to move this conversation along. The Captain, head in her hands, finally spoke up.

“So, just for my own sake, so I know I’m not losing my mind,” Janeway said, “could you repeat what you just told me? ‘Cause it sounded to me like you just said a bunch of aliens want to destroy us based on what they saw in your ‘daydreams.’”
“Well, when you put it that way Captain,” the Doctor said, “I know it sounds rather-”
“Insane?” B’Elanna said.

“Ridiculous?” Harry said.
“A typical Thursday for us?” Tom said.
The Doctor huffed. “I was going to say ‘implausible.’ But at least it explains my unusual behavior over the past 24 hours.”

“Like climbing over the railing around the warp core?” B’Elanna said.
“In my defense,” the Doctor said, “I did believe that a warp core breach was imminent.”
“Go back to the beginning Doctor,” Janeway said. “And no more interruptions from the rest of you,” she added, glaring at the rest of the senior staff.
“Right, sorry,” the Doctor said. “In short, I added new subroutines to my program that allowed me to daydream, an activity I’ve long wanted to be able to do. But, as the incident in engineering demonstrated, the subroutines began malfunctioning. I was daydreaming whether I wanted to or not. At first, I assumed the problem was a result of a failure on my end; that I’d somehow botched the coding to put it simply. But then an alien named Phlox, no relation to the Denobulan we met during the NX-01 incident-”
“That’s the part that throws me,” Janeway said. “That seems an awfully big coincidence Doctor. How can we be sure this Hierarchy you’re trying to warn us about isn’t another hallucination?”
A valid question, Seven thought.
“Captain, aren’t you breaking your own order about no interruptions?” the Doctor said.

Janeway gave the Doctor a look that both Samantha and Naomi often referred to as the “death glare,” and Seven actually felt sorry for the Doctor in that moment.

“Um, yes, well, moving on,” the Doctor said, shifting in his seat. “According to this other Phlox, we’re being observed from the nebula we passed by an alien race that calls themselves the Hierarchy. They perceive us as a threat, because in one of my daydreams, my ECH program was activated, and I used a weapon called a photonic cannon to destroy a Borg sphere in one shot.”

“Was this before or after you started with the nude paintings of certain female crewmembers?” Janeway said.
This was news to Seven. She certainly hoped that neither herself nor Samantha were among them. While logically it was not fair to punish someone for fantasies at all, let alone fantasies that were being influenced from the outside by alien technology, she also couldn’t deny that things would be awkward between them for an indeterminate amount of time if that were the case.
“You said you wouldn’t mention that!” the Doctor said to B’Elanna.
“I didn’t,” B’Elanna said. “The Captain was with me when we used the holodeck to find out was going on in your head when the odd behavior started.”

“I believe we are getting off track,” Tuvok said.
“Agreed,” Chakotay added. Seven couldn’t help but notice that the latter looked as uncomfortable as the Doctor.
Janeway sighed.
“Okay, yes,” she said. “Maybe I’m being a bit unfair here. Daydreaming can be a good thing, as it lets one imagine other possibilities in life. However, you should’ve consulted with someone, and waited until you were absolutely certain that you could add this ability to your program without damaging it.”
The Doctor nodded.

“You are absolutely correct, Captain,” he said.

“Now,” Janeway said, “back to this other Phlox and the Hierarchy.”

“At first,” the Doctor continued, “I thought that what Lieutenant Torres had done to stabilize my matrix had failed, and that I was imagining again. But what he said made too much sense, especially compared to things like the photonic cannon or, um, well. What he said was that he had put me back into the fiction so he could communicate with me. He said he was an observer on an assault ship that scans passing vessels for technology or raw materials they, the Hierarchy, can steal. For several days, he was using a long-range tunneling sensor to tap into my program.”
“That could explain how your algorithms got all jumbled,” Harry said. “You might not have done anything wrong when you added the daydreaming function. What happened could’ve been a side effect of the tap.”
“Plausible,” Tuvok said, “assuming this is not another daydream.”
“Continue, Doctor,” Janeway said. Seven glanced in her direction. While she wasn’t entirely certain, the tonal shift suggested that the Captain was starting to believe the Doctor. Seven was sure she did too, but decided to wait for more information.

“He told me that he had mistaken my daydreams for reality, that he had tapped into my perceptions as opposed to my fantasies. Seeing that Borg sphere vaporized with one volley of the fantasy weapon I invented convinced the Hierarchy that Voyager was a threat that needed to be destroyed and that they are planning a sneak attack as we speak.

“He said that if I did as he asked, we could avoid the attack.”
“Why would he want to help us?” Janeway asked.
“His motives weren’t entirely selfless,” the Doctor said. “He said that the Hierarchy does not tolerate mistakes like the one he made. He claims he would face a loss of employment at best, execution at worst, if we were attacked and his superiors found our ship to be less powerful than he reported. I imagine that I had, well, imagined the whole thing my fantasy would’ve involved him simply seeing the error of his ways and joining the path of the righteous.”

“Well, at least he was honest,” B’Elanna said.

“You believe him?” Tom said.
B’Elanna shrugged.
“Maybe,” she said.
“Speaking for myself,” Harry said, “I do.”
“As do I,” Seven said.

Janeway held up a PADD that the Doctor had handed to her on the bridge.
“And this is the information you say he gave you,” she said, “about how to reconfigure our sensors so we could find their ships, which would be cloaked.” It wasn’t a question.
“As I said, Captain,” the Doctor said. “And the sooner we do it-”
“Harry, make the adjustments. I don’t see how doing so would harm us in any way if this turns out to be another fantasy.”
“Aye, Captain,” Harry said, standing up and taking the PADD.
“Everyone else, back to your stations,” Janeway said. The crew all nodded before standing up and filing back out on the bridge. Seven stopped to put a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, and wondered why he flinched when she did so.
“Doctor,” she said, “I assure you, if this turn out to be the result of another hallucination, we will do our best to fix you.”
“I know,” the Doctor said. “I’m just sorry for how uncomfortable I’ve made everyone. Thank you for being so forgiving.”

Seven had to work to keep her facial features from betraying her initial reaction when she realized what he meant. After a moment, she spoke again.
“You are not the first individual on this ship to have feelings for me that I cannot reciprocate,” she said.
“I’m glad that things aren’t going to be awkward between us,” the Doctor said.
“I’m afraid they will be,” Seven admitted. “but only until I’ve had a chance to process this new information.”
The Doctor looked down, and Seven felt empathy for him, but she couldn’t let that distract her. She was needed on the bridge at her post.

“I won’t ask you not to tell Samantha about this,” the Doctor said, “I have no right. But, would you be so kind as to leave out the nude painting part of the daydreams?”
“Trust me,” Seven said, “I had no intention of including that information. Now, if you could be so kind as to delete those images from your memory…”
“Seven, I’m the ship’s physician. I’ve seen everyone’s body.”
Seven gave the Doctor her best approximation of the Captain’s “death glare.”

“I’ll delete the paintings,” the Doctor said.

“The Doctor was right,” Harry said. “I’m detecting three ships out there. Distance, six-hundred thousand kilometers.”

“Well I’ll be damned,” Tom said.

“That’s closer than I’d thought they be,” the Doctor said. “That’s not good.”

“On screen,” Janeway said. Even though she had believed the Doctor, a part of her was still shocked to actually see three vessels on the screen. The image wasn’t crystal clear, but that was likely a side effect of their cloaking devices.

“Okay,” Chakotay said. “Now what?”
“Hang on,” Tom said, “what if this is all part of their attack? What if this Phlox guy fed you false information as part of a ruse?”
“I doubt it,” Janeway said. “Giving us the ability to spot them through their cloaks would be an incredibly stupid plan. No one would… well, okay the Pakleds maybe. But no one else would deliberately put themselves at such a disadvantage.”

“According to Phlox, and no, that will never not be weird to say, the Hierarchy is running what’s known as a type-3 assault. They won’t de-cloak until they’re right on top of us, at which point they’ll fire a warning shot across our bow.”

“At which point,” Janeway said, “they start making demands?”
“Correct,” the Doctor said. “For technology and the like. If we don’t comply, they destroy us. Fortunately, Phlox promised to transmit the frequencies of their phasers. He gave the ones for his ship already, he just needed time to get the information on the other two.”
“I’ve already put that information into the computer,” Harry said.
“Confirmed,” Tuvok said. “What did this Mister Phlox want in return?”
The Doctor winced, and Janeway knew that she wasn’t going to like what she heard next.

“In return. Yeah. He mistakenly informed his superiors that I was in command of Voyager. He wants to maintain that fiction. When they open that channel, I’m sorry, but I have to be sitting in the captain’s chair.”
Janeway rubbed her eyes.
“You know,” she said, “if I couldn’t see those ships with my own eyes…”
“He insisted, Captain,” the Doctor said.
“This should be fun,” Tom said.
“Well, good luck with that,” Janeway said. “Harry, help get the Emergency Command Hologram set up.”

Harry Kim had to keep himself from laughing as he helped make the necessary alterations to the Doctor’s program.
“I am in over my head,” the Doctor said. “I am going to screw this up, I know it.”
“Too late to back out now, Doctor,” Harry said. “If we want to keep the Hierarchy from being a problem down the road, we can’t just run away.”
“I never should’ve created the program alteration in the first place,” the Doctor said. Harry simply shrugged and tapped out the last few controls. Suddenly, the Doctor’s visage changed; his uniform became command red, and four pips appeared on his collar, one at a time. The Doctor glanced at them, then back at Harry with a frown.
“Was the dramatic flourish really necessary, Lieutenant?” he said.
“Nope,” Harry admitted.

“Captain on the bridge,” Tom said, smirking.
Harry watched as the Doctor nervously sat in the captain’s chair, Chakotay at his side offering quiet reassurances.
Let’s hope this works, Harry thought.

“Captain,” Chakotay said, “we’re ready to proceed.”
“Acknowledged,” Janeway said over the ship’s comm from astrometrics. “Seven and I can hear everything that happens up there, but no one will be able to hear me but the Doctor once the internal comm link is active.

“Doctor, are you ready?”
“No, but do I have a choice?”
Harry did not hear anything.
“Understood,” the Doctor said.
The link’s already on then, Harry thought. I hope hearing only one side of the conversation doesn’t get too confusing.

“I’m receiving a transmission on a secure channel, audio only,” Tuvok said.
“Must be the Doctor’s new friend,” Chakotay said. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”
“Doctor,” the voice said, “something terrible has happened. They’ve ordered a type-four assault. Our phaser frequencies will be rotated continuously. I won’t be able to help you.”
“Oh shit,” the Doctor said, “oh that’s bad. That’s very bad.”
“Calm down, Doctor,” Chakotay said. “Mister Phlox, this is Commander Chakotay. What else can you tell us about type-four?”

“Three vessels are decloaking off the port bow,” Tuvok said.
“I’m too late,” Phlox said. “I’m so sorry,”

The deck lurched violently underneath Harry, the whole bridge shuddering.
“That didn’t feel like a warning shot,” Tom said.
“Direct hit, shields are holding,” Tuvok said.
Harry heard a beep from his own console.
“They’re hailing us,” he said.
“On screen,” Chakotay said.
The visage of an alien bridge filled the viewscreen. Three large headed aliens were within frame, the tallest one at center, presumably the ships’ commander. The alien to his left was looking at something off screen, while the one to his right looked forward, fidgeting.
That must be Phlox, Harry thought. He even looks friendlier than that Denobulan we met.

“The Hierarchy controls this region of space,” the tall one said. “Your ship has supplies and technology that we require.”
“We’ll defend ourselves,” the Doctor said. “You won’t get what you’re after.”

“An exchange of fire would damage both of our ships,” the Hierarchy commander said. “but we have support nearby. You are alone. Take your weapons off-line and prepare to board-” the viewscreen suddenly went back to a view of the now de-cloaked Hierarchy ships.
“Excuse the interruption, Commander,” Tuvok said, “I’ve found a potential weakness in their shields, but I’ll need time to reconfigure our phasers.”

“Keep him occupied, Doctor,” Chakotay said. “On screen.” Chakotay stood up and walked past the Doctor to the tactical console.
“This is your final warning,” the Hierarchy commander said, as though he hadn’t been interrupted.
“Don’t rush me,” the Doctor said.

“Take your weapons off-line, immediately. I won’t ask again.”
“You,” the Doctor said, wagging his finger at the screen, “appear to be suffering from a physio-emotive disorder.”

What? Harry thought. Where is this going?
“You’re impatient, quick to anger,” the Doctor continued, “you may want to see a physician. Me for instance. That was my first job after all. I kinda miss it since I had to take command.”
The viewscreen showed the bridge of the Hierarchy shudder slightly. Harry looked down. Tuvok had opened fire.
“Direct hit,” Tuvok said.
“Ha!” The Doctor said. “How do you like that huh? A taste of your own medicine!”
That definitely didn’t come from the Captain, Harry thought.
The Hierarchy commander slammed down on something off-screen, and Voyager shook violently, panels sparking all over the bridge,
“Phasers are off-line,” Tuvok reported.
“Prepare to be boarded!” the Hierarchy commander said.

“Tuvok!” the Doctor said, standing up to full attention, looking confident for the first time since this fiasco had started. Harry bit his lip to keep himself from asking the Doctor what he was planning. “Activate the photonic cannon,” the Doctor added, striding casually closer to the viewscreen.
We’re dead, Harry thought.
“Tuvok, that was an order,” the Doctor bellowed, as Tom looked back at him as if the Doctor had just given an order to perform scenes from a 20th century melodrama.

Harry glanced at Tuvok, who was looking at Chakotay. The latter nodded.
“Activating the photonic cannon, sir,” Tuvok said.
“I’d rather not give the order to fire,” the Doctor said.
The Hierarchy commander looked up at something.
“My sensors show no activation sequence,” he said.
“Of course not,” the Doctor said authoritatively. “The photonic cannon is impervious to sensors.
“The Borg couldn’t detect it either,” the one Harry was sure was Phlox said, “that’s why they were destroyed.”

“The Borg, the Hierarchy,” the Doctor said, “it’s all the same to me. Just another bully who didn’t know when to back off.”
“We’ll be vaporized,” Phlox said. The Hierarchy commander pushed a button, and the communications link was severed, the viewscreen returning to the view of the Hierarchy ships.
“I’m choosing to take it as a good sign they haven’t just opened fire already,” Tom said.

“Right there with you Mister Paris,” the Doctor said. It was only then that Harry noticed that the Doctor’s hands had been behind his back the whole time, hidden from view of the Hierarchy commander. They were shaking. Harry smiled, impressed at how well the Doctor had hidden his nervousness from the Hierarchy.
Nearly a minute later, the viewscreen showed the Hierarchy ships turning around.
“They’re moving away at full impulse,” Harry said.
The Doctor, despite being a hologram who didn’t need to breathe, sighed as if he’d been holding the breath the entire time since the comm link had been cut. He walked back towards the captain’s chair, but didn’t sit in it, instead just looking at it. Chakotay moved away from the tactical console and stood behind the Captain’s chair, and motioned to it.
“Go ahead, Doctor,” he said, smiling. ”You earned it.”
The Doctor sat down, slowly, but eventually began looking around the bridge, allowing Harry to see him smiling now as well.
“So, Doc, did it hurt?” Tom said.
“Did what hurt, Ensign?”
“When you pulled that bluff out of your-”
“Tom,” Chakotay said, “resume our standard course.”

The Doctor sat in his office in sickbay, going over the daily reports. The daydream program, despite being fixed by Harry and B’Elanna, was off-line. He’d been tempted to delete it altogether and might have had he not mentioned the plan to the Captain, who had proceeded to talk him out of it. She’d convinced him to take more time to consider it before just deleting it rashly, stating that he might regret it later if he did so now.
The chirp of an open comm link filled the quiet room.
“Torres to the Doctor,” B’Elanna’s voice said. “Could you come to the mess hall please?”
What’s this all about? the Doctor thought. It didn’t sound like an emergency, there was no sense of urgency in B’Elanna’s voice. He wondered if maybe one of Neelix’s cheeses was threatening the bio-neural circuits again.

“On my way,” he said, affixing his mobile emitter to his arm.

He wondered what could possibly be important enough to summon him that wasn’t a medical emergency. He reached the entrance to the mess hall and stepped inside, only to be shocked to see most of the senior staff and several other officers standing there in dress uniforms, as well as Neelix, and Naomi.
“Surprise!” they all yelled.
“Don’t worry Doc,” Harry Kim said, “this is all real.”
The Doctor looked around,

“I don’t understand,” he said. “What’s this all about?”
Janeway held her hand up, and Harry put something in it. She walked up to him and affixed a pin to his uniform.

“For your imaginative defense of this ship and her crew,” she said, “I am awarding you with the Starfleet Medal of Commendation. Congratulations.”
“I… Thank you,” the Doctor said, feeling overwhelmed.
“I’ve also reconsidered your request from a few days ago. I’m going to authorize a research project to explore your command abilities. The Emergency Command Hologram won’t just be in your fantasies anymore.” Janeway began clapping, and soon the rest of the crewmembers in the mess hall joined in.

The Doctor looked around, taking it all in when a realization hit him. Obviously, they couldn’t fit every Voyager crew member in this relatively tiny mess hall, and none of the Equinox survivors were allowed to attend ship functions yet, but two particular absences stood out to him. Seven of Nine and Samantha Wildman weren’t here.

I guess I can’t blame her, the Doctor thought.

Seven of Nine sat on the couch in Samantha’s quarters, reading a PADD. Samantha looked at her, concerned, but didn’t say anything.
“If you wish to attend the party for the Doctor, Sam, I won’t be offended,” Seven said.

“Offending you isn’t what I’m worried about,” Samantha said. “I get why you’re upset, but I doubt the Doctor has done anything at any point untoward with you.”
“Perhaps,” Seven said, “but at the same time the revelation of his feelings for me complicates matters. I can’t help but wonder how many of our friendly interactions over the past year, or possibly more, were done with the purpose of spending time with me as opposed to his stated reasons.”
“If it were just about any other sentient on this ship I’d say that was possible,” Sam said, moving from her chair to sit next to Seven. “But the Doctor? I think his only crime here, if you could call it even that much, was not just getting it out in the open, like Harry did back when he had a thing for you. If the Doctor hadn’t kept it to himself you both could’ve dealt with this like adults.”
“Am I not handling it like an adult now, Sam?” Seven said.
Samantha rested her hands on Seven’s shoulder and sighed.
“I suppose you are,” Samantha said. “If you weren’t I imagine you’d be doing far worse things than skipping his award ceremony.”
“That is accurate,” Seven said, putting the PADD down and leaning back. “It is best that I avoid being alone with him for a day or so, allow myself time to process my feelings on the matter.” Seven turned her head to look Samantha in the eyes, and smiled. Samantha smiled back. “Would you be willing to help me?” Seven whispered.

“What kind of wife would I be if I wasn’t?” Samantha whispered back.

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