Here is another Star Trek story I wrote waaaaaay back in 1998 for the Strange New Worlds Contest.
Star Trek: Intrepid Voyagers
Harry Kim's laughter rang across the bridge, cutting like a knife through a silence born from the boredom of the past two weeks, which Voyager had spent crossing a remarkably unremarkable expanse of space.
Chakotay turned around, unable to prevent a smile from spreading across his face. Harry's laughter was infectious. “Would you mind sharing the joke, Mr. Kim?” Chakotay asked.
Kim looked up from the small monitor on his console. By now everyone on the bridge was looking at him. His laughter quickly withered beneath Tuvok's habitual disdainful scowl. Kim coughed nervously as he looked down at Janeway. “I'm sorry, Captain. I've been monitoring a transmission for the last five minutes, and it's very funny, though I don't think the humor's intentional. But--”
Janeway had stood. “A transmission, Ensign Kim? From where?”
“From a star system half a light year off to port, Captain. It's being broadcast on a local, narrow subspace band, very limited range, not more than a few parsecs, perhaps a light year--”
“Content, Ensign. What's the content of the transmission?” Janeway asked.
Harry looked down at his monitor and stifled a new wave of laughter. “You'll have to see it to believe it, sir. I'll put it on the main view screen.”
He touched a button. The stars on the forward viewscreen wavered and were replaced by an image of Chakotay and Janeway. They were sitting very close together on the sofa in Janeway's quarters. Chakotay was completely naked, though his nudity was carefully concealed from view. Janeway wore a red silk robe. Each held a glass of wine in their hands. Through the window above them the stars rushed by. In soft, tender voices, they were debating whether or not they should reveal their passion for each other to the rest of the crew. The debate quickly died out as Chakotay swept Janeway into his arms and gave her a passionate kiss.
Tom Paris's sudden laughter pealed across the bridge.
On the viewscreen the romantic interlude faded. An advertisement flashed quickly by, loudly extolling the virtues of purchasing a new Ghotan Twin Engine Sky Rover.
Janeway slowly shook her head as she turned to face Kim. “Ensign, what--what is that?”
Kim smirked. “It's us, sir. Before your big scene, Tom and I were
in Engineering, trying to help B’Elanna restore power to the warp drive, which had earlier failed--I don't know why it failed; we seem to have come in halfway through the transmission.”
“Captain,” Tuvok interrupted. “Sensors show an object several thousand kilometers off the port bow, at the edge of the system where the transmission originated. Unmoving. Possibly a station of some kind.”
Janeway faced forward again. “On screen. Drop to impulse, Mr. Paris.”
Just as the commercials faded and Tom Paris's face appeared on the viewscreen, that image also blinked out and the starscape reappeared. A small spherical structure bristling with antennae swam toward them out of the blackness. It swelled until it filled half the screen.
“All stop,” Janeway said, and the sphere ceased growing.
“One life sign, Captain,” Tuvok reported.
“We're being hailed,” Harry Kim said.
“On screen,” Janeway stood and strode forward a step.
A man appeared on the forward viewscreen. The most remarkable thing about him, Janeway noted, was his ordinariness. He could have been a human from Earth. Unusual facial structures, like nose or forehead ridges and such, seemed to be the theme of the Delta Quadrant, and she'd come to expect it. But this relatively young man had nothing of the sort. She could see a large screen on the wall behind him, on which Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres were in a heated discussion. Tom waved his hands emphatically at the flickering warp column behind them.
“I'm Captain Janeway of the Starship Voyager,” she said.
“Hello, Captain!” The man smiled raptly, gazing around the bridge at each member of the crew. “And there's Tom, and Harry, and--my god, it's Tuvok!” He looked back at Janeway. “Captain, you have no idea what an honor this is! I've been a fan of Intrepid Voyagers since the first episode! What a coincidence that you should arrive right in the middle of the show!” He pointed at the screen behind him: Neelix in the mess hall, talking with Tuvok.
“It seems you have us at a disadvantage,” Janeway said.
“Oh, excuse me, Captain. I'm very excited, not to mention extremely nervous. My name is Jenter Camal, Technician for Outpost 3.”
Janeway pointed at the screen behind him. “And what is that?”
“The Intrepid Voyagers. It's the hottest show on subspace. I knew it was based on true events, but I never imagined I'd actually meet any of you! Uh, Captain Janeway?” He looked at her sheepishly. “I know it's asking a lot but--would you...beam...me over so I can get some autographs?”
The briefing room, eight hours later.
Janeway and Chakotay stood as the door hissed open. Tuvok entered, escorting a tall middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair and piercing, steel gray eyes. His open, friendly smile softened the intensity of those eyes. He strode confidently forward and firmly clasped Janeway's hand, vigorously pumped it. “Captain Janeway, what an honor to finally meet you! I came just as soon as I was informed of your approach--got me out of bed, as a matter of fact-- it's the middle of the night in my city. But no matter. Let me be the first to welcome you to Doran. I'm Nephtaf Centravi, of Centravi Productions.”
Janeway finally managing to free her hand from his vice-like grip. “I'd introduce Commander Chakotay, but I suspect that's unnecessary.” She sat down and motioned for Centravi to do the same. When he was seated she asked: “Are you with the Doran government, Mr. Centravi? I'd assumed they would send a government official.”
He shook his head. “No, I'm not with the government. But I might as well be. Centravi Productions owns most of the planet. As soon as the bureaucrats heard you were coming, they called me. You are the flagship of my network, after all.”
“We are?” Chakotay asked.
“Well, not you personally, of course,” Centravi said. “But Intrepid Voyagers is based on you, after all.”
Janeway folded her hands on the table before her. “Tell us about Intrepid Voyagers,” she said. “I'm sure you can understand our curiousity. We've never had contact with your people, and yet...” She pushed a button inset into the table and a monitor on the opposite wall came to life. Music played, words and disconnected images raced across the screen, and then Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres stepped out of a turbolift, deep in conversation. Janeway muted the audio.
Centravi looked at the monitor, open astonishment on his face. “How—? Voyagers is only on once a week! How—”
“We recorded it,” Chakotay said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the universe.
“Record? For later playback! What an ingenious idea!” Centravi reached inside his jacket and withdrew a small palm top computer, into which he quickly typed several notes. When he'd finished he looked up to find the three watching him. Tuvok raised an exasperated eyebrow. “My apologies.”
“About Intrepid Voyagers...” Janeway prompted.
“Yes, yes. It's all computer-generated, of course. I created it a little over a year ago, fed in your personality profiles, personal histories, photographs, that sort of thing. I've got a dozen writers on staff that dream up new adventures every week. To tell you the truth, I'd never done this type of show before. All my others are live-action. Voyagers is the crowning achievement of a very long, successful career. It's the hottest thing on subspace.”
“So we've been told,” Janeway said. “But how did you learn of us? Where did you get all your information? As I said, we've never encountered your people before.”
“That's because we don't travel much. We're an extremely insular society, Captain. And very hedonistic. We prefer to sit in our homes plugged into various entertainments, rather than venture out into the universe. But I did some travelling a few years ago, searching for new ideas. Always looking for those. I went further from Doran than anyone had ever been before and hadn't found inspiration. Just as I was about to give up and return home, I stopped at a trading outpost on the far side of the Necrid Expanse.”
“We were there approximately two years ago,” Tuvok said.
Centravi nodded. “While there, one of your crewmen--Neelix--was involved in....Well, I guess I don't have to recount that for you, do I? Anyway, I watched you and your people from a distance. I knew I'd found my new show. So I gathered as much data about you as I could and returned home. Developed my ideas and began production. Intrepid Voyagers was an instant success.”
“And since then,” Chakotay said, “your people have been watching computer-generated simulacrums of us?”
“--the hottest thing on subspace,” Chakotay finished for him.
“I'm not sure whether or not I should feel violated,” Janeway said.
“Oh, it's all fiction,” Centravi assured her. “Most of it, anyway. I mean, we've tried to be true to your individual characters, your mission and all that, but the adventures my writers throw at you every week are all pure fabrication. The people love it.”
“Did it ever occur to you,” Tuvok asked, “to ask our permission while we were on the trading outpost?”
Centravi shrugged. “I didn't see any need. I never imagined that you would be coming through our system. Although the show is billed as “The True Adventures,” and the people know that there really is a Voyager hurtling through space, they know it's all make-believe. You're no more real to them than...than...”
“Than the Tooth Fairy?” Chakotay said.
“Exactly. I think.” Centravi smiled. “Until now, that is.”
“Well, there's no harm done, I suppose,” Janeway said.
Centravi beamed. “Well then, Captain, gentlemen, I'd like to invite you and your crew to--”
“Bridge to Captain,” an excited voice blurted through the intercom.
“Go ahead, Mr. Paris.”
“Captain,” Tom said, “we're receiving a distress call from the outermost planet of this system. They're being attacked. Shall I lay in a course?”
“Stand by, Mr. Paris.” She looked at Centravi questioningly.
“That would be Gahka,” he said. “Doran has a large mining installation there. Captain Janeway, on behalf of Doran I formally request your assistance. Our ships are much slower than yours, and it would take precious time to mount an operation. Please?”
Janeway touched her comm badge. “Lay in a course, Tom. Red alert.” She stood and headed for the door. “It's been a pleasure, Mr. Centravi. I'll see you when we return.”
The door slid open. Ten men in attire that matched Centravi's were standing idly in the corridor beyond. Janeway turned back. “Who are all these people?”
Centravi stood and smiled ingratiantingly. “They're with me, Captain. If you don't mind, we'd like to tag along. Watch the action, explore the ship. Who knows? We might come up with an idea for an episode.”
Janeway sighed. “Very well. Just don't get in the way.” She looked sternly at Tuvok, silently berating him for not informing her of the presence of these other men. Then she headed for the bridge, Centravi hard on her heels.
Ten minutes later, Gahka loomed large on the forward viewscreen. A small planet, really little more than a moonlet, gray, barren and rocky.
“Sensors show an extensive network of tunnels lacing most of the planet, Captain,” Tuvok reported. “Ruins scattered across the surface.”
“Ruins?” Janeway asked. “From an attack?”
“No,” Tuvok said. “Decay is apparently due to abandonment.”
“The miners move around a lot,” Centravi said. “Once a vein is mined out, they move to another.”
“Faint life signs,” Tuvok said. “Clustered in a tunnel network near the equator. The life signs are sporadic, fluctuating. I cannot get a conclusive reading.”
“Possibly the galtric ore is affecting your instruments,” Centravi told him.
“Any other vessels in orbit, Tuvok?” Janeway asked.
“Negative. However, there is an ion trail leading into deep space. Perhaps residual discharge from the attacker's propulsion.”
“Hail the installation,” Janeway told Kim.
“I've been hailing them, Captain. No response.”
Chakotay stood. “I'll get the Doctor and take an Away Team down. See if there are any survivors.”
“Let's go, Mr. Paris.”
As Tom and Chakotay headed for the turbolift, one of Centravi's cohorts fell into step with them.
“I hope you don't mind if Mr. Gert there accompanies you,” Centravi called after them. “Just to observe and get some ideas, of course.”
Chakotay's resigned sigh was indistinguishable from the turbolift door swishing closed on them.
Five people materialized in a dimly-lit tunnel: the Doctor also had one of Centravi's tag-alongs.
“Fan out,” Chakotay ordered. He headed left. Mr. Gert followed close on his heels, intently watching Chakotay's every move.
The tunnel walls were jagged, blasted out of the bare, cold stone of the moonlet. Lights were strung along the ceiling, many of them shattered and dark. In places the walls were scorched black. “Signs of weapon discharges,” Chakotay said on general-comm.
“Here too,” Paris returned.
“I've found a body,” the Doctor reported. “One of the Doran miners, and it's not a pretty sight. Dead. ...apparently.”
“Apparently?” Chakotay asked.
“Tricorder readings are...garbled,” the Doctor replied.
“Would the ore affect our tricorders even in such close proximity?” Chakotay asked Mr. Gert.
Gert grunted noncommittally, shrugged his shoulders. He continued staring unblinkingly at Chakotay.
“Thanks for your help,” Chakotay said, fighting his irritation. He was rapidly tiring of being shadowed by Gert.
They came upon a section of wall smeared with a sticky yellow substance. Chakotay cautiously stuck the tip of his index finger in it, brought the finger to his nose and sniffed. He quickly jerked his finger away and wiped it on an uncoated wall section. “What is this?” he asked.
Gert shrugged, and they continued on.
The tunnel suddenly widened into a large room. Three tunnels opened in the wall directly opposite. Bunk beds lined the other walls. Storage chests sat at the bases of the beds. The mattresses on the beds had been shredded, the chests forced open. Blackened streaks marked great gouges on the walls.
Several bloodied bodies were piled haphazardly at the room's center. Their limbs jutting at unnatural angles.
“More bodies, doc,” Chakotay said. “Follow my signal.”
“On my way.”
Chakotay stared around the ransacked room. “What the hell happened here?”
Again Gert shrugged.
Chakotay faced him, folding arms on chest. “You don't talk much, do you?” he asked in irritation.
Mr. Gert's mouth opened and Chakotay thought the man might finally utter a word—
—but Tom's urgent voice rang out from Chakotay's communicator. “Movement, Commander, all around us. Centered on your location.”
“Who is it?” Chakotay asked. “Miners?”
“Can't say for certain,” Paris said. “My tricorder can't get a positive lock. Whoever—whatever—they are, they're big, and there's a lot of them.”
“Meet me here on the double, Mr. Paris,” Chakotay ordered.
“You don't have to tell me twice.” Tom's heavy breathing indicated that he was running. “They're moving like lightning....Can't see them but tricorder says they're almost on top of me....Oh my god...” Phaser fire rang out, and static hissed across the comm channel.
“Tom. Tom!” Chakotay shouted. He hit his comm badge again. “Doc, where are you? What's taking you so long to get here? Doctor?” He looked at Gert.
The pound slap of running feet and a rustling movement behind them. In one fluid movement Chakotay whirled and drew his phaser.
“It's good to see you too, Commander,” said the Doctor, emerging from the mouth of the middle tunnel. Close behind him was the tag-along.
Chakotay lowered his phaser but didn't holster it. “Why didn't you answer me?”
“My comm badge emits only static,” the Doctor replied.
“Tom's in trouble.”
“Yes, I heard. I've also been unable to raise Voyager.”
Chakotay hit his badge. “Chakotay to Janeway.” Dead silence. “Chakotay to Voyager.” Again, silence.
“We've lost contact with the Away Team,” Ensign Kim reported.
Janeway looked to Tuvok.
“Sensors show that they are still alive,” Tuvok responded to her unspoken question. “However, Mr. Paris's signs are fluctuating...something has intersected his position, and others are closing on Chakotay, the Doctor and Centravi's two men.”
Janeway and Centravi stepped forward as one to stand at the railing below Tuvok's station. Centravi's face was almost comical in its concern.
“Can you beam them out?” Janeway asked.
“Negative. Our beam is being scattered.”
“Captain,” Kim called out. “Ship approaching. Engine signature matches the ion trail we found on arrival.”
Janeway faced forward. “On screen.”
The approaching ship resembled a gigantic spear, bristling with weapons and other unknown structures. Voyager's shields were automatically raised upon detection of the ship.
“Do you know who they are? Do you recognize that ship?” Janeway asked Centravi.
Centravi shook his head. “No. The nearest inhabited star is Nestor, twelve light years away. We don't have much contact with the Nestorans, but we know they don't have any ships like this. Besides, they're friendly. And I can't imagine why anyone would attack us.”
“Captain, we're being boarded,” Tuvok called out. “Engineering and the cargo bay.”
“How did they get through our shields?” Janeway demanded.
“Unknown.” Tuvok looked down as his control panel bleeped. “Multiple plasma beam discharges in Engineering. Intruders advancing and spreading rapidly.”
“Get down there now, Tuvok. And get them off my ship!”
Tuvok nodded and ran to the turbolift. The door slid open and Seven of Nine stepped out. Tuvok squeezed past her into the lift.
“Seven, go with Tuvok,” Janeway told her.
Without a word Seven turned and reentered the turbolift.
As the lift doors swished shut, Centravi asked excitedly, “Captain, who was that woman?”
“Seven of Nine.”
“Who? She's not in the records we have, but she looks like an interesting new character. Perhaps—”
“Not now,” Janeway curtly waved him off. “Harry, erect a Level 3 containment field around the bridge. Reroute all engineering functions here. Lock them out.”
“Tuvok to bridge. Intruders sighted. Engaging. They look—” He broke off as phaser fire erupted, someone, not Tuvok, screamed and the intercom went dead.
Janeway turned to Centravi with a worried frown. She felt impotent, having to stand idly by while her crew were fighting for the ship, perhaps dying....
As Chakotay and the Doctor were advancing through the tunnels toward Tom Paris's last known position, they heard a soft chittering and shadows moved on the wall opposite an intersecting tunnel.
Chakotay threw himself to the floor and scooted close to the wall, aiming his phaser at the tunnel mouth. The Doctor did likewise. Mr. Gert and his companion remained standing, watching curiously and without concern.
“Get down!” Chakotay hissed at them.
Large bug-like creatures suddenly skittered from the tunnel mouth. They were all hard carapace, clacking mandables and needle-sharp, stick-like limbs. Their multi-faceted eyes fastened unblinkingly on Chakotay and the Doctor.
Chakotay activated the universal translator function of his comm badge. “Halt!” he yelled from the floor. “Any further movement will be considered an attack.”
The creatures made chittering sounds and rushed forward.
Chakotay nodded at the Doctor. They fired together. Phaser beams sliced through the air, deflected harmlessly off the hard shells of the advancing creatures.
“Higher setting,” Chakotay called across to the Doctor. He ran his thumb across the intensity setting and fired again. The beam struck its target and ricocheted wildly.
Tom Paris's voice suddenly rang out, “All right guys, that's enough. Someone's going to get hurt by a stray beam, and it'll probably be me.” Tom stepped out of the side tunnel, waving his hands. “Hold your fire, commander.”
Chakotay relaxed his thumb on the trigger, but didn't lower his weapon.
The creature in the lead sighed. “You're probably right. I guess we've gotten enough footage, anyway.” It raised a limb. With several rapid clicks and faster than the eye could follow, the bug shrank, folding in on itself and collapsing, revealing a man beneath. The others did likewise, until a group of men were standing in the tunnel, next to a grinning Tom Paris.
Chakotay slowly stood and put away his phaser. “Costumes?” he asked, dumbstruck at this unexpected turn of events. Adrenalin and fear still pumped through his body.
“Armor, actually,” the lead man said.
Mr. Gert suddenly came forward and took Chakotay's hand, pumped it furiously. “Sorry for the deception, commander.” He smiled widely at Chakotay. “But it's been a real pleasure working with you. I must say, you're my favorite character. I'm the one that's been developing the Chakotay/Janeway romance on the show.” He released Chakotay's hand. Reaching behind his ear, he removed a small box-shaped device. Chakotay recognized the unmistakable bump of a holo-recorder node.
“So you can talk after all,” Chakotay said. He turned on Tom Paris. “You went along with this?”
Paris waved his hands. “Hey, commander, I was scared witless when they first ‘attacked’ me. But when they revealed themselves and explained things, I didn't want to spoil it for them right away. There's no harm done, and you have to admit, it is kind of funny.”
But Chakotay wasn't laughing.
“Give it time,” Tom said.
On Voyager, Janeway stood resolutely behind the tactical officer. “Lock phasers and torpedoes,” she told him. “Disable that ship, bring her just this side of complete destruction.” She turned to Harry. “After we've fired, tell them we'll finish the job unless they get their boarding party off Voyager.” She turned back to tactical. “Fire at will.”
Phasers sliced through space, with a volley of photon torpedoes hard on their heels. All passed through the ship without inflicting any damage and receded into deep space. Janeway looked at the tactical officer in perplexity—
—as an insistent bleeping suddenly sounded somewhere on Centravi's person. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the palmtop computer and looked at the small readout. “Nice timing,” he said. He touched a button, and the ship on the view screen vanished.
Janeway turned and looked at him askance.
“Transporters have a positive lock on the Away Team,” Harry called out.
“Beam them up,” Janeway said.
“Tuvok to bridge,” Tuvok's voice rang out over the no-longer-dead intercom. “We were in a running firefight, no one injured. The aliens have surrendered and are in actuality—”
“Put it in your report, Tuvok,” Janeway said curtly. “I'm about to get some answers directly from the source. Janeway out.” She looked sternly at Centravi. “Well?” she snapped.
“There's not much to explain, really, Captain,” Centravi said. “When I heard you were in our space, I saw an irresistible opportunity and I took it. Think of it: the first live-action Voyagers episode, featuring the true-life characters reacting to a dire threat! No rehearsals, no computer-generated nonsense! We spared no expense to make this as realistic as possible, which wasn't an easy task on such short notice. This will be the most-watched episode in the history of subspace.”
Janeway sighed and rubbed her forehead. “But how did you do it? The planet, the other ship, boarding us even though the shields were raised?”
Centravi shrugged. “Trickery, sensor ghosts—technologically simple things. And my people all carried holo-recorders, right in the thick of the action. As for the planet, I own it—or rather Centravi Productions owns it. One of our studios. And it was a simple matter to phase my actors through your shields, using my computer as a focus.” He tapped his palm top. “I'm sorry for any inconvenience, Captain, really. No one was ever in any danger. It was all in good fun—and good ratings, of course. Thank you.” He extended his hand.
Janeway folded her arms on her chest. “Give me your recording devices.”
“What for?” Centravi asked, taken aback by her reaction.
The turbolift door swished open. Chakotay and Tuvok came unobtrusively to stand beside Janeway.
“So they can be destroyed, of course,” Janeway replied. “You had no right to holorecord us without our permission.”
“And,” Chakotay interjected, “you've wasted our valuable time and resources.”
Tuvok: “Several decks are in a shambles from our mock battle. More time will be wasted in their repair.”
“So I tell you again,” Janeway said, “hand over all your recording devices.”
Centravi shook his head. “I will not.”
Without warning, Chakotay swiftly reached out and retrieved a small device, identical to Gert's, from behind Centravi's left ear. He smirked at Centravi, tightly squeezed the device in his fist. “That's one down, nine to go.”
Centravi chuckled. “Do whatever you'd like with that, Chakotay. It's just a collector; the footage from all our devices has already been transmitted back to my main studio on Doran.” Centravi turned to Janeway. “Really, Captain, there's no need for this unpleasantness. I should think you would be flattered, not outraged. No harm was intended, and you will be richly compensated back on--”
“Round up his people and throw them all in the brig,” Janeway said.
Tuvok seized Centravi's arm.
Chakotay drew his phaser and motioned toward the turbolift. “Let's go,” he smiled smugly.
Centravi shrugged out of Tuvok's grasp. “Captain, please, you can't do this! I'm an important man, a busy man! I've got to get back to Doran and—”
“Harry,” Janeway called out. “Hail Doran. Get in touch with one of Mr. Centravi's media rivals and inform them of his incarceration.”
Centravi's mouth fell open. “Captain!”
She smirked. “As you say, you're an important man. I'm sure all of Doran will want to know why we've detained you.” She motioned to Tuvok. “The brig.”
Chakotay waved his phaser at Centravi. “Please give me a reason to stun you.”
Nearly a day later Janeway strode into the brig. She stopped in front of the forcefield. In the cell beyond, Centravi and his entourage sat idly, numb with boredom. Gert and a few others were sleeping. Centravi stepped forward, facing Janeway.
“We're in orbit of Doran,” Janeway said. “Your local subspace channels are abuzz with news of your incarceration. They seem to think it's quite a scandal.”
Centravi nodded. “Good. Believe it or not, Captain, I'm grateful you contacted them.”
“What?” Janeway said, startled. “Why?”
“Like they say, the only bad press is no press. This “scandal” is an excellent promotion for Intrepid Voyagers. Even more people will watch our special episode because of it.”
Janeway sighed. The sigh quickly turned to laughter. “Oh, Mr. Centravi, isn't there anything I can do to get to you?”
Centravi smiled. “You're finally beginning to see the humor in recent events.”
Janeway went to the control panel behind her and deactivated the forcefield. “Get off my ship, Centravi.”
As his sleeping men came groggily awake, Centravi stepped out of the cell. “We owe you a great deal, Captain. I'm sure your crew could use a shore leave.”
“What are you getting at?”
“I told you we planned to compensate you for your troubles, Captain. There's a whole planet down there that thrills to watching your adventures on subspace every week. They'd be ecstatic to have you walking among them. Your crew's every whim will be catered to. We'll restock your ship. And perhaps some of your people would like to script a show for us, or even,” he paused dramatically, “direct an episode of Voyagers. Just give the word and Doran is at your disposal.” He stepped forward and extended his hand. “What do you say, Captain?”
“Mr. Centravi, I think my crew would mutiny if I refused.” She smiled and shook his hand.
Two weeks later, Tom Paris and Harry Kim stepped off the transporter platform. As the transporter reenergized, they turned around, curious. B’Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine materialized.
“Transporter Room to Bridge,” the transporter technician said. “The last of them are aboard, sir.”
“Thank you. Bridge out.”
Tom Paris stepped forward and helped Torres down from the platform. “There you are. I was hoping to spend the last day on Doran with you, and instead you sneak off without so much as a goodbye.” He smiled to take the edge from his voice, and kissed her. “Where'd you go?”
She smiled and turned to Seven of Nine. “Should we tell them?” she asked conspiratorially.
“I see no reason to withhold the information. Lieutenant Torres and I spent the last two days posing for a publication tentatively titled The Women of Voyagers.”
Harry Kim's mouth fell open.
“P-posing?” Tom asked. “Posing how?”
“In the nude, of course,” Seven of Nine said. Without a further word she brushed past Kim and left the Transporter Room.
“She's kidding, right? You didn't,” Tom asked B’Elanna.
She smirked at him, not saying a word.
“You did! Why would you do it?” Tom asked.
“For a thrill,” she said. “I wouldn't have done it, but...we'll never be back this way again, so who will ever see it? And they paid us very well.”
“Paid you?” Tom asked. “You don't need money, and you can synthesize anything you need. What could they possibly offer that would entice you to...”
She leaned close and whispered in his ear, “Meet me in about an hour and you'll find out.” She grinned at him, nodded to Harry, and left.
Tom and Harry watched the door slide shut behind her.
“The Women of Voyager, huh?” Tom said.
Harry nodded. “Think you can convince the captain to stay in orbit long enough for us to hunt down an advance copy?” Harry asked.
“I doubt it. Think you can contact someone on Doran and have them send us a copy over subspace?”
Harry grinned. “I'm prepared to die trying.”
“That's the spirit.” Tom clapped him on the shoulder and they left the room.