Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Seven takes matters into her own hands.
Braga drove me to it. No bridge officers were killed in the making of this fic.
1 Phase One
"Lieutenant Paris, reporting as ordered, ma'am," Tom barked as he arrived in Astrometrics, snapping to attention before its sole, rankless, resident.
"At ease," Seven replied. Tom relaxed into parade rest, awaiting further orders.
He wasn't making this very easy for her, but Seven could always ignore the helmsman's unique mannerisms. She did.
"Lieutenant, I require information which you possess."
"Betting pool information is confidential, Seven," he quipped, though he had no idea what she wanted.
"I understand that you have made several 'matchmaking' attempts upon Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. I require the details."
"When, where, how, and speculation on the cause of failure, if possible. Please gather all relevant information, regarding not only your own attempts but those of all crewmembers."
"It's been seven years - that's a lot of information." Tom's eyes narrowed. "What do you want it for?"
"Why did you attempt to 'set up' the Captain and Commander so many times?"
"I'm fond of the Captain, Seven. I didn't want her to be lonely."
"I am fond of Commander Chakotay," the former drone replied. "Please give me your report at your earliest convenience."
"Tom, what is this? Are you trying to blackmail half the crew?"
Tom snatched the PADD out of her hands. "No, B'Elanna - I'm just trying to figure out where we went wrong all these years."
He'd spent a lot of rations on synthehol rounds in Sandrine's - he should have asked Seven about discretionary funds before he'd undertaken this mission. The long-retired holodeck program prompted the crew's memories of old times and old conspiracies, but Farley, unfortunately, had a hollow leg.
He checked the PADD, now displaying part of his report on Year Three, for signs of Klingon sabotage. "Ah, the stalled turbolifts!" he said mournfully. "They have no hearts, those two - who could resist a stalled turbolift?"
"It must be genetic," B'Elanna teased him. "The Janeways must possess that rare anti-turbolift gene."
"Your heart was never in it, B'E."
She snatched the PADD back from him. "Maybe I just had better things to do with my time, flyboy. You've wasted years and gotten nowhere."
"Is there anything I've left out?" he asked, refusing to rise to her bait. "Turbolifts, Jeffries' tubes, ready-room lockdowns, Neelix's parties, holodeck mis-scheduling..." He ticked the plots off on his fingers as he spoke.
"'Year Two: Stranding the subjects on a planet together for two months'," B'Elanna read aloud. "You can't claim credit for that!"
"I didn't," her husband replied with offended dignity. "I gave full credit to Tuvok, and full blame to Harry for forcing us to return too soon."
"What are you up to, Tom?"
"Let's just say I've found a new ally."
After Seven had had a couple of days to digest his final report, Tom cornered her in Astrometrics.
"So where did we go wrong?" he asked.
Seven selected a PADD from a pile of them on the console behind her. "Year One," she intoned, in her best officious tone.
Tom interrupted. "Generally speaking, I mean."
Seven returned the PADD to its stack. "Your approach was disorganized and erratic. You failed to eliminate the obstacles to a relationship between the Captain and the Commander before making your unsuccessful attempts to encourage one."
"Eliminate the obstacles," Tom echoed her words thoughtfully. "Do you mean eliminate Starfleet? Maybe if we'd had friends like yours we could have wiped out half the Alpha Quadrant to further our matchmaking schemes, but I have to admit the thought never crossed my mind."
"I assure you, Lieutenant, this project does not require the assistance of the Borg Collective."
"Well, you'll need my help, at least. I come highly qualified."
"You have failed" - she picked up the PADD again to check the figure - "seventy-four times. Your 'assistance' will not be required."
"You can't do it alone!"
"I have recruited civilian aides."
"Who? Neelix? Icheb? Naomi?!?" Tom was crushed.
Seven nodded. "The first obstacle is Starfleet protocols. To remove them, I require assistants who are not members of Starfleet. Perhaps your services will be of use during Phase Two."
"There must be something I can do now - I could delete Michael Sullivan, for instance."
"The holodeck is your domain," Seven replied equivocally.
"There's one last report for this morning," Captain Janeway informed the senior staff, seated around the conference room table. They were all looking a bit bleary-eyed after yet another obscure holiday party of Neelix's the evening before. What had been in that punch? "Mr. Neelix, please proceed."
Janeway glanced at her PADD briefly - she hadn't had time yesterday, with the party and all the other staff reports, to read Neelix's essay on 'Life Aboard Voyager: A Civilian's-Eye View'. Not only Neelix's, it seemed - Seven, Icheb, Naomi Wildman and the EMH were listed as co-authors. She looked up from the PADD as Neelix hemmed and hawed for her attention. Hopefully this wouldn't lead to yet more tacky parties with the concomitant leola-root hors d'oeuvres.
"Thank you for your attention," Neelix began. "My report deals with the staffing issues and morale challenges of long-term missions--"
Though the Captain tried to pay attention, her mind was on other matters - Torres' engineering report and Tuvok's security report had included several requests for additional manpower. Technically, that was Chakotay's domain, but he seemed to have a hangover, or so Janeway thought when she glanced in his direction. His eyes were glazing over, though that could be Neelix's punch or Neelix's enthusiastic - loud, even - report. He certainly had had a lot of the punch - she'd tied on a few herself to drown that nagging, guilty suspicion that his unhappiness was all her fault. Technically, the entire crew's unhappiness was her fault--what was Neelix saying?
"--other children for Naomi to play with. With Lieutenants Paris and Torres' baby on the way, the time is ideal to plan for full nursery facilities. Seven and Icheb have outlined a plan to convert space on deck three--"
Janeway lost track of Neelix's speech almost immediately. Though his insight into crew morale was impressive, his reports were rambling and, to be brutally honest, incoherent. If he managed to squeeze anything important between the thick layers of Delta Quadrant proverbs and Talaxian cooking metaphors, Chakotay would include the information in his summary of the staff meeting. That is, if Chakotay was listening at all. She risked another glance in her XO's direction; he was staring at Neelix with a glazed expression that could mean complete shock, extreme boredom, or an excruciating headache. She was betting on the hangover, herself.
"--replacement staff. Icheb could be made a cadet almost immediately, and Naomi Wildman is a precocious--"
The Captain's slightly muddled thoughts turned to this morning's Pathfinder datastream. There had been the usual letters and standard Starfleet status reports, but no magic ticket home. In fact, Starfleet's faster-than-warp project was experiencing major theoretical setbacks. She hadn't mentioned those to the senior staff - there was no call to squash enthusiasm like Neelix's.
"--in consultation with the Emergency Medical Hologram. Federation research on long-term missions has shown that--"
Good, Chakotay was taking notes. She was reminded of her days back in the Academy, when Shanti and B'Jole would take turns attending Solar Physics classes, then share their notes. Of course, that only lasted until the professor caught on and reprimanded them. Chakotay was a saint to listen to Neelix's lecture on her behalf. Judging from Professor Neelix's body language, the weary class was about to be set free.
"--believe this would be the best plan to maintain the efficiency of both the ship and crew. Thank you all for your attention." Neelix resumed his seat.
"Thank you for that fascinating report, Mr. Neelix. I'll be sure to take it under advisement. I believe that's all for today." When no one made any objections, she dismissed the meeting.
"What in Kahless' name was that, Tom?"
"You've got me, B'Elanna," he said, but he thought, the civilian campaign has begun.
"Don't play coy with me. Your new allies are up to something."
"Well, whatever it is, she doesn't seem to feel threatened by it." Tom was trying to be unimpressed by the Talaxian maneuver.
"The Captain didn't hear a word Neelix said. Your friends certainly know how to slip something past her in plain sight."
Tom wondered what else the civilians were up to. A light went on in his crafty mind. "You know, I bet that report wasn't even intended for us. I bet it went out on the datastream this morning - to Starfleet Command, Starfleet Medical, the Federation Council, the Federation News Service--"
"Starfleet won't let it get into the news," B'Elanna protested.
"Right, just like Starfleet won't let Bajoran lunatics send us mental time-bombs encoded in the datastream. I'm sure my 'allies' sent it wherever it needed to go."
"You don't seriously think the Captain will go for it, do you?"
"The way I see it, it's not up to the Captain, it's up to Starfleet Command."
B'Elanna's tone softened as she said, "I think it would be nice to have a few brothers and sisters for Miral."
Tom smiled and placed a hand on his wife's growing belly. "I think so, too."
Chakotay stared at his PADD. Neelix's rambling report had clearly been a blind for the several appendices composed by the EMH and Seven of Nine. The Doctor's arguments were psychological, while Seven's involved efficiency. He decided to interrogate the Doctor first.
"Please state the nature--" the EMH said as Chakotay entered Sickbay. "Oh, hello, Commander. What can I do for you this fine afternoon?"
"I'm curious about Neelix's report on - what was it?" He checked his PADD. "'Life Aboard Voyager: A Civilian's-Eye View' - how exactly did you become involved in this?"
"Mr. Neelix asked me for my psychological expertise. It's not my specialty, of course, but I was able to distill some information for him out of the medical database. It was all speculative, of course."
"Of course. Do you know how Seven became involved in the report?"
"I recommended her to Neelix. She had a promising career as an efficiency expert among the Quarren, and I thought this project might give her another chance to exercise those skills."
"I suppose you will forward your findings to Starfleet Medical," Chakotay prompted the hologram.
"Yes, they should have gone out in the datastream this morning."
Spirits, the datastream! Chakotay had completely forgotten it. Still, he was pretty certain that the Captain hadn't heard a word Neelix had said. If he said nothing himself, he would be safe from her wrath for at least a month. And what, really, were the chances Starfleet would take it seriously? They had known Voyager was out here for years, but they'd never said a word about the issues Neelix had raised. Surely the admirals back at home would let sleeping dogs lie.
Chakotay found Seven in Astrometrics. She looked tall, blonde and innocent, as usual. He would have thought interference in the crew's social lives - or in his case the lack of one - was beneath her Borg dignity. But when he asked her about the report, he thought he detected a small, catlike grin out of the corner of his eye. By the time he'd turned to face her, the smirk was gone.
He shook his head, trying to convince himself that it had been just an optical illusion. The alternative was too disturbing to contemplate. Perhaps she had merely misunderstood when he'd suggested she try socializing with the crew more. Socializing with the crew, not socializing the crew...
Chakotay tried to put the mystery of Seven of Nine, unapproachable Borg beauty, out of his mind. Surely this was all just a matter of efficiency to her.
The Commander retreated from Astrometrics and spent the last few minutes of his duty shift polishing off his review of the morning's staff meeting. He summarized Neelix's speech as 'an interesting examination of crew rotation and morale issues over the long term.' Sandrine's was back in business, he'd heard - a beer would go down well right about now. Several beers, in fact.
A month later, Captain Janeway found out about Neelix's report. Reviewing the incoming datastream before the weekly staff meeting, she found her new orders from Starfleet Command:
You are hereby ordered to proceed with the plan outlined in report 54569/5/R1/2A submitted by Voyager staff in the previous datastream. While this decision may seem hasty, it was necessitated by a leak to the press which Starfleet Intelligence has been unable to trace. Popular sentiment, as you know, has always been with the crew of Voyager. Starfleet cannot afford a public outcry over human rights conditions on our flagship of the Delta Quadrant.
Therefore, all recommendations of your morale officer and EMH have been approved. Starfleet regulations 6.a.iii.1-9, 10.e.i.4, 34.d.iv.5-8 and all relevant protocols, written or not, are hereby suspended in your unique case. Please be assured that this decision applies to your entire crew - you and your senior staff are explicitly included. We expect you'll give this mission your best, as you always have.
Admiral Owen Paris
She stared at her desk console - in almost three decades of service, she'd never been so baffled by a direct order. If only there'd been space in the datastream for a visual communique, she might have had some hope of reading Owen's facial expressions. What could it mean? Was it the Doctor trying to get her to take more shore leave?
Something held her back from looking up regulation 6.a.iii.1 and company; instead, she called up the previous datastream and hunted down the report Owen had mentioned. Aha... 'Life Aboard Voyager: A Civilian's-Eye View' - but there had been nothing to it, as she recalled. Of course, she'd never read the entire thing, though Chakotay must have.
"Janeway to Chakotay. Could I see you in my ready-room, Commander?"
He would surely explain. Janeway told herself she wasn't up for Neelix's turgid prose at the moment, but in truth she had a bad feeling about all this and needed her XO's support.
Chakotay stepped into her domain, looking a bit nervous.
"What can you tell me about Neelix's report last month on 'Life Aboard Voyager'?" she asked without preamble. Was she hallucinating, or had he just gone pale?
"Well, appendices aside, it was just a chatty little note on converting Voyager into a generational ship. Why do you ask?" Surely Starfleet hadn't--they couldn't have--spirits, she was turning blue! No wonder Neelix had seemed so eager to leave Voyager and join those asteroid-dwelling Talaxians they'd run across a week back.
"Starfleet," she choked out, "has approved Mr. Neelix's recommendations, whatever they were. I'll need a more thorough summary than your last one" - she keyed her console and read aloud from it - "'an interesting examination of crew rotation and morale issues over the long term,' was it?"
"There must be some way to rescind the order," Chakotay protested. "If we explain that we weren't serious--"
"It seems the press is involved and this has become a publicity issue. Postpone the senior staff meeting until tomorrow, and give me your report by the end of alpha shift."
"Captain, I'm sorry about--"
Janeway wished Neelix were still aboard, so she could make him walk the plank. If only there were someone she could demote over this debacle...but Neelix's position had been, or so she'd thought, merely honorary, and his co-authors were juveniles, Borg and a hologram. Chakotay's gross incompetence in letting the report slip into the datastream was no worse than her own. She recalled something about punch and an obscure holiday...one slip, that's all it takes, just one slip-up. The Captain sighed into her coffee, and looked up regulation 6.a.iii.1 - she was sure she would miss it, whatever it was.
2 Phase Two
Tom stood in the open doorway of the astrometrics lab.
"Can I help you, Lieutenant Paris?" Seven asked without turning from her task.
"I assume you've heard about this morning's staff meeting," Tom replied.
"The Doctor mentioned it. Starfleet has ordered the conversion of Voyager into a generational ship."
"I'm surprised the Captain is going along with it."
"She is a Starfleet officer. She will do her duty."
"Of course. Now that you've eliminated the obstacles, you'll need my professional help." Seven did not reply. "Won't you?" Tom added wistfully.
"You may assist us with Phase Two."
"What exactly is Phase Two?"
"Phase One: Eliminate the obstacles. Phase Two: Create an incentive."
"Hmmm, an incentive..." Seven could almost see the gears turning in Tom's mind. "I've got it! Neelix's report involved remodelling deck three. We can appropriate the Captain's quarters and make her bunk with Chakotay. 'Eminent domain', they used to call it."
"I have already determined the appropriate incentive," Seven announced.
"Not even you can get Starfleet to order her to get married."
"The incentive will be envy," Seven corrected her matchmaking subordinate. "Now that Voyager is a generational ship, most of the crew will pair off. It would be best if all the single crewmen appeared to pair off. I am Borg; deceit is difficult for me. However, in your report you mentioned 193 separate instances of deceit. Your mission, therefore, is to arrange a uniform appearance of amorous bliss."
"So you do need me."
"We require the cooperation of the entire crew."
"I'll get right on it."
"Please be subtle, Mr. Paris."
"Of course." Tom turned to go, but then thought of one last question: "What about you, Seven?"
"You need not concern yourself with my case."
Tom enlisted B'Elanna's help with his new matchmaking duties, and before you could say "Noah's Ark", the crew was paired off. An unbiased onlooker, such as Seven of Nine, might have believed that B'Elanna was running the show. Certainly petitions to the Klingon Cupid resulted in happy pairings, as demonstrated by the engagement of Harry Kim to Megan Delaney and the elopement of Celes Tal with Billy Telfer at a convenient space station.
Klingons are notably fickle, however, and if B'Elanna came up one man short, perhaps it was only to be expected that Seven of Nine, self-sufficient Borg, would be the last single woman aboard Voyager, Janeway excepted. Yet the rationalistic efficiency expert had not calculated the effects of divine wrath. The Bat'leth of Love was about to carve Seven's well-laid plans into bloody bits.
"Doctor?" Seven inquired, as she strode into the empty sickbay.
There was a definite delay before the Doctor materialized, shrugging on his uniform jacket. "Seven, how nice to see you. How have you been?"
"Fine," she answered brusquely. "Why were you out of uniform?"
The EMH merely blushed.
"Doctor, are you malfunctioning?"
"No, Seven. I was at home with my family."
"Family?" she said in that quiet Borg way that was worse than a shout.
"You've never met my family, have you?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "When you first came aboard Voyager, your medical care occupied me so much that I had no time to visit my holographic family. After that...well, I developed other interests. However, Lieutenant Torres stopped by last week to tell me how happy the crew is now that they've paired off. It made me miss my own family life. Fortunately, B'Elanna had an idea about bringing them back and helping them achieve sentience.
"Since we're all holograms, we don't require a full-sized holodeck. B'Elanna and I designed a miniature holodeck so that my family can run continuously and won't detract from the crew's holodeck time. Here, let me show you."
The EMH ushered Seven of Nine into his office. On a shelf that had once held spare golf balls sat a miniature reproduction of an antique wood-frame house.
"Of course, the outside is just for show. Tom said it symbolized an idyllic twentieth-century life." When Seven made no comment, he added, "Charlene and I are thinking about having another child."
Seven, partially recovering her power of speech, said, "I had intended--" but then stopped short.
She had chosen the Doctor as an appropriate partner for the illusion of Phase Two, never expecting that he would be 'taken', as Tom put it. "Never mind, Doctor," she replied. "Congratulations on your new relationships."
"Thank you, Seven. Why did you stop by?"
"The reason has become...irrelevant."
Though the unstoppable Bat'leth of Love was swinging every which way, the closest thing to a date Chakotay got out of the new protocols was a few days trapped on the Ventu reservation with Seven of Nine. He'd never been one to ignore the last human woman on a planet - or, as matters looked now, the last unattached woman on Voyager - but Seven seemed uninterested, as usual.
Janeway's social life revolved around the holodeck. Chakotay made only a nominal effort to involve her in more activities with the crew. He wouldn't say he was over the Captain - he wasn't entirely sure what had happened between them, if anything at all, these past seven years. By now it was a blur of touches and arguments, smiles and frowns, new Earths and mixed signals. Janeway was enough to make a man appreciate the forthrightness of the Borg.
Naomi made a lovely flower girl at Harry and Megan's wedding. The six-year-old demanded a dance with Icheb before being sent to bed. "You're my boyfriend," she said, "B'Elanna says so." Icheb could not argue with such logic.
Harry did not want anyone to be left out, so the reception was held on the holodeck, where the Doctor's family could attend. The Schmullises enjoyed meeting the crew for the first time. Even a holographic T'Pel appeared by Tuvok's side. The most unexpected guest, however, was Michael Sullivan in a natty photonic tuxedo.
Janeway seemed unsurprised. In fact, she seemed to be Michael's date, and she fixed an inscrutable smirk on the other couples, both real and feigned, in attendance. B'Elanna grinned back, while Tom blanched. The murmur of surprised commentary spread through the holodeck and eventually reached Seven.
The Borg had been discussing Astrometrics business with Icheb when the disturbance gained her attention. The moment she spotted Michael, Seven pounced upon Tom Paris and dragged him to a quiet corner of the holographic banquet hall. "I thought you deleted him," she hissed.
Tom quailed at the sight of his own personal Borg Queen preparing to rip him implant from implant for his fatal malfunction. "I did," he protested. "Someone must have recovered his program."
Both their glances strayed to B'Elanna, who was now chatting amiably with Michael and Janeway.
"I believe I have discovered where you went wrong all these years," Seven reflected.
Tom merely sighed.
The Doctor, ever concerned about his fellow photonics, instituted a holoemitter timesharing plan. Whenever his family was enjoying a quiet evening at home, Janeway and Michael Sullivan appeared in the mess hall, at social events to which she'd always declined invitations previously, or even in shore leave parties.
Thus Phase Two went down in flames - several of the fake couples broke up, though more chose to make the farce real. Tom avoided Seven for quite a while, until he noticed the ex-drone was also avoiding him, not to mention the rest of the crew. He went to Astrometrics to investigate.
"Lieutenant." She turned to face her one non-civilian ally in the war she'd lost. "I believe I owe you an apology."
Tom did a double-take. "What?"
"I criticized you for your matchmaking failures, but my own efforts were significantly more...disastrous."
He reached out to comfort her, but his hand stopped in mid-air. How did one comfort a Borg for her lost perfection?
"Michael Sullivan isn't your fault," Tom said. "I programmed him."
"I miscalculated. I should have foreseen the holographic...approach." After all, she had found comfort there herself.
"Seven, yours was the best matchmaking scheme any of us ever came up with." Perhaps one couldn't comfort a Borg. "Maybe they just weren't meant to be."
"Perhaps my interference has ruined the Commander's chances."
Aye, there's the rub, Tom thought. In fact, it gave him an idea. "Don't give up so easily. Come to a few parties, and we'll see if we can't come up with a Phase 2A."
"Come on - it's not like we could make things any worse, at this point." Tom gave her his best self-deprecating grin.
Seven nodded in reluctant agreement.
Tom decided to eschew the sophisticated Borg approach and go with one of the classics. Thus, three days and one party later, Seven of Nine found herself trapped in a malfunctioning, slightly overheated turbolift with Commander Chakotay.
Over the comm, Lieutenant Torres informed them that several ship's systems had been affected by a bad bio-gelpack. The turbolift was low on her list of repairs; they would have to wait.
Seven and Chakotay stared at one another blankly, both all too familiar with this sort of 'malfunction'. He sat down against the wall first, taking off his uniform jacket. She looked down at him; he gestured at the floor as if to offer her a seat.
She sat down at a safe distance from him, folding her legs under her as she had on the ground of Ledos. The memory of those days alone with him disturbed her. She avoided his eyes.
When the silence between them grew uncomfortable, he said, "I'm puzzled by your role in the 'Life Aboard Voyager' report. I would never have guessed you were the matchmaking type, but you seem to be very good at it."
"I am not responsible for this" - her eyes roved over the turbolift walls in irritation - "situation."
"It's more Tom's style," he agreed.
Now that she was on the receiving end of Tom's plots, it occurred to Seven of Nine that the chosen victims might not have appreciated them. She certainly did not. "Do you mind...?" she asked, not sure how to finish the question.
"I never object to people trying to do me a good turn," he answered, "whether or not they succeed."
"What if they make matters worse?" she asked.
He shrugged. "That's never happened."
"I made it worse."
Chakotay shook his head. "Here I am, stuck in a turbolift with a beautiful woman who isn't interested in me. Nothing has changed."
Seven looked up from the carpet suspiciously, to find him smiling that disarming smile that had always floored her when his hologram did it.
"You know," he said, "they can keep this matchmaking thing up for years. Unless you're especially fond of frozen turbolifts and blocked Jeffries' tubes, I recommend a preemptive surrender."
"Resistance is futile?" she asked, with a tiny quirk of the lips he recognized as her mischievous smile.
"So I've heard."
The Klingon Cupid set the turbolift back in motion from her station in Engineering, satisfied with a job well done.
As has been reported elsewhere, Seven and Chakotay were married after a whirlwind romance. Theirs was yet another unexpected wedding to come out of Phase Two, but not the most unexpected.
Most of Voyager's crew believed Janeway married Michael Sullivan to spite Starfleet for rescinding her fondest protocols, though the Doctor preferred to think his Captain was striking a blow for photonic rights. The only comment she ever made about it was, "I've met plenty of organic men who were less sentient than my husband."