DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...

"Endgame" (Part I)

[Disclaimer]

Paramount pretty much owns everything you're about to read. It's their dialog, their characters, their franchise. For whatever reason, they've chosen to leave me alone to poke fun at all they do and are, and I thank them for it from the bottom of my silly little heart.

This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work when the pointy-haired boss ain't looking. You'll find in the following few dozen pages the closest thing online to watching the actual episode. Although I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative, the dialog is generally sacrosant. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone--as are the jokes, aside from those I stole from my literary betters.

In a nutshell: this is by the fans, of the fans, for the fans. If I say something serious or meaningful along the way, chalk it up to dumb luck. So pull up some shuttle debris, check your common sense at the door, and settle in for happy hour.

[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]

[Summary]

Yes, Voyager makes it home, and in record time. On the tenth anniversary of their triumphant return, some of the old gang are doing just fine...while others aren't so good.

The legendary Admiral Janeway has time to wonder if she could have improved her travel time. Tuvok wonders whether it even IS Janeway, and others from the Voyager family also notice that she hasn't been herself lately.

Meanwhile, back in Season Seven...B'Elanna's on the verge of giving birth, Tuvok's losing to Icheb in kal-toh, Doc is treating Chakotay and Seven of Nine for rugburn, and Ensign Kim is itching to fly down the throat of the Borg if it means surfing through a homeward-bound wormhole.

And that's only the beginning...

Jump straight to the Analysis

[Breakdown]

The series finale begins with a panoramic night view of San Francisco. Fireworks light up the evening sky.

We next see a vessel slowly descending--the familiar outline of an Intrepid-class starship, diving toward the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.

The orchestra swells, trumpets blaring a fanfare crafted by the Federation's finest composers for this auspicious moment. Every citizen of San Francisco, it seems, is outside, crowded together, necks craned upward to view the last few meters of Voyager's long journey home, voices hoarse from cheering the sleek vessel to its rest.

The vessel swoops down, clearing the top of the landmark bridge in the San Francisco Bay with a hair's breadth to spare, then swoops upward and executes a spiraling upward climb through the rainbow of celebratory fire. (Any guesses on who's behind the helm?)

And then...the camera pulls back, to reveal that all this is being shown on a television display. The sounds of the moment are muted, and a narrator's voice--young, male and bred for journalism--begins to speak.

"These should be familiar images to everyone who remembers the USS Voyager's triumphant return to Earth after 23 years in the Delta Quadrant."

The camera pans back some more; the narrator's voice softens as we find ourselves in the spacious and tastefully-decorated, yet sterile, home of a silver-haired woman--lean and beautiful, but with an expression rife with complexity. She walks through the dimly-lit room and reaches for a cup--dented, dulled with age. A cup with a long history. The woman takes a sip as the narrator continues.

Voyager captivated the hearts and minds of people throughout the Federation, so it seems fitting that on this, the tenth anniversary of their return we take a moment to recall the sacrifices made by the crew.

What comes next from the narrator is a bit abrupt. "Corruption charges were brought today against a Ferengi--" Is this one of the sacrifices made by the crew, or is it just one heck of a bad segue?

"Computer, end display," the woman commands. The voice is familiar. And irritable.

She walks over to the window. She has a view of the San Francisco skyline as impressive as that shown on the monitor a moment before--wall-sized sliding glass doors. Enough light shines to make it pretty obvious that this stately woman is none other than Kathryn Janeway.

A certain review boy does the math.

Thirty-three years have passed since the events of "Caretaker." That makes twenty-six years since "Renaissance Man."

That means there was a span of 16 years from "Renaissance Man" to Voyager's arrival in San Francisco.

One suspects a lot has happened in those 16 years, and in the ten years since. For example, why, on the tenth anniversary of Voyager's homecoming, Kathryn Janeway is watching television alone in a dark apartment.

One also wonders how much of it we'll hear...and how much of it will still apply two hours from now.

* * *

It would seem I spoke too soon.

We get an exterior view of a very nice looking luxury apartment complex. A moment later, we see the inside of one of its quarters, and we see a party in full swing.

The lights are up to full. Shiny happy people everywhere, many in Starfleet uniforms, many not. Lots of kids scampering around. A disproportionate number of Bolians in wearing tuxes and tails wander around serving drinks. With all due respect to Intel Corporation, this Pentium Awareness campaign seems to be going a little too far. Fight the Power, Blue Man Group!

Now this is a gathering fit for a reunion.

We see someone who looks like Ensign Kim, only older, chatting amiably with a young couple.

"Dinner next week, then?" the couple asks.

"I'm looking forward to it," Harry says. The couple smiles, and they part ways.

A little girl with spikes on her forehead begins climbing on Harry like he's a set of monkey bars. Cute little tyke.

Harry kneels down to address the girl eye-to-eye. "Hello."

"What's your name?" asks the girl.

He smiles. "Harry. What's yours?"

"Sabrina."

"Naomi's daughter?" the girl nods. "You've gotten so big!"

Sabrina looks at Harry quizzically. "I don't remember you." Given her size and her forehead spikes, one guesses that she's got the same early adolescent development that Naomi Wildman had.

Harry sighs wistfully, looking around at his friends and former shipmates. "I haven't come to one of these reunions in four years."

"Why?"

"I've been on a deep space assignment."

Sabrnina makes a face. "For four years?" That's almost as long as she's been alive, one suspects--an eternity for a kid her age.

Harry nods gravely. "Compared to how long I was on Voyager, it seemed like a long weekend." He looks around. "Can you find your mother for me?"

"Uh huh."

"I'd like to say hi."

Sabrina takes off running--darn near bowling over Kathryn Janeway, who is heading toward Harry with two glasses of champagne in hand. "Oops!" she says to Sabrina. Then, to Harry, "Here you are--Captain."

So Ensign Weenie finally done grown up. He's a captain for real. Good for him!

"Thank you, Admiral." Admiral! Well, well... it must be said, in the light, Janeway makes a gorgeous older woman. She'd have to be in her seventies by now, but she's got that timeless Lauren Bacall, Grace Lee Whitney, Barbara Luna thing going for her. And she seems in a much better mood than during that dark coffee break in the teaser, which only adds to her radiance.

In a word--yowsa.

Harry looks at the scampering Sabrina. "I haven't seen her since she was a baby."

Janeway sighs as she looks around the room. "It's amazing how fast you've all grown."

Captain Kim's expression turns more serious. "How's Tuvok?" he asks, as they begin walking through the room, pretending to mingle.

Janeway's party face fades. She rests her hand on Harry's shoulder as they walk. "Not well."

"I thought maybe I'd go see him tomorrow."

Janeway's expression is that of the Mama Kate of old. "Oh, that would be nice."

More sad news, not well explained. "I'm sorry I missed the funeral," Harry says. "I should have been there." He stops; this part of the room is less crowded, it's a bit easier to talk in private.

WHOSE FUNERAL?!? Yeah, it's been decades, but still--who isn't at the party? The Voyager Dead Pool demands to know.

Janeway doesn't meet his gaze. "You were on a mission. Everyone understood." Janeway swallows her obvious grief and regards her former Ensign fondly. She looks up and rubs his arm fondly. "It's so good to see you, Harry."

*

The front door chimes; the Doctor makes a grand entrance. He's looking particularly dashing in his Playboy Club smoking jacket, carrying a stunning, perky blonde on his arm. Her back is to us--from this angle, it could well be Seven of Nine.

The lucky holographic puke.

Tom Paris is the first to notice. "Doc!" Wow, has Tom changed. His hairline has receded to the point where his hairline rivals the Doctor's. Only his is more silver than blonde, while Doc looks as ageless as ever. No Data-like affectations of age, no skunk stripe to approximate the passage of time.

Well, okay, the blonde looks young enough to be his daughter, but that's probably not how he sees it.

"Mr. Paris!" the Doctor says warmly. He turns to his blonde companion by way of introduction. "Voyager's pilot, medic, and occasional thorn in my side."

Tom bows grandly, accepting the left-handed praise. We notice that he's wearing a black turtleneck, and not a Starfleet uniform.

"Where have you been hiding yourself?" Doc asks.

Tom smiles. "I've been busy." Tom and Doc wrap each other up in a manly bear hug.

Doc smiles knowingly. "New holo-novel?"

Naturally. "I'll make sure to get your input before I send it off to my publisher."

A Bolian arrives, bearing drinks. (Just ignore that "Pentium 47" lapel pin the waiter is wearing.) Tom grabs a champagne flute; Doc grabs two, one for himself, one for his companion.

Tom takes appreciative note of the blonde. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your date?"

Doc thought he'd never ask. He beams. "Mr. Paris--meet Lana, my blushing bride."

Tom's jaw drops. Heck, it dang near clanks. "You're married?"

Lana is radiant. "Tomorrow is our two-week anniversary."

Tom is momentarily at a loss for words. "Well, congratulations!" Then, giving Doc a scolding look, he adds, "My invitation must have gotten lost in subspace."

Doc is unfazed. "Oh, you should be flattered! We took a page from your book and eloped." (Oh? How did Tom and B'Elanna do THAT, exactly? The mind reels. It's not like there's an Elvis Chapel o'Love in the Delta Quadrant--who but Janeway could have done the honors?)

Lana practically jumps rope over Doc's arm. "Joe has a real flair for romantic gestures."

Tom dang near squirts champagne through his nose. "'Joe'?!?"

"I decided I couldn't get married without a name," Doc says logically.

That's not exactly the point. "It took you THIRTY-THREE YEARS to come up with JOE?!?!?" Leave it to Tom to ask the important questions.

"It was Lana's grandfather's name," Doc--Joe--Doctor Joe explains.

Tom blinks again. "Oh. Oh!" He looks at Lana. "So you're not a..."

"A hologram?" she asks. "No." She doesn't seem offended. One must admit, Lana looks good enough to wonder whether she was programmed for perfection.

Doc gives Tom a mock scowl. "Frankly, Mr. Paris, I'm surprised you'd even ask." He lifts his head proudly, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King of photons. "I thought we were beyond those sorts of distinctions."

But Tom didn't mean anything by it. "Are you kidding? I think it's great! I'm in a mixed marriage myself, remember?"

Doc accepts that. "Speaking of which, where is that wife of yours?"

*

B'Elanna's hair is a bit longer, a bit grayer, but she looks terrific. She's dressed in attire that suggests a much greater level of comfort with her Klingon heritage than during her Voyager days. In fact, she's quite a bit darker, suggesting she's been getting plenty of time in the sun of her mother's beloved Q'onos.

The look suits her. Dang, but the women of the 24th century age well.

"The High Council had a lot of questions," B'Elanna tells Janeway.

"What did you tell them?" Admiral Kate asks.

"The truth..." she smiles. "With a Klingon twist. I told them that my beloved former Captain--who had saved my life many times in glorious battle--would be honored to submit Korath's house for consideration."

Oh my. Janeway's getting involved in Klingon politics?

"Do you think it will work?" Janeway asks.

"I'm just the Federation liaison, but I'd like to think I have some influence." her smile fades. "You still haven't told me why you're trying to help Korath."

"He's an old friend." It's an insufficient answer and they both know it, but Janeway doesn't care; she says nothing further. Admiral's prerogative.

B'Elanna's mood betrays some of the fire we've so often seen with her. Something's bugging her, and she's not shy about sharing. "Would this...old friend have anything to do with the mission that you sent my daughter on?" There's a trace of accusation here.

Janeway tries to brush it off. "Sorry, B'Elanna, but you know I can't talk about that."

"Couldn't you at least have waited until after the reunion? She really wanted to be here." For SHAME, Granny Kate!

"She'll be home soon, I promise," Janeway says. She grabs B'Elanna by both shoulders, then pats them, a gesture of consolation. Or something.

At this moment, their attentioin--and the attention of everyone in the room--is drawn toward the upper level, where a crystal champagne flute is being assaulted by fine silver.

*

Interestingly, Reg Barclay is also here. He's looking a bit older, but more distinguished, and his speech patterns suggest a confidence and a sense of peace we've rarely seen in him. It suits him. "May I have everyone's attention, please?"

When he has it, he continues. "Ten years ago tonight, this crew returned home from the longest away mission in Starfleet's history." He smiles, and the crowd laughs appreciatively.

"Twenty-three years together made you a family," Barclay says, on the verge of misting up. "One I'm proud to have been adopted by." The reaction in the room confirms the statement--Lieutenant Barclay of the Pathfinder Project has definitely earned his place here. "So let's raise our glasses...to the journey."

"To the journey," everyone says in unison. Glasses clink.

Janeway's voice pierces the revelry. "And to those who aren't here to celebrate it with us."

The room falls silent. B'Elanna and Tom share a very personal look at that as they drink. Doc smiles at his new bride. Janeway and Harry Kim enjoy their moment by each other's side.

This is the Voyager family, 33 years later. Bigger--but also diminished. Some expected faces are not here. Tuvok is apparently ill. There's a recent funeral (whose? Anyone we know?) The Paris/Torres daughter is out working for Janeway while the parents party. Neelix and Chakotay and Seven are nowhere to be seen. Neelix can be excused; he's probably still ambassadoring, and hanging out with Dexa and Brax. Or scampering about in the Great Forest.

But where are Seven and Chakotay?

*

If I were more familiar with the San Francisco skyline, I might be able to give you the address of Starfleet Communications--we're given a nice daytime view of the home of the Pathfinder project with its oddly Borg-like exterior, surrounded by other buildings both ancient (20th century) and modern. But I don't, so I leave it to the trivia hounds to offer this detail.

By the way, I couldn't help noticing the Nike "swoosh" over the old Starfleet insignia. The 24th century seems to be rife with cross-promotional possibilities.

This one does make sense, though. Exploring Brave New Worlds: Just Do It.

Inside, we find a classroom filled with cadets. We see Barclay, standing by a podium, and Janeway seated nearby. "Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Borg," says Barclay. We get a holographic sizzle, and soon a drone is floating a few inches over a platform, rotating slowly like a hog on a vertical barbecue spit.

"Over the course of this term, you're going to become intimately familiar with the Collective. You'll learn about the assimilation process, the Borg hierarchy, and the psychology of the hive mind." He smiles. "And when it comes to your performance in this class, my expectations are going to be no different than the Borg Queen herself--perfection." He waggles his finger for emphasis, drawing a laugh from the cadets.

Barclay smiles. "This semester, we are very fortunate to have a special guest lecturer--the woman who literally wrote the book on the Borg: Admiral Kathryn Janeway."

Janeway smiles and rises, and takes her place at the podium, to thunderous applause. "Thank you, Commander." She looks at the assembled cadets. "I'm glad to be here."

A young man in the front row looks antsy; Janeway smiles at him. "A question already, cadet?"

The cadet stands up crisply. "I suppose it could wait until after class, Admiral."

Janeway smirks. "As they say in the temporal mechanics department, 'there's no time like the present.'" Ooh. Ouch.

The cadets laugh anyway, sensing their grades are on the line. Best to suck up early.

The young man soldiers on. "In the year 2377 you aided the Borg resistance movement known as Unimatrix Zero."

Janeway looks at Barclay, who shrugs. "Sounds like someone's been reading ahead," he says.

Janeway gives him one of her better skunk eyes. "I thought you had a question, cadet."

The boy coughs. "Yes, Ma'am! When you informed the Queen that you were going to liberate thousands of her drones, could you describe the look on her face?"

What is this, a classroom or a convention? Did you knit that uniform yourself, Skeeter?

Janeway rolls her eyes and looks at Barclay, who just shrugs again. The other cadets snicker a little bit. They know who's gonna be scrubbing bulkheads with his tongue this semester.

Another cadet, this one female, asks for Janeway's attention. "Admiral? Some of us were talking before class and we were curious." Janeway nods for her to continue. "How extensive was Seven of Nine's involvement with Unimatrix Zero?"

The music starts, and it's a pretty maudlin tune. Uh oh. SORE SUBJECT ALERT!

Janeway's expression becomes desolate. "I'd, uh...prefer not to discuss Seven of Nine."

This catches everyone's attention. Not talk about the most famous Borg of them all, this side of Jean Luc Picard? There's a story here, and not one of them seems eager to explore it further. Not after that reaction.

"Yes, ma'am," mutters the poor female cadet. "Sorry." She quickly sits down and tries to blend into the back wall.

Further unease is short-circuited by the arrival of a member of Janeway's staff. "Admiral, you have an incoming message from Miral Paris," he whispers.

Janeway takes the message gratefully, and excuses herself.

What had begun as a rousing introduction to a great-sounding class, has crashed and burned in a matter of minutes. Poor Reg Barclay is left alone to fill the remainder of the hour. "Okay....uh, who can tell me a little about...nanotechnology?"

*

Janeway's office is spacious, her desk is huge and wooden, her chair green--could it be the same as from her ready room, all those years ago?--her windows opaque, and the communicaitons terminal transparent--it's an understated bit of technological advancement, but it's impressive all the same. LCARS still rules, but it's improved over the past 33 years.

Miral Paris, a Starfleet officer of unidentified (yet) rank, speaks to Janeway across a comm channel. It should be noted that she looks a whole lot like her mother, and that is a compliment. "I'm sorry to pull you out of class, Admiral."

Janeway, clearly, is not. She's all business, her words as crisp as fresh lettuce. "Did you see it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And?" Janeway demands impatiently.

Miral smiles. "It works."

Janeway's face registers pleasure at this. "Korath has agreed to the exchange?" she asks.

"Yes."

Janeway notes her hesitation. "But...?"

A pause. "He's insisting on handing it over to you personally."

Janeway nods. "I'll be there as soon as I can." She smiles, the Mama Kate (or is it Grandma Kate now?) in her shining through. "Good work, Ensign Paris."

I'm sure those of you who spat fire in the period between "Thirty Days" and "Unimatrix Zero" had a bit of a shiver over this. Ensign Paris just doesn't have the right ring, does it?

The connection ends. Janeway reclines in her chair, and rubs her hands nervously.

Whatever that was about, it was big. Really big.

*

The room is dark. There are papers scattered about on the floor. Some are crumpled up; others smooth; still others once crumpled up but now semi-flat again. Candles are scattered throughout the room.

A hand reaches for a crumpled ball of paper; we see Tuvok unfold it. He's kneeling on the ground, surrounded by candles...and by a single meditation lamp, off to his right. He's writing furiously.

The room gets suddenly brighter as the doors slide open. Tuvok winces and covers his eyes.

"Hello, Tuvok." It's Janeway.

"The light!" he rasps, in obvious discomfort.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Janeway steps inside, and the doors close behind her. As soon as the room is dark again, Tuvok resumes writing, not wasting much time looking at his guest.

Janeway kneels right in front of him, putting her face maybe a foot away from his. A moment later, he looks up.

Tuvok's face doesn't register recognition right away. The look is rather blank, actually. After so many years of seeing the light of intelligence in his eyes, it's a disquieting sight.

"I know you," Tuvok says at last.

Janeway smiles. "That's right. I'm your friend. Kathryn Janeway, remember?"

Tuvok's eyes narrow with suspicion. "You're an impostor."

"No, Tuvok. It's me."

Tuvok shakes his head. "Admiral Janeway visits on Sunday. Today is Thursday. Logic dictates that you are not who you claim to be." He ignores her again, returning to his work.

Logic dictates that Tuvok has been breathing a bit too much carbon monoxide in this candle-powered room.

Janeway doesn't seem to take offense. She walks away, giving Tuvok his space. She sits down near the bed. "How are you?" she asks. We notice for the first time the gift in her hand, something white and rectangular with a white bow.

"I am close to completing my work," Tuvok says, his nose inches from the paper he's scribbling on.

"I'm glad to hear it."

"It is difficult with so many interruptions!"

"I'm sorry," Janeway says mildly. "Would you like me to leave?"

Tuvok keeps writing. It takes him a moment to reply. "You may stay."

Janeway is glad for that. Her old friend and advisor isn't completely gone. But oddly, this seems to make her next comments more difficult.

Her voice drops to a whisper. She leans in close. "Tuvok? There's something I need to tell you. It's very important."

Tuvok keeps writing.

Janeway takes a deep breath. "I'm going away...and I may not see you again."

A moment later, Tuvok stops writing. He looks up and stares at the Admiral. He leans toward her, she leans toward him. They are about a foot apart now.

"Commander Barclay and the Doctor will continue to visit you," Janeway promises. "They'll bring you anything you need."

Tuvok absorbs these words. He thinks. He responds. "The Doctor comes on Wednesdays. Commander Barclay's visits are...e...erratic." The lack of logic to Barclay's visits causes Tuvok to retreat once again to whatever logic he is seeking in his handwritten notes.

Janeway looks at what's left of her longtime colleague with sadness. And with something else--determination, perhaps. She leaves her chair, leans down, and kisses Tuvok on the crown of his head. He barely registers her presence. She then walks over to a dresser, covered with other candles and bricabrac, and places her gift here. It's a picture of the senior staff in a happier time, shortly after Seven of Nine's arrival on Voyager.

She leaves the bow intact.

Janeway heads to the door. She offers one last look at him. Her voice fills with emotion. "Good-bye, Tuvok."

*

Later that evening, the Doctor makes a return appearance to Janeway's apartment. He's alone this time, carrying his medical bag.

"You must be the only Doctor who still makes house calls," Janeway says, inviting him in. She's dressed in a blue polyester pantsuit, a simple solid color that showcases her ample bosom. (I've been led to understand that this line comes from Mulgrew herself, on a recent appearance with Craig Kilborn. I'm just here to share the joy.)

Doc is wearing a Starfleet uniform. "What are your symptoms?" he asks, getting right to work.

"I'm perfectly fine," Janeway insists.

Doc doesn't buy it. Janeway does a slow turn while Doc scans. "For 33 years you fought me every time you were due for a physical. Now you ask me to give you one ahead of schedule?"

"I'm taking a trip," she says, refusing to elaborate. "I just wanted to get our appointment out of the way before I left."

"That's all?"

"That's all."

"Hmm," Doc says, completing his scan and checking the results. "The good news is you're as healthy as you were the first day I examined you." After 33 years? Sounds suspicious...

"Well..." Janeway says, giving the Doc an official Attaboy for the shameless compliment. "Now that's out of the way, have a seat." She gestures to the living room couch; Doc obliges. "We didn't get to talk much at the party," she says, taking her own place on the sofa opposite him.

"No. I don't suppose we did."

"So, how's married life?"

"Wonderful," Doc says. Then, he adds more pointedly, "You should try it."

"Oh, I think it's a little late for that. Marriage is for the young--like your wife." Ooh, ouch.

"I can only hope she ages as gracefully as you have," says Doc, once again earning a commendation in the Sucking Up to the Admiral file. "I, of course, will be the same handsome hologram 20 years from now as I am today."

Janeway smiles, then grows serious. "I've been meaning to ask you. Are you familiar with a drug called chronexaline?"

Doc is almost instantly on guard. He knows that voice all too well. "We've been testing it at Starfleet Medical to determine if it can protect biomatter from tachyon radiation."

"And?"

"It's very promising." A frown. "Why do you ask?"

Janeway stands. Her tone is an unequivocal order. "I need 2,000 milligrams by tomorrow afternoon."

Doc also rises. He looks worried. "Why?" (The "for frell's sake?" is implied.)

"That's classified." Her voice makes it plain--don't even try to debate me tonight, photon boy. "Will you get it for me?"

Doc sighs, resigned. "Of course, Admiral. You'll have it by 09:00."

Her needs met, Janeway smiles, once again the gracious hostess. "Thank you."

*

Back at Starfleet Communications (swoosh!)...

"Download complete."

The computer announces success, and Reg Barclay hands the newly-filled datapadd to Admiral Janeway. "This should be everything you need."

"The shuttle?" she asks.

"Waiting for you at the Oakland shipyard." He risks an impertinence. "I wish you'd let me come with you."

Janeway's smile is tight. "Sorry, Reg, but this is my mission." Then her grin grows warm. "Besides, if you leave, there won't anyone to teach those eager young cadets about the Borg."

"Oh!" Barclay says, walking away from Janeway for a moment. "I made you some fresh tea for the trip. Not that replicated stuff." He hands her a thermos.

Whoah, wait--TEA?!?!? Kathryn Janeway, Favorite Daughter of Columbia, Starbucks Pinup Girl, drinking TEA!?!?!

Tuvok's right--this Janeway is an imposter. Dang tea-drinking replicant....no wonder she's skulking around. There's anti-coffee evil afoot.

Tht could explain the sorry condition of the legendary Janeway Coffee Mug in the teaser.

Oh, man, what are they thinking? NEVER! DISRESPECT! THE BEAN!

But I digress.

Janeway accepts the tea (horrors!). "Thank you...for everything. I wouldn't have been able to do this without you."

Barclay whimpers a little, for effect. "Oh, don't remind me."

Janeway chuckles softly, and pats Reg on the arm on her way out the door.

*

Janeway's next stop is an odd choice. It's outdoors, a single tree rises up behind her, and the grass at her feet is of the wild variety, not the perfection of 24th-century lawn technology. The sky is an ominous shade of turbulent gray.

"Any final words of advice for your old Captain?" Janeway asks nobody in particular. Her hands are clasped before her. She's wearing a brown coat, somewhat Klingon in design, and she addresses the ground at her feet.

She raises a hand. "Wait. Don't tell me. I'm being impulsive. I haven't considered all the consequences. It's too risky." She smiles downward. "Thanks for the input. But I've got to do what I think is right."

The admiral kneels down. She wipes at the ground, swiping away leaves and dirt to reveal a grave marker: CHAKOTAY * 2329 - 2394.

Well, that's recent enough that his must have been the funeral referred to earlier. 65 years isn't too shabby for an old angry warrior; granted, folks live a lot longer than that in this century, but theirs was a hard life.

Janeway addresses the stone, her voice starting to break a little. "I know it wasn't easy living all these years without her, Chakotay. But when I'm through, things might be better for all of us."

She swallows hard and looks at the cold, hard ground. "Trust me."

I gotta say, so far this is Chakotay's best acting all season...

* * *

Act Two begins in the unspecified past. As with the teaser, it begins in darkened quarters.

A woman groans, and calls out, disturbing a man's sleep. "Tom?"

Tom Paris buries himself deeper into his pillow, and mumbles a plea to Kahless for rest.

"Tom." The voice is more insistent.

"I'm sleeping!" Tom mumbles.

"It's time."

"For what?" Tom mumbles again.

"I'll give you one guess."

The lights come on. B'Elanna struggles to her feet, her hands pressing against her lower back for support.

Tom slowly looks up. He notices his wife pacing. She looks fit to pop. He wonders what the heck the lights are doing on--

Fit to pop. Pop. Papa.

Oh boy.

Tom bolts upright. Not quite awake, but springing to action all the same. He slaps his chest. "Paris to..."

He notices he's not wearing his combadge. He shakes his head to clear it (a valiant but futile attempt), throws off the covers, and hops out of bed, almost gracefully. He grabs his combadge off the nightstand. "Paris to Sickbay, it's time."

Oh, in case you're wondering: Boxers.

"Relax, Mr. Paris," Doc says. His impatience suggests this isn't the first time. "Can she stand?"

Tom's head moves slowly around the room; he spots B'Elanna walking around, putting on a robe.

Tom nods his head, but then realizes Doc can't see him. "Affirmative."

"Then I suggest you report to Sickbay."

Tom nods again and heads for the door. He's not wearing pants. He's halfway into the corridor when a thought strikes him. "What about B'Elanna?"

You can almost hear the sigh in Sickbay. "Her, too."

"Right, of course." Tom stumbles back into the room. While he's grabbing a robe, B'Elanna waddles past him on her way into the corridor.

"Maybe we should take the transporter," Tom says to B'Elanna, before realizing she's no longer in the room. "Hey, wait for me!" Struggling to put the robe on, he runs after her, allowing the doors to close on an empty room.

*

"Hmm..." Doc says, running the medical tricorder over B'Elanna.

Tom is right there with her. Both eye the Doc expectantly. "What do you mean by 'hmm'?" Tom asks.

Doc smiles. "You're going to have a very healthy baby...But not tonight."

Tom and B'Elanna both groan.

B'Elanna falls back on the pillow. "TELL me you're joking!"

"You're experiencing false labor, Lieutenant," Doc says. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's enjoying this.

"Again?" Tom bleats.

"As I explained the last time, it's a common occurrence--especially among Klingons."

B'Elanna begins to pound her fists against the bed. "I want this thing out of me." She bolts upright; her head spins. "NOW!"

You know how in movies they alter a person's voice when they're possessed by the devil? Kind of a gutteral war-whoop in minor thirds? Imagine the Klingon devil. The walls shake; Doc's image squiggles for a second. Tom's ears bleed. Voyager veers ever so slightly off course.

When she says now, she means NOW.

Doc frowns and looks away. "Misdirected rage...another common occurrence among Klingons."

Tom goes nose to nose with the Doc. "Can't you induce?"

"I wouldn't recommend it."

Tom and B'Elanna both groan. "If this keeps happening, we'll never get any sleep," Tom says wearily.

Doc rolls his eyes. "You think it's bad now?"

*

Janeway rolls her eyes. She's in her ready room, and Chakotay is making a report. She's quaffing another gallon of coffee.

"When?" Janeway demands.

"0400."

"How many false alarms does that make?"

Chakotay shrugs. "Three--that we know of."

Janeway throws up her hands, spilling some coffee. A few drops hit the carpet, instantly dissolving it. She must be enjoying that special Horta blend. "That baby is as stubborn as her mother!"

It's not just the Paris/Torres baby; it's everyone's. Since nobody else on board seems to have found their Special Purpose, it's up to Helm Boy and Engine Girl to provide a vicarious bit of parental joy.

"Harry's starting a pool to see who can guess the actual date and time of birth."

Janeway puts down her coffee keg and folds her arm, deep in thought. She smiles. "Tell him to put me down for next...Friday, 2300 hours."

The important business of the morning conducted, she smiles. "Anything else?"

Chakotay's got a doozy. "Crewman Chell's asked about taking over in the mess hall full-time."

Janeway snickers. She strolls over to the big sofa under the window and drapes herself upon it. "Neelix left some pretty big pots and pans to fill. Does Mr. Chell feel he's up to the challenge?"

"Apparently so. He's prepared a sample menu." Chakotay walks up the steps and hands her a PADD with the proposed menu.

Janeway reads, incredulity growing with each item. "'Plasma leek soup?!?'" She looks up; Chakotay shrugs. "'Chicken (warp) core done blew.'" She laughs in spite of herself; Chakotay joins her.

"If his cooking's as bad as his puns, we're in trouble," Chakotay says.

"Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't mind giving his 'red alert chili' a try." No surprise there, though I bet the Battlestations Burrito packs an even bigger kick. "Feel like having lunch?"

Chakotay hesistates. "I'd love to, but I've already made plans. Rain check?"

"Absolutely." Janeway smiles; Chakotay leaves. The captain returns to the proposed menu, laughing hysterically at the thought of Filet of Phage topped off with a slice of Get This Cheesecake To Sickbay.

*

Chakotay enters cargo bay two, and his eyes go wide. "What's this?"

Seven of Nine is kneeling on a red-and-white checkered picnic blanket. A wicker basket: a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and trou.

"A picnic," Seven says. She's smiling as she pours a glass of something red and rich. "According to my research this is an appropriate third date." She offers the glass.

Chakotay takes it. "You didn't have to go to this much trouble." He takes a sip.

Seven looks worried. "If this makes you uncomfortable I could prepare a less elaborate meal."

Chakotay kneels on the blanket. "No, no," he reassures her. "Don't change a thing." He takes another sip, looks satisfied, and then raises the glass in toast. "This is perfection." His smile is radiant.

Seven's is as well. The two glasses clink.

Date Three begins in earnest.

*

In the mess hall, Icheb's brows furrow in concentration. He's holding a kal-toh piece in his hand, waving it uncertainly over the chaotic pile of metal strips.

He seems to choose a resting place for the piece. Harry Kim, sitting opposite Tuvok, coughs in a manner calculted to offer a hint.

Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Tuvok backs this up. "In the interest of fair play," he says, "I should inform you that Mr. Kim has never defeated me at kal-toh."

Icheb gives Harry a look. Harry shrugs. A moment later, Icheb makes his move.

Nothing happens.

"You should've listened to me," Harry says smugly.

Tuvok makes his move a moment later. After setting the strip in place, the game shimmers a bit--and resolves into a partially completed sphere. In short--a good move.

"Kal-toh is as much a game of patience as it is of logic," Tuvok explains. "An experienced player will sometimes take several hours to decide his next move, and in some cases even days may be necessary to--"

While Tuvok explains, Icheb makes his next move. The game shimmers a bit, and resolves a moment later into a perfect geometric shape.

Icheb smiles. "Kal-toh!"

Harry's eyes pop out of his head and roll around on the table. "You beat him!"

Tuvok's feathers are ruffled, but he's gracious in defeat. the least the boy could have done was wait for him to finish his lecture, right? "Congratulations."

Icheb senses the Vulcan's discomfort. "I'm sure it was just beginner's luck, sir." He smiles sheepishly. "I'd offer you a rematch, but I'm due in Astrometrics."

"Another time, perhaps," Tuvok says. Icheb leaves.

Harry, sensing opportunity, jumps into the empty seat. "He may have to go, but I'm free and feeling lucky!" Harry cracks his fingers like a card shark getting ready to deal.

It is not to be. "If you'll excuse me, Ensign." Tuvok, too, leaves.

Harry frowns and yells after him. "It's just a game, Tuvok!."

*

Doc's busy this week; now Tuvok's in Sickbay.

"Icheb's an exceptionally bright young man," Doc says while running the tricorder over his newest patient. "Did it occur to you that he might simply be a better player?"

"My loss was the result of another lapse in concentration," Tuvok insists.

He's right. Doc checks the results and frowns. "I am detecting lower neuro-peptide levels."

"As I suspected," Tuvok says. "My condition is deteriorating."

"It's a minor change," Doc counters. "We knew it would happen." He prepares a hypospray. "I simply have to increase your medication." He applies the dose to Tuvok's neck.

The injection seems to have an immediate effect. "Thank you, Doctor," says Tuvok, looking like his concentration levels are as good as new. He gets up and prepares to leave.

Doc stops him. "Commander, I understand your desire for privacy--but maybe it's time we informed the Captain."

Tuvok will have none of it. "I will inform her if and when the disorder begins to affect the performance of my duties." End of subject.

Doc doesn't like it, but he gives in. "Of course."

So here is where it begins...

*

It would seem that Chakotay isn't the only man in Seven of Nine's life. She's currently in Astrometrics, playing a game of kadis-kot over the big screen with Neelix.

"Your move," Seven says.

Neelix makes it. "Green, Grid 1210."

"Red, Grid 313," Seven counters.

"Tricky!" Neelix says appreciatively.

Hmmm. Pregnancy pools, punnery, kal-toh, kadis-kot, dating by numbers, health care roulette...there must be a lull in Voyager's otherwise action-packed adventures. Gamery abounds these days.

Guess that explains the title.

"How's Brax?" Seven asks.

"Wonderful! Thanks for asking. I know I can never replace his father, but..."

Seven smiles. She's been doing that a lot this week. "I have no doubt the boy looks up to you."

Neelix accepts the compliment gratefully. "Orange, Grid 1012." He offers a personal detail. "I haven't told anyone but I'm thinking of asking Dexa to marry me."

Seven beams. "She'd be wise to accept."

Again, the grateful smile. Then he leers. "That's enough of my love life. How about yours?"

This knocks her off guard. She look on the verge of an unhappy emotion, a mix of nausea and grief. "I don't have a love life."

"Oh?" Neelix asks, clearly not believing it. "What about your relationship with Commander Chakotay?"

"It's your turn," she says, desperate to change the subject.

"Actually, it's yours." It would seem Tuvok's not the only one having trouble concentrating. Given the events of Human Error, the root of Seven's problems may also be medical.

Neelix's voice softens. "At least tell me how he liked the picnic!" Ah ha! Neelix is playing Delta Quadrant Cupid.

I'm sure a few J/Cers are praying at this very moment for Neelix to rot in hell.

Seven's smile returns. "It was an enjoyable activity for both of us. Thank you for suggesting it."

Neelix is happy to oblige. "Any time." Die, matchmaking rodent scum!

Hmmm. Apparently the screams of outrage have reached the Delta Quadrant. A console on Seven's Astrometrics sensors beeps furiously.

"What is it?" Neelix asks.

Seven forgets the game and gets to work. "Long-range sensors are detecting extremely high neutrino emissions...accompanied by intermittent graviton flux. Approximately three light-years away."

"A wormhole?"

"I'm not sure. I'll need to conduct more scans."

Neelix nods; business before pleasure. "We can finish our game tomorrow."

Seven nods. "I'll contact you at the usual time." The screen switches from Neelix's face to scans of the source area of the new readings.

*

Seven reports her findings to the senior staff. The news is...

Well, let's let her tell it.

"The emissions are occurring at the center of the nebula," Seven explains, showing the staff an image of a massive nebula downright lousy with bright spots. "There appear to be hundreds of distinct sources."

Harry draws the most obvious conclusion. "Which could translate to hundreds of wormholes!" He can practically smell the kimchi and sizzling pulkogi in his mom's kitchen.

[Pause]

Kimchi, of course, is a Korean side dish, made from cabbage, peppers, garlic, salt and warp plasma, fermented in clay pots buried in the ground until it glows like a plutonium rod. Even Mr. Chell's cartilaginous Bolian tongue would be hard-pressed to survive an encounter with it.

It's an acquired taste...and a joy to those who have acquired it. It even goes well with Mrs. Kim's galactically-renowned key lime pie, as long as you eat them in the right order.

Speaking of which, it's lunch time.

[Play]

"The radiation is interfering with our sensors, but if Ensign Kim's enthusiasm turns out to be justified, it would be the most concentrated occurrence of wormholes ever recorded." Even Seven of Nine is smiling. This could be it.

Janeway's also grinning. "Any idea where they lead?"

"Not yet," says Harry. "But if just one of them leads to the alpha quadrant..." He lets the suggestion dangle.

Tom Paris has been standing in the back. His arms are folded, and though he's not quite as giddy as the rest, he's still in a playful mood. "Who knows, Harry? It might take us right into your parents' living room."

Janeway chuckles. "Alter course, Mr. Paris." Tom nods and leads the way out of the conference room.

Janeway pats Harry on the shoulder. "Ensign, when you speak to your mother--tell her we may need her to move the sofa."

*

Meanwhile, back in the future...

I do believe this is the first time we've seen the exterior of Starfleet Medical Center. It looks a little like a Mesoamerican pyramid, exactly 47 stories tall (I'm not making this up), with Planet Earth enclosed in a cube and a massive serpent-on-a-stick medical logo.

Inside Tuvok's quarters, the lights are on...but nobody's home.

"...7153...5331...7153...5331...7153..."

Doc--Joe--enters to find Tuvok ranting, pacing, throwing papers all over the place, and repeating the same numbers over and over and over.

Another doctor is here. "Sorry if I pulled you away from something important, sir, but he won't let anyone near him and I thought you might--" he's frazzled. It's hard to blame him.

Doc nods crisply. "You did the right thing." Doc looks around, noticing Tuvok's agitation. "His condition's never been associated with violent behavior," Doc says, deeply concerned.

"He seems more frustrated than violent," the other doctor says.

Let's listen in on Tuvok some more, shall we? "...Long-range sensors have detected no trace. Her disappearance remains a mystery! I am deeply concerned...."

Doc intercepts Tuvok in mid-wander. "What are you concerned about, Tuvok?"

"Her disappearance." Tuvok's eyes are unfocused. He's sweating. There's not much left of the Tuvok we remember.

And yet.

"Whose?" Doc asks.

"5331...7153."

"He's been repeating those same numbers over and over again--533171," the other doctor says. "It might be a stardate."

Doc considers this. "Stardate 53317...if my memory files are accurate, that was the day Captain Janeway was abducted by the Kellidians." He intercepts Tuvok again. "Is that who you're talking about, Tuvok? Captain Janeway?"

"Her disappearance remains a mystery!" More of the glazed eyes. A snippet of memory adrift in a maze of confusion, perhaps?

"No! You solved that mystery, Tuvok! You rescued the Captain and brought her back to Voyager safe and sound, remember?"

"I am deeply concerned, deeply concerned...."

"Do you think if the admiral paid him a visit showed him that she was all right?" the other doctor asks.

Doc frowns. "Unfortunately, she's out of town right now. I'm not sure when she'll be back."

This catches Tuvok's attention. "She's never coming back!" he rasps, grabbing Doc in an iron grip. Then, just as suddenly, he lets go and resumes pacing. "Her disappearance remains a mystery. I'm deeply concerned...deeply concerned..."

He's not the only one. Whatever his condition, Tuvok has a point. Janeway's been acting suspiciously lately.

I still havent come to grips with her switch to *shudder* tea. That's Replicant material if ever I saw it.

*

Doc shows up at Starfleet Communications. "Voyager to Pathfinder. Come in, Pathfinder." His voice is jovial.

It has the desired effect. Reg Barclay beams. "Doctor! What a pleasant sur...Oh! I've forgotten about our golf game again, haven't I?" Poor Reg. Scared of his own shadow sometimes. Too bright to be sound, it seems.

Doc smiles. "Relax, Reg, it's not until next week. I'm here because I need to get in touch with Admiral Janeway."

The temperature in the room drops a good ten degrees. "Oh. ... She's out of town." Why does he look like a whipped puppy?

"I know. Did she tell you where she was going?"

"Uh, I'm afraid it-it never came up." He tries to recover his composure. "I mean, is something wrong?"

"I'm not sure," Doc says. "I paid a visit to Tuvok this morning. He seemed to think that she was in some sort of danger."

"Well, you know better than anyone how confused Tuvok can get," Reg says, trying to brush the concerns aside.

"Yes," Doc agrees. "But I've been worried about the Admiral, too."

Uh oh. "W-w-why?"

Doc explains. "Two days ago, she asked me for a large quantity of an experimental medication. When I asked her why she needed it, she said it was classified."

Barclay's eyes go wide, borderline hysterical. "Then you shouldn't be telling me about it, should you?" He laughs like a hyena who's been spending too much time with Robert Downey Jr.

Doc ignores that. "I spoke to Director Okaro at Starfleet Intelligence. He assured me that the Admiral hasn't been involved in any classified work since she began teaching at the Academy."

Reg looks increasingly cornered, and desperate to escape. "You know how sneaky these Intelligence people can be. Maybe he was just trying to throw you off." Please believe me. Please go away. There's no place like home ... *click* *click* *click* ...

Doc notes the frightened expression. He doesn't press. Yet. "Maybe. But still--she's been talking for months about how excited she is to be teaching with you." He takes a seat. "Then, just as the semester begins, she goes away without even telling you where!" Doc shakes his head. "Don't you find that...a little strange?"

The lemmings of Barclay's self-confidence leap as one over the Cliffs of Insanity.

"I...I'm sure that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. Doctor...I'm sorry...I-I-I h-ha-ave s-some...pUH!p..papers to grade." He is angry with himself; his tongue is betraying him.

Doc is shocked in spite of himself. "You're stammering, Reg!"

"S-S-So?!"

"I haven't heard you do that in years!" Doc takes a few steps forward, cornering Barclay even more. "I think you do know where she is."

Reg bes for understanding. Desperate to protect Janeway. Desperate to avoid her skunk-eye on her return. "She is one of the most decorated officers in all of Starfleet history! I'm...I'm..." He squeezes his eyes shut, forcing his mouth to function properly, angry that his control has failed him now. "Sure she can ta-ake care of her...self."

Now Doc is REALLY worried. After 23 years on board Voyager, "taking care of herself" usually has suicidal connotations. "You wouldn't be saying that unless she was doing something dangerous!"

"You are putting words in my mouth!" Reg protests. His eyes flash fire. He's not going to bend.

Doc closes the remaining distance. His patience is at an end. "Tell me where she is, Reg."

Barclay put up a brave front. He really is as loyal to Janeway as anyone who took that epico voyage. But Doc has him pinned down. Nowhere to run.

*

We see a shuttlecraft, designted "SC-4", heading toward a barren looking world.

A moment later, a lone admiral beams into a cave lit by torches.

A moment after that, a young woman in a yellow Starfleet uniform appears, followed by two very large Klingons. "Welcome to the House of Korath, Admiral," says Miral Paris. She's smiling warmly.

This is our first closeup of the young woman, who would be about 26 years old here. She's got hair that's a lot like B'Elanna's, but it's got the unmanageable quality that defines Helm Boy Hair. Miral's forehead is a little more prominent than B'Elanna's, another Tom Paris inheritance. She's got the smile of Tom, the smoky eyes of B'Elanna, B'Elanna's wispy height, and Tom's ample bosom.

"I love what he's done with the place," Janeway says airily.

One of the Klingon males looks angry, and lets loose a string of Klingon invective. (I don't speak Klingon, and the closed captioning folks didn't bother to try transliterating it...so you're out of luck.)

Miral pivots on her heel, glares up at the offending warrior, and lets fly her own tapestry of Klingon obscenity. She may be a couple feet shorter than the warriors, but their ears turn bright red, and they bow their heads in shame and retreat back into the cave.

Now that's my kinda woman. Cute, brainy, and she can rip your lungs out if you get on her bad side.

Miral then turns sweetly back to Admiral Janeway.

"What was that about?" Janeway asks.

"He says your demeanor was disrespectful," she explains.

Janeway pouts. "I hope you told him I didn't mean to be rude."

"I told him if he didn't show you more respect I would break his arm." Miral's eyes gleam.

Janeway chortles and pats Miral's shoulder approvingly. "You are your mother's daughter!"

Miral smiles, accepting the compliment. "Korath is waiting. We should go in."

Janeway shakes her head. "Sorry. But this is where we part ways."

Miral's eyes narrow. "Excuse me?"

Janeway makes it an order. "You're dismissed, Ensign."

"But, Admiral, I really think..."

"I can take care of myself." End of discussion.

Miral really is her mother's daughter. Feisty even in the face of authority. "With all due respect, I've been working on this for six months, and--"

"And you've done an exemplary job," Janeway says. "But it's over. Understood?"

Janeway has cranked up the death glare to Force 12, and even the formidable Miral withers under the assault. "Yes, ma'am." She knows when she's licked. Her head is bowed; Miral doesn't dare look at Janeway again.

I'm surprised she doesn't bare her throat.

Janeway is magnanimous, once she gets her way in every particular. She smiles down--a rare treat for the tiny captain--on the ensign. "I happen to know your parents are anxious to spend some time with you." She grabs Miral by the arm--she's been very touchy this week. "Take a few days leave. Go and see them."

Miral nods, but says nothing further. Janeway makes her way deeper into the cave, leaving the confused ensign alone with her hurt feelings.

What's up with Janeway? I mean, I know she's nuts, in that highly-decorated Starfleet Hero kinda way. But usually she's more than happy to explain herself to anyone who will listen, and many who won't.

This time, she's holding her cards very close to her chest. Along with everything else going on, there is something fishy in Darmok.

*

Admiral Janeway enters the inner sanctum of the House of Korath.

As houses go, this one could use a feng-shui master. And an exorcist. And a fleet of dustbusters.

Korath is tinkering with one mother of a rifle. He holds it up for Janeway's perusal. "A Cardassian disruptor. I've modified it to emit a nadion pulse."

He does know Janeway well, doesn't he?

"Impressive. But that's not what I've come for."

Korath sighs. "No. You've come for something far more dangerous."

You gotta love a woman whose needs can scare a Klingon.

"Where is it?"

Korath turns to her. "Somewhere safe."

Janeway stands firm. The younger warriors take a step back. "I went to a great deal of trouble to get you your seat on the High Council. Now give me what you promised." There is menace in her tone.

Korath changes the subject. He walks over to a wall monitor and pulls up a schematic. "I've scanned your shuttle. It appears that you've made some..." Korath turns to her, his grin feral. "Interesting modifications. Your shields generator is of particular interest."

Janeway stares evenly at him. "It's not for sale," she drawls.

Korath's eyes narrow. "Then what you want isn't available, either." He turns away from her once more.

"We had an agreement," she says, accentuating each syllable.

Korath doesn't dare look at her again. "Show the admiral out."

Whatever Janeway's up to, it's a serious game of hardball. She leaves.

But make no mistake: she'll be back. I gawr-on-tee.

*

Captain Janeway stands over Tom's shoulder as he pilots them through the nebula.

Tom is not a happy camper. "Maybe Chell should add 'Nebula Soup' to his menu." Janeway squeezes his shoulder in silent agreement.

The ship begins to rumble.

"Shields," Janeway asks.

"Holding," Tuvok reports.

Janeway nods. "Bridge to Astrometrics."

Seven of Nine answers. "Go ahead."

"Any more data on those neutrino emissions?"

*

Seven is at her post. She's not having much more luck than Tom.

"Negative, Captain. I still can't get a clear scan."

"Distance to the center?"

Seven checks. "Six million kilometers."

*

The ship rumbles again. This one's too loud and rumbly to ignore.

"What is it?" Janeway asks.

"I'm detecting a tritanium signature, bearing 342, mark 55," Tuvok says.

"Whatever it is, it's too close," Tom says.

"Evasive maneuvers!" Easier said than done. They can't see how big it is, so Tom's not exactly sure how to go about evading it.

"Was it a ship?" Chakotay asks Tuvok.

"Possibly."

Once again the vessel rumbles, and this one is powerful enough to shake the crew right down to their toes. "Another tritanium signature right on top of us!" Harry yells.

A second later, visibility clears enough to see a large shape barreling toward them.

A cube shape.

"Tom!" Janeway shouts.

Tom ducks. The ship follows.

The Cube scrapes some of the paint off Voyager's hull, but otherwise Tom evaded just in time.

That's enough fun for one day. "Get us out of here now," Janeway orders.

Tom doesn't even hesitate.

Feet, do your duty.

*

The Cube watches the Starfleet vessel make its escape.

"Vessel identified: USS Voyager. We will pursue and assimilate."

But a voice dissents from the Collective.

A voice that cannot be ignored.

The Borg Queen descends regally. "No. They haven't compromised our security. Let the vessel continue..."

She smiles. What a smile. A smile that you'd almost want to be the last thing you see before assimilation. Yowsa.

"For now." The Queen stares at the fleeing vessel. "I'll keep an eye on them."

I smell a conspiracy...

* * *

It's only natural, after a close scrape with a Borg cube, that the senior staff would have some disagreement over their next step.

On the one hand, that nebula could have Home written all over it.

On the other, it could also have resistance is futile tattooed on its nanoprobe-mottled forehead.

"There's no evidence that the cube detected us," Tuvok says.

"Where is it now?" Chakotay asks.

"Approximately three light-years away," says Seven of Nine. That's mere spittin' distance for the Borg.

"How could they not have seen us?" Tom asks, still sweating from the near-miss. "We came within ten meters of their hull!"

"The Borg wouldn't knowingly risk a collision," Tuvok says. "The radiation must have interfered with their sensors as well."

That's good enough for Harry. "If they can't detect us, we should go back!"

"I wouldn't recommend it," says Seven. "My analysis of the tritanium signature suggests there were at least 47 Borg vessels inside the nebula." (one more 47 reference for old times' sake...)

Harry doesn't care. "We can't just give up on those wormholes!"

"Oh, yes, we can," says Janeway.

Okay, now I'm confused. Who's the replicant? Janeway, giving up without a fight?

Harry doesn't back down--that key lime pie is beckoning, and he's not about to turn his back on it yet again. "What if we try to modify--"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Kim," Janeway says. Her voice is a command. "You may be the Captain someday, but not today." End of discussion.

There's no way to recover from that line.

Not yet, anyway.

*

Harry catches up with Tom in the corridor. "Tom! What are you doing when your shift ends?"

Tom laughs. He's got a wife about to deliver any minute now. "No plans. Why?"

"I've been thinking. You and I should have some fun--one last adventure before you get too busy being a father."

Tom smiles. "Did you reserve some holodeck time?"

"I've got a better idea." Harry hands him a PADD.

Tom takes a look--and his eyes narrow. "This is your idea of fun?"

"It'll work!" Harry says, bubbling over with enthusiasm. "We just need to make a few modifications to the Flyer."

Tom wants none of it. "We might as well just hand it over to the Borg."

"How could that happen with the best pilot in the quadrant at the helm?"

Tom chuckles. "Nice try." He hands the PADD back to Harry and continues his stroll to the turbolift.

Harry persists. "If we go to the Captain together, she'll be much more likely to approve my plan..." he says with a wink and a nudge.

"I don't want her to approve it."

"Where's your sense of adventure?" demands Harry, shocked.

"I left it in that nebula--and I'm not going back for it." Tom quickens his pace.

"Don't you want to find a way home?" Harry calls after him.

Tom enters the turbolift. His expression is utterly sincere. "I am home, Harry."

Harry catches him before the doors close; he jams his hand in the entry to keep them open. One more try. "Captain Proton would never walk away from a mission like this!"

Tom acknowledges Harry's effort, but he still declines. "Captain Proton doesn't have a wife...And a baby on the way." The doors shut, and Harry Kim is alone.

*

Chakotay enters Astrometrics. Seven is hard at work.

Seven takes a moment to look up and smile, but then returns to her duties. "If you're here for my daily report, it's not complete."

[PAUSE]

This must be their idea of advanced dating behavior.

SEVEN: MY DAILY REPORT IS NOT COMPLETE.

CHAKOTAY: THAT'S NO EXCUSE. THIS CREW NEEDS DISCIPLINE. LOTS AND LOTS OF DISCIPLINE.

SEVEN (POUTS) I'VE BEEN A VERY BAD DRONE...

Ahem. Before I get lynched, I'll just move right along.

[PAUSE]

Chakotay doesn't need no steenking status reports. "Actually...I'm here in an unofficial capacity. I was wondering if you'd like to get together again."

Seven blushes. "To do what?"

"Well, that all depends on your research. Would a quiet dinner be an appropriate fourth date?"

Seven considers this. "Hmm." She smiles. She bats her eyes. "I believe it would be a more suitable fifth date."

Chakotay's grin is downright carnivorous. "I'm willing to skip ahead if you are."

I believe that smile constitutes a Yes.

*

Now it's Seven of Nine's turn in Sickbay.

But from the Doctor's expression, it's just her weekly checkup. No major crisis.

"You're fine--aside from some minor inflammation around your biradial clamp," Doc concludes. "Let me know if it starts to bother you." He begins to move on to other work.

He then notices that Seven is still sitting on the diagnostic table. "Is there something else?" he asks.

Seven hesitates. "Do you remember three months ago, when my cortical node shut down?"

Doc winces with sympathy. "How could I forget?"

Another pause. "You said it might be possible to remove the fail-safe device that was causing the problem."

Now Doc is worried. "Has it been giving you trouble again?"

"No. But I've...reconsidered your offer to extract it."

Ah. Doc smiles. This is progress--she wants to suck the very marrow out of life. No more limited range of emotions imposed by sadistic Borg efficiency. "I've been hoping you would."

Seven does have a misgiving. "You said it would require several surgeries."

But Doc has good news on this front as well. "Actually, in anticipation of your change of heart, I've been studying the problem in more detail." He pulls up her chart. "I now believe I can reconfigure the microcircuitry with a single procedure."

Seven of Nine walks over to see what he's got for her. She sees no immediate objections.

Doc is happy for her new attitude. "You'll be free to experience the full ranges of emotions--everything from a hearty belly laugh to a good cry."

Sounds good to her. "How soon can you do it?"

"Today, if you'd like."

Seven nods. "My shift ends at 1800 hours."

Doc beams. "It's a date."

Seven walks toward the door, but Doc stops her. "Speaking of dates..."

Seven was afraid of this. Even with the failsafe device, she feels a twinge of reluctance to hurt the Doctor's feelings.

Doc can't see her face, and takes her silence as permission to continue, so he does. "Once the fail-safe is gone, you'll be free to pursue more...intimate relationships," he says. He's choosing his words carefully. Uh oh.

"I'm aware of that," Seven says guardedly.

"If you decide you need help with that aspect of your humanity...I'm always at your disposal."

Sigh. "I...appreciate that."

Uh oh. Even a little encouragement is all Doc needs. He rushes over to her. "Really?"

"Yes..." she says, before dropping the bomb. "But...I already have all the help I need."

Disappointment. "Ah...of course." Doc puts on his brave face. "You'll undoubtedly be running more simulations with the Chakotay hologram."

"No, actually." Seven turns back around so as not to betray her emotions. "I'll see you at 1800 hours." She leaves.

Now Doc is REALLY confused. Hadn't he professed his undying love in the most public manner possible, his dying proclamation, just a few weeks before?

What's Chakotay got that he hasn't?

For that matter, how can Chakotay possibly compete with a guy who has absolute control over his physical parameters...if you know what I mean?

Well, they have been saying Chakotay's performance is wooden this season...

But I regress.

*

One of the Klingon guards interrupts Korath. "Mak-tah hoon...Janeway, ghuy'cha." ("Hey, boss--that psycho admiral is here to see you.")

Janeway enters. "I've reconsidered your offer."

Korath smiles. "I thought you might."

Janeway ignores him. "I'll give you the shield emitter--but not until I've inspected the device you're offering...to make sure it's genuine."

Korath is outraged. "You question my honor?!" He takes a threatening step forward.

Janeway takes a few threatening steps forward herself, forcing Korath to backpedal. Her glare is set to vaporize. "If you were honorable, you wouldn't have changed the terms of our agreement." She doesn't raise her voice; she has no need to.

Korath blinks first.

"Show it to me," Janeway drawls, "or I'm leaving."

Korath never had a chance. He waves to his minions, who draw back the vault to reveal...something technical.

Janeway walks over. She inspects it closely, and seems satisfied. Her smile is downright eerie. "This'll do just fine."

Without warning, Janeway slaps a combadge on the device. A second later, she and the coveted bit of machinery are transported away.

"Stop her!" Korath bellows.

The minions fire, but they hit only the cave wall behind her disappearing atoms.

*

Janeway and the device beam into the shuttle. She is on instant alert. "Computer, deploy armor."

The shuttlecraft draws the shutters. Plate after plate of ablative hull plating snaps into place, like the cool BATMAN or VIPER effect, only cooler.

This is one bad mo-fo shuttlecraft. It's only fitting that she picked up this ride in Oakland. Barclay knows what Janeway needs.

Satisfied that she can survive anything the Klingons can throw at her, Janeway speaks to the computer again. "Lay in a course for these coordinates."

Before the computer can comply, Korath comes calling. Janeway sighs and opens the channnel. "What do you want?" she asks impatiently.

"You'll pay for your deceit, ghuy'cha!" he growls. (According to my Internet search, "ghuy'cha" roughly translates to "psycho $%$@%!@.") "And the House of Korath won't rest until you've drowned in your own blood!"

Janeway is unimpressed. "I'd love to stay and chat," she says sweetly, practically blowing air kisses at the pTaQ, "but I'm on a tight schedule."

She cuts the signal. "Computer, warp six."

Several Klingon vessels fire on the shuttle, but they might as well be throwing spitwads at an Abrams tank. The shuttle goes to warp, and the whistling sound made by her new armor resembles a derisive snort at the suckers she leaves to eat her dust.

*

Some time later, the computer announces her arrival. "Approaching designated coordinates."

"All stop," Janeway orders. So far, so good.

"Warning: vessel approaching, Vector 121, mark six."

I spoke too soon. A vessel not unlike Voyager, but closer to the Prometheus design, and no doubt a few generations beyond that, warps in.

Janeway gets hailed; this time, the face is a bit friendlier. But not much. "Harry!" She gets an ironic smile. "And people are always saying that space is so big."

Harry sighs. "Lower your shields, Admiral. Prepare for transport. I'm taking you into custody."

Uh oh. The personal shields slam down. Janeway stares evenly at the screen. "You have no grounds to take me into custody...Captain."

Harry is unshaken. "Reg told the Doctor everything, and the Doctor told me." Busted! "Now please, Admiral--stand down."

Janeway considers her next move. "On one condition. You let me explain why I'm doing this."

*

Whether it's intentional or not, it seems that when Janeway's doing something sneaky, the lights are always dimmed.

That, or California's rolling blackouts keep hitting Paramount.

This time, they're on Harry's ship, the Rhode Island. "You have no idea what the consequences would be!" Harry says. He's pacing; Janeway sits and listens, because her mind is already made up.

"I know what the consequences are if we do nothing. So do you." Janeway meets his eyes, and holds them in place. "I have a chance to change all that." Her voice is soft, determined. Immovable.

Harry is more than merely uncertain. "If Starfleet command knew what you were trying to do--"

This surprises the Admiral. "You haven't told them?"

Harry sighs. "The Doctor and I decided to keep things in the family."

The Family. After 23 years, Voyager certainly became that.

"What about your crew?" Janeway asks.

"I told them I needed to take you back to Starfleet Medical because you'd contracted a rare disease."

This makes Janeway nervous. "I hope it isn't terminal." This speaks volumes about a possible future I'd rather not know anything about.

"No...but it has been known to affect judgment." That's not much better.

Janeway's eyes are fire. "I know what I'm doing, Harry."

"Do you? Can you say with absolute certainty that it'll work? Because if you can't..."

Janeway continues to stare at him. Has she ever been uncertain about anything, whether she was right or completely off her rocker?

Harry gives up. "Even if it weren't a violation of every rule in the book, it would still be far too risky!"

Janeway snickers.

"What?" he demands.

"I'm remembering a young Ensign who wanted to fly into a Borg-infested nebula, just to explore the remote possibility that we might find a way home." and whether she remembers it or not, the audience no doubt remembers a not-so-young Lieutenant who stole Borg parts, cut up Seven of Nine's skull, and threw away fifteen years of a future HE didn't care squat about, to do pretty much what it seems increasingly clear that Janeway's up to.

Captain Kim glares. "If I remember correctly, you stopped me."

"We didn't know then what we know now."

"Our technology may have advanced, but--"

"I'm not talking I'm talking about people--people who weren't as lucky as you and me." This stops Harry. Perhaps an old memory resurfaces of his own temporal terrorism. "You said you and the Doctor wanted to 'keep things in the family.'" She stands, and puts her hands on Harry's shoulders. "But our family's not complete anymore, is it?"

Harry has no response.

"I'm asking you to trust my judgment, Harry...one last time."

Family first.

One must ask--is it the Osmonds, or the Sopranos?

With the look in Janeway's eyes, maybe it's the Mansons.

*

Seven of Nine beams into Chakotay's quarters without warning. She's got a big ole bouquet of flowers in her hand.

"Am I early?" she asks.

"No, you're right on time," Chakotay says. He smirks. "Something wrong with the door?"

"I didn't think it would be discreet to be seen carrying flowers to the first officer's quarters."

Chakotay notes the flowers. He takes them, smells them, smiles. "Your research?" She nods.

Seven of Nine's smile is downright intoxicating. Clearly, something has changed. She's not holding anything back.

I'll say one thing for the EMH--the man knows his medicine.

Chakotay begins to melt. "I should put these in water."

Seven grabs him unexpectedly. She pulls him close. After a very brief pause, she grabs his skull like a bowling ball and goes for the seven-ten lip split and consumes the Commander with a kiss of fire. His tattoo bursts into flames. Pretty cool.

They come up for air a few hours later. "I've been told that anticipation of the first kiss is often uncomfortable," she explains. "I wanted to...alleviate the tension." (No comment.)

"That was very considerate of you," Chakotay says. Their mouths are mere centimeters aprt. "What about the second kiss?"

This catches her off guard. "I'd have to check the database. It may indicate--"

Chakotay saves her the trouble. More lip action. This time, neither seems interested in breathing.

Just then, the comm channel chirps. "Senior officers to the bridge," Janeway says.

They separate.

"Next time we deactivate the com system," Chakotay says. Seven, too busy melting, can only nod limply.

*

Chakotay and Seven arrive together on the bridge. "What is it?" Chakotay asks as he takes his seat.

"Judging from the tachyon emissions, some sort of temporal rift," says Janeway.

Seven takes her station. "How's it being generated?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out."

*

The Admiral and the Captain have moved over to Janeway's shuttle. Harry is helping her perform a final round of diagnostics. "If Starfleet Command finds out I had anything to do with this, they'll demote me back to Ensign."

Janeway's drawl is reminiscent of Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday in TOMBSTONE. "You worry too much, Harry. It's turning you gray." She smiles sweetly, and Harry, despite himself, returns it.

"Propulsion's online, plasma flow stable," Harry announces a moment later. He next turns to the piece of swiped technology. "This device of Korath's. It produces too much tachyo-kinetic energy. It could burn itself out by the time you get where you're going."

Janeway says nothing.

Harry draws the correct conclusion, and he doesn't like it. "You wouldn't be able to get back."

"I always assumed it was a one-way trip." So there it is. Kamikaze Kate is on the loose in the galaxy...again.

"You're sure I can't talk you out of this?" he asks.

Janeway walks over to her former Ensign. She says nothing. Just stares up at the man, and thirty-three years of shared experience flows between them in an instant.

Harry relents. "All right. Stupid question."

Janeway grabs Harry's cheeks with both hands. They linger there. They embrace for a long time.

J/Kers, start your engines.

If you think about this, it makes sense. What we've seen so far. Tuvok is suffering from some sort of neurological disorder that will eventually make him incapable of performing his duties. Chakotay and Seven of Nine are beginning a hot and heavy relationship which, it's been hinted at, will end in the sort of tragedy that will leave Chakotay in not much better shape. Tom and B'Elanna are on the verge of parenthood, and we've already seen Tom turn down the opportunity for Glory in favor of playing the responsible near-Dad. Tom's acting darn near risk-averse this week.

If they had another sixteen years to go in their journey, it's quite plausible to conclude that Harry Kim got several promotions earlier than expected, especially given his well-established ambition. He might even have become Janeway's first officer by the time they made it to San Francisco.

Clearly, there's something very special between these two. Of all her senior officers, Harry's the only one still rising through the ranks in Starfleet.

Captain Kim bows to the inevitable. Family first--universe second. He taps his combadge. "Kim to Rhode Island. One to beam back."

*

Admiral Janeway is ready. "Computer, activate the chronodeflector."

The siren-like device on the shuttle's hull lights up with a green glow, but before it can do anything impressive, two Klingon vessels arrive and fire on the shuttle. Its shields--the old kind--light up. She doesn't have the cool armor active.

"Deploy armor!" Janeway shouts.

"Unable to comply. Ablative generator is off-line."

Janeway curses. "Evasive pattern, beta six. Open a channel to the Rhode Island."

Captain Kim appears a moment later. "Harry, I'm under attack! How fast can you get back here?"

*

Voyager's bridge crew are busy watching the rift, when Tuvok announces even more wierdness. "I'm detecting nadion discharges on the other side of the rift."

"Weapons fire?" Chakotay asks.

"It's possible." He scans further. "The signature appears to be Klingon."

Captain Janeway sighs. It's always something. "Red alert." She settles in for a possible fight.

*

The two Klingon vessels dwarf the tiny shuttle. Amazingly, despite the damage they're inflicting, it's far less than you'd expect.

Then the cavalry arrives. The Rhode Island smacks the two Klingons around, just enough to give Harry a chance to hail the shuttle.

"Stand by for transport, Admiral," Harry says.

"You know where I'm going, Harry, and it's not to your ship."

Harry exhales sharply. "Your structural integrity is failing!"

Explosions appear behind Janeway's head. It only serves to make her look more determined. "Just get these Klingons off my tail!"

The Janeway has spoken. Harry complies, and the Rhode Islans opens a fresh can of whupass. The Klingons are forced to back away.

Janeway continues on. "Computer, activate the tachyon pulse and direct it to these spatial and temporal coordinates."

Once again the siren lights up. A green beam lances forward like a search light, opening a rift in space and time.

It looks a lot like the one Voyager's been staring at.

*

"There's a vessel coming through the rift," Tuvok announces.

"Klingon?" Chakotay asks.

Tuvok checks. "No. Federation."

That gets everyone's attention.

*

The shuttlecraft spurts through the rift and heads straight for Voyager.

"We're being hailed," Ensign Kim reports.

Janeway hesitates for only a moment. She stands and walks toward Tom. "Onscreen," she orders.

The face on screen is familiar...and not. So is the uniform. "Recalibrate your deflector to emit an anti-tachyon pulse. You have to seal that rift." So is that voice. It's a voice used to being obeyed. The eyes are hard.

Captain Janeway matches the intensity of the newcomer's expression. "It's usually considered polite to introduce yourself before you start giving orders."

Oh, man. TWO Janeways?

The galaxy ain't big enough for both of 'em. We learned that in "Deadlock."

"Captain, a Klingon vessel is coming through," Tuvok reports. Heck--we can see TWO peeking through. And they're big puppies.

The admiral on the viewscreen repeats the order. "Close the rift!"

Captain Janeway glares.

Admiral Janeway glares back. "In case you didn't notice, I outrank you, Captain. Now do it."

Captain Janeway does it. Before the Klingon ships can breach the rift, a beam from Voyager slams the door on them.

One crisis averted. Now for the next. Captain Janeway glares at Admiral Janeway. "I did what you asked. Now tell me what the hell is going on."

Admiral Janeway is uncowed. How could she be? "I've come to bring Voyager home."

*

That last part on the viewscreen was not viewed by the bridge crew alone.

The Borg are monitoring.

The queen...smiles.

Click [To Be Continued...] to read the conclusion

[Analysis]

I'm gonna be evil and stop here so I can give you something to chew on while I work on the conclusion. Since the series finale doesn't end with a cliffhanger, but the episode will eventually be split into two parts, this is the logical one-hour break--and a great place for a cliffhanger.

I won't provide much in the way of analysis yet--that will be provided after both parts are written. You'll have to read the breakdown to get the inline commentary, of which there is plenty.

I will say this much: wow.

Next week: Moesha, Moesha, Moesha.

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Last Updated: May 24, 2001
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