|DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...|
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 left me alone, and I thank them for it.
This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work. You'll find the closest thing online to watching the actual episode, though I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
Harry Kim gets his first real command. Icheb gets his first taste of romance. Both get a heaping helping of disappointment.
Jump straight to the Analysis
[Special thanks to Sara Wilcox, co-author of this week's breakdown. This is her second co-authorship on this site, following "Inside Man." Without her generous efforts, this review would be even later than it has been. Most of the work is hers; I just threw in the occasional smart-aleck observation.]
Captain's Log, Stardate 54274.7: Lieutenant Torres has finally convinced me that I can't put off a major maintenance overhaul any longer. We've set down on an uninhabited planet, and I've sent shuttles to search for supplies.
For a change we open with Voyager not in space, but up on blocks on somebody's lawn--the choice, no doubt, of Cletus of Borg, species 72 Nova.
The camera pans down the surface of a planet, revealing mesas and valleys reminiscent of the great American west. Voyager is nestled in the valley, enjoying a rare respite--though the same can't be said for the crew, which is busily stripping their vessel down to the bone and scrubbing its innards.
The nacelles are down--even cracked open in places--and we can see shuttlecraft moving large pieces about on the hull. It's a full-fledged construction site; all that's missing is that annoying high-pitched beeping noise trucks make when they're backing up, and the tell-tale wolf whistles of lower-deck crewmen on their lunch break when pretty aliens walk by.
Torres was right--it's about dang time.
In Engineering, Janeway follows Torres as the Chief Engineer flits from workstation to workstation, dodging deftly between open panels, exposed circuitry, and a double-staffing of maintenance crew. Both women are clearly intent on getting their baby airborne again as soon as they can. It sounds like we're jumping right into the midst of their review as Janeway asks, "What about the impulse upgrades?"
"The day after tomorrow." Torres hands a PADD to a passing extra, saying, "Put a new phase compensator on that relay."
"The thermal regulators are still running a little hot."
"Too bad we can't just keep the windows open," Janeway observes dryly as Torres deals out yet another PADD. Gotta love that starship humor. "How long until the warp drive is back on-line?" she adds without missing a beat.
Torres grimaces. "Six days."
Janeway's feet are practically twitching. "You sure you can't get it done any faster?"
"Captain, I don't like sitting still any more than you do," Torres says as she crouches down to check yet another control panel, a classic I Love The Smell Of Fried EPS Conduit In The Morning pose. "But repairs this extensive take time." On cue, the lights flicker and go out, and all of Engineering groans in unison.
Torres turns toward a nearby crewman. "Mendez, track down that power drain!"
Mendez jumps to it, obviously glad to get out of arm's reach. "Right away."
Just over B'Elanna's shoulder we see Icheb enter Engineering, unnoticed by Torres or the Captain. Quietly, he looks around as though smelling something wrong, and steps up to the workstation in front of the warp core.
Janeway reminds Torres, "I know this ship has been through a lot, but you told me this would only take a few days."
Torres shrugs helplessly but without remorse. Chances are, she said whatever it took to get Janeway to touch down, and would take whatever heat came her way later. "That was before I discovered the micro-fractures in the starboard nacelle and the fused relays in the main computer." She stands again, more than a little frustrated, as if she herself can't believe the extent of the damage. It's almost convincing.
Suddenly, the lights go on. As both she and the captain look around at the crew, Torres barks, "Who did that?"
Icheb, understandably a bit wary, fesses up. "I noticed a charge imbalance in the EPS feed. I'm sorry if I--"
"It could have taken us hours to find that!" B'Elanna says, looking at Icheb with new appreciation--and a trace of hunger, like a talent scout who's just stumbled across a pitcher with a golden arm.
Icheb, perhaps recognizing he's been reprieved, suddenly remembers why he came down there in the first place. Handing a PADD to B'Elanna, he says, "I have a tactical systems report for you. It's from Commander Tuvok."
B'Elanna beams at the boy. "I'd say you're capable of a lot more than delivering PADDs, Icheb."
Janeway, also grinning, chimes in. "I agree. Until we get underway again, he's assigned to you." The captain heads for the exit. "With him on your team," she adds over her shoulder, "maybe you'll get this job done a little faster."
Icheb is stunned by this sudden promotion--almost as disquieted as he is by the look of near-bliss on the face of the famously grumpy Chief Engineer.
Inside the Delta Flyer, we see someone's yellow boots propped up on a console.
Harry, in the pilot's seat, turns around. "Neelix?"
The only response is the sound of gentle snoring.
Harry tries again. "Neelix?" Nothing. With a grin on his face and a Tom Paris gleam in his eye, he begins tapping his controls.
In response, Neelix's console starts beeping wildly, having the desired effect on Sleeping Beauty. Neelix startles awake and begins checking his controls before his eyes have completely opened. Kim greets him with a hearty, "Rise and shine. It's 0500."
Considering his literally rude awakening, Neelix is surprisingly civil, though grogginess slurs his words. "Already? Oh. I was dreaming we found the dilithium and were back aboard Voyager," he says dreamily.
Seven of Nine, seated at the aft station, tolerates the childish behavior. Barely. "Dreaming is an accurate description," she says, giving Harry a major-league skunk eye.
Neelix takes in his surroundings, looking a bit puzzled. "Didn't we already scan this nebula?"
Seven maintains the ocular assault at the base of Harry's neck. "Four times."
Refusing to let her sour his good mood, Harry says, "I thought the Borg were known for being thorough."
"The Borg value efficiency, not redundancy." Oooh. Score one for the blonde.
Harry is undaunted. "I've got a hunch about this nebula. There's dilithium in there somewhere." Sure Harry. Right next to the coffee.
Neelix's console starts beeping. "I'm getting some fluctuating energy readings."
Harry's instantly on alert, smiling with anticipation. "From the nebula?"
With rising alarm, Neelix says, "No--it's weapons fire!"
Even as he says the words, phaser bolts fly past the window. Harry too watches as the bolts miss the Flyer by millimeters, scorching the new paint job.
But the near-miss was not accidental. Instead, another ship right in front of the Flyer comes uncloaked under what turns out to be a very accurate barrage.
* * *
The cloaked ship continues to get hammered with weapons fire while the Delta Flyer remains untouched.
Reacting as any sane person would under such circumstances, Harry says, "Zoinks! Like, let's get out of here, Scoob!"
Or words to that effect.
But, we knew it wouldn't be that easy. Neelix interrupts the escape, telling Harry, "We're receiving a distress call!"
A crackly picture appears on the Flyer comm screen. The voice on the other end is a young man about the age of a freshly-graduated Starfleet Ensign. What an amazing coincidence that he should run into the World's Oldest Ensign.
The rookie--who in typical Voyager fashion won't have his name (Terek) revealed until about halfway into the episode--pleads for assistance. "We have casualties. Please help us." Another explosion rocks his ship, nearly knocking Terek to the ground. "We're on a humanitarian mission delivering medical supplies!"
Harry looks pained as the channel closes. "Reverse course," he says through gritted teeth.
Neelix is incredulous. "We can't just leave them!"
"Starfleet policy," Harry says somberly. "Interference in alien conflicts is strictly prohibited." Given that they've all seen Janeway bend that "strict" prohibition into a Mobius strip, the excuse rings hollow. Even to Harry.
Tender-hearted as always, Neelix argues, "You heard their Captain. It's a medical ship!"
Seven ups the ante, informing Harry, "Their shields are down. Life support is failing on at least three decks." She delivers this information in her usual dispassionate manner, but from the expression on her face it would seem she's with the Talaxian.
Harry ponders his options for a moment, then makes a decision. "Open a channel to the other ship." Gratefully, Neelix complies. An alien male appears onscreen, looking like a pre-caffeinated Captain Janeway--mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
Harry swallows hard, then begins. "This is Ensign Kim of the Delta Flyer. I don't know what you're fighting about but it looks like you've won. The people on the other ship have casualties. We'd like to--"
"This isn't your concern." The boy is all but spoken.
"I'm not taking sides," says reassuringly. "I only want to help the wounded."
In response, the alien nods to someone offscreen. The Flyer rocks under a weapons discharge.
The captain turns back to Harry. "Withdraw. Immediately."
"They're charging weapons," Seven warns.
That did it. Let's not forget whom he's been watching on the bridge for seven years. Harry springs into action in a way that would do his mentor proud. "Neelix, set our deflector beam for a narrow pulse. Seven, let me know the second their weapons array is fully charged. I might be able to trigger an overload." Seven nods, and turns to her screen.
Neelix reports, "The deflector bandwidth is at 0.4 microns."
Seven calls out, "Now." Harry flicks a switch, which on Tom's retro controls in the Flyer is a shiny red, candy-like knob on a handle captioned with a single word: BOOM.
The Flyer swoops in on the alien ship and gets a shot off.
Seven tells him, "Their weapons are off-line. Shields are down." There's a hint of satisfaction in her voice. "They're retreating."
Harry stands and heads for the transporter pad, saying to Seven, "Take the helm. Neelix, you're with me."
Neelix and Harry beam aboard the alien ship, materializing onto the hickory-smoked remains of the bridge and its crew. They hear a noise and move through the sparking wreckage toward the source--the young man, Terek, who had hailed them.
Aside from a nasty bruise on his forehead, Terek is relatively unharmed.
"Who's in charge here?" Harry asks.
Terek nods toward a point behind Harry. "He is." Harry looks, and sees a well-done corpse. There's an edge of panic in the young alien's voice. "What are we going to do?"
"It's okay. We're here to help. The ship that attacked you is gone."
A man and woman, who appear to be the same race as Terek, but a good deal older and less trusting, enter the bridge with their weapons drawn.
"Who are you?" the man--eventually to be called Loken--demands. The woman beside him is to be called Dayla.
"Harry Kim from the Starship Voyager. We're responding to your distress call. We can treat your wounded."
Loken looks around the ruined bridge, then to Terek. "The Captain?"
"Dead, sir. So are the rest of the officers."
Neelix scans the vessel's interior for lifesigns. "I'm reading a total of 27 life-forms aboard the ship."
In disbelief, Dayla says, "There were 56 of us."
Loken's face is ashen. "How are we going to get home without the officers?"
Harry turns toward the older man, whose bearing and manner of speaking reek of authority and command. "We need to restore main power. Where's the warp interface?"
"We're passengers, not crewmen," Loken says scornfully.
Terek jumps in to assist, pointing Harry toward a console in the wall. "You can access engineering systems from here."
Fortunately for Harry, he scored high on that Introduction to All Technology Ever Invented course at the Academy, and it takes him mere seconds to master the readout. "Your warp core's intact. I think I can bring it back on-line." He turns toward Terek. "Can you monitor antimatter flow?"
Terek shrugs. "I'm not sure."
Patiently, Harry points to a panel. "Just watch this readout and tell me if it starts to fluctuate." Harry fiddles some more, and the sound of power switching on echoes through the ship. Some of the lights come back up; Loken looks around, somewhat impressed.
Flush from his latest success, Harry soldiers on. "I'm routing emergency power to structural integrity....atmospheric pressure is returning to normal," he says a moment later. "Neelix, we'll go through the ship deck by deck--find the survivors."
Loken stops him. "We need to get our cloak back on-line."
Harry is steeped in the people-first approach. "I'll take a look at it as soon as I've repaired the engines."
Loken, with a bit more vehemence than seems necessary, insists, "The cloak is more important."
Dayla steps forward and plays Good Passenger to Loken's Bad Passenger. "The Annari have far more powerful weapons than we do. If they come back, the cloak is our best defense."
Although he doesn't pick up on the subtle undercurrent that's at play, Harry sees the wisdom of what she's suggesting. "We'll try to get it back on-line." He looks around, daunted by the size of the task, then taps his combadge. "Kim to Delta Flyer."
"I need your help, Seven. It looks like we're going to be here for awhile."
Terek squats amid the wreckage, ostensibly assisting Harry, but mostly peppering himi with questions.
Harry, for his part, is stretched out on the floor, working under a console like an auto mechanic.
"How did you do it?" Terek asks.
Not looking at him, Harry asks, "Do what?"
"Disable the Annari warship so quickly?"
Harry shrugs. "Basically, we used their own weapons against them." It's a smug reply; he's still proud of himself for coming up with that little trick. But he's also not going into details, preferring to work in silence.
Oblivious, or maybe simply desperate to keep his mind off what he's been through, Terek presses for more. "How?"
Trying to simplify as best he can, Harry says, "We used a deflector pulse to overload their phaser banks." They switch places, and Harry begins working on a new panel.
"You know a lot about engineering." There's a hint of awe in his voice. Faster than a baby goose on Anna Paquin, the poor guy seems to have imprinted himself on the first friendly face he's seen.
"It's all part of my Starfleet training."
Terek looks at him quizzically. "Starfleet?"
Again, Harry goes for the easiest explanation. "Yeah. The organization I work for."
Wonderingly, Terek asks, "And they teach you all these things?"
"We train at an Academy." Harry considers the question a little more. "And I guess I picked up a few new tricks during my time on Voyager."
Terek's look borders on hero worshiop. "How long have you been Captain?"
The question is not altogether unreasonable: as far as Terek's seen, Harry's the one Seven and Neelix defer to, and he's been taking charge since the moment he arrived.
Still, it slices through Harry's defenses like a scalpel. Harry gives a thin laugh, looking down at the floor. "I'm just an Ensign."
This is a new one for the rookie. Innocently, he twists the knife. "Ensign? What's that?"
Kim stares at his tool, examining it minutely. He chooses his words carefully, trying to smooth any emotion from his voice, but a hint of rueful bitterness creeps in. "A junior officer. The lowest ranked officer, actually." After a quick glance at Terek, he turns back toward his work.
Realizing he caused Harry some pain, Terek tries changing the subject, saying, "This is my first deep space assignment." He adds, unnecessarily, "It hasn't gone very well." And the winner for understatement of the month is....
Harry looks at him, then gestures toward the toolbox. "Could you hand me that?" Terek complies. Harry confesses, "My first week on the job didn't go very well, either. We ended up 70,000 light-years from home. Lost over a dozen crew members. But I got through it--and so will you." He's fairly matter-of-fact about it, as if realizing too much sympathy would send Terek over the edge.
"I hope so." The poor guy is obviously scared, and by the looks of things is a Hallmark commercial away from a meltdown.
Harry continues with the tough love approach. "If you're going to be a starship officer, you've got to accept that adversity comes with the job." Although Harry may be stating the obvious, it's clear from his expression that it's exactly what Terek needed to hear.
On Voyager, the repairs are progressing well.
Icheb is working alone in Cargo Bay Two, idly grabbing slivers of Nutri-Nachos from a plate every few seconds. He's not even listening to music, unless you count the musical chirps of the keys as he presses them.
Clearly, Icheb has the soul of an engineer. Or a Borg drone. (Really, is there much of a difference?)
B'Elanna Torres strolls into the Cargo Bay 2 and over to Icheb's workstation. She notes the plate of chips. "What's that?"
"It's a diagnostic of the antimatter injectors."
Torres shakes her head. "No, I meant that stuff you're eating." From the sound of her voice, she suspects it's actually some sort of biological experiment.
By the looks of the it, she may be right.
"Nutritional supplements replicated to meet my metabolic requirements," Icheb says. Apparently Seven's newfound appreciation for a more varied cuisine hasn't filtered down to her protégé.
With a noted lack of enthusiasm, Torres says, "Sounds delicious." He nods and grabs a bite. "You know, in the mess hall they actually have tables and chairs for that." She walks around the station to face Icheb, leaning her forearms against the workstation.
"I prefer to work while I eat. It's a more efficient use of my time."
It must be said--B'Elanna is in a darned good mood, and Icheb seems to be the reason. She's here for an official Attaborg, but Icheb is oblivious.
Torres smiles slightly, almost fondly. "You did a great job today. We're ahead of schedule--thanks to you." She hands him a PADD. "Here's what we're going to work on tomorrow. I'll see you at 0600." He nods and grabs another piece of bark, turning back to his work as she heads toward the door.
On her way out Torres pauses, then abruptly spins and faces her new assistant. "Icheb."
Surprised, he turns back toward her. "Yes?"
"What do you do for fun?"
He gives her a blank look. "Fun?"
Recognizing his reaction from working with Seven, B'Elanna clarifies. "Recreation. How do you spend your time when you're off duty?"
Solemn but earnest, Icheb informs her, "Between my work and my studies I don't have much time for recreation."
Yup, he's an engineer down to the bone, all right. B'Elanna gives it a moment's thought. "I've learned that you've got to take a break once in awhile." Icheb nods.
Fun will now commence.
B'Elanna realizes the poor boy needs some help discovering this whole fun thing. "I've been doing a lot of rock climbing on the Holodeck. Maybe when we're finished tightening all the nuts and bolts, you'd like to join me."
It's a friendly offer, sincerely meant. It probably isn't too much of a stretch to suggest she sees something of herself in this studious young man, and is trying reach out to him. All work and no play makes Icheb a dull drone.
Icheb considers her offer. "I do have an interest in geology."
B'Elanna's arms are crossed, and her eyes twinkle almost flirtatiously. She grins. "It's not about the rocks, Icheb. It's about the climbing." With that, she leaves him to his work.
Icheb watches her go, shrugs, and returns to his calculations and his so-called meal.
Back on the alien bridge, Harry and Seven work together at a console. She reports, "Main power has been restored. All stations responding."
Harry smiles with satisfaction in a job well done. He struts across the bridge, checks Neelix's work, then turns to Loken. "The cloak's back on-line. Impulse and warp drives are standing by. Shields are at 96%. I'd say you're ready to get back on course." He smiles, and strains his wrist with all that back-patting he's giving himself.
"We appreciate your help," Loken says sincerely.
Harry accepts his thanks with good grace. "I hope you have a safe journey."
"Mr. Kim...I feel guilty asking even more of you." Sure you do, Loken. "But no one on this ship knows how to fly it."
Harry looks around the bridge in obvious disbelief. "None of you has ever piloted a Starship?" All the natives shake their heads.
I hate to point this out, but I don't think I've ever seen Harry behind Voyager's helm. Starship piloting isn't exactly a universal skill.
Terek, a bit awkwardly, confesses, "I've trained in shuttles. But nothing like this."
Harry lets out a long-suffering sigh. "I'll enter a flight plan in the auto-navigation system and give you a quick course in helm operations. You shouldn't have any trouble."
Nice try Harry, but Loken's looking for more. "Couldn't you take us? This ship needs an experienced commanding officer." He certainly knows how to stroke the Eternal Ensign's ego.
Harry tries to cut the cord nicely, but firmly. Clearly, he doesn't want to get sucked in any deeper than they have. "I'm sorry, but we've already gotten more involved than we should have. And they need us back on Voyager." Seven steps over to join Neelix and Harry for the beam-off, as ready as Harry is to move on.
However, Loken's not one to take no for an answer. He tries a different tactic. "It's not just my ship that concerns me. You've made an enemy of the Annari now--but if you dock your ship in our shuttle bay our cloak will protect you." Loken has cloak on the brain...
Harry brushes off his concern. "That's a generous offer, but we'll be fine."
Loken becomes more insistent. "Please, Mr. Kim, we can't afford to fail. This ship--"
Dayla steps forward and interrupts. "Loken, don't."
Loken smiles at her, saying, "We can trust these people." Loken turns back to the three Voyagers and lies through his teeth. "I'm a doctor. These people are my research team. We're carrying new vaccines to our homeland. They'll save thousands of lives." Loken keeps his eyes locked on Harry, watching his reaction closely. Dayla's eyes go wide for a moment, then she nods earnestly.
Always one to make the best of a bad situation, Neelix points out, "Sir, I looked at their flight plan. It takes them pretty close to Voyager."
Seven, who's been quietly observing the exchange, appraising the situation, looks a bit troubled at what Neelix says. Especially when it has the desired effect on the good-hearted ensign.
Harry gives in. "I'll bring you as far as our ship. When we get there you can discuss your situation with my Captain."
Loken smiles in relief. "Thank you."
"What about Starfleet policy?" Seven asks. Ironic, given how often she tends to question those policies.
"This is a humanitarian mission," Harry says, rationalizing his decision. "Dock the Flyer in their shuttle bay."
It's not a request. Seven's look is dubiousm, but she acquiesces.
Harry's patchwork crew is arrayed about the bridge of the alien vessel. Looking up from his station, Neelix reports, "We're approaching the planet."
With the authority honed from hours on the midnight bridge shift, Harry tells him, "Take us out of warp. Disengage the cloak."
"Wait," Seven says. She turns toward Harry. "I'm detecting three alien vessels in orbit."
Harry's eyes widen just a little. "On screen."
A trio of sleek, severe-looking ships are indeed orbiting the planet. They look very familiar.
With an almost visible gulp, Terek says, "Those are Annari warships. Your people are in danger."
What a revoltin' development. This looks like a job for...Captain Kim!
* * *
The fearsome Annari have reached the bridge of Voyager itself.
There is fear in Janeway's voice. "I apologize for the state of my ship. We weren't expecting company."
"I hope we're not imposing," growls the Annari with undisguised menace.
"Not at all," whimpers Chakotay. "Making contact with new cultures is a priority for us."
The Annari gives off a feral grin. "For us, too. This is a fine ship, Captain."
"One of the best in the fleet--but it could use a new set of deuterium injectors."
Hmmm. Perhaps Loken overstated the Annari threat. This exchange strikes the viewer more as a royal tour and haggling session than an invasion party. The Annari is the soul of politeness, and he and Janeway and Chakotay appear to be getting along famously.
Chakotay jumps right into step with her. "Any chance you could provide them?"
The Annari seems amenable. "I think we can arrange something. What are you offering in exchange?"
"Zeolitic ore. We mined several tons of it from an asteroid field. It's high-grade, easy to refine," drawls Janeway, the consummate negotiator.
He's practically salivating, but in deference to decorum he demurs for now, telling Janeway, "I'll speak to my supply officer."
A beeping noise intrudes upon this festival of cooperation. Tuvok checks his console, then reports, "We're being hailed by Ensign Kim. audio only."
Janeway takes it. "Hello, Harry."
Even without the visual, the caution in Harry's voice is plain. "Is everything all right?"
"Of course," Janeway says. "Why wouldn't it be?"
Aboard the ship, Harry improvises. Loken and the others are on their guard. "Our long-range scans detected several alien ships orbiting the planet."
With an indulgent but somewhat exasperated smile, Janeway says, "I appreciate your concern, but there's nothing to worry about. We've made some new friends, that's all. When can we expect you back?"
The ambient temperature drops several degrees around Loken and Dayla. Harry's mind races. "We've run into a slight delay."
"Nothing serious, I hope."
"Eh-No!" Harry assures her. "Everything's under control." His voice wavers ever so slightly on "control."
Focused on the deal she's working, Janeway doesn't pick up on it. "Good. Any luck finding dilithium?"
"Uh, I'm afraid not."
Janeway doesn't look too worried. "I'll tell the other teams to keep looking. See you soon, Ensign."
"Yes, ma'am. Kim out."
The Annari chimes in. "Dilithium? We can get that for you, too."
Janeway's ears perk up like a dog that's just been offered a sirloin steak. "Really?" She shares a look with Chakotay, who offers a slight smile.
It's nice to run into a pleasant, helpful race every now and then.
Loken laces up his track shoes and jumps to the quickest conclusion. "She's formed an alliance with our enemy!"
Before Loken can reach for his weapon again, Harry holds up his hands. "Just because they're talking doesn't mean they formed an alliance! It's probably just a friendly meeting."
Loken isn't in a mood to hear it. "That's how the Annari operate," he says flatly. "They come to you as friends. And when they've won your trust--they declare you subjects of the Annari Empire."
Harry thinks back to the grumpy Annari who almost destroyed Loken's vessel and who wasted little time taking aim at the Flyer. It's a hard memory to discount.
The Annari ships take off--whether to bring back a truckload of goodies, or to bring back reinforcements for Operation Enslave Voyager, remains to be seen.
Back on Voyager's bridge, Janeway's examining a piece of potential merchandise when the comm rings once again.
"Kim to Voyager."
A bit distractedly, Janeway replies, "We didn't expect you so soon."
"Actually, Captain, I'm closer than I let on, and I've brought some new friends of my own." She looks up at Chakotay, who comes in at the end of the conversation, and they share an indulgent smile.
In the briefing room, Janeway's definitely stopped smiling as she realizes the bind Ensign Kim has created for her. We enter at the tail end of the conversation with Loken, who concludes passionately, "Our chances of getting home without your help aren't very good. We'd appreciate any assistance you could offer."
"I hope you understand," Janeway says a moment later, "I need to give this some thought." Loken gets the hint. He nods at her, then at Harry, and takes his leave.
Janeway begins pacing around the room. There is strain in her face as she visualizes the loss of all that much-needed Annari technology. "You've put me in a difficult position, Ensign. We could use the help the Annari are offering, but if they find out we're aiding their enemy..."
"I couldn't just stand by and do nothing," Harry protests.
Janeway walks over and stares up at him, hands on hips. "That doesn't justify getting involved in somebody else's fight."
"What would you have done?" Harry asks.
A pause. "Probably exactly what you did."
"I guess I learned from the best," Harry says, smiling slighly.
Janeway concedes the point, but Harry isn't out of the woods yet. "If this were simply an errand of mercy, I wouldn't hesitate. But the fact is, these people are involved in an interplanetary war." Yeah, it's not like Voyager ever gets its hands dirty with those...
Kim, putting every bit of earnestness into his argument he can muster, says, "Captain, I've gotten to know them over the last couple of days. You met Loken. They're scientists, not soldiers." I thought they were passengers, not crewmen. Ah well.
Janeway resumes her pacing, holding up a cautionary finger. "You've only heard one side of the story."
Harry stands, not willing to back down. "You've taken sides before. The Borg resistance, the Vaadwaur--" yeah, and the Vaadwaur intervention turned out SOOO well.
Janeway shakes her head. "Those were different circumstances."
"You were trying to help people in need. How is this any different?"
Janeway looks at him for a moment, then asks, a bit wonderingly, "Have you thought about applying to the advocate general's office? You'd make a good lawyer." She is still giving Harry a stern look, but there's an undercurrent of pride in her voice. Harry smiles at the compliment.
Janeway considers the next step. "I suppose I could spare Chakotay or Tuvok for a few days."
"That won't be necessary," Harry says, a little too forcefully. She pauses, shooting him a look. "The Kraylor know me. They trust me."
"I'm sure they'd find Tuvok or Chakotay just as trustworthy," she replies, looking at him searchingly.
"But they outrank me. If you send one of them, it won't be my mission anymore."
"Your mission." Janeway senses the real reason behind Harry's passion for the argument.
Harry nods. "My first real command."
"You've been in command on Voyager before," she says, a bit offended at the suggestion that she's not giving Harry enough room to grow on the job.
"On the night shift, for a few hours...it's not the same thing. You and Chakotay are always a couple of decks away ready to take over if anything goes wrong." Harry's frustration bubbles to the surface. "I've been on Voyager for almost seven years and I'm still an Ensign."
Janeway folds her arms; her expression is unreadable. "If this is your way of bucking for a promotion..."
"No!" Harry shouts, then adds more softly, "No. I understand there's a command structure. And that our circumstances are unique." He presses on, determined but not pushy, never overstepping his place. "But the fact is, if we were back home, I'd be a Lieutenant by now--maybe even a Lieutenant Commander."
Janeway grins. "You're pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?" She doesn't sound angry. In fact, it seems like she improves of this new, improved, vertebrate version of Harry.
Like a junior asking for a shot on the starting team, Harry replies, "I know I can do this--and the Kraylor are giving me a chance to prove it."
Janeway looks at him, shifts her jaw, and makes her decision. "I expect you back before we complete our repairs."
Harry's smile could power Engineering. "Yes, ma'am!" He starts to leave, but Janeway stops him.
"And I'm not sending you alone."
He sags like a kid who thought he was getting to take the Corvette out for a spin but is instead handed the keys to the Yugo. "Captain...!"
Janeway stops him. "I want you to take Seven." Her eyes twinkle, and she smirks with pure evil. "Since she has no rank, you clearly outrank her." He beams and heads on out the door.
Janeway smiles. Her favorite little Ensign is growing up.
In Sickbay, the Doctor looks up as the doors hiss open. Icheb walks in, saying, "Lieutenant Torres asked me to repair a malfunctioning holo-emitter."
Doc snorts in exasperation. "It's about time." He stands, walking out of his office. Icheb follows. Doc points toward the end of the room. "Whenever I move to the far corner of the surgical bay my legs disappear." He stops on the other side of a standing control station, which Icheb appproaches to begin his scan.
"Seven of Nine told me you gave her social lessons," Icheb says while waving his tricorder about.
Doc chuckles briefly, warming at the memory. "She wanted to get along better with the crew. Social skills are one thing the Borg never assimilated."
Icheb hits a couple of buttons on the panel, almost idly. "I was hoping you could instruct me, as well."
Doc beams. "I'd be delighted! Lesson One: 'making a first impression'--" And so it begins again.
Hesitantly, Icheb interrupts him. "Actually... I wanted to ask you about something specific."
Doc changes gears, happy to be of help, but a bit put off not being allowed to offer the full course. "Fire away!"
Icheb taps out a couple more commands on the panel, then speaks. "How can you tell when someone has...romantic...feelings for you?" At the mention of the "R" word, he dares to look up at the Doc, trying to look innocent.
Oh no. The bald leading the blind. Sounding for all the world like an overjoyed, meddling aunt, Doc says, "Icheb, this is a surprise! Have you caught someone's eye?"
Icheb is horrified, and does his best to recover. "I'm speaking hypothetically."
"Ah." Sure you are. Doc clears his throat, warming to the subject. "Hypothetically, there are various indications of romantic attraction. Compliments, for example. Invitations to social activities. Finding excuses to be in close proximity with someone."
Hmmm. Wonder if he's been applying these standards to anyone we know?
Icheb may be new to this, but he's no dummy. Dragging Doc back down to Earth, he says, "Yes, but couldn't those things happen in a relationship that wasn't romantic?"
Doc gives in, his enthusiasm flagging. "I suppose."
Icheb presses on. "Is there a way to be absolutely certain?" Gotta love those logical Borg. Always looking for absolutes, even for such chaotic phenomena as matters of the heart.
Trying to maintain his status as professor, Doc falls back on what he knows best: biology. "Well, short of an open declaration of affection, there are some fairly reliable physiological responses: elevated blood pressure, increased beta-endorphin production..."
Ka-ching! Icheb's eyes blink on as though illuminated from within. "Thank you, Doctor! You've been very helpful." Icheb heads for the door. One wonders if the half-dozen buttons he pressed were sufficient to effect repairs...or if he was just calling up pictures of B'Elanna while Doc was too busy orating.
Doc runs after him, not wanting to lose his new pupil. Always ready to plug his "Fifty Steps to a New and Better You" seminar, he hurriedly calls out, "With my guidance, you'll master the nuances of social interaction in no time!" as the door closes behind Icheb.
Tom Paris rushes up behind Harry in one of Voyager's corridors, draping a friendly arm around his shoulder, almost making Harry spill his coffee. "Harry! Take me with you, buddy!"
Harry shakes his head. "Sorry, Tom. This is my mission."
Paris snags some cheese and crackers to go with his whine. "Oh, come oooooon! I've been itching to get back into space ever since we set down on this dust bowl! I'm tired of cleaning conduits and replacing relays." Can I go out and play? Can I, can I? Huh?
All mock-seriousness and friendly concern, Harry gravely tells him, "You're a married man now. You've got family responsibilities. Just leave the away missions to the young, unattached guys." Harry puts a sympathetic hand on Tom's shoulder.
Ouch. Now that's gotta hurt. Too old and responsible for fun...
Tom is undaunted. "That ship is in pretty bad shape. You're going to need a good pilot."
"No, thanks." Harry's tone ends the debate.
Tom can't figure out why his best bud would blow him off like this. But then, he comes up with a good guess. "Wait a minute...I know what this is about!"
"You do?" Harry finds it hard to believe Tom could be quite so insightful.
Tom smiles. "Sure!" His voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper. "You've got a girl on that ship you don't want me to know about." His eyebrows waggle.
Harry laughs. It's a pretty good guess, actually. "There's no girl. Not this time."
Tom's eyes turn serious. "Then what is it?"
Harry sighs. "I don't know how else to this say this, so I'll just'say it. You've always been Captain Proton. I have always been Buster Kincaid." Knight and Squire. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Hero and Sidekick.
The comment brings Tom up short. He has no response.
Harry smiles, a plea for understanding, a declaration of intent. "It's my turn this time." With that, Harry pats Tom on the chest and continues on his way.
Tom is stunned as he watches Harry go. But then, slowly, he smiles.
His little buddy is growing up.
Harry walks into the Mess Hall, sits down, and begins checking out the PADD he's brought in with him. Neelix comes up to his table and says grandly, "I'm glad you're not planning to leave on an empty stomach, Captain." His use of the word brings the smile Neelix no doubt expected to see. He continues with the day's menu, "I have plomeek soup and eggplant parmesan."
Harry shrugs, focusing on the data he's surveying. "Either's fine."
Forgetting his Waiting Tables 101 skills, Neelix snickers. "Wrong answer."
Harry looks up. "Excuse me?"
Firmly, Neelix tells his new protégé, "If you're going to be a captain you have to act like a captain! Never admit you're uncertain--about anything! You can't be indecisive in front of your crew."
Hmmm. Is he describing anyone we know?
Harry laughs. "It's just a snack, Neelix."
Neelix ups the ante. "When Captain Janeway comes in here, she knows exactly what she wants."
"Maybe I'm just not as picky about my food."
Neelix shrugs and heads back to the kitchen. "Whatever you say...Ensign," he replies, letting the last word roll off his tongue and land on Harry's ego like a semi.
Harry gets the point. "Neelix!" he barks, putting steel into his voice. Neelix turns. "Plomeek soup. And make sure it's hot."
Oh yeah. Nothing says COMMAND quite like an order of bland Vulcan gruel. As captainly food choices go, it ain't exactly raktajino, coffee, or Earl Gray.
A brief mental image of Captain Kim in front of a replicator, saying, "Plomeek soup, hot," sends chills down the spines of Voyager fans everywhere. Might as well be a Grape Nehi. But he also smiles as he says it, an acknowledgement of the playacting he's doing.
Neelix grins, and hops to it to fill the commandingly-barked order.
Harry Kim, followed by Seven of Nine, walks onto the bridge of his new command.
His eyes go wide when Terek snaps to attention and shouts, "Captain on the bridge!" Terek is trying so hard to look official, it's kinda sweet.
Harry smiles, almost embarrassed. "Where did you learn that?"
"I've been studying that Starfleet manual you loaned me."
Harry is pleased. "Take your station, Mr. Terek."
Terek complies. "Aye, sir." He sits, and crisply asks for his next command. "Course?"
Harry joins him at his post, standing over his shoulder. "I'll do it." Harry reaches over, tapping the coordinates into the console. "Laying in a course: heading one-one-five, mark 37." Seven, from her vantage point, takes note but says nothing.
Harry gets a thought. "Does this ship have a name?" he asks Terek.
"Medical transport one-three-six." The kid looks like he's got a board across his shoulders.
Harry winces dramatically. "I think we can do better than that!" He walks toward the captain's chair, pausing in thought. "Nightingale," he says at last. "The name of someone from my homeworld. She was famous for treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield."
Loken shares an enigmatic look with Dayla, then smiles and nods. "It's perfect."
Kim turns to Seven, who has stationed herself at the aft of the bridge. "Hail Voyager." Seven nods and opens the channel without comment.
"Kim to Voyager. We're ready to get underway."
Janeway answers. "Acknowledged. Good luck."
Kim smiles. "See you in a few days. Kim out."
Kim starts barking out the checklist. "Main power."
Seven says, "On-line."
Dayla reports. "Shields and weapons: standing by."
"Bring the cloak on-line." The ship rumbles. "Warp six."
Harry sits, liking the feel of the Big Chair. He pauses, then utters the most beloved word among Trek captains everywhere. "Engage."
The newly-christened Nightingale begins to shimmer into invisibility as the cloak kicks in, and then blinks into warp.
Captain Harry's excellent adventure is underway.
* * *
Acting Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 54277.3: My first day in command has been challenging, but I've loved every minute of it. I can't help feeling that this was something I was born to do.
In his new ready room, we see Captain Harry arrange the things he's brought with him. He caresses his saxophone, then he sits and props his feet up on the desk.
Harry's feet fly off the desk as if he were a student caught in the principal's office when Seven strides into Harry's ready room without knocking.
Seven hands him a PADD. "The hourly status report you requested," she says. It's a subtlety that goes winging over Harry's head.
Glancing around the room, Seven frowns. "Why have you brought these items aboard?"
Harry looks around and shrugs. "They make me feel more at home."
"We'll only be on this vessel for a few days. Decorating is an inefficient use of your time." Clearly she disapproves.
Harry will have none of it. "It's important to forge a personal connection with your vessel--make the ship your own. Ask Captain Janeway."
"I'll discuss it with her the moment we return." No doubt she will.
Harry pores over the PADD. It takes him a moment to realize she is still here. "Is there anything else?"
You know she doesn't want to do it, but she spills. "I asked Terek to make a course correction."
Worry leaps onto Harry's face. "He's never done that before! I'd better check on him." He jumps up and heads for door.
"I believe he's capable of doing it himself," Seven says to his back, but Harry's already on his way. Sighing with exasperation, Seven follows.
Practically sprinting onto the bridge, Harrys comes up behind Terek and asks, "Status?"
Terek calmly replies, "I've entered the new heading."
Kim reads the control board looking for mistakes. Sure enough, he finds one. "Looks like the guidance vector is off by a couple of microns."
"I was about to correct that." Poor Terek; in the presence of the daunting Captain Kim, his self-confidence heads straight into the toilet. He's a bit hesitatant now, looking like a kid with the teacher over his shoulder.
Harry begins working the controls. "You need to realign the primary navigational sensor first."
Getting a little frustrated, Terek replies, "Yes, sir."
Before Terek can finish being sheepish about one miniscule imperfection, Harry has moved on to the next. "And make sure it stays locked on your guide star. Here, let me show you." He pats Terek's shoulder, gently giving him a push out of the chair. Terek swallows his frustration and moves out of the way as Harry sits down.
Seven of Nine observes, and takes copious mental notes, frowning all the while.
In one of Voyager's Jeffries tubes, Icheb and B'Elanna are working in VERY close quarters, trying to make repairs inside a small panel blocked by a pair of bars. They're practically wearing the same uniform, it's so cramped.
Their arms cross as they reach in at the same time. "I'm-I'm sorry, Lieutenant," Icheb says self-consciously.
B'Elanna laughs. "Don't worry about it. Bumping elbows comes with the job. And you can call me B'Elanna."
Icheb's eyes widen.
Torres hands him a clear object about size of a paperback book. "Put this with the others." Their hands touch briefly...and Icheb gulps. He breaks the contact, taking the card. "These relays should have been replaced a while ago. It's amazing they've held up this long."
As she speaks, he turns away, placing the card with the others, and as he does so his hand moves past a tricorder hidden with the rest of their gear. He turns back to the panel, as Torres changes the subject. "I'm really looking forward to our climb."
"Wouldn't you prefer to spend your free time with your husband?" Icheb asks, his mouth mere inches from her head.
B'Elanna giggles fondly, glancing at Icheb. "If it doesn't involve a race car, a shuttle, or something else he can drive, Tom's not interested. Besides, since we got married," she adds, pulling herself out of the panel, "I see more than enough of him." She moves to stand, putting her hand on Icheb's shoulder for balance. "Hold still." Pushing off on Icheb, she stands to tinker with something overhead.
Icheb remains in his crouch. He grabs his tricorder, and hurriedly scans her life signs. His eyes go wide at the readings.
He closes the tricorder, then regards Torres' legs in a whole new light.
As Harry takes a tricorder from an attractive extra, an alarm starts beeping. Dayla turns to him and reports, "I'm reading a power fluctuation in the propulsion system."
Seven confirms. And there's worse news. "It's destabilizing the cloak."
Captain Kim orders, "All stop."
The Nightingale slows to a halt as it flickers back into view, vulnerable to those pesky Annari.
In Engineering, Harry, Seven, and Dayla work at a panel in the floor as Loken looks on. As they tinker, the Nightingale's small warp core shows signs of life again, lighting up with new energy. Harry runs a scan with his tricorder, pronouncing it good. "The core is stable. That should take care of it."
Loken, having heard this song before, has to ask. "Are you absolutely certain?"
Harry may NOT be absolutely certain, but he's still stinging a bit from Neelix's soup-or-salad object lesson and is determined not to show any lack of confidence. "As a scientist, you should know there's no such thing as absolute certainty," Harry says testily.
Seven tries to play peacemaker--hardly a natural fit for her. "Perhaps we could run a diagnostic before we..."
"That would take hours," Harry barks, cutting her off; she bristles. "Captain Janeway wants us back before Voyager finishes its overhaul."
Loken's still got Cloak on the brain. "The cloaking system is delicate. It requires constant attention."
Harry whirls on Loken. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a physician!" Loken's glare convinces Harry that he needs to dial it down a notch. "You have to trust me on this. We'll monitor it closely. Don't worry."
Loken's eyes blaze; his lips are tight. "I simply want to ensure that our mission is a success."
Harry's tone is imperious. "You asked me to take command of this ship--and that's what I'm doing."
Loken doesn't say what's obviously on his mind: we've created a monster. Stiffly, he nods, then exits.
Kim turns to Dayla. "Tell Terek to resume course." She nods without argument and sprints for the exit.
Seven of Nine sighs. It's gotta happen sometime, and now's as good a moment as any. "I've discovered a serious flaw in one of the ship's systems," she says, an edge in her voice. She walks around the panel to stare Harry in the eye.
"Which one?" Harry asks, eager to leap on it, whatever it may be.
Harry gapes. He wasn't expecting that.
Now that she has his attention..."The Captain's main function is to issue orders, correct?"
Harry's eyes flash, but he swallows his angrier reply and says simply, "Right."
"And the crew's function is to support the Captain and carry out those orders," she says next.
"What's your point?" Harry's voice is sharp. He's on the verge of sending Seven to the brig. Or to walk the plank.
"Every time you give an order, you carry it out yourself. And when someone else makes a suggestion, you dismiss it."
"These people are inexperienced! They need my help!"
Anticipating this argument, Seven asks, "When you first came aboard Voyager, did Captain Janeway help you?"
Kim nods. "Sure. She looked after all the junior officers."
"By doing your work for you?"
Kim considers that. "No. She gave me a lot to do, actually."
Seven's eyebrow rises imperceptibly. "Because she felt you were more capable than she was?"
"Of course not! She wanted me to learn, to...gain...confidence."
Seven merely nods. "Interesting." She lets the words hang, and sink in on their own; she exits, leaving Harry with the thought.
Perhaps Seven of Nine should be the one signing up for JAG. She might even give Catherine Bell a run for her money.
Harry's word is his bond...but his bluster has been writing checks the cloaking system can't cash. In short order, the Nightingale's cloak begins once more to fail.
Harry and his crew are racing around trying to restore their precious invisibility. "Emergency power!" he shouts. "Re-polarize the containment field!"
Dayla tries, but without success. "I can't!"
Loken stalks furiously on the bridge. "The cloak is going to fail again!"
"Don't panic," Harry says. "This is a minor malfunction."
Angrily, Loken asks, "Minor?!? We're losing our main defense system!"
Harry is about to downplay the seriousness of the cloak's loss, but reality intrudes. "We've been detected," Terek says. "Two Annari vessels are closing on our position."
Okay, two vessels, no big--
"Correction--six Annari vessels!"
Okay, time to panic.
The Annari ships close from all sides and fire on the Nightingale as soon as they're in range. The Kraylor vessel is largely helpless under the barrage.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Harry yells at Terek, then hits the comm line. "Kim to Engineering."
Seven struggles to keep her balance after another shot. "Go ahead."
"We need that cloak back on-line!" Well, duh.
"The primary generator has failed," Seven says as she works furiously. "I'm trying to--" she grunts as another explosion rips through the vessel, ignites something near her, and sends Seven and a Kraylor extra flying. They're down for the count.
"Seven?! Seven, come in!" Harry shouts. No response.
He turns to Terek. "You have the bridge."
Terek is having none of it. "We need you here." Given the last few days serving under the tin-plated petty dictator with delusions of godhood, it's a surprising show of confidence. Or desperation.
Dayla stands. "I'll go, sir." Sparks fly as another console goes.
Harry bows to reason. "All right. I'll give you instructions over the com." Still micromanaging--oh, they're in biiiig trouble. Dayla looks at Loken, who nods; she exits.
Harry turns his attention to Terek. "Charge phaser banks. Target their weapons array."
Terek panics a little. "Which ship?" Harry goes to stand over his shoulder.
Going with common sense for the first time in a while, Harry tells him, "The closest one, off our port bow." They begin firing, a weak response to the six-pronged attack of the Annari.
Down in Engineering, we see Dayla finish dragging Seven out into the corridor. The doors hiss closed behind her as Dayla makes her way to the console Seven was trying to reach earlier. "Dayla to the bridge. Life support failing down here. I've gotten everyone out."
Harry's back in the hot seat. "Good work. Now, go to the cloaking generator." She does so. "What's the field polarity?"
Dayla checks. "206.4."
"That's too low. We're going to have to raise it."
Ya think? Dayla gets right to work. "I'm bypassing the phase converter."
Harry blinks. "Wait. I didn't tell you to do that!" Uh oh, independent thinking, this can't be good...
"Won't that increase the field polarity?" she asks as she continues to do what she darn well pleases, trying to ignore the rapidly-draining oxygen supply.
Smoke fills the room, stealing what little breathable air remains; Dayla begins coughing.
Kim's trying to keep hold of the situation. "Listen to me carefully. I want you to try..."
Loken cuts him off. "Dayla, it's Loken. Take the warp core off-line." It's an order, and it carries more weight than Harry's. He's staring right at Harry, daring him to object.
Harry dares. "What are you talking about?!?"
Loken continues speaking to Dayla, ignoring Harry's confusion. "Bypass the driver coil and shunt power directly to the polaron matrix."
Dayla complies, using her last breath.
The Nightingale disappears; the Annari vessels, with nothing more to aim at, veer off.
"The cloak is back on-line," Terek says with obvious relief.
"Get us out of here, full impulse," Harry says, looking away from Loken just long enough to issue the order. Then, glaring at Loken some more, he hails Engineering. "Dayla, secure the engineering section and get back to the bridge."
There's only silence in response. Loken looks down at his console.
Still staring at Loken, Harry calls out, "Dayla!" Realizing what her silence means, Harry looks away.
Loken, a bit unneccessarily, tells his captain, "I'm not reading any life signs in engineering." Terek looks at Harry. Harry looks at the floor.
Suddenly, this adventure isn't nearly so excellent. Be careful what you ask for, Harry...
* * *
Seven of Nine is still unconscious. Harry tends to her, monitoring her life signs with a tricorder.
Loken enters, drawing his attention. Harry stands, bleakly noting Loken's expression. "Dayla?" he asks.
"She's dead," Loken says stiffly. "How's Seven?"
"She may be in shock. I'm not sure. Have a look." He hands the tricorder to Loken.
Loken holds the tricorder as he might a flux capacitor. Harry waves him over to Seven, clearly expecting the doctor to provide a more thorough dianosis.
Loken waves the thing over Seven like a checkout scanner, barely looking at the readouts.
"Your opinion, Doctor?" Harry asks. His emphasis on the last word is telling.
Loken rises, but doesn't look at Harry. "I believe she may be in shock."
"Do you think we should give her a cortical stimulant?" Harry asks, his voice a challenge.
Loken hands the tricorder back, but doesn't make eye contact. "That might be indicated."
"You're no Doctor, are you?" Harry asks. He glares at Loken, who stares back blankly.
"You and I need to talk," Harry says. "Alone."
Harry leads the way into his ready room; Loken is hot on his heels. When the door closes, Harry blocks the only exit. "What the hell is going on?" he demands.
"I don't know what you mean," Loken says, not even bothering to lie well.
"Nothing about this mission is adding up," Harry says angrily, building to a Tom Cruise moment. "It's obvious you know a lot more about cloaking systems than biology. So did Dayla. And the second our cloak failed, half a dozen Annari warships came after us--one little medical transport."
Loken says nothing.
"The truth!" harry orders--and this time, there's real force behind his command, because it carries conviction rather than mere bluster.
Loken gives in. "My colleagues and I have been working at a secret base--but not to create vaccines. We've been developing cloaking devices for our fleet."
Kim rocks on his heels. "This ship is a prototype!"
Loken nods. "The Annari know we have it--and they don't want us to get it home."
Harry is furious. "I never would have agreed to this if I had known you had a military objective!"
Loken's practically spits out his reply. "Our world has been under an Annari blockade for three years. The planet is protected by a shield grid, but it's almost impossible to get our ships in or out."
Harry's still furious over the betrayal--and the anticipation of the butt-chewing he's going to get when they return to Voyager. "I convinced Captain Janeway this was a humanitarian mission!"
"It is," Loken insists. "The Annari are choking us to death! Slowly. If we can't get supply ships through the blockade we can't get food to our people. Or medicine."
Harry steps close, right into Loken's personal space. "For all I know, that's another lie." Spinning on his heel, he stalks out of the ready room--leaving Loken alone in the Captain's office.
Harry barks an order to Terek before the door to the bridge is fully open. "Reverse course."
"Sir?" Terek asks, confused.
"We're heading back to Voyager."
A pause. "I don't understand."
Loken enters. "He knows about the cloak."
Terek blushes. He turns to Harry with shame. "I would've told you, but--"
Terek is talking when Harry wants him to reverse course. "I gave you an order."
"What about the mission?" Terek asks.
"That's not your concern." Like hell it's not--this ship is the faint glimmer of hope of his people, a point Harry is slow to realize. "You want to be a Starship officer? Your job is to follow orders."
Terek bristles. "Sir, I don't think you..."
"This is not a debate. You're under my command."
Terek glances at Loken for help. Loken stares back evenly.
Terek looks back at Harry helplessly. He's made his choice. "No, sir. Not anymore."
One may wonder how this scene might have played out had Harry cultivated the crew's respect over the previous few days, rather than squandering it on micromanagement and grandstanding.
Harry's furious--and a bit scared. He's used to the chain of command working. He asks What Would Janeway Do, and does it. "You're relieved."
Terek doesn't move.
Harry turns to a middle-aged man near the aft of the bridge. "You, take the helm." The man doesn't move either.
All eyes but Harry's are on Loken. The scientist speaks, drawing Harry's attention to the mutiny which has already been successfully concluded. "I believe you're the one who's been relieved."
Harry looks like he's ready to argue, then realizes the truth. Two days into his command, and he's already victim of his first mutiny.
He broke Janeway's old record by a good twelve hours. Momma Kim would be proud.
Humming to himself, Tom steps out of a turbolife and almost gets run over by Icheb. "Where are you going in such a hurry?" he asks jovially.
Icheb looks guilty. "Engineering--to assist B'Elanna."
Tom nods. "Ah."
Quickly, Icheb corrects himself. "Lieutenant Torres."
Paris gets a twinkle in his eyes--time to have some fun at Icheb's expense. Just a little good-natured teasing; he's been missing the opportunity since Harry took off on his big Command mission. "Well...you've been seeing a lot of my wife lately. Should I be worried?"
Busted! Not knowing quite how to respond, Icheb stammers out, "Um, the repairs are extensive. It's a lot of work."
"You can't fool me," Tom says, frowning a bit too much for anyone but a naive ex-drone to take seriously. "I heard you two were planning on scaling some cliffs together."
"It was her idea!" Icheb bleats helplessly.
Tom realizes this is a little too easy, and lets him off the hook. "Hey, relax!" He claps a friendly hand on Icheb's shoulder. "Spending time on the Holodeck is good for you. But if you really want to have fun, forget climbing. Try my race car program."
Poor Icheb's Borg-enhanced mind is having trouble keeping up with the interpersonal dynamics of this little love triangle. "'Race car'?"
Tom lights up, his enthusiasm building. "You get to chase me around the track in an old Earth ground vehicle. 300kph. It'll really get your blood pumping!"
They stop at the door to Engineering. Icheb looks at him in disbelief. "Are you challenging me to a competition?"
Interesting way of putting it, but Tom's game. "Well, you think you can take me?" he says challengingly. "Tomorrow, Holodeck Two, 1900 hours." He taps Icheb on the chest, then continues on his way.
Icheb looks even more concerned than he has been lately. He steels his resolve as he walks through the doors to Engineering.
Spotting B'Elanna, Icheb walks up behind her and begins without preamble. "There is something we need to discuss."
Scanning a piece of equipment, B'Elanna responds, a bit distracted, "Sure, as soon as you help me finish this diagnostic."
Icheb stumbles on. "I can't do this."
Continuing with her tasks, B'Elanna doesn't even look his way as she replies, "Of course you can! You've done dozens of them." tap. tap tap.
"I'm not talking about the diagnostic. I'm talking about us."
Torres glances at him briefly before returning to her PADD. tap-tap-tap. "Us?" she asks idly, not grasping the severity of Icheb's tone, too caught up in her duties.
"Your interest in me--it's inappropriate."
Torres stops tapping.
She looks at Icheb with surprise. Her eyes search his, wanting to laugh but not sure if it's a joke. Icheb's never really shown much inclination to humor. "I don't think I understand," she says.
"It's obvious you desire a romantic involvement," he says, his innocence adding to the impact of his sincerity.
Now he's got her full attention. "Excuse me?" she says, blinking as though to clear her head.
Icheb begins reciting chapter and verse from Doc's book. "You've made all the customary overtures--finding reasons to spend time with me, complimenting me, inviting me to engage in...recreational activities. Your husband even challenged me to a ritual contest."
"What are you talking about?!?"
"According to my research it's a traditional Klingon practice."
Yeesh. And B'Elanna thought the humans on board were dopey about dating. Poor Icheb. Poor young, earnest, clueless Icheb.
What throws B'Elanna even more is, this conversation is occurring in Engineering. A very crowded, busy Engineering. She can sense the dozens of underlings valiantly striving to avoid looking at her right now.
B'Elanna puts on a brave smile. "Look...I'm sorry, but you've got the wrong idea. You seemed a little lonely. I was just trying to be friendly."
But Icheb has logic and data on his side, and that gives him the confidence of his conclusions. "I scanned you."
B'Elanna's smile comes crashing down. Her eyes ignite. "You scanned me?"
Icheb nods. "In the Jefferies tube. Your blood pressure and neurotransmitter readings indicated a state of...arousal."
Oh, man. Where do I get me one of those tricorders? They could come in awfully handy on a date, or at a bar. "Sensors indicate an interested female four point seven meters behind the KISS pinball machine..."
But Torres is more than aroused--she's pissed. "It was hot! And I've been under a lot of pressure! But I certainly wasn't--" she struggles to repeat the word--"aroused!"
Somewhere in Engineering, Vorik's eye starts twitching for absolutely no reason.
An engineering extra breaks into their little tete a tete, handing her a PADD, his expression utterly neutral; she lets the man live, and takes the opportunity to take a deep breath as she scans its contents. She gets it together, then continues.
"Look, Icheb, I like you. But. Aside from the fact that I am a much older woman, I'm married!"
Icheb replies sadly, "That's why we have to do the honorable thing."
B'Elanna's jaw drops.
"We should stop seeing each other," he concludes.
Torres starts to respond. Then she considers things, a ghost of smile wafts across her face, and she sees a way out. She adopts a resigned tone. "You're right. As much as it hurts, I'll just have to face the truth."
Icheb, the irony-challenged ex-drone, nods gravely. "It's for the best." He touches her arm, comforting his brave little soldier, then walks out the door.
B'Elanna shakes her head, with genuine regret--Icheb took off without finishing the diagnostic.
Seven of Nine is still down for the count when Harry enters. Or is she? Harry sits beside her and calls her name. "Seven?"
Seven awakes, looking no worse for wear. She looks up at Harry, then sits up, swinging her legs over the side of the bed.
"Feeling better?" Harry asks.
Seven nods, missing the desolation in Harry's voice, "Well enough to return to duty."
She gets ready to stand, but Harry's tone stops her. "You won't be returning to duty--not on this ship anyway." She stares at him.
Discouraged, he continues. "Loken lied to us. There's no vaccine. The cloak is the real cargo. I ordered the crew to take us back to Voyager, but they refused." He sits there, staring at the bed, looking like he desperately wants to crawl into it, curl into a fetal position, and remain that way until he reaches Earth.
Seven only needs one guess. "They mutinied."
Kim winces. "I guess that's what you'd call it." He shakes his head sadly, still wholly self-absorbed. "I've packed some supplies. We'll take an escape pod. I'm hoping the Annari will leave us alone--treat us as neutral parties." He still can't quite bring himself to look at her.
"We're not 'neutral parties,'" Seven reminds him.
"This is a military mission. We can't get involved!"
Wake up and smell the plomeek soup, Chester! "We've been 'involved' since you first fired on that Annari ship," Seven says heatedly.
She has a point there. Harry's shoulders sag. "I thought I was helping people in distress." He rises from the chair and begins to pace. Seven, the bearer of bad tidings, bears the brunt of Harry's anger for the moment.
Seven also rises. "Don't they still need your help? Are you abandoning this ship because the mission wasn't what you expected?" She looks at him until his eyes meet hers. "Or because being a Captain wasn't what you expected?"
Aye, there's the rub. Defensively, Harry tells her, "I am perfectly capable of commanding a Starship!"
"Are you? Clearly, you're uncomfortable with the role: delegating tasks, giving orders."
Seven's merciless critique of Harry's performance begins to draw blood.
"Someone died following my orders!"
Well, technically, she died following LOKEN'S orders, but now's not the time to bring that up. Seven settles for, "You can't blame yourself for that."
"A captain's responsible for the lives of his crew!" Harry says it, reciting chapter and verse, but mostly as a vehicle for self-pity.
"People sometimes die on missions," Seven reminds him, "despite the captain's best efforts."
Harry's in full wallow now. Defeat permeates his voice. "I should have stuck to playing Buster Kincaid."
Seven slaps some sense into him yet again. "A Holodeck program can be turned off when it no longer suits you. Reality can't."
Seven heads for the door, then stops and turns back to Harry, her voice somewhat kinder. "If you really feel responsible for this crew, you'll help them get home--because they won't survive without you."
Harry looks pensive, trying to decide if that was meant as a comfort, or another piece of truth for him to try and digest.
Harry is left with the question--what is being captain all about, and is he up to the task--or is he in it only for the resume item and the fancy decorated office.
Loken, the cloaking genius, does his best to bring his ship home. He discovers that the flying is easy--the landing, now, that's hard.
On the Nightingale bridge, Loken, standing over Terek's shoulder, stares at the forward viewscreen at their homeworld--and the sight of the Annari vessels send out overlapping pulses across the stratosphere.
"Is that some new kind of weapon?" Terek asks, wide-eyed.
"They're scanning pulses designed to illuminate cloaked ships," Loken says crisply. "If we hit one, we'll be exposed." He may know how to identify them, but getting past them is beyond his skill set.
"How are we going to get through?" Terek wonders aloud, maching Loken's silent question.
"We'll find a way." Loken and Terek look toward the door through which Harry and Seven enter.
Harry has a newfound look of determination and sense of purpose. He even looks happy.
"I thought you were leaving," Loken says.
"I get claustrophobic in escape pods." Harry turns to Terek. "Switch to manual helm control. Full power to shields."
Terek looks at Loken.
Loken looks at Harry.
Harry looks at Loken.
Loken looks at Terek, and nods. Mutiny...withdrawn. They'll follow Harry anywhere, as long as it's where they want to go.
Even so, Terek is happy to have Harry back on the team. "Aye, Captain," he says, returning to his console.
Kim once again takes the big chair, but with greater respect for the mantle he's taking on. He places his hands deliberately on the armrests, gazing at them. Then looks up at the viewscreen, and sighs.
Cap'n Proton in da house.
* * *
On the planet's surface, it looks like the ship is pretty much back in one piece. Nobody's running along the hull.
On the bridge, all seems to be in order. Janeway is walking about, arms crossed, overseeing the final diagnostics with a smile.
Tuvok's station beeps. "Two Annari ships have entered orbit. They are hailing."
Janeway's been expecting them. "On screen," she says, still grinning.
She recognizes the familiar face of the Annari leader and spreads her arms wide. "Captain Geral! We have 12 isotons of ore for you--"
Geral, though, is not in a pleasant mood. "I'm under orders to escort you out of Annari space immediately. You've been supporting our enemy." He's being somewhat polite, owing to their previous pleasant encounter, but now the Annari's dark side is starting to show through for the first time.
Chakotay and the others look up surprise.
Janeway's smile fades. "You must be mistaken."
"A shuttlecraft matching your hull composition fired on one of our ships several days ago. And we recently detected two human bio-signatures on a Kraylor warship."
Chakotay's eyebrows rise; so do Tuvok's. Janeway, though, knows what this is about, and softly curses before speaking. "I can explain that."
"If you don't leave immediately we'll be forced to fire on you." To be truthful, he seems to mean it--all of it. He doesn't relish the prosepct, but he would fire on them if he had to. He stings from the betrayal.
But Janeway starting to sting a little bit as well. She never responds well to threats. "Our warp drive is still being repaired," she reminds him.
"Then we'll escort you at impulse. You have five minutes to lift off." He ends the transmission.
"So much for our new deuterium injectors," Chakotay notes dryly.
"What about Harry and Seven?" Tom asks.
"We'll go looking for them--as soon as we get rid of our escort." She bites out the last word, and heads for the Big Chair.
A pulse explodes across the atmosphere of the planet, and the Nightingale flickers into view. Immediately, the Annari ships begin firing.
Kim shouts, "Evasive maneuvers."
Terek's starting to panic again. "There are too many of them."
Kim soothingly, from his chair, assures him, "You're doing fine. Just try to stay at least 100 meters ahead of the closest pulse."
Terek takes heart in the vote of confidence. Calmer, Terek replies, "Yes, sir!"
But now Loken is getting antsy. "We should return fire."
Kim shakes his head. "No. That would only give them another way to triangulate our position." His assurance is a marked contrast to his earlier micromanaging. Either Harry really blossoms under pressure, or he's finally taken off his pointy-headed-boss mask and found the true captain within.
Another shot rocks the ship, irking Loken further. "Our shields are failing!"
Seven adds, "We're losing structural integrity on the lower decks."
"Reroute emergency power," Harry orders.
Seven does so, but reports a moment later, "It's insufficient."
Okay. The direct approach isn't getting them there, so time for Plan B. Harry turns to Terek. "Open a channel to the lead Annari ship."
"Sir?" Terek asks, confused--and busier than heck trying to outrun the Annari.
Terek reluctantly obeys. "Aye, sir."
"This is Captain Kim of the Kraylor vessel Nightingale," Harry says, now fully into the role. "I'm prepared to discuss terms for our surrender."
Terek shoot Harry a look of hurt and disbelief. Harry looks back evenly. "End transmission."
Loken is incensed. "We trusted you!"
"And you still should," Harry says, giving Loken a look of calm assurance.
Terek breaks in. "They're responding!"
Harry looks intently at Loken. "I don't have time to explain." Then he orders Terek to put it on screen.
The Annari captain gets to the point. "Your surrender will be unconditional."
"No, it won't," Harry says. He stands, approaching the viewscreen, acting every inch the captain. "Either you allow my crew to evacuate to the surface, or I'll put this ship on self-destruct. You'll never get the cloaking technology." He smiles. "Something tells me your superiors won't be happy about that."
His counterpart tries to bully his way through the negotiation one more time. "Your crew will be taken aboard my vessel and brought to an Annari detention center."
"My crew's going to the surface in escape pods," Harry counters. "Once they're clear, you can lock onto this ship with a tractor beam."
Harry wins. The Annari nods. "Agreed. You've two minutes to evacuate." He signs off.
Terek bristles as he looks at Captain Kim. "I will not abandon this ship!" Whoa. Looks like it's contagious; Terek isn't the scared rookie we met earlier.
Harry grins. "I'm glad to hear that--because I'm going to need you here." Terek wasn't expecting that; his confusion gives way to a smile.
Harry turns to Loken. "Get your people into the pods. Quickly."
"But the cloak--"
"I've got a plan to save it. If I fail, at least the scientist who designed it will be alive to create another one."
Loken doesn't bother to deny it Harry's claim. Neither does he refute the wisdom of the plan. Loken nods, and leaves.
Harry turns next to Seven. "Scan the Annari's tractor emitters. I need to know the exact beam polarity." She nods and gets to work.
"What are we going to do?" Terek asks.
Harry walks over to his station. "Once they lock onto us, they're going to come about and pull us away from the planet. As soon as they do, we're going to reverse our shield polarity. If we time it right, it should give us enough momentum to outrun them to the defense perimeter."
Terek smiles, remembering their earlier conversation. "We're going to use their own weapons against them!"
Harry grins and nods. You gain wisdom quickly, Grasshopper.
Seven glances back. "The escape pods are away."
Kim sits back in the hot seat and sighs. "Disengage the cloak."
Seven does so. The ship shudders a moment later. "They've locked on," she reports.
The Nightingale starts vibrating like a bed in a cheap motel.
Terek anxiously asks, "Sir?"
"Not yet," Harry says, concentrating on the right moment.
The shaking continues.
Terek begins to sweat, anticipating the order.
It comes. "Now!"
Terek obeys, pressing a button. We see the aura around the Nightingale glow yellow, an energy which in turn shoots up the tractor beam. The Nightingale tears free.
"Status?" Harry shouts.
Seven responds, "Shields are failing."
"Four Annari vessels are in pursuit. They're closing," Terek chimes in, with rising alarm.
Kim commands, "Full thrusters!"
An alarm wails. "Shields are down," Seven announces.
Harry turns to his protégé, "Get us through that defense perimeter, Mr. Terek."
"Yes, sir!" Determination is written all over Terek's face.
The Nightingale shoots through the perimeter with a flare of light less than a second before the Annari vessels can intercept--they pull up just in time to avoid ramming into the force screen.
Terek smiles wide in relief. "We're inside!" He announces unnecessarily.
Seven turns to Harry as well. "The Annari have broken off their pursuit." Is that a complimentary tone we hear?
Harry smiles, relieved. "Take us to the surface, Mr. Terek." The last leg of this journey should be a cakewalk; he enjoys the feel of the captain's chair, secure in the knowledge that he's truly earned it.
Or has he? The safe conclusion gives him some time to think about the totality of his first command, and clearly there's room for improvement.
Voyager's once again in space, escorted by two Annari ships. They cross some invisible boundary, and the escort vessels peel off, leaving Voyager alone.
The mood on the bridge is grim.
Tom announces, "We've just crossed out of Annari space."
Chakotay confirms it. "Our escorts have broken off. They're going to warp."
Janeway springs into action like a horse out of the gate. "Bring the long-range sensors on-line." Pointing to Chakotay, she barks out, "You and Tom, take the Flyer. Start your search at Harry's last known position." They follow her up the ramp to leave as Janeway walks over to Tactical. "Tuvok, send an encrypted message to the Kraylor homeworld. See if they know where Harry and Seven are."
Tuvok's console beeps. He glances down. "That won't be necessary, Captain. Ensign Kim is hailing us."
Janeway does a double-take. "From where?"
Tuvok scans. "A cloaked vessel. It's directly astern." Apparently it's a cloak with some kinks left to work out.
Tuvok and Janeway share a look: this is bound to be an interesting story.
Acting Captain's Log, Stardate 54282.5. Final entry. New cloaking systems are being installed in other Kraylor ships, so I guess the mission was a success. Still, I wish I felt better about it.
Thus ends the first chapter in the Adventures of Captain Kim.
Back in familiar territory, Harry sits down at the counter in the Mess Hall.
Neelix greets him happily. "Welcome home!"
"It's good to be back," Harry says sincerely.
"So, what'll it be tonight? I have a light tula cheese souffle or a zesty lasagna!"
"You know Neelix?" Harry says after a moment's thought. "The truth is, I'm not sure."
Neelix is shocked--shocked!--to hear Harry reverting to Ensign mode of dining. "I thought we talked about this! A Captain has to be deci--"
"I'm not a Captain, Neelix," Harry says flatly.
Neelix looks surprised, and a little saddened.
But only for a moment. Harry looks up at Neelix, and the corners of his mouth twitch. His eyes dance. "Not yet, anyway."
First, my thanks to Sara Wilcox for her invaluable assistance with the breakdown.
This was an okay episode, though quite uneven. The episode, like Harry's first command, turned out to be All About Harry, and glossed over or entirely ignored some of the thornier moral issues of getting involved in the Kraylor/Annari conflict.
The Kraylor are a hard race to like, frankly. Terek is an eager enough young man, but until the end is mostly a follower, looking to whomever seems to have the most commanding voice.
Far worse, though, is Loken. His dishonesty would have put Harry in a tough spot even if he had been a better captain in the beginning, by withholding information that would have dramatically changed the way Harry and Janeway dealt with the situation. We have only Loken's word on which to base our opinion of the species--and he lies so often it's difficult to take his word against the Annari's.
Yes, we can see the blockade of the Kraylor homeworld, but we have no context on which to judge it. Harry could have ended up helping the equivalent of the Vaadwaur, or the Borg. The episode doesn't address this, so we're left to speculate as to the ultimate goodness or badness of Harry's successful completion of the mission.
As for the Annari, they're certainly not friendly to the Kraylor or anyone who gets in the line of fire between them and their Kraylor targets. But they treated Voyager with far more civility than others have in the same circumstances, despite greater cause (hard evidence of collaboration with the enemy). The Kraylor have obvious reason to hate the Annari, but Voyager can't say the same, aside from the annoyance of a good transaction blown. Up to that point they'd been friendly enough. Loken called that a mere ploy, but his word (as mentioned) doesn't mean much.
So...when it comes to the whole interplanetary war, we don't look at it too closely. We just have Harry stepping down the slippery slope from a brief humanitarian mission to smuggling crucial military technology and its creator past a blockade. The whole question of who's right or wrong, and whether a cloaked Kraylor fleet will end up spelling doom for the Delta Quadrant, is left for another day.
Even so, breaking blockades to get food or medicine through certainly does have a humanitarian nature to it. If the Kraylor do use it for that purpose, perhaps it's not a bad thing, at least on its face. Only time will tell-but you know we'll never find out for sure.
The important thing is, what about Captain Harry? Right?
His first mistake, clearly, is listening to Neelix. The whole food-ordering-as-command metaphor was disastrous for Harry, as he micromanaged to the point of absurdity and squandered every last bit of loyalty with Terek his early efforts had earned him.
Put another way, he screwed up as captain because he tried to be the ENTIRE chain of command. Jumping from Ensign to Captain, he missed out on the valuable lessons to be learned in the ranks between Lieutenant and Commander. He had plenty of experience as the doer, and he knew about responsibility, but he didn't have much experience delegating--and it showed. He began by playing at the role of captain--fitting out his office, swaggering, projecting confidence (warranted or not), shouting down comments he doesn't want to hear.
He also showed a disturbing tendency to dismiss even good advice--something he no doubt learned from Captain Janeway.
Seven of Nine was a well-placed advisor. As a non-ranking member of the crew, she's pretty much free to do or not do whatever she pleases, and has shown a willingness to suffer whatever consequences come from bucking authority. She tells Harry what he's doing wrong, and she even does so effectively--though too late to prevent the mutiny.
Harry's second tour of duty as captain went a bit better, but some of the same signs were there. He did give Terek more breathing room, but he still didn't listen to anyone's plan but his own; it might have been refreshing for him to accept a good idea when it came down the pike. But oh well--he showed he'd learned, and at least his later commands had some logic and good sense to them, which prompted the Kraylor to follow them.
The best lesson Harry learned was probably this: he learned that he's got a lot to learn yet before he's ready to assume his own full-time command. There's nothing wrong with that--he's young, and ambitious, and not yet too set in his ways. He'll take what opportunities he can get, and make his share of mistakes, but he shows enough talent and ingenuity to suggest he'll get there, in good time.
This episode in some ways reminded me of Thirty Days. Captain Proton was the metaphor there as well, and Tom's desire to be a hero in a great cause cost him dearly. Harry will no doubt get off easier, but he learned the hard lesson that being the hero isn't easy--and that being a captain doesn't necessarily make you a hero. His somber final entry, wherein he questions the mission, is the most promising sign that he'll be okay in the long run.
The subplot with Icheb and B'Elanna was cute, though completely irrelevant to the main plot. It was a cute diversion only, though it did give us some insight into the character of Icheb. He's a sweet young man with a good heart, who wanted to "do the right thing" when confronted with what he thought was Torres' advances. It's a refreshing twist on the mixed-signals story in that he didn't fall for her in return, that he approached this from a very alien perspective.
In fairness to Icheb, B'Elanna WAS acting a bit odd around him. Vorik could well have looked at the way she was treating the Dronelet and drawn similar logical conclusions. All in all, though, it was an amusing B plot, and the subtlety of reactions from Manu Intiryami and Roxann Dawson did wonderful justice to the scenes.
This was an average episode. Not edge-of-your-seat by any means. The performances were fine, and the guest stars held their own. Special kudos to Manu Intiryami, Ron Glass, Roxann Dawson, Jeri Ryan, and Garrett Wang.
Call it (* * 1/2) out of four stars.
Next week: The Holograms are coming! The Holograms are coming!
Star Trek ® is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures
registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Star Trek: Voyager is a trademark of Paramount Pictures.
Original material © Copyright 1995-2001, Jim Wright. All rights reserved.