1-10 Samuels' Gambit

Samuels' Gambit

The Captain finally finds a suitable duty for the Colonel, that is acceptable, then finds she cannot accept his unconventional methods of carrying them out. It has far reaching consequences...

Voyager and characters (except the Colonel) in this story are copyright of Paramount. No resemblance is intended to any person alive or dead.

The story line and the Colonel is my own.

Constructive criticism and comments are welcome on e-mail story@rgower.f9.co.uk.

If like me you like to know why things occur like they do, I would heartily recommend you start with the first set of stories The Colonel- or visit my homepage- www.thestoryboard.co.uk

This story is rated PG on the UK sensors ratings

©R Gower 2000

Stand alone sequel to The Colonel (Alright I shouldn't have made rest chapters. But hey Nobodies perfect!')

"Lieutenant Caerey's report shows a marked improvement in technical competence," commented Captain Janeway, "What's changed? His report last year suggested he was under-performing."

Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Commander Tuvok were involved in the dreaded annual assessment of crew progress. They hated the ritual as much as the crew, but regarded it as necessary to prevent their crews careers losing out should they ever return to their own realm.

"That was before his excursion in system G57452 with the Colonel, and your tongue lashing," Chakotay pointed out, "Since he was forced to build a good engine from the two damaged ones, he appears to have made a point of examining the design of shuttle warp engines. According to B'Elanna he has stripped the engines from the 'Flyer', totally redesigned them and rebuilt them so they produce nearly 20% more power. In the process it seems that they are now more reliable and require almost no tools to repair."

"Mark it up in the records," she agreed reluctantly.

"The Doctor reports Tom Paris has show an improvement in his medical abilities?" she queried.

"Kellor," answered Tuvok promptly, explaining everything in one word.

She sighed. it appeared to be a common statement of anybody that had been in the Colonel's presence for more than a couple of days. They suddenly appeared to improve their abilities, even little Naomi Wildman had blossomed as he had taken a role in broadening her education.

"I won't ask about Seven of Nine," she commented drily, "The differences are too obvious to be commented upon. She's in real danger of becoming popular with the crew."

"Anybody else?" She queried.

"Only Colonel Samuels," announced Tuvok.

"Yes, our only problem crew member!" she replied more calmly than she felt, she had been dreading this.

They had discussed the relevance of including him in the annual assessments long and hard. Nominally he was still an ally, a member of another organisation not a crew member. He had undertaken the training that they had deemed necessary and the promotion to 'Ensign' with good grace and humour, and had now become so firmly entrenched as a member of the crew that it was difficult to imagine him not actually being a member of the crew. But he was now seriously struggling with the advanced studies that would qualify him to proceed up the Star Fleet ladder.

"He is failing in his studies and his command aptitude test results are patchy," described Tuvok, reading from his PADD.

"But when we put him through the 'No Win' scenario, he defeated the Simulation. As far as I know that's only the second time in Star Fleet history, and the first time Captain Kirk cheated," fired back Chakotay.

"He also defeated the second and subsequent 'No Win' scenarios. He does not think but reacts, deploying non-conventional solutions," admitted the unperturbed Vulcan, "But that does not make him a Command Officer."

"The Colonel once gave me his definition of a Commander," commented the Captain dreamily.

They looked at her keenly.

"He claimed, a good Commander makes decisions and stays with them. He doesn't do computer programming, engine repairs or star gazing, there are always people who can do it for him and better. What he needs to do is find them and get them to do it well and willingly in circumstances that they would never accept normally," she stated, "We know that definition works! We've seen it numerous times."

"It would help if he understood the nature of what he is working with," Chakotay complained, "And there are times that he patently doesn't."

"That is why there is difficulty finding a permanent role for him on the ship," agreed Tuvok, "I have demonstrated Star Fleet protocols for Tactical Situations and weapons systems numerous times, but he has repeatedly failed to understand the operation of the weapons and disregards the reasoning for the protocols."

"But that's just isn't it!" The Captain claimed hotly, "As a Commander, does he need to know why it requires 300 Terra Watts of power to fire a phasor. If he has the power, he needs to know what to hit first and the protocols don't decide that, if he hasn't he needs to do something else. That's the point of his definition, he answers the 'How' and 'What' and leaves the 'Why' for somebody else to consider, when there is more time."

"Are you trying to protect him?" Asked Chakotay pointedly.

"If you had the choice and in serious danger who would you prefer in command, somebody who analysis's all the possible solutions and runs out of time in making a decision, or picks a book solution that doesn't work because the enemy is expecting it, or one that can sum up the situation in an instant and reacts with a solution that works?" She asked them sharply.

"There is a certain logic to your arguments," intercepted Tuvok, "Perhaps that's why he does well in the Tactical simulations and poorly in the theoretical subjects, he does not consider them as important."

"Could somebody else take over from Seven of Nine as instructor? Perhaps they're being affected by their mutual affections?" Suggested the Captain, hopefully.

"I do not think so," answered Tuvok, "He regularly seeks out the most relevant crew members for assistance when he comes to a problem that he cannot solve," he advised, "I believe he has brought some of them to you for an explanation, Captain."

"Yes, he has brought several scenario discussions to me," she admitted, "It feels as though I've lost as many Star Fleet recommended solutions as I've won," she added frankly.

"I have also been forced to review my thoughts on certain logical beliefs," admitted Tuvok candidly.

"I think when we get home, we're going to have to campaign for a complete overhaul of Star Fleets training methods," voted Chakotay cheerfully, he had also faced the Colonels close questioning, "There are more than a few places where he drives holes through them."

"Have you asked what he would have done in our situation with the Caretaker?" He asked quietly.

"Yes, I tried," she admitted defensively, "His answer was, 'Did I believe in what I was doing? If I did it was the correct decision, if I didn't then I was wrong and should take my only remaining duty and Blow my brains out'. He even offered me a gun if I decided on the latter solution."

She smiled, remembering the conversation, "He has very firm views over a Commanders duty."

"I got a similar response," admitted Chakotay, "I don't think he would have used the same solution."

"This isn't solving our immediate problem, what do we do with him to encourage his progress?" The Captain slammed the discussion back to their main topic again.

"We could give him the Dog Watch," suggested Chakotay thoughtfully.

The Captain looked at him incredulously. "Are you serious?" she asked.

The Dog Watch was traditionally used for training new Bridge Crew and supply the required service hours for promotion, it normally operated only during quiet periods in home territory, it had not operated on the Voyager for over two years.

"I don't see why not," answered Chakotay mildly, "We know he can command, it's a quiet watch and there is always a senior ships officer on call, we know he has a beneficial effect on those around him, perhaps they'll all benefit!"

She nodded slowly, the idea had potential. "It might even stop him asking to be arrested for exceeding his authority, after saving the ship and crew," she mused.

"Would he accept the command?" Asked Tuvok, "It would be against the spirit of what he declared when he joined the ship," he continued.

"I'll see Seven about it when she comes on duty next," the Captain announced smiling, "If between us we can't persuade him, then I ought to do what he suggested and blow my brains out," she added lightly.

"Computer, advise me when Seven of Nine returns to Astrometrics," she commanded.


On the Mess deck Lieutenants Paris, Torres and Caerey were having breakfast together, before the start of the shift. Like their senior officers they were comparing notes and opinions of their experiences of the Colonels unique command strategy. They were having less success.

"I want to know how he managed to bring that shuttle down in one piece," announced Tom Paris, "I've been over the logs a dozen times, even ran it through the Holodeck. To gain control of it at all was a major piloting feat, but the manoeuvre he used to level it out is not even listed in the flight manuals and the Holodeck simulation simply crashes."

"It still baffles me," admitted Caerey, "That shuttle was a right-off, we stagger off it and the first thing he does is tell me to repair it and I went along with it."

"You could've argued with him," suggested Torres pointedly, "He wouldn't of known any better!"

"Could you argue with him and expect to win?" He challenged, "I think he would have killed me on the spot!"

She shook her head, "Probably not," she affirmed.

"I wonder if Seven ever wins," she pondered aloud, "They are both so similar in attitude but so very different in the way they look at things."

"I think she's the only person on the ship, after the Captain, who could," vowed Paris.

"We could ask her, she's just come in," suggested Caerey lightly, he waved her over.

"Good Morning, Seven," they chorused cheerfully as she approached.

"Lieutenants," she answered in her characteristically cool manner.

"Won't you sit down and I'll get some tea," Caerey offered, knowing the preference she had gained from the Colonel.

"That will not be necessary, I came to collect a package from Neelix," she informed them.

"We were wondering where he came up with the manoeuvre he used to level the shuttle?" Asked Tom Paris, "The Holodeck simulation says it can't be done."

The Holodeck simulation is in error," she informed him with obvious relish, "It has been programmed to conform with the normal flight dynamics and operation of a shuttle. The Colonel carried out a high risk action that he believed would be successful. In the circumstances is was the correct decision, there were no other manoeuvres available that would have prevented the Shuttle from crashing and allow the crew to survive.

He is remarkably resourceful," she added with obvious pride.

"Where did he learn it?" asked Torres gently.

"I am uncertain, but you could ask him to demonstrate his aeroplane," she suggested.

"Aeroplane!" Exclaimed Paris in amazement, "Where did he find it?"

"He found the design schematics for a primitive biplane in a historical text, he asked me to help recreate it as a holodeck programme."

"Have you tried it?" Asked Paris enthusiastically.

"Affirmative," she paused to find the right words, "The design is inefficient and inferior. It makes it unstable and highly dangerous," she described.

She had eventually enjoyed her simulated flights after she had overcome the initial terror of attempting to control the wayward creation that appeared to have a mind of its own. She had tried the controls and had crashed it several times, to the amusement of the Colonel in the back seat. He had patiently taught her how to combine the simple controls to achieve 'simple' aerobatic manoeuvres, though to her mind, full of advanced technology, the fact that it flew at all was nothing short of miraculous.

"I'll do it this afternoon," vowed the excited Tom Paris.

"I'll come and watch you make a fool of yourself," volunteered Torres.

"I must depart," announced Seven calmly.

She took her parcel from Neelix, who looked particularly happy over the contents, and left the Mess. They watched her go.

"He's changed her beyond all recognition," commented Torres wistfully.

They split up for their shifts.

"Seven?" Announced the Captain, entering Astrometrics.

"Captain?" The blonde responded casually, looking around from her console.

"I've been missing our little discussions on the meaning of humanity and individuality," the Captain teased gently.

Seven of Nine coloured slightly, "I have discovered that the Colonel's opinions are not dissimilar to your own and he has more time to discuss them, therefore I have not needed to consult you on many things that are unclear," she announced.

"They are?" The Captain queried voice rising in surprise, "I had thought they were very different," she commented.

The ex-Borg replied, "Your opinions and beliefs are the same, it is the difference in your respective approaches that mark your individuality."

"Go on," the Captain prompted fascinated, she had not considered there to be any commonality between her and the tall Colonel, certainly not enough for the ex-borg to pick up on.

Seven of Nine ceased her work at the console and turned to face the Captain properly.

"You both accept that other opinions and beliefs may be valid and actively seek them out, until you have formed a conclusion, from that point you will not change your decisions but adapt them. You both believe that the freedom of the individual to make their own choices is of prime importance, but if action is required for the greater good then you will both override choice. You are both prepared to take extreme risks to ensure the safety of those around you," she catalogued, "The differences in your actions are a function of your training and experiences, you rely upon your greater understanding and knowledge of technology and the situation around you, he relies upon his instincts, greater understanding of humans and sometimes his more physical attributes."

"I believe you tested him on his probable reactions if faced with the scenario that brought Voyager to the Delta Quadrant?" Seven of Nine asked, seeking an example.

"Yes," the Captain affirmed carefully, "But he never gave me a real answer, What of it?"

"We discussed the question at length. The Colonel was of the opinion that the correct solution was to save the crew," answered Seven bluntly, "Then he investigated your training and background in Star Fleet records, in case the question was raised again. He is now of the opinion that given the same circumstances he would probably have responded similarly," she announced calmly.

Captain Janeway was stunned by the statement. She had asked the question of herself many times during their time in the Delta Quadrant and had found the justification of her actions more and more difficult to affirm as time went by. To find anybody who was prepared to state they would make a similar decision in the circumstances was a revelation, even if it was a Twentieth Century soldier.

Mentally shaking herself, she kicked herself back to the purpose of her visit to see Seven of Nine.

"As you know more about the Colonel and the way he thinks than anybody else aboard the ship, perhaps you can help me with a question of his individuality?" She asked.

"Captain?" Seven replied, eyebrow raised.

"I have noticed he is struggling with his studies," the Captain stated.

"He finds them difficult to comprehend," agreed Seven, "He is unlikely to qualify as a Star Fleet Officer without additional effort."

"Do you think he could command a Star Ship?" The Captain questioned her, grateful for Seven's inevitable honesty.

"It has been my experience that if the circumstances demand action, he will assume control despite status and those around him will follow his instructions," Seven answered obliquely.

"I'll take that as a yes," the Captain smiled, "We want him to take control of the Dog Watch. If we can't make him an officer through technical ability, perhaps we can achieve it through practical competence," she confided.

"He will refuse," pointed out Seven of Nine emphatically, "He is aware that he does not qualify as a Star Fleet Command Officer, it would put you in contravention to the rules and regulations and may damage his status as an ally."

"I know," replied the Captain, "But could he be convinced?" She persisted, "We both know he could do it with his eyes shut and I'm sure you would like to see him in a command role?" She suggested, attempting to ignite a touch of ambition in Seven of Nine for her beau.

Seven of Nine considered the prospect carefully, finally she announced, "It will be difficult, but it may be possible. He needs to command, but feels he would be out of place. Perhaps we will discuss it over dinner tonight? You will attend?"

The Captain smiled, It sounded more of an order than a suggestion.

"Okay, what's cooking?" She asked lightly.

"It is one of his preferred meals, Lancashire Hot Pot," Seven of Nine confided, "I have carried out extensive testing with Neelix to obtain the ingredients and achieve the correct results. The recipe is unusual, but has been perfected."

The Captain almost laughed, the extent to which Seven of Nine went to surprise and please the Colonel was nothing short of astounding. "It's not the most romantic meal in the world," she confided to the blonde, "Just don't put candles on the table!"

"Captain?" Seven of Nine queried, slightly confused.

"I'm not a chef," the Captain pointed out, "But I know that Hot Pot's would be a favourite for the Colonel because they are simple, practical and nutritious. They don't figure high in the romance stakes, so candle light would not be appropriate."

"Your not trying too hard to make him happy are you?" She questioned seriously, "I think it would be a mistake to fawn over him too much, it will upset both of you in the end. He loves you because you are so independent, aloof and direct," she continued, assuming her role as Seven of Nine's spiritual councillor.

"He will not let me do things for him!" Seven protested passionately. "When we were stranded, he made me feel I was the only thing of importance in the galaxy. I did not realise until the last night in the cave the extent that he was hiding his own feelings in an attempt to protect me from them. When they were released, he was ashamed of his actions and the damage they may cause. He believes he has failed me and still resists his feelings. He thinks he should protect me from himself, I do not wish him to," she continued desperately.

The Captain nodded, the statements fitted her assessments of their relationship. "Fine, I'll see you at dinner," she announced and left.

"Seven tells me you've found an aeroplane?" asked Tom Paris, sitting down at the Colonels table at lunch, "Care to share it? I'll give you access to my Captain Proton programmes," he offered.

The Colonel looked at him shrewdly, a smile playing on his lips.

"Lieutenant, you forget that I saw the originals at the Saturday cinema matinees, Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon et all, I thought they were crap then, I don't think they will have improved with age. I preferred the Lone Ranger," he confessed frankly, "As for my programme, you are welcome to have a look anytime you like."

"I'm free this afternoon," suggested Paris, a little disappointed at the Colonels distaste for his monochrome creation.

"So am I," the Colonel growled quickly, it would be easier than another session of advanced astronomy, he thought. "I'll teach you real flying?" He offered, "Lets say 14:00 hours."

"Fine," agreed Paris.

Two o'clock found Tom Paris at the door of the holodeck waiting impatiently for the Colonel.

"Here already Lieutenant? Keen to die are we?" The Colonel quipped, handing him a leather flying jacket. He activated the programme and they entered.

"People flew in that! Couldn't you find anything a little more modern. What is it" spluttered Paris, as he took in the prehistoric monster he was faced with. It was a biplane, doped fabric stretched taught over a seemingly spindly wooden frame. A small and open cockpit sat behind the forward wings and a second larger one sat behind that. At the front was a two bladed wooden propellor attached to the most amazing engine he had ever seen.

"Not as a two seater," admitted the Colonel, "Unless I wanted an F16, but they are too complicated to be fun and my knowledge of aeronautics is too slim to modify a Spitfire airframe, and man has gone to war in far less advanced flying machines."

"Lieutenant Paris may I introduce the Avro 504, a mainstay of His Majesties Royal Air Force from the early 1920's to the late 1930's, as a trainer," he announced, "Unlike a shuttle which uses brute force and ignorance, it has to operate in sympathy with the air around it. The rotary engine at the front puts out about 300 horse power, gives it a top speed of about 130 knots, a landing speed of about 70 and a stall speed rather lower than that. In the right conditions you can actually find yourself flying backwards."

"You learned to fly in one of those?" Paris asked in astonishment.

"Good heavens no! I'm not that old!" Exclaimed the Colonel, "I was taught on Chipmunks, but the general rules are the same, push, pull, waggle and kick. If you care to get in the front I'll give you a guided tour."

The cockpit, to Tom Paris, was as amazing as the rest of the aircraft, he was faced a total of five analogue instruments and two control levers, compared to the multitude of quick reacting displays and controls on the Voyager, there did not appear anything like enough to fly the machine. The guided tour took less than two minutes. "The dials in front of you are, barometric altimeter, magnetic compass, the spirit level thing is the turn and bank indicator, air speed indicator and rev counter," the Colonel pointed them out as he announced them, "None of them are remotely accurate, but give an indication of what's happening," he confessed.

"The two switches control the engine ignition and magneto's, the lever on the left of the dash is the throttle, push for more power pull for less, the two peddles control the rudder, the stick in the middle is the control column and controls the ailerons and elevators like so," he demonstrated those as well, "The control column is often referred to as a joystick, probably because if it works it's to the great joy to the idiot using it 'cos he's not going to die today," he added lightly.

"A tip to the wise," he commented as he strapped Paris into the seat and attached a helmet and speaking tube, "We have nearly a ton of engine spinning around at the front of an aircraft that weighs only slightly more than three, there is a remarkable amount of torque. When on the ground you will need a certain amount of left rudder to counter the engine. In the air you will need left stick to stop it screwing itself into the ground for the same reason."

He climbed down and approached the front of the aircraft and pulled the propellor back, "If you could pull the throttles half way out and flick the ignition switches down we can start. If it fires you may have to pump the throttle a couple of times until it idles, then pull it all the way out until it's just ticking over," he called.

Tom Paris did as he was bid, and spent several frantic moments, trying to keep the clattering and banging engine running. He barely noticed the Colonel climbing into the seat behind him, until he heard his voice over the intercom. "Thank you Lieutenant, I have the controls. As it is your first flight, I suggest you let me take off and land, but I'll talk you through it as we proceed," he called casually.

Tom Paris could only nod thankfully. He watched the controls with interest as the Colonel started to run up the big engine, then he felt it start to move and gripped the sides in alarm, certain the machine would collapse around them.

"Engine is running smoothly," commented the Colonel in his ear. Tom Paris couldn't believe the statement, it felt as though his teeth were being shaken out of his mouth.

"The wind is in our face, so we can apply full power and attempt a take off."

Paris heard and felt the engine start to howl and the biplane started to bounce across the grass, the trees at the other end of the airfield appeared to take on a whole new dimension of horror as they quickly bounced towards them.

"Forty knots," came the Colonels voice, "Applying left stick to counter torque and forward stick to get the tail up."

Suddenly the bouncing from the aircraft over the grass stopped. "Fifty-five knots-ish," announced the Colonel, "We are in the air, at sixty we can start to pull the stick back so we can clear the trees."

The Colonels voice seemed so calm, all Paris could do was to watch in terror as the trees in front now started to fly towards him at increasing speed. Gently the aircraft started to climb away, but the thirty feet between the aircraft and the tops of the trees seemed dangerously close to Paris.

"It's all a matter of relative speed and mathematics," called the Colonel, attempting to calm his nervous passenger, "Get enough air under the wings and it's got to go up. Now sit tight and enjoy the view. We'll find out what you had for lunch later!" He threatened.

Tom Paris attempted to look out from the cockpit at the ground below him and keep track of the Colonels activities at the controls, he forgot how frightening the take off had seemed, as he considered how different everything looked from the strange aircraft.

"Okay, take the column and throttle," came the Colonels voice in his ear again. He took it gently. "Put your bloody fist around it, it won't break and you need to be firm with it 'else it will run away," the Colonel shouted at him as the aircraft lurched in an attempt to escape.

"That's better," he encouraged, "A little more left stick to keep us level and watch the instruments, keep us steady and level for a few minutes."

The task seemed impossible to Tom Paris, if he held the stick stationary for more than a moment a wing would come up or the nose would drop. Concentrating hard he finally managed to keep the machine reasonably straight.

"Not bad," the Colonel admitted gruffly, "Lets try something a little more difficult, we'll turn right 90 degrees. Open the throttle a touch and let the airspeed build a little. Good, now push the stick to the right and back a little and apply a little right rudder, watch the bank indicator, don't let it go beyond about forty-five degrees for the moment. The speed is dropping, a little more right rudder will bring the nose down a little for more speed, now check the compass we are coming to our new heading, you can back the stick to the left until we come level again, and push the throttle back where it came from," the Colonel kept up his running commentary as Paris struggled to comply to his commands.

"This is awful," he shouted back to the Colonel, "It can't even keep a straight course, turning is nearly impossible."

The Colonel laughed, "Really! I find it much easier than a shuttle, it does what you tell it in the amount you tell it, it doesn't think about it then do what it decides you really wanted," He commented. "Now turn left onto our original course, you will need to be firmer with the controls and the nose will try to come up harder because of the torque effect," He commanded.

For nearly an hour the Colonel kept Paris performing simple manoeuvres. Finally he announced, "Not bad, but we had better get back to the 'drome. I'll take her for a moment please."

Thankfully Tom Paris released the stick, turning had become easier as he had gained confidence, but he could still feel the sweat trickling down his back. The next moment he was holding the sides of the cockpit desperately, as the aircraft suddenly pointed its nose down and the Colonel opened the throttle wide. Just as suddenly he felt it lurch into a climb as the Colonel pulled the stick back hard, he held it as the world turned over then he let it snap back upright again. Paris looked back at him accusingly, he felt as though his stomach had launched itself out of his mouth.

"It was mean of me to carry out an Immelmann," he announced sympathetically, "But it was how I felt when you took me out for the first time in a shuttle. It is also one of the fastest ways of retracing your route, but is not a shuttle manoeuvre. If you care to take the stick again we can try some more advanced aerobatics," he called.

Again Paris found himself with the controls in his clenched fists, as the Colonel took him through various rolls and climbing and diving manoeuvres, finishing with a loop.

"I see our aerodrome is below us," the Colonel called at last, "But we are too high. It is a good opportunity to demonstrate a stall spin. It is very violent, but you need to take note of what I say, it may save your life if you get in the same situation, the procedure is different to a shuttle spin, but probably more controllable."

So saying he pulled the aircraft up to an almost perfect standstill, then let it twirl towards the ground. All the time he kept up a running commentary of his actions to the terrified Paris, as he levelled and settled the tumbling aircraft, finally levelling it off no more than a hundred feet above the ground and heading for their aerodrome.

Stiffly Tom Paris climbed out of the aircraft, then collapsed as he stood on the ground, they had been in it for nearly three hours he realised, he was shattered but exhilarated by the experience. "That was amazing," he announced at last, getting up, "I've got to get B'Elanna on this," he bubbled.

"I told you it was easy, but you need more hours first," laughed the Colonel, "There's still much to learn before you try going solo. We can try again in a couple of days?" he offered, "In the mean time I'm going for a cuppa, want one?"

He set off for his quarters, Paris in tow. He chimed the rooms bell, as he always did and waited for a moment for the invitation to enter, he had entered several times in the past without waiting and had been embarrassed to find Seven of Nine in various states of undress, he tried to avoid it as much as possible. Given the okay from inside they entered to find the Captain with Seven of Nine. The Colonel automatically came to attention and snapped a salute, as he always did in the Captains presence.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, Miss Nine, I wasn't aware you were in discussion, I will leave," he apologised, turning to go.

"That is unnecessary," advised Seven of Nine, "The Captain is our guest for dinner."

"What have you two been upto?" the Captain interrupted casually.

"I've been teaching Lieutenant Paris to fly, Ma'am," he informed her crisply.

"He is already one of Star Fleets best pilots and amazing as it may seem, you're not," pointed out Captain Janeway witheringly, hiding her amusement at the statement.

"Not in what I've been flying, Captain," Tom Paris announced happily, "It is out of this world!"

"Explain?" Her curiosity rising.

"Lieutenant Paris wished to find out how the Colonel managed to control the shuttle he crash landed, I suggested that he should ask the Colonel to demonstrate his primitive aeroplane programme on the Holodeck," Seven of Nine explained for them, producing two mugs of tea for the two men.

"You can describe it to me over dinner," the Captain suggested mildly.

"I've got a dinner date with B'Elanna," announced Tom Paris, catching the Captains meaningful look, "I'll catch up with you later about more lessons," he followed to the Colonel.

He nodded distracted in thought.

"You seem worried Colonel," the Captain commented, "Two women too much for you?" She teased.

"No Ma'am," he answered calmly, "I'm just trying to work out what I've done wrong recently. Whatever it is I deny it totally on the grounds I don't remember it!" He added brightly.

"The only thing you've done wrong, is that you still refer to me as 'Ma'am', when I'm informal and off duty," the Captain laughed at him, "I'm not fond of the term at the best of times."

"And don't start the Miss thing either, it makes you sound too much like a servant," she added quickly.

"Very well Captain," he answered calmly.

She threw up her hands in defeat and turned to Seven of Nine, who was setting the table. "Is he ever informal?" She asked desperately.

"Sometimes," admitted Seven of Nine. "But it is frustrating waiting," she confided.

"This aeroplane of yours, tell me about it?" The Captain asked as they sat to their meal.

Cheerfully the Colonel described it and its history.

"You know a lot about primitive aircraft," She commented at length, "You have studied them?"

"I was a Biggles fan as a kid," he affirmed. "Sorry, he was a fictional fighter pilot in the First World War," he explained, seeing her confused look.

"What's your opinion of it Seven," she asked the dispassionate blonde.

"It is primitive and dangerous, the people who flew them in real life were either brave or foolish, but there is pleasure in flying in it," she admitted candidly.

"I think I might come and try it one day, it sounds fascinating," she announced, then turned to her purpose for attending dinner.

"Seven of Nine says you've reconsidered your response to the Caretaker scenario?" She asked, glancing at Seven of Nine, who was waiting for the Captain to bring up her proposal. She was wondering why humans found it hard to come to the point.

"I have considered my response," he admitted carefully.

"And what is your answer now?" She prompted.

"Given the facts as were available at the time I would have destroyed the Caretakers platform," he admitted, "But I would not hide behind the 'Prime Directive', I do not believe it was applicable in the circumstances," he added.

"Not applicable?" she asked curious.

"The Prime Directive was made ineffective the moment you arrived, you were moved against your will and made involved, interference was therefore unavoidable. From that point you are left with your sense of right and wrong, Star Fleet training encourages a particular view on the difference, you would have little choice but to select what you believed to be right in the circumstances," he explained.

"But you would not have done it as you currently stand?" She sought his honest opinion.

"No Captain. In my view, all though it may take longer, the end result will be the same. In the absence of any specific instructions or personal involvement, my reaction would be for the safety of my men," he answered.

"Why did you do what you've done elsewhere, Kellor for instance?" She demanded.

"Because we could make a difference, there was a clear instruction to befriend the Kellorans and we were personally involved. Please remember I am not an explorer by nature or training," he explained. "As a soldier I am given a goal, I carry out such actions as are necessary to achieve that goal, whilst keeping faith with my honour and the regulations you have often laughed at. I am not normally required to form a policy or create the goal as you are. You acted in the method that suited your interpretation of your values, I would have acted based upon my own," he pointed out calmly.

"Seven believes we hold the same beliefs and values," stated the Captain.

"We probably do," agreed the Colonel, "But we put them in a different order of importance, so it would take somebody as analytical as Miss Nine to spot the similarity."

She nodded, accepting the argument.

"I am going to re-establish the 'Dog Watch', I want you to command it," She announced quickly, she tensed for the inevitable argument.

"The offer is tempting, but are you sure Captain?" He asked carefully, "I am still not qualified and it may cause a lot of grief when you get home," he added.

"Yes I'm sure," she announced firmly, "I know you can command, you do it naturally, there is not a person on this ship, including myself, who hasn't followed your orders without question, at some point. The experience may help you with your studies and the service will prove your competence to anybody who questions the decision," she continued.

"May I consider my response?" He asked quietly, trying to think of a way to refuse without causing embarrassment.

She looked at him hard, trying to see past the neutral mask. "No," she said, suddenly realising his intention, "Consider it an order."

He stood, slammed to attention and saluted, "Ma'am!" He intoned sharply.

She sighed deeply, she hadn't thought he would accept the order, and thanked his regulations that he had. "Please sit down again Colonel, we aren't that formal," she smiled.

"No Captain, you're not," he agreed slowly, "But I am. It may make a big difference in how things work out and how you view it," he added.

When the Captain left he turned to Seven of Nine, "I assume she made sure you were here for moral support?" He challenged her coldly.

"If it was necessary, I was to help persuade you," she admitted openly, "We both believe you need to command."

He nodded, "I suppose your right, it is a little dull being a spare part," he admitted.

He cheered up again, "I haven't told you how good the the dinner was tonight, it was absolutely perfect, I could almost taste the Mars bar and the dumplings were perfect. Thank you!" He smiled.

"I was unsure of the purpose of the confectionery until I tested it," she commented, "It seemed to add flavour to the meal."

The Captain made straight for the bridge where she met Chakotay. He looked at her in surprise as she entered.

"He's accepted!" She announced happily, "Who else are we putting on the shift with him?"

"How many do you want?" He asked laughing, "I've had forty volunteers, including Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres."

"Good grief, I hope you said no. Those two are too important to the ship for a Dog Watch!" She exclaimed in surprise.

"I did, I think they thought it might be fun," he confirmed, "I was thinking of four and changing Seven of Nines shift to match the watch. If she can train the Colonel, she may as well watch over the others as well."

"Sounds good to me," she agreed readily, "We'll introduce it tomorrow night."

She left the bridge and returned to her quarters for a peaceful nights sleep.

The Colonel inspected his new shift with a waspish eye. His new squad consisted of three ensigns and a crewman. Ensign Carver he knew as an experienced deck officer.

"Why did you volunteer Mr Carver?" He asked, "I thought you were well on your way to your pips."

"I thought you might like a little experience on your staff sir," he replied quickly.

The Colonel smiled, "You may not like the experience of me in charge," he suggested mildly.

"Everybody has survived so far Sir!" Carver announced loyally, he couldn't help the response.

"How about you, Crewman Winston?" the Colonel spoke to the tall black human gently.

"I was an officer, Sir. I failed in my duty, I want my rank back," He spat sharply, his voice challenging.

"Hurts doesn't it? At least you have the opportunity of a second chance, it wouldn't be an option for me in your circumstances," the Colonel commented sympathetically, "I'm not entirely sure this will get you there but you're welcome aboard," he added warmly.

"Yes Sir, Thank you," Winston was surprised by the Colonels seemingly genuine sympathy.

The Colonel turned his attentions to the remaining two Ensigns Torick and Kala. "I know why you two are here," he addressed them. "You are both ambitious and want to improve your status. Well I am happy with that, the goal is to help you achieve it. As long as you leave your impatience at the door when you come in," he demanded. "However before we start there are certain ground rules we will lay down here and now, if you don't think you can hold to them, I suggest you say so now and leave."

"First, we will operate in the manner and customs I am used to. It means you will be correctly dressed at all times, show proper respect to all other crew and give nothing but your absolute and total loyalty to me, each other and the ship. I will not ask you to salute, as that is not part of Star Fleet custom, but when on duty, you will address each other formally and correctly."

"Second, as you know my so called technical abilities are probably a lot lower than yours. I will therefore rely on your abilities, but I'll jump on you from a great height if you try and pull the wool over my eyes."

"Third, the moment you walk onto the Bridge, the phrases 'No', 'it can't be done' and similar negatives will no longer exist in the English language. I want to know what can be done, not what can't. You will find it difficult at first, but you will get the hang of it."

"Finally, if you still think this is going to be an easy ride, then you are very sadly mistaken. I have been told that a Dog Watch is an easy way to gain the hours required for promotion. I do not believe in easy ways. I will challenge each one of you in your abilities and will teach you to think harder, faster and more accurately than you thought possible, using every clue available for a solution. If anybody wishes to offer scenarios and problems for the watch I will happily discuss them and we will attempt solutions together."

"Any questions? Anybody wanting to leave?" He asked finishing his speech.

"Sure now?" He asked again as they shook their heads.

"In that case I will see you all scrubbed and presentable at 02:00," he announced, "Good afternoon Ladies and Gentleman." He dismissed them.

They slammed to attention, turned and departed.

The Captain had been listening in to the rules he had laid down. Compared to the rules she had been under when she served in the Dog Watch, they seemed over strict and harsh.

"You've set them a big hurdle Colonel," she commented, "They could struggle."

He turned to her. "In the army, it used to be said that if you were ordered to jump you asked 'how high?'. I never held to that view, I would expect them to achieve the right height without asking. Officers shouldn't need to be told to jump at all!" He explained bluntly, then smiled, "I don't think it will be a popular shift for a while, until they get the hang of it, but when they come out the other end I expect them to be at least very good."

"So you've set yourself high hurdles as well" she remarked coolly, "We shall see how effective your Twentieth Century methods are here."

She turned and left.

"The Captain is sceptical Miss Nine, what is your opinion, am I going to push them beyond the realms of reasonableness?" he asked quietly.

"Your methods are unorthodox, strict and offer near impossible standards, they will adapt and learn from you, as I have done," she replied, forthright as always.

"Thank you for the compliment and your loyalty, I couldn't have achieved any of this without your help," he confessed. He smiled cheerfully, "Now I suppose I'd better get some rest before the shift, it wouldn't do to be a mess for my first real job."

She raised her eyebrow at him in acknowledgement, he loved that eyebrow. He kissed it tenderly, then left.

He arrived early for his shift and was briefed by the Captain. "It is quiet, but there is a dust cloud within a light year of the course, it is not impossible something may come out of it. If there is a problem you will not engage it without obtaining my permission," she rammed the point home pointedly, "I don't want a running war."

"Ma'am!" He replied, implying he wouldn't dream of such an action.

Silently the rest of his shift gathered, he examined them carefully, looking for any fault. They had gone to town preparing for their new shift commander.

"Not bad," he commended them, "Except for Mr Carver, who appears to be growing a beard."

Carvers hand shot up and felt his smooth skin looking for any stubble and found none.

"Allow me," the Colonel interrupted, a razor sharp knife appeared in the Colonel's hand and flashed past his cheek.

"I was referring to these," he announced, handing the alarmed ensign two hairs that had been missed.

"I'll let it go this time, but I might not next time," he warned.

Carver snapped to attention, "Thank you Sir," he snapped.

"Sir, will do Ensign," the Colonel remarked quietly, "The rest is superfluous.".

Louder he announced to the whole shift, "You all know I'm a mad bastard. You now know I pick up on very small details, even two small blonde hairs on a fair skinned man. Consider it your first lesson, it will stand you in good stead. Should you ever reach Captain it may even keep you alive. Should you ever be in an unfortunate situation, catching the smallest detail, a lick of the lips, a blink, could be the difference between success and failure! When it comes you must act immediately and instinctively. I'll give you thirty seconds to take the station of your choice, I'll move you around later."

The Captain had watched the spectacle with a mixture of disbelief and amusement, they had gone to extreme lengths to match the Colonels stated requirements, yet he had managed to find a flaw to allow him to make a point. She wondered why, she pulled him aside.

"Could I find a fault in your preparations?" She asked quietly.

"You may inspect if you wish Ma'am," he intoned impassively.

She did, minutely, from his glass polished shoes, to the peak of his hat, but failed to find a fault. The shift watched her inspect him and nudged each other and winked, the Colonel might set the standards he wanted, but he was also prepared to meet them himself.

"I give in," she declared after five minutes, "I can't find a fault, is there one?"

"Not one I am aware of Ma'am," he agreed happily.

She shook her head as she left him to it, the last thing she heard as she entered the lift was him announcing, 'Let us begin at the basics Ladies and Gentleman. This ship, it's crew, it's abilities, strengths and weaknesses'. It was going to be a murderous Watch to serve in, she decided, it was going to require close watching. She made a mental note to ensure Seven of Nine kept her informed of what occurred.

For two weeks the senior officers kept a close track of the Dog Watch's progress. From Seven of Nines reports, they knew it's members were going through a whole raft of tactical situations and response drillings. Some were Star Fleet inspired, some came from the watch itself, but most of them were coming from the Colonel, as he pushed himself and them to meet the standards he had set for them. There had been requests entered in the logs for assistance in testing ideas that had come from their scenarios, so far they had not been tested. The watch members were also visibly changing in confidence and appearance, they were now always perfectly dressed and polite, especially crewman Winston.

They also noted he was using anything they encountered on their flight to highlight and help prove points, even, they found out with some alarm, deviating from their prescribed course to test a sensor modification in a gas cloud.

"Get him up here!" The Captain fumed, when Seven of Nine had informed them of the change in flight path.

He entered the Committee Room at the double, slamming to attention, and cracking a salute. "Colonel Samuels, reporting as ordered Ma'am," he announced smartly, then gazed fixedly at the wall behind her.

"Who gave permission for you to deviate from course and enter a gas cloud?" She demanded, anger rising.

"I did Ma'am," he admitted.

"I gave instructions that I was to be asked if there was a deviation, did I not?" She raged, anger still bubbling.

"No Ma'am," he answered calmly, "You stated your permission should be sought before engaging a threat. There was no danger and the potential benefit from the tests were sufficient to warrant the thirty minute detour, I consulted Miss Seven of Nine, Ensign Carver and Crewman Winston closely before sanctioning the action," he continued doggedly.

Her jaw dropped in shock. "You consulted a crewman?" She snarled at him, the rest of the meeting blanching at her anger.

"Before Crewman Winston was demoted his rank was Lieutenant Commander. His records show he was a capable Science Officer with particular knowledge on the subject of plasma clouds and nebula's," the Colonel pointed out, unperturbed by the Captains anger.

She sagged in defeat at the implacable Colonels attitude.

"If it happens again I'll have you in the Brig permanently," she announced determined not to let him get away free.

"Very good Ma'am," he announced flatly, "I will note your change in instructions."

"What was the result of the test?" Tuvok asked, attempting to improve the atmosphere.

"The sensors will now have a forty percent improved resolution in gas clouds," announced Seven, "We believe it may give the ability to detect cloaked vessels, in certain circumstances," she added.

The meeting finished uncomfortably.

"Why are you still here," the Captain asked the Colonel hotly, he was still at attention and gazing at the wall, as he had been when he entered the room.

"I have not been dismissed Ma'am," he pointed out.

She shook her head wearily, she didn't need this. "Get out of my sight," she hissed quietly.

"Ma'am," he confirmed, saluting, he performed a crisp quarter turn and marched out at the double.

"Seven I want a word with you," the Captain informed the uncomfortable ex-borg.

"Captain," she responded, her loyalty was being stretched between the Captain and the Colonel, it was difficult to decide upon who's side she should be on.

"Why did you let him do it?" The Captain asked her bluntly, "You knew you would have to report it and I would be angry."

"The rules you gave him were as he stipulated and there was no danger in his actions. You also stated a belief he should command a star ship, he demonstrated an ability to do so. You are now criticising the fact that he has carried out the duties that you particularly wished him to perform, Why? He has entered requests for testing in the log for actions that require a degree of risk, you have read them and have chosen to ignore them for unexplained reasons. Why? This was a theory that could be tested without risk or delay, he chose to carry it out rather than have the opportunity missed," Seven argued back.

"Because he has an untrained crew, the next time it might be dangerous," The Captain exclaimed in exasperation at Seven's attitude, her anger rising again.

"He will not allow the ship to enter a dangerous situation, and he had three crew members with experience, Ensign Carver, Crewman Winston and myself," Seven protested vehemently.

"I think you are letting your faith in the Colonel and his limited abilities cloud your judgement," hissed the Captain, "You are relieved from the watch, I will have Chakotay take your place."

"You are allowing your belief that his abilities and methods are inferior because they are different, to cloud yours," Seven fired back, she knew the Colonel's wouldn't allow himself to argue back like this, but also knew it needed to be said.

"You've gone too far young lady," the Captain screamed, "You are confined to quarters, until I decide what to do. Dismissed!"

Seven of Nine turned on her heel and left, head high.

The Colonel was back on the Bridge inside twenty minutes and in blistering mood. "Permission to see the Captain, Commander?" He snapped.

"She's in the Ready Room cooling off, will it wait?" Chakotay asked, noting the state of agitation that the Colonel was in.

"No Sir!" he announced sharply, "But you may wish Lieutenant Tuvok to attend with a security team. The meeting will be stormy whatever state the Captain is in."

Chakotay nodded. "I'll see if she will talk with you, but I'll tell you now she confined Seven of Nine to quarters for insubordination. It is not your place to argue over the decision."

"We'll see sir," he replied evenly, "It is my place if the insubordination was due to my actions."

"Chakotay to Captain," Chakotay announced on his communicator, he wasn't risking the ire of the Captain in a face to face encounter.

"Janeway here, bring him in," came a resigned reply.

Together they entered the Captains room.

"I will not let her off for her comments Colonel," She announced sharply, as he slammed to attention in the room.

"And I will not leave until I receive an explanation as to your actions, Ma'am, punishing one of my team instead of the perpetrator," he answered flatly, "I have a young woman in tears downstairs for doing what I should have done, but my honour and regulations prevents me from doing."

"You didn't and she did," she stormed at him.

"Permission to speak freely Ma'am?" He snapped, wary of the rules he might trample on.

She nodded her acceptance.

"It is my belief that she pointed out that you have a different approach to training than I," he announced, "It is true, they are very different and I warned you that the differences may be difficult to accept. I also understand that my methods are having a beneficial effect?"

"Damn you, they are," she admitted crestfallen.

"Then her comments may be justified Ma'am?" He asked gently, forcing his anger down.

The Captain sat on her seat and considered her argument with the headstrong Seven of Nine, finally she looked up, "You are correct," she admitted weakly, "You may release her," she added.

"No Ma'am, you confined her, you must release her," the Colonel responded evenly, "She respects you and I would not like the situation to change, if at all avoidable."

"Very well, but I stand by what I said earlier," she agreed, "You will not deviate from course except in emergency. You will not carry out un-approved tests and Chakotay will act as the training councillor in Sevens place."

"Ma'am," intoned the relieved Colonel, "Request that our requests for test validation are acted upon, or at least a better explanation than 'It won't work' be given. I've taught my people that that particular phrase is often used incorrectly."

"Very well, I'll let Seven test them for you on the Holodecks, any that won't destroy the ship and may have a beneficial effect I shall test for you when convenient," she agreed slowly.

"Thank you Ma'am," he announced, saluted smartly and left.

"I'd better go and release her," she announced to Chakotay after a few minutes reflection and left the room.

The Colonel opened the door of their quarters for her. As usual he snapped to attention and saluted her, then stepped out of the room to give the Captain privacy. She looked at the red eyed woman in shock, she had never seen her in that state before.

"You were right," she confessed quietly to Seven, "I did allow myself to become jealous over his training methods and they're success. I let myself strike out at somebody else rather than take him on directly. It was an unpardonable mistake, for which I apologise. I should not have put you in a position that forced you to divide your loyalties."

"The apology is acceptable Captain," Seven spoke haltingly, "I must apologise for my statements, I allowed myself to become angry when you criticised his actions. He was prepared to accept them, I should have done so as well. It will not happen again," she affirmed.

Chakotay took Sevens place on the Dog Watch with some trepidation. He knew from Sevens reports that the watch was worked hard, he hadn't realised how hard.

It started off amicably enough, the Colonel introduced a scenario, described the objective distinctly, then they started off analysing the tactical situation and the capabilities of the respective sides. It continued onto possible actions and reactions, the Colonel throwing in spoilers at suitable points, to force them to amend their reactions. When they finally came to a conclusion the watch presented it to Chakotay to inspect for fault, he couldn't find one.

The Colonel set them off again on another scenario, this they worked in pairs it wasn't discussed, they didn't have time, as they attempted to outwit the scenario's twisted plot in real time. Only when the scenario was finished did he give them time to review their decisions. In this case both teams had lost, but they gamely went over their actions and again came to a solution using the two attempts as a guide. Again the solutions were offered to Chakotay to inspect, he found it difficult to find the faults in the original attempts.

He was impressed, "Do all the shifts work like this?" He asked Ensign Carver who was standing next to him at the Comm's station.

"No sir, sometimes they are much more difficult," the ensign replied disarmingly.

"A vessel has just entered long range sensors," announced Ensign Torick from Tactical.

"Identify please Ensign," the Colonel instructed.

"Tactical suggests a high probability of a Borg cube, two additional vessels have now appeared, they are on an intercept course," the ensign commentated.

"What have we got to hide behind or in please Crewman Winston," the Colonel asked calmly.

"I have a nebula to the right and below Sir, 60 minutes at current velocity" he advised quickly.

"Very good, set course please. Do it quietly then they may miss us."

"Vessels confirmed as three Borg Cubes, Colonel," Torick was trying to be impassive as the Colonel, "Intercept in 60 minutes."

"Engage adaptive shielding, sound yellow alert, disable active sensors, we'll try and look like the rest of the sky," fired the Colonel, "Crewman Winston, increase velocity to Warp 5, but do it slowly so we don't light the sky. Ensign Torrick prepare solution for 'FireStorm'."

Hitting his own communicator he intoned, "Captain to the Bridge immediate."

He stood from the chair he was sitting in, "My compliments Commander, your seat I believe," he announced, moving to the Ops station.

"What is 'FireStorm' Colonel?" Asked the puzzled Chakotay.

"It was one of the ideas we put into the logs for testing, look it up," he suggested, "We believe that using the gases in a Nebula we can destroy a major hostile battle fleet, but it is a risky manoeuvre, if our timing is out then we go to," he confessed, "If those bastards see us then we may need to test it the hard way."

The Captain charged onto the bridge, "Report!" She demanded.

"Three Borg cubes confirmed on intercept course spotted 10 minutes ago Ma'am. Estimated intercept just under one hour, no scans yet detected from enemy vessels. Adaptive shielding engaged, speed increased and course adjusted to allow us to hide in a nebula, entry anticipated approximately 50 minutes. Options being calculated for combat solution, Commander Chakotay is reviewing them," he rattled off quickly and concisely.

"How do you expect us to take on three Borg cubes?" She demanded, "It is well beyond even your abilities as a soldier," She added, cynicism overcoming her.

"By destroying the bastards before they shoot back," the Colonel announced, "And we have a solution available that we believe will work, but it hasn't been tested yet, we entered it as a request in the logs," he pointed out calmly.

"Chakotay, your opinions?" Captain snapped at her number two.

"The watch has responded to the situation perfectly, as well as we would," he answered stoutly, "How many times have you tested this 'Fire Storm' solution Colonel?" He continued.

"We've simulated it six times Sir, we've survived the last three," he replied .

"The Borg have spotted us Captain," Ensign Kim announced, he and the rest of the prime deck crew had taken their places as the Captain and Colonel had faced each other, "They have altered course for direct intercept."

"Tuvok re-modulate shields," she snapped to the Security Officer.

"Confirmed Captain, but they know we are here, they will find the frequency again inside a couple of minutes," he affirmed.

"Perhaps they will not follow us into the Nebula," she remarked hopefully.

"If they detect us when we enter, they will follow," Seven of Nine announced as she stepped nervously onto the Bridge, "The Fire Storm scenario is the only logical solution that will counter the threat, if it materialises," she added.

"Tuvok, analysis of this Fire Storm scenario," the Captain asked, she vaguely recalled reading it in the logs and dismissing it as too dangerous.

"The solution like many of the Colonels ideas, is unconventional and dangerous," Tuvok announced at last, reviewing the logs, "The process involves the concentration of gases and their ignition using an adapted torpedo, effectively forming a mini supernova. The danger lies in escaping the blast, to create the required concentration the ship must lay well within the affected zone of the resultant explosion, the hazard zone will be extensive," he described, "Chances of survival are low if the timing is inaccurate."

"They've detected us again," announced Kim.

"The Borg have locked to our remodulator frequencies," announced Seven from the Science Station, "We will enter the Nebula in approximately fifteen minutes, Borg interception in 22," she affirmed

"But non-existent if the Borg catch us," the Colonel commented, "Please Captain, If they get aboard you know I'll fight them to my dying breath, but we will lose. My Watch can do what we claim!" He pleaded.

The Captain considered her options carefully. "Very well, we'll do it your way," she agreed slowly, "But only if they try to follow us into the Nebula!" She added forcefully.

"Thank you Ma'am," he answered, "Request my Watch return to their stations?" He asked smartly saluting, "They know what to do when required," he explained quickly.

She nodded.

"Dog Watch, take your stations," he barked, "Crewman Winston, foot on the floor please, Ensign Kala, reinforce structural integrity, Ensign Torrick, load our torpedo in the tubes, Miss Nine, prepare the deflector for deployment, Ensign Carver, plot course for minimum involvement with the Nebula, I want a clean getaway," his orders snapped the watch to their stations, the Captain watched the flurry of activity with growing interest.

"Bridge to Engineering," he called.

"Torres here," answered Torres immediately.

"My compliments Lieutenant," he greeted her, "I may be doing some unpleasant things to your engines, it is important that I have full power available when I need it," he advised.

"Captain?" Torres questioned.

"Do as he requests Lieutenant," the Captain answered quickly.

"I'm on it," Torres announced.

The Colonel moved to stand next to Seven of Nine. "Can you manage okay?" he asked gently, concerned for her conflicting fear and attraction for her previous existence, "If they get aboard I'll protect you, but this is the only way I can protect you and have you survive!" He added quietly.

"I shall perform my duty," she vowed, but her nerves were catching up with her.

He kissed her tenderly on the forehead, "I know!" He agreed.

He turned back to the Bridge, taking a place behind the rail at the back. "Are we ready to toast the Borg?" he called, stirring up the passions.

"Aye Sir!" Came the chorus from the watch.

"I can't here you!" He shouted.

"Aye Sir! Yes Sir," They shouted back at him, with gusto. It took the Captain by surprise, she glared at the Colonel, he smiled back at her.

"Good. Just remember our simulations and do just as we discussed. Do it right and dinners on me," he announced.

Tuvok sidled up behind the Colonel, "Why the melodramatics?" He asked quietly.

"How many reasons do you want?" The Colonel replied, "I want them fired up to do their duty, you've commented that timing is everything. They are nervous, the professionals are watching them, they don't want to fail the ship or die. The 'melodramatics' as you put it will help them forget their nerves, concentrate minds and remind them they are a team and must work together."

The ship groaned and shook as they entered the Nebula, automatically losing warp speed. "Entering the Nebula now Sir, correcting course, full impulse power," announced Crewman Winston.

"Very good, keep your foot on the floor," encouraged the Colonel, "Ensign Carver?"

"Sensors at maximum, course corrections complete, estimated exit fifteen minutes," he affirmed.

"Carry on," he affirmed.

"The Borg have not slowed," piped Torrick, "They will enter the Nebula in seven minutes," she advised.

"Structural integrity 95%, reinforcing, Shields at full. Enhancing sensors," advised Ensign Kala.

"Bridge to Engineering, any chance of a little more oomph from Impulse?" The Colonel asked hopefully, "I'd like a little more than seven minutes start if possible," he added.

"Working on it, wait," replied B'Elanna from her station in Engineering.

They waited in silence, the Captain nervous at the sudden lack of activity, looked around at the Colonel who was standing impassively, hands behind his back. He gave her a brief smile of encouragement.

Finally they shot out of the Nebulas cloud. "Velocity increasing," announced Winston.

"Miss Nine, timings please," demanded the Colonel.

"Rotation required in 12 seconds," she answered and started to countdown.

"Disengage drive," ordered the Colonel as the count reached five, "Rotate 180 degrees," he spat as the count zeroed.

Automatic warnings sounded announcing danger as Voyager rotated on it's axis without changing direction, then settled pointing back the way they had come.

"Turn those bloody alarms off!" Demanded the Colonel.

"Sorry Sir," apologised Ensign Kala, "Structural integrity 80%, still reinforcing, deploying Emergency power."

"Ship rotated and steadied," confirmed Winston.

"Collector deployed and active," affirmed Seven automatically, "Critical concentration estimated 5 minutes."

"Borg cubes are still inbound," Torrick commented calmly from her station.

"Very good," the Colonel reaffirmed, then snapped to attention again, "Permission to complete firing solution and engage the enemy, Ma'am?" He enquired smartly.

She started, she had been mesmerised by the level of calm action occurring around her, and the ship was now travelling backwards at almost full impulse speed, a feat that she had always considered impossible, "Why do you need my permission? It's your operation," she asked pointedly.

"Negative Ma'am," he responded, "Regulations state that only the senior officer on a warship may sanction the firing of live weapons. You also placed stipulations on the execution of the actions, we need your permission to fire Ma'am."

"Your Queens regulations again?" she queried.

"I looked up the rules for the Royal Navy," he affirmed with a smile.

"Gas concentration now at 90% of nominal," reported Seven of Nine calmly from her station.

"Borg vessels are in fatal zone," announced Torrick

"Nominal torpedo firing time in 10," Sevens statements crossing Torricks, she started a countdown.

"Captain?" The Colonel asked quickly.

"Fire as required," the Captain ordered, grateful that the final fire order had been handed to her.

"Ma'am," The Colonel announced, "Release from countdown, disengage collector," he ordered.

"Torpedo away, flight time 20 seconds. Counting, Torpedo is running true" affirmed Torrick.

"Rotate ship to course, maximum warp as we bear, floor it please Mr Winston," ordered the Colonel.

"Sir," Winston replied instantly.

"All hands brace for impact," Chakotay announced over the ships comm.

Voyager leapt into warp drive,

"We have detonation," advised Torrick.

"Secondary detonation in progress, estimated shock wave impact level eight in thirty seconds," announced Seven of Nine, taking over.

"Shields at full, integrity enhanced," claimed Kala.

"This is where it gets bumpy," commented the Colonel, "Mr Winston, Ensign Carver prepare for corrective action, try to ride the wave like we did in the simulations. Helm over thirty degrees, if we are going to be pushed we might as well go in the right general direction," he added calmly.

"Captain, look the Borg cubes," gasped Kim, they all turned their attention to the view screen as the explosion they had set off enveloped the Borg. Silently they watched as first one disintegrated, a second burst into flame then exploded a moment later, the third also blossomed into a huge fireball and careered after them, obviously out of control.

"It'll catch us," Paris stated.

"No it won't," the Colonel refuted, "Crewman Winston, watch your instruments. Captain, permission to fire second torpedo, if the vessel enters range?"

Dumbly she nodded.

Suddenly the cube exploded incandescently, momentarily blinding them. The Fire Storm shockwave hit Voyager five seconds later, tumbling the ship and crew. The Colonel immediately leapt to catch Seven of Nine as she fell towards him, they landed heavily on the floor, him underneath. Winston was thrown heavily from his seat as he and Carver struggled to regain control, crashing into the console as he was thrown around. Paris struggled into his place and grappled with the controls.

Conditions quietened down again as the wave receded and they regained their composure. The Colonel picked himself up and checked Seven of Nine carefully. "I am undamaged," she assured him dispassionately.

"Good," he announced, feeling a sharp pain in his ribs, "I'll check Winston, you take a look at Torrick."

"Damage report?" snapped the Captain.

"Coming in," Chakotay commented, "Fourteen injured, warp drive is off-line, emergency power is on and stable, a breach on deck 13, some dents, but nothing serious, Damage Control is responding" he continued.

The Colonel was kneeling by Crewman Winston, examining him carefully. "Doctor to the Bridge, medical emergency," he called, "Mr Paris your assistance, I think he has a broken back," he announced.

"You took your eye of the ball," he chided, "Now lay perfectly still."

"I'm sorry Sir," whispered the Crewman, "I didn't catch the wave properly," he made it sound like a failure.

The Colonel gripped his hand, "Hush," he said, "There is a limit to the number of impossible things that can be done in a day," he confided.

"Even for you Sir?" Inquired Ensign Kala, kneeling to assist Tom Paris.

"The only impossible thing about me Ensign," he started, "Is my inability to accept that the impossible exists at all! Now I think you have a medical bent, the Doctor will be pleased, go with Mr Winston and look after him," he announced as he moved out of the way for the Doctor to tend the patient.

He stood up and quoted solemnly, "The Lord be near us, strong to save, for those in peril upon the sea."

He turned to the Captain, "Permission to relieve the Watch, Ma'am?" He asked.

She nodded, "I want a full debrief, there are things that need to be examined in that operation," she smiled, relieved it was over.

"What was the prayer you quoted?" Chakotay asked.

"It's from the Naval Hymn Sir, it seemed appropriate both for us and those poor bastards we destroyed," he stated.

"You would pray for the Borg?" Kim asked incredulously.

"They are enemies, odious and malevolent, but it shouldn't stop us from offering forgiveness for their souls when they are defeated," the Colonel stated quietly.

"You believe that?" The Captain asked sharply.

"Yes Ma'am, I do, otherwise what makes us better than them?" he answered quickly.

She shook her head, "Seven take him to the Doctor, get him to fix the chest he is holding," she commanded, "Then get him to go to bed and rest, you to," she added remembering how recalcitrant over and freely they interpreted such orders.

"Captain," Seven of Nine responded.

"How is Crewman Winston, Doctor?" The Colonel asked as was ushered into the Sick Bay by the intent Seven of Nine.

"He is stable and asleep, I have erected a total restraining field around him. He'll live, I'll operate tomorrow," announced the Doctor.

"And Ensign Kala?" he enquired further.

"She is not injured," the Doctor replied.

"Not being stupid, I am aware of that," the Colonel pointed out, "But either she has developed particular feelings for Crewman Winston, or she has an exceptional grasp of first aid. Either way it should be encouraged I think. Lets face it, she's a lot better looking than Tom Paris!" He suggested.

The Doctor nodded at the suggestion, "I shall try her with some simple medical duties," he announced.

"Good, Mr Paris will be pleased. Now about my broken ribs?" The Colonel announced.

"I'll be the judge of that," the Doctor announced, running his tricorder over the Colonels chest, "You have two broken ribs and some bruising," he agreed.

"You don't say," sighed the Colonel.

"Patients are imprecise and they are often wrong," the Doctor muttered defensively, "How did you break them?"

"Miss Nine landed on me in the shock wave. Not an unpleasant experience, but could be done less painfully," he quipped loud enough for her to hear, she coloured.

"You will be glad to know you will also live," announced the Doctor, "Just don't go swinging through the rafters after her," he added. "I'll get Ensign Kala to run a regenerator over your bruises."

"That won't be necessary Doctor, bruising I can live with, thank you," the Colonel replied levelly, "Not only that I think we might make Miss Nine jealous," he whispered conspiratorially.

"Miss Nine, I believe we are under orders to proceed to quarters to rest until summoned," he commented as they left Sick Bay.

"You are correct," she agreed solemnly, "I have some bruising you should attend to."

"That's funny, so have I. Let's compare notes, your shoulder against my chest?" He suggested.

"That will be acceptable, I also have other bruises you will treat," she announced, taking his arm and leading him away.

"Your not trying to tease me into reaction again are you?" He asked as they entered their quarters, "I really ache too much to respond properly," he commented, as she helped him out of his shirt and jacket, then started to gently kiss the big bruise on his chest.

"I require assistance, with my fastenings," she announced, "I am unable to reach."

He sighed as he gently released the zip on her back. "One day very soon, I'm going to make you regret this teasing," he suggested, as he helped her out of her clothing.

"I will look forward to it," she announced happily pulling him down onto the bed for serious 'treatment' and canoodling.

"Your assessments of the Fire Storm manoeuvre?" The Captain demanded at her debriefing the following day.

"It was tremendously effective," announced Ensign Kim enthusiastically, "It would be impossible to deal with three hostile vessels at once."

"It is highly dangerous," disputed Tuvok dispassionate as always, "Any error in execution would render it useless or destroy the ship."

"Turning the ship around and allowing the ship to drift backwards at high speed, that is impossible according to the manuals," added Tom Paris.

"It's not a trick I would like to perform again in a hurry," commented Chakotay with feeling.

"Nor would I," snapped the Captain, "Unless we had to. Anything else before I sum up for the logs?"

"Permission to speak Ma'am?" The Colonel interjected.

"You don't normally ask," she responded directly.

"You normally ask, if you think I may have a valid comment, and it seems that my watch is on trial for its' solutions," the Colonel pointed out.

She nodded reluctantly, "You're not on trial," she avowed with a sigh, "But go ahead," she agreed.

"First, I'd like to thank you for allowing my watch to carry out the manoeuvre, I believe they responded perfectly," he started, "I request you ensure those comments are recorded in your log."

The Captain nodded.

"As for the assessment of the operation. It was a high risk strategy, it was not impossible that it could have blown the whole nebula sky high, with what ever long range effects that may have. It required several things to succeed, very careful pre-planning and rehearsal, a suitable gas cloud or nebula and a certain disregard for normal rules. As such I would not recommend it as a repetitive operation. It works as a guerilla trap, carefully planned and executed, but not as a combat manoeuvre dreamed up at the spur of the moment in battle," he continued.

"There was one mistake, and it put the ship in unnecessary danger. We failed to reach the ideal position to mount and ride the shock wave. Part of that error was due to Crewman Winston watching what was happening out the windows not his instruments, for which he has paid. Most of it was mine for trying to change position to use the wave to push us on our correct course. The error permitted the wave to hit us on a quarter and caused excessive damage to the ship. I formally accept responsibility for the error and await your decision upon the matter, Ma'am," he completed.

They stared at him open mouthed.

"I think the Colonel summed the operation up perfectly," announced the Captain, "I will place the whole thing in the logs, with particular mentions for the Dog Watch. I think I will name it the Samuels' Gambit," she held up her hand to prevent the inevitable protest from the Colonel, "The Dog Watch will continue, but I am going to change the brief, I want it to become a 'Think Tank' for developing more solutions to possible scenario's. Meeting dismissed," she finished strongly.

As the others trooped out, she called, "Colonel a moment please."

"One day I am going to take you up on your offer of jailing yourself and I'll screw your balls to the wall, I'll make the decision when you've gone too far, not you," she stated forcefully.

"Yes Ma'am!" He announced happily, "As long as you realise I will accept your decision over my actions, but not against the people who respond to my orders," he added mildly.

She laughed at him. "I've been underestimating you for too long."

"Ma'am?" he questioned.

"I'm getting wise to you, Alan Samuels!" She warned,

"You're not nearly as tough as you seem, are you? It's all an act, you use it to divert peoples attention from something you don't want them to see. You have an insecurity and it's hurting you. What is it?" She challenged.

He seemed to shrink in front of her. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you Ma'am," he whispered, his voice so low she strained to hear.

"Go on," she prompted quietly, surprised at the sudden change in events.

"It's something I've learned to cope with since childhood, if I hadn't I'd have died long ago. Seven is close to finding out, she keeps picking away at it and I don't know how to stop her!" He announced.

"What is it? Is it dangerous to the ship or crew?" She demanded, anxious now.

"No Ma'am," he responded stoutly, "It's my loyalty to the ship and it's crew that keep it in check and for the same reasons that I joined and stayed in the army."

"What is it? Tell me?" She ordered, certain now there was a problem, the meeting was proving uncomfortable for something that had started off so light hearted.

"Please Captain, don't order me to tell!" he pleaded, she could see tears forming.

"I want to know, now?" She demanded again, "We're not leaving until you tell me!"

He took a last desperate pleading look in her face, then buried his face in his hands. "I'm shy," he gulped.

She gazed at him in amazement, "That's not serious," she commented, surprised by the admission, it didn't seem to meet the reactions.

"You don't understand Captain, perhaps shy doesn't describe it properly," he gasped, "I am mind numbingly petrified of people or things I don't understand. If it weren't for my duty and the Regulations I live with, you wouldn't get me in the same room as you, let alone talk. As for Miss Nine I wouldn't go within a thousand miles of her, I'd be too terrified. It's only when I have a mission, a goal, anything to focus my attention, that I can ignore my fear," he gurgled in his despair.

"Poor Miss Nine, I loved her so much, I'd almost completed the door to let her in!" he made a last heart rending gasp and collapsed on the floor. He twitched into a foetal position then lay deathly still.

The Captain stood back aghast at the turn of events. Automatically she hit her communicator, "Doctor to the Conference Room, Medical Emergency," she called.

Kneeling beside the prostrate and unconscious Colonel she checked for a pulse, relieved she found it, but it seemed dangerously weak and irregular.

The Doctor burst into the room with Tom Paris on his heels, they stood dumbfounded at the spectacle.

"What happened?" the Doctor demanded as he knelt beside the Colonel, "There is nothing physically wrong."

The Captain breathed deeply several times before trusting her response. "I think I've just broken him and that iron will of his," she gulped desperately, turning quickly to the window she grabbed at the sill to preventing herself from collapsing.

"Stimulants quickly, then beam him to Sick Bay," the doctor prescribed.

He turned to the Captain, "I wish to examine you?" he asked.

She took another deep breath, "I'll be fine, it was just the shock, just give me a minute," she gasped.

Unsteadily she walked onto the Bridge, "Chakotay, bring Seven to my Ready Room, but give me five minutes first," she croaked, her voice hoarse from the strain of control.

The rest of the Bridge watched her stagger to the Ready Room in stunned silence.

She slumped on a chair despairingly wondering what she was going to tell Seven of Nine.

Seven entered at high speed followed almost as quickly by Chakotay. "The Colonel is damaged, I wish to see him, they will not let me," she announced abruptly.

The Captain nodded unhappily, "Seven, please sit down I have some bad news," she started.

"I prefer to stand," she commented.

"You will need to sit," the Captain advised.

Seven took a long look at her Captain, then sat quietly and waited.

"The Colonel and I had a discussion," she started slowly, swallowing hard, "It started with me teasing him, but it ended with me making him confess to something that he is ashamed of and has hidden nearly all his life. The shock of the admission made him collapse. Seven I'm dreadfully sorry, I think he was close to the point of admitting it to you, his last words were 'Poor Miss Nine, I loved her so much, I'd almost completed the door to let her in', if he had, it would have been without the repercussions" she swallowed again.

"Captain?" Seven asked quietly.

The Captain continued "When you started to look after him, you told me that his life had been harder than Borg assimilation, I didn't believe it possible when I thought of the pain I put you through to bring you back,"

She continued quickly, "But I don't think even you have realised half the pain he feels, just facing people. You said that he won't let you do anything for him, you are wrong, you have been his reason to live, because we couldn't or wouldn't give him what he needed, he's taken it occasionally but he feels guilty for it, that's why he offers himself for reprimand after almost every action."

Her enlightened confessions started to flow freely but less ordered, "He seemed so strong, but it was all a mask to hide the pain he is in. It seems strong because he's been using it for so long. He still thinks you are too good for him. We need to decide what to do with him, if he recovers, he may be very different to the man you loved. I may have killed him, I'm so very sorry, I thought I'd got a handle on him, but it snapped off" she finished lamely, not daring to look the younger woman in the face.

Seven stood up, "I will see him now!" she demanded.

"Captain, please come to the Sick bay immediately," the Doctors voice sounded over the intercom interrupting the Captains reply, "The Colonel is asking for you and Seven."

"We'll go together, Chakotay," the Captain announced, swallowing hard.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," the Doctor greeted them with his concerns, "There is enough stimulants in his body to have the dead waltzing the light fantastic, but they're not working, it's almost as though he's shutting himself down."

"It's all right Doctor," the Chakotay comforted him as best he could, whilst the two women approached the dying Colonel.

He was still twisted in pain, the Doctor had straightened him, but the moment he had been released he curled into a ball again. Gently they dug out and held his hands.

"Please Captain, Seven, release me!" He whispered.

"Release you from what?" the Captain asked, genuinely confused.

"Release me!" He hissed again.

"What's he want releasing from?" The Captain asked the Doctor as he entered the room.

"Captain," A voice from behind interrupted them, they turned to find Winston on a second couch, "Don't you see, you've questioned the reasons behind his loyalty, and admit the one thing he's ashamed of," he pointed out, "You've ripped everything from under him, his pride, honour, duty, dignity, everything. He wants you to give him permission to die with what little he has left!" he exclaimed.

"What makes you say that?" The Captain asked sharply.

"I asked him why he seemed so sympathetic to my situation and why it wouldn't be an option for him. I know what it's like to lose a command and be demoted, it hurts those core beliefs you live by," Winston explained, "His whole life stands on them. He told me that if he was in my situation, the only option, for him, would be to 'blow his brains out', simply because he had failed in his duty and broken his honour. For a man like that, to have them snatched away from him is the equivalent of one of us stepping into space without a suit, fatal. He can't live without them, because it's all he's got. You couldn't kill him more certainly by strapping him to a torpedo and firing it at the Borg."

"I can't give an order to him to die!" She exclaimed, "Seven?"

"Captain, he has helped me more than anybody else on the ship to come to terms with both what I was and what I have become," Seven replied earnestly, "He has taught me to interact with the crew casually, he has shown me emotions that are pleasurable, the meaning of true friendship, love and the protection and comfort that they bring and many other things that I had believed impossible. I do not wish him die, I wish him to be mine. I wish to save him, I will do whatever is necessary to do so."

"I never taught you how to say goodbye. It was another mistake!" The Colonels whisper came through to haunt them.

They turned back to him. The Captain cleared her throat, there appeared to be a lump in it.

"You want orders, I'll give you orders," she snarled hoarsely, "You will fully recover, you will return to your duties as I demand, you will surrender yourself to Seven of Nine in any form she deems fit and you will stop this nonsense," she finished, pleading desperately.

She saw him mouth move, but no sound came out.

"That's showing him," commented Winston wryly from his bed, "The Colonel achieves the impossible on a daily basis just so he can live, but those orders will require something in the order of a miracle. Can you do it Captain? You broke his will!" He taunted.

"He has returned to a coma, Captain," advised the Doctor, she nodded and beckoned him to follow.

"There is nothing in the databanks to cover this situation," the Doctor confessed, guessing what was to come, "Any instability like this would have been traced at the academy, I cannot do anything except keep his body alive for a while. But what if he recovers, what state will he be in?"

The Captains reply was worse than he had thought possible.

"He's hidden it all his life, it's never shown on anything. As for his mind, we'll deal with it when we have to," she snarled, " I don't care what you try, but you will try anything and everything, the simple, the obvious, the difficult, the impossible, voodoo, witchcraft, Seven raping him in front of the crew, I don't care. That man is not dying of shame on this vessel, because I was so stupid that I couldn't believe he had a weakness, we owe him too much to just let him go," she raged.

The hologram managed to swallow hard, "We could try a Vulcan Mind Meld, I don't approve of the mumbo-jumbo but there is nothing I can do," he admitted.

From inside the sick room came the sound of Seven of Nine singing softly.

The Captain nodded. "Tuvok to Sick Bay," she ordered on the intercom, then turned to comfort Seven of Nine.

"The Colonel believes that singing helps him concentrate," the desperate woman announced as the Captain took her hand, "He is unable to sing, perhaps mine will help him."

"I don't know many songs myself," the Captain claimed softly, "But if it helps, I'll sing with you," she promised.

Tuvok arrived five minutes later.

"The Captain would like you to try and help the Colonel in a mind meld," advised the Doctor, "If it's possible."

"It might, I will need time to prepare," announced Tuvok, "Advise the Captain I will be ready in forty minutes." He left again.

He returned as promised, to find the Captain and Seven still at their lonely vigil beside the Colonel.

"Captain I am ready," he announced.

She nodded and gently pulled Seven of Nine away as he got into position by the Colonels head.

"I shall be keeping an eye on brain activity," interfered the Doctor.

"You will not interfere," Tuvok demanded sternly, "The subject will be difficult to interact with."

He started his procedure, "Your mind to my mind, my mind to your mind.."

In his mind he found himself in a small dark room, doors leading in all directions. He tried a door, it was locked, he tried another, this opened easily and he went through to find himself in another small room similar to the first. The door closed firmly behind him, he tried it and found it had locked itself. Given no option he carried on through doors that opened into more small rooms then locked themselves again. He lost track of distance and direction, until he came to the centre of the maze. It looked as though some form of structure had been there, it's ruins were clearly visible, brown and crumbling. Warily he examined them, they looked like iron and crumbled into dust at his touch. In the distance he saw a small figure, curled on the floor in a foetal position, it was rocking silently, seemingly in great pain. Black things, like bats, but with far to many claws to be real, were swooping at it. A feeble arm waved at them trying to keep them away. Cautiously he approached it, to find the Colonel.

"Colonel I wish to assist you," he announced.

He ducked instinctively as the black creatures started to swoop at him as well. The Colonel's memories and fears, he suddenly realised, as he slapped at an impossible set of teeth. "You must resist the image," his Vulcan mind told him, "They can only hurt you if you think they are real!"

The figure sprang up in terror, it appeared small and feral, even given the nature of the mind meld to join the impressions of the two host minds, it shocked the implacable Vulcan.

"Keep away!" It screamed at him, "I can't go back."

"I will help you. I am a ship mate," Tuvok tried again, "I can help you," he coaxed, "Let me help you," he almost pleaded.

"Keep away," the little figure screamed again and ran, it collapsed within a few yards, screaming in pain as the black creatures attacked him again.

"Captain," announced the Doctor, "There was a major dip in his cerebral activity, this is killing him!"

Tuvok broke the link, and sat exhausted and shocked by what he had seen. "I cannot get near enough to him to help," he announced at length, "I'm sorry Captain, his mind is disintegrating and is under attack." He described his experiences and what he had seen to the appalled Captain.

The Captain took a deep breath, she had put a lot of hope on Tuvoks mind meld, she had seen it do wonders in similar situations, her hope now melted to nothing.

"There is somebody who could get to him Captain," Winstons voice gently prodded her.

She turned sharply towards him, he was getting on her nerves. "Who?" She demanded.

"She's standing right next to you," he answered, "If she's willing?"

"Captain, he is correct," Seven replied, the light of day dawning on her, "I have a defective Borg Cerebral Implant in Cargo Bay 2. It can be repaired and inserted in the Colonel. I may be able to get close enough to him. If used in the alcove it will not be dangerous," she claimed.

"Tuvok, Seven, get B'Elanna working on it!" The Captain demanded.

"Captain, your not going to suggest I implant a Borg device in the Colonel," the Doctor protested, "That would be going too far."

"You will," she announced heavily, "I'll turn your ethical routines off, if I have to."

"You can't there encrypted," he answered frantically.

"I may not, but I know somebody who can and he still doesn't like you, from when you tried to take the 'Colonels lady', how long do you think your encryption will stand against the Colonels Corporal," she threatened.

The Doctor visibly blanched, remembering his encounter with the infamous Corporal Miller, "I'll prepare for the operation, under protest. I will require Lieutenant Paris," he agreed moodily.

"Objection noted," the Captain hissed, returning to the Colonel's body.

"Are you sure you want to do this Seven?" asked Torres gently as she worked on the delicate instrument, "I know he's the most wonderful man in the galaxy and you love him for it, but it could be dangerous, one or other of you could be killed," she continued.

"He would do the same for me, or anybody else on the ship," Seven answered pointedly.

"That's the point," Torres fired back, "From what you've told me, his life depends upon you already, if you get hurt he will die."

"I must try!" Seven responded stubbornly.

"Okay!" she responded, "But I wouldn't be a friend if I didn't try to talk you out of it," she continued.

"The implant is ready, the frequencies have been modified to match yours," Torres announced, "If it's any help," she added gripping Sevens arm, "I really hope you get him back, you, the ship and the Captain need him."

Seven was moved by the sudden sentimental outburst. She managed a small smile, "Thank you, I will succeed," she vowed.

As the Doctor operated to insert the new device in the Colonels skull, Tuvok briefed Seven of Nine.

"I shall guide you to the location he was last in, if he is not there I will help you search, but I will not be able to approach him, it may not be wise for you to approach too close either," he announced.

"He will also appear very different to how you normally see him, it will be a combination of how he sees himself and your own interpretation, for me he appeared small and feral, like a large bald rat. The fears and memories that are attacking him, looked like black bats, but with claws and teeth. They cannot hurt you, unless you let them into your mind. You must block them out. It will be difficult, distressing and require remarkable patience," he confided, "It suggests his opinion of himself is almost non-existent, if it fails then he will die," his opinion seemed final.

"I wish you to succeed," he admitted quietly.

She raised her questioning eyebrow at him.

"His opinions and methods are unique and challenging, they are of great benefit to the ship and the crew," he confessed in answer to the implied question.

"We are ready," announced the Doctor, "I'm having him transported to the Cargo Bay now, I will try and keep him alive while you do what you need to do. Good luck," he commented, gripping Sevens arm.

"Be careful in there," the Captain advised, "I don't want to lose you as well. You don't have to go, we can find another way," she tried to soothe the worried girl.

"There is no other way," Seven announced calmly, "I am the only person who may be able to approach him. I want to go, I must go to him," she vowed, taking her position, next to her the Colonel was being strapped into an upright position in the second booth.

"Good luck, we're rooting for you," called the Captain as she activated Sevens alcove.

"Sevens ready," she announced.

"The Colonel is ready, Tuvoks just melding with him now," advised Chakotay.

"Every thing is stable," agreed the Doctor.

"Permission to pass the message Captain," a voice behind them stirred her to look around and down.

Naomi Wildman was standing by the console.

"What are you doing here?" The captain chided gently.

"I was sent by Lieutenant Torres, so that I could keep them informed and I wanted to wish Seven of Nine luck and give her my love," the girl replied earnestly.

"They're in Captain," announced the Doctor, "There was a blip in the readings. Two ghost minds are creating more of a reading than the one that ought to be there!"

"You here that Naomi," the Captain intoned, "You run back to Engineering and tell them, if they don't keep the power absolutely smooth, I'll make them get out and push the ship home, you can take the same message to the Bridge as well," she suggested with a smile.

"Yes Ma'am," the girl replied eagerly.

Seven of Nine and Tuvok took a moment to get their bearings, "This is not good," he commented looking around, "These rooms had locked and unlocked doors that close and lock after you, that is quite normal, now many of the doors are left open, I think we may be too late, we must hurry, follow me."

He led them at a quick pace through the maze of little rooms to the centre, the ruins had almost totally vanished. In the centre room still curled in a ball was the Colonel, he seemed bigger than he had been, but Tuvok expected that because of Seven of Nines influence. But the bats were still there, they dived at them in fury.

"I cannot go closer," he informed her, "When I withdraw his shape may change a little, but it will still not be pleasant, you must keep your interpretation of the Colonel in your mind, and you must ignore the flying creatures, they cannot hurt you. Failure in either will mean you will fail," he urged.

She nodded, worried by the small creature on the floor in front of her. Determinedly she blocked the revulsion forming in her mind at the sight of the flying creatures and the small figure of the Colonel and grasped here mental picture of the tall and proud man she loved. Cautiously she approached it until it sprang up, she stopped.

"I know you," it announced.

"You said you loved me, but wouldn't release me. Release me!" It pleaded in a pitiful voice.

Shocked she could only stand still as the figure curled into a ball again as the pain wracked through it and the black creatures resumed their attack.

"I still love you," she called softly, "I want you back, everybody wants you back," she crooned, she settled on the floor cross legged and waited. "Please come back to me," she called again.

"I can't," It cried, "I've nothing left to live with, won't you let me die?" it pleaded wretchedly.

"I've got all you need for now, my love," she called softly, "Please come back," swallowing hard, fighting her own desperation she softly she started to sing to the frightened creature, trying to soothe its nerves.

She lost track of time as she kept up the gentle singing, the Colonel creature started to inch its way towards her, still crippled by pain, doubt and fear and the attacks from the ghostly creatures swooping on him. It kept stopping and looking around suspiciously, ready for flight at a moments notice.

"How long has she been in there?" The Captain demanded of the watching team. She had been summoned to the Bridge for other problems and was now returning for a progress report.

"Three hours Captain," advised the Doctor, the concern showing on his face.

"How much longer can she remain there, Tuvok?" She queried.

"Not more than an hour Captain, If she doesn't return by then I will have to attempt to pull her back," he advised, "To do so before then may damage the situation that is evolving, she must gain his trust before returning. If she does not establish contact there will be no second opportunity."

In the Colonels mind Seven was having success of a sort, the Colonel had moved within arms reach, but was still ready for immediate flight. She tried offering a hand to him, but he darted away quickly. A black creature lashed at his face drawing blood, the Colonel screamed in pain and dropped to the floor.

Unable to go to his aide she resumed the gentle song she had been using to coax him. Again he started to approach her, quicker this time. Finally he was near enough to put his head on her lap, this time he didn't try to run when she stroked its bald and leathery scalp. The black creatures stopped their incessant attacks, but circled over the two of them.

"I must go soon," she crooned, "I will return for you in a little while," she soothed, "I wish to help you return properly, but you must help me."

"You won't return," the Colonel creature announced, "You will runaway, or be taken like everything else in my life," it howled.

"Then you must return and run after me," she counselled stubbornly, "I need you, as much as before. You're my protector," She pointed out.

"I failed," it answered miserably

"You have never failed!" She chided him, some of her fire coming back.

She heard a voice calling her, so did the Colonel creature, "They're coming to take you away," he spat.

"It's Tuvok has come to collect me, I cannot stay long," she explained hurriedly, "I will be back for you."

"Want something?" It demanded.

She considered the request nonplussed. "You have sharp teeth and claws?" she asked at last.

"Yes," It announced.

"Take some of my hair," she urged.

"It will hurt you," he complained.

"I will not be seriously damaged," she assured him, "I'll bring you something substantial next time," she promised.

She avoided a scream, just, as the Colonel creature snatched out a couple of strands of hair from her head. He seemed satisfied and curled up with them next to his cheek.

"I must go," she said and leant forward to kiss the strange creature.

Gently she got up and walked slowly towards Tuvok. The bats still circled over the ball that was the Colonel.

"How is he?" The Captain asked urgently, as Seven stepped from her alcove.

"Scared but responsive, Captain," she replied, "I will return tomorrow and assist him further, he will need much assistance," she announced. She staggered as the exhaustion hit her, The Captain caught her and led her to a container, forcing her to sit.

"The cerebral activity has stabilised," agreed the Doctor.

"Don't try going in alone," the Captain reminded her, "You will need Tuvok's guidance to make this work and the rest of us to keep him physically alive, now go and have some food and rest," she ordered, "In a bed," she added, feeling the young woman's impatience to continue with the delicate operation.

"Tuvok?" The Captain queried, as the Vulcan stepped towards her.

"There is reason to be hopeful," he responded cautiously, "The Colonel's mind has responded and he is no longer being attacked, but it will still not be an easy venture, Seven will require much assistance and not a little luck."

"Captains Log," Captain Janeway commanded tiredly of the terminal in her Ready Room, the previous few days had been long and frustrating, as she had watched Seven of Nine struggling to rebuild the Colonel's spirit. Sometimes she seemed to be doing well, others she was losing ground, but she had stubbornly re-entered, sometimes three times in a day for upto three or four hours at a time, much to the chagrin of the Doctor and concern of Tuvok, whilst she had paced the Cargo Bay frustrated and helpless. Today had not been one of the better days.

Finally she got her thoughts together. "The Colonel has been under treatment in Cargo Bay 2 for nine days," she started, "I can only admire the tenacity and stubbornness of Seven of Nine in her determination to help him recover. If there was ever any doubt as to the level of feeling she has for this man, they have been totally dispelled. I have watched her come out of his mind dispirited and almost broken herself, but she finds new strength to re-enter again and help him. She has likened the task to a particularly complex child's three dimensional puzzle. I now worry for her own spirit as much as for the man I almost killed."

"Seven has obtained the Colonels permission for Lieutenant Commander Tuvok to join them on several occasions," she continued, "He is confident of Seven's eventual success, as are, for reasons beyond comprehension, the rest of the crew. I am amazed at the amount of interest they show in the strange soldier from another time, the feelings they have for him and the faith they have placed in Seven's success."

"Captain to the Cargo Bay immediately," her log musings were interrupted by the Doctors voice over the communicator.

Dreading another problem she responded, "On my way, what's happening?"

"Seven's still inside the Colonel, she won't come out, and it's been over four hours." the doctor sounded almost panicked.

"Where's Tuvok?" She demanded.

"I've summoned him, but he's still meditating after his last attempt at exploring the Colonel," came the reply.

"I'll collect him," she responded heavily, changing course for Tuvok's room.

She rang his door chime, there was no answer. "Security override, Janeway Alpha 01," she commanded clearing the locks. She charged in, she found him sitting on the floor, gazing fixedly at his meditation lamp in front of him.

"Tuvok we need you!" she called, fearing the interruption to his meditations, but fearing the results if she couldn't bring him out of them.

He shook himself into the real world and looked at her, the normally smooth Vulcan face now sunken in despair.

"What's the matter?" She demanded in shock at the change.

"I looked in his memories Captain," he whispered, "I have seen many things considered as horrors in the Fires of Vulcan, they compare with what is inside the Colonel's mind. He has lived with them permanently," he confessed.

The Captain was appalled, she knew a little of the 'Fires'. It was a part of a Vulcan training ritual used to encourage logical thought, it supposedly showed those who went through it total horror, challenging the strength of their logical minds, the preparation for the test took years. She also knew her Vulcan Security Officer had taken the test and passed, for him to suggest that something approached them was unimaginable.

"I have helped him secure them," he continued more calmly.

She knelt beside him, "We know he has seem many horrifying things, we know he has suffered many hardships and ordeals, he has successfully controlled them for most of his life and he will continue to do so, if you and Seven have done your work well," she encouraged gently, "Now Seven needs you, the Doctor thinks she may be trapped."

"I will come momentarily Captain," the Vulcan sighed, "I must regain my composure."

"Make it quick," she snapped turning to leave.

She reached the Cargo Bay at the run, "Report?" She snapped as she entered.

"I am undamaged Captain," it was Seven that answered her, she looked tired and drawn, but there was an element of joy in her voice, "The repairs are complete, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok should inspect the results before we allow the Colonel to revive," she announced.

"The Doctor thought you were in danger?" She challenged softly.

"I cannot be in danger in the Colonel's presence," she responded, "I was too close to completion to warrant leaving."

The Captain nodded in stunned agreement.

"Seven was in there for 4 hours 38 minutes," the Doctor confirmed, "It was too long, she must rest now!"

"I must remain until Tuvok has inspected the results of our work," she protested, "If there is an error it must be corrected quickly."

"Why are you so adamant?" The Captain asked quietly.

"I have calculated that today is the 27th March according to the Julian Calendar," she advised.


"I have discovered that his birth date is the 29th, it seems appropriate to be 'reborn' on your birthday," Seven suggested levelly.

Tuvok entered the bay, he showed few of the signs that had alarmed the Captain a few minutes ago, "I am ready Captain," he announced quietly.

"Some of the urgency has gone," the Captain replied, "But if you're up to it, there is a date Seven would like to meet," she added with a wry grin.

"I am not immune to the significance of the date," Tuvok assured them, "It may also be a date of significance to his faith," he pointed out.

The Captain looked at him pointedly, then did her own mental calculations, "It's Easter Monday, isn't it?" she guessed, "The day of resurrection!"

"I believe so," the Vulcan assured her.

"Captain?" Asked the Doctor in confusion.

"Look it up," she suggested impatiently.

Tuvok took up position in front of the Colonel and re-entered his mind, hopefully for the last time.

He blinked in the new light that now existed, the doors that had appeared in disrepair were now brilliant white and moved easily. He had barely moved before a voice challenged him, "Who goes there?" it announced.

"I am Tuvok, a friend" he called.

"Advance and be recognised," the voice ordered. The doors in front of him opened and closed automatically as he advanced, this time guiding him to his location.

As he entered the centre of the maze he was met by the rejuvenated figure of the Colonel, it called to him, "Greetings Tuvok," he said and approached him.

Tuvok examined him carefully, it was totally different to the small broken creature he had seen when he first entered, it looked almost exactly like the Colonel outside used to, tall, strong, erect and proud.

"How do you like my new home?" the Colonel asked, pointing to the new structure behind him. Tuvok looked, it appeared to be a form of castle, it shimmered grey in the light.

"Not quite what I was used to, but still very defensible," the Colonel admitted, "The brittle iron work has gone in favour of steel. The walls are properly reinforced with garrets. I don't remember quite so many crenellations before, but the maiden turret on the keep is a bit of a No-No, I think Seven's a romantic, she wants a shining knight and a castle and this is her dream too, I can live with that idea though. What are your thoughts?" He chattered nervously, pointing out the castles architecture.

"It looks secure," Tuvok admitted, "What are the flags?"

"They are my loyalties," he announced, "The regiment, the ship and Miss Nine."

"She left you with your Earth bond?" He asked in surprise,

"Not to do so, would break me from what I was, she didn't want to do that, nor did I. I am proud of what I was," he announced.

"How about your fears?" Tuvok asked quietly.

"I believe they are well locked away for the time being, you secured some of the worst remember! If I listen hard I can hear them, but it will be a long time before they assault me again, I hope," he answered carefully, "And if they do emerge, Miss Nine has a backdoor key," he tapped the back of his head where the implant sat.

"Very well I will inform the Captain that you are ready," Tuvok agreed and broke the link.

"He is ready Captain," Tuvok announced quietly, recovering from the meld. He wondered how much Seven had changed him in the rebuild and whether he should advise the Captain. Eventually he decided not to, for the time being, in case the Captain demanded it was all rebuilt as original, the changes didn't seem sufficient to warrant that much work, nor did he wish the Colonel to have to live with his previous levels of mental anguish.

"Get him back to Sick Bay, we'll let him sleep through tomorrow and wake naturally the day after," the Captain decided, "Seven you can go and rest, we'll have a talk before he wakes, I want to know what to expect when he does," she turned and left for her quarters.

Seven arrived on the Bridge after lunch the following day to be debriefed by the Captain, she led her into the Ready Room.

"Well Seven, it's not every woman who gets the chance to rebuild her man from the inside out, how much do you think you've changed him? You've not created Frankenstein's Monster have you?" She smiled gently.

"Captain, who is Frankenstein?" Seven asked curiously.

"It was a book about a brilliant professor who built the perfect human from spare parts, it didn't end happily, if you changed the wrong things it may have the same effect," the Captain prescribed.

"I considered attempting to changing him," Seven confessed, "He is far from perfect. In the end I realised that I am not perfect and he would not mean the same to me, if he was in anyway different."

The Captain sighed in relief, "Another of the Colonel's lessons learned?" She commented.

"Affirmative Captain," the ex-borg agreed.

"In the event I merely provided comfort to him, as he attempted to carry out your instructions," she continued.

"My instructions?" The Captain exclaimed.

"Affirmative. You ordered him to recover, surrender himself to me and return to duty," Seven reminded her.

"And you did nothing at all during all those days?" The Captain asked fascinated.

"He occasionally asked for my advice and assistance, I gave back some of what he has given me, there may be some slight changes due to that," Seven admitted calmly.

"Any changes that have occurred are due to him rebuilding himself, he has taken his more 'visual' side as his guide. There appears to be little of what was under that mask left," she continued.

"You know him better than anybody, how different do you think he will be?" The Captain finally queried.

"I know he will no longer try to protect the two of us from each other unless I demand it, he will no longer have to hide his inner most feelings and he has permanently fixed his loyalty onto three things, his Regiment, the ship and myself, you should not need to question that again!" She finished with the accusation.

"I shouldn't have questioned it to start with," the Captain admitted forlornly.

"Will he forgive me?" She wondered aloud.

"There is nothing to forgive Captain," Seven answered, "You ordered him to tell you something, it was your right as the Captain. He attempted to warn you of unpredictable events, but accepted your command. He would do it again, if so ordered," she advised.

"How do you know that?" The Captain asked astounded.

"He told me," she answered simply, "I was suffering from bitterness at your actions so we discussed it. He has never disobeyed an order from a commanding officer."

The Captain considered the statements carefully, finally accepting the truth of them, "Just interprets them as he wishes," she commented. "I think we'd better wait to see what wakes up," she announced at last.

"I'll see you in Sick Bay tomorrow," she dismissed Seven of Nine.

"Captain," Seven acknowledged, "He will wake at 05:30, he always does," she added and left the Captain to her thoughts.

Seven of Nine was correct as the chronometer changed to 05:30 the Colonel snapped awake. Disorientated he looked around him, he recognised the Sick Bay, the shining eyes of Seven of Nine sat beside him, holding his hand, then the gathering of ships officers around the bed. He sat upright quickly and put a hand to his head. "Good morning," announced cheerfully, then, "Anybody got the aspirin, I've got a splitting headache. I always seem to have one when I come here," he complained.

He caught sight of the Captain standing at the front of the ranks of smiling people, sprang from the couch in alarm trying to come to attention and salute at the same time, nearly collapsing onto Seven as he tried to gain his balance. Finally managing his intentions he croaked, "Colonel Samuels reporting for duty as ordered Ma'am."

The Captain laughed, "I thought you might have changed for the better, but I see you haven't and I'm actually glad," she claimed happily, "Happy birthday. Take this, one mug of good tea stewed to the point of ruin, just as you prefer it," she laughed again, handing him a mug.

"Thank you Ma'am," he said calmly, "And I have changed, I'm not fighting anything any more, not even Miss Nine, time will tell if that's an improvement," he commented.

"Apart from the implant, you are a physically perfect specimen, or as near as you will ever get," the Doctor announced, bustling around the Colonel with his tri-corder, "I'll remove it tomorrow."

"You will not!" The Colonel exclaimed, "It's my insurance policy, my hotline, something for me to play with now my mind has nothing to do when resting. Besides it has possibilities I'd never even considered before, like stopping Seven partaking of hanky-panky behind my back," he vowed.

The Captain laughed again, "Tuvok said you wanted to keep it. Provided there is no health problems you may do so, for as long as you both want it in place. Now take Seven away and rest properly for the party tonight, formal dress, Holodeck 1," she commanded.

"Party Ma'am?" he questioned impassively.

"Your Birthday Party, quite appropriate considering the events," she giggled, the relief flowing out of her, the new Colonel was proving to be as stiff as the old one, but perhaps tougher she hoped.

"Miss Nine, we have been given our marching orders, may I offer you my arm?" he inquired gallantly.

"That is acceptable," she agreed, taking it she supported him as they left the room for their own.

They watched them go with amusement, the tall Colonel trying to march proud and erect, the slim blonde trying to support him.

"Well Captain, you've had your miracle," commented Winston from his bed, "But who's was it?"

"I'm not sure it was a miracle," she answered him, "If you believe Seven, it was just the Colonel carrying out orders, doing the impossible, but he does it so well don't you think?" She continued.

"Aye Ma'am," agreed Winston

"I owe you everything, it's the only thing that still hurts," he confessed to Seven of Nine as they entered their quarters.

"Consider it as my present to you," she suggested, putting her arms around him and pushing him to the bed.

"Some present," he claimed, "A new life for an unworthy me! It's too much!"

"You will pay in other ways," she assured him, kissing him passionately.

"Not today dear, I have a headache," he quipped.

She moved to hit him, then had a better idea, she concentrated.

"Ouch!" he exclaimed, then "Wow, you naughty girl, you!" As he felt a strange new feeling of longing stir deep inside his mind.

"I will have to test the implant thoroughly," she commented mildly, "You will comply."

"Yes Ma'am." he agreed, "There was never any doubt, and you don't need the implant to achieve it," he breathed in her ear.

He took her in his arms, pulling her close, kissing her firmly. Barely a twinge of guilt in his mind for the first time in his life.

Seven sighed in satisfaction. Sliding her own arms around him, she kissed back just as firmly, taking charge.

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