1-21 A Bit of Variety

Authors Note

Paramounts Voyager has burnt its course in classic fashion in the States, seemingly leaving the usual mix of frustration, incredulation, indignation and a lot of other words ending in tion' some of them even pleasant. Fortunately/Unfortunately (delete as applicable) the Colonel series hasn't yet and I hope you will humour me by accepting the continuance of the story to a logical, fitting and final end.
Ray gower

1-21 A Bit of Variety

Neelix plans a way to boost moral. He convinces the captain to let the crew switch places with each other for few days in a training exercise. The idea starts off well enough, then an unintentional spanner is thrown in the works and Voyagers crew find they learn more than Captain Janeway bargained for...

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 courtesy Miss A'Lehsen Paris (Warpspeed) and myself and the Colonel is my own.

Constructive criticism and comments are welcome on e-mail story@rgower.plus.com

If like me you like to know why things occur like they do, I would heartily recommend you start with the Colonel.

This story is rated PG

©R Gower 2000

Captain Kathryn Janeway was concerned.

She was sitting at her desk in her Ready Room, reading a report from Chakotay on the subject of crew morale. It claimed it was dangerously low. In fact, it hadn't been this low in a long time! Along with the 'Efficiency Review', produced by Seven of Nine, which claimed that the crew were also performing below par, she reckoned she had a right to be at least a little worried.

The problem was, she was not sure what to do about it.

In the three months since they had left Cathor she had run extra drills and simulations; Thanks to Neelix there had been twice the number of 'Celebrations' compared to the normal; The holodecks were fully booked with a whole host of new programmes appearing, full of 'Fun' things to do.

The problem she realised was boredom. Since their hurried departure from Cathor there had been absolutely nothing to do! No planets, ships or even an uninteresting dust cloud. Seven's long range scans promised nothing of note for another three months at the ships current cruising velocity, a relaxed Warp 5. In point of fact this was one of the most empty regions she could ever remember being in. The ships new engines were working perfectly and were producing more power than they knew what to do with. Even the Holodecks, usually guaranteed to suffer a fault when things were slack, had been performing faultlessly.

Her concern for the state of the 'Collective' crews mind, reminded her of her own entanglement with a sudden break from action. 'Trench Happiness', the Colonel had diagnosed it as. She shuddered at the thought of what she had wanted to do then; Give up on her duty, crew and ship. Now they all needed something to pep up their lives.

The door chime interrupted her brooding.

"Come," she called out irritably.

Neelix entered, his comical face lit with an excited smile. He fairly bounced into the room.

"Neelix, I really don't have time--" Janeway said quietly, looking up from her work. She tried to keep control, but the strain of the inaction over past several days leaked into her voice anyway.

Neelix's happy expression drooped for a moment, but then it was back full force. "Oh, but Captain, I've had such a wonderful idea!" he exclaimed.

Janeway sighed softly, hoping that Neelix wouldn't notice. Whenever he had one of his 'wonderful' ideas, things either got better or worse. She didn't want to bet on how this one would turn out. "What idea is that?" she asked cautiously, laying the reports aside for a moment. She would have to find a solution later.

"Switching places!" Neelix said enthusiastically.

"I beg your pardon?" Janeway asked with a frown.

"Let the crew switch places. They can learn about the other jobs on the ship, and it'll give them a chance to mingle," Neelix said.

Janeway considered this for a moment. "How would you suggest we choose who would get each job?" she asked after thinking it over. Perhaps a solution might just fall in her lap.

Neelix fairly glowed when he realised that she was considering his plan.

"Oh, 'We' shouldn't choose, Captain! There should be a draw. Whichever job you draw, unless it's the one you already have, you have to perform for.... a week?" he suggested.

Janeway thought that this definitely had possibilities. "I don't like the idea of Tom being away from the helm during an emergency, or B'Elanna out of Engineering. Let's say.... four days. And battle stations stay the same," she said reflectively.

"That sounds wonderful, Captain! I knew you would appreciate this little plan," Neelix exclaimed, clasping his hands together in satisfaction. His yellow eyes gleamed.

"It has potential, Neelix. It has a lot of potential," Janeway agreed with a smile.

"And you'll participate too, of course, Captain," Neelix added.

Now Janeway started to get wary. "I don't think so, Neelix," she began to argue.

Neelix frowned, somehow managing to look hurt, confused, and impatient all at once. "Why not, Captain? As you said, battle stations will stay the same. And you've left other officers in charge before. This could be a learning experience for you, as well," he said earnestly.

Janeway felt tempted to let herself be swayed by his arguments. "I just don't know about that, Neelix..." she said reluctantly.

"Captain, how can you expect the crew to benefit from and enjoy this little experiment if you don't join in?" Neelix asked.

Janeway gave it some more thought. Yes, it would be nice to do something other than run the ship and worry about the crew for once. And she 'would' be able to take over if anything untoward happened....

"All right, Neelix," she gave in as gracefully as possible.

Neelix beamed again. "Now, we need to make some definite plans...."

It was a typical lunch scene in the Mess Hall. Tom, B'Elanna, Harry, and Ensign Ayala were gathered around one table, eating their not-so-edible looking meals and exchanging gossip.

"So, have any of you heard about what the Captain and Neelix are scheming?" Harry asked. He eyed the miss-shaped glob of greenish-yellow gloop at the end of his fork and regretted the fact that he had used up all of his replicator rations on that last trip to the holodeck. There'd be no real meals for him for at least two weeks.

B'Elanna frowned. "Nicoletti told me today that she heard that it was going to be another luau, but bigger this time. Then Carey told me that 'He' heard that it was going to be another Talent Night," she said with a delicate shudder. This was partly because she had just taken a bite of the gloop.

"I think that it's going to be a Talent Night, personally. After all, we haven't had one in at least a month," Ayala commented.

B'Elanna glowered. "I do not like Talent Night," she mumbled. The men were kind enough not to remind her exactly why she didn't like it.

"Well, I think it won't be any of those," Tom said. He was grinning, thinking about B'Elanna's performance a year before.

"Why not?" Harry asked.

"I overheard part of a conversation earlier today. The Captain was saying that she would enjoy the break from command for a few days. Now, what do you all think that means?" Tom asked in return. It's not as though there is anywhere for her to go. His eyes glittered with amusement.

The four sat there in silence. There were so many possibilities. But at least something was going to happen. Action was something that the ship had been greatly lacking in the past month or so.

Meanwhile, in the Captain's Ready Room, Janeway and Neelix were preparing the program that would randomly select new crew member for each and every position on the ship.

They were sharing some laughs, as they envisioned the different crew members doing jobs that they weren't at all used to.

"Can you see Tom as a security officer? Or Chakotay in Sickbay?" Neelix asked.

Janeway shook her head. "Those wouldn't be the worst," she commented.

"What about B'Elanna--as Captain? I'd feel very sorry for the Bridge crew if she got my position. Or the Colonel in Engineering?"

They laughed again, and continued working. Just one more day, and then they would give the crew their little surprise.

Captain Janeway nearly laughed with glee as she looked around the briefing room table at her senior officers sombre faces, two days later. This was the day that she would tell them all of the Plan.

She and Neelix had completed the random selection program just hours before, and they had decided that the sooner they began, the better. So, the crew of Voyager was about to get a major overhaul.

"Captain, may I ask what this is all about?" Chakotay asked after they had spent a few minutes in silence.

Janeway did smile then, slightly. She didn't want to give away how pleased she was with this idea quite yet.

"We, the crew of Voyager, are going to perform a major experiment in crew development," she told them. "Since morale and efficiency on this ship has been drastically low the past few weeks, we will be trading places with each other. It will facilitate understanding and fellowship among the crew."

The eight faces in front of her wore nearly identical frowns. "We're going to be switching departments?" Harry asked first.

Janeway shook her head. "Not just the senior officers, Harry, but the entire crew are switching places. Neelix and I have designed a program which will randomly select crew members for each job on this ship, from Captain on down.

The program will place us in fields as different from our own as possible," she explained.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "Is it logical, Captain, to put crew members in positions where they have no previous experience, or to which they are not suited?" he asked.

Janeway smiled. "That's the best part, Tuvok! We will be finding out what our crew members can do and put up with on a day to day basis," she said with relish.

"I'm not going to let inexperienced crew members run the ship in an emergency situation, of course," she added. "Battle stations will remain the same. It will only be for four days and we aren't expecting anything for at least a couple of months."

They seemed to consider the information carefully, unwilling to comment yet.

B'Elanna's reaction was the most dramatic. She was frowning unhappily, most likely at the idea of having to turn over her precious engines to someone else. Janeway didn't blame her. She had felt the same way about giving up her command, even if it was just for four days.

Finally, Tom spoke up. His eyes glittered with anticipation. "This could be very interesting," he said.

The same spirit seemed to overtake most of her staff. B'Elanna still looked slightly unhappy, though. This changed when Tom leaned over from his position beside her and whispered in her ear. A devilish smile then played on both sets of lips.

Captain Janeway wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not, but as long as it made B'Elanna cooperate she wasn't going to argue. Instead, she smiled around at them all again. "We shall announce the results of the draw in the Mess tomorrow lunch time," she announced.

A chorus of "Ayes" made her laugh.

I'm surprised I didn't get a response from you, Colonel? She said quietly as the others marched out the Conference Room. You aren't impressed, are you?

He had sat and listened impassively through out the meeting.

Alone of the crew, he and Seven of Nine were the only two who appeared unaffected by the lack of activity. Each quietly and effectively getting on with their duties, yet obviously revelling in each others company when they were together, as they settled slowly to close and apparently harmonious married life.

It's not for me to be impressed, Ma'am, he opined. It is not a new idea. Moving people on temporary detachments to other units used to be done quite regularly. It's just the application that seems a little extreme. Replacing everybody could be considered extreme?

Besides, I'm not involved! This is a Star Fleet thing. You're doing it to yourselves. My Rules Of Engagement prohibit me from objecting! He added with obvious relief.

You are involved, so is Seven! Janeway exclaimed quickly. I said everybody and I meant it. You will have a new post to try.

The Colonels eyebrows shot up in surprise. Are you sure, Ma'am? He demanded sharply. Need I remind you my technical abilities are still well below the standards required for a technical post? I might be able to handle Hydroponics for a few days, because I can't do any serious damage there. But imagine the horrors if your damned computer puts me in Engineering?

If you blow us up, you will be the first to know about it, she assured him. I'll make sure B'Elanna puts the dangerous commands out of reach.

he accepted her assurance, but managed to seem unenthusiastic in the reply.

The Mess that lunch time was full of speculation as the news of the forthcoming event filtered into the darkest corners of the ship. It had Tom and B'Elanna Paris, as the only senior officers there, holding court, fending off questions about the potential results of the following days draw.

No. I don't think the results will put crewmen in charge of departments! B'Elanna patiently fended off a question from Crewman Carlile. But you will be put somewhere different from Hydroponics. It could be Engineering, or in the Phasor Room, or anywhere on the ship!

You will have to wait and see, Tom came to her rescue. We don't know what is going to happen either!

We could all become drones for Captain Seven of Nine! He laughed loudly.

It was a comment that Seven of Nine picked up from the servery. She collected the package she had entered the Mess for and approached the table at which B'Elanna and Tom were sitting.

Where are you hoping to be moved to, Seven? B'Elanna asked cheerfully. Even you must have places that you would like to work in, or not?

I have no desire to be Captain, Seven of Nine commented carefully. It is not in my nature to create a route for others to follow. However I shall endeavour to be efficient in whatever function is demanded of me.

Spoken like a true Borg, B'Elanna laughed happily. I wouldn't mind a spell on the Bridge, demanding more power from the Captain in Engineering. That is what I'd call the perfect scenario!

Now, where are you sneaking off to? She demanded. Not another surprise dinner for Alan?

We are sharing a holodeck with Ensigns Wildman, Connelly, Kala and crewman Winston, Seven of Nine responded flatly. They invited us to join them in their beach simulation. The Colonel volunteered to provide a 'picnic'.

He has rations for that? Tom exclaimed.

Yes. But most of the food is fresh, prepared to his specification, Seven admitted.

That is the other thing I want to see, B'Elanna interrupted. Alan as Catering Officer. Just think, edible food three times a day!

Go on, get out of here. Before you get bombarded with questions as well. Just make sure your swim wear isn't too daring, she added with a laugh.

I was not intending to wear, swim wear', Seven responded in mild confusion, heading for the door.

The Colonel intercepted her as he hurried towards the Mess to pick up the picnic he had requested.

You picked it up for me! Thank you! He exclaimed gratefully. He kissed her tenderly. You are a wonderful wife.

Please. Let me take that! He insisted, wresting the parcel from her arms.

Lieutenant Paris suggested I should replicate Swim wear', she commented. Is that required?

The Colonel shrugged. If that is what you want to wear, he suggested. I am not aware of any particular dress code.

They entered the holodeck to be met by Naomi Wildman and her mother. Both appeared to be wearing Summer' frocks.

I'm sorry, Ma'am. I appear to be overdressed, the Colonel commented at the sight. But we did remember to bring lunch!

They giggled.

We suspected as much, Samantha Wildman admitted happily. Especially from Seven. There is a bathing hut on the beach with suitable clothing for you both. Go and get changed.

The Bermuda' shorts and shirt the Ensign had put aside for him were definitely not Him', the Colonel decided as soon as he saw them. Not wishing to be seen as that large a wet blanket', he swallowed his dignity and put them on, as ordered. Gaily printed and wide legged, he suspected he looked as gawdy and out of place as he felt.

The selection for Seven was much better, he decided, as he turned to help her stretch the single piece halter over her body, then wrap and tie the simple beach skirt around her.

Well at least one of us looks as though they belong, he commented wistfully. If I wasn't already so pathetically in love with you, I would be now. He winked at conspiratorially at her, boosting her confidence.

I am uncertain for the need for this form of dress, claimed Seven nervously.

Just accept my word it suits you, the Colonel grinned offering her his arm. Shall we join the party?

They linked arms and walked down the beach.

Samantha Wildman examined them critically as they approached.

I think I mucked up on yours Colonel, she admitted. I'm sorry for that. But Sevens suits her perfectly.

Mrs Nine would look fit in anything, Ma'am, the Colonel opined happily. As for me. I'm frightfully British remember. Rolled up trouser legs, vest and knotted hanky for my balding head are about my limit.

She laughed at him. You wouldn't suit that either! There must be something you could wear for next time?

I could wear battle dress. I find that is generally suitable for most beach occasions I've been involved with," he offered.

"No!" Sam Wildman responded in shock. "We aren't at war!"

Surely you've been to the beach without being at war? Kala demanded joining the discussion.

Oh yes! The Colonel agreed. The first one I saw! That was Scarborough. I wasn't wearing anything like this then either!

They looked at him in puzzlement.

It was a Force 9 gale in the middle of November. It was raining and freezing Brass Monkeys'. So I was in sou'westers and helping to reinforce the sea walls. He laughed at their bemusement.

Well this is the Bahama's. There is nothing like that here, Connelly announced with a grin, passing the Colonel and Seven tall glasses. So you will have to learn something new!

That is true, Mr Connelly, the Colonel admitted reflectively. I can't say I've ever been to the Bahama's before. I suspect they tend to be rather dull. Now if you'll permit me, I'll prepare luncheon?

You know what these islands are famous for, don't you? the Colonel asked as they lounged easily in the sunshine after lunch.

They collectively shook their heads at him.

Rum, fever and pirates!

Naomi exclaimed. That's exciting! She looked around as if expecting them to leap out at her.

They weren't as romantic as stories would have you believe, the Colonel laughed. Most of them were under contract to the Royal Navy. Tasked with looting Spanish ships.

Now as I'm togged like a beach bum. I suppose I ought to go and get my feet wet, he suggested. Anybody else? Seven? Naomi?

You are going swimming? Naomi asked in excitement.

Good heavens, No! If I could swim I'd be in the Navy! But somebody once told me that there were so many sharks in the sea in this area that if you went into the water you couldn't be more than 30 yards from one. I ought to at least put a toe in the water so I can claim I've swum with them! He grinned at her as her face fell and held out his hand. It's alright I know how to deal with sharks, he confided.

You do? She asked uncertainly.

Oh Yes. All you do, is you put your hand in his mouth. Wait for him to close it again, then pull his teeth out.

He winked at her and she laughed at him. You shouldn't tease me like that! She exclaimed.

She followed both him and Seven as they walked towards the sea.

Samantha Wildman followed them a short while later. She found them in the sea, the water over their waists helping Naomi leap over the small breakers. They were obviously enjoying themselves she decided. She stood and watched them with a knowing grin on her face.

Seven of Nine spotted her and pointed. It is time to cease this activity, she claimed.

Must we? Naomi moaned. This is fun!

Your mother is waiting, Seven said. Surprisingly, she had to admit to herself, she had enjoyed the time as well.

Do you want to try leaping the waves? The Colonel asked quietly as she watched the girl wade ashore, gently lifting her over the wave that splashed around them.

It is time we returned to our duties, Seven pointed out. We will be late!

He gently took her waist and kissed her on the neck. You're probably right, as usual, he sighed. Besides I think it would be better on our own on a bright moonlit night. Certainly more romantic.

She turned in his arms and placed her own kiss on his lips. That will be acceptable, she claimed. Then kissed him again, before he could comment.

Together they waded after Naomi. Then took their leave of the Beach party. Samantha Wildman noticing that Seven hadn't retrieved her skirt after coming ashore. Idly she wondered how Seven would cope with a child of her own.

The Captain appeared in the Mess at the prescribed time carrying three PADD's listing the computer's selections. She had been tempted to change a few. But after much gentle coaxing from Neelix, she had finally agreed to the computer based selection.

As virtually the whole crew were there, it was packed and she could hardly make herself heard. A situation the Colonel remedied by lifting her bodily onto a table. From there she could watch their worried faces as she read out the computer selections.

As you know, she claimed. These selections have been produced by the Computer. You will all be moved to a different department. But I am confident none of you will be totally out of your league, simply because you are the best crew in Star Fleet. She smiled at them encouragingly

Broad smiles lit up the worried faces to that compliment and she felt her own confidence soar.

The plan will be put into action in two days time. During that time you will have to seek out any assistance and advice you think you will need for your new post, she added.

She took out the first PADD and started to read off the new roles. Starting with her senior staff.

Chakotay moving to Security; Doctor to Ops; Ensign Kim will be chief Conn; Neelix will be First Officer; Lieutenant B'Elanna Paris, Captain; Lieutenant Tom Paris, Astrometrics; Lieutenant Colonel Samuels, Engineering, She definitely saw him grimace at that announcement. Seven of Nine, Medical Officer; Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Morale Officer. She had to take a deep breath for that one, the Vulcan's disapproval was palpable.

She continued heedlessly through the list until she finished.

Have I missed anybody? She asked.

Yes, Ma'am, the Colonel responded immediately. I think you missed a certain Captain Kathryn Janeway?

She blushed deeply. I drew Hydroponics, she admitted in embarrassment.

There were numerous laughs from around the crowded room.

I'll do you a swap, Ma'am? The Colonel offered gallantly.

She shook her head. I agreed to this. I'll have to live with the results, she claimed.

Besides I need the rest, she added with a rueful grin. Just make sure I get my ship back in one piece at the end of it!

The Captain surveyed her new domain in some distress and trepidation. Wondering why she had not taken her own advice and tried to gain some tips from the ensign in command of the section.

She knew what Hydroponics did, everybody did. It provided much of the fresh food and even purified some of the air and water for the ship. It was just how' it did it that was escaping her.

Unlike most of the ship, characterised by gleaming control panels. Hydroponics was a steamy mess of pipes and high intensity lights. It was a scene that had not changed a great deal in over a hundred years of space flight, she reflected. Certainly the bay was not as big as it was once was. Production was now assisted by advanced growing mediums and nutrients, plus much of the demand for the department to produce food had been reduced by the introduction of replicators. But every Star Ship still had one by design. It was supposed to be capable of producing enough food, air and water to supplement standard emergency stocks for at least three months in an emergency.

As for the crew that staffed it. The officer in command tended to be selected from ensigns that failed the grade for promotion. They volunteered to take Hydroponics so that they could stay in Star Ships and maintain the status and promotion prospects that went with it.

She had been lucky with her Hydroponics Officer. Ensign Hemmark came from a family of farmers and had tried to break from the family tradition. It was unfortunate for him, that he had ended up still farming on the other side of the Galaxy. Fortunately for the ship, he had found he actually enjoyed farming, despite his original reluctance.

The crewmen tended to be better selected. They were known to posses agricultural skills and were selected from those that volunteered for Colony settling.

She had, she reflected, taken the section for granted. She dimly recalled demanding that output from Hydroponics should be increased, and sanctioning the replication of new growing tanks and lighting. But she had never really checked to see what they were doing with them. Now she was going to find out the hard way.

She turned to her new desk and checked the records, hoping for some clue as to what she was supposed to do for the next few days. Technically Hydroponics was an Engineering Section, so she was going to be under the general control of Colonel Samuels. She shuddered at the thought. He would be a hard task master and a stickler for performance, she doubted he would be any gentler on her than any of the others that she had occasionally put in his control. He would almost certainly demand to know what she was intending to grow when he inspected. She was certain he would inspect and she would have to remember to refer to him as Sir'.

It was with great relief that she found that Hemmark had ensured that his records were upto date. Two of the tanks were scheduled for harvesting that day, several others would be due over her tenure. They would then have to be steamed out and relined for another crop. Four more were waiting for new crops to be planted. She was she realised going to be busier than she thought possible. No wonder Hemmark tended to wear a boiler suit. Her three man crew would need her help to keep to the schedule as they manhandled the 2x1 Metre beds.

She also noticed a small packet on the desk. Somebody had written on it in large letters, Plant these first and take care of them'.

She examined the seeds that the packet contained curiously. They were small and black, otherwise unremarkable, with no hint as to what they actually were.

Sliding them back into the packet she turned to her crew. Tanks nine and twelve need harvesting, she commanded. At least she could do that.

Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen! The Colonel started his day by glaring at his Engineering' Crew, silently challenging them to correct him by adding Good' to the return. They remained respectfully and nervously silent. He was thankful that the four officers in his new section should at least know a little more about what they were about than he did, even if not the details.

He had taken the Captains advice and had badgered B'Elanna and Vorik ceaselessly over the previous 48 hours. He now knew, more or less, what the main panels did and how to observe the various readouts. Even if he didn't know with any great assurity what to do about them if they veered from normal.

Quickly he settled into brisk tasking. Detailing crewmen to watch the various readouts and assigning a maintenance crew for daily power distribution checks. Finished with that he turned to Ensign Carver and handed him a pocket full of PADD's.

These are the original manuals for the power and engine systems, Ensign, he intoned. The trouble is they bare little relationship with what actually happens. So we are going to find out what happens when we press buttons.

Mark one suck it and see, the Ensign declared cheerfully, using the Colonels terminology.

Something like that, he agreed amiably. You press the buttons and I make a note of what happens. Then if it goes wrong I can blame you when Lieutenant Paris comes looking for heads. He winked at the now nervous ensign.

Shall we begin?

B'Elanna and her Bridge crew had fewer concerns. Certainly B'Elanna had been briefed by the Captain, then re-briefed as she thought of other items she may have forgotten.

In the end she had been quite blunt with the Captain. Enough, already! She had declared. It's only going to be for a couple of days!

She could still see the Captains stunned face, it brought a smile to her face. No doubt she would pay for it later, but for the time being...

Of the others. Ensign Kim knew how to handle a shuttle, all he had to do was scale things up a little. Chakotay knew how Tactical worked. Neelix had at least commanded a ship. Not a Star Ship, or one with a crew as large as Voyagers, but it was a space ship. The Doctor undoubtedly knew how to handle the Operations Console.

That left Tom in Astro-Metrics. He was a good pilot. But he knew very little about the advanced Astro-Metrics suite. That gave her an idea, she could make his life hell as well.

Captain to Astro-Metrics. I want a full spectrum sensor sweep for the next ten light years, she demanded. That would keep his mind off the Delaney twins, which ever one had been sent there, she thought.

Aye, Ma'am! Came his worried response.

Her next worry was what was happening in Engineering. The Colonel had bombarded her with questions and she had answered them with good humour. But it didn't stop her fretting over what was happening to her Engine Room.

Neelix, take command, she announced and stalked for the lift. Her departure was watched by an amused Chakotay. B'Elanna was displaying much of Kathryn's need to see for herself what was happening aboard her ship.

She found the Colonel with Ensign Carver pouring over the Impulse controls when she entered. She stood and eavesdropped for a moment.

Press that orange one there, the Colonel said, pointing to a glowing pad.

The Ensign dutifully did as was requested. Another pad lit and flashed red, to be peered at by the Colonel. Vent Plasma, he read aloud.

Put a note on it. Makes us glow like a Christmas Tree', he ordered. Now the button next to it.

Again the Ensign complied, for another control to activate. Emergency Jettison, Sir! he read the symbols off for the Colonel. Another note, Sir? He asked innocently.

One that says Don't touch on pain of Lieutenant Paris', the Colonel opined. The ensign nudged him in the ribs and nodded towards B'Elanna, who was struggling not to laugh.

Good Morning, Ma'am! He announced, coming to attention and saluting the bemused Lieutenant. She found the action as amusing as the Captain.

What are you doing? She demanded through her laughter.

The manuals and the ship do not coincide, Ma'am! The Colonel explained. So we are attempting to rig one that allows us to avoid the worst mistakes.

With lots of little notes stuck to the console? She smirked, indicating the dots of small tags attached to the main engineering consoles.

Got to start somewhere, Ma'am! He opined in stout defence of his actions. And I have no intention of walking home from here because I hit the wrong thing.

Didn't I tell you not to touch anything? She demanded.

You did, Ma'am, the Colonel agreed calmly. I recall I responded, If its not broke I won't fix it', you accepted the arrangement at the time.

She shook her head. It was true the Colonel was a difficult person to argue with.

She relented. How are things going otherwise?

All stations manned. Systems are operating within normal parameters. Regret I have had insufficient time to inspect Hydroponics yet, Ma'am. I was intending to do so after lunch. Captain Janeway should have settled in by then, he kept his face and voice deadpan, even when B'Elanna's own face cracked into a broad smile at the thought of the Captains section being inspected.

You're not going to apply your standards with the Captain? She challenged, already knowing the answer.

I shall apply such standards as are applicable for the section, Ma'am, he responded.

She will make your life hell afterwards! She opined.

I will simply be following the duties as defined in Regulations, Ma'am. I will of course report dissent to the authority of the day.

She looked at him sharply, hoping for some sign of teasing from the tall soldier. His face was still deadpan. The authority of the day would be her as she was pretending to be the Captain. She wondered if she wouldn't regret the next four days for the rest of the voyage home.

She hid her worry with a crisp, Carry on Colonel! And fled.

The Colonel turned back to his Ensign. Now we won't be disturbed by the Captain, thinking she is head of Engineering. Where were we? He asked cheerfully.

Seven approached her new post with all the logicality that her Borg nature decreed. She first inspected the instruments that she was expected to work with, checking their function and performance. Then laid them out carefully in a cerebrally pleasing and efficient manner. Before settling back to read medical texts whilst waiting for her first customer.

He came rather quicker than she had anticipated. A crewman was transported to the surgical bench as a medical emergency, howling in agony.

Please state the nature of your medical emergency? She demanded coldly, emulating the Doctor.

The crewman looked at her incredulously. His leg was wet with blood. I dropped a Hydroponics Bed on my leg! He managed to hiss.

She approached the offending leg with some trepidation, reaching for a medical tricorder.

It is a deep cut, she announced reaching behind her. There is no other damage.

Her hand came back with a dermatalogical scalpel. She was at the point of using it before realising her mistake and throwing the device back on the tray behind her and picking up a growth stimulator instead.

The crewman watched nervously. Are you sure you can handle this, Ma'am? he asked cautiously.

If you wish I could summon my assistant? She offered calmly. The Colonel has a more direct method of dealing with cuts like this.

The crewman blanched. Most of the crew would, they had all heard about the Colonel's direct method of treating injuries. Even after the Doctors teachings, nobody was quite sure he had given up on them.

You'll do fine, Ma'am! He assured her hurriedly.

You will remain still, she demanded, starting the stimulator.

She demanded as he shook.

Tuvok, sensibly, did not try anything clever for his first meal in the Mess, trusting to soup to a recipe that Neelix had provided. He suspected that most of the crew would have hoarded replicator rations for the duration of his tenure.

It was a suspicion that was largely correct. Though the whole Bridge crew did gravitate there, to moan about their progress.

We dropped a whole bed! The Captain moaned. I've got growing medium over every thing. Me included! At least Seven treated the crewman who got hurt properly. Even if she did try to cut him up with a laser scalpel first.

Everybody grinned.

You had better get it cleaned up, B'Elanna advised quickly. The Colonel said he was going to inspect after he had lunch!

He wouldn't. Would he? The Captain protested.

B'Elanna nodded. That's what he said when I went to inspect and before he threw me out of Engineering. My own department as well!

That brought a grin to the Captains face. Just don't try and second guess him, she recommended. Or you'll find that he has already third and fourth guessed your reactions.

How is it going elsewhere? The Captain asked curiously. We don't seem to find out much down there.

Pretty well I think, B'Elanna admitted. Tom is struggling in Astro-Metrics. I asked him for a full spectrum analysis and he can't even detect the next star system yet. I think Seven will hit him when she finds what he has done. The Colonel is busy sticking little notes to himself on the controls so he can find his way around. But otherwise I haven't heard anything serious.

Tuvok, have you heard anything? She called.

There have been a few incidents, Captain, Tuvok responded. I believe they have been in the nature of practical jokes. They were curtailed quickly.

I must say this is good soup, Tuvok, Chakotay praised. Can we persuade you to take on the catering duties?

That would leave Mr Neelix as the ships second officer, Tuvok pointed out calmly.

Perhaps not then, Chakotay grinned.

The Captain waited nervously for the arrival of the Colonel. She and her small staff had worked hard to clear the mess up after they spilt the tank. But she just knew he was going to find something.

They stiffened expectantly as Ensign Carver entered. 'Tion, for the Officer in Command! He declared.

Stand easy, The Colonel declared entering the room. I will go easy for the first inspection, he promised.

I will start with your logs, Captain. If you please.

Cautiously she handed them to him. One tank replanted and another dropped, he commented. Not an auspicious start for your first day, Captain?

No, Sir! The response felt so strange to her after all these years as the senior officer on the ship. But at least she had got that right, so far.

Was the crewman seriously hurt?

No, Sir!

You are improperly dressed for the duty, Captain, he criticised mildly returning the log to her. If you are required to get involved with operations. You should wear coveralls. An officers uniform should never be disgraced by unnecessary dirt.

Aye, Sir! She responded automatically, feeling like a fresh Ensign again.

Shall we see what is happening? he asked quietly.

She guided him along the rows of hydroponics tanks, briefing him on what was happening in each one, until she reached the one that she had planted earlier.

I don't know what these are, Sir! She admitted. There were instructions to plant them immediately. But nothing else was with them.

The Colonel grinned. Ensign Hemmark did what I suggested then, he commented.

She questioned curiously.

Consider it your performance test, Captain, he offered cryptically. If you look after them, you will have something to take with you to show the world at large.

Now, I see you still have some cleaning up to do. So I will leave you to it.

Cleaning, Sir? She responded cautiously.

There is growing medium under the tanks. It shouldn't be there, Captain. It will encourage weeds. Make sure it isn't there for tomorrows dawn inspection, say 07:00.

He turned for the door and almost reached it before the Captain broke. She had never faced anything like the inspection she had just faced. Not on her ship, or even in the Academy, where they did inspect quarters.

She hissed.

He heard her and turned around to face her. If you are referring to the fact I don't honestly recall who my parents were. Yes I am, he admitted candidly.

Or do you not agree with my findings, Captain? He asked. Or possibly think I have been too harsh?

I can assure you they are all to be found in Star Fleet Regulations! If you wish I could call for Security, so you may explain the faults in Regulations to the Captain?

If you wish I could inspect to Queens Regulations? That would start with repairing the floor where you dropped the tank? He offered the choices to her quickly.

Equally quickly she shook her head. No, Sir! She responded. I apologise for my outburst!

Very good, Captain. Carry on, he agreed giving her a crisp salute before leaving. Taking the Ensign, who was struggling not to laugh at the Captains horror struck face, with him.

His smile was quickly removed from his face by the Colonel's next command.

Report here 07:00, Ensign. Bring white cotton gloves, he demanded.

You're not really going to do a dawn inspection? He asked incredulously.

That is what I said I would do. That is what we will do. The Captain has eighteen hours to clean Hydroponics. Plenty of time to get it perfect. You had better put some of the crew to cleaning Engineering as well. I want it sparkling before it is returned to Lieutenant Paris.

Besides she wanted to see how the other half lives, he added slyly.

Captain Janeway was exhausted by the time she reached her quarters. The cleaning of Hydroponics along with the necessary cleaning and replanting of the beds had taken her crew nearly 12 hours. It was now 02:00 and she would have to be back in the bay by 06:30 to be sure everything was still as perfect as she could make it by the time the Colonel arrived.

She wondered how many points he was trying to make, as she collapsed fully clothed on her bunk. That she had involved him in the exercise? It seemed unlikely, he never bore a grudge. Perhaps to show he was in command? There was never any doubt of that. Whether he was given responsibility or not, he tended to take it when necessary. Maybe to highlight the difference between his hitherto harsh regulations compared to the comparative looseness of Star Fleet? That was possible, she decided. But it was more likely to be him making sure she appreciated the difference between being a Star Fleet Captain as opposed to a junior officer in a junior post.

Well she would have to prove to him that she could take it, then make sure she gave it back again afterwards, she decided as she fell asleep.

Her alarm woke her up, too early. Irritably she silenced the alarm then lay drowsing fitfully until she suddenly realised what she needed to do. Startled she sprang out of bed, then staggered as the stiffness hit her. A glance at the chronometer informed her she had less than twenty minutes to shower, change and inspect her new department before the Colonels dreaded inspection.

In alarm she ran for the shower, ripping her soiled uniform off as she went. A quick dive through the ultrasonic shower, a fevered donning of a fresh uniform and she was running for the turbo lift for the lower regions of the ship. A coverall tucked under her arm.

Do not run! A voice challenged her from behind.

A glance over her shoulder showed the Chakotay patrolling with a security detail.

I'm late! She protested breathlessly. The Colonel will probably have me on a charge if I'm not there on time!

Chakotay grinned sympathetically. Taking it seriously. Is he?

Janeway agreed, falling into the lift as the door opened behind her. And he seems to have singled me out for very special attention. And it's awful.

Out of sympathy Chakotay accompanied her to Hydroponics. It might provide an amusing story for later on.

Captain Janeway heaved a huge sigh of relief. The bay was still in the same condition as she had left it. Quickly she inspected her tanks, especially the one that had been deemed her proficiency test. Tiny tendrils could just be seen poking through the media. Some good news, she thought as Ensign Carver entered to announce the arrival of the Colonel.

Stand easy, Captain, he announced as he had the day before. She stiffened to attention, but resisted the overwhelming temptation to salute. It was she decided, her one small display of resistance. Though she doubted she would be able to keep it up if he commented.

Your crew aren't here yet?

The don't start until 08:00, Sir she said nervously.

Quite so, he agreed disapprovingly. Shall we start?

Quietly she followed him around the bay. He made a show of looking under the beds for missing medium. He didn't find any. The Captain suspected he wasn't looking too hard.

Not bad, Captain, he agreed grudgingly. It is to the agreed standards. Well done.

All you need to do is keep it up for another couple of days, he grinned before adding. I shall look forward with interest to your reposte, Ma'am!

He saluted her and left.

That wasn't so bad, Chakotay confided.

You try working an eighteen hour shift in here! The Captain snapped. Nobody comes in. You don't hear what is going on and all you get is some bastard that complains it is dirty!

And the crew here have that every day, Chakotay pointed out.

She stopped her virile response just in time. I suppose they do, she admitted sheepishly.

But I wish I knew what so special about the seed Hemmark put out for me to watch carefully, she commented peering at it carefully.

The second day proved to be less interesting than the first, as the crew began to settle into their unaccustomed posts. Tom Paris even managed to detect the end of the void they were sailing in. He reported it with great pride to B'Elanna.

She thanked him with suitable aplomb.

Tuvok burnt the evening meal. But most of the crew effected not to notice.

Captain Janeway managed to complete her Hydroponics tasks on schedule. She was now spending a few quiet minutes with B'Elanna.

We've got to unsettle the Colonel! She whispered conspiratorially. Then perhaps he'll leave me alone. He pointed out this afternoon I had messed up the planting of another tank. I've never done that to Hemmark!

I did once, B'Elanna commented. He almost bit my head off. Perhaps you could try that with the Colonel. He likes it when people argue with valid points.

She thought for a moment more. How about an Engineering Emergency Drill. We haven't run one for a while and they ought to learn how to deal with it?

The Captain grinned. It can be run safely? She demanded quickly.

I can get Harry and Tom to simulate it on their controls, B'Elanna assured her. We'll make sure we come out of warp, then if he over reacts and drops the core manually we won't be destroyed.

When can you set it up? The Captain asked, signalling her acceptance.

B'Elanna suggested, turning in her seat as the Colonel and Seven of Nine entered.

They appeared to be in some discussion and took the table next to them, the Colonel offering the two women a grin of acknowledgement. The Captain scowled back, then strained to hear what they were saying.

I'm not surprised she screamed, he said pulling a chair out for her. I don't think it likely that Ensign Maya is pregnant.

She is suffering from sickness in the morning, an elevated temperature and an imbalance of hormones, Seven protested. They are referred to as classic symptoms of early pregnancy.

Tuvok appeared and presented both with mugs of tea, then tactfully retreated again.

They can be the signs of almost anything, the Colonel pointed out. Probably Tuvoks meal last night, three of my crew had tummy gip this morning. And they complained about Neelix!

They matched the description in the medical manual, Seven persisted.

Maybe. But Virginal Birth only appears in one book and it isn't a medical one, the Colonel grinned.

Virgin Births? the Captain interrupted. Is this something I and the Doctor should be made aware of?

I believe Ensign Maya is pregnant, Seven announced honestly. She came to me describing classic symptoms of morning sickness. She became agitated.

And you don't think it likely? The Captain turned on the Colonel.

Ensign Maya is a Benzite, Captain, the Colonel pointed out. She is the only one aboard, not involved with anybody and isn't due to be for another couple of years. And as she freely admits, even without the breathing mask, has the sex appeal of a road accident to most humanoids. Quite a remarkable woman, though.

The reminder that she was a Benzite would have been enough for the Captain. It does seem unlikely, she admitted.

Why were you inspecting the texts on reproduction, Seven? She asked mischievously.

I have viewed one hundred twenty three medical texts. Reproduction was only one of them, Seven protested defensively.

I'm sure it was, the Captain agreed. But perhaps not the most useful? She suggested getting up.

The display is showing some variation, Sir! A crewman reported dutifully to the Colonel the following day.

Carefully the Colonel peered at it, racking his brain to remember why it was so important. In the end he cheated, a little. He used his implant to ask his wife.

Seven of Nine was actually quite glad of the interruption. Since her small error the day before she had had no patients. She suspected her small error had put a few off. Quietly she visualised the display before instructing her husband.

It's a minor imbalance in the anti-matter converters, he passed on. Ensign, try and find where it is failing.

Engineering to Captain, he called over the intercom. We have a minor problem, we appear to be suffering a short fall in anti-matter conversion. Can you reduce speed so we can catch up, please, Ma'am?

How much is the short fall? Came B'Elanna's enquiring voice.

It appears to be about 1% below usage, Ma'am. But I have nothing more positive until we can find the problem.

It doesn't sound too bad. We'll drop from warp, she responded.

Five minutes later the ship lurched and klaxons sounded.

I only asked you to slow down, Ma'am! Not go into reverse! The Colonel shouted at his communicator.

There was no reply.

The warp core is overloading! Ensign Carver screamed in alarm.

Pull the plug on it then! The Colonel shouted back over the screaming alarms. Turn that bloody alarm off!

The computer isn't responding! Came an instant reply. It won't drop! The core is going to breach!

Warning. Core breach imminent. 60 seconds! A cold metallic warning voice announced.

Kill the supply from the converters! Carver you take the port supply. I'll take the Starboard. Prepare to eject the core, the Colonel responded leaping for a control panel and furiously pummelling pads.

No good! Carver responded. I can't shut down the converter.

Warning. Core breach imminent. 30 seconds!

Core ejection is out, Sir!

Manual ejection! Slip the latches!

Warning. Core breach imminent. 15 seconds!

I can't establish the Force Field, Sir! Still no response from the Computer!

Everybody out of Engineering! The Colonel roared. Seal the hatches. I'll fire the ejection charge! Keep working on the Force Field!

Warning. Core breach imminent. 10 seconds!

Time seemed to stand still as the automated warning counted down and he waited for the last moment before he hit the firing mechanism.

There was a great roaring of air, as the core slipped from its docking ring into space. It threatened to pull him after it. He held onto the console grimly, not wishing things to end like this, but he was loosing his grip as space demanded his presence. With the desperation of a drowning man, he held on as loose tools slipped after the core, several striking him heavily as they whirled past. A crewman that had been too slow to make the door before he fired the release came crashing past. Desperately he grabbed him, feeling his own tenuous grip of the console slip as he did so.

Suddenly it went silent and he fell to the floor with a crash. He lay there stunned and gasping for a few minutes, before struggling to his feet. To be met by the Engineering crew rushing in.

What happened? He gasped.

Emergency Force Field, Ensign Carver replied. It cut in as soon as the core left the ship. Are you all right, Sir?

What happened to the Core? He demanded, ignoring the concern being shown.

I don't know, Sir! Carver responded, pain showing on his face. It didn't explode!

Then find out. Please, Ensign! The Colonel demanded patiently, feeling the bumps on his head from the tools that had struck him.

We're already in hot water for dropping the core. The fact that it hasn't had the good grace to explode for us, isn't going to help any when explaining it to the Captain, he smiled grimly. Otherwise well done.

How is he? He asked of the crewman he had caught.

I think he's broken a few bones, perhaps something more, Sir!

He nodded. Do what you can for him. Then get him to Sick Bay.

Engineering to Bridge, he tried his communicator.

There was no reply.

Engineering to Sick Bay?

Again there was no reply.

He pointed to a crewman. Run up to the Bridge. Find out what has happened. Tell them we've dropped the Core and that communications to Engineering are out. Then come back post haste.

Somebody go and dig the Captain out of her hutch. I think we have an emergency for her, he added.

The two crewmen returned less than thirty seconds later. There are collision fields down on all corridors, they reported loudly. Panic showing.

Calm down, please. Are there any breaches? The Colonel questioned them quickly. How about the Jefferies Tubes?

All closed off, Sir, they responded.

No breaches showing on the panels, Sir! An Ensign responded.

And the Computer is still stuck up its own behind? He asked.

Yes, Sir!

Okay. Make sure emergency power is on line. You two, go and watch the force fields. Somebody is undoubtedly going to come and find out why we aren't talking to them, the Colonel commanded. When that is done then we can start looking for a way around the problem.

He sank to the floor as his own shock hit him. This was supposed to be a Fun' outing! He muttered humourlessly.

B'Elanna had not been unduly alarmed by the Colonel's request at first. She, Tom and Harry Kim had planned just such a simulation for the Colonel to handle, to see what he did. Thanks to the Captains solicitation yesterday it had been given the formal approval, even if the Colonel did not know about it.

As it was, he was responding correctly. Reporting the fault and requesting measures be taken to reduce the loss of efficiency, until it could be investigated. So she happily went along with his request. The fault he reported would not show on the Bridge systems for a while yet, as they were not serious. It was a credit to his doggedness not to screw the job up, that the developing fault had been picked up long before the regular engineering team would.

Kim reduce velocity to impulse, she commanded.

Aye, Captain! Kim responded with a grin.

It was probably the sudden deceleration that saved the ship. Just for a brief moment the screen flashed green, then black as the ship lurched, sending them sprawling.

What happened? She demanded shakily, picking herself up again.

I don't know! Kim responded. The instruments aren't responding.

Sensors are down, the Doctor reported. Emergency force fields have come up on all decks.

Main power has just gone, he added, as his display flashed more messages at him.

Bridge to Engineering. Respond! She demanded quickly.

She received static.

Bridge to Chakotay, Respond? She tried again.

Bridge to Captain?

Bridge to anybody? She tried for a fourth time in desperation.

Still no reply.

Neelix tried his communicator, similarly. With the same results.

There's nothing showing on the screen either, Lieutenant, he admitted in alarm.

Go and find what happened, she demanded quickly.

Doctor shut down the Force Fields.

I can't get to them. The Computer won't let me in, the Doctor responded unhappily.

The lift is stuck, Neelix reported. I'll try the Jefferies Tube, he added encouragingly. He didn't fancy the long climb from the Bridge to Engineering. But he had to do what was ordered.

Not that he got far. He managed to open the hatch into the emergency access tube, but found an Emergency Force Field in the way as soon as he entered.

It meant that the four occupants on the Bridge were cut off from the rest of the ship. Just as the Colonel and Engineering were. Neither knowing what was happening else where.

Elsewhere on the ship there was no immediate concern yet. Most put the lurch down to an inexperienced helmsman. Even the Emergency Force Fields that had sprung up, whilst a hindrance, were not too alarming. Somebody in Engineering had pressed the wrong button, they decided. Such is the beauty of not knowing what is happening. But it left Tuvok, with a spilt pan of lunch time soup and six crewmen complaining about the lack of lunch, not unusual. Tom Paris, picking himself up after crashing into the Delaney twins, not that he was complaining about that. Captain Janeway, peering concernedly at Her' special vat. And Seven of Nine picking up instruments from the Sick Bay floor. All confident that if there was a real problem, they would be called.

Seven of Nine was the first to have an inkling as to the seriousness of the ships plight as she felt the Colonel trying to contact her.

Seven, I think we have a problem, she felt.

I've had to drop the Warp Core because it was overloading, he explained in her mind. Since then we've found that almost every force field on the ship has sprung up and all comms are out. I can't even contact the Bridge to find out what caused the lurch.

You can deactivate the force fields, she suggested.

Tried it. The computer is playing up as well! He responded, she could feel his frustration. I'm open to other ideas?

I will investigate the extent I may explore the ship, she responded.

he responded.

If you can get to our quarters then you may find the Cathor Sabre useful, he suggested as an after thought.

Seven of Nine turned for the door and set off for the Turbo Lift. She was brought up short by a force field less than ten metres from the door in one direction. Carefully she tried the other, making nearly fifty before being checked again. Naomi Wildman was standing on the other side of it.

What has happened? She asked plaintively.

Naomi Wildman. State your status and freedom of movement, Seven of Nine demanded quickly, stemming any further complaints.

I'm not hurt, the girl answered uncertainly. But I can't get to the Holodeck. The lift isn't working and the corridor is blocked by force fields.

What has happened? She asked again.

Seven of Nine looked concerned for a few moments. I am uncertain, she admitted finally. There has been an accident. You will wait there while I deactivate the force field.

She turned to the wall console and tried to terminate the force field, with no effect. She glared at the panel for several moments before turning back to Naomi.

There is a problem with this control panel, she announced. I will attempt to summon assistance.

She did not bother with her communicator, but raised the Colonel via her implant.

He listened to her patiently, then made his own suggestions.

If I cut all power to decks 11 and 12, would that isolate the core? Sort of pull the plug and let it restart? He asked. I seem to remember that was a much favoured trick from those that knew about computers.

Such an action would cause major damage to the core, she retorted.

Seems pretty buggered already, he pointed out sourly.

There is also a self contained emergency power supply to the Computer Core, she continued, ignoring his observation. The two decks would be without life support for too long waiting for the emergency supply to fail.

he responded. But I think we need to get the computer to talk to us, before we can find out what is wrong.

Your assumption is logical, she agreed.

So who aboard can restart the damned thing?

She thought for a moment, before offering a list. Lieutenant B'Elanna Paris. Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lieutenant Commander Tuvok all have the necessary clearance.

If it isn't talking to them already, then I don't think clearance is going to matter much, he commented. Who can give it the computer equivalent of a kick in the knackers to crank it up again?

Lieutenant Paris, she responded firmly.

She is eleven decks above us and I'm told the shield up in the gods are the strongest on the ship. Could you do the job, if I can make a path? He asked.

I do not have the security clearance to enter the Computer Core, she pointed out.

If I can get passed all the damned force fields, it will take more than security clearance to keep us out the core, he promised. See you later. I'm going to dig the Captain out first.

She shrugged mentally then settled on the floor. As much to keep Naomi company as anything else.

The Colonel is on his way to release the force field, she announced mildly. We will wait for his arrival.

If you were still a Borg you could walk through the force fields? Naomi pointed out.

That is correct, Seven responded neutrally. However that part of my system has been deactivated. I would need assistance to reactivate them.

The Colonel settled back wondering how he was going to keep his promise of collecting Seven of Nine and the Captain.

Mr Carver, he called suddenly. What are the chances of cutting our way around the force fields? He asked mildly.

Not good. Sir! The ensign responded. There are power conduits and all sorts in the walls. If we hit one of those we would be blown sky high!

How about punching holes in the walls near the emitters and disconnecting them?

I'm not sure I know how, Sir.

The Colonel grunted, getting up with a new idea in his mind. Good time to learn then. Ensign. Lets have a look at one shall we. But blow us up and I'll have your guts for garters.

Together they opened the panel near the force field in the Engineering corridor and peered in.

I can try a sonic probe in the power coupling? Carver suggested quietly.

The Colonel grunted and made way for him.

The shield shimmered and faded.

Not bad, The Colonel accepted. I thought you didn't know about these things?

The Ensign blushed in embarrassment. I'm learning, Sir!

The Colonel grinned. You can carry on learning. Start working your way towards the Computer Room and Deck 5. We'll have to work the magic in the Jefferies tubes to get to the other decks though, the lifts are out. In the mean time I'm going to rescue the Captain.

With that he pulled a tube cover away from it's housing near the floor and squeezed through.

The emergency tube, designed as a safety escape system, linked all decks and departments on the ship. But it was also dark and claustrophobic and a close fit for anybody as broad shouldered as the Colonel as he crawled its length on his hands and knees.

Fifteen minutes of slow crawling brought him to what he was looking for, the main shaft leading to decks thirteen and fourteen. There was a force field across the entry.

He pulled out a probe, similar to the one he had watched the Ensign using, and probed the power inlet as he had watched the Ensign doing.

It didn't work.

He cursed under his breath. Technology and he did not get on well.

Still cursing he reached for his sheathed knife, positioned it against the side of the emitter and punched the old blade through the casing.

The shield failed in a flash and a shower of sparks.

Much better! he grunted and and began the two deck decent towards hydroponics.

A second field blocked his way as he descended. Isolating deck 13 it blocked the vertical tube. Approaching it was more difficult. The emitter was below him and there was no convenient stage to squat upon so that he could attack the unit. With some struggling he managed to turn himself over in the narrow passage so that he was now facing downwards, the toes of his boots hanging in the ladder rungs of the vertical tube. It was with this head down attitude he approached the force field again and again attacked it with his knife.

The jolt almost knocking him free. Desperately he spread his feet and hands hard against the sides of the walls to prevent himself falling.

More clambering allowed him to pour himself into the tube that served deck 13. There he rested for a few minutes, allowing the giddiness from hanging head first to subside.

Finally feeling more composed he continued his slow descent, worried about how many more times he would have to repeat the acrobatics.

In the event the junction to deck 14 proved to be unprotected. Just as well, the Jeffereies Tube at this point was in complete darkness. Carefully he checked the sizes of the outlets with a hurried wave of his hand before committing himself to what seemed to be the largest.

Coming to the end of the passage he was faced with a grill. He examined it and peered through to try and identify his location. It appeared to be the corridor outside Hydroponics. Obviously he had missed another passage somewhere, but the result was adequate.

Carefully he probed the grills fixings, then thumped it hard in a corner, pushing it out of place before striking it again in the opposite corner. It clattered to the ground and he slid thankfully out. The journey had taken nearly 45 minutes.

The Captain had become more than a little bored at the lack of information finding its way to her in the forgotten depths of Hydroponics. She wanted to know what had caused the bump that had so nearly unsettled all her hard work. Puzzled by the lack of response from her communicator she had left Hydroponics to investigate further.

She was about to re-enter Hydroponics after finding the Collision Fields in place when the Colonel slid out of the duct beside her.

What are you doing? She demanded in surprise.

Chimney Boy, Ma'am, he panted good humouredly, and examining his now filthy uniform.

It isn't generally expected for anybody to inspect the Jefferies Tubes, even in your regulations, Colonel, She commented in amusement. What are you doing really?

I was looking for you, Ma'am. We have a problem. Quickly he explained what had occurred.

The only person on the ship, outside Engineering, that is talking to me at the moment is Mrs Nine. Then she doesn't get much choice, he finished.

And you think that the computer is the cause of the problem? She queried.

I don't know, he admitted. But until it starts talking to us again, we can't find out what is happening.

How are you going to get me to the computer? She demanded. I'm not crawling around in the ducts like you!

It should be a lot easier, he promised. It is all up from her. Besides you ought to know how to use this thing better than I do, he handed her the probe. So there is no need for brute force.

She sighed, taking the probe. Come on then, she agreed heading for the hatch. Just how much of my ship have you broken?

Back on the Bridge, B'Elanna Paris shook off the last vestiges of pretending to be a Captain in charge of a ship, or even having any control over it, and approached the Jefferies Tube with the look of an angry engineer.

Harry give me a hand here! She demanded. We need to get past the shields. Then we can reroute power away away from the rest of the shields from the the main EPS relays on each deck.

Born from long experience and intimate knowledge of the ships systems, she didn't approach the shield emitter. Instead she attacked a control box next to it.

A brief struggle ensued as she and Kim wrestled the lid off, then a matter of moments as she pulled various relays out. The force field died quietly.

Neelix look after things! She called over her shoulder and set off down the Jefferies Tube.

She was not surprised to find Tuvok struggling with the force field outside the Mess. Rapidly they briefed each other on what little they knew.

We must attempt to get to Engineering and find the Captain, Tuvok decreed, taking command.

It's going to take time, B'Elanna warned retreating to the Jefferies Tube again.

Deck 5 they met with Seven of Nine. She had also had some success with the force field that separated her from Naomi Wildman and they were now sat together in the Sick Bay.

How is it going here? B'Elanna demanded.

I have been in communication with the Colonel in Engineering, Seven responded.

I thought you might, B'Elanna grinned. Do they know what happened.

Negative. They had to drop the Warp Core. The ship is currently on Emergency Power. The Colonel is attempting to recover the Captain. He requested I should remain here until he arrived. Then he wishes me to administer a Kick to the Knackers' and restart the computer system.

B'Elanna grinned again. He has such a delicate way with words, she commented.

Tuvok demanded, interrupting their private joke.

There is one casualty in Engineering. He is reported as being Seven of Nine announced.

A clatter from outside the Sick Bay brought them to their feet, as a rather puffed Ensign Carver appeared.

Lieutenant Colonel Samuels compliments! He announced. He requests assistance in the Computer Room.

They found Captain Janeway and the Colonel standing outside the Computer Room door.

It won't let me in! The Captain fumed.

The Colonel was examining the door suspiciously. Before I do something that destroys it. Can we cut power to the door, Lieutenant? He asked mildly.

I can cut the power, sure, she answered. But it will lock shut. It's a security feature.

The Colonel grunted his annoyance and produced a number of plastic cards and a heavy pry bar. Permission to destroy the door, Ma'am? He enquired.

The Captain nodded uncertainly. If you think you can do it, she agreed. It's supposed to be a high security door.

So are the force fields, Ma'am, he pointed out.

Quickly he probed the door jams with the plastic cards, leaving them stuck in place in strategic places.

I'm just jamming the catches open, he explained to their questioning looks. It's the only thing I ever used credit cards for at home. Breaking in to places I wasn't supposed to be.

Satisfied he rammed the bar into the small gap between the wall and the door. With the mechanical locks out the way it should only be the magnets holding it shut.

Locating it securely he started to lever, bracing his foot against the door jam. Nothing seemed to happen for a few moments. He strained again at the bar, harder this time. Both feet against the jamb using his legs for additional power. The chords of his neck muscles were clearly showing, his eyes shut from the effort.

There was a groan from the door, then a cracking noise and the door slid easily, depositing the Colonel on his back. He lay there stunned as his muscles screamed at him from the effort.

Talk of irresistible force and immovable objects, the Captain muttered.

Seven look after him. B'Elanna, Tuvok, let's get the computer working. I don't think we're out of the woods yet! She announced stepping over the prostrate Colonel.

Don't you just love a display of brute force and ignorance, the Colonel groaned to Seven as she worked a tricorder over him.

The display was impressive, she admitted, starting to run a regenerator over his back. But you have torn several muscles and ligaments. They will have to be treated in Sick Bay, by the Doctor.

The threat goaded him to try and get to his feet. Not on your life! He hissed. Just help me to my feet. I'll get bye!

I fail to see the reason for your continued distrust of the Doctor, she scolded. You are damaged and require medical treatment.

I don't distrust the Doctor! He hissed in agony, his pulled and torn muscles screaming at him as he tried to move. At least, no more than the medical profession and computers, he gasped, finally managing a sitting position.

he continued. I'm not pregnant, I trust your medical abilities and I may still be needed. He offered an arm to her so that she could pull him up.

She wrapped his arm over her shoulders so as to support him and they limped after the Captain.

It still isn't responding, the Captain complained. B'Elanna, you and Seven will have to fix it. I'm going to the Bridge.

She turned and noticed Seven was still holding the Colonel up. How is he? She demanded.

Still on duty, Ma'am, he responded quickly.

He needs medical treatment, Seven corrected him sternly. But he refuses to see the Doctor.

Still scared of him, the Captain smiled grimly. Well by the look of him he won't be able to get to sickbay for a while. So you had better do what you can with him until then.

The computer is completely screwed! B'Elanna cursed. Even the backup seems to have got stuck. We will have to power it down and restart, but it is going to take hours!

I don't think we are going anywhere very quickly, Lieutenant, the Colonel commented mildly.

You don't understand, B'Elanna persisted. Without Warp power we will have to evacuate the whole deck for a power down. Then I'm not sure what damage it will cause.

Ah! I see! In that case the sooner we evacuate, the sooner you can start? The Colonel suggested brightly.

I need to check Engineering first. See what other damage you've done, B'Elanna claimed sarcastically.

I haven't, the Colonel started to protest. Then thought better of it.

I'll follow you, he sighed. Better get it over and done with.

There was a general officers meeting in an observation room on Deck 5 two hours later. The Captain would dearly have wished to hold it in the Conference Room off the Bridge. But the climb to deck five had taken the Colonel nearly thirty minutes of agonising effort. Despite Seven of Nines dogged persistence treating his injuries, he was still in some discomfort and limping. And she felt a desperate need for his solid presence.

During that time, Tom Paris had been rescued from Astrometrics and Chakotay had been found with a security detail on Deck 7 by B'Elanna's Engineering Team.

She regarded her assembled officers carefully. All looked nervous, except perhaps the Colonel and Seven of Nine. Then he probably was not properly aware yet of how serious their plight was. She envied him that comfort. As for Seven, it was a matter of pride and faith in the abilities of her husband to never be beaten. She hoped it was not going to be misplaced.

She took a deep breath. I shouldn't have to remind you we are in grave danger, she started. We have no warp drive to power the ship. No computer to control it for us. We don't know if we are moving and if we are, we don't know where we are going. We don't even know what went wrong. Apart from the windows we don't even know what is outside!

B'Elanna, what is the status in Engineering?

Every thing seems to be working, she admitted. The Emergency Power systems are all running properly, so they should be okay for perhaps, a fortnight. There is no Warp core of course. So until we can retrieve it I can't improve the power situation. The Colonel set some of his people to stripping the converters to find out why there was a power overload. But we won't have an answer to that for another couple of hours.

Why was the core dropped? Chakotay demanded quickly.

The system claimed it was going into a power overload, the Colonel put in. We didn't know how badly screwed the computer was, so there wasn't a lot of choice. I couldn't find any other way of killing it!

None of the controls would have worked, she admitted. I'm inclined to agree.

This is not the time for a witch hunt! The Captain declared forcefully. If there is any blame to be laid, it is mine. I went along with the idea to have us moved to other departments and for an emergency drill. It left us with the wrong people in the wrong stations.

Now the Computer? She continued.

We will have to turn it off and restart it, B'Elanna admitted. But that could take a week and will leave several of the lower decks uninhabitable for that time. Some of the Gel Packs look as though they've been blitzed. Seven thinks she can rescue much of the data though.

I have started recording the databanks to Borg data nodes, Seven agreed. I should be able to secure approximately 80% of the data amassed.

Kim demanded. Without the computer, the data is not recoverable.

I am modifying the nodes to link directly with the neural cells, Seven explained neutrally.

Any offers as to what we do while we are waiting? The Captain demanded, eyeing the Colonel expectantly.

If you are looking at me for a sudden flash of inspiration, or a set of log tables, you are out of luck, Ma'am, the Colonel stated, catching her expectant look. I'm fresh out of the first and I never understood the second.

She sighed, she had hoped for another flash of inspiration. We need to know what is outside and get the core back. Chakotay detail teams for outside work. We will have to manhandle the Warp core back into place.

Perhaps I should run an oily rag over the windows while they are doing it? The Colonel suggested. Do you wish me to volunteer, Ma'am? Or will you save my blushes and request me to go?

She smiled at him. You are too badly hurt to go outside and I hope it will not be necessary. Not after the last time. But Thank You for the offer. You had better have treatment completed by the Doctor!

I want a full report of what happened in four hours! Dismissed. She decreed.

I'm sorry Colonel! She apologised as the others trooped out of the room. This was not supposed to happen!

He looked at her hard. Running a drill on a department is within the prerogative of the Officer Commanding, Ma'am. Running it on a comparatively untrained and unsupervised crew was dumb, especially if you wanted to get back at me! He growled. As it is, Lieutenant Paris complemented my team for their correct responses and by some fluke we are still here. Just remember next time we might not be so lucky! I had expected more elegance from you, Ma'am!

She was surprised that he had not responded more harshly. If you wanted to take it up more formally you would be within your rights? She offered.

What would that achieve? He asked mildly. You are the senior officer here! It would be unfair to ask your subordinates to try you and I will remind you of it when necessary. No, Ma'am, you were within your rights to run the drill. Besides I think this is going to live with you for a lot longer than a ruined career for a misjudgement.

He saluted, turned on his heel and limped out, heading as commanded for the Sick Bay.

Staff conference was reconvened in the Conference Room four hours as decreed by the Captain. The Colonel was missing this time, still undergoing repair from the Doctor.

She started with the missing Soldiers absence. How long before he is available again, Seven? She demanded.

The Doctor wishes him to recuperate for two days, Seven reported. I do not think he will comply.

She smiled grimly. Do what you can to keep him off his feet, she suggested. He might listen to you.

The Warp Core? She continued.

Back in place and being hooked up, B'Elanna reported. The injectors have been reassembled. There was no fault found, as expected from a drill. No other damage.

She nodded thankfully. A forced manual core ejection often wrecked the whole matter/anti-matter injection system. They had been luckier than they had any right to be.

The Computer?

I've found a way to restart without powering down! Kim announced proudly. I can kill the power between the backup power unit and the main computer core. It can be completed in about eight hours after we have main power.

She nodded. Anything as to why it failed?

There is a fault in a number of Gel Packs, Seven of Nine announced. It created a bug' in the simulation routines. It seems probable that this caused the mass failure. I have replaced the worst affected, however we do not have sufficient spare packs to replace all those that display at fault. We will have to grow replacements. The error is wide spread in the control system. It also caused the 'Lurch' during failure.

That is going to take months! Even if we can do it! B'Elanna exclaimed.

113 days, 14 hours, Seven admitted. I have used Borg maturation technology to build a production facility. Perhaps we should reactivate Corporal Miller to tend to the damaged packs until they can be replaced?

He was deleted, the Captain exclaimed. I distinctly remember demanding him removed!

Wasn't he? She asked less certainly, as Seven of Nine glanced coyly at her.

I copied his programme to a data node before deletion, Seven commented. I find he is useful if I require an insight into the Colonel's feelings.

It would help, B'Elanna interrupted immediately.

The Captain nodded thoughtfully, the Colonel's Computer Cracker would undoubtedly be helpful in the circumstances. He had rebuilt most of the ships computer systems after the Doctor's malaise. The only problem was that the holographic soldier was programmed as a member of the Colonel's regiment. As such, he followed the orders of the Colonel, not hers.

The sudden thought struck her. The Colonel was probably a better lead to follow than hers, given who had put them in this position.

I don't want any of the Colonel's back doors' left in! She agreed finally. I shall talk to the Colonel about it. In the mean time get the systems back on-line.

The Captain went to see the Colonel as soon as the meeting had completed. He was laying on the a Sick Bay cot with a scanner over the top of him, looking thoroughly Brassed'.

I didn't think you were that badly hurt! Captain Janeway commented.

The bastard wanted me to lay still, the Colonel complained. Seems to think I might runaway and do something silly. Please, let me out!

I'll arrange that, in a few minutes she agreed amiably. In the mean time. I've come to eat humble pie.

When I had Corporal Miller removed from the system, it seems Seven made a copy of him, she explained. The Computer is not going to be very healthy for a while, so I would like him to nurse it for us?

He was never very good at first aid, Ma'am, the Colonel commented. And I assume you wish him to come directly under your control?

She nodded carefully, this was being easier than she expected.

If you will remove this damned thing then I'll write out an order for you, he suggested.

Thank You, she breathed, hitting the controls to retract the scanner.

Carefully he sat up and wrote on a page from his notebook before handing it to her. I'm sorry, Ma'am. But this is the British Army. Orders of this nature need to be written and signed, he apologised.

She read it quickly.

From Lieutenant Colonel A Samuels, Officer Commanding First Battalion Her Majesties 60th Rifles.

To Lance Corporal C Miller 396,

Orders in pursuance of HM Army Regulations.

Until further notice. Be deployed by Captain Kathryn Janeway, Officer Commanding the Vessel USS Voyager, in such activities not regarded as contrary to Her Majesty's interest.

In the absence of said Officer, command will be returned to Senior British Officer forthwith.'

It's very limited, she opined.

He'll do everything you will need him to do, Ma'am, he responded mildly. He may be in your computer, but he is still one of my men. I am responsible for him. Regulations prevent me simply giving him to any Tom, Dick and Harry. I won't simply let him run amok.

She nodded. I suppose he is. But remember he's just a hologram.

So is the Doctor. Sometimes I am required to think of him as a real being as well, Ma'am. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, he responded.

She grinned. What do you suggest I do until I can activate him to give him this order? She asked.

The Colonel grinned back. You could do worse than make sure Hydroponics is still fit for inspection, he suggested. The crisis is over. If only because there is nothing that can be done! So I might decide to appear.

She grimaced at the thought and turned to go.

You might like to tuck me in again, he suggested. Until you can get me out of the clutches of the Doctor?

She grinned again and reactivated the scanner as he lay back. I'll get Seven of Nine to release you, she said and fled.

Eight hours later she was stood on Holodeck 2, waiting for Seven of Nine to complete the downloading of the holographic soldier. Between them Harry Kim and Seven of Nine had finally managed to get the computer operational. But it was running at less than fifty percent efficiency. They could move, see where they were going and control the ships systems. But they had dared not try to reload anything else. Now they would be wholly reliant upon the hologram to improve the situation.

The thin little man that she was putting her faith in appeared before her and saluted the same way the Colonel did. She grinned sheepishly at him. He was as she remembered him. Still dressed in the green of the Colonel's regiment and still wore the long sword bayonet. There were still gaps in his mouth where teeth had been lost and he still looked as honest as the most crooked Ferrengi Trader she had ever met.

Corporal Miller? She said.

Captain Janeway, Ma'am! He responded guardedly, looking around for his commanding officer.

Colonel Samuels gave me this to give to you, she said quickly, handing the green clad soldier the paper that the Colonel had given her. I'm sorry he isn't here to give you the orders in person, but the Doctor is treating him and won't let him go just yet!

The Corporal read the paper before handing it back. You would have thought that the Army would have updated itself by now, he moaned. Slips of paper are so easy to forge!

Not that anybody could duplicate his writing, he added with a grin. Certainly not here. Your orders, Ma'am?

I think I had better let Seven of Nine explain what we need, she said quickly, nodding to Seven.

He turned towards Seven. Are you still the Colonel's lady, Miss? He asked politely.

He is my collective, she responded in amusement.

The little Corporals face cracked into a gap toothed smile. You beat the stupid old bugger! He crowed. How, Ma'am? You must have done something pretty spectacular to get him!

It was spectacular, Corporal Miller, the Captain interrupted. But our current problem is serious. Please get on with it!

The Corporal sighed dutifully. How can I help you, Miss?

Quietly Seven of Nine explained the nature of the problem, to the attentive Corporal. When she finished, he cracked another crisp salute. I'll fix it immediately, Ma'am! He announced confidently and disappeared.

He loves the Colonel, doesn't he? Captain Janeway commented to Seven as they left the Holodeck.

She queried. Is Love' the correct terminology?

He cares deeply for him, the Captain tried to explain.

I believe we all care for him, Seven commented wryly. I have observed he seems to be unaware of the danger he places himself in. It brings on the desire to protect and care for him.

Especially in Seven of Nine, the Captain mused. Well the Doctor should have released him by now. So you had better go and look after him. Good Night and Thank You!

Two days later, the Captain received a call in her Ready Room to attend Hydroponics. A little surprised and uncertain as to what to expect she made her way down to the lower reaches of the ship. She was unsurprised to find the Colonel there, but a little more surprised to find Chakotay and B'Elanna there also.

I thought you might be interested to hear the results of your test, Ma'am. I invited Lieutenant Paris and Commander Chakotay along to witness the score, the Colonel announced.

Mr Hemmark has advised me that you have paid at least one visit a day to see to your test bed. So you can't claim it is of no importance.

Tell me the worst, she agreed guardedly.

Mr Hemmark? The Colonel prompted.

The Ensign turned away for a moment, then back bearing an armful of cut flowers. We had an eighty percent flowering, he announced. Handing the bundle into the Captains surprised hands. I reckons that makes it a Pass' Sir!

Dumb struck, the Captain could only stand and gaze at the flowers. Tears starting to sting her eye's as Chakotay and B'Elanna laughed.

You chased me around for three days. For this! You Bastard! She hissed, desperately trying to blink away the tears.

I told you before M'am. I am a bastard, in the true meaning of the word. But I chased you around, because there is nobody else on the ship who could getaway with it and you wanted to experience what others lived with. The test was my idea, the flowers were Mr Hemmark's, we thought you might appreciate them, he finished with an open smile.

Thank You! She whispered. I do, But.. She tailed off and turned away quickly, to have her arm taken gently by Chakotay. He led her away, his arm around her waist.

I think that went quite well, the Colonel mused. Thank You, Sir, for your indulgence. I owe you a favour. Especially if you can keep her supplied with a bunch for a while.

The elderly Ensign grinned at him. It was worth it to see her struck dumb for once, he admitted. I could use a hand with some new beds tomorrow?

The Colonel suggested.

Aye, Sir!

I really fell into that one! The Captain mused as Chakotay and B'Elanna escorted her into her room. All that toil he put me through, to grow flowers for myself! And I didn't know!

He even insisted I went and looked after them after we stopped playing charades!

As you said. He doesn't bear a grudge! Even after what we did to him! B'Elanna laughed. And it was a lovely idea. He added some of the Fun', you and Neelix wanted back into it!

I suppose so, she agreed uncertainly. But what do I do with them?

I'll find some vases, Chakotay promised. I agree with B'Elanna. He hasn't taken your drill personally. And you passed his test. The matter is closed for him.

I'll talk to him later, she decided, collapsing in her chair.

I've got to get back to Engineering, before I see Tom, B'Elanna declared.

Take some of these with you, the Captain suggested, quickly gathering a generous handful for her Engineer. There are too many, so you may as well take some for your quarters! And you passed the test as well as anybody.

B'Elanna took the proffered bouquet and left with a broad smile.

It's going to go around the ship like wildfire, Chakotay commented impishly. It may have as big an effect as the whole changing places thing!

We are going to have to find something to do for him, the Captain sighed. I know we put him and Seven together and they love each other. But there must be something else?

Together they sat and pondered the problem.

Seven of Nine examined the suspect computer gel packs and confessed herself satisfied with the little Corporals work. They were still performing at less than 80% efficiency. But the Corporal had patiently reworked the ships computers, isolating the damaged memory and rerouting systems. It wasn't going to be 100% reliable, he had warned her. But everything worked. And the ship was underway again. Finishing off by shutting the last access hatch, she turned to her husband.

You have an appointment, she said bluntly.

Have I? He asked in genuine bemusement.

Corporal Miller, has recreated a holodeck programme. He claims it is his wedding present to us. We will go and test it. I have neglected you for the last few days, I shall make amends, she announced, taking his arm and leading him away.

They entered Holodeck 2 to find it was dusk on a tropical beach, the waves gently crashing onto the shimmering white sand.

I'm going to break the sordid little runts neck! The Colonel hissed.

You claimed this was a romantic setting, Seven announced. I wish you to help me Leap the Waves'!

He grinned sheepishly. I suppose it is. But we haven't anything to wear!

It will not be necessary. We are alone. The Holodeck has not been released to the crew, we will not be disturbed, she assured him, leading him toward the sea and pulling his jacket off.

Reluctantly at first, he followed her lead, then more readily as he divested his boots and trousers, as she released her suit, before dragging her into the breakers.

There, waist high in water, she turned on him, pulling him closer, her mouth seeking his. There teeth clashing, before they stumbled back to the edge and collapsed to the firm sand, water still breaking over them.

What have I done to deserve you? The Colonel whispered gently. I hope I never wake from this dream!

As they lay there, a silent figure entered the deck and spied them laying together on the beach, in the moonlight. It watched for a full five minutes, before guiltily turning away and leaving the two lovers together.

She blinked momentarily in the bright light of the corridor, before suddenly feeling very lonely she let herself into Holodeck 1.

Computer. Activate Corporal Miller! The Captain demanded.

He pronounced, appearing before her and saluting.

She smiled. What can I do to make amends to the Colonel? She asked quietly.

Amends for what, Ma'am? The Corporal asked quizzically.

Everything I've made him do and put him through!

The Corporal paused for a moments thought. The stupid sod thinks he owes you more, he opined. You've been next door? He asked.

She nodded in embarrassment.

Just let him stay and keep Mrs Nine happy, he suggested. She is the first person he has ever taken anything from willingly.

Why do people follow him? She asked.

Perhaps it's because he trusts them, he suggested evenly. And doesn't ask for more than they can give.

Tell me more about him? She implored.

Where would you like me to start? He asked, producing two chairs.

From the beginning!

He sighed and sat down, signalling for her to do the same. I've only been with him ten years. But I will tell you how we met and he Rescued' me? He suggested. You will get the gist of what I think about him.

She nodded expectantly and sat spell bound as the Colonel's small Corporal told her about how the Colonel saved him.

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