Written for VAMB's Secret Drabble 2013. As part of the exchange, Elem provided the opening lines, so credit goes to her for this lovely prompt. Set after "The Killing Game, Part II."


Keeping It Real

"You lied?"

"Well… yes. I felt I had to." Janeway fingers the curve of her cup, ignorant of the fact that the coffee within it has long grown cold.

Across from her, Voyager's first officer shifts in his seat and tucks his chin to his chest. "I don't really know what to think about that."

"About what? My lying, or the fact that you don't remember any of it?"

"Both, actually," Chakotay says, his tattoo wrinkling along his brow.

Janeway grins lopsidedly. "If it helps any, I don't remember anything about the program before Seven and the Doctor unhooked my brain, either. So we're in the same boat."

Chakotay lets that sink in for a bit. "What was I like? My character, I mean. Captain… Miller, was it?"

Janeway purses her lips, skimming her cheek along the lip of her cup. Somewhere between Seven's twelve-page report on the Hirogen incident and the Doctor's third request to perform the opera he'd written commemorating the past three weeks' heroics and horrors, she'd given up on decorum, and now she's curled in her chair, heedless of the boots on her feet. The only thing missing is her favorite pair of civvies and a well-programmed replicator meal. —But Chakotay's question, Kathryn, not your growling stomach.

"You were… a lot like me, actually."

"Stubborn, petite, and a caffeine addict?" he smirks, dimples peeking out from the expanse of his skin.

Janeway chuckles. "Sure, if that's what you'd like to think. But I'm more a fan of the coffee than the caffeine. It's all in the taste." She sobers. "But really, Chakotay. At the risk of sounding arrogant, Captain Miller was loyal, inquisitive – determined to get his men back home. You can read his holofile if you'd like. I have it right here."

She offers him one of the padds from her desk, but he waves it away.

"I've had enough of that world, I think. No more bullets and moldy uniforms for me."

"Moldy uniforms? Now I don't know about that…"

He smiles wryly. "Sleeping in wet tents on wet ground has its disadvantages."

"Well, in that case, maybe Miller didn't remind me of myself. I always require the highest standard of cleanliness in my people." Janeway sips her coffee delicately, like an Englishwoman taking her tea. The effect is ruined, though, by her grimace as the stale beverage hits her tongue. "Bleck! At this rate, I'm never going to get my rations' worth out of this coffee."

"What I don't understand," Chakotay begins, "is why you didn't just explain the situation to me."

Kathryn tilts her head. "I hope you're not being serious, Chakotay. We had limited time to outsmart the Hirogen, and taking a large chunk of it to explain something you wouldn't have understood would have been foolish at best."

"Something I wouldn't understand, or something Captain Miller wouldn't understand?"

"You know what I meant. We were in 1945 Paris, fighting against Nazis, and with machine guns, no less. I hardly think phasers and photon torpedoes would have made sense to you, not to mention spaceships and the Delta Quadrant. It just wasn't practical, Chakotay."

He seems to consider that.

"Besides," she adds, "it would have been a violation of the Prime Directive." And she's only half-teasing.

"Oh?"

"Twentieth century Earth hadn't even reached the moon yet, much less made contact with another species like the Hirogen. Besides," she waves, "you weren't even programmed to recognize things like B'Elanna's ridges and Tuvok's ears as different."

"True. But I still don't see how explaining all this would have violated the Prime Directive. We were on the holodeck, Kathryn."

"That's right, we were. Until it became more real than any Federation programmer thought it could become. So I still maintain that my decision was the right one. We didn't have time, and it would've broken the Prime Directive. Case closed."

Chakotay's brow wrinkles. "Okay, then chew on this."

Kathryn knows what's coming. She knows.

"You say that explaining twenty-fourth century technology to me, who was, for all intents and purposes, a holodeck character, would have been a violation of the Prime Directive. So you didn't. And yet, you handed that same holodeck technology over to the Hirogen, a species who had never seen or used it before three weeks ago. How is that not a violation of the Prime Directive?"

Janeway's lips flatten, her brows arcing into her hairline. "First of all, Chakotay, I recognize that you are my first officer, and that it's your job to question my behavior. Sometimes. But I'd like to take the opportunity to remind you that that privilege shouldn't be abused.

"However, I think your question merits an answer." She ignores the look on his face, tracing patterns on her coffee cup instead.

"The Hirogen are hunters. I suppose you could call them the Delta Quadrant's version of Klingons, though the analogy would break down after a while. They roam the sector in search of prey, and the more they hunt, the fewer their prey becomes. Eventually, they're going to move farther and farther into space, and what happens when they reach a peaceful people like the Sikarians or Talaxians?"

She pauses. "I gave the technology to the Hirogen to facilitate peace. They'd already seen it, held it, experienced it; the damage was done. Had I not given it to them, they might have pursued us, or, worse yet, tried to replicate it on their own, with disastrous results. Now that they have it, though, they can turn their hunting prowess onto holograms, and it won't be a problem. So it saved time and lives all around." She gazes across the table at her first officer expectantly.

Chakotay returns her stare, then ducks his head and rubs his neck. "Would you agree with me in saying that the Doctor is a valued member of our crew?"

"He's indispensable."

"And that if anyone tried to harm him, you would do everything in your power to keep it from happening again, just like you would for B'Elanna or Tom or any of your officers?"

She frowns. "Of course."

"Then how is killing any other hologram different?"

She leans forward. "Chakotay, the Doctor is the result of years of sophisticated research from some of the Federation's finest minds – I'd hardly call him your average hologram."

"So… if Naomi Wildman was taken captive by a hostile species, you wouldn't bother going after her because she's only two years old and hasn't had time to accumulate valuable life experience."

Janeway's mug hits the desk with a thunk. "Chakotay, that's ridiculous. You know I value each of my crewmembers the same, regardless their age or experience."

"Then how is the Doctor any better than those holograms you gave the Hirogen?"

"Those holograms don't have emotional subroutines, or ethics, or sentience. They have the basest of programming, and you've used them for target practice just as often as I have. Your argument is irrelevant."

"And if the Hirogen give them learning subroutines?"

"The Hirogen barely know how to turn a holodeck on. They almost blew the ship apart."

"And four hundred years ago humans barely knew how to make it to warp without blowing themselves to bits."

"We're talking hundreds of years, Chakotay."

"Yes, Kathryn. Yes we are."

Janeway is silent.

"All I'm saying, Kathryn, is that this decision could have lasting repercussions, and as your first officer, I feel obliged to make sure you're not taking that possibility lightly. Sure, we may never run into the Hirogen again, but what if we do? What if they've learned how to program holograms past the flight or fight response? Doesn't it make sense that they'll want smarter prey the longer they hunt? The whole reason the Hirogen kept us alive in the first place is because we gave them something they were starving for – a challenge."

Janeway places her cup on the desk carefully, her eyes lingering on its teal glaze. "I see your point," she murmurs. "And… I think that, if that does happen, then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

"Okay."

"Okay? That's it? No more questions, comments, snide remarks?" She flashes him a grin to let him know she's joking. Mostly.

"You're a gung-ho kinda gal. I wanted to make sure you hadn't lost touch with your inner Starfleet steel."

Kathryn tilts her head. "What did you just call me?"

Chakotay frowns. "What? The gung-ho comment? I thought you'd like it."

"No – it's… nothing. Just something Captain Miller told me during our little quest to save Voyager."

"I guess I wasn't so different as an American soldier, then, was I?"

Kathryn chuckles. "No. No, Commander, I guess not."

Fin