Generational Ship


Every head in Presidio Park turned at the sight of a heavily pregnant Starfleet captain emerging from her starship. Her first officer was at her elbow, but at a word from her he drew back and fell into formation with her senior staff as they followed her down the gangway. As she took the first steps, the band below struck up an old Sousa fight song:

Now for a cheer they are here, triumphant!

Here they come with banners flying,

In stalwart step they're nighing,

With shouts of vict'ry crying,

We hurrah, hurrah, we greet you now, Hail!

The massed officer corps and cadets below took up the lyrics along with the band, louder and louder, so that the very earth beneath our feet shook with the Hail!, then launched into the thunderous chorus. Janeway's face, frozen as she began her descent, broke into a brilliant smile halfway down as she took in the size of the celebration that greeted her weary crew.

Admiral Paris nodded over his shoulder at me and I followed at a near-run as he hurried forward to meet Janeway at the bottom of the gangway, with a clutch of admirals in dress uniform. It was my first week as Paris's public relations attaché. Normally I would have had a few months to get the hang of the job before handling any major events – but then Voyager had burst through a wormhole within a few days' travel of Earth and everyone's plans for the near future changed.

My instructions were simple: record and release the first official interviews with the senior staff, as quickly as possible, to allay the incredible media assault launched on Starfleet headquarters the moment news leaked of Voyager's return. I had confidential bios for each, but they appeared to be dated. There was no information, for example, on Captain Janeway's very obvious pregnancy. I did not look forward to broaching that perhaps sensitive subject, but we would have to give some sort of public explanation.

After the celebratory luncheon under vast tents, the senior staff began to make their way to the small studio I had set up in the vacant commissary. The first few were relatively straightforward. Lieutenant Tuvok was reassuringly Vulcan and Ensign Kim still had a cadet's enthusiasm. I would put his words together with a vid of the reunion with his parents and draw tears from every viewer. The Borg, to be frank, frightened me. I gave her a prepared statement and she read it in a monotone. I had to ask her to do a second take looking at the camera and she complied. Literally, that's what she said when I asked: "I will comply." That was it. I wanted her gone before she stuck a tubule in me.

With Admiral Paris's approval, I did a group vid of his son's family. The human and Klingon interest angle was gorgeous. The baby slept through the whole thing, then woke up squalling for her own loud cameo. When Lieutenants Paris and Torres left my makeshift studio, I followed them out to find Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay standing in the hall. They greeted their crewmates and the baby with great warmth and asked after their plans for the immediate leave granted the entire crew prior to debriefing. When Paris and Torres finally said goodbye and my presence became obvious, Janeway's smile faded and Chakotay put a hand on her back.

"This won't take long!" I promised. "Just a few quick words so that we have something to show the press. Which one of you would like to go first?"

Janeway glanced at Chakotay and straightened her maternity uniform. "I will," she announced.

"Do you want me in there with you?" he asked in a low voice.

She gave him a look. "I took on the Borg queen," she drawled. "I can handle the PR guy."

He held up his hands and stepped back. "Just offering," he said. "Shout if you need me."

She took a step forward, then seemed to reconsider. "No, you should come in too. We'll need to make some sort of announcement and you should be there for it."

This was the first inkling I got about the baby's parentage. The newsman in me almost whooped at this thrilling exclusive. I could name half a dozen reporters who'd give their left nut (ovary, antenna, whatever) for this scoop – the captain and the first officer! – but from the look on Janeway's face I was sure that my reaction would not be welcome. I put on a straight face and opened the door to the studio. Janeway came in and sat in the chair I'd set up, apparently lost in thought, while my assistant adjusted her hair and makeup. Chakotay lounged at the side of the room, off camera, apparently content to watch her. I asked a few easy questions about how she felt about being home again and the most important lessons she'd learned on her seven year odyssey.

She smiled at that one. "We learned many valuable lessons that we look forward to sharing with other members of the Federation. But I think the most important one is something a person can only learn by experience. We learned that no matter how many first contacts we made or what technologies we encountered, the journey itself was the most important part of our mission. The friendships we made, the family that we created on board Voyager."

With that promising segue, I held my breath and said, "Speaking of family, Captain, I think all our viewers will be eager to know more about the family you've created."

She pulled herself up, straightened in her chair and showed me the captain who had brought nearly her whole crew safely home from the far reaches of the Delta quadrant. I had a sudden involuntary urge to back away. Her face grew protective and cold. For a moment I was afraid that she wouldn't answer at all. Then, with what appeared to be an effort of will, she softened a little. "Of course there are details, like the baby's sex, that I'd like to share with my own family here on Earth before making any public announcement. But I'm happy to share the fact that Commander Chakotay and I were married on Albus Prime by a local officiant." She reached out a hand for him and he stepped into the shot with her. "With full advance approval from Starfleet Command, of course," she concluded with a severe nod at the camera.

"One question for both of you," I said, seizing the moment. "Who proposed to whom?"

They looked at each other and their faces changed. His defensive, almost shy expression turned radiant, and her cold glare evaporated into a gaze of open adoration that I dream one day someone will give me. I couldn't believe I was catching it on vid.

"I don't remember," she said and shook her head in seemingly genuine puzzlement. "I think I might have brought it up first."

He raised their joined hands to his lips and kissed her knuckles. She blushed and glanced pointedly at the camera. "I asked you," he told her, ignoring the camera. He seemed unable to look at anything but her. "I said marry me, be my wife. And you did."

She exhaled and turned deliberately toward the camera. "Yes, that's right. Were there other questions?"

"When is the baby due?" I wondered, as much out of my own curiosity as for the huge audience that would be hanging on her answer.

Janeway smiled. "Any day," she said. "I felt lucky not to be in Sickbay as we were traversing the wormhole."

"And where will you go now to await the happy event?"

Janeway looked down, then back up, gathering herself. "Under the circumstances," she said, "I think we'd rather keep that location private."

"I think we're done now," Chakotay broke in, as if he'd noticed me for the first time. "The captain needs to rest." He leaned over to help her from the chair without seeking any leave from me.

"I would like to ask you a few questions, Commander, if you wouldn't mind," I said quickly, hoping to coax a few courtship details from him.

"I'm sorry, no," he said with perfect calm as he led Janeway to the door and opened it for her. All I could do was trail after them.

"Have a wonderful leave! Good luck with the baby!" I hollered after them. Chakotay looked back and nodded an acknowledgment but Janeway ignored my babbling. I kept the camera rolling. He had one arm around her, supporting her as they walked toward the secure rear exit and the adjacent transport station. They were whispering to each other, exchanging small, secret smiles. At one point a cadet stepped forward from the security detail lining the hall and asked for autographs. Both smiled, signed, and took a moment to ask the cadet a few questions.

When they started moving again, his arm fell around her as it had been before, and hers came up to circle his waist. That was the shot I eventually used to end the publicity vid: the two explorers heading off into an altogether new adventure, arms around each other, turned slightly toward each other in the midst of organized chaos as if they were the only two people on the planet.

I got a raise.