Disclaimer: All Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers. No copyright infringement is intended. I was just having a bit of fun.
Author’s notes: This bit of foolishness takes place sometime around the end of season three. Thank you QS for your never ending beta services, but all mistakes are still mine.
Happy Birthday Crystal!
Good for Morale by Cheshire
“It’s been a few months since the talent show, which was a huge success for the whole crew. I’d like to recommend a new night of entertainment.” Tom pulled up a screen and read aloud to the senior staff gathered in the briefing room. “A Delta Quadrant Carnival Night. Food, fun, and games for all ages.”
Captain Janeway looked around the table, noting all the dubious looks Tom was receiving and knew they expected her to regard him the same way. But unfortunately, he was right. It was time for another night off for the crew. She gave him a quick, short nod. “Very well, Tom. Get with Neelix and set it up.”
Tom beamed at her, and Janeway imagined she could hear more than a few jaws hitting the table. She smirked as she stood from the table to dismiss the meeting. “Oh, and in an effort to encourage the crew’s involvement…I expect all senior staff to be involved. One way or another.”
“Tom, do you have any idea what you’re doing? The Captain is going to kill you.”
“Harry, relax. She said she wanted to be involved. I showed her the list of booths and games. She approved it.”
“She didn’t approve you signing her up for that one!”
“Not exactly,” Tom hedged, “but she will. This is all her idea…and just think how much it will increase morale.”
“How will that increase morale? No one hates the Captain.”
“It’s not about hating her. People love her, and when people love their boss, they like to show it by involving them in what they’re doing.” Tom pushed past him to continue programming. “And besides, it’s not like she’s the only boss I signed up for this booth.”
Harry felt an ulcer forming. “Tom, there’s only a few other department heads on the ship. Please tell me you didn’t do what I think you did.”
“You didn’t…actually….include B’Elanna….on that list of participants. Did you?” Harry felt faint.
“Yep. One hour each for each of the ladies,” Tom said cheerfully. “And one for Tuvok.”
“Chakotay to Janeway.”
“Do you have a minute?”
“I’m on my way to my ready room now. You can meet me there.”
Chakotay tapped the PADD on his knee as he sat in his chair on the bridge. The official message had just gone out across the ship announcing the first ever Delta Quadrant Carnival. It included the Captain’s approval and a message from her encouraging everyone to take part. He knew as the first officer this was really something he should’ve been able to protect her from. She probably only skimmed the message, trusting Tom to not take this too far. Chakotay wasn’t entirely sure how to break this to her, but, regardless the duty fell to him. He rose and handed the bridge over to Tuvok, noticing the Vulcan looked a little greener than usual. He must’ve just read the announcement as well. Chakotay sighed and rang for entrance to the Captain’s inner sanctuary.
“Tea?” she asked, standing near the replicator.
“What’s wrong, Commander? You look like someone just broke your favorite toy.”
Chakotay shook his head, trying to dismiss the thought of Kathryn as his favorite toy. “The announcement for the Carnival went out today.”
She handed him a cup of tea and beamed at him. “Oh, good. How do you think it will go over with the crew?”
“I believe,” he paused, stalling, “that the announcement garnered quite a few exclamations. Did you read it?”
“No, I haven’t had a chance yet. I was helping B’Elanna replace a coupling. I left her in a Jeffries tube on deck eleven just before I got your call.”
That explained why he hadn’t heard B’Elanna’s response to this yet. “You know when you said that all of the senior staff should be involved with this…”
“Yes.” She misread the look of apprehension on his face. “It’s not that bad, Chakotay. Surely you don’t mind helping out with a booth or something.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just…”
“I love a good carnival. When I was growing up, it was one of those traditional things that my parents insisted on dragging Phoebe and I to.” She leaned back in her chair. “We always insisted that we hated going, but it was always so much fun once you got there. Cotton candy. Fun houses. Trying to win silly prizes.”
Chakotay couldn’t help but lose track of his thoughts as he watched her grow wistful as she spoke about her childhood. He could almost see the stress of the past couple of years slip away.
“Daddy insisted that half the games were rigged so that you couldn’t win, but then somehow one of us would manage to get that ball in the hoop or that ring around the bottle. You’d think we had just invented warp travel or something.” She sighed and turned her radiant smile in his direction. “What about you, Chakotay?”
It took a moment for him to realize she had asked him a question, but then he was snapped back to the present and his impending problem so fast he thought he might have whiplash. “Me? Captain? No, we didn’t have fairs like this on Dorvan.”
“I’m sure,” she said, grinning at what she thought was his inattention. She sipped her coffee before clarifying, “I meant what did you need to see me about?”
“Oh. Right.” He cleared his throat. “What exactly are you planning on doing for the fair?”
“I have no idea. Tom caught me at a bad time when he brought the list around, so I just told him to sign me up for one of the booths.” She waved her hand absently. “I told him I’d take a shift at running one of the games.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.” Chakotay tugged at his ear. “Kathryn…”
“He didn’t stick me with something boring did he? I don’t want to be the only booth that no one wants to come to.” She reached for the PADD, and Chakotay instinctively pushed his chair back, away from her desk and her outstretched hand.
“I don’t think that’s going to be the problem, Captain.” He tried to determine if there was any way to get the miscellaneous PADDs off of her desk. Her delicate white tea cup might be safe; it did hold her coffee after all, but all of the other light-weight objects on her desk were likely to become projectiles in the next few minutes. “I think you’ll actually have one of the more popular booths.”
“Really? Good. I knew I could count on Tom to let me have some fun.” She settled back in her chair with her coffee. “So what am I doing? Skee-ball?”
“Water gun races?”
Chakotay shook his head.
“Hmmm. Test your strength?”
“Suspended rope-ladder? Fun house? Shooting gallery?” She kept asking, and Chakotay kept shaking his head in the negative. She frowned. “Well, what then?”
“Kathryn, he’s got you doing…”
“Torres to Captain Janeway.”
Janeway held up her hand to forestall Chakotay. “What is it, B’Elanna?”
“Have you seen this announcement for the carnival?”
“Actually, I’m going over it right now with Chakotay.” Janeway smiled in his direction, and he desperately tried to return a grin.
B’Elanna continued, “Captain, there’s no way I’m doing this.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure you can handle it.”
“But, Captain, this is asinine. Do you have any idea what Tom has me doing?”
“B’Elanna, if it’s that bad I’m sure you can switch with someone. Besides, it’ll be fun.”
“Captain, no one, and I mean no one, is going to want to switch with me.”
Janeway sighed, “If you hate it that much, B’Elanna, I’ll switch with you.”
There was silence on the line. Chakotay felt like banging his head against the wall.
“You haven’t actually read this yet, have you, Captain?” B’Elanna’s voice was suspicious.
“Well, not in its entirety.” Janeway glanced at Chakotay and saw an apprehensive look fill his face. Now she began to worry. “Torres, why don’t you join the Commander and me in my ready room.”
As soon as the engineer signed off, Janeway was on her feet, reaching for the PADD in Chakotay’s hand. “Commander, is there something you need to tell me?”
Chakotay jumped up from his seat, backing away from his captain, who was now descending towards him like a hawk towards its prey. “It’s not that bad, Kathryn.”
“Really? Then why won’t you let me see the announcement?”
“You did want to have a fun booth to run,” Chakotay reminded her as his back hit the bulkhead next to the replicator. Short of jumping over the rail, he had nowhere left to run.
“What. Does. He. Have. Me. Doing. Commander?”
“You’re signed up for the dunking booth.” The words fell out of Chakotay’s mouth before he could stop them, and silence filled the room.
A full minute passed.
The chime rang for entrance, and Janeway finally blinked. “Come.”
B’Elanna walked in with Tuvok hot on her heels. They both took in the Commander with his back pressed against the wall and the Captain standing a meter in front of him. Neither of the two broke eye contact to acknowledge the newcomers to the office.
B’Elanna came to a stop in front of the desk and folded her arms across her chest. “I see you finally told her.”
Janeway slowly turned away from her cowering first officer to regard B’Elanna. She was surprised to see Tuvok standing behind the engineer, looking as perturbed as she’d ever seen him. She looked back to Chakotay and raised an eyebrow.
He swallowed hard. “All three of you are on a rotation for the dunking booth. You’re each manning the booth for an hour.”
She reached her hand out for the PADD one more time. Chakotay surrendered it and studied his boots. Janeway crossed back to her desk and began reading over the contents of the announcement. The three officers stood, watching warily for any projectiles that may be thrown their direction, but their captain sipped her coffee as she read over the announcement again. And again. Finally putting the PADD down, she looked up, and her officers braced themselves.
“Let me make sure I have this straight. At all of the different booths you win tickets. Once you have a certain amount of tickets,” Chakotay winced as she pronounced ‘tickets’ very distinctly. “you use them as currency so you can ‘dunk your captain’.”
At the sign of two immediate protests, Janeway amended her statement. “Or, dunk the head of security or the head of engineering.”
“You can also use the tickets to buy food and drink, go in the funhouse, or ride the bumper cars.” Chakotay immediately regretted speaking up as three sets of eyes zeroed in on him.
“I see,” Janeway spoke clearly. “And where are you during all of this, Commander?”
“I’m sorry, what was that, Commander?”
“I’m on bridge duty that night, Captain.”
“Uh huh. So, Mr. Paris gets to play master of ceremonies, Ensign Kim and his band will be providing live music, Neelix will be serving food, and the Doctor will be,” she picked up the PADD to read directly from it. “reprogrammed to appear as a clown and make balloon animals.”
Janeway looked up at this last note with a question on her face.
“The Doctor is currently offline for his weekly diagnostic, and it is unlikely that he has seen this yet,” Tuvok explained.
“That explains his absence from this meeting.” Janeway nodded. “And while the three of us are getting soaked, Mr. Chakotay, you believe you will be on bridge duty?”
He cleared his throat. “Well, the last talent night had Tuvok on bridge duty, so in order to be fair, I said I would take it this time around. I had no idea at the time…”
Janeway waved off the last of his explanation, easily recalling why Tuvok had been on duty during the last talent night. She cleared her throat. “I do believe we will be making some modifications to this little announcement.”
B’Elanna smiled. Tuvok nodded. Chakotay cleared his throat again and regretted all three sets of eyes once again turning in his direction. “The majority of the crew has seen this announcement already.”
“If you have a point, Commander, please arrive at it quickly.”
“The announcement included a message from the Captain expressing her interest in seeing everyone attend and have a good time.”
Janeway crossed her arms, silently encouraging him to continue.
“If you back out now…” he gestured with his hand, hoping he wouldn’t have to continue to explain.
Understanding crossed the Janeway’s face. “Oh, I see. You think I’m going to change the roster so that I don’t have to be dunked?”
Chakotay exchanged confused glances with B’Elanna and Tuvok. “Isn’t that what you meant?”
“Captain, you aren’t suggesting we actually go through with this?” B’Elanna asked, dropping her arms in astonishment.
Janeway held up her hand again, calling for silence. “Hear me out, Lieutenant. Tuvok, I want you on the bridge that night. Unless, Commander, you have a problem with that.”
“No, Captain. No problem.” He sighed and supposed it was only fair. “I’ll be assuming Tuvok’s place?”
“Oh no, Torres and I will each extend our sessions for half an hour to make up for the time lost to Tuvok.” B’Elanna spluttered and Tuvok looked serenely relieved as Janeway continued. “Chakotay, I need you to be my barker.”
“Bar- Barker, Captain?” He looked thoroughly confused. “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that term.”
Janeway smiled, and her blue eyes lit up with mischief. All three of her officers settled back on their heels, now very interested to hear what she had up her sleeve.
Tom entered the bridge and was surprised to find Harry sitting in the Captain’s chair. Even if Janeway was in her ready room, he’d expected to see Chakotay or at least Tuvok. He raised an eyebrow in question at Harry. “Where is everybody?”
“They’ve been in there for the past half hour.” Harry gestured at the ready room doors. “Ever since the message came out announcing the fair.”
Tom swallowed nervously and wished he could hear what was being discussed on the other side of the doors. He amended that thought. He was pretty sure he knew what was being discussed; he just wished he knew how bad the situation really was. And then Harry added to his apprehension.
“B’Elanna is in there, too. She came up from engineering. She and Tuvok went in together.”
“You don’t think….” Tom started, but quickly silenced his spoken thought as the doors in question opened and half of the senior staff strode out onto the bridge.
“Ensign Kim, status report.”
“All operations are normal, Captain,” he answered, dutifully vacating the command chair quickly.
Tom concentrated on the helm, trying desperately to look nonchalant.
He’d never felt so apprehensive about hearing his own name called out, and he inwardly cringed as he slowly swiveled his seat around to face his commanding officer. Janeway and Chakotay were both seated in their chairs with Tuvok and B’Elanna manning their separate bridge stations. Everyone appeared to be desperately trying to act as though nothing were out of the ordinary; even Harry and Samantha Wildman punched idly at their consoles. The truth was that the entire bridge crew was hanging on every word that was spoken.
Tom cleared his throat. “Yes, Captain?”
“I had to make a few adjustments to your roster for the fair. I’ve sent out the changes to the crew so they won’t be expecting anything different.”
“Of course, Captain.” He nodded gamely, wondering how thin the ice really was. “May I ask what changes?”
“Nothing major, except that Tuvok will need to be on the bridge that night so Commander Chakotay will be taking his place.” Janeway pretended to read from a PADD. “And really, Tom, dressing the Doctor as a clown. That’s going a bit too far.”
Tom glanced up at Tuvok and of course read no emotion on the Vulcan’s face, but Chakotay looked supremely smug considering he was taking the security officer’s place in a dunk tank. Tom was sure either he was missing something or the first officer was. “I had to try, Captain, but you’re right, of course. I’m sure Neelix would be more than happy to take his place instead.”
Janeway smiled. “Neelix in big, floppy clown shoes and a red rubber nose. Yes, that I can easily imagine.”
Tom glanced around the bridge once more. Harry continued to look ill, but B’Elanna appeared very satisfied. He tried again. “Any other changes, Captain?”
“Well, yes, now that you mention it. B’Elanna and I have decided to turn our booth into a bit of a competition, so we’ll each be manning it for ninety minutes instead of just an hour.”
“A competition?” Tom felt all the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. His danger sense had just kicked into overdrive. “What will you be competing for?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” B’Elanna spoke up, causing Harry to flinch. “We want to see which one of us can earn the most tickets.”
“Whichever one of them has the most tickets at the end of the night,” Chakotay chimed in. “Wins.”
“Uh huh, and uh,” Tom cleared his throat, “what will you win?”
“In keeping with the spirit of the evening, we wanted to keep this all about crew morale, so the prize will be one that benefits the entire crew.” Janeway said and Tom could feel the other shoe about to drop. “If I win, the next ten duty shifts in the mess hall will be covered by the back up cook.”
“And if I win,” B’Elanna said, “the next ten duty shifts in sick bay will be covered by the medic.”
“Let’s face it; everyone on this ship will be happy to have someone besides Neelix cooking.” Chakotay commented smiling.
“And I’m sure the Doctor won’t object to having a few days off to spend more time with his holo-family,” Janeway said. “The crew will of course benefit from having to deal with slightly less sarcasm during their medical visits.”
“I hate to bring this up, Captain, but Crewman Chell usually helps Neelix in the kitchen,” B’Elanna said. “However, he’ll be unavailable for the next two weeks due to extra training in engineering.”
“We’ll just have to work with the next back up cook then.” Janeway agreed happily ignoring the first of Tom’s sputtering. “That’s okay, and I know Kes can handle sickbay for ten days by herself.”
“I must inform you, Captain that Lt. Wildman will be on bridge duty for the two weeks following the carnival.” Tuvok consulted a PADD. “Mr. Neelix usually looks after young Naomi during this time.”
“But Neelix is scheduled to start his ambassadorial training with me.” The Captain almost looked crestfallen. “Who will look after Naomi?”
“Kes usually fills in if Neelix is busy, Captain,” Sam joined the conversation and was startled to see the huge smile on her Captain’s face.
“That’s right.” Chakotay pretended to consult his ship’s roster. He looked up at Janeway. “Without Chell, Neelix, or Kes available, that means Tom will be the replacement medic or the back up cook for the ten days after the carnival.”
Tom choked with indignation, and Harry locked his knees so he wouldn’t collapse.
“Really?” Janeway feigned surprise. “He’s the back up cook?”
“Aside from the roast he burned,” B’Elanna commented, “he actually cooks fairly decent food.”
“Captain…please…” Tom blurted out.
“Captain, you have already sent the announcement out to the crew concerning the competition,” Tuvok spoke up. “It would decrease morale if you were to change the outcome at this point in time.”
“Yes, you’re right of course, Tuvok. And the whole point of this carnival is to boost morale.” She shrugged. “I’m sorry Tom, but it looks like you’re going to have your work cut out for you after the carnival.”
“But, Captain,” Tom floundered, looking around for any excuse to get out of cooking or hanging around sickbay for the next ten days.
“Mr. Paris, surely you of all people wouldn’t object to a little extra work,” Chakotay said. “For the good of the ship, of course.”
Tom swallowed and glanced around the bridge. The smile on his Captain’s face told the whole story of how he had so neatly ended up caught by his own trap. He really should’ve known better. He sighed in resignation. “For the good of the ship. Aye, Captain.”
Janeway sat on the bridge, mentally counting down the minutes until Tuvok would arrive and she could head down to the carnival. From the grins of some of the bridge staff that had already attended before their duty shifts, it appeared the carnival was a success. She cocked her head to the side as Chakotay slid into his seat next to her. She leaned towards him. “So, how are we doing?”
Why did it always fall to him to deliver the bad news? He cleared his throat. “Didn’t you promise B’Elanna she’d stay dry?”
“Who in the…” Janeway lowered her voice after seeing several heads swivel in her direction. Leaning in closer to Chakotay she hissed her question. “Who in the hell dunked her? An angry, wet, Klingon engineer is not a person anyone should want to provoke.”
Chakotay tugged on his ear, “If anyone ever suggests that Vulcans don’t feel rejection, they could make a real case study of Vorik.”
Janeway gasped but stopped herself from looking over her shoulder to Tuvok’s station. “How many times?”
Janeway buried her face in her hands.
“And that’s not counting how many times the Doc has dunked her.”
Janeway’s head shot up, her eyes wide.
“He’s a hologram. He’s got exceptional hand and eye coordination skills.”
“Not to mention he can’t be harmed, and he has a vested interest in Tom working in sickbay for him.”
“I should’ve let Tom keep him trussed up like a clown.”
Chakotay nodded, deciding to keep it to himself that Kes, the Delaney sisters, and a small handful of gleeful engineers had also dunked the feisty half-Klingon.
“Well, I’m going to owe her some replicator rations after this.” Janeway slapped her hands on her knees, sitting up. “This also means you’re going to have your work cut out for you if we intend on eating edible food in the mess hall. B’Elanna’s only got twenty minutes left; I suggest you get your suit on.”
He grinned, showing her his full dimples. “Aye, Captain.”
After sharing an exasperated look with Tuvok while handing over the bridge, Janeway hurried down the corridor to the holodeck. She froze in mid step when she heard her name whispered from an open door meters away from the holodeck. She peered into the darkened room. “Chakotay?”
He ambled out into the light where she could see him, and Janeway immediately put her hand to her mouth. “Oh my.”
Chakotay was sporting a black top hat tilted rakishly to the side, a blaring white and red striped tuxedo jacket with tails, an overly large red bow tie with red vest, black slacks with shiny black shoes partially covered by white spats. He twirled a simple, curved wooden cane in his hand before bending slightly at the waist and tilting his hat to her. “Well, what do you think?”
Janeway burst out laughing, and Chakotay grinned at her, pushing his top hat back in place. As she brought her laughter under control, she asked, “Where did you find such a ridiculous getup?”
“Research in the ship’s computer. This was listed under ‘carnival barker’.” He straightened his bowtie, letting the cane swing from his arm, and then eyed her up and down appraisingly. “You could be wearing something a bit more saucy yourself you know.”
Feeling a flush creep up her cheeks, Kathryn was glad it was mostly dark in the room. She also felt absurdly overdressed as she glanced down at her uniform. Unable to come up with a reply, she just giggled again and continued to admire his attire.
He held his arm out to her, gesturing to the holodeck. “Now, I suggest we be on our way before B’Elanna comes looking for us. It’s time we got you…wet.”
Janeway’s eyes widened at the double meaning in his words, and his eyes left no doubt in her mind that his phrasing had been on purpose. She shook her head at him, but happily looped her arm through his as they walked across the corridor and into the holodeck.”
Kathryn spluttered her way to the top of the tank of water for what felt like the hundredth time that afternoon. Chakotay’s skills for barking and calling in the crowd had more than exceeded her expectations, and before forty-five minutes had passed, she’d already beaten B’Elanna’s total number of tickets, thus ensuring that the crew of Voyager would be eating leola root free for the next ten days. She pushed her hair out of her face and flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder, giving Mike Ayala a mock glare for sending her into her oversized bath tub once more. He simply laughed and clicked his heels together, giving her a salute.
While she climbed back onto her perch, Chakotay continued to call to the crowd. “She defeated the Kazon and the Viidians. She even faced down Fear himself. Our fearless Captain has quelled the Q, withstood mind melds, and managed to find coffee in a quadrant that doesn’t have coffee beans. Who among you can withstand the glare that has petrified all the foes of the Delta Quadrant?”
Tom stepped up and handed Chakotay a handful of tickets. “I’ll take a shot.”
Chakotay glanced over his shoulder, and Janeway gave a quick shrug. “I guess I’ll be staying dry for the next few minutes. Especially if Mr. Paris throws a baseball as good as he shoots pool.”
Tom tossed the ball up into the air and caught it with ease. “Now, Captain, you don’t think I spent my entire childhood piloting shuttles do you?”
“Of course not, Tom. But I happen to know that you missed earlier when you were trying to dunk B’Elanna.” She leaned forward on her platform. “Or were you just going easy on her?”
The tips of Tom’s ears turned slightly pink. He fisted the ball in his hand. “Actually, Captain I’d just rather be in the mess hall than stuck in sick bay.”
He reared back and then threw the ball, hitting the target arm squarely, sending his captain back into the tank. She shot to the surface and spit water in his direction. Tom quickly sidestepped the spray, almost landing on B’Elanna’s toes. The still damp engineer steadied him and narrowed her eyes in the direction of the tank. “No retaliation, Captain. Remember?”
Janeway laughed, scrambling onto her seat. “If we were following that rule, Torres, would you really be standing there ready to dunk me for the fifth time?”
“Sixth time,” B’Elanna said, hurling the small sphere and enjoying the satisfying splash that resulted from hitting her target.
“Five minutes. There’s only five minutes left to earn the chance of a lifetime,” Chakotay shouted towards the direction of the midway. “This opportunity may never present itself again.”
“I can guarantee it won’t happen again!” Janeway chimed in to Chakotay’s calling.
“Step right up and take a turn. Try your hand at soaking the intrepid Captain of Voyager!”
Tom stood grinning as he watched the tank. He waggled his eyebrows at Janeway’s questioning glance. “You know, Captain, it seems to me that I saw Chakotay in here earlier…winning tickets.”
A smile blossomed on B’Elanna’s face, and a small crowd of people started gathering around the tank as Chakotay’s catcalling came to an end. Janeway glanced between the two men and watched as Chakotay turned to her, holding a baseball in his hand.
“Computer,” Chakotay spoke into the air, “adjust water temperature of the tank to a few degrees above freezing.”
“Whoa! Wait a minute.” Janeway held her hands up.
Chakotay casually rolled the baseball from his elbow down his arm and into his open palm. “I happen to know for a fact, Captain, that you input the specifics for this costume into the computer.”
B’Elanna waved at her Captain, who was now holding her feet out of the cold water. “And that you removed all other possible costume references.”
“I do believe it’s in the first officer’s job description to keep the Captain on an honest path.” Tom grinned and casually crossed his arms across his chest. “We all know you enjoy taking a bath, Captain, but making the water of the tank a nice warm temperature isn’t really fair now is it?”
“There was nothing in the rules,” Janeway tried to protest, but B’Elanna spoke over her.
“Especially after she told me I wasn’t allowed to make any modifications to the tank,” B’Elanna chimed in.
“I didn’t want you rigging it so you wouldn’t fall in, Lieutenant,” Janeway said eyeing the water warily now. Half the crew was gathered around, so there was really no getting out of this, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try. “Commander…”
A chant started somewhere near the back of the gathered crew. “Dunk her. Dunk her. Dunk her.”
The chant grew louder and faster as Janeway locked eyes with her first officer. He smiled broadly at her and shrugged his innocence. She opened her mouth to protest one more time, and Chakotay let loose with a hard fast pitch that smacked against the target arm with exact precision.
Janeway’s body almost looked elongated for a moment as she seemed to fall in slow motion into the now freezing water.
“I cannot believe you did that,” Janeway complained as she wrung out her socks.
“Did you see what you had me wearing?” Chakotay tossed a piece of stale popcorn into the air and caught it in his mouth.
The midway was empty except for the programmed noises and ambience. The command team sat next to each other on the bouncy air cushions underneath the suspended rope ladders. The entire crew had vacated the holodeck before Janeway had managed to extricate herself from the tank completely.
“I had no idea the crew could move that fast. They don’t even move that fast during a red alert.” She rolled her pants leg into cuffs and left her discarded socks in a wet pile.
“A freezing wet captain is a lot scarier than anything they’ve faced before,” Chakotay chuckled, shrugging out of his jacket and removing his bow tie.
“Did you actually come down here and play earlier?”
“Sure. Didn’t you?”
She squeezed excess water out of her ponytail. “No. I meant to before I went out on the bridge, but I got held up reading a report.”
“Kathryn,” he sighed, exasperated. “Even you were supposed to have some fun today.”
“I did have fun. How often do I get to sit and openly ridicule my crew?” She laughed. “I don’t think it would go over too well if I did it on a regular basis on the bridge. What would I say? Wow, Tom that was some terrible flying. Or how about -Harry, isn’t it about time for you to fall in love again?”
Chakotay laughed and stood up, holding his hand out to her. “Come on, Kathryn. Let’s play a few games.”
“I’m soaking wet, Chakotay,” she complained. She ran a finger under the collar of her turtleneck. “And I’m missing a couple of pips.”
“I can think of one place they might be,” he chuckled, glancing towards the tank. When she continued to look sweetly up at him, he held up his hands. “Oh, no. I’m not going in there to look for them.”
“Of course not,” she waved dismissively. “I wouldn’t expect you to go in after them.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Then…what?”
“You could at least go over there and look.”
“What good would that do?”
“If you see them in the tank,” she explained. “I can let Tom know to pick them up for me when he discontinues the program.”
He glanced over at the tank again feeling like she was up to something. “Why don’t we just have the computer remove the water and then you could retrieve them?”
She leaned back on the air cushion. “Because Tom is keeping the program running for the next twenty-four hours so that anyone who couldn’t make it today gets a fair chance to stop by for some recreation.”
“But no one will actually be in the tank for them to see, so they won’t be missing anything if we drain it,” he reasoned now reasonably sure she had something else in mind.
“Now really,” Janeway chuckled, “even if B’Elanna and I aren’t physically present, the crewmen can still see the site of our watery demise.”
Chakotay continued to regard her suspiciously. “And you just want me to go over there and look? See if I can see them?”
She didn’t even open her eyes. “I’d really rather not replicate another set if those are salvageable.”
“And why is it, exactly, that you don’t want to go look for them?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Chakotay,” she sat up, exasperated. “I didn’t think I was asking the impossible. I just didn’t want to put my boots back on yet.”
“Just stay there,” Chakotay relented when she started reaching for the aforementioned boots. Maybe she really didn’t have anything in mind, but at the very least he was not going to go anywhere near the collapsible perch. That might prove to be too tempting a target. “I’ll go look. Why don’t you want to replicate new pips anyway?”
“Chakotay, why do you think I agreed to this farce in the first place?” she laughed. “I’m running low on rations!”
“You went through all of this just to avoid leola root?” he asked with an incredulous look.
“Now that I’ve ensured that the food in the mess hall will be edible until the end of the month, I can use my rations for coffee.” She watched him inspect the ground near the tank. “And me supplied with coffee is definitely a good thing for the ship.”
“Kathryn,” he laughed and shook his head, “you are way more devious than we give you credit for.”
“You have no idea,” she muttered.
Chakotay knelt down in front of the tank, attempting to look through the water to the bottom of the tank. “I think I see them. Or one, at least.”
“Computer,” Janeway’s command voice seemed to echo across the holodeck. Chakotay’s head snapped up. “Remove the front panel of the dunk tank.”
The rest of Chakotay’s exclamation was cut off as a deluge of water emptied onto him from the now three-sided tank. The wave knocked him off his heels, and his back hit the cobblestone street of the midway. He coughed and sputtered and felt like half of the tank water must have rushed up his nose. Chakotay wiped the sluice off his face just as a shadow fell over him.
Kathryn Janeway stood over him with a huge grin. She casually reached down and plucked two pips out of the puddle that was still left inside the tank. “Thank you, Commander. That was fun.”
Chakotay let out a growl that promised revenge. Kathryn yelped and made an undignified dash for the holodeck doors. Slipping on the wet stones, Chakotay stumbled after her, hot on her heels.
The console near the command chair beeped with an incoming report. Tuvok activated it and couldn’t help raising his eyebrow as he read the information. On deck three, Crewmen Gerron and Dalby had almost been knocked over as the Captain ran barefoot past them and into her quarters. Seconds later, the two confused crewmen had actually gotten wet when Commander Chakotay pushed by them. Astonished, they watched as the first officer managed to get his hand between the closing doors of the Captain’s cabin and force his way inside. Unsure of how they should proceed, the former Maquis opted for contacting the security officer.
Tuvok considered sending a security team to check on the Captain. He also considered contacting her, but he dismissed both options for the moment. There had been no sensor reports of phaser fire coming from the her quarters, and upon questioning Crewman Dalby further, he reported hearing only laughter. Tuvok thanked the crewmen for their diligence and filed the report in a secured folder so that he could delete it later. He returned his attention to the viewscreen. Logically, whatever transpired next between the command team could only be good for morale.