“Go on, do it! You know you want to.”
“I have to admit I’m tempted but you know I promised the continuum that I’d leave the humans alone.”
“If you don’t do it, I will.”
“You? Aren’t you supposed to make sure I stay out of trouble? Don’t you think you should lead by example?”
“I’m tired of playing by the rules, I want to have some fun. You seem to find this species entertaining and it’s such a good idea. I can just picture their faces.”
“These are my humans, find your own toys.”
“I will if you promise to do it and tell me how it goes.”
“Oh, very well. But if the continuum kicks me out for this, you’re coming too!”
=^= =^= =^=
A familiar flash of light illuminated the bridge eliciting a collective groan from the crew.
“Damn it, Q. What now?” exclaimed the captain, leaping to his feet.
“Now, now, Jean-Luc. Is that any way to greet an old friend?”
“A visit from you means trouble and trouble is no friend of mine.”
Q clutched his chest and sank to his knees.
“You wound me, Jean-Luc, how can you be so callous? Here am I, come to do you a favor, to bring some excitement, some joie-de-vivre, some purpose into your life and all you can do is insult me.”
Picard sighed and returned to his seat.
“Just do what you came to do and then get the hell off my ship.”
“Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”
“What I want, Q, is for you to leave.”
“Your wish is my command.”
Picard raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
“I’ll leave Jean-Luc, but you’re coming too.”
Another flash of light and Q was gone, leaving behind a stunned crew and an empty captain’s chair.
=^= =^= =^=
On the other side of the galaxy the crew of the Federation Starship Voyager was having a good day. They were travelling through a peaceful area of the Delta Quadrant, the warp drive was operating at peak efficiency, the lunch menu was blessedly leola root free and the captain was taking a well-earned day off.
On the bridge the members of the beta shift were working in companionable silence. Tom Paris was plotting a course through the current star system, Tuvok was updating the tactical database, Harry was running a diagnostic on the communications array and Chakotay was slumped in his seat attempting to keep his eyes from closing as he read one of Seven’s interminable astrometrics reports. The unexpected burst of light jolted them to attention. Tuvok drew his phaser but quickly let his hand drop to his side as he recognised the futility of his action.
“Q!” exclaimed Chakotay.
“I’m so glad you remember me, Chuckles. It’s good to see you too!”
“What do you want, Q?” Chakotay enquired, not bothering to hide his impatience.
“Why does everyone assume I want something? I came to bring you a gift.”
Q waved his hand and deposited an irate Jean-Luc Picard into the captain’s chair. Not that he stayed there for long.
“What are you playing at Q? Where is this?” he demanded as he sprang to his feet.
“This,” said Q, waving is arm in a sweeping gesture, “is the Starship Voyager.”
Picard stared at him for a few seconds in stunned silence.
“Are you telling me that we are in the Delta Quadrant?”
“That’s right, mon capitaine, you finally get to do some of that ‘exploring strange new worlds’ that you’re forever harping on about. Think of the excitement. Think of the challenge. Think of the glory of being the captain who brought Voyager home.”
Chakotay was horrified.
“We already have a captain,” he stated, bluntly.
“Oh now admit it, Chuck-a-stick. She’s hardly doing a good job. She should have had you home by now, after all it’s been nearly seven years. I decided a replacement was in order.”
A look of horror crossed Chakotay’s face as a number of alarming possibilities raced through his mind.
“Computer where is the captain?” he enquired.
*The captain is on the bridge.*
After a quick glance around to confirm that Janeway was not, in fact, present Chakotay posed another question.
“Computer, who is captain of this ship?”
*The USS Voyager is under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.*
“Where is Captain Janeway?”
*Captain Janeway is not on board.”
“When did she leave?”
*That information is not available.*
Chakotay turned an angry glare on Q.
“What have you done with Kathryn?”
Picard raised an eyebrow at the use of her given name but said nothing as he awaited Q’s response.
“Why she’s on her ship of course.”
Picard glared at Q as a suspicion dawned.
“Let me guess, her ship is the Enterprise.”
“Excellent deduction, now we know why they made you a captain.”
“This is ridiculous, bring her back!” Chakotay could barely contain his wrath.
“Calm down, Chuckles, it’s for her own good. Don’t you want her to get back to Earth? Think how happy she’ll be to see that scrawny little planet she calls home. You know that the stress has been getting to her, this is just what the Doctor ordered,” he grinned happily. “Speaking of which...”
In the blink of an eye an old-fashioned frock coat and top hat replaced his Starfleet uniform. A black bag appeared in his hand and a stethoscope hung from his neck.
“Time to pay a house call.”
With that he was gone, leaving a bewildered group of officers to ponder their next move.
=^= =^= =^=
To say that Kathryn Janeway was startled would be an understatement akin to saying that the Borg were unfriendly. This was definitely not what she had had planned for her day. One second she had been sprawled on the couch in her quarters with a good book, the next she was here (wherever ‘here’ was) sprawled in an extremely undignified manner in the command chair of a bridge she didn’t recognise. She quickly became aware that she was under the startled gaze of a group of officers, some of whom were all too familiar. Dropping her book she sprang to her feet, but before she could speak the answer to her question appeared in front of her.
“Kathy, my dear. It’s good to see you too!”
Janeway groaned and rubbed her temples.
“Oh dear, do you have a headache? Let the doctor take a look.”
Q lifted his stethoscope and advanced towards Janeway. She held up a hand to stop him.
“Return me to my ship at once.”
“But this is your ship, Captain.”
“I don’t know what game you’re playing now, Q, but this is most definitely not Voyager.”
“I see your powers of observation are as acute as ever. You’re right, this isn’t Voyager, this is the Enterprise and as of about...” he reached into a pocket and pulled out a gold watch, “two minutes ago, this is your ship.”
Janeway graced him with a grade 10 death glare.
“What? You’re not pleased?” Q was bewildered. “This is a sovereign class ship, quite a promotion from that puny little Voyager.”
“Just because you choose to bring me here, does not make this my ship.”
“On the contrary, Captain. My wish is Starfleet’s command.”
Janeway sighed and sat back down in resignation.
“Why don’t you just explain what this is all about.”
“Why it’s simple, I’m just doing a good turn for my two favorite captains. You want to return to Earth, Jean-Luc wants to seek out new civilizations. What simpler way to make you both happy than to swap your positions?”
Janeway started to speak but Q cut her off.
“There’s no need to thank me, Kathy. Just enjoy!”
With that he was gone leaving the crew of the Enterprise and her new Captain to stare at each other and wonder what to do next.
=^= =^= =^=
On Voyager the decision had already been made. Chakotay may not have had Picard’s wealth of experience with their omnipotent friend but he knew enough to recognize that Picard was right when he said that there was only one thing to be done. Nothing.
“Until Q recognizes the error of his ways and decides to swap us back it seems that Voyager has a new captain and there’s nothing we can do about it. To attempt to find a solution would be an exercise in futility that I have no intention of engaging in. Until such time as Q comes to his senses I suggest that we continue Voyager’s journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. Agreed?”
Picard scanned the faces of Voyager’s bridge officers as one by one they nodded their acceptance of the situation.
“Very well. Set a course for Earth. Warp five.” He took his seat in the command chair. “Engage.”
Chakotay watched the stars streaking past on the viewscreen and wondered if he was being selfish to wish that Kathryn was back in the seat beside him. He knew how badly she wanted to get home, maybe it was unfair to hope that Q would return her to Voyager, but it was going to be a long journey home without her. He missed her already.
=^= =^= =^=
Despite the gravity of the situation the Enterprise’s first officer was regarding his new captain with a mischievous grin.
“So, Captain Janeway, are you going to stay or do you plan to run out on me again?”
Kathryn couldn’t help but smile as she remembered the ‘blind date’ that had caused her to become so flustered that she had left in a hurry after only a few minutes.
“Actually, Commander, the last time we met it was you that left me.”
Will looked puzzled.
“I don’t remember....”
“No, you wouldn’t. Q was responsible for that little episode too and he promised me that you would have no memory of it. It looks like there’ll be plenty of time to tell you about it later but for the moment we have more pressing matters to consider, like what to do next.”
“On past experience I would suggest that there is no action that we can take that would have any effect on our current situation,” stated Commander Data from his seat at the operations console.
“I agree, Commander, we can’t change what Q has done but nevertheless the Enterprise can’t just sit here while we twiddle our thumbs waiting for him to make his next move. I assume that the ship has a mission so perhaps someone would fill me in on where we are and where we’re supposed to be going.”
“We left Earth this morning and we’re on course for Starbase 212 where Captain Picard was due to attend a conference with members of the Klingon government.” Riker explained.
“There seems little point in continuing that journey since Captain Picard is no longer aboard,” Janeway concluded. “Commander Data, open a channel to Starfleet, explain the situation and tell them that the Enterprise is returning to Earth.”
Whatever the rest of the crew might be feeling, Data was unfazed by the Enterprise’s abrupt change of command, a fact that Janeway found comforting. At least there was one officer who was not going to challenge her right to make the decisions. Feeling the sudden need to escape from the scrutiny of the bridge officers she rose to her feet.
“I’ll be in the ready room. Commander Riker you have the bridge,” she said as, after a moment of disorientation, she headed for the door.
“Aye, Captain. Should we set a course for Earth?”
Janeway nodded as the ready room door opened. She stepped inside and the door slid shut on her final order.
=^= =^= =^=
Kathryn stood in the middle of the ready room overcome by the feeling that she was intruding in someone else’s personal space. She wondered if Picard was experiencing similar feelings aboard Voyager and hoped that her crew were making him comfortable. She took a seat behind the desk and closed her eyes letting her head fall back. She felt her stomach clench as she thought of her crew, she missed them already, especially Chakotay. Tears pricked at her eyelids as she wished she could turn to him for comfort and advice at this moment.
“Damn it, Q. If you had to do this couldn’t you have switched the whole crew?” she complained to the empty room.
Giving herself a mental shake she considered her next move. She thought about contacting her family but decided against it, at least for now. It didn’t seem right to raise their hopes of having her home until she was sure that Q wasn’t going to reappear and send her back to Voyager. Once again she found herself thinking of her ship and her friends. This was getting her nowhere, with a sigh she stood and moved to the replicator. Perhaps a coffee would help.
=^= =^= =^=
Four hours later life on both ships was proceeding as normal, or as normal as possible considering the circumstances. Crewmembers went about their tasks and the ships followed their respective courses for Earth. For Voyager that course had no immediate end in sight but on the Enterprise it was a different story.
“Bridge to Janeway”
*Janeway here, report.*
“Captain we’re within range of Earth, awaiting approach clearance from traffic control.”
*On my way, Janeway out*
The ready room door opened and Janeway stepped out. She crossed to the command center and turned to face the viewscreen.
She stared in silence as the familiar blue and green globe appeared on the screen. She swallowed as she struggled to speak around the lump that had formed in her throat. Counselor Troi sensed her sudden burst of emotion and rose from her seat. Crossing to stand by Janeway’s side she laid a hand on her arm.
“Welcome home, Captain”
Kathryn turned and looked at her for a moment then turned back to the screen.
“No,” she whispered.
“Captain?” Troi queried.
“No,” Kathryn spoke more loudly, “this isn’t right.”
All eyes turned on her in bewilderment.
“It isn’t supposed to be this way.”
She snapped out of her reverie and sprang into action.
“All stop,” she commanded.
The Enterprise came to an abrupt halt.
“Q,” she shouted, “get back here, now!”
It seemed that even Q couldn’t resist the sight of Captain Kathryn Janeway standing with her hands on her hips in full command mode for an instant later he appeared in front of her.
“There’s no need to shout, Kathy. I can hear you perfectly well.”
“Take me back to Voyager.”
“I thought we’d settled this,” Q sighed, “aren’t you pleased to be home?”
“This isn’t home.”
“Why Captain has it been so long you don’t recognize it? Look,” he waved a hand at the viewscreen, “it’s Earth.”
“I know it’s Earth but it’s not home. My home is on Voyager, take me back.” Her voice softened. “Please?”
Q was stunned into silence for a moment.
“Are you sure that’s what you want? I won’t give you this chance again you know. If you go back you’re on your own.”
“I’m sure.” She looked straight into his eyes. “Please Q, take me home.”
“Oh very well, there’s just no pleasing some people,” he complained and with that he was gone taking Janeway with him and leaving a somewhat surprised Jean-Luc Picard in his place.
Commander Riker blinked in confusion before recovering his normal calm.
“Welcome back, Captain. How was the Delta Quadrant?”
Picard shrugged as he took his seat.
“Remarkably dull, Number One. I don’t know how those poor people have stood it for so long, they must be bored out of their minds.”
=^= =^= =^=
On board Voyager the crew would have described the situation as anything but dull. Captain Picard’s abrupt departure and the sudden return of Captain Janeway was an unexpected turn of events for a crew which had begun to doubt that it would see its Captain in the foreseeable future.
“Well I hope you’re happy now,” said Q, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
“I am. Thank you, Q.”
“Well don’t come running to me the next time you get homesick. You made your choice you can live with it,” he warned before vanishing.
Chakotay had leapt to his feet on Janeway’s reappearance, now he moved to stand in front of her.
“Are you alright? What happened? Did you get home?”
Kathryn gazed into his worried eyes.
“I’m fine. He sent me to the Enterprise. It was an interesting trip,” she smiled slightly. “We went back to Earth but as soon as I saw it I realized that I didn’t want to be there.”
“You don’t want to go back to Earth?”
“Oh I do, more than ever. But not like that, not without Voyager.” She turned to look around the bridge, smiling at her officers. “This is my home and my family, when we go back we go together. It wasn’t the same without all of you. I missed you. And Chakotay, I missed you most of all.”
She stepped closer to him and looked up into his face.
“I’d rather live the rest of my life in the Delta Quadrant than live one day without you.”
Chakotay was stunned by this public expression of her feelings. Feelings that he shared but never dared to hope were reciprocated. He gathered her hands into his.
“Do you mean that, Kathryn?”
She didn’t speak, instead she pulled him closer and raised her lips to meet his in a tender kiss. The cheers of the crew echoed around them as he drew her to him, holding her tightly as he vowed never to let her go.
=^= =^= =^=
“Well that didn’t go as planned.”
“Au contraire, my friend, it went exactly as I expected.”
“I thought you said she wanted to go home?”
“She did and she is home. Don’t you see? Kathy and Chuckles
just needed a little push to set them in the right direction.” Q looked
smug for a moment then frowned. “I hope they appreciate it, I shall be
most annoyed if they don’t invite me to the wedding.”