Disclaimer: Voyager, Janeway, and Chakotay are not mine. No infringement intended.
One Tough Egg
Summary: About five years after “Endgame,” Janeway has joined the diplomatic corps and runs into trouble with a species called the Plumes. J/C
“Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.” M. F. K. Fisher
Kathryn Janeway had egg on her face.
And she was mad as hell about it.
“Admiral Janeway, my deepest apologies.” Milvus, the avian Prime Minister, knelt in front of her as his staff fluttered about looking for towels and water to help her clean up. Other members of his flock chased her assailant into the clouds with loud indignant squawks that echoed throughout the plaza.
Janeway could not reply. For one thing, the thick shell had been slammed into her face with such force that she had landed on her butt. She was dizzy and disoriented, and her face throbbed so much that she wondered if her nose was broken.
For another thing, the egg coated her face with a sticky fetid slime that made it impossible to see, difficult to breath, and inadvisable to speak. If one drop of that goo touched her taste buds, she was sure that her recent meal of seeds, worms, and bugs would erupt from her mouth with a projectile force that would coat the prime minister’s face just as malodorously.
*Why oh why did I decide to join the diplomatic corps?* she asked herself.
The Plume citizens who filled the Plaza had fallen silent when the attack occurred, yet Janeway could feel the tension from them as the situation unfolded. She remembered the cameras that had been focused on herself and the Federation ambassador and realized that the Plumes had been recording this important moment in their planet’s history—the opening of diplomatic relations with the Federation.
How strange it would be to see a person smashed in the face with an egg twice the size of her head?
She cupped her fingers to scoop some of the goo from her eyes and then used the back of her hands to wipe away more while the prime minister used his flexible primary feathers to pick pieces of shell from her face and hair and flip them aside.
From over Milvus’ wing, she heard the Federation ambassador, Martin Echhon, talking on his commbadge, managing to keep a humorous tone from his voice. He then said to her, “Have you been injured, Admiral?”
Janeway shook her head and tried to imagine how ridiculous she must look sitting on the ground with the contents of a huge egg dripping off of her head. She used her fingertips to explore her face, finding that her right cheek was incredibly tender and deciding that cheekbone must have been fractured by the thick shell. She shook some of the egg from her face and braved a few words. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a black eye.”
“A black eye?” Milvus’s crest stood straight up and fluttered above his beaked head in panic. “Does that mean you’ve been blinded?”
“No,” Echhon replied. “It means that the tissues around the eye may have been temporarily damaged. While her skin may be discolored for a short while, her vision should be fine.”
“I cannot tell you how sorry I am about this,” Milvus repeated, standing up on his thorny feet. “Here are my nestlings with towels and fresh water to help you wash away the abortion.”
*Abortion?* Janeway thought, shivering at the translator’s use of the term. *I guess the destruction of an egg would be considered abortion to an avian species.*
“Allow me, Prime Minister.” Echhon took the stack of towels and used one to wipe most of the slime from her face, and then he dipped a second towel in the water and gently wiped her eyes and face clean. Once she was able to look him in the eye, she was pretty sure that he was also struggling to keep his lunch down. “Admiral, I’m thinking you might rather beam back to the ship for a sonic shower.”
“It would remove the egg . . . and the smell faster,” she whispered.
An instant later, she was in the ship’s sickbay being tended to by their medical staff. Only the nauseating smell, her broken cheekbone, and their professional training kept the medical team from laughing aloud at her predicament. Her hair was matted down by a yellow goo that had spread down her shoulders and saturated her uniform. They quickly helped her into a shower where the rest of the egg’s contents disappeared, and then they helped her into a medical gown for treatment.
The egg had shattered her cheekbone and loosened several teeth. The doctor spent a couple of hours repairing the damage and helping her with the nausea that plagued her. She was soon dressed in a clean uniform with a newly-healed face, although the doctor warned her that the cheek would tingle from the bone knitter for the next few days.
“That was something to see,” the doctor commented as he released her to her quarters. “A bird smashing an egg into someone’s face.
“Part of the joys of diplomacy, I guess.” She winced at the image in her imagination and wished that Ecchon had not decided to allow the ship to watch the ceremony live. Janeway was sure that anyone who missed the attack when it occurred had been able to see the rerun in slow motion as often as they wanted.
She had never been happier to escape to the privacy of her quarters and crawl onto bed for a nap.
Several hours later, Ambassador Ecchon arrived to check on her condition. She had risen a short while earlier and had watched the attack on the ship’s video, finding it a little less embarrassing than she expected.
“Let me guess,” Janeway said as he entered the room and took a seat. “The attacker was from a faction that does NOT want to open diplomatic relations with the Federation.”
“Exactly. Some of the Plumes are afraid of Starfleet because they perceive it as the military element of the Federation. I guess your Starfleet uniform made you the perfect target.”
“Ugh, lucky me.” Janeway made a face. “I hope you explained that Starfleet’s primary focus is exploration?”
“Yes, and I told them that our ships are armed for defensive purposes, only. The prime minister gets it, of course, but there are some sections of the populace who need some convincing.”
“Just tell me that a video of the attack isn’t going to be plastered all over the Fednews. I have a reputation to uphold.” She grinned as the ambassador shook his head.
“Only the Plumes were authorized to record the ceremony.”
“But it was broadcast to the ship! I have a sneaky suspicion that the crew might have managed to save a few frames for posterity.”
“If so, I’ll make sure they understand that the incident is highly classified. The last thing we need to do is to embarrass the Plumes by showing this attack on our news and blowing it out of proportion.” He leaned closer, studying her face. “No black eye?”
“The doctor was able to treat the injury quickly enough to prevent bruising, but I have to say that that was one tough egg.”
“Was it ever. I brought you a piece of the shell as a souvenir.”
She took the jagged shell fragment from him and was not surprised to find that it was several millimeters thick. “No wonder he had to slam it into my face.”
“Well, they said that he had actually compromised the shell before he hit you with it, or you might have been seriously injured.”
“Did they catch him?”
“Did they! The Plumes that took off after him caught him about three miles up and dove back toward the planet at the speed of sound. The sonic boom was deafening, and I thought for sure that they would crash to the ground right in front of us, but they pulled up at the last possible moment and landed with a gentle plop. Then, in a flurry of activity that reminded me of Christmas morning at my grandmother’s house, the prime minister and all of his aides proceeded to pluck every single feather off of his body! I have never seen anything like it.”
“That would have been something to see.” She had to chuckle. “Did it kill him?”
“No, but it will take him a couple of months to grow the feathers back, effectively grounding him. I was told that this is a serious punishment and that being plucked featherless is excruciating. He actually blushed.”
“I wish I could have seen it.”
“The prime minister gave us the culprit’s tail plumage as a peace offering.” He produced a satchel that resembled a quiver for arrows and unwrapped eight long feathers that glistened in the light with a dazzling rainbow of color.
“They must be a full meter long,” Janeway marveled, picking one up and studying it. Gifts given to the diplomatic team were automatically considered Federation property, but she hoped that she could talk the ambassador into making an exception. “May I have one, Martin, as a sort of perverse memento?”
“I think you’ve earned it.” He patted her hand. “Apparently, there was more to the incident than just an objection to our presence here-another reason to keep the situation quiet for now.”
“The attack was a vote of no confidence for the prime minister’s government. He says that there has to be another worldwide election, and then that new government will have to review the record before they reopen diplomatic relations with us.”
“Well, that’s a serious setback. We’ve put a lot of work into this.”
“I’m hoping that whoever is elected will be open to continued negotiations, because it seems that we didn’t react properly to the challenge brought on by the attack.”
“How were we supposed to react?”
“Apparently, an individual who is egged the way you were is supposed to rise to the occasion.”
“Well, believe me, Martin, I wanted to rise to the occasion, but I was nearly knocked unconscious, and the attacker took off into the wild blue yonder before I could pluck him.”
Ecchon grinned. “Exactly. When a Plume is the victim, he or she turns toward the aggressor and receives the blow on his beak, which helps the egg break and lessens the seriousness of the injury. Then he is the one that pursues the assailant into the sky.”
“I don’t have a beak, and I can’t fly.”
“Very true. Those who have been working with us understand how different non-avian races are, but the common ‘bird’ on Plume is less aware of it. Many have never encountered someone who can’t fly, and it is second nature for them to take blows to the beak. For what it’s worth, I’m pleased with your reaction and hope that I would have done the exact same thing you did if I had been the one attacked.”
“I wish I could say my reaction was planned. The truth is that I was so dizzy and blind I couldn’t have slapped him if he was still standing right in front of me.”
“We’re lucky that you suffered only minor injuries.”
“You know, I’ve had a few run-ins with avian species in my day, and I have to say that their customs tend toward the complicated.”
“Am I detecting a little stereotyping, Kathryn?”
“Maybe.” Janeway laughed, reminding herself that all social customs tended to be complicated. “Just tell me we’re on our way home, and I’ll be happy.”
“We’re underway at maximum warp. We should arrive early tomorrow morning.”
“Good. I’m going to have fried chicken for dinner and then go to bed.” She winked at him as he guffawed.
They spoke a bit longer about the Plumes before the ambassador said goodnight and left Janeway to her own thoughts. She had some soup for dinner and prepared for bed, only to find sleep elusive. Her thoughts strayed to an avian race that Voyager had tangled with in the Delta Quadrant.
The Beneans had seemed friendly enough, especially compared to other species Voyager had encountered, but then Tom Paris had been falsely accused of murder and forced to relive the victim’s last terrifying moments of life—even though what he “saw” was not the truth. Tuvok had worked hard to prove Tom’s innocence and free him from his cruel punishment. Everyone had been glad to leave the Beneans behind, and Janeway had often pondered the uncommon punishment they used.
As she drifted off to sleep, she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of a huge featherless bird blushing in front of the crowd. What a strange and unusual punishment, almost as strange as what the Beneans had done to Tom. She wondered again whether all avian societies had such eccentric legal practices.
“Don’t stereotype,” she warned herself, a smile tugging at her lips. “Not all birds are of a feather.”
Thanks to the pain medications she’d been given for her injured cheekbone, Janeway slept well, waking up to find that they were in orbit around the Earth-like planet that was home to Starbase 247. Her eyes went at once to the location of her residence, where the sun just beginning to illuminate the tops of the hills. She was anxious to get home and plant her vegetable garden, assuming that her husband had found the time to prepare the ground during her absence. They were arriving early and unannounced, so she knew it was a long shot that the garden was ready for her.
She realized that it was Friday and suspected that very little work would be accomplished by the diplomatic team after their long absence. She decided to go straight home and eat breakfast there.
“Enjoy a three-day weekend, Admiral,” Ecchon told her when she contacted him. He gave her a reassuring smile. “My wife has been complaining about our time away from home, and I’m sure your husband has been, too. Three weeks straight is a long absence, and, anyway, you deserve the break.”
“Thanks, sir. I’ll see you Monday.”
After a quick shower, she dressed, packed a few things, and joined her aide, Dian Citra, for a quick walk to the transporter room. Janeway couldn’t help but notice the glances and smiles that the crew gave her along the way.
“They know,” she whispered to her aide. “Don’t they?”
“About the egg incident?” Dian smiled. “You bet they know. An admiral being hit in the face with a huge egg? This is not just a dream come true for most of the crew, it is a story for the ages. They’ll be telling their grandchildren that they were here.”
“You don’t have to sound so gleeful about it.” However, Janeway couldn’t help but grin back at her.
They parted company when Dian beamed to the Starbase’s officer’s quarters and Janeway beamed to the station near her home on the outskirts of town. She was well-known to the transporter workers, and so she wasn’t surprised when the operator, a man she knew only as Kurt, recognized her.
“Welcome home, Admiral.” He gave her a particularly bright smile. “I know you must be glad to have this trip behind you.”
“I’m always glad to be home,” she replied, narrowing her eyes with suspicion. She wondered just how much he knew about her trip. Was he just being kind, aware that she’d been gone nearly three weeks? Or was it something else? Had he heard something about her skirmish with an egg? Had someone on the crew managed to send a copy of the video to the planet?
*Or are you just being paranoid?* she asked herself.
With a sigh of resignation, she stepped out into a breath-taking dawn, realizing at once that it was a bit earlier in the day than she’d anticipated. Her husband might still be asleep, which would mean that she’d have to replicate food instead of eating some of his delicious cooking. As if on cue, her stomach rumbled, but that didn’t bother her. She could handle being hungry; what she really wanted was a hot cup of coffee, and replicated coffee could hold her until she got her husband into the kitchen.
She couldn’t help but smile as she started the fifteen minute walk to her home. Marriage had been even better than she’d imagined it could be, and she knew it was because she had found the perfect partner. He understood the demands of her job, accepting her absences and distracted state of mind without complaint. He was also more than willing to follow her from one assignment to the next, taking the opportunity to explore new cultures and foods as he created a haven for them wherever they lived. He loved gardening, cooking, and carpentry as hobbies, but his work as a writer had brought him all the fame and celebrity he needed to keep a healthy self-esteem of his own. And, her grin widened, he was wonderful in bed.
When her house came into view, she realized at once that her husband was awake. The dogs were romping in the back yard, already fed and checking the perimeter, and the lights were on in the master bedroom suite. Chances were good that the coffee had been made; breakfast couldn’t be far behind. She looked forward to surprising him.
Because the dogs were busy in the yard, she was able to approach the front porch without detection and disable the alarm as she unlocked the door. Standing inside, she took a deep breath, already relaxing in the calm atmosphere of home.
The smell of coffee was in the air, and she could hear soft music playing in the bedroom. The first rays of dawn filtered through the windows, giving the front rooms a warm golden glow. She found herself aching with anticipation. She hadn’t realized just how much she had missed her husband.
Maybe coffee and breakfast could wait. Well, breakfast, at least.
“Hello!” she called out. “I’m home!”
The music stopped, and the light from the bedroom spilled into the hallway as her husband appeared, half of his face still covered with shaving cream. He stared at her with a huge grin on his face. “Kathryn?”
“SURPRISE!” In a moment, she was in his arms, her recently injured cheek pressed into the clean shaven side of his face. “I’m home.”
“I’m thrilled! I thought you’d be gone another week or so.”
“So did I.” She pulled back and wiped the shaving cream away from around his lips so that she could give him a quick kiss. “But it seems that the Plumes have lost confidence in their prime minister and need a reelection before diplomatic relations can resume.”
“And, let me guess, you dashed home to plant your garden.”
“I dashed home because I missed you, doofie,” she gave him another quick kiss, “and because I wanted to plant my garden.”
“I knew it. Good thing I got the garden ready for you this week.” He pulled her close, and she melted into his chest. “Does anyone on your diplomatic team suspect how completely I have you under my spell?”
“Oh, God, yes, they know it.” She heaved a sigh of contentment. “I’m more addicted to you than I am coffee . . . which I smell brewing, don’t I?”
“You do. After five years of marriage, I’m just addicted to it as you are. Why don’t you get us our usual tankards, and I’ll finish shaving.”
“Yes, sir!” She gave him a salute and headed toward the kitchen.
A few moments later, she returned with two mugs of coffee, placing one on the counter beside him and then disappearing into the closet to change out of her uniform. She thought about a nice hot bath, but decided she had better eat first and get rid of the “hungry headache” that was beginning to bother her. The soft jeans and flannel shirt felt wonderful against her skin, and she realized that she’d been in uniform almost every waking moment for the last month.
“So, tell me, Kathryn. How long before you have to go back to their planet?”
She walked to the bathroom counter and placed her duffel on it so she could pull out the carefully wrapped feather. “A few weeks, probably. Maybe a month.”
“What’s that?” he wondered, eyeing the package.
“A trophy that Martin let me keep and which I am giving to you.” She unwrapped the glorious feather and presented it to him. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“It’s spectacular.” He held the plume reverently, turning it so that the light gleamed on it in a rainbow of colors. “What did you do to deserve this?”
“That doesn’t matter. The prime minister called it a peace offering.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew she’d made a mistake. Her husband’s eyes narrowed.
“A peace offering for what?”
“Oh, you know. For the delay.”
“And why, exactly, was there a delay?”
“I told you, there was a vote of no confidence for the Prime Minister.”
“I see. Another one of those avian complications you love so much?”
“I don’t dislike avians,” she insisted, giving him a warning look. “The Dorks were nice enough.”
“Tom Paris’s term for them. I’m surprised you let him get away with that.”
“I indulged my crew a lot, if you recall.” She smiled, remembering the avian race that had insisted upon meeting with her while they were all floating on their sacred lake. The avians floated naturally, their webbed feet paddling away. She was given a little yellow boat of her own that resembled a human-sized rubber duckie, complete with a cute wavy tail, a head-like steering mechanism, and legs that ended in webbed toes for propulsion. She suspected that Paris had had a hand in its design, but found it so adorable that she’d asked to keep it. Right now, it was on display in Starfleet museum.
“And, anyway,” she continued, “‘Dorks’ was pretty close to their real name, Duarks.”
He had put the feather aside and was leaning against the counter, studying her face intently, so that she suddenly became aware of the tingling in her newly-healed cheek.
“Is something wrong?” she wondered, brushing her hair away from her face.
“I’m just enjoying the view of my wife, that’s all.” He smiled and gave her a wink.
Alarms went off in her head; she was sure that, somehow, he knew about the attack. “And that smirk on your face? What’s that about?”
“Maybe about Plumes throwing eggs?” His grin widened.
Her shoulders dropped. “I can’t believe you heard about that already.”
“Starfleet informed me of your injury soon after it happened.” He stepped toward her, slipping an arm around her waist, and leaning his forehead against hers. “I am your husband, after all. Next of kin, and all that. Which cheek was it?”
She turned her face so that he could examine her cheek, and sucked in a breath when he kissed it, his soft lips and warm breath sending shivers down her spine.
“Are you all right now?” He nuzzled her ear, and she tilted her head to give him access to her neck.
“I’m feeling better by the moment.”
“That must have been a big egg to break your cheekbone.”
“You have no idea.” She stepped away and pulled the shell fragment from the satchel. “Look at this.”
“Wow!” He held it in his hand, a jagged piece, but a smooth curve with an opalescent glow. It was beautiful, but also heavy and durable, nearly unbreakable. “I’m trying to imagine how big it was before it was broken.”
“It looked like Voyager’s saucer section from my perspective.”
“You were lucky it didn’t kill you. If it had hit your nose just right, you would have been a goner.”
“I know.” She took the fragment from him and studied it, running her hand along the smooth glassy interior. “It was one tough egg, all right, but I’m a tough egg, too.” At that moment, her stomach growled.
“I’m thinking I’d better feed you breakfast,” he said, grinning.
“I’m starved,” she admitted, leaning against him. “And I’m hoping I’ll need my strength later this morning.”
“I can guarantee that you will, and not just for the garden.” He took her hand and led her into the kitchen, settling her at the table with a refilled mug of coffee before heading to the sink to wash his hands.
“I know just what I should fix for breakfast,” he said, giving her a wicked grin.
“You tell me what would be the perfect revenge.”
She laughed, her eyes sparkling, as they said the word in unison.
A/N: This was written for VAMB’s Secret Summer exchange thanks to a very general prompt from Katthryn. Thanks for letting me use my imagination! Also, thanks to KJ115 for her encouragement along the way. Greatly appreciated!