“How will I ever trust you again?” Kathryn Janeway whispered to the malfunctioning shuttle’s helm.
Behind her, Chakotay smiled at her from the engineering workstation where he’d managed to shut down the warp core just seconds before it breached. “Talking to the ship again, are we?”
“It’s bad enough that the antimatter injectors lost magnetic containment, but I can’t believe that we lost impulse power at the same time.” In the dim red emergency lighting, she could barely see the look of relief on his face. “Besides, weren’t you just chewing out the warp drive?”
“Well, yeah, but that’s different,” he deadpanned. “Everyone knows that the warp core is alive.”
“Well, it isn’t alive now.” She sat back in her seat and took a cleansing breath. “B’Elanna was right. These new injectors obviously need more work.”
Chakotay held his tongue as he made his way to the front of the cockpit. Kathryn had insisted on flying the shuttle to Risa, claiming that a shuttle was faster and more intimate than a public transport. He’d suspected from the first that she had an ulterior motive.
The experimental injectors had been the topic of a dozen conversations between Kathryn and B’Elanna the last few weeks. He’d heard them complain about how unreliable the design would be at high warp, but Starfleet had scoffed at their advice and had gone ahead with preliminary tests. B’Elanna didn’t have the clout to take the ship out for a test flight, so Kathryn took matters into her own hands. Chakotay was convinced that their use of the shuttle was as much a test of the injectors as it was a shortcut to Risa, although Kathryn had adamantly denied it. He’d come along to keep her from blowing herself up in the process—literally, as it turned out.
“I’m thinking it’s you,” he teased as he sat down in the copilot’s seat. “This isn’t the first time you’ve stranded yourself in deep space.”
“With one small difference.” She made a great show of activating the emergency beacon. “This time the cavalry should arrive in hours, not years.”
“Thank God for small favors.” He looked around the darkened cockpit, thinking that it would be a tedious wait and hoping the batteries that powered life support lasted. “We’re going to be late for our first night on Risa.”
“True, but at least we’re together.”
“I suppose I should feel lucky, but, somehow, I don’t.”
“I’ll make it worth your while once,” she promised, giving him a wink.
“I’m looking forward to that.” He noticed that she was drinking coffee from a rather large mug. “Looks like you visited the replicator at the right moment.”
“Replicated coffee? Absolutely not. This is the real thing. I brought about a gallon with me this morning in a thermos. I brought a picnic lunch, too.”
“Why would you do that?”
“I thought that the replicators might be offline if the injectors failed.” At his scowl, Kathryn continued, “Let’s just say I’m not surprised about the injectors. They are almost identical to some that B’Elanna designed and tried to install on Voyager, remember? They very nearly took out the entire power grid when they failed, so I had reason to be prepared.”
“I must’ve repressed that event,” he shook his head. “Or maybe I just don’t remember because it was a relatively minor crisis.”
“Sad that a near warp core breach can be considered a ‘minor crisis,’ isn’t it?”
He sighed. “You and B’Elanna warned the design team about Voyager’s problems with the injectors, right?”
“Several times, but the records for that little mishap didn’t survive the trip. It was our word against the design team’s opinion, and they assured us that they had probably corrected the problem we faced. Since B’Elanna couldn’t get authorization to test the new shuttle—”
“You decided to take matters into your own hands.”
“Something like that,” she grinned. “I didn’t think we would make it all the way to Risa on our own power.” She held up her oversized mug. “I came prepared.”
“If you expected this, why take the ship so far away from the starbase? We could have just done a quick trip out and back.”
“What’s the fun in that?” she laughed when he rolled his eyes. “Actually, I would have done that, except I needed to keep the ship at a sustained speed above warp 8.5 for at least an hour before I simultaneously brought up shields and powered the phasers. I was pretty sure that the added strain would damage the injectors.”
“And almost cause a warp core breech. Good thing I was here, hm?”
“You bet.” She reached over and squeezed his arm. “I thought it would be fun to be together on a ship again. Like old times.”
“Like old times when we barely divert disaster. You could’ve at least warned me.”
“If I’d done that, you might have declined to come along, and then I’d be stuck out here on my own. If I’m going to be stranded for hours, I like to have compatible company.”
“I’m flattered, but I wouldn’t have let you come by yourself.” He looked at the inactive replicator and realized he was thirsty, too. “Are you willing to share your coffee?”
“I take care of my crew.” She swiveled in her seat and pointed at one of the storage bins along the starboard bulkhead. “There’s a thermos of your favorite tea in there.”
“Thanks.” While he retrieved the tea, he noticeda large picnic basket of food that she’d crammed into the bin, as well. “That’s quite a haul in there—a regular picnic basket? I can see bringing emergency rations in case there was trouble, but a whole basket of food?”
“I thought we might have time to kill.”
“I’m thinking maybe you set this up because you wanted to get me alone for a few hours.” He grinned at her over the edge of his thermos.
“I don’t have to trap you in a shuttle for some personal time, you know,” she laughed. “At least, not recently.”
Chakotay stowed his thermos in the drink holder and pushed his seat into a reclining position. “We might as well get comfy,” he sighed. “One nice thing about these new shuttles is that they have sleeper seats.”
The console chirped, and Kathryn reported that star base 312 was sending their support vessel, Midas, to rescue them—arriving in three hours. “So we have a little time,” she pointed out. “Are you hungry?”
He didn’t move. “I could eat something, I guess.”
“If we start now, we’d have time for more than nap and dinner.”
“Oh, really?” Chakotay lifted his head to look at her.
“We could even start with dessert, if you wanted.”
He sat up. “Dessert?”
“All this test piloting has given me a powerful hunger,” she replied, her voice husky, “and not for food.”
She had his complete attention. “These short hop shuttles don’t have bunks, do they?” He glanced down and frowned at the floor’s thin, utilitarian carpet. “We don’t want to risk getting carpet burns.”
“I plan ahead. There is some extra survival gear, including a full-sized air mattress.”
Chakotay stood up and pulled her into an embrace, looking down into her laughing blue eyes. “Air mattress, gourmet picnic, three hours alone with Kathryn Janeway. This is my idea of the perfect way to start a vacation.”
“I think so, too,” she purred, nestling into his arms.
Just over four hours later, after the shuttle had been towed into Midas’s shuttle bay and locked down for maintenance, the exasperated engineer pulled Kathryn aside.
“What happened, Admiral?”
“I was in a hurry to get to Risa and start my vacation. The injectors couldn’t take the pressure of a sustained warp speed above 8.5.”
“The log shows that the injectors were fine until you brought the shields up and put the weapons online. Why did you do that?”
“Why not?” She shrugged and gave him an innocent look. “All my years in the Delta Quadrant made me cautious. I like to make sure all the systems are working properly in case we run into pirates or an ion storm.”
“You realize that all these new injectors are going to have to be pulled, and that I’m the one that is going to have to write up the report about their failure.” He was not a happy man.
“You can thank me later,” she replied, arching an eyebrow. “It’s your chance to shine!”
The engineer gave her an exasperated look and walked away, ordering his crew to start replacing the injectors while he notified Starfleet of the problem.
Chakotay, who had been standing nearby, crossed his arms. “So now what, Kathryn? A public transport to Risa after all?”
“I’m sure the captain will drop us off on her way. After all, it was the shuttle’s malfunction that stranded us out here.”
“Very funny,” Chakotay laughed. “I had no idea you were so crafty, Kathryn.”
“Oh, yes, you did.” She took his arm and led him out of the shuttle bay. “I understand that Midas’s VIP suite is very cushy—especially compared to an air mattress.”
Once they had arrived at their quarters, Kathryn sat down at the desk and contacted B’Elanna Torres via subspace.
“How did it go?” the young engineer asked.
“Exactly the way we thought it would,” Kathryn replied. “When I brought the shields and weapons online . . . .”
“The injectors blew,” B’Elanna nodded. “I bet there will be a little angst over that at Starfleet.”
“The engineer is pulling the injectors and writing an incident report.”
“Good. Congratulations on a job well done, Admiral.”
Kathryn smiled. “Don’t be surprised if someone contacts you about this.”
“I’m ready. You know, the only thing that will keep this ‘test flight’ of yours from becoming a problem is the serious flaw it revealed.”
“It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. But of course,” Kathryn laughed, giving her friend a wink, “you already know that.”
Their conversation had just ended when an ensign arrived at their quarters with the picnic basket that they’d left on the shuttle. Although the young man made no comment, it was clear that he was amused.
“When the captain hears about our picnic, she’s going to suspect that we were on a boondoggle,” Kathryn laughed, moving to the sofa. “Let’s just hope she agrees to take us the rest of the way to Risa.”
“So you and B’Elanna really did cook up this little test flight?” Chakotay asked.
“More or less. It was my idea to bring the basket, of course.”
“And a copilot.” Chakotay frowned. He thought about how he’d been hoodwinked into accompanying Kathryn on the trip that she was fairly certain would include a brief breakdown, and then realized that he’d also been used to satisfy her own desires during the hours until help arrived. He set the basket on the table in front of the sofa with a plop. “You used me.”
“I didn’t hear you protest at the time!” Kathryn exclaimed, reaching up and pulling him down next to her on the sofa. “I needed to have someone I could trust in an emergency, and, frankly, who can I trust more than you?”
“Trust?” He put an arm around her shoulder. “You’re just trying to soothe my ruffled feathers. You risked my life on a malfunctioning shuttle just so you could take advantage of me.”
“Actually, the ship functioned just as I thought it would . . . thanks to that one tiny flaw with the injectors,” her eyes twinkled with mischief. “And I’m always looking for ways to ‘take advantage’ of you. Don’t you want me to?”
“Oh, I do want you to,” Chakotay laughed and put both of his arms around her, snuggling her into his chest. “Especially when I can take advantage of you at the same time.”
A/N: This story was written for VAMB’s Secret Drabble Fling 2011. The opening sentence of the story was provided by Muizeke83.