|The Kings of the Hill own Voyager, her
crew and all things Trek.
Kathryn Janeway tugged at the collar of her turtleneck and wondered why she was so warm. She had been reading reports and proposals for the last two hours and hadn't noticed the heat steadily increasing.
"Computer, lower the temperature to 22 degrees Celsius."
"The room temperature is set at 21 degrees Celsius."
"Computer, what is the actual temperature in this room?"
"The actual temperature is 24 degrees Celsius."
"Computer, are environmental controls functioning in this room."
"Affirmative. Environmental controls are functioning within normal parameters."
Kathryn stood up and headed to the bridge determined to find out what was wrong in her ready room. As the door opened to the bridge, she was met with a blast of warmer air.
"Commander, what's going on?"
"We're trying to determine that now, Captain. The temperature has been rising all over the ship for the last fifteen minutes. The only thing we know so far is that the environmental system is not the cause." Chakotay turned to Harry. "Ensign, how soon will you have a report?"
"I'm nearly finished with a preliminary analysis. Give me five more minutes."
"Commander, have the senior staff in the briefing room in ten minutes."
Kathryn returned to the relative coolness of her ready room and headed for the computer. She would do her own brief analysis during the ten minutes.
"Ok, Harry, what is the source of this heat?"
"I don't know, Captain." Harry paled at the expression on the captain's face. "But I can describe it. The source is about thirty light years from our present position and the effect radiates out. Our present course will take us across the effect on a secant that is about one hundred light years long. The effect itself is a series of expanding spheres about roughly 9.3 light years apart. We're passing through the outermost one now. On our present course, we'll pass through three more every four to five days, then have a longer gap before going through the other side of the same four spheres."
"This effect is causing the heat increase?"
"Not directly, no. Our shields are keeping the effect from impacting Voyager but it is affecting the surrounding space. That space is being heated and that has prevented Voyager's systems from venting sufficient heat to the surrounding area to maintain our normal temperatures. There are very few particles in space but the few that are there approach 0 degrees Kelvin. Our systems are designed to work at those temperatures. Closer to planets and stars where there are more particles, the temperature is considerably higher but the increase in the number of particles balances the increase in their temperature and our systems function just as well. We actually can vent heat most efficiently in the outermost atmosphere of a planet. The actual temperature change in space as a result of this effect is only about one hundred degrees Kelvin but it's enough to interfere with our systems causing the temperature on Voyager to rise about slowly."
"Harry's right our systems are just not able to vent as much heat as they should. If what he says is correct, we'll be experiencing a steady increase in temperature until after we've passed through the last sphere. The effect is going to be cumulative. Based on the limited information we have so far, we can expect the interior temperature to reach at least 45 or 50 degrees Celsius before we reach an area where we can start venting heat at a normal rate. Even then, it will take us several weeks to get back to normal."
"Can we go around it? Tom?"
"We can go around anything, Captain. The question is how much longer that would take. At its present size and at our normal cruising speed, it would take us just over ten weeks to go around it or about two weeks longer than to go through it, allowing for its present rate of expansion."
"There is another problem, Captain." Harry spoke up.
"Yes. We've detected other effects similar to this one along our projected course. They are farther from our course but appear to be older and stronger. If we try to go around this one, we'll have to go around the others. On our present heading, we have to maintain warp 8.3 to avoid them. We can eventually get around them but my preliminary calculations indicate it would take us over one thousand light years off our present course at our normal cruising speed."
"If we can maintain warp 8.3, how far off course would it take us?"
"About five hundred light years."
"Captain, I don't think we can maintain warp 8.3 for that period of time with no maintenance breaks. We barely have enough fuel to take us that far at warp 6.5 and maintaining higher speeds depletes our supplies more quickly."
"Can we maintain warp 8.3 for the six weeks necessary to clear this effect?"
"I think so, Captain, but I would recommend slowing to warp 7 as soon as we clear the last sphere."
"Would that get us past the other effects, Harry?"
Harry did some quick calculations. "I think so, Captain. We'd have to get fifty light years past the last sphere of this effect within twelve weeks to avoid the others."
"Can we do that, B'Elanna?"
B'Elanna considered the question and the demands the plan would make on her department and the ship before she slowly nodded. "I think so."
"We're going to have to start making allowances now though. We have to take steps now to avoid increasing the heat on the ship more than necessary and to reduce the impact of the heat on the crew." Chakotay spoke up after listening quietly to the more technical part of the discussion.
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, we can lower the humidity for one thing. That will make it feel cooler. I think you should consider allowing a slight change in uniforms once the temperature passes 27 degrees. Discourage everyone from ordering hot foods and beverages and tell Neelix that we're eating cold food for the next few weeks. There is no point in generating heat unnecessarily. B'Elanna, will we have the energy reserves to replicate lots of water?"
"Well, I was thinking more about making some kind of pool where people can go to cool off."
"Let me check that out and get back to you. How cool did you have in mind?"
"Well, anything below the temperature on the ship would work but I was thinking about 18 or 19 degrees." Chakotay turned back to Kathryn. "The doctor can probably give us some more ideas on keeping ourselves cool."
"Does anyone think we should try to go around this thing?"
Eyes met Kathryn's across the table but all heads moved slightly in the negative.
"Ok, people, we're going ahead. Chakotay, advise the crew that effective with Beta shift today, tee-shirts with rank pips are the norm. They can all go to tank tops if they want when the temperature in engineering reaches 30 degrees. Tom, take us to warp 8.3 when you get back to the bridge. Harry, I want to know exactly what that effect is, not just how to get around it. Dismissed."
Three days later, Kathryn sat in her ready room with a report from Harry about the heat effect they had encountered. The chime sounded.
Harry and Chakotay entered the ready room.
"You wanted to see us, Captain?"
"Yes. Sit down, both of you." Kathryn stood to join them on the couch. "Would you like something to drink while we talk?"
"Iced tea for me, Captain. Harry?"
"Nothing for me, thanks."
Kathryn went to the replicator and forced herself to ask for iced coffee along with the tea. She carried the drinks over to the couch and handed Chakotay his tea.
"Harry, I just want to make sure I understand your report. It seems to me you concluded that this effect should not exist."
"Not quite, Captain. Based on all the theoretical work done by Federation scientists, this effect should not exist. Back in the late 22nd century, several Earth scientists proposed that something similar to this could exist but after thirty or forty years, the work of others concluded that it couldn't so the theory was dropped."
"The biggest differences were in the size of the effect and the increase in temperature it actually caused. They also had difficulty coming up with a model that resulted in the creation of the effect in the first place. They thought the effect would be smaller and the heat increases greater. Since the effect obviously can exist, the initial proposal was valid even if incomplete."
"Sounds like an opportunity to expand our knowledge base significantly. Can you prepare a detailed report?"
"I could, Captain, but theoretical cosmology is not my strong point. Mortimer Harren would be perfect for this. He's the one with all the degrees in theory and probably understands all the reasons this effect isn't supposed to exist. I really think you should get him to work on this."
"He's right, Captain. Harren would know what details were critical to the theory and what could be discounted."
"All right, get Harren to work with you on this but I want you to go over the final written report so that it can be understood by someone who isn't versed on all the theories of the creation of the universe."
"I understand, Captain."
Kathryn waited until Harry had left to speak to Chakotay.
"What's our status?"
"We're holding steady at warp 8.3. The temperature is down to 23 degrees but B'Elanna says not to expect similar results after the next wave front. I made some changes in the duty roster to put more people in engineering around the clock. All essential systems are optimal and we're in the process of shutting down the ones we won't need for the next few weeks.
"At the doctor's suggestion, we are designating the mess hall and one holodeck as 'cool zones'. We're going to be trying to keep the temperatures in those two places cooler than the rest of the ship. We'll be encouraging people to spend some time in both areas every day to help stay cool when they are off duty."
Kathryn raised her hand to cut off Chakotay's report. "Enough. Are we ready for the next wave front?"
"We will be by the end of this shift."
"Good enough. I suppose you have a report with all those details?"
"I believe it was on your desk next to Harry's report."
"Do you even need me to run this ship anymore, Chakotay?"
"Of course." Chakotay's grin widened. "I have to have something or someone threatening to motivate the crew and make them think I'm a nice guy."
"I should put you on report for that but it would be a waste of time. I'd just send the report to you to mete out appropriate punishment."
They both laughed.
"Seriously, Chakotay. Have you had second thoughts about us trying to go through this thing?"
"I've thought about it and studied the additional information we have as well as our supply situation and fuel reserves. I agree with going forward. The risks are concentrated within a shorter timeframe but are fewer overall than if we try to go around the effect."
"What does Tuvok think?"
"He thinks you and I aren't paying enough attention to security issues so he is being his usual diligent self with his department."
"See what you can do to reassure him that both of us are concerned but trusting him to let us know if there are problems."
"Aye, Captain. Now if there isn't anything else, I'll go threaten the crew some more."
Chakotay stood and Kathryn laughed.
"Get out of here before I really do put you on report."
Two weeks later, Voyager crossed the halfway point in its journey across the "heat wave" as the effect had been termed. The temperature hovered around 32 degrees Celsius and most of the crew were wearing tank tops while on duty. Only the bridge officers still wore tee shirts. Kathryn glanced around the bridge and saw the sheen of perspiration on several foreheads and made a note to ask B'Elanna if they could increase the volume of air flowing through the bridge.
Kathryn heard the door of the turbolift swish and knew that Chakotay had returned. She didn't even look up until she realized he was standing next to her chair.
"Could I talk to you in your ready room, Captain?" Chakotay's voice was quiet but something about his tone told Kathryn she would not like what he had to say and that he would say it on the bridge if she turned down his request. The last thing she needed was a confrontation with Chakotay; it was too hot to argue with anyone. Kathryn stared at him a long second before nodding her head and standing.
"Harry, you have the bridge."
Kathryn led the way to her ready room knowing Chakotay would be on her heels. She headed for the replicator but before she could ask him what he would like he spoke.
"We'll both have ice water, Kathryn."
She paused without turning wondering if he was trying to antagonize her or simply make a point. Kathryn decided that he was most likely making a point and requested too large glasses of ice water. She picked them up and carried them to the sofa where she handed one to Chakotay.
"Sit down, Chakotay. It's too hot to stand on formality."
"I agree, Kathryn."
"Now what is so important that you had to talk to me about it right now?"
"I've been checking up on the status of the ship and crew. My last stop was in sickbay where I had an interesting conversation with the doctor. It seems quite a few of the crew are not taking his instructions seriously enough. The doctor did admit that the heat has not yet significantly affected the Vulcans but the rest of the crew is feeling the effects. He gave me a list of the people who are ignoring most or all of his instructions and I just spent the last two hours tracking most of them down and making it clear that I expected them all to follow orders."
Kathryn knew without asking that 'most of them' meant there was one person left on that list and she was pretty sure who that one person was. She sighed.
"I know what you're going to say."
"And I know what your response is going to be so I'll just tell you what the doctor told me. You need to spend at least six hours out of every twenty-four in an environment that allows your body temperature to return to normal and remain there. You can do that awake while on duty, or when you're sleeping. The doctor doesn't care when or where as long as you do it.
"Come with me to the holodeck for a few hours in the evening."
"You mean that giant wading pool? I don't think so."
"Then at least work in the mess hall during the afternoons."
"Without access to the computer?"
"If the doctor puts you on the sick list, you won't even have access part of the day. You'll be assigned to the holodeck for twelve hours a day, and the mess hall and your quarters for the other twelve."
"We've had this conversation before, too."
"All right, I'll try."
"Why don't you start by having dinner with me in the mess hall tonight? Shift changes in ten minutes."
"I'll meet you there in forty minutes."
"Make that twenty unless you want to change into something cooler."
Kathryn's glare was enough to tell Chakotay that she had no intention of changing into something cooler and that she had probably hoped she could come up with an excuse to cancel if she waited in her ready room for the shift change. Chakotay smiled and turned to leave.
"Twenty minutes in the mess hall it is, Captain."
Ten days later, the temperature had passed 35 degrees Celsius and Kathryn had given the crew permission to wear shorts and sneakers on duty unless long pants were necessary to protect their legs while making repairs or adjustments to the ship's systems. Even Vorik and Tuvok had started wearing tank tops on duty and everyone's rank insignia were clipped to their comm badges. Even Kathryn had changed to a tank top and shorts the previous day.
The chime to the ready room brought Kathryn's attention away from the latest reports on the heat wave. She was not surprised to see Chakotay enter.
"Come on, Kathryn. We're going to the holodeck for a few hours."
"I can't right now. I'm in the middle of Harren's latest report."
"That report can wait." He was unphased by her look but went on to explain. "In five minutes, the doctor is going to check your life signs and your location. Unless you are somewhere cooling off when he does that, in ten minutes he is going to send me the paperwork removing you from the active duty roster."
Kathryn knew when to stop evading the doctor but she still made one last effort.
"I'll go work in the mess hall."
"The doctor was very specific the holodeck. He gave you the mess hall option at my request but you haven't taken advantage of that option, so it's gone. He wants you to cool off and relax -- now."
"I don't suppose you tried to talk him out of this?"
"Actually, I did. I wanted him to let you take a thirty-minute cold shower in your quarters and then go to the mess hall. He refused. You now have four minutes to get to the holodeck."
"Chakotay, I have a ship to run. You know that."
"Kathryn, if you tell me to leave, I will, but I'll be back as soon as I get the report from the doctor to relieve you of your command for health reasons. I'd rather not do that but I won't risk your health. Three minutes."
Kathryn put down the pads and stood up. "This is blackmail."
"Call it whatever you want as long as you come to the holodeck with me."
Kathryn reluctantly headed for the holodeck with Chakotay at her side. When they arrived, she physically cringed at the thought of joining so many around the pool. She glanced at Chakotay.
"Who designed that pool?"
"Tom and Harry. They were in charge of putting this together. Most of the things in here are real including the water. Only the scenery is holographic. Real water is far more effective at keeping a person cool." Chakotay glanced around for a quiet area before heading for the far side of the room. "Come on, I see a good place to sit and relax."
"I'm not getting in that pool." Kathryn knew she would never have the nerve to appear in public dressed the way a few of the crew were.
"We're not going to that pool."
Chakotay led the way to a smaller pool with gentle ripples on the surface.
"That looks like a hot tub."
"It is with one minor change the water isn't hot. It's about 65 degrees. Take off your shoes and step down on that first step, then sit along the edge."
Chakotay had his shoes off and was standing in the pool by the time he finished talking. Although a step lower, he could still look her in the eye. She yielded only because she knew the doctor could and would remove her from the active duty roster and Chakotay would back him up. She toed off her shoes and stuffed her socks inside them. She stepped down into the water pointedly ignoring Chakotay's outstretched hand and sat down on the edge. Kathryn would never have admitted it to Chakotay but the cool water felt wonderful.
After fifteen minutes of companionable silence, Kathryn finally spoke.
"Why did you insist I come here? You could have convinced the doctor to let me use the mess hall."
"Probably, but I didn't try very hard. You push yourself too hard, Kathryn, and you needed a break as much as you needed to cool off." Chakotay looked slightly embarrassed that he had mislead Kathryn earlier.
"You push yourself just as hard. Or maybe I should say I push you just as hard."
"You don't push me any more than I can handle and I know enough to take a break when I need one. Your response to stress is to work harder so I do what I can to make you relax when you need a break."
"Why didn't you just let the doctor relieve me?"
"I told you a few weeks ago that I need someone to use as a threat to the crew and make me look good."
Chakotay's humor was rewarded by a nicely aimed splash in the face.
Even though Voyager was headed out of the heat wave, the temperature continued to increase because its impact on the ship's internal temperature was cumulative. As they approached the last of the waves, Kathryn had cut back on her time in the holodeck and mess hall. They were operating the ship using skeleton crew staffing and trading off shifts to reduce everyone's work load. Nearly everyone was sleeping on the holodeck on the doctor's orders.
Kathryn glanced at the chronometer. It was only two hours before they entered the final wave. When they cleared it, they would be ahead of the wave front and could start venting heat at the normal rate. Even then, it would be several weeks before the internal temperature returned to normal. Despite knowing the temperature would be climbing, she almost looked forward to passing through the next wave front because she knew that when the temperature dropped again, it would stay down. From comments she had overheard on the bridge and in the mess hall, she knew that most of the crew agreed.
Kathryn returned her attention to the latest report on the wave front and interior temperatures. Harry's initial projections about the heat waves had been very accurate but Harren had found a minor error in the formula that only a theoretical physicist would have noticed but the practical result was that the projections about the internal temperatures on Voyager were slightly off. The temperature was already 48.7 degrees and would probably reach 52 or 53 before it leveled off and began to drop. Even the holodeck and mess hall were above 30 degrees.
Kathryn sighed and pushed away the report as it turned into another long discussion by Harren on the details that supported his theory about the creation of the effect itself. She was picking up a report from the doctor about the general health of the crew when the chime sounded.
"Come in, Chakotay."
He grinned as he came through the door. "How did you know who it was?"
"No one else has come in here for the last five weeks. Now, what did you want?"
"I came to get you."
"I don't recall making any plans with you."
"We didn't but you've been in here for the last seven hours and need a break."
"We're entering the last wave front in a few hours in case you lost track. I'm making sure we're ready." Kathryn allowed herself the luxury of sounding slightly angry at his presumptuous attitude.
"We are, except for the captain. She needs to cool off a bit first."
Kathryn stared at Chakotay wondering whether he intended the double meaning. He stared back with a slight grin on his face waiting for her response. Kathryn couldn't help herself she chuckled and allowed herself to smile as she stood up.
"Someday, mister, that innocent smile is not going to work."
"Well, then I'll switch to my adorable smile."
Laughing they left the ready room and headed for the holodeck.
Twenty-four hours later, they had cleared the last heat wave and were beyond its effects. The temperature had peaked at 53.4 degrees as they left the effect behind. Already the temperature had dropped to 51 degrees but B'Elanna warned that the decrease would be slower. Long-range scans had detected an uninhabited planet about four days away only a few degrees off their present course. B'Elanna had pleaded for an hour or two in a high orbit so they could vent heat more efficiently. Kathryn had agreed to give her three orbits to vent as much heat as she could but would risk delaying their journey no longer.
Chakotay glanced around the bridge and realized that despite the high temperatures, morale was high and everyone was focused on the job at hand. He wondered where Kathryn was. He hadn't heard from her since she approved the detour for B'Elanna. He stood and headed for the ready room.
"You have the bridge, Tom."
Chakotay signaled for admission but received no response. He entered his personal code and walked in. The temperature was warmer than on the bridge. At first he didn't see Kathryn but then he saw her slumped over her desk. He rushed over to her and checked her life signs. Her breathing was shallow. She roused slightly when he spoke her name. He didn't need to be told that she had pushed herself too far and her body had finally collapsed from the heat.
Picking her up, Chakotay briefly considered taking Kathryn to the holodeck's pool. Getting her body temperature down was his priority but he also knew that allowing the crew to see their captain in this condition was not going to do anyone any good. A cold shower would work as well as the holodeck. Quickly he ordered a transport to his quarters where he carried her to his room. He put her on the bed long enough to pull off her shoes and his own before picking her up and heading for the shower.
Chakotay managed to get Kathryn vertical so he could hold her against him with her back to the showerhead. Then he ordered the computer to turn on the shower and set the temperature low enough to cool her. She flinched as the cool water struck her back. After a few seconds, she started to struggle to be released. As soon as he knew she was standing completely on her own, he turned her to face the water and pushed her forward enough for it to run over her head. Kathryn's struggles increased.
"Let me go!"
"In a few minutes but not yet."
"Chakotay, so help me, I am putting you on report this time. Let me go! This water is cold!"
"That's the idea. Now hold still before you slip."
Kathryn changed her tactics and stopped struggling so Chakotay relaxed his grip. When she thought he was off-guard, she tried to escape, but he was too quick and stopped her by pulling her closer to him. When she relaxed, he loosened his grip. Acknowledging that he was stronger and just as quick as she was, she turned to confront him. Tilting her head to meet his eyes, she had two choices allow the water to run down her face while she talked or move closer. Both had their disadvantages. She opted for the water.
"What prompted this little escapade of yours?"
"I found you unconscious at your desk because of the heat. It was a shower or the pool on the holodeck. I chose the shower because I didn't think the crew should see their captain setting such a bad example." Chakotay saw her expression change as his words forced home the fact that she had collapsed on duty. "I also thought you would prefer the shower."
"You're right, I do prefer the shower but does it have to be so cold?"
"Only for a few more minutes. Once I'm sure your body temperature is closer to normal, you can get out." He sighed. "I wish you wouldn't push yourself like this, Kathryn."
"I'm the captain. I have to ."
"You're the captain and you don't have to. The crew respects you and trusts you; you don't have to prove anything to any of them. All you do is make your life more difficult when you push yourself too hard."
Kathryn was silent as she considered his words and Chakotay waited until she was ready to respond.
"And your job."
"I also make your job more difficult when I push, don't I?"
"I push myself and I push you." Kathryn stepped forward slightly to escape the water.
"You don't push me, Kathryn. At least not harder than I push myself."
"I do. I push you away."
"Kathryn." Chakotay's voice was cautious. "This is probably not a good time for that conversation."
"It's a good time. I'm sorry I pushed you away."
"You don't need to apologize. It's your choice and one that I've accepted."
"No, I meant I'm sorry, sorry that you've accepted it and sorry that I got in the habit of doing it in the first place." Kathryn stared at him for a minute then shifted a bit closer. "Why did you accept it?"
"It was what you wanted."
"And if I tell you it's not what I want now?"
"I'd write it off as an effect of being overheated."
"And you'd make a joke about it tomorrow to make it easy for me to go back to pushing you away." Kathryn shook her head and lightly put her hands on Chakotay's waist. Slowly she slid her hands up his chest and around his neck. Their height difference meant she had to bring her body into contact with his. "I don't want to make it easy for us to get back in that habit."
Kathryn pulled his head down and kissed him. Chakotay was motionless. Kathryn pulled her head back slightly so she could look at him.
"I really want this, Chakotay. Or have I pushed too long?"
Chakotay moved his hands to her waist and Kathryn knew he was going to use his strength to shift her position. For several seconds she feared he would push her away.
"You couldn't push that long, Kathryn, and if you ever try to push me away again, I'll just pull you along with me."
Then his hands slid around to her back and he pulled her closer to his body as he lowered his head. As the kiss deepened, Kathryn shivered, a huge trembling shudder.
"I think it's time to turn off the water." Chakotay's grin was rueful.
"I'd rather you just turn the temperature up a bit."
"Yours or the water's?"
"Both. And I'll work on your temperature."
"If we're not careful, we're going to be creating our own heat wave in here, Kathryn."
"Then it's a good thing we're standing in a cold shower." Kathryn pulled Chakotay's head down so she could whisper in her ear. "I know this isn't the first cold shower you've taken because of me, but I think it might be the last."
"I'm going to hold you to