Dani remembered when she had finally settled the score between her and Emma. It hadn’t been that summer on the Enterprise; it had been over a year later, during her junior year at the Academy, after Dani had finished a mission training session in one of the Academy’s holodeck classrooms…
22-year-old Dani Janeway checked the Tactical Eye Display of her hazard suit. Life support – good, weapons status – good. She looked down at the weapon in her hands. The Infinity Modulator, or I-MOD. She remembered when Seven of Nine had first designed it.
Obtaining the I-MOD was one of Dani’s mission objectives. She’d already met that one. Her other objective was to save her crewmates. Doing that would require her to actually engage the Borg. She couldn’t believe how afraid she actually was. As many times as she’d encountered the Borg in her lifetime…
She wouldn’t even have to engage them if it weren’t for those damned force fields, she thought. To deactivate the force field, she had to disable the warp plasma conduit powering it. And that would alert the Borg to her presence and they would start to come after her. That’s where those Borg distribution nodes came in handy. A good shot in the right place would disable the node and any nearby drones.
Dani looked down at the I-MOD. Surely it wouldn’t take a blast from the I- MOD to disable a conduit or node. She whipped out her phaser and fired at the nearest conduit. Sparks flew from the conduit as the force field came down. Before she could make it to the nearest distribution node, three Borg were already on her. She only got two of them with down with the phaser. By the time she got to the third one, he’d already adapted. She pointed the I-MOD at him and fired. The drone went down. Before any other drones showed up, Dani found the distribution node and fired at it with the I-MOD.
Dani looked around her. All the Borg that had been on a direct course to her position were instantaneously frozen into position before they went limp and fell to the floor. Dani passed into the corridor that had once been restricted by a force field.
Dani had absolutely no idea where she was supposed to go next. She had entered a large open area with some kind of energy conduit in the center of it. The floor wasn’t complete, though. It lined the perimeter but left the area directly surrounding the conduit open. She looked down through the floor. Her holographic crewmate was being held in some type of holding cell. Dani didn’t see any other particular way to get down besides jumping, so she did.
She wasn’t surprised to find a drone manning a console connected to the conduit in the middle of the room.
“Am I glad to see you,” the holographic prisoner said. “Get me out of here.”
“I’m working on it, believe me,” Dani said.
She looked at the drone working at the console. She would have to shoot it to gain access to the console. She pointed her phaser at the drone and fired. The drone went down.
Dani didn’t hesitate before running over to the console. She quickly put her phaser away and started working with the console to release her crewmate. She didn’t have much time, though. Drones would be flooding this place in about eight seconds. In two seconds, the cell’s force field was down and the crewmate was out. In another three seconds, Dani and crew member number 1 were out of the chamber. According to her objectives, Dani still had two other crewmates to save. She and crewmate number 1 entered the hallway with three seconds to spare. It wasn’t much of a window, but it was something.
As the two turned the corner, they were ambushed by the Borg. Dani, with the I-MOD, fired off rounds endlessly. She held the drones off for a while, but then more appeared. And as if the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, the energy for the I-MOD ran out. Dani whipped out her compression rifle. She fired a total of three, maybe four, shots before the Borg adapted. She looked around for any help, but her comrade was gone. Dani, as a last resort, tried hand to hand combat with the drones. Within ten seconds, the drones had overtaken her, and she had been ‘assimilated’.
The holographic Borg cube disappeared and was replaced by a hologrid. The doors slid open, and Commander Nimembeh walked in. Dani took off her helmet.
“What happened, Cadet?” Nimembeh asked. “You and your entire team were assimilated.”
“The I-MOD ran out of energy,” Dani explained. “I couldn’t keep-”
“The I-MOD ran out of energy because of you, Cadet,” Nimembeh interjected.
“Because of me? Every single shot I fired-”
“Was unnecessary. If you’d just disable the distribution nodes with a phaser before trying to disable the conduits, you would have had less Borg to deal with, and more saved energy for the I-MOD.”
That particular course of action hadn’t occurred to Dani, and now she felt royally stupid.
“If you’re going to make it in command school, Cadet, you’re going to have to start thinking like a command officer.”
“Yes, Commander.” Dani put her helmet back on, and Nimembeh walked out of the room.
“Damn,” Dani said as her holographic surroundings disappeared for the third time in the last two hours. She took off her helmet.
“You have been assimilated,” the computer announced.
“Yeah, yeah,” Dani said. “As many times as I’ve been assimilated, I should be the Borg Queen by now.” She was about to give the computer the command to restart the program when doors to the holoarena opened. Emma Shale walked in. “Great,” Dani muttered.
“What was that?” Emma asked, making her way to Dani. “Happy to see me?”
“I’m in the middle of a practice session, if you don’t mind,” Dani said. “Computer, restart the program.” She moved to put her helmet back on.
“Belay that order,” Emma said quickly.
Dani, still helmetless, looked at Emma. “What are you doing? Look, I don’t have time to play with you. I need to get through this.”
“Why don’t you face it, Dani – you’re just not cut out to be a command officer. If you’re sinking this early in the training, there’s no way you’ll survive later on, when it starts getting really tough.”
Dani ignored her. “Computer-”
“They say it’s in your blood.” Emma continued. “I don’t think so. Your mother isn’t any kind of real captain. Captains don’t strand their ships in the Delta Quadrant. And your father – how long has he been a commander? Didn’t he used to be in the Maquis way back when? He’s nothing but a traitor. A wolf in sheep’s wool. And what about that boyfriend of yours – how long has he been a commander? Shouldn’t he be a captain by now? If he were truly captain material, don’t you think he’d have his own ship by now?”
Dani was using all the strength she embodied to keep herself from knocking Emma on her ass. But of course, Emma didn’t know that, so Emma continued.
“I don’t know which is worse – a Commander who doesn’t even belong in Starfleet, a Commander who should be captain, or a captain who should be an ensign.”
Dani looked at Emma. Every word that came out of that girl’s mouth was bringing her closer…one step closer…
“You know,” Emma said, stepping up to Dani, “it’s a good thing neither of your grandfathers is alive today. They wouldn’t-”
Emma didn’t have a chance to finish. Dani had her on the floor before the next word was out. Emma had a bloody nose before the sentence was even formed.
All the pressure had finally gotten to Dani, and Emma had been the one who’d made her snap. Emma got one good sock in, a hit to one of Dani’s eyes, but that was all. If Nimembeh hadn’t come in and pulled Dani off of Emma, Emma probably wouldn’t have survived.
“Cadet,” Nimembeh said. Dani, who was still fuming, didn’t seem to hear him. “Cadet!” Dani’s head snapped to Nimembeh. “Report to your residence hall until further notice.”
Dani’s eyes flickered to Emma and back to Nimembeh. She walked out of the hologrid. She’d probably just ruined her Starfleet career, but she’d finally beat that bitch’s ass.
Dani reached her room just as the transmission beacon on her computer console was going off. She reached it before it could end. Seeing that it was Will, she answered quickly before he could cut the transmission.
“Hello,” he sad. The look on his face when he saw Dani was priceless. “What happened to you? Your eye…”
“Nothing,” Dani said. “I was in a fight.”
“A real one?” Will asked. Dani nodded. Will immediately realized what had probably happened. “Emma?” he surmised.
“Emma,” Dani said.
“You didn’t kill her – did you?”
“No. I think I just…” A smile formed on Dani’s face as she thought about the word coming out of her mouth next. “…broke her nose.”
A smile began to form on Will’s own face, but he quickly covered it with more appropriate emotions, like concern and disappointment.
“This is very serious, Cadet,” Will said. His face was stern, Dani could see, but his eyes were not. They revealed his true feelings: happiness, pride – and love. But since he was trying to be serious, Dani removed her own smile and decided that she would try to be serious, too.
“I know it’s serious,” she said. “I probably just ruined my career.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s that serious,” Will said. “You’ll probably just get a formal reprimand and some labor chores.”
“My parents won’t be happy about this.”
“No, I can’t imagine that they would. In fact, my guess is that they’re harder on you than the Academy and Nimembeh will be. Nimembeh…” said Will, remembering Dani’s dilemma with him. “Does he know, yet?”
Dani felt sick to her stomach already, thinking of what Nimembeh’s punishment might entail. “He’s the one who pulled me off of Emma,” she said gravely. A wave of panic swept through her. “You don’t think they could throw me out of command school for this, do you?”
Will honestly didn’t know about that one. “Well, fighting is behavior unbecoming of any officer. That goes doubly so for a command officer. I don’t think they would expel you for it, though, seeing as how it is your first infraction. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, I don’t think you should have any problems except a possible reprimand.”
Dani’s comm badge beeped. “Nimembeh to Cadet Janeway.”
Dani immediately answered the comm. “Janeway here, sir.”
“Report to my office immediately, Cadet.”
Nimembeh closed the link. Dani looked at Will. She felt like she was about to throw up.
“Call me later so you can fill me in,” Will said.
“Okay,” Dani said.
“I love you,” Will told her.
“Love you, too,” Dani replied. “Bye.”
“Riker out,” he said before cutting the link.
Dani sat in Nimembeh’s office twenty minutes later.
“Cadet, you know that fighting isn’t tolerated at the Academy. This is your third year. You should know better,” Nimembeh reprimanded. “Would you care to explain yourself?”
“Sir, it wasn’t as if I planned on getting into a fight with Cadet Shale,” Dani began. “It’s just that…you have no idea what she’s put me through these past few years. She’s tried to make my life a living hell, Commander.”
“With pranks,” Dani said. “By spreading lies and rumors. I’ve ignored it largely, because that’s life. You have people who don’t like to see others succeed. But today on the hologrid, I just…lost it. I don’t know any other way to explain it. She started talking about my family, and-”
“It was a matter of pride.”
Dani looked at Nimembeh. She couldn’t believe she was talking to the same man who’d ridden her ass for the past two and a half years. He was being so understanding.
“Well, yes, sir,” Dani said. “Part of it was pride. But I suppose the major reason was that I was just tired. Tired of her always in my face. Tired of trying to get through that simulation. I realize that I threw the first punch and initiated the actual fight, and I take full responsibility for it. I’m ready to accept any punishment that you deem appropriate.”
Dani waited for Nimembeh to relay her inevitable punishment. Instead, he smiled.
Uh, oh, Dani thought. She’d never seen this man smile before. That must mean he’s got something really good planned.
“Cadet,” Nimembeh began, “I believe you’re starting to think like a command officer.”