Q sighed. He’d been keeping an eye on Voyager’s progress, as its Captain and crew were his current favorite playthings. However, once again he was bored out of his skull. They had been traveling through a peaceful patch of space for the past six months, and they had all settled into their peaceful little routines that were duller than dirt. The only interesting thing to happen in all that time was when Kathy hooked up with her pet borg, but the novelty of that little development wore off quickly. Overall, it was abundantly clear that these poor souls were in dire need of his assistance, whether they realized it or not.
He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm. Kathy likes dogs, right?" he said aloud to no one in particular.
"Yeah, so?" his son replied anyway.
"So wait until she gets a load of these puppies!" he said, grinning and snapping his fingers.
Q Junior grimaced. "Ugh, that one was painful."
It gave Q a warm feeling in his heart-analogue to know that he could still annoy his son like that, and he laughed cheerfully. Life was already starting to get interesting again.
Meanwhile, on Voyager, Kathryn Janeway was enjoying a quiet dinner in her quarters with her partner, Seven of Nine. Seven had insisted on preparing their dinner herself, as she was all too familiar with Janeway’s possibly negative amount of cooking skills. She, like the rest of the crew, had unconsciously developed the habit of scanning for possible sources of cover whenever Janeway replicated anything other than her beloved black coffee.
This was not entirely unjustified; no one ever found out what actually happened to the last sandwich that Janeway had replicated. Some speculated that it had gained sentience, and was even now wandering the corridors and Jeffries tubes around the ship, and many had heard strange skittering noises in the bulkheads and reported missing tools, food and other small items which they’d had in their hands mere seconds before.
For her part, Janeway was perfectly happy to let Seven handle all of the cooking, as her desire for perfection in all things, including the culinary arts, meant that the Captain never had to take the risk of going on her own cooking adventures. It was heavenly.
She looked over her table at that night’s spread; penne pasta with roasted broccoli and feta cheese, buttery, fresh-baked dinner rolls and cheesecake with fresh strawberries. It looked amazing and smelled even better. It was then that the dachshunds arrived. They materialized in the middle of the table and right on top of the food, which they immediately and simultaneously began devouring and fighting over.
Though momentarily stunned and more than a bit irritated, Captain Janeway quickly regained her composure and began to take stock of the situation, entering her command mode almost instantaneously.
"Seven, put the phaser down," she said calmly, and picked up one of the dogs.
As she did so, the dog furiously snapped up as much food as he possibly could before it was out of reach, as small dogs are wont to do in such situations.
"Could you grab the other two and bring them into the bathroom? We’re going to have to clean them off," she said.
Begrudgingly, Seven did as instructed and carried the remaining dogs to Janeway’s sonic shower, where she set them down, ignoring their sudden, squirmy attempts to escape. It was fortunate that her biosuit was sturdier than it looked, otherwise there would have been long gashes on her arms from the dachshunds’ desperate and instinctive desire to be far away from anything remotely related to baths.
The dogs yelped in shock and displeasure as Janeway turned on the sonic shower, but she ignored them, knowing that they weren’t being harmed, however much they tried to convince her that they were. When the last of the food had been cleaned from their bodies, she turned off the shower and let them loose. All three dogs immediately bolted in different directions, then urinated as a display of protest.
Janeway sighed. "So it’s two boys and a girl, then," she said wearily. "Help me clean this up, will you?"
Beside her, Seven was staring at the puddles in barely-visible apprehension. She shook her head. "I cannot."
"What? Why not?" Janeway looked at her quizzically.
"Dachshund urine is capable of destroying borg technology," she replied seriously.
Janeway stared at her for a moment, then burst into laughter, causing the dachshunds to waddle up to her, intrigued and looking for attention.
"It is not a joke," Seven said irritably.
"I know, I know," Janeway replied with a dismissive wave. "You wouldn’t lie about something like that. It’s just so ridi--ouch! Hey!"
She glared down at the dachshunds, which were now demanding her attention by alternately pawing and punching her legs with their noses, which was surprisingly painful. She gave in and knelt down to pet them, and they started to push one another out of the way, each one wanting all of the affection. She smiled and rolled her eyes as she tried to give them equal amounts of attention. It was then that she noticed that they were all wearing collars, each with a brass nameplate. The one in the middle, a piebald female with the name "Dixie" etched onto her collar, also had a button next to her name. Warily, she pressed it, causing a familiar voice to echo out from hidden speakers.
"Congrats on the new relationship, Kathy my dear. Consider these to be gifts to celebrate your newfound happiness. Hope you enjoy them! Love always, Q. P.S. Junior says hello."
"Of course Q’s behind this," Janeway sighed resignedly. "All things considered, it could be worse."
Seven quirked an eyebrow disbelievingly, causing Janeway to laugh again.
"Come on, aside from their destructive widdle, they can’t possibly be that much trouble," she said, tempting fate.
The dachshunds, meanwhile, were all trying to climb into her lap at once. One of them, a brindle male with the name Sokka emblazoned on his collar, wasn’t satisfied with merely being in her lap, and stood up on his hind legs and leaned back against her shoulder, furiously intent upon licking her face.
"Blech!" she gagged and pushed him away to no avail; he simply readjusted himself and tried again.
Ignoring Seven’s look of mild smugness, Janeway stood up and made a futile attempt to brush the dog hair off of her clothes.
"Well then," she said briskly, "while I clean up this mess, why don’t you go see about replicating some dog supplies?"
"Such as?" Seven asked disdainfully.
"Food and water bowls, to start with. We should probably go ahead and feed them. We’ll also need three leashes, a few chew toys, some pads for their bathroom needs, some spray for any accidents they might have, and oh, they’ll probably need stairs in order to get on the bed," Janeway replied, unable to hide her growing excitement.
"They are not sleeping in our bed," Seven said firmly.
Janeway smiled at her sympathetically. "These are dachshunds, Seven. I don’t think we have much of a choice. From what I’ve learned from my sister’s two dachshunds, they’re notoriously stubborn and persistent and they love sleeping under blankets next to their people. Besides," she said, noting Seven’s own look of stubborn disbelief, "if we don’t let them in the bed they’ll keep us up all night whining, barking and scratching at the sides. It’ll drive us nuts."
Seven sighed in defeat. "Acceptable," she said reluctantly.
Janeway patted her on the arm. "It won’t be that bad, I promise," she said. "And don’t worry, I’ll make sure they aren’t in the room when we make love."
Though Seven’s imagination was sorely lacking, it didn’t take much for her to envision the many horrible ways in which the dogs could interfere with that particular aspect of their lives. Her left eye twitched, ever so slightly.
"Thank you?" she said uncertainly.
Janeway laughed. "Go on and replicate the supplies, and make a note of how many rations you use so I can pay you back. Now, I’d better take care of the mess before it soaks into the carpet any further," she said, walking over to the cabinet to look for cleaning tools.
Seven nodded and left the room, carefully avoiding the scattered puddles, one of which was up next to the doors. She wrinkled her nose in distaste as she stepped over it, then set about searching through the replicator’s catalogue of pet supplies. Once she was satisfied, she set out and filled the three food bowls, then set down a much larger water bowl. This done, she turned her attention to the dinner table, and her ruined meal. With a barely-suppressed sigh of frustration, she cleared up the mess, then made two sandwiches to replace the lost dinner.
She considered only making one, and letting Kathryn fend for herself, but decided against it, partially because she was above such spitefulness, but mostly because she simply wasn’t in the mood to clean up another food-based disaster. By the time she finished preparing the meal, Janeway entered the room, followed closely by the three dachshunds, two of whom eagerly made for the food. The third, Sokka, sniffed at his bowl, but seemed uninterested. Following a hunch, Janeway walked over and pulled the bowl away from him with her foot. Instantly, Sokka pounced on the retreating food and began to eat voraciously.
"The best way to get a dachshund to want something is to pretend you don’t want him to have it," she said with a grin. "By the way, that one’s named Sokka. The piebald is Dixie and the brown one that’s older than both of us combined is Tucker," she added, pointing each dog out.
Seven gave her a cold stare, indicating how little she cared about this information. Janeway smiled and patted her on the shoulder.
"Don’t be like that, it won’t be that bad having them around. Who knows? You may even grow to like them," she said.
"I find that doubtful," Seven replied.
"Yes, I can see that," Janeway said wryly. "Anyway, we’d better hurry up and eat if we don’t want to be late for the Doctor’s concert. He’d never forgive us if we were."
"What will we do with the dogs while we are gone?" Seven asked as she sat down at the table, stiff and proper.
"Why don’t we take them with us? I’m sure they won’t be any trouble," Janeway replied, metaphorically painting a large target on her back.
"I am sure they will be," said Seven in a moment of genre-savviness.
"How? They’ll be on leashes and they’ve already," she cleared her throat, "gone. It’ll be fine, I promise. Besides, I think they’ll enjoy the attention."
"They will be a distraction, and I believe the Doctor will be most displeased with their presence."
"You’ve got a point there," Janeway admitted. "But to tell you the truth, I’d much rather have them where I can keep an eye on them than leave them here to commit malicious acts of destruction while we’re gone."
Seven had to concede the point, albeit reluctantly. The two women fell silent and began to eat their makeshift dinner, when suddenly there came the sound of scuffling from the floor. They looked down and saw that the dogs were chasing down what looked to be an old sandwich, which was somehow moving of it’s own accord. They watched as the dogs cornered the helpless sandwich, then set upon it like tiny alligators. It was a gruesome sight, but it was over quickly, and soon there was nothing left but a few crumbs, which were eagerly and meticulously vacuumed up by the three dogs. Janeway and Seven exchanged glances.
"Let‘s pretend that didn‘t happen," Janeway said firmly.
"Agreed," said Seven.
When the two had finished their sandwiches, Janeway went over to the counter and picked up the urine-dissolving spray and the leashes that Seven had replicated. Almost immediately she had three eager dachshunds at her feet, all barking, whining and dancing about excitedly. She laughed and set about the difficult task of attaching the leashes onto the squirming dogs. She did not ask Seven for help, nor did Seven offer to help, as she was too busy glaring at the dogs with utter disdain.
"Ready?" Janeway asked as she stood up, stumbling slightly due to the dachshunds instinctively barreling towards the doors.
Seven nodded curtly and the two women exited their quarters, the three dogs dragging Janeway along behind them and Seven following at an almost leisurely pace. Their progress was slow, as the dogs, despite their earlier expression of displeasure, kept stopping to mark their territory, making Janeway glad she’d brought along the spray. At last they reached the holodeck where the Doctor was holding his concert. Once inside the lobby of the concert hall program, they spotted Chakotay and walked over to greet him.
"Good evening, Commander," said Janeway, eager to see his reaction to the dogs.
He turned and smiled. "Likewise, Cap--hello, what do we have here?" he said, almost immediately kneeling down to pet the dogs.
"They were gifts from Q," she replied, grinning at the cooing noises and baby-talk he was spouting at the dachshunds, who were eating up the attention.
Chakotay froze. "From Q? Are you sure they’re safe? They aren‘t rigged to explode, are they?"
"Do not be afraid, Commander. They are not dangerous, they are merely annoying," Seven replied.
Janeway laughed. "You’re only saying that because they destroyed your dinner and their urine could kill you."
Chakotay looked up at them quizzically.
"Don’t ask," said Janeway with a dismissive hand wave.
By this time they had drawn a small crowd of crewmen, half of whom were cooing over the dogs, and half of whom were snickering over Chakotay, who was once again shamelessly showering the doggie trio with affection. As far as he was concerned, they could laugh all they wanted. He cared not a whit, and the dogs themselves were in paradise. Before long, however, he reluctantly pulled away in order to let others have a go at making idiots of themselves. The cycle repeated itself a few times, but not nearly long enough for the dachshunds’ tastes, and soon Janeway was leading them away from the attention and into the concert hall. They whined and pulled against the leashes to show their displeasure, but it was to no avail.
Janeway paused as they reached the stairs leading to the box seats they were sharing with Chakotay, then bent down and picked up Tucker, as she suspected he’d have trouble with the steps. He grunted and settled into her arms with an expression that suggested he felt entitled to such treatment, which irritated Seven for reasons she could not explain. They proceeded on, but halfway up the stairs, Dixie stopped cold and refused to walk any further.
Janeway sighed. "Seven, would you mind carrying her?"
Seven did as requested, but with obvious (for her) displeasure. She noticed that Dixie also looked as though she felt entitled to being carried around, and this did not help her mood one bit.
They reached their box without any further interruptions and were settling in next to Chakotay, who had arrived earlier, when the lights went down and the Doctor walked onto the stage. This process took some time, as it became clear that the dogs would not be happy unless they were all in someone’s lap. Once that was sorted out, with Sokka in Chakotay’s lap and the two others staying with the women who had carried them, the three humans settled back to enjoy the show. On the stage, the Doctor was finishing his introduction.
"--and so I will begin tonight’s performance with "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini’s timeless opera, Turandot," he said, nodding to the holographic conductor to begin.
The orchestra began playing, and the Doctor’s voice rang out through the hall, enriching the hearts and minds of all his listeners. Some wept, some had goosebumps, but up in the box shared by Janeway, Seven and Chakotay, three dachshunds perked their ears and cocked their heads to the side in worry and curiosity. Sokka began to whimper, but no one paid him any mind. At last, the Doctor reached the climax of the song, and Sokka could not hold it in any longer. He raised his own voice in song, and was soon joined by the other two. Janeway froze in horror as the theatre fell silent, save for the sound of three dachshunds howling their hearts out. On the stage, even the holographic orchestra was still, somehow sensing that something wasn’t right, while the Doctor had somehow managed to turn red in humiliation and fury. Then suddenly, from the front row came the sound of applause.
"Bravo, bravo! Encore!" shouted Q, while his son whistled appreciatively.