The rumble of moving stones slowly fades into silence.
“Sound off. Who’s here.”
There is an immediate chorus of responses to Janeway’s urgent question.
“Here. Nothing hurts, but I can’t move.”
“Here. Also uninjured and immobilized.”
“Same. Are you all right, Captain?”
“Same situation as all of you.” Janeway sounds relieved. “Does anyone have any range of motion?”
A few moments of silent straining, and a chorus of responses to the negative.
“Well. We were lucky. We’re alive, and things seem to have settled back in place. None of these stones are small and dense enough to block airflow from the cavern mouth. B’Elanna’s team was supposed to rendezvous at the head of the cavern in half an hour; they’ll find our life signs and, ahm, excavate us. We just need to keep calm and wait.” A pause. “You have been urging me to get more rest, Commander.”
“I have to admit that this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
“Well, it could be worse,” Harry ventures. “No one is injured, we’re in very capable hands as soon as B’Elanna’s team gets here, and-- ack. Sorry. One of the small rocks shifted a bit. I think it might be a good idea for us all to try not to move around.”
“Noted. Mr. Tuvok?”
“Your mouth is fairly close to my ear, and, er...why are you making thptt noises? Are you all right?”
“Captain, I appear to halfe thome of your hair in my mouf.”
“Oh. Sorry, Tuvok.”
“The situation and its results were outside of your control.”
“Harry?” Chakotay interrupts.
“Did that shifting stone get you?”
“No, Commander. Still fine.”
“I remain uninjured, Commander.”
“Still okay, Chakotay.”
There are a few moments of silence.
“It seems that our best course of action is to wait for B’Elanna’s team.” Janeway pauses for a moment; when no one objects or makes an alternate suggestion, she adds, “And if anyone starts to feel any pain you didn’t notice before, anything at all, I want to hear about it.” She is using her full command voice, and collects a chorus of yes captain and yes, ma’ams.
“I don’t suppose anyone brought cards.”
Harry chuckles at Chakotay’s words, and is surprised to hear Tuvok’s steady voice reply, “I did not.”
Responding to such a quip, rather than stodgily ignoring it, is the closest Tuvok comes to banter. Harry grins, volunteering, “When Ensign Ayala and I were trapped in a turbolift during the last power outtage, we played trivia to distract ourselves.”
“Mike? Trivia? Really?” Chakotay sounds delighted.
“If you’re planning on taunting a member of my crew, Commander, I suggest that you recall the time that you and another member of the current away team missed a Borg cube because you were playing cards in the back of a shuttle.”
Harry winces. Fortunately, Janeway sounds as though she is genuinely teasing Chakotay, rather than getting a dig in about something she’s still upset about. Nonetheless, Harry suspects that he won’t be able to think of that ill-fated game without wincing for quite some time.
“So. Trivia?” Chakotay pipes up again, sounding surprisingly enthused.
“Forget it, Chakotay. You and Harry know the outcome of every athletic match for the past five centauries, and I do not intend to lie here in the dark with Tuvok’s elbow in my stomach listening to the two of you snickering as you ignore us to try and wipe the floor with each other.”
“I did not realize that my elbow was in contact with your abdomen, Captain.”
“It’s all right, Tuvok. The situation and its results were outside of your control.”
A moment of silence.
“Well, if not trivia, what about another party game?”
“We’re a bit cramped to perform any truth-or-dare dares, Commander.”
Harry thinks for a moment as Chakotay chuckles at Janeway’s incredibly lame joke. “Well, what about two truths and a lie?”
“I am not familiar with this game, Mr. Kim.”
“Oh, Tuvok, it’s easy. After all, Vulcans lie when the occasion calls for it, right? You just come up with two true statements, and one false statement, about yourself and your life...anything you like...and deliver them one after another as though they’re all true. Then the other players guess--or deduce--which statement is the lie.”
A pause. “This…’game’ seems as logical as any other way of passing the time until Lieutenant Torres and her team arrive, assuming that none of you are interested in my leading the group in a meditation.”
“Maybe after a few rounds, Tuvok,” Janeway says, with diplomatic affection.
“Who’s going to start?” Chakotay’s evil grin is audible in his voice.
“Well, I assumed that Mr. Kim would begin, as this was your suggestion.”
“Captain! I didn’t suggest this, I suggested trivia, and Chakotay ran with it.”
“I would never hoard the privilege of going first just because I had the idea. Diplomatically speaking, shouldn’t we go in order of rank?”
“Commander, I wouldn’t dream of abusing my rank as Captain to take the honor of the first round. I suggest that we play in order of seniority.”
An expectant silence.
“Very well. I will begin this…‘game.’”
Chakotay’s voice sounds as though he is barely holding back laughter. “Tuvok? Are you going to start?”
“I am thinking.”
More silence. In the quiet darkness, Harry can hear Chakotay breathing; the commander’s head must be close to his right ear. Now that no one is speaking, the sound is the sole indication that the others are still present and alive. Harry’s thoughts bounce around his head as he watches the patterns on the back of his eyelids, letting his mind drift upwards through the layers of rock to where B’Elanna and her team are on their way. Hopefully on their way...
“My first child’s first toy was a plush fuscia Vulcan mole-rat.”
Harry startles back to reality as the warm, dispassionate tones of Tuvok’s voice continues, “I particularly enjoy compositions from Vulcan music’s Prasulnik period. And, I have never before been buried in large rocks on an away mission.”
“All right, Tuvok.” Janeway sounds very slightly put out. Harry suspects that she is sulking over Tuvok not using any obvious facts about his family or service record and thus giving her a distinct advantage. She must have met Tuvok long after his first child received and outgrew the stuffed mole-rat. Or didn't.
“Hold on, hold on, I can figure this out.” Harry grins to himself again. “Prasulnik means something along the lines of ‘ornate,’ doesn’t it? So--speaking as a musician--I would guess that prasulnik compositions compare to music from Europe’s Baroque period, and from what I know of Tuvok...not his style.”
“Is that your lie, Lieutenant?” Chakotay demands, a grin audible in his voice as well, after a few moments of silence.
“You have correctly ascertained my...lie. I will have to remember,” Tuvok adds, sounding grudgingly impressed, “that I am playing this game with a fellow musician and music enthusiast. If we are moving the direction of Starfleet seniority,” he adds, “I believe that it is now the Captain’s turn.”
“All right.” Janeway produces her statements immediately, evidently having prepared them during Tuvok’s excessive plotting time. “I used to fence. I hate crocheting. I love chocolate.”
“Kathryn,” Chakotay says immediately, “everyone knows you love chocolate.”
“They do?” Janeway sounds surprisingly pleased by this.
Given his captain’s well-known competitive streak, Harry isn’t sure why getting one of her lines called immediately would be gratifying to her, but then Tuvok pipes up in the darkness, “Captain, you may find that your crew knows you better than you think.”
There is a moment of silence; then, in the boisterously combative tone that Harry had originally been expecting from her, Janeway says, “But you don’t know if I used to fence.”
“Tuvok?” Chakotay asks.
“I am not aware that Captain Janeway has ever participated in that activity. However, this does not mean that she has not.”
“It sounds plausible,” Harry says, thinking of Janeway’s unexpected skill with antique projectile-based weapons when the Hirogen commandeered Voyager.”
He can hear Chakotay’s grin in the dark as the commander banters back, “Of course is sounds plausible. She wouldn’t pick a lie that doesn’t sound plausible.”
“I would contest that statement.” Harry and Chakotay fall silent as Tuvok continues, “I submit that, when considering her Starfleet ideals, the idea that Captain Janeway has strong negative feelings about crochet is not plausible at all."
“My Starfleet--? Go on, Tuvok, please enlighten us as to what in the galaxy you mean."
Chakotay snickers. “This should be interesting.”
“Captain Janeway enjoys knitting and frequently gives others knitted gifts. This is an established fact.” A pause.
“Yes, Tuvok, I do.”
“To laypersons such as ourselves, knitting and crocheting are seen as two different options for creating a similar range of textile products in a similar way. In other words, the Captain believes that we will assume that one is more or less the opposite of the other, and further assume that because she prefers to knit, she has strong negative feelings about crochet. However, such a belief system would be completely antithetical to the United Federation of Planets’ belief that diversity of thought and method is to be not only tolerated but celebrated regardless of one’s personal preferences and beliefs."
There is a long silence.
“Yes, I’ve fenced and no, I don’t actually have strong negative feelings about crochet. You all win,” Janeway grumbles.
“You’re up, Harry,” Chakotay says cheerfully.
“And just how do you calculate that?” Janeway demands.
“Counting from the time my rank was reinstated, I’ve been and active-duty Starfleet officer a few days less than Harry has,” Chakotay explains innocently.
“That doesn’t even make--oh, fine, Chakotay. Go ahead, Harry, and Chakotay, just be glad we’re not going to make you go twice to make up for this.”
Harry grins to himself in the dark. Both of his arms are starting to go numb, but he ignores the pins and needles to say in one smooth breath, “I genuinely like Neelix’s casseroles. I’ve played sports all my life, but don’t really enjoy watching matches. My least favorite part of the job is public speaking.”
“Well, we all know that--”
A noise from above interrupts Chakotay’s words. There is a grinding sound and a few crashes, and the faint sound of voices, B’Elanna’s rising loudest of all. “Careful--caref--yes--there!”
Harry can hear Chakotay and Tuvok greeting B’Elanna as they are pulled from the rubble above him; moments later, light meets his eyes as a large stone is pulled from its unsteady supports and his face is bathed in the open air of the cavern. Chakotay’s strong arm is reaching out to help him up, and Harry stands, rubbing a hand through his dusty hair, as two security ensigns carefully lift the last of the shifted stones away from Janeway. B’Elanna is directing the others up the ladder to the outer cavern when Janeway’s face becomes visible, and Harry walks toward her, offering a hand up. She groans, shaking her head and blinking as he helps her to her feet.
Leading the way towards the ladder, he asks, “Do you think your respect for crocheting really comes from your Starfleet principles, or was Tuvok’s deduction really just a lucky guess?”
“Captain’s privilege, Mr. Kim.” Janeway grins at him in the dappled light from the opening. “I don’t have to answer that.”
She steps onto the first rung of the ladder, and Harry thinks for a moment. There isn’t anyone else in this part of the cavern; Chakotay and Tuvok are already reaching the top of the ladder to join B’Elanna and the others in the upper hollow. Just him and Janeway. Just Starfleet.
“So it really was the first one.”
She glances back at him as she begins her ascent up the ladder. “I beg your pardon?”
“If Tuvok was overthinking it in a ridiculous way, you would have already jibed him for it. But you couldn’t, because you knew in your heart of hearts that he was right.” He grins. “Don’t worry, Captain, I won’t tell the crew that their captain is such a dyed-in-the-wool Starfleet nerd that even her crafting preferences are infused with inclusive Federation principles.”
“Mr. Kim,” she says, with just a hint a warning, though not a serious one.
Harry grabs the first rung of the ladder and begins to climb, smirking to himself.
As Janeway reaches the top of the ladder, she thinks she hears a faint voice behind her say, “I’m pretty sure they already know.”