Our Ship
Voyager:
2 - The Stardust Trail


Title: The Stardust Trail
Author: Annette Welsh-Shinya 12/98
Series: VOY
Part: 1/1
Rating: PG-13
Codes: P/T, K/7, J, Sam & Naomi Wildman, Susan Nicoletti
Summary: The women of Voyager take on the Old West - Head 'em up and move 'em out! Part 2 of the 'Our Ship Voyager' series. Other parts - 1. The Gentlemen of the Club.
Disclaimer: So much Trek, so little time, I wanted to make this rhyme. I don't get a profit, I'm not from Ferenginar, Paramount don't sue me, I'm just a humble bard. Gentle readers please pursue, this my offer humble , placed on the altar of fanfic, for your funny bone to tumble.
Warning: This is gentle humour folks...or at least me trying to be funny.
Feedback: Encouragement/criticism gladly responded to. Flames will be consigned to the nearest airlock where proper venting procedures per Starfleet Engineering regulations will be followed.
Email: parisienne1812@geocities.com
Posting: OK to ASC, ASCEM, BLTS, & PT Fever. Please notify me if posting anywhere else...I love to see my name in lights!

***

B'Elanna checked the schematics on the viewscreen one more time, looked at the items in her hands, and then shrugged and hung them on her belt. They looked OK. She supposed that she'd find out if they worked all right after she used them for a while. She glanced over at her chronometer and realized she didn't have any more time to contemplate their functions. She was due at holodeck 2 in three minutes. She picked up her gloves and a bag and hurried out the door, then exclaimed, went back in, recorded a short note to Tom and left it on his database for when he got off shift in Sickbay. Now she was going to be late, damn. She hurried down the companionway to the turbolift.

They were all at the entrance to holodeck 2, waiting for her. She breezed up and keyed in her access code, "Sorry I'm late. I had a little trouble with the cultural database and replicating my costume."

"That's all right, B'Elanna," said Captain Janeway. "It takes a while to get used to the accouterments of this time period." She gestured to her own garb. "It took me over an hour to decide what kind of hat...there were just so many to choose from!" The group chuckled over that and there were some nods of agreement also.

"Well, we're all here now," said Sam Wildman, adjusting Naomi's belt a notch tighter. "In honor of our new program, I've managed to free up the whole evening tonight."

"That's great, Sam," said Susan Nicoletti. "I'm off tonight, so I can stay that long, too. How about everybody else?"

"I've switched shifts with Chakotay this week, so beta shift command is well covered," said Janeway with a grin. "I've got all the time in the quadrant, at least until alpha shift starts," she finished with a slap to her chaps.

"I am not needed in any capacity elsewhere," said Seven, standing passively in skintight buckskins from head to toe. "I finished my consultations with Ensign Kim earlier this afternoon, and I am not adverse to enhancing my interpersonal skills by participating in this technically unnecessary event."

"Thank you, Seven," said B'Elanna dryly.

"You are welcome," replied Seven with a lift of her eyebrow implant.

"Computer, access Torres program 'Stardust Trail', authorization 24TaiDelta17," B'Elanna waved the group through the open door of the holodeck.

"Authorization accepted," replied the computer's even voice. "Happy trails to you."

Kathryn Janeway looked at B'Elanna in askance, "You've definitely been hanging around Mr. Paris too long, B'Elanna." B'Elanna just grinned at her and Kathryn smiled back as they walked in together.

The setting was Old West. A large corral of milling longhorn cattle the principle item of immediate interest. There were hundreds of them, all in a very small area. They were very loud and the odor emanating from them was less than pleasant.

"Ugh," sniffed Naomi. "What is that smell?"

Sam and Susan looked at each other and Sam said, "It's the cattle, hon. They have a, well, their by-products are less then delightful smelling. Don't worry," she continued noticing the dismayed look on her daughter's face. "The smell will dissipate when we get out onto open ground."

Naomi brightened at this and started to explore the area, tipping her green Stetson back from her forehead and running over to where the horses were tied to a hitching post, her shirt fringe flapping in the breeze. "Look, Mom," she called. "Horses!" The reverent nature of her tone caused all of the adults with the exception of Seven to grin with fond reminiscence.

Seven turned to B'Elanna and said, "Why does the appearance of an animal induce such joy in Naomi Wildman?"

"Girls and horses, Seven," replied B'Elanna with a smile. "You didn't like horses when you were younger, before you were assimilated?"

Seven thought for a moment, then cocked her head. "Black Beauty," she said with some decisiveness. "I recall wishing to possess a horse designated that when I was young." Her face was cast with a slight smile as the pleasant ghosts of a childhood memory were accessed. She walked away toward Naomi and the horses without speaking further.

B'Elanna shook her head, but was smiling herself. She walked over to where the Captain was parleying with the rancher who owned the spread they were on. She felt a bit smug as the terminology rolled off her tongue mentally. She'd spent a lot of time on this program, only asking Tom for occasional programming help, not even telling him the content of her program. It was strictly women's night out. She'd researched the cultural database endlessly to get the authentic touches for it. She knew from experience with Tom's programs that those touches really made a difference for a really 'real' holodeck experience. She was proud of her work. She liked her outfit. It was composed of a blue chambray shirt, jeans, brown leather chaps, a red kerchief about her neck, and a large cream colored Stetson with a black ribbon. Brown cowboy boots with jingling silver spurs were on her feet. A brown leather belt with twin holsters was around her waist. The holsters were empty, awaiting the production of weapons on the holodeck. Hanging from the belt was a short whip called a quirt and a coil of rope known as a lasso. She supposed she would do.

"Ya'll set to ride now?" the rancher spat tobacco juice in the dust at Janeway's feet.

"We're ready," replied Kathryn, her voice steely as she carefully moved away from the congealing mass on the ground.

"Don't rightly see how's I kin refuse yer offer," grumbled the rancher. "Ma whole crew done got gold fever and run off." He shook his head, "And me with a corral full of cattle and an empty train waitin' fer 'em in Kansas City."

"We can handle it," said B'Elanna, joining the negotiations. "We're experienced." Kathryn looked at B'Elanna with raised eyebrows but turned and nodded knowingly to the rancher.

"Well," allowed the rancher. "Ya'll look like you're pretty tough cowpunchers to me. You'll do. Lemme get you the ownership papers and you can be on yer way."

"We'll be waiting," said Kathryn as the rancher disappeared into the big house. She turned to B'Elanna, "Experienced, huh?"

"Well," said B'Elanna, her expression slightly defensive but mostly humorous, "we *are* experienced, just not in cowpunching."

Kathryn just looked at B'Elanna. The rancher came back with a handful of papers. "Ya'll be the trailboss then?" speaking to Kathryn.

"Uh-huh, not me," said Kathryn shaking her head emphatically. She jerked a thumb toward B'Elanna, "Torres is in charge of this shindig. I'm just along for the ride."

"Torres, huh?" nodded the rancher knowingly. "Knew a Miguel Torres t'once. Hailed from Sonora. You his kin?" he handed her the papers.

"On my mother's side," replied Torres with a straight face, and put the papers in her shirt pocket.

"Good ta know ya," said the rancher pleasantly, then turned very serious. "Get my cattle to market, Torres. My ranch is depending on it. I gotta make that last payment to the bank, or they'll foreclose on ole Hank Harper."

Torres stood up straighter and looked at Janeway and then back at the rancher. "You can depend on us, sir. We won't let you down, Hank. We'll get your cattle to market, uh...come Hell or high water!"

Kathryn looked at B'Elanna at that last remark and B'Elanna shrugged her shoulders and whispered, "I got that from Tom's database on twentieth century cinema. He has tons of Westerns in there."

"Oh," nodded Kathryn, who quirked her lips and followed B'Elanna and the rancher to the railing where the horses and the other women waited. The rancher wished them well and meandered off to the big house.

The group looked expectantly at B'Elanna. She grinned and said, "Computer, access cultural database, Earth, nineteenth century weapons. Create five pairs of Colt .45 pistols with appropriate ammunition." The weapons appeared and were passed around to the adults in the group. Naomi wasn't paying any attention to anything but the horses, so no problem there. "Oh, and computer, create two Winchester repeating rifles with ammunition and holsters for mounting on horses." B'Elanna handed one rifle to Seven and kept the other for herself.

"What is this additional weapon for?" asked Seven, examining the stock of the rifle.

"You're our scout, Seven," replied B'Elanna. "They were always sharpshooters. You'll be out on point, looking for the best trails, while the rest of us drive the cattle. Got it?"

Seven nodded and said, "I am to assimilate the territory and report my findings. I have 'got it'."

"Well," continued B'Elanna. "We'd better get our horses and saddle up and head out," she said with gusto walking toward the horses.

"Where does she get this stuff from?" said Sue in a low voice to Kathryn.

"You don't want to know," replied Kathryn, and both women laughed.

They were approached by a young boy of about thirteen or fourteen years, who introduced himself as Pete. He was to help them with their mounts and equipment and drive the chuckwagon. They picked out mounts, a tall sure-footed roan was Kathryn's choice, a sturdy pinto for Naomi, Sue picked out a dependable looking bay mare, and Sam chose a grey gelding that appeared to be mild mannered. B'Elanna watched Seven approach a brilliant palomino and stroked its nose, but then looked up to see a coal-black horse that was very tall, a white star on its forehead. Seven immediately left the palomino and took possession of the reins of the black horse. B'Elanna chuckled and walked up the the palomino. It was a magnificent beast, the gold of his coat reminded her of the hair on Tom's chest. She grinned and said the horse, "Never mind, Thomas, she'd never appreciate you the way I do, anyway, she's already involved."

The others mounted up and B'Elanna slung her rifle on the side of her saddle and climbed up on her horse. She nodded to Pete, who opened up the gate to the holding corral and the cattle milled out. She yelled, "Let's move out!" And the drive was on.

Dust, dust and more dust. They were all perspiring, and the dust was turning to mud on their faces. Sue and Kathryn were on the port, Naomi and Sam were on the starboard, and B'Elanna was in the rear. Seven periodically came back to consult with B'Elanna as to the best course, so she wasn't spared the grit either. They'd gotten a late afternoon start, so about an two and a half after they started and about one before sunset, B'Elanna called for a halt. They were near a waterhole and there was good grazing available for the cattle.

Seven was volunteered to watch the herd while camp was set up and dinner cooked. She'd accepted this assignment passively, riding back out to keep an implant on the cattle. B'Elanna groaned a bit as she hoisted herself out of the saddle. Similar moans were coming from the others, even Naomi looked a little tired. They tromped over to where Pete was cooking something in a cast iron pot over an open fire.

"Well, Pete," said Sue, brushing dust off her shirt. "What's for dinner?"

"Beans and biscuits, soon's I fix up the biscuits, that is," replied the hologram.

"Beans," said Sue very evenly, looking at B'Elanna, who shrugged helplessly and said, "It's very authentic."

"Just tell me there's coffee," said Kathryn coming up.

"Sure thing," said Pete, producing a battered blue enameled pot. "I made that first," and poured Kathryn a matching battered blue mug full of an evil looking brew. She took a big slug of it, and her eyes widened in surprise, and she barely managed to swallow. "Good, huh?" said Pete knowingly.

"B'Elanna, I think we just found a new power source for Voyager," croaked out Kathryn finally. The others looked suspiciously at the coffee, but were just tired enough to get their own portions of it.

Naomi wrinkled her nose at the coffee and stuck to water, and was heard to mutter, "Grown-ups, no sense at all." When she'd finished her water she requested to go help Seven at her appointed task. Sam said, "OK, but Iíll go with you. We can let Seven come in and rest up."

"Don't forget to sing to the cattle," called B'Elanna.

Naomi turned and said, "Sing?"

"Sure," said B'Elanna seriously. "I read that the cattle need to be put to bed by singing to them."

"Like lullabies?" ask Naomi, her faced scrunched up in concentration.

B'Elanna turned to Kathryn for help here. Kathryn, her eyes gleaming said, "Oh yes, like lullabies, nice soft songs, so the cattle can...relax."

"Sing," nodded Naomi and joined her mother, who was trying very hard not to give away the game. They rode off to relieve Seven.

The group sat on some logs they had pulled up next to the campfire. Sue stretched her arms out and said, "I don't know about you, but I think I'll pass on the beans and biscuits."

"Yes," agreed Kathryn.

B'Elanna smiled and said, "Computer, delete character 'Pete' from current program. Oh, and the cooking pot, too." What a smell, almost as bad as that salami Tom's buddies were always bringing to their get togethers. She got up and walked over to where her saddle was sitting next to the chuckwagon. She pulled something out of her saddlebags and said, "I have something to go in that coffee, take away the aftertaste." She held up a large bottle of single malt scotch, replicated, not synthahol.

"I feel better already," said Kathryn dryly, holding out her mug as B'Elanna proceeded to add a shot to all their mugs.

Seven walked up then and dropped her saddle down next to the others. "I have disassembled my mount's gear and put it out to picket," she said. "How am I to proceed with this exercise?"

Kathryn swallowed a mouthful of doctored coffee and said, "This isn't an exercise, Seven. It's supposed to be fun."

"Sit down," said Sue, full of 100 proof good cheer. "Take a load off, Seven. Have some coffee," handing her a mug filled three quarters full.

"Just a minute," said B'Elanna, picking up the scotch. "You need a little additive to make it palatable." She dolloped a generous helping into the mug and gestured to Seven, "Drink up, you get dehydrated on a day like this."

Seven considered the mug in her hand and said, "I will comply," and drank about half the contents at once. She blinked, then sat down carefully on the log next to B'Elanna. She turned to B'Elanna and smiled serenely.

B'Elanna looked at her for a moment, then said, "You look like you needed that."

"I believe I did," said Seven in a downright friendly fashion, and chugged the rest. "Is there more?"

"Sure," said B'Elanna, and motioned to Sue to pass the coffeepot. "Puhlenty more where that came from," and she poured some coffee into Seven's mug and added an extremely healthy portion of additive to it. This prompted her to give herself a refill and then this elicited motions from the other two for their mugs to receive attention. She poured the remaining contents of the bottle into Sue's mug, shaking it to get the very last drops out.

"Oooh," moaned Sue with dismay. "No more additive. How can you expect our systems to run correctly with the proper additives?"

"Never fear," said B'Elanna, getting to her feet rather unsteadily. "I am a professional engineer. I am prepared for any continginshies..uh...continjashees..all events." She lurched over to her saddlebags and triumphantly produced a second bottle of scotch.

Kathryn looked up mildly as B'Elanna walked back slowly at sat back down next to Seven. "I'm very pleased that you are so forward thinking, B'Elanna. Shows good tactical planning," she said nodding. "You did replicate this for medicinal purposes only, right?"

B'Elanna grinned ferally and said, "Oh, absolutely. It's necessary for medicinal purposes, like snakebite, frostbite, sore muscles, or..."

"Bad coffee," finished Kathryn, joyously touching her mug to Sue's and they drank up.

Seven was swaying from side to side to some internal rhythm, periodically sipping from her mug. She opened her eyes and looked at B'Elanna, reached out one hand and clasped her on the shoulder and said, "You don't like me very much, do you?"

B'Elanna eyed her and said, "No, I don't."

"Why," said Seven plaintively, making a moue with her lips. "I like you," and she gave a sound that was suspiciously like a sob.

"Oh, B'Elanna," said Kathryn with a sigh. "Can't you see you're making her sad? Come on, why don't you make up?"

"Yeah," said Sue blinking owlishly. "You two really should get along. I mean, Tom and Harry are best buddies."

"Well, OK," said B'Elanna finally. "But, I'm not saying I want her in my engine room, all right?" She turned to Seven who had gone back to swaying with an occasional sad sound coming from her.

"Seven," said B'Elanna.

"Uh?" said Seven looking up. She put an arm around B'Elanna suddenly, and said companionably, "You know, I have reached the conclusion that cattle are stupid creatures. The Borg would have never bothered assimilating them."

"You don't say," said B'Elanna in a fascinated voice. "What about targs? They're pretty smart."

"I'd have to do some research on it," said Seven very seriously. "Can I get back to you on it?"

"Sure," said B'Elanna easily, reaching down for her mug and took a shot. Seven smiled and drank from her own mug, and they giggled together.

"You know," said Kathryn, pointing with a finger lifted up from the handle of her mug. "They really look like they could get along together quite well."

"Uh-huh," said Sue doing her own slight swaying. "If they don't kill one another first, they probably could be great friends. More coffee, Kathryn?"

"Don't mind if I do, Sue," replied Kathryn. "Any more additive left?"

Sue reached over for the bottle that was next to B'Elanna and said, "Sure...just enough to keep your systems running."

"Well, wouldn't want to have my systems down at a time like this," said Kathryn holding up her mug.

The sounds of a Klingon drinking song suddenly came from B'Elanna and Seven as they sat arm in arm, belting out the tune at the top of their not inconsiderable lungs. When they finished and were toasting their success, Kathryn said, "Say, that's a pretty catchy tune. Can you teach it to us?"

They never noticed Sam Wildman coming over with a sleeping Naomi in her arms. Sam grinned at the sight of Seven and B'Elanna arm in arm, the Captain and Sue Nicoletti sprawled out by the campfire, singing back line by line a very Klingon sounding song. She called softly, "Computer, save and delete holographic cattle and horses from program and display exit." She stepped up to the exit, then added, "Computer, set alarm for end of program time. Make it an extreme level one." And she exited to put her daughter to bed. The cattle would have to get to market another day.

***

Thud. "Oh, damn!"

Crash. "Shit!"

Bang. "What the hell?"

"Computer, lights one quarter," said Tom, blinking a bit, his hair tousled from sleep. He looked at the chronometer. "It's 0330, B'Elanna. Don't you have to be on alpha shift tomorrow?"

"Uh, actually, no. The Captain decided to re-schedule the Engineering work roster. I'm on beta shift tomorrow," she slipped out of the robe she'd borrowed from Sue after showering at her place and stuffed her costume in the refresher. She put on the black slinky nightgown he liked so much, almost moving steadily.

"Oh, I see," said Tom nodding. "You, uh, have a good time with the ladies tonight?"

"Yep," said B'Elanna brightly, crawling into bed and wiggling down next to Tom. "We covered a lot of ground, ironed out some differences, real solid stuff."

"Glad to hear it," said Tom, amused.

"Uh-huh," she said, her eyes twinkling. "Did you miss me?"

"Oh, well, yeah," said Tom sadly. "But I know how important these female bonding sessions are to you."

"Don't push it, Paris," growled B'Elanna.

"Or what?" said Tom with glee.

"You have beta shift tomorrow?" inquired B'Elanna carefully.

"Yes," said Tom. "What..."

She attacked him with fervor, pinning his arms above his head. A bite to the cheek later, they were wrestling in earnest. Laughter and passion mixed up with the bedclothes as they began their own bonding session.

End


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