The Continuing Adventures of White Trash Janeway, My One True Love
Chapter 2: Charm Is Irrelevant
When I was newer to humanity, I often espoused all manner of erroneous, Borg-influenced claims. Many of them concerned emotion, beauty, subjectivity, and all were denigrated with sentiments like irrelevance, inefficiency, futility.
If I were asked to describe my perfect vision of the universe, many of these claims would still hold true. But I realized now that the world in which I lived–the human world–could not and should not work on a Borg system. I had come to appreciate, if not understand fully, the merits of useless things.
I recalled thinking, early in my new existence, that charm–that quality of being able to discern what someone might want to hear and then give it to him with a luxurious smile–was irrelevant. But I found this untrue almost immediately. Charm was not only relevant but essential. That was one of the first things Captain Janeway tacitly taught me.
And I almost hated her for it. And I hated her for that, too–that almost. In many ways I relished simple things–emotions that were pure and either love or hate, sad or happy. At least I could understand those. These complex emotions of anger and delight and frustration and confusion–I hated them, and I loved them because I always associated them with her.
Charm was hard for me to grasp but easy for me to recognize. Charm was artifice but also natural. Needless to say, it was not natural to me and completely natural to her.
One point four hours after having dismissed me from the ladies’ room, this woman could be regaling former crew members with tales they hadn’t even remembered, even though she was visibly inebriated. This was the definition of charm. She had it. It was something she possessed and could use at her whim. It was capital. And she used it as such.
It was how she had beaten the Hirogen, the Devore, even the Borg to some extent. It was how she beat everyone. But now, watching her beat Samantha Wildman at pool, watching her laugh at Bolian jokes, watching her sneak drinks in secluded corners, it seemed to be all she had left.
It must be hard to live on charm alone.
I eased into her presence as she sat down next to Crewman Tal. She looked at me. I couldn’t even begin to deduce what her look might have signalled, the deep blue of it penetrating me in a way I hadn’t felt or been confused about in years.
“Seven. Or–I heard a rumor you prefer Annika now,” she said as though we hadn’t had a confrontation in the lavatory preceding the party.
“That rumor is unfounded. I continue to prefer Seven.”
“Shame. I always liked Annika,” she said, her mouth rising on one side. That was charm. I hated it.
“Regardless. I wanted to continue our previous conversation.”
She raised an eyebrow and smiled at Crewman Tal and then at me although the smiles were slightly different somehow.
“Well, Seven. I’m not currently smoking, so I’m not sure what we have to discuss.” She crossed her legs and broke eye contact to scan the room, a smile still on her face.
“I mean, of course, the matter we were discussing before you began smoking.”
She raised her eyebrows and put her tongue to her top teeth. I took this to mean she did not recall what we had been discussing and opened my mouth to begin to remind her, but she cut me off:
“You’re not going to start reciting star dates and exact phrasings to me, are you?”
“No,” I said, although that is precisely what I had intended.
“Good.” She winked at Crewman Tal, and the woman giggled briefly.
“If you will excuse us,” I said to the Bajoran. My former captain crossed her arms over her chest and nodded. Crewman Tal looked at both of us and then vacated her seat.
“So what now?” she said. “You give me your old, ‘I prefer to stand line,’ and I sit here listening to your admonitions getting a crick in my neck?”
Silently I sat.
“Phew. I’m a little old for that nonsense,” she said.
“You’re a little old for a great deal of nonsense,” I said.
“And just what is that supposed to mean?” she said a little loudly.
“If you would only let the Doctor administer a hypospray. You could–”
“I could what? Be back to my old self?”
I stared at her, and she continued.
“Maybe I don’t want to be my old self. Maybe my old self wasn’t all she was cracked up to be. And maybe even if she was all she was cracked up to be, that woman is as dead as Chakotay.”
His name seemed to ring louder than the rest of the sentence, and we sat there in the echo.
He always seemed to come up in our conversations, and always as unpleasantly as this. I had loved him in my childish way those many years ago, and she knew how I always reacted when she said unpleasant things. This was the opposite side of charm: If one knew what to say, one certainly knew what not to say. Perhaps the opposite of charm is spite, and perhaps Captain Janeway bore an abundance of both.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said finally. She laughed once.
“That makes two of us.”
It was at this moment that Tal Celes returned. I could have stayed, but I did not.