|Author(s):||BEKi, edited by Ann Zewen|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: Voyager|
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Across the mess hall, Chakotay stood near the replicator, his slump-shouldered posture a reflection of exhaustion. From the number of uneasy crewmen with cautious eyes turned to the motionless commander it was clear that whatever they' d missed, they hadn't missed it by more than a matter of moments. Opting for replicator fare rather than the garish display on the serving counter, Paris changed directions. Chakotay still hadn't moved by the time he reached him, so Paris slapped the bigger man lightly on the shoulder, adopting an overtly friendly demeanor designed to irritate a man who considered him less a crewmate than a necessary evil.
Chakotay reacted badly. He turned. His eyes went deadly cold. He attacked. Swarming the unprepared helmsman like a lateral warp core breach, Chakotay struck and stuck hard. Only the momentary warning of dead, cold eyes and the fact that the charge itself unbalanced him saved Tom Paris's life. Decisively placed blows fell short of their goals, shattering bones but failing to drive the shards through strategic gaps in the skull's defenses to penetrate the brain. Paris staggered.
Chakotay followed. Relentless merciless, he struck again, and then a third time. Bones broke with every blow, but the lethal impact of the ex-Maquis Commander's intent evaded him by a margin of millimeters. Flailing wildly, Paris slipped on his own blood and went down. Chakotay dropped a knee into the younger man's chest, multiplying body weight by gravity to deadly effect. Paris's sternum cracked audibly. The helmsman gasped. Blood filled his lungs, frothed to his lips. He struggled for a moment like a bug on a pin, then stilled. Blinking, his expression more confused than frightened, he stared at Chakotay as Chakotay set himself for the kill ...The Borg Collective doesn't grant temporary memberships. Assimilation. Resistance is futile.
Reactions and Reviews
When it comes to the question of assimilation, the Borg will tell you, "Resistance is futile." When it came to the question of whether or not to buy the fanzine Assimilation, I didn't even try. Of course, when the Borg get you that way, you generally don't like it...insofar as you feel anything at all, that is. But when the zine got me that way, I liked it a lot. Assimilation, a Voyager "novella" (at 292 pages, the length is that of a novel) written and illustrated by BEKi, is a sequel to the episode "Unity." Through his link with Riley's group, Chakotay received the assimilation memories of a number of former Borg--knowledge which is desperately needed by another group, whose race will eventually have to face and fight the Borg Collective. Working from a distance, these people force Chakotay to relive the memories in all their shattering detail, so that they can tap his knowledge. The process causes him not only emotional distress but neurological damage. Unaware of the aliens' role in his traumatic nightmares and (eventually) waking delusions, Janeway and the crew struggle to find a way to save Chakotay from a terrifying death. When they think they've found it, the aliens themselves arrive, and demand Chakotay as the price of Voyager's safety. That summary just skims the surface of this powerful story, which deals in issues of life, death, loyalty. What a man will do to retain his identity. What those who care for him will do to protect him, sometimes even over his own objections. What a people will do to survive. Assimilation grabs the reader with a stunning beginning scene and doesn't let go until a satisfying epilogue. Despite the story's length, few scenes are wasted. As in many of BEKi's better stories, Assimilation is rife with plot and subplot, undercurrent and counter-current. Events unfold reasonably (for the characters and the situation, that is) and intelligently. Tactics make sense. And the technobabble babbles smoothly along, even to the creation of a truly alien, and logically consistent, technology for Chakotay's assailants. But for all that, the story is more character-driven than it is plot-driven. Events in Assimilation don't just happen: they happen to people we care about, and because these people we care about are doing things we can believe these people would do. Even BEKi's created characters are people who act for their own reasons and motives--not a "spear carrier" or plot device in the lot. Perhaps the best of all her characterizations, BEKi's Chakotay is strong and memorable. If there's a flaw in her treatment, it's a worthy one: that, in this third-season novel, this is definitely a first- or second-season Chakotay. Far from the softer, more passive version often presented in the past year (ironically, particularly including the episode on which this novel is based), Chakotay here is seen as proud and passionate, wry, intelligent, and profoundly spiritual. This is the Chakotay that most of us who love the character fell in love with, and it's easy to believe he's the kind of officer, the kind of person, who inspires the kind of loyalty BEKi claims he does. BEKi's portrayal of Janeway also incorporates many elements of the character we fell in love with. Her Kathryn is definitely a commanding presence: strong, self-assured, and not afraid of unconventional solutions; yet she's also capable of tremendous empathy and understanding. Her relationship with Tuvok is so dead on target that it's almost impossible not to hear Kate and Tim reading the lines, and her scenes with Chakotay show a level of warmth and closeness that completely justifies his emotional dependence on her. (They seem somewhat closer here than they've seemed, this past year, on the series--but I like that sort of treatment too much to quarrel with it.) There are, however, a few jarring notes in the characterization. For one: I find it impossible to believe that, after two years, there's anybody on Voyager Janeway wouldn't know, at least by name, face, and job title. She's far too conscientious for that--and there are only 148 of them! Tuvok is mostly well-presented. Logical, ethical, and reserved, when the Vulcan decides to help Chakotay, he does it more for the sake of duty, and possibly that of his riendship for Janeway, than from friendship or affection for Chakotay himself. His relationship with Chakotay, guardedly but decidedly antagonistic, rings so true one can almost see the sparks flying. Though there are a few dubious suggestions that Tuvok feels personal loyalty to the other man, and one regrettable, almost "cute" scene at the end that tries to reconcile the two of them, by and large their interactions are spot-on. B'Elanna gets to show her stuff as Chief Engineer and ex-Maquis and hoverball player and friend of Chakotay, and she looks great doing all that, but there's a recurring bit about her replicated cookies I could have done without. Paris is decent in a minor role that allows him to be alternately clever, petulant, flirtatious, and heroic. BEKi even manages to touch on the infamous Paris/Torres "relationship" in terms that aren't nauseating or obvious--a trick the series has yet to manage! One of BEKi's strengths as a writer is in creating memorable new characters, and that strength is much in evidence here. The new crop, this story, are mostly Maquis, and they're a lively bunch, from fiercely loyal Aaron Moseby, to unrepentant Bajoran terrorist Pong Raya, to diffident ex-Fleeter Carla Bevington, to surly Two Bears. Most interesting of all, they're Maquis; even those thoroughly integrated into the crew have different attitudes and sensibilities from their Starfleet counterparts--as they should. I don't sense nearly as much potential for division in the ranks, these days, as BEKi does, but it's a concept that she justifies in context.... BEKi's cover, a colored-pencil drawing of Chakotay with a Borg face-piece, is ample testimony as to why she's one of the more highly-regarded portrait artists in Trek fandom. The interior art is also lovely. Assimilation was put together in a very short time--something like two months from concept to completion, which blows my mind for an original project of this length--and I understand that the editor had almost no time to proof and edit the work before it was published. I wish there'd been a little more time, though: I wouldn't call the level of typos and misspellings high compared to some zines I've seen, but it's high enough to distract. All in all, though, this is an impressive work, and I'd have no hesitation recommending it to a fanzine buyer. If you like solid fanfic, give it a try. After all, you know what they say about resistance.