FEDERATION'S END II: THE WITCHING HOUR
by E. L. Zimmerman
Startled, Chakotay glanced up from the hissing, near-useless long-range
scanning console and found himself staring at the patiently grinning face of
Neelix2. The commander had been so engrossed with the Besaria systems that
he hadn't heard the clone of his shipmate enter the sciences' chamber.
'Either that,' he thought, 'or the manufacturing mechanism is still engaged,
and now it's beaming additional Neeli throughout the Generatrix!'
'What is it?'
Smiling, Neelix2 stepped forward, now that he had been acknowledged, and
stopped. Rocking nervously for a few moments, he then took what appeared to
be a somewhat proud posture before the Voyager commander, folding his hands
behind his back in a gesture of formality. Finally, he stood completely
still, thrust his chest forward, and reported, 'I'm pleased to inform you
that I've concluded the transfer of all of the required food stores from the
Besaria holding yards to the ship's Cargo Bay Three.' With even more pride
and enthusiasm, he added, 'The Trakill were of tremendous assistance! They
worked harder and faster than I had expected! Their gratitude to Voyager is
unquestionably without measure! I might add, I'm pleased to have finished
the task well ahead of schedule, thanks to their help.'
Reciprocating the smile, the commander nodded, returning his view to the
console's fluttering screen. B'Elanna had cut primary power to the planetary
scanners in order to reconfigure several malfunctioning energy junctions, and
Chakotay was waiting to hear from her that all systems were, finally, fully
primed and operational.
'I'll express your gratefulness to the Besarian prefect,' Chakotay
offered. 'Outstanding work, Neelix. You should be commended on a job well
done. I'll be sure to tell the captain.'
'Thank you for your kind words, commander, but we owe our thanks to the
Trakill,' Neelix2 confessed, raising his hands to brush off Voyager's first
officer. 'Without their help, I frankly don't know where we'd be.'
'Understood,' Chakotay agreed.
Pleased with his report, Neelix2 lowered his hands and placed them behind
his back. He smiled at the commander, and, for several awkward moments, the
two simply stared at one another, uncertain of what to say.
Finally, Chakotay broke the silence with, 'They're certainly gracious
hosts, considering we've helped return their world to them.'
'Ah,' Neelix2 nodded, 'yes.'
Again, the clone and the human stood staring at one another. Chakotay
studied Neelix2 closely, and Neelix2 faced him, smiling.
'Now,' Chakotay interrupted, 'if you'll excuse me, I do need to get these
long range scanners back online.'
Abruptly, Neelix2 stepped forward. 'Might I assist?'
Declining, the commander shook his head. 'I don't think so,' he
admitted. 'Actually I'm just waiting on main power to be restored.'
Nodding vigorously, Neelix2 replied, 'Ah. Yes.'
Chakotay raised an eyebrow. Uncomfortable, he added, 'B'Elanna is taking
care of it.'
Again, Neelix2 nodded with a burst of excitement and enthusiasm.
'Thank you,' Chakotay finally said. Then, instinctively, he added,
Gradually, his smile fading, Neelix2 looked away, mumbling, 'I see.'
Despite the order to depart, he didn't move or flinch in the slightest. 'Of
course,' he added, 'commander.' Shuffling his feet uncomfortably, his hands
again poised behind his back, the cloned Tallaxian pivoted and started
towards the exit. 'Sorry to have bothered you,' he said.
'Bothered me?' Chakotay wondered.
'What's on your mind?'
Neelix2 stopped in his tracks. 'Commander?'
'Your behavior,' the first officer pressed. Leaning forward, he rested
his palms on the console. 'You're acting as if I've insulted you.'
Cocking his head slightly, Neelix2 asked, 'Haven't you?'
'If I have, I apologize.'
'If I have, I apologize ... Neelix?' the clone asked.
Confused, Chakotay squinted at Neelix2, who slowly turned around.
'Neelix,' the clone repeated. 'My name, commander. It's Neelix. The
entire time ... you haven't even addressed me by my given name.'
Gripping the edge of the console, Chakotay realized that the clone was
right. However, the first officer also understood that a portion of this
denial to refer to the clone by his true shipmate's name was a conscious
effort to separate the two. Chakotay, at Captain Janeway's advice, had
agreed that there were dangers with ... getting attached, especially to the
'My apologies, Neelix,' the commander finally surrendered.
'No, no,' Neelix2 replied. 'My apologies to you, commander. You're a
busy man. I'm just in the way here.'
'What's on your mind?' Chakotay began. 'If you want me to call you
Neelix, then fine. I've done that. But, the Neelix I know and respect has
never been at a loss for words. If there's something bothering you ... or if
there's something that I've either done or said that's insulted you ... I'd
like to know about it.'
Snorting out a laugh, Neelix2 edged closer to the console.
Chakotay could tell that the clone was visibly struggling to find the
right words to capture his true feelings.
'Maybe he's not an exact duplicate, after all,' the commander reasoned.
'Out with it, Neelix,' Chakotay barked.
'Well, commander ... it's the simple fact that ... based on what I've
come to - first - understand, and then - second - accept ... it's the fact
that I'm not ... well ... I'm not real.'
Aghast, Chakotay didn't know what to say.
'It's precisely that, commander,' Neelix2 admitted. Within seconds, he
was nervously wringing his hands together, and the familiar Tallaxian
sideburns started to quiver from the build-up of emotion. 'Everything inside
my head ... all of the memories from Voyager ... all of the adventures we've
shared ... all of the lives we've touched ... the fact that I can't please
Tuvok with any of my attempts at Vulcan cuisine ... the fact that Captain
Janeway has an allergic reaction every time I serve my delicious MontMont
Tomato Soup ... none of it's ... well ... none of it's REAL!'
Fearing that perhaps the clone wasn't designed to mimic Tallaxian
emotions, Chakotay held up his palms toward the clone, hoping to calm him
down. 'Now, slow down, Neelix. Just take it easy.'
'The away missions!' Neelix2 shouted, flinging his hands apart and into
the air. 'All of the danger! The intrigue!' Angrily, he began quickly
pacing back and forth on the tiles before the scanner console, just out of
reach of the commander. 'Species 8472! The Borg! The Hirogen! Remember
when they overran the ship?' Suddenly, he stopped, dead in his tracks, and
he turned to face the first officer. 'Kes! My dear ... my dear, departed
Kes! And the rest of the crew ... including ...'
His voiced suddenly lost all excitement, and he started to trail off
before finishing with, 'Including even you, commander.'
The commander grimaced, sighing heavily.
Standing in the science chamber, the clone slumped his shoulders and
pouted. 'Commander, I feel ... I feel like such a fraud,' he confided.
Firmly, Chakotay stated, 'You're not a fraud.'
'Then what am I?'
At that, Chakotay fell silent.
Weakly and with measured conviction, Neelix2 whispered, 'It's how I feel,
'Neelix - '
With his eyes open and his expression suddenly wanting, Neelix2 asked
desperately, 'Is it because ... I've done no good?'
Chakotay considered the clone for several moments. He was uncertain of
what to say, how to respond to such a seminal question of existence. Neelix2
had fulfilled a function; he had completed that which Captain Janeway had
agreed to. Now, he was void. Taskless. Without purpose. Chakotay
understood that the clone had somehow psychologically progressed to the point
of questioning what everyone did at some point in life.
What comes next?
'What you're asking,' the commander began, choosing his words cautiously,
'there are no easy answers for, Neelix. Life isn't as simple as a
'I never was any good at math,' Neelix2 confessed.
Inadvertently, Chakotay smiled. 'You're facing existence. And, in the
short time, you're starting to achieve ... a level of consciousness that
cries out for more. You want answers. I understand the questions. Who am
I? Why am I? Where do I go from here? Is this all there is?' Glancing
away, the first officer sighed heavily. 'I wish I could give you the
answers, Neelix, but what you're asking ... these are matters that scholars,
academics, and theologians have been questioning for centuries.' He turned
back to the waiting clone, and he said, 'I don't know what your destiny is,
but, when you begin to look closely for it, you'll find that the universe is
filled with answers. Eventually, you have to find your own way.'
'For me, there is no way,' Neelix2 assessed. 'I'm a fraud. A copy. A
facsimile of the real thing. I have no right to exist in this universe. I
serve no purpose.'
'Neelix, you're not a - '
'Please, commander,' Neelix2 interrupted, vigorously shaking his head.
'I understand now. It's what I am. It's not who I am. It's not what's
inside this head of mine. The memories? None of those are real ... or, in
the very least, none of those are mine.' Turning, he waltzed toward the
exit, wandering aimlessly through the room. 'The Neelix who has traveled
with you all of those light years? The one who's earned the trust and
fellowship of you and your crewmates? That isn't me. The sad fact is ...
that'll never be me, no matter how hard I try. I'll always be ... just a
Chakotay grimaced. 'Neelix, a long time ago my father taught me that we
choose the weights we carry with us on our journey through life. We might
not realize it at the time, but, on a subconscious level, we allow for the
various insecurities and second-guessing to steer us off the true path of our
existence.' Slowly, Chakotay moved around the console and took a position
near the clone. 'Despite the fact that you are not the Neelix who has served
Voyager with distinction, that doesn't mean that you aren't destined for the
greatness of the life he's led.'
Finally, Chakotay reached out and placed a hand on Neelix2's shoulder.
'As my father taught me, I'm telling you: the choice is yours.'
'I understand, commander,' Neelix2 replied weakly.
Then, he shook off Chakotay's hand, stiffening.
'Once a fraud, always a fraud.'
Quickly, the clone turned and marched toward the exit.
'I'm terribly sorry to have bothered you,' he said.
Then, he disappeared through the arch.
'B'Elanna to Chakotay,' the commander heard.
Defeated, he tapped his comm badge. 'Go ahead,' he replied, sighing.
'The power should be coming back online ... right ... about ... now,' she
Overhead, the lights of the scanning room flickered. Chakotay glanced up
toward the blinking panels, and he found himself wondering if the lights
would choose to work or if this was all the trick of the One's hot-wired
After several seconds, the lighting stabilized, and Chakotay smiled.
'How do you manage, B'Elanna?' he asked.
'With plenty of help from Harry Kim,' she replied.
'Nice work,' the first officer complimented. Quickly, he moved for the
console, and he began tapped the keys, bringing the systems online.
'Commander, Harry needs to speak with the captain. He has quite a bit on
Instinctively, Chakotay glanced in the direction that Neelix2 had
disappeared. 'Don't we all?' he thought.
'It'll have to wait,' the commander replied. 'Right about now the
captain and Tuvok should be addressing the Besarian assembly.'
'I'm afraid that this can't wait, commander.'
'Explain,' he stated, suddenly curious at the change of tone in her voice.
'Harry has a theory about those Borg we recently engaged,' B'Elanna
The console flickered momentarily, but then the screens came alive,
sputtering at first several shades of electronic snow which gradually
coalesced into distinct shapes against the blackness of outer space.
Chakotay glanced down and noticed immediately that the long range scanner's
display had come blazingly to life.
He gasped at what it showed.
'You don't say?' he replied to B'Elanna.