The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
This story begins moments before the end of "Scorpion, Part I," and has absolutely nothing to do with the expected Season 4 premiere. This is simply a flight of fancy.
Chapter 1: "Assimilate This"
"What's happening?" Captain Janeway demanded, barely keeping her footing on the narrow catwalk as the Borg cube was rocked yet again. All had been quiet when she had been brought here, but she had little doubt that her first guess was correct: Species 8472 was attacking.
The cube screamed as a wounded animal, the shrieking protest of metal and flesh shredded by something impossibly powerful. The roar was deafening, painful. She suffered it; better to be deaf and alive than to plunge to certain death covering her ears. She sensed a different sort of movement the cube continued to shake, but gradually the tremors gave way to the familiar sensation of speed. The cube was moving.
She could only hope against hope that Voyager had survived as well.
Janeway was still absorbing these events when Borg approached from either side of the catwalk.
"Resistance is futile," they droned, thousands of voices in unison. "You will be assimilated."
"We had an agreement. You need us. As we are."
"Need is irrelevant. Resistance is futile."
So I've heard, Janeway thought dryly. "You're crossing the wrong woman," she said in her most dangerous voice.
"Women are irrelevant. You will be assimilated."
Janeway's white-hot glare caused Borg--all Borg, everywhere--to blanch. Audibly. She smiled; at least she still had The Look.
She had a mere instant to consider what had brought her to this place, at this moment. She took some satisfaction in the knowledge that for one brief, shining moment, the Borg had actually negotiated with her-even bent to her will. A pity her accomplishment would go unheralded.
During the past year, since retaking Voyager from Seska and Maje Cullah, the crew's fortunes in the Delta Quadrant had shifted. Lady Luck had been on her side as never before, as obstacle after barrier after stumbling block were overcome. Even the Borg hadn't seemed too great a challenge once she had seen their weakness, and what others saw as insurmountable, she saw as an opportunity to speed her people home.
But now...betrayed at last by Fate, her confidant and closest companion the past three years. Chakotay's disapproval of her plan had hurt her severely, but she knew he'd come around once he saw she was right. They had done this dance before, and she was used to winning. But Luck-without that, she was truly alone.
Her bitter reverie was interrupted when two drones grabbed her arms and forced her to her knees. Captain Janeway stared into the empty eyes and offered no physical protest. But she wouldn't be Kathryn Janeway if she gave up entirely. "I am Janeway of Starfleet," she announced, her baritone voice resonating in the vast chamber of the Cube. "And I always will be. Assimilation...is irrelevant."
She stared defiantly into blank eyes that betrayed no reaction. As the tubules plunged into her neck, Kathryn Janeway screamed. The pain was nothing compared to her frustration.
* * *
We are Borg
The minds of the Collective filled hers, speaking in a single voice. Overwhelming as the sensation was, Janeway was surprised to discover that she took comfort in it. Was this what Chakotay had felt with Riley and her Cooperative?
There was order here. Billions of operations and subroutines occurring in gloriously precise parallel, like a well-oiled machine--but far more than a machine. More like a symphony orchestra. Memories and images flooded her mind--some more alien than she thought possible, some as familiar as her own. There were many Alpha Quadrant species represented in the Collective. She was relieved that none of her crew were among them.
The order of it was wondrous. Until this moment, she could not have imagined how the Collective was organized. Now she knew. She reveled in it. All her life, she had craved order. She had forged it out of chaos at every opportunity. Even here in the Delta Quadrant, decades of away from home at best, she now led dozens of people she had originally been sent to apprehend as criminals. Even they had managed to become an orderly crew under her leadership, once the absolute incorrigibles weeded themselves out, often by mortal attrition, cancerous cells expelled from the body Starfleet.
But this...this was Order of a magnitude she had never imagined.
It pleased her.
Welcome to the Collective, she felt as well as heard.
Order and manners; she liked that. It's good to be here, Janeway returned, and was surprised to discover that she meant it.
Instantaneously, across thousands of lightyears in all directions, a trillion Borg...blinked. It had forgotten the First Rule of the Collective:
Never assimilate a redhead.
* * *
Janeway could feel the nanoprobes coursing through her bloodstream, changing her, adapting her to her new existence, even as the group mind entered even deeper into her own. Rather than resist, she surged ahead, opening herself still further to the Collective with a glee the Borg found most unexpected.
Locutus had never done that.
Janeway could hear the Collective's thoughts, and she smiled. Borg everywhere smiled as well, though they had no idea why.
As her mind merged with the Collective, as the nanoprobes connected her to the Whole one cell at a time at impossible speed, she sensed a hunger in them. A void. She queried, and instantly knew the answer. The Queen. Killed by Locutus. An impossibility, and yet it was so. Jean-Luc Picard had made it so.
Janeway of Starfleet cheered the preservation of her home world. Janeway of Borg mourned the loss of the Queen. The captain's strategic senses grasped the ramifications of the loss. Not only had the Alpha Quadrant been abandoned--further attempts were deemed futile, for now--but Species 8472 was cleaning their chronometers on a large scale. The Collective was suffering a crisis of faith; its cherished notions of what constituted futility and irrelevance were being battered at every turn, and now their very existence seemed in doubt. As a Starfleet Captain, Janeway had seen it many times before, and had taken it on herself to reverse the situation.
The Collective lacked direction. It craved direction.
The Collective was a hive.
And hives...need queens.
I am Borg, Janeway thought, now fully integrated into the Whole.
The Borg understood, and acquiesced.
There was no resistance.
* * *
Aboard Voyager, chaos reigned. Damage control teams were dispatched ship-wide, Sickbay was packed to the rafters, and Tom Paris--for the moment forced to let the Borg tractor beam carry them through the transwarp corridor--was manning Harry's station at Ops. His lips were a thin white line as he concentrated on the controls, parted only for the frequent, terse status reports barked at the grim-faced Commander Chakotay, whose unblinking eyes bored holes into the Borg Cube on the forward viewscreen.
Paris' tone changed suddenly. "The cube is hailing us, Commander!"
"On screen," Chakotay ordered. He breathed a sigh of relief when Janeway's smiling face greeted the bridge. She was a bit pale, he noticed, but nothing out of the ordinary.
She was flanked by Borg, though, and that concerned him.
"I am the Borg," she said slowly. The words resonated with the voices of thousands.
Chakotay's face went ashen, and his mind filled with a silent scream. No! The shameful memory of his own brief assimilation was too fresh in his mind, even months later-and it had been his waking nightmare of Kathryn's fate from the moment she had been snatched from the bridge. The whiteness of her face took on a new significance, and the voice was like a physical assault. He beseeched his ancestors to return his voice to him with some semblance of control.
But through his anguish came a sliver of curiosity. It was this that restored his speech. "Don't you mean, 'we are the Borg'?"
"I mean, I, Commander." The same chorus of sound, but the Voice was all Janeway's. And to his amazement, the corners of her mouth edged upward in a very familiar way.
Kathryn's eyes were...alive. After nearly three sleepless days and nights, Janeway had approached the Borg at the point of exhaustion, propelled by her formidable will and far too much coffee. Hours later, after the catastrophe that had destroyed two cubes and an entire Borg planet, she looked like a million bars of latinum. Her hair was less auburn, more that fiery red that had drawn him to her from the beginning. The captain's ponytail had come undone; her tresses flowed defiantly. The whiteness of her skin radiated, and the effect was majestic rather than sickly. Her smile was confident, bordering on feral.
He was half tempted to proclaim her his new animal guide.
He snapped out of his reverie only with difficulty. "Are you all right, Captain?" Chakotay asked.
"Never better, Chakotay," said Janeway. The Collective voice had receded, but was still there, a subtle but persistent display of simmering power. "The Borg are no longer a threat. We have come to...an understanding. Species 8472 will be dealt with, and Voyager will have safe passage through Borg space."
"They told you that?" He asked, incredulous. He still had serious reservations about her plan.
Janeway smiled indulgently. "Oh, Chakotay. You still don't understand." The commander heard Tom Paris inhale sharply as the two drones flanking her matched her grin exactly.
He swallowed hard. The entire bridge crew shifted uncomfortably. "I guess I don't."
"I am the Borg. You're aware of their motto, Commander. Resistance is futile. What you forgot is how irresistible I am," she proclaimed, flashing more teeth. The drones followed suit. "I assimilated the Maquis into my ship, after all."
"Captain-are you saying you assimilated them?" Tom Paris asked, half-concealing a smirk of his own. "I mean, we've joked about that, but you actually--"
Borg or human, Janeway still had The Look. Paris shut up, eyes wide.
The captain turned her gaze to Chakotay, and they locked eyes. "We have much to discuss, Commander."
For the second time in as many hours, the bridge officer was whisked away in a green-tinged flash of light, leaving the crew in mute shock. Tuvok immediately took charge, but Tom's reaction time was slowed by the stunned realization that his longshot bet, placed months before as a joke, would assure him of replicated steak dinners every night from here to the Alpha Quadrant.
* * *
Surrounded by compliant drones who stared at him impassively, Janeway explained the situation to the grim Chakotay as best she could. A trillion minds could perform wonders, she was discovering, but their communication skills were sorely lacking. No wonder they had taken Locutus as a mouthpiece. But even human language was a poor vehicle for describing what had become of her. Janeway considered assimilating Chakotay, if only temporarily, just to explain things more efficiently. But she knew his feelings on the matter, and resisted the temptation. For now.
Chakotay was confused and frightened, more for the Captain than for the rest of the crew. He had been in her place. He still had nightmares about Riley Frasier, the disconnected Borg with the Texas Twang who saved his life with a Cooperative bond, a bond which later allowed her Cooperative to manipulate him like a string puppet. He didn't like the thought of taking orders from another Borg. Nor did he approve of their methods. His individuality was too precious to him; he would follow, but only voluntarily. He would resist compulsion, as he had always done, to his last breath. Even if it was Kathryn Janeway giving the orders.
He did have to admit, though, that if she had been truly assimilated into the Collective, it hadn't altered her personality much. For example, she still looked a bit upset with him, and he wondered if she wanted to continue their earlier argument.
"They trust me," Janeway was saying. "Which is more than I can say for some people. Looks like I was right after all, Commander."
"But you were assimilated."
"Call it Plan B."
Chakotay shrugged resignedly. "I'll never doubt you again," he said, half-jokingly.
Doubt is irrelevant, said the Collective as one. Janeway lips curved upward.
"I guess the next question is," Chakotay continued, "what now?"
Janeway stared at her First Officer; her voice took on that intimate quality he'd come so much to appreciate the past year, free from the Borg chorus. "Same as always, Commander. Voyager is returning to the Alpha Quadrant, and it's getting home my way. On my schedule. As luck would have it, I think we can speed things along with a little help from our new friends." Her voice took on a hard edge. "But first, we have a threat to deal with--and we've got their number."
They've messed with the wrong woman, the chorus of drones said.
Suddenly, Chakotay pitied the hell out of Species 8472.
* * *
The Doctor's solution using the Borg nanotechnology, naturally, was successful. Forty-seven hours after he had been struck by the alien, Harry Kim's full recovery was assured. The Doctor had given him a sedative as soon as it seemed likely the Ensign's body would no longer reject it. The Borg were creating modified nanoprobes at an inconceivable rate. On a cellular level, Species 8472 was no longer a threat to Man or Borg.
The larger problem, however, was the beings themselves, and their devastating bioships. But that too was coming together nicely, as Borg and Starfleet combined their talents under the direction of their shared and unquestioned leader.
After three years on a lone, unsupported Starship, Her Omniscient Highness Captain Kathryn Tiberius Janeway of Borg, She Who Must Be Obeyed, reveled in the strategic and tactical advantages that come from having the resources of ten thousand star systems and millions of transwarp-capable vessels, and the unquestioned loyalty of thousands of billions of Collective souls at her disposal.
The ship and crew of Voyager was her ace in the hole. Synergy is a combination of individuals and The Group, and she had both to command. She also had the telepathic services of Kes, Tuvok, Vorik, and several other crewmen of various races aboard.
And Neelix? This discovery by the Doctor was perhaps most shocking of all. The unvanquishable 47's were in fact quite vulnerable...to the culinary evil that is the leola root. Tom Paris howled with mirth at this revelation, though he smarted a bit when Harry reminded him of a rather long-odd wager Neelix had made that "one day, you'll thank me for bringing this root on board."
* * *
The next bio-ship to attack the Collective did not succeed. Nor did the next, nor the cluster of ten planet-killing 47's. All were rebuffed--the first with a mere spank on the tailpipe, the second with a leola root beamed into the cockpit, generating spontaneous skin lesions and the heartbreak of psoriasis. A massive feedback loop from the targeted planet in the Poshintang cluster annihilated not only the bio-ships and their pilots, but the ninety-four craft waiting on the other side of the singularity.
One surviving vessel was captured, and its occupant assimilated. In a bit of poetic justice, it was the very creature that had afflicted Harry Kim. "The weak will perish," it had said--or rather thought--to Kes, as it set out to prove its point against the Delta Quadrant. And to its surprise, it had learned a new catch phrase shortly thereafter, as it instantly gained several trillion new alien associates and a duranium-willed Fearless Leader: "You've messed with the wrong woman."
As Its distinctiveness merged with the Collective, Its strengths and talents were added to theirs. It sought death-- for the weak will perish--and It had discovered to Its horror that It was now the weak.
But Death herself had become irrelevant, and It found it lacked the power to die.
Its telepathic scream resonated in the minds of 47's everywhere.
* * *
Once assimilated, the 47 had no chance to resist divulging all, and Janeway knew it as it happened. Kes had been surprisingly close to the truth; they were a telepathic species. Malevolent. Xenophobic. Incredibly powerful. Bent on destroying everything.
Not in my universe, you don't.
They called themselves The Strong. Not very original. She was determined to rename them. She understood their technology as though she were one of them-which, thanks to assimilation, she now was. Species 8472 had much to offer the Collective. But only as part of the Collective.
Two days later, Species 8472 were not to be found in the Northwest Passage. Or anywhere else. The bioships were now Borgships. The Collective had grown. Many of the aliens inevitably resisted...and found it utterly futile.
To Species 8472, death was infinitely preferable to assimilation. Death welcomed them in droves.
The Delta Quadrant was safe for the Borg again. The quantum singularities had closed, and new ones had not appeared. The Strong acknowledged the strength of the Borg, and seemed content to return to the place of their origin. The alternative was not worth considering.
Janeway loved it when a plan came together.
* * *
For the crew's sake, Chakotay was relieved. Species 8472 had seemed unstoppable, but were no longer a threat. And the Borg seemed less far likely to assimilate them with Janeway as their queen.
It was Janeway herself he worried about. She was as close to possessing absolute power as any human he'd known; she now controlled a large chunk of the Delta Quadrant. Starfleet training helped keep power in some perspective--but not to this degree. Borg space was larger than the Federation, Klingon, and Romulan territories combined, and she ruled it utterly.
Just as Riley had not been able to resist using him when the need had become too great, he worried what Janeway of Borg could be capable of. Despite his affection for her, he considered her stubborn and willful. And she never took defeat well; he considered the species they'd already met since the Caretaker had brought them here, and wondered what justice--vengeance?-she might be tempted to exact from those who had treated her crew poorly. Would the Kazon and Vidiians soon swell the Collective ranks? He wouldn't wish that on anyone, no matter who the Queen was.
But still, he had to admit as the Cube latched tractors onto Voyager and kicked into transwarp, he admired Kathryn's tenacity. Not even assimilation could stand in the way of her mission to get her people home. Her sense of mission might preserve them yet.
* * *
The Alpha Quadrant
On the Defiant, Captain Sisko was worried. The Dominion had been massing ships inside Cardassian space for over a year now. The Maquis-what was left of them--had finally surrendered to the Federation, fearing the alternative; their homes had been reduced to smoking ashes, and they were being hunted like animals by the unholy Alliance of spoonheads, milk addicts and gelatinous gods. The Klingons and Romulans were siding with the Federation, a historic first--though on paper, the latter had signed a nonaggression treaty in the interest of self-preservation.
But after the previous year's near-catastrophic non-battle with the fake-Bashir Founder, and the recent abandonment of DS9 to Dukat and Weyoun the Vorta was particularly galling to Benjamin Sisko.
When subspace near the Federation/Klingon armada lit up like a Christmas tree, he thought things had gotten even worse. Of all the trials he'd had to face since taking charge of DS9, the one threat he had been spared was the one he most feared. So when that damnable Cube appeared out of transwarp, he called for Red Alert. It was all Dax could do to keep him from launching everything the fleet had against it.
When the Cube hailed the Defiant, it took him forty-seven seconds to gather his wits enough to reply. He didn't even notice the minuscule Federation vessel--intact, and in tow. The larger vessel brought back too many unpleasant memories for him to focus on much else.
"On screen," he finally ordered.
He nearly fainted when he saw a ghost-history was repeating itself. A starship captain, pale as death, surrounded by a half-dozen Borg. It was Locutus all over again. Jennifer...
He also saw Starfleet personnel on the viewscreen-unassimilated?--and Maquis that Starfleet had written off as dead years before.
All wearing Starfleet uniforms.
Something was very, very wrong here.
"I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager," she began. "Please hold your fire. These vessels come in peace."
Her voice was the voice of Borg. Just as Picard's had been.
Picard. Locutus. Jennifer...
"Voya--that's impossible!" he roared. "You were lost three years ago!"
"No, Commander, we were just very far away. It's taken us three years to make it back. I am also Janeway of Borg," she said simply. "But don't worry-the Collective does my bidding."
A powerful green beam lanced out from the Cube and within seconds had scanned the entire armada. Commander Dax reported the bad news.
"I see there have been some changes since I was here last," Janeway said grimly. "The Dominion sound like fascinating species. I'll simply must meet them and...get acquainted." She smiled.
It was not a kind smile.
"I have a report to write, Comma--excuse me, Captain Sisko; congratulations!-it's been a long three years. But to make a long story short--mission accomplished." She placed her hands on her hips, a gesture Captain Janeway had been known for in Starfleet.
The sight of every Borg on the viewscreen placing their hands on their hips in unison, Sisko almost found comical.
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
Star Trek (R) is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.