The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, Commander Riker, aka Phallus of Borg, had just irritated Commader Shelby of the USS Excalibur into "Firing at Will." Chapter 3 also brought in Captain Kirk and the first motion picture, though only by reference.
But let's see what happens with the Excalibur first...]
Chapter 4: "The Never-Ending Story"
"Mr. Kebron? Fire at Will."
"With pleasure, Commander."
The Brikar stabbed the console, instantly unleashing a volley of photon torpedoes toward the looming Cube.
An instant wasn't fast enough. The Cube was gone before the weapons reached the target.
"The vessel has entered transwarp, Commander," Kebron rumbled. "All torpedoes missed."
Calhoun rattled off orders at a machine-gun clip. "Track that ship, Lefler. McHenry, prepare to jump to maximum warp. Kebron, set phasers on random-harmonic frequencies, pattern Shelby Delta Seven--"
Lieutenant Soleta interrupted. "Captain, sensors have detected a communications buoy seven point four kilometers from the Cube's last position."
"Federation, sir. Audio only."
Shelby and Calhoun shared a look, then Calhoun ordered it put on speaker.
The voice of the Collective filled the bridge. Salutations, Excalibur. Greetings from the Kobiyashi Wahoo. Have a nice day. The last sentence ended with just a trace of that familiar Riker chuckle.
Captain Calhoun's eyes went wide for a moment, then crinkled at the edges. A low rumble in his chest escaped to the surface, a merry guffaw that filled the bridge and left his crew in a state of absolute shock.
"Captain!" Commander Shelby demanded. "What does it mean?"
Calhoun wiped moisture from the corner of his eye with the back of his hand. It was the first genuine, whole-body laugh he'd had in years. "It means, Commander, that Starfleet has just acquired a new toy." He burst into fresh gales of laughter, and Commander Shelby could only stare at him with growing confusion and fury.
Captain's log, Stardate 51047.6. Commander Riker's appearance was followed shortly by an announcement from Starfleet Command that Borg presence should not--for the moment--be considered cause for alarm. I've never had to face the Borg, though Commander Shelby has briefed me extensively; this news comes as a tremendous relief.
The data from Voyager has been enlightening. That they made it back at all is a wonder. That they managed to co-opt the entire Collective in the process is too much to fathom. Yet it would appear to be true, as recent events have shown.
Kobiyashi Wahoo--the nickname used by the commander of a new ship of the line when buzzing a sister vessel, usually captained by a former shipmate. Its practice is discouraged, and relatively uncommon--but in this case I can hardly blame them. Rarely has the play on words been more appropriate: the no-win scenario turned to smashing victory by a captain in the grandest traditions of Starfleet.
Commander Shelby is still irate. I pity Commander Riker on their next encounter.
First Officer's log, Stardate 51049.2.
The next time I see Commander William Thomas Riker, he's a dead man. And I dare any court in the Federation to tell me he didn't have it coming.
* * *
Voyagerwas docked at Deep Space Nine, as was the Enterprise-E. The former's crew was almost entirely on much-deserved leave, enjoying the festive atmosphere of the newly recovered DS9, feted like the long-lost heroes they were. Hard as many of them found it to believe, particularly the Maquis.
A skeleton crew remained. Captain Janeway was one of them.
The door chimed in the captain's ready room. "Come," Janeway said, rubbing her temples.
Commander Chakotay entered. He still had trouble walking into a room and seeing Borg without wincing. "Sensors have detected transwarp signature, Captain. The cube should arrive in five minutes."
Janeway smiled wearily. "I know, Chakotay. Commander Riker enjoyed himself tremendously. The Collective has been debating the relevance of practical jokes since he suggested the idea."
"Have they reached a conclusion?" Chakotay asked.
"Not yet. Four of Seven here has been touting it as an aid to efficiency, improving morale and staff unity. Seven of Nine considers it a waste of time and an exploitation of a proud and superior species. The debate has grown rather heated, I'm afraid."
Chakotay looked at the two Borg flanking the captain's chair. They didn't look any different. "They're arguing right now?"
"That is correct," said Seven of Nine, as though noticing him for the first time, then immediately returning to her earlier stance.
Chakotay stifled a shudder. "Are you all right, Kathryn? You look exhausted."
"I'm fine, Chakotay. There's simply a lot going on at the moment."
"Anything I can do to help?" Chakotay asked hopefully.
She smiled kindly but shook her head. "I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to begin, Chakotay. The Collective. . . .The Jem'Hadar assimilated two weeks ago have been . . . difficult. And this debate over Commander Riker's so-called mission has complicated matters. Being Queen is not difficult when the Collective is running smoothly, but when that order is disrupted...I'm afraid it's taking a bit of a toll."
Chakotay smiled in sympathy. "I'm sure you can handle it. You not only survived the merging of our crews three years ago, you excelled. We'll follow you anywhere. I'm sure the Borg will fall into line eventually." His face lined with concern. "Even so--I would like the Doctor to check in on you. First Officer's orders. It wouldn't be unseemly for the Queen to take a night off..."
Janeway leaned forward and clutched Chakotay firmly on the shoulder. "Oh, Chakotay, I know this has been hard on you. Thank you for being here for me these past weeks." Her voice was like fragile crystal, as it often got when emotion overtook her. For all the good that had come from her assimiltion, her great regret was the distance it had forced between them.
Janeway heard the voice of Four of Seven in her mind. Janeway chuckled quietly, and gave Chakotay a truly disarming smile. "You know, I could use a night on the Promenade," she suggested. Her eyes crinkled at the edges. "I hear the raktajino at Quark's uses a secret recipe from the House of Grilka."
Chakotay returned her smile. "It's a date. Shall we welcome your cube?"
"After you, Commander."
The "Kobiyashi Wahoo" docked at DS9, where the Enterprise-E and Voyager were already tethered, the latter receiving some long-delayed attention while her crew took some much-needed R&R.
Janeway, Chakotay and Picard greeted Riker at the portal. Picard knew what he'd gone to do. Janeway already knew what had happened through the Collective, and couldn't help but spoil his fun just a little.
"Oh, Commander...Phallus of Borg?" Janeway clucked disapprovingly.
Picard's eyes shot up.
Riker just shrugged, smiling enigmatically. "It...wasn't my idea, Captain. Four of Seven suggested it."
"I don't want to know," said Picard, shaking his head emphatically.
Janeway smiled. "Diplomatic as always, Captain," she said.
"Captain Picard, Captain Janeway--the maiden voyage of the Kobiyashi Wahoo is complete." Riker announced. "Now she needs a proper name. Have you given any thought to it?"
Janeway smiled. "As a matter of fact, Commander, I have." She cast a grateful look to Chakotay, who had recommended it.
The Cube was registered with Commander Dax at Deep Space Nine as the USS Duchess, Starfleet registry NCC-101111.
After three years of replicator rations and Neelix's cooking, most of the Voyager's crew had quickly found their way to the Promenade for some down-home Alpha Quadrant cooking. The comm stations were also at peak usage, as words that had been prepared and reviewed and dreamt of for months finally had the opportunity to be spoken. The Bajoran crew received priority booking to Bajor, or for their loved ones to come to the station-those whose families hadn't already anticipated the request. Cultural, news, sports and entertainment data banks were downloaded and consumed voraciously. DS9, despite its very recent troubles, was an oasis for the Voyager crew, who treated the station as they would Eden, with gratitude approaching worship.
The Doctor found himself touring DS9 as well, taking care to guard his portable holo-emitter, getting his first good look at the Alpha Quadrant. Naturally, he stopped in Sickbay, and had a rather animated and lengthy discussion with Doctor Bashir about genetic enhancements, LMH templates, and his designer Lewis Zimmerman. He found the company of another doctor an enormous comfort, and they swapped tales and feats of medical heroics with abandon, managing to argue only occasionally.
Kes and Neelix strolled together through the Promenade, sampling the cuisine, observing the behavior of the people, browsing at the shop of a friendly Cardassian tailor. The Alpha Quadrant didn't seem that different to them, after all they'd been through. But they did sense the feelings of their crewmates, and knew that the end of the journey meant that they were very, very far from home--yet still very much at home. They had remained friends since their breakup, and now they found themselves drawn closer to each other again, Delta Quadrant comrades in a faraway land.
Early in their stay, Lt. Torres encountered the crew of the Rotarran, a Klingon ship that had overcome a poor reputation and distinguished itself in battle. She found herself well able to relate, and struck up conversations with several of the crew--including Commander Worf, who had spent some time with that ship as first officer, despite his Starfleet commission. The Day of Honor was fast approaching, and though she had her doubts about the whole thing, Tom Paris had been urging her for months to come to terms with her mother's heritage side.
A Klingon raised by humans who had twice lost and recaptured his honor, Worf was especially helpful, despite his busy schedule and wedding plans. He helped her understand honor in terms she had never before considered, to see the honor and dishonor in the daily acts of her life, to get in touch with her inner warrior and to see battles not merely as issues of blade and bat'telh, but of the heart and of the mind as well. Inspired to find the honor in her actions, she actually got him to laugh with her flowery account of the Battle of Neelix's Cheese. When the Day of Honor came, she celebrated with the crew of the Rotarran and found, for the first time, peace--and answers to questions that she had put off for years.
Constable Odo had spent the first few hours having Tom Paris and the former Maquis from Voyager observed carefully, but after a thorough debriefing by Lt. Tuvok, he had his team leave them in peace.
Lt. Paris, who had come to the station three years earlier expecting but resenting such treatment, had been jarred by how much things had changed for him in the Delta Quadrant. The part of him that was glad to be home was dwarfed by that part which found its greatest happiness thousands of light years from the troubles he had left behind. But if he'd learned anything the last three years, it was that minds could change. And that he had no desire to go back to the way things had been.
His first call to Earth was to his mother. His second, far longer, was to his father. And in his own way, Tom Paris had his own Day of Honor. It didn't solve everything between them, but it was a beginning.
On the newly-christened Duchess, Commander Data and the holographic Doctor watched in fascination as the statuesque Seven of Nine and the terminally perky Four of Seven explained the finer points of the Collective mind to Commander Riker.
"Locutus said 'death is irrelevant.' I don't get it."
"Damage that can be repaired is repaired through the biological and technological advantages of the Collective," said Seven of Nine. "Flesh is healed instantly; mechanical implants are regenerated automatically."
"Besides," said Four of Seven. "If the damage is too extensive, it's just a drone. Salvage it for parts."
"Heartwarming," muttered Doc.
Seven looked quizzically at the doctor. "The essence of the drone is retained in its internal module and in the Collective consciousness, and is never truly lost. The body is meaningless."
Commander Data began word association. "Individuality?"
"Irrelevant," said Seven of Nine.
"This is getting tedious," Doc noted with the roll of his eyes.
"How about sex?" Riker asked with a wolfish glance in Seven's direction.
"Oh, puleeze," groaned Four of Seven.
Seven delivered a cold stare to Four, then regarded Riker. "Single-cell fertilization is inefficient, cumbersome, and"--she searched the Collective for the proper term--"icky."
"Like you'd know," said Four. "You were how old when you were assimilated? Six?"
"Age is irrelevant."
"I'm sure Mr. Neelix would agree," whispered Doc to nobody in particular.
Riker looked at Four of Seven. "You aren't like any Borg I've ever met, Four." From the smile on his face, it was unquestionably a compliment.
"Flirting is irrelevant," stated Seven of Nine.
"Speak for yourself!" said Four of Seven. She had eyes only for Riker, and she was just adorable enough to tear the commander's eyes away from the majestic Seven of Nine. Riker held out his arm, and Four took it; they left grid 9 of Subjunction 12, (real) arm in (prosthetic) arm.
"Nauseating," said Doc.
"Fascinating," said Commander Data.
Seven of Nine glanced in Data's direction. "Riker is irrelevant. You, Commander, are not. Your technological distinctiveness could be added to our own."
Data smiled, emotion chip fully functional. "I have several suggestions for implementation. Your prior Queen was most...creative in her approach."
"I thought you said flirting was irrelevant," smirked Doc.
Seven of Nine regarded Doc with her one good eye, a large grey-and-white orb in a sea of machinery. "Speak for yourself."
She held out her arm, which Data took, and they also left.
The Doctor sighed dramatically, once again finding himself alone and underappreciated. Tapping his chest, he signaled Voyager for a transport back to Sickbay.
All told, the crew spent a month at Deep Space Nine. They would have left sooner, but the station was still considered vulnerable, and the presence of a Cube--as well as the Federation flagship--was deemed a needed show of force as life and the station slowly returned to normal. Janeway and Picard also understood that, despite its heroics against the Dominion, the appearance of a Cube was a hard sell to the folks in Sector 001. It would take time to clear a path from Bajor to Earth, through the territory of a multitude of nervous species, and that was a matter for the diplomats and the Federation council.
As it turned out, the Dominion had little left to throw at the Alpha Quadrant, and would be lucky to crawl back to any semblance of influence in the Gamma; the Founders were blockaded, the Vorta and Jem'Hadar assimilated or stranded on backwater worlds. The only major disruptions of station life were the constant inflow of Federation supply ships and engineering teams putting the station back together and strengthening it against future conflicts; the wedding of Worf and Dax, a three-day blowout that featured Klingon traditional, Trill contemporary, and Ferengi controversial segments (Dax just wasn't happy if she wasn't shocking someone, and her Ferengi wedding "attire" had Bajoran Vedeks ordering the faithful to stay indoors for the duration); and the news that Leeta was pregnant, which sent Dr. Bashir and Quark on a drinking binge so unparalleled that a tearful Morn offered them his barstool--passing the baton to the new undisputed Masters of the Mug.
As for the Cardassians...Gul Dukat had made it home to Cardassia alive, only to flee once again for his life. His whereabouts were at present unknown. The new ruling council was doing its level best to placate its neighbors without courting yet another invasion by angry Klingons, Romulans, Bajorans and Breen, and had actually tendered an application for Federation membership. Sisko had laughed aloud when it had arrived, but he and Garak had spent a good, long Cajun dinner discussing the possibilities.
The Emissary had no objections...as long as Bajor was admitted first.
One twist in the changing climate on Cardassia was clemency for all who had fought against the tyranny of Dukat. Including Garak. After nearly a decade on Bajor and the station, Garak would not be moving anytime soon. But he eagerly took advantage of the change in his status, and returned home to his first glimpse of Cardassia in far, far too long. He even arranged to have Ziyal accompany him.
* * *
All in all, the crew of Voyager found themselves more than welcome aboard the station. But it wasn't home...and Commander Chakotay found it fascinating that long before the ship was cleared to make its final journey to Earth, the crew was spending an increasing portion of their time onboard the ship instead of the station. And since he was doing so himself, he understood why.
He also thought he understood the delay, though he hadn't discussed it with the captain. The Cube looming nearby was both a comfort, and a source of anxiety, even for him. It had fought beside the ships here, had earned the right to be here. But on Earth, he doubted the idea sat well. A single Cube had devastated Starfleet twice, and after the conflict with the Klingons and the Dominion the Federation was in no condition to resist if things went badly. He suspected Janeway's assurances were not sufficient; he himself was waiting for the Scorpion's nature to assert itself. He'd seen Riley succumb to the siren song of Collective coersion, taking an essentially positive impulse--to associate for the common good--and twisting it into tyranny. He couldn't look at the Borg without remembering his slavery to the Cooperative, when he had fired on his own people and activated a Cube without being able to resist. He still keenly felt the fury of being used against his will--and the shame of having succumbed to the offer of the Link in the first place.
That link had saved his life--but there were worse things than dying. He wondered if Janeway was truly as in control as she claimed. Her comments about the Jem'Hadar and the less-than-united Collective truly concerned him. Even if they were manageable issues, he could not comprehend her new state of being.
He'd been a drone, and found that overwhelming enough. He could not fathom being queen.
Janeway could not only fathom it, she reveled in it. Problems and all.
Her chief difficulty was in trying to explain it to others, particularly Chakotay. The Collective was at its core little different from any well-oiled crew; she delegated, and knew her orders were carried out. She delivered direction simply by thinking it, and she received reports as mental answers. The only real difference was that the inefficiencies of verbal communication were obviated; when tasks were completed, she knew it instantly. She could observe the whole, or focus on individuals, or unimatrixes, or cubes or planets or sectors. This capability exhilirated her.
There was an hierarchy in the Collective. The minds were on a level plane, but the bodies were put to efficient, appropriate use. From her location aboard the Duchess or (as she preferred) Voyager, she conducted the business of the Collective across the whole of its holdings.
She had begun the regeneration of existing holdings, devastated by the recent war with Species 8472. She had called a halt to all new assimilation of "biological distinctiveness" since the Dominion war, which had caused a tremendous stir. She also severely curtailed the methods by which technological distinctiveness was assimilated.
There were some in the Collective who welcomed this change.
There were others who did not.
The problem, Janeway was discovering, was that the disharmony had begun to cascade.
It was not a problem Janeway was unfamiliar with; she was used to forging unity in a crew.
But 150 crews on a single Starship was one thing. 9400 billion scattered over thousands of systems was another matter entirely. Same problem; different scale.
But Kathryn Janeway had never run from a challenge before, and had no reason to do so now. It was that confidence, that supreme belief in her course, that resonated most through the Collective.
Captain Janeway replayed the message again. She'd already played it for the senior staff, and had sent them on their way to prepare.
USS Duchess to remain at DS9 under temporary assignment Cdr William T. Riker. Voyager and Enterprise to return to Sector 001 at earliest opportunity. Cpts Picard and Janeway to report Adm Paris office 0830 PST Stardate 51327.
Admiral Paris. She had much to discuss with her former mentor. She smiled softly.
Exiting her ready room and taking the center chair, Janeway gave a broad smile to Commander Chakotay before calling for a ship-wide channel.
"Best behavior, everyone. The eyes of the Federation are watching."
Janeway nodded to a wide-eyed Tom Paris at helm. "Mr. Paris, set course for Earth. Warp five."
Paris turned his head toward the forward view screen, and began entering the commands into his console. "Yes, Ma'am," he said.
As the Voyager and Enterprise-E pulled away from the station, Lt. Tuvok changed the forward screen to show the view to aft. The bridge crew's last view of the station was of the expanding, swirling Wormhole, a fitting tribute to the crew that had helped keep it safe.
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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