The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, the Collective is reeling from an industrial "accident" that left forty million Borg drones dead. Voyager and Enterprise-E are nearing Earth. Riker is in command of the USS Duchess--the Cube still stationed near Deep Space Nine. Captain Janeway, Borg Queen, is searching for answers, facing the grave possibility that the Collective is not entirely under her control.]
Chapter 6: "Wolves in the Fold"
Captain's Log, Stardate 51321.2. The journey to Earth continues without incident. The Doctor has released me from Sickbay, and my duties as captain are light for this final leg of our journey home. I recommend special commendation to Ensign Kim for his handling of the myriad goodwill messages that pour in from, it seems, the whole of the Alpha Quadrant. Voyager practically runs herself these days; after four years this crew is as much a part of me as the Borg.
The Borg. All those lives...the Borg may see them as mere drones, but I know better. The minds never completely detach from their bodies as long as the flesh survives. In many ways I love the comfort of the Collective mind, the joined chorus of voices, the glorious order. But in my efforts to humanize the Borg, to make them a good neighbor in the galaxy, am I making them vulnerable to attack from those species they have assimilated--from without, or even within?
I'm keeping an eye on the Vorta; they have been more pliant than the Jem'Hadar drones, but I don't trust them. If Picard and Hugh were able to exert their will within the collective, I wouldn't put it past our newest additions. But whoever is responsible, I need to put a stop to it before more lives are lost.
The answer may not lie within the Collective. Despite all that the Borg is capable of, I am Queen because I knew things that the Collective couldn't learn on its own.
Janeway released herself from Sickbay over the Doctor's protests, though she promised she would contact him immediately if her condition changed. "Not that I expect it," he had added like a scorned suitor, which had elicited a smile.
The captain's duties were rather light--cheerful exchanges with approaching well-wishers, the occasional micro-managed course correction mostly to keep the duty shift awake, and little else. Doc, knowing Janeway's first concern of the moment was the Collective, ordered her to hand the ship over to her very capable first officer and get in some serious Holodeck time.
And so Janeway found herself once again at the entrance to Holodeck One, ordering up program Janeway-2F, and entering the familiar workshop of the Maestro.
"Ah, Catarina!" the portly, garrulous Leonardo da Vinci boomed, arms outstretched. "So good of you to come. I have something to show you. Come, come!"
Janeway couldn't help but smirk; her new holoprogram had been exquisitely designed, thanks to the combined genius of Harry, Tom, Tuvok and B'Elanna. It had been their present to her on her last birthday. Chakotay had learned the secret of her fascination with the Maestro and had commissioned the program, though he had staunchly denied it. Probably so he could give her his own gift: a picnic lunch for two in a program of his own design, in a shaded riverside stretch of New Earth. He'd even programmed in the monkey. Though that backfired on him when the little holographic scamp started throwing acorns at them until he told the computer to delete it. The memory brought a smile to her face.
"You're in a good mood, I see," Leonardo said warmly, patting her on the arm. "Buono, buono. It is a fine day for such a lovely smile, Catarina." Janeway couldn't help but smile even more.
Such a gift. Leonardo da Vinci, inventor, scientist, artist, and thinker--now mentor. He had given her the answer to how to deal with the Borg. Sure, it hadn't worked out quite how she'd planned, but she'd survived. She'd had faith.
Janeway wondered what new invention Leonardo would show her today. Program Janeway-2F would bring her to the workshop just as Leonardo was about to make or demonstrate one of his astounding discoveries. She hoped watching his mind at work would inspire her. Leonardo might know nothing beyond the walls of his Virtual Venice, but his insights could have a timeless quality to them.
So she looked. And saw him with his arms outstretched. Most of the junk on his largest worktable was displaced, littering the floor. The table was now covered with a long reproduction of a mountain and a long river, flowing downward. The Maestro had always been fascinated by water. It was a working model; water flowed from top to bottom, a meter or so tall and six meters long.
"What do you see, Catarina?" Leonardo asked.
"I see a mountain stream. This is lovely work, Maestro. Beautifully detailed."
"Grazie," Leonardo said with a flourish. "Now, Catarina--what else do you see?" This, in the voice of the mentor, with the eyes twinkling with suppressed mirth.
Janeway looked some more. This was the game she had played with him just before her Deal with the Devil insight. She was encouraged. Perhaps Tuvok had programmed -2F with telepathy. She wouldn't put it past him.
"I see--my, you do pay attention to detail, Maestro. I see men along the course of the river. Here, here, and here. And look! You've got boats up in the mountains!"
"Esattamente. Why would I do such a thing?"
Janeway considered. "You've created roads along the river. The men are positioned near the roads. The mountains also contain--well, I suppose they could contain anything. But if the boats are up there I would assume they're meant to go downstream, to the people in the valley."
Leonardo beamed. "You do an old man proud, Catarina. It took a week for the mariner's guild to reach the same conclusion. The mountains, as you say, could have anything--grapes, olives, sheep. It matters not. But, what does matter is that the people in the valleys would like what is in the mountains. The river is better than the climb,non è? So. How do you get the boats to the mountains, and then back down?"
"Through the river, of course."
"Ah, but can a boat swim up stream? Note, here and here, there are relatively flat stretches where a boat could move upstream. But here, and here, it is far too steep, the water moves too rapidly."
Janeway smirked. "That would be a problem."
"And downstream--the boats would surely move quickly, but in the same places there would be too much danger to the boats, to say nothing of the cargo."
"Exactly," Janeway agreed.
"So, Catarina. This is the dilemma. What is the solution?"
Janeway had a vague idea, but her childhood studies had been so long ago. She knew how she'd go about it now--redirect the stream, avoid the steep places, allow for a more gradual ascent and descent. The Federation corps of engineers did it all the time on terraforming projects. But she smiled. "You're the teacher, Maestro."
"Yes, yes," he said impatiently. "But the student is being stubborn today, I see." His frown didn't match the twinkle in his eye, though. "I see I shall have to work for us both, yes?"
"If it's not too much trouble," Janeway said, batting her eyes.
"Ah, you are in a wicked mood today, Catarina." He grinned broadly. "Very well. Observe."
Leonardo tapped one of the boats, coaxing it downstream. To Janeway's surprise, it stopped before it reached the first point of rapid descent. She looked at Leonardo, who only smiled.
"I've placed pebbles in the water in the shape of a V. The boat is herded into this spot, where the water runs more slowly. Now, observe." Leonardo produced a simple metal shape, a hollow cube several centimeters in height, like an empty room with four walls and two windows, but no floor or ceiling. Leonardo opened one of the windows, sliding it aside, and placed the room in the river, just in front of the boat. The open window faced the boat, Janeway saw; the other was partially submerged in the river.
Janeway noticed the device was a snug fit for the river, created to fit this very spot. She watched, fascinated, as the water flowed downstream, past the boat and into the room, but did not flow out of the room and into the waters below. Instead, the room began to fill with water. Soon, the room was filled, and the river began to back up a little.
Janeway watched with fascination as the tiny boat rose above the V of pebbles and floated gently into the box. Beaming, she looked at Leonardo. "That's wonderful!" she said.
"Yes, yes!" said Leonardo. "Now, observe." Leonardo slid closed the upper window. The river continued to rise, slowly, but was well within its banks. He then pushed aside the lower window, and water began to rush out into the lower part of the river. The water level descended, and the little boat with it. Finally, when the level was low enough, the boat exited the room and continued on its downstream journey.
Janeway's mouth hung open. At times, it was easy to believe that she was in the presence of the real Maestro. "You've used the water itself as part of the solution!" she said, breathless.
"I call it a lock," Leonardo said. "It goes both ways, I assure you." He took the little boat, stuffed it back into the room, and slid closed the lower door, then slid open the upper door. Water poured in, and soon the boat was at the upper level of the river, easily pushed upstream back to the mountain where it had come originally.
"With a series of locks, a boat could move up or down a river in complete safety." Leonardo beamed with pride. "These can be made permanent parts of the river, employed as needed. What was impossible, is now simply a matter of engineering, and patience. What do you think, Catarina?"
"It's wonderful, Maestro. Truly it is . . ."
Step by step. High to low. Low to high. Each lock was a checkpoint, a time of waiting for nature to take its course.
If it works for water, could it work for subspace?
Janeway clasped Leonardo's shoulder with an intensity that made the wise old man wince. "Thank you, Maestro! You've done it again! Computer: End Program!"
Janeway was halfway out the door before Leonardo's expression of surprise, along with the rest of his body and his entire workshop, faded completely away.
Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct to unimatrix 01.
The Queen had summoned her within the Hive mind. But the voice, however, familiar, came through a tertiary transceiver rarely used by the Collective. The primary and secondary systems were always sufficient.
Seven of Nine's eye opened. She stepped out of her regeneration alcove. Yes.
All communications within the subspace link will be monitored. You will oversee all monitoring. You will note any anomalous communications. You will not trace the source of such communications. You will report directly to the Queen on subspace frequency 8675309 jenihertz. Four of Seven will assist you. You will use the tertiary transceiver for all communications with Four of Seven and with the Queen.
I will comply.
The Queen's command was efficient, simple, and direct. The Collective was dealing with the problem. Seven of Nine was pleased.
Four of Seven . . .
It was slightly overcast in San Francisco bay at 0815 on Stardate 51327. Admiral Owen Paris had arrived a few moments before, and was scanning his morning briefing on his terminal when Commander Marie Ivanova entered with his morning coffee.
Damn Kathryn Janeway for getting him hooked on this swill. Fortunately, Ivanova knew just how he liked it: with enough cream and sugar to qualify as a confection.
"Janeway's ETA?" Paris asked, his stern baritone booming.
"Right on schedule, Admiral." Ivanova smiled slightly, noting that the admiral was fidgeting more than usual today. Must be the dress uniform, she thought. "I'll inform you the moment they arrive." The commander then exited, and the door slid shut behind her.
Fifteen minutes, Owen Paris mumbled to himself. Just fifteen more minutes. He'd been waiting more than three years; another fifteen minutes wouldn't kill him.
Five minutes later, his badge chirped. "You have a visitor, admiral," Ivanova said. But from the strain in her voice, Paris knew it wasn't Janeway.
"They can wait," he snarled, slapping his chest to end the conversation.
The door slid open a few seconds later. His instant rage instantly evaporated into a resigned groan.
"There you are, Admiral! Shame on you for your terrible manners, treating the Daughter of the Fifth House like that!" A pause, a shocked intake of breath. "Owen! Such naughty thoughts!"
Oh hell, thought Owen Paris. Not today . . .
But he had only himself to blame. He could have ordered Counselor Troi to stay behind with Riker.
"Has my daughter arrived yet?" Lwaxana Troi asked pleasantly, knowing she had already won.
"Not yet," Admiral Paris said. "But very soon."
The next nine minutes would be an eternity. If Janeway or Picard were even a nanosecond late, he'd see to it that they ran the Academy gift shop the rest of their careers.
Tom Paris made the last helm commands with a flourish, before the controls were taken over by the remote systems of Space Dock One. "Docking maneuvers initiated. If you want to get any closer to home, Captain, you'll have to get out and walk."
"Thank you, Mr. Paris, I know the way. Perhaps you'd like to join us."
"If it's not too much trouble, ma'am." Tom smiled, turning in his chair to look her in the eye.
Janeway was gratified by the look. She knew that relations between Tom and Owen Paris had often been strained, but that they'd reached some level of understanding while they were at DS9. Tom actually looked forward to seeing his father again. When they began their journey into the Badlands, she knew he'd have been happy never to hear his father's name again, let alone see his face. She held Admiral Paris in high regard as her Academy mentor and first captain. She knew the Cardassians had hurt the admiral severely in the war, as they had hurt her, and she suspected Owen's pain had rubbed off on his son.
But Tom was a different man than the one who left that penal colony three years earlier. He had grown and matured, accepted responsibilities both small and great with no--well, no serious--complaints, and had become in a short time the type of officer she thought Admiral Owen Paris would be proud to serve with.
"Chakotay? Mr. Paris? Tuvok? The Admiral appreciates punctuality. Harry? Do the honors, will you? You have the conn--and full discretion to handle shore leave."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry Kim said crisply, smiling broadly. The four officers stood, and Harry handled the transport himself, from bridge to Admiral Paris' reception area.
With fifteen seconds to spare.
On the Enterprise-E, Picard handed the conn over to Commander Data. He met Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi in transporter room five, and beamed down to Admiral Paris' office.
With twelve seconds to spare.
Janeway and Chakotay were here, as was Tuvok and the young helm officer. A troubled early career, but shaping up to be a fine young man, Picard thought. If Janeway could turn Tom Paris' life around, he had high hopes indeed for the Borg.
The seven officers thus assembled, a relieved Commander Ivanova notified the admiral.
Janeway crossed the threshold into Admiral Paris' office with one second to spare.
* * *
On a certain unnamed planet, the dwellings for the Vorta and Jem'Hadar Borg were complete. Their task then turned to mining operations, amassing raw materials for the first Borg stronghold in the Gamma Quadrant.
No drone would be caught dead whistling while they work. But some whisper.
Support for the Resistance within the Collective was growing. Small cells had been created in cubes and other drone populations in the Delta quadrant. And on the lone cube in the Alpha, stationed near the former Terok Nor, they had some new allies as well.
They would soon be put to good use.
[Y'all are gonna hate me, but…TO BE CONTINUED]
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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