The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, Janeway had begun steps to safeguard the Collective, even as the Vorta drones set up their Trojan Horse. The long voyage home had come to an end, and Janeway and Picard, Chakotay and Paris and Tuvok, Crusher and Troi have reported to the office of Admiral Owen Paris, where Lwaxana Troi already waits to see her daughter. Seven of Nine and Four of Seven, on the Cube at DS9, have been assigned to monitor all communications within the Collective.]
Chapter 7: "Endgame"
"Hello, Little One!" Lwaxana Troi gushed as Deanna entered the office of Admiral Owen Paris. The Voyager complement was already standing there, suppressing smirks. Admiral Paris, seated at his desk, held his head in his hands, nursing the Headache from Hell.
Deanna was already groaning. "Mother . . ."
"Oh, come over here and kiss your mother, Little One."
Jean Luc Picard, hearing that too-familiar voice in the reception area, stiffened as he entered the room, dreading what he knew must come next.
Sure enough, Lwaxana Troi's face snapped in Picard's direction, eyebrow raised in mock horror. "Jean Luc! Such--"
"Such wicked thoughts, yes. I'm dreadfully sorry, Ambassador." Picard held up his hands in resignation. Deanna shot a withering glance at her mother.
Janeway, however, cast a skunk eye in Picard's direction. His proximity to the Queen of the Collective ensured that he got the message loud and clear: flattery is relevant.
Flattering a telepath of Ambassador Troi's talents required far more than diplomacy. It mandated sincerity. Subtlety.
Subtlety, hell. Lwaxana was a handsome woman, after all. Betazoid appetites were legendary, and Lwaxana had certainly shown no lack of appreciation for him as a man…
Picard's mind wandered. A moment later, Deanna and Lwaxana both turned toward Picard in amazement. "Captain!" they shouted in unison.
Deanna was properly horrified. Lwaxana, flushing slightly, eyes dilating, was properly flattered. Janeway smiled her approval.
"What's going on here?" Admiral Paris demanded.
Picard smiled with chivalric candor. "My apologies, Admiral; in the presence of the Ambassador, certain thoughts are…difficult to suppress." He entertained a few more, and noted Lwaxana's appreciative reaction. Admiral Paris just grunted an ambiguous agreement.
Picard shook his head, bemused. Such frivolity! But this was a happy occasion, wasn't it? The Voyager, officially ending its incredible mission after more than three years. (There would be another, far larger commemoration the next day, in full view of the media--a heroes' welcome for the heroic crew.) A potentially cataclysmic war with the Dominion had been won with minimal casualties, thanks to the Borg. The Maquis that had been pursued as criminals returned as comrades.
Finally, Picard noticed, observing Admiral and Lieutenant Paris, was the minor miracle of the young man's rehabilitation. He had left expecting little more than an early release from prison and with little hope of fulfilling his substantial potential. He had returned with his uniform restored and his rank well earned.
Captain Janeway had managed all this, and more. Even so, the official end-of-mission ceremony was remarkable for its simplicity. "Captain Kathryn Janeway, reporting as ordered, Admiral," she said crisply, handing a PADD to the elder Paris. "We pursued the Maquis vessel into the Badlands and have returned with its crew largely intact. Mission accomplished."
"Well, better late than never," Admiral Paris said gruffly, taking the seat behind his desk. He perused the PADD in silence for a moment. "Everything seems in order. I see you ran into some complications along the way."
"A few, Admiral," Janeway said. "But my crew was up to the task." The edges of her mouth curled upward.
"So I see. You do realize that you'll severely deplete my replicator budget handing out all these commendations."
"You're getting off cheap, Admiral."
"So I am, Captain. So I am." Owen Paris turned to Lieutenant Tuvok. His features were stern. "Your assignment, Lieutenant, was to keep the captain diligent in matters of protocol. What have you got to say for yourself?"
Tuvok stiffened. "On that basis, Admiral, I must respectfully submit my resignation from Starfleet--unless you deem my failure sufficiently complete to warrant a general court-martial and a hanging on Academy Square."
Admiral Paris chuckled. "No need for either, Lieutenant. I've served with the good Captain myself; I know the futility of standing in her way when her mind is set." He smiled at Janeway with genuine affection.
Janeway next introduced the admiral to Commander Chakotay, who inquired about the fate of his crew. The answer had already long been decided, but protocol was protocol. Admiral Paris stated that all Maquis had been given full pardons--including those who had been imprisoned--and welcomed back as Federation citizens all who would accept it. Not all had--but with the Dominion threat defused, there was time for those wounds to heal. Perhaps one day.
Janeway turned next to Lieutenant Paris. "My helmsman. Believe me when I say, Admiral, we could not have made it home without him. In addition to his other commendations, I've requested that the Lieutenant's field commission be made permanent."
Admiral Paris stared at Tom. "You're under no obligation to accept, Mr. Paris. The terms of your release were an early release from Auckland. If you accept the commission, you could find yourself in Starfleet for a long, long time."
"Believe me, Admiral--I wouldn't give up this uniform for the world."
"And the Prime Directive?" the Admiral asked.
Tom Paris smiled. "When I make Captain, sir, you can assign Mr. Tuvok to keep me on the straight and narrow."
"Are you certain hanging not an option, Admiral?" Tuvok asked, and the room erupted in laughter. Tuvok simply raised his right eyebrow, feigning ignorance.
Admiral Paris rose from his seat. He walked around his desk until he was nose to nose with Tom. Chakotay noted the similarity in appearance between the two men--and the differences. Chakotay knew too well the haunted look that time had not managed to erase from the admiral's eyes.
Victims of Cardassian torture could spot each other on sight, an unfortunate fraternity. He'd seen it in Picard's eyes as well. Just as he saw it in his own, each time he looked in a mirror.
But for a moment, Chakotay saw that anguish melt away. Admiral Paris broke into a warm grin, and enveloped Tom in a crushing bear hug. "Welcome home, son," he said, voice cracking slightly.
"I missed you, Dad," gasped Tom, struggling to breathe.
"Did you really?" Chakotay heard the blend of hope and fear in those words.
"Eventually," said Tom, laughing through his tears. It was enough. They held the embrace a long time and the tears came without embarrassment, without concern for the others in the room. They were among friends.
Janeway wiped away a few tears herself, Chakotay noticed, as did Crusher and the Trois. Chakotay, remembering his own father and their strained relationship, took some vicarious comfort from this moment.
Their journey was at last at an end. Now, there was time for the healing to begin.
But he spared another look at Janeway, and wondered if her healing would ever be complete as long as she was tethered to the Collective. Even as she stood, smiling at the reunion of her two favorite Parises, he could tell that another part of Janeway's consciousness was otherwise occupied, with the duties of the Hive.
On the USS Duchess, Seven of Nine and Four of Seven continued their silent monitoring of communications within the Collective, answering directly to the Queen. Unknown to Seven, drones throughout the Collective, by the millions, were similarly employed. It was a big job, but the Janeway had organized her intelligence network carefully, along multiple levels--many checking and balancing each other in a massively redundant sensor web.
Janeway had selected drones she determined worthy of trust, yet at this point she trusted no one. She had sensed the undercurrents of dissatisfaction within the Collective, knew that such discontent could only grow. But Janeway also knew that knowledge was power. Trust, but verify. The watchers were themselves watched until their loyalty was certain.
But Seven of Nine was not aware of this as she worked, performing her drone duties with Lincoln and Riker, showing the humans the wonders of Borg technology. Simultaneously, she monitored the subspace traffic, and passed along through the tertiary transceiver all relevant anomalies.
All but one. That voice that whispered join us continued to beckon to her from time to time, reminding her of what the Borg were meant to be.
Janeway knew that Seven of Nine was not fulfilling her task to the letter. But she also knew, through the periodic updates from her other monitors, that Seven had not yet made her decision. She had a fairly good idea at this point who was involved in the rebellion, and who was leaning that way. She hoped Seven would choose her, and not the rebels. Seven of Nine--Annika Hansen--had enormous potential. Four of Seven was firmly on Janeway's side, even though the precocious little drone was about as individual as a Borg could be. She had flourished under Janeway's more permissive reign. Even Commander Riker had noticed--he was paying more attention to her than to the more visually stunning Seven. Good for him.
Who was against her? The Vorta drones. Not a surprise. The Cardassians. Species 4106--the Scolari. They had never been bosom buddies with the Borg, even after their assimilation. Brought into the Collective for their substantial mental capacity, they had attempted many rebellions over the past decades. The previous Queen had destroyed many of them, but the lessons never held for long. Properly controlled, they were extremely useful to the Collective. They were a generally peaceful people; she considered letting them go. But Species 5159, 7694 and many of the more recently assimilated species were itching for freedom, or revenge, or simply release.
Janeway was still deciding what to do with the rebels. She could destroy the drones. The numbers were substantial, but the threat to the Whole was intolerable. She could destroy her enemies without pity if the survival of her own were at stake. But a vessel here or an armada there was one thing. A billion insubordinate drones was quite another.
She could free them, cut them loose from the Collective and let them fend for themselves. But that presented other problems. Destruction might be preferable to the horror of being returned to one's own mind, to the fate of dealing with the memory of what they had done as drones. Hugh and his Cube had fallen under the spell of Lore, the malevolent and unstable android who ruled as a cult figure. Riley and her Cooperative, who as individuals returned to fighting old battles as species loyalty and species grudges reasserted themselves. Their ultimate fate had yet to be written.
Of the rebel drones, many could be released safely. Species who simply wanted out, to return to some semblance of their old selves. Others, though, such as the Vorta, would become more dangerous as ex-Drones, with the Collective's knowledge and their inclinations to violence or conquest.
There was an alternative to destroying the drones. She could destroy their individuality. She knew about the pockets of memory and selfhood that each drone retained so long as the body lived. But it was a simple matter to purge those engrams. But that part of Janeway that cherished the individual balked at that.
She could maintain order--she noted that when she issued strict orders with the Voice of Queenly authority, she was obeyed instantly. The Order she found so comforting within the Collective ensured that. But that level of constant reinforcement was impossible for her to maintain. Without it, the rebellion could continue to flourish.
At the moment, she was satisfied to learn all she could about the wolves in the fold, to identify them and prepare for the moment of decision. With luck, she would find the solution while it was still in her power to apply it.
Seven of Nine and Four of Seven worked side-by-side at consoles in grid 4G, corridor 15, sub-net 191 of the USS Duchess. It was ship's night; Riker and the other humans were regenerating, with the exception of a few armed tactical units.
A dozen drones appeared suddenly, the energy signatures of transport signaling their arrival.
Seven of Nine. Tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One. The time has come. Join us.
Seven looked from the drones--Vorta, Scolari and Cardassian--to Four of Seven. She knew the same offer was being posed.
Four of Seven. Quaternary adjunct to Unimatrix nine-four-four-seven. The time has come. Join us.
Seven could not imagine Four of Seven accepting the offer. She knew why.
And now that the time of decision had come, she knew what her own answer must be. The Janeway was not a perfect queen. But she was Queen. Those who fought against the Queen had destroyed millions of drones. Set themselves at odds with the Perfection of the Collective.
Seven of Nine drew herself up to her full height--taller than all but the Scolari drones. "I will not comply," she said, voice hard.
"Neither will I," Four of Seven added.
You will be destroyed.
"And you will fail," Seven spat.
The drones advanced, their mechanical limbs whirring with malevolent intent.
To be continued…
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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