The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, Captain Janeway's original mission to the Badlands comes to an official end in Admiral Paris' office, just as the Vorta Insurrection begins on the USS Duchess.]
Chapter 8: "All Good Things You Leave Behind"
Whether the Federation's greatness was rooted in its essential goodness or its incredible luck, there was no disputing its reality. The Dominion aggression had transformed traditional enemies into tentative allies, and had strengthened existing ties to an unprecedented degree. The Borg cube flying under the flag of the Federation near Deep Space Nine also sent a clear signal to every quadrant: the Federation was still the rising star of the galaxy, and was at the moment a power without peer.
The Federation's almost Changeling-like adaptability to even the most hostile of circumstances was in evidence within the newly-named Duchess. An alcove in Grid 42, Corridor 5 of the Cube now looked indistinguishable from any other Starship crew quarters, thanks to Geordi and Chief O'Brien. The ten members of the away team now had all the comforts of home.
Commander Riker had selected an officer and two crewmen from each of Enterprise's three shifts--an engineer, a scientist, and a security officer--and maintained the same schedule for each team aboard the Duchess. Long experience had shown Starfleet that established routine could make even the most alien settings tolerable.
Riker was off duty at the moment, shaking the walls with the force of his resonant snoring, enjoying a well-earned rest. The combined knowledge of ten thousand species--scientific, astrometric, theoretical--was staggering, but Riker was confident his people were assimilating the data at an admirable rate. The satisfaction of a day well spent allowed him to sleep well. Then his comm station chirped. "Incoming message from Deep Space Nine, Commander." Riker's response was automatic; his eyes snapped open at the chirp, was on his feet when he heard "incoming," and had loped halfway across the room toward the comm station before "Commander" had begun to echo.
"On screen," Riker ordered, and four long strides later was facing the small viewscreen. He made a sweep with his fingers through his terminally unmanageable hair. "Captain Sisko," Riker said to the grim face that greeted him, his voice a question.
"Commander," Sisko returned, the deep bass of his voice rumbling like distant thunder. Sisko was seated at his desk.
Riker's eyes were drawn to the baseball propped up near the captain's steepled hands. Riker shuddered as he identified the cradle in which the ball rested; apparently Captain Sisko had decided to keep the "memento" left behind by Gul Dukat. It was a barbaric trophy--but Dukat had been a barbaric man. Considering what it took to pry him and the Cardassians--and later the Dominion--from Bajor and DS9 made the severed hand a gruesome but strangely appropriate reminder.
"Visiting team coming to play, Commander," Sisko said. "Gamma Fourteen. They're going by the book, but this game isn't scheduled."
"Understood." Riker frowned his acknowledgement. He had adapted to life on the Borg vessel, but he still maintained a healthy wariness of his surroundings. He and Sisko had developed several contingency plans since Picard's warning about a possible Borg insurrection.
It had been Sisko's idea to use baseball terms to describe Borg activity. "Gammas" were drones from the Gamma Quadrant, usually those coming through the wormhole in adapted Dominion vessels. "Deltas" referred to those Borg vessels that arrived through transwarp conduits. The count represented the number of drones aboard; by agreement with Janeway, no Gamma vessel would have more than twenty drones, and all visits from Gammas and Deltas were announced and approved by Starfleet Command well in advance, with exact specifications for schedule and crew complement.
Even one Dominion vessel had the potential to do substantial damage if controlled by the wrong hands. The news of the insurrection within the Collective made such steps necessary.
This unscheduled arrival threw up warning flags. Neither Sisko or Riker, veterans of the Borg Wars and Dominion aggression both, were willing to let even the slightest deviation slip past without response.
Riker's sense jumped instantly to Yellow Alert. He considered his options. The Dominion ship raised the stakes. "Bokai?" the Commander asked.
Sisko's dark eyes blazed as the word sunk in. It was his call to make. "Bokai," he agreed a moment later. "Sisko out."
The Commander slapped the combadge on his silk sleep tunic. "Riker to Jarman: status report." Ensign Jarman was in charge of C Shift.
"A Dominion vessel is approaching, Commander. Borg transponder. Just like the others."
"But not on schedule, Ensign," Riker noted with a harsh morning-voice growl. "What's its status?"
"Shields are down, weapons offline, broadcasting standard approach signals. Is there something wrong, sir?" Jarman asked uncertainly.
"Keep tracking them," Riker said as he stripped off his nightwear and put on his duty uniform. "Tell all teams to suit up." He heard the Ensign's voice crack. "Aye, sir."
Only the three members of A Team, and Riker himself, were on Sleep shift. C was on duty, and B was off-duty but on call. "Suit up" was the code for Yellow Alert; on- and off-duty personnel to stations, remaining shift prepare to do the same.
A minute later, Riker was slipping on his boots when the comm unit chirped again. "Jarman to Commander Riker. Transport in progress, sir. Grid 4G, Corridor 15. Twelve drones."
Riker swore under his breath. "Acknowledged. Play Ball, Ensign." Red Alert. The channel closed, Riker activated his combadge. "Riker to Lincoln. Meet me at Grid 4G, Corridor 15. Now." Acknowledged, Lincoln said, no trace of fatigue in her voice. Good.
As the Commander exited from his Starfleet-issue quarters into the Collective-designed corridor, he activated his combadge again. "Riker to Captain Sisko. How's Buck?"
"In the on-deck circle, Commander. Sisko out."
Riker was two minutes away from the transport coordinates when Jarman hailed him again. "Another transport, Commander. Nine drones, from the same location. They're back on the Dominion vessel and pulling away--they're headed for the wormhole, sir."
Riker stopped running. "I want a site to site transport, Ensign. Send me to where the drones beamed in."
"Yes sir. Stand by." Riker waited impatiently; after his second muttered, "come on, come on," he reached for his combadge to demand an explanation. But the transporter kicked in before his fingers touched metal.
"Over here, Commander," Lincoln shouted as his pattern resolved. Riker saw her forty meters or so away, kneeling over what looked like a pair of legs. He sprinted to close the distance, a cold knot already forming in his stomach.
Seven of Nine and Four of Seven both lay unmoving on the warm metal grating of the deck. Seven of Nine looked more or less intact, with some mottling on her face and neck. But Four of Seven looked damaged beyond repair. A gaping wound throbbed in her belly, which Lincoln was scanning with a tricorder. The Lieutenant's face was ashen.
Four of Seven's left eye was wide-open and glassy, vacant. The right, an ocular implant that normally glowed red, that had often teased Riker with Morse-code flirtations, had gone dark.
"There's nothing I can do, Commander. They extracted her core memory circuitry." Lincoln nodding to the bodies of three other drones nearby--two quite dead, one very nearly so; its weakening spasms were rapidly growing undetectable. "I could repair the biological damage, but without Four's core--"
"And Seven?" Riker asked, forcing himself not to dwell on the fallen drone. No, more than a drone.
"Years ago," Lincoln said, "according to the tricorder, Seven suffered a massive trauma. Her exoskeleton is far denser than these other drones. The only thing holding her organs in place is this suit of hers. The attackers tried to punch through, but it looks like Seven put up one hell of a fight." She indicated the massive damage in this section; panels smoked and sparked, and repair drones were beginning to shuffle in.
Riker nodded. The core memory circuitry connected a drone to the Collective. Without it, a drone was as good as dead. He scanned the three fallen aggressors, two Jem'Hadar and a Vorta. The Jam'Hadar had gaping holes in their chests, similar to Four of Seven's. Smashed remnants of their circuitry were strewn among the other debris.
But The Vorta's circuitry had not been removed. Riker did the honors. There was no clean way to do this, but he'd always wanted to see the inside of a Vorta--and now was as good a time as any.
But first things first. "Riker to Sisko. Tell Buck: Batter Up."
Aboard the Dominion vessel, the nine drones commiserated. There was disappointment; they had hoped Seven of Nine would join them. Her addition to the True Borg would have proven invaluable. It had been a chance worth taking, and the data from the memory core of Four of Seven had proven most useful. The data was being spread through the subnet to the True Borg as the vessel approached the wormhole, and safety from this accursed quadrant.
The human Queen knew about them. But she didn't know enough.
They would need to act soon. The time for recruiting was nearing its end. But they would be ready.
The Defiant was cloaked, biding its time in front of the wormhole.
Ben Sisko sat in the captain's chair. Commander Dax was at Helm, Commander Worf at Tactical. O'Brien manned the engineering station.
Batter up. Buck Bokai--the code term for the Defiant's mission, named after Captain Sisko's favorite baseball player--waited for the pitch.
"Incoming, Captain," Ensign Nog said from Ops. "High and inside."
Ben Sisko nodded. "Wait for it, Mr. Worf."
Riker to Sisko. We have the roster. Repeat: we have the roster.
Sisko allowed himself a grim smile. Riker had recovered one of the memory cores from a rebel drone. The approaching vessel could be captured--but it no longer had to be. "Your discretion, Mr. Worf," Sisko said grimly.
"200 thousand Kilometers," Nog announced. "150 thousand," he said a few seconds later. Then, "100 thousand."
"Take your shot, Commander," Sisko ordered gruffly. "Aye, sir," Worf rumbled.
"Fifty thousand . . . Forty . . . Thirty thousand . . . " They were cutting it close--
"Decloaking--" O'Brien shouted.
"Firing," Worf announced a split-second later.
The Defiant lashed out with three volleys of hammer-blow energy within milliseconds of decloaking. There was no time for the Dominion vessel to respond.
The first volley weakened the shields.
The second volley took them out entirely.
The third caused explosions throughout the Dominion ship. But surprisingly, not the one large explosion everyone expected.
Sisko turned to look at Worf with amazement. "Commander! You bunted?"
Worf stiffened. "You said it was my discretion, Captain. I thought we should attempt to keep the vessel for further study."
Blue arcs of energy--a subspace-disrupting discharge that Janeway had said would effectively disable the drones until they could be secured--made the Dominion vessel glow like a cooling star. The ship would be towed to DS9, the drones kept in isolation until Janeway had been contacted and could decide their fate.
"So it was, Commander. And it was a good call. It's just--" His voice had risen an octave, the conversational Benjamin rather than the rumbling Captain--"Buck Bokai never bunted. He was the greatest home run hitter in major league history!"
Worf nodded stiffly, accepting the compliment--and the disappointment. "Next time, Captain, I will--" he searched for the words, then found them. "Swing for the fences," he promised.
Sisko laughed--the mission complete, they could afford to. "I look forward to it, Commander." He turned to Nog. "Lock tractors on that ship, Ensign." Then he nodded to Dax. "Take us home, Old Man."
Janeway and Chakotay had stayed on Earth for the evening. Admiral Paris had arranged a dinner party at a seafood eatery on Pier 39, which had been a haven of upscale restaurants for centuries. Picard claimed to have dined there once in late 19th century with Mark Twain, though Chakotay had a hard time believing it. But one could never entirely discount even the wildest rumors surrounding ships named Enterprise or the crews that served on them.
In addition to Captain Picard, Lwaxana and Deanna Troi, and Admiral Paris, there was another guest for the evening. Admiral Patterson, a kindly looking silver-haired admiral who had been Janeway's scientific mentor at the Academy. It was Patterson who had first introduced Janeway to her new vessel at Utopia Planitia four years earlier.
Their reunion was warm indeed--after the usual Exam Questions, that is. Patterson always greeted old students with questions from his notoriously challenging courses. Janeway had floored the poor Admiral with a few questions of her own, drawing on her Collective insight to provide answers that had eluded humanity's best scientific minds for decades. Patterson ordered her--with a twinkle in his eye--to report to his office at her earliest convenience for a thorough scientific debriefing. Janeway had eagerly accepted, patting his forearm with her too-pale hands.
Janeway's pallor had caused Patterson no small concern. But Janeway assured him she was perfectly healthy--even more so, with the nanoprobes coursing through her system. The captain didn't tell her old mentor everything, however. Even had she wanted to, the present Borg Situation was highly classified. Admiral Paris' orders.
The conversation in the beginning was light and pleasant. Catching up on old times, and not-so-old times. But midway through the salad course, a garden green with raspberry vinaigrette, Janeway tensed. Picard and Chakotay responded immediately, asking--in unison, and not subtly--"How's your salad?"
Janeway waved them off. "It's--fine." Clearly it wasn't, but "fine" was the agreed-upon term for a situation that she could handle on her own. She didn't bother to reassure Picard; he still felt the Collective when near her, and he would know better. But Chakotay was another matter; Janeway took another bite of salad, smiled gamely at her first officer, and willed herself to look more relaxed.
It was hard to relax. While she dined, she watched with outrage through the eyes of the Collective. Specifically, through Seven of Nine and Four of Seven, as a dozen renegade drones--whom she found she could no longer sense, let alone control--converged on them.
With a thought, Janeway provided Four and Seven with a surge of bioelectric energy and express orders to defend themselves at all costs. The first two drones that approached them died instantly as exoskeletal fists drove through and short-circuited the personal shielding, then burned through the exoskeletal shells and into the throbbing internal organs, extracting the memory cores and crushing them. Seven managed to disable a third.
But there were too many attackers. The petite Four of Seven bore the brunt of the attack. Janeway knew the rebels hoped Seven would join them, and would attack only when persuasion failed.
Janeway's fist clenched around her salad fork, drawing droplets of oily black ooze, when Four of Seven was ripped from the Collective consciousness. With a furious burst, Janeway increased Seven's personal shielding a hundredfold, knocking the drone unconscious but making her impervious to attack. Before Seven's vision faded to black, Janeway saw five of the drones reel from the jolt.
Another command from Janeway's mind. Janeway's view switched to a ceiling monitor. The wall the drones fell against also exploded. Drones under her command pursued the rebels. The ship itself attacked the drones until they transported to the Dominion vessel, much weakened--but with Four's core in their possession.
The rebels would know what she knew. Not everything, but enough.
This would be a long meal. Janeway was tempted to excuse herself, but she knew that if she was to remain a Starfleet officer she would have to find a way to handle Borg matters discretely, wherever she happened to be.
Riker had been awake for barely fifteen minutes, but the attack and counterattack were complete, the cleanup already in progress. Repair drones were swarming over Corridor 15 and surrounding area, swiftly and efficiently repairing the damage. The wall repaired itself in some sections. It was easy to think of the bipedal Borg as living creatures. It was less comforting to Riker to remember that the vessel itself was a living--sentient?--part of the Collective.
Riker could accept the disquieting sight of self-repairing hardware, if it meant that Seven of Nine could do the same. Drone or not, he had grown fond of her.
The Dominion ship was back at DS9, Riker reported. The captured drones were in stasis under heavy guard. The vessel was being analyzed by Sisko's team.
Upload the data from the drone's memory core to the Duchess' systems, Janeway ordered. Encryption pattern Janeway-gamma-sigma-2-9-chi-6-psi-phi-4721. Use the pylonic terminals to your left.
"Yes, Captain," Riker said. It was disconcerting for Riker to speak with the Captain this way. There was no doubt it was Janeway, but the voice was pure Collective. It took him a moment to find the access port to plug in the memory core. Once he did, it took him only a moment to enter the encryption pattern. He had come to know the systems almost as well as those on Enterprise.
The triple-buzz marked the completion of the upload. Thank you, Commander.
Riker was surprised that fifteen thousand gigaquads of data had been transferred so quickly. He was even more surprised when Janeway told him a moment later that she had processed the data. On further thought, he shouldn't have been; she had trillions of consciousnesses to call upon. It was easy to think of the Collective in the abstract; it was in the common tasks that he often found himself the most stunned by Borg advances.
Prepare your people for return to DS9, Commander. I'm changing course now.
Despite the mechanical sound of the voice, there was no mistaking the edge in it. "I-I don't understand, Captain," Riker said.
The insurrection has begun sooner than expected. I need to send the Duchess to the Gamma Quadrant immediately.
"I see. But I still don't understand why we need to leave."
This is a Borg matter, Commander. I have to restore order to the Collective. This is not a matter for captains...but for a Queen.
The main course arrived. Janeway had ordered a meal fit for a queen--she would need all the energy she had for what lay ahead.
As plate after plate arrived--porterhouse steak with a Devil's Mountain of mashed potatoes and a flood plain of gravy, lobster tail with lemon and drawn butter with mounds of vegetable greens, grilled Pacific salmon in a bed of rice pilaf, and a freshly-tapped cask of Chateau Picard that had to be wheeled to the table.
"I know I told you to put on some weight, Katie," Admiral Patterson said, "but I didn't mean all at once!" This elicited laughter all around, but the cloud of tension over the table had not dissipated since the salad.
And now, all eyes had turned to Janeway, who had already consumed half the porterhouse steak with a blur of focused hand-eye coordination, her steak knife heard more than seen as the blade sawed through bite after bite of succulent meat. The mountain of potatoes became a molehill before their very eyes. Picard had seen Data move this quickly before. But never a human.
"Fast metabolism," Janeway explained twelve seconds later when the first plate had been rubbed clean with a sourdough roll, and she had looked up at the wide-eyed faces of her companions. "Borg thing." Janeway looked at her other dishes, and shook her head. She then eyed the cordon-bleu on Deanna Troi's plate. Her internal diagnostic told her she needed the protein and dense fatty calories from red meat, so she continued to scan the table. She spied the filet mignon on Patterson's platter. "Are you going to finish that?" she asked demurely.
Patterson, mouth agape, could only nod. Janeway's fork lashed out, appropriating the as-yet-untouched bacon-wrapped cut of meat from his plate like an amphibian snatching a dragonfly from midair. The sound was like a whip cracking.
Lwaxana looked on sadly as Janeway continued her voracious eating. "You poor dear," she muttered. Only Deanna heard her; she then asked the telepathic question only her mother could hear.
She's suffering, Little One. She's doing her best, and she's doing well--but oh, how she's suffering. I can hear the voices; they're overwhelming her.
Is there anything we can do, Mother?
I don't know, Little One. I don't know.
[To be Continued…]
NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR:
(March 30, 2000) I received mail from several people recently asking when chapter nine was going to be posted. I couldn't figure out why they hadn't seen the links--but when I figured out the pattern and my note (below), I sensed the problem.
Simply put, folks--if you have been looking here for when the next chapter will be ready, I've good news and bad news. The bad news is, you've been waiting longer than you needed to---chapter nine (and ten, and eleven, and the epilogue) was posted in August 1999. The good news is, if you've been waiting...your wait is over.
The link at the bottom of this page will take you to chapter nine. Ignore the snappy message dated July 4--I'm leaving it in as a historical relic--and go directly to the "next" button. And keep clicking once you hit the end of chapter 9, because chapter 10 is there, too.
It's all here--the story is done. (Jim)
(July 4, 1999) Yes, there will be a Chapter Nine, and yes, I'm working on it. Chapter 8 was posted on July 4, 1999, approximately three months after chapter 7 went up. These things take time; Trek is just one part of a life filled with time-consuming pursuits: work, school, church, friends, sleep, 50+ page reviews, email, and the like.
If you want me to hurry, send money.
Warning: anyone who asks "When will Chapter 9 go up?" before August 4, 1999 will not like my response. (If Chapter 9 isn't up in a month, you have a right to ask. But the first "where's the next chapter?" arrived fifteen minutes after this chapter was posted. I was not a happy camper.)
I won't yell if you say something like "I can't wait to read the next chapter," as part of a message that tells me what you think about the story so far. I appreciate the feedback. I need the feedback. Feedback motivates me to continue. I want to hear what's working, what's not. I want to know you're actually READING the thing, rather than just scrolling to the end looking for "The End."
If you only care how it's going to turn out, just say so. I can put you out of your misery in a paragraph or less. Otherwise, hang in there; it's coming.
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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