The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[In our last installment, Star Trek: Voyager had been effectively ended by the Borgification of her captain and the ridiculously rapid journey across the Delta Quadrant towards home--arriving just in time to interrupt the cliffhanger on her sister series, Deep Space Nine. We now join the anarchy, already in progress.]
Chapter 2:"In space, no one can hear you seethe."
Orbiting Risa, keeping the Federation safe from the enemies of leisure, Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise-E paced his ready room floor, punctuating his frustrated exclamations with French so inarticulately accented that the Universal Translator lay in smoking ruin on his chest.
Starfleet had done it to them again.
"Why is it," he shouted at the golden replicas of Enterprises past in one of his more lucid moments, "that whenever the galaxy is in jeopardy, the Enterprise is the last ship allowed into the fray? Lives could be saved! Tragedy averted at a far reduced cost! This is intolerable!"
Commander William T. Riker, who for the past twenty minutes had done his best to let the captain forget he was here, finally spoke. "It could simply be the first law of dramatics, sir. The Enterprise is expected to arrive fashionably late; how else do we preserve her reputation as the Federation's deus ex machina?" He smiled roguishly, one of his trademark toothy grins accompanied by glittering eyes.
He instantly regretted his attempt to lighten the mood.
Picard wheeled on him. "I am not amused, Commander," the captain whispered harshly.
"Bridge to Captain Picard," Commander Data announced over the ship's comm system. Riker breathed a silent prayer of thanks for the android's timing.
"Picard here, Mr. Data," the Captain said, his mind instantly focused on the ethereal voice, fiercely hoping it would be new orders.
"The fleet near the Bajoran wormhole reports a new development, sir."
Three nanoseconds later, Picard completed his final stride to the center seat on the bridge. "Report."
"Sir. The armada has been joined...by the Borg."
All eyes focused on the captain, who bored holes into the forward screen with his flinty eyes.
"Merde," he muttered.
* * *
What goes around, comes around, Ben Sisko thought as he stared at the Cube looming on the viewscreen. In his five years as commander of DS9, he had seen the Cardassians rise and fall, rise again, change governments, succumb to power struggles and now face existence as members of a Dominion alliance whose Changeling Founders had vowed to destroy them all. He had seen the Klingon Empire go from allies to enemies, and back again. He'd seen the Romulans cooperate against a common foe.
He'd even seen the Bajorans claw their way from the brink of despair, bloodied and brutalized by the Cardassians but proud and unbowed, to almost join the Federation. Only to hold back at his urging, heeding his vision of Dominion locusts and possible destruction. He had done his all to preserve and defend Bajor from all its enemies, foreign and domestic, and though it had cost him much and the battle to protect the people who called him Captain and Emissary seemed far from over, he wouldn't trade the last five years for the world.
Or the whole Alpha Quadrant, for that matter.
He marveled at the changes of the past five years. He'd been so busy with Cardassians and Bajorans and Maquis and the Dominion that he'd had almost no time to think about the events that had brought him here. Even when the Borg returned the year before, crippling the Defiant and costing the lives of thousands of Starfleet's finest before the Enterprise-E intervened, he had been busy with his own galactic hot zone. There was a time when he couldn't think of much besides the Borg, and what they'd cost him. Friends, colleagues-and his wife, Jennifer.
Now, he was counting them as--allies? He had seen the Borg assimilate a Starfleet captain and use him to threaten the very existence of the Federation. And now, another Starfleet captain claimed she turned the tables, assimilating the Collective and giving it a new, Starfleet-friendly mission.
It seemed too good to be true. Could it truly be that Captain Janeway had not only joined the Borg, but taken them under her wing? He'd met her a few times on Earth and Utopia Planitia, and given her reputation (and the massive report of their Delta Quadrant travels which he now held in his hand) he couldn't put it past her.
The Klingons had gone from enemies to friends over the past century, and Starfleet officers like Spock and Kirk had helped do it; Sisko himself had helped re-establish the Khitomer Accords in the face of the Dominion/Cardassian alliance. If the Borg could change, it wasn't a surprise that a Starfleet officer would have a hand in it.
Picard had been taken by them, but he had never given up, and he eventually broke free with the help of his crew. In the end, Picard cut the Borg off at the head, leaving the Borg headless-and paving the way for the ascension of the new Queen.
Benjamin sighed, peered out the viewport to the surrounding armada, now joined (and dwarfed) by a single, leviathan Cube. He half-wondered if the Prophets had seen this day. He'd have to ask Major Kira when he saw her again, when DS9 was his again.
With the new additions to the fleet, he thought, that might be even sooner than expected. After receiving Janeway's report, Starfleet Command had given tentative approval to the Federation's newest "Starship." Though nobody knew what would happen when Borg and Dominion met.
The ancient Chinese parable of the shield and spear came to mind.
* * *
In the end, it wasn't much of a war.
The Battle of Bajor was over in three hours. After the initial clash between entrenched Dominion and Cardassian ships and the Federation/Klingon armada, a Borg Cube had appeared from Transwarp and had begun picking off Alliance vessels like targs in a townhouse. Gul Dukat had known the tide had turned when the Federation vessels continued their attack, unmolested. The battle had lasted only as long as it had because the Dominion had shifted early into retreat, and because the Cube had moved on.
Tarak Nor had remained in Cardassian hands a mere two weeks--and less than a day after the Battle of Bajor had begun. Gul Dukat had left the station kicking and screaming--only it was Major Kira doing most of both. He had been forced to thank Weyoun for saving him from the wrath of the red-headed Bajoran.
And red-headed Borg. Damn that human. At least the stuffed-tunic Picard had had the sense to destroy the half-mechanical monstrosities.
Dukat nursed his left arm, wishing that hand were free to nurse his throbbing skull. In a rather unfortunate moment of bluster he'd sworn to Kira that Sisko would take back his baseball--and by extension, the station--when it was pried from his cold, dead fingers. A lucky shot from Kira--and since he was still alive to rage, he grudgingly admitted, he had been lucky--had assured that this would indeed be the case. Dukat got out alive...but the fingers pried from the baseball were indeed cold and dead--and his. He imagined Kira would hand the baseball--still enclosed in his severed left fist--to Sisko to do the honors. He dreaded their next meeting.
The view from the Dominion escape craft was of a station surrounded by Klingon Birds-of-Prey and Federation Starships. The Cube was, he knew, already through the wormhole, effortlessly threshing its way through to the heart of Dominion territory.
Well, he hadn't much cared for the Alliance anyway. That Cube could stay in the Gamma Quadrant and kill or assimilate the whole lot of them. Cardassia was meant to conquer or perish on its own; he had been foolish to forget that.
Dukat had done it all for Cardassia. He would never believe otherwise. What he could believe was that this setback, like all the others, was not the end of him.
Though as he observed the looks the Jem'Hadar were shooting his way, he was forced to admit his belief was based less on evidence than on hope.
* * *
Quark's bar was bustling with activity again. And not a moment too soon, the Ferengi thought, as he plopped another ale in front of Morn. Projected profits of his bar under Alliance rule had been bad enough to make a guy cry in his raktajino. Fortunately, it had been a short occupation.
Klingons ordered blood wine by the vat. Starfleeters from a hundred species slammed back mixed drinks and swapped tall tales about their smashing victory. Holosuites were reserved every hour for the next two weeks. The tumult at the Dabo tables ringing pure profit in his giddy lobes. Everyone was happy, he saw, grateful for a quick end to the hostilities--even if the Borg had a hand in it.
And Odo was leaving him more or less alone for once, assuming (wrongly) that he was too busy with legitimate bartending business to be making other deals.
War is good for business. Peace is good for business.
Business was definitely going well for Quark again.
He hadn't even minded when a young Asian hew-man from that Voyager Starship sold him a nice little collection of exotic Delta Quadrant trinkets, only to learn from another of that ship's crew that they were actually worthless pieces of an Earth clarinet. He never forgot a face; he remembered the hew-man from three years before, how he'd almost shamed the kid into buying a box full of junk at a ridiculous profit.
He'd smiled at that memory, and added the clarinet keys to the collection of marketable miscellania stashed under the bar before taking a platter of drinks to the party of Bolians who'd just entered.
* * *
The Enterprise-E arrived dropped out of warp near Deep Space Nine. They'd detected detonations from a few lightyears out and Picard had ordered Geordi to fly her apart if that's what it took. They were armed to the teeth and ready for anything.
Anything, that is, except for what they found.
"Captain," Data reported. "Sensors show detonations are-" he turned around and faced the command center. "Sir, they are Federation-issue fireworks."
"Fireworks?" asked the captain. "Mr. Prang, confirm."
The Andorian lieutenant at security barked an acknowledgment, and a second later confirmed Data's report. "All ships in the area are docked, or have shields lowered and weapons unpowered," she added. "They're all Klingon or Federation vessels; no Borg ship in sight. Were I to guess, sir, I'd say we're scanning one hell of a party."
The tension that had permeated the bridge moments before dissolved at once into widespread relief, with a smattering of confusion. Riker broke into a fierce grin. The only agitation Counselor Troi sensed at the moment came from the man sitting beside her.
"Mr. Prang," Picard said, his voice like ice, "hail the station. I want to talk to whoever is in charge there."
Prang's fingers flew over the console. "Ready, sir."
The smiling face of Captain Benjamin Sisko--that itself was a surprise to Picard, who recalled the uncomfortable circumstances of their earlier encounters--greeted them. He was clutching a small white ball held together with bands of red stitching. "It's a pleasure to see you again, Captain," Sisko said. "All the pylons are occupied, but we can clear a mooring for you in five minutes."
"That will not be necessary," Picard said. "We were informed a Borg vessel had entered the Alpha Quadrant. We came to assist."
Sisko's eyes darted to his left for an instant, then forward again. "That's true, Captain. They were a tremendous help." His eyes glimmered with amusement.
"Help?" demanded Picard. "Would you care to elaborate, Captain?"
"Of course. If you'd like to come aboard, I can tell you everything I know. Your crew is welcome; we're celebrating the victory, and the Bajorans have prepared a feast of thanksgiving. They've even prepared the ceremonial quonzerat to commemorate the end of the war and their renewed application for Federation membership. It's a lot like Peking Duck back on Earth; it's quite delicious."
Picard considered this. "Where is the Borg vessel now, Captain?" he asked.
Sisko frowned, understanding. "She's passed through the wormhole along with the Voyager and a few vessels from the armada. They're going after the Dominion." Sisko cleared his throat. "Captain, we really need to talk. You need to know what happened here."
Picard swept his hand aside. "Thank you for the information, Captain Sisko. Thank you. We have a rendezvous to make." He motioned for Lt. Prang to end the transmission.
Riker gave him a worried look. "Sir, we should find out what happened here. Besides, I've always wanted to try quonzerat," he said with his most congenial smile.
Picard withered him with his glare. "You can't have the duck," he said harshly.
Data swivelled from his station. "Sir, Captain Sisko mentioned the Voyager. That vessel was lost in the Badlands on Stardate 48315 while searching for a Maquis ship. It was declared lost ten months ago."
"And it turns up almost three years later, accompanied by a Borg vessel," Riker said. "Captain, may I speak with you a moment in private?"
Picard nodded. "Mr. Prang, contact the station and request all reports filed by or about the Starship Voyager the past three years, along with all data about the recent battle. Mr. Data, plot a course through the wormhole; you have the bridge. Number One, you're with me."
* * *
Captain's log, stardate 51063.2. I have taken the Enterprise through the Bajoran wormhole in pursuit of the Starship Voyager and the Borg vessel. The data provided by Deep Space Nine raises as many questions as it answers.
One answer is already clear: the Dominion is no match for the Borg; we have already passed the remnants of two Jem'Hadar fleets, an all-too-familiar sight to the crew, many of whom witnessed firsthand the aftermath of Wolf 359.
I have no love lost for either the Cardassians nor the Dominion...but I wouldn't wish that fate on anyone
The question of the Starship Voyager's involvement is even more troubling. I know Captain Sisko to be a man of honour, but if his story is true, the Borg are under the command of an assimilated Starfleet officer--a thought I, of all people, find very difficult to believe. Commander Riker assures me that if anyone is capable of such a feat, it is Captain Kathryn Janeway, with whom he studied at Starfleet Academy. His admiration for her is encouraging, but I know too well what the experience is like--and I cannot imagine anyone surviving the experience with their individuality intact.
And if all that is true, and the Borg are being led by a Starfleet officer--the wreckage I have seen in the Gamma Quadrant strongly suggests that she has been changed by the experience more than she may realize. Mere destruction can be explained as the fortunes of war. But there is evidence that the Borg continue to assimilate their victims. And that goes against everything Starfleet holds dear.
* * *
The Cube was teeming with newly assimilated members of the Collective. Janeway was bemused by the discovery that the Changelings were immune to assimilation. But the Founders, as they liked to be called, were equally ineffectual in masquerading as Borg; any being not connected to the Collective mind was easily recognized and detained.
The Vorta, and the Jem'Hadar, were another story. There was nothing in their DNA which prevented them from being assimilated. The Jem'Hadar did have some genetic peculiarities which made resistance somewhat successful, but the more resistant were dealt with. Some would be held for questioning. Many were left on habitable (but uninhabited) class-M planets to fend for themselves.
Some were kept to have their genetic makeup studied. The Doctor would find this a most interesting challenge. And he would be humane about it.
She sat on the bridge of Voyager, the place she felt most comfortable. Kathryn Janeway was still, first and foremost, a Starfleet captain. She could lead the Collective from anywhere; their thoughts were hers, and hers theirs. But there was something special about the Captain's chair. She had earned this spot, and she had gone to hell and back-and beyond-to keep it.
She allowed herself a private chuckle, remembering that brief time she and Chakotay spent in 20th-century Los Angeles, searching for that 29th-century Starfleet timeship.
Commander Chakotay, noticing her amusement, spoke. They weren't doing much of that lately, she noticed. "Care to let me in on the joke?" he asked, his eyes betraying the anxiety that the lightness of his voice couldn't entirely conceal.
Janeway patted his forearm affectionately. How she enjoyed doing that. "Just a fond memory, Chakotay. A long time ago," she sighed.
"How long?" he asked.
"'Bone knives and bearskins,'" she said, and enjoyed the broadening of his smile at the reference to those ancient earth computers with their 20th-century user interfaces, mice and keyboards.
"I remember," he said softly. "What prompted that memory?"
Janeway looked around the bridge, noticed the crew going about their business. She decided this conversation would remain private enough. "I was just thinking about the past couple of weeks. We were all alone in the Delta Quadrant, facing incredible odds of ever seeing home again. Now we're in a third quadrant of the galaxy, even farther from home than before, surrounded by old enemies and allies, Starfleet and Klingons and Borg-and we're all allies, fighting species you and I didn't even know existed until a few days ago. You can never go home again, I suppose."
Chakotay nodded. "My mind's still spinning as well. But what does that have to do with old Earth computers?"
Janeway smiled her infectious Indiana smile, her whole face conspiring to convey maximum mirth. "An old Earth term. I'm multitasking, Chakotay. I'm the Borg, and I'm Starfleet. At the same time. And it's working. I never imagined it possible."
"I'm afraid I'm still reeling from that as well," Chakotay admitted. "I'd be lying if I said I understood it, or that I'm not concerned about you." He didn't elaborate. He didn't know if he could find the words.
Her eyes lost a few of their crinkles around the edges, and her squeeze on his arm tightened. "I know. And I wish I knew some way to reassure you. I know you think no good can come from assimilation. You were under that Cooperative's control. But they did heal you, Chakotay. And for a time you saw the positive side of the experience."
The old queen is dead, and all the terrible acts she imposed on the Collective are gone. The motives of the original Borg-so long ago, Chakotay!-were not unreasonable. Remind me to tell you about it another time. Theirs is a fascinating story."
"I intend to lead the Borg back in a positive direction, Chakotay, believe me. They're led by a Starfleet mind now. Imagine what a Federation and Borg alliance will mean! Transwarp, biomedical advances, shielding, weapons, the collected data on thousands of systems. We can expand the Federation's knowledge and presence in the galaxy by orders of magnitude!"
Chakotay swallowed; the fire in her eyes had grown as she'd spoken. A good deal of that look was from the Kathryn he knew, respected, and cared for. But part of that fire came from a place he didn't want to think about, or remember.
"And what about the Prime Directive?" he asked.
"You know me, Chakotay. The Prime Directive and Starfleet protocol still drive my actions. I won't act against orders."
To the very depth of his soul, Chakotay yearned to believe her. But the sight of the wreckage of a hundred Dominion vessels and the blank looks of a thousand former Jem'Hadar now sporting Borg implants were crying out their dissenting view.
* * *
By the time the Enterprise caught up with the Cube, the Dominion was utterly contained. Blockaded from their diplomatic and military branches, utterly alone and defenseless. Klingon and Federation vessels were patrolling, and a lone Borg cube loomed over the Founders planet, its potential for destruction at present unutilized.
By Klingon accounts, it had been a glorious last stand, but in the end the Dominion was no match for the combined might of three determined species.
Picard seethed as he stared at the Cube and all it had signified the past ten years. He noted the tiny Federation vessel, had been told that the voice of the Borg would be found there.
"Hail them, Mr. Data."
The field of stars was replaced by the bridge of the Voyager. Captain Janeway was seated in the command chair, the scene typical of a Starfleet bridge except for the two Borg standing behind the captain.
"Hello, Locutus," Janeway purred seductively, her voice an all-too-vivid reminder of the Queen.
Picard blanched. So, he noted, did Commander Data.
Janeway laughed lightly. "My apologies, Captain Picard. I couldn't resist a little joke. You look so tense." Her amusement changed in an instant to compassion. "I know you've gone to great lengths to preserve the Federation from the Collective. As a captain and a human, I thank you. And on behalf of the Borg-I forgive you." She smiled mischievously, but her eyes were filled with sincerity.
The color returned to his face. "Indeed I have, Captain," he said formally. "I presume you still answer to that title."
Janeway smiled. "As much as ever. I must say, Captain, I admire your ability to break free from the Collective; it couldn't have been easy."
Picard's answering smile was grim. "You have no idea."
Janeway locked eyes with him. "Don't be so certain, Captain."
A hulking male Borg behind Janeway's right shoulder spoke gruffly. "Small talk is irrelevant."
Picard was surprised by this, but was even more shocked when that Borg stiffened and disappeared in a swirl of Borg green transporter effect, to be replaced by a statuesque female Borg. Janeway was frowning, he noted.
Janeway saw his expression. "The Jem'Hadar haven't adapted as well as I'd hoped," she explained. "The Founders designed them well; their surly disposition survives even assimilation."
Picard looked at the viewscreen and frowned, but said nothing. He had been in the captain's position once--or had he?--but he still could not condone this activity, particularly from a Starfleet officer. He sensed without Deanna's need to say so that his crew found the presence of the Borg on a Starship bridge, and of a Borg in a Starfleet uniform, unpalatable in the extreme.
"We have much to discuss, Captain," he said at last, assuming his most diplomatic tone.
Janeway's husky response was like silken fire. "Your ready room or mine?"
As Picard considered his response, Will Riker made a mental note to reserve Holodeck Four. Kathryn Janeway's voice had haunted him since his Academy days. And Borg or not, he was thrilled that rumors of the loss of Voyager's captain had been greatly exaggerated. He never thought he'd hear that voice again.
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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