It Takes a Thief

Written by  on October 18, 2002 


To reveal the darkness at the Federation’s heart, Janeway must risk it all on a defeated enemy.

Written by MaquisKat
Edited by Zeke
Produced by SaRa, MaquisKat and Coral

Stardate Unknown
Released 18 Oct 2002

The stars streaked past the viewport as Kathryn shifted uncomfortably on the couch, the PADD in front of her holding her attention. She was sorting through the dossiers of the various Section 31 operatives that they had seen fit to expose to the Sernaix menace. Despite all the acts that Section 31 had committed during the war, all the atrocities that had been committed against citizens of the Federation with their blessing, and Janeway’s deep disgust with their actions, exposing themselves only to the Sernaix made no sense to her. The only way it made any sense at all was if it had been the only way to gain Sycorax’s trust. Perhaps that had been the motivation to expose the most secret organization in the Federation to an outside agency.

Janeway lifted her cup of nearly cold coffee and looked out the viewport, taking comfort in the familiar actions. Whatever 31’s motivation had been, it worked in her favor now. As long as they could convince Sycorax to play along, Section 31 would be the next menace that Kathryn Janeway would remove from the Alpha Quadrant. Shaking her head at her own arrogance, she lifted the PADD once more and keyed up the next section of data recovered from the Sernaix habitat only to be interrupted by a familiar voice.

"I thought we could leave the sleepless nights behind us now that the war is over." Chakotay moved into the living area, settling on the couch and pulling her feet into his lap.

Kathryn smiled softly. "It’s not over yet, Chakotay. Not until we settle this. There are loose ends to tie up…"

"Sycorax is secure in the holodeck and Oz seems to be taking a great amount of pleasure in keeping her in line. Kes is handling the relocation of the Sernaix. Your not sleeping tells me there’s more…" Taking the padd from her hand, Chakotay looked at the dossier displayed there, falling silent. The image of Carl Grant stared up at him, in his Starfleet best. Chakotay couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran down his spine.

Moving closer to him, Kathryn set a reassuring hand on his shoulder, waiting silently as she watched Chakotay’s reaction to the picture overwhelm him for a moment. "It might help you to talk about it."

A slight nod of his head was his only acknowledgement of her words, "The entire time I was on the Logan, I couldn’t get past this feeling of… wrongness, but I thought it was just me. Their reaction to an ex-Maquis and my not being accustomed to serving on a typical Starfleet vessel."

Kathryn’s eyebrow arched slightly, winning a slight smile from Chakotay.

"Voyager is a fine ship with the best crew in the fleet, Kathryn, but even you know that we are far from typical." He watched as Kathryn nodded slightly, obviously unhappy that she hadn’t been able to bring more than the small smile to his lips. Chakotay took her hand, knitting their fingers together as he continued the recollection of the events aboard the Logan. Now that he had started, the memories needed to be freed as words.

"Grant and I had disagreed about the confrontation with the Sernaix. He confined me to quarters." He felt Kathryn’s hand clench at his words and he squeezed back, knowing that he had reminded her of a dark time in their own history. "But during the battle, I couldn’t just stay there waiting for whatever would happen. I didn’t trust Grant to bring us through without getting us killed." Chakotay paused for a moment to collect his thoughts.

"We survived. I was in command. Grant wasn’t on the bridge. He’d been injured and was in Sickbay as far as we knew. I was finally feeling like I belonged on the Logan, like the battle had helped the crew to get over their unease with me." Shaking his head slightly, Chakotay closed his eyes as unpleasant memories came to the fore. "After commending the bridge crew and leaving the bridge to one of the other duty officers, I went to check in with Engineering. I didn’t get very far before I was struck from behind."

He could feel Kathryn tense further but he was too far into his narrative to stop now. "It was Grant. I had known it was Grant from the moment I woke up. At first he asked about the Sernaix, but it became very obvious that that wasn’t what he was really after." Chakotay took a deep breath. "They were more interested in Voyager… in you. He wanted to know what kind of adversary you were, what your weaknesses were. From the beginning, they knew you’d stand against them."

He looked up at Kathryn, his gaze meeting hers as he continued, "I wouldn’t tell him anything. So he beat me. To take his attention off of you and Voyager, I provoked him, called him a coward." Kathryn reached up, cupping his cheek gently, pushing aside her feelings in order to comfort him. "He asked about Harry. At the time I had no idea why. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to give him any information, that’s when he needed to get rid of me, and he couldn’t risk someone finding out the truth."

Kathryn ran her thumb along his jaw as she put together the rest of the story. "So he poisoned you and ejected you in an escape pod to make it look as though you were a deserter. By the time anyone would have found you amongst the wreckage…" She stood abruptly and moved into the center of the room.

"It didn’t happen that way, Kathryn. They didn’t expect Voyager to find me." Chakotay moved behind Kathryn, holding her hips with his strong hands to remind her that he was here and well.

As she turned to face him, Kathryn’s expression was still grim. "So they activated their backup plan. Barton… who tried to destroy Voyager." Chakotay could see the barely-contained fury in her gaze. "This isn’t just personal, Chakotay. They saw Voyager as a threat to their allies’ victory." Kathryn’s fists clenched convulsively. "Section 31 supposedly protects the Federation, but all I’ve seen them do is sell it out for whatever nefarious purposes they concoct. They’ve existed without any sort of checking mechanism since their inception." Her tone was clipped as she spoke, and her stance was rigid.

Chakotay felt a chill up his spine. The last time she had been this angry, they’d fallen out over the Equinox. The last time she’d been this angry she’d invoked tactics that would have suited Section 31.

Kathryn’s expression softened at the fear in his expression—not fear of her, but fear for her. Her anger waned in the face of his fear. She slipped her arms around his waist, holding him as he held her. "At one point they may have actually been protecting the Federation, but after they allowed all those people to suffer, planets and ships destroyed… Chakotay, they have to be stopped, and we’re the first people to actually have a hope of doing that. They have to answer for what they’ve done."

"I agree with you, Kathryn, but…" Chakotay started but Kathryn’s fingertips gently pressed against his lips.

"…But not at the expense of our own morals. I agree, Chakotay… I know." She closed her eyes and took a breath. "Our victory against them wouldn’t mean anything if we stooped to their tactics." Opening her eyes once more, she met his gaze. "We’ll do this the right way."

Chakotay smiled and held her closer, expressing his support of her decision physically. "So what’s your plan? How is Voyager going to bring Section 31 down?"

"They don’t know why the Sernaix have stopped… their only source of information is in our power. So if Sycorax were to contact them, they’d have no choice but to answer her." Kathryn looked up at him, watching his face for his reaction.

Chakotay considered her words as he ran through the scenario in his mind. "It’s risky… we’d be depending on Sycorax to go along with our plan. But it’s worth the risk if we can expose them. End them once and for all."

Kathryn smiled up at him, "My thoughts exactly. We’re the only ones who have even a hope of doing this, Chakotay."

"We’ll succeed." Pulling Kathryn tight against him, he leaned his chin on her head. "I have no doubt of that. Now do you think you’re ready to sleep?"

In his embrace, Kathryn found comfort that she wasn’t accustomed to. "There are still too many things to work through, Chakotay." She saw the argument about to come from his lips, but silenced him once again with her fingertips. "I know I won’t settle them all tonight, but I still need to think. You go for now and I’ll follow. I promise, no more coffee tonight."

Looking down at her, Chakotay knew that there was no point in arguing with her. He inclined his head slightly to acknowledge her compromise, then kissed her softly. "All right, Kathryn." He released her and moved towards the bedroom door. "See you soon."

Kathryn nodded, then picked her coffee cup up and deposited it in the recycler before settling down on the couch once more to look out at the warp effect beyond.

"Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth."

Admirals Enchase, Paris, Hayes, and Wahl turned and looked at Admiral Ross with puzzled expressions. Ross smiled. "An old saying of my grandmother’s," he explained.

"Charming," said Wahl grumpily.

"Care to explain?" asked Hayes.

Ross rose from his chair at the table in Starfleet Headquarters and began walking behind the other seated admirals. "We shouldn’t be wasting our time debating why the Sernaix have withdrawn. We should use this opportunity to start rebuilding the Fleet."

Admiral Warhol finished his unspoken thought: "In case we have to defend Earth against a full-fledged assault."

"We haven’t seen any evidence that the Sernaix are going to attack again," said Paris. "They’re withdrawing from Federation space."

"That’s what worries me," said Hayes. "They were breaking through every defense perimeter we set up, destroying patrols we sent out. We didn’t give them a reason to turn tail and run."

"It’s about time we did," said Nechayev. "We should have attacked the Sernaix ships when they first stood down."

"We still don’t know why that happened," countered Ross. "If we had done that, it’s entirely possible they would have returned fire and we would have been worse off than we are now."

"There has to be a reason behind this," said Paris.

"And we need to find out what that reason is," agreed Warhol.

Hayes frowned, his expression grim. "I think we all have a very good idea what the reason is. We have to face the very real possibility that the Sernaix may be gearing up for an all-out attack on sector Zero Zero One."

"Agreed," said Nechayev.

"Which means we need to start building up our defenses," said Ross, taking his seat again. "We’ll need a rundown of all the starships in range of Earth as well as updates from all the nearest starbases. We’ll send as many people as we can spare to Utopia Planitia and spacedock and tell them to work double shifts until further notice." He looked around the table at the bleak expressions of his comrades. "If the Sernaix are coming, we’ll be ready for them."

Janeway straightened her uniform and stepped up to the holodeck doors, opening them with her command code. She stepped into the environment beyond; a chill ran up her spine as she took in the Sernaix habitat once again, but none of her discomfort was apparent to the hulking female before her.

"I trust we’ve made you suitably comfortable, Sycorax." Janeway’s posture—her back straight but relaxed, her chin raised, her hands seated on her hips—communicated her complete control of the situation to her prisoner. Whether she really felt in control or not.

The hulking form of Sycorax moved slightly to regard the diminutive woman in front of her. "You are no more concerned with my comfort than I would be with yours, Captain." The Adimha’s voice echoed off the walls of the holodeck, creating the booming voice that she had often used to unnerve her Section 31 allies. The human woman before her seemed particularly unaffected by the effect, however, continuing to regard the oversized Sernaix with a baleful glare.

"On the contrary, I want you well taken care of, until I can hand you over to the Federation authorities to stand trial for war crimes." Janeway kept her voice neutral.

Sycorax pulled herself as upright as she could manage and fixed the captain with an equally baleful glare. "Your pitiful species has no right to pass judgment over the Sernaix. We were a powerful people, a warrior race who would have conquered this entire galaxy if not for your puppet, Captain."

Janeway pulled herself straighter and slowly began to advance on her captive, showing no fear of the ominous creature before her. "You misunderstood me, Sycorax… we aren’t passing judgment on the Sernaix. We’re passing judgment on you."

Janeway stepped back and leaned against one of the walls, looking up at the Sernaix with an air of superiority. "It was your quest for power that incited your people to attack this galaxy, your need to control the packs that made it impossible for the Ayrethans to even attempt to reform them as the Caretaker had asked. Your need and the need of every one of your predecessors. You will be judged for the crimes you committed. You will be judged for forcing Ozymandias to give up his body before he was ready. Your people have had the foresight to choose another leader—a leader who will make them more than they are, more than they could have ever hoped to be under your leadership. Under you they were dangerous children with dangerous toys. Under Kes’s leadership, perhaps they will find their place in this galaxy."

One of Sycorax’s sagging arms lashed out with what Janeway supposed was the most force she could muster. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the Adimha’s body was far too out of shape to pose any true threat, the captain might have worried. As it was, Janeway merely stopped leaning against the wall and settled her hands on her hips once more. "If we were in my Realm, you would not be so assured, Captain," the Sernaix female hissed.

"Well, since you’ll never be in the Realm again, I don’t think I have much to worry about." Janeway looked at Sycorax. "I suspect that once your trial is completed, your ‘realm’ will be a cell in the highest security prison on the penal colony on Talos Four for the Criminally Insane. I’m not certain how long you’ll last there, however. You see, those people you allied yourself with… Section 31… they’re not fond of failure. They’re highly placed and secretive. You know far too much about them to be allowed to live very long."

Sycorax’s eyes narrowed. "You share that knowledge now, Captain, and I think I am less afraid to die than you are."

"I’m also highly placed—a hero of the Federation. They’ll try to recruit me first, and when I refuse, they will threaten me and mine to keep me in line." Janeway spit the words out with obvious distaste. "But my death would be far too public for them. They’ll find other ways to keep me in line…"

A silence hung in the air as if there was something more, something the human woman hadn’t said. Sycorax’s curiosity was piqued—she’d played enough games with people to know when she was being played. "Unless…"

"…you help us bring them down." Janeway looked into Sycorax’s eyes. "They fear the Sernaix still. They’re wondering why you haven’t attacked or what you are planning now. They still fear you…" Janeway moved closer. "One last power play, Sycorax, a power play that might actually do you some good. One that will give the Federation a reason to be lenient with you. At the very least it will be one last game for you, one last taste of power before you’re confined for the rest of your natural life."

Sycorax looked into Janeway’s eyes, trying to discern more of her motives. She could sense part of the truth; the woman did believe what she said, but there was more to Janeway’s desire to bring Section 31 down than self-preservation. Until she understood the desire, she would not play the game that the Starfleet captain suggested.

Silence filled the room, then finally the Adimha spoke: "No."

A simple word, but one that made Janeway’s eyes narrow as she looked at her prisoner. "I will not assist you, Janeway," the Adimha continued. "You are my enemy and I do not see any benefit in this for me. You believe they will not kill you, but even if they did, that does not frighten you… what frightens you is what they might do to those you keep close to you."

Janeway looked up at the prisoner. "Whatever you want to believe, Sycorax. Think it over though… let me know if you change your mind."

Turning her back on the Sernaix, the captain moved to the door of the holodeck. "They were always going to kill you, Sycorax… They would never have let you live. It was only a matter of time." She didn’t give the Adimha time to respond; instead she stepped through the doors and resealed them. Only then did the captain allow herself to lean against the wall of the corridor and feel the fear that the truth of Sycorax’s words had evoked in her.

Xor tr’Sharien, second in command of the Romulan Tal Shiar, stared quietly at the view of the Romulan capital outside the window, ignoring the mutterings of Nemek tr’Valorem behind him.

"The Federation must have found a way to defeat the Sernaix," grumbled Nemek, crossing his arms over his chest. "Or perhaps Section 31 succeeded where we did not—in making an alliance with them. We are no match for the Federation if they are allied with the Sernaix. You know that as well as I do, Xor."

Xor turned to the younger Romulan, his expression impassive. "I do." He scrutinized Nemek for a few seconds before turning back to the window. "It will not come to that."

"How can you be certain?" asked Radaik tr’Annhwi, stepping towards the pair from the corner of the room where he had been brooding for several minutes. "Section 31 may already be attempting to undermine us."

Nemek glanced around the room before leaning closer to Xor and lowering his voice. "I have heard that Senator Tomak has disappeared. What if Section 31 has him?" When Xor did not answer, Nemek took a step back and strode across the room in frustration. "This is foolishness."

"Are you questioning the chairman’s competence, Nemek?"

Nemek paused and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I didn’t say that."

"Didn’t you?"

"I… I didn’t mean it, Xor."

"Good. I would advise you to watch yourself carefully in the future."

Radaik appeared as though he was going to say something, but he shut his mouth abruptly when Chairman Koval entered. He paused, seemingly aware of the sudden silence that his entrance had caused, but after a few seconds he continued towards the center of the room. "I assume you have all read the latest reports."

"The Sernaix have stopped attacking," said Xor. "Their ships are withdrawing."

"So much for your alliance, Koval," spat Radaik.

Koval turned on his subordinate. "I do not intend to let this opportunity slip through our fingers."

"It’s over, Koval," said Xor. "There is no advantage in pursuing this alliance."

"On the contrary. There is more advantage than there was before." He held up a PADD. "If we—"

"This is madness!" interrupted Radaik. "Section 31 can not be trusted!"

"Of course they can’t be trusted," he responded calmly. "That does not mean we cannot use them to our own advantage."

"Ridiculous," said Nemek. "They would betray us at the first opportunity. We should avoid them at all costs."

"Perhaps the chairman has… other motivations for continuing our involvement with Federation Intelligence," suggested Radaik.

Koval turned to him furiously and was about to retort when he was interrupted by Xor. "What are you implying, Radaik?"

"I am implying nothing," he hissed. "I am accusing our Chairman of being a Federation pawn."

Xor spoke again before Koval, whose fury was obvious, had a chance to reply. "That is a serious accusation."

"My sources tell me our chairman has been involved with Section 31 for years. That they even assisted him in advancing in the organization with such astonishing speed."

"Rumors," said Koval, managing to control his panic at being uncovered. How could Radaik have possibly uncovered the truth behind his ascension to the head of the Tal Shiar? "These are baseless accusations."

"Are they?" said Radaik. "For months you have been pushing us to become allies with Section 31 instead of fighting the Sernaix. I am sure the Senate would be most interested to hear of this."

Without warning, Koval withdrew his disruptor and pointed it at the three Romulans. They instinctively reached for their own weapons, but froze when he took another step towards them. "Drop them on the floor," he ordered. One by one, they slowly removed the disruptors from their belts and tossed them towards Koval. Taking two steps forward, Koval kicked all three weapons across the room, out of reach.

"Chairman, consider what you are doing," advised Xor calmly.

"You’re right, of course," said Koval, staring coldly at his companion. "I do not want to do something I will regret." They relaxed a little until he frowned and added: "Such as trusting my subordinates." He abruptly leveled his weapon at Nemek and fired. The young Romulan was hit point blank in the chest and thrown backwards into the wall, falling to the floor with a loud thud.

Koval turned the disruptor on Radaik. "I always knew it would come to this, Radaik."

"This is madness," spat Radaik defiantly. "You will lead the Romulan Empire to its doom, Koval."

"A shame you will not be around to find out." Koval raised the disruptor higher, but just as his finger began to squeeze the trigger his eyes widened and he froze. He reached out and grabbed the table as his knees buckled, then slowly fell forward onto the floor, revealing the large dagger protruding from his back.

Xor stepped forward and rested his foot on Koval’s back as he retrieved his weapon. He examined the blood coating the blade, then contemptuously wiped it off on his uniform before replacing it in the concealed holster underneath his jacket. "Always keep your eyes open and your daggers concealed," he muttered. "You should remember your own advice, Koval."

He turned away from Koval’s body and stared at Radaik. The other Romulan returned the gaze, and they came to an immediate understanding.

"I will dispose of the bodies," said Radaik. "What should we do about Section 31?"

"We must eliminate all connections with them that cannot be trusted." He picked up the PADD that Koval had dropped. "Starting with Admiral Warhol…"

The door to the holodeck swished open as Sycorax turned to see who was entering. To her surprise a Sernaix male entered the room. "Who sent you here?" Sycorax asked. The Sernaix walked up towards her, his eyes doing a sweep of the holographically projected room.

"I’ve been sent here by Captain Janeway. I take it the accommodations are satisfactory? Or is it too low-class for you Management Cadre types?" the Sernaix male asked in a vaguely familiar tone. Sycorax had most definitely heard that tone before.

"Its satisfactory." There was a pause before she spoke again. "I know you from someplace."

"Of course you do," the Sernaix said, a grin on its face. He paced slowly around Sycorax as she waited impatiently for more clues. "However, I don’t think you’re my biggest… as humans would call it… fan."

Her huge face cringed up in horror. "Ozymandias. I can recognize your tone of sarcasm a parsec away. But it’s impossible! You cannot be here. You were uploaded."

"You underestimate these humans. Their technology allowed me to create myself a body. I’m a pretty strapping fellow, aren’t I?" Oz bragged, only to be met by a scowl from Sycorax. He continued his stroll around her. "I find it really fitting. You were the one who tried to destroy me; now here you are, in my old position. I find it perfectly ironic."

"You are a typical male, Ozymandias. Your judgment is flawed." Sycorax shot back defensively. Oz knew he hit a nerve. He stopped his pacing and stood before her, meeting her gaze.

"That’s where you’re wrong. That’s why you’re here right now. Your self-righteous leading of the packs was wrong. You underestimated the packs. You underestimated the humans. You were wrong."

Sycorax turned away slowly, paying attention to the blue and black swirl in the distance. Oz smiled to himself as he crossed his arms in silence. The former leader of the Management Cadre was finally getting what was coming to her.

Janeway set aside the PADD of Section 31 dossiers and shook her head. The level of corruption throughout Starfleet was incredible. Everywhere from the Academy to the highest levels of the admiralty was rife with Section 31 operatives. Leaning back in her chair, she closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose.

This couldn’t be allowed to continue. If it did, it would compromise every standard she had upheld in the past eight years, every time she had put protocol and procedure ahead of making the trip easier. Beyond her fear of what the knowledge they had recovered from the habitat would bring to her, her crew… her family, there was a deep-seated knowledge that if they didn’t stop Section 31 here and now, they likely wouldn’t ever be stopped. The only thing that galled her was that she needed to put her faith in an enemy who was no better than the people she wanted to ensnare.

The comm beeped, drawing her away from the line of thought that threatened to overwhelm her. "Janeway here."

"Captain," the familiar tone of the Sernaix ship mind echoed through the comm unit. "Sycorax wishes to speak with you."

"By all means, put her through…" Janeway settled back in her chair waiting to hear what the Sernaix Adimha had to say.

A moment of silence followed then the deep voice of Sycorax filled her ready room. "I have re-evaluated the situation at hand, Captain." There was a unsettling pause, then the voice continued. "I will assist you in bringing down my former allies. I believe there is something to be gained by my assisting you."

It was the answer she had wanted, so why was she feeling like she had just walked into the wolves’ den? Janeway kept her voice neutral as she spoke; if Sycorax thought that this turn of events would gain her Janeway’s trust, she was more wrong than she knew. "All right Sycorax. I’ll be there shortly to discuss your involvement in my plan. Janeway out." Before the Adimha could respond she cut the link.

The captain picked up her cup and took a drink of the almost-cold coffee within. She grimaced slightly then moved to the viewport, looking out into the stars before she spoke again. "Oz, are you there?"

"Always, Captain." Oz’s voice echoed through the room. "What service may I render for you?"

"An opinion, Oz." Janeway continued to look out her window. "Am I a fool to expect her to help us?"

"You already know the answer to that, Captain." The shipmind seemed amused by her question. "Do you want me to confirm what you already know?"

Janeway shook her head and drained her cup. "If you weren’t a part of the ship, I could have you confined to the brig for that, Ozymandias."

The amused voice was back, "Then there are advantages to this disembodied state that I hadn’t imagined."

Laughing slightly, she set her cup down onto a side table. "All right, Oz, lets go see what Sycorax has to say."

Sycorax watched through narrowed eyes as the human captain and the Abomination entered the holographic prison they held her in. The woman looked up at her with an insolent expression on her face: "I’m glad you’ve seen things my way, Sycorax."

The rotund Sernaix female struggled to keep her ire in check, presenting at least a neutral countenance to her captors. "I have discerned that there could be a benefit to me by assisting you, even if the benefit is as inconsequential as allowing me to manipulate those who would have tried to manipulate me."

Janeway’s eyes narrowed; she knew full well that that definition could apply to her as well. "Depending on how cooperative you are, it could be more beneficial than that." She looked back at Oz, who arched his brow, creating a rather Mephistophelian visage. While the holographic ship mind may have looked the part, the true devil she was trying to make a deal with was in front of her. The captain took in Sycorax, trying to get her measure. Was this one of the Adimha’s power plays or was she truly willing to help?

At the same time, Sycorax was trying to discern what Janeway gained from bringing down Section 31. Some of it was obvious. Though Janeway was a powerful leader, with a powerful vessel, she had a highly exploitable weakness. She cared. She cared about those she commanded; she had a mate, a family. She would rather die than allow harm to come to them. It was inconceivable to Sycorax why the human woman would allow herself to become tethered to such inconsequential beings.

To Sycorax it was inconceivable that Janeway could be so noble as to have no ulterior motives in bringing down Section 31. Surely there was more power to be gained by joining them. Even the creatures she surrounded herself with would be better protected then…

unless Janeway intended to dispose of Section 31 and place her own group in its place. Perhaps that was her true motive. Sycorax’s nostrils flared as she considered that conjecture in her mind. It was conceivable. Perhaps…

Sycorax allowed her expression to become less neutral and more conciliatory. The humans would not trust her so soon, but perhaps if she cooperated, bided her time, a more pleasing outcome could be wrought from the defeat of her people. From the information she’d been able to find, Janeway had a penchant for trying to reform her enemies into her own image. That could be used to her advantage in this situation.

Sycorax broke the silence: "I am used to more autonomy than you have allowed me, Captain. If you intend to deceive your enemies, then you will have to allow me to act with the same autonomy they have come to expect."

Once again, Janeway couldn’t shake the feeling that she had walked into the lion’s den, but she would not allow it to show. "Consider this an object lesson in how your new life will be, Adimha. The plan that we will be effecting has taken your need to give the appearance of being in complete control into account, and you will have that appearance." Janeway stressed the last word to ensure that Sycorax understood who was truly going to be in control. "Your role in this will be to draw out the information of what Section 31 was trying to accomplish—to have them admit their complicity in unlawfully authorizing your people to destroy Federation worlds and bases, and providing you with tactical information to aid in the Sernaix attacks on those Federation worlds."

"Easily done, Captain." Sycorax forced herself to take a more submissive stance with the human. It would be difficult to force herself to be subordinate to such an unworthy adversary, but the outcome in the long term would be worth the effort.

A curt nod was the only response Janeway gave as she signaled Oz to follow her out of the holodeck.

"Like leaving a fox to guard the chicken coop, Captain." Oz offered his opinion, knowing that had been the reason Janeway had wanted him to come. His understanding of the Adimha would give the captain an edge in dealing with Sycorax that she wouldn’t have otherwise.

Janeway smiled and decided to give Oz a taste of his own medicine: "As far as I could comfortably throw Voyager…" The hologram looked at her, puzzled, for a moment before she decided to let him off the hook. "That’s how far I am trusting Sycorax. Now without your quaint colloquialisms… in your opinion, what is she up to, Oz?"

"She wants your trust, Captain. In my considered opinion, I would say that your reputation has preceded you." He glanced meaningfully at a former Maquis crewman who happened to pass them by.

Janeway’s brow furrowed for a moment before she caught his meaning. "In that case, she should be on her best behavior for the moment."

"Until she doesn’t think she has anything to gain from it any more," the Sernaix hologram cautioned ominously.

Chakotay grinned as he sighted B’Elanna and Miral demolishing a stack of banana pancakes with maple syrup together in the far corner of the Mess Hall. The little girl seemed to be adjusting rapidly to the loss of her powers with no ill effects. Between the steady love of her parents and the adaptiveness of a child, there was no doubt in Chakotay’s mind about why.

Approaching the pair with a wide grin, he moved to Miral’s side and ruffled the little girl’s hair. "Like momma, like daughter, I see."

"Momma," Miral said affirmatively and pointed to B’Elanna. "Unca ‘Kotay nanna?" She held up a fork full of soggy pancake and offered it to the Commander, which brought a grin to both B’Elanna’s and Chakotay’s faces.

"Thank you, little one but your Aunty Kathryn already fed me breakfast." Chakotay lifted Miral and settled her in his lap, intent on helping the little one’s next forkful find her mouth.

"Self," Miral growled and wrested the fork from his grasp, then none- too-gracefully shoved the oversized mouthful into her mouth, forcing her cheeks to puff up like a chipmunk’s. B’Elanna rolled her eyes and wiped the excess syrup from around Miral’s mouth.

Chakotay chuckled, "I see she’s more like her mother than I thought."

B’Elanna turned a baleful glare on her old friend. "Have I mentioned that I like Tom’s sense of humor better than I like yours?"

"That’s only because I’m not frightened of you, B’Elanna, like he is." Chakotay quipped, then his expression became serious. "I’m sorry to interrupt your mother/daughter time, but I was wondering if you’d had a chance to work on the habitat problem."

B’Elanna sighed and set down her fork. "What do you think the banana pancakes are about, Chakotay? You of all people should know that they are my thinking food." Chakotay smiled and nodded, taking the cloth that B’Elanna had set down on the table and wiping Miral’s face once more. "We’ve already created an environment in the holodeck that mimics the physical environment that her physical body inhabited on the habitat; the problem lies in the fact that in order to make her performance believable for Section 31, we have to let her control that environment. Even with Oz watchdogging her, I have serious doubts about letting Sycorax having any amount of access to Voyager‘s computer systems."

Chakotay nodded, "Trust me, B’Elanna. The captain has all the same issues that you do about this and she’s depending on you to come up with a solution."

Shaking her head, B’Elanna took another mouthful of pancake as she watched the man in front of her with her little girl on his lap. The ease with which he balanced tending to the child and discussing ships business made her seriously consider asking Tom to open a new betting pool, but she pushed that thought aside for the moment and focused on the problem at hand once more. "The easiest part of this plan is just cloaking the ship. The fact that Voyager has a Sernaix cloaking device means they shouldn’t detect anything but a Sernaix power signature, if they can detect anything at all. The main problem is how we give Sycorax enough control to maintain the show without compromising our security."

"Do your best, B’Elanna. You can recruit anyone you need." Chakotay watched as Miral pushed her plate away, then looked up at him for the wet cloth he’d been using to mop up the smears of syrup she’d made on her face. The little girl held up her hands expectantly and Chakotay set to wiping away all traces of syrup from the coated fingers and palms.

B’Elanna finished her last mouthful of pancake; then she pushed her plate aside and held out her arms for her daughter, whose face had just finished being mopped. "Harry… and if Sam could watch Miral."

Miral stood up in Chakotay’s lap, forcing him to support her waist and lift her slightly so that B’Elanna could retrieve her. "Done and done, B’Elanna. And whoever else you need, you can pull them on my authority." B’Elanna nodded and picked up the stuffed panda Miral had brought with her to the Mess Hall, placing it in her daughter’s arms.

Taking a closer look at Chakotay’s face, B’Elanna read her old friend’s expression. "What else old man?"

"Kathryn’s birthday is coming up." Chakotay grinned at the half Klingon’s perceptiveness.

B’Elanna decided teasing was definitely the way to go since she wasn’t filling in the blanks for him, "That’s not news, old man, we’ve lived with her for over eight years too you know."

"Exactly my point, we’ve all been together for eight years. I don’t think one of Tom’s special surprise birthday parties have ever surprised Kathryn before, so why should it surprise her now." Chakotay stood up and helped B’Elanna up as she balanced the squirming mass of little girl in her arms.

B’Elanna smiled as they made their way to the Mess Hall doors. "What you’re really trying to say is that my husband’s birthday parties aren’t special enough for your—" B’Elanna paused for a moment, realizing what she had started to say, then gave a mental shrug and continued, "Kathryn."

Chakotay looked at B’Elanna and shrugged somewhat helplessly. "It’s her…"

B’Elanna silenced Chakotay by putting her hand over his mouth, which was promptly covered by a giggling Miral’s. "The best way to get kicked out of your nice new bed, Chakotay, is to reveal the lady’s age in public. The fact that she’s the captain almost guarantees your new quarters would be the brig." The half-Klingon engineer shook her head slightly, her expression playfully exasperated. "I’ll help you come up with something. Though I can think of one thing you could give her as a present I think you’d both like…" A slow grin spread across the engineer’s face as she watched Chakotay tug his ear as he tried to guess her meaning.

B’Elanna was saved from having to explain as Miral shoved the furry body of the panda bear into his face, rubbing it’s soft coat against his nose and furrowed brow. "Take… pwezed Ant Cat-win."

Taking a firm grip of the stuffed animal’s body, Chakotay was about to give it back to the little girl in question, only to have his gaze met by earnest brown eyes. "Take," Miral insisted yet again.

"All right," Chakotay smiled and ruffled the girl’s hair, tucking the stuffed toy under his arm, "But she can’t have it until her birthday, okay, Miral?"

Miral nodded, seemingly pleased with his decision to comply. B’Elanna grinned. "Time for mommy to get to work. I’ll let you know when I have a plan, Commander." She turned and strode down the hall, trying desperately to contain the laughter that threatened to escape at the sight of Chakotay standing in the middle of the corridor with a black and white stuffed toy bear tucked under his arm.

Where were the Doctor and his holocamera when you needed them?

Janeway looked at B’Elanna and Harry and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don’t want to hear this, do I?"

"There is no way I can give Sycorax the sort of control she’d need to maintain that illusion without compromising Voyager‘s safety, Captain." B’Elanna leaned against the briefing room table and met Janeway’s gaze unflinchingly. "The integration of the Sernaix systems means she’d be able to take us over given that sort of access. Even with Oz and Harry policing her every move, the risks are still too high."

Janeway looked towards Seven, "If we put Borg encryptions in place…"

"It would not be sufficient, Captain." Seven focused a steady gaze on Janeway. "At Lt. Torres’ request, I put multilevel Borg encryptions in place at all junctures where Sycorax could gain access to the ship’s main systems. As a test, we had Oz try to break through those encryptions from the level of access we are considering allowing the Adimha to have."

Oz anticipated her gaze and sighed as he looked at Janeway, "A paper tiger, Captain. Like walking and chewing bubblegum at the same time, only infinitely easier. Definitely within the Wicked Witch’s book of tricks."

Janeway’s gaze traveled around the table, trying to mask her displeasure and disappointment at this turn of events. "Not what I wanted to hear, people. So you’re telling me that’s that? We have to let them go?"

B’Elanna and Harry considered each other for a moment, "Not quite, Captain. We came up with an idea. It may seem a bit odd to Section 31, but when they’re waiting for the other shoe to drop I don’t think they’ll be in a position to argue."

"Go ahead." Janeway leaned back in her chair and fixed her attention on Torres and Kim.

"Holographic communication, Captain." B’Elanna looked at Harry. "Sycorax could play it as though she’s projecting herself from the Realm, as she’s done that in the past. But this time she won’t be appearing to them in one of the sections of her habitat, she’ll be on their holographic communication channel."

Harry nodded. "They’ll have the ability to receive it, Captain. It’s currently in use by the admiralty and the Federation council. All of the new vessels, including Voyager, have a holographic communication suite. I can’t see Section 31 not having that technology on their own vessels."

Janeway stood and slowly paced to the Engineer’s side of the table. "Won’t they know it’s coming from a Starfleet holographic suite?"

"Oz and I can fix it so that all they get is a Sernaix power signature when they scan." Harry looked towards the Sernaix hologram.

"A sheep in wolf’s clothing, Captain…" Oz offered enigmatically.

Janeway shook her head slightly at the hologram, then focused on the other two once more. "All right, I take it we’ll be recording their conversation." B’Elanna and Harry nodded in unison. The captain looked at both her officers and caught the slight gleam in their eyes. She moved back to her own chair, her hands gripping the top of it as she leaned forward. "Well, don’t keep me in suspense. What’s the rest of our plan?"

In the course of his long association with Section 31, Admiral Alistair Warhol had never seen Mr. West so frustrated and concerned. He glanced at Mr. Seagal standing next to him, but the other man was staring intently at the tactical reports that were coming in from around the quadrant. "What are we going to do?" asked Warhol after a few seconds.

West didn’t answer and continued staring out the window, balling his hand into a fist and cracking his knuckles in sequence, deep in thought. "We only have two choices," said Seagal, turning away from the monitor. "Either we do nothing, or we fight back."

"We can’t afford to do nothing," replied Warhol. "The admiralty has come to the conclusion that Sycorax has pulled back her packs in preparation for a final assault on Earth. If we do nothing we’ll all be slaughtered."

"And if we fight back?" said Seagal. "If we go head-to-head with Sycorax she’ll wipe us off the map. We can’t afford to assume she’s betrayed us until we know for certain… until we have some proof."

"Starfleet thinks that—"

"Starfleet," interrupted West suddenly, turning away from the window, "doesn’t know what we know."

"Do you think Sycorax is going to attack Earth?" asked Warhol.

"If I knew what she was going to do," snarled West, uncharacteristically letting his control slip, "then we wouldn’t have a problem, would we?"

"We can’t afford to attack her," said Seagal, shaking his head slowly.

"We can’t afford to let her attack Earth," said Warhol, "no matter how small the risk."

"We agreed a long time ago that an attack on Earth might be necessary in order to preserve the Federation," returned Seagal.

"Sycorax won’t just attack Earth—she’ll destroy it." Warhol took a deep breath. "If Starfleet had more information… if they knew—"


Warhol looked at West. "It would give them a fighting chance. I thought we wanted to—"

"We’re not doing this to save Starfleet," snapped West. "We’re doing this to save the Federation. If Starfleet has to fall to preserve that, then so be it." He appraised Warhol slowly. "I think it’s time you decided where your loyalties are, Admiral."

There was a heavy silence as Warhol and West stood motionless, their fiery gazes locked on each other. Seagal interrupted them as the comm terminal beeped. "Sir?"

"What?" barked West without taking his eyes off Warhol.

"Incoming message." Seagal’s eyes widened and he looked up. "It’s from Sycorax."

Both West and Warhol turned towards him. "What does she want?" asked West after a few seconds, his tone suspicious.

"She wants to meet with us. I’m getting a set of co-ordinates… in the Kavis Alpha sector."

West’s face was impassive for several seconds before the corners of his mouth slowly curled up in a satisfied sneer. "Send a reply. Tell her we’ll be there."

Xor looked up from Koval’s desk, now his, as the doors opened and Radaik entered. "What?" he demanded.

Radaik offered him a PADD. "New information…Chairman."

Xor smiled at the title as he accepted the PADD and skimmed the information. He raised an eyebrow. "Most interesting." He looked back at Radaik as a satisfied smile spread across his lips. "It appears Admiral Warhol has provided us with an excellent opportunity to rid ourselves of him."

"Precisely," said Radaik. "Shall I order the T’Kar to intercept?"

"No. I believe this requires my personal attention…"

Reading reports. It filled in the gaps when all you could do was wait.

Janeway smiled slightly. That was probably why Starfleet had a ship’s crew write so many of them and why they all, for the most part, had to pass through the captain at some point or the other. Taking a sip of her coffee, it occurred to her that this was probably one of those things where once you figured it out, you either had to join ‘them’ or die, which of course in Starfleet was either the admiralty or Section 31.

If this worked it wouldn’t be an either-or situation anymore.

She shook her head at her whimsical mood as the chime to her ready room door rang. "Come." Janeway stood and put both hands on the top of her desk.

Oz came through the door first. "The game’s afoot…"

The captain arched her brow slightly and looked at Lt. Kim who had followed the overly enthusiastic hologram into her office. "Report, Lieutenant."

"They’re on their way, Captain. Sycorax played it exactly according to plan." Harry grinned at the captain as she came out from behind her desk and clapped both him and the holographic Sernaix on the shoulder.

"Just what I wanted to hear, Harry." Janeway smiled broadly and guided both of her crewmen out of her office and onto the bridge. "Mr. Paris, engage cloak and set course for the Kavis Alpha sector. Top speed. We need to be there first to set our trap."

"Aye, Captain." Tom’s voice rang out as Janeway strode down to take her place on the bridge followed by Harry. "Course set, cloak engaged."

"Do it, Tom." Janeway’s voice cracked out and suddenly the viewscreen was filled with the effect of the Sernaix slipstream drive.

Seventy-two point four percent.

It was amazing how the mental processing power of thousands of drones could raise one’s awareness.

Ankin Rotor smiled to himself as he was able to analyze the situation before him in a fraction of a second. Every factor, every possible outcome, every conceivable course of action in a heartbeat.

The cloaked Romulan warbird moved farther away from the Neutral Zone, deeper into Federation territory. Rotor knew who they were. He knew where they were going. He knew what they were going to do.

And he knew that he could not allow them to succeed.

Seventy-two point five percent.

He needed Warhol alive. These insignificant beings could not be allowed to interfere with his mission. Not when he was so close.

He had overestimated the usefulness of the Tal Shiar. They had been unable to turn Warhol against Section 31 and had failed in their attempt to establish an alliance with the Sernaix… but they could be still be of use to him.

He swiftly altered the course of one of the spheres under his control, sending it towards the Alpha quadrant on an intercept course. The marvels of Borg transwarp corridors.

Within minutes, the sphere dropped out of transwarp right on top of the warbird. The assimilated Sernaix technology allowed the sphere to instantly pinpoint the location of the cloaked ship and lock their weapons. A single shot disabled the cloaking device, and the Borg tractor beam had the warbird in its clasp before the Romulans had a chance to return fire. Once all crewmembers and useful technology had been removed, the sphere opened fire and the warbird disintegrated in a ball of flame.

Rotor inhaled deeply as he watched the scene on the monitor before him, feeling the energy from the former members of the Romulan Tal Shiar reach him.

Seventy-two point six percent.

Janeway entered the holodeck and looked towards the two officers who were hard at work configuring the holodeck’s yellow and black projection grid to mimic the functionality of a holocommunications suite. "We’re in position and our sensors have picked up a warp signature at the far range of our sensors." Janeway’s voice was calm but both Lieutenant Kim and Lieutenant Torres could hear the question underneath the statement.

"We’ll be ready, Captain." B’Elanna assured her as she looked up from the low panel she was rooting about in. Janeway nodded and her gaze was drawn to the heavy form of the Adimha being supported on a hover platform. "We had to take the holodeck offline while we were reconfiguring it, Captain. She’s more comfortable on that than she would be on the floor." B’Elanna’s voice held barely-concealed distaste for how the females of the Sernaix species allowed their bodies to deteriorate in favor of spending the majority of their time in the cyber realm created by their technology.

Janeway looked away from Sycorax and settled her gaze back on B’Elanna. "Good thinking, Lieutenant." She glanced around the room expecting to see Oz, yet knowing the grid being down would prevent his access to the room in a physical form. It was surprising how quickly she’d come to accept Oz’s holographic body as his true form.

"The all-knowing, all-powerful Oz is here, Captain. You didn’t think that I would abandon my post, did you?"

Janeway shook her head and looked at the two younger officers. "I’ve been waiting for him to use that one, haven’t you?" Both of them grinned and shook their heads before turning back to their work. "I hope your assignment hasn’t been too difficult, Oz."

"In fact it’s been desperately boring, Captain. I expected more fun out of the old girl, honestly." Oz’s voice was flippant, purposefully trying to get a rise out of Sycorax.

Janeway looked once more towards the Adimha, who had been watching the activity around her impassively until Oz had made himself known. Her face contorted and she fixed Janeway with a glare before she seemed to remember the situation. "If the Abomination must watch me, could it not be silent in doing so? You may have accepted it into your crew, Captain, but to my culture it is an outcast."

The room was filled with silence. Sycorax made a valid point. Though she was a prisoner, it went against Janeway’s morals to force the being to have to associate with a being that went against their accepted norms, no matter how wrong those norms were to her. Obviously the information Section 31 had provided went beyond the tactical data and dossiers that she had focused on. However the discord, cultural or otherwise, between Oz and Sycorax wouldn’t be a problem much longer if everything went according to plan.

"At the moment, Sycorax, I feel that his presence is necessary to the security of my ship. Once this operation has been completed successfully with your assistance, I will immediately see that your concerns about being in the ship mind’s presence are dealt with." Janeway’s gaze was neutral as she met Sycorax’s gaze. When the Adimha nodded her agreement, Janeway nodded towards to her officers and left the holodeck to check on the Doctor’s progress with his part of the plan in sickbay.

Janeway strode purposefully down the hall then cocked her head towards the ceiling. "Oz?"

The Sernaix hologram shimmered into existence at Janeway’s side and matched her pace. "You called, Captain."

"Don’t provoke her too much, just enough to remind her exactly what she’s getting out of this." Janeway continued down the corridor, unstartled by the hologram’s sudden appearance. She looked towards the ship mind, a crooked grin forming on her lips. "And no need to tell her she’ll be getting her escape from you courtesy of a high-security cell on Talos Four."

The hologram’s eyebrow arched, his estimation of the captain rising a degree. "Aye, Captain." The words passed his lips before he disappeared in the blink of an eye.

"The suicide device that was extracted from Commander Barton was a neural charge detonated by biting down in a specific manner on a ‘suicide tooth’ of sorts." The Doctor brought up a graphic of a human jaw with the technical schematics of the tooth mechanism displayed on the wall monitor.

Janeway listened attentively as the Doctor ran down the full explanation to her and Chakotay on how the Section 31 suicide device operated. When he’d finished presenting his findings to her, she fixed him with a steady gaze. "Bottom line, Doctor: given B’Elanna and Harry’s plan, can you disable the suicide device from Voyager?"

The Doctor sighed slightly, "You have to understand, Captain… it is complete conjecture that all Section 31 operatives use the same neural charge device to commit suicide. Not to mention that we have no way of knowing whether they have some sort of backup device."

Chakotay could see the frustration in the captain’s face and intervened. "We understand that you’re working with less than the optimum amount of information, Doctor. However, making the assumption that they do use the same neural charge device and they don’t have a backup device…"

"…Then I believe I can disable their suicide devices using a phase pulse piggybacked on the holographic communication channel. They won’t even be aware it has happened if it is successful." The emphasis the Doctor put on ‘if’ communicated just how unsure he was that this would be successful. "There are any numbers of reasons that this could go wrong, Captain. I have tested it extensively in a holographic simulation…"

Janeway took a deep breath, "Whether it works or not, Doctor, it’s all we’ve got at this point and we’re out of time. Get ready and cross your fingers. Our guests will be here in less than two hours."


Empty space.

Seagal and Warhol looked at each other while West fumed in front of them. There was no sign of the habitat or a Sernaix vessel. "She’s playing…"

"Admiral, Mr. West… we are receiving a holographic communication." The three operatives looked at each other, their suspicions and fears piqued at once.

West was the first to respond to their operations officer. "Source?" he growled.

"Unknown, sir. We can’t pinpoint it." The operations officer looked at the operatives for direction.

Janeway watched as Torres and Kim manned the communication console, triggering sequence after sequence from behind the false, one-way ‘wall’ that separated them from the stage where Sycorax waited for their signal to begin.

"If they can tell where this is coming from, Captain, we didn’t have a chance to begin with," Harry assured her as he triggered the last sequence.

Keeping most of her attention on Sycorax, ready to react if the Adimha acted duplicitously though uncertain of what she would do, Janeway tapped her comm badge. "It’s show time, Doctor. Initiate the phase pulse sequence on my mark."

Seagal stepped up to the sensor console and began to run through diagnostics with the more sophisticated sensors and analysis tools at the Science station. Looking towards West, he nodded. "I don’t understand how she got this channel or how she’s transmitting holographically but it’s a Sernaix signal."

A long moment of silence followed Seagal’s pronouncement. Then finally West broke it. "Well then we shouldn’t leave the Adimha waiting should we?" Though the words were positive, the tone of his voice left no doubt that West wasn’t as positive as Seagal was. "Accept the communication, Seagal."

Janeway saw the light flicker into existence, indicating that the connection had been made. Tapping her comm badge, she hissed, "Mark, Doctor."

Her attention went to Harry, whose fingers flew over the control panel once more. "Phase pulse initiated, Captain." There was a pause, then he looked at Janeway and nodded. "It was received, Captain. A momentary flicker in their systems, but their ship compensated."

Janeway nodded. Their vessel would only have been able to compensate for ship’s systems, not the delicate systems of the suicide device; now they could only hope that the pulse had accomplished what it had been intended to.

A shimmer appeared in the center of their bridge, the loathsome form of Sycorax coalescing from nothingness. West nodded to the Admiral, signaling him to take the lead. Warhol stepped forward and the projection system of their own holocommunication system trained primarily on his form. "Adimha, this is an unexpected form of communication for you to be using with us."

Sycorax fixed Warhol with her cold stare. "It is, isn’t it?" Her form moved closer to Warhol, each step bringing her inexorably closer to the Admiral, snake-like yellow eyes fixing him to the spot. "Many things come to light when you least expect them."

Another figure stepped forward into the projection as Janeway and the others watched the situation unfold before them. This one, unlike Warhol, they only knew from the dossiers they had retrieved.

Mr. West.

His manner was almost as cold as Sycorax’s as his projection moved towards the Adimha. "I don’t understand why you wouldn’t invite us aboard your habitat… why you would hide from us. We are your allies, are we not?"

Sycorax’s voice became a low hiss. "Do you dare dictate the terms of our alliance to me?" She turned to face West, advancing on him more swiftly than Janeway would have thought possible, given her size. "You are in no place to dictate anything." Yellow eyes stared into his, unblinking. "Especially given what came to light when I crushed the resistance to my forces in the Delta Quadrant. You sit on the brink now, West." One long nail ran under the hologram’s chin. "My whim dictates the continued existence of your puny race."

Kim looked towards Janeway as Oz flashed into existence beside her. "Shall we cut the scene here, Captain? She’s going way outside the part you wrote for her."

Janeway looked towards Sycorax, then looked at West and Warhol. She read their body language, every instinct that had been honed in the Delta Quadrant analyzing every movement, every word. Then she shook her head and hoped she was making the right call. "Let her continue. They’re waiting for the other shoe to drop… let them feel it right above their heads."

Harry nodded and went back to monitoring the transmission beam while Oz studied Janeway for a moment, then leaned to whisper in her ear. "Remind me not to play poker with you, Captain."

Warhol stepped forward once more, drawing the Adimha’s attention to himself once again. "If we’ve done something to anger you, Adimha…"

"It’s what you didn’t do, Admiral, that has angered me." Sycorax moved forward slowly, drawing herself up like a snake about to strike. "You see, you were supposed to have given me all the information about the obstacles I could expect."

West’s eyes narrowed. "If we didn’t disclose anything to you, Adimha, it was by oversight only."

Sycorax spun on him again. "Voyager is an oversight… how quaint."

"Voyager…" West and Warhol spoke in unison and stepped forward.

Everyone on the holodeck froze but Sycorax. Harry looked to Janeway for the order to cut the transmission.

Everything. Janeway could feel everything now, every nerve ending tingling, every pump of her heart, every breath to her lungs.

Two choices. Risk it all or fold.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Oz’s voice whispered softly.

"Keep the link open, Harry."

"Voyager, leading the forces against the Sernaix…" Sycorax moved towards Warhol.

Warhol held up his hands, placating. "We made every attempt to neutralize Voyager and Janeway. We hoped that retracting her support systems—especially her first officer, who was instrumental in many circumstances to her success—would put her off balance and limit her effectiveness. When this wasn’t the case, the operative we had assigned as her first officer was given the order to destroy Voyager. I know because I gave the order myself."

Sycorax took a deep breath and waved her finger dramatically at Warhol. "Then she failed and you failed." Sycorax drew back and shook her head. "I abhor failure."

"Janeway is a loose cannon. We knew she couldn’t be controlled. She was too much of an idealist for that." West stepped forward. "If you had seen fit to advise us of the situation we would have taken measures…"

Sycorax didn’t bother to turn to face West this time. "I’ve seen how effective your measures are, Mr. West, and it truly makes me reconsider your effectiveness as an ally." She continued to advance on Warhol, enjoying the way he cowered before her. "Besides, it wasn’t necessary. Voyager was a minor diversion for my forces for a time, but no longer."

She continued to advance until her massive form effectively had Warhol pinned to a bulkhead. "Of course I plundered her before I destroyed her. Interesting what that brought to light."

Sycorax gazed into Warhol’s eyes, reveling in the fear that danced in them. "Do you know what lurked in their computer banks before I destroyed the ship?" Warhol wasn’t able to respond before Sycorax roared and spun to face West once more. "The Abomination!"

West and Seagal met each other’s gaze, before Seagal found his voice. "As we said, we thought the ship was destroyed. The Abomination would have been destroyed with it."

"Either it’s incompetence or you’re lying to me, Mr. Seagal." Sycorax’s eyes focused on him and narrowed. "Neither of which makes me very interested in keeping you as allies." The Adimha’s presence seemed to vibrate in the room, making it hard to remember that she was only a hologram here.

"We’ve been helpful to you in the past, provided tactical information on many sectors, planets, even our own ships and starbases." Seagal stepped forward. "Your packs have hunted in our galaxy guided by our information."

"What have you truly given me? A few worthless sectors and planets, none of which were worthy sport for my warriors." Sycorax spat the words out.

"We provided you with a list of several suitable planets, which your people razed to the ground. They’ve also destroyed several of our starbases and planets which were not on the approved list, but we haven’t withdrawn from our alliance," West snarled.

"I would respect you more if you had…" Sycorax met his growl with one of her own. "My people need more—I need more if I am going to comply with our alliance and let some remnant of your Federation remain."

The three operatives looked at one another in silent communication, before West fixed his gaze on Warhol. "Give us two days to evacuate all essential personnel from Earth to Vulcan. The admiralty has recalled the vast majority or the fleet to protect Sector Zero Zero One. At that time, the Sernaix can destroy the Earth."

It was more than enough.

"Commander, drop the cloak." Janeway tapped her comm badge and snarled as she stepped forward to pass through the special holographic wall.

Suddenly a blaring klaxon echoed through the halls of the small vessel and the bridge was bathed in red light. "Sir, proximity sensors indicate a vessel directly above us." The operations officer looked to Warhol, then back at his readouts with wide eyes. "It’s Voyager."

Warhol swallowed convulsively, watching as each of West, Seagal and the others bit down on his suicide tooth without hesitation. Warhol prepared himself, then bit down hard as well.


Their heads came up as a new figure appeared in place of Sycorax on the bridge. "By now, gentlemen, you’ve realized that your suicide devices are no longer working. By my authority as captain of Voyager and an officer of Starfleet, I am hereby placing you under arrest for the attempted destruction of Starfleet property, attempted murder of Voyager‘s crew, and most importantly, war crimes including but limited to conspiring with the enemy, unlawfully authorizing attacks on protected Federation planets thereby infringing on their rights under the Federation, the mass murder of all Federation citizens residing on those planets, the murder of all Starfleet officers on any vessel you compromised by…"

West ran his hand along his throat. "Cut her off!"

"Unable to end the transmission, but cutting audio," Seagal answered and looked to West for his next order.

"That sanctimonious bitch doesn’t understand what she’s done…" West spun and faced Seagal. "Set the destruct sequence."

Oz’s face took on a vaguely amused look, "They’re trying it, Commander."

"Thank you, Mr. Oz." Chakotay’s voice responded over the comm.

Chakotay leaned so he could look up at Seven standing above him. "Borg encryptions may not be sufficient for the Sernaix, but for Section 31… Do it, Seven."

A light smile graced Seven’s lips as her fingers danced over her console.

"We’re locked out…" Seagal spun to face West. "They’ve locked a tractor beam onto us. All engine systems are shutting down."

The roar of frustration that issued from West’s mouth was drowned out by the hum of the engines as they went offline.

"Admiral Ross, we have a slipstream conduit opening." It was the message from the control center they were dreading to hear. "Captain Picard reports that the fleet stands ready."

Nechayev stood, "Someone should court-martial that man for disobeying orders."

"You didn’t honestly think he’d stay where he was with Earth in the balance, did you, Alynna?" Owen Paris smirked slightly. "Any more than Katie would have if she could have been here."

Silence filled the room, as each of them took a moment to reflect on Captain Janeway. The captain they’d used as a scapegoat and retired with extreme prejudice, who had served eight years faithfully and been repaid with a trial, yet who had answered the call, insisting only that her crew be reinstated. At the time it had seemed like she was showboating, blackmailing them, but now it seemed a small price to have paid.

Now that it was too late.

They’d barely had a moment to enjoy being home before they’d been called to service once more. Owen knew the pain more intimately than most of them, but each had his own cache of pain, of guilt.

There would be a monument built if the Earth survived this.

Now that it was too late.

Suddenly a roar filled their ears from the comm link. From the operations center, but that was too quickly—the Sernaix couldn’t have gotten that close that soon. Their heads snapped up. Eyes looked at each other, uncomprehending. "Sirs, Admirals… it’s Voyager. The war’s over and apparently they have prisoners."

Janeway stood and watched as Warhol, West and Seagal were led out of Voyager‘s brig into the custody of Alynna Nechayev’s own staff unit.

"Sycorax will be beamed to the highest security cell we have available, Captain." Nechayev assured Janeway as she took custody of the PADD that held the dossiers that would, if not completely destroy Section 31, at least leave them severely crippled.

Nodding approvingly, she watched as Nechayev followed the procession out onto the docking ring before turning her attention to Admiral Ross. "Sir, I want you to know that I have secured several other copies of that documentation as well as the recorded conversation between Sycorax and those operatives in locations known to myself and a select few. If anyone tampers with the original, one of those copies will come to light within days, and this one will not go to Starfleet Command."

Ross arched an eyebrow at Janeway. He could have taken offense to her actions and her words, but he didn’t think she cared in the least. She didn’t have a clue just how powerful the organization she was trying to bring down was. Even he had had to capitulate to their machinations at one time. As he took the measure of Kathryn Janeway once more, he realized that she did understand, she just didn’t give a damn. He grinned slightly—it was probably how she had survived all that time in the Delta Quadrant.

"I don’t think you’ll have to worry, Captain." He watched as Nechayev disappeared around a corner. "Alynna Nechayev may be many things, but a Section 31 operative or sympathizer she isn’t."

Janeway turned and this time it was Owen Paris who fell under her scrutiny. "Owen, my crew…"

"…are heroes, Kathyrn. There won’t be any trials or expulsions this time. You’ve earned a rest, but Voyager and your crew will be back on duty as soon as they feel fit to stand it."

Kathryn sighed and nodded, "Then I think it’s time I went home."

Chakotay slipped into the holodeck to find Kathryn staring at a tapestry in her da Vinci hologram. "I thought we were packing to visit your mother?"

"I was… I thought that Phoebe would like to see my program, so I was going to download it into a chip." She held the small datachip above her head so he could see it.

His hands closed around her neck as he slowly began to knead the tight muscles he knew he would find. "I think you know this Kathryn, but you can’t download the program while it’s running." Chakotay exhaled convulsively as one of Kathryn’s sharp elbows connected with his ribcage.

"You deserved that, Mister," Kathryn growled playfully, then arched her neck into his hands.

Chakotay chuckled softly before he focused on her once more, "What is it, Kathryn?"

"Do you remember what Seven said? Her sense of foreboding." Kathryn’s voice was soft, almost a whisper.

Nodding, he continued his ministrations to her neck. "She thought it was Species 8472."

"It wasn’t, though… and it’s not the Sernaix or Section 31." Kathryn let the thought trail off.

"Rotor…" Chakotay voiced what Kathryn had been unwilling to. Any tension he’d managed to work out of her muscles abruptly returned and she stood, moving to lay her hand on the tapestry, tracing its battles with one finger.

"I can’t help thinking…" Kathryn felt herself turned around and single finger laid over her lips.

"Stop thinking, Kathryn. We’re home, we can relax now… and if we didn’t deserve it then, Spirits know we deserve it now." Chakotay raised his hand and stroked her hair. "It’s time to stop putting off today for a future that may never come."

She chuckled softly and slipped her hand into his. "Is it just me or do you just keep reusing the same tired old lines?"


Category : VoyagerVVSP

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