With the galaxy divided on so many different fronts, could an old nemesis of the Borg bring balance to the war?
Written by MaquisKat
Edited by Kira and Zeke
Produced by SaRa, MaquisKat and Coral
Released 7 Sep 2002
A red-orange explosion of light fills the otherwise darkened space as yet another Kazon vessel is torn apart by the lancing beams from a Sernaix scout. Relentlessly the scout ravages the inferior Kazon vessels, and as each explodes, it contributes to the growing field of debris and gases filling the once-empty sector.
A small squadron from the Alliance fleet, sent ahead into this area of space as scouts, had departed from the slipstream corridor produced by one of the Devore vessels only to find a swarm of Sernaix waiting for them, like a fox above a rabbit hole. Frantic calls to the main fleet for assistance had been sent back as the slipstream ship prepped for another jump, but the enemy had surrounded them, and the crews of the Alliance vessels had known their time in this existence was about to be cut short.
Explosions echo through the Alliance vessels, hull breaches ripping outward and allowing precious air to be released into the vast darkness that surrounds them. Though the battle rages on, they know it is only a matter of time before the Sernaix destroys them all.
As the death blow should fall, the space surrounding the Alliance ships goes dark once more. The Sernaix scouts veer away from them, returning to the Node ship that had held back, the Alliance ships not a viable target for its massive firepower. The answer to the Alliance crews’ unasked question comes—as the familiar corridor of a Borg transwarp drive opens before them and disgorges four cubes.
The Alliance crews fly into action, not watching to see who will be the victor in this battle of giants. For them, the only issue is repairing their drive systems and getting out of this sector of space before they once again become a target.
A swarm of Scout ships dive and dance around the cubes—exploding into fragments when one of the Borg’s larger cannons catch the more agile craft, but ripping huge rents in the fabric of the Borg vessels. Wounds that are slow to heal in the midst of battle. The cubes are unwieldy, moving relentlessly forward. Sickly green arcs of fire from their weapons lash out at the shimmering black-hulled monstrosities of the Sernaix.
The Node ship’s weapons cut into one of the Cubes at the same moment the Borg’s beams cut into the shimmering black of the Sernaix vessel. Explosions tear through both vessels as another group of Scouts and Corsairs race past on a strafing run, smaller explosions peppering the hulls of the other two cubes while the Battleships take position and begin to drill the Borg’s hulls with unerring accuracy.
On the Alliance vessels, Krenim and Devore commanders nod at each other in satisfaction as they watch slices being carved away from the Borg cubes and Sernaix vessels disintegrating and exploding before them. Perhaps they will live to report back to the main fleet after all. Their seemingly equally-matched enemies are tearing each other apart and giving them the precious time they need to repair their drives and make a strategic retreat.
Suddenly there is another burst of light directly in front of the Alliance forces, but behind the battle. A twirling burst of red and blue pours from the bow of the Sernaix Dreadnought, lancing through one Borg cube after the next until all that remains is the shattered debris.
Then the remaining Sernaix turn as one.
The Alliance squadron’s time is up.
Sycorax watched as the events in real space appeared in the swirling blue mists of the Realm. She could see the disorder, the chaos, the battle fury of the males aboard their vessels. So very predictable and easily controlled. Scenes of battles fought and won. The packs were becoming bored. The battles were too easy. There was no challenge to them. Even the Alliance was only interesting when Voyager was among their number.
A dull roar echoed through the Realm: the voices of the males, the ship minds, even the lesser females all crying out for blood. So short sighted, so predictable—so easily turned to her advantage.
Hundreds of voices, all crying out for the same thing yet such disunity among them. Each aching to be the one who dealt the death blow, all competing to prove their worthiness. Such fools. "Silence," she hissed. The word echoed through the Realm, carried to each Sernaix. She gestured to the visuals available to all from their most recent battles with the Borg and the Alliance. "These enemies are not worthy They are small! They are weak!"
The howl of agreement from every quarter echoed through the Realm like a high pitched Banshee wail. A death cry for all the races that dared stand in the way of their marauding forces. A lone male’s voice was heard above the rest: "I say we put them all out of their misery!"
The howls intensified, echoing his sentiment, the cries for the blood of the Devore, the Krenim, the Federation all billowing up in support of the new voice who had spoken as loudly as Sycorax.
Sycorax’s gaze narrowed and focused on the male, this usurper who dared make his voice as loud as hers. Instead of standing down, he moved himself closer in the Realm; his projection approached Sycorax, eyeing her defiantly.
An impassive gaze met his defiance. "You were saying, Adimh?"
"I say we attack! Destroy them all! Starting with our ancient enemy—the Federation!" He looked out amongst the others gathered for support and found it amid the cheers and adulation of the gathered Sernaix.
Sycorax shook her head slightly, then focused a disappointed yet unsurprised gaze on first the vocal male, then the others in the crowd. "Typical males, all of you! You have limited vision! We need a challenge—something that neither the Federation nor even the Dominion can give us!"
The cries quieted slightly. The idea of a challenge, a battle worthy of their prowess titillated their imaginations, yet their blood cried out for the blood of their ancient enemy. Those who now called themselves the Federation. The Adimh looked at her suspiciously, then vocalized the thought that he knew would be running through all of his crew’s minds. "Sycorax, we came here to conquer Earth! It is our destiny to conquer our greatest enemy no matter how easy it is!" The tone in his voice implied, Even if you have lost the will to do so.
Once more the cries of the males rallied around the lone Adimh, but Sycorax remained unimpressed. "And when all of these menial enemies are gone, what will you have left to play with? Your perception is not broad enough, Adimh. There is a reason why the females of our race are in charge of such matters." The cries fell silent and once again Sycorax held every Sernaix’s attention. A slow, malevolent grin formed on her face; she had again attained her rightful place among her people. "We need a more challenging enemy! Someone more worthy of our battles than the Federation, the Romulans, the Dominion or the Borg." There was a low thunder of approval. Even this most feared race had posed no challenge to them. The Borg were as easily trampled as the rest of the races they had encountered.
With a wave of the Adimha’s arm, new pictures appeared amongst the mists. A fleet of Borg cubes, the strongest of their enemies, engaged by ships they had not seen before. As the weapons of the new ships struck, the Borg vessels careened out of control, exploding spectacularly. Anticipation filled the room as each scene played, showing more and more destruction. The Borg were simply not able to stand against this race. Sycorax smiled; she could feel the tension in the air, the longing for battle that filled their veins, making them like puppets on a string for her. "Behold the prize we have detected for you. The strongest enemy the Management Cadre has yet found in this pitiful realm." More scenes of destruction play out before them. "That is a worthy enemy!"
The roar of agreement from the Sernaix filled the Realm with their voices in a deafening current. The Realm sang with the electricity of their lust, every male aching to enter into battle with this new enemy. As the roar quieted, Sycorax spoke again. "We must find these creatures." The Realm fell silent suddenly, all eyes focused on the lead female with suspicion. "They come from a place known to the aliens of this galaxy as ‘fluidic space’." More images appeared in the mists, this time showing the alien ships cruising in an unfamiliar realm. "This is fluidic space. The Management Cadre has been able to confirm its existence, but we have not yet found its location or how to enter it."
Once again the Adimh stood out from the crowd, his fist clenched in anger, his posture aggressive as the tension became volatile, no longer focused on the new enemy but on their leader who seemed to be tempting them with battles that they could not produce. "Why do you bring us ghosts of enemies? We have enemies who will bleed on our knives, whose agony will fill our ears. Why should we distract ourselves with phantoms? We need battle NOW."
A low roar of support echoed behind his words, but Sycorax raised her hand to silence them. "That is why we must change tactics. We will acquire this information before we make our assault." Sycorax looked around her, making eye contact with as many of the surrounding Sernaix as possible before turning her gaze back on the Adimh. "The attack brings great pleasure, makes your blood sing in your veins, but preparation is necessary if we are to engage this race. This is an enemy unlike any we have encountered before! They are worthy of the Sernaix!"
Another roar of excitement and agreement flooded the Realm; even the lone Adimh nodded in agreement, though he still watched Sycorax with narrowed eyes. "The Borg know the most about them. However, the Collective is of no use to us. We have not been able to retrieve any worthwhile information from them." She turned to where the mists were coalescing into another picture. "We had need of another source." Sycorax smiled evilly as the scene became recognizable: Voyager amid the Alliance ships.
This time even the lone Adimh’s voice echoed with the others, while Sycorax watched the Federation vessel with interest, plotting her next move.
Kathryn sat quietly on the couch as her eyes scanned the PADD in her hand. Picking up her cup from the coffee table, her eyes lit on Amelia snuggled up on a dirty T-shirt of Chakotay’s which the pup had stolen from their bedroom. Shaking her head slightly, Kathryn realized she wasn’t much better as she straightened the soft warm sweater that she had stolen from one of his drawers. As she sipped her coffee, her eyes went back to her report for a few moments before setting it aside, unable to concentrate. The glistening stars visible in the viewport caught her gaze and she looked out at them in wonder, still sipping her coffee. Finally she sets aside her coffee as well, standing and moving towards the bedroom. As she reaches the doorway, the hiss of the outer cabin doors opening draws her attention.
"Looks like you’ve seen better days." Kathryn couldn’t help but smile as she leaned in the doorway leading to their bedroom, even though Chakotay looked as though he’d been wrestling Targs for most of the day. "How was tactical training? I heard a rumor that deck 14 was off limits today, Tuvok’s orders."
Chakotay nodded and yawned. "You could say that. Tuvok’s security team is on their guard. It took me and my ‘team’ most of the day to keep them from turning all of us into prisoners." A small grin appeared on his face as she turned and continued into their bedroom, holding out her hand to indicate for him to follow her.
She stopped and put a soft hand on his chest as they both stood regarding one another. "Oh? I could think of worse things than seeing you behind bars, Commander."
Kathryn’s crooked grin and sparkling eyes made Chakotay chuckle slightly, until the fact that he was standing still caught up with him and he groaned in pain. "My feet haven’t felt this bad since Lieutenant Nimembeh made me run laps back in my old Academy days."
Shaking her head slightly, Kathryn laughed, then, putting one hand on his shoulder, brought her lips to his and brushed them lightly. She pulled away, her gaze filled with love, sympathy and a small amount of amusement. "A shower will do you good." She paused and shooed him towards the bathroom. "And I’ll have a little chat with Tuvok tomorrow morning. I can’t have my second in command out with blistered feet."
Smiling, Chakotay moved off towards the bathroom, while Kathryn busied herself turning down their bed.
Ayala shook his head as Harry laughed for the second time in several minutes. Bridge duty on the Gamma shift wasn’t his favorite activity, and when the watch commander didn’t share the jokes, it was even worse. "Care to let me in on the joke?"
Harry looked back towards the Security station from his place in the center seat, startled by Mike’s interruption of his thoughts. "Oh, just something Seven wrote."
"So that’s the new trend these days—disguising love letters as status reports. I should try that." Ayala chuckled slightly as he gave the younger man a hard time.
The look that Harry gave Ayala could have competed with Janeway’s lowest-level death glare, which didn’t convince Mike of the lieutenant’s next statement. "It’s not a love letter."
The sarcasm practically dripped from Ayala’s lips. "Of course it’s not."
Harry turned around about to retort, when a shrill alarm from the Engineering console attracted his attention. Shaking his head, he stood and jogged up the ramp towards the console. "Don’t tell me the slipstream is offline again. We just fixed it last week."
The lieutenant’s hands moved over the flashing console, his brow furrowing as he scrutinized the readouts. "It’s not the slipstream." Harry looked up at Ayala, the tension obvious in his eyes.
Chakotay stepped out of the bathroom, his attention focused on the tie of his pajama bottoms. Kathryn’s soft voice caught his attention.
"How long has it been, Chakotay?"
Looking towards their bed, his gaze softened as he watched Kathryn lying on her stomach beneath the covers, gazing out the viewport, Her chin was propped up on her hands; his dark blue pajama top covered her milky skin. Chakotay moved to his side of the bed and sat down on the edge. "How long has what been?"
"Since we were trapped behind enemy lines." Kathryn’s voice was far away, as though she wasn’t here with him, but back somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant.
Chakotay slid further into their bed and wrapped his arms around her, letting her know she wasn’t alone. "About five months, give or take a week."
Kathryn rolled into him, pulling her gaze away from the stars and settling her head against his chest. "It feels like forever. I’m almost tempted to say that –"
"It’s even worse than being stuck in the Delta Quadrant? Or the Time Bubble?" Chakotay finished her sentence before she could and felt her moan softly into his chest, nodding her head. He stroked her back comfortingly then sighed, "I know the feeling."
Chakotay had known she was going to sit up moments before she did, knowing her habits and her body at times better than she did. So that when she jerked upright, crossing her arms over her chest in frustration, her gaze being drawn back to the stars once more he offered no resistance to the seemingly sudden change. "This has been going on for too long. There has to be a turning point somewhere in the near future—I can’t accept that there won’t be." She paused, gathering her thoughts, working through the puzzles her mind presented her with. Her fist hit the mattress in frustration. "After all we’ve been through, I refuse to be brought down by a group of aliens who equate war to a game of Velocity on the holodeck. Sooner or later they’ll come across someone who’ll knock them off their high horse."
Even without looking at him, Janeway could ‘see’ the grin on his face. "Any candidates?"
"Considering that the Sernaix can bring down the Borg without a second thought? Not a one comes to mind." Kathryn chuckled ruefully.
Chakotay’s grin got bigger as he watched her stubbornly mulling over the problem in her mind. "Well, as I recall, you were responsible for bringing down the Borg one time as well."
"That was the old Borg. This new Borg is another thing all together, even if you don’t think about Rotor and his drones for the moment. The others they’re unpredictable. And they have the same urge for survival we do—that changes everything." Kathryn pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "They helped us the last time but how do we know how many factions are out there? Korok’s group, Rotor’s drone menace, the parts of his group that he hasn’t managed to lobotomize "
Chakotay knew she needed a sounding board; she wouldn’t sleep until she’d worked through these things in her mind. He pulled himself up, leaning back against the headboard of their bed. "You can’t know which group you’re dealing with until you’re in the thick of it could be a friend, a foe or "
"They’re a loose cannon waiting to go off, Chakotay." Kathryn looked at him. "At least two of those groups are fighting for their very survival. The third " She shook her head and looked back out at the stars.
Chakotay stroked her back gently with his hand, "One that even Captain Janeway won’t take on?"
"Not until I absolutely have to," Kathryn looked back into Chakotay’s eyes, her hand cupping his cheek for a moment. "I’m glad you’re here with me through all of this. I don’t tell you that enough."
A warm flush ran through his body from her words and he pulled her into his embrace, kissing the top of her head gently. "Where else would I be?" His voice was light as he looked down at her.
Kathryn looked up into his eyes, "If Starfleet had anything to say about it " Gesturing out towards the stars, she arched her eyebrow.
"Well, I guess that’s one of the advantages of picking up stray former first officers before becoming trapped behind enemy lines." Chakotay tapped the tip of her nose with the tip of his finger, then cradled her chin in his palm, drawing her face up to his, running gentle lips over hers.
Suddenly the ship pitched hard to starboard, breaking their kiss and causing Chakotay to land on top of Kathryn. He braced himself protectively over her as she reached for her communicator. "Janeway to the bridge. Harry, what’s going on up there?"
The Captain’s voice echoed through the bridge as he and Ayala moved from console to console. "A Sernaix Scout just decloaked and fired on us. It damaged our shields. We’ve lost it on sensors."
Harry turned as the sound of the turbolift doors opening caught his attention, most of the bridge crew except the captain and Chakotay moving quickly into their positions. "We’ll be right there, Lieutenant."
Tuvok relieved Ayala just as his console started beeping wildly. The Vulcan’s hands moved over the security terminal gracefully as he read the displays. "Intruder alert. I’m detecting several Sernaix on deck thirteen, proceeding towards the main computer core. Sealing off all access to the room and initiating Red Alert."
Moving quickly down the ramp, Harry took his place next to Tom as he worked on coaxing a more detailed report on Voyager’s status from the computer. Moments later the turbolift doors opened once more and disgorged a rumpled, if in-uniform command team. "Intruder alert? What the hell is going on Mr. Tuvok? I was told that the Sernaix were playing a game of cat and mouse," Janeway barked as she started down the ramp. The command team settled in the center seats and Chakotay set to work pulling up information on his own console.
"The Sernaix have beamed aboard. Their target seems to be the main computer core. I have dispatched a security detail." Tuvok looked towards Janeway briefly, then back at his console.
Janeway shook her head slightly and looked at Chakotay, slightly bemused. "And you were complaining about sore feet."
Chakotay looked up from his console and grinned at her gamely: " I guess it wasn’t a waste of time after all." He looked back at toward the tactical station. "Tuvok, have you detected any Sernaix ships on sensors?"
"Negative, Commander," the Vulcan responded without taking his gaze away from the sensors before him.
Looking towards the Captain, he shook his head. "Something tells me they’re still out there." Janeway met his gaze and nodded. He tapped his comm badge. "Chakotay to Seven."
Seven’s disembodied voice was loud over the background noise of the bridge. "Yes, Commander?"
"I want you to run full sensor sweeps. Look for any sign of Sernaix activity in the area." Chakotay paused for a moment before grinning and adding: "Make it snappy."
The bridge crew could almost hear Seven’s eyebrow arch. "Understood."
Janeway only shook her head at Chakotay and sighed slightly.
The clatter of armoured boots on the deck, the rhythmic cadence of their steps against the metal plates were the first indication of the arrival of Voyager’s security forces to the breached area. They spilled out of the turbolift, compression phasers at the ready as they quickly took in their surroundings. The leader’s hand pressed to one side of his helmet as Tuvok’s voice came through the comm: "They are about sixty meters from your position, Lieutenant. Proceed with caution."
The leader motioned to his men and watched as they passed before him. "Aye sir, we’re moving into position." As he cut the comm, he followed the rest of his troop around a bend in the corridor, readying them all for the attack on the intruders position.
The Sernaix strode towards the computer core as though the ship was their own. There were no thoughts of stealth in their attack. If the creatures aboard the ship chose to die at their hands, then so be it. The leader of the invaders looked down at his personal data device, comparing the data provided by the Management Cadre to their position within Voyager. He nodded to another of the Sernaix; from their data this was the entrance to Voyager’s computer core.
This Sernaix reached out towards the door panel, his hand touching the surface of the display for a moment before there was a shift and his hand phased through, into the circuitry beyond. He closed his eyes in concentration and moments later snapped them open once more at the same moment the doors to the computer core hissed open.
A nod from his leader was the only acknowledgement he was afforded before the Sernaix force filed into the darkness beyond the door.
The lieutenant peered out from the edge of the corridor, motioning to his men to come in low. The corridor was empty and abandoned but the doors to the computer core were no longer sealed. Looking back at his team, the lieutenant nodded then motioned them forward, picking up the rear they moved into the core room, ready to defend their ship.
Tuvok looked up from his console and focused on Janeway once more, "They have found their way to the main computer core. Forcefields are in place, however there is no means to know how effective they will be."
Janeway looked up towards Tuvok, her brow furrowing as she spoke. "Assume the worst, Commander; place those forcefields to maximum power."
Quickly keying in the commands necessary, Tuvok’s eyebrow arched as the computer fed back the status of his requests. "Ineffective, Captain. The Sernaix have breached the barrier."
Janeway stood, looking at the viewscreen for a split second before striding up the ramp to stand alongside Tuvok. "Then we’ll have to catch them on the way out. Seven, how are those scans coming?"
"I have located a Sernaix vessel orbiting a planet three million kilometers from our position."
Janeway nodded and moved to the console overlooking the command deck, bracing both hands against its surface. "Mr. Paris, set a course."
Tom nodded. "Yes, ma’am." If this wasn’t crunch time, he didn’t know what was.
Looking at the viewscreen from the upper deck, Janeway watched as the small planet they had been orbiting slowly moved out of sight and the red globe of the next planet started to increase in size on the screen before them. Striding down the ramp, Janeway settled once more into her command seat. "Tuvok, any word on the main computer core?"
"The lieutenant is waiting to make his report, Captain."
Janeway nodded curtly. "Put it through."
The security officer’s voice came over the comm. "They’re gone, Captain. They were protected by a forcefield. We couldn’t get a good shot off before they beamed out." The lieutenant sounded as frustrated as Janeway felt.
Shaking her head, she looked towards Chakotay, who nodded slightly. "Thank you, Lieutenant," she said. "Mr. Tuvok, engage Battle Mode."
Chakotay could read the sheer frustration on her face as she looked at him once more before she stood and focused on the viewscreen in front of her. Only the planet was visible. Janeway turned and nodded at Tuvok.
Using Seven’s enhanced scans, Tuvok projected the Sernaix ship’s current position and powered Voyager’s Sernaix weapons systems. Tuvok nodded, indicating his readiness to Janeway. She turned on one foot to face the viewscreen again. "Fire."
Arches of fire sped from Voyager’s bow, coursing down towards the planet. Volley after volley streamed through the vacuum of space until a shimmer in the darkness revealed a Sernaix scout in their line of fire. As it decloaked, it spun ninety degrees vertical and shot straight up and away from Voyager.
"Destroy that vessel, Tuvok."
Suddenly the security team leader’s voice echoed through the bridge once more. "We’ve tried accessing the computer core, Captain. We can’t get in."
Janeway’s head snapped up as she considered the implications of the lieutenant’s words. "At all? Not even with the emergency access codes?"
The stress in the lieutenant’s voice was audible. "Not at all, Captain."
Harry turned suddenly towards Janeway. "They’re powering their engines "
Janeway faced her security chief. "Mr. Tuvok."
Tuvok’s fingers flew over his console once more, and a bright flash of light flew from Voyager’s torpedo bays, lancing towards the scout. Janeway counted the seconds to impact but a split second before it could strike the other ship jumped to slipstream.
"No effect, Captain," reported Tuvok, sounding frustrated for a Vulcan. "The ship engaged its slipstream before the torpedo made contact."
Janeway regarded her bridge crew speculatively. "I don’t suppose anyone can shed some light on what just happened?"
"Definitely not typical Sernaix strategy," Tom ventured, turning to face the command chairs.
Janeway settled down in her seat once again with a sigh. She looked towards Chakotay, then back at the rest of the senior staff. "Agreed. Why block our access to the core?"
More practical matters concerned Lt. Kim. "We’re going to have to find a way back into the database, check its integrity."
"Get on it, Harry." Janeway smiled approvingly and watched as the Lieutenant moved to the back of the bridge to man the Master Situation display. Looking once again at Chakotay, she rubbed her forehead. "They’re up to something, and I don’t like the looks of it."
Chakotay reached across the console and settled a reassuring hand on Janeway’s shoulder. She smiled slightly then looked back towards the upper deck as Harry’s voice carried over the background chatter of status reports. "We’ll have to conduct a more thorough analysis, but from what I can tell so far, they took information on Species 8472."
Janeway’s head snapped back to look at Chakotay. "8472. Why 8472?"
"The right adversary?" Chakotay ventured on instinct.
The Captain’s eyes narrowed. "That’s a long shot, Commander." She settled back in her chair, considering all the information they had. "Why couldn’t they get the information from the Borg? Surely they destroyed enough ships to have gathered the complete Borg database."
"Borg tactical data can be hard to decipher."
Janeway nodded, meeting his gaze. "The Sernaix have never been one for intellectual pursuits " She stood and straightened her uniform. "I’ll be with Lieutenant Kim. We need full access to our core."
Chakotay nodded and watched as Kathryn strode up the ramp, her determination visible in every step.
Two figures crouched close to the open console, watching as Harry pushed his arm deeper into the mass of circuitry, feeling for the release. After a moment he removed his arm and smiled at Captain Janeway. "Unlocking it shouldn’t take more than a few hours. You were right, Captain."
Janeway and Seven both straightened at once, then offered their hands to help Harry up from the uncomfortable position he was left in. "That’s one good thing," said the captain. "Now how long will it take to find out exactly how much they got?"
Seven turned her attention to the console and began to access what information she could. "I’m working on a Borg algorithm that will aid in the process. It shouldn’t take more than five hours to complete the search."
"Good. I want the results by oh eight hundred tomorrow morning." Janeway started to move away then turned back to look at Seven. "Did you think about asking our Sernaix friend what he thinks? He’s provided us with information before. Maybe he knows something."
Seven bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement. "I will."
Janeway watched Harry and Seven for a moment. "Good. I want you to track down every last teraquad of information the Sernaix took – there’s to be NO room for speculation." She paused then smiled at them both. "Get to work, you two."
Turning their attention back the console, they started their work in unison. Harry sighed and looked at Seven. "I guess we’re going to be burning the midnight oil."
She only afforded Harry a glance before returning her attention to the display before her. "So it would appear."
Harry shook his head and smiled before turning his attention back to his work. "No need for formality, Seven."
A slight smile graced her lips as she looked at Harry once again. "It’s good practice." Harry smiled back at her, understanding her reasoning completely before they both turned back to the task at hand.
Sycorax lounged back as the mists of the Realm swirled up to support her form. There was a shimmer in the mists and a new view coalesced. The Adimh who had so vehemently challenged her appeared. "I hope you have good news, Adimh."
An arrogant grin spread across his face as he watched her. "Yes, Adimha."
"And?" Sycorax snarled.
The Adimh’s grin became self-congratulatory. "Complete success, Adimha. We have retrieved the information."
Sycorax rose from her place, the view in front of her remaining at eye level. "Very good. Now you can proceed with the second part of the plan."
The Adimh nodded respectfully. "Thank you, Adimha."
The visual winked shut and another of the Delta Quadrant, a fleet of Sernaix vessels moving sleekly through the blackness of space, appeared before her. Slowly the rumble of Sycorax’s malevolent laughter could be heard throughout the Realm.
The tension in the briefing room was palpable as the senior staff filed in. Janeway paced behind her normal seat at the table, a cup of coffee in hand while Chakotay kept an eye on her without her knowing it, the expression on his face somewhere between amusement and concern. As they took their seats, Janeway set her mug down on the table, braced her hands on the back of her chair and turned to face all of them. "Harry, Seven, progress report."
"We were able to get full access to the database overnight." Seven looked from Janeway to Kim. "What we found was quite intriguing."
Harry met the Captain’s gaze, his face grim. "The information they were after was very specific. Seven and I are still speculating on why they would be interested in it."
Janeway, who hadn’t slept after returning to her quarters, didn’t have the patience to wait. "Stop speaking in riddles. What was the information they were after?"
Kim and Seven glanced at each other. Seven nodded slightly to Harry, who continued: "That’s the part that might surprise you."
Wearily, Janeway returned to her seat, settling down before re-establishing eye contact, "Mr. Kim, nothing you can tell me will surprise me."
Seven focused on the captain once again. "They took everything in Voyager’s database pertaining to Species 8472. Tactical schematics, biological data and strategy."
Janeway’s gaze became intense, the weariness suddenly gone. She leaned forward, her hands braced on the table, then slowly stood. "Only Species 8472?"
"Yes, Captain," Seven stated impassively.
Tom looked towards the first officer. "Chakotay was right "
The Doctor began playing devil’s advocate. "Don’t be so hasty, Mr. Paris. For all we know, the Sernaix may have already made contact with them in another part of the galaxy. They may be trying to protect themselves."
Chakotay nodded. "The Sernaix were staying out of the Northwest Passage. It could very well be that they need more information in order to stand a chance against them. 8472 is a formidable enemy."
Janeway moved to the viewport, looking out into the starfield beyond. "Let’s stop the speculation. That’s not going to get us anywhere." She turned back toward the staff, a plan already formulated in her mind. "Seven, start long range scans. See if you can detect any quantum singularities."
Seven looked thoughtful. "Quantum singularities will be hard to distinguish from other spatial anomalies. Thorough scans will have to be conducted on the data."
Having already considered that, Janeway merely nodded in confirmation. "Do it."
"Permission to speak freely, Captain?" Everyone including Janeway and Kim paused for a moment at the former Borg’s words. Finally Janeway broke free of her stunned expression and nodded for Seven to continue. "Although our last encounter with Species 8472 proved peaceful, they should not be trusted."
Janeway smirked slightly and looked at Chakotay before looking at Seven once more. "I’ll keep that in mind. Dismissed."
Once again Sycorax stood before all the members of the Sernaix – every pack, every Adimh, every Adimha. She looked out at the forms visible in the swirling mists, her bearing regal. "The Management Cadre has glorious news! Within a few hours, a triumphant battle will be fought. One worthy of story."
The Realm was again filled with the cheers, battle cries and the throbbing pulse of the Sernaix blood lust. Sycorax felt it as a palpable presence in the Realm, one she welcomed as an old dear friend. The pleasure that flowed through her was visible in her face as she spoke once more. "May you all make the Management Cadre proud."
Ankin Rotor stood among the drones, their minds chained together as he used their brain power to form one massive organic supercomputer all directed by one intelligence – his own – and all focused on one goal.
The assimilation of the Sernaix.
Scrolling through the latest round of reports from Seven was disappointing to Voyager’s captain. No useful data had come from their scans and since Janeway had called an end to the speculation, Seven didn’t attempt to draw any conclusions from what she had found.
Captain Janeway was moving to turn off the display between the command chairs when Voyager pitched hard to port. She was thrown to the deck, landing with a jarring thud.
Wincing, she slowly pushed herself upright. Her body protested every move. "Report," she barked out, sounding more terse than normal from the pain inflicted on her.
Harry’s hands flew over his console. "It’s a shockwave. Originating from heading forty seven mark two."
"What kind of shockwave?" Janeway asked as she settled back into her seat, shifting to cushion the more tender parts of her body.
Harry paused for a moment, his fingers tapping frantically. "I can’t say for sure."
Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose. She could feel the stress like a palpable presence in her head. "Give me the most plausible explanation, Lieutenant."
"Wait, I’ve confirmed it. Its some kind of quantum singularity, nothing I’ve ever seen before." Harry continued working furiously at his console, trying to pin down more data.
Janeway stood and moved to join Harry at Ops, standing behind him and settling one hand on his shoulder. She leaned over him to look at the readings he was analyzing "Could it be Species 8472?"
Harry’s brow furrowed, "There’s no way to know at this range, Captain."
Straightening up, Janeway’s hands settled on her hips. "Mr. Paris, set a course for the source of the shock-wave."
"Aye, Captain." Tom fed the new course co-ordinates into the helm and Voyager jumped to transwarp.
Glorious explosions of colour and light flashed through the various images displayed before Sycorax. In her mind she could hear the gleeful howls of the males as they engaged in battle after mindless battle against their new foe. Another visage coalesced in front of her and she regarded the Sernaix male coolly.
The Adimh’s words flowed to her through the Realm. "The battle goes well, Adimha."
She shook her head slightly. The words were not necessary—the fire in the Adimh’s eyes and the tension in his body were enough to let her know how the battle fared. Sycorax met his gaze and smiled slightly. "That is good to hear. I hope you are all well amused."
"Yes, my Adimha," the Adimh answered, the impatience to be back in the thick of the battle singing in his body.
Sycorax waited for a moment, enjoying the feeling of control she had over her subordinates. The sheer power of it. Knowing he would not leave until she bid him to. "Very well," she said at last. With a wave of her hand, the connection was closed as were all the connections from the Realm to the universe where her people basked in the chaos of war.
Turning slowly, Sycorax spoke again. "I have decided your suggestion had merit."
There was a shimmer in the mists as West appeared before her. "My suggestion?"
"You said Species 8472 would prove a worthy adversary."
West’s face betrayed nothing as he spoke. "I’m glad you agree, Adimha."
"We shall see." Sycorax looked thoughtful then fixed the Section 31 agent with a dreadful glare. "I hope for your sake you know what you are doing."
"I’m sure 8472 will provide an excellent diversion for your packs."
Sycorax remained unconvinced. "So you say. The Management Cadre will follow your advice." She paused significantly. "For now."
West arched his eyebrow. "That is all we ask, Adimha."
Sycorax nodded as the man disappeared, then set to analyzing once again her alliance with Section 31.
Sernaix vessels of every shape and configuration met the fleet of Species 8472 head on. Lances of energy pierced hulls, rendering vessels on both sides to parts and pieces. There was a flurry of movement as squadrons of smaller fighter-like ships rolled and twisted, strafing the larger vessels before being caught in the beam of one of the larger cannons and shattering into space dust.
Both sides met in a destructive death dance, whirling and spinning, explosions and showers of missiles scattering throughout the darkness surrounding them. Species 8472 engaged ferociously, looking to end the battle, to cause the greatest amount of damage in the least amount of time and at that moment they were succeeding.
The Adimh watched as another Sernaix battleship exploded, the offending vessel of this Species 8472 flying through the wreckage as though it was insignificant. He narrowed his gaze. This species was a challenge, but the Sernaix would prevail as they always had before.
He turned to his Zvir. "Torak, send a message to the nearest Dreadnought ship. I want to show these things just how powerful the Sernaix are!"
The other Sernaix bowed in acknowledgement before turning his attention to the console before him. "Yes Adimh. Sending message."
A Sernaix slipstream conduit opened suddenly and disgorged a Dreadnaught. The huge ship was barely in the space when its cannons opened fire. The red and blue beams punched through several of 8472’s larger vessels, and the explosions from these vessels caught many smaller ones, ripping them to shreds as well.
The dramatic turn in the tides of battle did not go unnoticed by Species 8472. The most maneuverable of their vessels regrouped as quickly as possible and in moments were gone, retreating from the scene of their astounding defeat.
On each of the Sernaix vessels the same scene was repeated in one way or another. The vessels were filled with lusty victory cries, the Sernaix howling to their god, acknowledging their triumph.
"This has been a great battle for the Sernaix." The blood lust in the male’s eyes, instead of being quenched, is only ignited further by the victory.
Another nodded, a similar expression on his face. "The most glorious battle ever!"
Sycorax could hear the thunder of her people flowing through the Realm. Their satisfaction made them malleable. She stood and opened channels to all the Sernaix vessels. "Sycorax to Sernaix fleet. Prepare to enter Fluidic space."
Settling back once more she reveled in the pulse of thunder that seemed now to be a permanent resident in her domain.
Ankin Rotor’s intellect was drawn to data being fed to him from one of his drones in a cube near the Northwest Passage. Transferring his intelligence there, he took in the scene before him – the remains of hundreds of 8472 and Sernaix vessels and the residual energy from hundreds of slipstream signatures, mostly Sernaix, entering fluidic space.
Intrigued by this latest turn of events, he added this data to the rest that he was analyzing, knowing instinctively that he was a step closer to his answer and another step closer to his ultimate goal.
Captain Janeway stood as the warp field cleared from the view screen as Voyager dropped out of transwarp into a debris field that seemed to occupy most of the sector. "Looks like we’re a little late."
Scans of the debris started to accumulate as their sensors analyzed the remnants of the battle. "Its a mixture of Sernaix and Species 8472 debris," said Harry. "It’s safe to say it was a pretty big fight."
Harry’s words didn’t seem to register with Janeway as she stood mesmerized by the battlefield before them. Concerned, Chakotay moved behind her, his hand settling on her back. "Looks like we were right."
"We still don’t know who started the attack." Janeway’s words were the only acknowledgement of his presence by her side.
Chakotay smiled slightly. Only Kathryn would give the Sernaix the benefit of the doubt. "True, but when was the last time we saw Species 8472 go around provoking other races?"
A small smile graced Janeway’s lips as she looked at her first officer, then moved to return to her seat. Chakotay followed her lead. "I want to know exactly who is winning this fight," she said as she settled herself in her chair. "Harry, can you estimate how many ships are here in this debris?"
"No, Captain. Sernaix hulls don’t remain solid when their ships are destroyed. There could have been anywhere from 100 to 10 000 ships."
Janeway leaned back in her chair and tapped her command console in agitation. "Then we still don’t know who started all this."
"Or who’s winning," Chakotay’s soft words draw Janeway’s attention and their eyes meet for a moment.
Tuvok’s voice drew the gazes of both members of the command team to him. "I believe we may be able to receive some answers to our questions."
Tuvok looked at the captain and arched an eyebrow, "A quantum singularity is forming directly ahead of us."
Janeway and the rest of the staff turned their attention to the main viewscreen where the awesome sight of a quantum singularity opening was before them. Several vessels, their configuration the same as those they had seen Species 8472 use, exited the anomaly, their course set to intercept Voyager and their weapons powering.
Grim expressions fell over the bridge crew’s faces as they all fixated on the scene before them, only Janeway’s voice drawing them from the moment. "Brace for impact."
Species 8472’s ships veered off of the collision course abruptly, maneuvering to surround Voyager.
"Mr. Paris, evasive maneuvers." Janeway’s voice was clear above the klaxon of the red alert. "Tuvok, hold your fire. Reinforce the shields, but don’t return fire for the moment."
Several full energy volleys from 8472 impacted the shields, rocking Voyager and forcing the crew to grasp whatever they could to stabilize themselves. Tuvok’s voice rose above the din of the flood of reports from all parts of the ship. "Shields are at 30 percent."
Janeway hissed as though Voyager’s pain were her own. "We can’t take too many more hits like that. Mr. Kim, open a channel."
Harry moved to complete the Captain’s request as promptly as possible; their lives were riding on it. "Aye, Captain."
"Species 8472, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. We are not responsible for the attacks on your vessels in this sector. We were struck by a massive wave form from a quantum singularity and came to investigate and lend assistance. I repeat we were not responsible for the attacks on your vessel." Janeway looked at Chakotay and he nodded slightly.
Tuvok looked towards the command center. "Species 8472 is breaking their formation and pulling back to defensible distance, Captain."
Janeway grinned slightly at Chakotay. "It seems we have their attention."
This time it was Chakotay’s turn to voice his doubts. He looked at Janeway with a wary gaze. "For better or worse."
Giving Chakotay a small glare, Janeway stood. "Think positive, Commander. Mr. Kim, is there any response?"
"No, Captain." Harry’s voice was steady despite the tension of being in what amounted to a Mexican stand-off.
"Re-transmit the hail on all frequencies." Janeway stood watching the ships with her hands braced on her hips.
Tuvok’s voice broke the silence. "Captain, I’m detecting an unauthorized transport in progress."
Janeway turned, her eyes wide. "Where?" Her question was answered before Tuvok could speak as the telltale whine of a transporter beam was added to the background noise of the bridge. When the red shimmering light faded, three familiar figures stood before them. Boothby, Admiral Bullock and Commander Archer all focused their angry glares on Janeway and the rest of the bridge crew.
Boothby moved down the ramp towards the command center and Janeway moved forward to meet him halfway. "What the hell do you think you’re doing? This goes against everything we agreed with in your ‘truce’ four years ago!"
Chakotay stood silently, fixing his gaze on the other intruders and backing Janeway up with his physical presence. Tuvok silently withdrew his phaser, keeping it ready for any eventuality. Janeway met Boothby’s gaze with an unwavering glare of her own. "We aren’t responsible for whatever happened here. We’re investigating to find out what happened."
"You’re telling us you’re not responsible for the attack on Fluidic space?" Admiral Bullock’s eyes narrowed, trying to judge whether he believed the humans or not.
Commander Archer had already made up her mind. Fixing an angry glare on Janeway she began advancing on her. "Then why do you have their technology embedded within your ship?"
Janeway turned to face Archer, her command mask completely in place. "We are not responsible for any of the attacks. We are at war with the Sernaix." Janeway paused for a moment to look back at Boothby before continuing. "In fact, our whole galaxy is at war."
Archer shook her head in disbelief. "The whole galaxy at war?" She began to move towards the Captain once more, menacingly. "Impossible."
Suddenly Chakotay was between the two women, counting on his former entanglement with Archer to buy him some time. "Give us a chance to explain."
Archer straightened, looking into Chakotay’s eyes. She glanced back at the other two members of her party before she looked at Chakotay and nodded once again. "Very well."
"You’d better have proof, or there’ll be hell to pay," Boothby added, looking directly at Janeway.
Janeway nodded and gestured towards the briefing room. "After you."
After long and difficult negotiations with members of Species 8472, we have finally reached an agreement of sorts. They are still wary, however I believe they are beginning to understand our position.
The emissaries from Species 8472 looked at each other as Janeway and her staff finished presenting all their information regarding the Sernaix, as well as listening to the testimonials offered by Kashyk and the other Alliance leaders. "It’s all very interesting," said Boothby after a brief silence. "But I still don’t see why the Sernaix would attack us."
Kashyk regarded the aliens with vague disgust as though their inability to grasp such as simple concept made them infinitely less worthy than he and his race. Janeway leveled a slight glare at the Devore before turning her attention to their guests once more. "It’s part of their nature. Best if you don’t try to understand it."
Boothby rose from his seat and moved to the viewport before he turned to face Janeway. "That doesn’t help us much. What happens if they continue their attacks?"
"There is only so much we can take, Captain," said Archer. "We’re not indestructible. You know that as well as we do." She watched Janeway closely as though trying to gauge the human woman’s honesty from her response.
Janeway still had her attention focused on Boothby. The alien in the form of Starfleet’s most revered groundsman shook his head at the starship captain. "These Sernaix had a hundred thousand years to spread their race throughout the phased galaxy and make themselves strong. Fighting this way is like your David fighting Goliath, Katie."
"We all have a drive for self-preservation. Sometimes it’s fight or flight. In this situation it’s fight. We have no choice in the matter." Janeway fixed her gaze on Boothby, unable to withhold a smile at the alien’s use of the name the real Boothby had called her so many times so long ago.
The alien Boothby looked thoughtful as he mulled over Janeway’s words. Archer stood and moved to where she could look Janeway in the eyes. "Are you suggesting we join your futile attempts, Captain?"
Janeway stood and met the other woman’s gaze. "It’s the only way. For you and for us. You can only hide in Fluidic space for so long. Once they’re done with us, you’ll be next." She considered the debris field that they were currently sitting in as she settled in her seat once more and looked up at the aliens. "Unless of course, they’re more interested in you."
There was silence for a moment while the aliens considered Janeway’s words and the debris field outside. Finally Boothby spoke. "Then I guess we fight."
Sipping her coffee, Janeway reviewed the events of the past few days in her mind, analyzing their situation and projecting outcomes now that they had yet another new ally. The chime to her ready room pulled her back to the present. "Come."
Seven stepped through the door and approached the desk in her typically efficient style. Janeway smiled and wondered if this was something that would ever change, like Seven’s new grasp of courtesy. "Seven, what can I do for you?"
Seven seemed to be carefully considering her words as she spoke. "I wish to speak with you about our current situation."
Janeway set down her cup, intrigued by Seven’s caution. "Go ahead."
Taking a deep breath, Seven continued, "I do not believe that this is a good idea."
"Why? Species 8472 haven’t given us any reason to be suspicious of them." Janeway leaned back and looked up at Seven, wondering why the former Borg was having such difficulty with the situation.
Seven shifted uncomfortably. "I believe the term is ‘intuition’. I feel that this is unwise."
The surprise that this statement brought must have shown on Janeway’s face because Seven looked away slightly. The Captain swiftly got her feelings under control and addressed Seven once more. "I’ll keep it in mind Seven, but you can’t expect me to ruin this alliance over a feeling." It was as though a shield fell over Seven’s body. She pulled herself straighter, her body seeming almost stiff. Janeway instantly regretted having to dismiss Seven’s intuition, but Species 8472 might be the lynch pin in saving the galaxy from the menace of the Sernaix. She couldn’t set that aside based on a hunch.
When Seven spoke, even her voice was colder. "As you wish, Captain."
Janeway pushed aside her regret, once again the consummate Starfleet Captain. "If that’s all you’re dismissed." Seven turned swiftly and left the Captain’s inner sanctum, leaving Janeway to contemplate the situation once more.
The blue glow of the warp core danced across B’Elanna’s face as she focused on the console in front of her. Her fist came down against the panel as the annoying buzz of a bad circuit went off once again. Hunching back into the circuitry she didn’t see Tom, but she heard him. "The warp core is just fine, B’Elanna. Helm reads normal."
She answered him with a shake of her head. "I’ve learned on Voyager that in this situation, I should prepare for the worst."
Tom sighed and decided to try to distract her with another line of thought, hoping to lure her away from Engineering. "Quite a day, wasn’t it?" He smiled brightly. "The captain turns yet another enemy into an ally. I wonder if this will be enough to stop the Sernaix "
B’Elanna cut off his ramblings and glared up at him. "I have absolutely no idea Tom, and frankly now is not the time to get thoughtful. Aren’t you supposed to be on the bridge?"
Tom took her burgeoning anger in stride as he smiled down at her, his voice teasing. "I show a little concern and this is the thanks I get?"
Sighing, B’Elanna looked at her erstwhile husband. "I’m busy, Tom." Tom’s grin widened and he watched B’Elanna as her next thought caught her by surprise. "Where’s Miral? If we come close to the Sernaix, she’ll need to be watched closely."
"Now you know why I showed up. Sam has Miral for the time being. She’ll be fine." Tom leaned against the console and stroked his wife’s cheek.
The half-klingon’s face softened as she looked into her husband’s eyes. "Thank you, Tom. It completely slipped my mind. I’ve been so busy here."
Tom could see the guilt beginning to build and he kissed his wife’s forehead gently. "It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I know Voyager – we’ll make it out of this. We always do."
Happy to hear Tom being positive about Voyager and their chances for survival once again, B’Elanna leaned up into his kiss. "Yes, we do. But our chances will be even better if I have the engines working at peak efficiency."
Tom laughed and shook his head. "I’ll leave you to it."
The mists of the Realm parted once more for Sycorax, coalescing into the face of the Adimh who would lead their forces to glory in fluidic space. "I hear our packs are ready to begin."
The male inclined his head towards Sycorax. "Yes, Adimha."
"Very good." The mists divided and swirled with a wave of her hand, revealing hundreds of Sernaix. "Welcome, my packs!" The thunder of their approval rolled through the Realm once more. "We are all assembled today for the greatest glory the Sernaix have ever known; the most challenging battle in our history!"
She paused again, letting the packs’ fervor climb before she continued. "It will be glorious. The presence of both our Dreadnought ships stationed in this area of the galaxy will ensure our success in this mission!" The thunder grew to a great roar. She knew her people’s hearts and minds and could play them to perfection. "Very soon, we will enter Fluidic space and on their own home ground we will defeat them. The Sernaix will triumph!"
Rotor’s eyes flashed open and an evil grin spread across his face. Success was his. Resistance was futile. The Sernaix would be assimilated. This story would end. The galaxy would end.
The ready room doors opened and the bridge staff snapped to full attention. Lieutenant Kim stood smartly and snapped a quick salute to Janeway. "Captain on the bridge."
Kathryn smiled slightly then looked around the bridge, each of her officers offering her the same respect, the same acknowledgement of her authority before she led them into battle once more. "At ease, everyone." She moved down to the center of the bridge and her eyes met Chakotay’s briefly before she turned to look at each of her officers in turn.
"Many times we’ve been right here. Too many times." A low chuckle came from several of her officers. Janeway smiled as well and moved back to touch the plaque between the two command chairs. "I think Mr. Paris said it best when he convinced his father to use that quote as the motto for this ship." She traced the outline of the letters with a finger before looking towards Tom, who turned in his place to watch her. "Sometimes you do have to punch your way through."
Chakotay nodded from his place beside his chair, acknowledging her words as she continued: "That’s exactly what we’re going to do here today. Seven has detected a large grouping of Sernaix vessels, including two of their Dreadnought ships." She looked up towards Tuvok and Seven standing on the upper deck. "The only ships of that class stationed in the Delta Quadrant." Now she turned towards Harry at Ops. "With the help of Species 8472 and the Alliance, we’re going to stop them." She looked around the bridge once more, making eye contact with each officer – both new and old – before she spoke again. "A victory here means we stand a good chance of liberating the Delta Quadrant from the Sernaix." There were smiles on the faces of all the officers now. "Stations, everyone."
The captain nodded to Chakotay, then they both took their seats in unison. Janeway focused on Tom once again. "Mr. Paris, let’s punch our way through."
"Aye, Captain." Tom smiled as he set the course and looked over at Harry, who was engaging Battle Mode and activating the cloak. Voyager jumped to transwarp and disappeared from space.
Sycorax watched with interest as her fleet assembled at the focal point where they would open a portal to fluidic space. She leaned back as yet another Adimh appeared in the mists. "Adimha," he said, "it is with pride that I tell you this."
Her expression of boredom as she glanced towards the Adimh didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm. "What is it, Adimh?"
"Most of our ships located in this quadrant are coming for the battle. It will be glorious." The bloodlust in his voice called to Sycorax but she couldn’t help but be wary of this battle. They had succeeded in defeating this Species 8472 in this space, but a creature in its own territory was always more dangerous.
She shook off her sense of foreboding and focused on the Adimh again. "Yes," she said. "It will be glorious."
A relatively empty area of space was no longer empty as ship after ship of the Sernaix fleet appeared from slipstream. Tiny corsairs gathered like swarms of biting insects, moving together in formation. Agile scouts were set at the front, their speed and agility giving them the ability to outmaneuver almost any ship they matched themselves against. Battleships pulled into formation, lending heavier fire power to the smaller vessels. A huge slipstream corridor opened, one of the behemoth Dreadnaughts sliding out to join the assembling fleet. Swarms of corsairs and even some of the scout ships slid close to the lumbering giant to link and be absorbed into the greater whole.
We’re on our way to the rendezvous point of the Sernaix fleet. Species 8472 has agreed to meet us there. Something about Seven of Nine’s instinct resonates with me. I must admit I’m tempted to heed it and not go any further but the fact remains that the Sernaix must be confronted and stopped. If we can’t succeed with the assistance of the Alliance and Species 8472 then I fear the Alpha Quadrant is already lost. The crew is tense and tempers are flaring but I have to keep believing that we will succeed.
Janeway took a sip of her coffee, grimacing when she found it cold. Again. The door slid open and Chakotay approached her desk, a slight smile on his face. Setting down the PADD he was carrying he looked at her, concern lining his features. "B’Elanna wanted you to see this." Janeway picked up the PADD, glancing at it before she set it aside and looked up at him. "A lot on your mind?" he asked.
"You could say that." Janeway stood and carried her cup to the recycler, tossing it in before she turned back to look at her first officer again. "Am I doing the right thing by sending this ship into battle now, Chakotay? Are we even prepared for this?"
Meeting her gaze, Chakotay’s face showed his unwavering support and approval. "Yes and yes. The crew are as prepared as they’ll ever be."
"I shouldn’t be second guessing myself at the last minute, its just something Seven said caught me off guard." Janeway moved to the couch and sat down, motioning for Chakotay to join her.
He settled down beside her moments later, admiring her reflection in the viewport behind her. "What did she say?"
"She said she had a feeling that she couldn’t describe. A hunch that Species 8472 couldn’t be trusted." Janeway continued looking out the window, watching the slipstream corridor race past their windows.
Chakotay reached out and set a comforting hand on her knee. "Probably just jitters. After all, there’s a lot on the line."
That earned him a low level death glare as Janeway stood and faced the viewport, her arms crossed over her chest. "And a minute ago you were telling me everything was fine."
"We’ll get out of this." Chakotay stood and moved behind her. Not touching her, yet making sure she knew he was there. "This is where things are going to start changing for the better. If we can win, then maybe this will all be over."
Janeway turned and cast a jaundiced gaze at him. "For better or worse?"
"Think positive, Captain." Chakotay grinned, his dimples showing fully. If she could turn his words against him, then he could do the same to her. "The Sernaix are putting a lot on the line. It might be presumptuous, but I’d say that it’s for the better."
Shaking her head, Janeway reached out and cupped his cheek. "I hope you’re right."
Judging that a change of subject was in order, Chakotay smiled at her. "It might interest you to know this." She looked into his eyes, her curiosity piqued. "I’ve been going over the star charts. You’ll never guess which sector of space the Sernaix have chosen to begin their assault."
The weariness in her tone and her words let Chakotay know she hadn’t yet broken from her mood. "Deep in the heart of the void?"
"The Northwest Passage. Where we first met Species 8472." Chakotay smiled, knowing the first battle had been at the mouth of that sector of space whereas this one would be in the heart of it.
For Janeway it wasn’t news that brought a smile to her lips; instead, it brought back memories of a dark time. One of many tears in the fabric of her friendship with Chakotay. "How fitting." She moved to a small table at the side of the room and reached down to touch a small bronze of her original ship.
Chakotay sighed, uncertain how to break her out of the funk she seemed to be dealing with. He waited a few moments then moved to her side. "Think of it as a good omen. We did succeed during that battle."
"Almost at the cost of our friendship." Janeway looked up into his eyes and, finding a solid reassurance there, closed her own. "This is more ironic than I thought."
Chakotay debated for a few seconds, then broke with protocol and enfolded Janeway in his embrace. "We’ll make it out of this, Kathryn, we always do." Instead of pulling away, Janeway stayed in the comfort of his arms for a moment then stepped back, the confident captain once again in place, ready to face whatever demons the Sernaix could throw at them.
Tuvok’s voice interrupted the moment. "Captain Janeway, report to the bridge."
Janeway headed for the door with a curt nod to Chakotay. "On my way." They stepped out onto the bridge and Janeway moved to Tuvok’s station as Chakotay moved down the ramp towards the center seats.
"We’re about to come out of slipstream," said Tom as he looked up at Janeway moving down to the lower deck.
Janeway nodded. "Do it, Tom."
The slipstream effect faded from the viewscreen as Janeway turned her attention to Ops. "I’m detecting something on long range -" Harry’s voice grew weaker before he suddenly he collapsed against his console. Janeway stood and moved closer to her fallen Ops officer, careful not to touch him.
Tapping her combadge, Janeway stood again. "Janeway to the Doctor. Please beam Mr. Kim to Sickbay. It seems his body shield has drained him again." Kathryn met Tom’s gaze as well. "Is Miral with you, Doctor?"
Harry dematerialized as the Doctor answered and another crewmember moved to take Ops. "She is. Ensign Wildman brought her to Sickbay as soon as she heard the announcement that we were about to drop out of slipstream. She’s fine, sleeping peacefully."
Janeway met Tom’s gaze again. Satisfied that his daughter was as safe as she could be, he turned back to his console. "I have it on visual."
"On screen." Janeway watched as the screen filled with what looked like shimmering black shapes. "Magnify." The silence on the bridge was overwhelming and there was no doubt as to why Harry and Miral had reacted so strongly to this Sernaix presence. Hundreds of ships, including both Dreadnaughts and swarms of smaller vessels moved through the sector like killer bees organizing for flight. Janeway moved closer to the screen, not quite willing to believe what she saw there. "My god."
Moving back to her seat, she settled down beside Chakotay. "Tuvok, go to Red Alert."
The Sernaix fleet began to move as one, taking position to open the quantum singularity that would bring them into fluidic space. A quantum singularity opened before them, but not a single one of their ships could enter. Instead, the entire fleet of species 8472 boiled out of the anomaly like angry ants from a kicked ant hill. Their weapons blazed as they took advantage of their surprise.
The alliance fleet, including Voyager, closed in from behind. Kazon ships rushed in chaotic attack patterns, their weapons barely scratching the surface of even the smallest of the Sernaix fleet. The Devore warships closed in as well, their large yield torpedoes impacting with the shimmering hulls of the Sernaix fleet. Krenim ships lumbered forward, beam weapons cutting across the darkness only to be absorbed into the hulls of the insectoid monstrocities.
"Mr. Paris, attack pattern delta. Take out as many of those ships as we can before we lose the element of surprise." Janeway looked towards Tuvok. "Mr. Tuvok, prepare to open fire, and don’t spare anything."
A scout broke away from the pack and came screaming on a collision course with Voyager, its weapons tearing away at shields. Tuvok’s shots came in a steady stream, each one hitting the Sernaix with unerring accuracy, but it simply seemed to absorb everything Voyager could throw at it and more. Just as Tom was about to pull out of the run, the Scout blew apart in a burst of shards. Voyager slipped through the debris as though the Federation starship had blown through a plate glass window.
A flight of Species 8472 vessels arched down towards a Node ship in perfect unison, their weapons dull glow slowly growing until the light they gave was too bright. The energy from the cannons rained down on the Node ship, its hull’s absorptive powers strained to the limit. It exploded suddenly, the energy it had collected turning back on itself and disintegrating the ship as the 8472 ships passed through with only minor damage.
Sycorax hissed as she watched the combined forces of Janeway and her allies snatching victory from her very grasp. Fists clenched in anger, she called out to the other packs in the vicinity but had an uneasy feeling that it would be over before they could arrive. Damn the fools these species were weaklings.
A deafening whine, a high pitched squeal vibrated through the Realm. Sycorax’s attention flew to the screen. No they couldn’t
The darkness of space was suddenly illuminated as though a super nova had occurred without a star. There was no explosion to explain the light but a single ship moved from the corridor as it closed and left only the sparkling form of this new vessel. It held its position for a moment then moved towards the Dreadnaughts closing on them at a rapid pace.
The bridge crew of Voyager look on in awe at the glowing behemoth that appeared from nowhere and was advancing on the Dreadnaughts as though drawn to them like a magnet. The sound of the lift doors opening drew Janeway’s attention away from the screen and Harry stepped out, nodding first to Janeway and then to Seven who held the post near Tuvok.
If they had needed any more proof of the tide of this battle, Harry had just provided it to them. "Mr. Kim, take your position." Janeway smiled as the Lieutenant moved down the ramp and settled into his recently vacated position.
"Yes, ma’am." Harry turned the seat back forward then turned his gaze to Tom. "Miral’s awake now too."
Tom nodded in appreciation then turned his attention back to the business at hand. "It’s an Ayrethan ship, Captain, but one we’ve never seen before."
Janeway looked at Chakotay. "They said we’d have their help when we needed it. I’m just glad they decided we needed it." Chakotay grinned and went back to monitoring his console and directing damage control teams to affected areas of Voyager.
"Mr. Tuvok, continue the attack," Janeway barked.
Tuvok’s impassive voice carried above the din once again. "Aye, Captain. Shields at sixty percent and holding."
The Ayrethan ship fired its weapons at the first Dreadnaught, almost visibly knocking it back but not doing enough damage to destroy it. A wing of 8472 ships moved in to aid their new allies, cannons charged to full, strafing the hull of the behemoth. The other Dreadnaught, having sensed a more worthy enemy than the Krenim and Devore battleships it was slaughtering, moved to the aid of its brethren, increasing the stakes in the battle.
A massive exchange of fire from both sides created almost as much light as the Ayrethan’s arrival. The most powerful ships in both fleets created an almost sun-like core of battle while Janeway and the Alliance focused on the smaller vessels. One by one the Sernaix fleet was being destroyed. It never occurred to them that strategic retreat was an option for survival.
A bright flash from the center of the battle drew the attention of all the remaining ships. As the light cleared, only the Ayrethan and the surviving ships of the Species 8472 wing remained.
The thunder that had filled her ears no longer pounded in her veins as one by one the images in the mists dissipated, then even the mist cleared. Sycorax spun around, looking from scene to scene as each one fell black and the silence grew.
Lowering her head, she realized it was painfully obvious. Their glorious battle had become their greatest defeat. Her hands clenched reflexively, the nails of her form here biting into her skin. Though the area around her no longer throbbed with energy she knew it was far from over yet.
Three Borg vessels closed around a lone Sernaix scout, the green beams of light striking its hull as the tractor from one of the cubes caught hold of the vessel.
Ankin Rotor watched the scene as it played out on his main viewscreen. His grin became larger as the scout was unable to escape his cube’s clutches.
"This time," said Rotor, relishing for the first time an echo of the Collective, "resistance is futile."
Rotor closed his eyes as he felt a new rush of power begin to course through him.
Janeway settled on her couch and motioned for Boothby to join her. "I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the help you’ve given us." She took his hand and squeezed it. "Given our galaxy."
Boothby looked out the viewport where his own ship matched Voyager’s course and speed. "You were right. In times like these we all have a quest for survival."
Looking out at the vessel that had once struck terror in her heart, Janeway smiled. It seemed that Seven’s hunch had been misplaced. "Without you, I’m not sure we could have accomplished what we did here today. The Sernaix presence in the Delta Quadrant will weaken from this point. I hope this is the start of a new alliance between our people."
"I don’t think it will be hard to convince my superiors of that this time." Boothby smiled and took her other hand. "You’ve gotten what you needed, Katie. A change in the winds of fate. Hopefully it will be clear sailing for you and your crew from her on."
"Well, I wouldn’t count on clear sailing," Janeway smiled and stood, drawing Boothby up with her. "But it won’t be anything we can’t handle."
Boothby looked puzzled for a moment before he asked his next question, "And the white ship – the Ayrethans. They looked powerful couldn’t they be a help to you when you go to liberate your home?"
Janeway shook her head, "The Ayrethans are a very private race. We’ve been helped by them from time to time before, but they never stick around." Janeway turned to face Boothby once more. "In our situation, if that’s the way they want to fight, I’m willing to let them. They’ve gotten us out of a snag or two."
Boothby nodded his understanding then looked at her searchingly, already knowing the answer somehow. "You tell me that you’re the only Federation ship behind enemy lines and these alliance fellows don’t strike me as the most trustworthy sort. How do you propose to keep the Sernaix from taking over the quadrant again?"
Janeway held Boothby’s gaze. "That’s my next request. I was hoping that your ships would be willing to keep patrol of this quadrant. To protect yourselves and the rest of the galaxy."
Boothby smiled reassuringly. "That’s a rather large request, Captain, but one we anticipated you would make. Under the circumstances, our leaders think this would be best as well." He paused then continued: "We’ll patrol the Delta Quadrant and destroy every Sernaix ship within our sight if it helps you win this war."
Janeway’s smile lit up her face as she took his hands again in appreciation. "Thank you. I look forward to meeting you again in the future." She paused. "Maybe next time I can meet the real you."
Shaking his head, Boothby looked her in the eyes once more. "I think I’d like that. You have a wonderful ship and a wonderful crew, Katie. You’ll be needed elsewhere in the galaxy. Don’t worry about us and the Delta Quadrant. We’ll do fine here." He released her hand and stepped away from her. "And next time we meet, I’ll make certain I bring you another rose."
Stepping out of the ready room doors, Janeway looked around at her crew with pleasure. They had done the impossible – weakened the Sernaix hold on the Delta Quadrant to the point where the races here had more than a fighting chance and found another race willing to take up the task of clearing the rest of the Sernaix from the quadrant. It was a new day and Kathryn Janeway couldn’t help but feel revitalized by it.
She settled in her chair. "We’ve done it, people." She looked at each person on the bridge in turn. "I think this is the turning point we’ve been all waiting for." Her gaze settled on Chakotay. "I think the future looks a little brighter today." Every face on the bridge had a smile, and she couldn’t help smiling as well as Chakotay flashed his dimpled grin at her.
"Let’s get out of here, Mr. Paris."
"Yes, ma’am," Tom responded slyly.
"Mr. Paris, crunch time is over." The captain smiled and settled back in her seat. "Set a course for home."
Harry slipped up behind Seven, who was engrossed by the readouts from the Engineering station she was manning. "Wild day, wasn’t it?" he said. Seven continued to work, seemingly oblivious to Harry’s words. "It was definitely what we needed," he continued, "what the galaxy needed. Our first true victory against the Sernaix."
The tension in the room was palpable as Seven continued to ignore him and Harry felt his anger at her lack of response grow. "Seven, what’s the matter?"
She turned abruptly, her expression colder than it had been for some time. "I do not believe what has happened will be beneficial to the galaxy, Harry. There is something wrong."
Harry looked at Seven in shock, "What makes you say that?"
"A feeling." Seven turned back to her console and continued her duties.
Reaching out, Harry pulled her hands from the display and gently turned her to face him. "A feeling?"
Seven nodded. "There is more to this situation than the current data available to us would indicate. I believe there is an external force at work."
"External force? Seven, what other external force is there? The Sernaix are force enough." Harry reached out and cupped her chin gently.
Seven’s entire body resonated with the tension she was feeling. "I do not know. I have been having these dreams."
This piqued Harry’s curiosity. "Dreams? Now that you mention it, when I was connected to the Realm during the battle, I did see some strange unfamiliar things. Any idea what you’re seeing might be?"
Seven trembled. The nervous energy she was experiencing had to be placed somewhere and she was expending it in work. With Harry preventing her from working, it had nowhere to go and she was suffering for it. "No." The word came out louder than she intended due to all the tension inside of her.
Harry wasn’t oblivious to the symptoms Seven was displaying. He released her so she could focus on doing something once again. "It’s strange, Seven. I think we should take this to the Captain."
Seven shook her head. "I did. She dismissed my instinct." The former Borg paused. "I thought it was Species 8472 but I seem to have been proven wrong."
Harry could see that Seven wasn’t ready to go to the captain yet. Instead, he moved alongside her, ready to work through this with her until she was ready. "All right, Seven but promise me you’ll consider talking to the captain or Chakotay again."
Seven nodded and moved closer to Harry. "I will."
Kathryn leaned back in her chair, considering the PADD in her hand as the doors opened to allow Chakotay into their quarters. "How are the feet doing?" she grinned up at him as he moved into the room.
Chakotay looked down at the offending extremities then back at Kathryn. "Better now that you mention it."
"More important things on your mind?" she quipped as Chakotay drew her out of her chair and into his lap on the couch.
Chakotay slipped his arms around her waist and looked into her eyes. "You could say that." For a moment they were lost in each other’s smiles before Kathryn looked back at the PADD in her grasp.
"I’ve been reading over the tactical data on the battle." Kathryn looked at Chakotay, her expression becoming darker. "The more I look at it, the less convinced I become that we’ve actually gained any ground."
Sighing, Chakotay gently pushed a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. "More self doubt?"
"I want to be entirely sure " Kathryn looked from the PADD to Chakotay. "And at the moment, I’m not."
Chakotay pulled the PADD from her grasp and tossed it gently onto her desk. "It’s best not to worry about it for now. You can’t change anything at the moment, Kathryn. Leave it be and see where it goes."
Kathryn nodded and settled her head on his shoulder, but her expression remained decidedly unconvinced.
There was silence in the Realm now. Sycorax watched the scenes as they opened before her, revealing her packs in the Alpha Quadrant. "The battle of the Delta Quadrant was fought by fools " Her face transformed into a death grin like sneer. "As of this moment, I want you to destroy everything that comes into your sights but save their precious Sector zero-zero-one for last. Let Earth watch the rest of the Federation fall around them. Let them know of their deaths a hundred times before they taste our knives themselves. This is the reward Janeway has earned for her people with her victory."
The space was empty – stars twinkling, no sound, no movement, no life.
A Sernaix slipstream conduit opened in the darkness and a single Borg cube emerged, glistening with the black armour of its most recently assimilated technology.