8-13 - Remora
By: Jim Wright (email@example.com)
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager,
its characters and related properties are Registered Trademarks
of Paramount Pictures. No infringement of Paramount's copyrights
is intended. Voyager Virtual Season 8 (VS8) is a non-profit
endeavor. The unique characters and milieu of VS8 are the
property of the VS8 producers and individual authors. This
story is the property of the author. Please do not repost
Acknowledgments:Thanks to Michael Ben-Zvi for his invaluable
assistance with the Sernaix scenes, to Thinkey, Coral and
Jeff for shoehorning this idea into the greater whole, and
to Reptile and his brother Daniel, my beta-readers. Thanks
also to all you who have encouraged me over the years, and
have helped keep Trek fandom fun.
last meal of the day had been served, and Crewman Chell
was wiping down the last of the tables. He scratched the
surface with his thumbnail to free up a spot of dried sauce
from the day's Chicken Catch a Torres, and then gave it
one final swipe. There.
looked around the mess hall--his mess hall--and smiled.
Seven months ago, nobody was sure Neelix's shoes could
be filled. Sure, he hadn't taken on all of the Talaxian's
duties--who would want to? But the mess hall--that was
an assignment Chell had coveted long before Neelix left.
It wasn't often a cook could give a duranium-bellied Bolian
a case of indigestion, but Neelix had succeeded more than
once--and he was determined never to let that happen again.
put up the last of the chairs and returned to the kitchen.
He still had work to do. They would be here soon.
had been early concerns about letting Chell handle the meals,
and not simply because his Starfleet (bah!) service record
left much to be desired. No, it was simple prejudice against
the legendary Bolian constitution, and fears that those
not similarly blessed would have their insides jellied within
a week. He smiled remembering Dalby's exaggerated--as usual--warnings:
"Count me out--Chell drinks cherry-flavored warp plasma!"
grabbed the bottle of kichim. Dalby was half-right;
it was cherry-flavored. But the syrupy drink he loved
so well would hardly give the engines a decent impulse boost,
let alone warp. Kichim was light nectar compared
to that vile raktajino Dalby favored.
had wanted this job. He was, truth be told, the only one
who wanted the job. But he'd lobbied as though it were
the cream of the duty roster, and Chakotay convinced the
captain--and Chell had earned fans in a hurry. His creative
dishes had proven to be delicious for every species on board.
The most dangerous part of the menu was the awful puns Chell
used to name them. It was an ongoing source of pride.
added some more decanters on a serving tray along with six
clean glasses, and walked them over to the table surrounded
by sofas near the window. All he had to do now was wait.
had never warmed to Neelix's role as Voyager's morale
officer, but he would rise to the occasion for a special
subset of the crew.
all, it was Hudson's Day.
Cal Hudson--the first and the finest!" Dalby raised
his glass in toast. A bit of raktajino sloshed over the
here!" the others said, not quite together, clinking
the rims together over the now-sticky table. The cups'
contents, once unique, had begun to blend together after
a series of toasts.
coffee mixed with Tabor's synthale. Dalby's raktajino swam
with Chell's kichim. Splashes of all these, and
Ayala's tequila, swirled in poor Billy Telfer's water glass
like a demonic lava lamp.
us about the time Hudson took out that Galor-class vessel,"
Billy said eagerly.
mean the time he snuggled up to the belly of that sucker
in a type-two shuttle and set the warp core to overload?"
Dalby asked. "Hell, if it weren't for me running the
transporters, it would have been his last mission."
words were beginning to slur. There may have been some
blood wine mixed in with the already-potent brew. Only
Chell knew for certain, and he wasn't saying.
we should call this Dalby's Day," Ayala noted wryly,
and there were smiles all around. Dalby had been monopolizing
conversation on this annual flight through the Memory Nebula;
with each passing year, Dalby's role in the exploits of
the legendary Commander Hudson, one of the key founders
of the Maquis, had grown increasingly central.
way," Dalby insisted. "Although--I was
there when Cal stared down Sisko, you know…"
rolled his eyes, as he always did. "We know…"
ignored him, as he always did, honoring the tradition.
"It's hard to believe those two were ever friends,
the way they glared at each other." His eyes lost focus
as his mind recalled the scene.
say he and Sisko went way back," said Billy.
said Dalby, taking another sip, wincing as a drop of kichim
sizzled on his tongue. "Cal told me once about their
time in New Berlin. They were like brothers."
smile faded; he shook his head sadly. The silence caused
the men to stare into their drinks, each lost in thought
of brothers lost and left behind. "Until he showed
up with that damned Gul Dukat, I think Cal was convinced
he could bring Sisko around. After seeing all the Cardies
had done to Bajor, why wouldn't he have fought for
the rights of our own Federation citizens?"
face flushed with blue intensity. "It was bad enough
that he didn't join us! Sisko destroyed us!"
frowned at this. "You saw Sveta's letter. The Dominion
was Sisko's war crimes that helped them do it!"
Chell bellowed. "He poisoned one of our colony worlds!"
not defending Sisko," Jaren said. "But it was
Eddington who started the scorched-earth tactic against
the Cardies." Scorched-earth had happened enough under
the Cardassian occupation of Bajor that Jaren abhorred anyone
who would use such a tactic.
had no choice," Dalby muttered darkly.
Sisko did give the colonists time to escape,"
Tabor added. "Nobody died. And he stopped as soon
as Eddington turned himself in."
ARE defending him!" Chell bellowed at the two Bajorans.
"Just because he's your Emissary--"
rolled his eyes. Here we go again…
saved the whole Alpha Quadrant from the Dominion!"
from the Pah Wraiths!" Jaren added.
did the Maquis fit into that whole?" Dalby demanded.
"Besides an unmarked grave?"
helped Eddington rescue some of us from the Dominion--!"
now they're in jail, like we're gonna be if
enough!" Ayala shouted. "All of you!"
was inevitable. Maquis were fighters by nature--the meek
Billy excepted--and nothing if not fractious. Every party
became a brawl. Billy had brought extra dermal regenerators
just in case.
all glared at each other, ready to pounce. But Ayala was
an officer, and could toss them in the brig--and, like Chakotay,
had a mean right hook if they insisted on settling things
the Maquis Way.
gradually cooled to a low simmer. Ayala fixed his gaze on
each man until his fists unclenched. When the danger was
past, he relaxed his own hands and picked up his drink.
He tossed the tequila back with one gulp.
they could avoid a brawl this year.
then Ken Dalby pulled out his phaser. He didn't point it
anywhere in particular; he simply held it like a cherished
trophy. "If me and my good luck charm had had just
five minutes with that guy…"
openly admired the hash marks on the phaser's handle. "Look
at all those kills! Sisko wouldn't stand a chance."
He got an idea, and ran from the table toward the nearest
two Bajorans seethed. They were proud Maquis, but they
drew the line at demonizing the Emissary. Sisko was with
the Prophets now, as he deserved to be after all he'd done
to preserve and revitalize Bajor.
was shocked into a recent memory. The last time he'd seen
Dalby's phaser, it was a centuries-old relic in Chakotay's
quarters. He had promised the Commander he would say nothing,
but he had a sudden premonition…and shuddered.
would kill you himself if you tried," Ayala said.
"You know that better than any of us. Put it away,
didn't press the point. Muttering something about "the
last Maquis standing," he holstered his weapon. The
tension in the room lessened when the weapon was safely
patted it, as he always did. For luck. "As long as
this baby is on my hip or in my hand, I'll live forever,"
what you wish for, Ken," Ayala said. He wished he
could say more.
mood was turning morose. Each man was caught up in a solitary
reverie. The party was drawing to a close.
only those upper-deck Starfleet pukes would give me a chance
to use it again. No offense," he added hastily, smiling
at Ayala. He'd been itching in vain for action for nearly
eight years now. Voyager had seen plenty of action…but
almost none of it reached him. There was precious little
room for true warriors on Voyager.
was determined to end it on a positive note. "I'll
eat to that," he said, arriving with a large bowl of
ice cream topped with chocolate, nuts, whipped cream, and
exotic fruits. "I call it Self Destruct Sundae,"
he said proudly, handing out six spoons. "The first
bite is yours," he said, handing the last to Dalby.
scooped up a generous dollop. He thought for a moment.
"To Hudson," he said at last, raising the spoon.
others grabbed their own spoonfuls. "To Hudson!"
They each took a gooey bite.
grabbed the next sugary toast. "To Eddington!"
took the third. He paused, as if considering his words.
"To fallen comrades," he said. His voice broke
as he looked at Dalby.
spoons rose in silent tribute.
help you clean up," Billy said to Chell.
too," said Tabor. The other three volunteered as well,
and they helped each other off the couch and began picking
then an all-too-familiar sound hit them. Red alert.
is the captain," they heard over the comm. "All
hands to battle stations. All hands--"
was already at his station. "I've got it. Go."
They handed him their spoons and left the rest on the table.
the room cleared, Chell set about securing the tables and
Log, Stardate 55350.5. Since the encounter with the Sernaix
Ship Mind, Seven of Nine has been working tirelessly to
unlock the data downloaded to her cortical node. Each scrap
of information helps us better understand our adversary,
but very little has improved our ability to defend ourselves.
For all our sakes, I hope that changes soon.
Janeway said as she entered Astrometrics. Chakotay followed
modifications are almost complete," Seven of Nine said.
She finished a series of commands at one station, and then
strode to the next to begin a new sequence.
about time," Janeway said, with the hint of a smile.
bristled. "The Sernaix data has been difficult to
assimilate. Ozymandias downloaded it into my cortical node
without providing the necessary context for access. I am--"
was a joke, Seven," Janeway said, raising a hand to
halt further protest. "I know you're giving this your
acknowledged with a tired nod. She had been living in Astrometrics
the past few weeks, overseeing the sensor modifications.
When she wasn't there, she was in Sickbay with the Doctor,
trying to coax the information out, or in her alcove regenerating--usually
under protest and doctor's orders, and on one occasion under
contact with the Sernaix Ship Mind had made her a potentially
valuable resource in their struggle with the Sernaix. But
only if they could get to that data in time.
like what she's uncovered so far," Harry said. "I've
been running scans with the new settings. Take a look at
pulled up an image on the large Astrometric screen. They
were used to the view by now--empty space, disturbed by
the occasional bare ripple that hinted at the presence of
a Sernaix vessel.
this is much better," Janeway said sourly.
smiled. "This is with our old sensors. And this--"
he tapped a few buttons on the console, "is the upgraded
screen changed dramatically. Where there had been ripples,
ships now appeared. Big, fat, juicy-target ships. Janeway's
mouth watered at the prospect.
eyes went wide. "Impressive."
let her first officer handle the praise. She skipped straight
to the threat. "How many are there?"
Harry said. "Twenty-four smaller Runabout-sized vessels,
three scouts. No big ones yet." Harry entered a few
more commands, and the view of the vessels gave way to a
tactical map where each was represented by a blip. "The
nearest is twelve light-years away. The good news is they're
all heading away from us."
frowned. "Still, we haven't seen that many ships before--and
we can barely survive an encounter with one. Seven, have
you come up with any new data on their defenses or weapons?"
shook her head but continued to work. "Not yet."
an eye on them, Harry. Seven, get those upgrades finished
as soon as you can."
rose from her station and clasped her hands behind her back.
smiled. "That's what I like to hear. Good work, both
of you. Seven, help Harry run another scan--maximum range
and sensitivity. Call me the moment you find something.
I don't want any more surprises."
sent a proud smile towards Seven. "Aye, Captain."
and Chakotay left Astrometrics. Harry noticed Seven of
Nine slump ever so slightly after the door closed.
you really finished?" he asked.
now," Seven said wearily. Ozymandias has not made
it easy to access his 'gift.'"
things easy wasn't his style," Harry agreed. "Care
to start the next scan? You've earned it."
smiled, though it didn't quite reach her exhausted eyes.
moment later, Harry's console chirped. "Something's
coming up," Harry said. He worked the controls, and
two large blips appeared on the Astrometrics screen. "Grid
19-J. Can you identify them?"
Seven said. A moment later the grid was isolated, then
zoomed. Seven switched to a non-iconic view.
shoulders sagged at the two bat-like behemoths. "Battlecruisers.
TWO of them."
reading something else," Seven said. "Attempting
Seven's fingers flew over the consoles, Harry touched his
combadge and summoned the captain.
is it?" Janeway asked.
big," Harry said. "Over 700 meters long. Wingspan
over 500 meters. We're still working on refining the scan--"
thought you said those were complete," Janeway said,
giving Seven a hard look.
modifications were sufficient to discover this vessel.
We require further modifications to analyze it more thoroughly."
nodded. "Fair enough. Good work. What else can you
tell me about it?"
it's definitely Sernaix, and it has the same cloaking abilities,"
Harry said. "I have no idea what all those--spikes
are for. Sensors, maybe. There are dozens of them. It's
flanked by two of those big battlecruisers, so it must be
else?" Chakotay asked.
it's not moving. But all the smaller vessels are heading
straight for it. It may be a carrier of some sort."
you detected any other Sernaix?" Janeway asked.
ma'am. Every vessel in sensor range is converging on that
a Node ship," Seven said suddenly.
eyes turned to her. "How do you know that?" Chakotay
important, what does it mean?" Janeway asked.
frowned in deep concentration. "The Sernaix datalink…I
believe further details are available, but it is difficult
nodded. "Contact the Doctor. You may be due for another
nap. Give him what you can, then let him work on it while
you regenerate. Harry, you'll be on your own until Icheb
blinked. "Didn't you assign him to Tom?"
but right now he's more valuable here. Icheb will have
plenty of time for pilot training."
ma'am," Harry said, grateful for the help. He gave
Seven a smile, which she returned before leaving. He was
almost as tired as she was, but there was no question she'd
earned the break.
he corrected himself. Seven would work just as hard with
the Doctor to get the information they needed. He only
hoped Doc would make her regenerate before she collapsed.
long until the vessels reach the Node?"
checked the console. "The first of them should arrive
within forty-two minutes."
be back in forty-five. Chakotay?"
captain and first officer left Harry to his work, then exited
into the corridor. The soft blinking of the red alert beacon
glowed in the darkened walkway. "Damn. We're running
out of time, Chakotay."
day, another crisis," Chakotay muttered wryly. "You'll
get us through. You always do."
looked up at her first officer. "You saw the size of
that fleet. How can we possibly beat them?"
was silent for a moment. "I don't know yet. I just
know that we will." He smiled reassuringly.
gave her first officer a long look. As often as they butted
heads, she knew they wouldn't have gotten this far without
him by her side. At last Janeway's smile joined his. "Who
knows--this new breed of ship may be chattier than the last
laughed softly. "There's the captain I know best."
minutes later, the first Scout ships slowed to a stop near
the Node vessel. Harry had every recording device in Astrometrics
trained on the scene, but he kept a large chunk of the main
viewscreen open for a simple visual. There were times when
there was no substitute for a good hard look with the human
first ship is approaching the Node," Icheb reported.
you get a closer view?"
believe so." Icheb had arrived a half hour before,
and though he and Harry had chatted about his piloting lessons
with Tom, Icheb didn't seem to mind the reassignment. It
gave him a chance to ask about Seven's condition. Like
Harry, he was concerned for her.
spike on the upper port end of the larger ship came into
a closer view, as the small corsair inched toward it. "Talk
about ugly," Harry said.
what way?" Icheb asked, confused.
question brought Harry up short. "I don't know. It's
just--like something out of a nightmare. Like a ghost with
snakes for hair."
stared hard at the screen. "I don't see either of
those. It is what it is."
Kim smiled; out of the mouths of babes...He had always tried
to be open minded about species and their customs. A
little too open-minded at times. He remembered Tal
and that sweet but too-brief affair, followed by weeks of
painful itching and irritability that lasted longer than
Janeway's wrath. Just thinking of it made him scratch his
grinned. "Maybe you're right. When I was a kid I
used to scare myself by seeing monsters in the shapes...of
words drifted away as he found himself transfixed by the
view. The small ship appeared to be merging with the spine.
A docking maneuver, maybe?
maybe the bigger ship is swallowing it.
seven months in the bubble, Harry felt confident in his
conclusion that these Sernaix were one weird bunch.
picked up increased output in the Delta and Theta bands
on contact," Icheb reported. "The Doctor may
find this interesting."
tried to suppress a yawn, and failed.
you all right, Lieutenant?" Icheb asked.
a long shift," Harry said sleepily. "Keep scanning;
your eyes are fresher than mine."
nodded. "Two more vessels approaching the Node."
time a vessel docked, Icheb recorded a surge in the Delta
and Theta bands. And each time, Harry found it more difficult
to keep his eyes open.
of the Scout ships is docking," Icheb said. When he
received no response, he looked over to find Harry fast
then, Janeway arrived. "Lieutenant!" she barked,
but Harry did not stir. "How long has he been like
this?" she asked.
a moment," Icheb said.
tried to shake him awake, but all that accomplished was
to send him crashing to the floor. Still, he slept.
happened to him?" Janeway demanded.
don't know," Icheb admitted. "He was alert when
the ships began docking."
irritation evaporated. "What have you seen?"
pointed to the screen. Nearly a dozen of the smaller ships
were now partially merged with the spines of the Node ship,
and more were arriving. "The sensors are still processing
the data. I did detect increases in the extreme low frequency
me see." Janeway stepped over Harry, leaving him alone
for the moment, to view the results. "Those bands
affect sleep, don't they?" She tapped her combadge.
"Janeway to the Doctor."
you received any reports in the last five minutes?"
Anything I should be aware of?"
looked down at the slumbering Harry. "Perhaps. Lock
on to Lieutenant Kim and beam him to Sickbay. I want to
know why he's asleep at his post."
Indigo Dawn pack vessel had come farther than most, but
had made good time.
queued ahead of Auburn Tsunami and Virulent Dew," Zam,
the Zvir of Indigo Dawn, reported.
the Adimh, set down his mug of jiopol and turned
to his Zvir. "Excellent. Is the pack ready?"
we'll ever be," replied Zam, his Zvir. "This
had better be good."
Adimha wouldn't be summoning us if it weren't."
name silenced all murmuring. Sycorax, Adimha of the Management
Cadre, was a legend even among the most ambitious, thrill-seeking
male. If she were the author of the Summoning, it would
be good. Good indeed.
are in range for docking," the Ship Mind announced.
us in," Skohl ordered. "All hands, prepare for
uplink. The Realm awaits. If it isn't beyond your wildest
dreams, I'll upload myself."
rubbed the tattoos on his right shoulder; at a mere twenty-eight,
he had a few good cycles left, even though he was fast running
out of unmarked skin. If the celebrated Skohl was betting
against early retirement, his crew saw, they had every reason
to be enthused for what awaited them.
Adimha of the Management Cadre, had a good idea what motivated
the males. At 120 cycles of age, she had dealt with more
than her share of the young, arrogant pups.
was her corner of the Realm that the various packs found
themselves welcomed to. Flanked by winged females, each
of a plumpness perfectly suited to the tastes of each young
warrior, the males were carried into an arena filled with
delicacies, diversions--and still more females.
had a flair for detail that prompted some males to briefly
wonder if the rigors of Realtime were as superior to the
Realm as they had believed. Granted, few glimpses of the
Realm compared to this.
again, few held such sway as Sycorax.
men grinned widely when their uplink was complete. For
the moment, the Adimh's position was quite safe.
what seemed an eternity of amusements and indulgences, the
last of the Pack vessels had docked with the Node ship,
and the crews linked to the Realm, and Sycorax could begin
this conference in earnest. The women and the food and
the sofas disappeared, replaced by hard stone benches.
The men of Realtime were also surprised to see their attire
transformed from the distinctive Pack designs to a single
pattern of gleaming black battle leather. Their tattoos
glowed a fierce red.
was disconcerting to have one's appearance changed so abruptly.
The stripping away of visible Pack identity also took a
few of them aback.
when Sycorax appeared, all else became irrelevant.
bulk was breathtaking--a full quarter-ton of mass. She
shone in the center of the giant arena like a small star.
Her golden sofa kept her aloft. She was circled, slowly
and at a respectable distance, by nine winged females, each
cherubic in figure and clothed in a different colored garment.
The third closest to her was dressed in a brilliant blue;
the fourth, a fiery red.
the Arena was the universe, Sycorax was its center. All
revolved around her. It was right out of their earliest
have met the Enemy," Sycorax said. Her voice was soft
and low, but each syllable resonated through the Arena and
its startled audience like rolling thunder.
l Someone from the Rolling Thunder pack began to chant.A
few picked up on it and slowly the chant rose in pitch and
intensity. Voyager! Voyager! Sycorax smiled.Voyager, indeed.Let
the pups believe what they wanted, as long as it suited
her purposes. She let the chanting continue until all joined
is of the Enemy," Sycorax said. "But the
heart of the Enemy is elsewhere."
arena shifted. Sycorax and her nine attending females began
to shrink. Other females began to appear--dozens, then
hundreds...then billions. Each group of females represented
a pattern which the males soon discerned as star systems.
Suns and planets and moons. Soon the arena was filled with
a galaxy of plump, perfect females, a spinning, brilliant
infinite mass of femininity.
the scene shifted back. Women disappeared--by the dozen,
by the star system. Soon, all that remained was Sycorax
and the Nine. The female in blue was glowing brilliantly,
and on her dress could be seen a mass of green and brown--continents,
is their home world. This is your quest! To leave the
confines of the Bubble and wreak vengeance on the Enemy!"
males were stunned into silence. Even in the Realm, their
minds could process information only so quickly.
eldest males caught on first. First the Adimhs. Then the
Zvirs. Then the lowly Strups.
a degree none had ever imagined possible. Not even the
Legends had told of such glorious adventures! And to face
the Enemy, to strike at its very heart!
Arena erupted into cheers, chants, war-whoops. This was
a mission to remember.
was satisfied. The males were so predictable.
have a new weapon," she said next. "You will
have all the battles you desire, but for taking on the Enemy
in their planets, you will need more. This weapon has been
based on technology too terrible to use for thousands of
cycles, but the time has come. We shall rain death upon
them until the Enemy is no more!"
cheers were deafening. Sycorax smiled, and her radiance
shone its approval, causing their armor and their tattoos
to glow with demonic intensity.
snores had been resonating in Sickbay for nearly an hour
when Janeway and Chakotay arrived. "Do you have anything?"
The captain asked.
migraine," the Doctor said irritably.
Harry's condition?" Janeway asked again, her tone crisp.
coughed. "Sorry. Yes, it would seem that Lieutenant
Kim's condition and the activity of the Sernaix are related."
He pulled up a view on the console by Harry's bed. "Icheb
was correct; the increase in the Delta and Theta bands produced
by those ships are significant. More to the point, I'm
detecting the same levels in Lieutenant Kim's sleep patterns.
I have been unable to revive him."
it be dangerous to try?"
shrugged. "He doesn't appear to be in any danger at
the moment. If anything, the rest is doing him good. His
systems were showing signs of extreme fatigue."
considered this. "Keep watching him. Inform me immediately
of any change. Keep an open channel to Astrometrics; if
the Sernaix activities mirror Harry's condition, I want
to know about it."
considered her next question. The crew had been impacted
once before by a neurogenic field that put them all to sleep.
Harry had been one of the first casualties then as well.
"Has anyone else been affected?" she asked.
hands have reported in. Those off duty shift were awakened
just to be certain; aside from some burning ears, everyone's
Seven of Nine?" Janeway asked.
as ordered. I'm monitoring her from here. She exhibited
some elevated Theta levels, but nothing out of the ordinary
given her fatigue."
comm system chirped. "Astrometrics to the Captain."
here. What is it, Icheb?"
Sernaix vessels are starting to detach from the Node ship."
you, Icheb. Keep this line open." She looked toward
the Doctor. "Watch Harry's condition."
and Chakotay stepped back to let the Doctor do his work.
"I am seeing a decrease in the Delta and Theta bands,"
walked over to Harry and softly shook him. "Harry--can
you hear me?" Harry's slumbering continued.
how many vessels are still docked?"
shared a look with the Doctor. "Doctor, tie into the
Astrometric sensor stream. Watch Harry's biosigns. Icheb,
let us know when each remaining ship disconnects."
several tense moments, Icheb counted down the remaining
connections. At eight, Harry began to stir.
Icheb announced a moment later.
Janeway asked again.
continued to sleep, but the peaceful expression was fading.
His lip quivered, and his head began to shake, as though
experiencing a nightmare.
Kim's eyes opened, and he bolted upright, screaming. Janeway
placed a hand on his shoulder, but Harry slapped it away,
with almost frantic intensity.
eyes cleared a little. "Captain?" he asked, seeing
Janeway for the first time, but still not freed from whatever
was haunting his dreams. The images churned in his head.
Colors too intense to exist in nature. Women large as
planets. Sernaix warriors with glowing tattoos, teeth long
as sabers. Evil plans...
breathed easier. "You're in Sickbay, Harry. You lost
consciousness when the Sernaix ships began to dock. What
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair...
the Sernaix--they're going to destroy Earth!"
How?" Janeway said.
don't know. But I saw them! Hundreds of them! They were
all together in this--"
it's slipping away--"
try! What did you see?"
last ships have just undocked, Captain," Icheb
breathing had returned to normal. The panic had left his
eyes. "I...I'm not sure, Captain. It was so real,
so real...but it--it's gone now. I'm sorry, Captain."
glared up at the Doctor. "Did you get anything?"
looked over the logs. His brow wrinkled. He ran his hands
over the controls. After several seconds, he looked at
Janeway and shook his head.
are the Sernaix doing now?"
vessels are forming up around the two battleships. It looks
frowned. "Harry--are you certain about the Sernaix?
That they're planning to target Earth?"
I can't back any of this up. I can't even remember the
details. But...I'd bet my life on it."
might well have a bit of Sernaix blood in you after all,
Mr. Kim. You posture just like one of us.
you have something to say, Lieutenant?" Chakotay asked.
shrugged. "It’s probably nothing. I just remembered
something Ozymandias said to me. Speaking of which,"
he said, looking around Sickbay. "How's Seven?"
Log, Supplemental. It's not much to go on, but I have no
choice but to act on Lieutenant Kim's 'dream' if the safety
of Earth is at stake. Seven of Nine reported no similar
experience. I know the Sernaix consider us their ancient
Enemy--how can we be?--but what I don't know is how they
intend to attack Earth--and if they can, how we can stop
senior staff assembled in the conference room. They'd been
pre-briefed; what Janeway expected was nothing less than
six miracles before breakfast. All came ready to offer
their thoughts, no matter how crazy.
it came to the Sernaix, there was no such thing as too crazy.
set her empty coffee mug down on the table, then reached
for the pot to refill it. The officers observed in silence,
using every last second to conjure new ideas for the questions
they knew were imminent.
took a sip from the fresh cup, and then leaned back in her
chair. "We've been in this bubble for seven months.
It's time we left. I want options."
deafening silence followed.
we haven't tried clicking our heels together three times,"
Tom said. "There's no place...like...home..."
other officers allowed Tom to twist in the wind. Janeway
fixed him with a lethal glare until his words trailed off.
other suggestions?" Janeway asked. "Or should
I replicate the ruby slippers?" The edge of her mouth
twitched up just enough to let Tom know he was off the hook.
Sernaix uplink node," Seven of Nine said. "We
may be able to reproduce the Doctor's experiment, and control
the exit vector."
idea how?" Janeway asked.
and the Doctor looked at each other. "Not yet,"
Doc said. "But we're hopeful that the Ozymandias data
will make it possible."
considered this. "I know you're doing your best.
Keep at it. But until we actually have access to the data
from that shipmind, we'll need another option."
broke the silence. "We could always take our chances
again with the Ayrethans."
rubbed at her eyes. "They haven't been cooperative
before; why would now be any different?"
shrugged. "The Ayrethans want to keep everyone inside
the bubble. They might have a problem with the Sernaix
trying to escape. We know they know more than they're letting
on; if it means stopping the Sernaix, they're likely to
tell us what we need."
will they believe us?" Janeway pressed.
put a lot of stock in dreams," Tom said. "And
Harry's got us covered there."
but why did it happen to me?" Harry asked. "Seven
was linked to the Ship Mind."
it matter?" Tom asked.
matters to me."
it was just your turn," B'Elanna said.
I should attach cortical monitors to Harry AND Seven,"
the Doctor said. "In case this happens again, we may
gain further information."
the Sernaix flying in formation, further dockings are possible,
and could occur at any time," Tuvok agreed.
caused it, we know it happened," Tom said, eyeing Janeway
expectantly, "and we should be able to use that to
convince the Ayrethans."
looked at the faces around the table. Tuvok had yet to
weigh in. She fixed her gaze on her security chief, with
the clear intent to hear his opinion.
got the message. "Your logic is sound," Tuvok
said, raising an eyebrow at Tom a moment later.
smiled. "You don't have to look so surprised,
right," said Janeway. "The Ayrethans it is.
Tom, lay in a course."
Seven, Harry--keep working on that Sernaix data. Focus
on anything we can use to find, figure out, or fight the
Sernaix, or get us out of this bubble. I want every detail
you can dredge up on those vessels. Icheb can handle Astrometrics
what's our repair status?"
smiled proudly. "All systems optimal."
So there won't be any problems getting us out of the bubble?"
it can be done, we'll get it done."
smiled. "That's all I can ask. Tom, Tuvok, coordinate
with B'Elanna; when we get what we need we'll have to work
fast. In the meantime, B'Elanna, sift through that Sernaix
debris again and see if anything could be useful."
She got the expected nods from both.
she said, "I want you to work with Tuvok on defenses.
Study the Sernaix; see if there's a way to use their numbers
nodded. "Aye, Captain."
leaned back in her chair and took another sip of coffee.
It had cooled somewhat, but the bitterness still had the
looked around the table. As professional as they were,
they were nervous. Hell, so was she. The Sernaix were
dangerous enough one ship at a time, and now they faced
dozens. They'd been lucky up to now, but now the future
of Earth itself could be in jeopardy.
she thought back on all they'd been through. Kazon and
Vidiians. Hirogen and Borg and Species 8472. Renegade holograms
and the Q Continuum. They'd traversed the galaxy in record
time, thwarted temporal terrorists, and merged Starfleet
and Maquis into a functioning, cohesive unit. This crew
had been to hell and back more times than any crew not serving
aboard a ship named Enterprise.
they couldn't save the universe--yet again!--who could?
captain set down her mug and leaned forward, fixing her
gaze on each officer.
know these last months have been a challenge. Seven years
in the Delta Quadrant, staring down the Borg, getting within
impulse range of Earth only to have it yanked away again.
Our nerves have been frayed, our loyalties tested. At times,
even our friendships were strained." She noted the
shadow of pain that crossed each face, each telling a different
captain then smiled in that gentle, motherly way that her
crew would move heaven and earth to see. "But we're
a team. Even more, we're a family. We've adapted to survive
every challenge the universe has thrown at us. As I look
around this table, I can't imagine anyone else in your place.
There's nobody I'd rather have. We'll get through this--we'll
get home, and we'll save home--as we always have.
she rose. "Dismissed."
few night-shift personnel were having dinner in the mess
hall when Dalby entered, carrying a PADD with one hand and
rubbing his eyes with the other. He found an open space
on the sofa facing the window and flopped onto it with a
was at his side a moment later. "Raktajino?"
looked up with gratitude filling his bloodshot eyes. "I
could kiss you."
smirked and pursed his lips. "Hurry up before you
start drinking that swill."
chuckled and took a mighty swig. "Maybe next time.
Oh, yeah, that hit the spot."
looked around; at the moment, everyone was taken care of.
He took a seat beside his friend. "Long night?"
beating the bushes for some 'unconventional' tactics against
the Sernaix. He thinks a Maquis approach might come in
luck so far?"
shook his head, then took another long pull of the raktajino;
he shuddered as the liquid blazed a trail to his stomach.
"My battle brains are rusty. I tell you, though,
I could do it in my sleep if they were the Cardies."
frowned. "What's the difference?"
starters, they build ships out of light." Dalby suppressed
a smile at Chell's blank expression. "I don't understand
it either. I don't care how it's made; I just want to blow
it to hell. Thing is, how do you blow up light?"
eyes widened. Dark matter? Now there was an
idea. Insane, yes; suicidal, maybe, but--well, Chakotay
did ask for unconventional. "What the hell,"
he said, and wrote it down. "Got any dark matter in
that kitchen of yours?" he asked.
some of Neelix's leftover leola root."
winced. "I wouldn't even use that stuff against the
Cardies." He took another drink and shook his head.
"Well, maybe I would. But these Sernaix--"
smiled warmly. "I'll never forget my first night with
the Maquis. I almost packed up and went home, hearing some
of the stories you and the others were telling. It seemed
impossible--stories to tell the new recruits just before
sending them into the shredder. But then I saw what we
could accomplish. I still get chills thinking about you
and Cal Hudson and that Galor-class--"
Dalby blinked. "What did you say?"
never forget my first night--"
no, the last part."
thought. "You and Cal?"
that's it--" Hudson's Day.... "Chell, you're
a genius! Thanks for the drink." He slammed back
the rest of his raktajino and sprinted for the door, his
stride faltering only once as the drink caught up with him.
shrugged. "You're welcome," he said to the closing
this really necessary, Doc?"
heard the captain's orders. This information could prove
crucial in our negotiations with the Ayrethans." Doc
didn't have to say what they both knew--without a serious
change in fortunes, they wouldn't have anything new for
the captain. The data in Seven's brain remained stubbornly
call from Astrometrics, Doc hoped, would provide that twist
of luck they so desperately needed.
I'm not tired! It's only 1930!"
Doctor ignored him. "Icheb, how many ships have docked?"
Icheb said from Astrometrics. "Three more are within
looked down at the exasperated lieutenant. "Humor
me." Harry groaned and threw himself backwards onto
Doctor walked over to the monitoring station. "How
is his cortical activity?" he asked Seven.
minor increases in the Delta and Theta bands."
reviewed the monitor to the right of Harry's cortical signatures.
minutes later, four more ships had docked. Harry had begun
don't understand it," Doc said. "You and Harry
are showing the same increases, but nothing is happening
to you. What could be different?"
arched an eyebrow. "Lieutenant Kim does not possess
a cortical node."
arched one of his own. "Aside from that--" he
paused. "But the cortical node is no small difference,
is it?" He reached for his medical tricorder and scanned
Seven's head. "Seven--when Harry had his last dream,
were you regenerating?"
you regenerating?" he asked again, more pointedly.
she admitted. "I was working. I did not require regeneration."
frowned. She'd been a walking zombie. But Seven was known
to work until she dropped, especially in a crisis. "We'll
discuss that later. But for now--" he prepared
a hypospray. "Lie down."
are you proposing?"
little nap." Doc waited until she complied, then pressed
the hypospray to her neck. "I can handle both monitors
for the moment. Pleasant dreams."
last conscious thought was a voice. "Hello again."
brought two mugs of coffee into Engineering, and made a
beeline for B'Elanna. "Here you go--just like Mom
used to replicate."
accepted it gratefully. She gave him a quizzical look after
her first sip. "Since when did Mom include cream and
Here." He switched mugs. "Much better,"
B'Elanna said after her next sip.
it coming?" Tom asked, looking over the table of debris.
as before," B'Elanna said. "nothing much. I
feel like a Neanderthal taking apart a phaser."
smirked. "Tell me you aren't using Miral's bat'telh
as a screwdriver."
growled and took another sip. "Keep laughing, Flyboy,
and you'll be on diaper duty for a month." That earned
her a puppy-dog plea from Tom. "Actually, Chakotay
passed on a suggestion from Dalby. We may be able to use
the deflectors to counteract the Frozen Light effect. It
could weaken the field enough for our weapons to have a
chance. Tuvok's running simulations in Holodeck One."
about Chell's Leola Loaf torpedo plan?"
even the Captain is that desperate." Husband and wife
shared a quiet chuckle.
came from Sickbay to check on Harry; he and Seven were asleep.
Doc says the Sernaix are doing another docking maneuver,
and he's monitoring them. We may know more when they come
out of it. Anyway, Doc mentioned something about the debris,
you're not going to like this. Doc borrowed one of the
items. He's not certain, but Seven thinks it might be an
stared blankly for a moment. "And we're just hearing
about this now?"
everything else, it may have just slipped his mind."
sighed. This was going well. "A holoprogram with
corrupted memory buffers. He told some of this to Seven
last week, but then things got a bit hectic. You may want
to talk to them when she wakes up."
continued to seethe for a moment. "Any chance this--uplink
node had something to do with our last trip outside the
we can always hope, right?" Tom smiled. "By
the way, where's Vorik? He did a great job with the helm
upgrades. I could stop on a dime! Any chance he could
work the same magic on the Flyer?"
a dime?" B'Elanna asked.
started to respond, then thought better of it. Time for
a small change of subject. "How's Miral?"
spoke with T'Pel an hour ago; she finally got her to sleep."
What's she using, the nerve pinch?"
smiled. "Something called Phalor's Journey. It's
a 'tale of enlightenment in 348 verses.' T'Pel said it
worked great for their kids."
what we need--an enlightened seven-month-old."
long as she sleeps through the night, she can be anything
she wants. A little Vulcan discipline could be a nice balance
to all that Klingon spunk, especially when she hits her
frowned. "Still, I was hoping to read Miral some Warrior
Women at the River of Blood. If she gets hooked on
Vulcan bedtime stories, where can I go with a little Klingon
eyes took on a bedroom cast. "You have to ask?"
smiled and gave her a discreet kiss.
time, she didn't mind the taste of cream and sugar.
up, sleepy head," Doc purred into Seven's ear.
long was I asleep?" Seven asked.
minutes. The ships have begun to undock; Lieutenant Kim
will likely remain asleep until the remaining ships are
free. So--did you get anything?"
Seven said. Doc noted she looked a bit unsteady and helped
her to a sitting position. "I did not link with the
Realm, but I did make contact with Ozymandias."
downloaded a portion of his consciousness into my cortical
node. It is active--he says our success has been limited
because he 'didn't want to make it too easy.' He is a curious
and frustrating individual."
You made contact? Did he give you anything else?"
things. He provided limited data on the Sernaix cloaking
technology earlier, to allow us to detect them. He has
provided access to the remainder of that technology. We
may be able to reproduce it."
What's the other item?"
frowned. "Ozymandias prefers to 'keep it fun.' He
told me that if I had any further questions, to 'sleep on
it.' I believe he wants me to speak with him in the dream
state. But there is no guarantee he will provide the information
smirked. "I'm starting to like this Ozymandias. I'll
accept any excuse to get you to regenerate more often."
my link with Ozymandias is not possible when I regenerate.
I will require actual sleep for that communication."
certain we can arrange quarters for you. In the meantime,
mi sickbay es su sickbay," the Doctor chirped.
return expression was the very antithesis of amusement.
Doc's smile vanished.
there is nothing further, I need to speak with Lieutenant
moment after Seven left Sickbay, Icheb called with word
that the last of the Sernaix ships had undocked. The Doctor
acknowledged, and walked over to Harry's bedside and placed
a hand on his shoulder. "Lieutenant?"
awoke with a start. "Water!" he shouted.
was startled. "Of course, I'll get you some right
Water! Another Ocampa!"
What is it?"
finished waking up. "I--damn, it's gone. Did I say
'water' and 'Ocampa.' Do you know what it means?"
racked his brains. A moment before it had been so clear,
so terrible. Earth was in danger, he was certain. But
what was that about Ocampa? They hadn't seen Kes in over
a year. "I'm not sure. But we'd better tell the captain."
Log, Supplemental. We’ve arrived at Ayretha and have arranged
to speak once again with Speaker Mateth.I hope this excursion
into the colossal caves yields better results.We're quickly
running out of options. "Welcome, Captain Janeway of
Voyager. Welcome to the eternal home of the Ayrethans."
Speaker Mateth offered the familiar greeting, along with
the extended-palm gesture.
returned it. "Thank you for agreeing to speak with
us again, Speaker. This is Lieutenant Harry Kim."
"You are always welcome to the Sacred Caves, Captain
Janeway of Voyager. I greet you, Lieutenant Harry
Kim." "Is the Council ready to speak with us?"
course. This way, please." Mateth led the way. It
wasn't a long walk through the caves, but Janeway had a
brief shudder of memory from her previous visit.
chamber into which Speaker Mateth brought them featured
two quarter-circle tables. Three Elders were seated at
each. A slightly raised dais was somewhat behind the juncture
of the two tables, and was presently empty. Behind each
arc was a set of bench seats, where several dozen other
Ayrethans sat expectantly.
Janeway's surprise, in contrast with the wood and stone
of most of the seats, the most comfortable seats in the
room were reserved for herself and Harry.
be seated, and we shall begin. Would you care for any refreshments,
Captain Janeway of Voyager? Lieutenant Kim?"
thank you," Janeway said for them both.
Mateth smiled warmly. "Of course. If you have such
need, do not hesitate to ask."
we develop such need, won't you know already?" Janeway
asked with a wry smile.
Mateth then took his place on the dais. "To what do
we owe the pleasure of this gathering, Captain Janeway?"
I think you know why we're here. Although you have a lovely
Eternal Home, it's not one my people can share."
are many worlds here, Captain." "I'm referring
to the Time Bubble, Speaker Mateth."
was murmuring among the Elders, and the others. Speaker
Mateth's skin changed to a slightly brighter shade of green,
which soon subsided.
Lieutenant Paris spoke of our meal conversation," the
course. And with our Doctor." She leveled her gaze
at Elders Ipthar and Nethma. "Their reports were most...enlightening."
are pleased. Enlightenment is a wondrous blessing."
I've brought Lieutenant Kim because he seeks enlightenment.
I believe you may be able to assist him."
may we assist?"
looked to Harry, indicating that he should speak. Harry
arose. "I've...I've been having dreams, but they stick
with me only as long as I'm asleep. I understand you have
something called a dahtelnula that might help me
understand their meaning."
chamber was lit with an eerie green glow as the shock of
those present manifested itself via their skin.
Paris said it means 'window to the soul.' I could really
use one of those right now."
will consider your request," Speaker Mateth said.
you, Speaker," Janeway said. "I have another
item as well, but perhaps it should wait until after your
decision on Harry's request...unless you already know what
I'm going to ask."
are aware," Elder Ipthar said. "As we told your
Lieutenant Paris, what you ask is not possible. There is
no way to leave the Eternal Home."
ship's sensors would beg to differ," Janeway said.
"I can make them available if you wish."
captain stood and walked toward the dais. She paced in
a semicircle, giving each Elder a firm, knowing gaze. "I
also know that you know how to leave this place. I don't
know if the Sernaix know how--but I have it on good authority
they are about to try. They are determined to destroy my
home world--that's ten billion life forms, Elders!--because
they believe we are their Enemy."
noted the color change and smiled. "I know my people
aren't their Enemy. And I know you know it as well."
knowledge is formidable, Captain," said Mateth. "Have
you proof for this knowledge?"
evasiveness is my proof, Speaker. When we approach the
truth, you hide behind ambiguity. So I ask you directly--do
you know that my people are not the Sernaix's
Sernaix...are mistaken," he said at last. Janeway
acknowledged with a grateful nod. It was as close as she
was going to get.
my question, esteemed Elders of Ayretha, is this: are you
so committed to preserving your fiction that Nobody
Leaves the Eternal Home that you would not help us prevent
the murder of ten billion innocent people?"
let the question hang, then stared up at Speaker Mateth.
Then she returned to her seat--and, with a flourish, draped
herself on the chair as though she were once again Arachnia,
Queen of the Spider People--with a gaze that never left
the forehead of Speaker Mateth.
was murmuring again, this time only among the Youngers on
the back benches. Among the Elders, there was only silence.
Mateth spoke. "We will consider your request, Captain
Janeway of Voyager."
was assigned to escort Janeway and Harry to the surface
so they could be beamed back to Voyager, while the
Elders discussed the requests. They walked the distance
in a companionable silence.
Janeway could call for a beam-up, however, Sokmal offered
a conspiratorial whisper. "I hope the Elders will
help you, Captain. It would be wrong of us not to."
you," Janeway said sincerely. "If they refuse,
is there anyone else who could help us?"
must be," Sokmal said. "But I fear the window
of opportunity may be too narrow for alternatives. Be well,
Captain. Be well, Lieutenant. Whatever transpires, may
you be spared the wrath of the goddess."
hope you're right," Janeway said. "About the
Elders." She wasn't sure what to make of the 'goddess'
tapped her combadge. "Janeway to Voyager--two
to beam up."
"We must assist them," Elder Nethma said. "It
is impossible," said Elder Ipthar.
did escape the Bubble for a time," Mateth said. "Their
logs indicate wreckage of Sernaix craft in their Alpha Quadrant.
fiction!" Ipthar said.
what you like, Ipthar. The Sernaix have long desired to
leave here. Voyager's sensors indicate that they
succeeded with their tests. The Sernaix were somehow stopped
after their escape to spacetime. These are facts."
refused to speak further. It was clear what his vote would
must assist them," Elder Nethma repeated. "We
cannot fight their battle, but we should not prevent them
from defending their home. For the sake of ten billion
lives, we are obligated to let them try."
there more comments, or shall we vote?" Speaker Mateth
Log, Supplemental. I'll say this for the Ayrethans--they're
consistent. They continue to assert that "no one leaves
the Eternal Home," yet they provided surprisingly detailed
information on how to do so. They warned our success in
exiting the Bubble will be directly tied to that of the
Sernaix. If they fail to escape, they say, so will we.
the crew have been hard at work preparing for our escape--and
for our confrontation with the Sernaix. The question now
is not whether to take them on--but where the battle will
still apprehensive, but the team's breakthroughs and coordination
have reconfirmed my belief that this is the finest crew
I've ever been privileged to command. It never fails to
amaze me how often we've risen to the challenge, no matter
how daunting the odds.
reviewed the Ayrethan data--We won't have any problems making
the adjustments to our shields and warp harmonics,"
B'Elanna reported to the senior staff. "As long as
the Sernaix leave this way, we'll be able to follow wherever--and
Tom?" Janeway asked next.
looks straightforward enough. If all goes according to
plan it shouldn't even be a bumpy ride."
hold you to that," Janeway said with a grin. "Tuvok?"
and photon torpedoes are at full readiness. Deflectors have
been modified according to Lieutenant Torres' recommendations.
Simulations indicate a 78% probability of success against
the Sernaix defenses. Modifications to shields and the
ablative hull armor should provide greater protection against
take it," said Janeway. "And the cloaking technology?"
information provided by Seven of Nine and the Doctor was
most enlightening. It would be impractical to attempt to
apply them to Voyager. However, a shuttlecraft could
be adapted in approximately three hours."
that include the Flyer?" Tom asked. "Perhaps."
considered this. "Assign teams to make cloak modifications
to two shuttles. Adapt the Flyer's shields and sensors
for engaging the Sernaix, but don't add the cloak."
turned to the wall console. "Doctor?"
Doctor offered his update from Sickbay. Seven of Nine was
with him. Behind them, Harry could be seen, asleep.
Sernaix are chatting again, so Lieutenant Kim can't be with
us right now," Doc said wryly.
he have any further thoughts on his last episode?"
Chakotay asked. "Any meaning behind 'Ocampa' and 'water'?"
frowned. "He isn't sure, but he believes it may have
something to do with the situation that made the surface
uninhabitable. Perhaps the Sernaix have the means to strike
at Earth's ecosystem. Given the nature of dreams, it could
simply be a representation of 'scorched earth'--the Sernaix
intention to attack Earth."
think it could have had anything to do with Harry's abduction
by the Caretaker?" Tom asked. He remembered that vividly;
the only friend he'd managed to make on those first days
aboard Voyager, and he'd been stolen away after the
Caretaker dragged them into the Delta Quadrant.
Caretaker took me too," B'Elanna said, shuddering at
the memory. "But I haven't been affected by the ship
some more. "Well, it couldn't have anything to do with
Janeway asked. "We haven't tried a mind meld yet.
Do you think it could help?"
nodded. "Give it some thought. Seven, any luck with
Seven looked uncomfortable. "It may be possible to
access the Sernaix control systems through the uplink node
we recovered. It will require proximity to the Node ship."
proximate?" "Less than a kilometer."
let out a whistle. "That cloak system had better be
can we do with access to their systems?" Janeway asked.
"Could we order a self-destruct?"
The Sernaix ship minds are extremely sophisticated. But
they are also--individuals. Ozymandias believes he can
'have fun' with the node ship. But I am not sure I trust
he's likely to cause problems for the Sernaix, I'm willing
to take the risk," Janeway said. "Seven, assist
with the modifications to the shuttles. Thank you, Doctor.
Send Harry to the bridge when he awakens."
Commander--what has your Maquis Brain Trust concocted?"
that what Chell served for dinner last niOWW!" Tom
asked, earning him a vicious kick under the table from B'Elanna
and a glare from Janeway. Still, Tom thought, it was worth
have some options that can make use of those cloaked shuttles,"
replied Chakotay. "The closer we can get, the better
our chances of disabling that node vessel. If we can access
their network, we might also be able to disrupt it."
Sernaix aren't as dependent on intership communication,"
Tuvok pointed out. "A scout vessel acting alone has
proven most formidable."
were thinking of pitting the vessels against each other.
Seven, you said the Pack vessels are chiefly made up of
the young, right?" Seven nodded. "The young
tend to crave adventure. They think they're invincible.
We don't need them to kill each other, but they might be
up for a distraction."
their urge for fun?" Seven asked. "Something like
the node ship and battleships?" Janeway asked.
Caretaker reference gave me an idea," continued the
Commander. "A few tricobalt devices should penetrate
any defenses. We still have some left over. Those devices
shred subspace as well, so even if the node ship fades from
realspace, it should breach their hull."
eyes widened. "You have been thinking outside
the box, Commander."
Maquis didn't have anything that sophisticated," Chakotay
said," but we have used the tactic before. A shuttle
parked under the warp core of a Galor-class vessel, its
warp engines set to overload. We used to call it the Remora
Tom asked. "Leeches of the sea? Like those parasite
fish that attached themselves to larger sea creatures like
sharks, rays, whales?"
nodded. "As long as we could avoid their detection long
enough to get close, they never knew we were there until it
was too late." "Didn't you lose a lot of Maquis
that way?" Janeway asked. "I'm not fond of sending
anyone on a suicide mission." "We had good men working
considered this. "I'd rather not use the tricobalt
devices, but I'll approve their use as a last resort. Operation
Remora it is. I want our best people working the transporters;
I want no casualties on this mission." She gave Seven
a particularly meaningful look; she would have to be on
the lead shuttle, and Janeway wanted her to live to tell
the tale. "I leave it to you to assign teams, Commander."
was interrupted by a scream in sickbay.
Kim is awake," the Doctor said. "If you'll excuse
broke into the meeting. "Astrometrics to Captain Janeway.
The Sernaix have jumped to warp. All of them."
Janeway said. "Red Alert!"
Sycorax was amused by the ease with which the young males
were manipulated. The infinite possibilities of the Realm
meant little to them; toss in a few words about glory and
vengeance against the great hated Enemy, and a few mind-numbing
hours of explosions and their hearts and minds were hers
for the molding.
each Summoning the task grew easier. At first, they had
required seduction on a grand scale. But now, she could
work in shorthand, expending far fewer resources on compelling
argument, and more on simple pyrotechnics.
had, however, pulled all the stops for the grand finale.
"Behold the instrument of our vengeance! Behold your
path of glory!"
Earth loomed in the center of the arena. No female stand-in,
this--this was the human homeworld in all its vibrant glory.
Life teemed on, above, below the surface. And then came
smaller vessels engaged in myriad dogfights with the Enemy.
Each Pack was given its moment of glory, its name spoken
with pride and fanfare to the cheers of all present. The
mightiest of the Enemy's starships exploded as violently
and as gloriously as the smallest runabout.
battlecruisers were tasked with taking out the planetary
defenses. Even the mighty space dock, continent-sized,
was reduced to an expanding cloud of plasma. Again the
packs cheered. The Node ship practically sauntered into
close orbit. "And now--behold the weapon of legend!"
A yellow beam, encircled by brilliant red spirals, lanced
out from the Node vessel, striking the vast blue oceans
of the Enemy homeworld.
seas boiled. Clouds billowed. The planet was covered utterly
in mist. Then a firey orange wave engulfed the mist covered
Sycorax had risked boring the packs momentarily. She noted
a few virtual yawns. But then the mist cleared.
were the vast blue oceans. Gone the greens and whites and
golden shades of life. Gone the lights and movement indicative
of a thriving planet.
there was nothing but a sickly brown. All life was gone.
There were gasps.
then the planet--swept clean of the Enemy--exploded. (She
knew the actual weapon wasn't that devastating, of course--the
planet would remain intact-- but the males didn't need to
know that.) Pandemonium ensued. As expected.
watched the thunderous reaction, satisfied. Males were
so predictable. Particularly the young ones. That made
them useful; they would now follow her into the jaws of
whatever hell she commanded, convinced it would be worth
the trip. As of course it would be.
only concern Sycorax had at the moment was the presence,
slight but detectable, of the One who had been Touched.
The Abomination, as well, continued to exist, though its
present capabilities were unknown.
the benefits outweighed the risks. The time had come for
the Crusade to begin.
Log, Stardate 55351.3. The Sernaix are underway, and our
preparations continue. At current course and speed, we have
approximately 26 hours before the Sernaix attempt to escape
the bubble. I've asked Tuvok to perform a mind meld to
get what information we can from Harry's experiences.
mind...to your mind. My thoughts...to your thoughts..."
Janeway watched intently as Tuvok's deep monotone initiated
never understood your eagerness to allow this," Doc
said. "The mind meld is highly overrated, and often
this case, it's a risk I'm willing to take." Janeway
stood with arms crossed, chewing on her right thumbnail.
you don't know the variables! If the Sernaix are influencing
Lieutenant Kim's mind, the condition could spread to Tuvok
as well, and disable them both in the middle of battle!"
"Objections noted, Doctor."
mind meld was more dynamic to experience than to observe.
The Doctor continued to monitor the lifesigns of both officers,
but there was little else to do but wait.
minutes later, Tuvok broke the meld. "The images are
less memories than impressions. Mr. Kim is correct--if
these impressions are to be believed, the Sernaix intend
to target Earth with their fleet, and will not stop until
there is nothing left to target."
class of ships had a specific target. The Scouts and corsairs
will engage any vessels they find. The battleships will
target Earth's primary defenses and larger satellites.
The weapon of mass destruction is found on the Node ship;
it appears to target the oceans, and is designed to obliterate
the ecosystem. However--" "Yes?" Janeway
prompted a moment later.
invasion imagery was highly stylized. More like a propaganda
film than a battle plan. The dreams Lieutenant Kim experienced
could well have been an effort to spur the Sernaix into
a battle frenzy. I was reminded, above all, of one of Mr.
caught Janeway by surprise. "Thank you, Tuvok! That's
more useful than I thought."
of Nine had opted to spearhead the modifications on the
Odysseus, leaving the shuttle Archer to Lt.
Nicoletti's team. "Adjust shield harmonics 0.047 percent,"
she told Ensign Vorik. "Adjustment complete,"
Vorik said a moment later. "Re-run simulation Seven-gamma."
it going?" Captain Janeway asked. She handed Seven
of Nine a plate. "Cucumber sandwiches. You must be
hungry." "I am busy."
come now, Seven--you can eat and work at the same time."
She popped one of the small triangles into her mouth. "Multitask.
By the way--nice choice." Seven sat up a little straighter.
"Given the Trojan Horse nature of the mission, the
Odysseus seemed appropriate."
concur," Janeway said. Her eyes twinkled. "How
are the modifications coming?"
anticipate completion of the frozen-light shield enhancements
within the hour. The Doctor has integrated the uplink node
with the comm system and has provided 10 cc of Sernaix blood
to activate. Commander Tuvok has loaded two tricobalt devices
into the aft compartment."
sighed. "I hate those things. Why I agreed to bring
them aboard I'll never know. Well, they did come in handy
to keep the Caretaker's array out of Kazon hands. But that
kind of power..." "Perhaps its primary function
is to deter its use--to prompt the commander to consider
Janeway said. "Be careful. Because of the nature
of this, I want our best people available. I have crews
in mind, but if you have a suggestion, I'm open to them."
must be on the Odysseus, of course," Seven said.
"I would like the Doctor to assist me. He has sufficient
knowledge of the Sernaix link node."
hesitated, then nodded. If all went according to plan,
they'd be back in the Alpha Quadrant and everyone would
survive. If it didn't, they were all likely dead. She
hated the thought of losing the Doctor, but if he increased
the mission's odds of success, so be it. "I'll speak
with him. And the pilot? How about Harry?"
shook her head. "No. Lieutenant Kim is needed on
Voyager. When he and I were on the Silver Sky ship,
Ozymandias mentioned that one of us is 'the One who was
Touched.' The Sernaix had held back from destroying Voyager
as long as this Touched person was onboard, but when
we were away they had no such inhibitions. Keeping him
on Voyager improves the likelihood that Voyager
will not be targeted."
you think Harry is this Touched One?" Janeway asked.
"It could be you."
it could be. Ozymandias has not told me which of us is that
person. If it's me, then I will have a greater chance of
completing my mission. If it's Harry, then Voyager will
this mission fails, Voyager won't be safe. I'll
ram Voyager down that node ship's throat if that's
what it takes." "Nevertheless--Lieutenant Kim
should remain on Voyager."
Harry is out. Do you have a preference?"
on the Odysseus. But if the other shuttle is flown
by Lieutenant Paris--"
smiled. "Put the best pilot behind the rescue shuttle?
Makes sense. Consider it done."
won't say I'm not worried. But I know you'll do your best,
and that's all any of us can ask. If you do that--even
if the mission doesn't succeed--you won't have failed."
blinked. That was exactly her concern. "Thank you,
mention it," Janeway said with a soul-melting smile,
all teeth and glistening eyes. "Now--eat up,"
she said, holding out the plate yet again.
lips twitched upward. Then they parted, to make room for
a slice of cucumber sandwich.
Dalby. Can I help you?" Chakotay's face was impassive.
But truth be told, he'd been dreading this. "I'd like
to volunteer for the mission, sir." "What qualifies
you for the mission, crewman?"
stiffened. "Are you using any of my ideas, sir?"
using a lot of ideas. Could you execute the mission without
letting your preferences get in the way?"
I--what's the deal? You know I can do this. I was one
of your best men in the Maquis. I did missions like this
in my sleep."
was almost eight years ago, Dalby. Times have changed.
We haven't used those skills in a long time."
me, sir, I'd be an asset to this mission. I want to go!
I can do this; you won't be disappointed.
was torn. He saw the phaser on Dalby's hip. He couldn't
see the hash marks, but he knew they were there. He had
an identical phaser butt locked in a drawer in his office,
debris from a centuries-old crash site.
sympathized with Dalby. He'd known that of all his former
Maquis crew, Dalby had struggled most to adapt to their
sudden transition to Starfleet protocols. Dalby was a warrior;
in the Maquis that made him a hero.
Voyager, it had made him a relic, because warriors
in peacetime needed a fallback skill. B'Elanna was a crack
engineer; Ayala had proven to be a trustworthy bridge officer.
Dalby got the job done, but his heart wasn't in it most
of the time.
heart would be in a battle. But so would his phaser--and
to Chakotay that meant that this mission would not end well
for Dalby if he went.
had debated whether to give this news to Dalby. In the
end, he had decided not to. But he'd do his best to change
the end result by other means. "I assume you'd want
to pilot the Odysseus," Chakotay said.
sir." Dalby's hopes rose. "Good--then you won't
need your phaser." He held out his hand. "Sir?"
phaser. Hand it over." "Commander, with all due
the matter, crewman? It's just a phaser. You got it from
the locker, right?" "Ummm…not exactly." "Explain."
a lot's happened in eight years. When the order came to
turn in all our Maquis equipment--"
shrugged. "I didn't trust the captain. For a while,
I didn't trust you for turning us over to her. By the time
I did learn to trust again, so much time had passed that
I didn't think anyone would care about one little phaser."
"What are you saying, Dalby?" Chakotay asked,
letting Dalby twist in the wind.
withdrew his phaser. "I kept my phaser, sir. It meant
a lot to me to keep it, and I don't know if I can let go
of it now." "Would you let it go if keeping it
meant not going on this mission?"
does it matter? If the plan works, we'll get beamed back
before they know what hit them. If it doesn't, I want to
go down fighting. I'm not looking to be a hero here; I
just want to do what I do best. And this phaser--it's been
my good luck charm."
luck charm. Chakotay wanted to shout otherwise, or
show the relic he'd recovered. But he also had to admit
that his biggest concern--that Dalby wanted on this mission
to be a martyr--appeared unfounded.
were so many variables. There was no guarantee that this
mission would be the one that resulted in that debris field.
The Sernaix appeared formidable enough; perhaps Captain
Dalby would lead a strike years from now against the Sernaix.
then there was the Temporal Prime Directive. If he didn't
know about the phaser, what would he have said to Dalby's
came down to that, didn't it? He wasn't Admiral Janeway;
he couldn't imagine himself trying to change history for
right. Report to the shuttlebay; help Seven of Nine and
the Doctor. I'm counting on you to bring everyone back
snapped to attention. He couldn't keep the grin from his
face. "Aye, sir! You won't be sorry, sir!" Chakotay
watched him leave, and fervently hoped that was true.
"Dalby? Crewman Dalby?!?" "Kathryn,
I know he hasn't been one of our more cooperative crewmen,"
Chakotay said. "That's an understatement!"
I know another side to Dalby. He was one of my most trusted
people in the Maquis. He saved my life repeatedly. He
won't go down without a fight--and he'll stand in the way
of phaser fire to get Seven of Nine and the Doctor home
he's a hero? Chakotay, I don't want a hero on this mission--"
won't be. I can't promise that he'll make it back, but
he won't go down with the ship unless he has to. What he
will do is everything in his power to see this mission through.
It's a matter of pride with him." "Why are you
fighting for him, Chakotay?"
not," he said. "Frankly, I'd rather he not be
the one to go. But I am convinced he's meant to go."
"How do you know that?"
sighed. He then opened a wooden box and removed a weathered
phaser handle. "I picked this up in the future debris
field." "Yes, I remember," Janeway said,
not taking it. "I know who it belongs to."
pause. "Dalby?" She saw him nod. "And
you still want him to go?"
may be inevitable, Kathryn. Remember, the debris we saw
was mostly Sernaix. The planet was desolate. If I had
to guess, I'd say we succeed. But that there may be a casualty.
If so, do we dare change even one variable that might lead
was furious. Temporal cause and effect. She felt the throbbing
in her temples. "I don't care for this, Chakotay."
do I. For all his struggles, Dalby is a friend."
never really fit in here," Janeway lamented. "That
may be my fault; I never gave him much of a chance."
don't know the future, Kathryn. All we found was a phaser;
don't write him off just yet."
right, of course." Still, Janeway grew wistful. "You
know, he was always such a hit at Neelix’s talent nights!
My heavens, the voice on that man!"
looked somber. “I know why the caged bird sings,” he said
to the Bridge. The Sernaix are slowing."
you, Icheb. All right, people, stay sharp," she told
the bridge crew. "Tom, maintain distance." "Yes,
all frequencies, best resolution. I want to know what happens
down to the last decimal. Icheb, do the same."
I'm noting some chroniton leakage near the Sernaix position.
The time bubble seems to be weak. But it's small--less
than three meters in diameter. We'd never have found this
spot on our own."
on it, Harry." Janeway's mouth was a tight line.
The Ayrethans knew about this place. That's how they were
so certain of the Sernaix's escape plan. Well, at least
they'd come through in time. She hoped. "On screen.
Use the new scanners."
most of the bridge crew, this was the first real view of
a functioning Sernaix vessel. Now they were seeing thirty--a
sight that left some breathless.
of their smallest vessels had been nearly as devastating
as a Species 8472 ship. They'd survived only by sheer luck
and unexpected allies up to now. And now they were about
to go charging in and taking on a fleet.
Romans had a goddess of fortune, and Rome's greatest generals
worshipped her best. It was rumored that James Tiberius
Kirk had done the same. Hell, it couldn't hurt. Let
Fortune favor the foolish, Janeway prayed.
to shuttlebay. Seven, what's your status?" "All
modifications complete. We're ready, captain." All
they could do now was watch and wait.
They didn't wait long.
Sernaix vessels closed to a tight formation. To Harry's
relief, they didn't dock with the Node ship. Then the ships
began to shimmer. "What's happening?" Janeway
are being raised," Tuvok announced. "Correction--one
shield, encompassing all vessels." "That's it,"
Janeway said. "Scanning," Tuvok said. When the
shields solidified, the fleet disappeared. "They're
gone, Captain," Harry reported.
rose from her seat. "Tuvok?"
was hard at work analyzing the data. "Parameters isolated.
We have what we need."
let out an audible sigh. "Good work. Tom--take us
to the launch point, best speed."
laid in. We'll be there in fifteen minutes."
were there in six. Janeway bit her tongue; it had been
a rough ride, but every minute counted. "B'Elanna,
is everything ready?" "Yes, Captain," B'Elanna
said from engineering. "Tom?" "Yes, ma'am."
took her seat. She looked over at Chakotay and reached
out her hand. Chakotay took it, and they shared a brief
squeeze. Then Janeway stared at the screen. "Do it."
"Raising shields," Tuvok said.
had been warned, but it hadn't been enough. The Ayrethans'
shield modifications included a temporal component that
was disquieting, to say the least. The crew experienced
a collective case of déjà vu, and felt premonitions of the
future. "Wow," Tom said, speaking for them all.
"Shields holding," Tuvok said a moment later.
"B'Elanna?" Janeway asked.
steady. The warp core is stable."
right. Tom, ease us forward."
ahead, 200kph," Tom announced. It was a relative crawl--but
this had to be close to perfect. It took nearly a minute,
but Voyager finally felt the promised bump. "We're
in contact with the bubble wall," Harry said. "And
the weak spot?"
a little up and to port. Only six meters from dead center.
Not bad for a married guy," Harry said, earning a smile
from Tom. "Feeding coordinates to Tuvok now."
"Tuvok, how's our harmonics?"
by 0.0003. Compensating....Adjustment complete."
Janeway said. "Harry, open a shipwide channel. This
is the captain. Hang on--we're going home."
Tuvok," Janeway said. "Fire."
thick, low-power beam shot out from Voyager toward
the weak spot in the temporal bubble. The ship rocked a
little. "Bubble breached," Tuvok said. "Widen
the rift, Mr. Tuvok."
did so. Slowly, the juncture of the time bubble and the
Voyager shields began to part--and Voyager found
itself looking at the incomparably beautiful sight of the
stars of Home.
the shield bubble is shrinking. We're being forced out
of the Bubble," Harry said.
on!" Janeway shouted, as she felt the bottom drop
out of the artificial gravity.
passed through the widening rift, but the shields--adjusted
to match the properties of the bubble wall--stayed behind.
So a part of their exit was disquieting. For some, time
stood still. For others, it was like a joyride at Warp
Ten. Lives flashed by in an instant. Then it was over.
They were out.
that was the easy part.
"Harry--get a fix on our location. Where are we?
More to the point, when are we?"
to my readouts--the stars are consistent with the late 24th-century.
Location: Sector 19658." He looked up. "We did
Chakotay muttered under his breath. Janeway heard it, and
knew what was bothering him. This is where they found the
debris field, and Dalby's phaser. The implications of the
mission became that much greater, and more personal.
celebrate yet, Mr. Kim. We still have an invasion to thwart.
Scan for the Sernaix."
them! They're orbiting a planet three light years away."
"Describe the planet," Chakotay ordered.
M. No humanoid lifesigns. Maybe pre-Pleistocene era. Lots
of vegetation, 60% water. Looks like a nice place for shore
to shuttle bay," Janeway said. "Status?"
transition to normal space was--chaotic," Seven of
Nine replied, "But the shuttles are undamaged. We
are ready." Janeway dismissed Lt. Paris to the shuttle
bay; Ensign Culhane took over at helm.
Odysseus is off," Harry announced five minutes
later. "The Archer is away," he added
a moment later.
modifications are in place," Tuvok announced. "Deflectors
Janeway ordered. The bridge darkened, and the crew became
all business. There would be time to enjoy the Alpha Quadrant
in a moment. Or there would be nothing worth enjoying.
hull armor," Tuvok said. "Raising shields."
Culhane--initiate attack pattern Dalby Omega Five."
Chakotay was surprised by this. Janeway spared a look at
him, and winked. It was the least she could do. "Pick
your targets, Mr. Tuvok. Get their attention." "Initiating,"
made a swooping dive toward the flank of the Sernaix
convoy. Tuvok took aim at one of the three Scout vessels--ambitious,
Janeway thought approvingly, but not too cocky. He fired.
modifications made to the phasers were impressive, but insufficient.
"Minor damage," Tuvok said. "Again,"
took aim at one corsair, then another. Each time, the upgraded
phasers made an impression, but the ships remained intact.
The second corsair was flying erratically, though.
got their attention. "Ten Corsairs are changing course."
pattern Theta," Janeway said. "Let them come
after us, but don't make it too easy for them."
captain," Culhane said nervously. He'd much rather
have hit the afterburners and left rubber in subspace, but
he understood the mission. "We are being scanned,"
looked over her shoulder to Harry, working diligently at
Ops. "Let them scan. When they're done, fly into
the nearest sun--but not too far, Mr. Culhane. We'll
want to come back out eventually."
Seven, it's your turn. Make me proud.
"Who's flying Voyager?" The Doctor demanded.
"Ensign Culhane," Seven said.
Doc said, noting the unusually agile Voyager. It
was making turns that would have turned stomachs on the
Delta Flyer. "I thought perhaps Icheb was auditioning
for Nova Squadron." "Focus on the mission, Doctor,"
now, the Doctor had little to focus on. Dalby was piloting
the ship toward the node vessel, and Seven was busy keeping
the jury-rigged cloak in place. Doc was simply doing his
duty--keeping the mood light. But so few appreciated that
aspect of his skill.
going to have a chat with Ensign Culhane when we get back,"
Tom said as he moved into position. "Is he doing something
wrong?" asked Crewman Chell.
not. That's the problem. He may be bucking for my job."
He remembered his month in Voyager's brig. Culhane
had performed admirably as the helmsman in that month, including
a set of brilliant maneuvers that had saved Voyager from
a particularly aggressive species. Oh, Doc had enjoyed
rubbing in that little report. "Well, maybe it's time
I settled down to something a little less exciting."
like parenthood? Piloting is tame compared to that."
chuckled. "I can't argue with that. Okay--we're in
position. Now we wait. You ready?"
looked as nervous as Tom felt. But he nodded bravely.
right. If this works, this'll be one for the books. Ready
to be a hero?"
bristled. "The heroes are over there."
pointed out the window toward what could well have been
a planet and lots of empty space. Only the sensors told
the real story--a score of Sernaix vessels, and one lone
shuttle creeping up under the belly of the beast.
corsairs failed to reach Voyager before she disappeared
into the sun's corona. They had been given strict orders
to not destroy the vessel; otherwise, some of the packs
would have followed her in.
Sernaix regrouped. None noticed the small addition to the
convoy, nestled under the mighty Node vessel's hull.
had activated the screens on the windows to her ready room.
The brilliance of the sun was simply overwhelming. Even
without the view, she thought she could feel the vaporizing
heat mere meters away. "Are we ready for this, Chakotay?"
do you mean? We've come this far."
mean--as far as we know, this is the entire Sernaix race.
Are we prepared to commit genocide?" "It may not
come to that," Chakotay said mildly.
it might. We had no quarrel with them, Chakotay, but they're
preparing to destroy humanity on the mistaken belief that
we're their enemy. I don't feel good about destroying them
merely because they're mistaken."
more than just being mistaken, Kathryn. If they simply
chose to hate us, we could leave them alone. But they're
acting on that hatred. As long as they're a threat, you're
right to defend against them."
right," Janeway said. "But how many times have
we run into this? The Borg, Species 8472, the Hirogen--each
time, we encountered them as this Ultimate Threat. And
we were ready to fight back in the same way. But in most
cases--even with the Borg, to an extent--we reached a sort
of peace. It's like the Vaadwaur; with so few people left,
every ship we destroyed to save ourselves reduced their
odds of survival as a species."
it's good that you're thinking about this. But don't let
it paralyze you. Now is the time to fight. They brought
the war to us--all we can do is fight it as best we can.
If and when the time comes for mercy, you'll know it. You
cold comfort, Chakotay. 'Kill all the bad guys, make friends
with who's left.' It seems we've been living by that code
for eight years."
eight?" Chakotay said with a sad smile. "Oh,
that's right--you weren't a Maquis."
needn't have worried about genocide. There were more Sernaix
around than those now in the Alpha Quadrant. Many more.
variance in spacetime between the convoy's current location
and the Time Bubble wasn't much of a barrier, either. Sycorax
was keeping tabs on the fleet from within the safety of
Adimha was aware, vaguely, of Voyager's plans. That
was exhilarating--an unexpected variable. If Syrorax had
a flaw, it was the extent of her knowledge and power. It
was a rare treat to be subject to the novelty of an unpredictable
this reason, Sycorax sent a decree to those in the Management
Cadre. The invasion fleet is on its own. Their combined
might should have little trouble with one small starship.
But if that one small starship could take out the fleet--what
an entertainment! The wagering began. Just to add to the
novelty, the Cadre pored over the Federation database they
acquired from a scan of Voyager's systems. "Four
hundred quatloos against the newcomer," said Sycorax,
opening the bidding.
"Just like old times," Dalby said, staring up
at the hull of the Node ship. Well, not entirely; Cardie
ships were never this color.
ready, Doctor," Seven said. She held out her exoskeletal
hand. "keep your distance; the uplink node did not
agree with you the last time." "That's an understatement,"
Doc said, handing her the vial of Sernaix blood. Seven assimilated
the uplink node while the Doctor monitored her cortical
activity. "I have access."
watched intently for any sign that Seven was in jeopardy
of losing control. But so far, she seemed to remain herself.
"I have access to the node vessel's uplink codes."
is an interesting sensation. The uplink to the Realm is
vast, but not unlike Unimatrix Zero. I was able to pinpoint
our current location in realspace, and determined the identity
of the vessel to which we are attached." "But--how
can you cope with all that?" Doc asked, remembering--rather,
not remembering--his own attempt.
and time, for the Sernaix, are irrelevant. Their technology
is impressive. But this uplink node is limited, more of
a communications device than a full pathway to the Realm."
concentrated for a moment. "Accessing ship's capabilities.
Node class, standard Sernaix weaponry, multiple banks.
Chief purpose is to connect smaller vessels to the Realm.
However…there is a device…this may be the weapon Lieutenant
Kim saw." "How do you know?" "It is
under heavy guard." "Makes sense to me,"
you know what it does?" Doc says.
to access…it would appear that the device destroys all nucleogenic
particles in a planetary ecosystem, followed by vaporization
of organic material. The result would be a system-wide
dehydration." "What would happen if that were
used on a planet such as, say, Earth?" Doc asked, suspecting
he already knew the answer.
Seven's matter-of-fact tone was disquieting even to the
you disable it?" Doc asks. "No. But I can detonate
would that do to the Sernaix?" Doc asks.
Sernaix caught in the anti-nucleogenic field would be dehydrated.
They would die." "Would it take out the battlecruisers?"
Dalby asked. "Not from here. But if the vessels were
in lower orbit, the impact of the field could disable or
destroy the vessels."
genocide!” Doc said.
point, Doctor? If we succeed, a thousand Sernaix will die.
If we fail, Earth and ten billion inhabitants will perish."
"It's not a numbers game, Seven!" Doc shouts.
beg to differ. Our intent from the beginning was to destroy
the Sernaix before they reach Earth. We will simply be
using their own device against them."
got to side with Seven," Dalby said. "They brought
the fight to us; we're just defending ourselves."
was not happy about it. "Doctor--your primary programming
is to heal. I understand your misgivings. But this must
be done," Seven said. Reluctantly, the Doctor agreed.
think I might have an idea about how to bring the fleet
closer together," Dalby said. "Can you communicate
with the other ships?" "Yes." "The Sernaix
like to fight, right?" "That is correct,"
Seven said. "Then--how about we suggest they do a little
Management Cadre watched with interest. They were well
aware of Seven of Nine's trampling through the Realm, but
did not make their presence known. This was far, far too
entertaining. "She’s good." "And our pups
are utterly oblivious." "Too caught up in the
hunt, I suspect." "A regular Helen of Troy, that
one." "She's found our fleet's Achilles’ Heel."
"We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth."
"What’s a horse?"
the Federation database. Look under classical literature.
The Aeniad. Cross-reference with English idiom."
. . . aaaaahhh. This is really quite entertaining."
"I must point out--the humans could actually defeat
our armada." "And your point is…?" "Two
hundred quatloos for the newcomer."
"Incoming message from the Node vessel," the ship
mind of Indigo Dawn announced. "Play it," said
Skohl, the Adimh.
SERNAIX WARRIORS -- BEFORE YOUR ASSAULT ON THE ANCIENT ENEMY,
YOU MUST HONE YOUR SKILLS IN THIS NEW REALM. CONDUCT WAR
EXERCISES IN LOW ORBIT OF THE PLANET IN THIS SYSTEM. TAKE
YOUR TIME; THE ENEMY WILL WAIT.
features brightened. "With whom shall we exercise?"
he asked expectantly.
thought. "I've always wanted to sharpen my skills
against Auburn Tsunami." "As have I," Zam
said. "Let us begin."
conversations were detected on every Corsair vessel. Two
of the scouts joined in. The other held back with the battleships
and the Node. "It's working," Seven said."
"The big ships are still in too high orbit," Dalby
said. "Give it time," said Seven.
The wargames started slowly, but as the teams selected themselves,
they picked up the pace.
planet soon became the Sernaix’ playground. The corsairs
got a feel for flying in variable gravity, and were soon
doing power-dives, suicide spins, tight formations, starbursts.
The maneuvers became increasingly complex and acrobatic.
said Dalby. "Those guys are good. And they're pounding
the hell out of each other."
long as their hulls are intact, they can do no damage to
each other. They play hard, but their drills are, as the
Romans would say, bloodless battles." Seven sensed
the reaction of the Realm. "Those observing are increasing
in curiosity and amusement."
will be boys," Doc said. He would be amused, if he
didn't know that their slaughter was imminent.
I thought I was a hotshot pilot," Tom said. The Archer
was a safe distance away from the action, performing an
admirable impression of a stationary hole in space.
on, guys--give me a sign…" Tom said. "Chell,
how's our transporter lock?" "Holding steady."
The sooner we're back with Voyager, the better.
I feel like a sitting duck--okay, the big ships are moving
into lower orbit. Can you compensate?"
checked. "We'll need to get closer."
The Auburn Tsunami tagged the Indigo Dawn's hull more aggressively
than expected, altering its course.
her under control!" shouted Skohl.
took a moment, but soon the course was smooth enough to
venture back into the fray. "Orders, Adimh?"
thought. "How about a high-orbit dive?"
the vessel climbed toward space, Skohl spared a glance at
the mighty Node ship that would fuel their vengeance against
the Enemy. It was an ugly thing, too overrun with Female
influence. Even so--he had to admire the power of it.
was surprised to see the outline of the ship wasn't quite
right. "Zvir--scan the Node ship. Look for any anomalies."
"I'm detecting something on the underside. Shall we
notify the Node?"
was surprised. "No, I think we'll take this one ourselves."
Seven saw through the Realm link the actions of the one
have been detected. I'm detonating the device. Dalby--take
still too high--"
The Odysseus broke free from the Node ship and headed
on a trajectory away from the planet.
anti-nucleogenic field generator had not been properly targeted.
Because of this, there was no coherent outlet for the targeting
beams. Instead, the field continued to build toward an
took several seconds to reach critical levels. Seconds
which the denizens of the Node ship--the guards, the ship
mind, the females--did not use efficiently, being too engrossed
in the mock battles being carried out below.
the field escaped its containment field, it flash-dehydrated
every water-bearing item within the Node vessel. This included
every living thing.
also included the thin skin of frozen light. With a blue-white
flash, the node ship popped like an overinflated balloon.
field continued to expand. The battlecruisers were too
close to avoid the blast, and they too were evaporated.
The scout that had held back to watch the battles from orbit
escaped the field, but its systems were damaged by the explosions
of the larger ships.
And still the field expanded, down, down into the atmosphere,
extending the chain reaction down into the ecosphere.
of the corsair vessels and the two low-flying scouts, and
their crews, were reduced to dust. Six more were severely
damaged but managed to crash land on the far side of the
planet. The field continued to dry up the planet, but it
appeared that the damage was not complete; the planet retained
some of its nucleogenic capacity, but its potential had
been vastly reduced. The once-green world was now a pallid
shade of brown.
planet's condition resembled the Sernaix. In less than
a minute, the mighty invasion fleet had been hoist on its
own petard, and reduced to three corsairs and a hobbled
But even that reduced fleet could cause considerable damage.
They intended to.
Indigo Dawn led the way.
hell," Tom said. He hadn't seen anything like this
since the archive tapes of Wolf 359, and the Genesis Incident
in the Kirk era.
was all the time he allowed himself. He locked onto the
escaping Odysseus. "Chell! Get ready! I'm
Even the time spent on a single oath was almost too much.
Seven of Nine had gone slack and slumped to the floor.
do you see the Archer?"
And we've got company. Taking evasive maneuvers…"
It was a rough ride.
vessel closing in--brace for impact!"
corsair latched onto the Odysseus. Zvir and Skohl
appeared a moment later.
was up instantly, firing. It made no impact on the personal
shielding of the Sernaix.
slapped the weapon away, then back-handed Dalby across the
chest. He went flying, and his combadge skittered across
the shuttle floor.
Doc shouted. But the words faded as the EMH and Seven of
Nine were beamed away.
Dalby watched them go--and looked in horror as his combadge
also disappeared from view.
'em!" Chell howled.
Dalby?" Doc demanded.
got his signal--his comm badge!"
Chell--lock onto the human biosign on the shuttle."
pushed himself back to his feet. The two Sernaix laughed
at their puny target; they would enjoy this.
lunged--backwards, into the pilot's panel. Before they
could stop him, Dalby pressed the Panic Button.
shuttle's warp core exploded. The cabin section was propelled
like a bullet toward the planet's surface, along with the
bulk of the Indigo Dawn vessel.
The last thing to go through Skohl's mind was the forearm
of his trusted Zvir, at a velocity approaching one-quarter
the speed of light.
over," Tom said softly. He was busy making a series
of evasive maneuvers; there were still two Sernaix vessels,
and they were closing in.
He's counting on me!"
Chell!" Doc shouted. "It wasn't your fault.
You couldn't know he would lose his comm badge. You followed
procedure; it all happened too quickly to compensate."
got to be down there!"
I can't shake these guys, we'll know soon enough."
Tom had his own Panic Button just in case. He was streaking
toward the sun, but there was no guarantee Voyager would
emerge in time. He was broadcasting on all frequencies
just in case.
I need you to man the sensors. Chell! We need you. Dalby
bought us the time we needed to escape; he did what he had
to for his crewmates. You owe it to him to help us survive
did the trick. Chell manned the station. "They're
still closing--two hundred kilometers. One eighty. One-seventy!
crew of the Archer found themselves in Transporter
room one. "Bridge--I've got them," Billy Telfer
Tuvok--target the nearest corsair," Janeway ordered.
lit up the vessel with the deflectors. The shimmering hull
stopped shimmering in the area he highlighted.
the phasers carved into that portion of the hull, it rippled
in a new way--like melted butter. Or frozen light that
had just gone to slush. Two seconds later, the corsair
exploded like an incandescent bulb.
The remaining corsair took even less time.
after the scout." Janeway was grim-faced. There was
no satisfaction in this.
It simply had to be done.
scout ship put up a fight. But it was damaged from the
explosion of the battleships. And without the planet-killing
vessel, its heart didn't seem to be in the fight anymore.
It went down after a few volleys, the last so dispirited
that Tuvok finally put it out of its misery.
the planet," Janeway said. "Search for survivors."
Harry reported a moment later.
Paris appeared on the bridge a moment later. "Doc
and Seven are in Sickbay. She's still unconscious."
Dalby?" Chakotay asked.
went down fighting. Doc says Dalby distracted them long
enough for us to beam them out. If the Sernaix hadn't knocked
off his comm badge, he would have made it too. I'm sorry."
this--and one casualty," Janeway said. "One was
Harry's console beeped. "Captain, we're being hailed."
fuzzy--extreme range. But I think it's--"
Harry then smiled, and put the incoming message on the overhead
is Captain Yvette Marson of the Federation starship Solstice.
If you are who you appear to be, it is my pleasure to say,
on behalf of the United Federation of Planets...welcome
by: Jim Wright
Beta: Daniel Bozec, Reptile, Zeke
Producers: Thinkey, Anne Rose and Coral