8-9 - A Darker Light
By: Mike Ben-Zvi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 without permission.
Tom," Harry Kim called out excitedly, as he rushed down the
corridors of the starship Voyager towards his friend.
so loud, buddy," Tom shushed him, as he gestured to the tiny
bundle he carried in the pack strapped to his chest. Little Miral
Paris was sound asleep, at least for now. But Harry knew how quickly
the newborn could be awoken and brought to tears.
it was still a strange sight for Harry to see the friend he had
once believed so devil-may-care, now a doting and responsible
just got her to calm down," Tom warned him softly. "I
don't care to have to do it all over again."
Tom," said Harry sheepishly. "I was just on my way to
do the pre-flight checklist..."
right," said Tom, grinning with interest. "Another away
mission. And so soon after your last one was such a raging success."
we got the dilithium we wanted, didn't we?"
I guess I'm just a little protective where B'Elanna is involved,"
jibed Tom. "Only this mission is being by Lieutenant
Harry Kim, if I'm not mistaken."
Senior Grade Harry Kim, if you please," replied the
young officer with a proud grin, as he thrust his chest forward,
and thumbed at the new pips on his collar.
seriously, congratulations, Har," said Tom good-naturedly.
"It's been a long time coming."
telling me," Harry joked back. "I was beginning to think
that Naomi Wildman was going to be promoted before me."
don't take it personally," replied Tom. "Every junior
Starfleet officer on board was in the same boat. Janeway just
did a little reorganizing of the command structure to make it
possible to promote you, that's all"
know, and I'm grateful for it," said Harry. "Say, maybe
we can do a 'Captain Proton' when I get back? If you really want
to congratulate me on the promotion, you can play Buster Kincaid
for a change."
pal. No can do." Tom then pointed to the sleeping child strapped
to his chest. "B'Elanna's catching up in Engineering, which
leaves me on baby detail."
stuck you with diaper duty, did she?" Harry teased.
me, Harry," said Tom with a satisfied look on his face, "it's
a labor of love. But you'll find that out for yourself one of
could see the glow of pride on his friend's face as he spoke of
his daughter. Things had changed subtly between Tom and Harry
after the former's marriage, and it had become even more obvious
now that he was a father. Tom Paris had grown up, leaving his
younger friend behind.
the two reached the turbolift, the doors slid open to reveal the
aforementioned B'Elanna Torres, whose eye lit up the moment she
caught sight of her husband and child.
there," Tom grinned at his wife. "We were just talking
be positive, I hope," she smirked at Tom, before casting
her eyes downward at her baby. It was remarkable to Harry to see
the expression on B'Elanna's face change from driven and ultra-competent
engineer to that of gentle and loving mother. There was a peacefulness
to her now, something that he noted in her demeanor in particular
since her experiences on Caprijen. "And how's our little
like Sleeping Beauty," Tom grinned proudly. "Didn't
I tell you I have a way with babies?"
looked at his two friends, seeing father, mother, and child together,
remembering fondly the early days aboard Voyager, when the three
of them used to pal around in Sandrine's, playing pool, sharing
a few synthehol beers, and just as many laughs. Those were happy
times, before Tom and B'Elanna had paired off together, just when
he had learned to accept his being cut off from his loved ones
back in the Alpha Quadrant and held hopes of being able to make
a life for himself here on Voyager.
it hadn't worked out that way. Tom and B'Elanna ended up making
the life of their dreams together instead. All Harry had to show
for seven plus years on Voyager was a newly added pip to his collar.
funny, he thought to himself. There was a time when a promotion
would have meant anything to him. But now that he had received
one, he realized just how empty and meaningless it all was, next
to having his friends or someone special in his life.
he could see now when he looked at his friends was a happy, close-knit
family. And he was the odd one out, the one that didn't belong.
listen guys," said Harry hesitantly, "I've really got
to be going now."
that's right," said B'Elanna, still buoyed after looking
up from her child. "You've got the big mission today."
tell you what, buddy, said Tom. "Maybe we can meet up for
breakfast when you get back. I'm sure I can squeeze you in for
five minutes when I'm done feeding the baby."
said Harry, trying to put on a brave face. "That would be
great." But of course, it really wasn't.
see you later, Har," said Tom, as he and B'Elanna stood together
proudly. "I've got a tutoring session with Naomi in about
an hour, which leaves me just enough time to clean up after this
little princess." He gestured down at the sleeping bundle
on his chest.
See you guys later," Harry replied, as he walked down the
long and lonely route towards the hangar bay.
of Nine was striding towards the hanger bay with her characteristic
regality and calm. She had downloaded the last bits of sensor
data from Astrometrics to the shuttle for the upcoming scouting
mission. It was necessary to map the surrounding sector, to give
Voyager some indication on the nature and properties of this bizarre
region of space, and whether or not it could be penetrated to
return them to their normal space and time.
arrived at the turbolift, ready to meet Ensign... no, Lieutenant
Kim, she corrected herself. It was difficult to think of the young
officer with any other designation than the one she had grown
accustomed to these past four years. Change wasn't something the
former drone adapted to very well, especially when it came to
the people she most closely associated with.
attention was roused by the whooshing sound of the turbolift door,
revealing Commander Chakotay. The first officer looked up at her,
his eyes widened briefly, and then nodded with an air of forced
professionalism. She breathed in silently, trying to prepare herself
for the conversation to come. She had felt the sensation of discomfort
that surrounded their interactions lately, particularly when he
had come to give her the final briefing before the away mission.
During the first month since ending their dating affiliation,
she had tried to distance herself from him, fearing that he would
try to make an effort to renew their brief relationship. But Voyager
was a small ship, and avoiding him completely had proved impossible.
the first officer addressed her as she stepped into the turbolift,
the tension in his voice evident as he spoke to her. "Has
there been any change in the sensor readings since the last probe
Commander," she replied tersely, trying to sound as distant
as possible. "The data readings have remained consistent.
I believe that Lieutenant Kim and myself are as adequately prepared
as can reasonably be expected."
then," he said, equally unconvincing, "I guess there's
nothing more that needs reviewing, is there?"
recognized the use of small talk, all in order to avoid the tension.
The two had never really spoken about their brief relationship
since she chose to end it shortly before being trapped in the
Time Bubble. Perhaps now, she thought, the time had come to speak
of that which she had neglected until now.
she said, her tone shifting over from the official to the personal,
surprising him in the process. "I wish to take this opportunity
to apologize to you."
he said in confusion.
for the manner in which I chose to terminate our affiliation.
It was never my intention to cause you any harm."
he started to say, momentarily taken aback by this unexpected
turn in the conversation. "I appreciate you telling me that,
Seven. But to be honest, I was more than a little hurt. I know
that four dates don't make for a relationship, but I still think
I deserved better than to just be cut loose like that."
you did," she replied, her face reddening with discomfort.
In spite of the fact that her safeguards were no longer in place
to prevent her from feeling strong emotions, there were still
sensations that were new and unfamiliar to her. "I was simply
too...uncomfortable...explaining to you that I never should have
agreed to your initiation of our relationship in the first place."
he inquired, not sure if he should be offended by this or not.
me to explain," she urged. "I was...attracted...to you.
Physically. But it was based upon a false set of criteria."
not following you."
wished to re-experience the feelings that I developed when I was
in Unimatrix Zero, what I felt with Axum. In order to do so, I
allowed myself to respond to the one member of Voyager's crew
that most resembled him."
mean, me?" he said with disbelief. "I reminded you of
she answered succinctly. "You and he are both leaders of
revolutions and men of uncompromising principle. It seemed logical
to me that if I were to experience a relationship such as that
which I shared with Axum, you seemed like the most likely candidate."
Her eyes then swept downward, finding it difficult to face the
man across from her. "But I realized that this was a mistake,
and then ended matters before things became too...intimate...between
I...I appreciate you being honest with me about this," he
said, trying to make sense of her revelation. "But you have
to understand that no two men are alike. You can't just call up
one to serve as a substitute for another."
realize that now," she said. "Especially considering
that I too was a substitute for another."
me?" he said. "What are you talking about?"
refer to the attraction you feel towards Captain Janeway. I realize
now that you have had feelings for her for some time."
a minute, there," he said defensively. "I never pursued
you as a substitute or as a distraction for Kathryn
the Captain. I saw an attractive woman who had made tremendous
progress in the growth of her humanity and I wanted to get to
know her better, that's all."
am not saying that you did anything improper," she replied.
Her lips then curled into the faintest approximation of a smile.
"I simply wish to point out what I have observed of you.
I have seen the two of you grow closer as of late, especially
since our meeting with the Ayrethans. Should you and the Captain
choose to pursue the matter any further, I would like for you
to know that I approve of the pairing."
stood speechless, but then in spite of himself, he smiled warmly
at her. She smiled back, just as the turbolift arrived at her
you will excuse me, Commander," she said, looking back towards
him and exited the turbolift, leaving a very nonplussed and somewhat
amused Chakotay behind.
former drone headed down the corridor, with her thoughts focused
on how matters had been left between herself and Chakotay. It
was her hope that matters had been dealt with satisfactorily with
the Maquis first officer, so that both could go onward and deal
with each other efficiently. It was at this point that she heard
a familiar voice coming up from behind.
Seven. Hold up," Harry called out to her, as she glanced
over her shoulder to see the Ops officer quicken his pace to catch
up with her.
Kim," Seven greeted him cordially, but distantly, her thoughts
still on personal matters, matters that she did not feel appropriate
to share with the young officer.
Kim," Harry repeated her words with a chuckle. "You
know, I was beginning to think that you believed 'Ensign' was
my first name or something."
why would you think me so ignorant as to confuse a Starfleet rank
with a personal name?" she threw back at him casually. "We
have an away mission to conduct, Lieutenant. I suggest we proceed."
crewmembers might have taken exception to her tone. But Harry
Kim held his tongue and said nothing. He never did.
did not intend to sound so hostile with the Lieutenant, thought
Seven upon reflection, but it was important that she maintain
a distance with him during the duration of this mission. She had
noticed that he showed an uncomfortable tendency to want to communicate
with her whenever he sensed any difficulty emanating from her.
In fact, he seemed to want to communicate with her all the time
when they worked. It was most distracting at times.
Kim possessed many exceptional qualities, she acknowledged, and
she did value his presence in her life. She knew that at one point,
early in her time aboard Voyager, he had been interested in pursuing
a romantic affiliation with her. But he was not like Chakotay
at all, nor Axum. He was what humans tended to call a 'nice guy'
or a 'boy-next-door.' All admirable traits to be certain, but
they lacked the aggressiveness or dominance that she had felt
fit her criteria of an appropriate mate. He and she were not optimally
suited for one another, she had concluded early on, and so she
had maintained a distance from Harry Kim, so as not to encourage
the young officer into believing that their relationship was anything
other than professional.
course, she reflected, hadn't she just finished telling Chakotay
that her criteria had been misguided to begin with?
Janeway sat in her command seat on the bridge, watching as the
shuttle cleared the hangar bay and departed away from the ship.
She had just communicated with Harry Kim her last minute instructions
for their mission and wished them luck. Like the Delta Quadrant,
this bizarre space was full of unexpected surprises.
doors to the bridge slid open, and Commander Chakotay strode onto
the bridge, following his captain's gaze towards the monitor.
like they have things well in hand," he commented dryly.
said the captain, the worry on her face quite clear. "This
is our first deep space mission here in the Time Bubble. They'll
be a long way off if they run into anything."
has been on plenty of away missions before," he said, trying
to be reassuring, "He'll know to keep matters on track and
stay out of trouble."
hope so," she answered, still concerned, like a mother letting
her children cross the street for the first time. But then wasn't
that who Harry and Seven were like to her, he mused. Her children?
knew that was why his decision to pursue Seven had cut Kathryn
so deeply, he thought. Any other woman, and it might not have
mattered so much. The fact that it was Seven, someone who had
become like a surrogate daughter to Kathryn Janeway
that was over, he said to himself. Seven had made that clear,
especially today. He glanced over to the captain, her attention
deliberately looking towards the monitor and not towards him.
They used to be so close, before the Admiral had come aboard and
revealed to Kathryn the truth of his and Seven's relationship.
At first there had been awkwardness, then subtle resentment. And
now, with their bizarre recent encounter with the Ayrethans, they
were on constant tiptoes around each other, not knowing what to
he knew he had to get things back on track with them again.
few hours later, Harry and Seven were deep in space, far from
Voyager. The shuttle's sensors gathered much new data with which
to correlate the crew's position, some of which might hopefully
provide a clue as to how to escape this bizarre space-time anomaly
they were trapped inside of.
had to be the longest shuttle flight of Harry's life. He still
felt a bit rankled after his early attempt at humor blew up in
his face. He wasn't sure what bothered him more, the fact that
Seven seemed to take a particular delight in bursting his bubble
whenever he felt a lighthearted moment around her, or the fact
that she seemed to be carrying herself as if she were the one
in charge of this mission. That was par for the course with him
and Seven. Why should today be any different, he thought bitterly?
OK over there?" he asked.
ship's systems are still performing at optimum levels," she
not what I mean," said Harry. "I'm talking about you."
seem a bit distracted, Seven," he said, trying to engage
the former drone in conversation. He had noticed that her mind
seemed to be elsewhere, however subtly she showed it.
am not," she replied harshly. "I am
my assigned duties. If anything, Lieutenant, it is you that insists
on distracting me with irrelevant conversation."
I just thought..."
believe, Lieutenant," she interrupted him, "that we
would both do well to focus on our mission and disregard all irrelevant
he sighed. "Whatever you say." Why was it that every
time she said the word 'lieutenant' it sounded like she was saying
'ensign?' Harry thought indignantly.
frustrated him to no end. With everyone else on Voyager, he knew
exactly where he stood. He was either a friend, or at the very
least he shared an amicable working relationship. But Seven was
always a complete enigma with him. He had been physically attracted
to her when he had first started working with her, but he accepted
long ago that she had no interest in pursuing anything romantic
with him. He had consoled himself with the fact that she was simply
not ready to feel those kinds of emotions just yet, although from
what he had later heard of her experiences at Unimatrix Zero and
certain rumors about her and Chakotay, which he didn't entirely
believe, she was obviously willing to experience them now. Just
not with him.
could accept that. So instead, he tried to be her friend. And
more often than not received grief for his troubles.
they worked together and they seemed like just polite strangers.
Then there were times she would speak to him with harsh contempt,
as if he were something she had found on the bottom of her boot.
then there were those brief moments, when she showed vulnerability,
and she spoke to him like the friend he had tried to be for her
these past four years. He recalled the time when she had graciously
offered to him her allocated time on the Pathfinder array, so
that he could speak with his parents. And there were the times
when she had thanked him for helping her with her work, and even
when she wished him a speedy recovery after his breakup with Tal
two years ago.
most recently, soon after they became trapped in the Time Bubble,
he fondly remembered the feelings they shared about their fears
and hopes for the future. During brief moments like that, Harry
actually felt that he and Seven were the friends he had hoped
they would become.
then she would grow distant again and shut him out. Just another
day in the life with Seven of Nine, he figured sardonically.
musings were cut short by a voice to his left. "Lieutenant,"
said Seven, as she looked at her monitor with some disconcertion.
"I am detecting a point of spatial distortion at extreme
range?" said Harry with puzzlement. "We should have
didn't have time to complete his sentence, as a bright flash of
light and energy exploded portside of the shuttle.
alert!" Harry shouted, his voice in full authority.
complied with rapid efficiency as her fingers danced across the
control panel, trying to locate the source of the disturbance.
But before she could provide any new data, another explosion was
felt, this one close enough to rock the ship.
the...?" Harry tried to speak as the engineering console
to his right burst into a shower of sparks.
have taken damage to the port nacelle!" Seven reported.
the hell just hit us?!" Harry demanded over the din of the
chaos around them.
answer came in the form of a dark irregular shape that swooped
across the front viewport, barely discernable against the dark
Harry muttered softly, viscerally recalling the beating he had
received from them during his last away mission.
Seven called to him, her eyes riveted to the monitor. Harry followed
her gaze to see what had caught her attention.
visual scan, which were the only sensors they had that could detect
these potent starships, and then only at close range, were two
additional Sernaix vessels equal in size to the first. The two
were moving in formation to join up with their sister ship in
of them," Harry gasped, trying to maintain a cool exterior.
He was in command here, after all. But Voyager had found itself
outmatched by just one of the small ships that they had classified
as 'scouts.' A shuttle against three such ships?
was hard not to feel as though he and Seven were as good as dead.
Lieutenant?" said Seven.
they're just toying with us," he said urgently. "Or
we'd already be toast."
when they tire of playing with us?" Seven asked with an arched
was still his command, thought Harry with grim determination.
And he would not let himself or Seven go out that easily.
bad a hit did we take on the nacelle?" he demanded.
did a quick check on the ship's status monitor. "We are venting
plasma at a rate which is diminishing the nacelle's output by
twenty millicochrances a second."
reached over to his console and began to type in commands.
are you doing?" Seven demanded.
didn't bother to look up at her as he answered her, his eyes focused
on the sensor reading showing the three attacking vessels bearing
down on them for another pass. "We can't fight them, so we're
going to have to ditch them."
are instructing the computer to increase the plasma feed to the
port nacelle!" she said with alarm.
soon as we vent a big enough trail, you fire the phasers and ignite
the plasma. We'll blind their sensors temporarily and go immediately
to evasive maneuvers."
to what extent do you believe we will be able to evade the Sernaix
if we further damage our warp nacelle?" she pressed on.
sighed at her stubbornness as he explained further. "If we're
lucky, we'll be able to find someplace to hunker down and hide
from their sensors. Maybe then they'll get bored and decide to
move on and we can call Voyager for help."
damaging the warp nacelles, you are limiting our options,"
she said harshly.
don't have any options!" Harry yelled back, fed up with her
constant undermining of his authority. Who was in command of this
mission anyway? "We're looking at three ships, a single one
of which could grind Voyager into dust. We can't fight them or
outrun them. If you have another option, I'd love to hear it.
Otherwise, ignite the plasma now!"
eyes narrowed at him as she reached over to the console and fired
the aft phasers at the plasma stream trailing behind them. As
bright flash ensued as the highly charged warp plasma underwent
an energy discharge. The shuttle was expecting it. The Sernaix
slowing down," Harry shouted, noticing their approach veering
off as the three ships tried to regain their bearings. "I'm
implementing a course of five point two mark nine."
shuttle then veered off sharply from its initial flight path and
moved along a completely random course deeper into the heart of
the solar system they were surveying.
Harry barked at the former drone. "Keep the sensors peeled
for something we can hide behind."
Lieutenant," she said, the tone of her voice non-committal.
didn't pay any mind to Seven's attitude as he was divided between
plotting an evasive path through the densest part of the inner
solar system at maximum impulse and eyeing the approach of their
pursuers. He knew that soon it would be a moot issue, as the Sernaix
appeared to only register on Federation sensors at short range
at best. At long range, they were completely invisible.
scanning for us," Harry reported. At this point, Voyager
had only the most general inklings as to the full capabilities
of the ships of this latest antagonist. But their firepower, maneuverability,
and sensor masking properties made them a foe as formidable as
port nacelle is registering an increasing structural imbalance,"
Seven stated. "It cannot sustain further high-impulse speeds."
a little bit longer," Harry grunted.
they reacquired our position?" asked Seven.
doesn't look like it," said Harry. "Not yet, anyway."
will change. The Sernaix are most..." Seven's attention was
then diverted by a chime from her sensor array. "Lieutenant,
I believe I may have found a possible hiding place. There is a
comet at one mark five. It is currently outgassing cold plasma
which should mask our nacelle emissions."
you're wonderful!" cheered Harry, his earlier frustration
evaporated as he set course. Seven only arched her eyebrow at
shuttle glided in on thrusters into the long gaseous tail of the
comet, the hull pinging with the steady pelt of dust and ice globules
breaking off from the main body.
hope we don't have to stay in here too long," said Harry.
"I don't know how long the hull can hold out being pulverized
twenty nine hours before structural integrity is compromised,"
she replied. "Lieutenant, you do realize that should the
Sernaix decide to take a closer approach to this comet, it will
not take them long to discover us?"
realize that," said Harry, his earlier annoyance returning.
"But we don't..."
then he fell silent, his eyes transfixed to the viewport before
him. Seven followed his stare and echoed his expression.
was a ship, dark and irregular, floating off the far side of the
dark carbonaceous mass of the comet nucleus. The design was unmistakable.
It was Sernaix. But it looked nothing like the small but potent
ships that were trailing them, or the ones that had plagued Voyager
since they were lost in the Time Bubble. This ship was large,
easily bigger than an Intrepid-Class starship, like an angry demonic
bat. And mostly likely a good deal more powerful.
my god," muttered Harry, expecting the end to come.
nothing happened. The large Sernaix ship made no hostile moves
against them. In fact, it made no moves at all. It simply drifted
in an unpowered orbit around the comet, emitting no signature
that still didn't make it any less frightening.
on Voyager, Kathryn Janeway was entranced as she watched the battle
of wits unfolding before her. She was not the only one. At least
a dozen crew members were crowding around, eager to see the husband
and wife team of Tuvok and T'Pel going head-to-head in a game
she heard a familiar voice behind her, as she turned to see the
tattooed face of her first officer, "who's winning?"
course, Janeway knew enough about Vulcan culture that Kal-Toh
was not about winning or losing, but about what the game brought
to the participants in terms of logical enlightenment. But seen
through the lens of human competitiveness, it came to be yet another
game where one player set out to beat his or her opponent.
yet," she answered Chakotay with an anxious smile. "I
think the two of them are pretty evenly matched."
I'd like to think that after being married to the same person
for seventy years, you'd get a pretty good idea of how they start
to think," he replied with a smirk. She returned his smile
with her own. It felt good to joke again with him.
it's either watching Vulcan logic games, or I could take my chances
with Mr. Chell's bubble fondue," she laughed back in response.
we could try something a little different?" he suggested
tentatively. "It's been a while since the two of us have
had dinner together. Would you be interested?"
was momentarily startled by his request. She thought about the
Ayrethans and what she had felt there. It never occurred to her
these past few months just how much she had missed her first officer's
I think I'd like that."
would be wonderful," she answered, trying to put on a controlled
face, but inside, she felt like a nervous schoolgirl all over
ended up piloting the shuttle underneath the tremendous bulk of
what they had termed the Sernaix 'battleship.' He figured that
the ship's mass, combined with the mysterious Sernaix ability
to block sensor readings would help to mask their damaged ship.
It appeared to be a successful strategy, Seven observed, as they
sat still for several hours at minimal power, with the three pursuit
ships failing to appear. At no point did the larger vessel seem
to react to their presence, nor did it object to their futile
attempts to scan its interior. They agreed that if the battleship
had any hostile intentions against them, it would have exhibited
it by now.
that was all that they agreed on.
said Seven to Harry, "I believe that the vessel must be a
derelict. How else can you explain its uncharacteristic lack of
aggression against us?"
don't know," grumbled Harry. "Maybe this is all just
another game to them."
it would seem to be a highly illogical one," she replied
has been logical about the Sernaix so far," he said. "They've
been yanking us around from the moment we arrived in this place.
This whole thing could be another attempt on their part to learn
more about us."
perhaps it is time that we learned more about them,"
Seven replied with smooth satisfaction.
looked on at the former drone with anxious uncertainty. "Just
what are you getting at, Seven?"
this vessel is defunct as I believe it to be," she stated,
"then it would be within our best interests to transport
aboard and study its technical capabilities."
said Harry, incredulous at Seven's reckless suggestion. "We
have no idea what's on that ship. There could be an army of Sernaix
just waiting for us. And are you forgetting that our sensors can't
even penetrate the hull? We might beam straight into a bulkhead."
do know that the Sernaix are able to transport from their vessels,
so it is possible in principle," she responded. "We
could transport a pattern enhancer ahead of us to send back a
tight-beam signal for our sensors to lock on to. If we lose the
signal, then we will know it is unsafe."
still a huge risk," he replied, still unconvinced. "It
might be safer if we try to contact Voyager and bring them into
our mission is to gather information about the area we are trapped
in and make use of it in order to enhance our survival. Surely
a greater knowledge of our enemy would fall under such a heading?"
sighed, knowing that her logic was sound. As dangerous as it might
be, an opportunity to observe Sernaix technology up close like
this might not come again. And if they could learn something about
how their ships functioned, it might make the difference the next
time Voyager encountered one in a fight.
he and Seven survived to make it back to Voyager.
know I can't allow you to transport into a potentially hostile
environment without support," he said
I suggest you accompany me, Lieutenant," she said to him,
in a patronizing tone he did not care for. "We can program
the shuttle for an automatic beam-out if we encounter any difficulties."
Harry could do in response was sigh. "Why does this seem
so familiar to me?" he said.
just can't help but think of an old story Tom told me once,"
he said. "Something about two teenagers taking shelter from
a storm inside of a haunted house."
As in ghosts?" She sneered at him with a look of impatience.
"Lieutenant, surely you are aware that there are no such
things as ghosts."
course there aren't," he said, trying to sound convincing.
luck would have it, the pattern enhancer Seven beamed over first
did not materialize into the heart of their warp core or a section
of the hull. It reported beaming into an empty chamber one meter
in mid air above the floor. It fell down hard, but was still able
to send back the go-ahead signal and provide the necessary telemetry
for a safe transport for Harry and Seven.
first thing Harry Kim noticed once his molecules had finished
assembling was the light. The Sernaix seemed to prefer a harsh,
neon-blue illumination heavier in ultraviolet. Looking at the
light panels hurt Harry's eyes at first, but a few minutes of
exposure helped him to gradually acclimate to the level of illumination.
of course, didn't appear bothered by it at all. She immediately
whipped out her tricorder and began taking sensor readings. Harry,
by contrast, nervously gripped his phaser on his belt, just to
be on the safe side.
you look at all of this," Harry gasped, taking in the sight
of the chamber around him.
I am," said Seven, sounding equally impressed, and for the
first time on this mission, a little unsure of herself.
had beamed into a large common room, roughly equal in dimensions
to that of Voyager's mess hall. The walls and ceiling both seemed
to be made from some kind of glassy black material the flowed
into each other, leaving no hard edges or corners. Active energy
pulses seemed to dance within the walls themselves, coming together
to form icons and shapes that were unfamiliar to Harry. He reached
out instinctively to feel the nearest wall. He had expected some
kind of warmth, but the wall seemed strangely cool to the touch.
one's here to greet us," he observed. "You'd think someone
would have noticed that we were on board by now."
would support my hypothesis that the vessel is a derelict,"
said Seven smugly.
said Harry. "But if the crew is dead, then what killed them?
Or if they abandoned ship, then what forced them to leave? In
either case, is it really a good idea for us to be here?"
glanced down at her tricorder, taking reading on the environment
around her. "I am detecting no anomalous radiation levels,
airborne toxins, or bacteriological agents in the atmosphere.
Nor am I registering any critical energy discharges from inside
the ship that would indicate significant engine damage."
we haven't the slightest idea of what powers this ship, never
mind if anything might be wrong with it. Once we take a quick
look around, we'll beam back to the shuttle, and try and hail
Voyager. It'll probably take an entire Engineering team to figure
this ship out, anyway."
she replied curtly, clearly not happy with the idea of minimizing
her opportunity to understand this new vessel and chaffing at
Lieutenant Kim's unnecessary caution. But whether she liked it
or not, he was in command of this mission, and she was required
mused Harry as he looked across the dark, smooth walls of the
corridors leading out from the chamber. "There doesn't seem
to be any access panels or controls anywhere.
agreed Seven. "That would be consistent with the devices
that we recovered from the Sernaix at Caprijen. None of them appear
to have any displays or obvious means of operation."
how do they work?" asked Harry. "Do your scans offer
any sort of clue?"
at this time," said Seven, her attention focused on the data
scrolling on her tricorder. "We would have to study their
bridge and engineering sections to learn more." She then
went silent, as she moved closer to the walls, her eyes widening
in amazement at the latest readings she received.
Seven gasped, "I am able to get a clear sensor reading of
the hull composition from within the vessel."
said Harry, his interest peaking. "What's it made of? Is
it anything we can fight?"
am not sure," she said. "The hull consists of a triple
layer, the middle of which appears to be a compressed film of
plasma chilled to absolute zero."
Bose-Einstein condensate?" said Harry, recognizing the phenomenon.
"What would that be doing integrated into the hull?"
" But she did not complete her sentence as the
data returned on the hull analysis. "Lieutenant, the outer
it consists of
said Harry with incredulity, remembering his physics classes back
at the Academy. "You mean
matter made of photons? Light?!
But that's just theoretical!"
it is more than theory, Lieutenant," she commented, as she
turned to him. "The Bose-Einstein condensate is used to lower
the energy level of photons and thus slow down their velocity
to that of a motionless state. The Sernaix have obviously perfected
a means whereby the standing wave pattern is then bonded into
a stable matrix which approximates that of solid matter and can
then be harnessed for its physical properties."
god," said Harry, as looked on with his own tricorder, shaking
his head in bewilderment. He knew the Sernaix has some sophisticated
tools at their disposal. But this was something that they wouldn't
have anticipated in their wildest of speculations. "I've
never seen anything like this. I mean, I've heard of experiments
where cold plasmas were used to slow photons down to a crawl.
But actually constructing solid matter out of them?"
it is most impressive," said Seven, clearly awed by any kind
of technical accomplishment that added to her already impressive
base of knowledge. "The Borg have assimilated three species
whose scientific research came close to such a feat, but did not
succeed in its entirety. Species 953 even managed to construct
simple crystalline forms of such frozen light for use in medical
applications. Clearly the Sernaix have surpassed even that accomplishment
by fashioning entire starship hulls of such material. However,
I fail to see the logic of such an expenditure of effort."
I can," Harry piped in. "I remember one of my instructors
in Theoretical Physics commenting on some of the hypothetical
properties that 'photon matter' would have if it could ever be
constructed. It would have almost no mass and could alter its
refraction index to absorb light and energy at will." The
young officer then shook his head again. "God, no wonder
our sensors were never able to penetrate these ships."
could Voyager's weapons ever affect the surface," the former
drone added. "And hulls with negligible mass would explain
the Sernaix's impressive maneuverability."
just gawked about at the expanse of the chamber around him. It
began to dawn upon him just how big a challenge he and the rest
of Voyager's crew were up against. Sure, they had been through
some tough scrapes, both here and back in the Delta Quadrant.
But the Sernaix had come very close to destroying Voyager on several
occasions, and even then, it was clear that they were merely being
played with, seeing only the tiniest fraction of what their opponents
were capable of.
how do you fight an enemy that can build starships out of light
itself, Harry wondered. Had they finally come up against an enemy
they couldn't beat?
and Seven made their way deeper into the heart of the ship, hoping
to find the equivalent of a bridge or control center. The corridors
of the Sernaix ship, however, didn't appear to be arranged in
any logical pattern as they were on a Starfleet vessel, Harry
thought. Nor did the ship seem to be organized in decks that required
a turbolift. Everything seemed more organic, like the rooms and
halls were tunneled into solid rock. Hallways would curve about,
up or down, branch in two, and lead to new rooms that didn't appear
any different than the one that they had first beamed in to.
fact, to Harry's mind, the Sernaix ship seemed strangely unspecialized,
not unlike a Borg vessel. But still, they reasoned, there would
still need to be something like a bridge somewhere on the ship,
if only as a place that could function in an emergency. It was
there that they hoped they would find more conventional control
stations, where they might be able to access the ship's systems
and learn more about its functions.
more importantly, they might learn what had happened to the crew.
two made their way down yet another blind hallway, when Harry
turned quickly to follow a blur of motion out of the corner of
you see that?" he said to his companion.
saw nothing, Lieutenant," Seven replied brusquely.
could have sworn I saw something move back there," he said
as he looked back in the direction they came. "Maybe a rat,
or something just like one."
it your supposition that the crew evacuated this vessel because
of an infestation of rodents?" she inquired sharply.
" he tried to explain to her, make some kind
of justification, but there really wasn't one. This place just
gave him the willies, that was all. But what kind of a mission
leader would he be if he admitted that to Seven? Would she have
any respect for him if she thought that an apparently empty starship
had him spooked? Did she have any for him even now? And why did
her respect matter so much to him, anyway?
suggest that we continue our search," she said coolly, as
she walked past him and on down the corridor. Harry didn't follow
did she have to talk to him that way all the time, he thought
to himself? Did she truly think so little of him that she thought
nothing of how hurtful her words were? There was a time when a
kind word or a gentle glance from her would have meant anything
to him. But even now, after so much time had passed since those
early days of infatuation, she still had an effect on him, even
if it wasn't always the one he had once wanted.
he tarried, he noticed another chamber leading off from the corridor.
His curiosity getting the better of him, Harry made his way over,
seeing that the room was not illuminated as was the others. The
Ops officer craned his head inside, taking out his pocket flash
to light the way ahead of him.
then he saw the bodies.
gasped as he jumped back from the grisly sight, almost dropping
his lamp in the process. "Seven!" he called out to the
blond woman, as much to hear her voice and know for certain she
she called back as she ran back to him, her expression one of
concern, as she saw his gaze focused on the direction his lamp
both stared into the room to see the corpses of at least thirty
or forty Sernaix bodies, all neatly laid out, lying peacefully
still and quiet. There was no sign of violence or a cause of death
on any of them
except for one.
Seven ran her tricorder over the nearest dead Sernaix, Harry followed
a stream of thick, dark blood as it lead back to a single Sernaix
corpse, propped up separately from the rest of the crew. This
Sernaix appeared to be more important than the others, as could
be seen from the number of fluorescent tattoos on his arms and
face, as well as the jewelry he wore. They had learned that much
from their last encounter, that the status of a Sernaix within
his pack was marked by their adornment and body markings.
in contrast to the blissful expressions on the other corpses,
this Sernaix had obviously died quite violently. His torso showed
signs of being hacked at and beaten repeatedly, his limbs strung
up in order to maximize the blood loss. Harry went white with
fear and revulsion at the sight of this image of death. Whoever
had killed this one had obviously wanted him to suffer before
Seven called out from her position near the other corpses. "I
have scanned three of the bodies. I cannot be completely certain,
but I believe that these Sernaix died from carbon monoxide poisoning."
one certainly didn't," gasped Harry, unable to take his eyes
off the visage of suffering on the dead Sernaix.
said Seven. "Strange that this one should be killed in a
different fashion from the others."
then turned back to the former drone, his eyes narrowed in determination.
"We're getting out of here, Seven. Now. We can try to hail
Voyager and have a security team back us up."
she replied testily, "surely you do not think that the killers
of this crew are still aboard this vessel?"
Seven," he shot back tersely, "I do. Look at these bodies.
We know that Sernaix ships don't have large crew complements.
If this is the entire crew, then they wouldn't have all been in
the same room when whatever happened here
had to move these bodies after they died. Somebody who's probably
very dangerous if they can do this!" he gestured
towards the violated body of the Sernaix next to him.
believe you are being excessively cautious," she countered.
you're being dangerously reckless," he retorted.
to survive!" he shouted over her. "And in case you've
forgotten, I'm also in command of this away mission! So when I
say we're going back to the shuttle, then we're going back. End
was silent, far too silent. Her eyes narrowed at him, her expression
pinched and clearly displeased. "I will comply," she
said with some finality. But it was clear that this was not what
she wanted to do.
expression equally sharp, still glaring at her, Harry slapped
his combadge to contact the shuttle computer. "Kim Delta
Epsilon. Two to beam over."
there was nothing. Harry did not feel the familiar envelopment
of the transporter. The beam-out did not happen.
repeated the command to the shuttle computer twice, but both requests
the hell?" he swore. "Seven, you did program
the computer for a remote beam-out, didn't you?"
most certainly did," she responded sharply, sounding almost
insulted that she would be accused of such negligence. She pulled
out her tricorder once again and did a quick scan of the walls.
"Lieutenant, the refraction index of the outer hull has shifted."
cannot beam back to the shuttle, because the hull is blocking
the transporter lock. We are
trapped aboard this ship."
eyes widened with distress. They grew even wider as the ship suddenly
lurched to the side violently, sending the two of them off balance.
Loud rumblings were heard, sounding like muffled explosions. If
Harry didn't know better, he would have thought that someone was
shooting at them. But who? Voyager? Not possible, he thought.
Her photon torpedoes wouldn't have made a dent against a ship
looked over at Seven, the alarm on his face evident, not saying
a word. Now would not have been the best time to say 'I told you
Adimh of Jade Mountain, sat in his command couch on the bridge
of his pack's ship. The scene from inside of the comet's head
was projected as a wrap-around hologram all about him and his
packmates, as he focused on the battle at hand. At least a dozen
Sernaix males had duties on the bridge of the pack scout today,
their expressions silent as their body fields melded with their
interface ports, their experiences manifesting themselves as holographic
designs floating about their bodies.
reached out to take a large mug of jiopol from one of the
small, bush-like servos that served as an extension of the ship.
Vex sipped the foamy brew, relishing in the hearty, spiced flavor,
tailored to his specific tastes. It felt good to enjoy a cool
drink after the sweat of a long day, especially after
he called out with satisfaction, as he spotted the dark patch
hovering near the comet's nucleus, past the wispy mists of gas
and dust. The Abomination had been spotted. It took a combined
sensor sweep from all three ships, but in the end they had triangulated
the location of their quarry near the heart of the lone comet.
got it!" said Imesh, his Zvir, standing at the side of the
command couch, ever ready to take his place should Vex fall in
heat of combat. Imesh was grinning with delight at the thought
of the upcoming fight. Vex shared his second's feeling of anticipation.
It had been far too long since Jade Mountain had tasted the joy
and exhilaration of bloodshed. For the past ten cycles, his pack
had been engaged in harmless joyriding and the occasional harassment
of other species. The fun had gone from those activities a long
time ago, he thought resentfully. The Sernaix were the uncontested
masters of this area of space, and the weaker races had long since
accepted their fate to be dominated and preyed upon by them. There
were few new territories to explore, or new challenges to experience.
least, not until the Enemy ship, Voyager, appeared in their space.
knew that the Adimhs of Violet Sun and Cobalt Field were linked
to his battle sim, as was he with theirs. They each wanted to
experience the sensation of the battle from the others' perspective,
but as Jade Mountain had been the first pack to respond to The
Realm's contract against the Abomination, they were the ones taking
the lead in the fight.
far, the hunt had been everything he and his pack had hoped it
would be. After several close pursuits with the Abomination, they
had even come across a shuttle belonging to the Enemy. He remembered
the whoops of delight when they caught the tiny ship unawares,
their primitive detection technology unable to see the Sernaix
ships until they were right on top of them. The Adimh of Cobalt
Field had been prepared to destroy them, but the Enemy had proven
itself clever and managed to blind their sensors briefly and escape.
From what they knew of their ships, it was too damaged to have
gone far, and was most likely hiding in this same solar system,
possibly near the Abomination itself.
it was just as well, thought Vex privately. He would not have
wanted the fight to be over so quickly. And he relished the idea
of the Enemy being formidable enough to overcome their technical
shortcomings. It would make the fight that much more challenging,
once they had finished up here. He tried to picture where he would
place the tattoo, and what pattern he would choose, that would
mark the experience of the conflict to come.
Vex," came a voice that seemed to echo in the air, one that
came from a voice not produced by any of his packmates. It was
the Ship Mind, once again trying to get his attention. Vex rolled
his eyes in annoyance. The Minds were necessary to maintain their
ships, but he wished that they would keep silent and tend to their
jobs, and leave the enjoyment of life to those still of the flesh.
He found them almost as insufferable as the busybody females and
their Cadres back in The Realm.
Vex rumbled gruffly, not addressing the Mind with respect as he
would a packmate. When Sernaix uploaded, they traditionally relinquished
their names along with their flesh and their gender. The Mind
had no identity, save that which it created for itself in the
vast expanses within The Realm.
my interruption, Adimh Vex," said the Mind obsequiously,
"but there is something you must see."
shifted the resonance of his body field, so that he and the Mind
would be linked in a private conversation, unobserved by the rest
of the pack on the bridge. The scene around him shifted to that
of his personal virtual space, a lakeside view on the planet Lokiju,
a place that had struck him for its particular beauty. An overlay
of the battle sim appeared in his field of vision. The Mind zoomed
in on the comet's nucleus, showing the dark, irregular shape of
the ship that had once been that of the Silver Sky pack. And there,
just next to it, was
Enemy!" Vex exclaimed, both out of excitement and fury. The
Enemy shuttle had found the Abomination before them. He had hoped
to prolong the hunt for both ships for as long as possible. Now,
regretfully, they would both be over at the same time. He spoke
to the Mind again. "Have they boarded the ship yet?"
Adimh. They have," it answered him in its most passive, unflappable
tone. "That is why you cannot destroy the Silver Sky ship."
Vex sputtered with incredulity. "How can you say that? We
accepted a contract from The Realm to destroy the Abomination
have changed, Adimh," the Mind announced. "I have analyzed
the scans we took of the Enemy shuttle during our brief encounter
with them. I have compared them with the results taken from the
samples taken at Caprijen."
jaw dropped slack as he listened to the voice of the Ship Mind.
"Are you saying
Adimh," it replied. "The one that was Touched is aboard
the Silver Sky vessel. I'm sure I don't have to remind you of
the Management Cadre's demand that that individual come to no
Enemy that had known the Touch of the Gods themselves! When the
results of Crimson Stone's mission at Caprijen were experienced
across The Realm, the results had taken the entire Sernaix race
(or what was left of it) by surprise. The Goddess was a part of
ancient history, predating even The Realm itself. But their mark
on the Sernaix race was felt even to this day. If one of the Enemy
had truly been touched by them
you certain about this?" he asked.
have confirmed it with the Minds of Violet Sun and Cobalt Field.
If you like, I can link with The Realm and
Vex shouted, determined not to have the Management Cadre interfere
in his battle. He would handle this within the packs. He modulated
his body field once again, so that the Adimhs of both Violet Sun
and Cobalt Field could be included in the conversation. Adimhs
Tokul and Nagewa appeared within his virtual field of view.
you hear?" said Vex to his brother Adimhs on their respective
spoken with our Ship Minds," said Nagewa, Adimh of Cobalt
Field. "We can't destroy the Touched One."
are we to do?" wailed Tokul, Adimh of Violet Sun. He was
a young Adimh, impulsive and still inexperienced, but deferring
to the wisdom of his elder compatriots. "Are we to just let
the Abomination get away?"
we be sure the Abomination hasn't already killed the Enemy crew
the way it did with Silver Sky?" asked Nagewa.
still alive," said Vex, as he rubbed his chin, considering
their options. "The sensors show that there are two of them
on board. Clearly, our task has been made more difficult. But
not impossible. If we can't destroy the Abomination, we will have
to subdue and board it."
will be risky," said Tokul. "An attack on this ship
could still risk injuring the Touched One. The Management Cadre
will be furious with us if that happened."
elder Adimhs snorted at the younger one, disgusted by the deference
and fear he showed to those busybodies. How like a child, Vex
thought, to be frightened by the displeasure of females.
have to disable the engines first," said Nagewa, "and
send a boarding party across to seize the Touched One."
send three boarding parties," Vex cautioned the Adimh
of Cobalt Field, "so that all of our packs share in the experience
of bringing the Touched One back to The Realm. Once our teams
have left the ship, the Abomination can be destroyed at our leisure."
course, Adimh Vex," replied Nagewa with a curl of his lip.
the mean time," said Vex, looking past the two Sernaix to
view the projected battle sim behind them, "we should cut
off both of their means of escape. The two of you concentrate
your fire on the Silver Sky ship's engines."
you?" said Nagewa.
smiled at the scene unfolding in the comet head before him. "I
will take out the Enemy ship. Keep both of our prizes together,
later, the three Sernaix scout ships focused their enormous firepower
at the two ships orbiting the icy body. A single shot from Vex's
weaponry vaporized the unoccupied Starfleet shuttlecraft orbiting
near the larger ship. The larger Sernaix ship then came to life,
its hull absorbing the ordinance being deployed against it to
the limits of its design as it shot away from the comet.
three small Sernaix ships tore after it in eager pursuit, all
seeking the thrill of the hunt.
happened?" a puzzled Harry Kim demanded to know, not necessarily
from Seven, but the universe at large.
am uncertain," Seven answered him. "I believe we are
How can you tell? I didn't feel any shift in inertia."
shift was subtle, but I was able to sense it. It appears that
the Sernaix design inertial dampers of far greater sophistication
than those of the Federation."
looked about the corridor they stood in, trying to find a direction
that would give them some kind of answers. "What I wouldn't
give right now for a window," he lamented.
only gave him an unaffected response. "A view of the outside
would only confirm what we already suspect, that we are en route
to an unknown destination and that we have no means to currently
leave the ship."
let out a resigned sigh. "The question is what do we do now?"
would think the answer to that would be obvious," she replied
testily. "Clearly there is someone aboard and in control
of this vessel. We must make an effort to overpower our opponent
and commandeer the ship for ourselves."
a laudable goal, Seven," Harry responded wearily, "but
just how are we supposed to do that? We don't know how many people
we're up against or how to fight them. And even if we did manage
to take them out, would you know how to even fly this ship?"
would you suggest as an alternative?" she shot back.
think we should make contact," he answered earnestly, "try
and reason with whoever is at the controls. At the very least
we can buy some time for ourselves until we get a better idea
of how this ship operates."
look on Seven's face was almost a snort of disgust. "A futile
effort," she said casually. "Our opponent has killed,
quite violently, I might add. There is every reason to suspect
he will kill again."
could have killed us the moment we came aboard. Or he could have
shot down our shuttle. But he didn't."
may well be as you said before about the Sernaix. Perhaps he derives
pleasure from our suffering."
perhaps he's an enemy of the Sernaix," Harry countered. "You
know what they say about the enemy of your enemy."
Seven was not buying any of it. "To place trust in an individual
who has demonstrated a predilection towards violence is both illogical
and irrational. Your blind adherence to Starfleet idealism is
endangering both this mission and our lives."
that so?" Harry said frostily. "Well, that's not really
your decision to make, now is it?"
do not think, Ensign, that
beg your pardon?"
rank is Lieutenant!" he roared at her, his patience with
her finally reaching the breaking point. "I spent a long
time waiting for that promotion, so you'd better goddamn well
remember what my rank is!"
perhaps for the first time Harry had ever known her, was stunned
into silence. She had always believed Harry Kim to be so
And to Seven, that was a good thing.
had it up to here with your chaffing and your attitude, Seven!"
he fumed. "You don't like the way I've been making decisions
on this mission, that's fine! You can take it up with the captain
when we get back. But you do not question me when we're
in a crisis situation. I've indulged your curiosity and made exceptions
for the disrespectful way you've spoken to me on this mission
so far. But ultimately I'm the one who makes the final decisions
on things, no matter how superior you think you are to me!"
" she tried to say.
never?" he laughed back at her harshly. "You mean, you
never treated me with one ounce of respect! You've taken a particular
delight in belittling me, kicking me when I was down, and dismissing
every gesture of kindness I ever made towards you! Telling me
He stopped himself just before he was about to mention the time
that Seven had wounded him the most, when she had told him that
he 'was not a candidate' to be her first date. But that was way
too personal to bring up in this context. That wasn't what this
was about, he reminded himself.
me, Seven," he continued, his voice weary and frustrated.
"Is it fun for you? Is the only way that you can feel good
about yourself, to make other people feel small?"
was absolutely taken aback. She never would have suspected such
a litany of fury from Lieutenant Harry Kim of all people. She
had always believed him to be one of her closest of associates
on Voyager, someone whose behavior was always dependable and predictable.
Was this how she appeared to him? Was this who she was whenever
she spoke to him? She always spoke her mind when she was around
the young officer. It simply never occurred to her that what she
considered to be familiarity and candor would come across as rudeness
do not know what to say," she responded softly.
have you been resisting me this entire mission, Seven?" he
demanded, his tone more urgent than angry now. "Do you have
so little faith in me after what happened on the Nightingale mission?
Do you feel you have to criticize me again?"
immediately stiffened in response to his accusation on that particular
issue. "My actions were entirely justified in that instance,"
she replied defensively. "Your errors in judgment were placing
our lives in jeopardy. Do you not deny that you were in the wrong
on that mission?"
so," he growled at her. "But you didn't have to sound
as if you enjoyed it so much."
not enjoy pointing out your mistakes," Seven said, her voice
almost sounding vulnerable. "If I felt anything at that moment,
she looked at him, her voice softening. "I knew you could
it was Harry's turn to be speechless. What was this effect that
Seven of Nine had upon him? She could positively infuriate him
one minute, belittle him the next, and then turn around and melt
a grip, Harry, he cautioned himself. Remember where you are.
he tried to say, as he collected himself. "Look, we need
to stay focused. We can deal with our personal problems later.
Right now, we have to find a way off this ship."
are correct," her voice sounding milder, sufficiently humbled.
"You are the mission commander. I will comply with your recommendation
for peaceful negotiations."
you," he muttered silently. "What we have to do first
is make our way to the bridge. Whoever's pulling the strings on
this ship is obviously holed up in there. Whatever happens, contact
or conflict, it's got to happen there."
logical supposition," she nodded, the aftershock of Harry's
cleansing rage still lingering in the air. "But how are we
to find its location?"
pondered the question. "Have you been mapping the corridors
we've traveled so far in relation to the ship's dimensions and
assume that the Sernaix have laid their ship compartments out
in the same way most other races do," he continued. "We'll
move towards the topside bow until we come across whatever looks
like a control center." Seeing the puzzled look on the blonde's
face, he went on. "Yeah, I know it's a wild-ass guess, but
it's all we have right now."
she stated, as she reached for her tricorder. "However, there
is something we must consider. According to my scans of the way
ahead, the corridors branch off into two separate hallways before
converging at a center point near the bow of the ship."
that's probably the bridge," Harry said excitedly. "That's
exactly what we needed to know."
consider this, Lieutenant," Seven added seriously. "If
our opponent is able to monitor our whereabouts on this ship,
as it seems most likely, then for the two of us to approach together
would make us both vulnerable."
are you saying, Seven?"
of us must survive to reach the bridge and stop this ship, should
events turn hostile," she answered. "I believe we should
not," Harry said immediately. "Without someone to back
us up, we'd each be at risk."
she said, "but we would be equally at risk if we were attacked
at the same time. By dividing, we would increase the odds of one
of us reaching the control center."
facing the opponent alone?" he said directly.
agree that there is risk," she said solemnly, "but I
believe our chances will improve if we remain dispersed. Even
if one is lost, the other may survive. And as you yourself have
stated, our primary mission is survival. Even if it is only one
of us that survives."
took in a deep breath and considered the options they faced before
them. There were none. This was perhaps the hardest aspect of
commanding any mission, as he had learned from the debacle of
his command of the Nightingale mission. Sometimes a leader had
to make choices that would almost certainly get people killed.
Even people that he knew and cared about.
he nodded glumly. "We'll each take a separate corridor and
stay in constant communication with each other. Keep your tricorder
set to monitor all bio-readings at all times. If we're each going
to go it alone, then we're not going to let anything sneak up
on us. Is that understood?"
Lieutenant," she answered him. It almost sounded like she
was answering him with respect this time.
was a welcome change.
Seven," he called out to her, just as she was about to go
down her fork of the corridor.
He tried to speak, wanting to tell her how sorry he was that he
had lost his composure earlier. But now was not the time. He would
see her later, once they were both safe, and make amends with
her. Instead he smiled at her, and then patted the phaser that
hung on his belt. "Don't be afraid to use this if you see
assure you I will take every effort to protect myself," she
answered him. "Be certain that you do the same." Her
stance then softened again, and she seemed to
was she smiling
at him? "I will see you on the bridge, Lieutenant Kim. Good
thought you told me that you didn't believe in luck," he
am adapting," she replied. Her smile seemed to grow more
pronounced as she walked away.
Vex was not happy. And neither were Tokul and Nagewa. Despite
the punishment they had meted out against the Abomination's ship,
they had failed to disable her warp engines. Although they were
fairly certain that the slipstream drive had been damaged, thus
preventing their quarry from outdistancing them, the battleship
proved to be a formidable opponent. The Abomination had fired
back on them, damaging the Cobalt Field ship, which provided the
opportunity for it to make evasive maneuvers and escape.
Abomination had eluded them again, and this time it had taken
the Touched One with it. Vex had made a strategic gamble, and
it had failed. Now both of their prizes had eluded them.
them together, you said," Nagewa snarled at Vex. This time,
their minds were linked into Nagewa's private virtual space, a
fiery volcanic plain with an ugly red giant star flaming on the
horizon. Vex shuddered at whatever thoughts passed through the
mind of the Adimh of Cobalt Field is he could consider such a
volatile place a zone of private contemplation. "Now, we
have nothing to show for our efforts!"
isn't the time to start casting blame," Vex warned Nagewa,
his voice concealing a threat.
now is the perfect time," Nagewa shot back. "Especially
if this brings the Management Cadre into the fray! You've made
things difficult for all of the packs now!"
overstating the matter," he said back, tired of the other
I?" Nagewa retorted. "Just suppose that the Abomination
should kill the Touched One? Or worse? Suppose it finds a way
to acquire the Touched One's knowledge for itself? Can you imagine
the catastrophe that would lead to?"
didn't let his nervousness show through. But Nagewa's words did
indeed worry him. What if
there's a way we can still save face for ourselves," Tokul
spoke up, his voice more certain than it had been before, now
that events had turned against Vex.
what do you suggest?" Nagewa turned his fury from
Vex to the younger Adimh.
said Tokul with simple satisfaction. "The Management Cadre
has demanded that they not be destroyed outright, correct?"
course!" Vex blurted out angrily, furious that Tokul was
bringing up something so irrelevant to their current situation.
"What has that to do with anything?"
been placed off limits because they can't allow the killing of
the Touched One, am I right?" said Tokul, his virtual eyes
gleaming as he spoke.
the Touched One isn't on Voyager anymore," he concluded,
the corner of his mouth curling with delight.
and Nagewa smiled to mirror that of Tokul. Yes, they agreed. The
destruction of Voyager, killing the first ship of the Enemy to
be encountered in millennia, observed and experienced by all across
The Realm, they would gain much status indeed from such a feat.
thinking indeed, Tokul," Vex congratulated the young Adimh.
"But can we find Voyager?"
should be no difficulty," said Nagewa craftily. "We
can extrapolate their flight path from Caprijen, and correlate
it with the coordinates of where we encountered their shuttle.
If they expect their crew to rendezvous with them, then they probably
won't stray too far."
do realize," added Tokul, "that they won't be able to
stand up to one of our ships for very long, never mind all three."
worry about that," said Vex. "We can find a way to draw
it out for everyone sharing in the experience. Perhaps we can
even board Voyager once she's been subdued and start killing the
crew one by one."
said Nagewa. "But only if all three of our ships get the
chance to participate, of course."
course," laughed Vex in agreement.
killing of Voyager would indeed be a novelty, thought Vex proudly,
something new for the entire Sernaix race to share in. It would
be a tantalizing taste for what was to come, especially when the
Sernaix finally escaped from the Phase and destroyed the homeworld
of the Enemy.
lone walk along the corridors of the Sernaix ship had to be the
longest of Harry Kim's young life. Lit only by the harsh neon
glow of thin luminescent strips overhead, the hallways leading
towards what he hoped was the bridge seemed to grow narrower and
more constricting the further he went on.
course, he knew it was only his imagination, but then that was
all he had for companionship at this point.
glanced down at his tricorder again, relieved to see that the
screen revealed no moving or organic objects approaching him.
It would have been better if it were able to detect Seven's presence
in the other branch of the corridor. Unfortunately, as the two
branches diverged further, the distance between them grew, as
did the thickness of the walls separating them. Shortly after
splitting off, the two had lost the ability to scan each other.
he and Seven had agreed to hail each other every twenty meters,
just to be safe. The walls did not seem to affect their com signals
to the same extent as their scans, and they had each come through
loud and clear for the other for the first thirty meters or so.
as they moved farther along their respective paths, the signals
would grow more intermittent, the reception increasingly noisy.
he called out over his combadge, "you're breaking up. What's
he heard nothing.
tried hailing her three times, but to no avail. The connection
was at a loss as to what he should do next. Should he double back
the way he came and go after Seven, try to reassure himself that
she was safe from harm? Or should he simply proceed along his
pathway to the bridge, and hope to meet his teammate there? And
just what were they supposed to do when they arrived there?
had always tried to reason with himself that his botched command
of the Nightingale mission was never a fair test of his command
abilities. That was what Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay
had tried to reassure him of when he made out his post-mission
report. But he had known the truth. He had failed, not because
he was unable to recognize that he had been duped by the Kraylor,
but because of how he had conducted himself as a captain. He had
been so eager to prove to everyone, including himself, that he
was not the 'eternal ensign' that he ended up overcompensating,
micromanaging everyone's duties and being heavy handed in his
dealings with the crew. He had vowed to himself afterwards that
he would not make the same mistakes again, that he would trust
people under him to do their jobs properly and make command decisions
only when his responsibilities called for it.
was one of those times. He had to trust Seven to take care of
herself, as much as it pained him. His duty was to survive and
reach the bridge.
stomped towards the bow of the ship, frantic with worry over Seven.
His emotions were in a jumble over his recent interactions with
her. Her brief display of vulnerability towards him had him confused
as to what their relationship was. Were they colleagues? Friends?
finally reached the end of the corridor and followed it as it
snaked upwards into a large lit chamber. Strangely enough, the
doors appeared wide open, as if he were expected. Harry didn't
know what he would find here, but he loosened his phaser from
his belt clip all the same. His approach was unimpeded. He crouched
at the entrance, waiting for the right moment to take his opponent
unaware, and then, at the count of three, leapt onto the bridge,
his phaser drawn, prepared to confront their mysterious captain
in a foolhardy display of bravado.
eyes darted around. He saw nobody. Nobody except Seven of Nine,
propped up on some kind of lounging chair that occupied the same
position that a command chair would on a Starfleet bridge.
eyes looked glazed over. She appeared alive, but in some kind
of fugue. A cable was linked from her tympanic implant to a large
blue and white radiating sphere hanging from the ceiling of the
bridge. A dozen small robots, each looking like a cross between
a large sea urchin and a tumbleweed, surrounded the former drone,
acting like they were guarding her.
he called out to her, but she did not appear to be aware of his
presence. He moved towards her, hoping to free her. One of the
bush-like robots moved to intercept him. It rolled into his path,
extending itself on its spines, all of them sharp and menacing.
wouldn't do that if I were you," a deep resonant voice spoke
up, echoing all around the bridge. "Those manipulators can
be quite effective as cutting tools. I could easily direct the
servos to gut you open from neck to groin if I wanted to."
sphere dimmed slightly as it projected a life-size hologram before
him. It was a broad-shouldered Sernaix, over two meters tall,
with many gold and crimson markings on his dark blue body and
face. His skin was literally a living storybook, detailing pictures
and icons that danced across his flesh. And his face was the familiar
demonic horned visage that he had come to expect from Voyager's
encounters with the Sernaix. But the expression seemed different.
This Sernaix seemed to be
smiling at him, even if it was
a deeply menacing and creepy smile at that.
to the bridge, Lieutenant Harry Kim," it said to him in the
same deep voice he had heard before, only now it was emanating
from the hologram's 'lips' directly.
have you done to her?!" demanded the young officer.
to worry, boy," said the hologram, "She's not being
harmed. In fact, she's gaining quite a bit from the experience."
are you?" Harry asked nervously as he approached the projection
am I?" the hologram laughed heartily, as he swung his arms
out in a grand, dramatic gesture. "My name is Ozymandias,
King of Kings! Look upon my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
was not what Harry expected to hear at all. "You're quoting
Shelley?" he asked incredulously.
the hologram chuckled. "Fascinating stuff, your poetry. Words
almost like music. We have no equivalent art form in our culture,
just how is it you can quote human poetry at me?" Harry asked,
trying to hold his own and not wanting to be toyed with.
we've been aware of a lot of things about your people," said
`Ozymandias'. "Ever since we came across your ship, quite
a few foolhardy packs have been sneaking alongside while under
cloak and tapping into your computer logs to learn about you.
It really isn't too challenging. Your sensors aren't all that
couldn't believe what he was hearing. How many times when Voyager
had thought itself alone in space had there been a Sernaix ship
silently flying alongside them, spying on them, able to take them
out unawares with but a single shot.
how come you haven't destroyed us?" Harry demanded.
just say, we were requested not to by our
I guess you can
call them our leaders," said Ozymandias. "And leave
it at that."
snorted at the picaresque hologram and stormed closer to Seven,
in spite of the entourage of spiny robots. He held up his phaser,
trying to appear threatening, even though inside he was really
scared to death. "I'm not looking to play games here. Just
who are you really? And don't quote any poetry at me!"
Sernaix hologram chuckled at the young man. "Well, aren't
you the impertinent one? You come on to my ship, and start
making demands of me, knowing full well I could slice you up faster
than you can point that weapon of yours. Oh, not that it will
do you any good. The entire command center is shielded. Your energy
beams would just be absorbed.
for who I am
well, I'm nobody. That's what an upload really
is, you know. Nobody. Who I used to be, though, that's a whole
other story. I was once Ozama, Adimh of Silver Sky. But I think
I like 'Ozymandias' better. It suits me, don't you think? It's
mulled over the hologram's words. "Adimh. That's like a captain,
leader, priest, elder brother," Ozymandias railed on. "Your
language doesn't fully capture the nuances of our culture."
how does a computer become a captain of a ship? Did you take over
after the crew was killed?"
look on the hologram's face then shifted from mercurial to furious.
Harry knew right away that he had said the wrong thing.
computer?!" Ozymandias roared. The ship itself seemed to
shake in a sympathetic response. The interface cable registered
feedback, causing Seven to jerk about like a puppet. "I'm
no piece of dead metal like your dimwitted starship computers!
I was flesh, once! I lived! As alive as you, boy! Even more so."
sorry," said Harry, as much shocked by its words as he was
concerned for Seven's safety. "Just
just don't hurt
her. Please." Waiting until the holographic image had calmed
down, he tried to communicate further with him. "Are you
saying that someone
did this to you?" he says, trying
to be sympathetic.
this to me?!" Ozymandias laughed. "Oh, I suppose you
could say that. Every Sernaix makes the transition to immortality
and life within The Realm when the thrill of youth and mating
has passed. Didn't you know this? Doesn't your race feel the same
longing, the desire to live and experience at the expense of all
else?" it asked him.
didn't know what to make of this information, or even to believe
it or not. To 24th century humanity, the idea of eternal life
as a computer program, no matter how vivid the environment, seemed
like an appalling prospect.
no," Ozymandias continued. "I didn't take control of
the ship after the crew was killed. I was always in control here."
went silent with fear. "It was you, wasn't it?" he gasped.
"You killed your own crew."
absolutely," said the hologram, not displaying the least
bit of shame. "In my previous life, I was the Adimh of my
pack. I had a powerful zest for life. There was nothing I couldn't
do. The adventures, the thrills, the hunts, the battles
he mused, gesturing to the tattoos that adorned his arms and exposed
chest. "Each one tells a story, boy, a new experience. I
was the best of the best, once. But how quickly the admiration
of others turns to embarrassment."
don't understand," said a puzzled Harry Kim.
my boy, time," said Ozymandias. "The true enemy of the
Sernaix. When a male grows older, the passions fade. They relinquish
their life in the packs to settle down and mate, but not me. I
felt young and vital. I wanted to stay on as Adimh. I didn't want
to give it up. I couldn't give it up. I craved the flesh
didn't sit well with my pack," he continued. "Especially
with my Zvir. He wanted me to move on so he could claim his role
as Adimh of Silver Sky. My pack grew ashamed of me, that their
well, an old man."
looked at the image of the Sernaix before, unable to judge anything
about his age from his alien visage. "Just how old were you?"
human years?" mused Ozymandias, "forty three."
three?" he blurted in astonishment, "That's considered
old for a Sernaix?"
is for the flesh. Once the flesh is given up and one becomes immortal,
age doesn't mean anything anymore."
did you end up
a computer?" the hologram teased. "When our previous
Ship Mind's contract with us ended and it returned to The Realm,
the pack rose up against me. They tied me down and had me forcibly
uploaded. They even received the blessing of some of the other
packs before betraying me, maybe even The Realm itself, for all
I know. My ever-so-loyal former Zvir then assumed the role of
Adimh. He thought it would be amusing to have me implanted as
the new Ship Mind, figuring a few decades of service would tame
me into accepting my fate." Ozymandias then leaned in close
to Harry, revealing a smile on his demonic face that sent shivers
down his spine. "Well, he doesn't look so amused now, does
the one that you
?" Harry stammers.
up? My former Zvir," he laughed. "I was so hoping
that someone would find him like that."
blood went cold at hearing this Sernaix rail on so casually about
murder, no matter justified it might have seemed. Uploading, ship
minds, eternal life
it was all just so bizarre to
him. But he could see that this entity was not someone to be trifled
three ships out there," muttered Harry. "They're hunting
you, aren't they?"
holographic face nodded. "After I dished out my private justice
against the Adimh, the rest of the crew tried to disable me. So
suffocated them," Harry finished his sentence.
had to protect myself," he replied defensively. "But
I wasn't fast enough. One of them got a signal out to The Realm
before he succumbed."
said nothing, his eyes quickly darted about the room, seeing where
Seven was sprawled out on the couch, seeming barely conscious
of her surroundings.
a self-absorbed people," Ozymandias went on to lament, more
for his own amusement now than Harry's edification. "We crave
excitement and new challenges, but we shun the very responsibilities
necessary to sustain our race! In the flesh, we seek thrills and
stimulus. And when we shed our bodies, when our passions have
faded, we lapse into the mindless stupor of The Realm. I never
wanted this! I wanted to be young and vital forever!"
Harry said, "I
I'm really sorry about what happened
to you. It wasn't right. But what does this have to do with us?
What do you want from us?"
want to know if I'm going to kill you both?" The holographic
interface chuckled again. "Relax, boy. I have no grudge against
you two or your ship. In fact, I need you."
us? For what?"
truth is, Harry, I have nowhere else to go. I'm an Abomination.
A Ship Mind that turned on its crew. They won't rest until I've
been destroyed. I need to go where they can't reach me."
can we possibly do for you?
need new skills, new abilities. Your Seven of Nine here may just
have exactly what I need. I'll return you to Voyager, but I'm
going to need to make use of her for a while."
not!" Harry said feverishly. "She leaves with me!"
And what is she to you?!" Ozymandias demanded of Harry.
is she indeed, Harry thought for a moment. "She
my friend!" he shouted back in finality. It was the only
answer he could give. And it was an honest one, in spite of everything.
"I won't leave without her!"
hologram went silent. Its facial expression was difficult for
Harry to read, but it seemed that Ozymandias was actually
his answer. "That's strange," said the Sernaix. "Very
so strange about friendship?" asked Harry, puzzled by his
don't understand," said Ozymandias. "Among my people,
males and females don't live or socialize together. We only come
together when its time to mate. I've certainly never heard of
a male and a female being
with each other. If
it weren't for our biological urges, we probably wouldn't have
anything to do with each other. The truth is, Sernaix men and
women don't even particularly like each other that much.
We're just too different. We tend to get on each other's nerves."
couldn't help but laugh at the other's comments, regardless of
how inappropriate the situation. "Believe me, sometimes my
species isn't too different in that area. But somehow, we find
shook his holographic head sadly in response. "It's too bad
we can't find a way. Fewer and fewer Sernaix are willing assume
the burden of parenting anymore, in lieu of the pleasures of the
present. Our population is declining, did you know that?"
Harry shook his head in the negative. "Of course, who am
I to judge?" the Sernaix went on. "I didn't want to
give up my freedom either. So I suppose I'm as much a part of
the problem as anyone."
a chime sounded out across the bridge, and the hologram of Ozymandias
winked away. Harry spun around to see what was going on. In place
of Ozymandias, the entire chamber was now filled with a huge,
ring-shaped hologram of the exterior of the ship. Three Sernaix
vessels, no doubt the very three that had been pursuing them,
were shown moving in formation.
been following them," came the voice of Ozymandias from all
around the room. "We've been trailing our friends there just
outside their sensor window. One of the advantages of flying a
battleship like this is that we can see farther than they can."
from what Harry could see, this ship was no longer their target.
Instead there was another ship, a very familiar one, drifting
innocently along their flight path.
Harry gasped, as he saw his ship floating at the heart of the
simulated battle scene.
say your people are in trouble," chuckled Ozymandias' disembodied
voice. "They can't even spot those three coming."
they attack Voyager?" Harry asked desperately.
most definitely," Oz answered. "They won't be able to
resist. They couldn't find you two or me, so destroying your Voyager
will be the next best thing to them."
I thought you said your leaders wouldn't allow it," said
have changed," said Ozymandias. "The thing they want
isn't on board anymore."
Enemy didn't appear to suspect a thing, thought Vex smugly as
he reclined back in his command couch, watching the starship Voyager
loom larger in their battle sim. Less than an hour before they
would be within firing range. Already the three packs had decided
on how they would surprise them and then divide up the damage
they would cause. Once Voyager's shields had been sufficiently
weakened, each ship would transport an attack team over to run
wild through the corridors and slaughter as many of the crew they
could find. Any survivors would then be divided up and taken back
to each of the ships, so that the remaining packmates could each
have their turn at the kill. Of course, everything would be recorded
so that all of The Realm could share in the experience.
it true what they say, Adimh?" said Imesh next to him, interrupting
what true?" said Vex sourly, annoyed at having this savory
moment marred with mere words.
the Adimh of the Enemy ship is a female?" chuckled Imesh.
get too aroused, Imesh," Vex laughed back. "I ran the
sim of the report by Crimson Stone. Their women are hideously
skinny and pale."
" Imesh answered defensively, before realizing
that his Adimh was just teasing him. The Zvir of Jade Mountain
accepted the joke in the spirit in which it was meant. Of course,
had anyone else other than his Adimh made such an insinuation
about wanting to mate with a female while still in his prime,
especially one of the Enemy, he would have been challenged and
gutted for his trouble.
not to be too curious about the Janeway woman," cautioned
Vex to his second. "She'll bleed just like anyone else once
I take the knife to her."
best part of this situation, thought Vex, was that in spite of
his earlier tactical blunder, he had drawn the lot for the right
to kill the Enemy's Adimh, the woman Janeway. It would certainly
be intriguing, he chuckled, as he considered the prospect of killing
a female for the first time.
the fact that he had infuriated Nagewa in the process was simply
foam on the jiopol.
have to warn them!" pleaded Harry, as he watched the trio
of ships come closer to Voyager.
just why would I be interested in doing that?" Ozymandias
asked skeptically. "I'd give away my position."
said you needed Voyager's help," Harry countered.
need to survive. What else could I want beyond that?"
thought for a minute, before coming up with an answer. "You
said you crave new experiences! You wanted to see something new!
Help us, then! You've fought your own people to protect yourself.
Now do it again to protect others!
been complaining to me about your people's self-absorption, but
how are you any different? Do you think killing your crew in revenge
makes a difference? Prove to me that you can rise above that!
Prove it to yourself!
Harry concluded with a forced glee, "it might be fun!"
went silent, as he seemed to consider the young man's words. After
a minute had passed, the air was broken with the booming heartiness
of laughter. "You might well have a bit of Sernaix blood
in you after all, Mr. Kim," said the Sernaix. "You posture
just like one of us."
that, Harry could see the holographic scene above him shift, as
the ship seemed to move forward, and the three Sernaix scouts
interface link to Seven then suddenly snapped loose, and several
of the servos jumped over her, helping her up. Her body slumped
down in the command couch and Harry immediately rushed over to
held her for a few minutes, waiting for her to awaken. Slowly,
he watched her, feeling her come to life again as he held her
by her arms. As her eyes fluttered open, he realized that he was
holding her just a little too intimately. He relaxed his grip
on her, allowing her to sit up on the couch.
you OK?" he asked with concern. "He didn't hurt you,
fine," she said in confusion. "I
directly to the bridge and incapacitated."
sure that you're OK? Ozymandias' link
do not feel damaged," she answered him, her voice still unsteady.
remember fleeting images, scenes and simulations
of various Sernaix, but they are all a blur to me. I suspect that
the uploaded intelligence was attempting to link with my cortical
implant, most likely for the purpose of extracting information."
Regaining her composure, she looked about the room, seeing the
large holographic display overhead. "Lieutenant, what has
happened?" she asked.
you're awake," Ozymandias greeted her jovially. "Welcome
to the pack."
and Chakotay were enjoying their dinner together in her quarters,
a lovely repast of fettuccine Alfredo and fresh asparagus, when
the intercom chimed.
to Captain Janeway," came the steady voice of Lt. Commander
at the interruption, Janeway slapped her combadge to respond.
we are receiving a transmission from an unknown source. But the
caller claims to be Lt. Kim."
it down here," she instructed, as she got up from her seat
and moved over to her desk, turning the screen around to face
her. Harry's worried face appeared on the small monitor.
she said to him. "Where are you calling from? We can't get
a fix on your position
no time, Captain," the young officer blurted quickly. "You've
got to go to Red Alert immediately. There are three Sernaix ships
that are about to converge on your position."
Janeway's face went pale. Chakotay sat up immediately from his
position on the couch. They were thinking the exact same thing.
What could Voyager possibly do against three such formidable opponents?
in whatever evasive maneuvers you can," he urged. "I'm
almost there. Help is on the way!"
where are you
?" But the link went dead.
immediately slapped her combadge. "Mr. Tuvok. Go to Red Alert."
Captain," the Vulcan responded.
looked at his captain as the two of them straightened their uniforms
and headed out the door while the Red Alert klaxons began to sound.
like we'll have to take a raincheck on dinner?"
hope we can collect later," she replied, worried if she and
her first officer would ever get that second chance.
and Chakotay dashed onto the bridge, just in time to see the three
ships 'appear' from nowhere, as only the Sernaix could manage.
The rest of the bridge crew, including Tom Paris at the helm,
had already assumed their stations.
of them," the first officer mumbled as he shook his head.
"Just once, I was hoping that Harry wouldn't be so on the
shields," Janeway commanded to her tactical officer. "Bring
the ablative armor on line." Tuvok complied, even though
he knew that against Sernaix weapons, this sole line of defense
would not protect them for very long.
transphasic torpedoes," she commanded, knowing that their
supply of these potent weapons provided by her alternate future
counterpart were in limited supply. But it was the only weapon
that had seemed to even slow the Sernaix down.
then, just as she could see the bright white hardpoints of their
beam emitters starting to form, Tuvok called out again from his
he said, "a fourth Sernaix vessel has appeared on our sensors.
It is larger than the others, equivalent to Voyager in size."
fourth ship?" Tom called out from his station. "As if
three weren't enough to clean our clocks?"
stood up and turned towards the pilot's station with urgency.
"Tom, set a
" But before she could complete her
command, a bright flash appeared on the monitor. The fourth Sernaix
was firing its weapons. Only it wasn't targeting Voyager. It was
striking at the lead of the three ships.
god," said Janeway, watching the blinding purple flashes
of light that seemed to burst from the damaged scout's hull.
guessing that Harry and Seven hitched a ride along the way,"
Chakotay remarked from his seat.
other two Sernaix ships scrambled in response to this unexpected
attack. Voyager was now forgotten, as this new, unexpected threat
now had to be dealt with.
the two ships were not quick enough to save their beleaguered
companion. Because with a blinding volley of fire, the third ship
seemed to crumple under the impact and then
a blinding flash that was almost painful to look at. It wasn't
an explosion, like when a normal starship was destroyed, but simply
a white-hot burst of light that flared out, and then was gone.
crew of Voyager stood stunned, not believing that it was possible.
For the past few months, the Sernaix had seemed like such invulnerable
bogeymen, impossible to hurt or slow down. Janeway couldn't hold
back a thin smile of satisfaction. Although her ethical side knew
it was wrong to take pleasure in the destruction of another, even
an enemy, there was a part of her that felt pleased to know that
the Sernaix were not all powerful, but could in fact be hurt and
gave her a sense of hope, that Voyager might yet survive this
strange new place after all.
I'll say this about the Sernaix," said Tom from the pilot's
seat, "Their ships blow up real pretty."
Tuvok," said Janeway fiercely. "Ready those transphasic
torpedoes. Target the weakest ship as soon as it looks like its
taken enough damage."
weapons have not been effective against the Sernaix until now,
Captain," said Tuvok.
smile spreading across her features. "Somehow, I get the
feeling the Sernaix aren't quite as invulnerable as they used
and Seven watched on as the battle raged across the holographic
field around them, trying to steady themselves against the pounding
their ship was receiving. There were two attacking ships left,
one of which was taking heavy damage from Ozymandias' weapons.
so were they. It humbled Harry to realize that the firepower these
three ships were exchanging would have been enough to level nearly
half of Starfleet.
think it's time the two of you left," said Ozymandias, amidst
the chaos of the battle sim. "It's not safe for you two here.
I'll transport you as soon as you're ready."
Harry tried to speak as Seven looked on. "Voyager still has
her shields raised."
to worry, boy. The Sernaix know how to compensate for that."
Harry looked up and around the chamber, trying to find something
equivalent to a face, something he could speak to. "Thank
you. I'm sorry we couldn't give you what you wanted."
me, Harry," said the Sernaix voice, "you've both given
me exactly what I need."
and Seven looked at each other strangely, not certain of what
their benefactor had meant.
I have to confess," he added, "I left a little something
with Seven of Nine, something that I know Voyager will find useful."
said Seven breathlessly, as the flood of information all started
to come to her, forming a coherent structure where there had been
only a jumble from before. "Technical specifications for
of the advantages of being a Ship Mind," said Ozymandias.
"You get to know the insides of your ship in intimate detail."
said Seven, still awestruck by the knowledge she had now acquired.
Harry smiled at the look of satisfaction on the former drone's
face. It looked like she found exactly what she had been looking
for from this mission.
then something occurred to Harry, as he turned to face the blue-white
sphere over the command couch. "Wait," he called out.
"What did you mean before, when you said the Sernaix wanted
something on Voyager, something that wasn't there now? What do
now," Ozymandias laughed, "why would I want to spoil
all the fun of you finding out for yourself?"
then the Sernaix transporter beam enveloped them, sending them
back to Voyager. But through the ultrasonic whine, Harry could
hear the upload's final words to him. "I'll be seeing you
again, Harry. Real soon."
looked around at his damaged ship. His left side ached with pain.
The command center was a shambles. The battle sim was flickering.
Packmates lay injured and dead. Among them was Imesh, Zvir of
Jade Mountain. His second. His friend. He could have lived forever,
all of them. Instead, they were dead, and would stay that way
Sun had been the first to be taken out by the Abomination. Poor
Tokul had never even seen it coming. None of them had. They had
all been distracted, so focused was their attention on the Enemy,
Vex could see that the Enemy ship was arming its weapons, targeting
Cobalt Field. Nagewa's ship was heavily damaged, never having
completely repaired from the fighting at the comet, and had now
taken an even worse beating here. But even a crippled Sernaix
ship could still withstand the primitive weaponry that Voyager
called over the link to Cobalt Field, trying to warn them. But
their sensors must have been damaged during the fight, because
they couldn't see the four transphasic torpedoes locked on to
The first did only minimal damage. It shouldn't have done any
damage at all. But Cobalt Field's hull refraction had been pushed
beyond the limit already by the Abomination. Each subsequent torpedo
hit weakened the hull further cumulatively, until the final breaking
point of the plasma-bonding matrix was reached. Photons trapped
in a frozen standing wave returned to their natural energy levels
and burst forth into motion. First at one localized spot on the
hull, then spreading across the ship within a fraction of a second,
until the entire solid mass of the ship decayed into energetic
light particles in a single instant blaze.
could not believe it. Their weapons were primitive, their technology
far behind theirs. And yet this ship, albeit with the help of
the Abomination, had beaten a pack ship, a Defender of the Realm.
there was one consolation, it was that his ship's hull was still
strong and active. Voyager's weapons could not hurt it. And judging
from the damage it had taken, neither could the Abomination. Cobalt
Field's final shots had apparently taken out its weapon systems.
There was still a chance to emerge victorious from this.
Vex?" the Ship Mind responded to him, acting as if nothing
had gone wrong.
we still have weapons control?" Vex demanded.
Adimh. Our offensive systems are still operational."
looked about the tattered remains of his command center. The survivors
of his pack were all looking to him for guidance and leadership,
a display of bravado that they would relish. And indeed he would
the Silver Sky vessel," he ordered, adding as much flourish
to the command as he could. "I will deliver the killing shot
Adimh," said the Mind obsequiously. "Attempting to gain
a targeting lock now."
Adimh. The Silver Sky vessel has accelerated in our direction.
This trajectory makes no strategic sense, as they are no longer
able to generate weapons fire."
agreed Vex silently, it made no sense. The Abomination had no
weapon with which to fight him, except
Adimh of Jade Mountain realized the truth just as the Ship Mind
reported that the Abomination's acceleration was growing as the
distances between the two ships grew smaller.
the final seconds before impact, he displayed no outward reaction,
even though within his body was wracked with the greatest fear
a Sernaix could know.
fear of death.
watched as the two remaining Sernaix ships engaged in their final
dance of destruction. The smaller vessel tried to shoot the larger
one down, but its momentum was simply too great. The two ships
collided in a eruption of light and radiation that everyone had
to turn away from the glare.
on the bridge turned back to the monitor in stunned silence as
soon as it was safe to look.
god," mumbled Tom. "Harry and Seven
seemed to feel the same way. But their collective moment of shock
was interrupted by a voice over the intercom.
"Sickbay to the bridge," said the voice of the Doctor.
here," the captain responded. "I hope we haven't taken
any casualties, Doctor." Any additional casualties, she meant
no. But at some point during the fighting, Mr. Kim and Seven of
Nine were mysteriously beamed to the corridor just outside of
Sickbay. Oh, and they appear to be perfectly healthy, albeit a
little exhausted. I thought you'd be interested to know."
Log. Stardate 55279.2:
survived yet another encounter with the Sernaix, only this time,
I feel confident that we've come away with more than just confusion.
upon the data brought back by Lieutenant Kim and Seven of Nine,
our sensor readings of the Sernaix battle, and some remarkable
insights that Seven seems to have developed regarding Sernaix
technology, I believe that we may now have the means to develop
a weapon with which we can defend ourselves against the Sernaix.
we came out ahead with a little help. The next time we find ourselves
in a fight, I'm hoping we'll be able to stand on our own.
At that moment, the door chimed in Kathryn Janeway's quarters.
"Enter," Janeway instructed the door computer as she
put away her log recorder.
came into the room, holding both a PADD and a picnic basket. It
was impossible not to notice the broad smile on his face.
that for us?" she inquired curiously.
figured now would be as good a time as any to collect on that
raincheck," he said, as he put the basket down on her desk.
He held up the PADD in his right hand. "I've been reading
the preliminary report from Harry and Seven's away mission. It's
fascinating stuff from an anthropological point of view."
to mention, scientific," replied Janeway, as she reached
for a PADD of her own on the table across from her. "Did
you know that according to those technical specs that Seven brought
back, the larger Sernaix ships are actually equipped with Quantum
a pity we didn't have this info back in the Delta Quadrant,"
Chakotay remarked. "It would have made quite a difference
then. But now, I don't think that a Slipstream drive will be enough
to get us out of this Time Bubble."
wouldn't do us any good anyway," she said. "Apparently,
an Intrepid-Class starship doesn't have the necessary power output
or hull configuration to generate a stable slipstream. But at
least we now know its possible in principle."
did good out there," said the first officer with a proud
smile, "Harry and Seven."
they did," Janeway replied warmly. "Perhaps we should
team them up together more often, unless you have an issue with
of course not," he looked at her curiously. "Why would
I have an issue?"
indeed, she thought. She felt that twinge of jealousy and hurt
again, but she quickly cast it aside. That part of Chakotay's
life was over now. He had moved on, and apparently so had Seven.
And so should she.
Commander," said Janeway curiously, "what have you brought
for our meal this evening?"
old family recipe that Tom Paris told me about. How do you feel
about synthetic Southern fried chicken, corn on the cob, and cole
captain of the starship Voyager smiled with delighted anticipation.
It sounded wonderful to her. After all, the most important part
when dining was the company.
Seven," said the Doctor, as he ran yet another tricorder
scan over her cranial implants, "you mustn't move while I'm
performing a systems diagnostic."
have already performed two diagnostics on my Borg subsystems,
Doctor," the former drone complained, as she sat up on the
biobed in Sickbay. "As you well know, I am functioning perfectly
well, both biologically and technologically."
the same goes here, Doc," Harry called over from the next
biobed. "We're getting bored already."
Kim," the EMH huffed, "as someone who has been through
Sickbay more than his fair share of times before, you should know
that special precautions have to be taken when one is exposed
to an untested alien environment."
Harry sighed. This was the Doctor's turf, he acknowledged silently,
and there was no arguing with him here. Besides, there were other
matters that were on his mind.
so glad you understand," the hologram replied facetiously.
"Now, if you'll both excuse me, I'll need to go over these
latest results before I feel confident enough to release you."
the Doctor left to retreat to his office, Seven glanced over to
see the young officer sit quietly, lost in his own thoughts.
she said to him. "It would appear that you are now
the one that is focused on other matters."
sighed again, turning to face the former drone. "I don't
know. I still can't figure it all out. Ozymandias. Why did he
end up saving us and Voyager in the end?"
believe it was due in part to your persuasion, Lieutenant."
shouldn't have been enough," he said, still bewildered. "Not
for him to sacrifice himself."
Sernaix are a race that craves novelty," Seven suggested.
"Perhaps Ozymandias came to believe that an act of selfless
generosity would be the greatest novelty of all."
sighed Harry. "I don't know. Between uploading, frozen light,
packs and tribal warfare
I just feel like the Sernaix are
a stranger people than we can possibly imagine."
appear no stranger to me than many of the human subcultures that
I have studied," she said. "Perhaps that is where the
key to Voyager's survival in this area of space may lie."
said nothing, allowing a long moment of silence to settle between
them. Ordinarily, Seven of Nine was not bothered by silences,
but there was something about this one that left her unsettled.
There were still some things that needed to be said. "Lieutenant,"
she spoke up after a long pause, "about what was spoken between
us aboard the Sernaix ship
about that," he groaned, "Seven, I want to apologize."
she replied with confusion. "You wish to apologize?"
the way I spoke to you," he replied. "I shouldn't have
lost my cool like that. I was the away mission leader. I should
have acted more professionally and not let personal issues get
in the way. I guess you think I blew it again, don't you? Well,
you'd be right."
the contrary," she said, still astonished by his contrition.
"It is I who should apologize to you, Lieutenant." Her
tone then softened as she slowly continued to speak, the words
obviously coming forth with some difficulty. "I accept that
and endangered the mission and our
lives with my actions. I will understand if you choose to note
my conduct in your mission debriefing to the captain."
Kim couldn't have been more astonished if had been told that he
was about to be made Commander in Chief of Starfleet. "Seven,
" he stammered, "I don't know what to say. I
don't think you ever apologized to me before. What brought this
words to me regarding my treatment of you," she managed to
speak with some difficulty. "I did not realize that my treatment
of you caused you such anguish. You claimed that I do not respect
you. I will admit that when I first became a member of this crew,
I did not. Your status aboard Voyager did not seem to warrant
such treatment. It was only over time, as I came to work with
you, that I recognized the value that you add to this crew."
held up her hand to silence him. "Allow me to finish,"
she said. "When I first joined this crew, I was not accepted
by very many. You were among the first to treat me as though I
were welcome. I have not forgotten that. I have always regarded
you as one of my closest of
associates. Even if I have taken
you for granted and not always shown it."
that he now had leave to speak, Harry felt at a loss for words.
This was another one of those moments, he realized, when the two
of them actually had something meaningful to say to each other.
But this was also something more. A threshold had been reached
that's kind of you to say, Seven. And I accept
welcome," he answered with a nervous smile. "Of course,
you realize that I'm still going to have to inform the captain
about everything that went on during the mission."
understand," she said demurely. "No doubt the captain
will disapprove of my actions to acquire knowledge about the Sernaix
at all costs."
it I suppose it did pay off," Harry shrugged. "I mean,
look at what we managed to learn by boarding that ship. And we
maybe so," he answered affably, before leaning over with
concern. "But seriously. What happened when you were
I was linked to Ozymandias?" she answered. "I am not
entirely certain. I know that he imparted much data to me on his
vessel and its technology. I also saw many images, much of it
incomprehensible, like that of a hallucination. I believe it to
be scenes of this
that Ozymandias spoke of."
you know what any of it means?"
do not. But I suspect that Sernaix civilization may be much grander
than we have suspected. There are segments of the population that
extend beyond these 'packs' that we have encountered up to now."
smiled at her. "I'm just glad to hear that you weren't
too badly hurt, like you were with the Cardassians."
you, Lieutenant," she answered, finding herself
you remember anything else?" he asked with concern.
do remember one other thing," she said. "I was vaguely
aware of events in real time happening about me. I recall your
telling to Ozymandias that I was your friend."
you are," he said, blushing slightly. "Aren't you?"
can that be?" she asked, bewildered, "in light of the
way I have treated you?"
the great thing about friendship," he answered with a broad
grin. "You can forgive a friend just about anything."
comforted by that," she answered, her eyes looking
downcast. "And that you regard me as a friend. In truth,
Lieutenant, I have been somewhat lonely of late."
do you mean?"
somewhat anxious, she leaned in towards Harry, glancing to the
side to see that the Doctor was not listening. "Lieutenant,
I wish to take you into my confidence on a specific matter. Do
I have your promise that you will not repeat what I am about to
course," he answered with rising concern.
are no doubt aware of certain rumors that have circulated among
the crew of the existence of a relationship between myself and
sure," he laughed, "I heard that one going around. But
I never pay any attention to those. It's all just gossip."
this case, Lieutenant, it is based upon truth. Such a relationship
did take place."
eyes widened in surprise
no, the word 'surprise' would have
been an understatement. "You? And Chakotay?" He controlled
the volume of his voice, so as not to alarm the Doctor in the
next room. "I
how long has it been going on? I mean,
are no longer affiliated," she added hastily. "We participated
in four dating rituals, just prior to Voyager's return to the
Alpha Quadrant. I ended the relationship shortly after our arrival
in the Time Bubble."
see," he said to her, still thrown for a loop by this revelation.
"Wow. I mean, I know it's none of my business, but
never even knew the two of you
well, liked each other
that way. I mean, I figured if you were going to have a relationship,
it would be with
well, you know
" He then casually
tipped his head in the direction of the Doctor's office.
she said sadly. "I recall you being present when the Doctor
revealed his affections for me. It has been very difficult for
the two of us since then, when he learned that I did not share
his affections. He and Captain Janeway are the only other individuals
who know of my
affiliation. Other than Mr. Neelix, of course."
Harry sputtered incredulously. "You told Neelix about your
via the Pathfinder communications array," she stated calmly.
"I needed someone in whom I could confide, the Doctor of
course not being an option. Mr. Neelix had already departed from
Voyager at that point and seemed unlikely to spread any gossip
to anyone here."
I see your point," Harry said with a smirk, "But knowing
Neelix, your romantic life is probably the hot topic of conversation
of the Talaxian colony by now."
doubt," said Seven with cold comfort, "However, the
rest of the crew has been kept unaware. I would prefer it remain
I won't tell," he said earnestly, and then held up his arm
in mock seriousness. "Starfleet word of honor."
looked at the Ops officer and seemed
amused by his action,
as well as touched by his sincerity. And then she found herself
puzzled by her reaction to him. In the past, she might have regarded
his antics as
irrelevant. Indeed, she might not have even
given his hurt feelings a second thought, except to consider how
they might affect the efficiency of their working relationship.
But now things felt strangely different. She wondered if perhaps
the removal of her cortical safeguards had in fact done more for
her than just affect her ability to experience strong emotions.
Perhaps the subtler feelings were also intensified, allowing her
in a new light.
the past," she went on to explain, "I would confide
on personal matters with either the captain or the Doctor. Although
I still maintain a close relationship with both of them, I feel
that my interactions with them have been
by my brief association with Chakotay."
sure it's not as bad as you make it, Seven," he answered
helpfully. "The Doctor is obviously still interested in being
your friend. And so is the Captain, I'm sure."
she said wistfully. "The reality, Lieutenant, is that both
friendships had a strong mentor/student component to them, as
opposed to being a companionship of equals, just as my relationships
are with Icheb and Naomi Wildman in turn." She then looked
up at him, her face wan and uncertain. "I have often watched
your interactions with Lieutenants Paris and Torres, and have
greatly envied the friendship you share with them. In all the
time I have been aboard Voyager, I have never formed a true camaraderie
with one I consider a peer."
sighed softly at her mention of his two married friends. "Well,
to be perfectly honest, Seven, things aren't quite the same with
Tom and B'Elanna as they once were. What with the baby and all,
we just don't have time for each other. I mean, when the two of
them first hooked up, I used to feel like a third wheel. I guess
now that Miral is born, that makes me a fourth wheel." He
then looked over at Seven, his smile growing broader. "Maybe
things can be different now," Harry suggested merrily, "seeing
as we're both in need of new friends."
believe that would be acceptable to me," said Seven, her
tone more relaxed than he had ever known her to be. "How
are we to proceed from here?"
Harry pondered impishly, "I was hoping to put in a little
holodeck adventure time with Tom at one point, but I know you're
not into that. I hear you play a pretty mean game of Velocity."
she answered him, her face lighting up in interest. "At one
time I would play against Captain Janeway quite regularly. I have
not done so for some time. I believe my skills are in need of
what a coincidence," said Harry jovially. "I just happened
to be the team captain for my graduating class. Funny how we've
never played each other before."
she said, sounding quite pleased. "Perhaps we should proceed
to rectify that oversight." Harry couldn't help but smile
back in response. It looked to them both like the beginning of
a beautiful friendship. "And I was correct," she added.
are you talking about? Correct about what?"
you as a leader, Lieutenant Kim," she said to him, just showing
the barest hint of a smile. "You did much better this time."
by: Mike Ben-Zvi
Producers: Thinkey, Anne Rose and Coral