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