Sycorax took in her expansive view of the galaxy with growing
frustration, seething at the scene before her in her observation
bubble. The stars and planetary systems were spread out before her
like grains of sand on an infinite beach. Surveying the ongoing
battles throughout the galaxy, she saw her packs being defeated and
driven back, victory after victory going to these insignificant
At the beginning, when they had left the Phase, she had watched
as the packs spread throughout the galaxy, hunting, destroying, and
spreading chaos. Now it was they who were being pursued, hunted by
these mortals, falling back under their combined force. Apparently
she had underestimated them.
The males were becoming restless. They were not accustomed to
being defeated or to retreating. In fact, the Sernaix had never
before encountered an enemy they could not destroy. The Ayrethans
were formidable...but that was precisely why they were to be
She had thought attacking this new race, 8472 the humans called
them, would keep the males occupied, give them a new challenge.
Instead, it had been a disaster. A mistake. Sycorax did not like
making mistakes. And the males did not like being forced to fall
back under these new assaults. Something had to be done to control
them, and as long as they were being defeated she could not use
their lust for destruction to manipulate them. They would soon tire
of retreating from an enemy they could not easily overcome, and she
would need to find some new target for them. Some way to keep them
She thrived on chaos, craved it...but this was different. This
was not the intoxicating chaos of her own creation forced upon the
helpless, inconsequential worlds around her. This was chaos in her
world, her Realm.
For the first time in weeks, perhaps longer, looking at the
tactical display on the screen in Stellar Cartography brought a
smile to Kathryn Janeway's lips.
The yellow dots representing Sernaix ships, which not so long ago
had dominated the display, overrunning the entire quadrant like a
swarm of ants, were now smaller in number and broken into small
clusters, surrounded by dots representing Alliance ships. Devore,
Krenim, Vidiian, Kazon, Species 8472…the entire quadrant had
seemingly been woken from a deep slumber and been roused to fight
this new common enemy. Even the Ayrethans had come to their aid when
they were needed.
The tide had most definitely turned in their favor. Their
alliance, which she had entered with great trepidation, had turned
out to be in everyone's favor. The Sernaix were taking heavy losses
and giving ground under the combined strength of the Alliance, and
they were falling back. They were on the run. Just the way Kathryn
liked it. Playing defense was not her greatest strength…although she
had certainly had plenty of practice over the past eight and a half
years. The best defense was a good offense, as her tennis instructor
always used to say.
Her thoughts were drawn back to the business at hand as Kashyk,
standing next to her, spoke again. "There are still large
contingents of Sernaix ships here, here, and here," he said,
indicating the areas in question on the display on the screen.
The Krenim commander, Talat, standing on the other side of
Janeway, stepped closer to the screen with his hands clasped behind
his back. "We have several ships near that system," he said,
pointing at one of the clusters of Sernaix ships.
"You would be severely outnumbered, Commander," observed Tuvok.
Talat set his jaw and continued staring at the screen. "There are
Vidiian ships less than fifty light-years away. They could assist
"Our ships are needed here," countered Vidiian Captain Lem,
indicating a system in the other direction. "We have engaged a large
force of Sernaix ships. I'm afraid none can be spared to the system
"It's only twenty light-years from the Northwest Passage,"
observed Captain Janeway. "Species 8472 still has a large contingent
of ships there."
An instant silence fell on the room. Janeway and Talat locked
eyes, each trying to assess the other and neither backing down.
Several tense seconds passed before the heavy silence was broken.
"I would prefer," said Talat slowly, "to have assistance from the
Janeway stared back at him coldly, not giving an inch. "We can't
afford to pull them away."
Their eyes remained locked in silence until Kashyk stepped up
next to Talat.
"I think it would be…best…if we complied with Captain
Janeway's suggestion," he said, his tone deceptively submissive.
Talat leveled his glare at his Devore counterpart. "How do we
know we can rely on them?" he growled.
"Species 8472 has just as much reason to want the Sernaix threat
contained as you do, Commander," interjected Janeway.
"That's what you said about the Borg."
Her eyes narrowed. "That was a miscalculation," she said, her
voice dangerously low.
One side of Talat's mouth curled up in a nearly imperceptible
sneer. "Let us hope that you haven't made
another…miscalculation, Captain." He turned back to the
viewscreen. "You may contact Species 8472 and provide them with the
coordinates. Our ships will await their arrival."
Captain Janeway kept her eyes on Talat for a few more seconds
before she slowly exhaled and glanced at Chakotay. The latter took
the hint and took a step towards the tactical display.
"What about the group of Sernaix ships in that sector?" he asked,
using the console to enlarge another part of the Delta Quadrant that
was swarming with Sernaix ships. "There are small contingents of
Devore and Kazon ships, but they're outnumbered and being driven
back. They need reinforcements."
"That's not very far from the Ayrethan homeworld," observed Lem.
"The question is," said Kashyk with a smirk, "will they assist us
if we ask them?"
"Not likely," grumbled one of the other Devore.
"The Ayrethans appear to act of their own volition and on their
own schedule," Tuvok observed diplomatically.
"In other words," said Lem with a hint of amusement, "they don't
"On the contrary. I believe if the Sernaix posed a severe threat
the Ayrethans would come to our assistance. They have always done so
in the past."
"Be that as it may," interjected Janeway, "I don't think they can
be relied upon for every trivial movement that we decide upon. There
are Krenim and Devore ships in the next sector; the Sernaix aren't
giving us too much trouble in that area and you should be able to
spare enough ships to assist them."
As she pressed her thumb against a button on the LCARS display on
the console, the image on the screen in front of them pulled back,
again showing a view that encompassed most of the Delta Quadrant.
The captain reached for the controls to manipulate the display
again, but before she was able to key in the sequence Chakotay laid
his hand over hers. She looked up and saw him leaning over her
"Kathryn," he said in a low voice that wouldn't carry farther
than her ears, "It's late." She opened her mouth to protest but he
continued with a hint of a smile: "You're not going to win this war
tonight. And you'll think better after a good night's sleep."
They stared at each other, each reading the other like a book. A
hundred times, a thousand times, they had been over the same
territory. Chakotay knew that he had won -- or rather, that she had
decided to give up -- when he saw the amused spark in her eyes.
She turned back to the assembled members of the alliance.
"Gentlemen, why don't we pick this up tomorrow? We can make these
deployments right away and decide the remainder when we're all
rested and refreshed."
There was a general murmur of agreement and they began to file
out. Tuvok glanced at the captain to see if she wanted him to
remain, but she waved him off and he left as well.
She watched the doors slide closed behind the last person as they
left the room. When she glanced over at Chakotay she noticed him
smiling at her. "What?"
The smile widened. "I love watching you in your element, that's
She smiled as well. "Oh? And what element is that?"
"Being in command. Taking charge. Resolving disputes. Making this
alliance work. It's what you were born to do."
She turned back to the tactical display. "We can win this,
Chakotay. The scales are finally tipping in our favor. But…."
"But is it enough?" he finished.
She sighed heavily as she observed the screen in front of her. "I
wish I knew."
Miral stretched her arms towards her stuffed targ on the floor
across from her, well out of her reach. She extended her small limbs
as far as they could stretch, then wiggled her fingers in the
direction of the toy. The stuffed animal, oblivious to her efforts,
didn't move from its position. "Up!" she demanded, flinging her arms
in the air.
She wrinkled her nose when Toby remained motionless and stretched
her arms towards it once more. "Up!" she commanded again. The toy
remained where it was.
Her lower lip began to tremble and she turned around to look at
Tom, her eyes brimming with tears. She pointed towards the panda.
"Toby woan go up?" she asked in a small voice.
Tom sighed and rose from his chair, retrieving the toy. He
brought it to her outstretched arms and sat down on the floor next
to her. Miral squeezed Toby tightly to her chest, but then looked
back up at her father with the same plaintive look in her eyes.
He sighed again and gently stroked his daughter's back. "I know,
"She doesn't understand, does she?"
He was startled by B'Elanna's voice coming from behind him and
turned around to see her standing in the doorway.
He looked back at Miral. "How could she? It must be like losing
an arm or a leg. She doesn't understand why it's gone."
B'Elanna moved away from the doorway and sat next to Tom on the
floor, gently stroking his shoulder. "It's for the best."
He sighed. "Best for her...or best for us?"
"She'll live a normal life this way."
"What if she wasn't meant to have a normal life? She had this
talent, this ability, this amazing gift...and we've taken that away
B'Elanna's voice took on a hard edge. "She wasn't meant to have
it in the first place. She didn't have a choice in the matter."
"And we didn't give her one either."
"She's not even two, Tom. We're her parents -- we're
supposed to make these decisions for her in her best interests."
"There's a difference between making a decision in her best
interests and...and playing God with her life."
She pulled away from him slightly. "Is that what you think we
Tom reached over and brushed a stray strand of dark hair out of
Miral's face as she played contentedly with her panda. "I don't
know. This was a part of her. Just like...her hair. Or her eyes. Or
"It wouldn't have been a part of her at all if Harry and I hadn't
been kidnapped in the first place," returned B'Elanna.
Tom sighed heavily.
She reached over and took his chin gently in her hand, turning
him to face her. "Tom. We've been having this discussion about
changing Miral since even before she was born...but can you honestly
tell me you don't think that she'll be better off this way? That it
wouldn't have been hard for her?" Her voice began to waver as the
stress of having to deal with her daughter's abilities over the past
few months came to the surface. "That we didn't make the right
Tom pulled her towards him, wrapping his arms around her. "Of
course not," he said softly.
She threw her arms around his neck and clutched him tightly,
tears stinging her eyes.
"I guess I'm just disappointed my daughter doesn't have super
powers," quipped Tom after a short silence.
B'Elanna laughed through her tears and pulled away from him to
watch Miral as she happily amused herself with her toy, innocent
delight playing across her face.
"It's for the best, Tom."
He reached over and swept Miral into his arms, smiling as she
squealed in delight.
"I know," he said, holding his daughter close. "I know."
"This is preposterous! How can we sit here and do nothing while
the Sernaix destroy our vessels?"
Chairman Koval tr'Doowrom of the Tal Shiar ignored the outburst
of Radaik tr'Annhwi and kept his gaze fixed on the landscape outside
Radaik was undeterred by his superior's impassiveness. "Ten of
our Warbirds were destroyed near the Neutral Zone, and yet you used
your influence with the military so that they would send no
reinforcements. Why should we not fight the Sernaix?"
Koval remained motionless in front of the window.
Xor tr'Sharien leaned forward with his hands clasped in front of
him. "More could be done, Chairman. Much more."
Koval turned around from the window, one side of his mouth
turning up in a knowing smirk. "Why fight a more powerful enemy when
you can make them your ally?"
The others looked at each other warily. "You would send more of
our people to their death attempting to negotiate an alliance with
the Sernaix?" demanded Radaik.
Koval's eyes narrowed. "I would if I thought it were in the best
interests of the Empire…but it will not be necessary."
"Then what?" asked Nemek tr'Valorem, one of the younger members
of the Tal Shiar hierarchy. "We have not received any word from the
Section 31 operative."
Koval smiled and finally took his seat. "Admiral Warhol will
cooperate with us."
"We have no assurance of that," said Radaik. "He may already have
informed Section 31 of his interrogation."
"He won't do that. Section 31 will consider him compromised the
instant he mentions our involvement."
"Even if they know he's been compromised he could still provide
them with information," interjected Xor.
Koval shook his head. "Warhol will cooperate with us."
Nemek stared incredulously at the chairman. "You would trust a
Federation intelligence operative?"
"I didn't say I trusted him, Nemek," said Koval scornfully. "I
said he would cooperate with us. "
"And you haven't give us any reason to feel the same," said
Radaik. He spread his hands and smiled condescendingly. "If you
would care to explain why you have chosen to let the fate of the
Empire rest in the hands of our enemies, then perhaps we would be
Koval seethed at the insubordination. "I do not need to explain
myself to you. All you need to know is that I have ways
of…influencing Admiral Warhol."
"Torturing him does not guarantee he will cooperate with us
afterwards," pointed out Radaik.
"I have other…contacts…who are interested in seeing our alliance
go through. We will be included in Section 31's alliance with
the Sernaix." He smiled to himself, ignoring the doubtful
expressions of the others around the table. "And when we are, we can
make certain that we master this frozen light technology before they
Koval's confidence was anything but contagious and the other
Romulans glanced around the table warily at each other. If the
chairman continued this irrational behavior, something would need to
Admiral Warhol's footsteps echoed down the empty corridor of the
nameless, windowless building as he made his way towards his
destination. The rhythm of the echoes helped order his racing
thoughts and prepare himself for the meeting. He had to be calm, he
had to be focused...he had to be in control. One false step, one
mistake...the damage to himself and his position could be
irreparable. Or even fatal.
As he neared the double doors that led to the conference room, he
could already hear raised voices. Apparently the debate had already
"There's no proof that they're aware of any of this," someone was
saying as the doors slid open and Warhol stepped into the room.
"We can't afford to take that kind of risk!" came the rebuttal.
Warhol ignored the debate as he took his seat. He would make his
opinion known soon enough once the meeting began.
"This business is all about risk, gentlemen," boomed the voice of
Mr. West from the other side of the room as he entered from another
door. His commanding tone brought an instant silence to the room,
and those who had been standing quickly took their seats.
"However," continued West, "Risk isn't always justified." He
turned to Collins and Kelley. "Do we have any idea how much Sycorax
"It's impossible to know for sure," said Collins. "She keeps up a
good poker face, but there may be a lot she doesn't tell us."
"She probably suspects us," said West thoughtfully. "Sycorax is
anything but stupid. She knows we're only in this to protect our own
interests. The interests of the Federation."
"The question," interjected Brock, "is whether she will act on
"And whether or not we can afford to risk that she will," added
"What about Species 8472?" asked Warhol. "Do we know what
"She hasn't provided us with any further information since our
last communication," said West.
"At least we know she took the bait," said Seagal. "No matter the
outcome, it's one less threat to the Federation."
"Precisely." West looked around the table. "Is there anything
else we need to consider?"
"What about the Romulans?" asked Brock.
Warhol had to restrain himself from turning on Brock and
demanding to know why he brought up the Romulans. "What?" he asked,
his voice deceptively calm.
Brock frowned at the Admiral's question. "The Tal Shiar is being
far more docile towards the Sernaix than we predicted. Our latest
intelligence indicates that over a dozen Warbirds were destroyed
near the Neutral Zone, but the Tal Shiar seems to be holding back.
They're staying close to home, playing defense."
"What's so strange about that?" asked Seagal, frowning.
"Maybe nothing," said Brock. He glanced around the table. "Unless
they know something we don't. The Tal Shiar must have its reasons
for not taking on the Sernaix."
Warhol's eyes narrowed as he assessed the man beside him, trying
to determine whether or not there was more to his comment than met
"We'll worry about the Romulans later," interrupted West. Warhol
glanced towards the head of the table and noticed the careful
scrutiny directed at him. "Koval will cooperate with us if he knows
what's good for him."
"And if he doesn't?" asked Brock.
West replied without taking his eyes off Warhol. "If he's a
risk…he'll be dealt with."
Warhol returned the stare without blinking, understanding very
clearly the underlying threat. You don't spend half your career
in intelligence without learning how not to sweat under
pressure, thought Warhol. West might suspect there was more
going on than Warhol was telling, but he certainly couldn't prove
it. Not that he needed to prove it…but Warhol was sure he hadn't
given West enough to make him act on his suspicions.
When the Admiral didn't react, West turned his attention back to
the group. "Enough with the Romulans. We have to come to a decision
Brock leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "There are
too many unknowns. The Borg, Species 8472, the Tal Shiar, the
Obsidian Order -- "
"And Janeway," interrupted Warhol.
"And Janeway," agreed Brock. "Until we have more information we
can't risk being exposed."
"Agreed," said West. "We'll keep playing Sycorax's little
game…for now. Which means we'll have to give her something she
"And we all know what she wants," said Seagal.
West acknowledged this with a nod and turned to Brock and Kelley.
"Mr. Brock...Mr. Kelley...Arrange a meeting with the Adimha. You
know what to do."
Fifty-eight point six percent.
Ankin Rotor listened to the crescendo in his mind. He could
feel the number increase. He was encompassing drones at an
average rate of three per minute.
Rotor raised his arm and felt thousands of Borg instantly do the
same. He could see through all their eyes at once. He could
impersonate any of them so perfectly he would never be found out.
The Sernaix technology had been the key. When he had assimilated
it, Rotor had discovered a way to expand his operating radius. He no
longer had to personally intercept each cube to encompass it -- he
could send other cubes to do that for him. His rate of power
increase had risen exponentially. It was not enough. But soon...
very soon... it would be.
For the second time, Kelley found himself in the dark, imposing
meeting chamber in Sycorax's habitat. The silence was oppressive,
and the chamber was hot. The air around him seemed to be pressing
against his skin.
Kelley's eyes darted back and forth, searching the darkness
around him. He hadn't thought it was possible, but he was even more
nervous at this meeting than he had been at the last. A bead of
sweat slowly rolled down his forehead, and he wiped it away with the
back of his arm.
Brock could hear his counterpart's heavy breathing in the dark.
He elbowed Kelley firmly in the ribs. "What are you, a cadet?"
hissed Brock. "Calm. Down."
"Did Adimh Jal say why he wanted to speak with you?"
Adimh Nakat laughed at his Zvir's comment. "Adimh Jal never says
what he wants. He just expects the rest of us to show up. Which we
The Zvir frowned at Nakat's ridicule but said nothing.
Nakat shifted his bodyfield to allow him to merge with Adimh Jal,
tens of thousands of lightyears away in the Delta Quadrant. The
holographic environment around him shifted and transformed into a
rocky precipice overlooking a vast desert.
There were already almost a dozen other Adimhs linked to Jal,
sitting in a large circle near the edge of the precipice. "What is
this about?" demanded Adimh Levek. "Our packs could be hunting right
"Hunting?" scoffed Nakat as he joined the group. "It has been
many months since my pack has experienced the thrill of a worthy
"Your pack is not alone in that," said Jal. "Which is why I
summoned all of you here." He looked around smugly at the gathered
Adimhs, amused at their displeased and annoyed expressions. "It's
time we took the hunt into our own hands."
Kelley took a deep breath. His eyes were gradually adapting to
the darkness, becoming sensitive enough to detect the limited number
of photons traveling around the room. He could actually see Brock
standing beside him, which put him a little more at ease.
"The packs are getting restless," came the rumbling voice of
Sycorax, startling them. "I hope you have brought me something to
help that situation."
Both men turned around slowly, but as usual Sycorax did not deign
to actually appear before them and they were reduced to talking to
the empty blackness around them.
"We have," said Brock.
"Good. The packs thirst for battle."
"Species 8472 didn't prove a worthy adversary?" Brock asked
It was amusing watching the humans trying to be subtle, Sycorax
thought. She wondered whether her heavy losses at the hands of
Species 8472 had been intended by Section 31...but, as she didn't
plan to share that information, she would never know. "The packs in
your part of the galaxy do not have the opportunity to fight this
new enemy. They are becoming eager for combat."
Brock's eyes narrowed. She had evaded the question, but he
decided it was best not to push the issue. "That's why we're here."
"The Management Cadre has overstepped its bounds," growled Adimh
Vrel. "We should be able to decide for ourselves how to fight our
"If we had been allowed to make our own preparations, this new
enemy would be vanquished," said Adimh Jivrad.
"If we had been allowed to destroy the Federation immediately
after we left the Phase, we would have been able to take on this new
challenge at our peak," said Adimh Drevk. "Facing these aliens after
we had defeated these other primitive species would have been...."
"Intoxicating," finished Jivrad.
"Instead," agreed Adimh Vrel, "she has us spread out across this
galaxy and gives our enemies time to oppose us. When the Enemy ship
first entered the Phase, its weapons were harmless, its technology
primitive. These delays have allowed them to use our own technology
"At least you are permitted to attack whatever targets you
desire," countered Adimh Nakat. "In our part of space, we are only
allowed to attack those planets they allow us to."
"We could have conquered that quadrant in a matter of days,"
agreed Adimh Levek. "Instead, the Adimha wastes time playing games
with the mortals."
Brock held out a palm-sized holographic projector and pressed his
thumb into one side of it. A large vertical display was projected
from the small device and began rotating. On the display was a grid
overlaying a map of the sectors surrounding Earth.
"We've compiled a new list of several targets close to Earth,"
explained Brock. He pressed another button on the projector and
several locations on the grid were illuminated.
Sycorax smiled to herself as she took in the new pursuits for her
packs. She remained silent for several minutes, however, leaving the
humans in suspense.
"You have provided tactical data?" she asked finally.
Brock grinned. "Of course." With another command, a second
projection appeared superimposed over the grid. Images of planets
and starbases appeared with scrolling data along the side. "We hope
these will be sufficient."
Sycorax amused herself by making them wait again before she
replied. "They should provide the necessary distraction."
"We were promised bloodshed," snarled Nakat.
"We were promised plunder," agreed Jivrad.
"And what have we been given?" asked Jal.
"Small, insignificant conquests," growled Vrel.
"No devastation. No hunt," agreed Drevk.
Jal straightened to his full impressive height and looked around
at the gathered Sernaix commanders. "If we want what was promised to
us, we must take it ourselves."
The other Adimhs looked at him and silence fell.
"The Adimha has lost her stomach for battle," said Jal. "She has
allied herself with the Enemy. She has become weak."
Sycorax almost laughed. These pitiful humans were so predictable.
She relished the power she had over them…one of the few factors over
which she still had complete command. These insignificant puppets
would be under her control until she had no further use for them.
Kelley shifted uncomfortably. Did Sycorax actually believe them,
or was she just toying with them, leading them into some sort of
trap? He glanced nervously over at Brock, and relaxed slightly when
he saw the confidence in the other man's expression.
Brock tried to conceal his smile. He hadn't really expected
Sycorax to trust them, but amazingly she had. For the first time in
her presence, Brock felt as though he had the upper hand. All was
going according to plan. "Then we have a deal?" he asked, his voice
echoing off the walls.
There was a short pause before the voice of Sycorax rumbled
through the chamber. "We have a deal."
"Then we're agreed?" asked Adimh Jal.
Adimh Vrel glanced at his counterparts, then turned back to Jal
and spoke for them all. "We're agreed."
"Burning the midnight oil?"
Startled from her concentration, Captain Janeway jumped and
turned around in her chair. Looking over the railing, she saw
Chakotay standing on the lower floor, illuminated by the flickering
lights around him. She chuckled and laid a hand on her chest. "You
startled me," she told him, rising from her chair and moving over to
lean against the railing.
"Sorry." He held up a coffee pot that he was carrying in his left
hand. "Fresh from the mess hall."
Her face lit up with a toothy smile and she held up her worn
silver mug, long since empty. "You read my mind. Come on up."
He climbed the stairs in the recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's
workshop with the pot in one hand and his own coffee cup in the
other. He filled her cup with the steaming brown liquid, then poured
himself a mug as well. She wrapped her fingers around the metal as
the heat from the coffee began to seep through, and turned back to
the tactical display projected on one wall, the technology
strikingly out of place among the model helicopters, parachutes and
other Renaissance artifacts.
Standing behind her, Chakotay looked at the display, then down at
Kathryn as her brow furrowed in concentration. "Does staring at it
really make a difference?"
She sighed. "I keep hoping that something will just jump out at
me. Some way to finally end all this."
"A magic solution?" he chuckled.
She looked at him over her shoulder and playfully slapped him on
the arm. "Don't laugh. Sometimes solutions do just appear out of
nowhere. Remember when we first encountered the Northwest Passage?"
Chakotay frowned. "How could I forget?"
"That plan was born right here, staring at shadows on the wall.
So don't knock staring at a tactical display." She sighed and turned
back to the projection, tapping her fingers on the coffee cup. "So
far it's not working."
Withholding a comment on the success of the plan she was
referring to, he sat down on the old Renaissance couch opposite the
display and gently pulled her into a sitting position next to him.
"We're still far better off than we were a few weeks or months ago."
"I suppose," she conceded. "But right now we're only holding our
own. We're going to need a lot more to be able to actually defeat
"Maybe the Ayrethans --"
She cut him off with a wave of her hand. "I'm tired of waiting
for them to show up at the last possible second. They're so
impossible to deal with, so…."
"Evasive?" he offered.
"They could be our best chance of winning this."
She exhaled heavily. "Then we're all in a lot of trouble."
He reached up with one hand and massaged her shoulder. She pulled
her feet up underneath her on the couch and leaned back against him.
"It makes you wonder," she said softly after a few seconds.
She stared thoughtfully at the image projected in front of them.
"If our alliance needed help from both Species 8472 and the
Ayrethans to turn the tide…what have the Sernaix done to the Alpha
"They have the entire Federation to stand against them. Not to
mention the Klingons, the Romulans…."
She tapped her fingers against the side of her coffee mug. "I
have a bad feeling about it." She smiled and reached back to place
her hand against the side of his face, looking over her shoulder at
him. "Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing."
He put his hand over top of hers. "You've had a lot to deal with
She snorted. "That's putting it mildly." There was a heavy
silence for a few seconds before she sighed. "How is it going to
end, Chakotay? Is it ever going to end?" Her eyes darted back and
forth as she examined the display, desperately seeking a solution.
"There has to be something, some way…." Her voice trailed off.
"You'll figure it out, Kathryn. You always do."
She sighed again, fixated by the countless multicolored dots on
the tactical display before her. "I hope you're right. For all our
Sycorax watched the Federation ship move away from her habitat,
then connected to the Realm with a wave of her hand. She could see
the bridges of Sernaix ships from all over the galaxy. The Adimhs
were all muttering to each other, and the noise of their discontent
filled the Realm.
"It is time for more destruction!" she said, her voice booming
throughout the Realm.
Some of the Adimhs cheered, but many remained silent and waited
for her to continue.
With another wave of her hand she pulled up a holographic map of
the Alpha Quadrant. The targets designated by Section 31 glowed red.
Above that projection, images of the systems and outposts in
question appeared in sequence.
"These," she bellowed, "are your targets! Your next conquests! Go
forth and destroy!"
There were still shouts of approval, but fewer than before. The
murmur of discontented grumbling started to rise in volume.
"These targets are not worthy of our packs!" shouted one of the
"We should attack their home planet!" yelled another. "Destroy
"In time," Sycorax assured them. "In time, we will destroy the
"No!" insisted another Adimh. "We should destroy them now!
No more delays!" The Realm echoed with shouts of agreement.
"Silence!" bellowed Sycorax.
"For months we have avoided the enemy, attacked petty and
insignificant targets!" yelled another one of the Adimhs. "It is
time to strike at the heart of their territory! Bring devastation to
their home planet!" The roar from the gathered Adimhs was even
louder this time.
Sycorax tried to control her unease. The males had never shown
this level of insubordination before -- she had always been able to
control and intimidate them effortlessly. "Let the enemy suffer as
we destroy their galaxy!" she yelled. For the first time, her
booming voice failed to overcome the noise in the Realm. Some of the
Adihms, however, obviously heard her.
"Let them suffer NOW!" yelled one. This time the roar was
"SILENCE!" yelled Sycorax again. Her voice had started to lose
its dominating edge as the Adimhs became more rebellious.
"Enough with these alliances with the mortals!" bellowed one
Adimh. Shouts of concurrence reverberated across the Realm.
"Enough with these petty battles!" shouted another. "They are not
worthy of the Sernaix!"
Adimh Jal looked around, highly pleased with himself, and decided
to make his voice heard. "Enough," he yelled, "with the Management
Sycorax turned to him, fury blazing in her eyes. In the few
seconds it took for her to decide what to do with this unacceptable
and horrifying behavior, she realized it was too late as the
deafening roar of consenting cheers filled the Realm. As the roar
grew to a thunderous chaos of noise, Sycorax looked around and was
unable to hide her horror. She disconnected from the Realm, fearing
that if she stayed her hold on them would weaken still further.
The packs had always been completely under her control…how could
things have gotten so out of hand without her knowledge? There was
one way she could control them, make them obey her. But that was a
The double doors parted in front of Mr. West as he entered the
conference room with quick steps.
"Put them onscreen," he ordered as he strode towards the table.
Brock appeared on the monitor, transmitting from the U.S.S.
Wellings as it left the habitat. "Report," barked West, not
bothering to take his seat.
"She accepted the deal," Brock informed him.
"Did you manage to get any more information out of her?"
Brock's shoulders slumped ever so slightly in defeat. "No, sir.
She was evasive, as usual."
"No indications about Species 8472 or the Borg?"
West frowned and leaned forward on the table, deep in thought.
After a few seconds he shook his head slightly as if dismissing an
idea, then looked back up at the screen. "But she accepted our
"Good. West out."
The screen went blank, and West turned to Seagal on his left.
"Monitor the selected targets. I want to know as soon as she makes
West looked back at the reflection of the conference room in the
blank screen on the opposite wall. "Let me know if the Sernaix
deviate in the slightest from our agreement."
Seagal nodded and left the room. West remained, lost in thought.
Federation Starbase 21 traveled effortlessly through the vacuum
of space, propelled by its own momentum as the gravity of the gas
giant below it pulled the station along a never ending trajectory.
As the starbase slowly continued on its path, the yellow dwarf
star at the center of the system gradually came into view and the
shadow of the planet on the starbase was slowly driven away by the
light from the sun.
Just as the last of the shadow thrown by the planet disappeared,
a new shadow emerged on the gray plating of the structure as
something moved into the space between the starbase and the sun.
This new silhouette was soon joined by many more, their outlines
enlarging as they moved closer.
The seven Sernaix ships swept past the planet and moved closer to
the starbase, allowing light from the dwarf to reach the station
They started with the starships. The U.S.S. Hathaway was
destroyed in three shots before it was even able to undock, the
nearness of the explosion causing damage to the starbase. Part of
the Hathaway's saucer section hung limply from the docking
port, loose cables dangling from the edges of the sheared hull
plating. The Sernaix moved on to the remaining starships, but some
of them had now had time to undock and were able to maneuver and
A pair of Defiant-class ships, the Colorado and the
Syracuse, came at one of the Sernaix vessels from opposite
sides, strafing the hull with torpedoes that were absorbed
harmlessly by the photonium. A retaliatory shot from the Sernaix
vessel pierced one side of the hull of the Syracuse,
instantly vaporizing nearly a third of the ship. The following shot
struck the warp core and the vessel exploded from the inside,
sending debris in every direction. The Colorado pulled away,
but a Sernaix ship moved into its path and destroyed it with a
The Crazy Horse, one of the old Excelsior-class vessels,
already heavily damaged and missing a nacelle, turned sluggishly
towards the Sernaix ship that was pounding it mercilessly. Its
impulse engines slowly powered up, pushed beyond their limit, and
propelled the ship forward. The Sernaix realized too late what their
enemy's intention was, and they were able to do little more than
watch with horror as the old Federation vessel rammed them with all
the momentum it had been able to build up. The Crazy Horse
exploded violently, and the Sernaix hull, unable to absorb that much
energy, rippled from the shockwave before the entire ship
The destruction of one of the attacking vessels wasn't enough.
Within five minutes all thirteen starships that had been docked were
reduced to floating debris and the ring of Sernaix ships slowly
closed in on the starbase.
The phaser arrays and the few torpedo launchers were not able to
slow down the Sernaix attack in the slightest. All seven ships
opened fire simultaneously in a devastating rain of explosive power.
Section after section of the starbase was destroyed by the
explosions or vaporized instantly.
The attack was brief. After only a few minutes one of the Sernaix
shots made contact with the main power reactor at the center of the
station, and the powerful shockwave created by the resulting
explosion ballooned outwards through the starbase, destroying
everything in its path.
The six Sernaix ships circled the devastation before they slowly
moved off in search of more destruction, as the massive field of
debris that had been Starbase 21 was slowly pulled towards the gas
Admiral Paris' aide struggled to keep up with his superior as
they made their way through Starfleet Headquarters. "Admiral Hayes
said they received the distress signal at 0837 hours," he said,
handing the Admiral a PADD.
Paris grunted and examined the information. "They lost contact."
"How many starships did we have stationed there?"
"I don't know, sir. At least six."
The aide glanced down at his PADD. "They estimate at least
"Do we have any ships nearby?"
"I don't know, sir."
Paris nodded as they reached the turbolift. "Level four," he
ordered as the doors closed. "Did Admiral Hayes say if there had
been any other Sernaix activity?"
"I, uh, don't know, sir. He didn't mention it. He just said for
you to join him immediately."
"Hm." Paris tapped the PADD against the palm of his hand. "This
could mean another Sernaix offensive."
The turbolift stopped; Paris stepped out and continued down the
corridor, his aide still struggling to keep up with him.
As soon as they stepped through the doors into the briefing room,
Paris saw that he wasn't the first to arrive. The room was already
full of members of Starfleet Command.
"Owen," Admiral Hayes greeted him, standing up from the tactical
display he was examining. "As you can see, we've got a bit of a
Paris' face clouded over. "More than Starbase 21?"
"I'm afraid so." Hayes looked around the room for a few minutes,
taking stock of who was present. "We can't afford to wait any
longer. We should begin."
The Admirals took their seats around the oval conference table,
and Hayes nodded to Admiral Nechayev.
"At 0837 hours this morning," she began, "the U.S.S.
Magellan detected a distress call from Starbase 21. They
attempted to respond but lost all contact at 0841 hours. The
Magellan was just under a lightyear away and set a course…we
lost contact at 0903 hours."
There was a heavy silence around the table as they all realized
"Did they report engaging the Sernaix?" asked Admiral Ross.
"We think they tried," responded Hayes, "but they didn't have
"What are our fleet deployments in that sector?" asked Paris.
"The Lexington and the Endeavor are just over five
lightyears away. The Enterprise is in the next sector. We've
ordered them to set a course to investigate as well."
"Would it be wise to send them?" asked Admiral Warhol. "They
might not fare any better."
"We can't ignore the possibility that there are survivors," said
Warhol was about to reply when the monitor at one end of the room
came to life and a Starfleet commander appeared on the screen. "What
is it, Grayson?" Hayes asked his officer.
"Sir, the Exeter just intercepted a distress signal from
the U.S.S. Carolina."
"Put it onscreen."
Captain Peterson of the U.S.S. Carolina appeared on the
screen. The bridge behind him was dark, lit only by the pulsing red
glare thrown by the red alert lights. "This is the U.S.S.
Carolina to any vessels within range." Peterson ducked as his
ship shuddered violently underneath him and a shower of sparks shot
into view on the monitor. "We're in orbit of Rubicun III and are
under attack by three Sernaix ships. They're attacking the planet
"Captain!" interrupted a voice in the background.
Peterson looked to the side and his eyes widened in horror. "My
"I'm detecting four more Sern…no, nine more!" continued the voice
in the background.
"Power torpedoes and prepare to --"
The transmission dissolved into a sudden burst of static and then
the monitor went blank.
There was a heavy silence around the table for a few moments as
the admirals kept their eyes fixed on the vacant screen in front of
Hayes was the first one to pull himself back to the meeting. "It
would seem then that --"
Commander Grayson interrupted them again on the monitor. "Sir?
Three of our Fleet deployments have just reported engaging the
"Send all the reinforcements we can manage."
"And get me tactical data on these latest engagements."
"Yes, sir. It's coming in now -- I'll put it through."
As the monitor went blank again, Paris spoke up, finishing Hayes'
earlier statement. "The Sernaix are making a new offensive."
Hayes nodded in agreement. "The question is, can we hold them
The monitor at the end of the room lit up with a tactical display
of the Alpha Quadrant. Red flashing indicators marked the latest
"That's closer to Earth than any of the previous attacks," said
While the rest of the admirals stared in horror at the display,
Admiral Warhol narrowed his gaze. He shook his head slightly and
brought himself back to the conversation as Admiral Nechayev spoke:
"I recommend that we recall all ships within range back to Earth and
set up a defense perimeter."
"That would leave the surrounding sectors vulnerable to attack,"
pointed out Ross.
"You'd prefer to leave Earth vulnerable, Admiral?" she countered.
"Of course not," he retorted, "but there's got to be something
"We'll recall all ships not already part of the defense perimeter
to Earth," said Hayes. "We can't leave the surrounding sectors
"Agreed," said Ross.
"Agreed," said Nechayev, reluctantly.
Hayes nodded. "Good. Inform the fleet."
As the rest of those present rose and began to leave, Admiral
Paris kept his gaze fixed on the tactical display. Another red
indicator appeared. And another. And another. His brow furrowed in
concern. If the Sernaix were devastating the Alpha Quadrant, where
so many advanced races with so many resources were cooperating to
oppose them, then what was happening elsewhere in the galaxy?
And if Voyager was still out there somewhere…what chance did a
single ship have?
Mr. West's eyes blazed as he examined the shifting tactical
display on the monitor in front of him. "What the devil is she
doing?" he demanded. Seagal, standing beside him, crossed his arms
but wisely said nothing.
The doors at the other end of the room opened and Warhol entered.
"Some deal you made," he snapped. "I just came from a meeting at
Headquarters. The Sernaix are attacking unapproved targets."
"We know," West snapped back.
"We're monitoring the situation," added Seagal.
"Monitoring?" repeated Warhol incredulously. "They're
getting dangerously close to Earth. This can't continue."
"Agreed," said West. He turned to Seagal. "Get me Sycorax."
Seagal raised an eyebrow. "You know she dislikes it when we --"
"Now," said West coldly.
Seagal made no reply and moved immediately over to the comm panel
as West returned his smouldering gaze to the tactical display of the
"What?" demanded Sycorax of the Habitat Mind.
"West is trying to contact you. He refuses to wait."
Toying with Section 31 no longer appealed to her, but she had to
keep them from turning against her…for now, at least. At this point,
she had nothing to lose by preserving the alliance, especially since
she was currently unable to hold up her end of their deal. "Very
A holographic projection of Mr. West appeared in front of her.
"Adimha," he greeted her. She immediately noticed that he sounded
more cautious than usual.
"I hope for your sake that this is important. I have urgent
business to deal with."
West frowned. "I thought we had an understanding. Your packs are
attacking locations not on our list of approved targets."
Sycorax had no intention of telling Section 31 her weakness. "I
am aware of this. The packs were overeager in their attacks."
"Rubicun III was nowhere near the approved targets," he
"A misunderstanding." She was sure the underlying threat in her
tone was clear…West would have no idea she couldn't carry out the
implied threat. She was almost amused by watching him trying to
determine if she was lying.
"Of course," he said finally.
Reaching the end of her patience, Sycorax made the projection
vanish with a wave of her hand and returned to her thoughts. If she
couldn't find some way to bring the packs under control soon, she
would have to take drastic measures.
Mr. West glared at the blank screen in front of him for a long
few seconds before he looked up at Seagal and Warhol, standing on
the other side of the desk. "She's lying," he stated firmly.
"Of course she's lying," spat Warhol.
"If she's decided to break our deal," said Seagal, "Why would she
keep up the pretense? If she's decided we're no longer of any use to
her, why play along?"
"Just to toy with us?" suggested Warhol.
"She's certainly capable of it." West rose from his chair. He
strode over to the tactical display and crossed his arms as he
observed the latest reports on Sernaix activity around the quadrant.
Finally he turned around. "It's entirely possible that Sycorax has
decided we're no longer useful to her," he said slowly. "But we
can't afford to act on that kind of speculation. We'll maintain
appearances until we get definite proof Sycorax has double-crossed
us…or until we decide it's over."
Sycorax could feel the last of her control slipping away. The
chaos was still spreading among the packs, into the Realm…this had
to be stopped.
She had no other choice.
It was time.
Harry Kim frowned at the monitor in front of him as the flowing
lines of data seemed to become distorted. It took a few seconds for
him to realize that it was his vision and not the display that was
spinning. He reached for the edge of the console and gripped it,
Seven, working beside him, immediately noticed something was
He managed to maintain his balance, but couldn't get his lips to
form any words. Everything began to grow dim and he felt as though
he was being drawn somewhere. The room around him seemed to fall
slowly out from under him. It was a strange sensation…it reminded of
him of his zero-G training in the Atlantic.
He could sense he was being pulled somewhere, but everything was
still foggy and he couldn't make anything out. His thoughts felt
sluggish; it was hard for him to think at all.
Slowly, he became aware of another presence. A very large
presence. The Realm, he thought suddenly. Sycorax.
As his thoughts began to clear he became conscious of everything
around him. He was in the Realm, but nobody was aware of his
presence. He could sense everything, see everything. He was
Something was still pulling him…he could feel that something
important was happening. He had to find out what it was.
He became aware of Sycorax. She was frustrated…losing control.
And she wanted something. She was calling for something. Or
someone, he thought. Me?
It took him a few seconds to realize that he was mistaken. He
wasn't the one that Sycorax wanted at all….
The Doctor's face relaxed somewhat as he continued scanning Harry
with a tricorder. "I think he's coming to." Seven sighed with
relief, and a few seconds later Harry's eyes slowly opened.
"Lieutenant?" said the EMH. "Can you hear me?"
Harry slowly raised a hand to his forehead as Seven and the
Doctor helped him sit up on the biobed in Sickbay. "Ohhh," he
groaned. "My head."
"I…." Everything came back in a rush. "I have to go see the
captain," he insisted, jumping off the biobed. He wavered, still
groggy, and would have fallen if Seven hadn't steadied him by the
The Doctor frowned. "Lieutenant, I want to examine you further."
Harry used Seven to keep himself on his feet, shaking his head
resolutely as his mind became clear. "No," he insisted. "I need to
see the captain."
Both Seven and the Doctor appeared ready to object again, but
Harry's expression was determined, so they merely cast a worried
glance at each other and allowed him to lead them out the door.
Captain Janeway looked at him in silence, the slight twitch in
one of her eyebrows the only outward sign of her surprise. She kept
her gaze leveled at Harry for a few more seconds, glanced briefly at
Chakotay, then turned back to Harry. "Suspiria?" she repeated, as if
to confirm that she had heard him correctly.
"The female Caretaker?" added Chakotay in the same tone.
"Yes, sir. She's the Sernaix's god. Sycorax is trying to summon
"Do you know why?"
"She's losing control of the packs. She thinks Suspiria will be
able to stop them."
Captain Janeway slowly rose from her desk and made her way over
to the ready room windows, staring out at the familiar stars of the
Delta Quadrant. "Has Suspiria responded to this…summons?" she asked
after a few seconds.
"No, ma'am. And she won't."
Janeway turned around to face him. "Oh?"
She looked at Chakotay, and when their eyes met she saw that he
was as surprised as she was. "Gone?" she repeated. "How do you
"I just know. She's gone."
Chakotay turned to Harry. "If Sycorax is losing control of the
"…there will be nothing to stop them from destroying everything
in their path," said Harry, his expression grim.
Suddenly, Captain Janeway stopped pacing. Her eyes lit up. "Maybe
we should give Sycorax what she wants."
Chakotay frowned. "Kathryn?"
She crossed the ready room with quick steps and strode onto the
bridge; the two men followed her. "Tom," she said as she approached
the helm, "set a course for New Ocampa."
Tom looked at her, then at Chakotay, then at Harry, knowing that
he was missing something. "Yes, ma'am," he responded after a few
seconds, turning back to his console with a puzzled expression.
Janeway rested her hands on her hips as she watched the transwarp
corridor forming on the viewscreen in front of her. Out of the
corner of her eye, she noticed Chakotay and Harry still standing
near the edge of the bridge and turned to them, amused at their
mystified expressions. "Mr. Kim," she said, one side of her mouth
curling up in a smile, "you may have just given us the advantage we
The transwarp corridor slowly unfolded near the edge of the
binary system in a dazzling display of colours, finally bursting
open as Voyager returned to normal space and moved towards the
fourth planet that orbited the twin stars.
Captain Janeway rose gracefully from her seat and stepped forward
to the middle of the bridge, watching the arid terrain of New Ocampa
grow larger on the viewscreen. "Put us into a synchronous orbit, Mr.
Paris," she ordered as they drew closer.
The captain turned and started for the turbolift. "Chakotay,
Tuvok, Harry, you're with me. Tom, you have the bridge." The three
men fell in step behind her and followed her into the turbolift.
"Deck four," she ordered as soon as the doors slid shut.
The gentle hum of the turbolift was the only sound for several
decks. "Are you sure this is a good idea?" asked Chakotay quietly.
Janeway turned to him. "Hm?"
Harry glanced at Tuvok, who was staring ahead at the wall,
seemingly oblivious to their conversation. Probably a good
plan, thought Harry. He looked down at the floor and tried to
merge into the back wall of the turbolift.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" repeated Chakotay.
"This could be the opportunity we've been waiting for, Chakotay,"
she replied. "I don't think we can afford not to try. And if it
works…." She let that idea hang and was relieved when he smiled as
The turbolift stopped and the captain led them down the hall to
the transporter room. "Put us down right in front of the caves,
Ensign," she ordered the young woman at the controls.
"Yes, ma'am," replied Ensign Lang.
The officers materialized in the forest surrounding the Ocampan
caves. The trees around them were indistinct shadows against the
intense brilliance of the shafts of sunlight breaking through the
foliage above them.
A part of the shadows seemed to be moving; it detached and moved
towards them. As it moved closer, the undefined shadow became the
silhouette of a familiar humanoid form. "Captain Janeway," it said.
They were unable to make out his face clearly, but they
recognized the voice. "Locin," acknowledged the captain. "We're here
to see Kes."
He bowed slightly. "Right this way."
Locin led them into the caves. They had to stop momentarily to
let their eyes adjust to the pitch black of the cave. Kes met them
halfway up the entrance. "Captain," she greeted them. "This is a
pleasant surprise. I didn't expect to see you again so soon."
"We need your help," explained the captain. She glanced at
Chakotay, then turned back to Kes. "We may have a chance to bring
all of this to an end."