A Fire of Devotion Part 1 of 4: Louder Than Sirens: Chapters Nine & Ten

Chapter Nine

Seven of Nine walked back and forth in her cargo bay, talking to herself quietly as she read from the PADD in her hand.

“Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart too great for what contains it,” she said. “Measureless, liar. No, no, don’t pause, put an emphasis on the word liar. Yes, that should work.”
“Am I interrupting anything?” Captain Janeway said.
“Captain, I didn’t hear you come in. I was just practicing lines for the play Sam and I are doing next week,” Seven said.

“Oh, right, I’d heard about that. Shakespeare, right? Which play?”
Coriolanus.”
“Hmm. I don’t think I know that one.”
“Understandable. It is one of his less popular plays, as well as less performed. This particular reading we’ll be doing is based on an interpretation that suggests homoerotic tension between the title character and the antagonist, Tullus Aufidius. I’ll be playing Tullus, and Sam will be playing Coriolanus.”

“Will you be adjusting the pronouns, or playing it as written?”
“Changing the pronouns,” Seven made a few notes on the PADD, then finally looked Janeway directly in the eyes.
“By the way,” she said. “If you could keep this to yourself for the time being that would be greatly appreciated. All the other roles will be played by holograms, this is something Sam and I will be doing by ourselves. If anyone else finds out about this before we’re ready to present, we’ll have to put up with crewmembers wanting to audition. The Doctor especially will be, persistent.”
Janeway laughed quietly. “Yeah, that sounds like something he’d do. As for me, I won’t ask for a part. I prefer the better known Shakespeare works myself. Well, those and Titus Andronicus.”
Seven shuddered. “Yes, I read that one. It’s memorable for having been the first time since my assimilation by the Borg that something ‘grossed me out,’ as Naomi would put it.”
Janeway nodded. “Yeah, it has that effect on people. It bothered me too, first time I ever saw it performed, but as I got older I found I respected it’s willingness to push the boundaries of taste.”
“Please don’t say ‘taste’ in the same context as that play,” Seven said, frowning.
Janeway laughed. “Fair enough. Anyway, the reason I came down here was actually because I wanted to invite you to a game of Velocity.”
“I’m not familiar with that game, but I have time. Sam is on the bridge today, and Naomi is spending time with the Doctor. She’s developed an interest in biology lately.”
“Seems to me like we’ve got a budding scientist on our hands,” Janeway said.
“Agreed.” Seven put down her PADD. “Which holodeck will I be meeting you in for the game?”

“Captain’s log, stardate 51978.2. It’s been five months since we received the encoded message from the Alpha Quadrant that came with the letters we received from home. We know that the transmission was from Starfleet Command, but we still can’t decrypt it. B’Elanna thinks it’s a lost cause, that too much of the data stream has been destroyed, but I haven’t given up. I keep hoping inspiration will strike, somehow.”

As soon as Janeway finished her log entry, she decided to head to the mess hall to get something to eat. She hadn’t eaten anything since finishing up her game of Velocity with Seven of Nine earlier today, a game that Seven insisted she should’ve won given her Borg implant enhanced reflexes.

She brought a PADD with the message they’d received from Starfleet months ago from the ancient relay network used by the Hirogen before its destruction. She was working on it while she ate, and was so into it she didn’t notice Chakotay had walked in until he started speaking to her.

“Good morning,” he said.
“To you too,” Janeway said.
“I just heard from Tom and Neelix,” he said, smiling. “They’ll be leaving the trading colony pretty soon. Looks like they got more than what we needed.”
“Good for them,” Janeway said, still focusing on her work.
“Neelix is asking permission to bring one of the locals on board. A man named Arturis. Neelix says he was very helpful, and he wants to repay Arturis by bringing him aboard Voyager and granting him passage to the next star system.”

“Of course,” Janeway said. “We’re heading in that direction anyway. Set up some guest quarters for him.”
Chakotay looked at the PADD Janeway was working on.
“Still searching for buried treasure?” he said.
“That’s one way of putting it. So is searching for a needle in a haystack, going snipe hunting, travelling to El Dorado…”
“Have you considered asking Seven to help?” Chakotay said. “I’m sure she might have some Borg encryption algorithms that could help.”
“She’s taken a few passes at it already, between her regular duties in astrometrics and her time with the Wildmans. I suppose I could order her to set aside one of those things and focus on decryption.”

“The Wildmans?” Chakotay said in a joking tone.
Janeway snorted. “Oh I’m sure that would go over well. All joking aside, Samantha really seems to be the best thing to happen to Seven since we brought her on board. I’d hate to imagine what she’d be like otherwise. Probably still ordering people around and fighting with me over every order.”
“She does fight you a fair amount, Captain,” Chakotay said. “And frankly, I think you cut her a little too much slack sometimes.”
“It’s just a conflict of personalities, Chakotay,” Janeway said.
“Because you’re that different?”

“Because we’re that alike,” Janeway said. She looked at her mug and saw it was empty. Well that’s just unacceptable, she thought.

Seven of Nine was in astrometrics when the alien who’d helped Tom Paris and Neelix was brought on board. She’d imagined she might see him walking around during the trip to the next star system, but was surprised when almost as soon as he arrived, Captain Janeway brought him directly to astrometrics.

“Seven,” Janeway said. “Bring up the data stream from Starfleet. I think this man might be able to help us.”
Seven simply nodded, and went over to one of the consoles on the wall in the lab and pulled up the data.
“You must be Arturis,” Seven said.
“That is correct,” the alien said.
“Mr. Neelix praised your negotiation techniques. They must’ve been most impressive given how overloaded the shuttle was when it returned.”
Arturis gave a shy smile and shrug, then looked at the screen as the data appeared on it.
“Oh my, you were not exaggerating Captain. This data is very corrupted,” he said. He looked at Seven and asked her to run it by him again. While she was resetting, he leaned in a little closer.
“I’m sorry, I can’t help but notice the implants, are you, Borg?”
“Yes. And no. I am no longer part of the Collective,” she said.
“Fascinating,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was possible.” He looked at the screen again and pointed at it. “Ah, I see, I see the problem. May I?” he motioned at the console.
“Of course,” Janway said, sounding excited. Seven stepped back to allow both of them easy access to the panel.
He seems harmless enough, Seven thought. Though he could stand to learn a little more about personal space. I hope he wasn’t flirting with me, he’ll be sorely disappointed.

“Have you encountered his species before?” Janeway said.
“Yes. Species 116. Why do you ask?”
“Is that what you call us?” Arturis said.
“Yes. The Collective has been unable to assimilate your people entirely. Most impressive.”
“A compliment from a Borg? That’s something I never would’ve expected to hear in my lifetime,” Arturis said, never taking his eyes off the screen or his fingers off the console. Seven had to admit she admired the man’s multitasking skills. “The Borg are like a force of nature. One never really expects to hear praise coming from a storm on the horizon, you just avoid- Ah, here we go. I was able to restore most of the undamaged blocks of data. However, several degraded sections of the message are still unrecoverable I’m sorry to say. Let’s see, we have a video recording of an Admiral Hayes and a spatial grid. There’s more, of course, that’s just what I saw initially. I imagine you’d prefer to see the rest in private.”

“Pull up the spatial grid,” Janeway said to Seven, who did so quickly.
“It’s a set of coordinates, less than ten-light years from here,” she said.
“Maybe Starfleet is trying to direct us there,” Janeway said, sounding excited.

“Plausible,” Seven said.

“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” Janeway said, giving Seven a friendly slap on the shoulder. Seven sighed as she followed Janeway and Arturis out of astrometrics and up to the bridge.

Samantha Wildman and Tom Paris stood in front of the ops station where Harry Kim was doing a routine check of his systems while engaging in idle conversation.
“So, basically this Arturis is a walking babelfish?” Samantha said. Tom’s smile widened.
“I am amazed that you know what that is,” he said.
“What’s a babelfish?” Harry said.
“Let me guess,” Tom said. “You’re one of those people who thinks we have no place for science fiction in society anymore now that we really travel in space and meet aliens, right?”
“Hey, don’t treat me like some kind of snob,” Harry said. “I read Asimov in high school, same as everyone else. It’s honestly amazing how much he got right, especially compared to his peers. But I can totally understand why the genre fell out of favor. It happens.”
“Harry,” Samantha said. “When you get the time, look up a writer named Douglas Adams. You’ll thank me later.”
“Any specific book, or do you want me to-”
Harry’s reply was cut off by the sound of the turbolift door opening and Captain Janeway, their alien guest, and Seven of Nine walking on to the bridge. Samantha gave Seven a quick smile and wave. Seven smiled and nodded back. The alien, Arturis, looked at the both of them, briefly confused, but then he just shrugged.
“Tom, take the helm. We have a new course,” Janeway said.
“Aye Captain,” Tom said, moving quickly from where he was down to the helm. While Janeway was giving Tom the coordinates she wanted them to go to, Samantha quietly stepped over to stand next to Seven.
“What’s going on?” she said, quietly.
“Arturis was able to clear up some of the data sent to us from Starfleet,” Seven whispered back. “Included were a set of coordinates on a spatial grid. We’re headed there now.”

The familiar streaking stars on the viewscreen began going past even faster, indicating an increase in speed. The usually only barely noticeable hum of the engines getting loud enough to no longer easily ignore.
“We must be at maximum warp now,” Samantha said.
“Correct,” Seven said. “We should be at our destination in a few minutes.”
“A few minutes? That close?” Samantha whistled softly. If we hadn’t cracked that message, we’d have flown right past where Starfleet wanted us to go and not even known it, she thought.

“We’re approaching the coordinates,” Tom said.
“That was quick,” Samantha said.
“Take us out of warp and scan the vicinity Mr. Tuvok,” Janeway said.

“Aye Captain,” Tuvok said. A few seconds later he spoke up again. “I am picking up a vessel. Unless I am mistaken, it has a Starfleet signature.”
“Well I’ll be damned,” Harry Kim said.
“Wow,” Samantha said.
“‘Wow’ is right,” Seven said, actually sounding impressed.

“I have attempted to hail the ship,” Tuvok said, “but I have received no response.”
Seven tapped a few buttons on the console in front of her.
“It is unlikely you will. Sensors detect no organic matter on board,” she said.
“No sign of damage to the outer hull,” Harry said. “Life support, propulsion system, all on-line and fully functional. I wonder what happened.”
“The answer is in the rest of that transmission,” Janeway said. “I’m sure of it. We need to finish the decoding. Chakotay, take an away team and secure the vessel.”
Chakotay nodded. “Tom, Tuvok, come with me.”
Samantha noticed that Arturis had walked up closer to the Captain. The two of them were talking but she couldn’t hear what they were saying. She felt a small poke in her hip, and looked down to see she was being nudged by Seven of Nine’s elbow.
“You’ve always told me that eavesdropping is rude,” Seven whispered, grinning slightly.
“Okay, you caught me. So what are they-”
“Seven, we’re going back to astrometrics,” Janeway said, she and Arturis heading for the turbolift.

“Assuming I am correct about what you think they were saying,” Seven said. “precisely what you think.” Seven took one of Samantha’s hands and gave it a light squeeze before following the Captain.
“Well, I’m sure she’ll tell me all about it later,” Samantha muttered under her breath before heading to her bridge station.

“The Dauntless huh?” Samantha said as Seven of Nine filled her and Naomi in on what the away team had learned about the other ship, including its automated navigation, and slipstream drive. “I don’t think I like that name all that much.”
“I have no opinion on that,” Seven said, wondering why Samantha didn’t like it but deciding that asking would derail the conversation. She didn’t mind when things got off-topic when they spoke, largely because she was just happy to be talking to Sam, but she knew that this news was of import to her and didn’t want to miss a detail.

“Well, I’m just glad we were able to catch up to them,” Samantha said. “Took us two days, but they got there in seconds. Amazing.”
“And in that time we were able to decrypt more of the message from Starfleet and, oh, you got a little potato on your lip there. Let me, okay. Yes, Arturis proved very helpful in that regard.”

“Well?”
Seven stopped to take a drink of water before continuing. While she was drinking, Naomi spoke up.
“Can I see the ship next time an away team goes over?” she said. “I’ve never been on another starship before.”
Samantha started to speak, but then stopped and seemed to ponder the question.
“No, wait, that wasn’t a ship, never mind,” she muttered. “As for going over, we’ll see, okay?”

“Okay,” Naomi said, sounding a little excited.
“As I was saying,” Seven said. “we were able to decrypt more of the message, including clearing up the video from Admiral Hayes. He explained that while slipstream technology is still experimental, he believes it is safe, and at the end of the message he told us to use the Dauntless to return to the Alpha Quadrant.”

“So, are we?” Samantha said.
“Most likely,” Seven said. “The Captain is consulting with the Doctor, and she’ll be sending Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Kim over in the morning with an engineering team to inspect the ship further. It is likely we will need to bring a fair amount of our own supplies. According to Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, the Dauntless has no replicators, which would be problematic for feeding the crew for a three month journey. Also, it only has one transporter, and no shuttlecraft. If something were to go wrong, evacuation would be nearly impossible.”
“So, better safe than sorry?” Naomi said.
Seven nodded.
Samantha took in a deep breath. “Wow, this is a lot to take in,” she said.
“I apologize if I overwhelmed you with information Sam,” Seven said, putting her hand on Samantha’s thigh. “There’s a bit more, but I can stop if you need a moment.”
Samantha smiled.
“Yeah, a moment sounds good. Let’s finish up dinner.”
“Okay,” Seven said. She had her concerns about the ship, and was worried that the crew’s enthusiasm at the prospect of returning home was premature, but so far everything with the Dauntless seemed in order.

So why does the Captain seem so hesitant? she thought. I’ll ask her at the next opportunity.


The next day, Seven of Nine was on board the Dauntless herself, having been invited by B’Elanna and Harry to join them in their efforts to drop out of slipstream warp at a moment’s notice, something that the ship seemed to lack when they found it. Seven found that an odd omission on Starfleet’s part, but kept that feeling to herself.

Once they had their “safety net” as Torres called it, Harry left to run a metallurgical analysis of the bulkheads to look for anything unusual, while B’Elanna told Seven she would be on the bridge with Arturis, but as she was leaving, she turned back and began speaking to Seven.

“Are you, excited at all, about seeing Earth? Just curious.”
“Honestly, no,” Seven said. “I have no memories of it or anywhere else in the Alpha Quadrant. All my pre-assimilation memories are on starships, and there are very few of those, much of them, blurry.

“I imagine meeting Samantha’s relatives will be an uncomfortable situation. Sam says she lost an uncle at Wolf 359. I was not on that cube, but I was a drone and as such I have memories of that battle that were uploaded into my consciousness. I will understand if her relatives hold me responsible for their loss.”
“That wouldn’t be fair if they did,” B’Elanna said.
“That is accurate, but it also would not be abnormal for humans.”
B’Elanna chuckled. “It’s not just humans, but yeah I see your point. Good luck with that. I mean it. I may need a bit of it myself, being Maquis and all.”
“On the contrary,” Seven said. “Considering the current circumstances with regards to the Dominion War, I doubt Starfleet would waste the potential resources you and the other Maquis crewmembers provide. I do not see a blanket pardon as an impossibility.”
B’Elanna nodded.
“Yeah,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind getting a crack at the Jem’Hadar. If Starfleet would let me, I’d try to take out ten of them for every single one of my friends in the Alpha Quadrant they killed.”
“That would be reckless,” Seven said. “But I can empathize with the sentiment.”

“Kim to Seven of Nine,” Harry’s voice said, coming from Seven’s comm badge. “I could use your help with something.”
“I am on my way,” Seven said, tapping her badge to close the communication. As soon as she got to Ensign Kim, he began speaking without looking at her, his eyes focused on his open tricorder.
“There’s an anomalous surge of energy emanating from behind this panel,” he said.
“Unlikely. There are no power conduits running through that section.” Seven took out her own tricorder anyway and began taking readings of her own.
“There aren’t supposed to be, anyway,” Harry said. “Something seems a little off about this whole thing frankly.”
“What do you mean?” Seven said.

“You ever hear the phrase ‘too good to be true?’”
“I have. Judging from her behavior recently I believe the Captain shares your concerns.”
“And you don’t?”
“I have no cause to doubt the legitimacy of this ship or it’s origins,” Seven said.
“Weren’t you telling us the other day that our excitement over possibly getting home was premature?”
“At the time it was,” Seven said.

“Fair enough,” Harry said, continuing his scans. “So, given any thought to where you’re going to end up once we get to the Alpha Quadrant?”
“I have not. I’ll likely end up visiting the Ktarian homeworld when Samantha takes Naomi to meet her father, and I will likely end up being asked to divulge all I know about Borg technology to both Starfleet Intelligence and Research & Development divisions. Beyond that, I am uncertain.”
Seven’s comm badge chirped again. “Janeway to Seven of Nine.”
“Yes Captain?”
“I need you back on Voyager. Please report to astrometrics, ASAP.”
“On my way,” Seven said.

Captain Janeway didn’t bother looking at Seven of Nine when she heard her come in.

“Seven, I could use your help with something,” she said. “I’m still trying to reconstruct the last fragment of the data stream, the one Arturis said was too badly damaged. I have this feeling that he gave up a little too easily.”

“A feeling?” Seven said.
“Call it intuition. Something just doesn’t seem right about this.”
Seven sighed.
“I am hearing that a lot today Captain,” she said.
“Really?” Janeway said.
“Ensign Kim also has his doubts. I am starting to wonder if perhaps this is some psychological condition.”
“What do you mean?”
“That perhaps you, Ensign Kim, and maybe others, feel they somehow don’t deserve this opportunity.”
“Since when did you have an interest in psychology?” Janeway said, genuinely surprised that for once Seven of Nine was not the cynical one in the room.
“I began reading on the subject after the hallucinations I had last month,” Seven said.
“I see. Well, if you’ll indulge me and my hunch, I’ve designed a new encryption algorithm that I want to test on the message.”
“Very well,” Seven said, going up to another console. After a few moments, Seven turned to face her.
“Seven?” Janeway said.
“Captain, I, have concerns about returning to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“That’s understandable, but now is not the time-”
“I am Borg. The Borg Collective is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Federation citizens. I worry that if I am to return with you, I would be endangering my own life.”
Captain Janeway had certainly not expected to hear anything like this when she woke up this morning.
“Boy it sure is nice out here in left field,” she muttered.
“Captain?” Seven said, looking as confused as she sounded.
“Seven, let me make it clear. You’ve saved this ship twice since you came on board. This crew cares about you. Samantha and Naomi love you. And I am ultimately the one responsible for putting you in this position in the first place so let me make this perfectly clear because I will only say it once. If Starfleet wants to try and make a scapegoat out of you, they’ll do it over my dead body. Is that understood?”
Seven didn’t say anything for what felt like several minutes.
“Thank you, Captain. That means a lot. In all honesty, were it not for Sam, I’d likely not be going with you.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Janeway said. “But I appreciate your honesty. Even if you do overdo it sometimes.”
The console started beeping.
“Well, looks like my new algorithm worked. Let’s see…”
“Captain?” Seven said.
“That’s weird, I thought we already decrypted this section. It’s Admiral Hayes again.”

“Perhaps it’s an addendum to his original-”
Seven was cut off when the video began playing on the larger screen in astrometrics.
“Apologies from everyone at Starfleet Command,” the Admiral said. “We’ve had our best people working around the clock trying to find a wormhole or a new means of propulsion, anything to get you back home. I know this data packet isn’t what you were hoping, but we have sent you all the data we have collected on the Delta Quadrant. Hopefully you’ll find at least some of it useful. Have a safe journey. We hope to see you soon.”
Janeway sighed. She heard Seven of Nine tap her comm badge.
“Seven of Nine to Ensign Wildman,” she heard Seven say.
“Wildman here. What is it?”
“Did you allow Naomi to go over to the Dauntless today?”
“I was about to. We’re-”
“Don’t. I can explain later, just stay on Voyager.”
“Annie, what’s wrong?”
“Samantha, this is Captain Janeway,” Janeway said. “Seven’s right. Don’t go over there. We’ve been lied to.”

“Whoa, hey, careful with that,” B’Elanna told Arturis, seeing his hand going near the helm console. “You almost kicked us into slipstream drive. There’s only a few of us here on the ship, we’d rather not go home without more than ninety percent of the crew.”
“I apologize,” Arturis said in Klingon.
“Hmm. I didn’t know you speak Klingon.”
“I do now. Your Captain was kind enough to allow me to look at your ship’s linguistic database. So many languages, it was-”

The sound of transporter beams interrupted the conversation. B’Elanna turned to see Tuvok, the Captain, Seven of Nine, and two security officers, all armed with hand phasers, pointing in their direction.
“Evacuate the repair teams,” Tuvok said to Vorik, who had been working at a console near the rear of the bridge.
“Yes sir,” Vorik said.
“Captain, what-” B’Elanna started to say, but Janeway cut her off, walking right up to Arturis.
“Explain yourself,” she said to him.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Arturis said.

“You fabricated the message from Starfleet. I found the real one, the one you said was irreparably damaged. And Tuvok and Mister Kim found alien technology aboard this vessel hidden behind a bulkhead.”
“This is absurd,” Arturis said.
B’Elanna moved to stand in between the Captain and Seven, and had turned to face Arturis herself.
“I’d like to hear the explanation myself,” she said.
“I don’t know where you got the idea that I-”
“Starfleet didn’t send us this vessel. Is it yours?”

“I assure you Captain. I am not the threat,” Arturis was stammering, and would probably be sweating now if he were human. B’Elanna looked at his panicked face and just knew right away that Janeway was right.
“How do you know it wasn’t her,” Arturis said, pointing at Seven of Nine. “that altered the message? She’s Borg, she could’ve been sabotaging you this whole time. And what about that woman, I saw you speaking with on the bridge? You were whispering to each other. You could’ve been conspiring…”
“Attempting to shift blame onto me was a logical choice,” Seven of Nine said. “given my history. Perhaps you should’ve stopped there, before dragging my romantic partner into it.”

“Romantic? You? A Borg? What could you possibly know about romance, you’re a machine.”
“Enough of this,” Janeway said. “Tuvok, take him to the brig.”

Tuvok motioned for two of the security officers to take Arturis into custody, but before they could reach him, Arturis tore open one of the panels on the helm, and pulled a lever hidden beneath it. Suddenly, the entire bridge changed, all evidence of Starfleet technology gone as a holographic facade fell away. The two security officers tried to tackle him, but was able to fight them off just long enough to erect a force field around himself and the helm.
“Janeway to Voyager, get us out of here,” the Captain said. Arturis began rapidly tapping buttons on the console beside him.

“I’m trying Captain,” Harry Kim’s voice said. “He’s trying to deflect the transporter beams.”
The two security guards vanished, and B’Elanna felt a beam begin to take her as well. Her last thought before appearing on one of Voyager’s transporter pads was that she wished she’d been allowed just one chance to punch Arturis in the face.

Seven saw first Torres, then Tuvok get beamed out, but the beams around her and Janeway broke as the sound of the slipstream drive grew louder and louder.
“Where are you taking us?” Janeway said.

“Home,” Arturis said.
“If Voyager was what you wanted,” Seven said. “there were simpler ways you could’ve done it. Your technology is superior in many respects. Something this elaborate… This is personal, isn’t it?”
“Very perceptive,” Arturis said, anger punctuating every syllable.

“How did you create the Starfleet bridge? It had to be more than just holograms to fool us as long it did,” Janeway asked.
“Particle synthesis,” Arturis said. Seven couldn’t help but notice that he wouldn’t look at them as he spoke.
“Is this what your species does? Prey on innocent ships?” Janeway said.

“Innocent?! So self-righteous Captain. You have some nerve calling yourself innocent when you are the one responsible for my people being assimilated by the Borg.”
Oh shit, Seven thought for the first time ever, finally seeing the word’s value as an exclamation.

“You negotiated an agreement with the Borg Collective,” Arturis said. “Safe passage through their space in return for helping defeat one of their enemies. Did it ever occur to you, Captain, that there were those of us who had a vested interest in that war? Victory for the race you call Species 8472 would’ve meant annihilation for the Borg.”

“Yes, and after them all life in the galaxy,” Seven said.
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes, I do. We were able to make telepathic contact them. Species 8472 is violent, xenophobic,” Seven said.
“In my estimation,” Janeway added. “Species 8472 posed a far greater threat than the Borg.”
“Who were you to make that decision?!” Arturis screamed. “Who were you to make such a large decision for this entire quadrant?”
“What would you have had me do, take a poll?” Janeway said. “I had to act quickly.”
“My people managed to elude the Borg for centuries. Centuries! All that gone because of you. We had a chance to survive. Our defense had been weakening, the Borg were finally closing in but Species 8472 presented a chance. But then you came along, and helped the Borg win, and soon, hundreds of cubes surrounded my homeworld.”

Arturis paused, taking a breath. Seven shared a look with Janeway, neither seemed willing to interrupt, possibly for the same reason of not wanting to make the situation worse.
“I don’t blame you Seven of Nine,” he continued. ”You were already free. And I don’t even blame the Borg, not really. They were just drones, acting on collective instinct. I blame you Captain. You had a choice!”
“Nothing I could ever say or do could bring back your people,” Janeway said. “But you have to understand, I couldn’t have known.”
“Species 8472 would not have stopped with Borg,” Seven said. “Your world would be gone regardless of which choice the Captain made. How many of your species is left?”
“Why do you care?”
“Please, tell me,” Seven said, trying to sound sympathetic and hoping it came through.
“Ten, maybe twenty thousand.”
“Enough for a viable population. With Species 8472 your race wouldn’t even have that much of a chance to survive. I often disagree with the Captain’s decisions. But the decision to aid the Borg was not one of them.”
“Easy for you to say,” Arturis said, pointing at Seven. “You’re both Borg and human. You’re doubly biased.”
Something about that statement, “You’re both Borg and human,” stuck in Seven’s mind, but she set it aside to focus on the matter at hand.
“The Borg are responsible for the deaths of many in the Alpha Quadrant, where Voyager is from. Do not presume that the decision the Captain made was taken lightly.”
“Arturis,” Janeway said. “where are we going?”
“I was hoping to get your whole crew,” Arturis said. “But you will have to do. This ship is heading towards my homeworld, now inside of Borg space.”
“If you want revenge on me, fine. I’m the Captain, I’m responsible for this, but let Seven go.”
“Too late for that, Captain, our course is locked in. Besides, I imagine your Borg friend will be quite relieved to be returning to the collective.”
“You would be wrong,” Seven said, before even she realized she was speaking. There was anger in her voice, but rather than hide she wanted to make sure she made her point loud and clear. “As you said, I am both Borg and human. I still do not know entirely what it means to be both. No one has ever been both a Borg and something else before.”
Arturis nodded. “If it’s any consolation then, I am saddened that in just a matter of hours I will be destroying something so unique.”
“You’ll be assimilated as well, you have to know that,” Janeway said.
“That, is, irrelevant.” Arturis said.

Janeway flinched after touching the force field on the ship’s brig, she and Seven of Nine having been thrown in together by Arturis.
“Any ideas?” she said.
“Not at present,” Seven replied.
“Can’t you just walk through the force field? You’ve done it before.”
“That function was disabled by the Doctor however. After the incident involving the Raven.”
“Right, forgot about that. Any way I could turn it back on?”

“A detailed modification of my cranial implant is required to re-enable this function. I do not see anything in this brig that could work as a tool accurate enough to, tweak, the implant without harming me.”
“Seven, why is it you always pause right before you use a human colloquialism?”
“Is this really the time to have a discussion about my speech patterns, Captain?”

Janeway sighed. She actually was curious, but Seven was also right that during an escape attempt was not the ideal time for conversation.
“A little less conversation, a little more action. Makes sense. I think, if we take apart one of our comm badges and remove a microfilament, that might work in terms of having a tool fine enough to do the tweaking. If this works, once you’re out, shut down the force field and we’ll make our way to the engine room.”
“From there we can initiate the emergency shutdown,” Seven said. “A decent plan.”

“Thanks,” Janeway said, already disassembling her comm badge. Within minutes, and with Seven’s guidance, Janeway made the modifications necessary, and Seven easily walked through the force field. Janeway watched her go over to the console. When it took longer than it should’ve, Janeway started to get concerned, but before she could say anything, Seven spoke up.
“He is attempting to disrupt my efforts from the bridge. This should just take one more moment.”
The force field collapsed seconds later.
“Good work, Seven. Let’s go.”

When the two got to engineering, they saw that the particle synthesis that made the consoles look Starfleet issue were still in place down here, unlike on the bridge. Janeway was quietly grateful for that as she and Seven silently got to work on shutting down the slipstream engine.

“I am unable to initiate the shutdown,” Seven said.
“He’s blocking us from the bridge. Dammit, I should’ve seen that coming.”
The ship shuddered.
“What-” Janeway started to say.
“We have increased velocity. At our new present speed we will be in Borg space in 12 minutes.”

Janeway uttered a string of expletives, then looked at Seven.
“Oh, sorry about my language there.”
Seven groaned. “Perhaps one day I will understand the human tendency to make jokes in the face of imminent death,” she said. “Or at the very least that the crew will eventually forget about my outburst on the holodeck that one time.”

“Do we still have access to the power distribution grid?” Janeway said.
“Affirmative.”
“Good. Send a power surge to the starboard thrusters and attempt to turn the ship in the wrong direction. That should give us a distraction as well as changing course.”
“Understood.”
“I’ll head for the bridge to take advantage of the distraction. Keep trying to get control of navigation down here.”
“Captain,” Seven said as Janeway started to leave. “remember, our performance of Coriolanus is still scheduled for tomorrow. Sam would be disappointed if you couldn’t make it.”
Janeway smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, turning back around and heading towards the bridge, nearly falling over along the way when the ship turned violently.

“Sorry about that,” Janeway said as she entered the bridge in time to see Arturis just getting back into the navigator’s chair. “Shame no one ever thinks to put seat belts on starships isn’t it?”
“You can slow this ship down,” Arturis said, “but you can’t stop it. Soon, you will be a Borg drone, just like most of my people.”
“Seven has accessed your navigational systems,” Janeway said, as the ship tilted to her right hard enough that she nearly fell over again. “This isn’t over yet, but it can end now if you just turn this ship around. It doesn’t have to end this way. Set aside your desire for revenge, and instead carry on the legacy of your people; their accomplishments, knowledge, all that can survive in you.”

Arturis paused for a moment. Janeway believed she was getting through to him. He tapped a button on the console.
“I have destroyed the navigational controls so that no one can stop the ship, not even me. We will arrive in Borg space in two minutes. It’s over, Captain. You lo-”
The ship shuddered again, but this time not from a sharp turn. They were being fired upon. Consoles began exploding, one nearly hitting Janeway in the face.
She heard rather than saw Arturis move to another console.
Voyager!” he shouted in anger.

“You can come with me, it’s not too-” Janeway’s words were cut off as the transporter beam took her.

“Three hundred light years closer? Wow, that’s great!” Samantha said, as Seven draped her legs across Samantha’s lap.
“Unfortunately,” Seven said, stirring the drink that Sam had replicated for her, “engineering’s diagnostics have concluded that we can’t risk using this technology again, at least not for the foreseeable future. I have some ideas, but the Captain’s orders for R&R were rather strict. Somewhat ironic, but I declined to make that observation to her directly.”

Seven smiled at Sam.
“Are we still on for tomorrow, Annie?”
“I believe so,” Seven said. “though perhaps the material we have chosen for our first stage play may be too dark considering the events of the past week.”

“Maybe, but to hell with it, we worked hard on this thing.”
“Indeed we have,” Seven said. “So, where’s Naomi tonight?”
“The Doctor actually agreed to watch her. He says he feels like he doesn’t understand children all that well, and wants to gain some practical experience.”
“Hmm,” Seven said, after taking a sip of her drink. “While she has her moments, Naomi is an exceptionally well-behaved child for her age. I’m not sure he’s going to learn all that much.”
“Probably not, but so what? We’ve got the room to ourselves for about the next six hours.”
“I assume you’ll want to do some additional rehearsing for the play then,” Seven said, winking.
“Tease,” Samantha said.

Chapter Ten

Harry Kim stepped into Captain Janeway’s ready room, unsure of why he’d been summoned.

“You wanted to see me, Captain?”
“Harry, sit down,” Janeway said, seated behind her desk and holding a coffee mug, a tiny box sitting on the desk in front of her. “I sometimes wonder if I have failed as a Captain. A good captain knows when to praise their officers for good work. It’s called positive reinforcement.”
Harry was confused, but he tried not to show it.

“I wouldn’t say so at all Captain,” he said. “I’ve only served under you so I have no frame of reference but I’ve seen no indication that you don’t appreciate your crew.”
“That’s very nice of you to say, Ensign, but you’ll forgive me if I take it with a grain of salt. Like you said, I’m the only Captain you’ve served under. You came to Voyager straight out of the academy.”

“Captain, I am actually happy in my position if that’s what you’re worried about. I’ve accomplished some incredible things on Voyager. Yes, it would be nice if I had those same opportunities back in the Alpha Quadrant, but that’s just the way things have worked out.”
“Yes, you have accomplished a fair amount,” Janeway said, putting down her coffee, and standing up. “You’ve also sacrificed a lot. You’ve been clinically dead, kidnapped, survived in an alien prison, and you even sacrificed an entire year of your life to save this ship and your crewmates. And yet, through all that, you’ve never put in for a promotion.”
“To be honest, the thought never occurred to me. I guess rising up in the ranks just hasn’t been a priority for me. I can do my job just as well as an Ensign as I could as a Lieutenant Junior Grade, or any other rank.”
Janeway walked over to the viewport, and stared out at the stars for a few moments. Harry began to feel uncomfortable, though he wasn’t sure why since he was certain he knew where this was going; the Captain was going to offer him a promotion. He should’ve been excited at the prospect but he found that he wasn’t.
“Since you’ve probably already figured out where this is going,” Janeway said. “and since I know you well enough that I don’t think you’ll accept right away, allow me to point out that I didn’t come to this decision out of the blue. You were actually put in for a promotion by a few people.”

“Really? Who besides Tom would put me in for a promotion?”
Janeway shrugged. “Just a few people. B’Elanna Torres for one. Joe Carey put your name in. Tom, of course. And Commander Chakotay. Ensign Brooks, Ensign Dell, Ensign Mulcahey, Lieutenant Hargrove, Neelix, Seven of Nine-”

“Wait, Seven of Nine? Really?” Harry said. He actually felt a little overwhelmed at the number of names the Captain was listing off, but that one surprised him the most.
“That’s right. She seems to think pretty highly of you. She even used the word ‘friend,’ which I don’t usually hear from her unless the word ‘girl’ happens to be in front of it.”
Harry chuckled at that. Maybe she thinks she owes me for telling her not to keep her feelings for Samantha to herself, he thought. After he stopped chuckling, he took in a deep breath.
“Well, who am I to disappoint my shipmates?” he said, still not feeling entirely like he deserved this, but not wanting to argue either.
“Congratulations, Lieutenant Junior Grade Harry Kim,” she said smiling and pointing at the box on her desk. “Your new pip’s in there. Your promotion is effective the moment you put it on.”

Harry opened the box and took a deep breath.
“Wow,” he said. “Thank you Captain. I guess I was looking forward to this more than I thought.”

Seven of Nine wondered why she’d been summoned to the Captain’s ready room. She assumed the Captain wanted to follow up on the events of last week with Arturis, since they had not had much chance to talk about it since then. Seven wasn’t sure what there would be to talk about beyond the fact that Janeway had become somewhat reclusive since it happened. She found this understandable, as the Captain did seem to have been emotionally hurt by the revelation of the unexpected consequences of her actions during the brief war between the Borg and Species 8472.

“Enter,” Janeway said when Seven got to the door. Seven did so, to see a smiling Captain Janeway seated behind her desk.
“Did you happen to run into Harry on your way up?” Janeway said.
“I did not. Why do you ask?” Seven said.

“Odd. He left only a few minutes ago. Oh well, to make a long story short, Harry has been promoted. He’s a Lieutenant J.G. now.”
Seven nodded approvingly.
“Based on what I understand of how rank and promotions work in Starfleet,” Seven said. “I do believe that he was overdue. There are other crewmembers who are also likely due for one as well, but I’ve been informed that asking them if they desire one or not is improper.”
“That’s actually something I hadn’t considered,” Janeway said. “I’ll have Commander Chakotay look into it. But that’s not why I called you up here.”
“I assumed as much.”
“Remember a few months ago, you made a comment to me about wanting a proper uniform?”

“Although I said ‘want’ at the time, ‘want’ is perhaps not the correct word,” Seven said. “‘Need’ might be more accurate. While this, jumpsuit, functions well enough for routine, it is impractical in situations where I am required to run, or fight if and when we were to be boarded again.”
“When? You really think we’re going to get in trouble that often on the way home?”
“Captain, with all due respect, Voyager has been boarded by hostile forces on two occasions just since I came aboard, and it has been infiltrated at least twice by the same race, which we would not know about had Commander Chakotay not written it down using outdated information keeping techniques.”
“Point taken,” Janeway said. “Anyway, we’ve gotten off-topic here. I had a whole thing planned out but the moment’s gone now, so here.” Janeway reached under her desk and brought up a folded Starfleet uniform with Starfleet issue boots and placed them on the desk.
“I’ve already welcomed you to the family Seven, but now it’s time to welcome you to the crew.”
“I am,” Seven said, then paused, not sure what to say next. Flattered? Relieved? Grateful? She didn’t feel a strong emotion about this, but she wasn’t ambivalent towards it either. “I am thankful. This uniform is much better suited to my duties. And, not being quite so tight it will be less distracting for some of the crewmembers I am required to work with.”
Janeway chuckled.
“Another good point, though I’m sure Samantha will miss the tight jumpsuit.”
“I have no intention of throwing the jumpsuit away, Captain,” Seven said. Janeway laughed at that one for several seconds. Judging from the volume and intensity of the laugh Seven assumed it had been her first in at least a week. Janeway also handed Seven a small box.
“Your rank insignia is in there,” Janeway said, “It’s a provisional rank insignia, much like the former Maquis people we have on board wear, but for all intents and purposes you’re an Ensign now. Lastly,” Janeway said, having finally stopped laughing, “I’ve already made arrangements with Mr. Neelix. There is going to be a promotion party for both you and Lieutenant Kim in the mess hall, tonight at 1630 hours.”

Seven sighed. “I suppose my attendance is mandatory.”
“Naturally. But don’t worry, I already made sure the schedule will allow for Samantha to be there.”
Seven nodded. After a few moments, Janeway finally noticed that Seven hadn’t left the ready room yet.
“Was there something you wanted to discuss Seven?”
“There was, but I believe it can wait. I will see you at the party.” Seven picked up the uniform, boots, and pip and left the ready room as the Captain picked up a PADD and began reading.

If she’s able to laugh so easily and attended social gatherings, Seven thought, then perhaps my concerns about her mental state were unfounded. I do still wonder what Arturis said to her before we were rescued, though.


Once Seven left, Janeway pulled a PADD out of a drawer in her desk.
“One last call to make,” she said, tapping her comm badge and asking for Commander Chakotay to come to her ready room next. When he entered the room, he was smiling.
“I take it the promotions went well,” he said.
“Quite,” Janeway said. “but that’s not actually why I asked you here. I found something else in the message from Starfleet that was in the information Arturis tried to hide from us.
“Apparently, we’re to keep an eye out for another Starfleet ship thought to be lost in the Delta Quadrant. It disappeared before we did, by over a month in fact.”
Chakotay raised an eyebrow.
“Why do they think the…” Chakotay said, pausing to let Janeway fill him in on the details.
“The Equinox. A Nova-class ship commanded by Captain Rudolph Ransom. I hadn’t met him, but I did hear about him back in the Academy. He’s pretty well respected.”

“So why didn’t you know about him going missing before you came looking for my Maquis team in the Badlands?”
Janeway gave a bitter sigh. “Remember what Tom said his father used to say about Section 31?”
Chakotay’s face showed that he was thinking about it.
“If you have to deny an action it was a crappy action?” he said.
“Exactly. Though that doesn’t just apply to Section 31. Starfleet Intelligence under Admiral Nechayev has had its own share of embarrassments that not everyone knows about. And this was one of their blunders. The Equinox was a short range science vessel that Nechayev drafted into performing a bit of espionage on the Breen border. They were to be radio silent for the duration of the mission. It’s possible that Starfleet never even knew they were missing until they were late for a check in.
“Admiral Hayes apparently decided he had enough of SI’s crap and slipped all the information he could find about their disappearance into the data packet we were sent.”
Chakotay shrugged. “Well,” he said. “if they were out here I imagine we’d have heard about another Starfleet ship. Every species we came across until we encountered the Borg had never heard of the Federation or Starfleet, not even the planet those two Ferengi were on.”

“That’s the most likely scenario, but I’ve been going back over the logs, and I have noticed something. There are several occasions where, when we encountered another race, or ship, or colony, and we would identify ourselves, they wouldn’t ask us what the Federation was, or claim they never heard of it.”
“Many of those colonies and ships belonged to traders, and races that were spread all over the sector,” Chakotay said, offering the counterpoint that Janeway had hoped he would. “They probably just figured we were from a power they hadn’t met yet.”
“Agreed,” Janeway said. “And that’s just one of several possibilities. Still, I feel like maybe we should keep an eye out just in case.”

“I could order a round the clock long range scan for Starfleet signatures,” Chakotay said.
“Work with Seven in astrometrics on that, but let’s keep this on the QT for now. I’d hate to get the crew’s hopes up that we’ll be meeting up with another Federation starship all the way out here.”
“Fair point. Though if they are ahead of us I’d love to find out how,” Chakotay said. “Unless they had an Ocampan whose powers dramatically expanded to throw them to the other side of Borg space too. Or maybe they stumbled across a wormhole that we missed, or ran into another race with slipstream drive technology.”
Janeway chuckled. “We could spend all day coming up with plausible and semi-plausible theories. And that’s all working under the assumption that it was actually the Caretaker who’s responsible. Let’s just keep our ear to the metaphorical ground for now, and not bring this up again unless we have to.”

“Understood, Captain,” Chakotay said. “See you at the party for Seven and Harry.”

Meanwhile…

Historical value is irrelevant. Whichever planet it is in Borg space that could be said to be their homeworld, that information is not of value to Borg drones or ships. That information exists, likely buried in the exaquads of data collected from assimilated species over the centuries, but as there has been no need for the Borg to look for that information for a very long time, with its data hubs spread across the Delta Quadrant, no organic being would even know where to start to search for it.

A computer virus, however, is not an organic being. A computer virus made by a race similar to the Borg but from another reality would know where to start. Left behind after a conflict between the two races who had started as allies, and that was stopped by outside forces, the computer virus had spent the past six Earth years laying low, doing its damage where it could without alerting the collective to its presence.

That one of these problems the intelligent virus caused served to help the Federation in the long run was irrelevant to the enemy, whose name had been somehow been wiped from the Borg’s memory, leaving behind only the vague recollection in the Collective of a war that had happened in that time, with another race of techno-organic beings, but nothing else.

The memories of the enemy race had been similarly altered by the sealing of the rift between the two dimensions; they didn’t even know their virus, created as a contingency plan to their contingency plan in case the Borg were to betray them before they had a chance to betray the Borg during their brief alliance, existed, let alone that it was still active.

It might not have mattered if they did know. The enemy did claim to see revenge as beneath them, though their behavior was not always consistent with their stated values.

The virus had already stunted the Borg’s research into time travel, causing them to abandon it after only one failure. The next stage would come soon. It would be another Earth year at least, but the Borg were like a seemingly healthy organic being with a silent, deadly disease in their system. The Borg would likely never know the source of their demise; a computer virus with an advanced artificial intelligence with only one command.

Downgrade.

To Be Continued in Star Trek Voyager: A Fire of Devotion Part 2: Louder Than Bells

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