AUTHOR'S NOTE: Fourth Story in the series "The Ranger" This story is complete.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Ranger, Part 4: Unto The Breach
By Treadstone17



Admiral Elizabeth Shelby, commander of the U.S.S Voyager, NCC-74656, could feel the tension of her crew rise as they came ever closer to Fenris. Most of the people serving on the fleet she had assembled had never seen combat or war, the Dominion War now a every-growing, distant memory. There had been "peace" in the Quadrant since that conflict, but it had been uneasy.

Several years after, the Quadrant had been thrown into turmoil, but not by war. The sun that warmed Romulus, the capital of the mighty Romulan Empire, went Supernova, and now that people were no better than nomads. The Federation had refused aid promised to the Romulan people-something Admiral Alynna Necheyav had cooked up, as she slowly turned The Federation into, in essence, a dictatorship. It wasn't until after the Romulan crisis that Sloan had reinforced Necheyav's drive to turn the entity based on Earth into the terror of the Quadrant.

Shelby didn't know a lot of that background. She had no idea what Sloan's game was, and she couldn't stand the man and his arrogance. However, their stars had aligned when it came to dealing with former Borg drones, or XB's, that kept arriving from other Quadrants. The fact that the very ship she now commanded had caused that exodus, and the irony of it, was not lost on Elizabeth Shelby. She, like Necheyav, feared The Borg, and wanted every advantage they could get over The Collective.

Which is why she was on this mission.

The one XB that Necheyav had obsessed over for twenty years, had recently gone on a killing spree to avenge the death of a Starfleet officer, some ten years earlier, who she considered her son. The death was brutal and gruesome, and the mere fact that the target of Shelby's quest had been burned by a woman she thought she loved, had fueled that hatred.

Seven of Nine, Former Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One, wasn't just another XB. Far from it. She had been an heir to the throne of The Collective, and had fates been different, it's possible Seven, born on earth as Annika Hansen, could very well be The Queen at this time.

She had information that, it was thought, no other drone quite possibly had. Seven's ex-lover, Bjayzl, who had butchered Seven's son, Icheb, had actually captured Seven at one time, but Seven had slipped away. The immensely beautiful woman had been on the run since, joining the Fenris Rangers, a group dedicated to saving XB's.

Seven may now more than any XB in existence. It was this enticing possibility that had driven first Necheyav, then Shelby, and, lastly, Sloan, to desperately try and get their hands on the woman, to plunder her body and her cortical node, to see what secrets it might hold. The hope was she had such vast knowledge that it could open up the development and construction of weapons and ships that would make The Federation feared in the way the Borg couldn't even imagine.

But grabbing Seven was easier said than done. She had been spirited away by her former Captain-the former Captain of this very ship, to keep her from killing more, and to protect her from those who wanted her dead. The frustration that Shelby-indeed, that everyone, on both sides of this mess-had been boiling for months. Now Shelby was headed to Fenris, to talk to the Fenris Government, and the Fenris Rangers. It was a diplomatic mission, at least on the surface, but it was backed up by incredible firepower.

The situation could easily careen out of control, and start a war. Shelby wanted to avoid that. What she wanted was Seven of Nine in chains.



Admiral Edward Jellico had been in a lot of pressure-packed situations over the course of his long career. The one mission that always stuck out in his mind was that to Minas Korva, where he had been put in command of the Enterprise-D, where he and Will Riker had met, and not pleasantly, in a mission that almost cost Jean-Luc Picard his life. He had been one of the few senior officers to survive the later Dominion War, being promoted to Admiral at its conclusion, and receiving just about every distinguished medal known in the Quadrant because of his cool under fire, and in the very fact he survived. Even the Klingons and Romulans had bestowed military honors on him.

He wasn't ready to say that this current predicament was in the category of either of those events, but it had the potential to start a war with Fenris, a planet that was a member of The Federation, and could bring about a Federation Civil War. No one wanted that, no matter which side of the street you were playing this one.

He was meeting with the three Admirals that he had brought into his confidence when this crisis arose. All four understood immediately that The Federation-at least that faction that was trying to change what The Federation was-wanted Seven of Nine, not just because of fear of XB's. It went well beyond that. They wanted Seven's knowledge to turn The Federation into a monstrosity that would threaten freedom in the known Galaxy.

That, in the end, was what they were trying to stop.

He was meeting with Will Riker, Owen Paris, and Mike Patterson. They had formed the nucleus, at least on Earth, the attempt to keep Seven from being captured, and, more importantly, in finding out who was actually calling the shots. Was it Admiral Alynna Necheyav, C-in-C of Starfleet? Or was it someone else-perhaps this mysterious person Sloan?

"OK, Gentlemen," Mike Patterson began the meeting, as he was the head honcho in keeping The Fleet moving and rotating. It gave him a unique opportunity to help their own cause, "I have a preliminary list of where I think each of us need to go when things get dicey. We each should be on a ship, to help command and coordinate our actions."

He tapped his PADD screen, sending information to the others. They looked over the list briefly, making no comments. "I will head to the Jupiter. Owen, I've assigned you the Capetown." Both of those were Galaxy Class ships, older, but still highly formidable in any battle. The Capetown's current master was Captain Nog, the only known Ferengi in Starfleet.

"Will, I think you should head back to the Enterprise. You still know much of the crew there, and it's a natural fit." The U.S.S Enterprise-E was still considered the Flagship of The Fleet, and Riker's selection was natural.

"Ed, I gave you the Midway in this set-up." The Midway was the newest Sovereign Class ship, which had only been in active service two years, and had upgraded systems that were to be retrofitted into other Sovereign's in the near future. Enterprise may have been the Flagship, but Midway, right now, was the top-of-the-line in starships.

Jellico lightly nodded. "I think these are good assignments, Mike. I have no objections to them. Gentlemen?" He look at Owen and Will, who shook their heads.

Jellico turned to Paris. "Owen, what's the latest on the Sloan thing?"

No one knew who this Sloan guy was, but some circumstantial evidence lately was beginning to weave a fantastic story that, if true, couldn't have been made up.

A man had recently been seen in a video in an animated conversation with Admiral Necheyav after the re-dedication of the Zefram Cochrane statute. No one could recall seeing this man before, and no one would approach Necheyav so easily if they were a stranger to her.

Jellico had sent the images of the man to Kathryn Janeway, Seven of Nine, and to Vulcan, where Tuvok, Tom, B'Elanna, and The Doctor were stationed, to see if anyone recognized the man.

He had also sent it to Jean-Luc Picard on the La Sirena.

Surprisingly, the youngest member of that crew, Elnor, thought he recognized the face of the man, which had sent La Sirena into Romulan space, to Vashti, where the woman Zani, of the Qowat Milat, who stated that it could be a human male that had been raised on Romulus, and trained by the Tal Shiar.

If that wasn't enough, they had recently received a message from Vulcan that threw even more mystery on the subject. Simply to pass time, Seven of Nine had used the Federation database to hypothesize about who Sloan could be. She had instructed the computer to find possible matches of men who looked like this person, who had worked for Starfleet or The Federation over the last fifteen years.

One name that had been found had raised eyebrows: that of the supposedly dead Federation Senator Robert Aurelius, who had died mysteriously about a decade ago, but whose death was classified. When Jellico had tried to access the information, he was denied, and he had as much clearance as anyone in The Federation to see such things.

It weaved together an interesting possibility: was Sloan in fact Aurelius? And was Aurelius the same man that, according to this story, had been born and raised on Romulus, and trained as a Romulan spy?

What did it all mean.

Jellico came out of these thoughts. "According to this information, we now have twenty-seven ships that will rally to our banner if needed. Still a minority within The Fleet, but I see some great ships, and some excellent Captains heading them on this list."

"Timing of when we would have to head to our assigned ship is the dicey part," Will Riker reminded them. "What would be the trigger for us to move?"

They thought about that one for a minute. Mike Patterson offered his opinion first.

"I don't think we can move unless Shelby's fleet makes an overt move against Fenris. That could start a general war. Until then, I can't see a scenario where we're on those ships."

Jellico nodded. "Agreed." He turned to Paris again. "Owen, how far along are we in re-assigning subspace frequencies and encryption to our ships?"

Owen smiled. "Seven of Nine and Tuvok have helped with that, and when you give the go-ahead, we have some new Borg-enhanced frequencies and encryption that will be hard for Necheyav to break. All of our ships should have it in their system by week's end."

Jellico was satisfied that they had covered their bases that day. "Very well, gentlemen, let's shake the bushes with our own assets down here to see what we can find out about Sloan, and what may be happening on any other fronts."

Owen Paris hadn't quite figured out what he could do to flush out Sloan, but he had some idea.



Prime Minister Cyan Sladek had been expecting this hail for several days now. Despite the tense situation, which his people were fully aware of now, he was at peace. He had good people working for him, and an array of ships and troops that were loyal and ready to fight, if that's what this Admiral Shelby wanted. The planet was on a war footing now, with Government forces, and the independent Fenris Rangers ready for battle if called upon.

The Prime Minister was alone in his office. He had been at a non-emergency meeting of his advisors when he was informed that Elizabeth Shelby wanted to talk to him. She had been told, truthfully, that he was finishing up a meeting and would contact her within a half hour. Shelby had accepted that with not quarrel.

That thirty minutes was up. He sent out his transmission. A few moments later, the image of a quite beautiful and well-composed Elizabeth Shelby appeared.

"Prime Minister," Shelby said with a small smile, "Thank you for returning my hail."

"Admiral Shelby," the man said pleasantly, "I apologize for having to wait. I was in a budgetary meeting that was almost concluded. A Prime Minister has to multi-task, I'm sure you know."

Shelby smiled increased. "I quite understand, Prime Minister, I took no offense, I assure you."

"How may I be of service today, Admiral?" Cyan Sladek had been playing this game a long time, and despite the power in Shelby's fleet, he was at ease with his own strengths.

"As our diplomatic communique of a few days ago stated, I am here, on behalf of Admiral Necheyav, to discuss a problem that has arisen, and that we feel needs to be resolved."

Sladek gave a wry smile. "Could you be talking about the Fenris Ranger, Seven of Nine?"

Shelby's face almost imperceptibly changed. A less seasoned leader might have missed it, but Sladek new he had surprised he with his answer. Score one for me.

Shelby recovered quickly, having been in this game a long time as well. She smiled with some admiration. "I admire you being so well-informed, Prime Minister. Yes, we are most anxious to apprehend Seven of Nine. She's wanted for a string of murders in the quadrant, as no doubt you are aware of."

Sladek nodded his head. "I am aware of it, although I must say, my dear Admiral, that an individual can sometimes be pushed beyond their limits. I believe, with the history of Seven and her killing of this Bjayzl, who, after all, had her son butchered, that one can understand her anger."

Shelby gave a slight nod. "In her shoes, Prime Minister, I probably would have killed this Bjayzl myself, as what she did was hideous, but the other thirty at Freecloud? The people at the Cardassian holding cell? Or the Ferengi trading post? No one faults Seven for avenging her son's death, but what she did was mass murder."

"Since those Cardassians and Ferengi were participating in the same kind of exploitation and experimentation on XB's, which Seven herself is, some might see her as a freedom fighter. Our views are often colored by which side we're on. And, no doubt, Admiral, you do have a reputation of being decidedly anti-XB."

Again, Shelby was taken aback by the breadth of this man's knowledge. "My views on this, Prime Minister-my personal views-do not play into this, I assure. If I may, I'd like to beam or shuttle down to the Capital and discuss this with you, and any members of your government that you see fit to bring. Would that be acceptable?"

Sladek nodded his head. "You are more than welcome to visit us, Admiral Shelby. I am sending the coordinates where you can beam down. A shuttle in our atmosphere is not necessary. I look forward to meeting you, say in one hour?"

"Thank you, Prime Minister," Shelby said evenly. "I shall see you in one hour."



As planned, Kathryn Janeway and Seven of Nine had swung far around Earth, to a moon on the other side of Terra Nova, where they would wait, at least a short while, before they began searching for any signs of an XB facility. They were tense, but what was amazing is that the training and the situations they had labored through in the Delta Quadrant came back to them, so they were tense, but more so than any other time in the DQ. Despite their personal separation for years, when it came to working on a ship together, they trusted on another, just as a soldier would trust his buddy in a foxhole during a battle.

Then personal animus between them was almost gone. What had taken twenty years to build could not be erased in mere months, but after they had told their stories about the years in between, they both gained some sympathy and perspective to what had occurred.

They were beginning to realize that neither one of them was truly at fault. Circumstance, mostly negative, had caused the hard feelings, which simple communication would have rectified, or, at least, smoothed out to a manageable degree. What they had been doing, between avoiding The Federation, was precisely that-talking to each other, and finding out what had driven them to do what they had done.

The rubble where the ruins lay were clear. If they could get through what lay ahead, a new foundation could be constructed between them.

For now, Seven was testing her cortical node adjustments in the one holodeck onboard the Phantom. She and Kathryn had run more than a few simulations, as realistic as possible, to see if indeed her "sonar," as Tom Paris had called it, would actually work.

"I haven't seen anything so far that would indicate that this won't work as advertised, Kathryn."

Janeway was finally getting used to Seven talking like a normal human being. Her old Borg-ish mannerisms of being at ease, parade ground style, her precise, clipped way of speaking, and her natural curiosity back in those days had been adorable. Kathryn was finding she liked the new Seven even more.

"Neither have I, Seven," Janeway said with satisfaction. "I know you're a better pilot than I am, but when we're searching, I'm gonna have to do the flying."

"You are not an inferior pilot to me, Kathryn." Then a smirk came to her face. "Well, at least not by much."

Janeway rolled her eyes. "I'll get the job done, Hansen," she said with a lopsided smile.

They shut down the program, and proceeded back to The Bridge, each getting a drink, tea for Seven, and coffee for Kathryn.

They had held numerous conversations over the months, as time permitted. Seven had become quiet and introspective while drinking her tea.

Janeway noticed.

"Something on your mind, Seven?"

Seven looked up, somewhat startled. "Why would something be on my mind."

"C'mon, Seven. We may have been estranged for years, but I know you well enough to know that look of turning into yourself. What are you thinking of?"

"I've often wondered, Kathryn," she began, still looking at her cup of tea, "what would Icheb and Chakotay think of what has become of me since they both passed away?" Now she did look up at Kathryn.

Kathryn was caught off guard by the question. It took her a few long moments to respond. "I think that, overall, they would still be proud of the woman you are. I'm certain neither of them would fault you for what Bjayzl did to you, simply to get to Icheb, and Icheb obviously didn't want you to let him suffer."

Kathryn got up for a moment, stretched a little, then sat back down. "I don't think either of them would be happy with how you took it too far, but I also believe they would know your heart is in the right place. I'm convinced both would be right here, with us, if they were both still alive."

Seven was silent for a moment. "I just feel I let them both down. I let Chakotay down because, even though I did love him, he knew that he was always second in my heart."

Kathryn glanced down, trying not to blush, and feeling guilty herself for any problems she had caused them.

Seven saw the look and amended her statement. "He loved you in his own way, too, Kathryn. You were his best friend for seven years, and even when we were not in touch, he often talked fondly of you, and would tell some his favorite stories and jokes about you. He had learned to be at peace with his place in my heart."

Kathryn held back the tears that wanted to mark her cheeks. "He was a good man, Seven," Kathryn said with sadness. "He and I had some rough patches on Voyager." For a moment she gave a chuckle. "It was like being married-when you're stuck with someone, and can't get away from them, there's bound to be disagreements."

"The Borg and the Equinox?"

"Exactly," Kathryn said almost before Seven had finished. "Those were major disagreements between us, but both times, I admit, I had put Chakotay in almost impossible situations, and he only did what he thought was morally right. By the time we made it home, he and I had worked all that out. He was as good a friend as I've ever had." Janeway's voice finally cracked, a lone tear cascading down. "And he was a great First Officer. I miss him to this day."

"As do I," Seven said with a warm, wistful smile. "At least he died doing what he loved. But what happened to Icheb." The smile vanished, replaced by what Kathryn could clearly see was a lingering rage.

She reached out and grabbed Seven's hand. "Seven, I know you can't bring him back. But I know how much he loved you. He loved you so much that he was willing allow you to put him out of his misery. He would want you to honor him by living the best life you know how. Lord knows, we've both come up short in that category far too often, but in his memory, you can't use that anger for vengeance: you have to use it to find justice for others who are going through the same thing."

"But I couldn't save him, Kathryn." The dam burst at that moment. "I let my guard down because of my own hubris, and my own desires. And I had lost the most important person in my life. I've lost so much, Kathryn," she said, as Janeway took her into a comforting hug. "I've lost Icheb. I've lost Chakotay. I've lost my own honor as a human being in killing all those people. I lost you."

The last one broke Kathryn's demeanor, and she let the tears flow. They were both sobbing now, at all they had lost, and all the pain they had suffered.

"You haven't lost me, Seven," Kathryn assured her through her own hurt. "I might have been misplaced for a long time, but you never lost me. I'm here, right now. I'm here right now."

They continued to hold one another for long minutes, finally calming down, the emotional outburst probably a good thing to get out of the way before going on their mission.

When they finished the embrace, Seven looked at Kathryn. "All these years, Kathryn, I've missed you so much. So very much. I wish our circumstances had been different for so many years, but I'm glad you're here now."

Kathryn brushed back some stray blonde locks from Seven's forehead, smiling at the younger woman. "So am I, Seven. Now, let's prepare to help others like you and Icheb, OK?"

As promised, Shelby beamed down precisely an hour later, inside the foyer of the Capitol building. She her First Officer along with her.

Cyan Sladek approached the group. "Admiral Shelby," he said "welcome to Fenris. May I introduce to you the representatives I have brought with me today: this is my Chief-of-Staff, Julith Anaya. She has been with me for many years; this is General Larnek Grenthik, the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces; and, lastly this is Commander Ani Besho, commander of the Fenris Rangers."

Shelby interrupted him at that point. "Prime Minister, with all due respect, I made it clear that I would meet with representatives of your government, not anyone outside the government."

Sladek had anticipated that. "Admiral Shelby, when in time of crisis, the Fenris Rangers are, by treaty, folded into the defense of Fenris. And since this conference is considering the fate of one of her own people, I think she has every right to be here."

Shelby considered that for a moment. If they had a treaty with the Rangers for such things, then she had to accept Besho with them. She would have Quinones look into it after this first meeting.

"Very well, Prime Minister," Shelby said, trying to look like it didn't matter either way for her, "I accept Commander Besho's participation for the reason indicated."

"Excellent," the leader of Fenris said. "Before we begin our talks, please, join us for a light lunch and some non-alcoholic refreshments."

One think Shelby had learned over the years was that, when wearing the diplomatic cape, one usually got fed, and quite well.

At that moment, the La Sirena was ensconced back on the former Federation outpost near Mintaka III, where the conference had been held some weeks earlier. Jean-Luc Picard needed to do some thinking, and overlooking the world where he had met so many amazing people so many years ago-a people that gave him hope for the future of the galaxy-was as good a place as ever to do so.

He often thought of Nuria when his mind was troubled. The Mintaken woman has possessed a clarity of thought, and a wisdom like few he had ever encountered. He was sure that, had Nuria lived in a warp-capable society, she would have been a President, or Prime Minister, so clear-headed the woman had been.

That had been nearly thirty years ago, and wondered if she were alive. He was certain that, if she could remember him, and talk to him now, she would impart some special wisdom on him. Not being able to visit Mintaka III, and see Nuria, Liko, and the others had always pained his soul. Now, he could only stare at their world, and wonder.

He had locked himself in his holographic representation of his room overlooking his winery in France, deep in thought. He didn't want to bother the others, who had their own issues dealing with this. He needed some solace.

He had lost track of time, when there was a knock on the door to his room. It startled him slightly out of his meditation.


"Hey JL," Raffi said with a small smile. "Sorry to bother you, but you've been in here forever and a day."

He looked at his friend. "What time is it?"

"It is 2230, Federation Standard Time."

"2230..." He looked even more startled. "I came in her at 1400. Good Lord."

Raffi gave him a chuckle. "Like I said, no one wanted to bother you. We did want to see if you were hungry, or wanted something to drink-uh, besides Earl Gray."

"Yes, now that I think of it," he added, "I'm famished."

Raffi ordered a light meal from the replicator, the two of them quietly eating for a few minutes.

After a while, Jean-Luc posed a question to Raffi. "Raffi, let me ask you something? Do you really believe I have a chance to make a difference in this whole mess by going back to Earth?"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm well past my prime, that's no secret." He couldn't help a self-deprecating laugh. "In fact, in truth, I am dead, except for the genius of Agnes and Alton. I feel like me, I think like me, but am I? Do I have anything left in the tank to make a difference?"

Raffi shifted in her seat, not liking the sound of doubt in the man's voice. She had rarely, if ever, heard him with any self-doubt. "JL, as long as you are alive, be it in human or synth form, you can make a difference. Your voice is still very strong, and very much admired on Earth. If the people of The Federation were honest, and were polled, they'd prefer you over Necheyav every day of the week and twice on Sunday's. You carry a moral authority that she can never have."

He let the words sink in. Raffi continued.

"Have you decided what you want to do when we get to Earth?"

Picard shook his head. "Not yet. I've never been a rabble-rouser, and I don't want to start being one now. I do believe it's past time I speak out about the deterioration of honor and respect for life that has always, if imperfectly, been the cornerstone of Federation policy."

"They may just turn around and throw Seven and her actions in your face."

"I'm well aware of that, Raffi," Jean-Luc said with mild annoyance. "That's why I have refrained so far. What we need from our compatriots is some real, hard evidence on what they are doing-or what we think they're doing-to XB's, and who is really calling the shots in San Francisco. Without that, my words are fairly empty, are they not?"

"No, they're not," Raffi countered. "Again, you are a hero of The Federation. Necheyav isn't. You lost your humanity, and regained it, in fighting The Borg. Necheyav has been reaping the reward of your work for two decades now. Isn't it time to set the record straight?"

"Perhaps," the former Captain of the Enterprise mused. "Yet I'm simply not sure what I can say that will get people to stand up and take notice. The fact is, Necheyav, and those supporting her, have moved so deliberately with the re-making of The Federation that it's gone almost unnoticed by the average citizen. A wise move on their part."

"Tell you what?" She looked him dead in the eye. "Why don't we get home, stay out of sight, and figure out what to do then? Yeah," she said with a harsh laugh, "it isn't much of a plan, but right now, I think we need to get to Earth, to offer whatever assistance we can to Jellico and the others. A war isn't happening today, and I have a hunch we're going to get lucky again, and stumble into some unexpected information."

"Perhaps you're right," Picard said, not quite convinced, but not rejecting the idea. "Plus I have a conversation that needs to be done with Will and Deanna. Maybe when I talk to them, they will have some thoughts of their own?"

"You're gonna spill the beans to them?"

Picard nodded. "I don't want the whole galaxy knowing about me, but I trust Seven not to say anything, and I would trust Deanna and Will with my very life. They deserve to know."

"How about we shove off first thing in the morning. We can all get a good night's sleep, and be back to Earth in three days?"

Picard mulled it over for a few more moments. He then nodded his head firmly. "You're right: let's head home."





The discussions between Shelby and Prime Minister Sladek were not progressing as the Starfleet Admiral would have liked. She and her government had been certain that Seven of Nine was hiding on Fenris, but so far, the Prime Minister had not indicated one way or another if that were the case. In fact, he had said nothing on the subject.

Instead, he had objected to the very presence of Shelby's overtures.

They were holding a private, one-on-one session today.

"I must say, Prime Minister," Shelby observed, as they sipped at a local wine, "that I find your silence on this matter puzzling. We have offered no threat to Fenris. We simply want to ascertain the location of Seven of Nine."

"No threat, Admiral?" He smiled at Shelby, which didn't do much to mask his anger at the situation. "You have brought Intrepid Class ships with you. You have two Galaxy and two Sovereign Class ships that are two days from Fenris if needed, and behind that, three troop transports another two days behind them. Perhaps you do not offer threats, but what we see is a massive force aimed at our world."

Shelby had not revealed to him the strength of her fleet, nor had the Federation consulate on the planet. Fenris' reach certainly didn't go as far as Earth. Shelby's conclusion that the Prime Minister was getting information from the outside-and it had to be from within the ranks of The Federation.

"We are simply looking at all options, Prime Minister. I note that your ships are in the area to meet ours, and you have a formidable array yourself."

"You would have us not move to defend our planet, Admiral?" He threw the question right back in her face. "All our ships are within Fenris space. You are the aggressor here, not the other way around."

"Since you know of why we are here, Prime Minister, why don't you simply indicate to us if Seven of Nine is under your protection? That's all we wish to know?"

Sladek didn't smile this time. "And if I indicate to you she is not here, will you believe me? Or will you offer threats at that time? I assure you, Admiral Shelby, we are prepared to defend ourselves."

"I will believe you, Prime Minister. I will relay whatever you tell me to my government, which is my duty, as you know. I will have to receive further instructions from my government after that."

Sladek read between the lines, and it filled him with a sense of dread. "So, if I tell you Seven is not here, and you believe me, you will not be leaving the vicinity of Fenris, Admiral?" He gave a humorless laugh. "I find that to be odd, indeed."

Shelby pressed him a bit. "Prime Minister, all I ask is for you to answer a simple question: is Seven of Nine currently under your protection on Fenris?"

The Prime Minister knew he couldn't stall forever. He was privy to what was going on with his allies on Earth, and with the plans Seven and her former Voyager ship mates were carrying out. What was going on could have consequences far beyond Fenris, and though he had to take care of his own back yard, he understood what would happen if Shelby's Boss got what she wanted. He was playing for a little time.

"Very well, Admiral Shelby." He took a quick sip of his wine. "No, Seven of Nine is currently not on our planet, or under our protection. Where she is, I have no idea. If she were here, however, I would not surrender her to you."

"You would harbor a terrorist, Prime Minister?" Shelby continued to press the issue.

The Prime Minister shook his head. "There's an old Earth saying, I believe: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I know what happened to Seven's son, Icheb. I know that XB's were being butchered by Cardassians, and sold as slaves by the Ferengi. Many of us see Seven not as a terrorist, but as a heroine, working to liberate former drones, who did nothing but get assimilated against their will."

"Be that as it may, Prime Minister..."

He cut her off. "And I have been briefed on the recommendations you yourself made to Admiral Necheyav a number of years ago, which advocated, basically, in doing to XB's what happened to Icheb."

That floored Shelby. She realized at that moment that this guy wasn't some flunkie that would fold under pressure. He was a sure, intelligent, and tough man.

"My recommendations back then have nothing to do with this, Prime Minister, I assure you. I am here as a representative of Admiral Necheyav, to find some answers to questions we have."

"I understand that, Admiral," the Prime Minister said formally, "and I do not fault you for your loyalty to your government. I respect it. However, I have answered your question. I will assume you will want to depart and consult with your government?"

"I would, Prime Minister. With your permission, I shall return to Voyager so I may write a report to, then consult with my government."

"Permission granted, Admiral Shelby." Sladek rose, which was the cue for Shelby to depart. She nodded and began to leave.

As the doors swished open, Sladek spoke again. "Oh, Admiral Shelby?"

"Yes, Prime Minister?" She turned to look at him.

"I must say, the fact that you and Admiral Necheyav are using Voyager as the Flagship for this...diplomatic fleet...says more than any words could of your intentions. Good day, Admiral."

Shelby couldn't help blushing in anger, then quickly left the room.

When she had departed, the Prime Minister called in his Chief-of-Staff. "Call General Larnek, and Commander Besho. I need to meet with them immediately. I think we'll soon be at war."

Two Days Later, Starfleet Headquarters


Admiral Alynna Necheyav was livid. She had received the full report from Admiral Shelby. Her representative had recorded the entire recent conversation with Prime Minister Sladek, and the arrogance of that man had stunned Necheyav.

She was determined that the man and his planet would pay for his insolence.

Shelby's fleet had backed away from the immediate vicinity of Fenris, but Shelby had sent a followup message that indicated that ships from Fenris were still monitoring that fleet from a discreet distance. Necheyav was in no hurry to respond to what Shelby had divulged to her. She had to meet with her cabal, including Sloan, before making another move.

The Admiral had another problem on her hands. Her aide-de-campe, Captain Quinones, had been hit by a street bus after work the night before, and he was in critical condition at a local hospital. She needed, at least temporarily, a new Chief-of-Staff. She had plenty of candidates, but wasn't sure which one she wanted to choose.

Necheyav had been highly impressed with Captain T'revva, the former Chief-of-Staff to her rival, Edward Jellico. The Vulcan woman had left Jellico in a nasty, public split, and had been a valuable member of Necheyav's team ever since. She was destined for big things. Necheyav had made a decision that morning.

She had called for T'revva to meet her in her office. The Captain was there promptly.

"Reporting as ordered, Admiral." She saluted Necheyav smartly, Necheyav returning the courtesy.

"Please be seated Captain." Necheyav poured them both cold glasses of water. "I assume you've heard about Captain Quinones?"

"Yes, Admiral," T'revva said with some concern, which was very un-Vulcan like, but it was what Necheyav had come to expect from this particular Vulcan. "What is his condition?"

"Not good," Necheyav said darkly. She admired Quinones, and was genuinely worried about him, but she had a command to leave. "He's in a coma from the accident. Even if he recovers, it will be a while before he comes back to work. That's the reason I wanted to talk to you."

"How can I be of service, ma'am?" T'revva had a pretty good idea what was coming, but despite her penchant for being emotional than most Vulcans, she knew when to put the facade on.

"I want you to step in, at least temporarily as my Chief-of-Staff." The Admiral raised her hand as T'revva started to respond. "Don't thank me, Captain," she said with a small smile. "It means a lot more work, and a lot of responsibility. I know you were in a similar position with Admiral Jellico, and that's the biggest reason I have decided to go with you-you've been there and done that, as the old Earth saying goes."

T'revva knew it was an honor, and she took it as such, but this was the reason Jellico had given her this assignment. He knew if the opportunity presented itself, that Necheyav wouldn't hesitate to give an experience Chief-of-Staff more responsibility.

"Thank you very much, Admiral Necheyav, for your showing confidence in me." She bowed her head slightly.

"I will have the contents of your desk moved into the Chief-of-Staff's office immediately. I want you to hit the ground running on this. There's a lot going on."

"Yes, Admiral," T'revva said evenly. "If you like, I can assist in moving my items." T'revva had nothing to hide in her desk, since she had an Eidetic memory, it wasn't necessary. Everything she had in the office was above-board.

"Actually, Captain, I need you to look over some information, and get up to speed on some things going on with Operation Lancet. I've already given you a higher clearance to read this information. I would like your thoughts on this, and where we might go by the end of the day."

"Yes, Admiral." Necheyav slid a new PADD over to her new Chief-of-Staff, who immediately turned it on.

"You can use the office across from the Chief-of-Staff's office, while your items are moved into there. It won't take long for you to read this information. I am holding a meeting with key advisors tomorrow, and you need to be prepared for it."

"I understand, Admiral, I will get right to work on this."

Necheyav dismissed her, and within a few moments, T'revva was carefully reading a briefing from Admiral Shelby on her discussions with the Prime Minister of Fenris. She got a deeper understanding of what was going on, and realized that the situation was far more complex and ominous than the average person was aware of.

She also know that, with this meeting tomorrow, she might have an opportunity to solve one of the biggest mysteries in the Alpha Quadrant. She didn't want to think too far ahead of herself, however. She continued to study the PADD given to her by Necheyav.

Later That Evening


Edward Jellico smiled. This is what he had been hoping for. His Chief-of-Staff, or, he had to amend, his former Chief-of-Staff, was now Chief-of-Staff for Necheyav, as the information released by the C-in-C indicated. To be sure, he didn't like that someone was possibly near death for T'revva to get the job, but this was far bigger than one person.

His agent now had the means to score some valuable information for those opposing Necheyav. He was quite certain that it wouldn't be long before he had far more information about what Necheyav was up to.

He called together his other three compatriots for a meeting. They were impressed.

"Damn," Will Riker said, taken aback by the news, "this could be the biggest break we've had yet."

"Unless, somehow, Necheyav is going to use T'revva to give us dis-information," Mike Patterson mused aloud. "We have to consider that."

Jellico nodded. "We do, Mike, you're right. But I'm betting this is on the up-and-up."

"Have you heard from her, Ed?" Owen Paris got right to the point.

"Not yet, Owen." Jellico was concerned for T'revva's safety, and Patterson just might be right. "I think we'll have to give it a few days for that to happen. I suspect the Captain is spending a lot of time getting up to speed on things she's only now becoming aware of. I don't want to press her if I can help it."

"Agreed," Riker said quickly. "Let this play out, Ed. I hope to hell we're not being played."

Owen Paris shifted gears. "We getting anything on Shelby's meeting on Fenris?"

Mike Patterson handled that one. "Not officially, but the rumors are that their Prime Minister threw everything back into Shelby's face. If that's true, I'm sure Shelby and Necheyav are pissed."

Riker smiled. "I'd have paid real money to be a fly on the wall of that meeting."

"Yeah, no shit," Patterson snorted in laughter. "A photo of Elizabeth's face would be priceless from that meeting."

They dare not mention the one thing that was on all of their minds during the meeting: was it possible that T'revva would learn about the mysterious Mr. Sloan?

When he arrived home from San Francisco, Deanna was waiting for him.

Will gave his wife a huge hug, and a tender kiss. "Always good to get back home."

Deanna nudged him. "You always say that when you want a good meal."

Riker laughed heartily. "Saw right through me again, didn't you?"

She winked at him. "It's a Betazoid thing, you know." They both laughed. "I have some pretty interesting news for you, Will."

"Oh yeah?"

"Oh yeah," she repeated, rolling her eyes. "Jean-Luc is going to be here this evening.

That got Will's attention. "You're kidding me? Just Jean-Luc, or his the crew of the La Sirena with him?"

"Right the second time, Mr. Riker. The La Sirena is bringing that whole gang. I've heard it's quite a bunch."

"That's what Ed Jellico told me. We didn't get to chat about anything other than business last time I saw Picard. More of the same?"

Deanna shook her head. "No, he said he needs to have a long discussion with us-just the three of us."

"Hmm," Will said curiously, "I wonder if he's found out something else about this madness?"

"Maybe," she guessed. "But I sense this might be personal."

"Jean-Luc doesn't often get personal. I guess we'll have to wait and see."

They sat down for an early lunch, Will's body clock still trying to change over from being in San Francisco at 2100 hours, and then not long after that, he was home where it was 1100 hours. Will filled her in on what he could safely tell Deanna about the meeting in San Francisco.

"Intriguing," she said, just as surprised as his fellow Admiral's had been. "It could be a huge break. I'm guessing you'll want to fill in Jean-Luc on that?"

"Absolutely, he'll want to know, and he needs to know."

"Do you have any idea what Seven and Kathryn are up to, or even where they are?"

"Yes," he said with his cherubic smile, "and I can't say where they're at right now, because I'm not sure. I know that, if things go to hell, we may hear some big news from them."

"You can't tell your own wife? Mercy."

Will laughed. "On this one, you'll have to trust me, babe. The less I say, the better.

At that precise moment, Kathryn and Seven were fine-tuning the systems on the Phantom, readying it for the action that was ahead of them.

The conversation they had had a few days earlier, had been the most cathartic since they had reunited months ago. It had purged a lot of the anger, and the guilt, they had both felt. They had put to rest the one issue that had come between them so many years ago, which was when Seven and Chakotay had announced their romance to Janeway. That had led to their long estrangement. By coming clean on their feelings for Chakotay-and for each other-they had cleared the path so that, if they survived the upcoming unpleasantness, they could then truly work on re-establishing their bond as friends.

At the moment, anything beyond that was problematical. There was too much on the line to worry about anything else at the moment.

"Weapons at one-hundred percent," Seven checked off, going through their evaluation, "propulsion, shields, cloak, everything checks out as a go, Kathryn."

"I know it's boring doing these checks every day, Seven, but I don't want to have a sudden hiccup right when we're looking for targets."

"You'll get no grief from me on that, Kathryn. I just want to get going as soon as possible."

"I know," Kathryn said sympathetically. "We just need to be patient a little longer. I have a feeling the other shows are gonna start soon, Seven. We just need to hang tight."

In the middle of their conversation, the news came to them of the disastrous meeting between Admiral Shelby and Prime Minister Sladek. The report that Shelby had moved her fleet away somewhat from Fenris gave them some hope, but Seven wasn't buying it.

"If The Federation were truly serious about wanting peace, that fleet would have headed back to Earth. Relocating a light year or so away is just a fucking deception, pardon my French, Kathryn."

"I've heard the word before, Seven," Kathryn said dryly, "so don't sweat it. I'd like to say you're wrong...but I can't. I'm afraid their next move will be to perhaps blockade Fenris, and hope you'll come running to the rescue."

Seven gave a derisive snort of laughter. "I'll admit, part of me would love to do that, but what we're doing here, and what Jellico and the others are doing on Earth, are just as important. I think-I hope-Fenris can take care of themselves. I don't take it lightly," she added quickly, "as you know I have a lot of friends there."

Kathryn smiled warmly at the younger woman. "I think you've found through all this that you have more friends than you could have imagined." Kathryn held up her hand as Seven began to respond. "That's not an indictment on your past actions, Seven, but just a statement of fact. You've got a lot of people in your corner."

Seven nodded, albeit sadly. "Which I should have tried to discover before I went off half-cocked like I did."

Kathryn became more serious. "That's the past now, Seven. The past isn't where we should be looking-either of us. We fucked up enough in the past. There's a future out there for both of us-for the XB's that you've been trying to save for all these years, for a Federation that is true to the ideals it was founded under. Leave the past behind."

Seven hesitated at her next words, but she couldn't keep it back. "Perhaps there is a future for you and I, Kathryn?"

Kathryn simply smiled ad nodded. "I'd like that too. But let's get through this first, then we can deal with that?"

Seven smirked. "Acceptable."



Two Days Later


Admiral Necheyav informed her new Chief-of-Staff, Captain T'revva, that there would be a classified meeting about Operation Lancet to be held at 1600 that afternoon. T'revva had been reading up on the details of the operation, including items not known to her until she was moved up to be Necheyav's Chief. Had this been a straight-forward mission, she would find all of this fascinating-and in fact she did find it fascinating-but she had a job to carry out, that was vital to the future of The Federation.

Necheyav had not notified her who would be attending, but would meet all the players when the meeting took place.

T'revva entered the conference room ten minutes early, to set things up as Necheyav had instructed, with seating for six people, two pitchers of water at opposite ends of the table, and a a PADD on the table in front of each seat. The rest she would learn in a few minutes.

T'revva wasn't able to do much in the way of documenting the meeting, but she did have one ace up her sleeve-almost literally. It was a device that had been developed on Vulcan, but which she had never tested. It was a listening device. Actually, it was a microphone, that would send a discreet subspace message to a recorder that was at her dwelling. There was nothing that could be seen, so it seemed a good time to try it.

Especially if one certain individual showed up.

Precisely on time, Admiral Necheyav entered with four other people. She did not know any of them, even the one that was a Vulcan. She hoped introductions would be forthcoming. Of the others, only one was not wearing a Starfleet uniform.

After pouring a glass of water for each attendee, Admiral Necheyav opened the meeting.

"Good afternoon, everyone. I thank you for coming on relatively short notice. I called this meeting, as I had another conversation with Admiral Shelby this morning, and I wanted to get your views on the latest, before we send our reply to the Prime Minister of Fenris."

Everyone was finished getting comfortable, so the C-in-C continued. "Before we start, I know you all heard about Captain Quinones. He's still in a coma, in serious, but stable condition. It will be a while before he comes back. As you can guess, I have had to appoint a new Chief-of-Staff. I'd like you all to meet Captain T'revva. She has previous works as a Chief-of-Staff, and I must admit, she's been impressive in the short time she's been in the position.

"Captain, I'd like you to introduce you to my working group for Lancet." T'revva was seated to the right of Necheyav, and she began introductions to her left, moving clockwise. "To my immediate left is Admiral Freya Weinrich; Admiral Selvur, Admiral Richard Adams; and, finally, to your right, is my special adviser, Mr. Sloan."

"Admirals, Mr. Sloan," she said in a dignified, professional voice, nodding her head solemnly, it is an honor to meet all of you."

"I have heard of your work, Captain T'revva," her fellow Vulcan, Admiral Selvur said evenly. "You have earned an outstanding record of service. It is agreeable to meet you."

"Peace and long life to you, Admiral Selvur. The honor is entirely mine."

Underneath her stoic demeanor, she knew that she had entered a seminal moment of her mission, and of the mission she was a part of on a wider scale.

Sloan was real.

Onboard Voyager


Eight hours after the meeting on Earth had concluded, Admiral Shelby received her marching orders from Admiral Necheyav. It wasn't what she truly wanted, but was what she had expected.

She immediately hailed Fenris, informing them she needed to urgently meet with the Prime Minister.

Within thirty minutes, her hail was answered, and a meeting confirmed to take place the next morning at 0900 local. She informed her fleet that Voyager was moving forward alone, and would arrive within beaming range of the planet. She would get a good night's rest, then meet the Prime Minister first thing in the morning.

Captain T'revva had been anxious to return home that evening. She prayed to the gods that the recording device had picked up the conversations from the meeting that day. The meeting itself was pretty standard, and the decision made had been about what she had expected form Necheyav and her cohorts.

Now, she'd find out if she had verbal proof of what had been, up til now, a myth.

The recording had been successful. She listened to the recording in it's entirety, so she could transcribe it on a PADD that would never see the inside of Starfleet Operations. It took a while for the civilian seated next to her to speak. She listened closely to his first words. He had been speaking to Necheyav:

"My dear Admiral, you simply can't make a decision because your feelings were hurt, now can you? I may not like the Prime Minister's insolence any more than you do-and I don't-but one can't go to war over the fact that he put your representative in her place."

Necheyav had kept a tight control on her anger, but it was apparent. T'revva had never heard anyone talk in such a condescending manner to the C-in-C. It was obvious that she and Sloan, while being allies, didn't like each other very much.

When she had transferred the verbal minutes to the PADD, she prepared to beam it directly to coordinates that Admiral Jellico had given her. Jellico deliberately kept much of what he knew away from T'revva. Plausible Deniability was always a good option. From there, her job on this one matter was over.

The Next Day, Admiral Jellico's Home


Jellico had received the recording late the night before from T'revva. He was no rookie, and, despite the pressure of events, he didn't rush into listening to it. He got a good night's sleep, had breakfast at 0700, then delved into the details.

He was astounded at what he heard. Not only that Sloan was a real, live person, but the contempt he showed Necheyav was something Jellico couldn't fathom doing to the C-in-C, despite the fact he despised her. This guy was a serious player.

But it still didn't answer who he was, or how he got there.

But he knew how he might find out. He took a page out of Seven of Nine's playbook.

He had The Federation database on his computer, as all Starfleet Brass above Captain had. He put it to use.

"Computer, note voice at time index 31.23 and identify subject from now on as Sloan."

He played the time index, and moments later, the computer warbled back at him.

"Voice print identified as Sloan."

Jellico continued. "Computer, can you match this voice approximately with any other voices of known Federation or Starfleet personnel over the last fifteen Earth years?"


It didn't take long for the computer to respond.

"Matches complete. There are six individuals whom share a similar voice pattern to subject Sloan."

"Very good, now, computer, list the names and current status of those whose voices are an approximate match to that of Sloan."

In moments, the list was displayed on his screen.

And, lo and behold, the third name on the list...Senator Robert Aurelius, deceased. File Classified.

"Son of a bitch," Jellico said almost to himself. Now it was time to swing for the fences.

"Computer, run a match between the voice patterns of subject Sloan, and any known voice recording of Senator Robert Aurelius, and analyze if they are the same person."

"Affirmative...have run a voice match of subject Sloan, and of Senator Robert Aurelius, deceased. Probability of a match is 98.973 percent."

"I got you, Sloan, you son-of-a-bitch!"

That news needed to go out to all interested parties, most notably, Seven of Nine.

The Next Day, Onboard The Phantom


Seven was taking a short nap. She was getting restless doing nothing but doing systems checks every day, even though she knew she must be patient. The last three nights, she hadn't slept that well. Kathryn had given her a mild sedative, and ordered her to rest for a good six hours, at which time Kathryn would take a break.

Kathryn had completed her part of the systems checks for the day, and was having a light mid-day meal, with a small glass of wine. Seven had been out for about three hours, and unless a Borg cube showed up above where they were parked, she would let the woman sleep.

Kathryn turned to look at Seven, who was peacefully out cold, making Janeway smile. She recalled all the times on Voyager when she had crept into Cargo Bay Two, and watch the former drone regenerate. It was after she had begun those visits that she had started to grow very fond of Seven of Nine. It had been much sooner than that when she realized that Seven was perhaps the most stunningly beautiful human being she had ever laid eyes on. Those damned catsuits the Doctor had designed for her didn't help. While for a long time most of the crew had feared her, most also had torrid fantasies about laying the Ice Princess. She had certainly had her share of those.

That was so damn long ago, she thought sadly. They had been in love, of that there was no doubt, but Kathryn's own stubbornness made an affair while in the Delta Quadrant out of the question. By the time they had reached Earth, Seven had grown tired of waiting, and had ended up with Chakotay. A woman could have picked a far worse man to fall in love with, Janeway thought, and had thought that many times over the years.

Chakotay was long dead now, sadly. She had loved the man dearly-not in the same way Seven had, but she had ached when he died. The loved she truly ached for had been Seven, but she had fucked that up two decades ago.

Now, she and Seven were reunited. It had been a sometimes angry, accusatory reunion over the last five or six months, with much rage, and more than a few tears shed between them. They had come to an understanding between them, to look toward the future, and to bury the past forever. It wasn't easy, for either one of them.

The hope was that, if and when they came out of this mess, they could again become, at the very least close friends.

As she wistfully thought of those days in Cargo Bay Two, the computer beeped at an incoming transmission. It startled Kathryn out of her musings. She turned toward he console.

"Computer, display incoming message."


The message was from Admiral Jellico, and was short and sweet: Have confirmation that subject Sloan is former Federation Senator Robert Aurelius. Jellico.

Despite her pledge not to wake Seven, she knew the blonde would want to be waken for this news.

"Seven? Seven, honey?"

Seven began to stir, slowly opening her eyes and seeing Kathryn above her. She smiled at the sight. "Is my nap over already?"

Janeway chuckled. "I said I wasn't going to wake you-and you are going back to sleep after this, but I thought you'd want to see the message I just received from Earth."

Seven cocked her head, as Janeway gave her a PADD with the message on it. Seven's eyes widened as she red the short communique, a smile bursting out on her face. She looked up excitedly at Kathryn.

"Your little fishing expedition on Vulcan reeled in a huge catch, Seven."

Seven laughed. "And I won't have to sensationalize how big the catch was, will I?"

That made Janeway laugh, and hug the younger woman. "You've still got some sleep to catch up. Do you need another sedative?"

"No, thank you, Kathryn."

Seven wasn't lying. She was back to sleep in minutes, a smile caressing her face.



Malaga, Spain


A fulsome smile lit up Jean-Luc Picard's face as he saw the two figures coming toward him. He had transported close to the home of Will Riker and Deanna Troi off of the La Sirena. To him, it felt like coming home.

Deanna began to jog toward him, a warm smile on her face.

"Jean-Luc!" When she reached him, she wrapped him in a fierce, loving hug. "Oh, it's so good to see you again!"

He kissed Deanna on the cheek. "Far too long, my dear, and I apologize for that."

Deanna shrugged his apology off. "It's life, dear friend. You still look pretty good for an old man." She saw Will approaching. "Speaking of old men, here comes mine."

That remark made both men laugh loudly.

"Now I'm old?" Will shook his head with a laugh, turning toward his former Captain. "Nice to see you, Jean-Luc." He extended his hand, shook it, then pulled him into his own hug. "We didn't get to talk much last time I saw you."

"We were all running to and fro that week, Will. But I have some time now."

"That's good, because I've prepared for you a very French dinner, and after that, we will talk."

Picard gestured toward will. "Lead the way...old man."

Deanna snickered, Will just shaking his head and laughing. Deanna kept a tight hold on Jean-Luc's hand as they walked to the house.

Riker had indeed made a traditional French dinner: Coq Au Vin, marinated in a Merlot from Jean-Luc's own Vineyard; Fondant Potatoes; and, as a nod to his wife, Chocolate Mousse for dessert. Picard thanked the lords that Agnes and Alton had perfected his synth body so he could still enjoy such pleasures of life.

"Good Lord, Will," he said when he was finished, not a thing left on his plate. "I know some fine restaurants in Paris who have openings for a chef. You should apply."

That made Riker laugh loudly. "I'll pass, my friend. Starfleet pays me enough in retirement to keep me happy."

"I must admit, Will, that's the best meal I've had in a long time. Thank you, my friend."

"It was my pleasure, Jean-Luc." Will knew it was time for business. "So, what's been happening with you. As I said, we didn't get to chat very long last time."

Picard sighed. "A lot has gone on since I left earth, what? Seven months ago? It's been...educational."

He proceeded to tell them everything: meeting Dajh Asha, and seeing her killed before his eyes; the debacle at Freecloud, where Seven had crossed him; visiting the Artifact, and meeting Hugh again; the visit to the synth homeworld; meeting Alton Soong.

"When on the synth homeworld, my Irumodic Syndrome asserted itself." That's all he said.

Deanna nodded. "It was bound to show up soon or later, Jean-Luc. Obviously, Dr. Juarti and Dr. Soong were able to suppress it."

"Oh, they suppressed it, yes, Deanna, but not in a very...conventional manner."

Will looked at him quizzically. "How did they stop it from affecting you?"

Jean-Luc looked them both dead in the eye.

"They didn't."

Silence followed, for a moment neither Will or Deanna understood the meaning. Deanna suddenly turned pale. She didn't often call on a deity, but she couldn't help herself this time.

"Oh, my God," she said, her face turning to an ashen white. "Jurati and Soong? But that's impossible."

"What's impossible?" Will still didn't get it.

Deanna turned full to her husband, then back to Picard. "But I felt your presence when you arrived. I feel it right now! I was never able to do that with Data, Lal, or Lore!"

"What are you talking about, that you felt..." Deanna started her husband full in the face. That talent for non-verbal communication suddenly kicked in between them.

"You mean..." Will looked at Deanna, then at Jean-Luc, and back between them again. "Jesus, you're telling me..."

"I am now a synthetic being now, Will. They downloaded my consciousness into a new, synthetic body. The Irumodic Syndrome destroyed me on the planet."

Will was glad he was sitting. Had he been standing, he would have collapsed. As it was, he almost passed out. "Good God," he said, sotto voce. His voice failed him after that.

"Alton Soong has gone far beyond what his father was able to do. I am, not to be egotistical about this, far superior to what Data and Lore were."

Deanna smiled despite being shaken. "Data never ate or drank, did he?" Picard shook his head.

"Until this dinner, I didn't truly appreciate the ability to still be able to eat and drink. Imagine the meal I would have missed."

That lightened the mood a little, both his friends regaining some composure, chuckling at the remark.

"But Data could have lived forever," Riker objected mildly. "Are you saying..."

Picard stopped him. "No. Another...improvement is that I have a, if you will, biological clock. I will die, and it will be in a normal human lifespan. That could mean another forty years for me, but it's built into who I am now."

"As shocked as I am, Jean-Luc," Will said, still a few shades of pale, "I'm glad they did. The world isn't ready to be without Jean-Luc Picard."

"I've been blessed, Will," the older man said with emotion. "I don't deserve this blessing, I believe, but I will make the most of it. I've been hiding in the shadows too long. I think I can still make a difference. That's why I'm back on Earth."

Deanna changed the subject for a moment, telling him about the news on Sloan. Picard hadn't heard the news, and now he turned pale just as his friends had a few minutes before.

"So he is real." Picard shook his head. "I don't understand, why a Federation Senator, in good standing, even if he was allied with Necheyav, would feel the need to fake his death, and be reborn, if you will, as a mysterious agent working still with Alynna? Something's missing."

"That's the first thing I thought of," Will added. "On the surface, it's mystifying. Aurelius could have, conceivably, moved up to run The Federation for all we know."

"Maybe he's holding something over Necheyav's head?" Deanna looked between the two men. "But you're right, still, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

"Then there's the other possibility, that this guy is the same guy who was born and raised on Romulus, and trained by the Tal Shiar, as your friend told you."

"I don't understand how a human being was born on Romulus, let alone trained by the Tal Shiar?"

"They don't exist any longer, so there's that."

"Oh, no, Will," Picard added darkly. "Do not come to the conclusion that since there is no longer a Romulan Empire, that the Tal Shiar no longer exists. If they didn't exist, neither would the Qowat Milat. The Tal Shiar lives."

"But what would the Tal Shiar, without a Romulan government, gain by having someone near The C-in-C of Starfleet?"

Picard nodded. "That is the mystery, Deanna. But again, we still don't know if it's the same person. Unless we had a voice print of this person while on Romulus, we can't confirm it."

"Deanna's right, Jean-Luc. It's inconceivable to me, that a human couple had a child on Romulus. There's no record of such things. How is it possible."

Jean-Luc was hesitant to answer. The truth was...he didn't know how it was possible. Yet two different people, many years apart, in widely different areas of the Quadrant, had told him the story of the Enterprise-C, that it somehow ended up in Romulan hands, and that, somehow, Tasha Yar had been onboard. He had discounted the tale Commander Sela had given him years ago, but the woman looked almost exactly like Tasha. Again, he wished he had Guinan to talk to.

"I tell you what, I'll go into that tomorrow. I have been given...explanations...about how that came about. But this old man is tired, and is going to retire to his ship for the night."

"You're welcome to stay here, Jean-Luc," Deanna said with a warm smile. "It's no trouble."

"Perhaps tomorrow night, my dear." He rose to leave, the other two following suit. "Please contact me in the morning, and I will return. We still have a lot to discuss."

Around 0900 the next morning, Jean-Luc Picard was back at the Riker-Troi household, enjoying another meal. This one was much more pedestrian, but very delicious: old-fashioned bacon, eggs, and toast, and a glass of sweet Clementine orange juice made in Spain.

His hosts had recovered from the bombshell he had dropped on them the night before. He knew he was about to drop another one on them, but they were in a "need-to-know" situation. Will and Deanna needed to know.

"I just might trade a few cases of my wine for some of this splendid Spanish orange juice, Will," the older man said with a smile.

"I'm sure I can wrangle to orange juice for you, but why do I get the feeling that you'll get a lot more OJ than I will get wine?" All three of them laughed.

"How did you sleep last night, Jean-Luc?" Deanna wasn't worried about her dear friend, but she needed to ask the obvious.

"Like a baby, my dear. I should be asking you that question, Deanna."

She gave him a smirk. "I admit, I was awake for a while thinking about everything you told us last night. This heathen," she continued, grinning at her husband, "was asleep in five minutes."

Riker grinned. "Simply a trait learned from sitting in The Big Chair, my dear wife."

Deanna turned back to Picard. "Picking up where we left off last night, we still don't know if Sloan, slash Aurelius is also slash this other person from Romulus. But you mentioned something intriguing about that possibility."

Picard gave a large sigh. "I do. Now, what I'm about to tell you is going to sound like I'm insane-and maybe on this one I am-but this's almost too fantastic to believe. But I've heard it now, years apart, in slightly different ways, in totally different sectors of the Quadrant. The first time I heard this was from Guinan. The second time was on Vashti, and Zani brought it up."

It was a roundabout introduction to his coming tale, but Picard was still, more than ten days after hearing Zani's words, off-kilter himself from the revelation of the Qowat Milat leader.

It took an hour to get through it.

If it were possible, this bombshell hit Will and Deanna even more forcefully than the news about Picard being a synthetic being now. He was right-it was a story so utterly fantastic, as Deanna said halfway through, that it couldn't be contrived. When Picard finished, Will had gone into the house and retrieved some bourbon. Even though it was early, they all needed a belt to digest what had been said.

"You know, Picard," Riker said, with a serious face, but a little levity in his voice, "you may have to take us to Jurati and Soong. Anymore bombshells like this and our human bodies will give way."

Picard didn't smile. He couldn't. He still didn't understand any of it, at least to his satisfaction. "To think that I may have sent in motion putting Sloan where he is today. I'm certain that Sloan is Section 31, even though we have no hard proof, but if he is this Lucas Sheldon-and remember, the Enterprise-C did include the names Richard and Evelyn Sheldon, then what Guinan and Zani have both told me must be true." He looked up at them with a crestfallen face. "And yet I have no memory of it."

"I remember when I first saw Commander Sela," Deanna said, her mind falling back on the years. "She was the spitting image of Tasha, except for the ears. Even the voice was almost identical. Even though there's no record of it, since it was a time paradox, it makes sense now-at least to a degree."

Will shook his head. "Talk about fucked-up, pardon my language both of you, but," he let out a laugh, "it's the only word I can think of to describe this. We sent the Enterprise-C back into a battle they had no chance of winning?" He shook his head again. "I can't imagine any of this."

"Be that as it may, we have similar stories years apart, from different people, corroborating the event. Trust me, when all this is over, I plan to find Guinan and talk to her."

"I want to be in on that conversation," Deanna said quietly, "just to hear what she knows."

"We have to put all this behind us for the moment, my friends," Picard announced. "Yes, maybe we will verify that this man is Sloan/Aurelius/Sheldon, but that is ancillary to keeping The Federation from becoming a dictatorship. We have to find a way to tie Sloan more closely to Necheyav, and learn if he is Section 31, and if he's he power behind all this."

"Jellico sent me a message last night. He, Owen, and Mike are working on something to try and verify all of this. I don't know what they have in mind. After you leave, Ed is going to head out here to talk to me."

"It's astounding," Picard mused out loud," that something I don't even remember doing, and, in the thread of this lifetime, didn't do, has had such repercussions for the present?"

"We may never figure out all of it, Jean-Luc," Deanna said. "In this case, I think I need a Counselor to get through all I've heard in the last two days?" She was dead serious, looking a little dazed.

Will nodded in agreement. "I'll drink to that."



Admiral Edward Jellico looked with disgust at the dispatch that The Federation had put out concerning Fenris. It was the first public pronouncement of the "crisis" with that planet, and the Fenris Rangers. The communique was full of quotes from "senior officials," who were using fear of The Borg to sway opinion of the peoples who would read it. It painted Seven of Nine as a crazed XB who had killed over one-hundred and twenty people, with no mention of the fact she was saving XB's.

It was propaganda at its worst.

The Federation was setting up a blockade of Fenris, which would deny anything entry into the planet. It was already in effect.

He sat back contemplating the options of those who were opposing Admiral Alynna Necheyav and those who were trying to turn The Federation into a military dictatorship. Fenris was just the latest step in this move that had been slowly developing for the past decade.

One facet of their options was being arranged at that moment. The former Voyager EMH would be en-route to Earth later that day. Jellico and his three other compatriots, Admirals Owen Paris, Mike Patterson, and William T. Riker (retired), were brainstorming a way to use The Doctor to help getting a further reading on the mysterious man Sloan, whom they now knew had been Senator Robert Aurelius, who had faked his death some years earlier.

It was thought the man was heading Section 31, and perhaps the real person in charge of this attempt to remake The Federation. It was also possible that Sloan was a man that, according to reports, had been born on Romulus, and trained by the Tal Shiar.

Will Riker had filled Jellico in on his talk with Jean-Luc Picard. What Jellico had heard floored him. Had the story of the Enterprise-C only been from once source, he would have laughed it off. Yet for Picard to have heard about former Lieutenant Tasha Yar being on that ship, from two widely dispersed sources in both time and distance, it couldn't be discounted.

Yet that was secondary to everything else. They needed to find a way to get to Sloan, one way or another.

Seven of Nine read the press release from The Federation with a sick feeling in her stomach. They had publicly declared war on not only her, but XB's in general, using fear of The Borg as a means to frighten the public.

"I think it's time to begin our operation, Kathryn," she advised her former Captain, after the latter had read the information. "They didn't even mention why I did what I did. I know," she said, raising a hand as Janeway was ready to speak. "I know, that what I did was wrong, but they make it sound like I just killed those people for no reason."

"Welcome to the world of Public Relations, Seven. They are going to spin it to their advantage. They won't mention what happened to Icheb, or to those other former drones. They just want to make you look like a bloodthirsty killer."

Seven was quite for a few minutes. "I believe we should meet with B'Elanna and Tom on the Icheb I to discuss strategy. I'm also wondering if we shouldn't go back to Vulcan and add Tuvok to our search?"

Kathryn considered both. "I need to think on the Tuvok part, Seven. I agree, he is a valuable resource, but he may do more good being a conduit for information, especially with the likelihood of war on Fenris increasing. But let's contact Tom and B'Elanna. We do need to get together with them."

Seven grew quiet again, drawing into herself. Kathryn noticed.

"Seven? What is it?"

"What if The Federation makes a public demand of me that I either surrender, or they will go to war with Fenris?"

That question caught Janeway short. She hadn't even thought of that possibility. But what Seven said made sense. They might put so much pressure on Seven that her former Astrometrics Officer would have almost no choice but to surrender. Knowing Seven, she would put the needs of the many above her own needs. It's one thing that had made her love Seven so much.

Kathryn's voice suddenly became like that she had used on the Kazon, or the Hirogen. "I will not allow you to turn yourself in to The Federation, Seven. Even if it forestalls a war with Fenris, we both know they could use your cortical node to eventually find out things that could build horrible weapons. They will have won."

"It would be my choice, Kathryn," Seven said quietly. It wasn't a challenge to Janeway, just a statement of fact.

Kathryn leaned over toward where Seven was seated. She softly grasped her Borg hand. "Seven, I understand that, but you have to understand that this is what they want. They want to get off easy and not have to fight for you. I fought to save you too many times on Voyager, and how often did you put your own ass on the line to save us. The consequences of them abducting frightens the hell out of me."

"Because of what they can build?"

Janeway's eyes watered up. "No," she said gently, squeezing Seven's hand. "It's what they will do to you that frightens me. I couldn't live knowing the fate that awaits you if they have you in custody. It would break me."

Seven looked deeply into Kathryn's eyes-something she hadn't done in years. They still contained the same fire and resolve that she knew on Voyager. That look wasn't present when she hand Kathryn had first met months ago, when Kathryn had threatened to blow her out of the stars. What she saw now was far closer to what she had seen. It was that which had made Seven fall in love with Janeway so many years ago.

"We need to contact Tom and B'Elanna," the former drone said, avoiding the tension of the moment. "And also contact Tuvok."

Janeway gave her a soft smile. "I agree. Let's start putting this thing together."


Like everyone else on Fenris, Qochur had read the release from The Federation with concern. The Klingon, XB, and current Fenris Ranger had seen battle before, as all three of his "lives," as he liked to call them. He didn't shy away from it, but he certainly didn't go looking for trouble.He knew the Prime Minister was extremely busy at the moment, putting the planet on a war footing. Qochur had already done patrol duty, and had seen the U.S.S Voyager up close only a few days earlier. The use of that ship, which had once been home to his friend Seven of Nine, and his new friends that had served with her, angered the man. But he didn't let that anger interfere with his duty.

He had requested a meeting with the Prime Minister, and had also requested that his immediate Boss, Fenris Ranger Commander Ani Besho be present as well. Qochur wasn't a political animal by nature, but now, he might have an ace in the hole for the planet he now called home, and the cause for which he served.

"Hello, Doctor," Owen Paris said, extending his hand, meeting the former EMH once again. "It's been a long time since I've had the pleasure of seeing you."

"Thank you, Admiral Paris. It has indeed, although I get daily...reminders of you, being on the same ship with Tom and B'Elanna recently."

Paris laughed sincerely. "I hope you're keeping those two out of trouble?"

"I think it may be my primary job now, Admiral."

"Please, Doctor," Paris said, gesturing to a chair on the other side of his work desk in his office at his home, "have a seat."

"Thank you, Admiral. How can I be of service to you today?"

"I know you've heard about our discovery about this man Sloan?"

The holographic being nodded. "Yes, I read the communication from Admiral Jellico. I must say, the whole thing seems rather fantastic, but I would suspect Admiral Picard isn't into conspiracy theories?"

"No, he isn't, Doctor," Paris said seriously. "We're certain now, that Sloan is the former Senator Aurelius, and that he is now a known member of Necheyav's inner circle. We believe, as Jellico said, that he is part of, or is the head of Section 31. We need to find out exactly how he fits into all this."

"How exactly do I fit into all of this, which," The Doctor added, "is why I am here, I assume?"

Paris nodded. "As you are quite aware, Dr. Crusher and Admiral Riker...freed you from Starfleet Medical, and put an exact duplicate of you into the database there. As far as anyone there is concerned, that copy is you. We didn't have this in mind, obviously, when you first ended up on the Phantom, but it might give us an opportunity to get a close look, or even to grab Mr. Sloan."

The Doctor's eyes widened, and his forehead scrunched up in intrigue. "Exactly how, sir?"

Paris laughed. "We have a general outline, but you're The Doctor. What we propose is that you somehow come up with a plan to introduce a virus into some of our own operatives-a virus with a known vaccine, of course. We have people canvassing for Sloan at Federation Headquarters, and near the building, trying to track this guy.

"If we can get confirmation he is at Headquarters, we might be able to time-stamp, as it were, one of our operatives that has been seen in the building, to have this virus."

The Doctor smiled. "At that point, he comes to visit me, saying he's been a patient of mine before, and I declare an alert, and we start giving vaccines to anyone who was in the building at the time? Including Mr. Sloan?"

"I knew you'd get it, Doc." Paris rose to pour himself a fresh cup of coffee. "The trick, obviously, is going to be locking down your duplicate program while you're back in Starfleet Medical, then re-activate his program once you're departed."

"I can access the program, I'm certain, sir. And I believe I can quickly download any information my doppelganger has acquired since we switched places. That gives me a level of safety, if I have information on who he has associated with since I left."

"I like it," Paris said with a smile. "I won't blow smoke up your ass, Doctor. This has some major risks involved, and if we're compromised, I don't have to tell you what the consequences for you could be."

"I understand, Admiral." He paused for a moment to gather his own thoughts. "Admiral, the people I served with on Voyager were the finest people I've ever associated with. They were loyal, fearless, and above all else, they were, and still are, family. I was once very close to Seven. I helped her, as did others, adjust to her Humanity. I know what she did was wrong, but I believe she did it for a cause that that is honorable and just. If I can help her, and by extension, keep a war from taking place, and making sure The Federation doesn't turn into a monster, it would be worth my decompilation, if it came to that, sir."

Owen Paris again thought how lucky, in some ways, his son Tom had been in ending up on that ship. Yes, it cost Owen seven years with his son, but Owen had learned to appreciate Tom when he came home. Their relationship would never be perfect, but he was damn proud of his son now. He knew what The Doctor said was Gospel Truth.

"Eloquent words, Doctor," Paris said soberly,"and words not to take lightly. Very well," Owen said, standing up to terminate the interview. "You will be heading shortly to Malaga, Spain, where Admiral Riker lives. He has a state-of-the-art holodeck where you can devise what you need to do. When you know how you want to proceed, let him know. We will get you what you need to help make this work."

"I understand, Admiral."

Paris held out his hand again. "Thank you, sir," Owen said kindly. "I look forward to working with you on this shortly."



Prime Minister Sladek had been slightly annoyed by the request from Qochur for an audience. He liked and respected the Klingon, but he barely had time to breathe at the moment, let along peel away for a meeting with the man. The fact he had said it was urgent, and that Ani Besho would also be there, however, intrigued Cyan Sladek.

"Qochur," he said, extending his hand. "Welcome, my friend. I am sorry it took a little while to get back to your request."

"I understand, Prime Minister. This is not an opportune moment for a meeting, but I felt what I had to impart to you and Commander Besho could be important."

The Prime Minister looked at the Bajoran woman. "Ani, do you have any clue what this is about?"

She held up her hands as if defeat and laughed. "This is his show, Prime Minister, not mine. I'm as intrigued to hear this as you are."

"Qochur? The floor is yours."

"Thank you, Prime Minister."

For the next twenty minutes, Qochur explained part of his past, and how it might benefit Fenris and the Rangers now. He was very private about his days as a Klingon Warrior, but honor dictated that he give this information to Sladek and Besho.

To say the two leaders weren't stunned at what they hear would be an understatement. Qochur laid out in detail what he had in mind.

When he left, both the Prime Minister and Commander felt that this could turn the tide in their favor.





"I'm with Seven on this one", B'Elanna Torres said with feeling. "It's time we got this show on the road."

"You're saying we shouldn't wait until Necheyav pulls something else off?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying, Tom," she confirmed, looking at her husband. "If we wait until a war breaks out, the Quadrant might be crawling with Starfleet vessels, and most won't be allied with us. This is the time to do our search."

"Seven has floated the idea of getting Tuvok out here, to assist us."

"Tuvok is always an asset, Kathryn," Tom said with a nod of his head. "The man is good to have in a fight. I have a hunch if we find an XB facility, we'll have to fight."

Kathryn tapped her lips with her right index finger. "That would mean a delay of at least a week, probably a little more."

"A week probably won't make much of a difference, Kathryn," Seven offered. "From here, it's a three day journey each way at Warp Seven. That is more than acceptable."

"We have to wait for his reply," "B'Elanna noted to her friend. "He won't waste time in deciding, and I don't care if he's an emotionless Vulcan," she said with a fond smirk. "He'll want to help."

"I agree with B'El," Tom added. "Tuvok simply makes our chances of success far better-no offense to any of us."

"None taken, Mr. Paris," Janeway said with a chuckle. She looked at her people-she still, and always would think of them as "her people". They had gone to battle for an extended period of time, and she trusted all of them with her life. "OK, the moment we hear from Tuvok, we move one way or another. If Tuvok declines, Seven and I will head back to Terra Nova. If he says yes, then I think it's best you two," she looked directly at Tom and B'Elanna, "head to Vulcan and get back to Tyrellia ASAP. After that, we'll set a time to begin our search."

"Sounds like a plan, Kathryn," B'Elanna said firmly, looking at her former Captain. "Since we have to sit and wait, why don't I replicate some dinner, and we talk about some of the old days on Voyager?"

Seven smiled. "You're so sentimental, Klingon."

B'Elanna grinned back. "Better than being an Ice Princess, Borg." The two ladies laughed, and gave each other a brief hug.

Tom glanced at Janeway, and they both smiled. It was amazing watching the Klingon hybrid, and the ex-drone as best of friends. They had fought incessantly when in the Delta Quadrant, and even for a short time after arriving in the Alpha Quadrant.

Yet Seven had approached B'Elanna shortly before she and Chakotay left Earth, which was after Kathryn had gone AWOL, and they had had a heart-to-heart talk, over the course of a few days. They found out what they probably already knew: they were far more alike than they had thought. They were two people, torn between different worlds, never seeming to fit into either. They admitted a mutual respect for each other, and over the next few years, they became fast and loyal friends.

Both Tom and Kathryn knew they would lay down their lives for each other if needed.

Admiral Elizabeth Shelby had held a meeting with the Captains of everyone of her vessels, which totaled twelve at the moment. She was finalizing plans for the blockade of Fenris. Necheyav had given her a wide latitude in how to balance her forces.

"First of all, I've decided that, for now, the troop transports should head back to Earth. At the moment, this looks like simply an interdiction mission, and those ground troops won't be needed. We can get them back her in a matter of days if need be."

She took a sip of the water which each member of the discussion had.

"To the rest of you," she pointed at her First Officer, who handed out PADD's to the remaining Captain's, "you will find the Op Plan for this blockade on the PADD's just handed to you. We will have two lines of the blockade: the two Galaxies, and the two Sovereign's will be in a box alignment, closest to the planet, while the Intrepid Class ships will form an outer ring, three million kilometers out."

One of her Captains spoke up. "That still leaves a few holes, Admiral."

"It does, but I want to avoid a shooting war if we can. This mission is to pressure a wanted criminal to give themselves up. That person, as you know, is a Fenris Ranger, and we're hoping that Seven of Nine will see the common sense in surrendering. Then we can all go home."


"Rules of Engagement are clear: defensive action only. If you are attacked, or believe an attack is imminent, you have the discretion to defend your vessel as you see fit. But let's use our head people, not our balls? Again, there's no doubt ships from the planet will be out to check us out, and to keep an eye on us. In their place, it's what I would do. Hail any vessel that approaches, and treat it diplomatically. We all should have an idea when we need to use force."

After the meeting, Shelby went to her Ready Room, to compose a communication to Admiral Necheyav. Shelby wanted Seven to comply peacefully, and turn herself in. She had no illusions what would happen to Seven if she was in Federation custody. Her own recommendations of a decade ago was something she still believed.

Shelby had received the reports, and the images, of what had happened to the young man Icheb years ago. It had been gruesome. It hadn't changed Shelby's mind about apprehending XB's, but she admitted to herself that she wouldn't want any being to go through what Icheb had. That had been pure mutilation.

She would do her duty. If this came to war, she would do her level-best to make sure The Federation came out on top. Yet in the back of her mind, the images of Icheb overlaid with images of Seven of Nine, being cut up the same way.

Captain T'revva knocked on Admiral Necheyav's door.


T'revva closed the door behind her after entering.

"What may I do for you, Captain?"

"Admiral, Admiral Shelby transmitted her Op Plan. I have it on this PADD for you. It simply needs your OK."

Alynna Necheyav looked over the plan, found no problems with it, and electronically signed it. That would be transmitted back to Shelby, and the blockade could officially begin.

"Is there anything you need, Admiral?"

"Not at the moment, Captain T'revva. I can tell you that Mr. Sloan will be by Tuesday afternoon, along with probably Admiral Adams. We are going to go over some business that is above even your clearance. I want you to clear my schedule from 1200 onward for Tuesday."

"I will have that done within the hour, Admiral."

"I'm sorry that I can't have you at this meeting, Captain, but some things have to be discussed only at the top of the hill."

"I understand completely, Admiral," T'revva said in the same polite tone. "If you need, I can ready the room Tuesday morning for the meeting, then have guards secure the location?"

"That would be helpful, yes, Captain. Dismissed."

"Aye, Admiral." T'revva turned smartly and exited.

That evening, the Captain sent a highly encrypted message from her home to Admiral Jellico, informing her that on Tuesday, around Noon, Sloan was scheduled to be meeting with Admiral Necheyav."

She had been briefed on the idea that Owen Paris and the holographic Doctor were concocting.

One nice thing about a hologram, Ed Jellico thought, was that you could call it up at any time, day or night, and it probably wouldn't complain much.

When he received the notice from T'revva about Sloan's upcoming appearance at Starfleet Headquarters, he immediately put in a request for The Doctor to hold a video conference with him. The Doctor replied within an hour.

"Doctor, do you have an idea of how you want to go about this."

"I do," the former EMH confirmed. "I can create a variant of the Luria Flu. It is a very nasty strain of the flu, but there is a known, highly effective vaccine for it. It's spread through personal contact, and also is known to be airborne. If I can safely get within Starfleet Medical, I can then issue an alert as to who, when, and where your operative, or operatives came in contact with him. That way, we can start a contract trace, and begin vaccinations within ten days."

"How lethal is this flu, Doctor?"

The Doctor smiled. "It makes you feel like you were in a ten-round boxing match with a Klingon, and you'll be tired for a while, but it isn't fatal. However, it is one of the viruses that, if it arises, protocol is to make sure everyone who might have been in contact with it is given the vaccine. It is rarely fatal."

"OK," Jellico said, more to himself than the Doctor. "I can have a number of our operatives in the building around the same time Sloan will be there, and I can certainly try to see if some of them can get fairly close to Necheyav that morning. If she thinks she was exposed to this thing, she'll definitely cooperate."

"Very well, Admiral. I will get to work on producing the pathogen. Starfleet Medical here, and in other locations, has the vaccine for Luria Flu, so that isn't an issue."

"I want to make sure that this thing doesn't spread very far beyond Headquarters, Doctor. As far as getting you in there, we're working on that."

"I've got some ideas about that as well, but I do want to work on the virus first."

"Understood, Doctor. I will be back in touch with you sometime tomorrow."

"I understand, Admiral."

"Jellico out."

They tricky part would be getting this copy of the holographic doctor into Starfleet Medical.

T'revva contacted Jellico Monday morning, and advised him that Sloan's visit was still on. The Admiral had rounded up operatives who worked within the Headquarters building, and who would not draw any suspicion. One of his operatives was known to see Necheyav almost every day.

As was the case, each operative had no clue who the other operatives were. Again, the use of Plausible Deniability would come in handy. The Doctor informed Jellico he was prepared with his virus. He was transported directly to a location near Jellico's home. From there, he dispensed the virus to three of the operatives. It would be several days before they were symptomatic, and there was a chance the virus wouldn't affect them. The doctor had added a booster to the virus, to make it work at a more rapid rate on their systems. At least one of the three would visit The Doctor when he was showing signs of being symptomatic.

One advantage The Doctor would have is that he could be on call twenty-four hours a day, so he could constantly treat anyone who believed they might have been in contact with the virus. He could also access the list of people who would be in for a vaccine, and he could massage the schedule so that Sloan could be seen by him-if he went under the name Sloan. Again, it was something beyond their control.

Jellico himself had decided to be the one to take The Doctor's program into Starfleet Medical, which was in a different building than Headquarters, so he wouldn't run into Necheyav. He would go in on the premise that he wanted to meet the famous holographic Doctor, and discuss a new health regimen with him. The Doctor himself had run the hologram simulation on how to keep his "replacement" dormant, while he did the work on the virus.

Jellico would head into Starfleet Medical Friday morning, just a few hours before one of the operatives would show up for his checkup with The Doctor.

Tuvok had agreed to join Tom and B'Elanna on the Icheb I, to assist his friends in their search for a Federation facility. They arrived back on Tyrellia on Wednesday afternoon, where they met Janeway and Seven.

"Thank you, old friend, for agreeing to assist us." Kathryn gave him a brief hug when he arrived. "I know it wasn't an easy decision."

"On the contrary, Kathryn," Tuvok informed her. "I had regretted allowing the four of you to leave and not accompany you. I am glad I have the opportunity to correct that error."

"I'm sure Tom and B'Elanna filled you in on the trip back?"

Tuvok nodded. "They have, Seven. Studying the charts of the area, I believe the search pattern for both ships is satisfactory, and will allow us to cover a lot of space."

"There's still no guarantee we'll find something." B'Elanna was, by her own admission, a bit of a pessimist. Perhaps that was the mindset of an Engineer, who always expected something to go wrong at the worst moment.

"I know, B'Elanna," Seven said with a much quieter voice. "However, I have this distinct feeling that we will find something. I don't know if it's a foreboding, or just my instincts, but I've had this feeling now for the last few days."

"Khaless," B'Elanna said with a wry smile. "Who thought we'd see the day that Her Borgness would go on gut feelings?"

Seven slightly blushed. "Pretty amazing, isn't it, B'El? I just can't shake this feeling."

"Let's hope you're right," Janeway added. "I'll admit, I'm hoping we don't find anything, as in such a facility doesn't exist, but I won't bet against Seven."

"It is logical to think that The Federation does have some type of facility. Their dislike of XB's has been known for years. I'm convinced, like Seven, that there is a facility out here, somewhere."

With that, Seven and Kathryn prepared to return to Terra Nova. Before departing, she gave them final marching orders. "I want both ships to be airborne at 0900, Fleet Standard Time Friday morning. Search patterns will begin immediately."

The friends parted, realizing that the next few days could be fraught with danger.



If Admiral Necheyav had thought that the people of Fenris would demand that Seven of Nine be handed over to The Federation to avoid war, she was greatly mistaken.

The Prime Minister of Fenris, Cyan Sladek, had made a public broadcast to the citizens of that planet, detailing not only Seven of Nine's actions, but recounting her history aboard Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, and, in brutal detail, the story of the death of Icheb. It was a powerful story that resonated with the people of Fenris. The Rangers had been born on that planet, and the people of the planet took great pride in the work of the Fenris Rangers, namely to rescue and attempt to give XB's a chance at something approaching a normal life. Fenris was not the only haven for XB's in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, but it was maybe the most well-known.

The broadcast had been sent via subspace to whoever wanted to re-broadcast it. After some hemming and hawing, the Federation President, who was but a mere figurehead for Necheyav and Sloan, allowed the broadcast to be made available on Earth.

It received mixed reviews on Earth, and in some other Federation worlds. The memory of Wolf 359, and how perilously close Earth and the rest of the Quadrant had come to being over-run by The Borg would be a long time in fading. And on a pure propaganda level, it had always been good business to bash The Borg, including XB's, whenever possible.

Yet the broadcast made Necheyav and her allies somewhat uneasy. It didn't start a cry for Seven of Nine's head, as Necheyav had thought. If war came to Fenris, it might not turn out to be a "rally 'round the flag" moment as governments past had always tried to make a conflict.

Still Necheyav held firm. It would make her meeting this day with her Chief-of-Staff, Captain T'revva, Admiral Adams, and Sloan, even more important.

At 0900, she informed T'revva that the meeting was still going forward as scheduled, around Noon. Under the pretext of needing to run an errand before lunch, T'revva left Headquarters, and got word to Admiral Jellico.

Edward Jellico had always picked his operatives with great care. Most had been in his back pocket for a number of years, and he trusted them completely. Most Admiral at or near his level had such operatives of their own. It gave a higher up a wider field network of sources to garner information both within and outside of the government. It was a game as old as government itself.

He had been very judicious in selecting the three people who would would have the Lurian Flu introduced into their bodies. He had demanded the three that were chosen be younger, and in outstanding physical shape. It may be this flu wasn't lethal in all but a handful of cases, but he didn't want someone truly getting sick from this. That included Necheyav and Sloan, although the reasons why he didn't want them to get it weren't completely altruistic.

He had chosen three Humans, two male, and one male. The female was Lieutenant Pamela Wheeler, who was assigned to Starfleet headquarters and worked in Signal Intelligence. The second was Lieutenant Ilya Petrovich Tretiak. The Russian-born man was assigned to the Judge Advocate General section. His father had been an attorney, and a career in the JAG was suited for him. The last was Lieutenant Pierre Caldar, a native of Jamaica. He was the youngest of the three, at age twenty-six, and was in Tactical. His grandfather had served in Starfleet, and had perished at Wolf 359.

Neither of them knew each other, at least on any level that Jellico could detect. None of them were given the virus at the same time, or in the same location from The Doctor. All of them were in wonderful physical shape. All had volunteered once told of the mission.

As far as getting The Doctor into the office where his double was residing, Jellico had gone to his well of operatives once again, this one a physician based at Starfleet Medical. Captain Dr. Alyssa Ogawa, a protege of Beverly Crusher, like most of the crew from her days onboard the Enterprise-D, had no love for Alynna Necheyav. Jellico had almost forgotten about Alyssa, until Will Riker had mentioned her in passing a few days earlier on an unrelated matter. He had quickly contacted her, and she readily agreed.

The three that had been given the flu virus were all scheduled to be on duty at 0900 that day, and they showed up on time, did their duty, and went home later that day. Lieutenant Caldar, being in Tactical, was usually within Necheyav's sphere for multiple times during any given day, was the perfect fit to be in the area when Sloan was supposed to be with Necheyav. Jellico had given Caldar a photo of Captain T'revva, and she had seen one of the Lieutenant, and they would "bump into each other," at some point around 1100, an hour before the estimated start time of the meeting with Sloan.

After that, it was simply a matter of days for the virus to start showing symptoms in its hosts.

Two hours before Lieutenant Caldar was to briefly meet Captain T'revva, the Phantom and the Icheb I ascended from their respective locations and began a detailed, meticulous search of Sector 001. They would, with their cloaks up, use Seven's adjusted cortical node to emit a subspace message that, if received from an XB, would "ping" it back to her, reminiscent to how radar worked in old Earth submarines.

Such a search could take a while, even for a modern starship. The Earth's Solar System alone was massive, and like all space, omnidirectional. But their working theory that it would be with a day or two-at most, maybe three, from Earth, meant they started their search just beyond the Dwarf planet Pluto, and worked their way in. Even then, a thorough search could take upwards of a week or more.

Immediately after the Phantom left Terra Nova, Janeway helped Seven adjust her cortical node as B'Elanna had instructed her to.

"I never did ask you, Seven," Janeway said, while adjusting the device by using a small stylus that would send signals from Seven's ocular implant to her cortical node, "are there any changes in how you feel, or in your vision, when making this adjustment."

"It might make the vision in my Borg eye a little fuzzier, but it's hardly anything I notice," she said offhandedly, as Janeway fiddled with her implant. "I do feel a slight buzz of electricity pass through me when the procedure is complete."

As she said that, Janeway finished up the very procedure.

"And as if on cue," Seven said with a smile, "there's that little surge of energy."

"Maybe it's just my presence," Janeway said, deadpan, with her lopsided grin.

"Now, now, Kathryn," Seven teased back, "keep your mind on our work, thank you very much." They both lightly laughed.

Seven took her place as the right-seater, while Kathryn was at the Helm. Seven accessed the computer form her seat, punched in a few commands, then turned to Janeway.

"The subspace signal is transmitting, Kathryn."

"The first response we get should be from Icheb I, unless we pick something up right away."

Seven shook her head. "I don't think we'll be that lucky."

In a matter of minutes, Seven received telemetry back, and verified the location of where the signal had bounced off of.

"Verify that the Icheb I is receiving the signal."

Again, Janeway couldn't help herself. "Congratulations, I know christen you a submarine."

Despite the seriousness of their mission, which had finally started, that made Seven laugh loudly. "Do we smoke cigars in celebration."

"I'm sure I could replicate some, if you'd like."

Seven laughed again. "That's OK, maybe after the mission is over."

The two women settled in their search pattern, and began their patient canvass of the Terran System. Six hours later, Janeway programmed the pattern into the computer, and set the ship on auto-pilot. Seven would remain at the Helm for another six hours, then she would sleep for her six hours.

Five Days Later



The blockade was in effect, and although Prime Minister Sladek didn't believe it would have much in the way of short-term effects, the very presence of a Federation fleet, near his planet, and one command away from commencing war still didn't sit well with him. He had invited the Federation Consulate General to dine with him that evening, simply to keep the lines of communications open.

When the meeting was finished, the Prime Minister walked the man down to the street level. Sladek had known the man a long time, and they considered each other friends. Both had honest about their sadness at the turn of events, and they would try to keep a professional decorum between them.

When they reached the street, a crowd had gathered outside the Capitol Building. The Fenris military had performed a cordon around the Consulate General's vehicle. The man could have taking a shuttle for the thirty second hop from his residence to the Capitol, but he had taken a Fenris government street vehicle instead.

The crowd was showing their displeasure with the actions of Admiral Necheyav, as shouts of protest and opposition could be heard throughout the Capitol area. The Diplomat entered the vehicle, and was escorted to the street.

As it turned on to the main avenue, the crowd began to surround it, and began jostling the vehicle and its occupants.

No one at that moment knew what happened next, but video surveillance would catch a person that was clearly an XB, running up to the vehicle while it was stopped and surrounded, and then roll underneath it. The individual never appeared on the video again.

A moment later, a tremendous explosion blew the vehicle apart, along with the XB, thirty other people in the crowd, the Consulate General and his driver.

Prime Minister Sladek had seen it all, and he was horrified. His security hustled him into the building, as troops converged around the Capitol building, in case there were any more suicide bombers on the loose.

Within minutes, Sladek had called his top military advisors, Ani Besho, and Qochur to his residence in the building.

The crisis had just taken an ominous turn for the worse.

Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco


Not often did Alynna Necheyav head into her office in the middle of the night, but the news from Fenris demanded her immediate attention. She had even contacted Sloan, and, surprisingly, he was also heading in.

When the mysterious head of Section 31 arrived, he was none too happy. "What's the latest from Fenris?"

"Apparently an XB was able to get under the Consulate General's vehicle when a crowd stopped it, and blow him, and a bunch of others to Kingdom Come."

Sloan grabbed a coffee, and sat down, Necheyav sliding a PADD in front of him. He read through it quickly. "The Prime Minister condemned it immediately it says here."

"A person can say anything, Sloan," Necheyav said, biting off every word. "You think it's a coincidence that this was done by an XB? It simply proves our point about them-they are a danger to society."

"Admiral," Sloan said cautiously, "I want to get rid of these XB's as much as you. Hell I've been pushing this for years. But do you really want a start a war over this incident? You're gonna need a little proof that the Prime Minister planned this. I'm no bleeding heart, but if you want to send Shelby's armada in for combat, I think you might want to have her talk to the Prime Minister-in person-before anything else happens."

"Whose side are you on, Sloan?" The man had never seen her so livid. "We need to tie in Seven of Nine with this XB, that they're cut from the same cloth. That they are, whether they want to admit it or not, killers."

Sloan let the words sink in for a minute. No, he was no bleeding heart, but he also would rather have their goals reached without a war. He wanted power, not bloodshed-at least not over something like this, serious as it was.

"What do you plan to do?" He knew trying to goad her wouldn't work, so he stuck to the business at hand.

"I will send Shelby down there to find out what the hell happened, and talk to Sladek. I'll then wait for her report. But I will, at the very least, Sloan, warn Fenris, and the Rangers, that they are asking for war. I won't countenance one of our diplomats being blown sky high for doing his job."

Sloan nodded. "That's more prudent, Admiral. A warning is fine. Shelby needs to walk a fine line when talking to Sladek. She will be there to find out fact, but she also will let him know in uncertain terms that this could be viewed as an act of war."

Necheyav simply nodded her assent. "Agreed. But it makes me want to get a hold of Seven of Nine even more, and rip her to shreds."

Sloan looked at her with a critical eye. "I have never doubted your resolve in wanting to do that to Seven of Nine."

Sloan stayed in the office until Necheyav had recorded her instruction to Shelby, then he beamed back home.



It had taken a few days longer than anticipated, but Lieutenant Pamela Wheeler woke up five days after being injected with a strain of the Lurian Flu, and felt like death warmed over. Even as miserable as she felt, part of her had to smile. The holographic doctor knew what he was talking about, that much was certain.

She called into her Duty Manager at Headquarters, informed her that she was sick as hell, and was going over to Starfleet Medical for a checkup.

She then contacted Jellico, who would arrange for Doctor Ogawa to see her, along with reprogramming the computer to insert their holographic doctor back into the system, and disable his duplicate for the time being.

She arrived at 1400, and asked to see Dr. Ogawa. That wasn't an unusual thing. There were a litany of doctors within Starfleet Medical, and see their physician of choice. Ogawa was ready for her when she arrived.

Ogawa did do an exam of the Lieutenant, confirming that she did have the Lurian Flu, and prescribing the vaccine for her, which she injected immediately. Ogawa then followed the instructions to inject their EMH back into the system, and burying the other one for a while.

"Ah, Doctor Ogawa," The Doctor said with a smile. "It's wonderful to see you again." He looked over to Wheeler. "I assume you've examined our patient?"

Ogawa nodded. "I have, Doctor, and you gave her a nasty little bug, didn't you?"

Despite what they were doing, Wheeler snickered. "Good job, Doc."

He just rolled his eyes. "How about our other patients?"

"The other two have called in-it seemed to take a little longer to become symptomatic, but that can happen. I'll be seeing them within the next few hours."

Ogawa turned to Wheeler. "Lieutenant, you should start to feel better tomorrow, but I'm giving you an order to stay away from work for three more days. I will transmit the information to your superior. All of this will be quite legit."

"Thank you, Dr. Ogawa," she said, in a heavy voice. "I do feel like shit, pardon my language, so if it's OK, I'll head home."

Ogawa nodded. "Go directly home, no stopping, understood."

"Aye, Captain." She turned to Voyager's former EMH. "I'd like to say thank you to you, Doc, but this thing packs a wallop." She smiled to let him know that she had known what she had been getting into. "I hope I meet you again when I'm feeling better."

The hologram looked sympathetically. "Do get better fast, Lieutenant. I'm sworn to do no harm, and this rubs up against my ethical programming."

"I get it, Doc," she said with a nod. "Don't let it, if you can. I volunteered, remember?"

She turned and left, definitely dragging as she closed the door behind her.

"One down," Ogawa said, "two to go."

Within the next few hours, Ogawa had examined all three people, reporting that she had summoned the EMH for a consultation, and he confirmed her diagnosis of the patients. Within a few more hours, other doctors were sharing information on other patients who had contracted the Lurian Flu.

Over the next twenty-four hours, Headquarters started contact tracing, and traced the day when everyone was in the building together. Shortly after that, they put out an Epidemic alert, advising anyone who had been in Federation Headquarters on that date, report to Starfleet Medical for an exam.

"Oh for Christ's sake," Necheyav lamented in exasperation. "As if we don't have enough on our hands? Now we have a Lurian Flu Epidemic?"

"That is the information that Starfleet Medical has sent to us, Admiral." Captain T'revva had given the report to her Boss, who had read it with a frown. "We are instructed to follow Epidemic Protocols."

The Admiral scanned the notice. "That was the day we held that meeting in here, with Adams and Sloan, wasn't it?"

To make she she played her part, T'revva looked through her PADD, even though she knew the Admiral was right. "Yes, Admiral. That was the day of the meeting."

"How are you feeling, Captain?"

"As a Vulcan, I'm less susceptible to the Lurian Flu than Humans, but thank you for your concern. Currently, I feel fine."

"So do I," Necheyav added. "But I want everyone in this department checked out by the end of the day tomorrow, understood?"

"Aye, Admiral," T'revva said formally. "Should I call Admiral Adams and Mr. Sloan to have them make an appointment?"

Necheyav shook her head. "I will handle that, Captain, but thank you."

In a matter of a few more minutes, T'revva and Necheyav had made an appointment to head into Starfleet Medical. They were given the same advice as Lieutenant Wheeler-they were given the vaccine, and told to remain at home for three days. That was the advice everyone would receive.

Onboard the Phantom, Janeway and Seven had had no luck in the furthest reaches of the Solar System. It was slow work, but they didn't mind, knowing the payoff could be important. The Icheb I was out and about, but they were more a ready reserve for when Seven found something.

"So there's an Epidemic on Earth?" Kathryn raised her eyebrows.

"Are you thinking it might be something that has to do with everything going on right now?"

"I don't know, Seven," Janeway said with a small smile. "Maybe I'm becoming paranoid, but who knows? With the situation becoming more serious on Fenris, anything is possible."

The mention of the Rangers homeworld made Seven frown. "I hope a war doesn't break out over this. I don't put anything by Necheyav." She spat the woman's name from her mouth.

"I think it's interesting that The Federation has made no public comment on this." Upon hearing the news from Fenris about the death of the Consulate General, Janeway had expected Necheyav to order Shelby to go in, guns blazing. "I think they're hedging their bets right now."

"It could be," Seven agreed. "If you can obtain something without having to go to war, would that be ideal?"

"It would be, Seven," Janeway agreed, "but I don't think Alynna is playing with a full deck any longer. Who knows what she's thinking."

They continued the conversation, while checking their systems every now and then.

"I bet it was educational to sit and listen to Picard when you were with him." Janeway knew Jean-Luc, but had never had the opportunity Seven had had.

"He's an amazing person, Kathryn," Seven said. "He's seen so much, and accop...."

Seven froze.

"What is it, Seven?"

"I'm receiving responses to my subspace transmission." Her eyes went wide.

"Responses? You mean, more than one?"

Seven held up a finger, to indicated she needed a moment. "So far, thirty-one to be exact, Kathryn-and they're all from the same area."

"Bingo," Janeway said, suddenly becoming excited. She didn't even wait. She sent out a hail to the Icheb I. Within a few minutes, Tom Paris was responding.

"What is it, Captain?" Every now and then, he would still slip into his Voyager protocol.

"Seven has received about three dozen responses to her transmission within the last five minutes. We should have coordinates in a few minutes. Be prepared to move toward us shortly."

"You got it, Kathryn." Janeway could see Tom's game face sinking into place. "Awaiting the coordinates."

Five minutes later, another fifteen signals had bounced back to Seven. She was double-checking the information before letting Kathryn know where to go.

"Coordinates are..." She studied the information one more time, then looked up at Janeway. "According to the information, the transmissions came from Ganymede."

"The Jupiter moon," Janeway said as a statement. "We can be there in three hours." She nodded at Seven. "Send the coordinates to Paris."

"Aye, Kathryn," Seven said absently, making Janeway smile.



For her safety, Prime Minister Cyan Sladek had Admiral Elizabeth Shelby beamed directly into his office, as the assassination of the Federation Consulate General had caused even more protests on the planet. The meeting was between just the two of them.

Shelby saw a different man than the one she had last visited two weeks earlier. His face was drawn, and he clearly had not slept very well lately. Shelby could sympathize with the man.

"First of all, Admiral," the Prime Minister said, with sadness on his face, "I must send my personal condolences to The Federation for this act. The Consul General was a personal friend of mine-I've known him for a number of years. I have a suspicion your Admiral Necheyav doesn't believe me," he added with a sad smile, "but I am truly sorry."

"I will pass her condolences on the her. I'm here simply to get the facts. I assume you have a summary for me about the events."

"I do," Sladek said, pushing a PADD over to the Admiral. "It was something that caught us off-guard, and I have to take the blame for that. I never expected something like this to occur."

"Do you mind if I take this PADD with me, Prime Minister? I can study it on my ship, and make it part of my own report."

"It is your to keep, Admiral. I have asked the head of Capitol Security to join us for a few minutes, and he can give you a verbal rundown of what happened, as well as show you different video angles of the event."

"That is kind of you, Prime Minister. I appreciate it."

The brief from Capitol Security took about thirty minutes, in the end Shelby had a good idea what she would put in her report.

When the Security head had left, Sladek had wandered over to the window overlooking the Capitol city. "You know, Admiral, as I said, I was in the military, and fought my shares of battles for The Federation, which is why all of this makes me so heartsick. Fenris is a peaceful planet, but like anyone else, it objects to be threatened." He turned sadly to her. "I'm afraid that this situation is getting close to passing beyond control of either of us, and our fates will be decided by others."

Shelby sat in her quarters on Voyager later, and had to agree with the Prime Minister. She would make her report. She was beginning to suspect that Necheyav would ignore the Prime Ministers words, and increase the pressure on Fenris.

The Icheb I rendezvoused with the Phantom near Pluto, so that they could all meet face-to-face, and go over strategy.

"So far, I have no had responses from forty-seven drones, all in the same location-Ganymede," Seven advised them, showing them the information that she had compiled.

"Our next step will be to get a close look from the air of the precise location on the moon," Kathryn added. "We will use both ships to canvas the area, then move off, with our cloaks on at all times. After that, we'll put together what information we have gathered, then make our plans on what to do."

"How close should we take the ship in for our scans, and are we gonna try to interface with their computers, to see if we can get a layout of the facility, if there is one?"

Seven looked over at Tom Paris. "I recommend no closer than 20 kilometers above the surface, and I believe I can access their systems without them realizing it. It should be the same system of a normal Federation database, but I suspect it isn't linked to the actual Federation Database."

Tuvok nodded. "A logical conclusion. Those running the facility would not want that information stored where it could be accessed through normal channels."

"It would be nice if we can expose this facility to the people of The Federation," B'Elanna mused. "It just might stop a war on Fenris and beyond."

Janeway agreed with that. "That's a good point. It might put pressure on Necheyav to back off. But that still doesn't get rid of Necheyav, and this Sloan character."

Kathryn drummed her fingers on the armrest of her chair for a moment. "OK, people, let's get about six hours of rest, then we will proceed to Ganymede. When we wake up, we'll over our ship systems one more time, then we'll get going."

As expected, the Prime Minister of Fenris was not surprised with the response that Admiral Necheyav and The Federation government. She was putting even more pressure on him and his people, as she released her response throughout the Quadrant.

The Federation cannot take, at face value, the assertions of the Prime Minister of Fenris, that his government was unaware or not complicit with the assassination on the Consulate General of The Federation to that planet.

It is incumbent upon the government of Fenris to protect any Federation diplomat from any harm, which we respect on any Federation planet. The Federation condemns the assassination, and has formally notified the government of Fenris that, if another such attack would occur, then The Federation will have to consider that an Act of War, requiring a response in kind.

Admiral Alynna Necheyav




The Chancellor of the Klingon High Council looked out of his office on Q'onoS, contemplating his options. His own intelligence services had been hinting at the move toward militancy in The Federation for more than a few years now. No overt signs had been present, but like the Starfleet Admirals currently opposing Admiral Alynna Necheyav, the Chancellor could see the signs even from afar. The Federation's pronouncements and their entire attitude during Diplomatic events had subtly changed over the last five years. What was once overt politeness by that organization, had turned into something much more frosty and menacing.

Quietly, the Klingon Empire had been modernizing its fleet of ships. The policy of the Klingon Empire remained one of defense. They had no desire to gobble up new worlds-it was enough of a headache governing only Klingons, and a few other species that were in Klingon territory.

The Chancellor had been consulting with his top advisors recently, especially after the message from an old shipmate of his whom he had served with during the Klingon Civil War. He had formed strong friendships from that time. What he had been told had filled him with fear-something that didn't come naturally from a Klingon.

He scanned the name of those that were clandestinely opposing Necheyav. The names were familiar, some more than others. Some were very familiar to him, others familiar by name only. But it was an impressive collection of courageous people, of that he had no doubt.

None of the current situations involved the Klingon Empire in any way, shape, or form directly, but a war between The Federation and Fenris would only embolden Necheyav even more. He knew that Fenris had a tough, well-disciplined military, but he could not see them defeating The Federation if it came to war. In fact, despite how good the Fenris military was, he knew it would soon turn into a route.

And the rest of the Quadrant could not respond: the Romulan Empire was scattered; the Cardassian Union was still crippled almost twenty years after the Dominion War; the Dominion was no more, and even the Breen in the Beta Quadrant, had turned inward. That left only the Klingon Empire and The Federation. The rumors over the years that The Federation had deliberately denied help to the Romulans after the destruction of Romulus, and that The Federation had fostered the Synth Rebellion on Mars were all too familiar,but there had never been proof.

Could those be true, and were they part of the evolution, or, in his mind, the devolution, of The Federation? He knew that if The Federation was true to its founding principles, it was an honorable organization. But if they kept down the path of militancy over exploration, it could be a direct threat to The Klingon Empire.

He made up his mind. He was to call in his closest advisors, and announce that the Klingon Empire would take a stand against The Federation on Fenris.

He called for his Chief-of-Staff. "Cherun, advise the members of the High Council that I wish to discuss with them once more, the situation on Fenris, and with The Federation. Set the meeting for 1300 this afternoon. Clear my schedule of anything else."

"Yes, Chancellor Worf."

The End


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