Captain's log, supplemental: On our arrival at Gallifrey, the Enterprise has immediately been captured in a Borg tractor beam - as planned.
"The Master," the Doctor breathed at the Borg on the main viewscreen.
"Doctor," came the reply; not quite as tonelessly as Picard would expect from a Borg, but more matter-of-fact than he'd expect from the Master; "we suppose we oughtn't be surprised to see you here."
"He speaks in first person plural like a Borg," Data observed quietly, "but his language usage is characteristic of his pre-assimilation behavior."
"No reason I might show up, is there?" said the Doctor angrily. "You've only joined the most dangerous hive mind in existence and conspired to change the history of the universe! Nothing of any possible interest to me, or anyone else."
"Interest is irrelevant," said the Master. "We shall assimilate you and your Starfleet allies. You will watch from the back of your own mind as you yourself do the same to the Time Lords."
"Definitely retains a substantial portion of his personal identity," Troi murmurred to Picard. This was obvious - Borg don't ordinarily gloat over their pre-assimilation enemies - but it was best to have confirmation from Troi's empathy, particularly considering the next step of their plan.
"For that," the Doctor said smugly to the Master, "you'd have to be able to hold on to us."
"Now, Ensign," said Picard.
Epstein entered a preprogrammed command into the con console. With a jolt the Enterprise broke free of the Borg tractor beam and, with a burst of warp power, took station just outside the Borg's tractor and weapon range.
The Borg on the main screen frowned in confusion. In incongruity this ranked to Picard right up with laughing Vulcans. "How did ..." the Master started.
"If you can connect your time-engines to a Borg cube," the Doctor snorted, "I can do the same with a starship.
"Do a better job too, I'll wager," he added.
The Master's frown transmuted into one of anger. "Your dratted starship is protected by temporal grace!"
"As is your cube," said the Doctor, crossing his arms with an expression of triumph. "You can't harm us and we can't harm you. Stalemate - except you can't move on the Time Lords either, with us on your back."
"No matter," said the Master, also crossing his arms. "We will see who has more patience - humans or Borg."
"Actually," said the Doctor, "I was going to suggest we talk it over, over there on your ship."
Epstein and Daniels, the only people on the bridge who hadn't heard the whole plan, stared at the Doctor. Epstein nearly exclaimed aloud.
"Very well." The Master's tone was neutral, but the alacrity with which he accepted the proposal belied the Borg patience he had just claimed to share.
"See you soon." The Doctor waggled his fingers in farewell, and at Picard's sign to Daniels the signal was cut off.
"Sir," said Epstein, glancing from the Doctor to Picard so that initially Picard was uncertain whom he was speaking to, "if you board the cube, they'll assimilate you."
"Exactly," said the Doctor. "The only way to flush the Master out of the collective is to go in after him. If he can keep so much of himself intact," the Doctor waved at the screen, "it'll be a piece of cake for me."
"Transporter room," called Picard. "Two to beam directly from the bridge to the Borg cube."
"Two?" The Doctor, along with everyone else on the bridge, were now regarding Picard with expressions identical to Epstein's and Daniels's.
END OF CHAPTER 3
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