Captain's log, stardate 51003.5: Voyager is limping away from our encounter with Species 8472 and our alliance against them with the Borg ... "I've only had time to assess the damage," said Torres. "Your assessment?" asked Chakotay from his chair at Janeway's left. "The Borg technology they grafted onto the ship is defeating the warp core function, and we don't know why." "So you can't even estimate how long it'll take to fix," Janeway said. Torres shook her head. She'd felt it necessary to bring this report to the bridge, to the captain personally. "At least not until we poke around some." "Poke away. We're not going to get out even of Borg space in seventy years, let alone home to the Alpha Quadrant, if we have to rely on impulse drive. Harry, you go with her." At ops Kim nodded and followed Torres into the turbolift, relieved by a former-Maquis crewmember named Forrester. "Mr. Paris," Janeway called, "report." "Having the warp core offline isn't all bad," Paris said at conn. "We can avoid Borg ships by tracking their transwarp signatures, but we're not giving off any warp signature for them to know we're here. We just have to give them a wide berth so they can't spot us by any other means." "How hard will that be, here in the thick of their home territory?" Chakotay asked. "I give it eight and a half out of ten on the hotshot Maquis- Starfleet pilot scale," said Paris drily. "For a moment I thought you were saying it would be difficult for you," Janeway smiled. "Who, me?" Janeway stood. "The bridge is yours, Chakotay. I'm going to sickbay to check on our problem children." The first person Janeway saw on entering sickbay was one of the "problem children" she'd come to see. "Kes!" "Captain!" Kes always seemed to be pleased to see anyone. "How are you feeling?" "I'm fine, Captain. No more telepathic contacts." "Do you get any feeling that they're still around?" "I can't say for certain," said Kes, "but I'm reasonably sure that, if there were any Species 8472 bio-ships still in our space, I'd know." "I hate calling them what the Borg call them," Janeway said. "Numbering sapient peoples like specimens. I don't suppose you learned their own name for themselves." "No," said Kes. "They may not have one, when to them all other species are 'the weak' who 'will perish'." Janeway shook her head. "They're even more alien to us than the Borg are. They're just as xenophobic - but they don't have a mechanical collective mind imposing it on them." "Neither will our friend," said Kes, nodding at the operating theatre, "in a short while." Under the watchful eyes of Tuvok and a security officer named Greer, Voyager's computer-generated holographic doctor was preparing to remove the Borg collective subspace link from the Borg drone who had designated herself Seven-of-Nine. Janeway had apparently interrupted Kes at fetching the instruments, for now the Ocampa took a surgical tray from a storage compartment and carried it to the doctor's side. Janeway went to the operating table with her. But the operation wasn't fated to start quite yet. A familiar sound, a sonic manifestation of physical and temporal forces being displaced, began to grow in the room. "It's the Doctor," said Janeway. "No function of mine, Captain, produces such an earsplitting - oh." The hologram belatedly realized what she meant as something that only looked like a large blue-painted wooden box appeared in the doorway from the operating theatre to his office, and the noise stopped. Tuvok activated his commbadge. "Tuvok to bridge. The TARDIS has materialized in sickbay." "Thanks for the news, Tuvok," came Chakotay's voice. "Mr. Forrester was a little confused by the internal sensors." "A learning experience for him, no doubt." Chakotay's tone had suggested in no uncertain terms that it had better have been. "Tuvok out." Out of the blue box stepped the Time Lord known as the Doctor. He looked like a young Earthman, with a Beethovian mop of fair hair, in a frock-coated Victorian suit; but when Janeway had first met him, he had been middle-age looking with shorter, dark hair and inclined to dress almost clownishly. This occasional habit of "regenerating" into what seemed an entirely different person was the least of the fascinating data Starfleet had accrued on this time-traveler since the days of Christopher Pike's Enterprise. "Hello," said the Doctor, taking in the scene, "I can't help but notice that you've brought a Borg aboard your ship. Was that wise? What are you going to do with her?" "I'm going to disconnect her from the collective. Traffic permitting," the doctor added archly, favoring the Doctor with an unfavorable look. "Sorry, sorry." The Doctor moved toward the door out, passing Kes as she was setting up the instrument tray. As he passed though he stopped suddenly, and then laid a hand on her arm. "Say hello to Wesley for me when you see him." "Wesley?" Kes obviously didn't know who or what the Doctor was talking about, but at her question he only shook his head and smiled. "Come with me to the bridge, Doctor," said Janeway. "I hope you know what you're doing," said the Doctor to Janeway once they were proceeding down the hall. "Taking a Borg on." "She's a human, Doctor," said Janeway. "She's cut off from the collective entirely, or will be soon, and she deserves a chance to become the individual she was born to be." "I wish you the very best of luck." "Meaning you think I'll need it." The Doctor sighed. "I've seen too many species who have given themselves over to cybernetics and computer logic. Daleks, Cybermen. None of them wound up any better off for it, and neither were any of the victims of their conquests. And I've never seen one of them reformed. The Borg aren't any different." "We'll see," said Janeway as they boarded the turbolift. On the trip to the bridge Janeway apprised the Doctor of their situation, and told him of the Borg-Species 8472 war Voyager had become involved in. She was wrapping it up as they entered the bridge and approached the command module, Chakotay surrendering the center seat for his own. "This is Borg space?" the Doctor asked, coming to a stop just in front of Janeway's chair, looking at the main viewscreen, presently showing the forward view of the ship's course through space. "For lightyears around," said Paris with mock heartiness. "And you're just shooting straight through it?" Janeway gave him a hard look. "As opposed to hanging around for a while? It sounds like the best plan to me." "Don't you see?" said the Doctor. "This is your chance to root out the Borg menace once and for all!" "Don't be ludicrous," Janeway said. "Carpe diem! No Earth ship may ever have a better chance." "It's too dangerous." "We're one ship with no fleet support," Chakotay contributed. "What was the lesson of Q, when the first Federation ship encountered the Borg?" the Doctor asked in rebuttal. "This ship's first priority is to go home," Janeway said firmly. "We've been torn away from our home and our loved ones. I know you know what that feels like, Doctor - but for us it wasn't voluntary." She could see that she'd struck a nerve - or a chord - with the Doctor with that, but it didn't back him down any. He leapt to just in front of the bridge's main viewscreen and turned to face them all, to command their attention. He stood there stooping slightly, an outcast from his people, wearing a costume some four centuries out of fashion from a planet he himself considered backward and primitive; to appearances the kind of space tramp that Starfleet officers counted their blessings at the sight of. And somehow he still looked like what he was: one of the most powerful beings Janeway had ever met. "The Borg are the antithesis of everything Starfleet stands for," he declaimed. "By nature one of you must kill the other." Janeway stepped up to the Doctor and looked him in the eye. He was taller since his regeneration, she noted; they were of a height now. "The Borg are the antithesis of everything Starfleet stands for," she said. "They attack unprovoked and they destroy other peoples." "How can I persuade you -" The Doctor cut off what he was saying, in the sudden way he had that starship captains quickly learned to pay attention to. He spun around and took a harder look at the main viewscreen. "Bio-ships," he said. He turned back to Janeway, horror in his eyes. "What's the date?" "It's stardate five one zero -" Janeway started. "No no, what's the year C.E.? Quickly!" Chakotay came up with the answer first. "2374." "Oh no," said the Doctor. "What is it?" Janeway asked. "You must turn around," said the Doctor with urgency. "Go back, get out of this area of space! Now!" "Doctor, this course is carefully projected against the ambient Borg traffic to leave us undetected," Paris objected. "We can't just turn around." The Doctor turned back to the viewscreen. "There's no way out," he said to himself. "There isn't a lesser evil." "Doctor -" "I've got a fleet of ships coming into sensor range," Forrester interrupted. "Dropping out of warp. Not Borg configuration." "A fleet?" Chakotay wondered. "What would a fleet of non-Borg be doing in Borg space?" "You know the answer," said the Doctor, dread in his voice. "You just saw an example." The Starfleet officers didn't like that answer. "Another invasion?" Paris said. "The new fleet are hailing, Captain," said Forrester. "Wide beam broadcast." "On speakers, Lieutenant." The voice was a harsh monotone with a strident artifical buzz, and behind it there was a rhythmic, throbbing mechanical hum. "WE-ARE-THE-DALEKS. YOU-WILL-SURRENDER-OR-BE-EXTERMINATED." END OF CHAPTER 1
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