"Defiant to all ships. Log transfer of flag to Supplanter," said the speakers.
Kirk and Spock had placed themselves behind Janeway and Chakotay without their hearing. Kirk spoke to the comm, making the rebels jump. "All ships, continue to fall back and regroup."
Janeway slapped the comm off and turned to Kirk snarling. "Who do you think you are?"
"Your input is appreciated, kirk Janeway," said Spock. That was how Kirk learned what Terran rebel leaders were called. "But who do you think I am?"
"You're right, of course," said Janeway after a moment. "But this is my ship."
"You're right of course," said Kirk instantly. "I'm not used to the courtesies of flag rank."
Later he decided that had he tried to charm her he'd've blown it; but he gave it to her all business and she took it that way. Now, though, a voice in his head whispered, You hated being an admiral.
I hated flying a desk, he told it. Damn little chance of that in this fleet.
Meanwhile he was eying the visual display as Supplanter passed the station and approached the rear lines of the rebel fleet. The rebel retreat wasn't panicky, though it was a little haphazard for lack of training, and the battle was in a relative lull. "All ships, please," Kirk said, and when Chakotay had the comm back on, "This is Kirk. Our objective is not destruction and slaughter. These are the enemy's weapons. We don't need them. We won't use them.
"Our objective is the disablement of the recent modification to each of the ships in the Alliance fleet. Science scanners are to pinpoint this modification on each enemy for targeting, and analyze for effective countermeasures."
"We don't all have analytical scanners!" someone on all-ships objected.
"Those of us who do," said Kirk, "will get the information out." Spock was already firing up Janeway's, probably in response to Supplanter's progress into the battle zone. Chakotay was ranging Alliance ships and taking shots at them now.
"What kind of modification is it?" came another voice.
"It will probably read like a plasma leak," said the deep voice that had transferred flag to Supplanter. "Defiant's engines are running under a similar modification to what we expect. Check our emissions for comparison."
"I have a target for Defiant," said Spock on the channel. "Broadcasting target specifications."
In moments the subspace waves burbled with target coordinates. The weapons flashes of the rebel ships began concentrating on specific areas of their Alliance enemies, trying to wear down the shielding in those spots.
"They like me," said Kirk. "They really like me."
Janeway nodded. "Those plasma emitters aren't stopped yet."
"Give me a minute," said Kirk. Janeway saw right through him and grinned anyway.
"I really think your friends have my superiors sufficiently distracted," Picard said to Ace with aplomb. "I have the security codes for the Master's files on the fleet. I think your rebel friends could use the data, and they'll get it more quickly if I have help."
Ace looked back at the argument and the fight. Picard had a point. Neither the Master nor the Intendent had any inclination or luxury to look their way. She lowered her pistol and nodded. Cripes, though, this Picard was giving her the creeps and she didn't know why. "How did you get the codes?"
"You might be surprised how alone people think themselves when only the servants are about. This way, miss," he said, waving her ahead. He ushered her to the Ops library computer console, and she helped him call up files and compress them, dictating directions to her in an urbane, polite tone.
Finally it was all done. Ace had been peeking back at the Time Lords and the Kiras intermittently, and Picard was right, they were occupying each other just fine. Hadn't noticed Ace was gone, or what she and Picard were doing. Picard saved it all onto a cartridge, walked the cartridge over to the comm station, where the Regent's demands for signal contact from the station had devolved into unimaginative curses. Picard slipped the cartridge into a transmission slot there, and sent, "King Level One. Copy data squirt, please."
"King Level One," murmured Sisko. That voice he recognized with no trouble, as did everyone else on the bridge of Defiant.
"It's coming from the station," said Odo.
Dax was playing the squirt. "Benjamin - this is all the specs of every ship in the fleet! Including defense shield frequencies!"
Someone on Supplanter must have been as fast or faster an analyst than Dax (Sisko's money would have been on Spock, though Sisko had no idea where the Doctor'd got to). "Kirk to all ships. The data squirt you received from King One contains the shield frequencies of our target vessels. Adjust your phasers and target the plasma emitters."
Smiley got a signal from Bashir and Dax. "Have you seen this data?" Dax asked.
"I haven't had a chance to catalog it yet," Smiley said drily.
"It's not just the complete specs of these ships," said Bashir. "It's everything on the shipyards at Forrester's World, too, where the work was done. Including the security codes!"
"The security codes? For the shipyards?" Smiley realized what Bashir was thinking. The plans for Defiant he'd downloaded while he was on Deep Space Nine ...
"Ace!" cheered Ace.
On the Ops viewscreen she and Picard watched the tide of the battle turn. One by one each of the Alliance ships took a direct hit on a portion of its engine nacelles directly through its shields as if they weren't there. The Regent had fallen silent on the subspace waves by now.
"There," said the Doctor to the Master. His tone had changed dramatically, or rather it wasn't as dramatic any more as it had been until now. Ace saw the Master realize that the Doctor had only been keeping him decoyed from the battle. "Your fleet is effectively defenseless, and its method of crossing over destroyed. You could try to convince the Alliance to make another attempt, but I think they'll be concentrating rather on domestic problems for the foreseeable future."
"You fool," hissed the Intendent to the Master. She and the major were staggering, almost holding each other up, but now she swung on the Master. "Now they'll take the station!"
"Eventually, I'm sure, but not today," said the Doctor.
"With these codes," Bashir said, "our two runabouts could take the yards. The whole sector fleet's here."
"You're daft," said Smiley, planning the attack in his head.
"We could keep it, too," said Dax. "We could build our own ships."
"You're as daft as he is," said Smiley, planning that in his head.
"We won," Janeway breathed.
"Let's take the station," said Chakotay.
"No," said Kirk. "We're not going to take the station."
"Why not?" Janeway bristled.
"We've defeated the enemy's primary purpose," said Kirk, aware he was still on all-ships, "and we've rendered them defenseless. We've achieved our objective.
"But we're still outgunned. The only reason they're not firing on us now is they don't want to make us mad. If we turned on the station now, we'd make them mad and they'd turn on us. That's more than we can chew.
"But we still beat them, today. We kept them from spreading their violence and oppression any further, today. Tomorrow we'll build on that.
"You are ordered to retreat to safety, and go about your business - fighting the Alliance. And know that every one of you is a hero."
"You heard the man," Dax said to Smiley.
"Last one there isn't a hero after all," said Smiley.
If anyone noticed that two of the runabouts from the Badlands group left the scene of the battle in unseemly haste, no one ever said anything.
"You have no power here," the Doctor said to the Master. "Be off, before somebody drops a house on you."
The Master stalked for the turbolift. "Jean-Luc! Attend me!"
"Thank you, sir, no," said Picard, ramrod straight, with the same little smile. "I believe the Regent would feel it's time I returned to his service."
Ace finally realized what was different about this Picard. They both presented the world with a wall of self-possession, but "her" Picard was always expressing his feelings, and this one fortified his behind the wall.
The Master growled in petty frustration and charged off to wherever he'd parked his TARDIS.
"Stupid ... arrogant ... son of a ..." The Indendent muttered epithets after the Master until she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned to look. Ace would have bet that she never saw or felt the roundhouse from the major that finally decked her for good.
The Doctor tsked. "Major, Major. Violence is never the way. Did you enjoy that?"
Major Kira was panting, leant over with her hands on her knees where she stood. She shook her head.
"Then why do it?"
"Because," Kira gulped, "because she didn't enjoy it either. Doctor, I want to go home."
The Doctor nodded, then turned to Picard. "May we offer a lift?"
"Thank you, no. This position is extremely useful, and I've managed not to lose my cover yet. I shall be on the station when the Intendent recovers consciousness, and when the Regent arrives."
The Doctor tipped his hat, and led Ace and Kira into the TARDIS. Once inside he said to Kira, "One stop first, before I take you back to Defiant." Kira nodded and dropped exhausted into a chair.
The Doctor set coordinates and put the TARDIS in motion. The flight lasted hardly any time at all, and when the Doctor opened the doors and disembarked Ace followed.
The TARDIS had landed on Janeway's runabout. It appeared to fill the tranporter compartment. Janeway, Chakotay, Kirk and Spock regarded it with varying degrees of amusement, astonishment and annoyance.
The Doctor indicated the TARDIS to Kirk and said, "Home, James?"
"The TARDIS? Your home, Doctor," Kirk said.
"I can take you any place, any time."
"It's not a moral inversion any more, is it?"
"'Any more'?" The Doctor's eyebrows converged for a moment; then flew apart. "No, I don't suppose it is." He tipped his hat at Kirk in salute. It wasn't just anyone who could surprise the Doctor.
Kirk looked at Janeway, and at Chakotay. They weren't people accustomed to asking for things, Ace knew, but she saw hope on their faces. Then Kirk looked at Spock, the mirror-Spock, another Spock whose life he had changed forever - and this one's during the space of mere hours, a hundred years before.
"In every revolution, there is one man with a vision," said Spock. "I tried to be that man. I failed."
Kirk regarded Spock for a long moment, then turned back to the Doctor. "No thanks, Doctor. Maybe I'll catch the next one."
"I would have liked to meet Kirk properly," said Sisko, as Defiant sailed out of the wormhole toward Deep Space Nine.
"Now, Captain, would you?" said the Doctor. "This wasn't the young, vigorous Kirk you see or imagine when you're reviewing log entries on the incident at Halka or the discovery of the Botany Bay. This was the James T. Kirk of his post-retirement days, an old man with his glory past and knowing it. All his stories have already been told."
"Maybe there's something to what you say," Sisko said, deadpan.
"The Kirk you want to meet is the young, vigorous Kirk. And of course that's impossible."
"Don't you sometimes say," said Dax, "that with time travel, nothing is impossible?"
"Do I say that? Come along, Ace." The Doctor tipped his hat, and he and the girl left to make their way belowdecks back to the TARDIS.
"He has a point," Sisko admitted. "No one likes to think their heroes' days are over."
"Unless I miss my guess," said Dax, "he was saying you should hold out for your first choice."
"What was all that at the end, with Kirk?" Ace asked.
"Do you recall when all this started," said the Doctor, leaning on the console thoughtfully as the TARDIS took off, "Sisko quoting Kirk's log of the first crossover, and I dismissing Kirk's comment?"
"Force of habit. Starship captain," Ace grinned.
The Doctor shot her a token glare before continuing. "There are two types of parallel universe: the warped reflection and the alternate history. When Kirk first encountered the 'mirror' universe and called it a 'moral inversion', he was inferring that it is a reflection."
"Well it is, innit?" said Ace. "'Sgot one of everyone this one has."
"It did then," corrected the Doctor. "Another Kirk, another Spock; another whole Federation, though its name and flavor were greatly warped. But while the Federation flourished, the Empire fell. Commander Sisko commands DS9, Captain Sisko was a slave then a rebel to Intendent Kira. Their Spock and ours still live; their Sisko, Odo and Quark are dead while their Jennifer Sisko lives. There may be no Jake Sisko there at all. Most telling: the reflections there of heroes here are more and more often heroes rather than villains."
"So it's an alternate history after all?"
"So I thought," said the Doctor. "But Kirk saw it for what it truly is before I did."
"In the roundabout, when he surprised you."
The Doctor nodded. "The mirror universe was a mirror universe - when it was a closed system."
He waited till Ace saw it. "The first crossover!"
"What's the danger of traveling in time, even sideways?"
"Kirk changed their history!"
"The ion storm did. The mirror universe was a reflection of us, and we them, but now it's an alternate history - not of us, but of itself. That first crossover - and not necessarily anything our people did during it - introduced an instability. That's why the Empire fell so soon before its Spock predicted to our Kirk that it would.
"Of course, our universe is an alternate history now too. But it was too stable to be affected by the deviation as much as theirs was."
"Doesn't make their lookout sound too good," Ace said dubiously. "Do you think they'll be all right?"
The Doctor smiled and turned his attention to his instruments. "I shouldn't worry any more about that universe now, Ace. It has James T. Kirk looking after it."
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