FEDERATION'S END II: THE WITCHING HOUR
by E. L. Zimmerman

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Watching the debate unfold on the visual comm screen before him, Neelix2 wasn't entirely certain that he understood all of the science associated to what B'Elanna was telling her Captain, but he did remember his firsthand dealings with the determined half-Klingon clearly.

'B'Elanna ... headstrong B'Elanna,' he thought peacefully, smiling to himself. 'Always so sure of herself. Always so headstrong. Always. Still, for a Klingon, she even has a lovely name, based on what I've read in Voyager archives. It's not like I've had the chance to meet many Klingons.' He studied her hardened expression, one of grim determination. 'You know, come to think of it, she rarely grins, the poor thing. But, when she does, one very lovely grin she has! Ah, I always enjoyed serving her when she visits the mess hall -'

Suddenly, Neelix2 stopped.

He reminded himself that those thoughts, those vivid recollections ... they weren't his.

He hadn't read up on the Klingons in the Voyager computer database.

He hadn't served anyone in the Voyager mess hall.

Lastly, most irritatingly, he hadn't even seen B'Elanna's smile.

The memories weren't his ...

... or were they?

'Were does the original end ... and the clone begin?' he wondered. 'Who's to say that a single part or fragment of the subject's neural patterns isn't an equal part or fragment of the identical?'

Again, he momentarily studied the face of B'Elanna Torres.

'No,' he convinced himself, saddened. 'These aren't my memories. None of them. Why, this damned ... business with these identicals ...'

In consternation, he sighed heavily.

'Is there anything I'll ever do that'll be uniquely of my own?'

"Captain," Neelix2 heard Chakotay interrupt, and he was pulled back to the here and now. "I believe it's a trap." Quickly, like any good crewmember, Neelix2 returned his full attention to the viewer.

"To what end, Commander?" Janeway asked.

"To lure us in," the first officer replied, simply, "for the kill."

Chakotay pressed his face closer to the screen. Neelix2 noticed that all eyes of his shipmates were intently focused on him.

"With the threat that the Pulse Cannon poses," Chakotay began, "they're not about to near Besaria any time soon. When they were here last, they sacrificed three Cubes. That means their armada is down to six ships, unless they've sent for reinforcements. I think we all know that wouldn't be like the Borg ... to call for help. And, I doubt they're about to risk losing any others in a second attack. So, in words my ancestors used, I suspect that they're 'playing possum.'"

"Possum?"

"Dead," Tom Paris interrupted. "Captain, Chakotay's right. The Borg are just sitting there! It's a trap to lure us in. It starts with their sending out an automated distress signal -"

Catching a glimpse of Voyager's second-in-command's hand slowly increasing his grip on the communications console, Neelix2 tried to appease the man.

"What I wouldn't give to be on the ship in that conference room right now, eh, Commander?"

Surprised, Chakotay turned to his colleague. "I'm sorry?"

"The ship," Neelix2 explained, nodding at the screen. "Shouldn't you ... really be on board right now?"

"Not until this Generatrix is under control," he replied.

Shuffling his feet mildly, innocently, Neelix2 added, "I'd be happy to ... accompany you."

Indifferently, Chakotay stared at the cloned Tallaxian.

"For safety reasons, Neelix, I don't think that would be a good idea," he finally broke the silence.

With those few simple words, the Commander turned his attention back to the monitor.

"I couldn't agree less," Harry Kim finally jumped into the argument. "That distress signal? It was transmitted across a common Starfleet frequency."

"What better bait?" Tom asked.

Harry shook his head. "When have we ever known the Borg to use such species-specific tactics in assimilation? Never, that I can recall."

"So, they've adapted!" Tom persisted. "Isn't that part of their programming?"

"I'm sorry, but I still disagree," Harry continued to hold his ground. "It's too specific. If the Borg wanted to give the appearance that was someone was onboard one of their ships AND un-assimilated AND in danger, then they'd transmit a standard distress call over a universal frequency modulator to lure in anyone who could be listening. Why us? Why a Starfleet frequency? What's to make them think that we haven't adapted to the technology that exists here on Besaria?" Again, Harry strongly shook his head. "No. The Borg aren't interested in baiting anyone into assimilation. They would do as they've always done. They'd barge in under command of the Collective, but they're not doing that."

"Ensign, what are you saying?" the Captain probed, curious.

"Captain," he stated firmly, "I'll concede that the distress signal is specifically directed at us, but I disagree with the assumption that the Borg are behind it. Whoever's broadcasting is hoping that we'll hear it. Us. Voyager. That's why it's being delivered over Starfleet bandwidth." Finally, his point made, Harry relaxed into his chair. "Whoever is sending it is hoping for a reply."

"Harry, what Tom is saying makes perfect tactical sense," B'Elanna countered. "The Borg have engaged Starfleet vessels on multiple occasions, not counting the number of times we've personally bumped heads with them. Of course, they'd want us to find that signal. If we respond, my guess is that those seemingly powerless Cubes won't appear so seemingly powerless once we're within weapons' range."

Frowning, Harry sighed. "I'm not convinced."

"All right, people," Janeway snapped to attention, shifting in her seat. "Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that the distress signal is real. I'll grant that as an acting hypothesis. Let's assume that it's been activated by someone held against their will." She held up her hands in frustration. "Harry, help me to understand your position. The Borg don't capture and hold prisoners. They assimilate entire species. Knowing that, my question to you is who'd be in any shape to broadcast a distress call?"

Harry glanced down at the table's surface. Apparently, he was lost in thought, contemplating what he had gotten himself into.

"You're not going to find any answers printed there, Harry," the Captain counseled. "I need to understand. You're obviously on to something. I need you to think your way clear so you can explain it to me."

He looked up.

"Captain," he began, "I haven't the faintest idea."

Over his communications link, Chakotay affirmed, "Then I repeat my original theory that it's nothing more than a trap."

"No!" Harry snapped.

Suddenly, everyone in the conference room stared at Ensign Harry Kim.

Agitated, he rose.

"Look," he tried, starting to pace the floor behind his chair, "I haven't all the answers, but I'm trying to figure it out!" Turning to the group, he began, "We engaged the Borg near Besaria, right? With the technology of the One, we destroyed three Cubes." Frustrated, he pointed out the nearest port at deep space. "If that were us out there instead of a Borg Armada, we'd defend ourselves ... right?"

"Possibly," Janeway conceded.

"Captain?" Harry asked.

"Unless we felt out of our league."

"Exactly!" Harry almost shouted with delight. "The Borg never feel out of their league! Quite frankly, they don't know when to quit!"

Slowly, she nodded, accepting his argument.

"Ensign, to defend oneself can be considered instinctive," Tuvok reasoned.

"Who knows?" Harry continued. "Maybe ... maybe ... we'd want seek retribution." Quickly, he held up his hands. "I'm not saying it's right. I'm just ... I'm just pointing out that it's one possibility about how we might feel if we had been the ones beaten back!"

Raising an eyebrow, the Vulcan agreed, "It is logical, but it is also emotional."

Again, Harry pointed at the viewport.

"The Borg don't react emotionally," he announced. "They aren't interested in feeling better about themselves after losing a battle. They're not emotionally compensating. Take, as an example, what we know of their conflict with Species 8472. Instead of withdrawing with their Collective tail between their legs, the Borg continue to fight for the goal of assimilation, not vengeance."

He paused, taking a deep breath, preparing to conclude his argument. "Therefore, to assume that the Borg are parked two systems away waiting to seek justice for the destruction of their Cubes ... that's plain illogical!" Harry turned toward the Vulcan chief of security. "You can back me up on this, Tuvok. Debate never was my strong suit at the Academy."

To Harry's surprise, Tuvok nodded.

"Mr. Kim's arguments bare a certain ... logic."

"If that armada is out there waiting for us," Harry pressed, "that would indicate a desire for retribution. The Borg aren't interested in vengeance. It isn't part of their fundamental programming!" He glanced around the conference room table. "Don't you see?"

The room fell eerily silent.

"If everyone would excuse themselves," Janeway cut the silence, "I'd like to have a few words with Mr. Kim.

"Alone," she added.

Next Chapter
Return to Fan Fiction Return to the Databank