The palace halls were as empty, dank, and colorless as Janeway remembered upon first entering the palace. Dull fluorescents threw down scant light on their bare surroundings.
"This place sure could use some color," she muttered as she walked.
Walking in step behind her, Cole replied, "Color is irrelevant."
"Cole, Cole, Cole," she sighed. "How little you understand Species 5618! You say that you understand us, but my guess is that you've been Borg so long that you've forgotten what it means to be another but a hybrid of flesh and machine."
Expecting a mild protest, she instead heard the Borg stop.
She turned to him.
His face was expressionless. "I am not human. I am Borg."
"Curious," she replied. "Not ‘we’ are Borg?"
"The One severed our link to the Collective."
She rested her sole hand on her hip. "Doesn't that anger you?"
Again, she watched as Cole's sole human eye pivoted.
'He's trying to reason,' she thought, 'but he can't find the method from the madness.'
"Commence movement to your quarters," he finally ordered, "or I will take you there forcibly."
"Commander, I don't even know where my quarters are!" she admitted. "You brought me here, whisked me from the spaceport to meet his Highness, and, when I awoke, I had this prosthetic attached to me! If I have quarters, I haven't even seen them!"
"I will provide directions," he explained. "Commence movement at once."
Tilting her head, Janeway couldn’t help but smile at the drone. "You know, your link to the Collective may’ve been severed, but trust me when I say that you possess that the same bubbly Borg personality." She turned and started walking again. "You know what really gets me, Cole? It's you and your Borg Army. Why do you follow the One? I can understand those other species. By Borg standards, they're weak. They’re powerless against his will. There’s no doubt in my mind that not a single species here could mount a defense suitable to overthrow the Quorum, let alone the One. But, surely there are enough Borg sentries on this planet to rise up and overthrow a single shapeshifter."
"Ambassador, what knowledge do you have concerning shapeshifters?"
She sniffed back at him. "What makes you think I know anything? Or, if I did, why would I share it with you?"
"CCF Omega 3-5-1."
'Classified Command File Omega 351.'
Janeway stopped dead in her tracks.
Infuriated, she whirled on Cole.
"How dare you!"
"What knowledge do you have concerning shapeshifters?"
"You’ve tapped into the Voyager’s central computer processors," she challenged, controlling her anger. "Haven’t you?"
"I will not ask you again."
"And I will not answer you ever."
Cole tried to grab her, to take hold of her, but she countered with her Borg prosthetic. Suddenly, their mechanical limbs clashed! Sparks erupted into the air, showering the both of them in their luminous rainfall. Attacking, she pressed forward, pushing down with her prosthetic, but the commander held his ground. Somehow, in the struggle, she had activated the blades gracing the tip of her Borgified arm. She wasn't exactly sure how, but they were whirled and whining feverishly. Afraid she would inadvertently injure the Borg, she yanked the prosthetic away, and her blades died.
In response, Cole lowered his arm, greeting her with an expression of bemusement.
"How do you know about CCF Omega 351?" she demanded.
"It is an encrypted file indexed within the Voyager computer core," he replied.
"That much I know," she countered. "But, it's classified and encrypted. It’s for the captain's eyes only." Glowering at him, she challenged, "You've been onboard the Voyager, searching our files."
"I have not."
"Then who has?"
"A friend?" she asked, sounding incredulous. "Cole, you’re a Borg. You don’t have friends.
"What’s his name?"
As it had grown increasingly heavy, she lowered her prosthetic. "What does Jorta’Rel want with Voyager’s encrypted files?"
"CCF Omega 351 references shapeshifters."
"CCF Omega 351," she taunted. "Cole, you have a true shapeshifter within your grasp. Anything that might be contained within that file, I have no doubt that you already know."
"Our link, severed from the Collective, has posed tremendous difficulty in deciphering CCF Omega 351."
"Then leave it alone," she replied flatly.
"We need the information."
"For what purpose?"
By the expression on his face, she trusted he didn’t want to answer the question. "We need the information."
She smiled. "Poor little Borg. It's a shame to hear that you're experiencing difficulty with inferior Federation technology."
Coldly, Cole stated, "CCF Omega 351 will be decrypted."
"Then why are you asking me for its contents?"
Cole's glare hardened, turning fully emotionless again.
"You are to return to your quarters."
"Answer my question," she ordered, "or we go right back to the One with your request."
Suddenly, Cole glanced at the floor. Not facing her, he repeated, "You are to return to your quarters."
"Cole, I know what's in CCF Omega 351," she replied. "The question is ... why are you asking for my help?"
Mechanically, the sentry glanced up. "You are to return to your quarters at once. Failure to do so will result in the immediate cessation of your life signs."
Turning, she walked briskly ahead of him. "Don't try to fool me, Cole. You don't have the authority to play games with life and death around here."