Empire gets closer
Alathea confidently walked through Voyager’s hallways in her Bene Gesserit robes, reminding everyone of her powerful background. She hadn’t worn these robes since that visit to the repressed planet, but now she felt the need to let the Voyager crew, especially the captain, know she was a fully trained Bene Gesserit Sister.
Being restricted to her quarters for a month felt unfair, all because she pointed out Chakotay’s mistake. Alathea still believed they were saved by luck. Did the captain even reflect on what happened? Did she understand the importance of learning from such experiences in life?
A child’s scream interrupted her thoughts, and Alathea turned to see Seven surrounded by frightened children.
“No!” the oldest boy insisted. “You have to drop the shields immediately.”
“She will kill us!” the terrified girl screamed.
All the kids huddled behind Seven, and Alathea noticed their Borg implants.
“Are those kids Borg?”
“Not anymore. We rescued them,” Seven replied.
“Less than a week ago.”
Alathea nodded. “That explains it. They didn’t know I was on board.”
“Kill her, Seven!” the oldest boy yelled.
Alathea’s eyes focused on him. The kids knew exactly what she was. This meant the Empire had finally engaged the Borg.
“I certainly will not!” Seven declared. “Alathea is a member of our crew.”
“Are you with the Empire?” the boy’s voice choked as he stared at Seven.
“No, they are not,” Alathea answered. “Even I left the Empire before it attacked the Borg.”
Seven’s eyes met Alathea’s. “That attack you were talking about?”
“It happened. It occurred between you joining the Voyager and the rescue of these kids.”
The kids still tried to hide from Alathea, even though she stood as far from them as she could. Captain glanced from her to Seven and the terrified kids behind her. The oldest boy took a step forward.
“Captain,” he waved towards Alathea, “this woman and her friends are extremely dangerous. She cannot be assimilated, and the space around us is full now of the cloaked ships that can blow us in a second unless we put our shields down.”
Captain lifted her eyebrow. “You never told me about the Empire having the ability to cloak.”
Alathea shrugged. “It’s not the same as the cloaks you guys have. The Empire uses a no-field. My ship has it. The Borg could never penetrate it, even after they captured a few of our ships.”
“We captured no Empire ships.”
Alathea shrugged. “Okay, well, I’m actually from the future. In my time, the war with the Borg was long over.”
The kids finally calmed down, glancing from her to Seven. “I took data from the Borg cube, but I didn’t find any significant mention of the attack.”
Alathea shrugged again. “Then maybe it’s only the beginning of the war.”
“Yes, it is beginning,” the oldest boy said. “We got a warning about your people and what to do, but there was no information about serious losses.”
Alathea nodded. “Most likely the first exploratory action. Will you mind if we go to your place and examine the database? If I give you coordinates, you might find some more information about the event.”
Alathea stood in front of Captain’s desk, her hands clasped behind her back. Seven, next to her, had a similar pose, while Icheb moved from one leg to another, his eyes perpetually in motion between the humans in the room.
“I see, so you’re sure those ships are from the Empire?” Captain asked.
Alathea nodded. “Yes. They all belong to the House of Volkov. That house rose to prominence during those attacks and ended up starting a new dynasty.”
“You even know which house?”
“Well, it is easy to see. All imperial ships have this crest on them,” Alathea leaned forward, trying to see the pad in Captain’s hands. “If you zoom in on one, you will see a circle made of stylized wood with a wolf's head inside.”
“Yes, I see it.”
“Well, that’s the crest of the House of Volkov. And my history lessons say that the house leader led the whole shebang called Beli, an albino with highly trained soldiers who came from nowhere, scored wins, and his son ended up being the first emperor after Leto II.”
“There is so much there I do not know what you’re talking about, and it is not relevant. What I wish to know is if this Beli has Holtzman drives. A working Holtzman drive.”
“Yes. If you scroll back to the beginning of the conflict, you notice Borg detected some weird, very short-lived energy pulse. And then 15 minutes later, the attack started.”
Captain busied herself with the pad. “Interesting. It seemed like some short-lived spatial distortion.”
“Yes. Later in battles, imperial forces will make sure that the Borg do not see such readings. And that first notification of the Imperial forces arriving is the attack itself. Borg learned to drop the shields the moment they detected such spatial distortion, meaning they were difficult to dispatch.”
“Yes, about that. Icheb said that if the Borg ship has shields up, Imperial forces can just make the ship explode.”
“It is imperial ray weapons. When a ray meets a shield, both the ray gun and shield field explode in something very like a nuclear explosion.”
“Do you have such ray guns?”
“Yes. I do. A small version.”
“I’ll tell B’lana to look that over.” The captain put down the tablet and clasped her hands above it. “This also gives us another option. I’ve studied your reports on the Holtzman drive. It would be a piece of cake to jump into the Alpha quadrant. All we might need is a big enough ship to park Voyager inside it.”
“The Empire has those,” Icheb said. “If you scroll the data a bit, you will see a gigantic ship where all others were returning to. And then that ship disappeared.” He pointed at Alathea. “She called it Highliner.”
Captain stared at Alathea, smiling. “So Empire could give us a ride. Maybe we should contact them and ask for one.”
Alathea’s insides clenched as she fought not to show anything. The idea of going back to the Empire, of contacting the Empire, was repulsive. She swallowed, pondering her reaction. Is this what Bene Gesserit Sisters called an intrusive ancestral memory? Or just her dread? Regardless, something in her didn’t wish to return to the Empire. She blinked, trying to plan a reply to the captain.
“I have to warn you, Captain, the Empire is not like you. The Empire will not help you out of the goodness of their heart. They will demand a price. And that price might be too much.”
“Well, we don’t know until we try.”
“Another thing. Do not share your Starfleet principles with them. If you do, they will consider you pure idiots.”
“Interesting. But you are not like that.”
“I was. I changed. I learned to love you guys.”
“OK, so what do we need to contact them? We have coordinates.”
Alathea shrugged, relaxing. “We had coordinates all the time. The problem is in means of communication. Imperial forces communicate only with radio waves.”
“That’s right. There was increased radioactivity during each of the attacks,” Icheb said.
“No subspace communications?”
“Empire doesn’t even know what subspace is.”
“Ah, that’s the problem. The coordinates are almost 20 light-years away from our current position.”
“The only thing I can think of is maybe trying to see if we can use some kind of black hole to send a signal.” Alathea pulled the idea out of her, mostly attempting to dissuade the captain from proceeding.
Seven nodded. “Or we can use the Borg.”
“I’ll find a way.”
“Captain, if you are adamant about contacting the Empire, then you have to think about the price you’re willing to pay.”
“Yes. Two of us should talk about it. You must have some idea of what they would want.”
Alathea stared at the captain. Yes, she knew what Beli might want. He wanted to become emperor. It was just his bad luck that after he earned the reputation as a warrior and cleaned the empire from the Borg and damned Machines, other houses started squabbling with him. All those little fights took too long, and he was too old.
The man was a brute and bloodthirsty monster, but he had a Bene Gesserit wife. And she might be Voyager’s only chance. That was the only reason Bene Gesserit supported him and his son. The problem was what the captain could give to such a man. Alathea could not think of anything. Perhaps she should invoke that standard Bene Gesserit request for help. All Bene Gesserit sisters helped each other, especially if help didn’t interfere with the task at hand. And Voyager shouldn’t interfere. Beli’s wife would see her as another Bene Gesserit sister, not Ghola.
“I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.”