Nasty suprise

Alathea eyed the imperial fighters in the Borg’s archives. They matched what she learned in history class long ago. She didn’t get why she bothered. Looking at pictures wouldn’t help her figure out what the Captain had for the Empire. The woman insisted on negotiating. The Holtzman drive’s allure was too much.

But the Captain lacked what the Empire and that monster Beli desired. Alathea could read between the lines in history books. They hailed Beli as a remarkable warrior and tactician, and she admitted the man had a knack for pioneering modern warfare. The battle accounts eerily resembled conflicts thousands of years in the future. A genius, no doubt, yet Beli’s personal history had too many gaps. Especially when compared to the meticulous details about Leto, Beli’s son. When official historians couldn’t gloss over history, they just omitted parts. That suggested the man was a monster.

They could tempt Beli with a ship fashioned from a distant future—Alathea’s ship, to be precise. She fixed her gaze on a lone fighter executing a suicidal charge toward the Borg cube. The Captain would label Beli’s soldiers as fanatics, and in truth, they were. Religion served as the driving force, instilling zeal in those pilots undertaking their final suicidal mission to obliterate the colossal Borg Cube. In reality, their sacrifice spared the lives of countless others who would perish in a conventional attack once the Borg learned to lower their shields.

She nodded in silent determination. She was prepared to relinquish that ship to aid the Captain and the Voyager crew. But would it damn well suffice?

“What are you doing here?” Icheb’s voice echoed in the cargo bay.

She turned to the Borg children, realizing she hadn’t noticed the door opening; she was slipping. “I’m reviewing the images the cubes gathered from the battles with the Empire.”

The kids gathered around her, peering at the display alongside her. “That was from the last battle,” Icheb remarked.

Alathea nodded. “Yes. And the ships that assaulted Borg on both planets carried the exact same crest.”

“Yeah, you told the captain that,” the girl chimed in.

Alathea observed the kids encircling her. After spending a considerable amount of time with the Voyager crew, she now saw troubled youngsters navigating their way through recovery. She nodded tenderly. “Yes, I did.”

“Does the similarity of those ships hold any significance?” Icheb inquired.

“It depends. I was hoping to uncover another faction, one not tied to Beli. Even with a sanitized history, he’s seen as a brute. Negotiating with him will pose a significant challenge.”

“Can’t you find what the Captain could offer him?”

“She can’t offer him anything. That man’s aim is the Imperial throne. He never attained it, but his son did. All the clashes and wars with the Borg were merely a means to amass influence and additional territories. They abandoned the planets he seized from the Borg because repairing the ecological damage was too costly.”

“But what made the Empire so successful?” Icheb inquired further.

“And why can’t Borg assimilate you?” the girl asked.

Alathea smiled at Icheb. “I’m not entirely sure how to answer your question,” she said, then turned to the girl. “But I can answer yours. The Bene Gesserit possesses certain abilities. We can control every single aspect of our body, including the blood. When the Borg injects nanobots into us, we can create a substance that renders them inoperative. It’s simple. I can do it. And most of the soldiers fighting the Borg have that substance in their blood as well. After the initial encounters with the Borg, it became standard for the Imperial army.”

Alathea blinked. That meant Beli’s soldiers lacked that substance. This was the era when the substance proved crucial. Perhaps that was another bargaining chip she could offer.

“But the Borg conquered two of the Empire’s colonies,” Icheb pointed out.

“Yes, because those colonies only housed ordinary imperial citizens—the ones from the lowest working class. The Empire doesn’t train them to do anything beyond what’s necessary for the planet’s economy.”

“So they’re the equivalent of peasants,” the Captain’s voice came from behind.

Alathea turned swiftly, realizing for the second time today that she hadn’t heard the door. She was truly losing her edge. Stepping away from the display, she faced the Captain. “Yes.”

“You mentioned the Empire would demand more than we’re willing to offer,” the Captain noted.

Alathea nodded, dispelling any notion of an idyllic Ireland keeping the captain at bay. “Yes, but if you can bear a slight distraction, what’s the status with Fair Haven?”

“Tom and Harry are working on it. Do you have any inkling of what Beli might demand from us?”

“Hmm, he aims for the Imperial throne. His strategy is to mold his force into something as formidable as the old Feydakins were in the times of Emperor Paul. The attacks on the Borg are just the beginning of his grand display. The issue lies in the spotty history of his life and his soldiers. It seems like he emerged out of nowhere, battled the Borg, emerged victorious, and then mysteriously gained a son. He attempted to declare himself Emperor, engaged in further conflicts with rivals, and then somehow vanished. His son assumed control, married the daughter of the most influential throne contender, and ascended to the throne. With so many gaps in Beli’s history, it strongly suggests he’s far worse than you can fathom. Otherwise, historians wouldn’t omit details.” Alathea shifted her weight from one leg to another. “I fear he might view you guys as the next target.”

“Or we could present him with a plethora of military tactics we’ve gathered from various species.”

Alathea shrugged. “I’ve sifted through those. Most of those tactics presuppose the possession of your technology. Consequently, they’re of little use to the Empire.”

“Nothing at all?”

“A few intriguing martial arts techniques that can be adapted for humans and my ship. I couldn’t come up with much else. Perhaps my fighting techniques, too, but that would entail me staying with them.”

The Captain smiled at her. “Alright, then we’ll set aside the fighting techniques. I’m sure you’ll come up with an alternative.”

Alathea nodded. “I’ll do my best. I’m working on gathering more information. From what I’ve gleaned from history, the man we’ll confront is likely a bloodthirsty monster. Despite 10,000 years of his house ruling, history portrays him as a brute and military genius. They’ve smoothed him over to be palatable to the masses.”

“Yes. It doesn’t sound promising, but if we find a way to contact the Empire, I believe it’s worth a try.”

Alathea swallowed. She didn’t share the Captain’s optimism. Beli was a wild card. Captain couldn’t even fathom how dire the situation might become. The only glimmer of hope Alathea could cling to was his wife, the enigmatic Bene Gesserit who perished during the Borg battles.

Alathea grinned. “His wife might be the key. He is married to a Bene Gesserit. The mother of the future emperor, Leto, is a Bene Gesserit.”

“What do you know about her?”

“Not much, but my ship might have some information. Seven created the spare part we I was missing, meaning there is power now. I’ll look into it.”

She dashed out of Seven’s cargo bay, heading for the one housing her ship without waiting for the captain’s dismissal. There was a slim chance that there might be some information, or at the very least, the woman’s name. Inside her ship, she grabbed the newly made spare part, which sat in the cockpit, and slotted it into the correct place. Power slowly surged, and one by one, the ship’s systems came online. Alathea tapped impatiently on the console, waiting for the booting process to complete. It seemed to take longer than she remembered. Maybe the part Seven made wasn’t up to par. She squinted toward the part’s location, now hidden behind the hatch.

Finally, the memory systems powered on, and she maneuvered the pointer to the beginning of the temporal marker. The years flashed, stopping two years before the birth of Leto. She stared at the records. Everything was there. Every battle Beli had, every detail of the tactics of the attacks—far more details than she would expect from a standard historical database.

“Is something wrong?” the Captain asked from behind her.

“There’s too much information.”

“What do you mean?”

She turned toward the captain. “In my database, there are detailed historical records of Beli’s emergence and the battles with the Borg. That’s too much—almost as if whoever prepared this ship for me knew I would end up in this period.” Alathea’s voice broke, and she finished the sentence with a croak.

The smirking face of the Mother Superior flashed in front of her eyes. She knew.

“This was planned. All of this was damn well planned,” Alathea croaked.


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