Captain Janeway stepped into the holding cell where the female alien was being held, and the force field went up behind her, trapping her with the enemy. The sensation of hot needles drilling into her skull only spurred her determination as she focused her glare upon the captured intruder.
“Who are you and what the hell are you doing to my crew?” she spat.
The alien was calm as she sat stilly. “My team has been observing you and conducting tests.”
“Tests?” Janeway answered incredulously, stepping towards the alien, not even attempting to control the ire in her voice. Her crew was under attack. “I’d call them mutilations.”
“I can understand why you’re angry,” the alien replied, still as unperturbed as before, and it infuriated the captain. “I don’t like causing people to suffer, but sometimes it’s a necessary part of my work.”
Yeah, right. “What kind of work is that?” Janeway asked, folding her arms in an attempt to appear much calmer than she actually was, and not really expecting an honest reply.
“Medical research. We’re scientists, like you.”
Janeway snorted and clenched her fists. “You can’t possibly expect me to believe that. This isn’t research. There are no controlled studies; there are way too many variables to control. There aren’t enough people on this ship to do one randomly-selected controlled experiment, and you seem to be doing different things to different people. And even if the sample size were large enough, we’re all different species, and most importantly, different from you. You can’t draw any conclusions from what happens to us as a result of whatever you’re doing, and extend it to your own race.”
“You’re humanoids, like us. That’s close enough.” The alien eyed her with contempt.
Janeway shook her head furiously, noting the forceful pounding of her heart in her chest. “We’re part of a Federation consisting of thousands of different civilizations. Not one has advanced technology, medical or otherwise, without following logical procedures. Random selection. Variable control. External validity. You don’t seem to be doing any of that.”
“Perhaps you are not advanced enough to understand our methods,” the alien baited, curious to see how her subject would react.
Janeway peered at her with undisguised disdain, not even acknowledging the suggestion as a remote possibility. All her muscles seemed to tense as she barely restrained herself from pushing the offensive alien into the wall. She felt sweat begin to bead on her forehead and pool in her armpits. “Moreover, not only are you not going to get any useful data, but where are your ethical guidelines? We are sentient beings. You need consent for our participation in your experiments. I can’t imagine any civilized society requiring any less. In our culture, there are committees dedicated to ensuring all experiments on humanoids and other sentient beings are conducted ethically.” She hissed her final assessment through clenched teeth, “In my book, you don’t qualify as a scientist at all.”
“I assure you, Captain, that we are scientists, and we will even share our data with you when we are done, if you’d like. What we learn from you could potentially save lives and help to treat a variety of physical and psychological illnesses. We have performed this sort of research on other vessels, and I assure you we are acquiring a sample size large enough to make significant conclusions.”
At that moment, Janeway began to feel slightly lightheaded and grabbed the wall for support. Her stomach heaved, and the alien seemed to study her as she copiously vomited onto the cell floor. Callously, she spat out the remnants of her stomach contents and then wiped her mouth on her sleeve before looking back up.
The guard was moving towards the cell, no doubt because he’d seen what had happened and believed the captain to be in danger. She waved the guard away. She was determined not to let the alien think she’d gotten the best of her.
“What have you been doing to me?” she asked as she carefully removed her hand from the wall and discovered with relief that, while she was shaking slightly, she wasn’t likely to collapse entirely.
“We’ve been increasing your dopamine levels,” the woman explained proudly. “We’ve been quite impressed with your self-control. We are curious to see how much you can tolerate.”
Janeway sighed, realizing for the first time where all her unpleasant sensations were originating. “It seems that I’ve reached my limit, then. Or have I? Is it the dopamine that’s making me sick, or,” she hissed through her teeth, “just the fact that you repulse me?”
“Captain, if that is a joke…” the alien started.
Janeway moved towards her, invading her personal space and hoping that if she got close enough, the alien would smell the stink of her foul breath and be as unnerved by it as a human might be. “I’m deadly serious,” she continued. As expected, the alien flinched slightly as Janeway breathed down into her face.
“How are you supposed to figure out what the causality is here? You pumped me full of dopamine, and I…” She waved a hand towards the puddle on the floor. “But how do you know the manipulated hormone level is the cause? How are you going to control for all the other things that could have affected my digestion?”
The alien recovered slightly, and retorted, “And this is why it was a breach of protocol for you to find out about the experiments.”
Janeway shook her head. “I don’t think so. Even if I hadn’t found out, you still couldn’t be sure what was causing my psychological or physical reactions. You can’t be sure of anything with a sample size of one. And even if you have other members of my crew…or other humanoids on other ships, or whatever…receiving the same treatment as I am, their experiences are not comparable to mine. They are not captaining a starship stuck in the wrong part of the galaxy. And they aren’t me. There are just too many variables to control,” she repeated. “Your so-called work is preposterous.”
She paused for a moment, considering carefully what she was about to say next. “You’re no scientist,” she decided definitively. “But what are you?” Janeway began to gesticulate wildly and pace as she postulated. “Are you a…rogue wannabe, hoping that taking shortcuts and sidestepping proper procedures will lead you to some fantastic discovery that will make you famous?” She stopped in her tracks and turned to face the alien directly. “If so, I have news for you: that’s never worked in the histories of all the cultures I know of.”
She approached the pseudo-scientist yet again, almost kissing her as she peered into her eyes. “Or, is there something else at play?”
For once, the alien was silent, though she seemed more curious than anything else about Janeway’s hypotheses.
Something occurred to the captain, then, and she shivered at the thought…or was it the dopamine? “I believe you’re at war,” she asserted, “and you’re not trying to save lives, but to develop a weapon. Torture techniques, perhaps. You wouldn’t need a controlled study to find out that something is potentially damaging, and if it doesn’t work, you can always try something else.”
“You’re very perceptive, Captain,” the alien assessed. “Quite impressive.”
Janeway had never been more angry, and she fought the tears that were threatening as she considered what to do with this monster before her. “I may be anxious and ill…thanks to your ‘treatments,’ but I’m not stupid. I want you off my ship. But first, I need you to reverse the damage you’ve caused.”
“I’m afraid we can’t do that,” the alien responded, not sounding the least bit apologetic.
The captain’s eyes grew wide. “You don’t even know how, do you? Well, we’ll figure it out. My EMH has more medical knowledge than you will ever acquire with these ‘experiments’ of yours. Just…get off my ship.”
“Or what, Captain?” the woman asked, not seeming the least bit concerned. “You can’t stop us. If you don’t allow us to finish our experiments, we will simply terminate them…and all of their subjects, including you and the rest of your crew.”
Janeway smiled sickeningly at the admission. “Of course you will. You have no moral or ethical standards whatsoever. I don’t know what motivates you, but I promise you this. If you don’t leave immediately…all of you…I will ‘terminate the subjects’ myself, and you with them. I will consider myself to have done a service to this part of the galaxy, saving the lives of all of your future ‘experimental subjects.’”
She proceeded to order the self-destruct sequence.
“Now,” she tried again. “You have ten minutes to get off my ship, or die with us.”
At that, she disabled the force field and gestured an invitation to her ‘guest,’ who reluctantly walked away. The alien turned back only once, and Janeway gave her a meaningful glare. You don’t have time to argue with me. You’ll be dead before you can make your case.
As soon as she was alone, Janeway leaned heavily against the wall of the cell and sank to the floor, massaging her temples with her hands. The figurative headache may be on its way out, but the physical one is still here with a vengeance. I wonder how long it takes dopamine to wear off.
Again, the guard approached, this time asking if she was all right. She didn’t have the patience to be diplomatic, or even particularly captainlike. “I’m pretty well for someone who’s been artificially doped up on unsafe hormone levels,” she retorted, then softened slightly as she rose from the floor with moderate difficulty. “Thank you for your concern, but I’ll be fine. Are you okay? Are you experiencing any unusual symptoms?”
The guard shook his head, and Janeway was instantly relieved, but still cautious. “You should see the doctor at your earliest convenience anyway, just in case.” With that, she touched him lightly on the shoulder in an effort to reassure him. “We’ll come out of this,” she promised.
Then, she made her way out and headed towards the bridge amidst the glow of the Red Alert and the klaxons and countdown associated with the self destruct.
She was preparing to take her place in the captain’s chair for the last time when Seven commed to report that the aliens had left. “Computer, cancel Self Destruct, authorization Janeway Pi Alpha,” she ordered quickly, and heard a collective sigh of relief among the crew.
With the release of pressure, she was suddenly aware of how miserable she felt, and excused herself to the Ready Room.
It wasn’t long before she heard the chime. Attempting not to let her dopamine-fueled aggression and frustration get the better of her, she ordered, “Come.”
The former Borg drone entered, looking vaguely concerned about her captain, who was attempting not to slump too visibly in her office chair.
“What is it, Seven?” Janeway asked brusquely, realizing full well that she didn’t, at this particular moment, have the self-control to avoid snapping at her, should she employ her typical mannerisms.
“Your presence is requested in Sickbay,” Seven reported. “You are suffering from the effects of dopamine overdose, and need treatment. The Doctor…apologizes for not realizing the cause of your illness earlier.”
Janeway waved a hand in the air. “I’ll be fine. The rest of the crew should be treated first. My condition isn’t life-threatening, but many of the other members of the crew are not so lucky.”
“I will let him know,” Seven replied coolly.
“Wait,” Janeway continued. “Can you stay for a moment and talk?”
This surprised the younger woman, but she nodded her head. “Of course.” She stood at attention, prepared to listen to whatever the captain had to say.
“I always thought the Borg were the worst civilization…if I could even call them that…the scariest potential future for us. Losing our individuality. Assimilation without consent.”
She paused, and Seven wondered whether she was expected to say anything, but before she could decide, the captain continued. “But these…people,” she practically spat the word, “they’re hardly people at all. I’ve never seen anything so morally reprehensible. Even the Borg wouldn’t torture people and pass it off as experimentation with legitimate scientific benefit.”
Seven found her voice. “The Borg have no need for scientific research. We…they simply assimilate whatever information is available.”
Janeway sighed. “Of course. I guess I’m just so angry. I want to hunt them down and kill them all. Maybe that’s the dopamine talking, but I’m so…I hate them so much, Seven. More than I’ve ever hated anyone, including the Borg. Assimilation would be too good for them.”
Seven eyed the captain curiously. “I can…sympathize with your frustration at their inefficient methods of acquiring data,” she admitted, and Janeway cringed at the realization that this was the main message her crewmember had gotten out of her rant. Inefficient? How about barbaric and cruel?
“However,” Seven suggested, “I believe you will feel better after you consult the Doctor.”
The captain gave the former Borg an exhausted smile, knowing that now was not a time to be giving a lesson in humanity. “You’re probably right,” she admitted. “Thanks for listening. You can go.”
Seven nodded and left, leaving Janeway with her thoughts…and her headache.
Kathryn groaned quietly, from pain and a startling realization. I don’t want to feel better. I want vengeance.
She forcefully pushed the thought out of her mind, hung her head in her hands, and let her tears fall, hoping desperately that when the dopamine was flushed from her system, she would regain control over her disturbing thoughts. But somehow, she knew this was not going to be the last she’d taste of her own dark side…
Maybe we’re not so different from them, after all.