Janeway had been concerned about the effect of the alcohol and Theragen derivative cure for interspace on the crew of stressed Klingons. After all, the one thing worse than an angry Klingon was a drunken angry Klingon. And she was now on a ship full of them. What she didn't expect was for them to all turn into emotional ice blocks that would make a Vulcan turn green with envy. But Kapact was worse. He had drained the tankard quickly and angrily and had become something resembling some of the more ancient blocks of ice in Sol's Oort cloud. And the Vulcans wouldn't turn green with envy at his reaction, they'd run screaming from the room. But still, she hadn't worried until he told QasQa to blow up the 'etlh. "What?"
"Those are my orders, Commander," Kapact said calmly into the commlink. "I don't expect to have to repeat myself." Then he cut the channel.
On the 'etlh, QasQa went through the motions while the shock of stunning defeat made her numb. "K'dan, connect the large data storage to the computer access port."
"Yes, Commander. Ready for data transfer."
"Commence." Through the command channel in her commlink, QasQa could hear the sounds of her warriors dying as they threw themselves at the Tholians, who attacked like thoughtless, mad demons. Once in a while, she could hear a Tholian die. (The sound was picked up by audio pickups in the corridors and sent through the command frequency into the audio system in her helmet.) The sound of breaking glass and alien screaming was always followed by dead silence, as they all stopped. That was always followed by shouts of jubilant warriors as they blasted the immobilized Tholians with their disruptors. But soon the surviving Tholians came back to life, resuming their attacks and being reinforced with renewed numbers. Koral had said that they fight as one, then he'd died. It must have been important. It must mean something.
QasQa turned at K'dan's urgent tone. "Speak!"
"This database has been copied!" As she flew to the small monitor built into the storage device, K'dan highlighted a section of script that was repeated on every piece of code. "The system is set to record any copying activity. This entire database has been copied."
"Why would Tholians--?" She asked. Then something hit the hatch that had sealed them into Engineering Command. There were several hits, and they both heard a combination of Klingon shouts and Tholian screeches. Several explosions impacted with the hatch, and then there was silence.
"We are victorious", K'dan said quietly. Then began a sound like scraping of claws on duranium.
"No, we aren't." She looked at the hatch, that was now showing streaks of various sizes, all of the glowing red. "Our warriors are dead. The beasts will come through."
The data transfer chose that moment to finish with a loud 'ping', and she disconnected the unit. "Shut down both warp cores."
As K'dan's hands flew across the console, he turned to QasQa. "We were ordered to destroy the ship. You could be killed..."
"If I did I would be dead anyway. If the Tholians are going to have a copy of this ship, we'll need the original to fight them with."
"But Tholians have this ship," he said forlornly.
"No," she said. "They had it. It will be ours again." Then she typed a command into the Master Systems Control Panel. "Tholians need heat. There's only one way to rob them of that quickly." And before either one of them could say anything, she executed the command.
"She just blew every bulkhead on the ship," Janeway reported. "It's opening up the entire ship to vacuum."
They watched from the bridge of the Ab'Qaff as sparkling bits of hull flew away from the 'etlh, and the ship shuddered. "Very clever," Kapact remarked. "Klaang, lock tractors on it. Prepare to move out."
As the Ab'Qaff began to pull the 'etlh away from the shimmering cloud of hull and debris, both ships were suddenly plunged into a blackness completely devoid of stars. Then they seemed to materialize in a different region of space. An urgent beep signalled an incoming hail. "It's QasQa," Janeway announced.
"Stand by," Kapact said. "Explain, Professor."
"I am still analyzing," the Hawking hologram answered. "Preliminary readings show that the warp cores on the 'etlh were generating an interspatial field. When the cores were shut down, both ships were thrown clear of Tholian space."
"Continue analysis," Kapact said. "Admiral, put QasQa on screen please."
QasQa appeared on the screen, looking beaten and disheveled. As she saw Kapact, her eyes dropped instinctively. Then she looked him straight in the eye. "My Lord, the Tholians copied the etlh's database. They must be building their own."
"And that is why you disobeyed my orders?"
"Then you are forgiven. Transport over for a complete debriefing. Order your team to slave the controls to the Ab'Qaff and have your survivors beamed back." Kapact closed the channel and turned to Klaang. "Establish our position and plot a course for Qo'noS. If necessary, we'll wrap our warp bubble around the 'etlh to get it home." Finally he turned to Janeway. "I need to speak with you," he said with a dark tone. "You can contact Voyager from the situation room."
Hours later, after Janeway had returned to Voyager, Kapact sat in the darkness of his quarters. The only illumination was a candle that occasionally lit up his face like something carved into a mountain. "Personal log. Final analysis of the 'etlh and sensor logs at the accident site, as well as the recovery area in Tholian space confirm that the malfunction was no malfunction. The accident was no accident. Sabatuers found their way into one of our most protected shipyards and engineered this incident. Needless to say, it wasn't a Tholian. Either an agent or an ally of the Tholians deliberately dragged our most advanced warship into enemy space and invited us to come get it. Whether they specifically tried to get the Ab'Qaff to attempt the recovery is unclear and unimportant. Someone committed an act of war against the Empire, with the Tholians as their accessories. It will not go unanswered." His eyes narrowed at that thought, and he felt heat on his face that had nothing to do with the candle.
"While neither the Empire nor the Federation is aware of Admiral Janeway's assistance in this matter, it was instrumental to our survival and success. Her actions are an example of why we remain allies with the Federation despite their sometimes inexplicable actions."
"Seven hundred and forty-five warriors beamed over to the 'etlh. Seventy returned. We identified the remains of another three hundred. That means that three hundred and seventy-five of our warriors have been taken from us to fill Tholian prisons. Three hundred and seventy-five open wounds. Three hundred and seventy-five calls for war."