Title: After Life
Author: Captain Katie
Rating: R for F-bombs, nudity, homosexual conduct, pretty mild descriptions of mutilation and scary dreamscape sexcapades
Pairing: J/7, Very mild J/C
Spoilers: MAJOR SPOILERS for Peter David's "Before Dishonor", a response to it really though you should be aware that everything is up for grabs
Summary: A remarkable woman's life is remembered by those who knew her and thus loved her
Disclaimer: Paramount owns anything relating to Star Trek, and the writers, especially Peter David, and actors/actresses own some of the words
Feedback: Yes please!!! Katie_x@hotmail.com
"You can't move forward if you keep going back to them, Q." The imposing dark redheaded woman, a member of the immortal and nearly omnipotent Q Continuum, had a reprimanding tone to her voice that reminded the listener of an exasperated teacher with an unruly student. Which, Kathryn Janeway mused, she supposed she was.
"I told you not to call me that." Janeway's voice was just as exasperated as she placed her hands on her hips in a show of defiance. "That's not my name."
"Am I supposed to call you Kathryn? Or Kath? Or Goldenbird? Or Katie-bug? Or Katie? Or how about Janeway? Or Admiral? Is Captain more to your liking?" Q's femininely low voice was a drawl of derision before she tried to moderate her voice to a less contemptuous tone. "You aren't any of those people any longer. Kathryn Janeway is in the past. To those who knew her she is dead, gone, and buried and that is where she will remain. You, however, have evolved. Destiny and those who control it have seen it fit to charge you with the task of undoing what you have done and doing what you have yet to do. And as much as I know you don't believe in destiny, well... frankly it doesn't matter whether you believe in it or don't. Your destiny doesn't need your belief to make it real. To make it have consequence. To be inexorable."
"If that's true then I wish destiny would hurry up and tell me what it is I am meant to do." Kathryn Janeway had never believed in fate. She had always believed she steered her own course and now that she was this new entity the person once known as Kathryn Janeway still fully believed that. So, waiting around in a vast nothingness listening to lecture after lecture from Q was becoming tiresome, infinitely so.
"Certain events must transpire before your involvement will be required. Until then you have much to learn... and to unlearn." Q looked disapprovingly at the choice of physicality Q had chosen. It was Kathryn Janeway right down to the last freckle. How... uninspired. Though she had to admit she had kept the human female form she had adopted long ago when she had first encountered Captain Janeway onboard Voyager to provide this new being before her with familiarity, a comforting image. "The first thing you need to unlearn is thinking of yourself as Kathryn Janeway. You are Q. And you will be for eternity."
"Well..." The entity that still thought of herself as Kathryn Janeway looked around at the abysmal nothingness that surrounded her and then back to her guide to Q-ness. The Q who had sought mortality onboard Voyager, Quinn, was brought to her thoughts as she attempted to merely conceive of an acceptance of a life of immortality, especially with the maddening woman before. "Damn."
"You wouldn't like eternity in a comet, I assure you of that." There was no amount of irony in Q's voice as she looked quite seriously at Q.
"You know what else I don't like... having you in my head." Perhaps she was being ungracious since she had in fact been saved from certain death by Q. But she couldn't help it, she still thought of herself as Kathryn Janeway no matter what form she had been changed into. Her appearance just emphasized that point though she was a bit disturbed that she was garbed in her old red and black uniform and that she had even materialized her captain's pips. What that said about her subconscious she didn't exactly know nor was she in the mood to explore it. Her eyes narrowed as she looked upon the perpetually smug Q before her.
"Then stop me." Q tried not to sound as exasperated as she felt. She knew she probably failed and didn't really care all that much. Q was just as frustrating as the human woman she used to be. Perhaps more so because Q knew what the other Q could be capable of if she would just relieve herself of the constraints of human thought and considerations regarding reality and ability. "Don't try to stop me, just stop me."
"I-" Janeway's pursed lips and scrunched brow displayed her own uncertainty. "Am I doing it right now?"
Q sighed a long suffering breath. "No."
It was of course unbecoming a Starfleet Admiral to stomp around indignantly, but the being that had once been one saw nothing wrong in doing it now. She threw her hands up in the air in annoyance before she looked pointedly at her sole companion. "Well, how the hell am I supposed to stop you then?"
"Just... do it." Q began to wonder why she had been given the task of shepherding this new form of Q that had been given its existence by the Continuum. And then she thought of q and knew why. Kathryn Janeway had once given her life through a son and now she was compelled to return the favor.
"I never thought I'd say this but you're even more infuriating than Q." Janeway's voice lingered with annoyance on the single letter name. With her hands on her hips she glared with frustration at this Q.
"Yes, well, he's softened with age hasn't he?" Q couldn't help but feel a twinge of regret that Q and q weren't aware that under the direction of the Q court she had extracted the essence of Kathryn Janeway from her mutilated corporeal form. And that through the power of the court a new Q was born. A Q that was destined to resolve the disruption Kathryn Janeway's transformation into a new kind of Borg Queen, a new dawning for the Borg Collective itself, had created within the cosmic threads of destiny. A disruption that needed to be resolved or all could be lost.
The former Starfleet Captain thought back to the last time she had spoken to Q alone, almost three years ago onboard Voyager after the situation with q had been resolved. Q had still infuriated her with his games and trickery, but she had to admit she had felt something akin to friendship with him then and she had definitely felt affection for q. She had also seen in Q something unexpected, she had seen unselfishness and true love. This was a being who loved the life it had created and she hadn't been able to ignore the evidence of how much the once rebellious and perilous Q had changed.
"Yes. I suppose he has."
Feeling as though they were getting off-topic, Q raked over the other Q's form critically and with disapproval in her hazel glare. "Why do you maintain that form? Wear that... unsightly uniform? I would think seven of your years of nearly never taking it off would have made you tired of it."
"I-it's just what I feel most comfortable in." She wondered why that admission made her feel uneasy.
"I see." There was a knowing expression on Q's features before she transported herself and the other Q to another time and place.
The person who had once been Kathryn Janeway was startled when the nothingness that had surrounded her was replaced by the bridge of Voyager complete with members of her former crew, except they were all motionless in time. And she knew exactly the precise moment they were frozen in. She saw the woman she had been seated in the captain's chair about to command Tuvok to fire a volley of transphasic torpedoes in order to obliterate the Borg sphere Voyager was contained within on the threshold of making it back to Earth.
"Why have you brought me here, Q?" She didn't think this was merely a manifestation. No, she knew Q had actually transported the two of them to this particular time and place. She just didn't know why and felt even more discomfort at the fact that perhaps she didn't want to know.
"She is on the brink of completing her precious mission, of accomplishing what someone with such a miniscule existence could call a monumental achievement. You are stuck in this moment." Q moved away from her impromptu student in favor of the identical woman seated unmoving in the captain's chair. "Why? Why is Kathryn Janeway so unsettled at this exact moment? She is almost afraid, but not of the Borg. No, she was truly an arrogant little bipedal specimen. She knew she would triumph over the Borg as she had an improbable amount of times before. And yet she still feels fear. Tell me why."
Janeway's pointed gaze remained on Q, she didn't dare look at anyone else for fear of the pain it would cost her to do so. Her voice was a low growl of discontentment. "You have all the answers apparently. You tell me."
"Let's stop playing games. We both know what Kathryn Janeway was afraid of. Or should I say who she's afraid of." Q watched with an almost sympathetic expression to her features as the other Q looked hesitantly from her to the former Borg drone that manned Voyager's secondary tactical station behind the two command chairs. "No, not Seven... or her misguided association with Tattoo Boy."
Q had known quite well that Kathryn Janeway had been deeply in love with Seven of Nine and that the ex-Borg would have unequivocally returned such affection if it had ever been offered to her. It was so tragically human that she almost wanted to weep since this unrequited love story had quite the dramatic finish; one even she thought was a bit unjust. But the universe wasn't necessarily a just place so the demise of Kathryn Janeway due in part by Seven's actions still remained unchanged.
"Then WHO?" Janeway was getting loud and she knew it, but she was without care. Who would she be disturbing besides the infuriating Q before her?
"I hate having to spell everything out for you..." Q rolled her eyes as she tried to calm her voice as best she could though a hard unforgiving edge touched it due to her growing impatience. "...Captain, but it seems that Kathryn Janeway died long before she was transformed into the Borg Queen."
"That's absurd." Janeway was irritated but did feel comforted when Q returned their surroundings to nothingness rather than the ship she had so loved.
"Janeway was so worried about how everyone else would adjust after Voyager reached the Federation. The holographic doctor. The Maquis. Icheb. And of course, Seven of Nine." Q took on the bearing of a class lecturer as her pointed gaze rested on her lone student. "Janeway never thought, never considered that she would find it difficult to be back in the Alpha Quadrant, back on Earth. Or to rejoin the ranks of Starfleet. To reconnect with her family. To be Kathryn instead of Captain."
"The first year it was easier to hide her discomfort. There was the Borg virus and the hologram rebellion. She was even able to keep in touch with some of her former crewmembers and had them and her family mostly convinced, for awhile at least, that she had acclimated herself quite nicely to this new reality she found herself in. But the truth was she felt stifled by being an Admiral. She felt trapped on Earth and within the confines of the high brass station she was given it almost felt strangling. She thought her family had changed when in fact it was she who had changed in those seven years, and that made it nearly impossible for her to connect with her mother and sister. They became like strangers to her because that is exactly what she had become to them."
"And then there's Seven. Why did you touch her instead of Gretchen Janeway? Did you not think perhaps the mother of Kathryn Janeway would have also benefited by your misguided attempt to provide comfort?"
Janeway felt an overwhelming sense of regret that she hadn't tried to give comfort to her mother or her sister or the rest of the mourners, but all she had been able to see, to focus on, was Seven. She could see the pain that was held within Seven. It was like a brilliant fire that burned brightest in her chest before it radiated out like tendrils to the rest of her body. She had wanted to take that pain away and before she could stop herself she was with Seven, touching her with what constituted her mind as incorporeal is it was, and had felt an almost debilitating emptiness when she couldn't feel anything at all. She no longer truly existed on that plane nor was she capable of transubstantiating or involving herself with the mortal world beyond mere awareness. It was already becoming an unbearable existence. To be on the outside looking in.
"That's why you need to let go of the part of you that still believes you have a place with these... beings. You are now a god onto these mortal people. Never forget that." Despite having lived for billions of years Q was not a patient being, but she did attempt to keep her voice not unkind. Kathryn Janeway wasn't technically even buried yet so she knew it would take time for Q to accept her own departure from mortality. But destiny wouldn't wait forever and much needed to be done in order for Q to be prepared to meet her fate. "You can never go back to them. Even if the Continuum would allow it, which I assure you they will not, you have no place with them. And I think deep down you know... you never really did."
Janeway tried not to let the truth of Q's words and their effect show on her features or in her thoughts but she couldn't fool herself. She had never been content, fulfilled, or satisfied by anything in her life. She had always wanted more. She had always needed impossible challenges so that she could find impossible solutions... on her own, independent and self-realizing. She wondered, truly wondered for the first time that perhaps it had been fate that had stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. Perhaps she had always been a bit player in a cosmic drama, only now she was a much more important participant.
"Don't you see how restrictive your perception is made by this image of yourself, these confines of name and appearance? You are above all of those petty things. All you need to do is be above it. You are Q. You have a new existence to explore. A new way of experiencing the universe in a manner Kathryn Janeway couldn't have even hoped to begin to attempt to contemplate understanding. You were once a scientist, an explorer, you now have infinity to explore, countless planets to observe, trillions of species to encounter. You know it's ironic, Q would have given you all of this and now I'm the one to travel with you."
"There is no Kathryn Janeway, there is now only Q. Imagine, and now you have the ability to imagine the once unimaginable, what you are now able to do. All you have to do is let Kathryn Janeway go. Be Q."
The entity that had been known as Kathryn Janeway had always strived for greatness, to make a difference, to be important. She was beginning to realize that was what was being offered to her, an offer that went far beyond her wildest dreams. She was a Q. She attempted to wrap her mind around that fact. A Q, in control of time, matter, and space. Oh, the things she could do with that kind of power. She would have what she had always wanted in a twist of irony... complete and utter control. Over herself and her reality. For the first time since she had spoken with Seven of Nine in Admiral Janeway's office a lifetime ago, she smiled.
"Yes. Embrace it." Q grinned encouragingly, the perpetual smugness she usually wore was replaced by a true sense of delight in what the other Q was experiencing. A rebirth. "You're Q."
The visage of Kathryn Janeway began to fall away in brilliant pinpoints of light that penetrated through breakages in the human façade. Q began to feel ethereal and insubstantial and at the same time a surge of sensations filled her as she felt for the first time Everything. The vast Universe suddenly became understandable, knowable, and touchable. As if it had just become a wild animal that she had learned how to tame. She looked to her companion whose human appearance had also been replaced by brilliance and intangibility. The Q in their "true" form were a magnificent, awe-inspiring sight to behold, one which no mortal being could ever hope to look upon and survive to tell the tale.
Q led Q away from the nothingness to the Continuum. Destiny's wheel continued turning.
A metal encased hand brushed over the etched writing embedded in the white marble of the tall, gleaming pillar with an eternal flame placed on top. The hand continued to outline each letter as its owner read the words softly to herself.
"Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
"William Ernest Henley." Deanna Troi kept her voice light and conversational as she moved in her usual graceful manner to stand next to Seven of Nine before the memorial, monument really, for Admiral Janeway. "Invictus. It's a beautiful poem."
"Yes." Seven let her hand drop to her side but she kept her eyes on the words she had just recited aloud in lieu of the ones written above the carved poem that read "Kathryn Janeway May 20, 2335-November 27, 2380". When she had her composure maintained once again as a mask of impassivity fell over her features, Seven turned to face the dark haired woman next to her. "Commander Troi, I apologize for my tardiness."
"That's all right, Seven." Deanna Troi had never met the illustrious Seven of Nine before the memorial service three days ago, but she had heard much regarding the former Borg drone that had been liberated from the Collective by the then Captain Janeway and the crew of Voyager. What Troi had been told by the reputable sources of Tuvok and Captain Picard was that Seven was brilliant, tenacious, and, perhaps unassumingly, kind-hearted.
The first time Troi had seen Seven she had been nearly overwhelmed by the complex and varying emotions that had emanated strongly from the seemingly aloof and impassive woman whom Troi had also heard rather unkind remarks about from more refutable sources. She had heard murmurings that Seven was incapable of feeling, of emotions, that she was cold, abrasive, and still very much Borg. Troi knew nothing could be further from the truth. And she wouldn't even need to be an empath to know it. She could see it in the haunted look that cast darkness over Seven's features. Hear it in how Seven's voice would turn quiet and reverent at times and then completely filled with despair when discussing one single individual. Kathryn Janeway.
As she led Seven in silence across the grounds of the Presidio to her makeshift office within Starfleet Medical, Deanna thought about when her lifelong friend and confidant Beverly Crusher had taken her aside to speak with her in private regarding Seven of Nine after Admiral Janeway's memorial service.
"How long will the Titan be at McKinley Station for its refit?" Beverly's warm, but firm grasp on Deanna's forearm kept the two women quite close to one another so that their words would not be overheard by any member of the large concentration of people, mostly Starfleet personnel.
"It's been through a lot. Will wants the whole ship overhauled... probably about three weeks. Maybe more. He wants to provide shore leave for the crew." Deanna felt concern mingling with anxiousness from Beverly. "Why? What's wrong?"
"It's Seven." Beverly's green eyes almost compulsively moved to the woman she spoke of. The former Borg drone stood with members of Voyager's crew and though she maintained a calm and contained air, Beverly knew better. "I was hoping you could talk with her."
Deanna's gaze followed Beverly's. As she did she attempted to block the barrage of emotions emanating from the multitude of people surrounding her to focus solely on Seven. What Deanna found brought hot tears instantly to her dark brown eyes. "Of course."
"Thank you." Beverly produced a slim gray PADD from the inner pocket of her white dress uniform tunic. "This is the report. For your eyes only."
"Understood." Deanna took the proffered PADD and slipped it into her own inner pocket. "How's the Captain?"
"Oh... you know Jean Luc..."
In fact Deanna did and she could see his usual reticence in showing too much emotion clearly from his rigid posture as he talked with Admirals Paris and Patterson. "How are you doing, Beverly?"
"I wish the damned Borg would just be destroyed completely." Anger at what the people she loved and hadn't even known had experienced at the hands of the Borg made Beverly's voice low and gravely. "All they do is leave pain and devastation wherever they go. What kind of existence is that?"
"I'm not sure." Deanna knew a little of what had happened when the Borg cube had initially entered Sector 001 en route to Earth. She knew that Beverly had been face to face with the Borg Queen and had almost been killed, and all had been so close to being lost. "I don't know if we'll ever know their motives. I'm not sure if we could understand them even if we did."
Beverly noticed Jean Luc Picard standing alone in front of the tall pillar with a contrite expression. With a hug and a few kisses on one another's cheeks, Deanna was left alone. She moved to a secluded bench away from the bustle of people before she pulled the PADD from her coat.
Whatever Deanna had expected to find in the report Beverly had given her paled in comparison to the tragic tale that was contained within the seemingly dry account. She wondered if perhaps she would be required to take a leave of absence from the Titan if she truly wanted to take on Seven as a client.
With a shuddering sigh Deanna replaced the PADD and stood from the bench. With shaky hands she smoothed down her white dress coat before she located Seven in the crowd, which wasn't actually too difficult of a task. She wiped away any emotion from her expression as she moved steadily through the throngs of people towards where Seven stood with Tuvok and other members of Voyager's former and present crew.
Deanna softly expressed her condolences to the crew that had just lost their beloved leader before she asked Seven for a moment of her time.
"Commander Troi, you are a counselor are you not?" Seven kept her voice and her gaze steady. If she was uncomfortable about being led away from her former crewmates she didn't show it in the least as she stood rigidly with her chin up and her hands clasped behind her.
Surprised that Seven was taking the lead, Deanna's reply came out more uncertain than perhaps it should have. "I-I am."
"I believe I am in need of your services." Seven had been told by Gretchen Janeway that seeking professional help was something she should perhaps consider; that Gretchen was considering it for herself and would propose it to Phoebe as well.
Seven had been skeptical and uneasy, but Gretchen had affected her with words about healing, about "carrying on", about expressing her feelings to someone who held no judgment, only compassion and kindness. It had been Commander Tuvok, who had agreed with the logic of Gretchen Janeway's words, who had finally convinced Seven. Tuvok had also suggested just this individual to assist her. Deanna Troi.
Commander Troi was taken aback by Seven's admission and then she realized perhaps she shouldn't be. Seven was of course an individual, but perhaps she didn't have the preconceived notions some people had regarding psychiatric medicine. "When would be a good time for you, Seven?"
"At your earliest convenience, Commander." Though Seven's voice was on the surface flat, Deanna detected a faint feeling of impatience from the other woman.
"I'll need to set up an office. That could take a few days." Deanna's regretful voice trailed off at the end.
"Could my living quarters not be sufficient?"
"I'd like us to talk in a more neutral setting. Let me see if I can pull a few strings at Starfleet Medical." Deanna refrained from letting her hand fall reassuringly on Seven's shoulder. "There are a few people there who owe me a favor. I'll see what I can do and contact you tomorrow. How does that sound?"
So, now three days later, she was sitting in one of Doctor Pulaski's many adjunct's offices with Seven of Nine. This was only their second session and Deanna hoped Seven would be more forthcoming than she had during their first.
Deanna crossed her legs and rested her clasped hands loosely on top of her knee as she watched Seven lower herself rigidly into the dark brown leather bound chair.
"How many times have you visited Admiral Janeway's memorial?" Deanna purposefully allowed her voice to become light and as open as she could make it.
"Twelve times." Seven's answer was automatic before she considered it uncertainly which showed in her voice. "Is that excessive?"
"Do you feel that it is?"
Deanna smiled gently. "How do you feel when you visit the memorial, Seven?"
"It is difficult to put into words all that I feel." Seven thought about why she felt compelled to visit the construct that had been erected in Kathryn Janeway's honor. It was illogical for her to feel anything when in the presence of the object, but she did all the same. "I am not sure why, but I feel... comfort when I am there. It is strange that an inanimate object can create an emotional response."
"Are there other objects, places maybe, that make you feel similarly to when you are at the memorial?"
Deanna watched with questioning eyes as Seven removed a before unseen chain from around her neck. Attached to the chain was a single light blue isolinear chip.
Deanna picked up the makeshift necklace from the desk as gently as she could. Instinctively she knew that she should be extremely careful regarding the chip presented by Seven. "What is contained in this, Seven?"
"They are personal logs." Seven didn't avert her eyes, but a jaw muscle twitched that showed her unease.
"Whose logs are these, Seven?" Unusually Seven didn't answer her direct question so Deanna tried again though with an even lighter tone. "Are they Admiral Janeway's?"
"Yes. They are from her time onboard Voyager." Seven didn't add that she had not been able to retrieve personal logs from Admiral Janeway's database... yet. "They give me... comfort. But they also cause me pain. It is difficult to understand how something can provide both."
"Could you be more specific? Which words cause you pain, Seven?"
Seven considered how she would respond when viewing the logs, seeing Kathryn's image and hearing her voice. She felt an ache in her chest at just contemplating listening to Kathryn's words. "All of them."
"I'm wondering why you watch them then if they cause you so much pain." Deanna carefully handed the isolinear chip back to Seven who took it just as gently in her hands before she put the chain around her neck and hid the chip beneath her Starfleet uniform.
"I feel... connected to her when I watch them." Seven seemed to be grasping for an explanation as her brow creased in concentration. "I-I don't feel so alone."
"That's understandable." Deanna leaned forward in her chair, her voice and expression compassionate and open. "Seven... sometimes when we lose someone we love it's consoling to have something to remember the person by, to hold on to so that we don't feel like that person is truly gone."
"Gretchen said Kathryn will always be a part of me." Seven brought her metal mesh covered hand to her chest above where the isolinear chip rested against her skin. "That I hold Kathryn in my heart. I understand that to mean my love for her will never vanish even though she has ceased to be. If that is true then how do I 'carry on'?"
"I encourage you to give yourself time to come to terms with Admiral-with Kathryn's death." Deanna's kind smile didn't quite reach her dark brown eyes. "Though I would agree with Gretchen that Kathryn will always be with you."
"How do I move forward when my thoughts are preoccupied by her constantly? It is... difficult to function this way." Seven's voice trailed off uncertainly at the end.
"I know you're feeling... discouraged, but there isn't any set time that grieving ends. You'll always remember Kathryn, how important she was to you, but hopefully with time the sharp pain you are feeling now will lessen. That you'll find more comfort than pain in her words."
"What of the guilt?" Seven's voice lost its fragility as her eyes narrowed with her own self-loathing. "Will that lessen as well... over time?"
"It can. Especially if you can get to the root of why you feel guilty." Troi's voice never lost its professional objectivity, its lightness, its compassion. "Do you feel responsible for Kathryn's death?"
"I was the one who carried the Endgame Virus."
"Yes, but who allowed its deployment?" Troi knew what Seven was going through aside from losing someone she loved. She was experiencing survivor's guilt. "It wasn't you was it, Seven?"
"Then who was it? Who allowed the Virus to corrupt the Borg systems if it wasn't you?" Deanna's voice was kept gently probing. "What was it that she said to you before you were... before she pushed you out of the Hive Mind?"
"She said... 'thank you, Seven'." Seven could feel hot tears form, but she kept them at bay with clenched fists and a rigid posture.
"What do you think she meant by that?" Deanna watched as the forever composed woman before her was unable to stop a single tear from escaping and rolling down her flushed cheek.
Seven knew exactly what Kathryn Janeway had meant, she knew full well both the overt and underlining feelings the woman had experienced right before she had been destroyed. Seven inhaled a deep shuddering breath as she ordered her thoughts and modulated her voice to hide the pain those last thoughts from Kathryn Janeway still caused.
"She-did not want to exist as the Borg Queen but knew she could not return to humanity. She had been... traumatized by the experience. By what she had been forced to do by the being that possessed her, used her." Seven's burning anger punctuated each of her words as she thought of the grotesque monstrosity the Borg had created out of Kathryn Janeway after they had mutilated her body and disfigured her mind. "She wanted the Borg Queen to be stopped... by me. I held within my body the instrument that killed her... and she thanked me. She was grateful that it was me who would be the one to stop her. She was... beautiful and unafraid. And despite what the Borg had done to her... I loved her, unconditionally. I tried to stay with her, to die with her. I thought that would be somehow... right, but she would not allow it. She forced me from the Hive Mind. She forced me to survive. To live without her. To... 'carry on'."
"You sound angry, Seven." Deanna tried not to sound surprised and worried that she had failed. But the vehemence from the usually impassive woman took her off guard.
"She never told me." Seven's voice lightened perceptibly due to Deanna's observation. "She had loved me. Been... in love with me. For a long time. And she never told me."
"Do you feel anger because she never told you or because you never told her?" Deanna's voice was so nonjudgmental she almost sounded indifferent. Internally however she knew this was going to be Seven's break-though. Deanna knew from others that Seven was almost obsessed with efficiency, but this was almost impossibly fast progress. She wasn't going to stop it though.
"I do not know what you mean." That much was clear on Seven's bemused expression.
"Why do you think Kathryn never told you how she felt?" Deanna observed the perplexed look on Seven's face for a few more moments before she decided to add more than she usually would to lead Seven into a revelation. "Do you think she was... afraid?"
"Kathryn Janeway was not afraid of anything." The certainty in Seven's voice was so fervent it surprised even her. She looked self-conscious for a moment as she sat even more rigidly before she composed herself once again. "Why would she have been afraid to tell me?"
"I'm not sure, Seven." Deanna had to remind herself that Seven had spent the better part of eighteen years as a Borg drone and so her patience increased immensely. "Some people hide their feelings for fear of getting hurt, of being rejected, or they worry that they are placing themselves in a vulnerable position. You must have had a reason why you didn't tell her how you felt."
"On board Voyager I did not believe she would be willing to embark on a relationship with me." Seven looked contrite as she recalled who she had sought out as a poor substitute. "I also feared that she would not return my feelings. So instead I began to 'date' Chakotay shortly before Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Our liaison ended before the homecoming celebration. I had decided that I needed to experience living on Earth independently and that our association was not what I desired. At that point Captain Janeway became an Admiral. The Borg virus, Admiral Covington's treachery, the holographic rebellion, and insuring Icheb and my freedom occupied much of her time. After which she became increasingly distant. More... difficult to contact. In the last sixteen months we have only spoken on forty-seven separate occasions, thirty-nine of which were regarding strictly Starfleet related issues. On Voyager, we used to speak daily about a multitude of topics and played Velocity once a week. I... missed her constant presence."
"Do you believe she distanced herself purposefully?"
"I-I am not certain." Seven thought back to what the Borg Queen had said to her the first time she had seen what Janeway had been turned into while on the Pride, Grim Vargo's vessel.
"There is no reason for me to desire release. All is clear now. How... lonely I was. How very alone. Now you are alone. How do you tolerate it?"
Seven's chest was suddenly gripped with painful regret. She hadn't known that Kathryn Janeway felt lonely, that she was being harmed by her own enforced solitary, if Seven had known she would not have had allowed Kathryn's self-imposed seclusion.
Deanna used her training to preserve her professional demeanor, but she couldn't help but feel the other woman's grief. "Seven?"
"I left her." Seven's icy blue eyes were alight with new awareness. "She never told me because I abandoned her. I wanted to show her how far I had progressed as an individual. I wanted her to be proud of me. I thought embarking on a romantic relationship, seeking my independence would... impress her. I had assumed she distanced herself from me, but it was my doing. I left her alone."
"Seven, you are carrying around a great deal of guilt and regret. From what you have told me so far I don't believe Kathryn Janeway would... understand why you feel this way. She seemed a woman who chose her own path, controlled her own fate." Deanna leveled her brown gaze at Seven knowing the other woman wouldn't benefit by a soft touch. "I'm not suggesting that what you're feeling isn't allowed or what you truly feel... but I want you to try to let go of your shame and guilt because no one blames you, but you."
Deanna was startled when Seven swiftly and unexpectedly stood up from the plush leather chair. Seven's stance was rigid, but nonthreatening. "Our time has expired. I must return to Starfleet Academy."
With an understanding nod, Deanna also stood.
"I will... see you tomorrow, Commander Troi." Seven nodded once as a departing gesture before she left the office.
Seven's shoulders moved minutely, which along with bright wide eyes was the only outward indication of her discomfort. She unconsciously pressed her hand to her chest where the isolinear chip was hidden as she walked out of Starfleet Medical into the bright San Franciscan sunlight. It was at that moment as she walked past various Starfleet personnel and cadets alike towards the large metal structures, which made up the campus of Starfleet Academy that she finally had the realization that as unjust as it seemed... life went on.
A shuddering breath expelled powerfully from Seven as she passed the tall pillar. She couldn't help it, she stopped, turned back and then stood before the monument. She brushed the palm of her right hand across the etched lettering before she let her hand drop by her side. She contemplated the words Commander Troi had advised her with. They angered her, but she couldn't deny that there was a certain truth in them as well.
"No one blames you, but you."
Gretchen had said something similar as Deanna Troi and Seven tried to accept both women's pardoning words, but it was difficult since she still felt responsible. She just didn't know how to stop blaming herself. Perhaps she never would. And was it relevant if she did or didn't. Kathryn Janeway would still be gone and Seven of Nine would remain as she was now... alone.
The vessel traveling towards the Delta Quadrant used to be a Nebula-class Federation starship, but now looked more like a Borg probe since its entire outer hull was covered in the intricate network of circuitry and green lights that bespoke Borg technology. The occupants within also used to be part of the Federation, but like their ship they had been assimilated by the Borg, their organic bodies embedded with metal implants and nanoprobes infiltrated every part of their inner workings. They were Borg. And they had a mission.
The drone who had been Captain Howard Rappaport peered through the milky green fluid to the being inside the specially constructed maturation chamber that was laid horizontally on a strong titanium pedestal three feet off the floor. When he had been Rappaport he had thought the physical appearance of the being beneath the transparent aluminum had been attractive when she had been human, though imposing, but now he knew what he felt for her. Love. His hand rested on the transparent barrier as if he could touch the being laid beneath it as he and the rest of the small collective onboard the Borg vessel vowed that they would succeed in their mission. Despite their circumstances and limited power they would be successful. They would bring Her back.
Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Torres walked steadily across the bustling campus, which was made much easier since most people tended to make room for the compact though fiery woman. She adjusted the strap of her engineering kit as she cataloged all the things she still needed to do before she could return to her Starfleet issued apartment where her husband and baby girl were presently enjoying his shore leave. After all that had happened she was happy and relieved to see the both of them smiling again. She sighed as she forced herself to overcome the growing feelings of sorrow that threatened to break her stride, especially when she saw the tall gleaming pillar of marble and the eternal flame glowing at the top that was Kathryn Janeway's memorial.
Now B'Elanna regretted agreeing to give the Doctor's mobile emitter a check-up for she had successfully managed to avoid the monument to her former Captain for nearly two weeks. Kathryn Janeway's memorial service had taken place twelve days ago, and B'Elanna still thought the whole affair was against everything Janeway had been about. The woman did nothing for the pomp and circumstance. Janeway did what she did because she thought it was the right thing to do. All those Admirals, some B'Elanna was sure were just there for the PR and photographs, had made her stomachs turn with their faux sympathy and their overly planned speeches. She knew she hadn't been the only one bothered by the ceremony since her husband had been in an uncharacteristic rage when they had returned to their apartment. He hadn't yelled or thrown things around like she tended to do, but he had been quiet, his face flushed, and he hadn't been able to concentrate on anything before he had slept the next day away and begun coming out of his bad mood.
Before B'Elanna realized her actions, she was standing in front of the white marble structure with her fingers brushing over the engraved writing.
"Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
The pads of B'Elanna's fingers brushed over the word "captain" slowly as emotion filled her chest with a burning sensation caused by a mixture of anguish and affection. "Well, Captain, you got us home. We just didn't know what to do once we got here. We didn't know what to do... without you."
Startled, but regaining her steadiness quickly, B'Elanna turned slowly to meet Seven's questioning icy blue gaze with her own dark brown eyes. "Seven."
Seven of Nine could be said by many as not being B'Elanna Torres' best friend. They had butted heads on several occasions when they had both been onboard the then lost Voyager and had nearly come to blows a few of those times, though it most likely would have been B'Elanna who would have thrown the first punch. But as B'Elanna looked at the woman before her now she barely recognized the cold, brusque, arrogant woman with her tightly coiled hair and obnoxious biosuits that Seven had been on Voyager. Seven looked almost fragile, definitely vulnerable, and less coifed than B'Elanna had ever seen her. Seven's blonde hair was thickly curled and tied back pragmatically though crudely into a ponytail. The Starfleet uniform still clung to her curvaceous form but not as overtly as the biosuits she had last worn nearly three years ago. Aside from the implants above her left eye, next to her right ear, and on her left hand Seven looked... human. Seven onboard Voyager certainly never had that haunted look she had now.
The rather broken expression on Seven's features and the way a hand covered her chest as if in pain or protecting something fragile beneath shattered something within B'Elanna. She couldn't dislike Seven anymore as she once had. They had both lost someone important to them, B'Elanna had lost two, and in that pain they were the same. She refrained from touching the other woman but she did adjust her features to one of openness, of friendship.
"How are you doing, Seven?" It was a rather insipid question, but B'Elanna wasn't sure how to begin. The look Seven was giving her was starting to make her feel uneasy and self-conscious.
"I am functioning." Seven looked past B'Elanna to the multitude of notes, pictures, flowers, and other gifts that had accumulated around Kathryn's memorial and something hot burst in her chest.
"What the hell are you doing!" B'Elanna pushed the woman back and was grateful that the memorial had been placed in a rather secluded area a distance away from the busy campus. She hadn't been able to stop Seven's initial anger as flowers that obscured some of the white marble were thrown aside.
"These... people did not even know her. Their feelings are false." Seven shrugged off B'Elanna's hold, but did not continue her aggressive action.
"Yeah, that's true but that doesn't mean she didn't spark something within them. She was a great hero for the Federation. I'm sure she's an inspiration to a lot of people, Seven. And besides, she did save humanity after all. A few flowers are pretty small thanks when you think about it." B'Elanna's good-natured smile faded quickly since she could see Seven was rigidly maintaining her resentment.
"I wish to be alone." Seven's dismissal was clear as she stood in front of the monument and pressed her palms against the cool marble with its embedded lettering.
B'Elanna's dark eyes flashed with anger as her fist and jaw clenched tightly. She thought of where she was, what they were standing in front of and forcefully pushed away her aggression. As she started to move away she couldn't help but turn back to look hard at Seven who had her back to B'Elanna. "She wasn't just for you, Seven. You weren't the only one who lost her."
Seven didn't turn anything but her head, sunlight glinted off her metallic implants. Her voice was cold and low. "You know nothing of what I have lost."
"Maybe that's true." B'Elanna took a few steps closer, conscious that they weren't that far away from campus. "Seven, you should talk to someone. It could help."
"I am already... talking to someone. It is not helping." Seven's fingers brushed past the letters she had touched a multitude of times before and each time she did she felt a burning heat grip her chest with sorrow.
"What about me?" The suggestion was out of B'Elanna's mouth before she had time to really think about it. But she did want to help. And perhaps it would help her as well.
The shifting of Seven's eyes indicated that she was contemplating the question. When she turned back completely to the monument B'Elanna knew she had failed.
B'Elanna turned back to the monument to see Seven facing her fully. She watched a conflict take place across Seven's features before apparently the woman had formulated her words.
"B'Elanna. I... appreciate your offer." Seven's optical implant rose as she moved closer to the half-Klingon Commander. "You loved her?"
"Yes. I did." B'Elanna watched Seven nod minutely before she stopped to stand in front of her.
"She loved you in return." Seven's eyes lifted as she summoned up the multitude of entries Kathryn Janeway had logged while on Voyager that had been about B'Elanna Torres. Seven felt no jealousy for she knew that the love Kathryn had for B'Elanna had been different than what she had felt for her. "She had found a daughter in you and in her you found a mother. Did you know how proud she was of you, B'Elanna Torres? How much love she felt for you?"
B'Elanna ignored the tears that were falling from her wide brown eyes. Her voice was a hoarse whisper. "How do you know all this?"
Seven smiled a sad, small smile while she pulled the isolinear chip free of its confinement beneath the fabric of her Starfleet uniform. She kept the chain around her neck as she held up the lone blue piece of plastic and circuitry. "She told me."
"Seven... what is that?" B'Elanna had a pretty good idea of what was probably contained on that data chip and she didn't know whether to be excited at the wealth of information or to reprimand Seven on issues of decorum and privacy.
"They are her personal logs while on Voyager." Seven detected need in B'Elanna's dark eyes and despite her eidetic memory she was reluctant to do what she knew she should. With a soft sigh of resignation she carefully and slowly pulled the chain from her neck. "There are 2447 logs contained within and it will take you approximately ten days to watch them all."
"Seven... I-I can't watch these. I won't." B'Elanna held the chain away from her as she rejected Seven's offer. "They aren't for me."
Bemused, Seven took back the makeshift necklace. She held the chip in the palm of her hand as insecurity caused her voice to be sharp. "You believe it is wrong for me to have these."
B'Elanna shrugged noncommittally. "I'm not sure, Seven. I just know I can't. I'm... ill-equipped to see her. To hear her voice. At least for the time being. If they help you... cope... then no, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Do they? Help, I mean?"
"Yeah, I figured." The corners of B'Elanna's lips pulled up for only a second as she nodded in understanding.
"Doctor to Commander Torres."
B'Elanna had almost forgotten why she was even at the Presidio. She slapped her combadge with some force. "Torres here."
"I might have the patience of a hologram but I do have other things to do today, Commander."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes at the irritation heavy in the Doctor's voice. "I'll be right there. Torres out."
B'Elanna had been about to ask Seven if she wanted to see an old friend, but the other woman had already moved away from her to stand close to the memorial and B'Elanna knew she had already been forgotten. Unobserved she moved away but not before she swore to herself that she would attempt to talk to Seven again within the next few days. Who knows, it might do them all some good to not distance themselves from each other and the memory of the woman who had brought them all together.
The Delta Quadrant
"Report!" Neelix's voice boomed through the Alixian Command Deck positioned in the center of the Talaxian Asteroid Cooperative. He moved quickly to the display that showed the outlying sectors of their territory.
"Sir, the proximity alert in Sector Twelve," The young Talaxian at the command console tried not to let her fear show in her voice. But when the display cleared of the interference she couldn't help but feel a cold rush of terror that colored her voice. "It's Borg!"
"Red Alert!" Neelix powered up the shield grid as the others carried out defense protocols.
"Sir, they're... hailing us."
Neelix tried to prepare himself for the sound of the Borg as he made his command as fearlessly as he could manage. "On screen."
The man who appeared on the large display made Neelix let out a heavy breath of relief before he realized this individual wouldn't be here unless something dire was occurring.
The imposing Klingon nodded his acknowledgment of Neelix, but he didn't and wouldn't ever have time for pleasantries. "There is an assimilated Federation vessel cutting a path through the Delta Quadrant. We must speak with Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine immediately."
A dark cloud of sorrow passed over Neelix's countenance before he put on an air of professionalism in front of his crew. "I-It is unfortunate that I must inform you that Kathryn Janeway was killed defending Earth from the Borg eighteen days ago."
Korok nodded once in condolences. "A mighty warrior."
"Yes." Neelix fought back the tears that threatened to fall as he cleared his throat. "We have two hours until contact will be made with Starfleet Command. You are welcome to come aboard our asteroid to tell us what has occurred."
"Agreed." Korok pressed his hand against the Borg panel before he transported in a phasing of green lights from his sphere to the Alixian Command Deck.
Neelix gripped as strongly as he could the other man's right forearm as his own was clasped in a hand still covered in metal mesh similar to Seven's. Aside from his hand and the large ocular implant that covered where his right eye used to be Korok looked as most Klingon did. Powerful and imposing, but somehow regal as well. The black thick outfit he wore, Neelix supposed sadly, probably covered up more implants that hadn't been able to be removed.
"What's happened, General?" Neelix led Korok to a more private setting than the command deck as he forewent the pleasantries he figured the other man would have no interest in.
"Two days ago one of the Resistance scout ships detected a Federation signal in the Nihydran Empire. The signal came from a Nebula-class starship marked U.S.S. Einstein." Korok handed a Borg data node to Neelix. "The battle was recorded and transmitted to the rest of the Resistance before the scout ship was destroyed by the Einstein. It-engulfed the ship."
"What do you mean 'engulfed'?" Neelix went to the transmission unit to transfer the information contained within the node to his own Talaxian systems.
"You shall see soon enough." Korok's voice was ominous and rumbling.
Neelix watched with stunned silence as the small Borg probe seemed to be literally absorbed by the assimilated Starfleet vessel. He let out an exhalation when the former Federation ship suddenly increased in size and energy output. "My gods, what is this?"
"It is beyond assimilation. We have never seen anything like this before." Regret filled Korok's gruff voice as he turned off the visual feed. "We have sent a contingent of our vessels to intercept it, but we don't know what we are dealing with. We are hoping that Seven of Nine will provide us with strategic information."
"I-I'm sure if she knows anything... she'll want to help." Neelix was still in mourning from the loss of Kathryn Janeway and now he was shocked once again by what he had just seen. He had thought he had heard the last of the Borg after Voyager had dealt it a crippling blow by destroying a transwarp hub. He regretted that he was wrong. And then he had a sudden realization. Seven hadn't said anything about the Einstein and either she had deemed it unnecessary to mention or she didn't know.
"It is... unfortunate your captain is dead, perhaps she would have insight as to how to handle this new Borg threat as she has had in the past." Korok thought back to the diminutive Starfleet captain that had allowed herself and two of her crewmembers to be assimilated by the Borg in order to liberate those like him who had been able to maintain their individuality in the dream world of Unimatrix Zero. Captain Janeway had been successful and now hundreds of Borg vessels across the galaxy were under the control of the Resistance.
Neelix could only manage to nod his head in agreement. He still couldn't come to terms with the fact that Kathryn Janeway was dead. That the Borg, who she had triumphed over numerous times alone, on a small scout ship, and unaided by anyone, would be able to get to her within the supposed safety of Federation space. That the indomitable woman he had known and loved dearly was gone. He cleared his thoughts as he told himself that wallowing in his own grief wouldn't help Korok or the rest of the Delta Quadrant. He reminded himself of four simple words: What would Janeway do? "Let's get all the tactical information regarding the Einstein ready for transmission. Eleven minutes doesn't give us a whole lot of time."
Not for the first time, Neelix wished the Voyager crew were still with him. He could just imagine the whole senior staff together again working out this dire new problem. He smiled a little as he imagined himself there as well. If only that intrepid crew were in the Delta Quadrant now. "General? How quickly could one of your cubes get to Earth?"
A bemused look marred Korok's features before he nodded and laughed loudly in appreciation before he replied surely. "Within twenty-two hours."
Neelix smiled as he thought yes, this is what Janeway would do. Join the fight, damn the consequences.
"Extraction from maturation chamber 001 complete. Removal of irrelevant bio-matter in progress."
The baritone voice that emanated within the Borg vessel seemed almost excited.
Two watched while the sounds of a cutting laser resonated throughout the small chamber. He stood a distance from the slab that was now covered in blood and other bio-fluids. The laser had done its job and now a pair of drones, one who used to be Mark Wacker and the other who had been Andy Brevoort, cleared the metal platform of the excess biological matter before they departed from the chamber to dispose of it. Two smiled, the generation was nearing completion.
Two experienced what could almost be classified as sexual pleasure as he watched robotic arms assemble the familiar and desirable form of his Queen. The head and upper torso that remained flaccid on the table fitted with the necessary bionic components including the red lit spinal cord was all the organic components necessary to allow the Queen to function. The completely synthetic form was soon joined with the partially organic upper torso and head by the robotic arms. Metal clamps soon embedded themselves into pale flesh made sickly green by the lights of the chamber.
Two smiled as a pair of thickly silver glassed eyes opened.
The Borg Queen returned his with a raise to her own lips as she rolled her shoulders and became accustomed to her new body. It was built stronger than any of the previous queens. She gleamed silver like a tactical cube and green lights imbedded in black mesh flickered across her slim mechanized body. She moved with a deadly grace and she felt intoxicated by the strength, the renewal she felt. She had been resurrected, but this time she was better, stronger, and faster. And best of all that troublesome voice that had so recently been her downfall was no longer there. She was free. To feast.
"Sir?" Lyssa smiled as the transmission began to clear up and Neelix looked down at them from the large display. "We have contact."
"It's good to see you, Ambassador." Despite the smile of greeting and friendship Chakotay still held a heavy sadness in his chest that darkened his eyes.
Neelix had spoken his condolences days before, but he still allowed a sympathetic expression to grace his features before he turned to the matter at hand. "Captain, I'm sure you probably remember General Korok."
The Klingon moved within the imaging field, his voice boomed within the walls of the Astrometrics lab. "There is an urgent matter I must discuss with Seven of Nine and Starfleet. A vessel, designation U.S.S. Einstein, arrived in the Delta Quadrant two days ago. One of our scout ships intercepted it and it was... absorbed."
"The Einstein?" Chakotay felt the impact like a blow to his chest. "We thought that ship had been destroyed."
"I am sending you sensor data recorded during the battle." Korok nodded his order to someone off-screen before he turned his attention back to the shell-shocked captain. "We must coordinate our efforts to combat this new Borg threat. A Resistance cube can be in Sector 001 in less than twenty hours."
Cold dread landed in the pit of his stomach before it radiated out and clenched his chest. Chakotay brushed away his own feelings of fear to address the issue as he should as a captain. "General, I need to run this by Starfleet command. They don't take kindly to having Borg technology anywhere close to Federation space."
"Time is important, Captain. This new Borg vessel could undo everything the Resistance has accomplished. And if we fall then the quadrant will and it would not be long before they return to yours." Korok allowed his eyes to drift to the countdown clock. "You have six minutes to convince Starfleet command."
"Lyssa, contact Admiral Nechayev, priority one."
"Aye, Sir." Lyssa Campbell worked the panel efficiently despite the terror that was making her hands shake. "I-I have her. Patching her through."
The blonde haired woman with narrow Slavic features appeared in the central frame of the display while Neelix and Korok were in a much smaller box in the bottom right hand corner. Chakotay hated to admit it but Admiral Alynna Nechayev intimidated the hell out of him, not to mention his own residual animosity towards her from his time with the Maquis, though he kept any of these emotions hidden as he addressed her as respectfully as he could manage.
Nechayev's sharp blue eyes narrowed as she contemplated what the present captain of Voyager had just told her. The Einstein had survived and seemed capable of what the Borg cube had displayed. Absorption rather than assimilation, which was faster, cleaner, and more efficient. And that ship was now traveling rather aggressively through the Delta Quadrant where the majority of the Borg were located. If that ship gave that ability to the remaining Borg vessels it would be only a matter of time before the entire Delta Quadrant would fall under Borg rule and then they would come back to Federation space and finish what they had started when they had changed Kathryn Janeway into their Queen.
"Tell General Korok to proceed." Nechayev thought back to the old idiom: fight fire with fire. Who better to fight the Borg than former drones? As reluctant as she was to admit it, Kate had been right about Seven of Nine being an asset. Now General Korok and his comrades would assist the Federation in stopping the Borg threat. Once and for all. "I want the coordinates of the rendezvous site within the hour, Captain, I'd suggest a low-trafficked area. Tell Korok that the Enterprise will intercept the cube. Nechayev out."
"Bring Neelix back."
The frame that enclosed Neelix and Korok grew until it filled the middle of the screen once again. "Starfleet has agreed. We'll need to set up a place to intercept your cube. The Enterprise will rendezvous with you."
"Captain, if I may make a suggestion?" Neelix practically raised his hand as a clever smile graced his lips.
Chakotay smiled at where Neelix suggested. It seemed only fitting. "Good thinking, Ambassador."
"Captain? Thirty seconds."
"Korok, assemble as much information on the Einstein's movements as you can. Try to avoid contact until we can figure out a way to counteract their absorption technology." Chakotay was aware of Lyssa quietly counting down. "We'll be in touch tomorrow, Ambassador. Voyager out."
"Lieutenant Campbell, contact Deep Space Nine. I need to speak with Captain Kira as soon as possible." Chakotay felt a surge of purpose fill him with anticipation as a quieter, more insidious feeling erupted within him: vengeance.
Deep Space 9
"Captain, we are being hailed by Voyager."
"The Voyager?" Captain Kira allowed surprise to show for only a moment before she stood from her command chair to move next to Asil. "Put them through, Lieutenant."
"Aye, Sir." Asil tapped a few controls before she moved away from the screen to ensure the subspace communications antennae was working optimally. She disregarded her own curiosity as a man she had only met twice before appeared onscreen. The last time she had been in his presence was at Kathryn Janeway's memorial service.
"Captain Chakotay." If Kira thought it strange that a former Maquis leader and a former member of the Bajoran Resistance were both wearing Starfleet captain's pips she didn't indicate as such. "What can I do for you?"
"We have an impending situation that I need your help with, Captain." Chakotay took in the red-haired woman displayed on the large holographic screen. He almost smiled at how far Starfleet had progressed that two rebels like Kira and him could become captains. "The Borg cube that was destroyed eighteen days ago had an adjunct vessel, which we thought had also been destroyed. The U.S.S. Einstein is wreaking havoc in the Delta Quadrant. If that vessel makes contact with the rest of the Borg the Collective will gain unimaginable power."
Kira Nerys digested this information as she did everything else, quickly and without an overindulgent amount of emotional reaction. "Understood. How can we help?"
"There is a Resistance against the Borg. One of their leaders, General Korok, is en route to the Alpha Quadrant with a cube under his command. We need traffic to DS9 to be kept to a minimum." Chakotay already liked the woman before him, no-nonsense and determined. He ignored the sudden pain in his heart of how she reminded him of someone else. "The Enterprise will intercept their vessel at Sector 47 in twenty-one hours."
"The Badlands." Kira nodded her head in understanding. A Borg cube, despite who controlled it would cause massive panic throughout the Federation. "It'll take some time, but I'll make it work, Captain. Is there anything else we can do?"
"Yes. Keep a docking pylon open for us. Voyager will be there in ten hours."
"Seven of Nine..."
"Admiral?" Seven smiled as soft, gentle hands roamed over her naked body. Her excitement at the touch caused her voice to come out breathy and low. "Kathryn."
Seven's heavily-lidded eyes took in the woman above her. The shoulder length auburn hair was mussed and fell over Kathryn's bare shoulders. Dark blue eyes, filled with desire and want, burned into Seven with as much intensity as the other woman's hands were trailing heat across her flesh.
"I love you, Kathryn." Seven's breath caught in her throat as two fingers brushed over her over-heated and moist flesh. The overwhelming pleasure caused her eyes to close of their own accord as her long, pale body arched like a bow.
"You are mine, Seven."
When Seven opened her eyes again she screamed. It was not a scream of pleasure.
"Warning: regeneration cycle is incomplete."
Seven took great gasps of air as she pushed herself away from the alcove that flashed green lights across her small living quarters. On uncharacteristically unsteady legs she rushed to her bathroom with one hand over her mouth and the other pressed against her unsettled stomach. After the contents of her last meal were disposed of she used a cleansing unit to remove the foul taste such a violent excretion left her in her mouth. She felt a new wave of sickness rush over her, which caused sweat to breakout across her skin despite the cold feeling dispersing through her body, when she thought about what she had just experienced in her dream, her nightmare.
Seven entered her shower still feeling the vile sensation of metal fingers embedded within her. When she closed her eyes and let the hot, almost scalding water, flow over her convulsing body she sobbed in anger and disgust. She could still see the Borg Queen looming over her, smiling a mutilated version of Kathryn Janeway's bright grin, as the woman she had loved pressed hard metal against her soft flesh.
Time had stopped for Seven of Nine. The world had fallen away as she relived her violation in the solitude of her shower stall. She had long since stopped sobbing, but with her arms clutched around her knees she still rocked back and forth. It wasn't until the water stopped its unrelenting pounding against her flesh and strong hands pulled her to her feet that Seven realized she had lost herself. For how long, she didn't know.
"Seven? What happened?" After she called for the computer to turn the water off, B'Elanna Torres pulled a large towel around Seven's form as she gently, but determinedly moved the woman from the shower to the end of the bed in the adjacent room. "Seven? Can you hear me?"
Wide blue eyes shifted to B'Elanna's concerned expression. Seven looked at the features of the other woman silently for a moment before she spoke in a voice devoid of all emotion. "I had a bad dream."
If Seven wasn't scaring her so badly, B'Elanna would have laughed. But knowing Seven as she did she knew this "bad dream" was more than that. "Do you want to tell me about it? Sometimes that helps?"
As she watched B'Elanna settle gently on the mattress next to her, Seven pulled the towel closer around her form. She contemplated ordering B'Elanna to just leave her alone, but the truth was Seven didn't want to be left and the other woman's real presence was comforting.
"Kathryn was... making love to me."
A new understanding dawned on B'Elanna as she realized Seven's love for Janeway hadn't been like hers. Instead of a mother Kathryn Janeway had been an almost lover to Seven. B'Elanna almost yelled at the tragedy of it all, but instead she nodded her head, shaken as she was somehow she wasn't that surprised. She kept silent as Seven continued without the quiet reverence.
"When I opened my eyes again she was not Kathryn, she was the Borg Queen." Seven's grip around the terrycloth increased as she recalled the maniacal grin the Queen had possessed on the features that used to be filled with humanity and love. "I ended her violation of me when I disengaged from my alcove. I can still... feel her."
"My god, Seven, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." B'Elanna wasn't just sorry about Seven's horrific nightmare. She was apologizing for the bastard that was fate. And for Seven's own subconscious that would conjure such a horrific display. Not for the first time B'Elanna thanked whatever power existed that she had not seen Janeway so mutilated. The powers hadn't been as kind to Seven.
"I do not wish to dream again." The towel fell away as Seven stood from the bed. Indifferent to her nudity, Seven went to the outer room to her communications array. A red light indicating a priority one message deterred her from contacting the Doctor.
Her metallic optical implant rose as she saw who it was from. She opened the message to find the rather unfriendly face of Admiral Alynna Nechayev looking back at her. She barely acknowledged the robe that was placed around her standing form by B'Elanna before the half-Klingon sat at the desk behind her and the wall mounted computer interface.
Seven let out a breath to calm herself before she pressed the control to play the Admiral's recorded message.
Not one for pleasantries Nechayev explained in her commanding way what she wanted from Seven of Nine due to the new set of circumstances created by the existence of the Einstein. Under Nechayev's order Seven was assigned immediately to the Enterprise and was to be the Starfleet liaison to General Korok and the Resistance. In lieu of a visual message, Seven sent a written priority one message that simply read: "Accepted."
B'Elanna had watched with barely suppressed disquiet as Nechayev laid out the circumstances in which an alliance would be formed between the Federation and the Resistance movement, a group of freed former Borg drones that she, along with Tuvok, Captain Janeway, Seven and the rest of the Voyager crew who had been lost in the Delta Quadrant had helped set in motion. The fact of the matter was if the Einstein were to connect with the rest of the Borg Collective the entire galaxy would be in peril. Every defense the Federation had attempted had all been summarily dismissed by a single mutated cube. B'Elanna didn't want to imagine what would happen if thousands of cubes like that one converged on the Alpha Quadrant. Earth would fall in a matter of seconds.
"I must leave." Seven moved past B'Elanna into her bedroom to don a Starfleet uniform and pack a few items into a carrier bag.
B'Elanna, still seated at the desk, contemplated her life with her husband and daughter. It was a cozy existence, almost overly comfortable. She thought about the regret she had felt when she hadn't been fighting side-by-side with her former Captain. How she would always be haunted by the idea that perhaps she could have helped in some way. That Janeway could still be alive. She stood as Seven reentered the main room. B'Elanna's dark eyes held the conviction that also showed through her gruff tones. "I'm coming with you."
The Queen stood in her chambers fully restored to her rightful place. As Two approached her she brought her fingers away from her mouth and tongue.
Two almost appeared to want to kneel before his Queen, but he was Borg after all so he merely stood rigidly in front of her. "She is ready."
The right corner of the Queen's pale lips raised in a grotesque approximation of the smile the woman she had once been would often wear as evidence of satisfaction. "Then let us begin. From whence it came."
"Is it just me or does it seem crazy to anyone else that we're actually, voluntarily going back to the Delta Quadrant?" Tom Paris didn't add that he wasn't too keen on the idea of his wife being part of this mission as well, which was mostly why he was incredulous as to Voyager's place in this operation.
When B'Elanna had contacted him two hours ago to inform him that she was accompanying Seven to the Enterprise he had tried everything he could think of to stop her from going. She had scoffed when he had told her it was far too dangerous of a mission. She had been outraged when he had told her she lacked the expertise. He had even tried to use Miral, who was presently with his sister Moira, to guilt her into not going. That had been the last straw and she had ended the transmission with a few not so flattering things to say about his manhood.
"Voyager isn't necessarily going with the cube, but we have information that no other Federation vessel has." Captain Chakotay was seated at the head of the table and even after a year of being the commanding officer of Voyager he still felt at odds with the position. In his mind Voyager would always be Kathryn's ship. He allowed only the faintest amount of grief to affect him as he looked gravely at his senior staff. "I want each department to compile all the data we have on the Borg and the Delta Quadrant. Jarem, I need you to contact the Doctor. He knows more about nanoprobes and combating assimilation than anyone. Not to mention the neurolytic pathogen he devised that killed one of the Borg Queens. Harry, I need all the sensor data regarding the ablative hull armor and the transphasic torpedoes, not everything could have been destroyed by the Department of Temporal Investigations. Lyssa and Vorik, if the Federation is going to the Delta Quadrant they need to know as much about it as they can. Get to work on creating a territorial layout of the Quadrant including species that Voyager has encountered both hostile and friendly. We'll need allies if things turn bad. Tom, I need the Delta Flyers prepared for transport if need be and the interfaces to be more Starfleet ready. You know what I mean. We'll be docking at DS9 in six hours so use all your people on this. Dismissed."
After a smattering of "aye, captain's" Chakotay was left alone in the conference room. He tried not to think about how many times he had sat in this room as Kathryn Janeway's first officer. How he had spent years watching her command her crew with just the right mixture of authority, warmth, and humor. He tried not to envision her, to feel the pain of seeing her in his mind's eye affect him and he managed to succeed for about ten seconds after a few shuddering breaths.
Despite not wishing to feel the pain that thinking about Kathryn caused him, Chakotay couldn't help but wonder what she would think of his rather passive-aggressive inclusion into the fray. He doubted she would be very impressed. She probably would have told Nechayev that despite the fact that Voyager was and always has been a scout ship not made for heavy combat or deep space missions it was joining the Resistance cube, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. And what was he doing, compiling reports.
He rubbed away the moisture from his face before he exited the conference room to the captain's chair. He imagined her seated where he was and him in the empty first officer's chair to the left. Her voice filled with determination and just the faintest hint of trepidation sounded in his mind.
"Guess I'd better be going huh?"
He looked at her then and for the first time he saw her quaking under the weight of what she was about to do. He knew she was facing one of her greatest fears, but he also knew that wouldn't stop her in the least.
"Anything you'd like done around here while you're gone? Gravity plating recalibrated, carpets cleaned?" He tried not to show his own fear as he lifted his voice to a humorous tone. The thought of what could happen. How the mission to free the renegade Borg of Unimatrix Zero could go wrong. How he could lose the woman, who he had loved for so many years, to the Borg. What stopped him from voicing any last minute objections was the fact that she was doing what she knew was right. She was helping people in need.
He stood as he always did, with her. He was surprised when she held her hand out to him, but he didn't hesitate for a moment in grasping it with his own. He perhaps squeezed a little too forcefully, desperately, as he tried to commit this moment to memory for it quite possibly would be the last time he ever saw her.
"Surprise me. You have the Bridge."
With her voice still sounding in his head, Chakotay was startled back to the present by Ensign Lang's clear alto voice from the Ops station.
"Captain, Klingons off the port bow." Despite the alliance between the Klingons and the Federation there had been nervousness in Lang's voice. A Chancellor-class heavy cruiser would have that effect on the sturdiest of Starfleet officers. She almost sighed in relief when a light flashed on her control panel. "They're hailing."
"On screen." Chakotay stood from the command seat unconsciously echoing a move Captain Janeway had done a million times before. He walked to the helm where he instructed Ayala all stop.
Even as far as Klingons went, the captain who appeared onscreen was daunting in his size. Not for the first time Chakotay was glad to have the mighty race on the Federation's side.
"Voyager, I am Captain Klag of the I.K.S. Gorkon." The deep baritone voice resonated through the absolutely silent Bridge of the Federation Starship. "We have come to join you in battle."
"I see." Chakotay wasn't just startled by these sudden allies, but also the fact that the Klingon Defense Force had been made aware so quickly the Federation's plan to join with the Resistance against the Borg in the Delta Quadrant. And that the Klingon Empire extended such a consideration as to send such a mighty vessel. The answer to all of his questions came in the petite form of a Starfleet admiral.
"Captain Chakotay, the Klingon Council has deemed the Einstein a threat to the Empire. They've agree to send the Gorkon with the cube to the Delta Quadrant." Admiral Nechayev's voice was explanatory, but there was something that seemed hidden beneath her casual tones.
Perhaps, Chakotay considered, it was a bit of anxiety due to the mission or the fact that she had twenty large battle-ready Klingons in her midst. Somehow Chakotay thought it was the former since she didn't seem that put-off when Captain Klang absently brushed past her to the imager.
"Captain, no member of my crew has ever fought the Borg. Tactical data will need to be transmitted to ensure that my warriors are prepared for the threat these... machines pose." Gorkon's tone almost seemed hesitant. The usual bravado was gone.
The Empire had been left in ruins from the Dominion war. And due to the recent Tezwan conflict the Empire had barely been able to rebuild to its previous power. The Klingon Council had seen from a distance the devastation one lone Borg cube had been able to accomplish and had been suitably aware that they could not stand against such a threat alone though they had no desire to allow the Federation to protect them as if they were defenseless animals. There was no honor in that.
"Of course, Captain." Chakotay already felt a kinship to the other captain. They were of different species of course, but their motivations were exactly the same. The safety of their crew, their people. "Actually... we could show you."
"Computer initiate program Fort Knox Alpha One."
The gray metal room lined with yellow grids vanished only to be replaced by a holographic display of the interior of a Borg sphere. The program had been created as a representation of a damaged sphere that the crew of Voyager had stolen a transwarp coil from nearly five years ago.
Chakotay ignored his own disquiet at being just within a simulated Borg environment. He could tell the Klingon Leaders and Bridge officers following him through the belly of the sphere were alert, but not apprehensive though they did hold their holographic weapons at battle-ready.
"Prepare yourselves." Chakotay held his phaser pointed to a power distribution node. "Firing."
The red phaser blast destroyed one of the power nodes, which immediately alerted every single drone within the simulation that there was a threat onboard the sphere. One which the Borg converged on in force.
"Don't fire until you have to or they'll adapt!" The group Chakotay led that consisted of Captain Klag and his Leaders and senior staff dispersed as a hundred and fifteen drones walked in their slow, but menacing way towards them. Their unhurried steps seemed to indicate that they thought no threat was too great for their numbers, which was usually the case.
Bat'leths and mek'leths flew high and true. The cacophony of the ensuing battle filled the simulated Borg environment. And at the very moment the Klingons thought victory was truly theirs, despite how the muscles of their backs and shoulders were fatigued from forcing metal into metal for the last twenty minutes, more drones entered the fray. This time there were more than a hundred and fifteen walking towards them with thousands of lasers flashing across the green tinted area.
The Klingons roared against their eerily silent combatants with their blank expressions and heavily scarred sickly pale faces. Some of the warriors regretfully recognized various Alpha Quadrant species within the mass of machinery and distorted flesh.
Each time a Klingon warrior fell or was assimilated he was immediately taken out of the perceptual subroutines of the program. Many of those who had fallen would rub their necks as surreptitiously as they could though it was an insistent motion that didn't dispel the feeling of two thin tubes entering their necks. The horror was in what they would quickly become if the reality around them was real. Or the very real truth that the Borg, despite their slow motions and sluggish fighting abilities, were a great threat posed mostly due to their ability to adapt, their immense numbers, and their unrelenting strength of purpose that would never be deterred.
The regenerative shield that protected the drones from all but the very first blasts from the Klingon disruptors should not have surprised the cadre of warriors due to their study of the Borg, but it did. Energy weapons were again discarded and more physical assaults with bladed weapons was heavily favored due to their effectiveness. The drones were strong, but even they began to fall beneath the might of Klingon strength. But it wasn't enough. More drones came and more warriors fell, until eventually every Klingon was taken out of the simulation. With great honor Klag was the last to be expelled.
"Computer, end program." No one, not even his closet friends, would have been able to detect in Chakotay's even tones what the last half an hour had cost him.
Just being in a simulated Borg sphere made Chakotay think about her. Not Kathryn, but the being which the Borg had perverted her into. He could not imagine a more horrific hell for Kathryn Janeway than what had been her fate. She had been the Borg Queen responsible for the death of thousands of lives and he knew the Queen had gained glee from it. He had hoped that Kathryn would have been relieved of the knowledge of what was transpiring by the thing that possessed her body and mind but he knew from Seven that she hadn't been spared that mercy. That was perhaps a worse reality than her death. That she had full knowledge of what she had been forced to become. Her worst enemy became herself and she wasn't even given a fighting chance.
"Captain Chakotay, that your crew bested these machines is a testament to your strength as a warrior." Klag walked tall and imposing next to Voyager's captain as the other man led him and his warriors through the overly lit corridors of the small Federation vessel.
"Not my strength." The response was filled with both pride and regret. "It was Captain Janeway who had been the... she was the mightiest warrior I have ever known."
"Jane-way." Klag had only once encountered the diminutive Admiral, but he had seen strength in her that made him nod his head in understanding. He thought back to the encounter that had occurred shortly after the Tezwan incident had been resolved.
The departure of the I.K.S. Gorkon from Deep Space 9 had been delayed under the orders of a Starfleet admiral which the station's captain had little choice but to uphold despite Klag's vehement protests against such a sign of mistrust. He had been making his protests quite known to Captain Kira when the admiral who was responsible for his stay made her presence known.
"Captain Klag, I'm Admiral Janeway."
If Klag thought this tiny human would be intimidated by his imposing mass, he was mistaken for she came within a hair's breadth of his standing form. He nearly took a step back himself.
"I'll get right to the point, Captain." Her husky voice was as cold as her steely expression and unwavering gaze. "In the last few hours three Starfleet ships have been fired upon by vessels that belong to the Klingon Defense Force. Revenge for the 'stealing' of Kahless."
"The Gorkon has fired on no Starfleet vessel." Klag was actually offended that Starfleet would have so little trust in him especially considering that the "Kahless" these renegade captain's were defending had been a false being, a hologram.
"Yes, I know. That's why your ship is still in one piece." Janeway's tone wasn't so much threatening as it was matter-of-fact. "Chancellor Martok sees these captains as rebels and promises they will be dealt with accordingly, which is where you come in. The Bej'jog, JorwI'Hegh, the QueloDmI, and theNaS'puchpa' are all considered enemy vessels. Their captains are to be apprehended and brought to Qo'noS."
"One Qang against four Vor'chas would be a short battle." Klag was glad that none of his crew could hear his admission.
"I'm aware of that, which is why I've brought a few friends along with me." There was a glimmer of humor in Janeway's blue-gray eyes despite her expression remaining neutral as she handed him a small gray PADD.
Klag's dark eyes widened as he took in the number of Federation warships that would be assisting him in capturing the renegade ships' captains.
Admiral Janeway possessed a small lift to her lips when he returned his eyes to her. "They won't know what hit them."
And in fact the four renegade vessels hadn't been adequately prepared for the onslaught the squadron of Starfleet warships led by Admiral Janeway and the Gorkon along with its sister vessel the Kravokh had dealt them. Klag had been correct in predicting the battle would be short.
"You knew her?" Chakotay shouldn't have been surprised. Kathryn Janeway had her hands in more things than Chakotay had ever known any admiral to, and she probably had dozens of other operations he wasn't even aware of.
"Briefly. We fought side by side in battle." Klag thought back to some of the maneuvers that had been executed by the Defiant-class vessel the Admiral had been on. "She was unusually... without fear."
"Reckless," Chakotay smiled in his sudden feeling of kinship with the other captain, "I believe is the term."
Klag nodded in kind before he recalled a significant piece of information he had received from Krytak, one of his Leaders, eight days prior. "I regret that she is unable to join us in the battle to come."
Unable to stop the heat in his chest from expanding and catching his voice in his throat, Chakotay could only nod in agreement and thanks for the note of sympathy in Klag's baritone voice.
"We will drink in her honor." Klag clasped the other captain's shoulder in fellowship. "Then you will tell me all you know of these... Borg. How Jane-way led the Voyager into many battles and came out victorious against such a foe. And what it is that awaits us in the unknown quadrant where we will gain victory or die in battle."
Chakotay had tried not to commit himself or his crew to journeying back to the Delta Quadrant despite the great threat within it. But as he looked upon the determined visage of Captain Klag he knew he had made the decision the moment the communiqué with Neelix and General Korok had ended. He knew Klag would probably agree that there was little honor in hiding safely in the Alpha Quadrant waiting for others to maintain that security. And what was more honorable than fighting to avenge the death of a loved one? That was humanity's greatest strength against the Borg. Emotions. Something to live for, to fight for, to die for. That was why resistance was far from futile.
Despite the screams of terror and pain that emanated from the brown masses garbed in dark gray overseer uniforms, her voice rose above the sounds of the Hierarchy being summarily slaughtered by dozens of drones, some of which used to be their own people.
"Resistance..." The Borg Queen smiled broadly as she watched the bloody massacre unfold. "Is so wonderfully futile."
"Welcome aboard, Doctor."
"Thank you." The holographic commander smiled broadly at the red-haired CMO of the Enterprise-E as he stepped off the transporter platform. He extended his right hand in greeting and respect, which Beverly Crusher shook without hesitation.
With a brisk pace, Doctor Crusher led the way from the transporter room to the turbolift that would take them to her sickbay. "The Enterprise will be rendezvousing with Voyager and the I.K.S. Gorkon at Deep Space Nine in five hours. In the meantime I'd like to see the specifications for that neural suppressant you devised."
"Well, I can't take all the credit." The Doctor smiled what he hoped was a humble expression. "It was Axum, one of the members of Unimatrix Zero, who created the nanovirus. I just modified its program to nullify the cortical inhibitors that suppress individuality after assimilation."
"In any case, we'll probably need it."
With a rather troubled nod of agreement, the Doctor remained silent on that point. "I've also brought the specifications for the neurolytic pathogen a future me invented. It's what Admiral Janeway used to infect the Queen so that Voyager was able to destroy the transwarp hub."
Beverly detected the barest hint of sadness in the Doctor's proud tones. And aside from feeling empathy for his recent loss, she wondered at the authenticity of his emotions. If she hadn't known he was a hologram she would have just assumed he was human like her. Like Data, he had outgrown his original programming and despite his composition the Doctor was a Starfleet officer with the same privileges and responsibilities afforded to any who wore the uniform.
"Quite a feat of engineering by your future self, Doctor."
The Doctor smiled quite boastfully as he was led into the sickbay. "Yes, it was, wasn't it."
"Look at them." Lieutenant Commander B'Elanna Torres rolled her eyes as she regarded the small team of engineers in the midst of integrating Seven's regeneration unit into the Enterprise's power relay system. "It's as if they've never seen a Borg alcove before."
Seven was either ignoring her or didn't hear her for she remained silent and still. B'Elanna figured it was the former. The other woman had been leery about bringing an alcove onboard the Enterprise, but had seen the necessity of it which overrode any apprehension. And considering the fact that the Enterprise itself would be transported to the Delta Quadrant within the belly of a Borg cube the Starfleet crew had better be a little less jumpy about Borg technology if this alliance with the Resistance and the overall mission were going to be successful.
The soft hum of the alcove and the green flickering light it created across the small guest quarters indicated that despite the engineers' own trepidation regarding Borg technology they did their jobs well.
Kaplan tried to maintain an even, professional tone as he addressed Seven of Nine and Commander Torres. "Energy output at thirty megawatts and stable."
"Acceptable... thank you." Seven had almost forgotten the note of gratitude that for some reason seemed important for her to have remembered before the doors to her assigned living quarters closed behind the quartet of engineers glad to be away from the horrific green light of the Borg.
"How're you holding up?" B'Elanna received an irritated look from Seven that someone who hadn't been on the receiving end of as much as the half-Klingon had might have withered tremendously under. "Yeah, that's about what I figured."
The venom in Seven's aggravated expression lessened considerably and turned to mild surprise when B'Elanna did something she had never done with Seven in all the years they had known each other.
Seven's metallic occipital implant raised in bemusement as she gazed down at the dark mass of hair positioned underneath her chin. "Commander Torres, what are you doing?"
"I'm... hugging you." As if slightly surprised by her own behavior, B'Elanna quickly extracted herself from what she had in fact initiated and took a few steps away as she crossed her arms across her chest. There was a flush to B'Elanna's cheeks either from embarrassment or frustration or both.
"I... appreciate your concern, but it is unnecessary." Seven kept her voice even, but gracious. "This mission is my first priority, my welfare is irrelevant. We must succeed."
B'Elanna cooled her emotions completely as she nodded her head in understanding and agreement. If this mission failed, humanity would fall. "In that case, let me take a look at your specs for this... thing you've been working on. What's it called?"
"The Infinity Modulator." Seven moved away from B'Elanna to her makeshift workstation.
A free-standing, silver flat-panel monitor rose up from the desktop when Seven activated the small control panel embedded in the desk. After she entered her access codes thirty thousand gigaquads of information flooded the computer screen.
"Catchy name." B'Elanna's tone was as sardonic as her grin as she moved to the desk and seated herself in front of the monitor. Her dark eyes grew big while her grin faded completely. She paid Seven a look of utter astonishment before she turned all of her attention back to the complex information on the screen. "Is this even possible? The energy output alone is immense. I'm not sure how long a hand-held weapon like this would last until it completely exhausts its power cells."
B'Elanna's incredulous expression matched her voice as she turned to look at Seven. "Forty-two seconds?"
"I am working on extending that time." Seven looked almost abashed, as if she had been expected to pull off a near impossible feat already.
"I'll bet." B'Elanna turned back to the monitor to examine the data with a critical eye on increasing the energy stores. A thought struck her and she wondered why it hadn't occurred to Seven. "What if we decrease the plasma flow to the phaser emitters by a factor of ten?"
"Set the phaser to stun?" Seven wondered worriedly why she hadn't thought of that. And then she realized why she hadn't. She wanted the Borg to be dead, all of them. She tried to maintain a neutral tone lacking any emotional resonance. "It would be more efficient if we were to destroy the drones immediately."
"But we wouldn't have to, would we?" B'Elanna almost couldn't believe what she was saying. Less than five years ago she would have been happy to see the entire Collective destroyed, all the drones killed, but now... she didn't have that bloodlust within her and frankly she thought she was better for it. "It'd be enough if they were just taken out of the picture, right? Enough time for us to beam out if we do end up boarding the Einstein."
Seven paused as she waged an internal conflict regarding the fact that she thought the destruction of Borg drones would be wanted and beneficial. But there was a certain logic to what B'Elanna Torres was saying. Forty-two seconds was not by most people's perception a very long time. "The seventy percent decrease in plasma flow will enable us to utilize the Infinity Modulator for forty-seven minutes before the power cells are completely depleted."
"How long will it take to construct a prototype? It's not like we have a whole lot of time." B'Elanna knew the Enterprise only had a little over four hours until it reached Deep Space Nine and then Voyager would be there waiting for them so that they could devise a strategy, a plan, for a threat they had very little information on other than it seemed to have developed to have the same absorption abilities as the Borg cube that had threatened Earth and the Federation only eighteen days ago.
"We can assemble the main components utilizing the replicators while on the Enterprise within three hours." Seven entered a series of commands which enlarged the internal structure of the weapon and brought it to the forefront. A distinct green hue emanated from the interior of the Infinity Modulator. "However, Borg components are necessary to complete the power distribution array and to reinforce the structural integrity."
"Let's hope the Resistance likes to share with others." The Commander's voice had a cutting tone before she grunted derisively.
B'Elanna questioned whether the Resistance would be fully cooperative with giving technology to Starfleet since they hadn't given Voyager a transwarp coil even after Captain Janeway and her crew had risked their lives to free thousands of drones. Well, B'Elanna had to admit, the sphere only had one functional coil and it would have left Korok's vessel at a major disadvantage if he had given it to them. Captain Janeway had known this and that's why she hadn't asked for it or anything else in compensation.
"General Korok will do what is in the interest of the Resistance." Seven shrugged without moving a muscle. "With his assistance construction of the Infinity Modulator will be completed within the time it takes us to reach the Delta Quadrant."
"Well, I've been doing a bit of research myself." B'Elanna handed Seven a PADD which contained the schematics for a silver colored hand-held weapon labeled as The TR-116 rifle. "It was decommissioned by Starfleet Security, access to it was restricted to top brass until the Tezwan incident and it and the TR-120 were brought back into service for Starfleet's peacekeeping interim on Tezwa."
Seven's eyebrow rose as she read the data. A weapon that fired a projectile of tritanium bullets instead of nadion particles wouldn't work on tactical drones whose infrastructure are constructed of the same alloy, but it would be the best possible weapon against standard drones. Although unlike B'Elanna's modification of her Infinity Modulator; the TR-116 would most likely be used as a lethal weapon. Seven appreciated that.
A voice sounded in Seven's mind as she followed a rambling B'Elanna Torres from the guest quarters. A voice that was so full of vehemence it hardly sounded like Seven of Nine. The voice told her that there was nothing but death for the Borg. That she should seek them out and make the Collective pay for all that they had taken from her. That she should destroy them all. No matter what.
(to be continued)