“Bring me the last one.” The Borg Queen’s voice reverberated off the metallic walls of her chamber as green-tinted lights flashed across her pale naked body.
To the untrained eye, the Queen looked human. She possessed the appearance of a petite woman with long, wavy auburn hair that caressed her narrow shoulders and the smooth planes of her back. Her dark blue eyes contained humor in a situation most would find harrowing and a trace of what could only be classified as hunger. When the door of her chamber slid open she parted her lips to allow her tongue to moisten them before she smiled broadly as if she were meeting an old friend.
“Kohlar.” The Queen ran her blue gaze across the form of the formidable Klingon leader who had a rather shocked expression on his dark features. “Your people are mine. As you will soon be.”
“Captain Janeway?” Kohlar took in the small human female before him with a mixture of horror and confusion.
The mechanical beings had appeared in flashes of green light throughout his colony. The screams of the Klingon colonists still echoed in Kohlar’s mind. The cyborgs had struck fast, were relentless, and the colonists had fallen swiftly under such might and numbers. Though this was the last thing Kohlar ever expected. Captain Janeway assisting such creatures seemed to be the most impossible scenario he could devise, and yet here she was standing before him with the smell of death around her.
“Don’t,” The Queen moved swiftly. Much quicker than Kohlar knew humans were capable. Her breath stank like the metallic flavor of blood and wafted hotly against his neck as she whispered forebodingly in his ear. “Call me that.”
Kohlar tried to remove himself from her grip, but found it impossible to do so. It wasn’t just her hands, which were like steel vices upon his broad shoulders, but the black substance that had suddenly appeared on her pale flesh that held him tight. The black tendrils felt hot against his skin as they moved across his body and then around his torso. He was soon completely ensnared in the scorching black material that seemed almost alive.
“What are you doing to—” Kohlar’s words were blocked by a hot stream of black fluid that forced its way down his throat, into his belly, and throughout his body. He would have screamed in rage if his lungs and the rest of his internal structure were not being so quickly dissolved.
“Isn’t it obvious?” The Queen’s black tendrils pushed Kohlar closer to her and she was aroused by the way the bulky man was being pressed tightly against her, into her. “I’m eating you alive.”
The final words, the last horror, Kohlar was forced to experience was the Borg Queen’s promise that his kuvah'magh would soon join him.
“Warning: Regeneration cycle incomplete.”
Seven fell to the floor on her knees and the palms of her hands as she pushed the stale, recycled air of the starship into her lungs in heaving breaths. Her shoulders shook as she lifted herself slowly from the gray-blue carpet. Her left hand, encased with the dull silver metal of Borg technology, brushed platinum blonde strands of hair from her sweat-drenched face that was pale from the sickness she felt rising from her stomach to her tight throat. Seven forced the nausea back down as she moved slowly to the replicator located by the door to her temporary quarters.
“Water, twenty-one degrees Celsius.”
In a flash of light Seven’s command was fulfilled. She took the glass with her as she moved to the three viewports on the opposite end of the room. Seven’s icy blue eyes were on the white streaks that indicated the Enterprise-E was moving at warp, but her thoughts were on the harrowing visions she had just experienced in her dream, her nightmare, that had led to the disruption in her regeneration cycle.
The door chime interrupted her reverie, thus the repeating visions that intruded upon her thoughts ceased for the moment. Seven straightened her posture before she turned to meet her visitor with as much poise and impassivity as she could.
“Lights.” Seven set the half-empty glass on the nearby dining table before her hands fell to her sides. “Enter.”
B’Elanna didn’t look away from the PADD in her hand as she stomped into Seven’s lit quarters until she realized Seven was standing right in front of her.
“We were wrong.” B’Elanna almost sounded disappointed.
In truth she was relieved that the highly populated planet was intact and that their ship’s sensors showed nothing untoward. But she had had every assumption that Quarra was the Einstein’s next target, so that left the question as to what was. Also the huge question of why the Borg were making these little stops along Voyager’s flight path in the first place.
Seven took the proffered PADD and quickly scanned the information while B’Elanna continued her impromptu report. “Long range sensors detected Borg activity, but the planet seems to be fine.”
“It would appear that way, Commander.” Seven’s metallic crescent shaped implant above her left eye rose minutely at the seemingly unrelated piece of news contained within the PADD. The Primary Shift Supervisor to the Quarran Power Plant had gone missing. She wondered if the unsettled feeling she felt at seeing that Jaffen was missing could be her intuition. If that were true she wished it would tell her what it was she was feeing unsettled by.
“It just doesn’t make any sense.” Frustration added a growl within B’Elanna’s low tones as the motions of her hands accompanied her voice. “Why ignore Quarra?”
Seven could feel B’Elanna’s eyes on her as she continued to read the contents of the PADD. She shifted her shoulders, irritated at B’Elanna’s expectation that she should know the Borg’s motivation and annoyance that she didn’t. “I am uncertain.”
“Hey, are you okay?” B’Elanna’s hand paused above Seven’s shoulder before she let it drop back to her side. B’Elanna could see Seven’s disquiet in the way the other woman’s icy blue eyes darted from the PADD to the green-lit Borg alcove and the small muscle that jumped below the starburst implant.
“I—had a nightmare.” Seven’s eyes only stayed on B’Elanna’s worried countenance for a moment before she turned them back to the PADD, though she had already ingested the information within it. It was true that she had found something of a confidant in B’Elanna Torres, but that didn’t mean Seven felt any more comfortable speaking of her feelings of fear, regret, and uncertainty to anyone.
“Like—was it like the one you had before we left Earth?” B’Elanna kept her tone soft, gently coaxing, but hesitant as well, careful.
Being a sounding board to Seven hadn’t been something B’Elanna had intended. The day she had offered to be one had come as much of a shock to her as it had for Seven. But B’Elanna didn’t regret that decision. In fact she was proud that she had made the offer. B’Elanna figured Seven and she would never be best friends, but she knew Seven was in a considerable amount of pain and so compassion was extended whether Seven wanted it or not. Fortunately for both of them, Seven seemed accepting of it, at least to an extent, and had been more forthcoming than perhaps B’Elanna had intended her to be. Especially when it had been revealed to her that Seven had been in love with Admiral Janeway.
“No.” Seven followed B’Elanna to the gray couch beneath the viewports. Her hands brushed against the black fabric of her Starfleet uniform as she lowered herself to the couch cushions. Seven’s hands remained atop of her thighs as she angled herself towards B’Elanna. “It was not of a sexual nature.”
“Okay.” B’Elanna evened her voice out though she was relieved that Seven wasn’t about to go into any detail regarding something of a ‘sexual nature’. “Do you want to tell me what it was about?”
“The Borg Queen existed in my dream.” Seven took a deep, cleansing breath as she ordered her thoughts before she elaborated on the visions the night had given her. “She had the same absorption powers the cube had. She was leading the Einstein throughout the Delta Quadrant in order to feed. The Overlookers were the first, then the Ventu. In my dream she went to Quarra. She killed Jaffen. She absorbed him. And then the Klingon colony fell and she absorbed Kohlar.”
Seven looked quite pointedly at B’Elanna. She wanted her next words to be heard without confusion. “She looked like Kathryn.”
“What do you mean?”
“She appeared human.” A shiver ran down Seven’s spine as she thought of the smile the Queen had possessed when she devoured the small girl Seven had befriended on Ledos. “She was still the Borg Queen, but also something else. I know you believe the Borg to be evil, but the actions they take have no emotional ramifications to them. This new Borg Queen took great pleasure, physical pleasure, when she murdered. She enjoyed it, B’Elanna. And she looked like Kathryn.”
B’Elanna could only nod her head as she digested what she had just been told.
“It was only a dream.” Seven stood abruptly, her decision made. She would adapt and ignore the disquieting images that had come to her while she had been regenerating. The Borg Queen was dead. Kathryn was no more. It had only been a dream. Although the reason why she still felt so unsettled was frustratingly elusive to her.
“Seven, I can’t imagine how terrible it was for you to—to have to see Janeway that way. To see what the Borg did to her.” B’Elanna’s rage against the Borg showed in her aggressive tones as she too stood with her fists clenched at her sides. “It’s all right to be angry. To be shaken by the experience. And you’ve been dealing with that all on your own. I just want you to know. Dream or not, you can always—look I’m here all right. Whenever you need me.”
“What Kathryn Janeway was forced to become was my worst fears realized, B’Elanna.” Seven stood ramrod straight though her head was angled so she looked squarely at the other woman. “It was hers as well. After I released the Endgame virus she—she thanked me. In those seconds before the Borg cube self-destructed I was connected with Kathryn. And I understood everything. In those seconds. And then she pushed me out of the collective mind and was… gone.”
Seven’s voice had gone quiet, reverent. She turned her face away from B’Elanna as a single tear fell. She was startled when a warm, strong hand fell on her shoulder. Seven looked to B’Elanna and saw a sympathetic expression, also a knowing one.
B’Elanna didn’t speak of her mother. How Miral had all but begged for B’Elanna to kill her lest she lose her honor and not be allowed into Sto-Vo-Kor. With love in her heart and tears in her eyes B’Elanna had complied with her mother’s wishes. B’Elanna shook away the feeling of her mother’s hot, wet blood on her hands as she turned Seven towards her.
“What—in those few seconds, what did you understand?” B’Elanna wasn’t sure if her question was quite proper, but her own need to know, her need to understand, overrode propriety. A part of her just needed to know how it had ended. How Kathryn Janeway had ended.
“All that she had kept hidden from us.” Seven’s voice was soft, but in the stillness of her quarters with only the hum of the starship around them it seemed almost loud to B’Elanna. “How deeply she felt things. How strongly she was affected by always being the captain. How she carried the guilt of her decisions with her. How… lonely she was. How alone she has always felt, especially on Voyager. Despite her words of family and of closeness she always felt detached from us. An outcast within a crew of misfits.”
“But we—we loved her. We all did.” B’Elanna’s hand fell away from Seven’s shoulder as confusion marred her features and soon seeped into her voice. “She knew that.”
“Yes. She did.” Even if she had not been connected to Kathryn’s mind, Seven would have been fully aware of how much Kathryn had loved her crew through the personal logs she had kept. “She was uncertain if she deserved it.”
“That’s crazy. Of course she did. She deserved it.” B’Elanna’s defensive posturing was due to her own guilt and regret that she never truly took the time to say even a proper thank you to Janeway, much less anything else. “Look, at first, when I came to Voyager I was—I resented Captain Janeway for stranding us in the Delta Quadrant. I didn’t want to serve on a Starfleet ship, much less under her. When she made me Chief Engineer I didn’t trust her. I thought she wanted me to fail. I was wrong. She—she saw something in me that I couldn’t. She believed in me and because of that I started to believe in me too. When she—when she died, I thought, the first thing I thought was, how am I going to do this, do any of this without her. I was embarrassed and angry that I needed her so badly. But I did. I needed her strength, her compassion. I needed her to be proud of me. But, you know the thing I realized, Seven? You helped me realize it the day you showed me that isolinear chip, when you told me she had found a daughter in me. She was proud of me. I needed to know that. She was uncertain that she deserved our love, of course she did. If I had known she felt—I wish I had told her, said these things to her, taken the time. And no one was more deserving of it than her.”
Seven’s gaze was fixed on the moisture that had gathered in B’Elanna’s dark brown eyes, the determined glint that accompanied the tears, and the way the other woman’s shoulders quaked with regret. One hand encased in metal and the other vulnerable flesh pulled B’Elanna to Seven before the Commander was enfolded in slim, but strong arms.
B’Elanna smiled and laughed softly despite the tears that slid down her cheeks. “Seven, what are you doing?”
“I am hugging you.” Seven also smiled at her own words being tossed back at her. When she released B’Elanna from her hold there was no embarrassment, only a smile of gratefulness.
“Seven?” B’Elanna’s grin vanished as her voice grew serious, tentative, but sure. “Did Janeway—did Kathryn know you loved her? That you were in love with her?”
“During the three point four seconds we were connected within the Hive Mind, she knew.” Seven’s own eyes overflowed with hot tears caused by regret and love. She smiled before she answered. It was a soft, small smile that conveyed both the pain and effusive emotions that warmed and constricted her chest. “She said ‘thank you’.”
The Beta Quadrant
“That’s not possible.” Despite his skeptical words, Axum couldn’t deny the thrill he felt at witnessing an astrological event he knew shouldn’t be occurring.
“And yet it is happening.” T’Hana’s left eyebrow rose as the brilliant light being displayed on the circular viewscreen of the command station shone upon her angular, impassive features characteristic of her people. She and Axum were observing the second supernova in less than a day’s time in the same sector. It was a cosmological impossibility and yet she could not deny it was occurring against all odds. “Curious.”
“Indeed.” Despite the distance the Resistance sphere was from the collapsed star, the shockwave caused Axum and T’Hana to move with the shaking of their ship, but other than the minute jolt the sphere remained unaffected.
“We should contact others. Discover if this is occurring elsewhere in the galaxy.” T’Hana’s Vulcan upbringing was not lost to her despite the time she had spent as a drone in the Borg Collective. Her tone remained even and dispassionate regardless of her interest in understanding this cosmological mystery.
Within twelve hours three other Resistance controlled spheres and two probes reported that supernovas were taking place in their sectors as well. The sphere captained by Laura Pembroke in the Vega Omicron sector on the outskirts of Federation space reported the occurrence of three supernovas in a seven hour time span. Perhaps the oddest aspect of an already bizarre situation was the fact that after each supernova a star of the same composition immediately took its place and that aside from shockwaves none of the surrounding space was vastly affected.
Curious, Axum knew, didn’t begin to cover it.
“The Nygeans reported that the Einstein passed through their system fourteen hours ago incident free. So that leaves the question, where are they heading next?” Captain Picard dispensed with pleasantries as the two women he had called to the Bridge stood before him. He removed himself from the captain’s chair in order to speak more quietly to Torres and Seven. “I’m afraid the Borg remain two steps ahead of us. The Klingon colony isn’t responding to our hails.”
“The Borg might’ve gotten to them already.” B’Elanna thought of Kohlar, which caused her chest to constrict in fear and worry that the Borg had already decimated the colony. Her voice displayed her concern clearly along with her uneasiness that Seven’s nightmare seemed to be almost prophetic except the fact that the Borg Queen had been destroyed in the Alpha Quadrant.
“I’d like to have that answer sooner rather than later.” Picard turned his attention to his Conn officer. “Lieutenant Faur, increase our speed to Warp 9 and continue course to the Klingon colony.”
Joanna Faur complied with Picard’s order as two words left her. “Aye, sir.”
“Captain, the cube, the Gorkon, and Voyager have matched our speed.” Commander Kadohata’s voice was even without a trace of hesitation despite her own revulsion at the fact that a Borg cube, despite who controlled it, was accompanying them through the Delta Quadrant.
Picard nodded his head in acknowledgment. “Commander Torres, Seven, join me in my Ready Room. Commander Worf, you have the Bridge.”
After ordering an Earl Grey tea and offering refreshments that neither woman wanted, Picard settled into his chair before he looked at the PADD atop of his desk. “The Quarran shift supervisor, a Mister Jaffen, he was Admiral Janeway’s fiancé.”
“It was when our memories were manipulated with.” B’Elanna wasn’t quite sure that information was not already known by Captain Picard, but she felt compelled to explain why Kathryn Janeway had a fiancé in the first place. She felt Seven stiffen next to her upon hearing the name Jaffen and thought she did it also for Seven’s benefit.
Picard nodded in understanding. “We know the Borg were at Quarra. Left it untouched, so it would seem. The incident with Jaffen is a point of interest. I hardly think it’s a coincidence that he disappeared the same time the Borg orbited Quarra.”
“The Borg would not assimilate one individual and leave the rest of the population, Captain.” Seven’s brow was furrowed as she thought back to her dream. The visions that had contained Jaffen… and Kathryn.
“It seems to me these particular Borg onboard the Einstein are already acting uncharacteristically.” Picard took a few sips from his tea cup as he looked pointedly at Seven. She seemed disquieted and he suspected it was about more than just his questioning of the Borg’s motives. He decided it was neither the time nor place to discover what that was though.
“I spoke with Admiral Nechayev.” Picard watched Seven visibly though subtly relax at the change of topics. “She met with General Korok onboard the Gorkon. They remain suspicious of one another, but the alliance between the Federation and the Resistance appears to be intact with each party exchanging information. We’ve given the Resistance the Doctor’s formula for the neurolytic pathogen. They’ve given us tactical information. General Korok told the Admiral he didn’t understand the behavior of the Borg onboard the Einstein either. Despite their motivations the Borg are killing thousands, destroying whole worlds. We can’t remain two steps behind them. Once we reach the Klingon colony you’ll transport to the Voyager. Work with Voyager’s crew. Try to determine where the Borg will strike next.”
“Aye, Captain.” B’Elanna felt dread creating a heavy feeling on her chest. She suspected she already knew where the Borg were. She thought of the Klingon colonists, their lack of response to hails and hoped it was just due to equipment malfunction.
“Seven, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Borg captured an individual to act as an intermediary for the Borg.” Picard’s gaze and voice remained even despite the residual trauma from when he had been assimilated and turned into Locutus of Borg who had spoken for the Collective at the Borg Queen’s urging. “As I said, it seems highly unlikely that Jaffen’s disappearance is merely a coincidence. If I’m right, there remains the question as to why the Borg onboard the Einstein would single him out. Do you have any thoughts on the subject?”
“I do not.” Seven’s face flushed as the images from her dream flooded her thoughts. Kathryn, naked and beautiful with pale smooth skin and bright blue eyes that held something Seven had never seen within them: murderous intent. Seven could still hear the screams Jaffen had emitted in her dream when he was being destroyed by black tendrils that sprung from Kathryn’s body. Seven felt a prickling, nagging sensation in her mind. She felt urged to tell Captain Picard of her dream despite the irrationality of doing so. It was merely a fragment of her mind, not worth discussion, so she remained silent.
“Captain Picard to the Bridge.”
Picard knew, even as he led the way from his Ready Room onto the Bridge, that he would need to have a discussion with Seven. She was under his purview and aside from that he felt for the woman, but right now he had more than two hundred Klingon colonists to attend to.
Commander Worf stood from the command chair without as much as a flicker of hesitation. Picard settled his lean form in the captain’s chair, while his narrowed eyes were locked onto the readings from long range sensors that were being displayed on the viewscreen. The remnants of what had been a small M-class planet and also the home of two hundred and four Klingons.
“They didn’t have a chance.” B’Elanna watched the scattered remains of the world with fire in her heart that was fueled by grief and rage.
“Commander Torres. Seven.” Picard’s voice was low, reverent in the wake of such death and destruction though his tone brooked no argument. “Go to Voyager.”
Distracted and distraught by the devastation the Borg had wrought, B’Elanna hardly realized her acquiescence or her own movements until she was being allowed admittance into the Bridge’s turbolift with Seven right behind her. The doors closed seconds before B’Elanna’s fist collided with the wall of the turbolift. “Damn it!”
“Transporter Room Two.” Seven felt the humming of the floor panels that indicated their downward movement as she turned her attention to the fuming half-Klingon. “Commander?”
“What the hell are they doing, Seven?” B’Elanna’s petite form was crouched in a fighting stance with her fists clenched at her sides. A growl emitted with each word she spoke. “The Talaxian asteroid is destroyed even though no one’s manning it. The Borg take the Ventu and kill the Ledosians. The Einstein absorbs Ulaxi without even slowing down. Jaffen is missing, but Quarra is left intact. Now the Klingon colony is obliterated. How does this make any sense?”
“It does not.” Seven stood as passively as she could with her hands clasped behind her back though anger at herself and her own confusion and uncertainty made her tone sharp. “The Borg onboard the Einstein are not behaving like normal drones. They should have rejoined the Collective, the Hive Mind, immediately. To get instruction. Purpose.”
“They’ve got a purpose, Seven.” B’Elanna leaned her strong back against a wall of the turbolift as she crossed her arms over her chest. Her dark features were flushed with the heat caused by grief over the loss of lives, which only exasperated the burning fury that fired hotly in her chest. “We just can’t figure out what the hell it is.”
Seven’s light blue eyes turned away from B’Elanna’s contrite features to the gray carpeted floor of the turbolift. The pale skin between her blonde eyebrows scrunched in frustration. Despite her greatest efforts she had to agree with B’Elanna’s critique despite the nagging feeling in the back of her mind that seemed to promise an answer although it remained forever elusive. Visions from her dream permeated her thoughts and Seven couldn’t alleviate the sense that despite how illogical it seemed her nightmare was somehow important. Seven brushed away the strange feeling as she walked with an incensed B’Elanna Torres to the transporter room manned by a stocky, blue-skinned Bolian.
Ensign Chell would have made a sympathetic overture to both women, but he wasn’t at all certain as to how to go about doing so and thus he remained silent in that regard. With a few commands keyed into the control panel he initiated transport with a smile of reassurance. Chell secured the transporter room for warp speed after he received a hail from the Ops station on the Bridge that they were moving on.
The rest of his shift was spent in Engineering. Chell commenced with his regular duties and then was given orders to assist in getting the Enterprise-E battle ready. Aside from anxiety at the prospect of meeting the Borg, Chell felt hope fill the right side of his chest. The fact that Torres and Seven were now onboard Voyager inspired such a glimmer of optimism within him. During his time in the Delta Quadrant he had been a part of Voyager’s crew so he had experienced firsthand how the crew had gotten out of many dire situations, had beaten the odds, and had done the seemingly impossible. He forcefully ignored the fact that one crucial element was missing this time. A single individual he had no doubt would have been able to turn the tide in their favor. Captain Janeway would have known what to do. That was the last thought Ensign Chell had before the world around him was lit with a glow ominously green.
(to be continued)