“We found them.” Chakotay’s voice was as tired as his dark features, but a smile of success graced his lips as he looked at his crew. He stood with his back to the trio of windows of the Briefing room that showed, by the streaking of stars, the ship moving at warp. Chakotay nodded to Seven to elaborate on the report.
Chakotay wasn’t especially happy to have Seven onboard, due in part to the residual regret he felt at the physical altercation he had initiated when he had been informed of the death of Kathryn Janeway. He was also suspicious that Kathryn had meant a great deal more to Seven than he had ever expected. It worried him to consider the possibility that Seven had held a special place within Kathryn’s heart as well. A place he had always thought of as belonging to him.
“Kejal and Donik sent an encrypted response to our subspace message regarding Borg activity in the region.” Seven stood stiffly with B’Elanna next to the wall monitor that displayed a star chart of the region of space they were approaching. “They reported the opening of a transwarp conduit two point four light years from a Y-class planet in Sector 83447.”
Seven pressed a control to enlarge the sensor readings on the planet that had been dubbed “Ha’Dara” by a cadre of holograms. Holograms Voyager’s crew and its captain had had a hand in creating when Captain Janeway had given the Hirogen holographic technology as a peace offering nearly six years earlier.
“Kejal’s ship, the Olarra, will reach Ha’Dara within the hour under stealth mode to determine if it’s the Einstein.” B’Elanna’s tone was kept purposefully even, but she couldn’t deny the anticipation that welled up within her and the fear of what awaited them. “But I’m betting it’s them. The Einstein is hiding on Ha’Dara.”
“You’re probably right.” Chakotay moved to his chair at the head of the table, but opted not to take his seat as he addressed his Ops officer. “Lyssa, get Admiral Nechayev on the comm. Transmit Voyager’s records regarding Ha’Dara and Kejal and Donik and the report they sent us to the other ships.”
“Y—yes, Sir.” Lieutenant Campbell stood quickly from the Briefing room table with gracelessness caused by anxiety and dread. She knew their mission had always been to engage the Borg, but that knowledge didn’t keep ice cold fear from skittering down her spine. As she left the Briefing room she hoped her panic wasn’t too evident.
Subtly Chakotay’s dark eyes followed Lyssa’s jerky movements and he knew his Ops officer wasn’t a coward, she was just smart. He had no doubt in his mind that many would lose their lives when the fight against the Einstein eventually ensued, but they had a mission to complete, stop that ship by any means necessary. “Harry, I want the weapons and shields checked out before we get on the road.”
“Aye, Captain.” Lieutenant Kim nodded his head in acknowledgement, his lips curled up into only the smallest of smiles. He felt anxiety and fear, but he also felt righteous and honorable. They would make Admiral Janeway proud.
Admiral Janeway’s former crew had not been with her, to defend her, to fight with her, to die with her. This would be their last testament to their beloved former captain. And if they were to die in this last stand against the Borg, then they would die fighting for something worthy of losing their lives. Harry also believed that what they were doing right now, against the Borg, would only be the beginning of the battle against the Collective. Others would follow them for the sake of their lives, their worlds and their freedom. The Borg hadn’t even begun to see what true resistance meant.
Chakotay laid out the rest of his orders before he left to go to his Ready room in order to confer with the rest of the leaders within the Alliance. His movements, or anyone else’s, weren’t stalled for a second by Tom Paris’ protestations.
“Am I the only one who thinks this is a trap? I mean, clearly it’s a trap. No one else cares it’s obviously a trap?” Tom received his response loud and clear when he was left standing, disgruntled, worried, and alone in the Briefing room. “Great, now I’m talking to myself for no reason.”
“Of course it’s a trap.” B’Elanna regarded her husband with a grin that showed slightly pointed teeth as she brushed blonde strands of hair from his sweat drenched brow. She kissed his lips before she pressed her ear against his naked chest to hear the rhythmic thumping of his heart that was always helpful in calming her.
“Well good. I’m glad we’re in agreement on that.” Tom couldn’t help but smile with adoration before he brought his lips to the top of B’Elanna’s head and tightened his hold on her. As he hugged his wife to him he thought of their daughter. “If we do survive this remind me to never let Miral join Starfleet. She can have a nice planet side job. Florist, maybe.”
B’Elanna snorted at the thought of her mighty warrior of a daughter selling flora. She placed her palms upon Tom’s bare chest before she rested her chin on top of her hands to preface her next words with a seriousness that showed in her dark gaze.
“I’m worried about Seven.” B’Elanna was comforted by Tom’s hand stroking her lean back and felt encouraged to continue by the understanding nod he gave her. “She’s having really horrible nightmares when she regenerates. She’s gone to the Doctor, but he couldn’t really do anything about it. I’ve never seen her like this, Tom. She doesn’t say anything, but I—I think she’s afraid to regenerate.”
“I guess I don’t blame her.” Tom hugged his wife closer to him and his heart filled with even more love at the compassion B’Elanna exuded despite her sometimes gruff and impatient exterior.
He had been surprised when B’Elanna had become somewhat of a counselor for Seven, but he quickly understood and appreciated what both women were offering each other. B’Elanna had so recently lost her mother, a wound that was healing slowly, so she could sympathize with Seven perhaps better than anyone else could.
“What the Borg did…” Tom’s voice caught in his throat and his arm around his wife tightened. “God, B’Elanna, I can’t imagine what seeing—having to see what the Borg made her into…”
“In her nightmare Seven sees the Borg Queen killing hundreds, personally, but the worst thing about it is that she doesn’t look like a machine. She looks like Janeway.” B’Elanna slowly pulled herself up into a seated position.
She smiled when Tom wrapped her in a blanket to protect her from the chill of their bedroom before he hugged her close. Her words seemed stuck in her throat from her uncertainty about how much to divulge, how much of Seven’s confidence she should forfeit. Even with the man she trusted above all others.
“Hey, what is it?” Tom made soothing circles upon B’Elanna’s back. He kept the motions light and slow to extend comfort and infinite patience.
B’Elanna took a deep breath before she peered over her shoulder at the concerned look her husband was paying her. “She loved her.”
Tom nodded. His voice was quiet, reverent and sure. “We all did.”
“No, Tom.” B’Elanna turned her body towards Tom and let her hand fall atop of his bare chest. “I mean she was in love, with Janeway.”
Tom allowed the hand on his chest to encourage him to lie back down on the warmed sheets of their bed as he smiled knowingly, yet sadly. “Well, yeah.”
B’Elanna’s descent paused. Her dark brown eyes were wide due to the revelation, but somehow she wasn’t surprised by Tom’s perceptiveness. “You knew?”
Tom shrugged without actually moving a muscle though he did smile kindly. “It was pretty obvious.”
“Yeah.” B’Elanna lips pulled into a bittersweet grin as she settled against the warmth her husband provided freely with both his body heat and affection. “I guess it probably was.”
B’Elanna pushed back thoughts of how the anger and annoyance she had felt towards Seven when they had been in the Delta Quadrant had perhaps been caused partially by jealousy. Instead she recalled the day she had been at Admiral Janeway’s memorial. When Seven had attempted to give her an isolinear chip that had the potential to alleviate all of B’Elanna’s concerns and reinforce her confidence that she had in fact earned Janeway’s respect, garnered her trust, and had been loved just as equally, just as completely.
“I think she feels responsible. Actually I know she does.” B’Elanna ignored the cold feeling in the pit of her stomach and the unwanted voice that whispered words which elicited her own sense of guilt.
“She’s not the only one.”
B’Elanna nodded absently. Her tangled thoughts had already moved on. “This is it, Tom.”
“Yeah, I know. I never thought we’d ever go out looking for a fight with the Borg.” Tom adjusted his position so that he could look B’Elanna in the eye. “But it seems right somehow, doesn’t it? If we don’t stop the Borg now—”
Tom didn’t want to go against the earnestness in B’Elanna’s voice, but he couldn’t deny he was less confident than she. He suspected she wasn’t even as sure as she sounded. “We’re going to try. These aren’t the usual, predictable Borg we’re dealing with here—”
“Come on. We need to get to the Bridge.” B’Elanna’s movements were stalled by Tom’s hands on her biceps. Her brow creased in bemusement. “What?”
“It’s just—I—I wish she was here.”
“She’s gone, Tom.” B’Elanna pulled herself out of Tom’s grasp. Her tone wasn’t harsh, but sharp with the knowledge that Tom was right. Janeway would have known what to do. But she was gone and they had to deal with that. “For once we’re going to have to actually do something without her.”
Seven’s back was ramrod straight as she stood behind the secondary tactical station with B’Elanna to her left. A swirl of anxiety mixed with pent up anger unsettled her stomach, but one would not know it by her impassive features. B’Elanna knew or at least sensed Seven’s apprehension and if they had been two different people she would have placed a comforting hand upon the uneasy woman’s shoulder. Instead she did what she figured Seven would want most; B’Elanna ignored Seven’s emotional upheaval completely. That also allowed her to concentrate on controlling her own.
Seven was unsettled being led into battle against the Borg without Kathryn Janeway in the captain’s seat. Without her husky, commanding voice leading the charge with confidence that was perhaps unfounded but always reassuring. Seven wanted to hear that voice so intensely it caused pain to radiate from her chest to the rest of her body. Instead she listened as Chakotay commanded the vessel that had been so loved by Janeway. So much a part of the woman that it seemed wrong for another to captain it. A part of Seven hated Chakotay for taking what she believed was rightfully Janeway’s despite how illogical that assertion was. Admiral Janeway had given Chakotay Voyager a long time ago, seemingly without a moment’s hesitation. Then why did Seven feel as if it had been stolen? Perhaps it was because it hurt her to think that Janeway could cast away something without pause that she had loved so much. Chakotay’s voice shook Seven out of her reverie.
“Take us out of warp.” Chakotay’s features and voice were steady, but B’Elanna knew by the way his large hands gripped the armrests of his chair that he was worried. Chakotay stood from the captain’s chair as he took in the brown Y-class planet displayed on the viewscreen. “Lyssa, contact the Olarra.”
As Seven watched the gray swirling electromagnetic storms that covered the planet she felt the fine hairs on the back of her neck standup. She wondered if intuition was ever helpful. Voyager’s scanning equipment did nothing to help alleviate her apprehension as it could not break through those clouds to what, if anything, lay beneath them.
“Captain?” Lyssa’s voice shook as she looked up from the Ops station. “Subspace communications are down.”
“What?” Chakotay bolted back to his chair to make a ship wide announcement. “Red Alert. All hands to battle stations!”
Seven dismissed rank and decorum and allowed B’Elanna to take over her station as she moved to take Lyssa’s. Uncaring of Lieutenant Campbell’s angry response to Seven’s occupation of her Ops station Seven proceeded to input commands to try to discern why communications were not operational. What she saw caused a wave of ice cold fear wash over her.
“It’s a Borg dampening field.” Seven’s grave light blue gaze met Chakotay’s.
“I said it was a trap.” Tom’s voice was soft as he tapped on the control display that had risen between his chair and the captain’s. “But no, no one ever listens to me.”
“Incoming weapons fire!” Harry’s voice was a scream to overcome the alarm klaxons.
“Full power to the shields. Evasive maneuvers!” Chakotay watched as the torpedoes skimmed across their forward shields before it exploded, which shook the ship around him. “Damage?”
“Shields are down to seventy-eight percent.”
“The Enterprise-E, the Gorkon and the Resistance Cube have arrived.” Seven was ashamed of the relief she felt when she saw their sister ships dropping out of warp alongside them.
“Can you get a weapons lock, Harry?” Chakotay knew the ship out there firing at them was cloaked. Those torpedoes had a Hirogen energy signature and the hunters were known for their stealth capabilities.
“Not yet, sir.”
Chakotay sat straighter in his chair when he saw a green-lit tractor beam reveal a small Hirogen vessel. Of course Korok’s sensors would be superior to their own. The captain smiled a little, thankful that the General was on their side.
“Captain, I’m reading an energy surge from the Hirogen ship.” Lyssa, who had decided she would not allow Seven to take over her station without a fight, tried to make sense of her readings through the haze of the electromagnetic interference from the Y-class planet and the enemy ship itself. Her confused expression garnered a look of irritation across Seven’s features before Lyssa was once again pushed to the side.
Seven and Chakotay shared in the moment their eyes met an understanding of what was happening, but that knowledge came much too late. Chakotay’s desperate command was utterly futile. “Target the tractor beam emitter—”
The explosion wrenched the occupants of Voyager’s Bridge to the ground or harshly against their respective consoles as the viewscreen filled with the image of the Hirogen ship self-destructing taking most of General Korok’s Resistance Cube along with it.
“Get a lock on Korok’s people. I want them on Voyager now!” Fury filled Chakotay. How could he have been so naïve? “Akola, back us off. We need to—”
“Sir, I can’t. I don’t have transporter control.” Lyssa willed the readings to be wrong, but she knew it was hopeless so she reported her findings. “I can’t raise Engineering. Systems are shutting down all over the ship.”
Akola had a haunted expression as she turned to address Chakotay. “We’re dead in the water.”
“We don’t have weapons or shields.” Harry’s voice was surer than Akola’s and Lyssa’s but he too felt fear gripping his heart. “Captain?”
Chakotay didn’t acknowledge what he had just been told as he stared at the viewscreen. Thirteen ships, some were Ledosian, most were Overlookers, and one had been a Federation starship, were covered in the black hardware and green lights denoting them as belonging to the Borg, began to emerge like locusts from beneath the electromagnetic cloud that had concealed them from Voyager’s sensors.
The image on the viewscreen of the Einstein led armada quickly shifted to that of a stout man riddled with cybernetic implants. Not so long ago he had been Captain Howard Rappaport, but was now known to the One who mattered as Two.
“Prepare for transport.” Two’s singular voice was augmented by that of the thousands of other voices in the relatively small Borg fleet. “Do not resist. Or you will be destroyed.”
Two’s visage disappeared as quickly as it had come and now the viewscreen and the Bridge were lit green by the tractor beam holding Voyager in place like a fly on a web.
“Weapons.” Chakotay easily caught the two rifles Harry threw him even as he felt his body being transported off his Bridge.
Seven managed to retrieve her two weapons as well before she felt the familiar feel of a Borg transport.
Lieutenants Akola Tare and Devi Patel looked at one another with expressions that bore momentary relief that they hadn’t been transported. As they looked around the empty Bridge their relief was quickly replaced by confusion and worry. Why weren’t they taken? What was happening to their shipmates? And what were they to do now?
“Sickbay to Bridge.” Jarem Kaz’s worried voice sounded over the comm. which startled Akola into moving from the helm to Ops as quickly as her legs could carry her. She put the doctor on the viewscreen.
“What the hell is going on up there?” Jarem’s handsome features were marred by blood from a head wound he had sustained, but now had long forgotten about. “I was treating Lieutenant Vorik when he was transported right off the biobed.”
“The Borg took everyone from the Bridge except me and Lieutenant Patel.” Akola’s attention was diverted from the doctor as Patel’s panicked voice sounded loudly in the vast Bridge.
“A star’s going supernova!”
“That’s not possible.” Jarem’s assertion of what was and wasn’t possible was challenged when he observed on his monitor the impossible. His assumptions were made even less true when the exploding star did them no damage and was instantaneously replaced by an identical one. “My gods!”
Jarem Kaz didn’t know how close he was to the truth.
Seven used her cybernetic hand to smash in the face of the nearest drone who had once been a young Ledosian woman. She finished her task by firing her TR-116 rifle at the drone’s chest. The chemically propelled tritanium bullet efficiently deactivated the drone by tearing through its biological systems. It now lay bloody and unmoving upon the gray deck plating of the Einstein’s cargo bay.
A drone nearly knocked Seven over as it whizzed past her. She looked to where it had been thrown from and felt relief when she saw B’Elanna. The half-Klingon was baring her teeth and her fists were clenched in front of her.
“Get down!” B’Elanna swung the rifle that was slung over her shoulder into her hands and didn’t hesitate to fire it at the drone rapidly approaching Seven from behind. She snarled with approval when the brownish blob covered with implants fell in a heap upon the deck.
“Don’t let them touch you!” Chakotay’s command wasn’t needed, but he bellowed it anyway as he fired the two rifles he held in his hands at any drone within distance of his targeting array imbedded in his yellow eyepiece. “Keep firing!”
Tom did as he was told, but as he took out two more drones he knew more would be coming. That was how the Borg won. Not with strategy or brute strength, but with sheer overwhelming numbers. There were only twelve of them and hundreds if not thousands of drones. Eventually he knew they would lose. He kept firing as he thought of Miral. He screamed in rage as he thought of Janeway. Three more drones fell and he continued fighting for what he thought would probably be his final stand against the Borg. If he was going to die he was going to take as many of them with him as he could.
Not so long ago Harry would have hesitated in killing Borg drones, but today he fired fast and with pinpoint accuracy taking out a dozen cybernetically enhanced beings with a spread of tritanium bullets. He ignored the splattering of blood that fell on his uniform and the left side of his neck as he continued firing his rifle even if resistance to the seemingly inevitable was futile. He’d die standing and fighting until he drew his last breath. That’s how he had been trained. That’s what Kathryn Janeway had taught him.
“Seven!” B’Elanna hated how her voice sounded panicked, but truth was she was panicked.
Seven sprinted to where B’Elanna was being held by a drone, his hand near the half-Klingon’s throat, and without hesitation she grabbed the drones head and rotated it until a snap preceded his deactivation.
“God, Seven, remind me never to start a fight with you.” B’Elanna grinned toothily as she allowed Seven to help her quickly to her feet.
“We are vastly outnumbered. We must get off this ship.” Seven removed the Infinite Modulator that had been strapped to her back and pointed a finger to the upper deck to indicate where she planned to go.
“Seven?” B’Elanna looked skeptically at the untested weapon, but knew it was perhaps their only chance. “Make it count, okay?”
“Of course.” Seven smiled a small, but reassuring smile before she ran as fast as she could to the nearest ladder. She had to take out two drones before she made it to the first rung. Within seconds she was on the scaffolding high above the fray. She closed her right eye and allowed her Borg enhanced eye to do the targeting. She aimed the I-MOD and fired. The weapon’s energy signature rotated before she fired again. Bodies of deactivated drones began to pile up as she continued firing.
Seven’s right eye opened as hot tears poured down her cheek as she thought of what she had been. A mindless automaton seeking a perfection it could never hope to reach. Seven had seen perfection. For three point four seconds she had experienced perfection. She had been connected in a way humans could never imagine with Kathryn Janeway. She had touched what could only be described as Kathryn’s soul and what she had found there was love. A deep and abiding love. For those three point four seconds she had been free to love Kathryn in return. To bare her own soul to the woman who had saved it.
“Seven?” B’Elanna was careful not to touch the sobbing woman because she still had the I-MOD firing off phaser shots at any drone in sight. So instead she knelt down next to her and waited for the last two seconds to expire that would end the forty-two second massacre Seven had just perpetrated.
Once the power cell had been depleted, Seven let the I-MOD fall from her hands as she slowly turned her tear-streaked face to B’Elanna.
“You’ve avenged her, Seven. You did it.” B’Elanna helped Seven to her feet as she smiled softly. “Come on, we need to go. We’re not that far away from the shuttlebay. We just need to—”
The blood in B’Elanna’s veins turned ice-cold as more than a hundred tactical drones entered the Cargo bay. It wasn’t just that their infrastructure was tritanium and thus impervious to the TR-116, but it was who they had been that made B’Elanna’s heart thump painfully in her chest.
“The colonists.” Seven’s voice was soft, reverent, for she knew B’Elanna had felt a kinship with the Klingons they had helped find a home for in the Delta Quadrant.
“Come on.” B’Elanna and Seven descended the ladder quickly to join the line their shipmates and friends had formed to stand against this new threat.
Seven regretted that only Jurot, Chang, Munro, and Murphy had brought I-MODs with them. Seven knew where the flaw was in their plan to come to Ha’Dara, they had been small in their thinking. They had assumed they would merely face the assimilated Einstein with a small group of drones with erratic, illogical behavior. What they had found was beyond what even Seven had imagined. The barrage of Overlookers and Ledosian drones had been some sort of test to ascertain what weapons the Federation had at its disposal. Now the Borg knew of the I-MOD and with time they would adapt to even that. Her forty-two second demonstration would have been all the time they would have needed to begin developing a counterattack.
Austin Chang was the first to fire his I-MOD, and soon Jurot fired hers. Alex Munro and Telsia Murphy reserved their power until the swarm of tactical drones began to thin. An imposing drone that had been Ch’Rega stepped forward and lifted her arm, which had an array of cybernetic components attached to it. A green flare fired from her hand a second after she was killed by Ensign Murphy. What that flare had done wasn’t readily apparent until Jurot and then the others tried to fire their I-MODs again and their weapons failed to produce anything other than impotent beeping sounds. The drone’s final act had been to create a localized and effective dampening field.
Drones circled the dozen Starfleet officers with their augmented arms raised as a deterrent for resistance. The doors to the Cargo bay opened once again and emitted Two.
“Drop your weapons.” It was the first time any of the Borg drones had spoken. His voice sounded as it had when he had been Howard Rappaport except for the echo of a thousand voices that sounded with it. “Kneel and bow your heads.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” B’Elanna wanted to lunge for Two’s throat, but was stopped by her husband’s hand on her shoulder. She knew he was right, but she still snarled her frustration.
“Yeah, yeah, we’re doing it, all right.” Tom tried to keep his voice light even though he was more terrified than he had ever remembered being in his entire life. Probably because most of his fear was regarding his wife and the daughter they had just made an orphan. “Who the hell do you think you are anyway? Arrogant bastard.”
“You do not bow for me.” Two’s face transformed into an expression of complete and utter reverence and supplication. “You bow for Her.”
All eyes went to the Cargo bay door as it emitted a lone being. A being whose appearance resulted in twelve people’s realities being shattered completely. Loud utterances of disbelief, denial, anger, and horror filled the Cargo bay as she continued towards the collection of officers through an opening the tactical drones had made for her so she could enter the circle.
Dark blue eyes sparkled and moist pink lips turned up into a lopsided grin before she spoke. Her voice was not augmented by that of her Collective. It was as husky and rich as it had been when she had been a human, a woman, their captain. And for that it was all the more grotesque. She titled her head slightly as she took in the horrified group of individuals. For the first time since her resurrection the Borg Queen felt love in her heart as she addressed the people that had been part of her family. This sentiment was intoned with two simple words: “Welcome home.”
(to be continued)