DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and all who sail in her belong to Paramount/Viacom and no infringement of copyright/trade marks is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Stardate: 52668 (Note: events of Dark Frontier have occurred)
KLINGON WORDS: A glossary of Klingon words used can be found HERE
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

I Am Borg
By Kudara

Part 2:

Chapter 3

B'Elanna had just dressed after her shower and eaten a replicated dinner when the door chime rang, it was Tom. B'Elanna was still feeling guilty over her reaction to Seven so she gave him a warmer greeting than she normally would, however he seemed to be distracted and didn't respond very enthusiastically to her kiss.

Concerned she asked, "What's wrong Tom?"

"I know you don't want me to talk about Seven but I can't believe she went and told the Captain about that silly bet that I made with the Doctor. It's not like it was that big a deal. She overreacted to the whole thing," said Tom with a definite whine in his voice.

B'Elanna said in confusion, "What bet?"

Tom sat down on the couch and explained about the day that Seven had told them she had been observing their relationship. Tom had walked into Sardines that evening and the Doctor had taken it over for one of Seven's social lessons. "I was hard pressed not to laugh at the both of them, she was doing so badly. So I explained to the Doc that it was one thing for him to set up a controlled environment for her and another thing for her to be able to manage in the real world. We made it a bet, one month of freedom from the Sickbay if I won," explained Tom.

"The date with Chapman," said B'Elanna remembering how she had reacted after Harry had sadly confided to her that he had not made Seven's list. She had been angry that Seven was so blind to how she had hurt Harry. She had just added it to the list of things that the arrogant, rude drone had done wrong. Now she wondered why Seven had thought that was the correct way to go about choosing a date. Then remembering who had been giving Seven lessons in humanity, she groaned to herself that had the Doctor written all over it. No telling what he had told Seven.

"No actually I wasn't there for that, though it ended more disastrously than even I had anticipated, poor Chapman. No the date was supposed to be for the Kadi Ambassadors dinner. I guess the Doc took his opportunity and asked her himself. Personally I thought it was cheating, but the evening was going pretty well until I mentioned the bet," said Tom.

"Oh," said B'Elanna keeping her temper under tight reins, she knew how angry Tom had been that day, and didn't put it past him to do something mean to get even.

"Yea, when Seven heard we had made a bet about the date she got rather upset and walked out, threatened to rip off the Kadi Ambassador's arm when he stopped her in the doorway too. It was quite the scene, I hadn't realized that the Doctor had feelings for Seven until then," finished Tom.

"So you humiliated her publicly," said B'Elanna. "Revenge for her doing that study on us?"

"I didn't realize she would get so emotional," Tom tried to defend himself, "And she shouldn't have said that about everyone hearing us, she said that publicly."

"That was my fault Tom, I knew as soon as I asked that I had done something stupid. Seven always answers me with the truth, if I hadn't wanted her to say it I shouldn't have asked. Why do you think I let you lead me away, I had already recognized I should have never asked if I didn't want to hear the answer," said B'Elanna.

"She never intended to hurt either of us with that study Tom. Yet you deliberately set up a situation where you really could hurt her," B'Elanna said to Tom bluntly. "So what did the Captain say to you?"

Tom was still smarting over the last comment; none of this was going like he wanted. B'Elanna was supposed to see his side of the situation, not still be defending Seven. Sulkily he said, "She gave me a direct order not to make bets about anyone's personal life anymore and to make no bets about Seven at all."

"I would follow that suggestion Tom, and by the way don't even think about retaliating against Seven. Because I'm with the Captain on this one Tom, that was uncalled for, and if I hear of you planning anything I'll go right to Janeway. Now get out, I'm so angry right now I want to hit something and if you don't want it to be you I'd leave," growled B'Elanna.

Tom looked at her stunned at her response, not only was she taking Seven's side but she was letting him know that she would take action to protect Seven from him. Seeing her obvious anger he decided that retreat was definitely the wise thing to do and hurriedly left.

B'Elanna sat down on the couch after Tom left, she knew the only reason she hadn't told him it was over was because the betting incident had happened a week before Seven died. It would not be fair for her to end the relationship over something that had occurred when she was still treating Seven dishonorably. However if he pulled something like that again then the relationship was over. She had been furious when he had left but now that all seemed to be gone, now she only felt saddened that Seven's two attempts at romance had both went so disastrously.

Seven spent the remainder of the evening reading various studies on human sexual behavior. Much of it was confusing to her, it seemed as thought there were no definite ways of efficiently choosing a mate, she corrected herself, partner. She had been surprised to learn that she perhaps should not have left out the female crew members, apparently though it was comparatively rare a significant percentage of humans preferred to choose partners that were of the same sex.

To further complicate matters; apparently one had to figure out whether or not you were interested in males or females essentially by empirical observation of your own reactions. There was no scientific test that would quickly and decisively answer the question for you.

No wonder Kathryn had told her that the method she had chosen would not work, thought Seven. There were multiple methods for suitably choosing potential partner. Most of the methods stressed that the person should be a friend first, only then should a mutual attraction be acted upon. Some of the studies suggested that the approach she had taken might help to weed out obvious mismatches, but other papers gave case studies where successful couples had not had many common interests to begin with but had developed common interests after they started dating.

Also not all relationships progressed linearly to a long term monogamous relationships as the Doctor had insinuated. That might be the ideal relationship but the studies made it obvious that humans expected to have several sexual partners over the course of their lifetime. Only settling down with one preferred partner when they found someone they felt they wanted to spend the rest of their life with.

Interestingly enough it was a book written for non-human species dating of humans that was of the most help to her, all the books written by humans made certain assumptions about the knowledge level of their reader. The book written to help aliens understand human sexual practices made no such assumptions and went into detail about almost every aspect of human sexual behavior, cultural expectations, polite behavior as it pertained to mentioning sexual topics, and even a linguistics section.

It was in the linguistics section that Seven learned that humans usually used the term copulate when referring to intercourse between animals and rarely in scientific papers. The Borg referred to all sexual acts as copulation so Seven had naturally used the term, now she knew why she had gotten generally negative reactions whenever she used it. Seven wondered why the Doctor had not corrected her earlier. Others had tried to correct her usage but had not explained why the term copulate was unacceptable, she had thought they were merely adding euphemisms which were inefficient and so she had ignored them.

However, this book made it clear that the different terms, though all referring to the same act, differed in their usage depending on the level of emotional commitment. Seven quickly found out that she should have been using the term intercourse instead of copulate. Having sex was intercourse with minimal emotional connotations, whereas making love implied that the two people involved cared for one another, though it did not necessarily imply they were in love.

After reading the book Seven understood why her study of Tom Paris and B'Elanna had angered the two of them so. Even though she technically had not invaded their privacy she had studied them without their permission which was an implied invasion of their privacy. Further she had not informed them that their assumption of privacy in B'Elanna's quarters was compromised by inadequate soundproofing.

Seven was uncertain how she was supposed to have responded to B'Elanna's question about how she knew when they were having intimate relations, but apparently her answer in the mess hall had been inappropriate. Perhaps she should have insisted that she answer the question in a less public place, Seven mused glancing at the field notes which indicated that all discussions involving a sexual topic were generally discussed privately among humans.

It was getting very late and Seven realized she needed to go to sleep; she would have to think of a way to apologize to B'Elanna, hopefully one that would not make the engineer angry with her again. Seven undressed and slipped into her bed, as tired as she was it was not long before she slipped into slumber.

She stood on a rocky hilltop looking out over a dirt track that wound through the valley below her, the cold wind chilled the metal of her chain mail and helm, and she held her Bat'leth under her right arm. Seven was aware that she must be dreaming, but where was this place? Why was she here?

A sound attracted her attention back to the dirt track, a small group of women and children appeared walking along it. They looked behind them frequently with anxious and fearful faces. Seven could tell they appeared to all be humans; they also appeared to be of the same racial group. Without exception all of them were pale, and had various shades of blond hair, rather like her own coloring she realized. Their dress was primitive, layered wool garments covered by fur cloaks. A few of the older women held spears appearing to be guarding the rear of the group from something.

They had not yet looked upward so they did not see her and she quietly watched the group as they drew near a point directly below her. Looking at them more closely she realized several of the older boys and women were injured with coarse bandaging wrapped around the wounds on arms and legs. There were seven women, four boys, three girls, and two infants being carried by their mothers, Seven noted. Seven thought the most likely cause given the groups general attitude was that they had been recently attacked and expected their attackers to be following them.

As they passed by her position one of the women finally looked up and spotted her and called out in surprise. With astonishment Seven recognized the speech; it was Old Norse a language she knew only because the Collective had acquired it from her father. The woman had cried out, "Ware, enemy on the hill above us!"

Seven watched, careful to make no aggressive moves as they paused and looked uncertainly at her. Comments of 'who is he', 'is he one of Chieftain Hakan's men', and 'what type of weapon is that' drifted up to her. Seven realized that between the thigh length chain mail with its undercoat of leather and her helm they could not tell she was a woman.

"I mean you no harm," Seven finally called down to them to reassure them.

The group fell silent as they realized that the person on the hill was no man. Suddenly a band of 10 men carrying spears in their hands, shields across their backs and swords at their sides came jogging into the valley. The group below Seven promptly ignored her and focused their attention on the men who had just come into view.

Seven could tell from their frightened looks that these were the people they had been fleeing. Seven looked from the group of women, children and infants to the group of men approaching and without thinking began to move down the hill. She could hear the men approaching muttering in Norwegian to each other. Their muttered comments made it clear that they planned on making the women and children into slaves. A comment of 'what about the babes' was met with a short 'kill them they are of no use to us.'

Seven's jaw tightened and she could feel her anger begin to rise, she decided not to control it with her nanoprobes yet though. This anger felt right, and as she heard comments from the oncoming men of what they planned to do with the women she made the decision that she would not permit any of what they were speaking about take place.

The men had not really noticed Seven moving to put herself between them and their prey but the group of women had noticed her moving to protect them. Incredulous comments of 'what can she hope to do alone' and 'who is she' sounded clearly to her ears. She was not surprised when some of the women decided that if she wanted to delay the men they would take the opportunity she was giving them to escape. Others were arguing that they should help her.

Seven turned and faced them for a moment and ordered, "Keep moving, I will stop them."

The men had finally noticed her and they slowed somewhat trying to evaluate what the stranger was doing. Seven heard the women and children move away from her obeying her instruction. The band of men stopped about fifty feet away from her and their leader stepped forward and said, "Step out of our way stranger, this does not concern you. Chieftain Hakan is now the lord of these lands, and these women are now our slaves."

Seven had already instructed her cortical node to activate her enhanced systems. Seven considered his words and replied, "By what right do you call them slaves."

The man straightened and grinned derisively, "A shield maiden hopes to stand against all of us?" He laughed and his men laughed with him, "As soon as we kill you and catch up to them they will be our slaves."

Seven calmly replied, "Then they are not slaves, and I will not let you capture them." Seven paused and then said, "There is no honor in attacking the weak. Let them go and leave, we do not have to fight unless you force me to."

The man stared at her then drew back his arm and threw his spear. Seven did not bother with her Bat'leth, she easily stepped to the right and knocked the spear aside with her left arm. Seeing how easily she dealt with the thrown spear the other men hesitated a moment, but when their leader yelled for them to kill her, they also threw the spears they were holding.

Seven wasn't entirely sure how to defend herself against multiple spears but watching their flight she realized that if she ran forward and engaged them she would avoid most of their spears and possibly surprise several of them. The tactic worked better than she expected, she only had to deflect two spears as she closed with the lead man.

He barely had time to draw his sword before Seven attacked him, managing to block her first blow he was caught by surprise when she shifted her weight to her left foot and continued driving forward. Seven forced his blade to slide past her on the edge or joj of the Bat'leth and impaled him on the tiq.

Seven continued moving and spun on her left foot, pulling her Bat'leth from the body and twisted around to meet her next attacker. She blocked his blade and then performed a glissade exactly as taught in her katas. Knocking the blade aside to the left she lunged forward and drove the tiq into the man's unprotected neck.

Not letting her forward momentum stop, Seven moved around the dead man's left side and pulled her Bat'leth free of his neck. Seven's attack shifted her from in front of the group around to its left side and the men were struggling to reposition themselves so they could effectively attack her.

Seven felt her lips curl back from her teeth, her anger no less intense because of the deaths of two of her attackers. She considered whether or not to activate her nanoprobes but then decided against it as her anger did not seem to be clouding her judgment. Distantly she wondered if this was what B'Elanna felt when she fought, did her anger sing through her blood, as Seven's did now?

Seven struck the next man, forcefully pushing his sword to the right and leaving his left side unprotected to her attack, lunging forward she thrust the tiq into the man's chest. She did not have time to pull the weapon out when the next man attacked; Seven lifted the Bat'leth's free side upward and caught the descending sword on the Bat'leth's right chevwl, the curved area between the tiq and van.

Using her strength she shoved against the man's sword and freed the other end of the Bat'leth. Seven trapped the sword blade between the right tiq and van and pulled the man to her right and downward as she stepped to his left. Continuing the Bat'leth's motion Seven brought the left side of the Bat'leth slamming down into the man's relatively unprotected back.

The remaining six men were looking at her in shock; she had dispatched four of their group in less than thirty seconds with the strange weapon which seemed not to be slowed by their armor. They had dismissed her as a woman, yet she moved quicker and more powerfully than they. The men now approached her with more caution and two of them attacked at the same time.

Seven stepped forward into the attack and caught the two blades on her Bat'leth, and then she shifted her weight to her left leg and snapped her right leg forward in a kick that broke the right most man's kneecap causing him to fall to the ground. One of the men had been smart enough to grab up one of the spears while the others had been fighting. When the man in front of him fell down screaming and clutching his knee he took the opportunity to thrust with his spear at the shield maiden.

Seven saw the spear too late and bit back a cry of pain when it went through both mail and padding and into her side, desperately the man leaned over his companion before Seven could pull back and Seven felt the spear slide deeper into her until it just exited her back.

Seven knew that the fibers surrounding her lung would constrict around the wound preventing further damage to her lungs. The same would occur with her muscles and skin, so she ignored the spear for the moment but knew she would have to deal with the length of the shaft soon.

Seven stepped aggressively to the right and with a single left handed hold brought the joj of the Bat'leth across the back of the man who had thrust the spear into her with a slashing move that cut through his leather armor and sliced him nearly in half. Seven then continued moving away from the group and grabbed the spear shaft with her right hand and, being careful to not cause fresh damage, withdrew the spear from her torso.

Flipping it she quickly drew back and threw it at one of the men who was closing on her, successfully skewering him through the chest. Seven continued to ignore the wound, counting on the fibers in her lungs and nanoprobes to repair the damage. The three remaining standing men charged her, desperately hoping that they could overwhelm the injured woman.

Seven shifted the Bat'leth to her right hand and stepped widely to her left, allowing the mail and exoskeleton covering her left arm to deflect the sword of the leftmost attacker. Spinning around behind him she brought the Bat'leth around one handed in a graceful sweeping move that ended with it buried in the backs of two of her attackers. Seven finished the move by moving back and to the front of the left most man and freeing her Bat'leth by drawing the blade free in a slicing motion that increased the damage it had done.

The remaining man backed away from her, turned around and started running back the way he had came.

Seven looked around in surprise at the carnage she had wrought; the man with the broken kneecap was still alive. He was covered in the blood of the man she had killed who had speared her and he looked at her terrified as he lay on his side cradling his swelling knee. Suddenly Seven felt slightly sick as she looked around at the blood and smelt the odor of the dead men. She knew intellectually that the dead lost control of their bodily functions but smelling it was another matter.

Seven quickly sent a command to her cortical node to deaden her sense of smell and another one to her nanoprobes to cleanse out the remaining hormones in her system. Seven left the injured man and glanced down the road where the women and children had retreated. She was surprised to see that they had stopped and were standing about 150 feet away from her. The awe and fear on their faces disturbed her and her and she glanced down at her gore covered Bat'leth.

Seven considered how to clean the weapon and her eye fell on the cloak of one of the dead men. Seven stepped over to the body and tugged the cloak off the body and slowly walked toward the group as she began cleaning her blade.

When she got closer to them she stopped and repeated what she had said earlier, "I mean you no harm."

The woman at the front of the group who Seven took to be the leader said, "We thank you for your defense of us shield maiden, you are marvelously skilled with the strange blade you wield. I saw you were grievously injured, yet you walk as if you were not."

Seven replied, "I was injured but the wound was not severe, I will recover from it shortly."

The woman eyed her oddly but did not say anything further about her wound though she could see the slice in the chain mail where the spear had been thrust through it. "We are headed to seek refuge with my cousin the Earl Eric Haroldson. It is but an hour's journey if you are able to walk it shield maiden, if you are hurt we can arrange a litter for you. I am certain my cousin will want to meet such a skilled warrior as yourself." The woman hesitated and then asked, "May we know your name shield maiden?"

Seven looked at her considering and then said, "I am called Annika."

I am "Altea," the woman introduced herself.

Seven finished cleaning her Bat'leth and the group continued up the road with Seven and some of the other women keeping a close eye on the road behind them incase Hakan's men decided to attack again.

By the time they arrived at the village Seven was satisfied that she was mostly healed, a slight soreness remained but the wound had closed over and she felt no pain when she breathed deeply. Seven looked in wonder around her at the people and buildings of the village. Though Seven stood taller than many of the women, most of the men were her height or taller. They had eyes of varying shades, but all were blond and pale skinned. The buildings were all sturdily constructed of thatched steeply pitched roofs and wood and stone walls. Seven noted the lack of doors, the door openings were covered with a wool blanket or fur skin.

They were working their way toward a long low building that stood in the middle of the village, their progress frequently halted as people hailed them and excited conversations were carried on about attack on the other village by Chieftain Hakan and how the shield maiden with them had saved them. Finally they arrived at the hall and paused, and Altea who had been leading them stepped beside Seven and whispered, "Why do you not remove your helm shield maiden?"

Seven looked at her curiously, "Should I have removed it earlier? I know your language but not your customs. I apologize if I have offended."

Altea looked at her and said, "You speak our language perfectly, I thought you were from one of the villages further north. How can you not know it is the custom to remove your helm so that all can see your face?"

Seven replied, "I know the language from my father but I have never been to these lands before now." Seven removed her helm and was not surprised at the woman's gasp of astonishment as the exoskeleton around her eye was revealed; she pushed back the chain and leather cowl from her head as well and shook loose her hair. Raising her ocular exoskeleton at Altea she waited to see what the woman would say.

Altea quickly got over the shock of seeing what appeared to be silver jewelry embedded into the skin of the shield maiden and noticed her awkwardly juggling her helm and strange weapon. "May I take your helm?" Altea asked politely.

Seven replied, "Thank you" and handed her the helm. Seven didn't know how to take the fact that the woman seemed to have accepted her exoskeleton so quickly. Perhaps she assumed it was some type of jewelry, Seven thought.

Now that Annika had removed her helm the villagers stared at her curiously, several of them had heard the low voiced conversation and speculation started up about the stranger who spoke their language but did not know their customs. Altea lead the way into the hall and Seven looked around curiously. The walls of the building were rough smoothed boards covered with animal skins and decorative shields. Benches and tables were placed against the wall and a row of open hearths ran along the center of the building.

Several people were seated inside the building, either talking in groups or working on various tasks. Altea lead her to the other end of the building where she smiled at a tall older man with white streaked hair and beard. "Altea!" roared the man and he embraced her, "I had thought the entire village lost, a rider from another village told us that Chieftain Hakan had everyone slain or taken into slavery."

Altea freed herself and said, "Eric Haroldson this is Annika the shield maiden who defeated ten of Chieftain Hakan's men. If it were not for her we would have been captured."

Eric turned toward the shield maiden and looked at her, she was tall and slender, and the strange ornament around her eye only added to her beauty. She returned his gaze calmly as if her feat was no deed of note to her. He took note also of the strange weapon she carried; it was a thing of beauty and the surface of the metal had the look of rippled water.

Altea continued, "Though she knows our language from her father she is not from this area and is unfamiliar with our customs, Eric."

Eric nodded, "We shall have to teach you our customs then. Tonight there will be a great feast for my warriors, I would like for you to join us Annika and tell us your tale. Tomorrow we go to fight Chieftain Hakan; he kills my people and takes my village. He will learn of the folly of angering me. Perhaps you would join us in the battle tomorrow shield maiden?"

Seven tilted her head and considered, "I do not know how long I will be allowed to stay, if I am still here tomorrow I will join you." Seven was amazed at how detailed the dream was, she recognized the general time period. She appeared to be dreaming of ninth century Norway, which made these people Vikings. Though why she would be dreaming of Vikings she had no idea, perhaps this was more of Mulara's training.

Eric looked at her curiously, "Who would cause you to leave?"

Seven replied, "You would term her a goddess. I believe I am here to learn a lesson. When she feels the lesson is learned I believe she will return me to where I came from."

Eric stepped back and said, "Are you a Valkyrie?" Suddenly fearful that seeing the woman meant his death tomorrow.

"Valkyrie," said Seven searching her memory, "A handmaiden of Odin whose task was to bring worthy warriors slain on the battlefield to Valhalla the Viking afterlife. No I am not a Valkyrie." Seven remembered that the Vikings believed that seeing a Valkyrie meant that one would die the next time they were in battle and added, "You do not have to fear that seeing me is a warning that you will die tomorrow Eric Haroldson."

"You sound as though you have an interesting tale to tell us shield maiden, I look forward to hearing it tonight. But you probably want to clean your armor and wash yourself before this evenings feast," said Eric turning and motioning to a younger woman behind him. "This is my daughter Jorunn; she will show you to your room and assist you."

Altea added, "She should have her wound tended as well. She was pierced by a spear; you can see where her armor was broken by it."

Eric looked at the woman in surprise, noting now the jagged tear in the chain mail underneath her breast. He looked at her again, the wound should have been disabling if not a mortal one, yet she stood relaxed with no sign of injury. Who was this woman who casually spoke of a goddess sending her here to learn some lesson?

Seven smiled slightly at Altea, "I have already healed, though I thank you for your concern."

Jorunn had come up to them and Seven looked at the younger woman, she was slightly shorter than she and had a delicate heart shaped face and emerald green eyes. As with all the Vikings Seven had met she had blond hair. Seven noted that Jorunn was staring rather intently at the exoskeleton around her eye, which made Seven slightly uncomfortable until the young woman noticed it and gave her a warm smile saying, "It is beautiful, I'm sorry I shouldn't stare."

Seven nodded and then when Jorunn reached out for her hand allowed her to take it. Seven paused and asked Altea, "You will be at the feast as well?"

Altea looked toward Eric who nodded, understanding that Annika wanted a familiar face present at the feast. "I will be happy to sit with you Annika," said Altea who then directed a warning look at Jorunn saying, "I will stop by later and see how you are doing as well."

Jorunn just smirked at Altea and tugged on Seven's hand and Seven let her pull her out of the feast hall and into one of the smaller buildings nearby. Seven wondered at the interaction between the two women, they did not appear to be friends, and Altea appeared to have reservations about Seven being sent off with Jorunn. Yet Seven could detect no sign of hostility from Jorunn toward her at all. The young woman appeared to be fascinated by her exoskeleton and seemed to be very friendly.

Chapter 4

The building Jorunn pulled Seven into appeared to be living quarters, a small cot was against one wall and there was a hearth at the end of the building. A gently steaming pot of water hung over the hearth. A short round barrel partially filled with water before the hearth had Seven resolving that any bathing occurring would be brief and quick.

Jorunn turned to Seven, "Let me help you take off your armor shield maiden, and see if your wound is truly healed." Seven gave in to Jorunn's insistence and pulled her gloves off her hands and allowed Jorunn to unbind the chain sleeves from the coat. Jorunn paused when she was done, noticing for the first time that the strange metal around Seven's eye was also on her hands.

Exclaiming Jorunn gently lifted Seven's left hand in her own and ran her fingers over the metallic strips. Seven was surprised at first, no one had touched her exoskeleton but the Doctor when he was examining her and then only briefly. Seven wasn't entirely sure she was comfortable with the situation but, seeing the rapt look on Jorunn's face, decided not to pull her hand back. Undoubtedly Naomi would be the same way, thought Seven.

"Does it hurt?" asked Jorunn. Seeing the puzzled look on Seven's face Jorunn elaborated, "The metal in your skin, does it hurt you?"

Seven replied, "No it does not hurt me, it is part of my body."

Seven was wearing her set of blue Mularan clothing under the chain mail and Jorunn examined the wrapping around her wrist, calling it clever when she realized it was one piece instead of the banding it looked like. Jorunn paused after she figured out the wrist wrappings and said, "Lets get the chain mail off, if you bend over I will pull it over your head."

Obediently Seven did as she had suggested and shortly the heavy chain mail was removed and carefully laid across a table. Jorunn turned and looked with concern at the slightly blood stained hole in Seven's blouse. "You were injured; please take off your tunic, your wound should be looked at if only to make sure it healed properly."

Reluctantly Seven undid the other wrist wrap and waistband and pulled the top over her head, leaving her upper body covered only by her bra. Jorunn looked curiously at the garment and asked Seven what it was, upon hearing the answer she told Seven that they used strips of cloth to bind their breasts. Jorunn had been gently examining the red mark that was all that was left of the wound.

"It does look well healed; I don't understand, this wound should have injured your lung. You should be seriously injured or even dead from it," said Jorunn.

Seven replied, "I heal quickly, it is a…gift from the goddess I spoke of." Seven had been trying not to pay attention to the young woman's hands as she examined the wound. But when they started tracing the lines of the exoskeleton on her stomach Seven looked at Jorunn curiously.

"You can feel that?" said Jorunn surprised.

"Yes they are as sensitive as my skin," answered Seven. The feel of Jorunn's fingers trailing gently over the exoskeleton of her stomach was not at all unpleasant but it was making Seven slightly tense. Seven relaxed when Jorunn moved around to her back and examined the red mark where the exit wound had been.

"These are beautiful," said Jorunn her breath ghosting over Sevens back where she was leaning close to her shoulder.

An odd shiver at the sensation ran though Seven's body and she slowly became aware that the gentle trailing touch was definitely pleasant. Seven catalogued her body's responses, slightly increase breathing rate, increased body temperature, slight dilation of the eyes. She also detected the same changes in Jorunn. Suddenly Seven realized why they seemed so familiar, she had detected these changes in others but never in herself, she was becoming aroused by Jorunn's touch. And judging from what she could tell of Jorunn's physiological changes she was as well.

What Seven was completely unsure of was what if anything did she wanted to do about the situation she found herself in. This was the empirical evidence she needed to decide whether she was attracted to women, it appeared that she was. Seven decided to simply let her dream take her where it would; perhaps this was what she was supposed to learn.

Seven felt the press of soft breasts against her back just before Jorunn's touch shifted and she moved her hands upward along Seven's shoulder blades to her shoulders then down along her arms. Seven's strength training along with the additional bulk of the muscle fibers had changed the appearance of her upper body. She had looked thin and muscular before, the thin part of that description no longer applied. She did not look overly developed, but the strength in her upper body was apparent in the development of her shoulders and arms.

"You are very strong shield maiden," said Jorunn next to Seven's ear. The feel of Jorunn lightly pressed up against her back and the warm breath upon her ear sent tingles of nerve reactions along Seven's spine. Bemusedly Seven suspected that this was what humans termed seduction. Deliberate actions designed to arouse another to persuade them to have…Seven considered the term that would be correct and decided upon sex since she did not know Jorunn well enough to have strong feelings for her.

At that moment Altea called out from the other side of the door and Jorunn stepped away from her just before Altea entered the building. Seeing that Seven was standing half clothed Altea hastily closed the door covering behind her and gave Jorunn a suspicious look. Seven realized that Altea had suspected that Jorunn would be attracted to her and that was the reason for Altea's slight hostility.

"Her wounds look nearly healed," said Jorunn, "only faint marks remain where the spear wounded her. Her tunic needs to be washed and mended; I will take care of it while Annika bathes and bring her one of mine to wear while it dries." Jorunn gathered up Seven's shirt as she said this and turning to her said, "I will be back in a few minutes with a shirt for you." Jorunn passed by Altea with barely a look as the exited the building.

Altea politely looked away from Seven and said, "I had not realized your jewelry covered more than the area around your eye."

"It is not jewelry, it is…" Seven considered what to call her exoskeleton, "part of my skeleton, it protects me from injury."

Altea glanced at her surprised and exclaimed, "That's how you were able to block the spears and the sword at the end of the fight without being damaged. I thought the sword blow would surely have broken your arm but you were not wounded. It was only because the spear was thrust in between your armor that it damaged you."

"That is correct," said Seven.

Altea asked, "Are you protected inside as well, is that how you healed so quickly?"

Seven nodded and they both glanced at the door as Jorunn entered with a white tunic and walked over and handed it to Seven along with some strips of absorbent cloth which she told her were for drying herself after her bath. The two of them left together, giving Seven some privacy for her bathing. Altea took Seven's Bat'leth promising that she would return it later after she had cleaned the leather hand guards and cleaned the blade with oil. Seven undressed and shook the dust and dirt from her pants and boots.

A few passes of her hand over the worse of the stains and they were gone. She suspected no one knew that one aspect of the specialized fabric was its ability to interact with her exoskeleton for cleaning and mending. She could have cleaned and mended her blouse but it would not hurt it to be washed and mended by hand. Finally Seven poured the heated water into the barrel and quickly washed herself using the soft soap provided. Seven tested the composition of the soap before using it and decided that it was safe to use. Seven suspected that it was produced by boiling animal fat with potash.

Seven decided to wash her undergarments as well since they were slightly sweaty; it was not difficult to dry them afterwards between using her exoskeleton to wick the moisture from them and the heat of the fire. Voices outside had her replying that she was not finished and Seven hurried to redress before letting the two women know they could enter the building.

Jorunn had her tunic repaired though it was still damp from its washing, she also had a cleverly designed comb for Seven to use. Seven examined the comb curiously, each tooth was made separately from iron, and the top of each tooth was flattened into a disk. The disks were then slotted in between two iron plates that were then riveted securely together. Seven suspected the plates were lightly incised on the inside to prevent the disk from twisting.

Seven realized the two women were grinning at her over her examination of the comb and blushed. "It is well made," Seven commented to them before using the comb to unsnarl her hair.

Jorunn offered, "If you would like I can braid your hair and arrange it like ours."

Seven nodded and sat down on one of the benches in the room, she had noted how most women's hair was braided into either one or two large braids which were then knotted once and left hanging down the back. Seven thought the style was elegant and simple.

"One or two braids?" asked Jorunn holding out her hand for the comb.

Seven handed it over to her and said, "One braid please."

A cry of "Altea" was heard outside and Altea left the building seeking whoever had called her. Jorunn took the opportunity to step closer to Seven and her hands that had been business like became more gentle, her touch more caressing. Seven was amazed at how aware she was of the slight changes now that she had recognized what was occurring between them.

Jorunn began braiding her hair, and Seven wondered whether the occasional light touches down the nape of her neck were intentional or not. Seven had not thought that the nape of her neck was so sensitive to touch; yet it seemed to have become extremely sensitive over the past few minutes. Each delicate touch of Jorunn's fingers increased the level of arousal Seven was experiencing. Seven was busy cataloguing each sensation with one part of her cortical node while the majority of her brain was simply enjoying the sensations as they occurred. She knew she could go over the information later and analyze it.

Jorunn finally finished braiding and knotting Seven's hair and then in a move that only slightly surprised Seven, gently reached out and with a gentle pressure turned Seven's head toward her. Seven didn't fight the pressure nor did she draw back when Jorunn slowly brought her face nearer until their lips touched in Seven's first kiss.

It was gentle and delicate, a light meeting of lips that became more firm as Jorunn delicately brushed and then applied a light pressure to Seven's lower lip and then her upper. Jorunn drew back and Seven looked at her wonderingly, her lips still tingling from the contact.

Jorunn smiled and softly asked, "Have you never been kissed by a woman before? I trust I did not offend you, you did not draw away from my touches earlier."

Seven said honestly, "I have never been kissed before. You have not offended me Jorunn."

Jorunn looked at Seven astonished, "But, you are older than I how is it that…" she paused and then asked hesitantly, "This goddess who you follow, she requires that you be chaste?"

Seven's mouth twitched in a slight smile, "I have not had the opportunity until recently to have such an interaction with anyone. And no, she does not require that I be chaste."

"Did you find it pleasing?" asked Jorunn.

Seven simply nodded, it had been much more pleasant than she had thought it would be from the descriptions she had read.

Jorunn smiled at her, "Perhaps next time you will kiss me back then." Seven flushed slightly realizing that she should have been participating in the kiss instead of remaining motionless. "Don't be embarrassed Annika, I believe I did the same thing when I was kissed for the first time as well," said Jorunn as she gripped Seven's shoulder reassuringly and gave her an understanding smile.

Seven smiled back at her, "I will endeavor to do better next time."

"That's the first time I've seen you actually smile," commented Jorunn. "You look even more beautiful when you do Annika."

Seven flushed and asked, "You think I'm beautiful?"

"You are beautiful Annika," said Jorunn.

Seven looked at Jorunn and said sincerely, "You are beautiful too Jorunn."

Jorunn laughed and said, "Thank you. As much as I would like to continue spending time with you alone, we must go to the banquet. I believe your tunic is dry if you would like to wear it."

Seven nodded and retrieved her blouse, noting that the mended hole had disappeared and the garment was undamaged. Jorunn noticed it as well and after Seven finished dressing she walked over and brushed her finger tips over the area she had mended, not so accidentally brushing the underside of Seven's breast as well.

Seven stood rooted for a moment astonished at her reaction to the touch, Jorunn grinned at her with a smile that Seven tentatively identified as teasing. "Are you teasing me Jorunn?" asked Seven hesitantly.

Jorunn sensed her uncertainty and said, "Yes, I'll stop if it's bothering you though. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"It did not make me uncomfortable Jorunn, I was just trying to identify your behavior," explained Seven.

"You haven't been teased before Seven? Verbally I mean. I guess no one has touched you teasingly before," said Jorunn.

"No, no one has touched me like this before. People have told me they were teasing or joking with me before but it was generally not a pleasant experience," said Seven.

Jorunn's face tightened for a moment in anger, "If you didn't find it pleasant then they lied to you, they were not teasing you they were taunting you. They just said they were teasing. That's the difference between teasing and taunting, with teasing both people find it pleasant and amusing, and with taunting only one person does."

Seven considered this and replied, "An efficient distinction between the two. I have only been teased by a few people then."

Jorunn drifted closer to her and asked in a low voice, "Well I would like to tease you some tonight, let me know if it changes from teasing to taunting and I'll stop."

Seven was wary of what Jorunn might consider teasing at this point and was thinking of how to reply when Jorunn chuckled and said, "Your face, I don't think you trust me Annika. I promise, I will do my best not to embarrass you, I will be discrete. How's that, now will you let me tease you?"

Seven definitely could identify Jorunn's grin as teasing now and she couldn't help but reply with her own smile. "You will stop if I ask?"

"I promise," said Jorunn with a solemn look.

Seven was uncertain as to why Jorunn wanted to tease her; finally she asked "Why do you want to do this?"

Jorunn looked at her seriously and realizing that Annika honestly had no idea why considered how to answer her, "I hope your tale explains how you are so innocent Annika. I want to tease you because I know what I'm doing to you when I touch you. I know how it feels and that pleases me, to know that you are reacting to my touch."

Seven wondered about the wisdom of what she was about to do but, remembering this was a dream, she nodded her permission.

Before they exited the building for the feast hall Jorunn reached up and pulled Seven down for another brief kiss. This time Seven kept her wits about her better and managed to return the pressure of her lips. Seven gasped softly as Jorunn suddenly nipped her bottom lip lightly before ending the kiss. The sensation caused by Jorunn's action seemed to jump directly from Seven's lip to her groin.

Jorunn didn't give Seven time to further analyze what had happened, she grinned up at Seven knowingly and pulled her by the hand outside the door. "Much better," said Jorunn over her shoulder as they walked into the feast hall.

Seven replied softly, "I adapt quickly."

An amused snort was her only reply before Eric rose upon seeing them enter and boomed out "Shield maiden, here come and take your seat, everyone this is the brave warrior who defended my cousin Altea and the other women and children from ten of Hakan's warriors who pursued them."

Eric sat at a table raised upon a platform instead of on the earth, the seat Jorunn lead Seven toward was at one of the tables nearest the Earl's table. Altea was already seated and Seven took the spot beside her looking curiously at Jorunn who whispered, "I will be serving you." Seven noticed one of the shields had been removed and her Bat'leth had been placed behind her seat. Seven observed several of the warriors looking at it curiously.

In a short while Jorunn returned with a water filled basin and towels, she brought them to Seven and instructed her to wash her hands as was the custom before every meal. After all of the people seated had cleaned their hands the food was brought from the hearths in the middle of the building. Seven watched as Jorunn took small servings of various meats that were roasting as well as ladling stewed vegetables into a rectangular wooden dish that her memory eventually identified as a trencher. A piece of a flat bread from the flat pan where it was cooked was added last and Jorunn brought over the trencher and advised Seven to eat the bread before it hardened.

Seven watched as those around her started eating and picking up the sharp knife and spoon provided she began to follow suit. Seven could identify only some of the foods she was eating, such as fish, but she had no idea of what type. There were three types of red meat and Seven finally asked Altea in a low voice what the meats were. Altea smiled and explained that the fish was sea-trout; the meats were beef, pork and red deer. The vegetables Seven could identify as a mix of cabbage and onion with some herbs. The bread was coarse ground but good and made from oat and barley. Seven was cautious about drinking too much of the mead that Jorunn had served her in a silver cup.

Jorunn was very attentive, she would frequently pause in her rounds to stop and in a low voice inquire whether or not Seven needed anything. Seven was aware that Jorunn was always careful to make sure that she touched her when she came by, either on Seven's back or arm. Seven was suddenly aware of exactly what double-entendre meant the second time Jorunn's voice purred huskily in her ear, "Would you like anything more Annika," and her hand trailed along her back to her thigh. Suddenly her mind was wondering exactly what other things Jorunn might have in mind and she almost choked on the mouthful of mead she was drinking. With a satisfied chuckle Jorunn left her coughing to clear her throat and finally moved away and went to another one of the guests.

Altea whispered to Seven, "You don't have to let her do that to you, just tell her no. I tried to tell her to leave you alone but she refused."

Seven looked over at Altea and considered what to say; finally she whispered back, "Thank you, she has already informed me that she will stop if I tell her too."

Altea gave her a wide eyed look and then shook her head, "I hope you know what you're getting into Annika," she whispered back.

Seven smirked slightly, "No I do not, but it has been instructional so far."

At that Altea choked over her mead and gave Seven an incredulous look, then grinned at her and shook her head. "No doubt," she finally whispered back.

Finally Eric stood and called for Annika to tell her tale. Seven looked at him uncertainly and he smiled and said, "You are new to tale telling shield maiden. Tell us how you came to be a warrior, instead of a maiden."

Seven looked at him uncertainly, "I had no choice in what I became, I was taken at the age of six by the Borg."

Eric looked at her and asked, "Borg? I have never heard of these people. They took you as a slave? Where were your people, your family?"

Seven replied "The Borg live very far away from this area, it will be thousands of years before they are a threat to you. My mother and father were exobiologists they went to study the Borg and took me with them. Eventually the Borg noticed our ship and captured us. My mother and father were assimilated immediately, but I was not. We traveled to where the Queen was located; Unimatrix One, and my mother and father lead me into her chamber. I remember being afraid, my mother and father were there but they were now drones and they did not speak to me except to tell me to come with them. The Queen walked around me and told me I was very intelligent; intelligent enough to be brought to her for assimilation. She was impressed that I was not afraid of her. Then she assimilated me and I was put into one of the maturation tanks where I stayed until I was fully grown. I was eighteen when I was released from the maturation tank and given the designation Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One."

The entire hall was looking at her uncertainly trying to figure out what she had told them. Eric asked, "Your parents were spying on these Borg?"

Seven considered the question and replied, "They were watching and studying the Borg without the Borg being aware of them."

One of the men spoke up, "They took their child with them on a spying mission?" Seven could hear the disbelief in his voice.

Eric interrupted, "What is this assimilation you speak of?"

"You are joined to the hive mind, your thoughts become one with the hive mind, your will becomes one with the hive mind. The Queen orders the hive mind, she controls the hives thoughts and actions," explained Seven.

Eric paled, "What foul sorcery do you speak of, she enslaves the body and mind to her will?"

Seven considered attempting explaining the process of assimilation, then she nodded, "When you are assimilated you are not aware of yourself as an individual, only as part of the hive mind. You have no thoughts of your own; no will of your own."

Eric looked at her with pity and said, "So your parents when they lead you to her were not aware you were their child?"

Seven looked away for a moment and then nodded to him.

One of the men farther down the table from her asked, "This maturation chamber you stayed in it for twelve years? How were you kept alive, more sorcery? Were you aware during the time?"

Seven looked over at him and replied, "I was in the chamber for twelve years, I was not aware of the passage of time, I was supplied with nutrients by the chamber and waste was taken away by the chamber."

"Sorcery," the man replied and Seven resisted the urge to correct him. She knew there was no way to explain to him how a maturation chamber worked.

"What happened once you came out of this chamber?" asked Altea.

Seven hesitated and then answered, "I did what the Queen wished, I interpreted various types of data that had been collected, and I participated in the assimilation of several different species."

Eric asked, "You remember what you did even though you were enslaved?"

"I remember every action; I remember the look on their faces as I assimilated them as a drone. I remember killing those that were found unfit for assimilation. I remember that I had no emotion as I did these things, no remorse, no anger, just the will of the Collective that they were to be added to us to increase our perfection." said Seven.

Seven was staring in front of her as she said this, her voice a monotone. Jorunn walked over behind her and rubbed her arms, whispering to her, "You're free now Annika, you're not a slave of these Borg anymore." Seven started and then relaxed somewhat and gripped her hand briefly in thanks.

Eric looked at the young woman with pity; it had been disconcerting to see how she had slipped into an expressionless unemotional way of speaking when she talked about her time as a slave. It was obvious that it still affected her greatly and he had to admit if he could remember doing such things and having no control over his actions he would be strongly affected as well. "Yet you are free of them, how were you freed?"

Seven's face relaxed and she smiled slightly, "Not willingly, I was assigned as liaison to a ship called Voyager. The Captain of the vessel knew of a way to defeat an enemy of the Borg and in exchange for her assistance the Borg promised her passage across Borg territory."

Eric asked, "She wasn't afraid of being enslaved by the Borg?"

"She was but Voyager had been transported by a powerful being far from their home. Captain Janeway knew that it would take Voyager seventy years to return; if they could cross Borg territory it would cut several years off their journey. She felt the gain was worth the risk." explained Seven. "The Borg ship I was on was destroyed protecting Voyager so the weapon would not be destroyed. Four drones including me, Captain Janeway and Lt. Commander Tuvok were able to transfer to Voyager before the ship was completely destroyed."

Seven paused and then continued, "Captain Janeway was injured when the Borg ship was destroyed and we were forced to interact with her First Officer. He proved unwilling to honor the agreement and we were ordered to force Voyager into a confrontation with our enemy. He managed to destroy the other three drones but I succeeded in forcing Voyager into the confrontation and our enemy was defeated with the help of the weapon they developed."

"Captain Janeway resumed command and when the battle ended I was ordered to assimilate Voyager. However, Captain Janeway had anticipated my action and she successfully stopped my attempt and in doing so broke my link with the Borg," said Seven.

The hall had been silent listening to the tale; Eric broke into the noise and asked, "She broke the sorcery that enslaved you?"

Seven nodded, "She did, though I was not pleased about it for a long time. I demanded to be taken back to the Borg to rejoin them. I only had my memories as a child of being an individual. It was uncomfortable, lonely; I missed the constant presence in my mind of the billions of voices of the Borg."

An older man with white hair and a long beard asked, "You could hear their voices in your mind all the time?"

Seven nodded, "Yes I was never alone, when I became an individual I could not stand the silence at first, the separateness. I did not understand the people around me, they were irrational, inefficient, each with their own agenda each acting apart from the others. I did not fit in. Captain Janeway tried to help me as best she could, but it took me along time to begin to appreciate being an individual."

Eric asked, "When were you freed from your slavery."

Seven answered "Twenty one months ago."

Eric asked, "What has happened to you during that time, how did you come to be here?"

Seven continued speaking telling them of her experiences, her arguments with the Captain, her growing respect for the woman who had taken her in and tried to help her become an individual again. She spoke of how she finally came to cherish her individuality, yet she still continued to be separate from the other members of Voyager though she had risked her life for them several times. They could not see beyond her Borg mannerisms and she was unwilling to admit to how much their behavior hurt her preferring to hide behind her emotionless Borg mask.

Seven paused and drank some of the mead and continued explaining how the Queen had threatened Voyager and forced her into joining her again. While she was speaking Jorunn came and sat down beside her occasionally stroking her back and arm. Seven was aware of the quiet reassuring presence of Altea as well and between the two of them she felt surprisingly comfortable talking about her experiences.

"The Queen surprised me; she did not wish to assimilate me but allowed me to keep my individuality. She linked my thoughts only with hers and while I was regenerating looked through my memories of what had occurred since I had been severed from the Collective. When I awoke she told me that I had been allowed to be taken by Voyager, that she had planned for me to become an individual so that she could understand what it was to be human. I stayed aboard her vessel for several days before she ordered me to develop a weapon that would allow her to enslave Voyager and the people they were from. I refused; she told me I was allowing my emotions to cloud my mind. She told me to forget Voyager they were not my family, the Borg were my family. Then the Queen brought forth a drone that I recognized, it was my father." Seven paused and looked around at the faces of the people they were quiet.

"It did not have the effect she wished, I called him Papa but he did not recognize me. He was emotionless, a drone, a Borg. Then I heard Captain Janeway's voice telling me to hold on and I knew she was coming to rescue me. Unfortunately the Queen detected it as well and began to search for them. Eventually she found their ship and I believed they would be assimilated, I attempted to attack the Queen but she was too strong. It was then that Captain Janeway entered the Queens Chamber and told her to call off her attack on the shuttle, a small ship, and release me or she would destroy her," said Seven.

Eric stirred and asked, "How many warriors did she bring with her to rescue you? How many made it through her lands with her to confront the Queen?"

Seven smiled and replied, "She brought four members of the crew beside herself, and she confronted the Queen alone. Lt. Commander Tuvok was with her but she sent him to sabotage the…magic the Queen was using to protect herself."

The hall stirred at hearing this and several voices were heard discussing Captain Janeway's bravery in confronting so dangerous a foe alone. Seven continued, "She threatened to use…powerful destructive magical weapons to destroy the Queen's chamber. The Queen did not believe that she would kill herself and began to attack but Captain Janeway ordered the shuttle to prepare to use the weapon and the Queen stopped the attack."

Eric broke in, "She was willing to kill you and herself if she could not free you?"

Seven nodded, "I was not afraid to die; the alternative was to become a drone again. To loose my individuality and be forced to assimilate Voyager. Captain Janeway was also willing to die rather than become a drone."

Eric smiled and said, "And willing to risk death to save you from such a fate as well, she must have planned that when she took so small a rescue party. She would either succeed or they would all die. A bold and daring plan, she must be a brave woman. What would be her name in our tongue, Captain seems to be a title?"

Seven straightened and nodded, "Captain is her title, and her name would be Kathryn Edwardsdottir by your custom."

Seven continued her story, "The Queen freed our vessel and Lt. Commander Tuvok succeeded in his mission. But before we could escape the Queen managed to bring back her…spells. I informed Captain Janeway where to attack to destroy the Queens ability to control the Collective and once that was done she could not control her drones and we were able to escape. It did not take her long to repair the damage enough to order her ship to give chase. The damage was extensive enough to prevent her from communicating with the other Borg ships so only her ship gave pursuit. We were able to make to where Voyager was waiting and they were able to destroy the Queens ship."

The hall gave a great cheer but Seven was aware of Altea frowning beside her, when the noise died down she asked, "Was your father still on the Queen's ship?"

Seven nodded, and the hall grew quiet again as this sunk in. Eric asked, "Shield maiden you seem to never have any blessings that do not come with a great sorrow." He paused and asked, "When did the events you just spoke of happen?"

Seven replied "Five weeks ago."

Eric said, "Then tell us of what has happened since then and how you came to be here to protect my cousin."

Seven told them about the last month, of how she had been captured by Muahe. When she spoke of her death the hall was eerily quiet, and Jorunn put one arm about her waist and her other hand crossed over and gripped one of Seven's. She told how she had been reborn by the power of a goddess. How her Borg implants had been replace by ones made by the same goddess. How she had begun training to be a warrior. Finally she told them that she had fallen asleep on Voyager and had woken to find herself standing on the hill watching the group of women approach.

"I could not do anything but defend them once I heard the plans Hakan's men had for the women and children. They were going to kill the infants. I was made to enslave others once…but I will not stand by and allow that to happen now that I am an individual," finished Seven.

The hall was silent for a moment as everyone looked at her resolute face, many of them still trying to comprehend what it would be like to be made to do such things, to exist without any will of your own.

Finally the old man asked, "But why didn't the Queen simply put you under her spell again and make you do what she wanted? Seems as though it would have been easier than trying to persuade you."

Another voice spoke up, this time it was from a downy cheeked youth, "Perhaps she wanted Annika to become like she was, maybe she was lonely, maybe she wanted a Heir."

Seven started violently, staring at the youth, everyone noticed her sudden movement and the frightened stare she directed at the young man. They had seen many expressions flitting across the woman's face tonight but this was the first they had seen her look frightened.

Eric gently questioned, "Annika, you think he is correct don't you? Why?"

Seven tore her gaze away and took a deep breath and then answered, "There is always a drone that is designated to become the next Queen in case something happens to the present Queen. That drone is always a female, always assimilated by a Queen, assimilated while young so that the Borg implants are fused with their structure while they grow, they are intelligent and must be able to operate as an individual."

Jorunn said, "So you were going to be her Heir, but she didn't persuade you Annika and she died."

Seven said, "The new Queen will have the memories and personality of the old, the drone that was chosen will have their memories overlaid with the personality and will of the old Queen. That is the way that the Borg ensures that the new Queen does not change the nature of the Collective. She will still seek me out if I am one of the designated drones."

Jorunn shook her and said, "You are not a drone now Annika, your Captain Janeway will protect you, she has before why don't you trust her to again."

Eric spoke up, "So even the Queen is not really free, each new Queen is enslaved by the old, does she think to live forever by transferring her spirit to a new body?"

Seven stared at Eric pondering his words, they were superstitious but in a manner he was correct the first Queen in a sense had lived on in each of the succeeding Queens. "I do not know, I only know that I do not want that fate," said Seven.

Eric nodded and said, "It is a horrible fate to have hanging over you head, yet you have a goddess who has made you one of her own. Surely she will not allow this to happen?"

Seven said thoughtfully, "Perhaps she will help me; I believe I am here to hear what I heard. To realize that I was one of the drones designated to be a possible Queen."

Eric said thoughtfully, "You cannot fight a battle if you do not know what the enemy desires. Now you know what she desires, maybe that will suggest a strategy to you shield maiden."

Seven nodded, and Eric said kindly. "You look tired shield maiden; if you wish Jorunn and Altea will show you to your quarters. If you are still here on the morrow, will you join us for the battle?"

Seven replied, "If I am still here I will join you to fight Hakan."

Chapter 5

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