By Elizabeth Carter
Their lovemaking had been slow paced and silent. Not simply out of parental consideration for the children camping out on the floor in the common room but because both Seven and B'Elanna needed it to be so. They needed the reassurance of tenderness and quiet touch. The harsh, cold, sterile environment of the Borg, plus the frantic hurried rush of the rescue had affected the women more than either of them wanted to admit.
After viewing the daunting prance of the 'dead' Borg Vessel out their porthole window, Seven had nearly withdrawn into herself. It was a tactic B'Elanna was all too familiar with. It was one she used herself. The young Klingon was still shocked by the moments of sheer insecurity in her wife's heart. Of course, in those moments the Borg-ness would become more prevalent within Seven, becoming a means to protect herself.
'May I simply be your wife for a while? I am weary of the fight, of the Borg, of all else. How can it be that I am suddenly so human, when the Borg whisper in my mind?'
Those words haunted B'Elanna even as her wife drifted into sleep. "I vowed I'd protected you, Benel. And I will. I love you." the Klingon fell asleep with the vow still moist upon her breath.
They woke with their bodies mingled. B'Elanna's grip was possessive as her head and torso were pillowed upon the soft fullness of her wife's breasts and stomach, her arm flung over the taller woman's gaunt waist, her legs entwined with the longer limbs.
Seven had her left hand within her beloved's thick curly black locks of hair while her right was laying on top of B'Elanna's arm that held her waist.
B'Elanna inhaled the rich scent of her wife: honey and metal. A scent she had privately always enjoyed ever since Seven of Nine had first come aboard Voyager. It was one of the reasons B'Elanna was always agitated around the former Borg, her Klingon side was rising to a most primal call. Drawing in another breath, B'Elanna smiled, thinking the faint musk of her wife called not only to the Klingon in her, but the engineer. She was not yet awake, and in her sleep the hybrid Klingon's possessive hold became even more covetous. Bella loved to snuggle in the lanky embrace of her Nic. For some reason everything in that small moment felt right in the world.
Snuggling deeper into the arms, B'Elanna caught a whiff of something that wasn't at all Seven.
"I think it is the burning flesh of swine," the blonde said without being asked.
"Bacon and sausage, Nic." The Klingon pushed herself up off of her wife, to gain another scent of the meat cooking, before laying her head back down up her supple human-Borg pillow.
"I am unfamiliar with the butchery bio-mater of the species."
"Trust me. This nose knows bacon and sausage."
"We must have long overslept if the children are preparing morning nutritional supplement."
"Making their own breakfast. Yeah, kids do that. At least it isn't replicated sugar cereals," B'Elanna said through a yawn.
B'Elanna hugged her wife tighter before untangling her body from that of Seven's. She stretched like the sleek feline she resembled. Seven was amused by the unconscious routine B'Elanna preformed each morning. Running her hands through the thick mane caused it to tussle in a tangled mess and made Seven giggle.
"You resemble a thistle blossom," Seven said, reaching out to smooth the tangled mess.
"Thanks, Blondie!" B'Elanna retaliated by reaching behind her, grabbing one of the pillows and smacking Seven in the face with it.
Seven ripped the pillow from her wife's grasp, chucked it on the floor, and then easily pinned the diminutive hybrid to the mattress. The blonde made a move to kiss her wife, but just as her full lips descended Seven rolled over and stood up, leaving a frustrated Klingon laying on the bed. "I need to shower. And so do you. We carry the aroma of our lovemaking and it would not due for the children to be aware of our nocturnal activities."
"Hate to tell you, Annika, I think our kiddos already know about 'our nocturnal activities'."
"Exposure and knowledge are two different things, Bella," Seven stated matter-of-factly.
It took B'Elanna's trained ear to hear the fluctuation in the otherwise normal monotone of Seven's voice. You simply had to pay attention, much like she had with the Warpcore. The Chief of Engineering was so well aware of her engines that she could detect the smallest change of calibration in the Warpcore by sound and feel alone. It was the exact same with Seven of Nine, and B'Elanna loved the secret knowledge.
"However, if you do not wish to join me in efforts to conserve energy that is your choice. As you say 'suit yourself.'
"What, me waste an opportunity to have you all to myself? If that is what you think, Blondie, think again," B'Elanna answered in her normal antagonistic voice that had once been used in arguments with the former Borg. This time, of course, there was a wide, bright smile on the elegant caramel face. "And besides, it's like you said, conserve energy." She bounded up onto her feet, causing her to stand upon the bed before she jumped off to tail her wife into the bathroom.
The three children gathered in the kitchen looked at one another and started to snicker.
"Parents." The three rolled their eyes and shook their heads.
"They are soooo weird," Naomi concluded. "They are all the same. Just like Neelix and Mom when they think I am not listening, trying to be all sneaky."
"Do they actually think their subterfuge works?" Icheb asked.
"They must," Mizoti answered. "Else why continue to attempt the concealment of their sexual activity?"
"Because they need to believe they are protecting their children," Naomi said. "I guess they think they are sheltering us from the reality of their private activities. You know the whole Adult Conspiracy thingy."
"Protocols all adults adhere too," Mizoti reasoned. "Some of these protocols are inefficient."
"Well, that's adults for you." Naomi shook her head.
"Indeed. Even at sixteen I am to follow protocols that are becoming more and more inefficient simply because of my age. They say I have raging hormones. It was something the older generation say which they expect me to keep private," Icheb pointed out.
"What's that?" Naomi rose a Seven-like eyebrow.
"Sounds like Pon-farr," Mizoti reasoned.
"I believe so. Apparently all teenagers my age enter such a state," Icheb said.
Both Naomi and Mizoti wrinkled their noses in distaste. "So you have to have a mate?" both girls asked in unison.
Icheb blushed. "We will no longer discuss this."
"So you do have to mate!" both girls squealed.
"Enough, or I will send you both out an airlock," the boy grumbled, his face becoming even more crimson. He was ashamed that he had certain dreams about several female crew members, including the Captain, that left him in a very awkward state upon wakening in the morning. He had spent several rations on bed sheets alone because of the afflicting condition he woke up in.
"He must be adhering to the Adult Conspiracy protocols. He even growled like a grown up," Mizoti said while ignoring her brother.
"Indeed. He must have no choice but to switch sides. Having to take part in the Adult Conspiracy and all. Maybe resistance is futile here, too."
"Hey, I am standing right here!" Icheb snapped.
"Yes, well, you switched sides on us so we don't have to talk to you," Mizoti said. "Besides, it's umm....girl talk."
"No, it isn't. You're talking about me." Icheb crossed his arms trying his best to formulate the Janeway-Force Ten Glare. "And I said quiet."
"You're not the boss of us," once more both girls intoned defiantly.
"Yeah, and besides, YOU started it anyway. WE just want to know."
"Zot's right, it's not fair you get to know stuff about the Adult Conspiracy and not tell us. You are still kind of a kid."
"I am not a child." Icheb was losing his patience. "You two are too little to understand."
"He's gone now," Naomi said. "That is the first sign.... Next thing you know he'll say stuff like 'it's good for you.'"
"And 'because I said so, that's why,'" Mizoti pointed out.
"Sisters are so stupid," the young Brunali grumbled, wishing he could make good on his threat and send the little twits out the airlock.
"Sounds like an argument brewing in there," B'Elanna said, her head inside the gray shirt she was slipping over her head.
"Perhaps we should intervene," Seven commented, standing in her typical ramrod straight pose with her hands firmly clasped behind her back. The only difference was she was stark naked.
"Nope. Let them work it out from themselves. Builds character. If they decide to start using Bat'laths .......then we step in."
"Yep. Angel-Face, they can't think they can go crying to the moms every time just become of some sibling hiccup. And Itch is a big boy. He can take care of himself."
"B'Elanna, you are forgetting that the girls sabotaged Voyager, escaped sickbay, stole our ship, and were about to engage the Borg." The blonde titled her head ever so slightly.
"And Itch is our son...he can handle it if you let him. Oh, speaking of our ship. I think it's time we check up on our little living vessel," the smaller woman said, trying to ignore her wife's lack of clothing. "You might want to put something on..."
"I enjoyed the ritual of you getting dressed," Seven remarked. "You are very beautiful, Bella."
And for the first time in a long time B'Elanna stood proud and believed the words that were spoken to her. Besides, her wife never uttered a falsehood. It was too inefficient. In response B'Elanna simply kissed the full lips of her wife and smiled. "Glad you enjoyed the show Nic, now it's your turn. I want my show."
"Very well." Seven allowed her lips to pull into a smirk.
The children had outdone themselves: omelettes with portobello mushrooms, pearl onions, red, yellow and green bell peppers, and pepperjack cheese, hash browns, oatmeal with honey and, of course, the bacon and sausage. They had not stopped there. They served raktajino and replicated racht (a Klingon dish made from live serpent worms not to be confused with gagh.) Of course, the racht wasn't live but it would do, even for Miral's cynical stomachs.
With a satisfied belly of her own B'Elanna watched over her new family and found a slim smile tickling the corners of her mouth. She could hear her mother calling Seven Stick Girl and questioning the blonde on how she and B'Elanna first met. Of course the children had all leaned forward over the scraps of breakfast left over on their plates.
For a moment Seven was quiet, then started to explain how Voyager had made a deal with the Borg.
After last night's admittance, B'Elanna half expected her wife to shut down and side step the topic. But the soft monotone voice of Seven of Nine never wavered. So perfect in deliverance, it actually set off alarm bells in the young Klingon. Perfect, removed, and monotone. Only recently, Seven ....no ....Annika, started to adopt just the slightest hint of emotion in her voice. Now it was the pure voice of an ex-drone. The voice of a would-be Queen.
B'Elannra rose from the chair, saying nothing as she put a hand upon the blonde's shoulder. Not caring who was watching, the Klingon stroked Seven's cheek, lifted the angler chin before pressing a kiss upon the full lips. "I'll be back in a little while," she winked. "Stay out of trouble, Benel."
"It is not I that enlists trouble, BangwI. You court danger well enough on your own."
"I didn't just court danger, Nic, I married her." Smiling, she left the quarters before Seven could utter a retort.
"B'Elanna, aren't you supposed to be on medical leave?" was the greeting Captain Kathryn Janeway gave her Chief of Engineering as the young woman walked into the ready room.
B'Elanna ran a stiff hand through her sable hair before bringing her eyes to rest upon the woman she admired. "Actually, yeah... but I am here on personal business if you have a moment, Captain."
Janeway could see the weary expression in the eyes of the younger woman. More than that, she saw the dark circles under the chocolate orbs, the hollowness in the cheeks. This was a woman who had not slept well. But then given the recent events in the past few days it wasn't surprising that B'Elanna found sleep a rare commodity.
B'leanna was paying for Seven's workaholic abuse of the Klingon's body. For the Captain it didn't matter who was in the body at the time, because the body would still look as it did now if B'Elanna had been in her own skin during the Borg conflict. In fact, Kathryn thought Seven had employed better maintenance over the body of her wife than B'Elanna would have during those trying days when the Queen had the ex-drone.
Of course, add to the mix that Miral, daughter of L'Naan of House Prasba, was now aboard Voyager or, more importantly, the fact that she was actually alive. That had to play harshly on B'Elanna's young heart. And on top of that, two errant girls, intent on mimicking their heroes, had set Voyager on its teeth and forced Janeway into a position the Captain had not liked. Punishing her crew.
The fiery captain rounded her desk and placed a soothing hand upon the younger woman's arm, her smile warm and affectionate. The smile of a mentor and confidant. "What is it, B'Elanna?" Janeway asked, dropping rank, allowing her Chief to know they were now off the record-s and off the esoteric protocols of chain of command.
They moved to the secondary level of the Ready Room and sat upon the sofa, in quasi-relaxed state.
"That Borg ship out there. I..." B'Elanna stopped for a moment, chastising herself for her momentary weakness. 'May I simply be your wife for a while? I am weary of the fight, of the Borg, of all else. How can it be that I am suddenly so human, when the Borg whisper in my mind?' "I think it's in the best interest to destroy it. Harvest what we can, but we have to destroy it, Captain."
"It's affecting Seven." Janeway knew. She really didn't have to ask the question. The older woman knew the answer. In fact, having that thing trail them as it was, made the Captain wonder if the threat of the disabled Borg ship was truly over. "Lieutenant Commander Tuvok has also suggested using a little prudence when dealing the Borg. It should be exorcized. I agree."
"Captain....the strain on Seven is too high. She lapsed into Borg-speak this morning." The Klingon sucked in a long breath of air before slowly exhaling. "You are the only other person I know that can pick out the sounds of emotion in my wife's voice. Or the expressions in her face. I know I was physically there on the Diamond, but Seven has direct access to the memory of the event and she will recall it as if she had lived it. Damn it, I wanted to protect her from that, protect her from the Queen."
"You did B'Elanna, don't castigate yourself with imagined wrongs." The older woman replaced her hand on B'Elanna's shoulder and squeezed. "Having gone head to head with the Queen, I know how she can twist things, get under your skin, and I've seen first hand what she is capable of with Seven. For eighteen years the Queen had absolute dominance over Seven of Nine. She had 'the' drones absolute devotion. Now Seven is free and she is so new to everything. Like fresh skin over a wound, she is fragile but strong. Had she been on that ship with the Queen I have no doubt things would have been worse."
"Seven would never betray us!" B'Elanna flared suddenly, thinking that the Captain was accusing her wife of treason.
"No. No, Lanna. Listen, you know I don't think that. You also know that without question Seven would give herself up for us. In fact, she had, only you took her place. What I am saying is that had you not switched with her, Seven would have, out of good intentions of saving us and helping those she loves, allowed anything the Queen wanted to do to her personally to happen."
B'Elanna thought of the forced kiss and the threat the queen had made, that if B'Elanna, while in Seven's body, had not complied in kissing the Queen, the metallic menace would have ordered the nanoprobes to destroy Voyager.
Then of course there had been the incident B'Elanna had gone through to insure that Miral would be okay. The Klingon shuddered at the recall, knowing that Seven, too, would have to live with the memory of the Queen touching the ex-drone's body. Worse, B'Elanna had to be willing. Of course, Seven would have been more traumatized by the incident had she been there in person. The Klingon had tried to meditate, tried to lock that horrific memory up with the dozen other nightmares Seven had secured away in the farthest reaches of her memory.
"How are you doing, by the way? That could not have been easy for you."
"Not my idea of fun, having to listen to that bitch tell what she thought was my wife that she, not I, was her mate. That she made Seven for herself, chose her, and that they were complete together. I was locked into some sort of memory recall while Seven's body was regenerating. I saw as Seven was taken as a girl once more, forced in front of the queen and forced to go with the Second. Did you now the Queen we knew wasn't even the same Queen that was in reign when they took Annika? They looked a lot a like, but they weren't the same.
"Yes, that particular Queen died at Wolf 359. Her prime was the one that tried to assimilate Earth in the past but was once more confronted with Captain Picard," Janeway said. "It is information given to Starfleet Captains, B'Elanna. It wasn't for the consumption of the general officers of Starfleet." the captain added when she saw the stymied, near angry, look in her Chief Engineer.
"Well, did you know it was the Wolf Queen that forced Annika....Seven .. to assimilate Locutus?"
Kathryn was shocked. Apparently she hadn't known that bit. Jean-Luc had always claimed the Queen was there for the assimilation. Those in Starfleet had assumed it was the Queen herself that assimilated the Captain of the Enterprise.
"Well, she did," B'Elanna continued without missing a beat, "because the Queen wanted a mate but six degrees removed from herself. The Prime was the time traveler and her second was the bitch we know. The bitch assimilated my wife completely so that Nic would be her Prime if the time came. You know why my mother was on the Diamond?"
"That does have me confused, I must say. That doesn't seem to be typical Borg behavior," Janeway answered.
"Our Queen decided the best way to destroy the link Nic and I have was to use my own mother against her. Nic was to assimilate my mother as her Prime! My mother to be a weapon against Nic. My Nic! My mother...Kah'less, Captain. If Seven had been there she would have been mortified that Miral was even taken from her home all because the Queen wanted to use her. And I know my Benel, she would have taken that blame simply because she was there. Because the whole motive for my mother to be the Prime was to hurt my wife, and it would have worked."
"Does Seven now blame herself?" Kathryn grew more and more concerned.
"No. She sees that I am happy to know my mother is alive. Though I think I should be a little worried over those two having their heads together." This last bit was added with a smile.
B'Elanna rose from the sofa and moved to the large port window, her eyes falling upon the dilapidated Borg vessel. "We have to destroy it, Captain. And we have to let Seven do it."
The younger woman started when she felt the hand of her mentor and captain on her shoulder. "You've traveled a great distance, B'Elanna, daughter of Miral. So different than the angry woman I once knew."
"No. Never broken, Lanna. You're focused, you've found a direction and your equal. Tom Paris was..I am sorry, all wrong for you. He would have tried to mold you into an antiquated female of Earth's past with no claws and that isn't you, B'Elanna. You didn't need to be tamed, you needed direction. I see before me a woman who has faced so many challenges equal to Seven reclaiming her humanity. Thank you for protecting her, loving her."
B'Elanna stared into the refection of her captain in the dark window. "But you're sorry that it isn't you."
"I .....I have Amanda, B'Elanna." Kathryn quickly said. "I know what you think, what others might think, hell, what my Amanda might think. That she is somehow Seven's understudy. But...I knew Amanda first. She was little more than a wounded bird needing someone to look out for her...I have always had a soft spot for wounded birds on the lunatic fringe. First a feral young woman in the ruins of New Hope, you....Seven.......
"Maybe all that time I was looking for Amanda in Seven, and when she found you, it made me realize what I had forgotten....whom it was I was truly looking for. I won't pretend that part of me wasn't defensive when Seven found love that wasn't mine. But losing her to you, it is bearable. She needs you, B'Elanna. But don't forget it's okay to need her too. I know she loves you."
B'Elanna turned, astonished at the sincere relaxation into the private truth of Kathryn Janeway's heart.
"I've already assigned three away teams on a salvage mission to extract what we can. Hopefully the Borg slip-steam and transwarp drives are repairable. Once we assess the usability of the drives, I want you and Seven to begin integrating them into Voyager. Hopefully the Borg have given us a way home."
Home, the Alpha Quadrant.
For those Voyager had left behind, it was almost too easy to forget the lost ship that the Delta Quadrant had swallowed because of the Caretaker. Sometimes there were grim reminders of the tiny vessel fighting to get back home, reminders that periodically cropped up.
The screen flashed with an urgent message from Starfleet. The fact it was routed directly to the Captain's Ready Room gained Picard's undivided attention. The blue / black shied of the United Federation of Planets was replaced with the Level Ten Captain's Eyes Only Communication logo.
Typing in his encryption code, Picard watched as the screen blanked out and was replaced with the face of Admiral Alynna Necheyev, the new Director of Starfleet Intelligence's Covert Operations. The Admiral had taken a position several years ago with the Covert Operations and Deep Cover when she and several others of the Command staff learned of conspiracies in the Federation with supporters and sympathizers of the Maquis Resistance. She was, after all, a hardened advocate and abolitionist against the Maquis and she had no love for the Borg. She had ordered Hugh to be used as a bio-weapon against the Borg, refusing to believe the 'thing' could be any more than a mechanized terror and not a frightened teenager who was severed from the cybernetic menses.
If she had a religion, a single faith, it was the goals of the Federation and to Starfleet, which at times were not mutually exclusive. So deep was her passion for Starfleet she was a perfect agent for Section 31, as well as director for Starfleet Intelligence. Anyone who was within the Federation and spoke against it was either a conspirator, and must be therefore eliminated, or a security Risk and terrorist sympathizer, and like wise must be eliminated. The advent of Voyager's communication with Project Pathfinder and the briefings Starfleet was receiving made for some very nervous heads of state. It was Necheyev who would root out insurrectionists and Maquis supporters and order their 'reeducation.'
Voyager had met with many new species, confronted countless anomalies and had access to new technology, including the Borg and a defense against them. But the aging woman did not trust Kathryn Janeway, after learning she was giving sanctuary to the Borg. Because of the quantity and quality of technology Voyager had access to, Necheyev was convinced that should their enemies, or even 'allies' such as the Klingons, get a hold of this information, it could spell doom for her precious Federation. That was something Necheyev would not allow. Better Voyager stay lost than to come home.
For a time Voyager was ruled out as a sympathizer to the Orion Syndicate because of the several thousand light years between the quadrants, but Voyager had had a Cardassian spy who had betrayed the vessel to the enemy known as the Kazon. Apparently Janeway was not an adept enough leader to root out spies among her own crew. Worse yet, she allowed a Maquis captain to be her first officer. It was something Necheyev found unforgivable.
"Admiral Necheyev," Picard started, "How can I be of assistance?"
"Captain Picard, I'll make this brief." The sterling silver haired woman said in a clipped, smokey voice. "It has come to our attention that you will be meeting with The Klingon Chancellor in three days."
"I am." The admiral was in charge of Starfleet Security and so it was of no surprise that she would be communicating with Picard, but the captain suspected this communication would be far more than a briefing on his mission objective.
"It is of course well known that you served as the Klingon Arbiter of Succession and you are one of the few humans they actually respect. Use your position to try to quell their battle lust. The Federation cannot withstand a war with the Empire. Insure that this incident with the Maquis, the Borg, and the missing Councillor's wife are not used to incite against the Federation.
"The Borg are the worst enemy we have ever encountered, and the Maquis' actions against the Federation are a plague upon the sanctity of what we believe in. They must be eliminated. And if necessary, Voyager will shoulder the responsibility for this new development with the Borg. I am sending you several logs of one Commander Ameil Chakotay; he has some interesting observations concerning Captain Janeway and the Borg."
"We are using Captain Janeway as an escape goat? Admiral, I've knowing Janeway for some time. She is not easily persuaded." Captain Picard frowned
"She is too lenient on the lost causes, Captain. In fact, it is her greatest weakness. I've read her file. Despite protocol, her first such instance was with one Amanda Rothery, a child refugee of the New Hope colony. She pleaded with her CO to take the refugee child into custody. In not following her orders to neutralize the Maquis, it is evidently apparent she has taken them into her crew manifest. In her alliance with the Borg, which Commander Chakotay had fervently opposed, she ordered the severance of the liaison 'because she felt sorry' for that thing."
"Lieutenant Rothery is an exemplary officer, Admiral, because of Captain Janeway's influence. I know first hand. I had the pleasure of her service aboard Enterprise . If Kathryn has taken the Maquis aboard Voyager to become apart of her crew, then she had to do so out of extreme measures. Janeway lives by the laws of Starflee., I cannot believe she would waver."
"Extreme circumstances as you have said, Jean-Luc. Things have changed. Janeway is suspected of going rouge. Read the transcripts, Captain, and you will understand why she is under investigation for treasonous acts by consorting with the Borg, and why she is suspect in this new development in the Collective. Go to the Klingons, Captain, and stop a diplomatic incident that will surly lead to war if not contained. You have your orders, Jean-Luc. Read the logs and proceed according as planned."
Jean-Luc could not mistake the hidden agenda to make Voyager the perfect scapegoat. She had the Prime in her custody, the Captain was but in a romantic affiliation with the drone and they were in the Delta Quadrant where the Borg hailed from, and Voyager was host to survivors of the Maquis Resistance. In fact, Voyager was all too perfect. And that bothered the Captain.
"Just remember, Captain Picard, anyone collaborating with the Borg, an enemy of the Federation, loses all rights as a federation citizen."
That was true. Anyone suspected of Borg involvement and influence lost all rights as a citizen and therefore could be detained without question, and could be detained a full year without specific charges being filed if sufficient evidence could be provided that the individual was being manipulated by the Borg. Inherent rights were waived and imprisonment inevitable. Kathryn Janeway was indeed being manipulated by the Borg, as were all others aboard Voyager, for aiding and abetting the Borg drones and one of the Primes.
The Borg was a Federation wide threat, and Starfleet was not above blaming the only likely source of this discord that was now rippling through both the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard moaned in his sleep. They kept coming and coming and coming. Mindless drones with red lasers for eyes and spikes and claws and pinchers for hands. Their faces were mottled gray with throbbing black veins snaking across them, and their bodies encased in black armor. They had once been people, but now they were nothing. All their humanity stripped, their passion eroded and fear, joy, love eradicated as mercilessly severed as their varicose limbs had been.
He kept firing his phaser, but they adapted and the blasts streamed across them as water. Somehow the weapon in his hands now held an antique tommy-gun and still he could not stop them all. His ears strained for the voice of the single entity that controlled them all. The Queen.
He knew he had to track her down. He had to kill her. But she was not to be found. The mammoth tide of Borg suddenly parted and Picard found himself staring at a huddled mass of people. Curious, he stepped closer, watching. Shocked to find they were all drones. Children, all children. Why were they outside the hideous maturation chambers that forced their growth and downloaded all protocols of the Hive Mind.
*Locutus. Welcome home.* It was her. The Queen. He watched as the snaking black tubes took hold of the torso of the Queen, her spinal column writhing back and forth in the manner of a cat's tail. The sleek body, encased in shining black, acceded from the metal floor of the Chamber. When he looked again he saw this Queen was not his Queen. This one had a crown of gold.
*I am the all, the Borg. I no longer require your presence as my mate, I have found my omega, my perfection, in another, Locutus of Borg. However, the Collective has need of you.*
Picard woke with a start, his breath heavy in his lungs. Reaching for the lamp on his bedside table, he inadvertently knocked over a glass of water, causing it to clatter to the floor and break. Looking at the shards of glass, he thought how like his life after the Borg they were. Shattered. But he had not had such dreams since his last encounter with the Collective and....her.
Going to the bathroom he washed his face, trying to rinse away the nightmare that was still lingering. When he rose to look in the mirror he half expected to see an implant erupt on his cheek and the optical attachment to sprout forth. His face, of course, remained whole.
'Why now?' he asked his reflection. But he knew his answer. It lay within the communication he had the day before which, of course, had lead to his subsequent meeting with Counselor Troi. 'Of course, Seven of Nine.....She would bring Locutus to the surface.'
The Borg had many advantages, but one thing they could not escape, and that was almost a disadvantage, was the nearly flawless logic by which they operated. Organic beings could bluff, go off on tangents, have inspired insights. But the Borg were ruthless in their functioning as a cohesive whole, The Collective, as they were in their decimation of worlds. Picard knew better than anyone, save this Seven of Nine, how to exploit the Borg. Everything the Borg did was in response of the Queen. The queen made the drones. How then was a Queen created? Of course she was an organic being who would have had to become not just Borg but almost a super-Borg. She was the complete operating system for the entire Hive Mind. She was more than a single being, she was the program, the software made flesh and machine.
The Borg had figured out how to create a god, or perhaps a goddess, from a machine. Take an organic being, make her Borg and give her access to Royal Protocol and behold a Queen is born. This is how all Queens were made. You couldn't ever kill the Queen, because the Queen wasn't a person. It....she...was....a program. It was simple, easy and terrifying.
From his dream, Picard could not shake the image of this elusive and complex woman that called herself Seven of Nine. What better way to defeat the humans than to have a drone infiltrate under the impression she was severed from the Collective, only to learn later that she was merely gaining INTEL to use against humanity. Seven of Nine would be able to do what the former Queens had not yet fully managed, the completely assimilation of humans. And she was doing so through one Kathryn Janeway and her runaway libido.
Picard had seen the before and after holographs of this Seven of nine. Despite the Borg deformities she was a remarkably gorgeous woman. No wonder Admiral Necheyev was concerned. Janeway was apparently putty in this Borg's hands.
Sighing, the captain went back into his bedroom, cleaned up the shards of glass, and threw a towel down upon the damp spot on the carpet before he crawled back into bed. This time his sleep was not interrupted by dreams.
Commander Deanna Troi, Ship's Counselor, stationed aboard the Federation Starship USS Enterprise-E, made her way to her captain's ready room. For the past two weeks she had been Earth-side attending a medical / psychological seminar. Her dear friend Doctor Beverly Crusher had attended with her and when they weren't at the convention center they spent time at the beach.
That was when REginald Barclay had found her and tried to convince his superiors that the Pathfinder Project to contact Voyager would work. Two weeks later they had made the first contact with the lost ship and her heroes in four years. Reg was now working on a way to extend that contact. In fact, everyone on the project was thrilled it had worked. And no doubt those aboard Voyager must have been thrilled to have been given the chance to call home. In fact, this contact was the very reason Deanna was now on her way to Captain Picard's ready room.
"Captain, you called me, sir?" Deanna asked after she had been given permission to enter the Ready room. Her large, dark, doe eyes first fell, as they always did, upon the bubble fish tank along the east bulkhead.
"Counselor." The Captain was standing by his replicator. "Would you like anything?"
"No, not right now, thank you."
A tilt of the bald cranium and Picard turned back to the replicator. "Earl Gray, hot." He watched as the requested cup and saucer materialized on the black-green grid and took the tea in hand. For a moment he thought of Voyager. "You know, Kathryn Janeway would have, for the past seven years, had to ration the replicator for each crew member. It is something that we in the Alpha Quadrant take for granted." He looked at the tea cup with a little more gratitude. "We take so much for granted. I have to credit Captain Janeway in the way she has been able to keep her people protected and sound."
"I get the feeling you didn't call me here to talk about your admiration for Captain Janeway." Troi folded her hands across one knee as she always did when conversing with her Captain.
"No exactly." Picard took a small sip of his tea before he set it down on the end table near the sofa Deanna was sitting on and sat down next to her. "But I do need to get your reaction to our lost Captain."
"I know you can't 'read' her at this distance, but in your professional opinion what is your assessment of Kathryn Janeway?"
"Before I answer, is this Captain Picard asking, or a concerned colleague, or Jean-Luc."
"Does it matter?"
"In my answer, no, but how I answer, it might, sir."
"Then I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard, concerned colleague."
Deanna allowed a sincere smile to find her eloquent face. "I think she has had to face some trials other Captains only train for in the academy as a scenario. She is remarkably resourceful and ardently adheres to Starfleet protocols to tie her and her crew to something of home. "
"That was the answer you gave Admiral Paris, Counselor. What is the answer you give me."
" Sir, for seven years the crew of Voyager has had to overcome so much and without anything familiar. They had to rely on the generosity of complete strangers to gain any aid they needed. They had to overcome the deaths of crew-members, they have a EMH Mark One as their CMO, they have an integrated crew of Starfleet and Maquis and a few civilians. They also have to deal with traitorous members of the Equinox, who just happened to have been responsible for the near genocide of a species and for the torture of one of their crew members."
"One of their crew members...." Picard murmured. "You mean Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct Unimatrix Zero One." There was a coldness to the voice of Picard that Deanna hadn't heard for two years, since the incident of the Borg Incursion and their subsequent attempt to assimilate Earth's past. Last night's dream hadn't helped his perceptions of the remarkable woman.
"I believe they just call her Seven," Deanna said gently. She could sense the rise of the man's anger and the coldness startled her.
"Her time in the Delta Quadrant has given Janeway a touch of the renegade. She has become sympathetic to the Borg, at least that is what Starfleet Command believes."
"Do you?" Troi turned the question around. "Sir, Janeway and those if the Voyager crew probably know the Borg better than anyone in the Alpha quadrant. They lost their fear of the Borg out of necessity. They might have even forgotten how terrifying they can be."
"I know the Borg, Counselor. I know how they think, I know how 'She' thinks!"
'Sir, I don't mean to belittle your experience with the Borg or as Locutus. I am only suggesting that Captain Janeway and Voyager have come to a certain understanding of the Borg. The Delta Quadrant is where the Borg are from. Having read, by Admiral Paris's request, the starlogs of Captain Janeway, if you expect her to be sympathetic to the Borg, you are mistaken, sir."
"I read those reports, too, Counselor and I find it highly suspect that Captain Janeway stormed into Unimatrix One, endangering her crew for the sake of one person, a rogue drone at that.
"I know better than Janeway what the Borg are capable of, how 'she' manipulates things. She had Data convinced for 3.037 seconds, an eternity for an android. Janeway has aided and abetted not just one drone, but five others as well.
"Borg do not have children, Counselor. Their stature might be 'as' children, but do not let that fool you. They are Borg and the Borg are as pure as evil as they come." He could not shake the image of the heaps of dead Child drones. The vision of their tiny corpses made no sense at all to him.
"Captain, if I might offer something... Hugh. We 'aided and abetted' him, a drone severed from the collective who became an individual, something none of us thought possible. Hugh, who so cared for Gordi that he was willing to go back to the collective and be re-assimilated to protect Gordi. Don't you think this Seven of Nine might be the same. We fought Admiral Necheyev for Hugh. Captain Janeway will fight just as hard for Seven. She is an individual and she, like you, sir, was rescued from the Collective."
"If so, why does she cling to a Borg designation ? She was the Prime! The Prime! Deanna, do you know what that means?"
"Yes, the next down in line of succession should the current Queen become deactivated. The Queen Janeway encountered isn't the exact same Queen we killed in the past nor is it the same Queen that died at Wolf 359."
"Yes and no. Not the same body of the same Queen, but the body is irrelevant. The memories are everything. The Queen Data and I killed in engineering had all the memories of the one who ordered my assimilation at wolf 359! Now the Queen befriended by Janeway has all those memories as if they were her own. She is all past incarnations of the Queen, back to the beginning of the Borg, and this Seven of Nine was to be the next Queen."
Deanna sensed something more, something deeper in her captain. Something with the memories of Locutus. So dark and so tangible were the memories they were as a blunt force object on the Betazed consciousness.
But her captain would not tell her.
"Three days ago, while you are at the conference, this came through the long rang sensors of DS9 and four." Picard pushed a few buttons on the kiosk of his desk to summon up images of a fleet of Borg cubes."Take a close look, Counselor, and tell me what you see."
Troi rose up off of the sofa to see what it was that had so captivated her captain. No, captivated was the wrong word. Obsessed was more accurate. Jean-Luc Picard was absolutely obsessed.
Her large doe eyes widened when she beheld the images displayed upon the screen.
Before them were images of two fleets of the most recognizable hostiles in the four quadrants. The Borg. What was significant about sixteen cubes was the strange emergence of twin insignias borne on all six sides. No, that wasn't entirely correct. The insignia was an amalgamation of the Maquis sunburst and the Klingon Triskilion.
Deanna craned her head around so she could see into the eyes of her Captain. "Sir?"
"The Klingon Empire denies any knowledge or affiliation with this phenomena. In fact, they are rather upset about it as you can imagine. There are those upon the Council that have accused the Federation of violation of the treaty by trying to incriminate the Empire. In fact, they believe it is a Starfleet ploy to plot against the Empire with the rest of the quadrant. The disappearance of Councilor Martok's wife at the hands of the Borg, and now this new 'fleet' only add to the credibility of their own claims. The Beta Quadrant isn't exactly happy with us. And with the after shock of the Dominion War, tempers are heated enough without the added hostility."
"What about the Maquis?"
"The manicure of the Tevlik's moon base, as you know, took sanctuary with the Klingon Empire. The Klingons and Maquis have suffered many loses in the Cardassian Death Camps. The two factions, of course, have violently opposed any assistance the Federation have given the Cardassians in their efforts to rebuild. Councilor Martok has even allowed an unofficial bounty upon Cardassian Guls. He didn't have to work very hard to make the Order of the Bat'lath believe that this ..." Picard gestured to the screen, "is only to point a finger at the 'honorable' Maquis by 'sniveling Federation dogs'.
"So Starfleet Command has turned the accusations away from them to a scapegoat .....namely Voyager and her captain." Deanna felt an unmistakable disgust for the Command she served. Turning her dark eyes to Picard she frowned. "You don't object."
"They are not here to defend themselves, Deanna. If there is a need to place blame upon someone, then Voyager and her gallant crew's greatest service to the Federation is to shoulder this claim. Discommendation, Starfleet style."
"I can't believe you support this!" Deanna was flabbergasted. "You cannot possibly believe...."
"What I know, Counselor, is that the drone who assimilated me was in line to be a Prime and following that the Queen. The Queen! Her designation was Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct Unimatrix Zero One. And reading the reports of Commander Chakotay, it seems the drone is the paramour of one Kathryn Janeway, Captain of USS Voyager. That a drone as this woman's lover is abhorrent."
All Picard could picture was the Queen having sex with Janeway. It repulsed him. Not the lesbian aspect, but to allow a cold metal thing to touch one so intimately was vile to Picard. He recalled being forced to kiss the Queen as Locutus. A part of his mind recalled the gray-mottled skinned female with an eyepiece that came out of her left eye a full six inches. That thing was keeping Janeway's bed warm. He had thought he had known Janeway better than that. Granted, when he was going to the academy he was an upper classman and had at one time gone to a ball or two with young Janeway, but now the provoked image of her and the drone made him shiver. He clearly did not know Janeway. The Delta Quadrant had changed her, made her a rogue.
"She consorts with the Borg on a regular basis. Having read her first officer's reports, it is apparent that he had warned her numerous times not to engage the Borg, but for this Seven of Nine she would endanger the other 149 souls aboard her ship. She has even given sanctuary not to one Borg, but to four more. Children in appearance, but they are full drones, make no mistake about that. It is more than plausible this new occurrence of the Maquis Borg is due to her. She integrated with Maquis, perhaps so much so that she is now one of them."
"Captain, you don't believe that." Deanna folded her arms across her chest, daring her long time friend and CO to challenge her.
"No...Janeway might have gone rogue but she isn't Maquis...but still she consorts so closely with the Borg Queen, it has me concerned. Her judgment is clouded, Commander Chakotay points out, when it concerns this Seven of Nine."
"I can't help but think, Captain, this has more to do with the former drone Seven of Nine than it does placing blame upon Voyager for the insignias on the Borg ships or the disappearance of the Chancellor's wife. At least for you. And, sir, when it concerns Data, your mind is just as clouded. And more so when it concerns Beverly Crusher."
"Did you know," Picard redirected the conversation yet again, "that the Chancellor's wife once carried the name Miral Torres, who's very own daughter, B'Elanna Torres, was banned from the Academy and joined the Maquis Resistance two years later? The same B'Elanna Torres that was apart of the Maquis vessel Janeway chased into the badlands? Things are more complicated than you might have first thought Counselor. Which is why I want you with me when we rendevous with Worf to meet with Chancellor Martok"
"As you wish, Captain," Deanna complied. Her concern for Jean-Luc Picard was growing exponentially. "May I suggest this? Perhaps the reason Captain Janeway was so successful in defeating the Borg at all turns she encountered them was because she has a deep familiarity with one of their own? If Seven of Nine is one of the Primes ..it would stand to reason she has more information and deeper intelligence of the Borg than an average drone? Captain Janeway seems to be pressing the advantage she has by utilizing the information of the Borg by one who could have been the next Queen. It is something you yourself would have done, sir."
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