By Elizabeth Carter
B'Elanna watched in terrified fascination as her love shuttered as if chilled to the bone. A seizure racked the former drone but miraculously Seven remained standing. B'Elanna became desperate. Taking her combadge off her chest she cracked it open so she could get to the small components inside. With delicate care she withdrew one of the monofilament wires. She knew it would cause Seven some discomfort but she had to disengage the blonde from the ship.
"Of all the stupid, irresponsible bullshit you've pulled BangwI, this takes the cake." She looked into the dead- staring blue eyes. "No scratch that. The most stupid thing you ever did was to sacrifice yourself to that chrome-dome queen. You know we could have figured a way out of that without you letting the queen take you."
Seven didn't respond. Her body was still shivering as the pulse rippled through her Borg components.
"I am sorry, Annika, but I need my Borg back," B'Elanna whispered. Reaching up she inserted the monofilament wire into the silver arch of the ocular implant. She heard a clicking sound then underlining it a whispered whirling. She moved the monofilament once more. Seven blinked. There was another metallic click. The next sound the Klingon heard was a sharp intake of breath from the taller woman.
Withdrawing the wire, B'Elanna inserted it into yet another section of the silver arch. Another satisfactory click and Seven twitched her fist. The tubules shifted snake like. The effect was almost instantaneous. The hard organic blue surface of the computer console in front of the ex-drone along with the surrounding dais started to fill with Borg nanoprobes. The ship was being assimilated.
"No! Harming the One you are!" the aquatic voice of Species 342-Seven screeched.
"You want it to stop? Let us go! I am Marquise, Tinman, not some pansy Starfleet Pa'taq. Now comply!" B'Elanna roared the order. She knew she had to use Borg-speak to get the ships attention.
The council was now the black-green of Borg computer terminals. The ship was taking on a decisive dark grey as living tissue is want to do when the nanoprobes over run the red corpuscles of blood. But Species 342 was a silicon based life form, thus the hulls, bulkheads, and floor plates were taking on a deep green hue.
Seven collapsed to the floor of the ship with a soft thud. The mothership had released its prisoner. B'Elanna tried to catch her beloved but instead tumbled with her. Rolling over, the young Klingon gingerly placed her hands on the too-pale face of her lover, "Come on, Annika, open those baby-blues." The caramel colored alien shook the blonde but Seven wasn't responding. Then recalling Naomi's advice, B'Elanna kissed Seven soundly was if willing the life within her Klingon hearts to bombard the blonde.
B'Elanna pulled back, "Come on, hon "
"I am on the floor." Seven looked around. "Why am I on the floor?"
"God, you sure know how to scare a woman." B'Elanna embraced her beloved as Seven sat up, then soundly slugged her in the arm.
"Ow, what was that for!?" Seven snapped, rubbing the sore spot on her bicep.
"For scaring the hell out of me, you stupid blonde, and for going against my orders."
" WE are now both Lieutenants," the former drone replied.
"I got my commission first so that makes me STILL your superior officer. Besides, I am your wife and that out ranks anything."
"I will be sure to inform the Captain that wife out ranks captain," Seven smiled.
"Seriously, Be'nal, how are you doing?" B'Elanna picked up the meshed hand and started to examine it as if it had suffered third degree burns.
"B'Elanna, what have you made me do?" Seven now glanced around their surroundings noticing instantly that the bridge of Species 342 had become more like a Borg vessel.
Dark brown eyes fell. "I had to. I was desperate, Annika. This ship had you prisoner . You were linked. The only way the ship would let you go was if you assimilated this hunk of tin."
Seven stared. "B'Elanna .." her voice filled with turbulent disappointment.
The Klingon couldn't stand the disillusionment in her wife's voice. "I was desperate. I wasn't left much of a choice." B'Elanna swallowed, she placed her hands on Seven's cheeks. "Annika ."
Seven removed the hands from her face, and took several paces back. "The assimilation may not take, this vessel is dying. We must find a way to escape. If the assimilation does take affect, no doubt a proximity admitter will develop and hail any Borg in the area. Given the fact this vessel as in a confrontation with the Borg, the likelihood of one being close is high."
"Annika," B'Elanna pleaded.
"I am saddened you forced me to assimilate," Seven said, her voice soft as it never had been before. "But I understand why." The ex-drone approached B'Elanna and lifted the Klingon's chin with her enhanced hand. "Besides, you did not have a Bat'lath on your person to carve this vessel apart because your stubborn and 'difficult' wife decided to unwisely communicate with a species she knew nothing about. What is a Klingon warrior to do?" The blonde's smile set the shorter woman at ease.
B'Elanna stared. Seven had just told the older woman that she was truly hurt that B'Elanna had forced her to do something she had never wanted to do again, and yet she had also admitted that she was in error in the first place for communicating with the ship. , This helped to absolve B'Elanna of the pain of what the Klingon had no choice but to do.
There was something in the back of the engineer's mind that now surfaced. 'Seven has an amazing capacity to forgive,' She thought. Captain Kathryn Janeway had said this to her once. It was something that stymied the Klingon within her. Seven had forgiven many aboard Voyager who had frequently said degrading things about her.
The four crewman who had said such horrific things about Seven as a woman triggered the anger in B'Elanna almost to a boiling point. But Seven forgave them.
Seven even forgave the Doctor and Tom over a deeply hurtful bet they had made regarding whether Seven could make or keep a date. She had been devastated by the knowledge of their bet.
When B'Elanna learned of the bet she had slugged Tom so hard across the mouth he busted a lip and lost four teeth. She might not have been best of friends with Seven at the time, but she never thought the 'Ice Princess' deserved that demeaning reputation. She also warned Tom Paris that if he ever did anything like that again he would permanently have his jaw wired shut, and that she would perform the 'surgery' herself.
B'Elanna smiled despite herself, despite the gravity of their situation. Here Seven both forgave and admitted wrong doing and all without making either one of them lose face.
"God, I love you woman," she gushed, overcome with affection. B'Elanna took hold of her wife, overwhelmingly relieved that Seven was safe.
"B'Elanna, as much as I enjoy your nearness we must evacuate, I can not be compromised by distraction. A Borg ship is near."
"Seven, we'll get out of here," B'Elanna said. She didn't like the look of dread in Seven's blue eyes; it wasn't something she was accustomed to seeing at all. "There's more, isn't there?"
"I can feel the Queen's presence. I ."
" It's okay, Nic." The Klingon took Seven's hand into her own. "Even if she is close, she won't get you this time."
"Of that I am not so sure."
"Don't say that," B'Elanna snapped. "Don't ever say that. I won't let her take you."
'Be'nal, you may not have a choice,' came an unvoiced thought.
When Janeway heard the Doctor's voice over the comm, she expected to hear a list of casualties and fatalities. She bit her lip, steeling herself to hear of the deaths of yet more crewmembers under her command. That was something she could never, ever forgiver herself for, the death of crewmembers.
"Doctor. The casualty report will have to wait, now isn't a good time," Her voice was shorter in patience than she would have liked. The Captain studied the screen. Her options were limited. The Engineering crews were scrambling to regain full power to shields. Much of the reserve power was transferred to shields for the moment or Voyager would never withstand the blast from the Borg vessel.
"Captain, please, the information I have concerns the Borg vessel we are currently in conflict with," the Doctor pressed. "More importantly, it's the Queen. I have reason to believe she is on that .."
Voyager shuddered as the Diamond fired a full spread of phasers, not across the hull of the ship, but at the deflector array. For a moment the entire vessel was black as pitch, for there was no illumination anywhere, not even the computer panels. Then like a sky struck with a bolt of lighting, the emergency power flicked twice before shattering the dark and returning life to Voyager.
"Captain," Tuvok called out from Tactical. " We are down to twenty percent of the shields. And all weapons are off line."
"Damn," Kathryn cursed under her breath. "Helm, takes us out of here."
"Sorry, Captain. All engines off line, Warp and Impulse. Captain, we're dead in the water," Amanda Rothery reluctantly said from her station.
"What!" The captain barked as if somehow the fact the engines were down again was Rothery's fault.
Harry shifted from foot to foot and winced as he read his own reports. "Captain, we lost communications, both internal and external."
Only Chakotay, who was sitting close, heard the very softly whispered growl 'Fuck.' He watched as, in a blur of motion, Janeway sprinted up the stairs to Harry's side. He was young but not inept. The Captain didn't want to believe they were deaf now as well as paralyzed, and virtually defenseless.
They had no sensors beyond seven kilometers off the ships hull, no deflector array, shields barely containing themselves and no engines. Deaf, mute and blind. The next thing she noted flashing on the Opps controls was that the EMH was off line. He hadn't had time to go into the mobile emitter, but at least his matrix was safe in the buffer. However, holoprojectors were off line so there would be no way to recall him.
Janeway blinked. All this happened as the Doctor was speaking of the Queen. She looked back to the main viewscreen and to the menacing black-green Diamond hovering in front of her ship. That was a surgical strike.
"Why?" Janeway walked down and stood just in front of the viewer.
"Captain?" her first offer asked.
"Why? Why didn't she finish us off? Why aren't we being boarded?"
Every member of the bridge crew looked at the Diamond and thought the same thing. The Borg should be assimilating them even now. But they weren't. There were no threats of assimilation. Even if there were, they would not be able to hear them. Even so, why had the diamond held back?
"What is she up to?" Kathryn voiced her concern.
"Perhaps she knows Seven of Nine is not aboard this vessel."
"But why hold off? If she doesn't have Seven to manipulate, why not finish us off?" Harry asked. "Whatever the queen is doing it doesn't make since."
"Because then she would lose her bargaining chip," Chakotay answered. "She needs us alive for a moment. The Queen wants absolute control and she wants Seven to come to her. Seven won't if we are dead, or assimilated."
"But Seven will trade her life in if it means sparing us," Janeway finished for her 2IC. "If Seven sees just how wounded we are, she will willingly trade her life to the Queen to save us.
"I feel like a mouse and that big kitty out there is just waiting for us to move so she can swipe us again," Amanda offered. "Being mauled isn't a favorite past time of mine."
"Mine either, Lieutenant." Janeway commentated. Still standing by Helm she put a hand on the shoulder of Amanda. Kathryn was always a tactile person. But the touch, only Amanda would know what it signified. The gentle squeeze and ghost trace of a touch of the pad of Kathryn's thumb tacking a line on her neck told Amanda that her partner was telling her silently she loved her.
"Me too," the tall blonde whispered as her hands tried in vain to take control of Voyager.
Seven hours latter they had made serious progress in the weapons and shields departments as well as sensors. Yet when Voyager achieved forty percent shields, the Diamond once more fired, taking weapons completely off line and knocking the shields down to ten percent. For nine hours this went on. Voyager was more of a mouse now than before.
When warp had some power, the Diamond locked a tractor beam on her and caused a surge that only kept life support and emergency power on line. Apparently Voyager was to wait until Seven and B'Elanna returned. If they returned.
"Okay, it's apparent they have full use of their sensors and are able to track our progress. I don't see how they are able to do it so well, but they are," Chakotay said.
Janeway had pondered the same equation for sometime now. Tired and weary and angry the Captain had been forced to rest. The three shifts of Voyager had been working around the clock to repair their home. They had discovered small percentages of repair in certain key systems went without repercussions from the Diamond. Anything above that allotted number and Voyager would be knocked back down to ten percent power and they would have to start all over again.
"The Doctor!" Janeway said suddenly, shocking the bridge crew.
"Captain, he's been off line, for some time," Harry said.
"No, he said something, he found something. I can't believe I allowed that to go unnoticed. Tuvok, you're with me. Chakotay, you have the bridge."
When Janeway saw the glimmer of movement from helm she knew Amanda was worried for her. "Lieutenant, I could use another person with security background. Come with me."
The tall blonde didn't even look at the ensign that took her place as she strode two steps at a time to the upper deck of the bridge to her captain's side.
"I think the answers we need wait for us in Sickbay."
Outside both vessels the anomaly was growing exponentially once again, threatening to engulf both Voyager and the Diamond once more. But like a coursing tide it stopped short of the vessels.
B'Elanna didn't like it. Not at all. This cussed ship had made her wife somehow connected to the infant and now, of course, because some of the nanobites had taken over the newly born living-ship, Seven had created a neuro-link to it, as if she were the Queen of a new breed of Borg.
Of course when the young Klingon made her wife assimilate the mothership she had not expected this outcome. She also hated the fact that the mothership manipulated her wife's heart. What kind of Pa'taq uses children as a weapon? Somehow the ship had been able to isolate Seven's great feeling of loss when it came to the children. One, Azan, and Rebi had all died. This deep emptiness lived in the quiet part of the tall woman's heart, and this ship knew this. Somehow it knew. And using that loss it was able to manipulate Seven into caring for her offspring.
B'Elanna gritted her teeth as she realized that the ship had even used the designation 'One' against Seven, calling the infant by this name. Seven had crumbled. A woman who stood up against the Hirogen hunters and refused to sing for them even when they threatened to kill her had crumbled when brought face-to-face with the loss of her boys.
"Annika." B'Elanna took hold of her lover's arms. "Hon, you have to listen to me."
"My auditory functions are in perfect working order."
"Look, now isn't the time for a joke. I'm serious. This Tinman screwed with your mind and you might think you want to protect that tin-fish out there, but you know it's not Kah'less, Annika, you are not responsible for it."
"B'Elanna, I know this and you are in error. I am responsible."
"God-damn it, Sev "
"No it gave a distress call. We are duty bound by Starfleet regulations to investigate said distress call and render aid if possible."
"NOW you follow regulations."
"I could no more abandon a wounded party than you could. Is this not part of the reason you are Maquis, because the Federation refused to help those in desperate need? The Borg are responsible for this damage."
"But, Annika, you're not Borg."
"But I am, B'Elanna. A part of me will forever be Borg. If I can render aid to a species harmed by the Borg then perhaps I can give retribution a repentance."
B'Elanna understood. Her beloved wife needed this. Seven of Nine needed to help because of what she had done as a Borg. Annika desired, she needed, absolution. By saving a life that was so utterly harmed by the cybernetic menaces she could have this restitution.
"Okay, BangwI. Okay . we'll do this your way."
Seven looked deeply into the dark eyes of the woman who was so newly her wife. "I can not repay you for the kindness you have given me today, Be'nal."
B'Elanna's hearts lurched deep in her chest. She cupped Seven's cheeks softly in the palms of her hands. "You are so stubborn."
"My tenacity matches yours, B'Elanna. It has had to." Seven smiled. She pressed her lips to her beloved and slowly pulled back. "We are equally matched in many ways."
"I've noticed," B'Elanna kissed the blonde deeply. "Actually, I've noticed that very early on." Another kiss. "I don't know. Maybe the Great Bird of The Galaxy kept me in that rut, and kept me from seeing what I wanted to see." Another kiss.
"The Great Bird of the Galaxy is only myth, B'Elanna. Tell me, BangwI, do you believe in faery tales?"
"Well, humm. Well . I did wake you up with a kiss..."
"Then if this is a Faery-tale, Be'nal, we must 'pull the thorn from the lion's paw.'"
B'Elanna closed her eyes and nodded. Seven was right of course. How could she turn her back on a pleading cry for help. The Species was desperate to save her child and did everything in that desperation. In B'Elanna's own desperation to free the one she loved, she had forced Seven to assimilate the creature.
"Any idea on how to do that?"
"Only one," Seven said.
The ship shuddered once more and the lights dimmed to only one-fourth illumination.
"You will transport us to the newly born vessel. Comply," Seven ordered.
The sound of Seven's voice was no longer like when she was alone with B'Elanna, softened from the typical monotone. It now sounded like the Queen. Pure unquestionable power resonated in that voice. The pure expectation that she would be obeyed. B'Elanna could not help herself, but hiccuped in a gasp of surprise. In fact, it unnerved her how very much like the Queen her wife sounded.
'Oh, Kah'less, what the hell did I do?'
The Queen, for the moment, stared at the limping Voyager. She had fought gallantly each time she strove to adapt despite the Queen's determination to keep her crippled. Voyager continued to defy the odds and rise above the destruction.
She had linked with the child Mizoti to understand the hold humanity, and especially Janeway, had over her chosen, her Prime. What she discovered surprised her.
Janeway had given, no, had ordered, Seven of Nine to become the guardian over the defective Borg-Children, and when they reached a certain level of individuality the Captain of the federation vessel had contacted the children's species so she might rid her ship of the Borg-children infestation. Of course Janeway had not thought of what this would do with her favorite pet. But the Queen knew how the departure of the rough Borg sub-units would affect her beloved Prime.
The Queen had seen to it that Seven would have her children back. Of course she had intended for all three to be reunited with Seven of Nine, but the Hirogen hunters became too excitable and prematurely destroyed the twin Wysanti males.
Seeing Seven through the Mizoti's eyes the Queen had not excepted the small feedback loop. The thoughts of the child had a profound effect upon her. She didn't expect to long for Seven of Nine's return this deeply. She didn't expect to crave to have Seven near her. Not like this.
She didn't expect a lot of things. Every time she thought of the destruction of Cargobay Two and the alcoves the Queen's anger boiled. She thought often, illogically, of what could have happened, and the fact that she was helpless in stopping it. The Queen irrationally continued to think of the fact she hadn't been there to give Seven the aid her mate needed and it infuriated the Queen beyond all reason.
No, there was a reason.
These were the emotions, the thoughts of a child. Seven's child. And the Queen felt them as if they were her own. Add that to her own desire to have her Prime back and the Queen became utterly determined to have her mate back. And like a child she reacted rather than responded to the situations that arose. Situations that involved Seven.
With a child's determination, the willfulness the Queen continued to insure Voyager wasn't going anywhere. And with the Queen's manipulative skills she would have Seven of Nine returned to her of her own free will. The estrangement was no longer permissible.
She didn't know how long she would have to implement her plan and as a child she was growing more and more impatient.
The Borg were completely single minded in their pursuit of perfection. That is why the Queen did not give up her hunt for Seven of Nine. Seven had been groomed since she was six years old. The maturation chamber had started by installing Royal Protocol. The Child Annika Hansen had been completely conditioned to become the Prime. She had even been personally assimilated by the Queen.
The feedback loop struck the queen once more and she winced as a small measure of pain infiltrated her mind. It was intolerable. 'It must be some contamination in the connection to the child,' the Queen reasoned. Regardless, the Queen was forced to maintain the link if she wanted her Prime, her mate, restored to her.
Voyager had succeeded once more in upgrading many of their systems but they had learned over the nine hours that anything over the allotted thirty percent and they would suffer the penalty. Of Course the Queen knew this had to puzzle Janeway.
"Voyager has increased their shield matrix and now have partial power to the deflector array," the Hive Mind announced.
"Fire phasers at the shield matrix. It must be completely deactivated."
"We will comply."
From the view screen Voyager shuttered as the diamond once more fired.
"Ship approaching in grid 937 mark 4. Configuration species 324 subunit."
The Queen snapped her head to a secondary screen in her chambers. Her silver eyes narrowed when she saw the undulating wings of the stingray like vessel flare out of the anomaly.
"Two life signs aboard, one signal matching that of Seven of Nine Tertiary adjunct Unimatrix Zero One. The other life sign "
"Yes, I know. Human-Klingon hybrid. She is irrelevant."
"Will engage in pursuit of Seven ."
"No," the Queen interrupted the Hive mind once more. "We will allow them to reunite with Voyager."
The ship wavered once more, unmistakably engaging a cloaking device.
"This is what I have been waiting for," the Queen smiled. "We will wait a moment longer. Voyager is not going anywhere." For the first time in a long time the Queen felt self-gratification. Everything was playing out as she had directed.
"You have become predictable, my mate," she said silently. "I find this almost disturbing."
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