DISCLAIMER: All things Start Trek, people, places, aliens, that have been used in the shows and movies are copyright to Star Trek, its creators and Paramount. Some of the characters and information was taken from the show and some from book Mosaic by Jeri Taylor. I have mentioned parts from different episodes, some minor some major (Year of Hell), and have taken several lines from the show and incorporated them into the story. A special thank you to Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan for bringing Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine to life.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have differed from parts of the seventh season Neelix's return to Earth with Voyager is just one of the differences. Also please note that Chakotay is somewhat of a dubious character towards the end of Voyager's journey, I'm not a fan of Chuckles so if you are, don't say I didn't warn you. I forgot to thank my beta readers, shame on me, Sarah and rt. The awards used are ones that have been mentioned in the Star Trek universe except for the Purple Heart.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Chapter Thirty Seven
It had been two months since she had been taken from her ship. That was one bad side affect to her much improved memory, she could vividly recall each and every day since then. She had started to lose hope that she would be rescued, also wondering if they had even tried. She knew she was in the Delta Quadrant at the same Unicomplex where she had confronted the original queen in order to rescue Seven. She also knew that if anything had happen to her ship in the process of looking for her, she would know as soon as the queen did. Should they even make an attempt to rescue her was a question she had been struggling with.
"So, you are starting to realize that you will be with us forever." The queen entered the chamber, commenting on the captain's thoughts.
"Forever?" Janeway repeated as she managed to pull herself into a sitting position, her back against the alcove. It was taking longer and longer after each attack for her to recover. The queen had stepped up the number and intensity of the assaults to try and secure the captain's cooperation to contact Species 8472. "No, I at least at some point will die. The human lifespan has steadily increased over the years, but not that much."
"Species 5618 human female," the queen processed through the information stored from assimilation, "live from 130 to 140 of your earth years. Human males from 120 to 125." She smiled down at the captain, "But your nanoprobes will keep you with us much longer."
"Well, doesn't that just make my day?" She grabbed her long sleeved shirt that lay beside her and wiped the drying blood off her face. She was bleeding more freely after each attack, especially when they came close on the heels of one another.
The queen once again almost sighed with frustration. "You are being sarcastic again. All your pain will stop as soon as you cooperate with us. I can make it even more uncomfortable for you, Captain, but I can also make it end. Assist us be a part of our future our perfection is near."
Janeway looked up, pain and anguish clearly on her face and also a resolute knowledge of what her fate would be.
For I have dipt into the future,
far as human eye could see;
Saw the vision of the world,
and all the wonder that would be
"Yes," the queen misunderstood, thinking the captain was starting to believe in her vision. "Is that another of your Emily Dickenson?"
"No, Lord Alfred Tennyson; though if he had any inkling of the Borg when he wrote that, his wonder would have changed to horror." She considered trying to stand, but thought she might as well stay were she was. "What you see as perfection, is a violation of mind, body and soul. Every single individual you have assimilated has been done against their will. You think you're making them better, but the ones that have been disconnected fight you; they would rather die an individual than do your bidding. That should tell you how less than perfect this is." She waved her hand, encompassing the chamber.
"Not all, Captain," the queen gleefully stated. "Axum would rather live; we made a deal, your life for his. He found you, removed Seven of Nine from your ship, gave us your shield and armor frequencies after he was able to retrieve them from your computer this does not surprise you?" She was disappointed at not being able to shock her captive.
"Actually no. My instinct told me something wasn't quite right about the situation, but I'd hoped I was wrong."
"Since you are such an advocate for feelings; how does knowing that someone you did so much for betrayed you, make you feel?"
"Sad," she replied. "Angry," she added. "I can understand his motivation, but " she trailed off.
"And if he was standing before you now?" The queen persisted, realizing it was hatred the captain was projecting.
She sighed, knowing full well she couldn't hide the strong emotions. "I'd probably kill him," she admitted. "I'm only human after all."
Both ships were traveling at half impulse. Long range scans had been run and it was their results that were now being discussed by both senior staffs in Odyssey's large briefing room.
Harry was relating the results from the PADD in his hand. "There is a lot of activity in and out of the general area of the old complex, all Borg vessels. We're too far away to get a count on the number of lifesigns on the vessels and of course trying to pick out one individual lifesign is impossible at this distance."
"How many vessels are we talking about, Lieutenant?" Riker asked.
"In the last hour," Lt. Duran, the Explorer's ops officer spoke up, "one hundred and thirty nine have entered or left the area of the complex."
"That's more than a lot," Chakotay stated.
His comment was ignored and Riker wondered, not for the first time, if he'd made a mistake requesting the man's presents on his ship. He had noticed the animosity towards the Lt. Commander from the moment he had stepped off the transport pad and onto the Odyssey's deck. "Our shielding, thanks to the future Admiral Janeway's knowledge and to Dr. Hansen's knowledge of the Borg's sensors, should keep us hidden for now. I'd like to get close enough to try and pick up Captain Janeway's lifesigns; we'll know more of how to construct a rescue if we know what we'll be facing."
"I agree," Viktor stated. "I've gone over Captain Janeway's logs of her confrontations with the Queen, but the truth is until we know what 'this' Queen is, we don't know how she might respond."
"All of you seem to be forgetting," Chakotay stated, "that there is more than the Queen to worry about. There's hundreds of thousands of drones, possibly millions in this area alone."
"Indeed, but we knew this coming in." Tuvok looked intently at him. "What is it that you propose we do?"
B'Elanna interrupted before he could reply. "Probably that we turn around and wait, hoping they'll all disappear. After all, that's what you wanted to do last time isn't it? Didn't you try to get the Captain to turn tail and run away?"
Chakotay's face turned red, whether it was from embarrassment or anger, no one knew since Tuvok replied in the uneasy silence, "That of course, is not an option. We are here to find and retrieve Captain Janeway along with gathering information."
Riker continued, "We have the sensor logs that the Delta Flyer recorded the one and only time anyone other than Borg had been to the complex. So, we know the area to concentrate our scans for the Captain."
"I hate to be a wet blanket," Counselor Troi spoke, "but what if she has been assimilated? How are we going to pick up her lifesigns then?"
"I have her frequency from the time she was assimilated before when we helped the drones from Unimatrix Zero," the Doctor reminded them. "Since each drone has its own frequency, I would imagine it would be the same."
"Good, Doctor, give it to Lieutenants Kim and Duran so they can begin scanning for human lifesigns and for that frequency," Viktor ordered.
"Now," Worf stated, "I would advise putting together a tactical plan for the rescue since we do have a partial layout of the complex from the Captain and Mr. Tuvok's rescue of Seven of Nine." He and Tuvok had conferred several times and even though their tactics might be widely different, being Klingon and Vulcan, they had surprisingly worked well together.
Seven had passed being angry days ago and was beyond aggravated; she was seriously considering throwing her first temper tantrum. It had been two months, three days, nineteen hours and 20 seconds since she had left Odyssey and was beginning to think that they would never get to the queen's complex. They had been delayed yet again by 'freeing' another Borg vessel and while she agreed with the principle of doing the right thing by helping the drones, it was keeping her from her goal. She had been having a 'bad feeling' for a while now and it wasn't helping her logically address the situation, which is how she found herself in the middle of an increasingly heated argument.
"Axum, give me the other vessel and enough individuals to operate it and I will continue to the complex while you continue to seek out ships to free."
"No, the sphere is damaged, you wouldn't stand a chance. It would be destroyed before you got ten light years."
"It is my choice. I am tired of you detouring every time you think there might be a sphere or cube or scout ship within a hundred light years. I am beginning to think you do not want to find the Queen. Or maybe you are just too scared to confront her."
They had drawn a crowd, intently listening and watching. Many others had speculated on just that thought. Most there wanted to find and once and for all destroy the very reason the Borg had decimated their homes and loved ones. They now had six fully functional ships and over 250,000 freed drones to operate them and felt they could make a run at the queen's complex.
Axum knew he was backed into a corner and hoped the amount of time he had delayed Seven had been long enough for the queen to capture the captain and accomplish whatever it was she intended to do. "All right, we'll head for the complex. We'll have to be careful that they don't realize we aren't connected to the hive mind. You realize we may have to destroy any vessel if they make that discovery, which means that we may be killing the people that we are trying to rescue."
"We realize that," Robi spoke up. "We've already destroyed many vessels that could've housed family and friends. The sooner we rid ourselves of the Queen and her control, the less we will be forced to kill." The others that had gathered around nodded and voice their agreement.
Chapter Thirty Eight
Janeway had only been able to make contact with Species 8472 one other time, but they had been able to arrive at a plan. She was to 'give in' to the queen and agree to contact them on the pretense of negotiations on a prearranged day. The bioships would then attack the complex in force. She knew the queen would know she had been betrayed and barring some miracle, the captain knew she wouldn't survive. The queen would most likely make sure of that.
Today was that day. She had spent the time the queen regenerated thinking of her mother, sister and Seven. She had, the night before she was taken, recorded messages for all of them that would be 'delivered' when Starfleet officially listed her as deceased. Idly she wondered if that had already happened.
"Commander," Lt. Kim's voice had taken on an alarmed tone, "I'm reading numerous spacial fluctuations in the area around the complex."
"What kind of fluctuations?" Viktor asked, looking from Harry to Tuvok.
Obviously the Explorer had also picked up on the reading as it hailed the Odyssey. "Do you know what these reading are?" Riker asked. "We have never seen them before."
"I believe I can answer your question, Captain," Tuvok stated. "They are openings into fluidic space Species 8472's realm to be exact."
"Wonderful," Riker intoned.
"If I could make a suggestion," Tuvok pressed on, "you might check with anyone aboard your ship that has any form of telepathy and see if they are in contact with them."
"That's a good idea," Viktor agreed. "We have a full Betazoid in sickbay along with Counselor Gazsi being half Betazoid; we'll check with her and get back to you."
Ensign Sakari along with the counselor was quickly summoned to the bridge. The counselor was able to pick up on a few strong emotions, mostly an intense determination.
"I'm not sure of what," Gazsi admitted. "But it's very purposeful and very single-minded." She looked apologetic.
"Ensign?" Viktor turned to the other Betazoid.
"There are a lot of agitated voices it's jumbled like the murmuring from a crowd," she paused for several seconds. "They're attacking the Unicomplex, 'The Queen must be destroyed'. I can't get anything else."
"Can you communicate with them?" Tuvok asked.
"No, I'm sorry, maybe when we get closer," Sakari stated.
"You're excused, Ensign, until we get closer. Let us know if you can pick up anything else," Viktor stated.
"Of course, sir."
Odyssey contacted Explorer and a meeting commenced via comm channel, both senior staffs in their respective briefing rooms.
"I believe," Tuvok spoke up, "if the Queen is being targeted, we can be assured the Captain is in the line of fire. I doubt that she would be placed anywhere other than by the Queen's side."
"I unfortunately agree." Riker leaned forward and continued, "This attack by Species 8472 could be just the diversion we need to get in, get Janeway and get out. According to Voyager's logs, the ship was pretty much ignored by the Borg when they were fighting them before."
"But why are they attacking the Borg again now?" Lt. Kim questioned. "Would the Borg have tried to assimilate them again?"
"They could think that Janeway and the Queen are a threat to them," Chakotay stated. "Look what happened to them the last time; and Captain, Voyager was in plenty of danger from 8472."
"That was explained to them, remember?" Tom said before B'Elanna could jump in. "I agree with Captain Riker, this is our best chance to sneak in and out. Let the Borg and 8472 concentrate on each other. We could be in range of the complex in two hours at warp eight."
"I also agree," Viktor said. "I think we should keep trying to make contact with them; let them know we're not aiding the Borg."
"Ensign Sakari is the strongest telepath," Troi added. "I think she should be the only one to try. If we all are sending messages, it might confuse things."
"I'll have her report to the bridge and we can keep an open comm channel between the ships," Viktor said.
"I think one away team from both ships if we can't locate the Captain and transport her, would be satisfactory," Tuvok stated.
"I agree," Worf added. "Too many people searching the complex would just confuse the situation and complicate matters."
"I think we should ready a couple of shuttles." Lt. Duran stated. "In case we have to deploy the armor for both ship's safety."
A half hour later the meeting broke up and Riker asked Troi and Chakotay to remain in the briefing room. The captain stared at the disgruntled man. "You don't seem to agree with the plan, Lt. Commander, why is that?"
"My instincts tell me it's not a good idea to get between them; let them fight it out and see where we stand when the dust clears. Look, I want to rescue Kathryn as much as anyone, but it doesn't make much sense to go charging in and risk getting us all killed."
Riker leaned back in his chair, angling it to the side towards the lieutenant commander, and folded his hands in his lap. He was now sure he had made a mistake in bring this man along. "You fought the Cardassians with the odds against you, I can't imagine why you would want to turn tail and run now," he deliberately tried to provoke him.
Chakotay bristled, "You can't win against the Borg or 8472 even with the improved armor and weapons. It's suicide."
"And yet, Janeway did, against both, with a smaller less equipped ship. Yet you would leave a comrade behind." Riker calmly stated.
"We would not be leaving her behind. My instincts tell me we would have a much better chance to rescue her if we weren't destroyed in the process," he countered.
"Yes, your instincts. That's the second time you've mentioned them. Tell me, Lt. Commander, are those the same instincts that let you recruit a Starfleet spy, a Cardassian spy, a murderer and a future traitor aboard your Maquis ship?" Riker asked.
"We couldn't exactly check references during recruiting." Chakotay reminded him.
"I'm not saying you could. All I'm saying is that your instincts haven't served you very well in the past, so I'm not sure why I should listen to them now," Riker explained.
"Very well, you're the Captain; I'll of course follow your orders. Are we done here?"
"Dismissed," Riker followed him out with his eyes, then turned to Troi. "What do you make of him, Deanna?"
"He's full of contradicting emotions. He hates the Borg and he's afraid of them like most people, but he hates the fact that he is frightened of them. He'd like to see Species 8472 wipe them out and I think that is the reason he wants to wait. Though he's torn because he does want to rescue the Captain; specifically wants to be the one to rescue her. I do know a little of what happened between him and Kathryn, she talked to me about it after Voyager returned " she paused knowing she couldn't betray any confidences. Troi knew he believed he was in love with Kathryn, but she didn't return his feelings.
Riker interrupted her thoughts, "I know there are things you can't reveal, but I've picked up on a few things. Most of the speculation going around is that he wanted a relationship with Kathryn, but was shot down."
"This isn't anything Kathryn told me, but I think towards the end of Voyager's journey, he tried to change into what he thought she could love tried to become more forceful in his behavior. Thinking that would appeal to her more than his easy going, laidback personality did. I believe he also tried to make her jealous by making her believe he was with someone else. It didn't exactly work out the way he wanted it to and that seemed to anger him more. I get the impression that everyone who knew him as a Maquis or a first officer has been very surprised by his behavior, Icheb especially."
"Wonderful, just what we need, a loose cannon," Riker shook his head. "Is he liable to do anything stupid to jeopardize the mission?"
Troi thought for a minute, going back over everything she knew and suspected about the lieutenant commander. "I would say no. Every time he disobeyed an order before was in his capacity as a first officer or acting captain and basically wouldn't be held accountable, now he would be subject to Starfleet regulations so I don't really believe he would. But that said, I would keep an eye on him," she grinned.
When the meeting broke up, Gretchen headed for Phoebe's quarters to fill her in as promised.
"Will we be able to watch what's going on, like we did before?" The younger Janeway questioned.
"Honey, I'm not so sure we should." She stared out the viewport at the unfamiliar stars streaking by. "Being curious about and getting a look at the inside of a Borg vessel is one thing, but this no one knows what kind of shape she'll be in." Her voice caught and she paused.
"I know that, Mom." Phoebe joined Gretchen at the viewport and circled her arm around her mother's waist, pulling them close together. "But I think waiting to see her, to find out what happened to her would be worse than actually knowing."
"I'm not so sure, Phoebe. I'm beginning to think there are some things a mother just shouldn't know or see," she closed her eyes and rubbed them tiredly.
"Mom, think about it, would you rather face whatever has happened to her at a distance and get your bearings or wait and have to come face to face with it? Be prepared for what's happened to her or let her see the initial reaction in your face."
"Valid points," Gretchen admitted. "But I'm so scared."
"I know, I am too." Phoebe was glad she could be a support for her mother now that Gretchen's doubts and fears had surfaced. She was also thankful that they had picked separate times to need support. Richard had been there for her last night when she had broken down and now she was able to provide the support her mother needed.
Janeway was tightly curled into a ball. 'No more,' she thought, knowing the queen would hear.
"I knew you would see things our way," the queen smiled. "Our perfection will be one step closer after today. You held out longer than I thought you would be able to and your body has taken more damage, but you will have a chance to heal now that you have agreed to your part in our plans."
"How am I supposed to send this message of yours?" The queen had been right; she had almost not been able to hold out against the onslaught she had been put through the last few days.
"We have duplicated a Starfleet comm signature which will be heard by the bioships that keep watch over us. You will simply record a message asking for one of them to meet with you at specified coordinates and the vessels I have dispatched to assimilate their 'representative' will take it from there."
The message was recorded and sent, the broadcast looped so it would repeat every 30 seconds.
Janeway struggled into a sitting position, making it seem like it took more effort than it really did, but not by much. "Maybe I should've waited until my mind was a bit clearer, so I could've thought this through. I'll be blamed when they don't return and by extension, Starfleet and the Federation and," she took her line of thought further, "if by chance Species 8472 decides to retaliate and attack and decimate Starfleet, the Borg now have no opposition in attacking the Federation."
The queen smiled, "Precisely, and if all goes as planned, the great Captain Janeway will be responsible for Humankinds assimilation. How does that make you feel?"
"Don't count you chickens before they hatch." She stood, bracing herself with one hand against the side of an alcove. She could tell she had caught the queen off guard.
"Another of your human expressions?"
"Yes." Janeway pushed away from the alcove. The wild goose chases she had been able to send the queen on had worked in her favor. Not only had they amused Kathryn and allowed her to push the queen's buttons, they had set up the opportunity for her to use them as a distraction now. If luck was with her it would keep the queen occupied and give the bioships a few extra seconds before they were noticed. If she was really lucky, the cybernetic queen might blow a processor or two.
The captain moved to the center of the chamber and leaned against the queen's 'alcove'. "We seem to have some time before the 'showdown', how shall we fill it?"
The queen turned her attention from the viewscreen to the captain, "A poem perhaps?"
"Maybe later I know, how about an old earth riddle?"
"A riddle a question or statement requiring thought in order to understand and derive the correct answer."
"Yes, I give you a riddle or problem and you come up with the answer. It should pass the time."
"Very well, proceed." The queen turned and gave Janeway her full attention.
"Let's see, it'll have to be one that's not too simple ah, I know, how about this. What moves on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?"
The queen tilted her head, her eyes glazing over as she concentrated on the solution, while Janeway recited the first thing to enter her head, not only to hide the answer but also to keep her from thinking about the attack that was coming.
'The matter/antimatter reaction assembly consists of four subsystems: reactant injectors, magnetic constriction segments, matter/antimatter reaction chamber, and power transfer conduits ' her thoughts were interrupted by the queen.
"It must be three different entities since humans are not shape-shifters and therefore can not change their body structure," the queen stated.
"Wrong would you care to try again? Or are you giving up?" She knew that would send the computer processors back to systematically searching for an answer the queen had no way of deriving since the Borg's thinking was so literal.
"We do not 'give up'."
Janeway chuckled and continued her recitation. 'The reactant injectors prepare and feed precisely controlled streams of matter and antimatter into the core. The upper and lower magnetic constriction segments constitute the central mass of the core. The matter/antimatter reaction chamber consists of two matched bell-shaped cavities which contain and redirect the primary reaction. The power transfer conduits are magnetically similar to the constrictor segments, in that they constrain the plasma to the center of each channel and peristaltically force the plasma toward the warp engine nacelles, where the warp field coils utilize the energy for propulsion.'
"There is no answer to your riddle," the queen stated.
"Of course there is. You just can't figure it out," Janeway countered.
"Then what is the answer to your riddle?"
"You can't think literally the 'morning' is the first stage of life, the 'noon' is the middle, and the 'evening' represents the final stage. So the answer is 'a man who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age'."
Before she could respond, the bioships had initiated the attack. By the time the queen comprehended what was happening, several vessels exploded. By the time she ordered the armada she had sent to assimilate Species 8472, back to the complex, dozens of bioships had attacked and infiltrated the Unicomplex.
Hundreds of vessels had already been destroyed, the complex damaged, as Species 8472 made their way towards their main objective, destroying the complex's central plexus that not only controlled the drones, but also allowed the new queen to function. An explosion tore a large gap in the wall of the central chamber, knocking the queen, drones and Janeway across the area, but providing an escape from the captain's prison and throwing debris throughout the area.
"How " the queen was actually uncertain of what to concentrate on. "You," she turned to the captain.
Janeway smiled, "Me, yes." If she could divide the queen's attention, keep her focused on herself, "It's your fault you 'rewired' my brain." She quickly stated when the queen tried to return her awareness to the battles that were taking place. "Did you really think I would help you? Your predecessor knew I would rather die than become like you."
"That is precisely why we did not assimilate you, left you your memories and your emotions, so you would have hope. Hope of being rescued your survival instinct making you do whatever it took to stay alive until then. We learned about it when we retook Seven of Nine, even though she didn't think she would be rescued, she still harbored the hope."
"Then you also should've learned about the greater good self-sacrifice and the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the one. Because that is what she did when she thought she was saving the crew of Voyager by returning to you."
"No, survival is stronger. We decided that it is why the species' we encounter don't self-terminate before we assimilate them and they learn of perfection, they would rather survive than die, it is the strongest emotion in individuals."
Janeway shook her head. "You're wrong. While survival is very strong, it differs from individual to individual and whereas all life is precious, you have to take into account the quality of that life. You said you were learning from the poems, see what you make of this one.
I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.
I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.
I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die."
After a few seconds pause, the queen replied, "You would rather die than to live as a drone or like you have been."
"Now you're catching on." Janeway shrugged, "I figure one way or another; it'll end here, today."
"Then you shall die, here, today," the queen stated.
The queen once again used her command over the nanoprobes in the captain's body to send Janeway to the floor in pain.
She fell to her knees, back arched and head thrown back. A grimace on her face, showing the intense pain she was feeling. A distraction from outside the chamber drew the queen's attention from the captain and as the pain eased, she fell forward, bracing herself with her hands.
At the queen's silent order, most of the drones that had occupied the chamber exited. She had not bothered turning her attention back to Janeway, believing that it would take several minutes for her body to regain its functionality.
A mistake on the queen's part as it allowed the captain to stand, a piece of elongated metal in her hand, which she swung with all her enhanced strength at the queen's back. A solid connection drove the cybernetic being into the far wall with an explosion of sparks. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to completely render her inoperative.
Chapter Thirty Nine
Ensign Sakari was sitting beside the command chair; not entirely comfortable with being on the bridge or with trying to decipher a species she knew nothing about, especially since it was Captain Janeway's life that could possibly hang in the balance.
"Anything yet?" Viktor questioned. He really wished he could get up and pace. But he forced himself to stay where he was in the first officer's seat, his knuckles turning white with the force of his grip on the arms of the chair.
"Yes," she paused. "They know the Captain is in the complex."
Heads turned and eyes left consoles to stare at the telepath. "Are they targeting Captain Janeway?" Tuvok asked.
"No, they're " she tilted her hand and listened intently. "They're working with her I think."
"To rescue her?" Harry asked a bit confused.
"I don't think so the Queen they're trying to destroy the Queen. She is alive no she's a cybernetic being, a machine."
"Commander," Harry got his attention as all eyes were fixed to the images on the viewscreen of hundreds of destroyed Borg vessels. "I believe we could launch a probe through one of the damaged areas and get it into the complex for a visual."
"Good idea, Lieutenant, Mr. Tuvok, if you please."
"Probe away, 90 seconds until it is in range of the structure," Tuvok reported.
Tom had to slow to half impulse when they entered the debris area. "The complex is 20 minutes away." He updated the time to arrival.
"The probe is entering the outer structure, visual in three, two, one on screen." Tuvok reported as all eyes were now glued to the viewscreen.
"My God," Riker commented as Explorer was getting the visual also. Drones were scattered everywhere, lying in heaps, bodies shredded. "No wonder Janeway thought the Borg were the lesser of two evils," he mumbled.
The probe continued through the Unicomplex, headed for the central chamber and hopefully Captain Janeway. If the probe could locate her maybe they could quickly transport her out when they were in range.
"There," Tom's eyes were fixed to the viewscreen and picked out the one lone human. "What the hell what is she doing?"
"It's poetry." Ensign Sakari stated, also confused by the scene that played out before them. "Emily Dickinson I believe."
The two remaining drones advanced on her and using the piece of metal once again like a bat, she aimed for the closest one managing to remove a large piece of his skull when she connected with his head. Turning to the other drone, she paused when she noticed it was Seven's father or what had been her father.
She paid for her hesitation as she was backhanded across the chamber, colliding with the unforgiving metal of the wall. "Damn." She groaned and clutched her side hoping her ribs were just bruised and not broken. As she was trying to stand, she was picked up and tossed across the chamber, landing not far from where the queen was monitoring the attack.
An explosion from an attacking bioship hit near the chamber, knocking the drone and queen to the floor. Janeway used her reprieve to scramble on her hands and knees to grab another weapon. Getting to her feet, she approached the queen from behind.
The queen had managed to remove the debris that was covering her and started to stand when she felt the captain's presence behind her. Trying to turn away, she wasn't quick enough to completely dodge the attack. The weapon landed a glancing blow to the node attached to the back of her cranium, destroying the apparatus that linked the queen with the hive mind.
"What have you done? They can no longer hear me; no longer respond to my commands." Both watched as the drone that was Magnus, stopped trying to stand and looked around in confusion, seemingly not knowing where he was.
"Looks like your reign is over," Janeway stated as the queen became more and more infuriated over her lack of power. "It also seems like you've lost the ability to control the nanoprobes in me. Now what are you going to do?"
The queen charged the captain, knocking them out of the chamber and to the floor, knocking the breath from Janeway's lungs as the much heavier body landed on her. "Now, Captain Janeway, I am going to kill you." The queen sat up and raised her right hand, which contained a sharp rod-looking piece of metal, like a dagger.
"Damn, when will I learn to keep my mouth shut?"
"Are we in transporter range?" Viktor had long ago given in to his desire to stand and pace the bridge.
"Not yet, sir," Lt. Kim stated. "Fifteen more minutes."
"Lt. Paris, can you increase speed?" the commander asked.
"No, sir, not through this much debris," he answered; regret in his voice.
They all knew that by the time the rescue teams got a shuttle launched, Odyssey would be in transporter range, so the team remained in the transporter room, only Tuvok had yet to join them from the bridge.
Ensign Sakari spoke, "Species 8472 is trying to get to the central plexus and destroy it they're also trying to get to the Captain " she smiled, "to help her."
Janeway caught the queen's arm, stopping the metals decent. The queen wrapped her left hand around the captain's left wrist, squeezing until she felt the bones being crushed. With the loss of strength in her hand, Janeway couldn't stop the weapon. She had however been able to redirect it, sending it into her shoulder instead of her chest. She bucked her body enough to send the cybernetic body rolling off to the side. Grabbing the rod, she was able to pull it from her shoulder and while the queen was reaching for something else to use as a weapon, the captain drove the rod into the queen's side.
The struggle continued, both trying to get the upper hand and neither accomplishing it, but inflicting injury upon each other.
A particularly vicious kick to Janeway's right thigh, just above her knee, snapped the bone and sent her flying, into the nearby wall. Fortunately it gave her a chance to rearm herself and when the queen drew near, she swung a fairly hefty and sharp metal piece at her adversary's knees.
The queen found herself on the floor, unable to make her legs respond to her command to stand up. "You have severely damaged me."
"Yeah, well that makes us even." Janeway held her left wrist close to her chest as she slowly pulled herself towards the downed queen with her right arm and pushed with her undamaged left leg, inching across the floor.
"Seven of Nine told us we had underestimated you when we took her back from Voyager. We thought we had compensated for that error and would now be able to understand you."
"You will never be able to understand us as long as you believe in this existence that you think is perfection. Even the most barbaric of species see it as an unforgiving rape of individualism and of humanity."
Another explosion ripped through the complex, more debris raining down, one large heavy piece landing on the queen and pinning her arms and upper body.
She struggled to free herself but couldn't. "Are you going to terminate my lifesigns now? I can not defend myself is that not what you humans consider murder?" The queen turned her head looking the captain in the eye. "I thought Kathryn Janeway revered all life or maybe you don't think I matter since I am not an organic lifeform."
"Nice try." She managed to move the fallen debris from her, a rather painful task, especially the piece that had landed on her badly broken leg. "But you're way to dangerous to leave functioning."
"Functioning, does that make it easier to kill me?"
"Life is life, no matter what from it takes." She resumed her crawl towards the trapped cyber body. "But there are times when it is necessary to take a life to save others." She was now in reach of the queen's head. "I am a scientist, an explorer and a soldier I would prefer to study and discover, but I will fight and kill when I have to. Being alone in the Delta Quadrant for seven years has made me more of a soldier than I would like, but there are many species here, not just the Borg, that made that a requirement."
"So, Captain Janeway is once again the victor," the queen stated somewhat bitterly.
Janeway actually chuckled, though it sounded more weary than amused. "The only winners here are the drones that can adjust and regain the lives that were taken from them." She propped her back against the foot of an alcove, reaching for the plate on the queen's forehead that would give her access to the cortical node that served as the main processing unit for the cybernetic being. She knew it was a quick two steps to open the cover and eject the node, but she paused. She had learned the original queen had been taken as a child and for a second felt sympathy for the little girl, like Annika, that had their life irrevocably changed. Sighing, she completed her task and watched as the 'lights' in the queen's eyes dimmed, but the lids remained open. She held the node in her hand; it was larger than the one's she remembered seeing in the drones.
Janeway took a deep breath as two members of Species 8472 entered the chamber, one standing over the queen's body and the other heading for the drone just starting to regain his senses.
"Wait." The captain spoke aloud, not knowing if her telepathy would still be heard with her link to the queen being broken. "I want to see if he's regained his memories." She knew some of the drones were still fighting, whether it was from their confusion or fear was uncertain.
"As you wish, Captain," she heard in her head. "That one was the Queen?"
"Yes, she is no longer a threat. And with the main central plexus destroyed, I don't think there will be another one," Janeway replied.
The one standing over the queen's body picked up one of the numerous metal pieces littering the chamber; raised it then drove it through the hollow that had held the node. "Just to make sure," the captain heard telepathically, along with a projected feeling of satisfaction.
The drone that had been Magnus Hansen and hopefully would be again, opened his eyes and sat up, holding his head. "The voices gone," he looked around and scrambled away upon seeing the figure looming over him.
"It's all right." Janeway drew his attention towards her. "They won't hurt you as long as you don't attack them."
"I I don't what happened?" He was pushed back as far away from the others as he could get, looking around wide-eyed.
"Who are you?" the captain questioned, hoping his memories would surface and calm him down somewhat.
"I am Th " he paused for several seconds, "Magnus Hansen, an exobiologist. My family we were studying the Borg." He looked at himself, then his eyes found the captain's, "Oh God."
She could almost see his thoughts as the emotions crossed his face. Her attention was commandeered by the alien that was still beside her. "Your people are coming for you, we are returning now to our home, but I will remain with you until they arrive, since you are injured. We owe you a debt, Captain Janeway."
"No," she replied, "more like my debt to you is now paid."
"How long until we're in transporter range, Commander Tuvok?" Viktor asked as he worriedly watched the images from the probe.
"Ten minutes, forty two seconds." Tuvok replied in his calm voice, though his concern for his commanding officer and friend clearly came through.
The fight between the captain and queen was watched anxiously, all trying to will Janeway to victory. The inability to actually help her weighing on each of them.
Several minutes passed, then Tuvok met Viktor's eyes and exited the bridge to join the away team.
A dozen people materialized near the central chamber, six from each ship, to find the captain standing with the help of the lone remaining alien.
"Commanders," she addressed Tuvok and Worf. If she was surprised to see the Klingon, late of the Enterprise and DS9, she didn't show it.
"Captain Janeway, I apologize for our tardiness." Tuvok stated, taking in the battered and bleeding form of his friend.
"Better late than never, old friend," she knew they made a strange trio, an injured former drone, an alien and a human that was definitely on her last legs. "I believe a trip to sickbay for all of us is needed, and I would imagine that there are many individuals here that are also going to need help."
"A prudent idea," Tuvok stated, noticing that Species 8472 was actually the only reason Janeway remained standing and that a rather large pool of blood was collecting beneath her feet. He contacted Odyssey and beamed them along with himself and Lt. Darby to sickbay.
Janeway knew her chief of security wouldn't let the safety of the ship fall to anyone but himself. She just wondered if he included her as a possible security threat. She'd laugh at that thought if she didn't hurt so much.
The EMH and Dr. Collins stood ready in the middle of sickbay, having already been aware of the condition of the captain as they had also been monitoring the visual from Collins' office. They headed for her as soon as the five materialized. Species 8472 lifted her and placed her on the biobed Collins had pointed towards. The alien's hand lingered on Janeway's shoulder as their eyes held for several seconds.
Even Gretchen and Phoebe's entrance into the room didn't interrupt the farewell that was spoken telepathically between the two.
"Tuvok," Janeway looked away, their 'talk' finished, "have the bridge lower the shields, our guest would like to return home."
Their other guest was being examined by the Doctor, the ex-drones injuries already being healed by his nanoprobes.
"Captain," Dr. Collins was running a tricorder over her patient, "you're severely injured, you need treatment now."
"One more thing " she held her hand out to Tuvok. "This is the cortical node from the Queen, make sure it's sealed away and not linked to our computer."
"I understand," he stated as he took the device from her.
With those two words, she knew he did understand that the node he held would reveal her ordeal, what she had been put through while held captive and with that understanding, he would allow no one to view the information stored except himself, until she had given her permission. She settled back on the biobed, the level of pain moving to the forefront of her mind now that her responsibilities had been taken care of.
Ensign Sakari had returned to sickbay when the captain had been transported, and she along with the two medical assistants, that had been hovering in the background moved forward as both doctors began barking out orders. The right pant's leg that was covered in blood was quickly sliced open to reveal the compound fracture of the femur, the break so severe that both ends of the bone protruded from the skin.
Both Gretchen and Phoebe had turned pale when they managed to get a closer look at Kathryn and backed off, letting the medical staff do their job. They leaned against the far wall, both clinging to each other and the hope that everything would now be all right.
The tricorder kept revealing injuries, both the visual, from the laceration on her face that ran from her forehead down her cheek, the cuts and scrapes on her arms, and torso, the puncture wound in her shoulder, to the invisible ones, the broken ribs, lacerated liver and crushed wrist.
An hour later, Dr. Collins was addressing the gathering in another area of sickbay, away from their patient. "The thing that worries us the most is the thing around her neck. The nanoprobes in her system, have repaired the life threatening injures; the internal bleeding, broken ribs and the artery in her leg that was opened by the broken bone."
The Doctor took up the narrative, "When we tried to give her a sedative and something to dull the pain, the nanoprobes neutralized it before it got very far into her system. And any attempt to manipulate the collar, well you saw what happened."
They all shivered at remembering the instantaneous and horrible reaction by the captain, her body arching, her right hand grasping the mattress on the bed as her fingers actually ripped the covering, the silent scream and the pain filled eyes. It had been the same reaction that the queen had inflicted on her in the complex.
Riker, Troi, Tuvok, Viktor, Gretchen and Phoebe had listened as the medical staff listed the injuries, all of which would heal, but the emotional pain was something that had all of them concerned, along with the 'collar' that remained around her neck.
"Can you discern what function or functions this device controls, besides the obvious one of pain?" Tuvok asked.
Dr. Collins turned to the monitor and brought up a diagram. "This is what we're sure of; the device has three tubules extending into the neck, one into the jugular vein, one into the carotid artery and one at the back of the neck extending into the brain stem, which controls most of the basic body functions such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure," she paused, "and several other functions. Which means we really don't want to go messing around with it until we understand more of how to disengage it without doing more damage to her."
"Captain Janeway has informed us," the Doctor turned off the diagram when he saw the horrified faces glued to the monitor, "that she hasn't had to sleep in the two month period or had to eat. She regenerated an average of one hour per 24 and all the nutrients her body needed to survive were provided at that time through the alcove. B'Elanna is working with our guest to modify one of the alcoves in the cargo bay and make a portable unit to use here in sickbay since moving her at this point would be extremely painful for her."
"What about her other injuries, the ones that haven't been healed?" Gretchen asked.
Dr. Collins answered, "Her broken leg has been set, the bone mended, the torn muscle repaired and the open wound closed. Likewise, the damaged shoulder has been repaired, but they both will take a while to fully heal. The nanoprobes reacted to this, but while painful, it wasn't to the extent of what we caused by trying to manipulate the collar. Her wrist is going to take several treatments, all the bones have been crushed and for now, we've put it in a brace, I can't see putting her through anymore pain right now, which is why the other minor lacerations will also be treated later."
"Was it the collar causing the pain that she went through and how can it be stopped?" the counselor asked.
"From what we can tell so far, the collar is controlling the modified nanoprobes and causing an almost electrical reaction in her blood. The damage it has caused to her veins and arteries has been extensive, but the nanoprobes are repairing it between episodes. As for how to stop it, I wish I knew," the Doctor finished, his irritation coming through.
"Can we sit with her for a while?" Phoebe spoke for the first time since entering sickbay, her voice subdued and hesitant.
"By all means," the Doctor answered. "It might help take her mind off things," he faltered. 'Seven years ago, I would've thought nothing of how much pain a patient was in, just of doing what I was programmed for. I would've thought comforting a patient's family a waste of my time. But thanks to Kes and to the woman that's lying out there, that changed,' he thought. "I know she's in pain and I fervently wish there was something we could do, but I promise we'll keep trying; we won't give up until we find a way to help her."
"Thank you." Phoebe stated as she and Gretchen moved towards the figure on the biobed.
"You've been staring at me for a while now." Magnus said as he worked on the alcove and the engineer worked on the portable unit. "Do I make you uncomfortable?"
B'Elanna stopped and faced him; she had been stealing looks during the hours they had been working. "You mean because you were a drone? No, we faced the Borg many times when Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant."
He stopped his work also. "You were on Voyager. Then you know my daughter. Nobody will tell me much, only that she left to search for the Queen. Do you know her well?"
She chuckled, "Yes, Seven and I are friends, now."
"Seven," he looked confused.
"Seven of Nine, she prefers to go by her Borg designation." B'Elanna leaned back against the console she was using to program the unit.
"Why? Why wouldn't she use her name? She does know what it is, doesn't she?"
"Well, some people on this ship that didn't know her from Voyager do call her Dr. Hansen." She saw curiosity and pride shining in his eyes. "But to answer your question yes, when Captain Janeway severed her from the collective; she was told who she had been. But she is more comfortable with Seven, she only spent six years as Annika, she spent 18 years as Seven."
"I I see."
B'Elanna wasn't sure he did. "Look, it might be hard for you to hear, but Seven doesn't remember too much of her childhood; what little she had that is, so don't sit there thinking there's gonna be this great family reunion when she comes back. Janeway was the one that believed in her and gave her the chances she needed to grow into the person she is now."
"She's my daughter," he said forcefully.
"A daughter that you took into a situation that cost her, her entire childhood. You were obviously more concerned with your career than your family. What person in their right mind would take their little girl to study the Borg?" she countered.
"We didn't understand what they were then," his voice lost its indignation.
"Yeah, well I bet you fully understand now, more than you ever imagined." She countered, trying to keep her legendary temper under control.
They let the silence continue for several minutes. B'Elanna wondering if she should've left it to Seven or perhaps the captain to set him straight and Magnus wondering if his daughter would ever forgive him.
"You said she was a doctor?"
"Yes, a civilian scientist on board. She's head of the Astrometrics Lab. She's also a damn good engineer; she pretty much designed the slipstream drive," she explained to him, proud of her friend.
"I owe Captain Janeway a lot. She saved my daughter and me and maybe out there somewhere, my wife."
"Many of us owe the Captain, so let's get back to work and finish this."
Gretchen and Phoebe slowly approached the bed, noticing the open eyes staring at the sickbay ceiling.
"Katie, can I can I touch you?"
"I'm not contagious, Phoebe." She glanced at her sister and saw the stricken expression on her face. Taking a deep breath, "I'm sorry; I know that's not what you meant. I'm a little out of sorts."
"It's okay; I just didn't want to touch you somewhere that would hurt you anymore than you already are," Phoebe replied. "I think I'd be a little more than just out of sorts if I was you."
"I shouldn't take it out on you though," she sighed. "God, I hate just having to lay here. This ceiling is just as boring as Voyager's was."
"I could paint you a mural." Phoebe said looking up also.
"I might take you up on that depending on how long I have to stay here."
"Knowing you as well as I do," Gretchen had moved to the other side of the biobed, "you'll try to sneak out tomorrow." She had tried to keep the anguish out of her voice, but didn't quite succeed. She delicately brushed the hair back that had fallen over her daughter's forehead.
The captain turned towards her mother. "Mom, it's going to be okay." She couldn't manage to say she was going to be okay, she wasn't at all sure if any part of 'Kathryn' had survived. Maybe with time, she could try to find that part of herself that she had slowly been recovering, once again.
Viktor and the others had given her time with her family, but they did need to keep her informed of what had been decided. The four approached the bed, "I'm sorry to interrupt, Captain, but we wanted to let you know that the ex-drones are gathering on the nearby planets. They're going to be deciding on if and how they'll be trying to get back to where they belong, if anything is left of their worlds. We told them that we would be glad to furnish them with whatever information we have."
"Good, Commander. We're headed for one of the planets now, I presume?" Janeway asked, though she was fully aware of the impulse engines being engaged for several minutes now.
He answered in the affirmative and excused himself to head back to the bridge, letting her know that he would keep her informed until she could once again take command.
"Captain Riker," she looked at the dark haired, bearded man that had moved to take the commander's place by the bed. "About damn time you took command of a ship." She looked at the four pips then back into his eyes.
He grinned at her, "Well, Katie, I couldn't let you have all the fun now, could I?" He sobered, "We'll take care of things for a while, you concentrate on getting better." He glanced at his wife, whom he knew was going to remain on Odyssey for a while. They both knew from experience that if Janeway was going to open up, it would be with Deanna and not with Counselor Gazsi. Not that the captain had anything against the Odyssey's counselor, it was just that anyone in command of a starship was reluctant to open up to the counselor on board their ship.
"Good spirits above." Robi looked wide-eyed at the destruction that was showing on the viewscreen.
"What happened?" Axum's voice was quiet and uncertain.
Seven drew her eyes away from the destruction and looked at the sensor readings. "I am reading weapons fire from two sources Borg and Species 8472. I am also reading a warp signature from a Federation starship," she swallowed hard. "Correction, two starships, one is Odyssey the other is unknown."
"When did this happen?" Axum asked. "Can you tell?"
"Not without doing more extensive testing on a hull fragment, but the warp signatures are starting to dissipate the two ships left this area at least three days ago," Seven answered.
"It's odd that the starships didn't fire weapons, don't you think?" Robi had left his station and moved beside Axum, staring at the scene outside their vessel, which was slowly continuing towards the Unicomplex.
"They could've come upon it as we have, after the fact," Axum stated.
"The Unicomplex has taken heavy damage, but I am reading an atmosphere in and near the Queen's chamber, but no lifesigns," Seven announced. "Seven to Richards, bring us within transporter range of the main complex."
"Sure thing, Seven."
The cube had set up an internal communications system after being severed from the Collective two years ago. The vessel was now being manned like any other, with an engineering department, weapons and tactical and command structure.
"You're going inside?" Axum asked and Seven responded with a nod. "I'll go with you," he added.
"Me too," Robi stated.
The three of them materialized just outside the queen's chamber and spent several minutes staring at the destruction. "I find it curious that we are not finding any bodies." Seven scanned that area using a tricorder she had fashioned from spare Borg hardware. "I do not believe Species 8472 would have stopped to dispose of the drone's bodies, nor would the remaining drones, if any were left."
"Maybe the complex was deserted when they attacked or maybe the Borg abandoned when they saw the attack coming." Robi ventured a guess.
"Borg do not run." Seven stated as she started to duck under metal beams to enter the chamber.
"Seven," Axum yelled, "here's the Queen."
She made her way quickly to his side, kneeling down she examined the 'body'. "An exoskeleton covered by a synthetic alloy made to resemble skin a central processing unit housed in the skull; it seems the memory core has been removed." She looked at the ex-drone beside her, "How did you know what the Queen looked like?"
"I um " he paused, thinking, "saw her in Unimatrix Zero," Axum replied.
Seven was about to question his statement when Robi interrupted, "What's that thing on the back of her head that's been smashed?"
"It was the communications node how she controlled the hive mind." Seven answered as she went back to studying her readings with a frown.
"What's wrong?" Axum was glad of the change of topic.
"I am reading a polymeric cloth, of an acrylic cotton and wool blend." She scanned the area before once again heading for the queen's chamber.
"But Borg don't wear clothes." Robi needlessly stated.
"No, they do not and neither does Species 8472." She entered the central hub of the complex letting her devise guide her.
After several minutes of silence the two men looked at one another, Robi curious as to what she might've found, Axum fearful of what he thought she would find.
Robi shrugged and ducked into the chamber and found something he would've never believed from the detached woman he had come to know. Seven was sitting at the edge of an alcove, collapsed like her legs would no longer hold her, clutching a red and black tunic, while tears streamed down her face.
He made his way over to her and knelt down beside her. "Seven, what is it; what's wrong?"
"It " she started but had to stop.
He then saw the tunic she held was Starfleet. "It could be anyone's, Seven, it doesn't have to be Captain Janeway's."
Then she showed him the long sleeved grey shirt with what appeared to be dried blood on it and the four rank pips signifying captain. "It is Captain Janeway's." She stated, sure of the fact even though she hadn't run a DNA scan on the blood.
"But, Seven, you don't know what happened. She could be okay. We did pick up two Starfleet warp signatures." Robi tried to comfort her. "This doesn't mean the Queen had her."
Seven roughly brushed the tears from her face. "You are right; as Commander Tuvok would say, there is no purpose in speculating on what happened here without more proof. Thank you." She lovingly folded the two articles of clothing and holding them to her breast, stood. "We have to follow the Starfleet vessels. I must get back to Kat my ship."
Axum, who had remained quiet, was a bit nervous about catching up to the starships. "But we must find out what happened here. Make sure there are no survivors that need help. With the Queen and the central computer core destroyed, all the remaining Borg must be disconnected now." He wasn't sure as to what if anything the captain, if still alive, would know about his roll in this and he wasn't anxious to find out. Of course what chance did a human, one lone human at that, have against a battle between the Borg and Species 8472? 'Though Janeway has had an uncanny ability to do the impossible before,' he thought.
Seven was speaking, "There were no lifesigns in this area, if you wish to stay here and sift through the rubble, you are more than welcome to."
"If I stay the cube stays," Axum stated. "That's my ship."
"Your ship?" Robi questioned before a surprised Seven could. "You were appointed spokesperson, not captain. If you took a vote, the majority if not all would agree with Seven. We owe Captain Janeway too much not to find out what happened and see if we can help."
Axum stood his ground for a minute before giving in; knowing Robi was right. "Very well, we'll go after them." 'After all,' he thought, 'knowing if she survived and knows about my part in all this is better than continuously wondering and worrying.'
The three transported back to the cube. "The warp trails head toward the second planet in this system. I've sent their course trajectory to navigation," Robi said. "It's going to take a good 18 hours to get there because of getting through this debris field."
"We should be able to hail them in two hours." Seven stated matter-of-factly even though her insides were swirling like they used to after eating some of Neelix's early culinary concoctions.
"Um, long range communications is down again," the young man stated.
"What? But I repaired the array last week." Seven looked at Robi curiously. "When did this current trouble occur?"
"Ah, I believe it was yesterday, right before we got to the debris. I told Axum about it and he said he would take care of it," he shrugged apologetically. "I guess he hasn't had time yet."
'Something strange is going on,' Seven mussed. 'I do not believe Axum ever saw the Queen in Unimatrix Zero and now he once again has left the long range communications array in disrepair. He was also not pleased about possibly interacting with the Starfleet vessels. All this after he expended much effort to find Kathryn and warn her about the threat from the Queen.' Seven had let most of her concerns about Axum slide since he had been willing to help her locate the whereabouts of the queen, but now, especially after taking so long to convince him that the queen was not in the Gamma Quadrant, she was reevaluating his motivation for helping her. She had originally thought he was trying to rekindle their romance, but now she wasn't so sure. It seemed more like he was trying to keep her away from the conflict. 'If I find out that is the case, he will wish he had never run into me again.'
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