DISCLAIMER: The full disclaimer and author's notes can be read HERE.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By H.W.


Chapter 16

"Alright," Janeway said, one seated. "I once read a report of Captain Jean-Luc Picard..." Janeway frowned before adding, "I don't remember which star date the report was from, but it really doesn't matter. The point is, it described a situation where they went to investigate a crashed Borg ship and actually found one survivor, a teenager really. They eventually released him back to the Borg because he wanted to go back. Picard hoped that the taste of individuality that the teenager had gotten during his short stay on the Enterprise would influence the Collective, but that wasn't the primary reason. He let the teenager go because they boy wanted to go. Well, since then we've learned more about the Borg and know now that as soon as you are connected to the Hive mind, all individuality is lost."

Janeway looked at Seven before continuing. "That really is the reason why I denied your request to be allowed to return to the Borg back then; I knew that you'd simply become a drone again, and I couldn't allow that."

Janeway took a moment to look around the table. "But it did give me an idea that we can use now. The Borg want Seven back, what if we do just that; give them Seven back?"

Janeway lifted her hand to stop people, especially B'Elanna, from speaking up. "I'm not talking about handing Seven over and being on our merry way, I'm thinking about Seven using that chance to infect the Hive mind with some kind of virus, be it biological or technological,"

"That will not work," Seven interrupted. "Trying to influence the Borg with some kind of virus is a common practice. On average five attempts are made for every one species that is assimilated. To my knowledge this has been tried, unsuccessfully I might add, sixty-two-thousand times. It is so common that safeguards have been created so that even in a worst case scenario only one ship can be infected."

"I know, Seven, remember we've run into situations like that," Janeway said, agreeing fully with Seven's summation. "I know that this normally would never work, but I'm thinking of using the Borg's overconfidence against them. You told me that your nanoprobes have been changed to where you can control them without needing a physical connection, correct?"

"That is correct," Seven agreed, wondering where Janeway was going.

"The Borg also brought in Unimatrix 01. If we could infect that, there wouldn't be an infection of just one ship; the whole Collective would become infected because all ships and all drones are linked to that thing out there. They're guarding against a virus being introduced through one of their cubes or other ships. They'll never expect a virus to be introduced directly into Unimatrix 01."

"Again; that is correct," Seven said.

"Here's what I'm thinking. We, Voyager, have made a deal before with the Borg, and we kept our part of the deal. We pretend to be impressed with the power the Borg brought in. We contact them and make them a deal, we deliver you to them and in exchange, they let us go. After some negotiating, we send you over in a shuttle and before they can link you to the Collective, you infect the Hive with nanoprobes that carry a virus. Maybe we could do that in the same way as we did with species 8472. Besides the photon torpedoes we also adapted a few phaser rifles so it can carry the nanoprobes when fired. Or the Doctor can come up with some block to prevent the Borg from pulling you into the Hive mind right away, giving you time to release the virus through your assimilation tubes. Either way, you infect the Hive, and then get out of there. If it goes as planned we could actually rid the universe of the threat that is the Borg."

"What kind of virus are you suggesting?" Seven asked, taking B'Elanna's hand under the table to stop the Klingon from speaking up.

"Something that you, B'Elanna, Harry, and the Doctor can come up with in, say, two hours. I'm not talking about something that would actually kill the Borg drones; I think doing that would make us even worse than the Borg are. I'm thinking more along the lines of something that would destroy the link between the drones, something that would make them all individuals again."

It was quiet around the table while Janeway looked at everyone in turn. Clearly seeing that none of them was enthusiastic about the plan. "Well, people, if you have better ideas, I'm more than happy to hear them," Janeway said, spreading her hands a little to give the statement more meaning.

"Just remember that the clock it ticking. Those shields are going to fail, and in a best-case scenario they will still only hold for about three hours now. So, let's hear those plans."

After a long moment of silence it was Seven who finally spoke up. "You will have to ask for more than just free passage."

"Go on," Janeway said.

"Because the Borg set my implants to primary makeup, they will know that I would have had to explain to you why my implants changed. Therefore they know, that you know, that I am more than just an average drone; more so because they will know only too well that you will understand that they do not send Unimatrix 01 for just any drone. They would not trust it if you only asked for free passage."

"Then what would you suggest we ask for?"

"Besides the free passage you also need to ask at least for another drone to replace me that has all the Borg knowledge that I have. Because to the Borg the Collective is more important than the individual drone, they will think that you are acting in the same way; that to you your Collective is more important than one person. That you want the knowledge that the Borg have, and do not care which drone is giving you that knowledge. But what will make it even more believable is if you ask for several transwarp coils. They know that you have risked a lot already to get transwarp coils. It will be very believable that you would use this opportunity to get several transwarp coils to shorten your voyage home."

"But what is there to stop the Borg from simply destroying us as soon as Seven leaves Voyager?" Tom asked.

"Good question," Janeway said thoughtfully.

"We could remind them of the fact that we remember that they were the ones that broke the deal last time," Chakotay suggested.

"We could demand that they first send over the drone and the transwarp coils in a Borg shuttle; a shuttle that we are going to keep. That'll add to believability; they'll think that we want to keep it for the technology in it. Once that shuttle is on board Voyager we'll send out a shuttle of our own; a shuttle that has Seven in it, and a photon torpedo. We'll say that if they try to capture us, we'll blow up the shuttle, and Seven. Of course we would have to give the shuttle the same shields Voyager now has. We would then pretend to run, and after some time the power of the shuttle runs out causing its shields to drop, and at that time Seven will enter Unimatrix 01. It won't really be much of a distance that we can build up in that time, and they could catch us in minutes using transwarp, but it will take us out of weapon's range. By the time they're in weapon's range again, Seven will hopefully have done what she needs to do."

"That could work," Janeway agreed before looking at B'Elanna. She knew that she had kept the Klingon quiet for as long as she could. "I'm sure that you're dying to give your opinion on this, B'Elanna."

"Well, my personal opinion is that you're all nuts to even think about this."

Now it was B'Elanna's turn to raise her hand to stop someone from talking, especially Janeway. "But I do realize that we have to do something. I know that if we wait too long I... I mean, we, will lose Seven for sure. As crazy as this plan is, it's the only plan we have."

B'Elanna was quiet for a moment before adding in a tone that made it clear that there was no discussion possible as far as she was concerned, "I'll be going with Seven in that shuttle."

"As far as I know it is still up to me to decide that, Lieutenant," Janeway said with a warning tone.

"You'll need a good pilot for the shuttle, and also a good Engineer to maintain the shields for as long as possible," B'Elanna defended. "While Seven can do both those things, she can't do them at the same time. You need a second person in the shuttle. I'm volunteering to be that second person, is there another volunteer?"

Janeway looked at B'Elanna for a moment longer before finally relenting and giving her a little grin. "Straight to the heart of the matter, right? But you're correct, we do need a second person in the shuttle... and I think that you'd do a better job in the shuttle than here on the ship while worrying about what's going on over there. Alright people, we have a working plan, now let's concentrate on coming up with some kind of virus that destroys the link between the Collective, thereby destroying the Collective completely, but doesn't harm actual drones."

"It really sounds easy the way you say that," Tom observed. "If it was only just as easy to do."

"You know, I really have a bad feeling about this," Chakotay said softly to Janeway as they watched the shuttle drifting out of the hangar and into space on the viewscreen.

"You aren't the only one," Janeway replied just as softly. Seeing the small shuttle that looked like nothing more than a grain of sand compared with the huge Borg ship, made Janeway feel like they were a mouse playing a game of chess with a whole family of cats.

"How is our guest doing?" Janeway asked a little louder, addressing Tuvok.

"The drone has been taken to sickbay and is currently surrounded by a level ten force-field. The Doctor reported that the drone is currently unconscious and that he has already removed her subspace transmitter."

"Alright. Until this is over, keep an eye on her, and also on the Borg shuttle she arrived on," Janeway said.

Tuvok merely lifted his eyebrow, a little surprised that Janeway found it necessary to point out the obvious to him. He was in charge of security after all and had taken care of the very things the Captain had just mentioned the second the drone had arrived on Voyager.

"The shuttle has left our maneuver field," Tom pointed out.

"Alright, pretend to run," Janeway said as she leaned forward in her chair every so slightly.

"Aye Captain. Jumping to warp... now."

"The Borg are capturing the shuttle in a tractor beam," Tuvok said, before adding, "We have lost all contact with the shuttle."

"A dampening field," Janeway said in understanding. "They want to make sure that we don't destroy the shuttle. Are they following us?"

"No Captain."

"They probably don't see the use," Chakotay guessed. "With their transwarp abilities they can catch up to us within minutes if they want. I guess they consider us irrelevant."

"They have just pulled the shuttle into Unimatrix 01," Tuvok reported.

"Tom, keep this course for another thirty minutes, then turn around. That should give Seven and B'Elanna enough time. In the mean time, set the shields back to normal setting and tell Carey to run the warp core as hot as he dares, I want the power levels up as much as possible in case we need the new shield settings again."


"Nothing at all, Captain. And from the scans I would say that Unimatrix 01 is still fully functional. I," Tuvok stopped talking when the last thing they wanted to happen did happen. "Captain, the Borg are beaming through the adapted shields."

"Are they beaming onto the ship?" Janeway asked. She desperately wanted to say the words 'red alert' but they had never left that level to begin with.

"No captain. Things are being beamed off the ship in two places. I have already dispatched security teams."


"Cargo bay 2, and the quarters of B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine."

"Kathryn," Chakotay said softly before mentioning that which the others didn't want to. "There is only one way that the Borg could beam through our shields like that."

Janeway closed her eyes when realization set in. "The Borg could only know how to do that if they had assimilated Seven and B'Elanna."

"Captain, the security teams are reporting in," Tuvok said. "In the cargo bay the alcove Seven used to regenerate has been beamed out; leaving the other three alcoves untouched, and in the quarters everything has been beamed out."

"Everything?" Janeway repeated, surprised by the strange behavior of the Borg.

"Yes, Captain, down to the carpets actually. The only thing left are the bare walls and floor."

"We need to get Seven and B'Elanna out of there. Tom," Janeway stopped talking when she saw Unimatrix 01 disappear in a streak of transwarp light. "Tom, set a course to follow them."

"Aye Captain." Tom was just about to put Voyager into warp when one of the Borg cubes still left opened fire, coming dangerously close to the hull of Voyager.

"Captain, I believe that could be considered the proverbial shot across the bow," Tuvok pointed out. "I believe that these ships have been left here to make sure that we do not follow Unimatrix 01."

"I have a feeling that you're right. They're bound to be heading straight back to the heart of Borg space," Janeway agreed. "Damn. Alright, senior staff to the conference room, we need a plan."

Six months later.

"Tom, take us back to warp six. Better save some energy until we find a place to restock on Dilithium."

"Yes ma'am."

"I never thought that we would be running low on Dilithium only six months after leaving the Zamonan," Chakotay said, shaking his head a little.

"Neither did I," Janeway agreed. "We had a stock of crystals that should have lasted us twenty years. To quote Tom's colorful, but very accurate assessment of the situation; 'it totally bites that we had to use the crystals as payment'."

"It was either 'pay' the Zeki to be allowed to pass through their space, or go around their space and deal with 'pirates' that somehow have ships three times as powerful as ours, but have no ties at all to the Zeki... or so the Zeki say."

"I know, but it still bites," Janeway said. "But I guess that we should be glad that Dilithium was all they wanted."

"What I think really bites is that those transwarp coils the Borg gave us turned out to be totally useless, just like the shuttle. If they had been usable we could have been home by now."

"True, but we did end up with an extra, and very productive, crew member," Janeway pointed out. Referring to the Borg drone that hadn't ended up being a part of the senior crew like Seven had, but that had still been fully incorporated into the crew. Unlike the prejudice that Seven had to face, the crew had given the new drone, Perizn, the benefit of the doubt and welcomed her into the crew.

"You're right," Chakotay agreed. "And talking about Perizn, she handed in that report today."

"The report that she had to have finished two days from now?" Janeway asked amused. "How,"

"Captain, we seem to have a shadow," Tuvok suddenly interrupted.

"A shadow?"

"Yes Captain. Sensors picked up a ship on the edge of our sensor range when we reduced speed, but within a second it was gone."

"So someone was surprised by our sudden change of speed and ended up in our sensor range for a moment before they could match our new speed?" Janeway surmised.

"I would assume so," Tuvok agreed.

"Could the sensors make out what kind of ship?"

"No Captain, the ship was gone before it could be identified."

"Hmm. I think it would be a good idea to have a closer look at our shadow. Tom, take us about."

"Aye captain."

"Anything, Tuvok?" Janeway asked half an hour later.

"No ship, Captain. I assume that they expected our move. But sensors are picking up a recent transwarp trace."

"Transwarp?" Chakotay asked. "You think it was a Borg ship?"

"That is a distinct possibility, Commander."

"Seven, B'Elanna," Janeway said softly.

Chakotay wasn't so sure about that. "Kathryn, if it was them, they wouldn't have run. It might also have been someone else. The Borg aren't the only ones with transwarp capabilities, and they're also not in the habit of playing hide and seek."

"You're probably right," Janeway was forced to admit. She knew that the chances of Seven and B'Elanna being anything but mindless drones by that time, if they were still alive at all, were just as high as Voyager, in the next five minutes, finding a wormhole that would take them home.

"Tom, set a course to follow the warp trail. We'll follow it for three days, if we haven't found anything by that time; we will resume our course home."

"Aye Captain."

Six months later.

(One year later in total.)

"Commander. Anything of interest?" Harry asked as he prepared to take over the captain's chair at the start of the gamma shift.

"Nothing big," Chakotay answered as he got out of the chair. "We had a circuit burnout with the industrial replicator on deck five, so you might see some power fluctuations while Engineering replaces those circuits. And when you take your break later on, you might want to stay away from Neelix's latest pasta creation. The Doctor reported ten people with mild food poisoning."

Harry's eyes got wider at that.

"It wasn't really his fault," Chakotay defended. "It seems that two of those spices that he has been using for the last year are great, as long as they aren't used together. Together they form a mild poison for Humans. We really should have checked possible combinations. Poor Neelix felt so bad that he wanted to throw it all away. But since it is perfectly safe for everyone that isn't Human, I said that he should leave it and just make sure that no Human takes any of it."

"Thanks for the warning," Harry said with a smile.

"No problem." Chakotay turned around to leave when he remembered something. "Oh, we did spot our shadow again."

"That's the third time this month, isn't it? Normally we don't see it that often."

Chakotay merely shrugged his shoulders. "We did make some abrupt course changes this month."

"Right," Harry agreed.

"Well, I'm off. Have a good night, Harry."

"You too Commander."

One year later.

(Two years later in total.)

"Evasive maneuvers!" Janeway shouted while another impact rocked the ship.

"Hull breach on deck ten," Tuvok warned before adding, "They are targeting our engines. A second and third ship are coming into firing range."

"Incoming audio message," Harry said, trying to hold on to his station when another impact rocked the ship violently. A slight nod of Janeway's head told him to play the message.

{Voyager, this is your last chance. Power down your weapons and surrender unconditionally, otherwise you will be destroyed.}

"Harry, send back a message. There is no way that we are going to wait around for three years to face a day in their kangaroo court. They know that this is a bunch of nonsense."

"They are replying," This time Harry didn't need permission to play the message.

{What you think of this case is not the point. The point is that you are trying to escape our jurisdiction while a case of law is pending against you, and you have one of our citizens onboard your ship. She has no permission to leave our space. I am done talking, if you have not surrendered in ten seconds, you will be destroyed. Do not mistake our friendly demeanor for an inability to kill if our laws are broken. You now have ten seconds.}

"Captain, another ship is coming into sensor range."

"What the hell do they need another one for?" Tom asked frustrated from his chair. He had a hard enough time trying to escape the fire of the three ships surrounding them, let alone four. He had no illusion about the fact that the only reason they were still alive was simply that the Barudians had not yet decided to kill them.

"I do not believe that this is one of their ships. It is coming from our aft position. I would surmise that it is our 'shadow'." Tuvok said.

Chakotay nodded his head in agreement. "Since those ships out there haven't started firing even though our ten seconds are over, I would agree that it isn't one of theirs. I'd bet they saw the mystery ship as well and are wondering who they are."

"Tuvok, can the sensors finally tell us what kind of ship it is?" Janeway asked, more curios than ever to know who their mysterious shadow was.

"It is a Borg cube, Captain."

"What?!" Janeway could not believe that it had been a Borg cube that had been following them for a year and a half, at least. When they first spotted their shadow, they had thought that it was indeed a Borg ship because it had left using transwarp. But over time they had dismissed that idea. The entire senior crew was sure that there was no way that a Borg ship would patiently follow them for such a long time.

"We've have to warn the Barudian about the Borg. Harry, open a channel,"

"Captain, the Borg are sending a message on all channels," Harry interrupted.

Janeway just knew that this could not be good. "Let's hear it."

Harry opened the channel and soon they heard the combined voices of the Borg fill the bridge.

{Barudian Stellar Guard, we are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. Your level of compliance will determine if diplomatic ties can be established between our species. You will be boarded. Do not resist; resistance is futile.}

After a moment of stunned silence, Tom spoke up first. "Did my ears just play tricks on me, or did I hear the Borg offer diplomatic ties?"

"Then my ears are playing tricks on me as well," Janeway said, not believing what she just heard.

"Captain, the Barudians are replying," Harry said before playing the message he was receiving. He decided to automatically play any other messages as well, knowing that the captain would want to hear them.

{Borg vessel, this is Graw Dresc, eighteenth Vitre of de Barudian Stellar Guard. Please be advised that we have no quarrel with you. We have heard about your changed ways, and I am sure that our government would like to establish diplomatic ties. However, we are in the process of apprehending the starship Voyager. They have broken our laws and they have to face the consequences. As a sign of good will towards the Borg, we are willing to lower our shields on one ship and allow you to board that ship; which is mine. However, if you try to take permanent possession of our ship, this will be seen as an act of war, and the Barudian government will respond accordingly. Moreover, as a sign of good will from your side, we request that you prevent the starship Voyager from using this opportunity to escape our jurisdiction. Or if you are not powerful enough to prevent this, that you first allow us to take them into custody.}

"Harry, open a channel to the Barudian,"

"Captain, I do not think that the Barudians would believe us at this point," Tuvok interrupted. "Any message from us at this time will be seen by the Barudians as an attempt to prevent contact between them and the Borg."

Before Janeway could reply, they heard the Borg answer the Barudian.

{Your compromise has been deemed acceptable. We will prevent the Federation Starship Voyager from leaving this sector.}

"They called us the 'Federation' Starship, while the Barudians never said the Federation part," Tom noted. "The Borg know exactly who we are."

{Very well, in that case we will welcome you aboard,} the Barudians replied to the Borg message.

"The Barudian lead ship has dropped its aft shields, allowing the Borg to beam over unhindered," Tuvok said before adding, "Borg have started to beam over."

"Damn," Janeway cursed softly under her breath so that the others didn't hear her. A captain did not curse. "There is nothing we can do for them now, Tom take us out of here."

But as soon as Tom started to turn Voyager around so that they could jump into warp without ramming one of the ships, they were grabbed in the secure hold of a Borg tractor-beam.

"Captain, the Borg are sending another message, this one's clearly meant for us," Harry said before playing the message.

{Federation Starship Voyager. Do not try to escape. Our Queen, One of Many, wants to speak to you. You are to await her arrival in 4.3 hours.}

"Seems that we aren't going anywhere anytime soon," Chakotay couldn't help but observe.

"So it seems," Janeway agreed. "But that doesn't mean that we can't use that time. Contact Engineering, tell them they have four hours to make the most urgent repairs."

4.3 hours later.

"Captain, a ship is dropping out of transwarp at our starboard side."

"Put it on screen, Harry."

Once Harry had done so, they were looking at the biggest Borg ship known to exist, a ship they had only seen one time before; Unimatrix 01.

"Incoming message."

"On screen."

A moment later, the jaws of the entire senior crew hit the floor when the image of Seven of Nine filled the screen.

"Captain Janeway. It is good to see you again."

"Seven?" Janeway could only ask.

"Yes Kathryn. It is me, just the same as I was two years ago. B'Elanna wanted to be here as well to greet you, but there was a little... problem she had to take care of."

"Seven... how,"

"I am sure that you have a lot of questions. May I suggest a meeting so that we can discuss them? There is also the small fact that there are three Barudian ships waiting to take you into custody."

"That sounds like a very good idea," Janeway agreed, finally managing to wrap her brain around the fact that she was looking at someone who she had deemed dead for two years. In Janeway's mind, there was no difference between being dead, and being controlled by the Hive mind. Yet, here Seven was, clearly acting like an individual, and from what she heard, B'Elanna was alive as well.

"Seven, what about B'Elanna? How is she?"

"B'Elanna is well. You will see her when we meet. As I said, she would have been here, but she had to take care of a little problem."

"What kind of a problem?" Chakotay asked.

Seven gave a smile that could best be described as indulgent before answering. "It seems that our daughter has not only inherited my IQ, but also B'Elanna's Engineering skills. She escaped from her crib and hurt herself when falling out of it. B'Elanna has taken her to sickbay."

Once again there was a stunned moment of silence on the bridge of Voyager.

"It seems that we truly have a lot to discuss," Janeway finally said.

"Indeed," Seven agreed. "I would suggest that you beam to my ship, but I know that you will not feel comfortable on a Borg ship. So instead, I would like to ask permission to beam on to your ship."

"P... Permission granted," Janeway said after a moment of hesitation. This was getting stranger by the minute.

"Thank you. I first have to check on my daughter. After that B'Elanna, I, and four drones will beam onto Voyager in thirty minutes."

"Drones?" Janeway asked, not liking that part at all.

Seven gave the impression of shrugging her shoulders without actually doing so. "I 'am' the Borg Queen. They are there for my protection. I know I do not need that protection on Voyager, but that is part of the deal B'Elanna and I made with the Borg. A deal consists out of giving and taking, and the Hive insisted that whenever I and/or B'Elanna leave Unimatrix 01, we will be accompanied by four drones to ensure our safety, more drones if the situation is known to be unsecure."

"I... See," Janeway said slowly. "Very well, we will expect you in thirty minutes. Janeway out."

A moment later Harry had cut the channel and the senior crew was left looking at each other in total disbelief.


Chapter 17

Seven lifted an eyebrow when she sparkled into existence in the Voyager transporter room.

"A security team?" She asked while taking in the four security guards that had phaser rifles aimed at them.

"Not for you two," Janeway said, indicating Seven and B'Elanna, "but for the drones."

"Captain, be assured, your phaser rifles would be completely ineffective against these drones. Considering that they are designed for our protection, their body armor is vastly advanced compared to drones you have met before."

"You can't blame them for being careful, baby," B'Elanna said as she put her hand on Seven's back.

Janeway's jaw sagged a little when she got her first good look at B'Elanna. Though no other implants were clearly visible, B'Elanna now had an implant above her left eye that was similar to Seven's. Janeway could only assume that B'Elanna now also had a cortical node. "B'Elanna? What happened to you?"

"Nothing I didn't ask for myself," B'Elanna assured.

Janeway lifted her eyebrows but decided not to react to that statement. Instead, she changed the subject. "Would you accompany me to conference room one? The rest of the senior staff is waiting there."

"Certainly," Seven said as she and B'Elanna started to move to the door.

The hair at the back of Janeway's neck stood upright when the four drones moved as one and started to follow Seven and B'Elanna. "Creepy," she mumbled softly more to herself than anything else.

"It does take some getting used to," B'Elanna said, looking over her shoulder at Janeway. She waited until the woman had joined them at the front of the group before continuing.

"But on the plus side, they never stand in the way and they don't need lengthy discussions on where to go and such."

"I wish you would have let us know that you were alright," Janeway said as they stepped into the turbolift. "We assumed you dead or nothing more than drones."

"I apologize for that," Seven said. "But you also have to understand that our position within the Borg was far from secure for a long time. There have been several times where we did indeed come close to being turned into mindless drones. We could not let you know that we were 'alright' because there still was a chance that this would result in you all being assimilated."

"But now you're in command over the Borg? The message we got told us that the Borg Queen was on the way to see us."

"I am the Borg Queen," Seven agreed.

The turbolift door opened and they stepped onto the bridge. Seven recognized everyone there, just as she had recognized the four guards. It felt strange. She felt as she had the first months on Voyager, with everyone looking at her; not sure if they could trust her.

"And I am in command of the Borg," Seven continued. "But the Borg do have a say in certain decisions. We set the course, and the Borg agree or not. Sometimes there are considerable discussions between us and the Hive mind, but we are always able to work the disagreements out now."

"Who is 'we'?" Janeway asked as they walked into the conference room. Before entering, Janeway gave the Voyager security team a sign that they should take up position outside the conference room.

"B'Elanna and I, of course," Seven said as if she was stating the obvious, which to her she was.

The entire senior staff was in the conference room. Carey was there, and one didn't have to be a genius to figure out that he was now the Chief Engineer. There was also a woman there that they didn't know. Except for the empty captain's chair there were two other empty chairs. B'Elanna and Seven sat down in them while the four drones took up position behind them, standing against the wall.

Janeway spared a look at the Borg drones and realized that they truly looked a lot different than the last time she had seen some. The body armor didn't look like a patchwork of implants, instead it looked like a black formfitting biosuit and it was very obvious that it could be taken off.

Janeway had noticed that Seven and B'Elanna were wearing the same kind of black biosuit body armor, the only difference being that they had silver colored collars, and that their clothing didn't have the clips that the guards had.

Seeing the position of the clips, Janeway could only assume that they were designed so that the guards could carry different kinds of weapons. It spoke volumes to Janeway about what the Borg thought of Voyager's threat level that they had allowed these guards to come to Voyager unarmed. Or at least, unarmed as far as Janeway could see.

Of course, seeing that the guards were wearing clothing instead of being covered by implants left Janeway to wonder what kind of implants they had underneath their body armor. She did see an outline on all four of them of an abdominal implant similar to Seven's. Janeway assumed that the biosuit type clothing would be able to withstand one or several phaser shots, but that they also had a second body armor just like Seven's; a force-field that would surround the drones when activated. It left her to wonder just how effective their full body armor was. After all, they showed up on a potential hostile place like Voyager with no visible weapons and the force-field armor deactivated. Clearly they felt that the biosuit like clothing offered enough protection.

The implants Janeway could see were different as well. The protruding artificial eye was gone. It was replaced by something that still clearly was an artificial eye, just with normal eye proportions. They no longer had the gray/green skin color that had been the standard for Borg drones, and they were no longer bald. While they still were very clearly Borg drones, they didn't look as... scary. They looked more... normal.

"They are advanced drones," Seven explained when she saw Janeway looking past her. "The implants that were used on me have proven efficient, so from now on all new drones receive the new implants."

"Why only the new ones?" The doctor asked.

"Because of resources. Unlike the new implants, the old ones can not be reprogrammed. As you know, my implants could form by themselves, but that is only the case for body armor implants with the old implants. All other implants would have to be physically removed and replaced with the new implants. Can you imagine how many resources it would take to replace almost two hundred implants per drone for billions of drones, never mind how much time it would take because there is only a limited number of service drones."

"What happened to you two?" Janeway asked, coming to the matter at hand.

"That is a lengthy story," Seven said. "Before we go into that, there are several Barudian stellar guard ships waiting to take you into custody. I suggest we take care of that problem first. Why do they want to take you into custody? The Barudian home-world is comparable with Risa in the Federation. It is known as the pleasure planet of this ten-sector part of space. The one big difference is that the Barudian do not need a Federation to protect them, they are powerful enough to protect themselves. But they do not go out arresting people without a good reason."

"It's a bunch of crap," Harry spoke up, surprising everyone around the table with his forceful words.

"I would suggest you tone it down a little, Lieutenant," Janeway warned.

"Aye Captain," Harry mumbled.

Having reprimanded Harry to her satisfaction, Janeway looked back to Seven and B'Elanna. "While Harry chose his words poorly, he's basically right."

Janeway motioned to the unknown woman with her hand. "But before I go into the story, let me introduce Gazec Felov, former eight Vic of the Barudian science department. Gazec, may I introduce our former crew members Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres."

"Greetings," Gazec said. "I have heard much about you, the crew of Voyager speaks well of you."

"Pleased to meet you," Seven said while B'Elanna lifted her hand slightly and offered a 'hi.'

Seven looked back at Janeway before adding, "While those are our former names, and the names we would like you all to use when talking to us, for official purposes, we are now known as One of Many, and Two of Many."

"It is so noted, for the logs," Janeway said before continuing with her explanation. "We enjoyed some much needed shore leave. Since we also wanted to use the opportunity to learn a little about the Barudian's technology, we were assigned Gazec as tour guide to several technology centers. We were very impressed by her scientific knowledge. And apparently, Harry was simply impressed with her. He asked her to come with us when we left, she agreed."

Gazec spoke up, adding her side. "It was a win/win situation for me. I always wanted to go into space travel, but because I was born into the science class on our planet, I was destined to never serve on any Barudian space ship. Only the 'lesser' class scientists are let onto ships, but once you reached the class of twentieth Vic or higher, you will never be let onto a starship to serve. They think that your knowledge would be wasted then. After all, on a ship, new scientific inventions are only implemented after they have been firmly tested. You don't need a higher level Vic to do that. Certainly not one as high as level eight. No, we have to be on our home-world to do the test in secure buildings. A Vic with as high a level as I have would never be let off world. But on Voyager I could travel between the stars. And even more importantly, I could be with the man I fell in love with. I wanted to leave, but my government was not as happy to let someone like me simply leave our world. So I asked Captain Janeway for asylum."

Having the conversation handed back to her, Janeway continued. "The Barudian wanted to prevent a diplomatic tussle, so they reluctantly allowed Gazec to leave the planet and join us. Unfortunately some of the lower science Vics didn't want to see an eight Vic leave the planet, so they went to court. It seems that Gazec was promised in marriage to someone when she was a child. When she reached the age of twenty-five she was to marry this man."

"It's an old tradition," Gazec explained. "All children are 'married out' at age five. It doesn't mean anything; just a formality to close ties between families. It is been generations since a forced marriage has been conducted. In fact, when you do find someone you want to marry, it's something of a pre-marriage ritual to have your family officially renounce the marriage promise made with the other family, and then invite that family to the upcoming marriage. That this is nothing more than a ritual is proven by the fact that the date of the arranged marriage was at my twenty-fifth birthday, and I turned thirty-one three months ago and I don't even know where my 'husband to be,' who I was supposed to marry six years ago, lives."

"But the thing is," Janeway continued, "that those laws are still in the official law books. So the lower Vic's started a lawsuit. Everyone knows that they could never win it, but that wasn't the point. The point was that they requested three years to prepare their case. They were hoping that we would be long gone before the case came to court, thus preventing Gazec from leaving. I decided to not play that game. She had already been allowed to leave before this nonsense lawsuit. She had asked for asylum on Voyager, and I had given it to her. So we left, taking Gazec with us."

"I get it," B'Elanna said, seeing what the problem was. "Had you left without her, than there would have been no problem since the lawsuit was about Gazec not leaving the planet. But by taking her with you, you have basically kidnapped her, and ran from the Barudian law."

"That's how they seem to see it," Janeway agreed.


"This problem should not be hard to solve," Seven said confidently.

B'Elanna leaned back in her chair a little and looked to her side at Seven. "Why don't you do this, you know how I hate to negotiate."

The senior staff looked at the slightly slouching B'Elanna. This was the B'Elanna they all knew, this is how she had sat countless times during senior staff meetings. It had been the implant that had thrown everyone for a moment, but seeing the body language from both B'Elanna and Seven made it clear that these were still the same women they had known.

"Very well," Seven merely said.

"So Starfleet," B'Elanna said while looking at Harry with a small grin, "Did you two pick a date yet?"

"Um," Was all Harry said before Janeway spoke up.

"A date?"

"For their wedding of course."

"Wedding?" Now it was Tom who asked.

B'Elanna nodded her head slightly. "Sure. The Barudians are well known for having a pleasure planet, and because of that, sex is seen as separate from love. But when the Barudians fall in love, it is for the long haul; they 'Mate' for life. They might have sex with others, but that is sex, not love. They only love one person. Seeing that Gazec just said that she loves Harry, it is only logical that they'll get married soon."

"A Klingon talking logic, impressive," Seven said, with a small smile.

"Oh shut up Princess, and go back to negotiating," B'Elanna countered, returning the smile. "So Harry, did you pick a date yet?"

"No we haven't," Harry admitted. "Because of my 'history' of falling for the wrong girl, we kinda wanted to hold off for a while because I wanted to prevent people from assuming that Gazec is just the next wrong girl in line."

B'Elanna grinned at him. "Wanna make your wedding special? You could get married at our place. You would be the first ever Starfleet officer to be married on a Borg ship. Not just any Borg ship; Unimatrix 01 even."

"Um, no offence, I'm grateful for the offer, but a Borg ship isn't really the environment I had in mind."

"Just hold your options open," B'Elanna persisted. "You haven't seen yet what we did with the ship. For one thing, we now have the biggest holodeck ever seen on any known ship. With a fifteen-kilometer length, it's actually more than sixty times as long as a Federation holoship. Add to that its width of ten kilometers and height of five kilometers, and you're looking at a holodeck of 750 cubic kilometers (470 cubic mile). It's also of a better quality. Unlike Federation holodecks, there isn't 'something' that indicates to you that it's not real. We used the Zamonan replicator technology and the holographic technology of species 11,712... you don't know them, but trust me; they have the best holographic technology I've ever seen. The combination of the two results in an absolutely real environment, just that it still has the holodeck safety features. We would like to invite you all to our place later on. Just wait until you've had a tour of the 'new and improved' Unimatrix 01 before graciously declining."

"Alright, I will. Besides, it's not just my choice," Harry said while looking at Gazec.

"Smart boy," B'Elanna grinned.

"An agreement has been reached," Seven spoke up. "The Barudian government will persuade the Vics to drop their lawsuit. You will be allowed to leave their space, and Gazec is allowed to leave with you. If she wants, she can get the position of Barudian envoy to Voyager. She can retain her title as eight Vic, and she is allowed to use all her scientific knowledge to Voyager's advantage."

Gazec's jaw actually dropped a little at hearing that. In the original agreement her government had only allowed her to go. With that deal, she had to give up everything, save her name, to be allowed to leave the planet. Now they had actually offered her the most honored title of envoy; a title that had only been handed out fifty times since the great revolution two hundred years ago.

"I... Yes, yes, I will take the position as envoy. I... thank you... I don't really know what to say... I... thank you."

"No thanks are needed," Seven assured. "We are glad that we could help solve this issue to the satisfaction of everyone."

"You negotiated that deal, while sitting here?" Chakotay asked.

"Yes," Seven merely said.

"Queen of multitasking she is," B'Elanna said amused.

"An agreement means that they get something in return. What do they get?" Janeway asked.

"The Barudian government knows that this is an empty case. I told them that if they insisted in continuing this lawsuit, the Borg would not initiate further political ties with them. They know that having ties with us is much more important than keeping a Vic on the planet that does not want to stay there anyway. Furthermore, the Barudian have been experimenting with transwarp for several years now. While they succeeded in reaching transwarp, they never quite succeeded in creating a reliable engine. We have agreed to share some of our transwarp capabilities with them. An older and more basic system than what we ourselves are now using. But it still enables them to reach warp 12, and on top of that it is a technology that can be improved by them, by simply adapting and refining the system over time. In other words, it is not a dead end technology like the one they are experimenting with now."

Janeway cleared her throat a little. "Talking about transwarp..."

"That is one of the things we wanted to discuss with you," Seven said. "Two years ago the Borg gave you transwarp coils. Once we were on Unimatrix 01 we discovered that these were actually useless coils. We want to rectify that. We will bring you back to the Alpha Quadrant, regardless of whether you will help us."

"Help you?" Chakotay asked.

"Yes. We have made some significant changes to the Borg Collective. So much so that we are now certain that the Borg are no longer what they used to be, and will never go back to that. I believe that it is time to come to an understanding with the Federation."

"And you want our help in what way?" Janeway asked.

Seven looked at Janeway for a moment before saying, "The Federation will never believe that we truly have good intentions if we were to show up there unannounced. And if we were to announce that we were coming in peace, would they even trust the announcement? The potential for such a meeting resulting in a hostile situation is very high. It is something I would like to prevent if possible. Which is where you come in. If at first contact a known Federation Captain were to speak on behalf of the Borg, they might at least be willing to listen to what we have to say."

"I... see," Janeway said thoughtfully. "That's quite some help you're asking for."

"We know that," Seven agreed. "That is why we are willing to take whatever time it takes to convince you, including showing you the changes we have made to the Collective. That is also the reason why we want it to be clear that we will help you back to the Alpha Quadrant regardless of whether you help us or not. Your return to the Alpha Quadrant is not a reward for helping us; it is giving you something that you should have received two years ago."

"I think that there's one thing that will make us talking pretty much useless," Chakotay said. "The Borg assimilate people. There's no way the Federation would deal with a Collective that basically enslaves people. I mean, as you once said yourself, space is a dangerous place; drones die. How do you get new drones? Voluntary assimilation?"

"Actually... yes."

"What?" The question had come at the same time from almost everyone at the table.

B'Elanna looked at the Doctor and asked, "Doctor, tell me, roughly estimated, from all the species that Voyager had come across, how many species would you say have the medical knowledge that the Federation has, or of a higher level?"

"Well, guessing, I would say that only thirty percent would have such a level of medical knowledge."

"So with most species, if someone were to break their back and injure their spinal cord they would become paralyzed?"

"They would. In fact, even in the Federation we only know how to mobilize a person again without implants if the damage to the spinal cord is not too severe. If the damage is too severe we have to use implants to get them mobile again. But to come back to your percentages, I would say that about twenty-five percent would be able to help such a person to the point where they can walk again."

Suddenly one of the drones standing against the wall stepped forward, scaring the crap out of some people around the table that would of course never admit to it. "My Queen?"

"Katzi, do you remember Captain Janeway?" Seven asked.

"I do," The drone affirmed before speaking to Janeway, "Kathryn, nice to meet you again."

"I... I'm sorry, do I know you?" Janeway asked, surprised that the drone had addressed her with her first name.

"I'm not surprised that you don't remember me. You only met me for ten minutes, two years ago. Do you remember when you were a guest in a Zamonan village?"

"Zamonan? You're a Zamonan?" Janeway asked, now understanding why the drone had addressed her with her first name. It was after all custom with the Zamonan people.

"I am. Remember that there was an incident where Two of Many, my Princess, hit one of the Zamonan for touching One of Many, my Queen, in an improper way?"

Janeway frowned while for a moment thinking back. A lot had happened since that time. "Yes. I think I remember that. If I remember correctly, the Zamonan was punished by having to serve a longer than normal guard duty..."

Then she remembered more of that woman. One thing that has stood out was that she was huge; almost two meters tall, with broad shoulders and a heavily muscled body: just like the woman she was now talking to. "You are that person?"

"I am."

"What... I mean, how... how did you end up here, now?"

"While on that guard duty, one day I was bored and decided to show off a little for one of the other Zamonan. I misjudged the strength of a tree and fell; landing flat on my back and breaking my back in six places, and my neck in two places. It's a miracle that I survived. But I was totally paralyzed. The only thing I could still move was from my throat up. I couldn't even talk anymore. The only way I could still communicate was by moving my eyes and moving my lips. Then my Queen visited our planet, and I received an offer. I could get Borg implants, I could go back to the way I was before, no, more even. I'm stronger, faster, more resilient. In exchange, they wanted one year of service. I took that offer."

"Service?" Janeway asked.

It was B'Elanna who answered that. "The deal we offer people is that they get Borg implants and in exchange they have to serve in the Collective for four years. After those four years, they can choose. They can leave the Collective, keeping, within reason, any implant they want and having the rest removed... if they can be removed. Or they can choose to stay in the Collective longer. We kinda copied that from the Federation. If you join and go to the Academy you sign up for four years, and after that time, you're in Starfleet until you yourself want to leave. Granted, some people go AWOL before that time, but that's a different point. Theoretically, I myself still had to serve two years before I came onboard Voyager. But just think, just imagine. If you can't walk. If you have a bad heart and have been given only two more weeks to live. If you were born without arms, or with another genetic defect. Wouldn't you give four years of your life, if it meant that you actually would have a life? If it meant that you would be able to walk for the rest of your life? If it meant that you had arms for the rest of your life? Arms and hands that feel just like real ones?"

"I can understand that part," Harry spoke up, "But who in their right mind would stay in the Collective out of their free will?"

"Actually, I am," Katzi said. "Because the Zamonan were the first to join the Collective of their own free will, they got a special deal. My Queen needed at least one species she could use as an example to show that Assimilation is voluntary now. The Zamonan received the offer of only having to join the Collective for one year so that one year later there would also be drones that left, and indeed were allowed to leave the Collective. My year of service ended almost one year ago, but I stayed out of my free will."

"I must admit that I'm a little confused," Janeway admitted. "First off, you seem pretty devoted to Seven, but you were injured while serving a punishment, don't you hold that against the person who made you get punished? And why are you still with the Collective?"

"Kathryn, you seem to forget that I was slotted for guard duty anyway. The only difference was that instead of two months I had to serve six. I got injured in the beginning of the second month. So even if I had been there for normal guard duty, I would still have been injured. As for being devoted to my Queen... of course. Do you really think that a drone would be selected for Royal guard duty if they aren't also totally devoted to the Queen, even when they are not under the control of the Hive mind? The connection to the Hive can be disrupted; at those moments you still need guards that are willing to die to protect the Royal family."

"I thought that the Zamonan were devoted to the Zamonan Queen?" Chakotay asked, thinking back to the reports of that time.

"That is part of the deal we make with species," Seven explained. "To prevent conflicts of loyalties all individuals that join the Collective swear loyalty to the Collective, unless the Collective were ever to get into a conflict with that species' government. At that time the individuals will be allowed to leave the Collective so that they do not have to choose between the two."

"I am loyal to my Queen because of the chances the Borg have given me," Katzi continued. "Not only by healing my injuries, but also because thanks to the Collective I found my Mate. She's of a different species, so we would never have met if I had not joined the Collective. We met because until recently she was a member of the senior staff on Unimatrix 01, and I'm, clearly, a guard to the Royal family. We started spending our off duty time together and we were soon sharing quarters..."

Janeway lifted her hand to stop Katzi. She looked at Seven before saying, "You weren't kidding when you said we had a lot of things to discuss. A senior staff on Unimatrix 01? Drones having off duty time that they can spend together? Drones having quarters?"

"Captain, if I may suggest," Seven said. "We have two years to tell you about. The changes we made to the Collective are extreme; you have only heard a few of those changes. B'Elanna offered you a tour of our home. I would like to extend that offer to you actually staying for a few days. I do realize that you do not trust anything that has to do with the Borg, but remember, if we wanted your destruction, then we could have let the Barudians do so. There would also be no use in assimilating you because you could not give us any information that we do not already have. If you do not trust the Borg, than trust us, B'Elanna and me, your former crew members."

"Yeah," B'Elanna added with a grin. "I even promise you that you can stay in normal quarters. You really don't have to sleep standing up. That invitation goes to the entire senior staff by the way. I know you're all dying to find out what happened. If you're still worried about some ulterior motive and therefore don't want to have the entire senior staff off the ship, maybe this can convince you."

Suddenly the conference room was filled with the hum of transporters and about twenty Borg drones came into existence, making the conference room an extremely crowded place. Then just as suddenly as they appeared the drones disappeared again.

"As you can see, Captain, you have no defense against us. If we wanted you dead, you would be. If we wanted you assimilated, you would be. If we wanted control of Voyager, we would already have it. The point is, that you don't need any defense. The Borg Collective is no longer what it once was."

"You have some very compelling points," Janeway agreed with a nod. "In fact, I think now would be a good time for a little tour. I think it'll be interesting to walk around in a Borg ship without having to watch our back every minute."

B'Elanna grinned. "Well, we can show you around some of the parts that are still normal Borg ship; a lot of Unimatrix 01 is still like that. But we have changed about forty percent already."

"Only forty percent?" Tom asked.

"Fly-boy, we're talking about Unimatrix 01, not a shuttle. Do you have any idea how many rooms there are on that thing?" B'Elanna asked with a grin.

"Um, a lot?"

"With room for an amount of drones that is measured in seven digits, I would say a damn lot," B'Elanna agreed with a grin. "Besides, we were busy changing the Borg Collective, changing the scenery is only secondary to that."

"Well," Janeway spoke up, "Should we start that tour then?"

"Actually, Captain, you have a former Borg drone on Voyager. With your permission I would like to talk to her," Seven offered instead.

"Why?" Janeway merely asked. Perizn had become a very valued crew member, and Janeway felt protective of her.

"Captain, I myself have been in her situation. I first feared being on the ship, and then I feared having to leave. I want to assure her that the Borg will never come for her. Besides, you are the Captain of this ship and she is a crew member, you care for her and you would like to know how she is doing if she had left the ship some time ago, would you not?"

"I would," Janeway agreed with a frown, wondering what Seven's point was.

"Then why do you find it so hard to believe that I, as the Borg Queen, would care about a former drone? One of the changes we made is that to us the Borg drones are no longer merely expendable tools."

"Again, you have a point," Janeway agreed. "Tom and I will escort you to where she is. Her name is Perizn Paris now, by the way."

B'Elanna laughed. "You ended up marrying a Borg drone Tom?"

Tom grinned in reply. "Well, I learned from Seven. I knew that what Perizn needed when she came onboard was a friend that accepted her for what she was. I offered to be that friend and things just went from there."

"Well, in that case, why don't you show us the way to your wife?"


Chapter 18

"I'll give you some time. How about we meet up again in one hour?"

"Very well. Thank you Captain," Seven said before she, B'Elanna, and Tom, entered the Paris Quarters.

Once inside, the four Borg guards that had followed them in moved to places in the room where one could easily ignore them. More so since they were all once more linked to the Collective; their only purpose being to guard Seven and B'Elanna, not to actually listen to conversations.

Seven stepped closer to the waiting woman. Perizn was of a race that shared most of their body characteristics with humans. The main difference was the fact that her species had never lost their tail in the process of evolution, and that Perizn had a tail so long that it could almost reach to the floor. Something her clothing had to account for. Of course, there was also the little fact that her hair was bright purple; her natural hair color.


"My Queen."

"Are you well?"

"I am... as you know."

"You want something to drink?" Tom asked while walking to the replicator.

The women declined. So instead of replicating drinks, Tom joined his wife; putting his arms loosely around her from behind.

"My Queen, I am unsure of how I can serve you from now on. Do... do you want me to return to the Collective?"

"That is your decision to make, you and your husband. Voyager will be back in the Alpha Quadrant soon. Once there the Voyager crew will be divided over different ships, and some will leave Starfleet; that is the way things are in Starfleet. You can take your chances there, or you both can join us on Unimatrix 01, both as members of the individualist crew of course."

Perizn looked over her shoulder and exchanged a long look with her husband.

"We'll talk about it," Tom finally said to Seven. "Until now Voyager was our home. But you're right, once back we'll have to leave our home. In the Federation, we'll only be ordinary crewmembers if we stay in Starfleet. The best I can hope for is getting another job as a pilot, of course on a bigger ship, but still. Who knows, maybe they would even offer me the command over the auxiliary fleet of one of the big starships. But with you I could work on really making a difference. Helping you to reform the Borg will literally change the lives of billions. As for Perizn, she will have to make her own decision and I'll go wherever she wants to go. But I must admit that I'm a little fearful of what kind of reaction she would get in the Federation. Perizn was lucky here on Voyager. You paved the way for her, Seven. You proved that former drones could be trusted to care for Voyager. Perizn never met the attitudes that you had to deal with. But I fear what it would be like for her in the Federation, a place that really only knows one thing about the Borg; that they have to fear them."

"Tom, I think it's only fair to warn you that if you do decide to join us on Unimatrix 01 you will have to get at least one Borg implant," B'Elanna pointed out.

"I will?" Tom asked, not liking that part at all.

B'Elanna grinned. "Sure, it's kinda like a badge of honor. You can't be living with the Borg without having at least one implant."


"What my very funny Mate means," Seven spoke up wanting to put Tom at ease, "is that you will have to have a communication implant implanted. It is implanted under the skin at the base of your neck and it combines a subspace transmitter and a Borg link transmitter."

"Well, I can understand the subspace transmitter," Tom said thoughtfully. "It's kinda like a glorified com. link, right? Something that will enable me to contact anyone on the ship like the Federation communicators, but also someone on a different ship; something the Federation communicators can't do. But I don't really like the idea of being connected to the Hive mind."

"Do not worry, you will not," Seven assured. "It is not the Borg link that makes you part of the Hive mind. The Borg link is also comparable to a communicator, just that it works differently and has a different function. True, the commands to control a drone are sent through the link, but it is other implants that make drones follow those commands."

"But why would I need that link to begin with?"

"Because we do not address the computer like you do on Voyager. Here, if you want to know if the holodeck is in use, you ask the computer. In the Borg, there are no audio receivers all over the ship like on Voyager. Instead, you activate the Borg link and send your question over it. You will not be linked to all drones when doing so; you will simply get a reply back from the central computer."

"Oh," Tom said. "You know, you might want to work on finding a better way to describe that. Maybe something like; 'it exists out of a subspace communicator, and a Borg communicator which is needed to address the central computer.' It sounds a lot less intimidating."

Seven dipped her head in agreement. "We will keep it in mind. Be assured, the only thing you will even notice of this implant is that you no longer have to touch your communicator to activate it. Instead you will have to think of a command of your choosing to activate it. This thinking is just like the way you also use the communicator, by thinking sentences as if you are talking them. You do not have to worry that a stray thought will accidentally activate the communicator and send out your thoughts for anyone to receive; the communicator simply does not work like that."

"We will talk about what you offered," Perizn said, coming back to the original subject. "But I feel that we'll probably take you up on your offer of joining Unimatrix 01 as part of the Individualist drones."

"I would like it if you did," Seven assured. "We will also make this same offer to Harry and Gazec. Gazec wants to travel between the stars. There is a chance that she could get a Starship position in the Federation, but I think that both she and Harry will agree that such a position could not compare to the traveling we will be doing inside Borg space while changing the Collective. Besides, I am sure that the Barudian government will be happy to change Gazec's position from Envoy to Voyager to Envoy to the Borg Collective."

"Are you planning on offering other people on Voyager work with the Borg as well?" Tom asked.

"We are," Seven affirmed. "We highly value our Individualist crew members, but most of them have mindsets that have been influenced by years, and sometimes decades, of being part of the Hive mind. Besides their input we would also like the input of the people whose views I have learned to value over the years. True, I did not agree with some of those views, and I actually still do not agree with some. However, the combination of the Voyager's crew mindset, and the Borg Individual's crew mindset, will give us a balanced level of advice that will help us in changing the Borg to something all parties, including the Hive mind, can live with."

"There is still a problem with the Hive mind?" Tom asked.

B'Elanna answered that Question. "It depends on your definition of problem. There will always be problems with the Hive, the question is if it' problems we have to worry about, or problems that are merely the result of change that need getting used to. I mean, think back to when Seven came to Voyager. Do you remember how many problems Seven had when she was severed from the Collective? That was with a drone that had actually been 'groomed' to at one point go back to being an individual. Now multiply that with the scale on which we are making changes to the Borg."

"Yeah, I remember, but we didn't have that many problems with Perizn here. Her transition to being an individual again was actually pretty smooth."

"Tommy," Perizn said, using one of her endearments for her husband; one of the tame ones she used when she wasn't alone with the person she loved, and loved to make love to.

"There were several reasons why I adapted so easily. First off, I had only been a drone for six years before I joined Voyager; I still knew what it was like to be an individual. Also, like only you on this ship know, I still join the Hive mind every time I regenerate; I never was fully severed from the Collective. And let's not forget the big one; you have no idea how calming it is for a drone to know that the Hive mind is not displeased with you."

"Indeed," Seven agreed. "It was the fear that I was not serving the Hive mind that caused so many problems in the beginning."

"Right," B'Elanna said, before bringing the conversation back on focus. "But there are drones that have been part of the Collective for a very long time. Some long living species have actually been part of the Borg for centuries. There are a certain percentage of the Collective who will never be able to cope with the changes we want to make; we have to think of them as well. We can make a lot of our changes only because we basically say; 'we want to do this, but those that can't deal with that can keep doing that.' What we did was introduce a second system of existing into the Borg. Over time the percentages of how many drones use what system will change, but there will always be two systems in the Borg."

"But," Seven interrupted, "since this is sure to come up in our conversation with the Captain, I suggest that we leave this subject for where it is, for now. Instead, Tom let me thank you one more time, this time in person, for keeping the secret that we were still in contact with Perizn."

"Well, as I had Perizn tell you before, it freaked me out a little in the beginning." Tom admitted.

In fact, it had freaked him out so much to find out that he was actually dating a Borg drone and not a former Borg drone, that he had almost fled the room. However to his credit, he had come to his senses by the time he had reached the door. He had turned around, apologized, and he and Perizn had talked things out.

Tom smiled at his wife at his little understatement and then looked back at Seven. "But I trust her, and I trust you two. Besides, I have to tell you, after all the stuff we had to deal with in the Delta Quadrant it was nice to know that we didn't have to worry about the biggest threat anymore; running into the Borg one time too many. It was also nice to know that we had a friend out there, even though I couldn't tell anyone about it. I just wonder how long it'll take Janeway to figure out that there was a very good reason why some of the hostile species we came across suddenly decided to back down."

B'Elanna smirked before she winked at Tom. "Well, as I told you once, size does matter sometimes. You would be surprised how fast hostile species decide that it's not worth it to pursue Voyager when you show up at their home planet in a ship bigger than most moons are, and a few... dozen... cubes and politely ask them to leave Voyager alone."

"B'Elanna, as I told you then, it's not nice to tell a guy that size does matter. Besides, I always knew that you were all about showing off."

"Oh, yeah," B'Elanna readily agreed. "I'm all about showing off, and believe me; Seven loves it when I show off."

B'Elanna winked again, this time to indicate what kind of showing off she meant.

Tom sighed. "You've been together for two years now, haven't you two slowed down to normal lovemaking about now?"

"Hell no," B'Elanna laughed. "We did end up slowing down to making love about 'only' once every two days though. By the way, do you have any idea how many 'weird places' there are on Unimatrix 01?"

"Nope, I have no idea. How many?"

"Well, we don't know either, but we found fourteen until now, I bet there are thousands more to find."

Tom shook his head and sat down in the comfortable chair, leaving the couch for Seven and B'Elanna who did indeed sit down on it. He held on to Perizn's hand, asking her in that way to join him. Perizn did, sitting down on his lap and putting her arm around his neck.

"You would think that all you think about is sex," Tom said. "In fact, if Perizn hadn't kept me up-to-date with the changes you made, I would think for sure that you didn't do anything else but, you know."

"What's the matter, fly-boy? You sound a little... jealous. Are you having problems keeping your wife satisfied?" B'Elanna asked with a grin.

"Believe me, my Princess, my husband keeps me very, satisfied," Perizn assured.

"That reminds me, did you like our wedding gift, Tom?" B'Elanna asked a little too innocent.


"Perizn liked it very much, I can assure you," Seven chimed in. "You do realize that 'all' her feelings are sent over the Borg link every time she regenerates?"

"Really?" Tom asked, his voice a little higher as normal. "Are you telling me that billions know how Perizn feels every time we make love?"

"She's kidding, Tom," Perizn assured. "Just think how much storage space would be needed if all of that kind of information was saved for billions of drones. You would need a storage device the size of a gas giant. The feelings of a drone are considered personal and are therefore filtered out by the alcove and not transmitted. Only you know what I feel when we make love."

Perizn looked back at the other two women before continuing. "But let me thank you from the both of us for the wedding gift. Tom fell in love with me, knowing that we could never have sexual intercourse because of what the Borg did to my body when they assimilated me. He married me knowing that the only sexual action I could ever give him was oral sex,"

"Perizn!" Tom spoke up.

"Shut up," Perizn said, right before kissing him and then continuing where she left off. "He married me knowing that, but he didn't care; he loves me. I even told him that I would understand if he went to the holodeck to fulfill certain urges, he never did. He was happy with what I could give him, even if this was only my breasts to touch and the fact that I know how to use my mouth."

Now she smiled. "You can imagine his surprise when I went to regenerate the day after we were married and than came back to give him a belated wedding night, with lovemaking that he thought he could never have with me."

"Um, that reminds me," Tom spoke up, deciding that his need to know was bigger than his embarrassment. "Perizn told me that you had sent the commands and info needed to, um, 'rebuild' her, so to speak, back to the way nature originally created her, to her alcove, and through that, to her nanoprobes. But, not that it really matters mind you, but, is that as 'real' as Seven's artificial hand, or is it really real?"

"Both," Seven said before explaining, "Flesh is easily created by nanoprobes; they basically do the same as a dermal regenerator does when a wound would be healed. However, because all nerve endings were totally removed, they could not be repaired. Therefore, the flesh is real, but the nerve endings you stimulate when you go down on your wife are artificial. Be assured though, Perizn's feelings are as real as they would be when all of her was natural. When she gets wet, than there is nothing Borg involved in that. What you taste when you... dine... is all Perizn."

"I can't believe you actually just said that!" Tom said, realizing too late that he had learned the hard way not to get into these kinds of conversations with Seven. But then again, the last conversation like this was two years ago. A person could forget.

"Alright, as much as I would like to torment Tom some more," B'Elanna interrupted, "we're on a limited timeframe here. I have a feeling that some people will soon be knocking on that door. Now, Tom, Perizn, the fact that we stayed in touch with you is our little secret. Janeway now knows that it was a Borg cube that was following Voyager for so long. That is all the information she will get from us on how we knew what kind of trouble you ran into. You both did after all serve Voyager, and not us. There is no need to tell anyone about this. You know the Captain; she would only feel betrayed, even though there is absolutely no reason for her to feel like that. All you ever did was let us know Voyager's position, if the Captain had thought up another trap to catch Voyager's 'shadow,' and kept us a little updated on ship's gossip."

"That reminds me," Tom said. "Because you were in contact with my wife, you always knew where we were... why did you have us followed by a cube as well? You have no idea how I had to bite my tongue sometimes when the subject of the 'shadow' and who it could be came up again."

"In one word; time," B'Elanna explained. "As you saw today, even with transwarp capabilities, it takes hours to get to a destination if you are far enough away. We wanted to be able to help in case a situation like today did happen. I'm actually amazed that it took two years for something like this to happen."

"Well, normally we have the time to start running, and than suddenly for some strange reason the ones following us decide to stop," Tom said with a smile. All of them knowing only too well what this 'some reason' was.

"It's just that the Barudian didn't only have the weapons to outgun us, but also the speed to outrun us. I mean, damn, they must have come as close to transwarp as I have ever seen normal engines do."

"Which is the mistake they were making with the transwarp design," Seven noted. "They were trying to improve their existing engines even more. It did make them break the transwarp barrier for short periods, but their engines are simply not suited for sustained transwarp."

"Lucky Harry," B'Elanna said with a grin. "That mistake made it possible for us to make the Barudian a deal which made it possible for poor Harry to finally have his woman."

"Finally have the right woman, you mean," Tom added, grinning as well.

"I did hear something about Harry and 'wrong women' before," Perizn said, "but I never heard the whole story."

"Well then, Beautiful," Tom said while he and his wife stood up, "allow me to tell you all about it. Especially how your Queen here traumatized the poor guy by telling him to strip and copulate with her."

B'Elanna grinned before adding, "Yeah, but you have to keep in mind that Harry did prove in the end that he really is a smart boy. The first time Seven suggested they should have sex, he ran. The second time he was smart enough to say, 'I would love to, but how about a nice dinner first'."

"True," Tom laughed. "It took me two days before I finally believed him when he told me that he was dating Seven. He never did tell me though how you actually got around to the sex part."

"That is one of the main reasons why I picked him for evolving my social skills on the romantic level," Seven explained. "I knew that he is a very private person that would not start talking to others about what we did."

"He was a test subject to you?" Perizn asked slightly surprised.

"He was, and he knew it," Seven agreed. "At a time when we were both off-duty I went to his quarters and told him that I was thinking of expending my social skills to romance. That I wanted to see what it was like to be in a relationship. I asked him if he was interested, and I also told him that I would do this regardless of whether or not he was interested. If he declined I would ask someone else."

"Let me guess, you were expecting his, 'you should wait for the right person to come along' kind of comment," Tom guessed.

"Indeed. And since he knew that I would proceed either way, he assured me that in that case he was very interested in having a relationship with me."

"I think that it helped that Seven here actually put forth a schedule," B'Elanna added, showing that she knew all there was to know about this agreement between Seven and Harry.

"Harry knew up front that he and Seven would be in a relationship for two months, unless they really hit it off. After those two months they both agreed that they liked the time spent together, but that they weren't really 'compatible' enough to continue the relationship."

"And you don't have a problem with that?" Tom asked. "I mean, there's something to be said for being the first. I for one truly love the fact that I'm the first person that Perizn had a relationship with."

"No, I don't mind," B'Elanna assured. "In fact, I kinda like it that Harry showed Seven what it was like to be in a relationship."

"From my time with Harry I learned that in a relationship you have to give and take," Seven added. "Which, as you can imagine, was a very convenient thing to know, considering the person I eventually fell in love with. I think that it would have not gone well between B'Elanna and me if she had been my first relationship. By the time I would have found out that I too have to give, our relationship would have already been damaged."

Seeing the thoughtful look on Tom's face, B'Elanna laughed. "Poor Tom, while you were dreaming about having sex with Seven, Harry was actually doing it and he didn't tell you about it."

Tom's bemused grin told them that this was exactly what he had been thinking about. Then he shrugged. "As you know, B'Elanna, your and my views on what friends can do for fun differs. With all due respect to Seven here, she's hot as hell, and back then I was single. Of course I dreamed about getting her into bed."

"You never tried anything," Seven noted.

Tom laughed. "That's because I had a feeling what the result would be. As long as you aren't shot down yet, you can dream. That get's a lot harder when you've been told, 'not even if you were the last person in the universe'."

"I would have used different words," Seven objected, but then agreed with a smile, "But basically I would still have said the words."

Tom placed a kiss on his wife's cheek before saying, "But that's all in the past now. As unbelievable as this sounds coming from me of all people, but honestly, now that I'm happily married I only have eyes for one person."

"You better," Perizn said in fake threat. "Because if you start having fantasies again about my Queen, you will find out really fast how protective we Borg drones are of our Queen. You might even suffer the utmost punishment of... the couch."

"No, anything but that! I'll be good," Tom promised with fake horror. "The couch is great for sitting, bad for sleeping; I don't want to be kicked out of the bed. Besides I would miss the sex too much."

"That's my Tommy; so predictable."

"I love you too, hon."

They smiled and kissed before remembering that they had guests.

"I apologize, my Queen. We were distracted for a moment."

"Perizn," Seven said softly, "because of the circumstance, we would prefer it if you call B'Elanna and me by our names."

"Of course, my Queen. I do realize that calling you my Queen in front of the Voyager crew would cause problems, so for now I will use your names."

"Actually," Seven said with patience that she had learned well in her two years as Queen. Sometimes it took a lot of work to get individualist drones to call them anything else but Queen and Princess. "We would also like it if you keep using our names if and once you are part of the Unimatrix 01 staff. We prefer it when our friends use our names."

"I... T... Thank you, my q... thank you... Seven."

"I am impressed," Seven said with a smile. "Some take days to say my name. It took the Captain of Unimatrix 01 four weeks to call me Seven off duty, and he still only calls me 'my Queen' while he is on duty."

"Tell me," B'Elanna asked. "To come back to the wedding gift... don't worry Tom, I'm not going to make you squirm some more... I was wondering, how did you explain it to the Doctor?"

Tom answered that question. "Actually, Perizn was lucky that our Borg experts; you two, were no longer on the ship. The Captain understood that there was no way of building a new regeneration unit for Perizn, or changing the Borg alcoves. Harry is great with Borg code, but Borg technology... eh. So there really never was an alternative to Perizn using the Borg alcoves. Because of this lack of knowledge of all things Borg, they never discovered that Perizn still connected to the Hive. So when the alcove gave the information needed to... um... where it..."

"Tom, I love you, but you stink at mentioning what we all know we are talking about."

Perizn looked at the other two women and continued Tom's explanation. "When the alcove made it possible for me to have sex with my husband, I had to report this to the Doctor since he would have found out at the next checkup. From there it went to the Captain because the Doctor had to report that my alcove had picked up a Borg signal. The alcoves were checked, once again, by Harry and Carey. It was decided, once again, that there really wasn't any choice but me continuing to use the alcove. It was deemed that Voyager must have gotten close to a Borg signal for a moment on its journey, but that we had already passed the point where that signal could still be picked up. For some strange reason, apparently nobody ever stopped to wonder why the a-sexual Borg would send out a signal to reproduce the sex organs of a supposedly former Borg drone."

"A-sexual..." Seven repeated thoughtfully.

"Seven?" B'Elanna asked.

"Perizn's comment just gave me an idea about what might convince Kathryn that the Borg really are changing."

"Go on," B'Elanna merely said.

"A-sexual. As far as what Kathryn knows of the Borg, sex is irrelevant to them; love even more so. Can you think of a better way to show her that we are changing the Borg, than by showing her that Borg drones now love? Katzi already told the senior staff about her relationship, and as we know, she is not the only one that is in a relationship."

"I think that's a great idea," Tom said. "Showing her that things are changing is one thing, but what would say 'change' more than Borg drones going to a romantic dinner with their lover? Um, do you actually have a place to eat on that thing?"

"We do," B'Elanna assured with a grin. "Don't worry; you don't have to plug in to recharge energy. We have more on Unimatrix 01 than you would find on the biggest Federation Starbase; including over three hundred restaurants with food specific to certain species, and more opening up proverbially as we speak."

"That's quite some choice," Tom said, liking the number. "So what's your favorite?"

Before Seven or B'Elanna could answer they were interrupted by the sound of the entrance chime.

"Told you that someone would come knocking," B'Elanna said with a grin. "Alright, time to play Unimatrix 01 tour guide."


Chapter 19

"Well this certainly looks different," Janeway said when she sparkled into existence somewhere inside Unimatrix 01. Gone was the Borg look she'd seen on the cubes she'd been on. Instead she was standing in a large transporter room that could just as easily have been located on a Federation Starbase. The only real difference was that in the Federation blue was a color often used in designs, even if just a little bit, here that base color was green. "You both designed this?" Janeway asked as the last members of the senior staff and Perizn and Gazec sparkled into existence behind her.

"No way," B'Elanna said while shaking her head to give the words more meaning. "Give us some device to put together and we make it something great, but have Seven and me design rooms and you come up with something a two year old kid could have designed. No, we have a staff of designers doing the design work. What we do is tell them what we want in a certain part of the ship, and they just go from there."

"Shall we start on the bridge?" Seven asked. "The senior staff is on duty now because we were off Unimatrix 01, so it would be a good time to introduce them."

"Sounds good to me," Janeway agreed before asking, "I'm a bit surprised that you're using Unimatrix 01 as your ship. Don't the Borg want this vital part of the Hive to be deep in Borg space and firmly protected?"

"Not at all," Seven said as she started to walk; showing the group the way. "In fact, the Borg were only too happy to have B'Elanna and I travel around in Unimatrix 01. As I told you two years ago, it is extremely hard to destroy this ship, add to that the amount of drones on it that could be used to protect us if needed. Also add to that that Unimatrix 01 has an auxiliary fleet in its hangers that is bigger than the entire military force of most groups we come across have... Even in the most hostile territory we are as safe on Unimatrix 01 as we could be on any Borg vessel."

"You also have to remember," B'Elanna spoke up, "that the Borg don't do nostalgia. They don't think like we would, 'oh we have to be careful, this is Unimatrix 01 the home of the Borg.' No, they simply realize that we are on the most powerful and most protected ship that the Borg have. They don't mind us using the ship as our ship to travel from place to place because they know that by doing so, their Queen is safe."

"Do you two now always finish each other's sentences?" Janeway asked. Having noted several times already that one of the two would go on when the other stopped, only to then have the other continue again a moment later.

B'Elanna chuckled. "Sorry Kathryn. Seven and I don't really finish each other sentences, but yeah, we do kinda add to what the other said. I guess that it's a result from the fact that we're connected by Borg link, and because of that we know what the other meant. In fact, Seven is 'talking' to me this very moment."

"You are, she is?" Harry asked from behind them. "Then why talk at all?"

"Because I like to hear her voice," B'Elanna and Seven said at the same time with a smile.

"Besides," Seven continued, "The link we have is not like the link drones have when they are connected to the Collective, where we can hear and know each other's thoughts. We actually do have to form the words in our heads, just like you do when talking. B'Elanna and I really do like to hear each other talk, but more than that, we have discovered that for us, real conversations are much more effective. At the moment we mainly use our connection to give each other information about what we should also mention to clear things up for you. Instead of saying these things out loud while we are explaining something else to you, which would only confuse you. The only time we truly communicate in length over this link is when B'Elanna and I are separated."

"Separated?" Harry merely asked.

"Yes, for instance, when B'Elanna is checking a change to the primary Engineering station that is still in the process of being built, while I am on the Bridge talking to our Captain."

"Figures that you would still get your hands dirty, B'Elanna," Tom said.

"Come on, fly-boy if you were me and you were changing a ship like this, actually installing a primary Engineering department, would you just let others do the work, or would you share in the fun of building it?"

"I don't think wild horses could drag me away," Tom agreed with a smile, using an old saying that he knew B'Elanna would understand because she had heard him say it before.

"Captain," Seven spoke up after she pointed to one side in a T juncture to indicate in which direction they had to move, "because I know that you are going to ask as soon as you see our senior crew, let me explain one of the changes made to the Collective. Normally a drone was linked to the Collective and told by the Hive mind what to do. We still have that system inside the Borg, and we will probably have that system for as long as the Borg exist. But we now also have a second system. We call the drones that work in that system 'individualist drones.' They still regenerate, and during that time they are linked to the Collective and are part of the Hive mind. This is done to make sure that there are always enough voices in the Hive for those drones that need those voices. During that time, the thoughts of the drone are scanned. If their individual thoughts are something that could be a threat to the Hive, those drones will no longer be allowed back into individual status, for as long as they still have to serve the Collective."

"What do you mean by that?" Janeway asked, not liking the sound of that.

"Captain, you have to understand," B'Elanna interrupted, "we're making a whole lot of changes to the Borg, but any new Queen can undo those changes just as easily as we made them. Can you imagine what would happen to these changes if a new Queen was anything like the last one? To make sure that something like that doesn't happen, the thoughts of drones are monitored. It's something that they agree to when they sign up, just like they know before signing up that there's a chance that they'll spend their four years as a controlled drone if they have dangerous thoughts. I'm a half Klingon, and I'm Two of Many, the second in command of the Borg, so to say. So believe me when I say that drones won't be controlled all the time if they just thought something like, 'I will kill that guy if he ever does that again.' The thing is that the Borg know the difference because 'all' of the mind of a drone is scanned."

B'Elanna gestured behind her to the four Borg guards that were still following them. "Take Katzi. She's actually told me four times already that she'll kill me, and she said the same to Seven once, but she's still one of our guards. Since she joined the Collective, there hasn't been a time yet that we left Unimatrix 01 without her by our side. The reason for that is that we know in what circumstances she said it. The Borg know from her scan that she doesn't mean it, and that in fact she likes us very much. She is also one of our best friends; so close we consider her family. Because of that she has great liberties in what she says to us when she is off duty, which she always was when she said she would kill us."

B'Elanna grinned before continuing. "Come to think of it, I would probably also threaten to kill anyone who interrupted me when I was in the midst of making love to my Mate. The point is that the Borg do not take things like that seriously. But if there was a drone who thought things like, 'if the Queen dies, I can become the new Queen' and that drone actually means that while thinking it, such a drone would stay under the permanent control of the Hive from then on until we can release them from the Borg Collective."

"Until you can release them from the Collective?" Janeway repeated, basically asking for an explanation.

"Yes," B'Elanna started to explain. "On a Federation ship, if someone commits a crime, this person is placed in the brig until there is an opportunity to hand them over to another ship or Starbase. The ship won't be breaking off its mission simply to bring the person back to Starfleet headquarters, even if that mission is nothing more than a routine scouting mission. The same goes for Borg ships. Depending on what sector a ship is in, there's a chance that the next contact with another ship will be the meeting that was originally planned anyway to exchange crew members that have served their contract, for new crew members. Where the Federation keeps such individuals in the brig or under house arrest, the Borg simply keep them controlled at all times. Of course, to be very clear, we're only talking about people that volunteered to join the Borg and agreed already to serve four years. At that point we are simply holding them to their contract until we can remove them from the ship in such a way that they will eventually reach their Homeworld. But if a person already had those kinds of thoughts when they volunteered, they wouldn't make it into the Collective and would simply be rejected."

"I see," Janeway said, indeed understanding what B'Elanna meant. "I would suggest that you have some clear examples at hand when you mention this to the Federation representatives though. Some may not like it, even if they do understand it."

"We will," Seven assured. "We will also remind them of the fact that the Federation convicts people to time to be served in a penitentiary colony for crimes far less than planning to takeover the Federation. In the Borg Collective, drones planning to take over the Collective are merely punished by having to work as a drone. What is worse? Being imprisoned for as long as it takes to leave the ship, noticing the passing of every long minute, and afterwards probably facing court-martial and years of prison? Or living that time not caring at all for anything but the Hive mind, and then realizing later that your service time is over, as is your chance to take control of the Borg?"

"Some will say that having your individuality is more important, even though you spent that time as an individual in prison," Janeway persisted. "But as I said, that's something to discuss with Federation negotiators."

"Indeed," Seven said. "But to come back to what I was explaining. These individualist crew members regenerate and are linked to the Hive mind when they do. But just like in the Federation, we have three crews now; an Alpha, Beta, and Gamma crew. This means that just like in the Federation, the crew does have time off to do with what they want. The individualist crew does not link to the Hive mind during their time off... unless they need to regenerate like I just mentioned, or simply do so because they want to be part of the Hive. Also, while on duty they are linked to the Hive mind, but at that point they are not controlled by it. The main difference with what you will see, would be in the fact that no communicators are used. On the bridge, the Captain still gives a verbal order that the others follow, but where the Captain normally would need to activate a com. link to talk to Engineering, he can now contact Engineering through the Borg link. The crew you're about to meet are in all senses as much individuals as you are, the only difference is that they all need to regenerate at least as much as I did while I was on Voyager."

"I'll keep it in mind," Janeway assured while looking back to the Borg guards still following them. "Do the Borg not trust us, that we still have those guards around?"

"Actually, the Borg don't trust you at all," B'Elanna said with a grin. "But they do trust us. The Borg also know that they don't have to worry about you now because there is no way that you can do something on this ship you aren't supposed to; another advantage of having individualist crew members. You couldn't set two steps into a department without someone asking you what the hell you are doing there. But that isn't the reason why they are following us. It's simply that these four guards are the Royal Guards. They are the protectors of the Royal family, therefore the living quarters of the Royal Guards are right beside our quarters. They just happen to have to go in the same direction as we are."

"But they are still controlled by the Hive mind now?" Janeway asked.

"Nope we aren't," Katzi suddenly said, giving Janeway a small smile.

Janeway looked at the woman for a moment before turning back to Seven and B'Elanna. "You do realize that it's really annoying not to know if you're being followed by a drone or an individual."

"Creepy, isn't it?" B'Elanna grinned. "Come on Kathryn, we can't take away all of the Borg's creepiness, it would be like de-clawing a Tika cat."

"Normally it is not like this," Seven assured. "Individualist crew members do not switch back and forth like this. It is simply that for Borg guards the Hive link can be beneficial. When under the control of the Hive, a drone does not feel pain and does not tire like an individual does. Therefore, they are not distracted by pain if they are attacked while protecting us. While under the control of the Hive, a Borg guard can also stand in exactly the same spot performing guard duty for seventy-two hours, without their feet killing them. On the other hand, the reaction speed of a linked drone is slow to say the least because information has to be sent over the Borg link before the Hive decides how the drone should react. But as in individual, a drone can react within a split second. So because there are benefits to being linked and to not being linked, the Royal Guards more than any of the other drones switch back and forth all the time."

"What Seven and I especially like is the fact that while they are connected to the Hive mind, all things they see and hear are filtered out as irrelevant if it is not a threat to us. Because of that, things like what Seven and I say to each other are not sent over the Hive link. It's this fact that allows Seven and me to live comfortably with guards so close in our lives. Even though they are standing in the same room as us, they do not really hear and see what we do. We can ignore them and don't have to feel guilty about how we are treating them as objects because basically to them it is totally irrelevant then. We often truly forget that they're in the room. Seven and I have made love several times with all four of them standing in the room, knowing that we could ignore them because even they themselves would not remember what they saw later on, because it is filtered out as irrelevant the moment they see it."

"It took some getting used to," Seven agreed, "But now B'Elanna and I can do things that we would only do when we are alone, even though there are several Borg guards standing in the room. They simply do not exist for us when they are like that. It is only when we address them that they become living things for us."

"So normally you notice a clear difference between an individualist drone and the kind of drones we used to see?" Janeway asked, wanting to know the difference mainly to know which people she could ask questions if need be.

"Mostly, yes," Seven agreed. "It is when a drone is made part of the individualists that it gets the new implants and the Borg uniform. If you see a drone that looks similar to our guards, or the senior crew that you are about to meet, then you can be sure that you are talking to an individualist drone."

"Or you can just avoid the bald ones," Harry said with a grin. Seeing the new 'look' of the Borg ship had put him at ease and actually let him forget about the last time he had been on a Borg ship.

"Mostly, yes," Seven agreed once more. "However, there are almost one and a half thousand species in the Borg that do not have body hair; the insectoids and reptilians come to mind."

Seven stopped in front of a door and finally the guards that had been following them moved on further down the corridor. "Welcome to the bridge of Unimatrix 01."

Without waiting for a reaction, Seven stepped closer to the door which opened to let them enter.

Looking around quickly, Janeway noticed that just like everything else she had seen on the ship, the bridge was surprisingly spacious. Gone was the claustrophobic feeling of narrow corridors lined with regenerating Borg drones. Instead, there were the corridors Janeway knew from Starfleet ships and starbases. The only thing that really was still a reminder of the Borg was the ever present hint of the color green, used all around them. But even that was done tastefully and not in a dominating way. The same could be said for the bridge. It was of the size one expected of a starbase; not a starship.

It had a lower and raised level, filled with in total about fifteen workstations and two chairs in the center positioned side by side; clearly the Captain and first officer chairs. There was someone sitting at every station and Janeway noticed that everyone was wearing the same uniform; a uniform that existed out of the same black biosuit body-armor. There were only two differences with the clothing that the Borg guards had been wearing. First was the fact that these people had an insignia on their collar, Janeway assumed to indicate their rank. Second was that these uniforms also sported colored shoulder bands with different colors, which Janeway again assumed indicated the department they were from. All in all, these uniforms reminded Janeway a lot of Federation uniforms.

Janeway let her eyes drift over the different workstations for a moment. All of the workstations and the command chairs were facing a giant wall-filling viewscreen, which at the moment was showing Voyager. Janeway was about to turn away from the view-screen when she noticed something disturbing. What disturbed Janeway about the view was not seeing Voyager, but seeing the information about Voyager that was shown on all four sides of the screen.

"You are scanning Voyager?" Janeway asked, strongly disturbed by the fact that they had never noticed that they were being scanned. Yet even though she didn't know the Borg's main language, the changing symbols on the screen clearly showed that what she was seeing was an active scan; showing the smallest details like the small power fluctuations in Voyager's warp core.

"Yeah," B'Elanna affirmed. "Finding that out almost made me slap my head in disbelief. The Borg already had the technology to scan like this, but they didn't use it the way we are now. All they did was see if there was 'relevant information,' and ignore everything else. At the moment all they would have known about Voyager would be whether your weapons and shields are powered up."

"Captain, if I may introduce," Seven spoke up as she walked to the center of the bridge.

Janeway joined Seven and looked at the first person that Seven pointed to.

"This is Captain Wolkav Zakad'e."

"Captain Zakad'e," Janeway said, greeting the tall green-skinned man that lifted one of his arms in a greeting.

"Captain Janeway," the man replied with a very pleasantly sounding tone of voice.

"This is Royal Advisor Pagsha Yahif," Seven continued, pointing to the woman standing beside Captain Zakad'e. "Normally our First Officer would be sitting in that chair, but since our First Officer is busy somewhere else on the ship, Pagsha took over the duties for a moment, since she fulfilled that position until recently anyway."

Janeway had no problem recognizing the species of Royal Advisor Yahif. She was clearly a Ghdibrian; the same species that Perizn belonged to. She had a tail similar to Perizn and the only big difference was in the hair color. Where Perizn's hair color was bright purple, Pagsha Yahif's hair color was a deep but rich dark blue.

"Pagsha is also Katzi's Mate; the Senior crew member that she was talking about," Seven continued. "Besides that, B'Elanna and I also have the honor of Pagsha being a very good friend of ours. Just like her Mate, she is so close and dear to us that we consider her part of our family."

After greetings were exchanged, Seven continued, pointing to a man standing beside a workstation that was located behind the Captain and First Officer's chair. "This is Second Officer Lachakivediras Horchakanven, Chief of Security."

Seven pointed to a woman standing at the workstation beside the Second Officer. "This is Third Officer Anidan Dubinak, Chief Engineer."

Then Seven pointed to a woman with a golden skin color that was standing beside the Chief Engineer. "This is Third officer Si'zaG Fe'R Chief Maintenance..."

Seven was interrupted by Janeway lifting her hand to indicate that she had a question. "You have two 'Third Officers'? And why do you have a Chief Engineer and a Chief of Maintenance?"

"To answer your first question; yes. We actually have more than two Third Officers. For instance, our Chief Medical Officer, who I will introduce to you at a later time, is also a Third Officer. When we were discussing what kind of ranks we should use, we decided that we should have Captains and Admirals, but we felt that using the other ranks that are also used in the Federation could be confusing. For instance, you have a Junior Commander, Lieutenant Commander, and a Commander. Yet in daily life, all three are addressed as Commander. We decided to simply have a Captain, and Officers. The rank of an Officer is indicated by the number before their title, hence, First Officer, Second Officer, and so on. We felt that this approach would appeal more to the Borg. And in case you are wondering, yes, they all do still have Borg designations as well. For instance, Captain Wolkav Zakad'e's full Borg designation is Wolkav Zakad'e, Captain to Unimatrix 01, Individualist drone 39. As for why we have an Engineering and Maintenance department... True, in the Federation both are done by the same department. In fact, both names are often used to indicate one and the same department. But you have to remember that inside the Borg there is a lot more technology to keep in mind."

Seven lifted her artificial hand a little to indicate it. "Also, as macabre as this may sound to you, here, the drones can also be part of the technology. If there is a problem with the humanoid body the doctor takes care of it, but if there is a problem with the implants then this falls under maintenance. The implants can malfunction, they might need to be repaired, and they also need preemptive maintenance. Because of that we have a department that takes care of non-routine tasks on the ship and incorporating new technologies; Engineering, and a department that takes care of the rest. Like for instance the drones, and preemptive repairs; Maintenance. Of course, because both departments are so close there will always be situations where the field of command overlaps and because of that we encourage the two departments to work extremely close together. And we make sure that the two people in charge of the departments have the same ranks so that they cannot override the orders of each other without this coming to the attention of the First Officer. Luckily we did not have that problem yet with Chief Engineer Anidan Dubinak and Chief Maintenance Si'zaG Fe'R. They work together extremely well. In fact, they get along so well that they fell in love and are now Mates."

"Congratulations," Janeway said while in her mind she tried to combine Borg drones with falling in love and having a relationship that Janeway translated to some kind of marriage.

"Thank you," said the two women at the same time.

As this explanation and greeting had been going on, Harry had seen the strange pupils of the eyes of Si'zaG Fe'R and had taken a second look. Suddenly cold chills were running down his spine. No, that couldn't be; it had to be a coincidence.

Oblivious to Harry's thoughts, Seven pointed to the workstation to the other side of the Second Officer and continued with her Senior staff introductions.


Chapter 20

"Please, this way," Seven said as she led the group to one of the five doors that were in the back wall of the bridge.

They had come onto the bridge through one of the two doors at the left side. Combined with two more doors at the right side this resulted in there being an impressive nine doors onto the bridge. Several in the group wondered about the large number of doors, but it was Harry's ship designing mind that finally made him ask.

"You have to remember that Unimatrix 01 is a lot bigger than Voyager," B'Elanna answered. "There's a lot more located on this deck than only the bridge. Behind those doors you'll find a conference room, a break room, the combined Captain and First Officer's ready room. Then there are two turbolifts... or better said the Borg equivalent of them. Two corridors that lead to main corridors that run through the ship like arteries through a body, we entered the bridge through one of those. Lastly we have a small holodeck that is sometimes used in Senior staff meetings, and this door here, which leads to the Royal Quarters."

This last was said as they walked through said door.

As they walked through a spacious corridor, B'Elanna pointed to the different doors they came across. "These are the quarters of our Captain. These are the quarters of the First Officer. Behind this door is another corridor that leads to the quarters of the rest of the Senior Staff. And on this side is a corridor that leads to the quarters of the Royal Advisor, and then on to the rest of the ship; allowing us to use that corridor to come here without having to go through the bridge."

B'Elanna pointed to two doors on either side of the corridor. "These four quarters here are the quarters of the Royal Guards. You met them already; the four drones that were with us on Voyager are the Royal Guards. More drones are added if needed, but those four are the only ones that have our protection as their sole duty. Of course, one of these quarters should be empty at the moment because Katzi is now no longer living there. We decided to use the opportunity and asked Katzi if she objected to us loaning out her 'job quarters' to our nanny. Since she didn't object, our nanny now lives there."

B'Elanna stopped at the end of the corridor and turned around to face the group. "And these are the Royal quarters; our home. Though all of Unimatrix 01 is our home now, these quarters are truly 'home' to us. So, welcome to our home."

B'Elanna and Seven stepped up to the door at the same time, opening their home to their guests.

The first thing that caught Janeway's eye upon entering a very spacious living room, was a huge insectoid that had to be three heads taller than Janeway herself. It was holding a young toddler against its body with two arms while picking up a stuffed toy from the floor with one of it's other four arms...or was it two other arms and were the lower limbs a second pair of legs...? No, they were arms... At least Janeway guessed.

"May I introduce," Seven said as she stepped up to the insectoid and took the child out of its arms. "This is our nanny, Zizirk. I will not try to pronounce the last name since I never do it justice, and Zizirk's species have a saying, 'pronounce your friend's name right, or do not pronounce it at all.' Zizirk, this is the senior staff of Voyager, the people you heard us talk about so often."

"A good day to you all," Zizirk said, though Janeway wondered how... it... could speak since she didn't see any lips moving. In fact, she didn't see any lips at all around its mouth. Though its head was roughly shaped like a human's, no part of the head seemed to move while it was talking. Its eyes were set as far apart as possible in a relatively standard shaped humanoid head. Even though the eyes were quickly covered from time to time with blinking eyelids, the eyes themselves clearly existed out of thousands of small eyes.

Janeway shamefully admitted to herself, though she would never say so to someone else, that if she had a child she would never entrust it to this creature. A creature that seemed to have escaped directly out of a holodeck horror story.

"Was she a good girl?" B'Elanna asked Zizirk as she joined Seven, ready to introduce their pride and joy to the Voyager crew.

"She was a perfect little girl; didn't give me any trouble at all."

"Damn, you're a good liar," B'Elanna grinned. "I'm so impressed that you can actually say that with a straight face."

'Straight face?' Janeway repeated to herself. Wondering how it could be possible to actually see facial expressions on a face formed from the armor plating of an external skeleton. But then she saw the smaller plates around the creature's mouth move, forming something even Janeway could recognize as a smile... of sorts.

"I did have a year of practice, my Princess."

B'Elanna grinned at Zizirk a last time before turning to face the Voyager crew. "And this little terror here is Vasha Borg. Vasha, say hi to our friends."

"Hi," The toddler repeated dutifully.

Looking at the young girl, Janeway could clearly see her parenting. She had Seven's blue eyes and blonde hair, and B'Elanna's head ridges. Janeway was smart enough not to ask how this was possible, knowing that nature would never have created the girl like that without a little help. At the very least B'Elanna's brown eyes would have genetically dominated over Seven's blue ones. But Janeway had to admit that the little girl looked absolutely adorable. Janeway was so focused on the little girl that the girl's name didn't register at first, but before she could ask about the name, she head the girl say a very nice 'hi.'

"Well hi there little one," Janeway said as she stepped closer.

"Would you like to hold her?" Seven asked, already handing over her one-year-old daughter.

"She already knows you all, with the exception of Perizn and Gazec, from several holo-recordings we showed her that we had from our time on Voyager."

Before Janeway could form a polite reason not to take the girl, she was already holding Vasha in her arms. Looking down she saw the child looking up with a serious expression on her face, yet the smallest of smiles playing on her lips.

"I would ask you all to take a seat," Seven said in a tone that sounded a little apologetic. "But as you can see, we really do not have enough places to sit ten people. In a moment, we can go to the holodeck where there is more than enough room. There we will answer some more of your questions before we tell you what happened to us in the last two years. Not the least of which is that little treasure you are holding there, Captain."

"Capt?" Vasha asked. "You Kathryn, not Capt. Wolkav is Capt, not you."

"Vasha, honey," B'Elanna said patiently. "Wolkav is Captain of our ship; Kathryn is Captain of Voyager, the ship we once served on. She was our Captain for years and we're kinda used to addressing her as Captain."

"Oh. Good. I like Wolkav, want him to be Capt," Vasha said, as if she wanted it to be very clear that she didn't think of Janeway as the commander of the ship, which indeed she didn't.

"It's amazing that she can talk like that, she can't be much older than a year," Janeway said, taking into account that neither of the two women was pregnant when they left, so at the very least the girl could only have been born nine months later.

"Her birthday is in two weeks," Seven agreed. "As for why Vasha can already talk like this, Vasha said her first word when she was two months old. It is again one of those things that you will not like, Kathryn, but Vasha is genetically manipulated to incorporate the best of traits B'Elanna's and my genes could give her. Apparently my IQ level was mine from nature and not given to me by the Borg. Our doctor told us that translated to the scale used in the Federation, Vasha has an IQ level of two hundred seventy-six. Since it is normal for an IQ level to drop a little when children get older the doctor expects that Vasha will end with the same IQ level as I have, which is two hundred fifty-seven."

"And you allowed that manipulation?" Janeway asked, before looking back down at the girl. Looking closer she saw something just below the child's skin that made her close her eyes for a moment. "Implants? She has implants?"

"Kathryn, may I remind you of in whose home you are?" Seven asked, her voice becoming a lot cooler. "I realize that you may not like some of the things on this ship, but be assured that there are reasons for it. Some are because it truly is for the best of all involved, and others are the result of a compromise between us and the Hive mind."

Janeway narrowed her eyes at Seven before realizing that this was no longer the Seven she had known. True, the person was still the same, but this Seven was the Borg Queen, someone that had to think about more than just one hundred and fifty people.

"My apologies," Janeway said with a short nod. "But Seven, implants?"

Hearing the changed tone was enough for Seven and she was just about to answer when her daughter beat her to it. "What wrong with my implants, momma?"

Janeway looked down at the girl that was now looking at Seven with a look of confusion on her face.

"Yes, Kathryn," Seven said, thinking that her daughter's question had gone right to the heart of the matter, "Just what exactly is wrong with my daughter's implants?"

Vasha now looked back at Janeway for an answer. Janeway looked at the little girl in her arm for a moment. How to explain to her that implants were wrong? She had a feeling that 'because it is' wouldn't work with this particular child. She also couldn't simply say that implants were just wrong, because she could just as easily say that weapons were wrong. Yet Voyager itself boasted some of the most impressive weapons they had yet come across in the Delta Quadrant. Those weapons had saved their lives numerous times, and at those times those weapons sure were the right thing to have.

"Nothing is wrong with implants by themselves, it's just that they can be used wrong," Janeway finally said.

"Indeed," Seven agreed, deciding to let Janeway off the hook. "Which is why Vasha's implants are temporary, mainly to monitor her vital signs. When she gets older, she will get other implants. All of which are temporary and removable. When she reaches the age of eighteen, she herself will choose which implants she wants to have. At that point she can also choose to have implants that cannot be removed, like the new abdominal implant. But that will be her sole choice to make. You have to realize that she 'is' Borg, and it would be plain stupid not to use implants that can assure her wellbeing."

"As for us 'allowing' the genetic manipulation," B'Elanna continued when Seven stopped talking. "It's more a case of 'alright but.' The Borg wanted our... especially Seven's... 'biological distinctiveness' to be ensured. Seven and I talked about it and decided that we wouldn't mind having a child. If the Borg wanted our 'biological distinctiveness' to be ensured then they had to be satisfied with it being ensured by the fact that we were going to have a baby. The Borg agreed, but reminded us that by merging our DNA into a child some specific traits would be lost. They would be satisfied with us having a child if in return they were allowed to ensure that the child had the best genetic traits of the both of us. We agreed to that, but in return we wanted to raise our child in the normal way; no Borg maturation chamber for our baby. They agreed, and here we have the result of that; our pride and joy, Vasha."

"Besides," Seven added. "Even though genetic manipulation is a convenient explanation, I have a feeling that most of Vasha's brilliance is simply Vasha being Vasha. Yes, she has my IQ level, and yes, that level is almost twice as high as the normal human's IQ level. But unlike our daughter, I could not talk at her age. In fact, from the little that I can remember from my time before the Borg, I was just an average girl. The only thing that could prove any different was the fact that I could actually understand the scientific reports my parents were writing."

"I apologize for jumping to conclusions without having all the information," Janeway said. Though she still didn't agree, she could understand why Seven and B'Elanna had agreed to the deal. "But if you don't mind me asking, why do you have to make deals with the Borg? I thought that the Queen was in total control of the Hive? And talking about Borg, the last name of your daughter is... Borg?"

"Normally, yes, the Queen is in total control of the Hive," Seven agreed as she took her daughter back. "And I could have had that total control by now. However, that would not have changed the Borg in the long run. As we said before, if I had taken that control unconditionally, then any changes we might have made could just as easily have been changed back by a new Queen in the future. We want to change the Borg to the point that the changes cannot be changed by a single person, even if that person is the Queen. This is why we are moving the Borg to how most monarchies are normally run. Having a Royal family, the descendants of which pass on the title of Queen to their daughter, and having Ministers be in control of a governmental body that runs the Borg on a daily basis. We knew this already when our daughter was born. Knowing that the last name we gave her would be the name that the Borg Queen would carry generation after generation, we decided that it should be something else than Hansen, a name that means absolutely nothing to me, or Torres, a name that has no Klingon history. We decided to give Vasha the last name of Borg so that in generations to come the Borg Queen is an individual character, yet clearly connected to the Borg. More so because, interestingly enough, besides Vasha now there was not a single person inside the Borg Collective that has the last name of Borg. So 'Borg' is now the Royal name in the Borg Collective."

"You want to bring the position of Borg Queen back to a ceremonial position only?" Janeway asked to clarify.

"Partially," Seven said, not fully agreeing with the statement. "After all, there are also monarchies in which the Queen is the one that truly is in control of all, like the Zamonan monarchy for instance. We are striving for something in between. A check and balance system, so to speak. Where the Queen is the one in control of the Borg, but where the daily running of the Borg is done by Ministers. For instance, if the Borg come across a new species, it will be the Queen that negotiates in the name of the Borg. The Queen and the Ministers will have equal control over the Borg, just that the Queen is the central person of the Borg, something the Borg need."

"But the Ministers would have the power to contradict any order given by the Queen, if they wanted to?" Chakotay asked.

"Indeed," Seven agreed. "Just like the Queen will have the power to contradict any order given by the Ministers if she wants to. This could theoretically result in a stalemate between the two, but in reality, because the Borg and the Queen are connected through the Hive mind and therefore the sincerity and concerns of their points of views are known to each other, any disagreements are worked out long before any problems can occur. It is just that we want that security in place, just in case. We want following Queens to act like I am now, to set a general course for the Borg but that they have to negotiate with the Hive to achieve what they want. Sometimes not getting what they want, sometimes getting exactly what they want, but mostly getting something in between."

"Why are you only talking about a Borg Queen?" Neelix asked. "Vasha's first born could just as easily be a boy."

"No it can't," B'Elanna said, and it was clear to all that what she was going to say next was hard for her to say. "When the time comes, Vasha's child will also be genetically enhanced to ensure that the best of her 'biological distinctiveness' continues to exist. At that time, her nanoprobes will make sure that the embryo in her body will evolve into a girl for several reasons. The simplest one being the fact that in both Human and Klingon races the women live on average ten years longer than the men. But there are about fifteen other reasons as well. It's because of this that we also already know that her daughter will have blue eyes, unless her partner has green eyes. In that case their child will have green eyes. Again, there are several reasons for that. Knowing that generations of coming Queens would have to go through their children being genetically altered is something we did take into account when we made our choice, but it is still hard. We just hope that it'll become so normal for at least the Royal family that it's something not even really thought about. That it's just the way things are done."

"Not all choices we made were easy," Seven added as she looked down at her daughter who was becoming a bit restless in her arms. "One moment please," She said to the Voyager crew before addressing her daughter. "Vasha, do you mind spending some more time with Zizirk? Mamma and I will be busy for the next couple of hours."

"What would you do if she says yes?" Tom asked amused.

"If she says yes, then I am afraid that we will have to postpone this conversation until tomorrow. B'Elanna and I promised her that we would spend tonight with her, but that was before we found out that our presence was required here. Unless absolutely necessary, we try to keep our promises to our daughter."

"Alright, momma. Momma, can Zizirk and I go fly then?"

Seven looked over at the insectoid that had moved out of the way of the group and lifted an eyebrow a little in question. Zizirk nodded a little as answer and Seven smiled down at her daughter. "Very well, but only in the holodeck with the safety setting set to maximum."


"Do not mommaaaa me, young lady," Seven countered. "You have too much of your mamma in you. You want to go fly, then those are the stipulations."

"Alright momma."

"Good girl," B'Elanna said, placing a kiss on the girl's forehead. Smiling because of Seven's comment that their child was too much like B'Elanna sometimes; which was very true.

"Tomorrow we three will spend the afternoon alone, alright little terror?"

"No talking to them?" Vasha asked, meaning the Voyager crew.

"No talking to them, not in the afternoon at least. Just us. But we could ask Pagsha and Katzi to join us if you want."

"Yes! We all go fly then?"

B'Elanna laughed and looked over at Zizirk before answering. "Honey. Zizirk is strong, but Zizirk really can't carry us while flying. Just special little girls. Now get."

"Alright mamma," Vasha said while reaching out for Zizirk who had come closer to take the girl. "Love you mamma, love you momma," Vasha added over Zizirk's shoulder as the insectoid started to walk out of the room through a different door than the one the Voyager crew had entered through.

Janeway saw a totally unguarded look of total joy coming over the faces of Seven and B'Elanna, and she could only wonder what it must have felt like for the women to hear their daughter tell them that she loved them.

Only when the door had closed behind the insectoid and the child did Seven and B'Elanna turn back to the group. "Sorry about that," B'Elanna apologized with a smile. "Vasha loves it when Zizirk takes her flying. I fear the day that we have to say no because Zizirk can't carry her anymore."

It was at that moment that the true meaning of flying registered with Janeway. "You mean flying flying, as in Zizirk can physically fly and carries Vasha while doing so?"

"Yeah," B'Elanna agreed. "Zizirk is a true sight to behold with wings unfolded. Zizirk's wingspan is a walloping seven meters (23 ft.) I still haven't figured out how Zizirk is able to fold all of that under the armor plating on the back."

"She... he... is a sight to be hold without wings as well," Harry said, saying what Janeway had wanted to.

Seeing a perfect opening, Janeway asked, "How did Zizirk become your nanny? She, he, really doesn't seem like a logical first choice."

"Careful Captain, don't go judging on looks," B'Elanna said, and Janeway could clearly hear a hint of protectiveness in her voice. "By the way, Zizirk is an 'it'; genderless. We normally simply use Zizirk's name where one would normally use the gender, though I have to admit that even we still slip up from time to time. As for how Zizirk became our nanny... Well, I stink at it, but Seven really excels at searching the Hive mind. She can make it look as easy as looking through a Federation database. Anyway, Seven simply looked over the character traits; searching for the most gentlest, most caring, most patient, and not to forget, long living, drone in the Collective and Zizirk topped the list."

"Long living?" Chakotay asked.

Now it was Seven that answered. "Yes. B'Elanna and I know that because of our position we will not be able to spend as much family time with our daughter as we want. We wanted to make sure that through her life Vasha has a person that is there for her every minute she needs this person. We wanted to prevent our daughter having to go through nanny after nanny. If all goes as we would like it to go, Zizirk will be the only nanny Vasha ever knows. And when she reaches the age that she no longer needs a nanny, then Zizirk will become a housekeeper to the Royal quarters. A housekeeper that becomes Vasha's housekeeper when she moves out into her own quarters next door."

"You have her quarters already selected?" Tom asked amused. "When do you want her to move out, tomorrow?"

"I would like Vasha to live here until she is at least thirty-five years old," Seven said with a serious face, before giving Tom a little smile. "But B'Elanna told me that this is not realistic. Actually, the reason why Vasha's quarters are already known is because several connecting quarters have been set aside for the coming Royal family. B'Elanna likes to call it the 'Royal wing' even though it obviously is not a wing of a building. There are enough quarters for several generations to live comfortably. Just as with a lot of what B'Elanna and I do, we are preparing things for the next generation of Borg Queen. B'Elanna and I see what we do as a transition to the new style of Queen. Vasha will be that new style Queen. Just like she will be the first Queen to have the last name of Borg, Vasha Borg will also be the first Queen to live in the Royal wing."

"Come on," B'Elanna spoke up. "We were going to move this party to the holodeck. We have to go through the kitchen."

"The holodeck is connected to your kitchen?" Harry asked surprised.

"Sure," B'Elanna grinned as she started to walk to the next room. "Got to be some perks to being Boss of Borg, don't you think?"

"Yeah, I guess," Harry agreed. "But I'm just surprised that all of these important things are located so close together. I mean, you have the bridge right beside the Royal quarters, which are right beside the holodeck that the Royal family uses when they aren't on the bridge or in their quarters. Just one well placed shot could destroy it all."

B'Elanna shook her head a little at the question. "It seems that you are too used to working on a Federation starship. There's no way that Unimatrix 01 will ever land or even enter a planet's gravitational field. Because of that, we don't need the bridge in a place where you can look out of a window."

B'Elanna walked to the door that she had pointed at before and stood in the doorframe. "The reason that all of this is so close together is because they're positioned in the safest place on Unimatrix 01 that they could be if the ship were to take damage. This very door here is actually almost the exact geometrical center of Unimatrix 01. We know of no weapon that could do so much damage that it would destroy enough of Unimatrix 01 that we would be in danger here."

"This really 'is' your home," Chakotay noticed when he heard the little undertone in B'Elanna's voice; the true pride of someone talking about the great things of their new home. "Even if the Borg would allow you to go, you would stay."

"We would," Seven agreed. "The Borg have not been holding us against our will for a long time now. It is a decision we made, but we will tell you all about it in a moment. Please follow us to the holodeck."

Seven walked through the door together with B'Elanna, followed by the rest of the group. After walking through a large, but still homely kitchen, they reached another door and when they walked through that, they stepped onto a wooden porch that had several chairs, a table, and a two person porch-swing. Beyond the porch was a small grassy clearing before the huge trees of an ancient forest began.

"Wow," Tom said as he stepped onto the porch and looked around. "If I didn't know that we're on a spaceship, I would swear that this is real."

"That's because most of it is," B'Elanna said as she stepped off the porch. She sent a command to the central computer over her link, and suddenly a round table with seats for all was standing in the clearing. "Please take a seat."

Just when the last person was sitting down, a man stepped out of the woods and came walking to the table. "Sorry, this holodeck doesn't work with the normal verbal commands that you're used to. Just ask the waiter for whatever drinks you like. For the rest you can ignore him, he isn't real."

"You said that most of this is real?" Tom asked. Everyone knew that he loved to spend time on the holodeck. Though he had brought the time down to a normal level since he was married, and most of the time he did spent on the holodeck, he spent together with Perizn. But he still got excited thinking of spending time on a holodeck in which things were actually real.

"Yes," B'Elanna affirmed. "As I said, we used other technology than the Federation does. See, the thing is, replicating something costs more energy than creating a hologram of that thing. But, if you replicate something once, that thing exists and continues to exist, costing no more energy, with the exception of the energy needed to eventually remove it again. But a hologram takes continuous energy to keep creating the same thing. If an item exists for longer than thirty minutes, its going to use more energy than it would have taken to replicate the thing. So, with this holodeck technology, the base things that the computer is pretty sure up front will be there throughout the entire program, they are actually replicated and small things are holographic additions."

B'Elanna pointed at a couple of things as she explained, "The earth around you is real, so are the trees. This table is real, as are the drinks you are about to get... of course those are real because it's very convenient if you can actually drink your drink. But the birds in those trees aren't real, nor is the water streaming through that creek over there. Because those things move too much, they are only generated holographically. If you were to generate a house on the holodeck, then the house would be real because walls and floors don't move, and so on. Of course, the computer still monitors it all for safety reasons. If you fall out of one of these real trees and are about to hit one of those real lower branches, then the computer will register that you are about to impact with harming force. That branch will be removed, and you will drift to the ground, landing nicely on your feet."

"I like the scenery," Perizn noted.

"The woods you see here around you are the standard setting for the holodeck and it's always activated," B'Elanna explained. "If someone wants to run a different holo-program, part of the holodeck is simply divided off by holographic walls that will be seen as cliffs by anyone that is walking through the standard program; these woods. Or another option, the holodeck is divided over the vertical axis, I mean, really, looking up you won't see if the holographic sky is five kilometers up, or four, or three, or... well, even on a planet, rain clouds already form at one-and-a-half kilometers up. We could divide this holodeck up in hundreds of different ways and you would never know that someone else is on the holodeck as well. Case in point, Vasha and Zizirk are somewhere on this holodeck right now, but we don't see or hear them. The computer evaluates running programs and decides how to divide off some room to run a different holo-program. The computer also takes into account whether the running programs are open or private programs."

"You are talking about this holodeck as if others can use it as well; from what you said before I got the impression that it was only meant for you?" Tom asked.

"Not at all," B'Elanna said with a shake of her head. "This is called 'the Royal Holodeck,' and, yes, the use is limited. The Hive mind decided that though, not us. But we just felt it wrong that we would be the only ones that could use this huge holodeck, so we had another of those negotiations with the Hive and reached a compromise. Now this holodeck is also open for use by the Royal family, by the entire senior staff and their families or partners, and for the Royal guards and their families or partners, and any guests those people want to bring along."

"But what about the rest of the Borg Collective, don't the other 'individualist drones' as you call them use the holodeck as well?" Janeway asked.

"They do," B'Elanna assured, "just not this one. This isn't the only holodeck on Unimatrix 01. You have to remember that you only saw a very, very small part of Unimatrix 01. We didn't show you a single of the three hundred restaurants we have in the already changed part of Unimatrix 01 for instance. Or any of the recreation places, or any of the fitness areas, or any... well, any of the other holodecks. At the moment, keeping in mind that we are far from being finished with making changes to Unimatrix 01, there are five more holodecks of this size that are for public use, and two hundred holodecks about the size of Voyager's holodeck one. We make sure the designers keep about the same level of recreation as you would find on any Federation starbase as they change more and more on Unimatrix 01. We also make sure that these places are conveniently located throughout the ship so that they are within walking distance of individualist drones."

"Which will cause them to only stay in a certain part of the ship during their off duty time," Tuvok noted.

"True," Seven agreed. "However, as far as that is concerned you have to see Unimatrix 01 more as a city than a starship, simply because of its size. On Vulcan, someone living in the northern sector of Shi'Kahr city will not walk to the southern sector simply to see if they can find someone they want to share a drink with. They would only go to the southern sector if they have a specific reason to go there. The same here. People will mainly stay in the part of Unimatrix 01 that they live in, unless they work in a different part, or if they are going to visit someone that they know from work. But you must not forget, these individuals that live on different sides of Unimatrix 01 still join the united Hive mind whenever they regenerate, and at those moments distance does not exist. In fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to 'get to know each other' while connected to the Hive mind, and then go and spend time together physically when they find out that they are stationed on Unimatrix 01 as well."

"Alright," Janeway said. "Now that our curiosity about the changes we saw is a little satisfied, how about telling us what happened to you?"

"Very well," Seven agreed. "Do you remember when the Borg came for me, how B'Elanna and I left on the shuttle?"

Two years earlier.

"Alright, here we go," B'Elanna said as they drifted out of Voyager's shuttle bay. "Shields are holding, all systems looking good. We're almost out of Voyager's maneuver range."

"B'Elanna, I can see the readouts as well," Seven gently reminded.

"Sorry, I guess I'm a bit," B'Elanna was interrupted by a slight shaking of the ship. "A tractor-beam," She guessed even without needing the confirmation of the instruments.

"And a dampening field," Seven added. "We lost all contact with Voyager. All sensors are off line as well."

"Probably don't want Voyager to blow you up," B'Elanna guessed. "I just hope that they leave Voyager be."

"I believe they will. They know that I am more likely to do as they want if Voyager is left alone."

"I'm surprised that they're ignoring me after all," B'Elanna said as she and Seven followed one of the Borg drones who was leading them to... somewhere.

"I assume that since I am on board you are once again considered irrelevant to them," Seven guessed.

"I never knew there would come a time where I would be glad to be considered irrelevant," B'Elanna replied as she nervously looked at the drones they were passing all the time, wondering which was going to be the one that would suddenly grab her.

They entered an area about the same size as Voyager's cargo bay 2. It was totally bare with the exception of a single device that looked remotely like a regeneration alcove. The device was placed against one wall, and about twenty drones were standing against the other walls.

{Seven of Nine, You will now join the Collective,} The disembodied voice of the Hive mind said.

"What is that thing?" B'Elanna asked as Seven started to move towards the alcove.

"That is the Queen's alcove. Captain Janeway was right, once I enter that alcove I will be linked to the entire Borg Collective."

B'Elanna nodded her head. "Alright, remember, the Doctor's modifications give you thirty seconds, he hopes. If you weren't able to..." B'Elanna only barely stopped herself from saying what she wanted to, remembering only at the last moment that all those drones around them had Borg enhanced hearing.

"If your weren't able to, you know... by then, you step out of that damn thing."

"Do not worry, I remember the plan," Seven assured as she slowly walked to the alcove and stepped in with great reluctance.

Unlike the alcove Seven was used to, tubes shot out of the alcove's back and bored themselves through Seven's biosuit to connect to the back of Seven's abdominal implant on places where even Seven didn't know there were connections. Subconsciously Seven realized that this was so that the Borg Queen could still walk around the room while regenerating at the same time. But consciously Seven didn't have time to think about that. She prepared to release the virus... when slowly the voices of the Borg started to seep through the block that the Doctor had installed. It was at that point that she realized that she couldn't release the virus.

Looking at B'Elanna with tears in her eyes she managed to say, "I am sorry beloved."

And then Seven was gone.

"No! Seven, fight it!"

{Seven of Nine has rejoined the Collective. The new designation of Seven of Nine is One of Many.}

"No! Damn it, you said that she would be an individual!" B'Elanna shouted frustrated.

{Individual B'Elanna Torres is allowed to leave Unimatrix 01.}

{Her unharmed departure will entice One of Many to stay on Unimatrix 01 as an individual.}

"You call that individual?" B'Elanna asked, pointing at Seven who was looking straight forward, apparently totally oblivious to all that was going on.

{One of Many has rejoined the Collective until we are certain that she is ready to fulfill her task as required.}

"Damn it, you aren't changing a damn thing by taking her back in the Collective. Once you give her back her individuality she still won't want to be your damn Queen!"

A drone came closer and the united voice of the Borg spoke up again. {B'Elanna Torres will now leave Unimatrix 01.}

"If you think I'm just leaving Seven behind, you got another think coming. Damn it, why? Why can't you just let her be? She came here; you got what you wanted now just let her be."

{One of Many is still a risk to the Collective. She first needs to adapt.}

"Yeah? You want to know risk?" B'Elanna asked, suddenly seeing a chance to still use the old plan... just in a different way.

"Risk you say? I give you risk. Seven has a computer virus implanted in her cranial implant. If she had wanted, if the INDIVIDUAL Seven of Nine had wanted, you would all have lost your connection to the Hive mind. She could have destroyed the Hive as you know it, turning you all back into single individuals. Seven, the INDIVIDUAL didn't do that."

It was quiet for a moment before the united voice spoke up again. {Viral threat found.}

{Virus has been neutralized.}

"Damn it all, that's not the point!" B'Elanna shouted as the drone grabbed her and started to pull her away. "The point is that you wanted Seven here, she's here. You wanted Seven to be an individual; she has made an individual choice that already now saved the entire Borg Collective. Don't you think that you should show your future Queen at least some trust?"

{Individuality is preferred.}

{Individuality creates risks for the Collective.}

{Individuality is needed for the continued existence of the Borg.}

{One of Many cannot yet be trusted as an individual.}

{There is no opportunity to train One of Many further without One of Many being an individual.}

Hearing the united voice of the Borg arguing with itself, B'Elanna spoke up just as she was being pulled out of the room.

"No wonder you need Seven, you can't even decide something as simple as if you want to trust the person you want as your Queen. How could you ever make a choice on something as important as whether or not you should enter a sector of space if you can't even decide to trust your leader?"

To B'Elanna's utmost surprise the drone suddenly let her go and she took the opportunity to run back to Seven's side. Seeing that Seven was still standing in a totally comatose state, B'Elanna pressed on.

"How can you ever trust Seven to make individual choices when you don't even trust her to make the most basic of choices of staying here? Even though you damn well know that there is no freaking chance that she can ever get off this damn scrapheap without you allowing it. It sounds to me like you don't really want an individual as your new Queen. So make your choice, do you want Seven do be an individual? If not, if you want her to be just another drone, then she might as well go back to voyager since she isn't bringing anything to the Collective that you don't already have. In fact, the only thing you don't have 'is' her individuality. So, make a choice, what do you want?"

After almost a full minute of tense silence the united voice of the Borg finally spoke up. {The individuality of One of Many is needed.}

Suddenly a shudder went through Seven and she moved her head to look at B'Elanna. "Beloved, what have you done?"

Part 21

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