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

By H.W.


Chapter 36

The reign of One of Many, née Annika Hansen; Queen of Borg.

Year 00, Month 11, Day 28, Hour 11, Minute 31.

Anidan was pacing, as was normal when she was giving a presentation. At that moment the pacing was done in conference room one. With Seven, B'Elanna, Pagsha, and Plojkian joining in the discussion, and Katzi sitting and just listening since this was a technical discussion that was going way over her head.

"So the real question is what advancements have species 8472 made since the last encounter," Anidan concluded before sitting back down.

"Do you think that they have something in reserve that they haven't used yet?" Pagsha wondered.

"Well," Anidan said thoughtfully. "Obviously your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that we shouldn't underestimate them. They only encountered one cube until now. They might have some weapon that takes longer to charge than cube X4 stuck around uncloaked and therefore we never saw them use it. After all, they have proven highly intelligent and able to adapt quickly. Plus, they are willing to study a problem to find a way to counteract it. As much as I once hated the Borg for what they did to me, at least the Borg had the misguided belief that they were bettering the life of the people they assimilated. Species 8472 seems to think that all that is not them is only worthy of killing. Beings that are so bent on killing can come up with some damn impressive weapons."

Plojkian Nodded in agreement. "I still stand by what I said. I am certain that the shields will hold against the known weapon's fire of species 8472, with the exception of the planetbusters. Those can destroy planets, but there's nothing that says that they can't also use them to target ships. The shields won't be able to hold against that. But for the rest, the only surprise would be if they have some new weapon that they didn't use in the test that cube X4 did."

"The planetbuster ships won't be a problem," B'Elanna assured. "The captains of the Individual cubes will get a standing order to shoot as soon as the bioships maneuver into position to form the planetbuster formation. No extra order from our side will be needed. And even if they manage to form a planetbuster formation, we are still relatively safe because we can maneuver out of reach quite easily because they need to break formation and then form up again if they want to retarget something."

"Plojkian," Seven spoke up, "is there a way to boost the shields even more?"

"Um, with all due respect my Queen, but if it was possible to make them stronger I would already have done so. It's illogical to settle for mediocre protection if you can also deliver excellent protection."

"You are correct, of course," Seven agreed. "I apologize for not being clear enough. What I mean is, the shields exist out of the normal, though vastly enhanced by you, Borg armor that is now known as the inner layer, and out of the shielding B'Elanna and I came up with on Voyager, known as the outer layer. What I meant was, is it possible to boost the inner layer so that in case the outer layer fails the ships at least still have the protection of the inner layer?"

"Um, my Queen, the outer layer is supposed to fail," Plojkian said slowly. "That is the whole point. The beam or projectile hits the outer layer where the impact interacts with the shield, causing the power of the blast to be used because of the laws of physics; a reaction equals an action until the point where the action overcomes the reaction. Normally the rest of the blast would then hit the inner layer and act there on that shield. But I designed the outer layer to fail only moments before destruction so that the energy of the blast is absorbed. Because of that the inner layer has to suffer the brunt of full impact for a moment, but then the outer layer that failed but wasn't destroyed, is activated again and the whole cycle starts anew. This failing and activating of the outer layer can happen up to 800 times per second, resulting in, um, well, basically the power of the attack being cut into tiny pieces that the inner layer can easily deal with. I have designed the inner layer so that it on turn gets an energy boost at the moment the outer layer fails which gives the extra protection, and then to actually drain energy to only 5% of maximum power so that the emitter can cool off while the outer layer absorbs the impact."

"Um, did anyone actually get that?" Pagsha asked. She was relived when she saw that apparently even Anidan didn't seem to get it all.

"I'm not going to pretend that I understood all of that; not my field of expertise," Anidan said. "But I can tell you what I 'did' understand. Something and another thing is switched on and off and is overtaxed and under-taxed up to 800 times a minute. I can also tell you that if I had created something so sensitive like that, and you were going to suggest to me that I should try and fiddle with the settings at the moment that you need it, I would ask you if you were out of your freaking mind."

"I see," Seven said slowly.

"My Queen," Plojkian said after glancing at Anidan. "Anidan spoke rather colorfully, but she did get to the heart of it. The shields are calibrated and set, a program has been written. We need to leave it like that. Otherwise you might as well go in with no shields at all. It's one of the reasons why the shields only work on two settings; on and off. Now, granted, I just realized that maybe a second protocol should be added that allows the shields to also be used like the old Borg shields, which will allow you to run them at a lower setting than 100%, and I promise you that I will work on that. And I will even write a third protocol that, if activated, switches the shields back automatically to the old Borg style if my design should fail. It would give you that backup you speak about. I admit, it was a small oversight of me to not think of that before. I was too concentrated on creating the best shield possible. But all of that is of no relevance now. Now you need the best shield option, and I assure you that my new shield 'is' the best option."

Seven nodded reluctantly. "Forgive me if I sound like I have no trust in you or your abilities; I do. It is merely that I am thinking of the drones that have to be close to the hull. The senior staff are all deep inside Unimatrix 01. Even without shields at all we cannot be reached here by a beam of species 8472. But it is so easily forgotten that even if the ship only takes five percent of damage, that damage starts with the hull and then goes deeper. Five percent is so easily ignored, until your realize that with a ship the size of Unimatrix 01, that still means thousands of lives lost."

"We had that once on Voyager," B'Elanna spoke up, knowing only too well what Seven was thinking of because they had been talking about it the night before in bed.

"We were under attack once; nothing new there. We were hit and it was reported as a hull breach on deck five. Then communications went down, and then the engines were hit. We were then able to destroy our attackers before more damage could be done. Since the engines were hit the Captain rightfully ordered them fixed first, in case some more enemies came checking where their friends were. The enemies never came. But because the engines had gotten priority it was two hours later before anyone was sent to repair the hull breach. It was only then found out that the explosion had destroyed the sensors there and two crew members had been trapped in that section. An emergency force field had prevented them from being blown into space. But because communications were down they weren't able to call for help in time. They froze to death before communications were back up. We lost two people that day because of something that was considered unimportant minor damage."

"But that risk always exists," Anidan pointed out. "If I have learned one thing in all my experiments and creating than it is to never say 'that can never happen.' Even the impossible is possible if the right circumstances exist. If you truly want to deal with something like that potentially happening, then I would suggest concentrating less on preventing things from happening and more on what to do if it happens."

"I must agree," Plojkian said. "I once had a discussion like that with a former employer. He demanded that no matter what, it would be impossible that certain things explode if they fail. The only way I could do that was to only have those things work with a 50% safety margin, making the new design worse then the old design. So I suggested that instead they concentrate on dealing with potential explosions. Have safe areas, have a doctor on standby all the time, reduce reaction time of first helpers. Stuff like that."

"I could slap together some autonomous sensor relays," Anidan suggested. "Something you can place in certain sections where you think it's needed. I could make them completely self sustainable units that don't rely on ship's infrastructure to send signals or whatnot. Maybe,"

Anidan stopped talking when Seven lifted her hand. "I am certain that you would create something very suitable. However, that is something that you should not be thinking about now since it cannot be implemented anyway at this moment. I do apologize to both you and Plojkian for distracting you from what you should be focusing on now. Please, just... do what you think you need to work on now."

Anidan smiled, "Is that nesting instinct finally kicking in? The feeling where you want your home to be safe for your baby. Just that with you being Queen of Borg, your home is a wee bit bigger than the average home."

Seven frowned. "I think you might be very correct there. Even before signs of species 8472 were detected, I have felt a certain urge in the last couple of days to make sure that nothing can harm Vasha. And to then have the one thing show up that once was capable of defeating the Borg... It is unsettling."

"We are ready for this," Plojkian said confidently. "This I assure you, my Queen."

Seven dipped her head a little. "Very well. I have the utmost confidence then in the upcoming confrontation."

The reign of One of Many, née Annika Hansen; Queen of Borg.

Year 00, Month 11, Day 30, Hour 08, Minute 02.

Despite the fact that the tests with cube X4 had proven that her safety was assured, Seven could feel that the Hive didn't want her to be here. They worried for her, they cared for her. It warmed Seven's heart. Who would have thought that the Hive could care? She realized at that moment that over the last months she had changed her views as well. She had never thought that it could be possible, but still. She loved B'Elanna more than life itself. B'Elanna was her Mate and other half. She loved her unborn daughter, for she was the proof of the love between B'Elanna and Seven. And, Seven realized, she loved the Collective. Just like B'Elanna and their unborn daughter, the Collective was her home.

"Who would have guessed, huh?" B'Elanna asked as she closed her arms around her lover from behind, not caring in the least that they were standing in the middle of the bridge where the entire senior staff could see them.

"We started out by trying to make lemonade out of the lemon that was handed to us, and look at us now. Here we are, not just drinking lemonade, but we're drinking that lemonade in a home that we love to be in."

Seven looked over her shoulder at B'Elanna and asked with a smile, "How did you know?"

"You mean besides me seeing that you're more at ease?" B'Elanna asked amused. "I connected to the Hive a moment ago to take a quick look at how the ship is doing, and I felt them."

"They are pleased," Seven stated.

"As they should be. They started out just wanting a Queen because the old Queens had turned things around to where the Collective needs a Queen. But the Collective got so much more with you. You gave them something they never had before; you gave them a Queen's appreciation for her people. The other Queens, they just saw the drones as tools to be used. You see them as people. You hurt for the ones that die; you feel sorrow when their voices go silent. You know that sometimes sacrifices are needed, and you don't hesitate to give the orders. But afterwards you at least mourn the losses. The other Queens never did. You have become the Collective's soul, and in the process made them realize that they were missing that soul."

Seven sighed. "We were working to get the Collective where they no longer needed a Queen, now I moved them to where they need a Queen even more than before."

"There is a difference between a Queen and a Queen," B'Elanna said as she let go of Seven and moved to stand beside her, half looking at her lover, and half looking at the view screen.

"We might have moved them to where they need a Queen to be one unit, but at the same time you and I are still moving them further and further away from where they need a Queen to think for them. We'll move the Collective to where they negotiate with the Queen on what to do because they want to, not because they have to. And, not to forget, to where they can tell a Queen to piss off if she does something like wanting total control again."

"Piss off?" Seven asked amused. She tried to picture the united voice of the Borg saying 'piss off' and much to her surprise, she could actually manage it.

"We are the Borg. We do not like what you are suggesting, so piss off?" Seven asked in a very monotone voice.

"Has a ring to it, doesn't it?" B'Elanna asked with a grin.

"I think that it is good that I am Queen and you are the Princess," Seven said amused. "I don't think that it would be too wise if the Collective picked up your way of speaking."

"Spoilsport," B'Elanna said with a fake pout.

Then she looked at the screen and sighed when she saw how close the image was by now. "But, now it's time for you to be the Queen. Give them hell baby, one way or another."

Seven looked at the view screen for a moment, looked at how the bioships continued to pound away at the Borg cubes, without much result. The Borg knew of course that the new shields would still not survive a blast of the planetbuster ships. But in order for those ships to be able to fire they had to link up with eight bioships; something the Borg were not allowing. Whenever bioships drifted into formation they would be hit with the well aimed blasts of several Borg cubes. It didn't destroy the bioships, but it did knock them off course and thus prevented them from activating the planetbuster ships, which was the important part. As such a stalemate of sorts had been reached. Fire was exchanged, yet none of the ships were destroyed.

Time, Seven decided, to end that stalemate.

"Captain?" Seven merely said, but it was enough and Wolkav gave the order.

"Helm, take us in."

The moment they entered the sensor range of species 8472 was very clear. Suddenly bioships came heading in their direction, clearly recognizing a threat when they saw one.

"Status?" Wolkav asked as soon as the first enemy fire hit Unimatrix 01.

"The shields are holding," Lachakivediras replied from his tactical station. "Power fluctuates with every hit, but the shields are at full capacity again within 0.02 seconds. I estimate that if species 8472 were to hit one and the same place of the ship for a continuous 4 minutes the shields would buckle in that place and the ship will be exposed to direct fire at that place."

"I would fire at those ships to scare them off," Wolkav said. Then he looked at Seven and added, "But, I believe we are here to prove a point."

"You are correct," Seven agreed. "Ignore the ships; pretend that we do not notice their fire and let them see how unaffected we are by it. But, have one hundred cubes fall in behind Unimatrix 01. If the shields start to buckle somewhere have a square of cubes fly beside us and cover up that spot."

Wolkav and Lachakivediras both showed their approval with a nod.

Then Seven spoke up again. "Hive, does this security measure meet your approval?"

{Yes, our Queen.}

"Very well. Wolkav, please continue."

Wolkav gave the necessary orders and not much later Unimatrix 01 had joined the other Borg ships that had been fighting with species 8472.

"I don't get it," Pagsha said thoughtfully. "By now they know that their weapons can't hurt us, yet those ships keep trickling in. If nothing else, why not simply go back into fluidic space and enter our universe at any other place?"

"We have to keep in mind that things look exactly the same from their side," Lachakivediras pointed out. "True, they can't destroy any of our ships, but at the same time none of our weapons are hurting them, not counting knocking them out of formation. Maybe they think that we never were able to reproduce more nanoprobe warheads."

That was one of the things that showed Wolkav just how much the Borg had changed. Who would ever have thought merely one year before that the Borg would hold back in using a weapon because they knew that the weapon was too deadly? "Alright, open all frequencies."

A nod of another senior staff member told Wolkav that his next words would be heard by every person in the sector that was close to any kind of receiver. "Species 8472, we are the Borg, lower your shields and surrender your ships. Cease fire or we will retaliate."

"No effect," Lachakivediras noted a moment later. It was what they all had been expecting anyway.

"Ready Unimatrix 01's main weapon's bank," Wolkav commanded. "Highest possible yield on the plasma beam. I think a demonstration is required that we can destroy their ships even if we truly didn't have any nanoprobe warheads. Also, arm one of the nanoprobe warheads; I think that we will also need to demonstrate that we still have those as well."

"Targets?" Lachakivediras asked.

"Pick one of the small bioships for both."

"Yes, captain. Plasma beam is almost fully charged, forty-one seconds left."

"Which gives me time for one last call," Wolkav noted before looking at the ops station. "Open all frequencies."

A nod told him that he could continue. "Species 8472, Cease fire or we will retaliate. This is your last chance to prevent casualties."

"The are still firing."

"Alright, plasma beam ready?"

"Yes captain."

"Then fire at will."

A second later a blindingly bright green beam shot through space and hit one of the bioships. The result was immediate. As soon as the beam hit the ship it was literally pulverized and the beam passed on into space, where it would go on for another ten light-years before the energy behind it had dispersed enough to make it just a harmless ray of light. The shot had been overkill; literally. With the plasma beam being powered by twenty-three of the biggest warp cores to be found in Borg space there had been enough power behind the shot to destroy a star, let alone a bioship. But, the shot had been all about sending a message. And now it was time to send the second message.

"Fire the warhead; let's show them that we still have them."

When the warhead hit the bioship, the vessel shook as if in pain. Which might very well have been the case since the Borg knew that the ships of species 8472 were just as alive as the individuals in those ships. Maybe not sentient, but alive never the less. Then the ship stilled and it was clear that the ship, and its pilot, were dead.

"Open frequencies. Species 8472, Cease fire or two more ships will be destroyed."

"No reply Captain."

"Two more warheads, random small bioship targets."

Moments later Wolkav was addressing their enemy once more.

"Species 8472, Cease fire or we will destroy four of your ships."

Once again there was no response and once again Wolkav was speaking up again. Not much later after four ships had been destroyed.

"Species 8472, Cease fire or we will destroy eight of your ships."

"No response captain. Captain, how often are you going to repeat that message?"

"Until I'm up to telling them that twenty ships will be destroyed. If they still won't answer at that time then I'll tell them that from then on they can contact us if they want to stop us from destroying anymore ships, and that we will continue to fire warheads, one each second. I have a feeling that they think that we only have a limited amount of nanoprobe warheads."

Eight more ships were destroyed and then, much to everyone's surprise, Species 8472 did actually stop firing.

"My Queen?" Wolkav asked since now things had changed from a battle to possible talk.

Seven nodded her head slightly and took a moment to consider her approach. Finally she requested that all frequencies were opened.

"Species 8472, this is One of Many; Queen of Borg. I mourn the losses you just suffered, however you left us no choice. We cannot condone your continued presence in this universe; you have clearly stated that you intend to destroy it."

There was no reaction, but Seven noted that still ships came through the singularity from time to time. Knowing that she could not permit a continuation of buildup of troops she had all frequencies opened once again.

"Species 8472, we cannot condone a further buildup of troops in our universe. Be advised that from now on we will destroy every ship that comes through the singularity; this will include the transport ships. Do not make us do this; for we will."

After yet again a moment of silence, Lachakivediras spoke up. "A ship is leaving one of the transporter ships. Sensors detect four life forms. Sensors also detect no weapons or shields."

Seven lifted an eyebrow at that and looked over at B'Elanna.

"Maybe they want to talk?" B'Elanna guessed.

"They are capable of receiving and understanding our broadcasts, which leads me to assume that they can also send messages. Also, they are telepaths; they could communicate with any of the telepaths to be found on Unimatrix 01," Seven reminded.

"True, but there are no telepaths to be found at the top, a.k.a., us. Maybe they have been trying to get contact with us telepathically and couldn't because they can't connect. So now they decided that they actually need to talk. After all, as the encounter with that group of them that were mimicking Starfleet showed; they know how to talk without using telepathy."

Then B'Elanna admitted, "But, I'm just guessing. There is only one way to find out. Time to try out the negotiation room I would say."

"I would say that you are correct," Seven agreed.

"Alright, beam them aboard," Wolkav ordered.


Chapter 37

The beaming took more than an hour. First the patterns of the four individuals had been stored in four separate transporter buffers that were in no way connected to any other part of the Borg vessel, save the power source and the transporter console. Then security and doctor Lonika had gone over the patterns with a fine tooth comb to see if there was any potential risk or if the individuals might be part of some biological trap. In the end the conclusion had been that they were 'safe.' Which of course still was a relative term.

They still had their immune system that could be used as an attack as well. Just a mere scratch from them could bring their blood cells into a victim's bloodstream and start to attack, and kill, the victim from the inside out. But the Borg nanoprobes new design could handle those, as had been proven when they were used to save Harry Kim when he had been scratched by a member of species 8472 years before.

It was interesting. Species 8472 was apparently immune to assimilation; their blood cells would attack and destroy the nanoprobes. Yet when their blood cells were in the body of another being, nanoprobes were capable of attacking and destroying the blood cells of species 8472. B'Elanna had guessed that it came down to numbers. The nanoprobes and the blood cells of species 8472 were evenly matched, and it was simply that the owner of the body had the advantage of having millions of cells or millions of nanoprobes to fight the invader. While the invading cells or nanoprobes only measured in the hundreds or thousands; until they started to reproduce.

Species 8472 also still had the extremely dense skin and powerful muscles that enabled them to walk through normal force fields, and rip through metal bulkheads. But the Borg had their new shielding system that had been adapted to line the walls, ceiling, and floor of the meeting room, and serve as an invisible barrier to protect the Borg party.

Species 8472 still had the ability to heal within minutes from wounds, and still had claws that could rip through metal... well, at least some of them did, as the tests during beaming had shown.

B'Elanna could understand only too well why the Borg had been, and actually still were, interested in species 8472. They were the true pinnacle of biological evolution. Far advanced of anything the Borg had, despite 'merely' being biological beings. B'Elanna was also struck by how fate had seemed to want to prove Seven and B'Elanna right. For B'Elanna realized, and she knew that the Hive also realized, that if Seven hadn't become the new Queen and hadn't insisted on implementing some changes like the Individualist drones, then the Borg would not have detected species 8472 at that point. They would also not have the new and advanced shields to protect themselves against species 8472, and would never have had the chance they apparently had now; to have a dialogue with species 8472.

B'Elanna looked through the force field shield to the other side of the room and at their 'guests,' and the reason why she had corrected her self to thinking that only some of species 8472 had claws. Apparently, not every member of species 8472 was alike. Oh, there were two as they knew them. Three meters tall, standing on three legs, green, gray, or red skin color; depending on how the light reflected off the skin. They were boney, with some of their skeleton being on the outside to give more protection. B'Elanna knew that those bodies that looked so thin and weak were actually filled on the inside with muscles that were packed with sinews that were actually stronger than Borg implants. And of course there were the eyes; those golden colored eyes with cross shaped pupils.

But the other two had been a surprise. Unlike the first two these two were wearing clothing; something that looked like a simple throw cloak, leaving their feet as bare as their hands and head. One of the two was a golden skinned humanoid woman that was about as tall as B'Elanna and looked surprisingly much like a Bolian woman, including its soft flesh, hair, and clearly a visible swell in the chest area. There were two things that showed that she wasn't a Bolian though. First was the fact that she had a golden skin color instead of the blue skin that the Bolians had. The second was that the ridge that ran across this woman's face split into two parts just above her nose and veered off to the sides creating a Y form. Her hair was also golden colored, if just a shade darker, and had been pulled back into a ponytail that came halfway down her back. Of course, B'Elanna had no way of knowing if this woman was truly a woman, considering that the Borg did know that species 8472 actually had five different sexes.

The last person of the group was a, B'Elanna guessed, man with a red skin and hair color. He also had a humanoid body, but his looked more like the images of the Vorta that Starfleet had sent Voyager, and he was about two meters tall. With him the things that made clear that he wasn't actually a member of the Vorta were the fact that his skin was dark read, with his hair being a shade lighter, and the ridges that made up the Vorta's distinctive ears actually continued on along the cheeks until halfway down his chin. Of course, B'Elanna once again had no idea if he actually was a he.

As she looked at them B'Elanna could have sworn that she was looking at three totally different species. There was only one thing that showed that this was not the case; their eyes. All four of them had the same golden colored eyes with pupils in the shape of a cross. B'Elanna's observation was stopped by the door opening and Seven walking into the room with Pagsha at her side.

For a moment Seven looked at the four royal guards that were in the room besides B'Elanna. She wondered if she should send them out. But she knew that Katzi would object, rightfully so, because there was always the chance that they had missed something, and species 8472 had proven to be able to walk through a force field. Maybe they could do the same thing with a force field they couldn't beam through. Seven was 96% certain they could not, which meant that there was still a chance that they could and that her guard had to be there.

"And?" B'Elanna asked.

Curiosity had driven B'Elanna to go and have a 'peek' at their guests while Seven and Pagsha had talked with the Hive about the suggestion the Hive had brought forth. As soon as the guests had been beamed onboard and the tests had begun, the Hive had spoken up and had noted that telepathic species were quite common, and that they felt that such a species should be represented in the Senior Staff of Unimatrix 01. If for nothing more than to know in situations like the present one if the other side was trying to speak telepathically.

"I could see their point," Seven said, answering the 'and' question. "Yet at the same time I did not want a person to be nothing more than a telepathic receiver for the Senior Staff. I suggested that the highest ranking telepathic councilor for the Individualist drones would be promoted into the Senior Staff. The Hive considered him an adequate choice, so they did not object."

B'Elanna had noticed that the four members of species 8472 had turned to Seven when the blonde walked in, and then all of them had clearly reacted a second time as if seeing something that had totally surprised them.

"You are producing," The red skinned man said amazed.

"And I see that you can actually talk," Seven stated. Then she put her hands on her swollen belly. "And if you mean this, yes, I am pregnant. In three weeks the daughter of my Mate and me will be born and the Royal bloodline will be assured."

She put one of her hands on B'Elanna's shoulder before continuing, "I am One of Many; Queen of Borg. Seven for friend," then a pointed look, "and enemy. This here is my Mate B'Elanna Torres. She is Two of Many; Princess of Borg."

Then she indicated Pagsha. "This is First Officer Pagsha Yahif, assistant and advisor to me and my Mate. And you are?"

"I... I am F'loR FnT, ruler class." Then he indicated the two three legged members of species 8472 in turn and said. "This is Clia'W Ali'R, and Dlk'E Las'tJ, both are Warrior class, and my personal guards."

Lastly he indicated the golden skinned woman. "And this is Si'zaG Fe'R, my maintainer."

"Your maintainer," Seven repeated. "That can be a lot of different things."

"My... controller. My... fixer," F'loR tried. "If it doesn't work, she fix. If it breaks, she fix. If she does her job right, it will not break to begin with."

"Your Engineer," B'Elanna offered, taking the 'she' as an indicator that her guess had been right. The golden skinned person was indeed of the sex considered female; a woman.

The red skinned man pointed at B'Elanna to indicate that her guess had been right, and that this was what he meant. He was clearly startled by the reaction this simple pointing provoked. Suddenly a flash of green light engulfed the four guards for a second before it was gone again, and in the meantime the drones had moved to form a wall before Seven and B'Elanna.

"It is not wise to point at us; you are considered a threat," Seven explained as the guards slowly moved away again, but never deactivating their personal force field armor.

"So are you, a threat, I mean," The red skinned F'loR said. "You killed our ships, our staff."

"We gave you all the chance to prevent that; all you had to do was cease firing on our ships," Seven countered. "Besides, you did the same to us in the past. You destroyed every Borg ship you could find. You are a threat and we cannot let you bring more ships into our universe and destroy it. As a member of your species once said was your intention."

"You tried to assimilate us," F'loR countered on his turn.

"You attacked us when we were exploring fluidic space," Seven countered right back.

"You entered our territory, of course attack we did."

"We did not know it was your territory; you gave no warning."

"All of Fluidic space is our territory."

"Which we did not know." Seven lifted her hand to stop F'loR from speaking up again. "Let us just say that first contact between us was a disaster for which we are both to blame. Even if you had welcomed the Borg with open arms back then, the Borg would still have tried to attack you and assimilate you. I became Queen of Borg exactly one year ago tomorrow. Since that time my Mate and I made many changes. One of those changes is that we no longer assimilate species and force them to become part of the Collective against their will. But when first contact was made between the Borg and you, the old Queen was still alive and she thought that assimilation was the answer to all. So no matter what you would have done, with the biological distinctiveness you have, the Borg would have wanted to add you to the Collective."

Seven could see that F'loR was clearly surprised by her so readily admitting that the Borg had made mistakes. So she continued with the 'but' part. "On the other hand, you could not know this because the first thing you did on seeing Borg ships in fluidic space was open fire. You did not know why the Borg were there. The Borg had no idea about your existence and we only realized that there was life in fluidic space when you attacked. The Borg were exploring a for them new phenomena; fluidic space. Had I been Queen back then and had our new ways already been in affect, you would still have started a war with us. The only reason we are talking now is because now we have the means to protect ourselves against you and kill you if need be. Back then, even with the new Borg mentality you would have set out to kill us all, and might very well have succeeded."

Now Seven saw that F'loR didn't look as confident anymore. Clearly he didn't like hearing that they were to blame as well. "Both sides are to blame for this war between us. Both sides have killed and both sides have had to suffer losses. Now we are talking however, and now is the point where we can either stop the killings, or we go on until one side is no more. Be warned though, if you force me into the position of having such a battle, I assure you; I fully intend it to be your side that is no more in the end."

"You have to let the ships enter," F'loR, suddenly said. "Time is hasty."

"We cannot allow your ships to enter," Seven stated resolutely. "Again, the last thing we know for sure is that your species threatened to destroy all in this universe. Captain Janeway of the starship Voyager might have been able to reach a deal with some of you, but the only thing we know for certain about your plans is that you want to destroy us all. I cannot let you enter more ships that can be used for just that cause."

"That then was, now is now. We don't want to destroy, we need," F'loR started to explain hesitantly.

As she listened to him talking, Seven wondered why his speaking was translated in such a strange way. Then she realized that the biological side was not the only thing advanced with species 8472. Their language was advanced as well, and the translator device build into the meeting room simply had a hard time translating the language and turning it into something Seven could understand.

She wondered why the members of species 8472 they encountered in that Starfleet enactment had been able to talk in what the Voyager crew considered a normal way while now this member could not talk in the same manner. Then she guessed that it was exactly because those other members had been running a simulation. They had also been learning and speaking Federation so that their language would not show that they weren't human. This being clearly had never had that training.

"We need this universe to survive. The other side is dying, you killed. We need to move here where space is empty," F'loR continued to explain.

"Also, other ones, contact with Voyager they had, showed us that not all has to be destroyed. Just have to be prevented from entering our home. But home is now dying, you killed."

Seven frowned and looked at an equally frowning B'Elanna. Both of them were wondering how they could possibly have 'killed' fluidic space.

"We do not understand," Seven finally admitted. "How did we 'kill' your home, why can you no longer live there?"

"You introduced technological disease. It is spreading and stop it we cannot."

"We did not introduce any technological disease," Seven assured. "With the old Queen it was not used because she did not want to kill possible drones, and if they were not suited for drones they were either ignored, or destroyed by using normal plasma cannons to destroy all life on their planet. Presently we do not introduce any diseases because I will not allow it and I see no need for it."

"You used just moments ago, outside," F'loR said, now pointing to one of the walls.

"I think he's talking about the nanoprobes," B'Elanna suddenly said in understanding. "Technological disease... yeah, guess the nanoprobes could be seen as a technological disease; viruses."

Then she looked at F'loR before adding, "Just like your blood cells can be seen as viruses by us. They attack and destroy any body they don't belong to, and the only thing I know of that can stop them is in fact our nanoprobes. But you are wrong, the nanoprobes are no disease. They are small machines that can be used in many ways. Yes, they can be programmed to kill. Yes, they can be used to assimilate someone. But that is not what they were created for. The Borg started using the nanoprobes to assimilate people because it was easy and efficient, but they were already assimilating people long before they acquired the nanoprobe technology. We stopped the involuntary assimilation by the Borg. Nowadays people join the Borg willingly, and most of them opt to take the nanoprobes because of what they can do, not because we force them to. Nanoprobes can stop disease, they can heal wounds, they can neutralize poison. They are a wonderful thing to have, and they protect the drone."

"Then why use as weapon?" F'loR asked.

"Because they were the only thing that could stop you," Seven spoke up. "You saw out there that we have ships that are powerful enough to destroy your ships even if they have their shield at the highest setting, but back then the Borg did not have the shields they have now. If they would have brought those powerful ships in back then, you would have destroyed them long before they could have a true impact on the battle. Your warrior class, why do they not use other weapons in their fights? Why do they only use their claws? You know that your blood cells are lethal to other beings, still your warrior class does all it can to use those blood cells as a weapon. Yet here you are, accusing us of using something as a weapon to fight you. Something that we consider of our body and that we see as fundamentally part of it. Just as your blood cells are of your body. We are very much alike; you just do not like that this time around we have the upper hand because we adapted."

"Our blood cells only active are as long as body of enemy is not dead. When dead, our cells die, not spreading any further. Your nanoprobes, they not die," F'loR accused, wanting to find a difference between what species 8472 did and what the Borg did.

"Normally we can fight off your nanoprobes when they come into our body, without problem. Not these. They enter body, they destroy. They are spreading, producing, killing."

"What do you mean they are spreading?" Seven wondered. "Producing, you asked me before if I was producing; you meant me being pregnant. Are you saying that the nanoprobes are still active and multiplying?"

"Yes. Warriors came back from battle with you victorious. We feel we won that battle; showed you not to come into our home ever again. Some warriors infected they were by you. It did matter not, our bodies were fighting it and it would not be long before they were healed. Not that way it went. Once back home the disease got worse, ferocious, unstoppable. It consumed the bodies of our warriors, but it was not enough for the disease. It spread. Fluidic space not your space is, it is all around us. We live in it, it is against our skin, we breathe it. Your disease... it infected our space itself. It made fluidic space sick, and used it to spread. It is spreading now, using fluidic space. Killing all in it. Flee we must here, but you are stopping our ships."

"Kahless, Seven. I think I understand," B'Elanna said with a sickening feeling. "Those big ships out there aren't filled with troops; they're refugees. Nanoprobes are built to be able to adapt. Assimilate now, heal a wound next, infect a computer and take over a ship next. Normally this is coordinated by the drone. The drone sets the nanoprobes a task and then uses them to do that task, even if that task is outside the body. We, the Individualists have the new nanoprobes, but the old ones couldn't be changed after that last order was given. Once they left the drones body they did what they were programmed to do and then deactivated."

"But those nanoprobes that were used in those first weapons were mine, before the change," Seven said in understanding. "They were more resilient than normal nanoprobes. As F'loR just rightfully pointed out, in fluidic space there is material around that the nanoprobes can use to move around and fulfill the order they had because they were in the weapons; search and destroy."

Then she looked back at F'loR who clearly was the speaker since the others hadn't said a word. Probably because F'loR was of the 'ruler class.'

"I assure you, we had no idea that this would happen. Back when we created those weapons we thought that my nanoprobes were the normal Borg nanoprobes and that they would automatically deactivate after some time. In fact, with the new weapons we used today this could also not have happened because the nanoprobes might be of the new kind, but we added an irreversible shutdown command to their programming. They become inactive thirty minutes after the weapon is activated. Again, the truth is, the previous Queen would have been glad to hear that our nanoprobes are destroying you and forcing you here. But that was then and I am now. Believe me, a continued destruction is the last thing I want. How bad is the situation over there?"

F'loR thought for a moment before admitting, "Bad it is. Thousands of home places are unlivable because the nanoprobes have infested fluidic space there. We lucky are now. We still have ships to flee, take ours and leave the home places. But there have been instances where ships didn't arrive soon enough. Thousands are no more. Soon all ships will be in use to flee, and not all will be able to come with us. Millions will die, then billions, then we are no more. We need to come here before nanoprobes spread throughout fluidic space."

"Or we need to stop the nanoprobes," Seven corrected.

"You can?" F'loR asked amazed, only to then ask, "You will?"

"We can, and I will," Seven assured before addressing the Hive. "Hive, I am about to do something you will not like."

{Our Queen is placing herself in unnecessary danger,} The Hive reacted, knowing what Seven meant.

{We are destroying species 8472.}

{We did not want their destruction.}

{We wanted their biological and technological distinctiveness to be added to our own.}

{We have the tactical advantage, we should not surrender that.}

{The continued existence of species 8472 is irrelevant.}

{The continued existence of species 8472 is not irrelevant.}

{Their biological and technological distinctiveness should be ensured so that it can de added to the Collective at a later date.}

{Our Queen wants us to change.}

{With change comes risk.}

{We have to adapt to where we do not only evaluate the level of risk in a situation, but also if we nevertheless want to take that potential risk despite the level of it.}

{We do not know if we want to take this risk.}

{Then we should trust in our Queen.}

{Our Queen's choices have proven beneficial until now.}

{The decision is yours, our Queen.}

"You talk to them, they have say?" F'loR asked when the Hive stopped talking.

"We are moving them in that direction," Seven agreed. "It is an ongoing process. They were used to having a Queen that was in total control. Then they forced me to become their Queen when the old Queen got herself killed. At that point the Borg were making decisions for themselves even though they did not realize it. Even though those decisions were about not letting me do certain things. My Mate and I decided to go from there. We felt that the Borg should have a say about their own fate. We are striving to reach a state where it is an equal sharing; where the Queen focuses on specific situations, like I am now, and where the Borg do the every day things. We would like an ongoing situation where the Queen and the Collective coexist and enhance each other without the one trying to truly and totally control the other."

"You produce. Borg do not produce, they take."

"We did, and we still do," Seven agreed. "The difference is that we now 'take' only people that want to join the Collective. We realized that we had the ability to help people with personal needs and could ask something in return. For instance, give the ability to walk again to someone that lost that ability. We help them out and in return we expect a limited time of service in the Collective. It is working, we are actually adding more people to the Collective than we did before through forced assimilation. Of course, the numbers will decline slightly again when people that served the agreed upon time leave the Collective again."

"But some might not want to leave," F'loR said in understanding. "People needing help are often the outcasts, the ones that have home none. If given new home for some time, they might find they like and they might want to stay."

"We are hoping they will," Seven agreed. "But we are no longer forcing them. Another way to ensure numbers is to allow people that want to, to have children. Families with children will live on Unimatrix 01 and will have a home here. Children will grow up in the Collective and to them it is only normal that Unimatrix 01 is home. Eventually they themselves have children and numbers are ensured from family, not from force. The same will happen on other Borg ships, starbases, and planets."

"Force. You say they forced you, you not want to be Queen?"

"Yes and no," Seven said, thinking about it for a moment. "No, I did not want to be Queen. I was happy on Voyager; it was my home. But the Borg left me little choice. Come back or Voyager would be destroyed. I could not let my friends die, so I agreed to come back to the Borg. It was my Mate that made me see that maybe this was not as bad as it seemed. She reminded me that as Queen of the Borg I could do things that none other could do; I could change the Borg."

Seven indicated the four people opposite of her. "Move the Borg to where we are talking to species 8472, not mercilessly killing them because now we can. Once I did not like to be Queen, now I like to be Queen because of the changes I can make, but I do not want to be Queen just to be Queen."

"Siill we are, not species 8472. Please, stop nanoprobes, talk we can more then, now time is hurrying."

"You are correct. I do hope that you are sincere when you say we will talk more, but right now we have to enter fluidic space. I will deactivate the force field that separates us, please do not make any irrational choices. My Mate and I have an active transporter lock on us, and sensors set to trigger automatically. If any of you comes closer than ten centimeters to either of us, my Mate and I will be automatically transported to sickbay. Do not destroy the chance for a peaceful end to our conflict."

A mere moment later there was a green haze between both parties as the force field was deactivated and then the moment of trust started. When after ten seconds no attack had occurred, Seven spoke up again.

"We will lead you to the bridge, please be advised that talking to me in the corridors will be of no use since there are no translator devices installed there. I will be able to understand you once more on the bridge."

At the door there was a little bit of a holdup when it came to who would go first and who would be in the back. In the end Seven and B'Elanna went first, followed by their four guards, on their turn followed by the two humanoid Siill and then the two Siill warriors.


Chapter 38

"They act separately, like you," F'loR said when he had taken a look around the bridge and the people there.

"They are the Senior staff of Unimatrix 01; another change we implemented. They are not connected to the Hive as such, but they can connect with the Hive mind with nothing more than giving a mental command. They also join the Hive again when they regenerate."

Well, most of them did anyway. Seven was still not finished with her talk with Anidan.

"We are about to enter fluidic space," Captain Wolkav pointed out.

"Do your people know why we are going into fluidic space?" Seven asked while looking at F'loR. "I do not want this situation to escalate because of a misunderstanding."

"They know all we talked here," F'loR assured, confirming Seven's suspicion that he had been in telepathic contact with the others of the Siill.

"In that case," Wolkav said, "Helm, take us in; full impulse."

Moments later the view on the viewscreen changed to show the green/brown haze that was the color of fluidic space. In that haze there were hundreds of ships waiting of various types.

"They the ones that arrived after you stopped us form leaving our home," F'loR explained.

"Send the signal," Seven merely commanded. Moments later a deactivation signal was sent over the Borg communication wave.

"That it is?" F'loR asked, not believing that it could be this simple.

"That is it," Seven agreed, before adding. "Of course, for us it is easy, for you it is impossible. You need to have a Borg communication wave transmitter, which you do not have. You would need to know which exact signal to send or else you might make the situation worse than it already was. For instance by giving the command for the nanoprobes to reproduce at twice the speed they are now. And lastly, you need a ship that has a transmitter as powerful as the one Unimatrix 01 has. Unimatrix 01 is considered the home of the Borg, and therefore has the strongest transmitter possible. A transmitter that can still contact a drone halfway across the galaxy if need be; our galaxy. Because of this the signal could reach all of your space at once. A normal Borg cube would have to travel through your space for about a week to send the signal throughout all of fluidic space. The nanoprobes have now been deactivated. I admit that they can be reactivated again with another signal, but I give you my word that we will not send that signal. But just for your own ease of mind I would suggest you build a device that can filter the nanoprobes out of your space, or allow our ships to do it."

"You would remove them and nothing else do?" F'loR asked.

"We would," Seven assured. "I cannot tell you that I am sorry that the weapons were used back then; I would do it again right now. You were attacking us and we defended ourselves. But I can tell you that if I had been in control back then and had I known that the nanoprobes would continue to do damage in fluidic space, I would have sent the signal to deactivate the nanoprobes, once you retreated. We admire your biological distinctiveness; we do not want to see destroyed what we admire. But we sill defend ourselves, with all means."

"You say this ship is home of the Borg. Yet you brought it here help us to. You brought your home to save our. Maybe you are right. Maybe this new Borg way needs interest. We talk now?"

"I would really like that. Would you object if we moved back to our universe?" Seven asked. "We cannot hear the voices of the others here, and the drones on my ship are becoming restless."

"We can move back," F'loR assured. "They here can still hear me if I'm there. Maybe it is for the better. If you cannot hear the other voices, then they cannot know if their Queen is alright. We must go back to show them."

The trip back was just as uneventful as the trip into fluidic space and soon F'loR spoke up again and asked, "Now we talk?"

"Now we talk," Seven agreed. "Please, follow me to the conference room. It is right through that door."

"No force fields there?" F'loR asked.

"No, but we did already tell you some of our security measures. Believe me, there are many more."

Not long later five of them were sitting at the conference room table. Seven B'Elanna, and Pagsha on one side with the four Royal guards standing behind them and F'loR and the golden skinned Si'zaG on the other side with their warriors standing behind them.

"Why bring a maintainer?" B'Elanna asked curious, it was as good an opening question as any. "The warriors I get, they are guards, but an engineer?"

"Maintainers are versatile. They almost are as strong and deadly as our warriors, but not have they the drive to fight. We four, we are the formation of my ship. A ship needs a maintainer unless it is a fighter ship. So maintainer I have with me. You beamed us on board, you made the choice to take her as well. I glad though, she is giving me good advice. Her eyes have taken in many an interesting thing on your ship. Her feet in contact were with the force field armor we walked on in other room. She has ideas. She thinks neutralize it we can. I think she is right. I also think that maybe it might needed not be. We talk now, then we see. Why you want us?"

Seven connected with the Hive for a moment and then looked at the small view screen to the side that now showed the Omega molecule. "You know what that is?"

F'loR looked at the screen for a moment before saying, "Looks like energy particle. We have many of it. We use them in our ships and energy sources. We have areas in our space where we cannot travel through; too many of energy particles there. But we go there and harvest the energy particles. It's alright, they grow back."

"The Omega molecule exists in a natural state with you?" Seven said in a surprised whisper. "It is stable there and can be used?"

"Yes, of course. Is that not why you showed me, to explain what you wanted? Is that why you want us, so that you know how to use without danger, so that you can get energy particle from our space?"

"We did not even know it existed there," Seven said in a stronger voice. "We have never been able to get the Omega molecule stable for longer than a few seconds. The reason why I showed you this is because I wanted to show you how perfect the molecule is."

"We know, we have," F'loR stated confused.

"And we do not have it," Seven explained. "To us, to the Borg, this is perfection. The Borg strive for perfection and see the Omega molecule as the pinnacle of perfection. Then we came across your species, and now the Borg know two kinds of perfection. You are, in the mind of the Borg, the pinnacle of biological perfection. That is why the Borg want you. Your technological distinctiveness is interesting and the Borg would really like to have that knowledge, but it is not a need. As you saw, we now moved to where we ourselves adapt our own technology. Having your technology would be interesting, but today showed that we do not need it to survive. Your biological distinctiveness however... the Borg want that because to them it is perfection. The Borg strive for perfection, and you are it. They want it, they want you."

"Why do you have different forms?" B'Elanna asked, curiosity getting the better of her. "Your eyes tell me that you are from the same species, yet your bodies are so different."

"It is how the Planner makes us. We have many classes, over six hundred. We are born and then change to having the looks and needs of a class. I was born and changed to ruler class; I nothing else want. My warriors were born and changed into warrior class, they cannot understand why I like being ruler class, they not want."

"And what exactly is a ruler class? You tell people what to do?" Pagsha asked.

"Depend on how high one is in position. Some of the ruler class command whole sectors of our space while others only command a four person ship. I one of those be. We were sent to you because my group was considered expendable if your actions were no good. Figured that since our ship is still young and therefore has no weapons and shields yet that our unprotected ship would be destroyed in battle anyway. Why not risk and send over?"

"I think their ruler class is more like the commanding structure. Kinda like everything from kings and Queens down to governmental desk jobs rolled into one," B'Elanna said in understanding. "It's all 'ruler class,' just that some have more to say than others."

"Yes," F'loR agreed after hearing the translation and finding that it was to his liking. "Others can order too if need be, but if they are not of ruler class then they don't strive for it. Take my maintainer. I told you she is almost just as strong and deadly as one of my warriors, she just doesn't have the drive to fight. She can, she will if need be, but she will not be sad if she not fight. Same with ruling. She can make choices, she can tell others what to fix, but she does not have the drive to want to make those choices like I have it. The Planner makes us such. Younglings are all produced the same. Then the Planner looks what we need the most and makes the changes to the youngling. Grow a third leg for secure standing for warriors, claws to fight with. Very strong hand and finger muscles for maintainers so that they can fix without needing tools for every small thing. The Planner decides. The youngling of two ruler class can turn into a warrior or a maintainer, and other way as well. When my warriors here find Mates and produce, their youngling can turn out to be a warrior like them, or a ruler like me, or a creator like our mother."

"You are related?" B'Elanna asked amazed.

"We four are of the same father and mother, yes. Mother is a creator, father a maintainer. It is how they met. Father was appointed to maintain the machine my mother created."

"Maybe the second names they gave before aren't last names, or they use the last names differently," Pagsha pointed out, thinking that the last names the Siill had given were what had indicated to B'Elanna that the four were not related.

"Deferent species, different ways to use names. Look at Katzi; she has no last name at all; she is Katzi of Erdania Village."

"Our second names are given by our parents," F'loR explained. "Father gives one name, mother gives other name. Children choose in which order to use the names. Planner decided long ago that this should be so."

"Who is this planner?" Seven asked. "Your highest ruler class?"

"No. Planner is much higher than rulers. Planner created fluidic space for us. He brought the first of our species there many time ago. He changed us into the classes we now have. He was long before we were."

"I think this Planner is their equivalent of a god," B'Elanna guessed. "Just like here in our universe you have people that believe in gods and say that those gods created the universe. The Siill seem to believe something like that as well. This god also seems to decide what class a new baby is going to be. Whether it truly is a god or simply genetics is open for discussion. In any case, this class system also explains why their DNA is so complex. They have all the information stored in there to create over six hundred different forms and shortly after birth one of those forms is 'set' for the child to grow up as."

"I am curious," Seven said thoughtfully. "You said that that Planner created fluidic space for you and brought your ancestors there. Does this mean that there are no other species to be found in fluidic space?"

"No other evolved life at all. Only other life there are our ships that we grow, and the plants that we use for eating and making clothes," F'loR explained.

"It has become a problem of late. For long we didn't know any better; fluidic space was all that existed. Then others came in, long before you did. We fought them off, just, and Planner created a new class to protect us. He created the warriors, and our creator class made the ships for the warriors to use. Others came again and we took care of them. Then you came, we took care of you too. But our warriors and our ships followed you out here. We now know there is more. You are correct, the first reaction was to destroy this universe; it is where threats come from. But we tested after that battle. Some brave warriors ventured out. Some never came back; others came back with interesting stories. We now know there is much here. Interesting things. Other than just fluidic space. Some of us want to see. Some don't want to leave fluidic space, some really want. It doesn't matter which class they are from. It seems half want to go, half want to stay. I think it is Planner at work. I think that he wants us to leave our safe haven and go out, and at the same time leave enough of us behind to keep fluidic space alive and prosper. As I said, a problem it is. Stay or go? It seems that you made the choice for us. You are not allowing us to leave fluidic space. So stay we must. But it will create tension. Some will say that if the Planner gave us this urge to go, we should go. It might bring war. War with you because you prevent us going. Or war inside between those that want to go and those that want to stay."

"We are not preventing you from leaving fluidic space, as such," Seven disagreed. "We prevented you from leaving fluidic space and bring more ships to what could have been a potential war. We are not the owners of this entire universe; we merely live in it and call a part of it ours because we live there. As long as you are not a threat to us you can leave fluidic space and settle somewhere in this universe."

"You would allow this?"

"With some safeguards in place, yes," Seven assured. "You can be a threat to us, and we would make sure that you cannot harm us. Maybe a compromise can be reached. For instance, there are many uninhabited planets in Borg space. You could settle on one of those planets and not take your weapons with you. We would protect the planet, and you, because it is inside Borg space. I would agree to this because without your weapons you are not a threat to us."

"One planet would not be enough," F'loR pointed out. "There are many billions of us in fluidic space, and half of those many billions want to leave. One planet too small would be."

"Giving you more territory would however create a risk," Seven countered. "With more territory we would have more problems with monitoring if you are not creating weapons in secret. You would also have a too concentrated amount of warriors in one place that you could use to start an attack."

"We could settle outside Borg space," F'loR pointed out.

"That is also an option," Seven agreed. "However, we would still insist that you do not build an army larger than is needed for protection of your new territory. We would also insist on ongoing controls to see if you are arming yourself in a measure only needed for a war. We have to make sure that you do not become a threat to us again."

"So we have the same problem again," F'loR said. "We cannot settle somewhere without being a threat, yet if we settle not we are a threat because we are too concentrated for your liking and still weapons have."

"You are correct," Seven agreed. Then an idea came to her and she smiled. "Maybe I know a different solution. Allow me to tell you a story about a species of warrior women called the Zamonan."

"You would have what you wanted anyway; us," F'loR said.

"We would," Seven agreed. "Something I would call a convenient side effect. Right now the Borg are in a position where we could take what we want. We could take over your ships, or we could start destroying them until you give in and hand over your technology and a certain amount of your people. We could, but we do not. However, that does not mean that we are no longer interested in your species being part of the Collective. The important part is that we can help each other. We would be getting a steady supply of the Omega molecule, combined with your knowledge on how to keep it stable and use it safely. The molecule would only be harvested in such an amount that you still have enough for your own use and then we take the rest that can be taken without disturbing the re-growth balance. This will ensure an ongoing and indefinite natural reproduction of the molecule that is so useful to both our species."

"And in return?" F'loR asked.

"In return you get goods that cannot be found in fluidic space," Seven explained. "Yes, we would get your biological distinctiveness in the Collective, but on the other hand your species would be traveling all through Borg space as Individualist drones. Or groups of those Individualist drones might want to settle on any of our planets. The members of your species that want to leave fluidic space get what they want; to see things. The Borg get what they want; your biological and technological distinctiveness added to their own. And just as important, because those people of your species regenerate and join the Hive mind, trust continues to exist between our species. You will know if we had any ulterior motives, just like we would know if you are trying to do something... unwise."

"We are not compatible with your nanoprobes," F'loR pointed out.

"As I said before, the people that join the Collective now do not always get the nanoprobes. Let me elaborate on that. People can choose what work they want to do for the Collective, if there is room for them in that direction. Their choice might warrant certain implants; tools needed to do that job. If they do not want those implants they cannot do that job. They are free to also take certain other implants that they do not need for the job but what they would still like to have. That choice is up to them; within limits. Then there is also your biological distinctiveness. You would not need the nanoprobes because in your body they would be less efficient than your own blood cells already are. It would however mean that your species would not be suited for certain jobs where the nanoprobes are part of the job. For instance, we have certain drones that make micro-repairs using nanoprobes as a tool; your species would not be suited for that job."

"Limit us this would," F'loR noted.

"Every single person in the Collective is limited in certain ways," Seven said, agreeing, but immediately explaining why. "Even I myself as Queen of the Borg am still limited. There are certain jobs in the collective that I can never do because my body is not suited for it, like working in a cyanide gas environment to name just one. So in that regard you would be no different than any other species in the Collective; there are some jobs you cannot do."

Seeing that F'loR accepted that explanation, Seven continued with what she had been explaining before. "There are some implants we do insist on for every drone, which would then include your species, but those implants are very limited in number. For the rest we insist on certain things for certain drones that do certain jobs. It would be up to your people as individuals to see for themselves if they want to do that job and undergo the modifications needed. For all drones we insist that they get a communication device implanted, even telepaths like your species. If for nothing more than that this device has a far greater range than telepathy does and that it is needed to address the computer units we use on our ships. We also insist that the individuals regenerate at certain intervals and join the Hive at those times. At those times the mind of the individual will also be scanned to see if there are dangerous thoughts that we cannot allow in our Individuals drones, for instance, you planning to infiltrate the Borg and destroy us from within. Only if something like that were to be found would your people stay under the control of the Borg until we can safely take care of the problem."

"Take care of problem by killing person," F'loR stated.

"No, we would take care of the problem by removing that person from the Collective, and Borg space, at a convenient point. And even then we are only talking about this one individual. We do not kill people for plans or actions they are thinking of but did not yet commit. We do however act and remove those individuals before they can put their thoughts into practice."

"The Zamonan, their territory yours became. Fluidic space is ours and will stay ours."

"We don't want fluidic space as our territory," Seven assured. "The Zamonan opted to join the Borg Collective with their territory as well because of the simple reason that we protect our space. By adding their territory to ours it became a part of space that we would protect, if need be with just as big a force as the one we brought here today. You are however not the Zamonan, you do not just live in an area of space so small that it is passed by within minutes while traveling at warp. You have weapons to defend yourself; you can take care of your own protection. Sending Borg cubes here to protect your territory would be a useless waste of resources since you are already protecting that area. Having said that, we, the Borg new style as you called it before, do not turn our backs on our allies if they are in need of help. As long as we are allies, I promise you that when you ever need it, we will offer our full support. Be it technological help, or help in the form of ships to fight an enemy... as long as you did not start the war for no reason."

"Ah, stipulations you have."

"Yes I do," Seven agreed. "Again, the previous encounter between us is a good indication. You attacked first and without giving the Borg the chance to peacefully move out of your territory, in such a situation we would not help you fight that war. But as I stated before, the Borg, then, would have attacked you regardless. Had you offered the Borg to leave your territory again and they had attacked you, in such a case we would offer all the help we can."

"I think that this joining the Hive mind is not enough of an assurance. We would want to monitor as individuals. Hearing what the others think, how sincere you are in your actions, good it is. But more is needed. We would have to monitor and think at that time as well."

"Well," B'Elanna spoke up, "We opened up representative buildings on Zamona and the other planets they control. You're a much bigger party, in number of individuals and certainly in regards to power. Power wise we're evenly matched. This time around the Borg were lucky and had new shielding, you already hinted that you think that you can neutralize that. If there was going to be a next battle we might be the losing side then. I for one think that such an important partner should have the privilege of having a representative right here on Unimatrix 01. You could have an ambassador of sorts here. Someone that does nothing more than monitor and observe. Someone that joins the Collective and hears their thoughts, and when not connected looks and monitors if our actions still meet the approval of your species."

"A good suggestion," Seven agreed. Then she looked at the golden skinned woman besides F'loR for a moment before asking, "Tell me, your maintainer, you said that she does not prefer to give orders, but that she could if need be. Could she, or someone like her, be in control of a department that maintains? A department that does scheduled maintenance cycles. For instance, to test a console once every month to see if it is still working as it should?"

"Yes. That is part of what they are. You not have to be a ruler class for that. Ruler class has to make choices on whether or not something has to be done. Once that choice is made, maintainer class then sees to it that it is done right. Choices about when something has to be fixed is part of the job, maintainer class don't mind. It's part of the job and they like it. But choices on if something should be fixed or leave and focus on something else, if new technology should be used, how many maintainers are needed on a ship. Those are choices they don't like, those are ruler class choices."

"In that case, you saw the Senior Staff we have. They are individuals, they work close to me. They are the Senior Staff on this ship, but they are also often the people that I turn to for input on matters that affect the entire Borg Collective. Just like changing the Borg is a work in process, so is the Senior Staff. Only moments before we met face to face the first time a new member was added to the Senior Staff. A telepath because this situation showed us that we needed someone in the Senior Staff with telepathic abilities. It just so happens that I could also use someone with a maintainer mentality in my Senior Staff. If you find someone that meets the demands I have for such a person then you could have the ambassador my Mate just suggested, and also have eyes and ears in the senior staff of Unimatrix 01; home of the Borg. Someone that speaks up when the Queen of Borg asks her Senior Staff for advice, someone that actually has an indirect say in things that affect the entire Borg Collective. The choice is yours, of course, but since you four were deemed expendable, maybe you could find a home here on Unimatrix 01. You as ambassador for your people, your warriors as your guards if you think you need them, or as part of the security detail we are creating. And your sister here could then stay as part of the Senior Staff of Unimatrix 01. If she is suited for the job of course, and if your people do not insist on other people for those positions."

"My people find your proposition interesting. My... sister, you call, she is suited if the job you are thinking of consist out of maintaining existing things here on the ship. Learn those things first she must of course."

"Of course," Seven agreed. "But this will not be a problem. As soon as she joined the Hive fully for the first time, she will know all what the others know, including how the things we have operate."

"My warriors, you talk about security? Yours?"

"Also," Seven said. "These four guards here are the Royal Guard. They are responsible for the security of me, my Mate, and our daughter. But four people are not always enough. In unsecured situations more people are needed. Until recently random drones were selected for that. But two months ago we set up a new department; security. Now we have, and are training, drones that are specifically designed and trained for guard duty. Now we call on security if more than our four guards are needed. If your warriors have the right mentality and can be trusted to also work for us when they are not connected to the Hive mind, they could be considered for guards. There is something to be said for having guards that are immune to beam weapons, that can walk through force fields, and can rip through metal with their bare hands."

"You would let our warriors help in protecting the Queen of Borg," F'loR asked, surprised that Seven would trust so much the same beings that had once said they wanted to destroy the Borg.

"Certainly," Seven assured, before adding, "After they regenerated for the first time and their mind was scanned. If they made it into security after that, I know that I can trust them with my life and the life of my Mate and daughter."

"As I said, interesting proposition you have."

"And how does that interesting proposition translate into action from your side?" Pagsha asked.

"Not yet known that is," F'loR said after a moment of silence. Then he suggested, "Since the four of us are here, can we try this regenerating without being part of Borg yet? I believe that the joining of our minds, to see without restriction, is what we need to make the final choice."

"That is possible," Seven assured. "I do find that I have to point out one thing though. If you regenerate, the Borg will know all that is in your mind. We would know about your technological distinctiveness. We would know the weak points of those technological systems."

"I appreciate that you point out this. It is risk worth taking. Right now, as you said, you can also take with force, or kill enough of us until we give. Might as well join the Hive and you know that way. Besides, does it not go both ways? You just said my sister would know how to fix your technology once she joined the minds. You know about our technology, and we will know about yours. As soon as we end regenerating we will know how to bypass or deactivate your new shields."

"That is correct," Seven had to agree.

"Well then, the results will be easy to see by my people. If we come out of regenerating, you and the rest of Borg can be trusted. If we are not let out of regenerating you have things to hide from my people."

"That is one way of looking at it," Seven said, agreeing. "Very well, if you want to join the Hive mind, would you follow me to a place where you four can do this?"


Chapter 39

The reign of One of Many, née Annika Hansen; Queen of Borg.

Year 00, Month 12, Day 01, Hour 23, Minute 44.

Sitting in the living room of their quarters, Seven glanced up to see B'Elanna still watching her.

"You are doing it again," She mildly accused as she put the PADD she had been reading down.

"How long?" B'Elanna asked a little sheepishly.

"6.4 minutes since I noticed," Seven said with a tolerant smile. "You have an internal chronometer just like me; you should know."

B'Elanna got up from the table and moved to Seven's side. Knowing what came next, the blonde willingly let herself be helped to her feet so that they could move to the couch to do some serious snuggling.

It had not been the first time that B'Elanna had been caught staring at her Mate. She stared at her often actually. Pretty much from the first time they admitted that they were in love and B'Elanna could get away with so openly looking at the blonde. Sometimes she looked because she simply couldn't believe that this gorgeous woman was her Mate. Sometimes because Seven was very capable of turning the Klingon on simply by moving, or licking her lips, or... Sometimes because Seven amazed her by the sheer number of tasks she was doing at the same time. B'Elanna had long since decided that Seven was not just the Borg Queen; she was also the Queen of multitasking.

But the last few weeks there had been a different kind of staring. The closer Seven came to giving birth, the more B'Elanna sometimes simply stared at her because she was seeing the most incredible person in the universe, who happened to be carrying their baby around.

B'Elanna was glad that they had taken Lonika's suggestion on how to impregnate Seven. Because to B'Elanna there was not even a shred of doubt that she was truly and fully the other parent of Vasha. She had been the one that had made love to Seven, she had been the one that impregnated her Mate with her own DNA. She. She never used the word because it sounded oh so wrong to her, but in her mind she truly had 'fathered' their child, which was the result of their love for each other.

Once they were comfortably sitting on the couch, B'Elanna admitted, "Internal chronometer or not, you simply make me lose track of time."

Then she winked. "Besides, for me to know how long I was staring at you, I would first have to mark the point where I start, which would mean that I would notice that I started. Therefore I cannot mark when I start looking at you without noticing that I start looking at you; it's one of those paradox thingies that you like so much my Princess."

"Logic deduction coming from a Klingon, the universe must be ending."

"Which one?" B'Elanna countered. "If that theory is correct then there must be trillions of alternative universes out there. Hell, we're creating more with every choice we make. Maybe it's a good thing that I end a few by doing things that must mean that a universe is ending."

"I see that the scientific reports are actually becoming of interest to you now," Seven noted.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," B'Elanna disagreed. "They're still boring as hell. It's just that now that I have that cranial implant regulating the information flow and storage in, and to, my brain, I now actually understand what the words mean."

She grinned before admitting. "Of course, my brain is still no match for your wonderful brain, but it does help."

"You must keep in mind that the fact that my brain makeup is different than most Humans is the very reason that I was selected as a replacement drone for the old Queen," Seven reminded. "Even with all the technology the Borg have they cannot change a brain to where it matches mine unless nature already prepared the brain. They can enhance brains, but not create a better design, so to speak."

Seven put her hands on her belly before reminding softly, and a bit sad, "Vasha will have my brain makeup. At least for the most."

B'Elanna kissed her before leaning forward and placing a kiss on the belly as well. "It's that 'the most' that counts. Seven, with the nanoprobes picking and choosing what they want from both our DNA, I knew up front that Vasha would have your brains. I didn't mind, I think you have a good set of gray cells up there. But I admit that I was very happy to find that for a few areas of the brain they actually went with my Klingon DNA. It'll make Vasha's personality a mix between yours and mine; not a mere copy of you. She'll be a new person, down to her character."

"And I admit that I was surprised to find out that the Borg actually preferred your Klingon stubbornness over my,"

"Human stubbornness," B'Elanna interrupted playfully. "Actually, if you think about it, it does make sense. Klingons are damn stubborn, yes. But a ruler needs that as well. But more importantly, despite being stubborn, Klingons are in general able to listen to reason. Just that too often their upbringing makes them make stupid choices for things like false, or misplaced, honor. With us teaching Vasha honor, but not having to stick to the elaborate crap like children having to carry on doing things, or suffering, because of what long dead grandparents once did, she'll grow up to be someone that makes a point and sticks to it. Unless good arguments can persuade her otherwise. At least I hope."

"We will see," Seven could only say. "The future will be interesting."

"It will," B'Elanna agreed. She moved until her head was resting on the swollen belly.

"Am I okay like this?" She asked, not wanting to hurt her lover.

"You are," Seven assured.

After a moment of comfortable silence, B'Elanna asked, "Alright, I think I'm ready now. When I got my implants I had to get the cranial implant as well because it basically regulates all other implants. You said I would notice changes, but that my personality wouldn't change; you were right. Now that I'm finally over actually having them, and am used to some of the neat things they enable me to do, please explain their workings to me. Starting with the cranial implant."

"You could check for yourself," Seven said amused. "You just need to link to the Hive,"

"Seven," B'Elanna playfully growled, only to feel movement under her chin. "Oh, she liked that."

B'Elanna growled again, drawing it out and then softening into a purr. There was more movement. She pulled up Seven's shirt until she could place her mouth against Seven's warm skin before speaking. Purring and rumbling as much as she could.

"Seven, I'm getting used to using those implants, but to actually connect not just to the Collective, but directly to the Hive mind, it still scares me a little. So humor me and explain it to me in ways that make it sound great to me instead of me hearing a cold description down to the last boring detail."

"Very well," Seven relented. "Let me see if I can explain this to you in a way where you will not only understand it, but even think that it is 'cool', as you like to say."

B'Elanna grinned. "Good luck."

"See the brain of most Humanoids as a computer unit. Now, the actual computer unit itself has only a very limited amount of storage space; only one data crystal. That crystal is used for basic functions that you normally do not have to think of, like breathing and walking. There the cranial implant comes in by making it possible to actually access that information. For instance, you need to breathe, and depending on what you do you automatically breathe faster or slower. The cranial implant makes it possible for you to also decide not to breathe for a certain amount of time and instead shut off oxygen supply to areas of the body that do not need that oxygen that badly."


"So, since you are not yet willing to connect to the Hive to find out how to do this, I might need to train you, but you are now capable of holding your breath for up to fifteen minutes without suffering brain damage. Though you might feel some other discomfort for as long as your nanoprobes need to repair potential damage."

"So you're saying I can hold my breath longer than normal if need to, but only really do it if need be because otherwise I might have, say a stomach ache for a day because my intestines were deprived of the oxygen that they too need, just not as bad as my brain?"

"That is a good analogy," Seven agreed. "Another thing you will be able to do now is place yourself into a deep coma that shuts off all of the body and only barely keeps you alive. This will enable you to, for instance, prolong your life if critically wounded. Now, as I said, this part has to do with that one data storage crystal."

"Still talking figuratively of course," B'Elanna reminded, mostly to show that she was still following the explanation.

"Indeed. But continuing figuratively, the rest of the brain exists out of one thousand data crystals that are pretty much used in the same way as you normally use your PADDs. Meaning, the ones you use the most often or have data that is extremely important to you are kept within easy range. Those are the things you easily remember. Like for instance my name and endearments you use for me."

"I see where you're going," B'Elanna interrupted. "Just like I have those PADDs, I also have PADDs that I hardly use and where it sometimes takes me ten minutes or so just to find that damn PADD that I 'think' holds the info I need."

"And that is where the cranial implant comes in. What it basically does is to establish a direct link between the main computer unit and every single data crystal so that you can access that information just as fast as that main crystal. However, it is not practical for you to basically think all your knowledge at the same time all the time; your brain would overheat, so to speak. So the cranial implant also catalogues just where in your brain information is stored. You still have several data crystals that are used for information that is very important to you so that you can remember that within one nanosecond if need be, but do not think it all the time if you do not need it. But if the information is not stored there than the cranial implant basically sends a 'query all' command to all data crystals at the same time so that most of the time the information is found within seconds at most instead of minutes, hours, or days as it is now sometimes."

"That does sound kinda cool," B'Elanna had to admit. "So does that mean that I have instant recall and a photographic memory like you now? I do know that I'm remembering more than I did before."

"Close, but no. Where I have instant recall from nature, you do not. But you are now very close. But there might still be occasions where you actually need to think for a few minutes because, to keep using the comparison, the information was stored on the data crystal that was considered the least important and most rarely used and therefore even though it too responded to the 'query all' command, its information was assessed as last. But for most you might almost call it instant recall because most things will come to you within five seconds or less."

"I'll settle for that," B'Elanna said, liking the sound of that. There had been more occasions than she liked to admit where she had thought about something for days; knowing that the knowledge was somewhere in her mind, but that it just wouldn't come to her.

"You will also not have a photographic memory," Seven continued. "You will still be able to forget things, and you still need time to digest new things you learned. However, before, you could forget something in the way that the information was still in your mind, but you just could not access it. That is now no longer possible. Now you can only forget something if the information has left your mind. So now you know for a fact that if you cannot think of information in ten minutes at most, then it is no longer in your mind and you need to look it up again."

"Hmm, you're right. That's kinda cool too," B'Elanna agreed. "At least now when I don't remember something I don't have to keep trying and rack my brain to see if I don't know it after all. If I don't know I don't know, period. I like that. Now, the cranial implant also regulates the implants?"

"It does. However, as far as that is concerned it would be for the best if you simply ignore that."

B'Elanna chuckled. "I can't believe that you just told me to simply ignore something. But, um, why?"

"Because of how the implant is designed," Seven explained. "Tell me, do you feel your heart right now? Or your liver, or your eyes for that matter? Hopefully not, because these parts of the body are designed by nature in such a way that you only feel them if there is something wrong with them. In that regard the cranial implant functions in much the same way. It regulates your implants but you do not feel it. However, if there is something wrong with an implant the cranial implant sends the information to your brain for you to notice. Even if you do not actually feel the implant, you will suddenly know for sure that, for instance, the production of your nanoprobes has stopped. You will also know what should be done to rectify the problem, and how long it will be before this situation endangers you."

B'Elanna thought about that for a moment. While doing so she moved away only to turn and lay back down with her head on Seven's stomach, this time while facing the blonde.

"Do not suffocate," Seven said amused.

Knowing only too well what her Mate meant, B'Elanna kissed one of the blonde's breasts. "I always loved the fact that you have big breasts, but I think that you're overdoing it a bit now baby."

"Funny. For your information, it is normal for breasts to get bigger during pregnancy. And it is also normal for women to hold back on giving their partners the pleasure of sex for all the mistakes they made during said pregnancy. That remark just cost you a week of no touching my breasts."

"Alright, as long as I can still touch your pussy."

"B'Elanna Torres, you are treading into dangerous territory."

B'Elanna laughed. "Come on baby, you really don't think that I would be satisfied with only that. I love your boobs, and I know how much you love it when I play with them."

"I do," Seven agreed. "Have I told you before how much I really like that the both of us are full body persons?"

"I see that you're picking up on my rhetorical questions thing," B'Elanna noted. "But yes, I agree. That woman I told you about? My first female sexual experience? Damn, she was pussy focused. That was what it was all about with her. No breasts, no ass... well, a little touching. But she preferred to focus as fast as possible. She was normally between my legs within a minute of getting naked."

"Maybe she just liked your taste that much. Sometimes I too am tempted to start dining immediately," Seven admitted.

"Really?" B'Elanna asked slightly surprised. "I thought you liked the buildup just fine."

"I do," Seven assured. "But that is because I am smart enough to realize that I can have the best of both worlds. I can have the buildup, and after that I have all the more to lick and lick and lick and,"

"If you say lick one more time I'll have you do exactly that, right now," B'Elanna threatened.


"Oh, I was hoping you would say that."

"You are not moving," Seven noted. "You need to move for me to lick."

"In a moment," B'Elanna assured. "First I need to figure that cranial implant thing out. Now, let's see if I understand what you said right. Pain is the body's way of telling you that something is wrong. As long as you feel no pain you assume that everything is alright. So basically it's the same with the cranial implant, just that pain is replaced with information. As long as I get no information I know for sure that all is alright."

"Correct," Seven agreed, not minding at all that B'Elanna first wanted to get that subject over with before moving on to a much more satisfying subject. "You might want to know that you can access that information as well to also check at exactly what levels the implants are working even though you have not received a warning yet. If you want I can also teach you how to do that, or you could connect with the Hive and know right away how it is done."

B'Elanna thought about it for a moment. "How about a compromise? You explain the rest of the implants to me at a later time, and tell me things that I'll be able to do, like you just did. And once we have done that I finally connect to the Hive to say hi and then I'll fill in the information I need for myself, like how to access that information without it being at a warning level yet."

"I like that compromise," Seven agreed. "So does that mean that we are done talking about implants for tonight?"

"We are," B'Elanna agreed.

"In that case, can I lick now?"

B'Elanna laughed and got up, only to part her Mate's legs and sit between them. "Later. Normally you go first,"

"Since you have that Klingon hornyness that prevents you from being able to wait without bursting," Seven interrupted.

"Funny... but true," B'Elanna agreed. "But tonight it's not as bad and I want to make use of that. How about I treat you like the Queen you are, my Princess?"

"Ah, so you do not want to be Royally screwed, tonight, instead you want to screw someone over Royally?"

"Eh, that only registers as a three on the fun meter, my dear," B'Elanna said while tilting her head a little.

Seven shrugged, knowing that even after a year, B'Elanna still got a kick out of seeing Seven shrug on the very few occasions where she allowed herself to do so. "As Lonika likes to say; you cannot win them all."

"Don't let Katzi hear you say that." B'Elanna placed a kiss in the valley between Seven's breasts. "Are you comfortable here, or should we move to the bed?"

"I like being ravished by you on this couch," Seven merely said as she scooted forward a little. "And since you are changing away from the normal situation and concentrating on me first, I will also change away from the norm. I think I want to experience such a direct approach as you described before."

"Well, I think I wouldn't mind doing that to you once in a while," B'Elanna said happily as she sank lower and searched out her lover's center.

The reign of One of Many, née Annika Hansen; Queen of Borg.

Year 00, Month 12, Day 02, Hour 11, Minute 01.

"You wanted to see... me?" Anidan asked as she entered conference room one. The last word had faltered as she saw the fourth person in the room besides Seven, B'Elanna, and Pagsha. Of course Anidan had seen Si'zaG Fe'R of the Siill when she had been on the bridge during the crisis two days before. But the woman looked so different now with her black form hugging uniform instead of the loose cloak she had worn before.

"Si'zaG, would you mind waiting in conference room two?" Seven asked, indicating the holodeck that was attached to the bridge and that was often used for meetings as well, mostly because the holodeck was a lot better suited to show things than a simple PADD was.

"Of course," Si'zaG said as she stood up and headed to the door.

"Please, Anidan, sit down," Seven said. She waited until the Engineer was sitting before continuing. "Two days ago we were having a discussion when we were interrupted by the Hive to let us know that we had encountered the Siill. I would like to continue that discussion now."

"Look Seven. I told you, I do my thing for the Borg, I now consider myself part of the Borg. As much as I would have laughed at you if you had told me this half a year ago, Unimatrix 01 is now my home. But I won't join the Hive again. I'm an individual; I'm no longer giving that up."

"I am not giving that up either," Seven said. "Nor is Pagsha here, nor is Katzi, nor is Lonika. We all join the Hive from time to time, and we all come out as individuals again. Pagsha has to regenerate like all Individualist drones have to. She never asked if she could regenerate the way you and I can. She likes to join the Hive. I myself can regenerate consciously and sometimes do because my conscious focus is needed. But even now I join the Hive again nine out of the ten times I regenerate."

"Seven," Anidan sighed, only to be stopped by Seven lifting her hand slightly.

"I am merely letting you know that I think that you should join the Hive from time to time. You will be amazed by the changes. However, I am not ordering you to do so, nor am I 'strongly suggesting'. This is truly just a suggestion that you can ignore if you want to. The Borg are no longer worried about you having plans to harm them, and they know what you do for us. As such they have agreed that you should be allowed to never connect to the Hive again if you so choose. There are some restrictions there, like if your behavior changes and they feel that your mind has to be scanned as a precaution. But until further notice you do not have to join the Hive again if you do not want. All I am asking you is to truly think about that choice before you make it."

"I will," Anidan said, and Seven had a feeling that the Engineer's mind was already made up. She would not join the Hive unless Seven ordered her to do so.

"Very well. However, regenerating is not the main reason for this meeting. The Borg and I agree that you have done a lot for us, and you continue to do a lot for us every day; literally. We feel that maybe you might actually be doing too much for us."

"Don't tell me that the Borg think that I should cut down on the things I change and create for the Collective," Anidan said with a dismissive chuckle.

"No, but they do think that you should spend less time on things that do not need your attention so that you will have more time to focus on the things that actually do need your attention. I for one am more concerned about you doing so much that you burn yourself out," Seven countered.

"Look, I told you once before that I'm fine," Anidan said annoyed. "And let me tell you, I really don't like the fact that the things I do for the Borg aren't appreciated."

"They are appreciated," B'Elanna spoke up. "Seven just told you that. You just spend unnecessary time on things you don't need to look at anymore. You're wearing yourself out, and if you want to look at it from the side of what you could do with your time you are depriving yourself of a lot of time where you could do other things. Anidan, I'm an engineer at heart, you know that. So you also know that I'm not just talking hot air when I say that I know only too well how hard it is to let your creation go. That creation is your baby, you put a lot of time and effort into it, and now you should just turn your back on it because it's working? No, you want to follow its growth; see how it holds up in daily use. The point is, I as an Engineer on a relatively small starship like Voyager could do that, now I can't."

"That doesn't mean," Anidan interrupted.

"And you most certainly can't either," B'Elanna continued as if Anidan hadn't spoken up. "Do you think Seven doesn't have to let things go as well? Seven started out selecting certain drones for Individualist status, like you. She knew that she was changing the lives of those people. Along the way some of those people became her, and my, friends. You, Pagsha here, Lonika, you name them. Seven really liked to bring people out of the total confinement that being a linked Borg drone is. Do you think that Seven can still do that now? We have over thirty-six billion Individualist drones in the Collective now. Do you think that she made all of them Individualist drones herself? No; other people are doing that now. Drones that Seven turned into Individualist drones are now seeing where and how many drones can be turned into Individualist drones and where the people that are joining the Collective freely as Individualist drones should be stationed. The same goes for Lonika."

"Lonika is in a whole different situation," Anidan objected.

"No he's not," B'Elanna disagreed. "Do you think that he could have done the needed operations on all of those drones himself? Of course not. He created procedures for others to follow. He did experimental operations, and when they were affective he joined the Hive mind so that those doctors on other ships and on planets knew how to do those operations. Hell, still fully linked Borg medical drones are now doing those operations as he did them. You have to let go as well, Anidan. Take the neck implant you created. A brilliant idea that works very well. You created the implant and some of the modules that can be attached to it. But the point is, that implant is ready, those modules are ready. You don't need to get information on every damn neck implant that is implanted so that you can see if it keeps working right."

"That implant can be improved," Anidan said annoyed.

"And nobody is stopping you from doing so," B'Elanna assured. "The thing is, you don't need to get millions of reports to gather information. Hell, if you didn't have the implants that make it possible for you to have the almost instant recall and photographic memory like me, you wouldn't be able to even read all of those reports in the time you have. No, let others gather that info and then send it to you in a report if you don't want to join the Hive to learn the info that way. You focus on those changes you want to make. You focus on changing the implant to have a version of it for those species where the neck, if they even have one, isn't the best place to put such a universal pug-in implant. You can still manage it, just don't do it on a first level. You're a third officer, you can send out commands, you could create a whole sub department just for gathering info. You can then tell them what kind of info to put into a general report, and what to tell you immediately. Say that all info of successful implantations goes into a general report, but that info of an implant procedure where the implant was rejected by the species, is sent to you immediately so that you can have a look and maybe change the implant or design a version just for that species."

"Alright, I'll think about it," Anidan relented.

"I am glad to hear that," Seven spoke up. "However, I am going to force the issue slightly. B'Elanna just rightfully pointed out that there are certain things that do not need your attention on an ongoing basis. There are many things like that. You also take care of giving orders so that maintenance drones do scheduled repairs. Giving orders like that, setting up schedules like that, do take a lot of time as well."

"Fine, I'll see about selecting a few of the Individualist drones in my department and giving them task to take care of, like the scheduling of regular repairs."

"I am glad to hear that as well," Seven said. "However, I still think that you have a tendency to pull all the work towards you to do it because it does not take long and that way you know it is done correctly. Not realizing that a lot of small things that take only minutes still add up to hours of time combined. Therefore I have decided that Engineering will be split into two departments; Engineering and Maintenance. I will put someone in charge of Maintenance that will have the rank of third officer as well. That way you will have to work together with this person instead of just ordering this person to go do other things while you take care of something that this other person could have been doing."

Anidan just glared at Seven.

"You should know by now that a look like that does not impress me at all."

"Damn it, Seven. Things are fine in Engineering, alright? Yeah, so I did focus a little too much on things. Alright, you have a point. As I said, I'll select a few people and give them projects to focus on so that they can then tell me only the things I really need to know. But damn it, don't split my department. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?"

"I could guess," Seven said. "Probably a combination of you feeling that we think that you failed us, of you feeling that we think that we do not trust you, of you feeling that we do no not truly appreciate what you are doing for us. All of which is totally not true. Anidan, the fact is, I see problems now, and I see them only getting bigger. Think of the size of the Collective. Think of how many reports you would have to read in one year time if you went on like you are now. It is impossible. You have to divide work. In fact, you have to act much like me. Where you are 'Queen' of your department and where the ones under you take care of running that department, while you are on top and take care of the focus on specific projects and looking at situations that those under you brought to your attention."

Seven softened her voice a little, trying to get through the stubborn head of her friend. "Just think back to how it was the first months when you had become an Individualist drone. Just think how you had sat down with B'Elanna, me and Katzi as we discussed Katzi's implants. How you were focusing on that project, how you even had time to make the cover plate that went onto her arm. Tell me honestly, would you not prefer to be working so focused again? Would you not prefer to be able to get an idea and just drop everything and work on that idea? How long has it been since you could do that? How long has it been since you did not have to plan time a week from now, just to work on an idea you have today?"

Anidan sighed; she knew that Seven and B'Elanna had valid points. "This Maintenance department, what focus does it have, what tasks, and who will be in charge?"

"I have not yet decided on a specific dividing of tasks," Seven admitted. "I would much rather prefer that you and the person I put in charge of Maintenance sit down and discuss this. This way you can decide which things you would truly like in your department and which things you can let go of. I warn you though. If you do not come to an agreement I will make the choices as I see fit. I will also look at the task division if you did come to an agreement. This to see if you truly did let go of enough things. But to give you a general idea of what I was thinking of, cleaning the plasma flow regulators of the warp cores is a recurring task that does not need a high level of engineering knowledge of how to do it. A task like that would fall under Maintenance. Creating a new design for the plasma flow regulators, or improving an existing design is a task of Engineering."

Anidan nodded her head a little. She could reluctantly agree that task like cleaning the plasma flow regulators were things that she could let go of. It was just that for her entire life letting go had never been easy for her.

Meanwhile, Seven continued. "Engineering would also be in charge of maintaining the new unit in the beginning until the new unit is tested enough and it can be fit into a standard maintenance schedule. At that time the responsibility for keeping the unit in good condition will transfer from Engineering to Maintenance. However, if Maintenance finds a problem, for instance that the new unit has a surprisingly short usability span. Maintenance will inform Engineering of the problem and the responsibility shifts back to Engineering until they changed the unit's design and once more consider it ready to be handed back to Maintenance for responsibility."

"That can be damn confusing, Seven," Anidan noted. "A project that was my responsibility today might not be tomorrow, only to have it be my responsibility again the next day."

"I realize that," Seven assured. "That is why I want these two departments to work closely together so that handing a project back and forth will be seen as the norm. The confusion of whose project is whose will be limited by the fact that we are working in the Borg. If there is a question as to which department to report something the drone has to do nothing more than link with the Hive and look at a list of all things that these two departments have to deal with and see which department is handling that item at that time. Before you point it out: if a situation is so pressing that even two seconds matter than it is by definition a problem that needs Engineering and not Maintenance because Maintenance does the things that get scheduled, not the things that need attention 'now'."


"I know that at first glance it would be better to simply divide tasks and then have those tasks put in one of the two departments permanently," Seven interrupted. "This will indeed be the case in general, but if we made a clear division on exact individual things and stuck to that, no matter what then soon you would have the same situation again where you are keeping track of a lot of details that do not need your direct attention. You, Anidan, are an Engineer. I want you to have the time to do what you like to do the most; focus on certain projects. While the rest is taken care of by the people that work under you or by Maintenance. I put someone in charge of Maintenance that is very much like you as far as a passion for the job is concerned. But unlike you she does not want to deal with how to create something new, or to enhance something that already exists. She simply wants to make sure that the things that are already in place work on the best possible level and are excellently maintained. You are an Engineer that likes Engineering and will be in charge of Engineering, she is a Maintainer that likes to make sure that things are well maintained and will be in charge of Maintenance."

With that Anidan suddenly realized who would become her equal in this second department, just who she would have to work with on a daily level.

"You're kidding. Surely not her? You don't expect me to work with someone of species 8472," Anidan said in disbelief.

"Someone from the Siill," Seven corrected. "Now that members of the Siill have regenerated they know the standard Borg language and our writing, so communication will no longer be a problem. Get to know her, Anidan. I am not making her part of the senior staff for a political reason, though I did use the position on the senior staff as a political tool. As such it was already decided that this position would go to someone of the Siill. But I made it clear that this person had to be suited for the position and that I would reject any candidate that was not suited for the job. Si'zaG has regenerated, her mind had been fully scanned by the Borg, and she did already join the Hive. She is very suited for this job and I would appreciate if you were to give her a real chance."

"She's a nice person, Anidan," Pagsha spoke up. "I think you'll really like her, if you let her close enough."

"Yeah sure. Last thing I knew letting someone of species 8472 close can be a very deadly thing," Anidan said dismissively.

"Last thing I know letting any Borg drone close can be a deadly thing as well," Pagsha countered. "You know, that whole superior strength thing, and the small fact that every single drone knows all the spots for killing every species with their bare hands that was ever assimilated. Yet you don't fear me, a drone, since I'm your friend. Nor do you fear what you yourself are. Don't hold it against Si'zaG that she happens to be of a species that is stronger than most species to be found in the Collective."

"Or armed with blood cells that would love to kill me if they found the simplest scratch on my skin," Anidan added.

"She doesn't have the claws their warriors have, which were designed by nature to bring blood cells into the body of an enemy. For her to bring some of her blood cells into your body she would need to have a wound, as would you. And you would have to be touching so that blood can reach blood, and you would suddenly have to loose all the nanoprobes in your body since they can neutralize her blood cells in seconds if they were to enter your body," Pagsha persisted.

"Don't hold it against her that she's from a biologically advanced species. Instead you should admire that aspect; I do. Seven wants the two leaders of the two departments to work well together, wants you and Si'zaG to work well together. All I'm adding to that is suggesting to you that you really give it a try. Just look at it. You gave me a chance, and Katzi, and Seven, and B'Elanna. Isn't it nice to give someone a chance and find a friend along the way?"

"Si'zaG is waiting in conference room two," Seven spoke up. "Please, Anidan, at least try."


Chapter 40

Anidan walked into conference room two, only to find the holodeck running with a program that Anidan had seen before. It was the Zamonan village program that Seven, B'Elanna, Katzi, and Pagsha had been running when Anidan had an idea one day that she wanted to discus. B'Elanna had said that they could, but because 'some' people actually did like their free time, the idea could only be discussed on the holodeck where the four women had been when Anidan had come by.

Anidan saw the person she was looking for a little further away, sitting on a bench in front of one of the huts. She was smelling a flower that Anidan assumed she had picked mere moments before, and Anidan could see a look of true wonder on the golden colored face. Anidan stepped closer and Si'zaG looked at her for a moment with a smile on her face before standing up.

"I'm sorry, I was curious about the holodeck so I decided to run the program Pagsha suggested. This is amazing! I... smells... I..." Si'zaG looked at the flower she was still holding before bringing all she wanted to say together in one word; "Wow."

Anidan was confused, to say the least. This woman was not acting as Anidan had expected; this definitely wasn't the mortal enemy the Borg had faced before.

"I gather from your reaction that you don't have holodeck technology?" Anidan asked as she stepped closer until they were about a meter apart.

Anidan noticed that Si'zaG was about a hand-width shorter than Anidan herself, and that her body looked delicate and slender with a rather narrow shoulder build. But Anidan also knew that looks were deceiving. She had read the reports. She knew that the maintainer class of the Siill all had similar bodies and that they had that particular body build because the narrow and slender build allowed for reaching difficult places and bending in, what would be for Anidan, very painful angles. But Anidan knew that this slender woman actually had the strength to rip her into two pieces; literally. And a hand strength so powerful that she could pulverize a Dilithium crystal by crushing it in her bare hand.

"No we don't," Si'zaG agreed, oblivious to Anidan' scrutiny. "And even if we did, what to recreate? We have none of this in fluidic space. We don't have trees, we don't have birds. This right here is the first flower I have ever held in my hands. I loved my life in fluidic space, but I can't wait to explore what else life will show me. This technology will be a great tool for us. I'm a maintainer, so living on a starship appeals to me. Even though I also love what I see around me here now. But the others... they can use the holodeck to see what they like, what kind of place they would like to live at. And then ask for placement there as an Individualist drone. It's so much faster than actually going to places and seeing how things are there."

"Seven told me that my department is going to be split in two, and that you'll be in charge of the second part," Anidan said, coming to the point. "She said that she would prefer if we two agreed on a task division instead of her doing the dividing. So here I am."

Si'zaG looked at Anidan thoughtfully for a moment before sitting back down on the bench and asking, "Why are you so uncomfortable?"

"You're a telepath, you should know," Anidan countered.

"Ah, is that the problem? Well, you don't have to worry; I switched that off."

"You switched that off? Just like that?"

"Well, switched it off might be a bad way of explaining it," Si'zaG admitted with a smile. "Let me put it this way, can you decide not to hear by covering your ears good enough? Can you decide not to speak by not opening your mouth? Can you decide not to see by not opening your eyes? It's just as easy for us to decide to not be telepathic by not opening up that sense. I regenerated and joined the Hive. From that I know that your species considers it extremely rude, even offensive, if a telepath enters their mind without permission. So, I switched it off."

Anidan looked at the sitting woman for a moment and felt herself being captivated by the lingering smile on those lips. Deciding to break the spell she felt herself under she sat down on the bench as well. "I... I don't like having to give up things," She admitted.

"Nor would I in your position," Si'zaG said in understanding. "But I have seen all the things that go through your department and I agree with Seven and the Hive that you are doing way too much. Let me help, Anidan. Why don't we go over a list of all the things that Engineering had to deal with until now and I will mark the things I would like to be placed in Maintenance, and what I think should stay with Engineering, and you do the same. That way we don't even have to discuss the things we agree upon and just go over the things we don't agree upon."

"Um, why, well, um, sure," Anidan heard herself say while her mind was filled with remembering how wonderful her name had sounded coming from those perfect lips.

"Great," Si'zaG said happily before she connected with the computer for a moment and two holographic PADDs appeared in her open hand.

She handed one to Anidan and said, "Here, I had the computer already put the list on both PADDs. Let's see on which things we can agree."

Anidan took the PADD with her mind still in a daze. She looked at how Si'zaG started to talk again and then she felt herself move.

"After that we hmpft," Si'zaG was momentarily surprised when Anidan suddenly kissed her. But after that moment of surprise she happily returned the kiss. She placed her hand behind Anidan's head and puller her closer, at the same time slipping her tongue into a welcoming mouth. It was Anidan's moan that finally pulled Si'zaG back to reality.

"Oh damn it all," Si'zaG said as she practically jumped off the bench. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done that. Please forgive me; I didn't know it affected other species as well. If I had I would have warned you not to come that close."

"What are you talking about?" Anidan asked confused. "I'm the one that kissed you, I should be apologizing."

"Um, not really. Well, you did, but it's still my fault," Si'zaG said with a slight cringe, and Anidan was absolutely sure that it was the cutest cringe she had ever seen in her life.

"You see, it's really kinda, my fault. With us, when we reach the age where the Planner feels we need to find a partner, if we aren't already bonded with someone at that time, we start to radiate this field of... energy I guess you can call it. If someone else that also isn't bonded and also is of the right age comes physically close enough this field pulls them in. You just kissed me because you came close enough to me. It's because of my condition that you kissed me, not because you wanted it. You didn't mind, so your mind didn't object, but it really was me. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." And with that Si'zaG hurried out of the holodeck without giving Anidan a chance to reply.

"Anidan?" Katzi asked surprised as she opened the door. "Can I help you with something?"

"I'm actually here for Pagsha; the computer said she was home."

"She is, come on in."

Anidan walked on into the living room where she saw Pagsha studying some PADD with a look of determined concentration on her face. "Did I come at a bad time?"

Katzi grinned. "No, I was just having a little fun with my Little One. That's a Zamonan puzzle she's trying to solve. I told her that if she did it within five minutes and without help from any implant she would get a reward. If she doesn't make it in time she would be punished. So now of course the really hard part for her is not if she can solve the puzzle; she can. But if she wants to do it in time and get the reward, or if she wants to fail and get my sweet punishment."

Pagsha didn't reply, but she did look up quickly and stuck out her tongue.

"Alright," Katzi said with a laugh. "Since we have a guest now, why don't you stop and later I give you the punishment as well as the reward."

Pagsha put down the PADD with a grin. "Deal." Then she stood up and joined Katzi and Anidan on the couch. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

"I kissed her," Anidan blurred.

"You kissed who?" Pagsha asked confused.

"Si'zaG, I kissed her."

Pagsha started laughing. "Goodness woman, I told you to give her a chance, not to ravish her."

"No, it was... look, I went in there with all this resentment for her taking away a part of my department, for her being a member of species 8472, for her being a telepath; basically for all kind of crap I could think up at that moment because I was pissed and wanted to let that out on someone. But in mere moments all of that ebbed away. It was as if I was under a spell. Well, after we kissed she told me that it was indeed pretty much a spell. She started talking about some bonding nonsense, an energy field, or stuff like that... and then she ran."

Pagsha nodded. "Ah, now I understand, and so would you if you had joined the Hive in the last two days."

Anidan merely glared at her.

"Well it's true," Pagsha insisted. "But since you didn't join the Hive, let me explain. When the members of the Siill reach a certain age they feel a drive to get a partner."

"She said something like that," Anidan pointed out. "She said something about something she called an energy field that she radiates. Something that 'pulls' people in if they come physically very close to her, and if they aren't already bonded."

"Well, I guess you could call it an energy field," Pagsha agreed. "Or a mental field, or maybe it's some kind of pheromones that are just as advanced as the rest of the Siill's body. Even they themselves don't know exactly what it is and just say that it's all part of the Planner's intentions. The point is, this 'field' is there until they are bonded with someone. After that it's gone for ever and they can't affect anyone anymore. At the same time they themselves are now immune to such fields."

"So in other words, once she found a partner it's safe for me to be around her?" Anidan surmised.

"Right," Pagsha agreed. "Or, you could be that partner if you want."

"What?! Are you insane?" Anidan asked in outrage. "I don't even know if I like her without that... stuff... going on. I might hate her guts. Plus the not so small fact that I actually prefer men. I mean, sure, I can appreciate the female form,"

"But you of course never fantasized, right?" Pagsha interrupted amused.

"Don't be silly, of course I have once or twice if there was the right trigger for the fantasy. The point is that for the rest, say 98% of the fantasies I have are about men. Plus I never have felt a sexual attraction for a woman, other than appreciating the female form. Look, I do appreciate the female form enough to be able to see why the two of you, or B'Elanna and Seven, or any of the other millions on this ship, would prefer a woman over a man. It's not that I don't understand the concept, or think that you are wrong for that matter. But it's simply that women aren't my thing."

"But the interesting part with the Siill is that is doesn't matter," Pagsha pointed out.

"What do you mean it doesn't matter? It might not matter to them if you mean that all of them are equal opportunity, so to speak. But it sure matters to me. I have never felt this kind of attraction to a woman before, and as I said, I don't even know if I like her even if I was into women."

"You will like her; you will love her madly," Pagsha assured. "That's one of the nice side effects of their bonding. The partners change mentally, and change their idea of what they want from a partner. That's why it doesn't matter that until now you preferred men. After the bonding you will only prefer her. You love being with her. You'll think that all of your relationship experiences until now were mere cheap imitation of the real thing that she's making you feel. She'll be the perfect partner for you, and you'll be the perfect partner for her. Mind you, the Sill's personality and mentality will change into what you need, not into what you think you need. So in your case, it would probably be that Si'zaG will stand up to you and not tolerate you trying to take on things that belong in her department. But at the same time she'll understand better than anybody else ever could why you feel you have to take on those things as well. She'll understand it, but she won't let you do it."

"But I might be actually hating her right now and not know it because of that... stuff," Anidan repeated.

"Does it matter?" Pagsha reasoned. "If you bond with her you'll change, and that change will be for life. Even if you would have hated her guts if you weren't bonded, you'll love her more than life itself if you are bonded. And the best part about that is that this bond ensures that you'll always adapt together to new situations, always be perfect for each other."

"I like who I am, I don't want to change," Anidan pointed out.

"It's not like your whole personality will change," Pagsha assured. "It's certain things. It's... well, you know how you don't want someone to second guess your ideas? Talk about them, sure. Discuss them, sure. But second guess the need or use of them, no. That won't change as such, but there will be one exception. If you do decide to go on with Si'zaG then you'll hate it if someone second guesses your ideas, but you'll love it if Si'zaG does it because suddenly it's alright and she's helping you focus on things that are really important."

Pagsha frowned before admitting, "Well, I don't know if it will really be like that, I'm just making that up to explain what I mean. The point is that you'll change in regards to her. You hate someone second guessing you, you'll love for her to challenge you. You like to spend a lot of time on your ideas, but you will think that she is totally right when she suggests that it's time to call it a day and leave the idea for the next day. Things like that."

"But it's not real. Maybe I'm destined to fall in love next week with someone I'll meet then; someone that doesn't have this 'field' around them to make me feel things I might not even be feeling."

"Maybe," Pagsha agreed. "And maybe I wasn't supposed to fall in love with Katzi here but with someone else. I'll never know, but I do know that I'm very happy now and wouldn't trade my Mate for anyone else in this universe. Life is full of maybes. Maybe you'll fall in love with someone next week, and then have a miserable relationship. Maybe you are supposed to never find someone and go through life alone. Maybe. But I can tell you for sure that if you return this interest you'll be happy with Si'zaG for as long as you two are both alive. That, is a fact. Because Si'zaG's physical nature will affect and change you both to where you two are the perfect match for each other. I can also tell you that you don't have too much time to think about this. Si'zaG is in that stage now and she will find a partner soon. If it's not you then it'll be someone else and you'll have missed this chance."

"But I don't know anything about her, about them," Anidan said frustrated. "Damn it, I don't even know if Si'zaG and I are sexually compatible. And don't you dare suggest that I would have known if I had joined the Hive."

"Well, you would have," Pagsha said never the less. "But since you are my friend and I don't want you to miss what could be the chance of your life, hold on for a moment."

Anidan waited as Pagsha connected to the Hive and in the meantime she looked at the tall woman that was sitting on the other side of Pagsha and was holding her lover in a secure embrace.

"What do you think?" Anidan suddenly asked.

Katzi shrugged at the question. "What do I think? I think that I had sex with over forty women in my life, but I only ever loved one. It doesn't compare. Until you find the person that makes you truly feel alive you only think you are alive. You may like your life now, but once you let someone in you'll realize how alone you were. Once I thought that life could not get better than having sex with so many different women, so many bodies to discover, so many different likes and dislikes. It was the best life ever... until I found that one woman that made me feel alive, that showed me that the sex before, that that was only existing. But now, now I'm living. I think that the real question you should be asking yourself is if you want to go on thinking that you have all you want, or if you want to take the opportunity and in doing so realize just how alone you have been."

"But if I realize that I have been alone that means that I would no longer be alone at that point," Anidan pointed out.

"True," Katzi agreed. "But there is a reason why many people prefer to only believe they have all they want and don't take the risk of letting someone in. If something ever happens to that person and you lose your partner, you'll feel it ten times as hard. Having said that, I hope I never will lose Pagsha here, but I would gladly suffer the pain of missing her every day over never having known her and how good it feels to be madly in love."

"Careful, my warrior, you might ruin your tough image," Pagsha said with a smile.

Katzi grinned. "Well, if I find that Anidan ever told anyone that I can do the mushy stuff, I'll knock all of her teeth out of her mouth."

"That's my warrior," Pagsha said with a shake of her head before turning back to Anidan. "As for you, oh yeah, you are compatible alright. I don't know what you prefer, but my guess is that you'll really, really, like how compatible you are. Especially because there's just enough difference to make it all the more interesting."

Anidan sighed at that. "But what about getting to know each other? What about going out, dating, actually falling in love?"

"I'll answer the love question in a moment," Pagsha assured. "But first about the other things. It's funny, I had pretty much the same questions when Katzi and I got together and we became Mates. She had some very valid points. The most important thing is that you like each other, the rest you can do later. Does it matter if you don't know her favorite food before you decide that you are in love? Can't you still go out and have a nice dinner after you decided to spend your life together? There's still time for that; years. But Si'zaG will only be for a very short time in this stage where she can, and will, bond to pretty much the first person that fits the requirements of not being bonded and being of the right age. You really don't have much time here; it might already be too late by tomorrow. As for the love question... You don't have to be in love with her now. You just have to like her. As soon as you two are bonded it is like a switch has been thrown and you'll love her. There's no other option. With the Siill, people that are bonded are absolutely and totally in love."

"This is so weird," Anidan said frustrated. "You are basically telling me that it doesn't matter if we are in love, and it doesn't matter if we even get along, I should simply use the opportunity that's opening up for me. As if she were a tool to be used to change my life."

"If she finds someone else tomorrow she'll be perfectly happy with that person. If you happen to act first she will be perfectly happy with you. So why not let it be you and have you be happy because of it?" Pagsha reasoned.

"It's really a shame that you don't join the Hive or else you could have asked some of the other Siill and you would have known how perfectly normal this is with them. If you ask them they'll say that it's how their Planner made them, we would say it's how nature made them. Either way, it's how their species has lived for as long as they have records or even told stories; which is over half a million years. It's totally normal for them, and you should be glad that apparently your species is susceptible to their bonding call. Don't question it but go with it."

"You make it sound so damn easy," Anidan said as she rubbed her face in frustration.

Pagsha shook her head slightly. "Do you have, any, idea, at, all, how lucky you are?" She asked emphasizing each word. "Do you have any idea how many people there are in the universe that would like to be in your position right now? A perfectly happy relationship for the rest of your life, guaranteed? To have your partner be mentally and physically exactly, totally, and perfectly just what you want... after you bonded and your idea of what you want mentally and physically has changed of course. How many people did you ever hear of that know up front that they'll be happy with their partner for the rest of their life? Know. Not hope, but know for a fact. Even I don't know for sure that Katzi and I will live the happily ever after thing. We hope, but we don't know. You would know. For you it will truly be absolutely sure 'until death does us part.' Hell, forget about the universe, do you have any idea how many people there are right here on Unimatrix 01 that would be knocking on Si'zaG's door if they knew that she was undergoing the bonding call?"

"But that's..." Anidan let her words trail off and sighed.

"Anidan, from one friend to another; just go for it," Pagsha urged.

Anidan had been looking at the alcove for two hours. The regeneration cycle was set for only thirty minutes. She knew that even if the Hive wouldn't want to let her go anymore that Seven would insist on it; Anidan trusted her friend absolutely.

She sighed. She needed some answers; she knew she would find them in that alcove. She shook her head and sighed once more. She had told Seven that the Borg was her home now, but what kind of a home was it if she didn't even trust that home? She didn't dare to use her access tubes to get information, she didn't dare to regenerate in the normal way and join the Hive. Simply because those were ways that could be used by the Hive to suck her in and keep her under their total control again. Some home if she didn't even trust the people she was sharing that home with.

Then with one quick movement so that she couldn't talk herself out of it she turned around and took one step back.

{Species 1202 wants ties to the Collective, but not...}

{The design that First Civilian ZAn created for deck 326 is considered irrelevant for the Hive, but relevant for the Individualist drones.} {Modifications are scheduled for...}

{Chief Engineer, Third officer Anidan Dubinak, has joined the Hive.}

Anidan was amazed by three things. First of all by the fact that she could actually still be amazed even though she had joined the Hive and things should be totally irrelevant by now. Second that the Hive had actually so clearly noted her joining, and even used a rather short designation, as if the whole Hive should know who Chief Engineer, Third officer Anidan Dubinak was. Third that she could actually feel that the Hive was glad, almost relieved, that she had willingly joined them. She realized that, as unbelievable as it had seemed to her mere moments before, the Hive had missed her presence. And with that Anidan realized that this wouldn't be the last time she joined the Hive again. Then she was amazed for a fourth time when the Hive started talking to her and clearly reacted to her musing.

{The Hive adapted.}

{The mind of every drone is still completely scanned to ensure no dangerous thoughts exist.}

{But drones no longer reach a completely unconscious stage unless they choose it.}

{You allowed this?} Anidan heard her own voice in the Hive. {I thought you needed the voices in the Hive.}

{There are.}

{Information is still shared.}

{The drones that need to hear the voices will never have to fear losing them since drones now join the Hive to gather information or contact other drones.}

{What about a drone's private thoughts? What about things I don't want every drone in the Collective to know?} Anidan wondered.

{When the mind is scanned those thoughts are still filtered out.}

{For the Hive to know those thoughts you would have to bring them to the attention of the Hive like you are bringing your questions to our attention now.}

{However, you might need to train this because your first thoughts were also heard by us.}

{Alright, then let me ask, are there any members of species 8472 regenerating at the moment? I have questions.}

The question was answered by about two hundred 'yes' replies, combined with about two hundred correction to use the name Siill instead of species 8472.

It was interesting. Anidan noticed that some information was added to the Hive mind that could only come from Anidan herself. Things she hadn't even started working on, just thinking if things might be possible. So she knew that her mind was being scanned at the same moment and relevant information was being shared with other drones. But she felt nothing of it. She also noticed that the whole sharing of information that she knew from the last time still went on. Somewhere in the back of her mind she 'heard' things like what energy setting was used for a carrier wave. Or what drones were being assigned what jobs where in the Collective. But it was not of a disturbing level. More like a background 'hum' that was putting information in her brain while she was busy focusing on something else.

{Alright, members of the Siill, allow me to share with you what happened to me, and please advice me.}

Part 41

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