DISCLAIMER: Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures.
CHALLENGE: Written as part of the 1001 Nights Challenge - entropy.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Scheherazade Stories--#271--Entropy
By Jillo


Commander Chakotay stood over the prone form of his Captain as she lay in a coma, kept alive by the enclosed bio-bed that not only breathed for her but also maintained the circulation of her blood, fed and hydrated her, and prevented bed sores from forming. He wondered how much longer he could, in good conscience, keep her body alive while it was patently obvious that her brain was, as the Doctor had told him, non-functioning. Oh, Kathryn! He frowned deeply, resting his chin on his fist, his elbow supported by the arm he'd wrapped around his midsection. No. Not yet. He couldn't force himself to give the order to deactivate the machine that breathed for her. Couldn't bear to watch the life-signs slow, diminish, and finally stop. Couldn't stand the thought of watching Kathryn Janeway take her last breath. She had lived and breathed for this ship, for this crew. She could damn well live and breathe a little longer.

The Doctor stood patiently by, awaiting the larger man's decision. He knew of the Commander's reluctance to face the reality of her condition, but only because he'd improved his programming to include more subtle aspects of empathy. His rational "brain" told him that it was a waste of precious energy keeping a dead woman breathing.

"Inform me immediately of any change," he told the EMH, glancing briefly at the hologram before turning and leaving Sickbay.

"Of course," acquiesced the Doctor. He went to the console and looked again at the reading that recorded the energy usage of the Captain's bio-bed. Then he looked at Janeway. She'd come a long way in her journey toward recognizing him as a sentient being. He owed to her the right to pursue his own burgeoning selfhood. Startled, he reached a finger up to his cheek and captured the drop of water rolling down his face. He stared at it for a moment then closed his eyes, squeezing out more tears. "Good-bye, Captain," he whispered.

Her headache was worsening, her temples throbbing with her increased heart-rate. Pain seemed to run along every nerve ending in her body because of the energy discharge, and she steadied herself, forcing herself to breathe more normally before she made another attempt. At least the physical pain distracted her from the mental anguish she'd been unable to do anything with since she'd heard of the attack on Janeway's life. The only recourse she'd considered was to seek to destroy the cause of it. And that cause was in the cell next to her own.

She closed her eyes, gathering herself, concentrating on her next effort. When she regulated her breathing and heard her own twin hearts beating in perfect synchronicity, she was ready.

With a hoarse roar she launched herself at the force field that guarded the opening to her cell. This time she was thrown against the back wall with enough force that she briefly lost consciousness. "Paris, you worthless taHqeq," was her last thought before the blackness took her.

"Commander, you must allow the Doctor to sedate her," insisted Seven of Nine. She stood before the acting captain of Voyager in what had been Captain Janeway's ready room. "She will do serious harm to herself if we do nothing." Seven was feeling unfamiliar sensations: elevated heart-rate, shallow breathing, irrational thoughts. A detached part of her brain recognized the symptoms of panic.

"Seven, I appreciate your concern," replied Chakotay, "but I can't spare the manpower to keep an eye on her in Sickbay. She'll figure out sooner or later that she's only hurting herself." He eyed the padd on the desk impatiently. He had pressing issues that needed his immediate attention. A grief-crazed half-Klingon, even one whom he considered a dear friend, would have to wait. She was in the best place for her.

"Then allow me to watch over her in Sickbay. I am quite capable of administering a sedative if the need arises," Seven pleaded.

"Not a chance," replied Chakotay tersely. "I need you in Engineering. Someone's got to keep this ship running, even if she's running on fumes."

"But Lieutenant Carey or Lieutenant Vorik could surely—," Seven began.

"Seven, you're dismissed," Chakotay stated bluntly.

Her mouth in a hard line, Seven turned and stalked out onto the Bridge.

Chakotay returned his thoughts to the padd before him. Now that Captain Janeway was effectively out of the picture, things had changed. The faction that intended to stay with Voyager had lost its leader. Years in the Maquis and Starfleet had taught him that when a leader was suddenly taken out of a tense, conflicted situation, chaos often ensued until another leader rose to take command. He knew that he didn't have long before the two factions began jockeying for position. The would-be colonists, seeing an opportunity to reunite the group and thus help shore up their chances for survival on the planet to which they now headed, would begin pressuring him to order all crewmembers to the planet. Those who wanted to press on toward the Alpha Quadrant would soon be panicking, pleading with him to allow them to proceed on with the Captain's original plan. He needed to take charge now. But what should he do, and how should he go about doing it? And then for B'Elanna to go and attack Paris! This only served to rile up several of the would-be colonists. This situation had the potential to become ugly very quickly. He needed to make a decision and make it quickly. Well, he was the de facto Captain now, so he could do what he'd thought was right in the first place.

He tapped his comm. badge.

"This is Commander Chakotay. All senior staff to report to the briefing room immediately."

He'd put an end to this divisiveness right now.

Seven of Nine sat outside the force-field-guarded cell holding Lieutenant Torres, who was holding her head. She had a raging headache, the Doctor's hypospray not touching the pain.

"I knew Chakotay mistrusted you, Seven, but I never thought he'd sacrifice you. The p'taQ!"

"He assured me at the briefing that every effort would be put forth to keep both the Doctor and me functioning as we settle upon the planet, B'Elanna," Seven told her.

"Yes, but how long before we use up Voyager's energy stores? Seven, I can't just watch you die!" B'Elanna looked at Seven with bloodshot eyes. Seven wondered how long it had been since she'd slept. "I've already lost the woman who was my surrogate mother. I'm not going to lose the woman I love more than my own life!" B'Elanna's gaze, which had been unfocused and off into the distance over Seven's shoulder, returned to Seven's, her brown eyes blazing. As far as she knew, Janeway was still alive, but the scuttlebutt had it that the Doctor had urged Commander Chakotay to shut off the life-support. Most of Voyager's crew had accepted that their Captain was gone.

"Seven," her gaze now laser-like as her eyes bore into Seven's, her voice lowered, "you've got to get me out of here. I've got to get in touch with Vorik and Ayala and the others. We must take over Voyager."

"B'Elanna, no," Seven stated. "You must not endanger yourself or the lives of the others on my behalf. How do you think I could go on were you to die in a mutiny, just for me? My life would be empty, indeed, if you were to die for such a cause."

B'Elanna rose from the bunk and strode over to the opening of the cell. "It's a matter of honor!" she cried. "It's not just my love for you driving me. It's for the Doctor, too. And it's what Captain Janeway wanted."

"Is it better for all to suffer, just so a hologram and a reclaimed Borg drone may live?" asked Seven.

"But what about the Captain? Can you let her attacker go unpunished? Can we let that cowardly act determine which course of action to take?" B'Elanna demanded. "Captain Janeway was willing to risk her life for yours. Do you think I'm prepared to do any less?"

Seven's Human eye filled with tears, and she held her Human hand up to the forcefield, B'Elanna matching her gesture on its other side.

"Very well, my love," she said softly. "I will speak with Vorik and the others. We shall push on together."

This had gone on long enough. Chakotay had finally taken charge and done the right thing in making them all colonists. But in the meantime, as Voyager headed at impulse power toward their new home, the ship was burning energy keeping Janeway alive, and those who wanted to keep going toward the Alpha Quadrant were getting restless. Chakotay should have put them all in the brig until they'd grounded the ship on the planet. The tension in this ship was palpable, and he knew that unless someone did something soon the lid would blow off and there would be all-out chaos. Well, he could do something about it now.

Crewman Robertson knew just enough physics to be dangerous, but he figured he knew enough to do the job he wanted done now. He crept along the darkened corner of Engineering to the deuterium purge vent. He looked around the empty space and couldn't believe his luck. All the fuss about Janeway and then Torres attacking Paris had the normally tightly-run ship in a haze of confusion and inefficiency. This would be easier than he'd thought. The saboteur smiled into the darkness.

Commander Chakotay looked around the table at the reduced senior staff. It was minus Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Paris, both of whom were in the brig, but also missing was Seven of Nine, and her absence was unexpected and most unwelcome. Chakotay could only guess at the reason behind the ex-Borg's unwonted absence from a daily briefing, but suspected that it was connected to the absence of his Chief of Engineering. Now he'd have to deal with an insubordinate ex-drone who could still destroy everyone on board without breaking a nail. He tried to relax his clenched jaw, but it was no use. He was about ready to have her placed in an airlock and blown out into space, what he'd wanted to do from the get-go, anyway.

Suddenly Voyager lurched violently to port, throwing the crew gathered for the briefing from their chairs.

"Report!" barked Chakotay into his comm. badge as he struggled up onto his elbow.

"Sir!" responded Lieutenant Carey, "I don't know how, but all of our remaining deuterium has been vented into space! And with it all helium reserves!" Shouts, bangs and curses reached the senior staff's ears over the open comm. channel as the Engineering crew tried to lock down the blown vent. Chakotay felt his stomach lurch toward his feet. With the last of the deuterium went all uses of the warp drive, and now, without helium, the impulse engines were inoperative.

"All stop!" he ordered. God-damn! What next?

The ship slowed to halt. "Carey, I'm on my way!" Chakotay got to his feet and ran out of the briefing room, wondering what good he'd be down in Engineering with Voyager virtually dead in space.

The Borg cube dropped out of the transwarp conduit a few thousand kilometers from the drifting vessel. It marked the Alpha Quadrant ship for some time. Then it began to move toward the ship, which began emitting phaser fire and photon torpedoes, all of which the cube effortlessly absorbed.

Aboard the cube, the Borg Queen smiled. She'd been waiting for this moment for a long while. She'd begun to wonder if she'd lost Seven of Nine permanently, not daring to hope for help from the hapless Humans themselves. The irony of the situation was not lost upon her, and she threw her head back and laughed.

"You know the rest, of course," Seven of Nine told the Borg Queen. The crew had been placed in stasis as the Queen decided their fates, and, as she had recently learned, Captain Janeway had been "deactivated." Now that Seven had reached the end of her stories and knew what awaited her, she desired more time, even though as recently as a few--days, was it?--ago, she'd longed for death, or at least for re-assimilation. She looked up at the Queen with empty eyes, unaware that dark circles beneath them marred her once-flawless complexion. She waited as the silence stretched out between them. Finally, impatiently, she broke it.

"You had said that you had one more question for me."

"Yes," the Borg Queen smiled.

After another brief pause, Seven spoke again. "Well?"

"I wondered if you thought it was worth it," the Queen told her, her head canted to the side.

"Clarify," Seven demanded.

"Why, your relationship with the Klingon-Human hybrid, of course."

"Worth what, exactly?" Seven stalled. She did not particularly want to get into this now. It was too painful. Her head and heart ached, and had she the power, she would strangle the hateful Queen where she stood. She bit back her frustration.

"If you had a choice between going on as you had before you and the Klingon became sexually intimate and continuing to live, or having the circumstances turn out exactly as they have, which would you choose?"

Seven sighed. "This is an illogical and pointless question. Things have transpired as they have. I do not have such a choice."

"But if you did, if you could live without knowing the Klingon as you have, if you could go on without experiencing this love that seems to be so highly valued by these puny creatures, and have your life among them yet, would you?" the Borg Queen demanded.

Seven looked away. The Borg Queen observed the emotions playing upon the ex-drone's face as she weighed the options. The question had been one she'd wanted answered since the Borg cube had taken the Alpha Quadrant's crew aboard and destroyed their ship and she'd learned of this new wrinkle in the life of her former protégé. The Borg understood deactivation for the benefit of the Collective. It was supremely logical. But this inefficient, distracting emotion that developed between members of these species was beyond her ability to comprehend. The Klingon had told Seven of Nine that she would die for her, for no other purpose than to save Seven's individual life! And then, her sacrifice might have meant nothing if their Captain had been unable to find enough fuel to keep their ship functioning. How illogical! And how utterly ridiculous that their end should come about because of the Klingon's former mate's jealously and anger! Unfathomable. She waited for Seven's answer as she watched her face.

Seven knew that she was keeping the Queen waiting, but she didn't care. Her sadness at the loss of everything and everyone she'd begun to care for threatened to overwhelm her. And what was the point of it all, anyway, when the loss of what one loved brought such grief and pain? Wouldn't it have been better after all to have remained her stoic, icy self and continued on with her life aboard Voyager? She'd had purpose. She'd had work. She'd even had interpersonal relationships with people who cared for her. Was that not enough? Even as the question occurred to her, she knew the answer. It was, simply, no. No, it was not enough. Had she been asked the question before she'd fallen in love with B'Elanna, she could have answered in the affirmative. But now she knew differently. And for all that had happened, for all that had been and for all that now would never be, she was thankful that she'd experienced love with her beautiful, passionate jonwI.

"Yes," Seven said finally, turning once again to face her nemesis.

And eyebrow arched up. "Yes?"

"Yes, it was worth it." Seven straightened to her full height, ready now for what was coming next. "And that is all that I shall say about it." As if she could make a creature such as this understand love! A tiny smile flew across her face at a new thought. "Fuck her." It was pure B'Elanna. "Yes, my love," she smiled to herself. "Fuck her, indeed!"

The Borg Queen looked intently at the former drone, noticing the slight smile. Against her own better judgment, she felt herself moved by Seven of Nine's resolute response, by her open defiance of the Collective and all that it was, by the courage and peace that seemed to come over the young woman as she answered her final question. It seemed that there was something to this strange attachment that formed between individuals, detached from the settling and comforting buzz of the hive mind as they were. She would reward Seven of Nine and her Klingon for their sustaining love, however much she failed to understand it, recognizing as she did the power it seemed to inspire.

"Do not despair, little one," she crooned as her assimilation tubules shot from her wrist. "You will see her again."

Unimatrix 01A hummed quietly, Borg drones going mechanically about the business of keeping the Queen's cube functioning within acceptable parameters. In the past several cycles, many members of many species had been added to the Borg's perfection. Several ships had had the misfortune to cross paths with the implacable beings, and they now served aboard cubes and spheres scattered throughout the Delta Quadrant. One tiny ship, destroyed after being stripped of relevant technology, had added her crew of mostly Human beings to the Collective, two of which now served at the Borg Queen's pleasure aboard her personal cube in her newly created unimatrix.

The hallways glowed dimly green as the tall, female, formerly Human drone worked quickly at a console in the portion of the cube that maintained the cube's propulsion systems. Her hands flew over the console, her uniquely blue Human eye staring unfeelingly at the figures that flashed across the screen before her. Suddenly, she stopped her work, her head coming up at some silent command from some part of the hive mind. She dropped her hands to her sides and turned away from the console, walking steadily but unhurriedly down the dim hallway.

As she moved resolutely down the hallway, the object of her assignment came within view. The Klingon/Human drone carrying the data padd slowed to a stop, her hand rising to deliver the padd to the blue-eyed drone. One brown eye met one blue eye in an unnecessarily long gaze. The Human drone, in taking the padd, let her hand linger over the Klingon/Human drone's until finally it came into physical contact with the darker-skinned hand, sliding down the smooth fingers until she relieved the other of the padd. Her blue eye flickered briefly, and she vaguely noted the answering flicker in the brown eye of her fellow drone. Having no other business with the Klingon/Human drone, the tall, blue-eyed one turned and walked back to her duty station, her brief moment of bewilderment over her encounter with the other drone forgotten. Until the next time.

The End

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