DISCLAIMER: The story and characters belong to Paramount, etc. They are so not mine and no money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is very much an AU; I wanted to reveal that TPTB are impotent when it comes to understanding of what makes a good interaction and a powerful bond. For some reason (no offense to any men on the list) a lot of male writers think powerful women always must engage in fragile-ego futile pissing contests. (Men who write for CSI have done the same thing there as well.) It is true just because there are strong females doesn't mean they have to have slumber parties and be members of "we're woman in a man's world so we have to bond club" either. However I'm playing B'Elanna as a true Maquis someone who sees atrocities and fought against it. I want to play her as if she had seen first hand Cardassian Concentration camps and 'in the like of' Stockholm syndrome refugees freed from those nests of horror. I want to write her as I think she might have reacted to Seven given her background.
AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: B'Elanna isn't rebelling against her Klingon self in fact she embraces it despite her past is the same as it is in Canon. No declawed Klingons here!
SOILERS: Directly for Scorpion I-II, The Gift, Day of Honor, off-hand First Contact, previous seasons of Voyager and all Borg related episodes of the Trek series. Time line and canon are a little off but you are fanfic readers and can adapt.
WARNING:please take careful note there will be mentions of pain and torture as B'Elanna recalls the things she had seen in the Cardassian concentration camps, bearing in mind Voyager Canon as well as Jean-Luc's torture at the hands of a Gull it isn't too hard to believe the crimes they committed against another soul. I have used much of what I heard from survivors of the camps in Germany, documentaries as well as what is available on the net. Please bear in mind I am not trying to exploit this dark history but use the information in this story as writers of the show have done in the past to shed some light on the troubling context. We must remember.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Elizabeth Carter


Part 12

B'Elanna studied the woman lying death-like on the surgical bay with wonder born of an engineer. She knew why the Doctor had called her away from Engineering so she might give her consult on the best way to remove the protruding eyepiece jutting out six inches from the drone's face.

It would take very delicate work from both medical and engineering departments to remove the implant from such a delicate area of anatomy.

Using surgical scalpels and isotropic forceps the implant was disconnected and removed from the eye socket. B'Elanna half expected a dark cavity to be revealed beneath the protrusion but what she found was massive scar tissue and a small nodule that would have linked the eye-scope into the cranium. To even look at the contraption B'Elanna felt empathic pain. Seven of Nine's human eye had been completely removed and mostly likely without anesthetizing first.

B'Elanna winced not out of squeamishness which the Doctor no doubt assumed but because of the pain Seven of Nine must have gone through.

B'Elanna's mind shot back to the camps, to the Cardassian P'tahks who used the Bajorans as test subjects for their experiments. She could still hear their cries sometimes in the silence of her mind.

Their cries echoed loudly through the halls until it was louder than her own heartbeat. It wasn't interrogations; it wasn't summary discipline to keep other prisoners in line that made the Bajorans scream so. It was the doctors. People supposed to heal to lift pain that caused the cries bubbling from the throats of their 'patients'.

B'Elanna had seen this prisoner or that chosen at random, sex, age it didn't matter. Children, old females, males - all were chosen. Some infected with lethal doses of various types of radiation just to see how they died. Others with toxins and still others with contagions under the instructions of an exobiologist named Crell Moset.

The Cardassian surgeon, claimed the title Exobiology Department chairman at the University of Chulat on Cardassia. Because he was considered the leading practitioner in his field. Moset was given his choice of Bajoran prisoners 'units' before they were dispatched to the workfields. His laboratory wasof the finest quality known in the Quadrant. He gained his experiences by using hundreds of Bajorans in the most inhumane experiments. He rewrote genetic codes; co-opting a prisoner's vital systems to see if it could be done and undone.

Lobotomies, organ transplants, removal of organs to test the durability of his test-subjects under stressful conditions. All done by Moset's hand and all for the betterment of the Cardassian army, Cardassian medicine.

B'Elanna chained by neck and wrists to a wall watched as a hapless woman was removed form her cell only to come back three days later with her right arm severed from a disrupter blast, but what shocked B'Elanna more was that the arm had been replaced with another woman's limb. Not only that but the Bajoran had left with one green eye and one brown, now she had two brown eyes.

The Cardies had dropped the woman on a mat chained her natural arm and neck to the wall by leads and left the cell. She died two days later from a massive infection. Torres had listened to the woman's cries and screams of pain until death took her. The Cardassians hadn't come for the body for another five days. By that time decomposition had set in. B'Elanna had watched as maggots infested the corpse of the Bajoran woman until there was little flesh and meat left on the bones.

Then they came for her.

B'Elanna pulled herself back from the memory, from what she had seen in the death camps. The only difference between the Borg and Crell was that the whole of the Borg were not conscious of their actions. It was the Queen who had ordered their actions and like a computer the drones carried it out. The Cardies willingly did what they did and not without enjoyment.

The Borg felt nothing.

B'Elanna touched the face of Seven of Nine and thought of the woman who had her eye taken from her without anesthetic and given a new one so her eyes matched. Seven of Nine was to be given a new eye so they matched. 'At least you're anesthetized this time. And it is to save your life not some unworthy spoonhead P'tahk.'

Captain Kathryn Janeway had spent the better part of her duty shift going over and reviewing reports, but what had rapidly gained her attention were personal logs of Federation scientists. Particularly the Hansens. She had read how unconventional they were deemed and how they worked in conjunction with Starfleet as independent xenobiologists consultants.

Taking a sip from her porcelain coffee cup the captain read further of the little girl. There wasn't much there about the tiny babe that had once been Annika. She was just four years old when they left Deep Space Four on their mission to the Omega Sector of the Alpha Quadrant. Magnus and Erin Hansen had ignored both the orders of Starfleet and the Federation Council to return thus burning all their bridges and were under criminal charges for failure to adhere to the contract of their mission to investigate the Borg, which at the time were as the stories of sea-serpents and mermaids to the ancient sailors of Earth.

The chime rang a second time before the Captain realized she had a visitor. "Come in," she ordered, not looking up from the flat screen monitor on her desk.

Chakotay crossed the path from door to desk in five easy strides in his hand he held out a data PADD. "Ship's status report. We've got two teams on the hull, stripping off the Borg armour."

To this Janeway looked up fixing her first officer with an inquisitive look that commanded silently he should continue. He did so but only after taking one of the chairs opposite her desk. "They're working around the clock but it's still slow going, more so that the chief engineer has to split her attention between where she is needed and sick bay in a lower priority task."

Janeway narrowed her eyes not liking the inference to the drone laying possibly dying in sick-bay. B'Elanna's skills were helping to keep Seven alive or so the doctor had said. "What about the warp drive?" she took a second sip of coffee as she scanned the PADD before setting them both carefully down on her desk.

Chakotay was quick to notice it was the white cup not her chrome mug she was sipping from. It meant she was feeling particularly philosophically contemplative and slightly nostalgic. The woman Kathryn was asserting herself over the Captain. The Captain drank from the chrome Starfleet mug, Kathryn drank from the more delicate bone-china cup. Something was clearly edging her philosophical side.

"Torres is having problems cleaning out the plasma relays. It's disrupting the antimatter reaction. Until she's got it fixed we're stuck at impulse. She's requesting all personnel with a level three engineering rating or higher to lend a hand."

"Granted. Tactical update?" She picked up the cup again and sipped slowly.

"Long range sensors are picking up residual transwarp signatures, Borg vessels. They passed by probably three days ago."

The cup went back down this time for good as it was empty. "So we're not out of the woods yet." Her voice soft as smoke on silk.

"Having half our propulsion system overrun by Borg implants doesn't make repairs any easier." There was a very clear edge of sardonic insubordination hovering in the words though he was mindful to keep his tone as wooden and un-confrontational as possible.

"Seven of Nine could help with that."

Chakotay thought the idea as ludicrous as it had been to first make alliances with the cybernetic villains. "That might be true if she were willing, but she's not in the most co-operative mood."

Janeway lifted an eyebrow at that and ignored the thrust of challenge. 'Of course she's not in a mood to help she's unconscious in sickbay undergoing surgery, you fool.' Of course what she said aloud was a bit more optimistic and diplomatic. "That could change. I just have to reach her somehow."

Her thoughts went to a very uncooperative Klingon hybrid full of rash anger and confrontation on all points. But now B'Elanna Torres was settled in who she was and was more confident. Still reactionary but that was a Klingon trait not a dysfunctional component. Janeway had been able to use that aspect of Torres's personality not necessarily against the younger woman but use it for them to build a bridge of trust and companionship.

The captain turned the teal encased flat screen around so it now faces her first officer. "Annika Hansen."

What was on display were notes on the Hansens as well as a picture of a very young blonde four year old child with blushing apple cheeks and shining playful blue eyes.

"Our Borg?" Chakotay stared at the picture of a girl that in a way reminded him of Naomi Wildman.

Janeway rose from behind her desk to come around where she used one arm propped up by the back of the commander's chair and the other on her desk to support her leaning weight. She had purposely caged Chakotay in so his attention was focuses not only on the data on the screen but on her superior stance. She was in command and was close enough as a tigress would be to rip out her prey's throat if need be. Even if it was only figuratively speaking - Janeway was adept body language. By getting in the vortex of one's personal space she forced the other person to back down. It was effective for someone much shorter and petite than most of her crewmembers. It was a tactic that many female captains used to ensure her male offices knew who had the power.

"It took some digging through the Federation database but I managed to find a single entry in the records of Deep Space Four. Her parents were unconventional. They fancied themselves explorers but wanted nothing to do with Starfleet or the Federation." She stood now having made her position clear and crossed her arms over her chest, standing now like a matriarch. "Their names were last recorded at a remote outpost in the Omega sector. They refused to file a flight plan. Apparently, they aimed their small ship towards the Delta Quadrant and were never heard from again."

"For all we know, Annika and her parents were the first humans the Borg ever assimilated." The Commander commented a little in awe at the prospect.

Janeway moved from her position circulating back behind Chakotay's chair to stand with her back to him, again a show of power, he was insignificant in his position that he didn't pose a threat to a back turned to him. It was something Janeway had leaned from her interactions with the Klingon's. A Captain whose back was turned to an officer showed he believed him to be of very little concern and his life was not in danger.

The move was suitable but powerful. Her hands on her hips now in a classic Peter-Pan stance she was far from comically posturing but an imposing figure of will. "From what she's told me, that was almost twenty years ago."

Chakotay found himself off-keel and rose to stand beside his captain as if an equal but found his legs wouldn't comply and he fell back to stand behind her as a first officer was supposed to. "So she was raised by the Borg." He concluded, "It's the only life she ever really knew. If you were thinking of bringing her into the fold that might not be possible."

Janeway spun around so quickly Chakotay was taken by surprise, her voice once a smoky purr was now a growl. "What's the alternative? Toss her back to the wolves?" She stared at the man before her with such force the commander fell back once again.

* Sickbay to Captain Janeway. *

'Thank the Sky-Sprites for the interruption.' Chakotay uttered a thanksgiving.

The anger hadn't quite abated the captain's voice when she answered, "What is it, Doctor?"

* Could you come down here, Captain? We're having some problems.*

"I'll be right there." She turned to the commander pinning him again with her force-ten glare. "Commander, I don't give a damn if you don't want her in the 'fold.' It isn't your decision and you are under direct orders to ensure a smooth transition." She moved up facing him now, her lips pulled back into a snarl. "Shepherds are not passive but can become very aggressive when they see a threat to their sheep, especially over the new lambs. Shepherds have killed lions, wolves to keep their fold safe and scorpions can be crushed under foot."

"Understood." Chakotay surrendered his position. There was no choice their friendship was strained at best, and the crew could easily divide and most, even the Maquis, would support the Captain. The ratio of those who would have sided with him was frightening low. And it scared him to know he has so little support. The captain had won.

Janeway said nothing more but left her ready-room and the commander, the anger she felt sliding off slowly. There were other concerns that were of greater priority versus the grudge she still held against her petulant first officer. She knew the dance of superiority and rank would have to be played out a bit longer, just as it had been when the Maquis had first joined Voyager three years ago. Only this time she had the majority of the Maquis siding with her.

By the time she reached Sick-bay the priorities of her mind had shifted. Seven of Nine had been the cause of discord in the ready-room now she was the cause of deep medical concern.

When she came into the medical bay she had done so in time to see the Doctor peel away the face plating that had been around the protruding optical implant, underneath was pale white skin that had more in common with a corpse than the living.

"It's like peeling an onion." The EMH said intrigued. Both Kes and B'Elanna were at hand watching with the same attention the Doctor was. The Doctor placed the piece onto a tray Kes was holding. "Store it in a bio-stasis chamber. It may still be active." He turned his attention briefly to the Vulcan, "If you think there's a risk, Mister Tuvok, you can throw one of your little force fields around the chamber."

The dark pencil thin eye brow rose and the security chief nodded approvingly, "A prudent security measure, for a doctor." For being emotionless the Vulcan sounded astoundingly sarcastic.

Janeway chose to ignore the unspoken spat between Vulcan and hologram. She wasn't the first captain who had troubles concerning a CMO and a Vulcan senior officer. Instead of playing referee she turned her full attention the still unconscious drone, lying on the surgical table not unlike Frankenstein's creature. "Report."

"I'm afraid we have a decision to make. A difficult one." The Doctor's voice was soft and filled with deep concern. That same concern was filling Torres's face.

He moved from the biobed enough to come very close to the captain who had not fully lifted her gaze from the form. "Her human immune system has reasserted itself with a vengeance. Body armour, Borg organelles, biosynthetic glands, they're all being rejected. Her life is in danger." His voice took on an edge of gravity the captain rarely heard in the hologram. "I have little recourse but to remove the Borg technology."

Now she understood the dilemma the EMH was facing. His ethical subroutine would not allow him to go forward, nor would the Hippocratic Oath. He had to stop, least he bring harm. But if he stopped his patient would die.

"Which is the last thing Seven of Nine would want." The Captain's voice became as thickly embedded with emotion and concern as the doctor's had been. "B'Elanna?"

"I have to agree with his prognosis Captain. She's going to die."

"Hence the difficult decision." The EMH moved once more so his words would not be overheard by the hovering security teams. "If a patient told me not to treat them even if the situation were life threatening I would be ethically obligated to honour that request."

Janeway's eyes stared intently at the body before she spoke, and when she did her voice was as soft as the doctor's had been but there was a difference in that her tone was laced with resolve. "This is no ordinary patient. She may have been raised by Borg, raised to think like a Borg, but she's with us now, and underneath all that technology she is a human being whether she's ready to accept that or not."

B'Elanna hung her head a little knowing the Captain was facing a very deep ethical issue but that problem would not have existed if Janeway had left Seven on a planet like the drone had wanted after they were free. But of course she couldn't do that because after the severance from the Collective. Seven's Borg components started to reject her. A problem that wouldn't have come up if Chakotay had honored the alliance and even if they lost a total of ten days Seven would not be dying, Borg components would have infested the ship and Voyager would still be fleeing Borg territory as they were now. The fact of the matter was it was Chakotay's fault not Janeway's that Seven was in critical condition.

"And until she is ready someone has to make the decisions for her. Proceed with the surgery." Janeway said with no ease in her heart. She looked once at her chief engineer for a moment, an apologetic look gazed back at her.

Kes and Tuvok returned from the morgue area where stasis-storage was located, Tuvok approached and stayed behind and a little to the side of Janeway while Kes retook her place at the bed.

"Aye, Captain." The EMH, his course of action approved, regarded the drone with a new vigor. "Kes, let's begin with the microtubular network embedded in the esophageal tract."

"Yes doctor."

They had just begun the procedure when Seven's body began to convulse. B'Elanna stepped back ready to assist but getting out of the way. Tuvok drew his weapon, pushed Janeway behind him,

"What's happening?" The Vulcan demanded as if going into a seizure was life-threatening to anyone but the patient.

Janeway moved forward, her concern deeply etching lines on her face as she watched the spasms hit the young woman hard enough that her head and heels were the only part of her body on the surgical bed.

"I'm not sure. She's going into neural shock." The monitors recording her stats became sporadic with warning beeping. "I can't localize the source." He moved from his position lifting the medical tricorder trying to access the poor woman's condition, diagnose what was causing the shock. B'Elanna and Janeway both edged forward wanting, needing to be of help. The EMH paid them no heed. "Kes, try to stabilize her motor cortex. Use a neurosequencer."

Kes didn't move, her blue eyes becoming cloudy gray as she stared as if in her own shock at the convulsing body. B'Elanna spun around Janeway to obey the doctor.

"Kes! I said to stabilize her cortex or we're going to lose her!" the Doctor was frantic,

B'Elanna had returned with the hypospray with the drugs that would stabilize the cortex, but was stopped short by the Ocampan.

"Wait. I can see it."

"What?" the doctor barked astonished by the proclamation.

Kes clarified, "the implant." Her abilities pushed past the skin into the body's internal sphere, here her mind traveled along the spine to the bundle of nerves under assault by a tiny Borg component. "I think the problem is in her caligulae." Yes it was right there, a tiny node. "Yes, I can see it. A Borg implant. It's pressing against her tracheal nerve."

"Can you tell me how we might remove it without severing the nerve?" The Doctor wasn't going to get into how his assistant was able to do what she was doing, but took full advantage over the fact she could do it.

"I think I can do more than tell you," Kes concentrated, focused her mind as sharp as the laser scalpel they had used to peel away the armor. Her mind zeroed in on the molecular structure of the implant and took each molecule apart bit by bit.

"The implant is deteriorating," The Doter proclaimed from his medical tricorder. "Her nervous system is stabilizing." In fact Seven's convulsions had stopped altogether as quickly as they appeared. "Nice work, Kes. Unconventional but effective."

Kes smiled in the praise of her teacher. Even B'Elanna and the Captain were grinning. Tuvok rose an eyebrow at what he had just witnessed. His face if one looked hard enough, knew Vulcan's well enough could see deep concern reflecting in those dark eyes.

"Now if you could just do that to all the Borg implants in my Engine room and on the hull I'd sing your praises on the Day of Honor," B'Elanna clapped the young woman on the back.

Kes flushed.

"I'm not sure that is wise," Tuvok voiced his disapproval over the Klingon's suggestion.

"I wasn't fully serious Tuvok, relax before you strain something."

"I am neither stressed or straining anything Lieutenant, but offering prudence when dealing with telepathic abilities."

"Besides I wouldn't put such a strain on Kes," Janeway interrupted her officers. It was bad enough her Chief of Security and Chief Medical Officer were nitpicking on each other she didn't need to add her Chief Engineer into the fray.

"I have something that is of some interest," he gave a small look to B'Elanna and then to Kes before drawing the Captain away from the exam area and surgical bay to an antechamber just off the doctor's office. Kes personally was grateful for the distraction of the Doctor's mysterious boast to draw the others away from what she had done for the drone

The EMH stood proudly behind one of the tables in lab area of the sick-bay, mounted on a mall work-dais was a blue glass eye prosthesis. "They say the eye is the window to the soul. In this case it's a little bit more. I've fabricated this artificial organ to replace her eyepiece, but I've had to retain some of the Borg circuitry along the optic nerve. As a result, she'll have increased acuity in one eye. Note how perfectly I've matched the pigment of the iris to her human eye." A broad smile of pride appeared on the hologram's face

Kathryn looked at the eyepiece and she was impressed. Once in place no one would know it wasn't organic. "Excellent work, Doctor. I admire your attention to detail." She moved past the lab-table back to the bio-bed. "When can I speak with her?"

The Doctor had followed his captain into the sick-bay proper where he took the captain's flank after grabbing a hypo-spray from its storage facility and slammed with the heel of his palm a vial of stimulant. "She's out of immediate danger, and I don't plan to resume the extraction process until tomorrow. I can wake her now, if you'd like?"

The redheaded captain nodded, "I would." She turned from the doctor and patient to another young woman. Her hand softly touched Kes' back, her voice dropped to a level of privacy and care. "How are you, Kes?"

The younger woman found she was smiling, the captain had always radiated a level of security, awe and even love in the Ocampan. There were things she had shared and could share with the older woman she could with no one else. "I feel exhilarated, Captain!" They both smiled brightly, and Kes found herself drowning in the pools of metallic blue eyes that studied her. "I've never been so focused in my life, and my telepathic abilities are stronger than they've ever been."

Janeway rubbed her hand against Kes' back in an almost but not quite a maternal touch. But it was Tuvok not the Captain who spoke. "Your performance today was astonishing." He said with what could be deemed approval and condescension at the same time.

Kes never knew how he did it and remain as emotionless as the Vulcan claimed. "However, your psychokinetic powers are still undisciplined, and as a result, unpredictable."

Kes strove always for his approval and it was always handed with a hearty dose of near disapproving tone that she dare not explore the bonds of her power. But perhaps it was the same with all mentors. However there were times when the teacher had to become the pupil "I feel like I'm in control." Kes asserted herself.

"Nevertheless, you must proceed with caution, and with my assistance."

The captain hadn't been present when Kes demonstrated her show of telekinesis but she had heard of it. If something of the experience had made her Vulcan security chief wary, Janeway listened. But sometimes he was a little too cautious for the scientist in her to fully embrace. Janeway knew if he pushed prudence too far he would do more harm than good for the ever curious four year old Ocampan. She would rebel.

"What are you suggesting?"

"A series of guided meditations to help her explore the depth of these new abilities." Tuvok answered his captain.

Janeway turned to the younger woman, thinking it rude to talk of her when she was standing right in front of them. "Kes?"

Kes was smiling "I'm ready." Her voice became smoother, more silken.

"Well then, if you'll excuse us, we should begin immediately."

Janeway gave a nod of the head and reassuring smile to Kes. She didn't watch them leave as her attention was no diverted back to the EMH, Rothery who stepped up with her hand on her phaser to take point, and B'Elanna now flanking the doctor where Kes had once stood.

"Ready when you are, Captain." The Doctor held the hypo indicating his intentions.

"Do it."

Gently the EMH applied the stimulant to the unconscious drone the reaction due to the nanoprobes in her body was almost immediate. Almost instantly her single eye snapped open darted back and forth in the socket trying to focus away from the disorientation riddling her mind.

"Don't be alarmed. You're in sickbay. You're going to be fine." The Doctor tried his soothing voice he had learned to take from Kes. In this case it did little good. Seven snapped up from the bed, her eye still scanning the area. Her breath coming in large painful gulps as she heard the sound of nothing.

The Hive Mind it was gone! Silent! The Queen didn't answer her inner pleas. There was nothing. NOTHING! Her left hand reached up to hold her hand behind her skull and she found something wrong. So very wrong - parts of her were missing!

Pushing herself up off the bed Seven found her feet stumbling to catch her weight before she found her balance. Fear rose again, Anger rode over the fear. Something was terribly wrong. "What have you done to me?" Her voice hysterical, ragged, wretched in terror.

B'Elanna felt her heart clench at the other woman's terror. But it was the doctor' who spoke first his voice taking on a tone of warmth and reassurance he had learned over the past three years.

"Your body was rejecting the Borg technology. You were dying. I'm sorry, but we had no choice."

Seven of Nine looked disparagingly at her naked left shoulder noticing the gray stripes of some human medical alien devices. They were not Borg. They were not her. She wanted to tear away the defective bits of flesh but stopped just short of doing so.

"Those are dermoplastic grafts. They'll help the regeneration process." The EMH explained.

"Unacceptable." Again her voice wavering on hysteric dread. "You should have let us die!" she looked up her one blue eye staring accusingly at the Captain. She had done this! She had given the order for Human-assimilation. No! 'I will reject this!'

"I couldn't do that."

"This drone cannot survive outside the Collective." Seven growled. She knew this. All drones knew this it was built into their cortical nodes since Assimilation. No drone could survive outside the Collective. She needed the Hive Mind. Her Queen. She needed the unity of the billions of minds interlinked. Everything was so quiet now, so silent. It was madness!

"I beg to differ." The holographic physician lifted a photonic hand and smiled as if the expression was meant to soothe, all it did was anger the drone further. "Now that the Borg implants are being excised your human systems are free to thrive, and thriving they are. "As a matter of fact, I…"

Seven moved passed the twittering hologram heading directly for the Captain. The doctor the security guard pointing a phaser at her the hybrid Klingon were irrelevant. All that mattered now was the Captain. Seven moved like a shark, like the Queen. Determined and single minded.

"I want to help you but I need to understand what you're going through." Janeway's voice took on the same tone she had used when trying to speak to Seven in the lab aboard the Cube.

"Do not engage us in superficial attempts at sympathy." Seven hissed.

"It's obvious that you're in pain, that you're frightened, that you feel isolated, alone." Janeway again spoke, keeping her voice steady, soft as she would speaking to a stray dog that had once been tamed. The voice of power but little threat.

"You are an individual." The hiss had morphed into a sneer, Seven edged around the Captain as if to assess the woman much like the Queen would a new drone for her Unimatrix Zero-One. "You are small. You cannot understand what it is to be Borg." Seven spun fixing her single eyed gaze on Janeway meaning to stare the older woman into submission.

'So its back to Velocity is it? Very well, if that is the way you want to play it.' "No, but I can imagine. You were part of a vast consciousness, billions of minds working together, a harmony of purpose and thought. No indecision, no doubts. The security and strength of a unified will. And you've lost that."

Seven fell back. Yes she was lost. Lost without the vast consciousness of the Hive Mind, the harmony the overall hum of the Queen's mind interlinked with her own. So much silence. One. One. One…. One can not survive alone! The spirit, the venom the anger faded into despair. "This drone is small now. Alone. One voice, one mind." Seven turned staggered once more the energy she had while fuelled with empowering anger faded. She felt the hum of the emotional inhibitor vibrating threatening to shut her down as a defective unit. But all the silence… "The silence is unacceptable! We need the others!" Seven pleaded. She felt herself grab the edge of the bed for support she would never had needed while joined to the Hive Mind. So weak, so alone.

"I can't give you back to the Borg, but you're not alone." Janeway said not unkindly. "You're part of a human community now. A human collective."

Janeway moved to touch the young woman's shoulder. 'Bad mistake.' B'Elanna commentated privately. 'She's going to resent it and that's just going to make your task all the harder in the long run.'

"We may be individuals but we live and work together. You can have some of the unity you require right here on Voyager."

"Insufficient." Seven snarled shrugging off the offending appendage of the Captain. Only the Queen had touched her like that and Janeway was NOT the Queen. The touch only served to show Seven how alone she truly was. She didn't even have the vibrations of the Queen's mind caressing her.


"It'll have to do." This time the Captain's voice was firm and nearly cold almost but not quite the tone of the Queen when she chose to speak rather than use the Link. "And the fact is, this community needs you. The Borg modifications you made to our vessel are disrupting our warp drive. We need your help to remove them, your expertise, your co-operation." Janeway challenged Seven: one gaze to another. Assessing. Had they been playing Velocity the point would have been Janeway's. Like the queen Janeway directly invaded Seven's personal space so much so they were almost literally nose to nose. The voice now frost and decisive. "You must comply."

There was a professional part of B'Elanna Torres that resented having to have the Borg help her in Engineering. As if she had somehow failed to restore the ship. And a part begrudged Janeway's decision to send the Borg into her territory knowing it was indeed the best option. Still it was hard to blow to the young half-Klingon's pride to accept the Borg's presence and aid. And another part was curious to see this Borg back in action.

As an engineer Torres admitted the bald female drone intrigued her despite the fact the same female seemed to know just how to push her buttons and piss the Klingon off. Right now it was all the Borg crap infesting the systems. B'Elanna had returned to Engineering an hour before, Janeway was had managed to bring the drone around once more to a controllable level as she had done before the severance from the Collective. Once more Seven of Nine was responding to the Captain was if redhead was indeed the Queen.

In Kes's own quarters she knelt before the glass surfaced coffee table, her blue eyes intently staring at the oil lamp before her. Slightly above her was the voice of her mentor.

"The flame of the lamp is fire disciplined, tamed and under control. It is the appropriate focus for the task ahead of us."

"How do we begin?" Kes asked softly. This was something new to their meditation and training; of course what she had done in sickbay was something new and unfamiliar.

"I will attempt to guide you in manipulating the flame at the subatomic level." Tuvok said. "Concentrate on the flame. Try to see past the surface, past the light, to the patterns of energy and matter." The Vulcan had to be truthful to himself. Frankly he wasn't certain on what should be done at this point, only that he had an irrational spark of memory of when the Ocampan male had once come aboard Voyager and started to teach Kes the ways of their psionic powers. At one of those times Kes's powers had turned from her control and lashed out at him. His face had started to melt from within. He had nearly died. Tuvok certainly didn't want a repeat of that incident. And try as he might he could not completely vanish the image from his mind.

"I can see the essence of the fire." Kes' voice restored Tuvok to the present activities. And he was grimly relieved her attention was drawn to the fire rather than him.

"Good. Now reach out with your mind and intensify the flame."

Kes continued to stare at the flickering flame, she felt herself being draw in into the fire as if the heat itself became apart of her, her mind, her will. It was too small, not hot enough. She felt the molecules of the element surge into her. Her mind mingled with the symphony of humming particles, her will dancing with the song it made. Sudden she felt the flame flare, its music burning brighter making music like a choir. "I'm making it hotter, brighter."

The Vulcan was impressed. "Now, with your thoughts, reduce the flame." He commanded watching his student heed his commands. He had barricaded his mind in case the Ocampan mental talents slipped from her control as it had once done. He had anticipated to feel his flesh beginning to incinerate but the powers had not overrun her grasp of control in fact the flame of the lamp had diminished to its normal levels of illumination.

"Excellent. You never demonstrated this level of control before."

Kes smiled in the praise of her mentor's completes and approval. "It's as though I knew what had to be done." She had only briefly looked at the male kneeling in front of her before she turned back to the oil lamp. Something of the flame was still humming, still singing in her mind pulling her back into the flickering essence.

"What's wrong?" To any Vulcan they would have been appalled at the note of concern in Tuvok's voice, no human or in this case Ocampan would have been able to pick up the emotion.

"Something's happening." Kes' voice was almost hypnotic as she spoke, "I can see further, beyond the subatomic." Her mental vibrations moved past the bouncing-dancing molecules beyond into something she could not fathom.

"Kes, there is nothing beyond the subatomic." This time his voice was the note of a disapproving teacher.

"But I can see it, Tuvok." Kes challenged. "It's a new level of reality. It's beautiful."

Tuvok's earlier concern was apparently warranted. He had to stop her before control of her psionic prowess was leached away from her by her exuberant zeal. "Perhaps we should stop for now."

"Wait a few seconds. I want to try to control it." Kes didn't have to look up to know worry had become etched on the Vulcan's stony features. "Don't worry, Tuvok,"

It was an amazing sight to see a fireworks display inside a bubble. Colors beyond description beyond known hues rippled past the scope of her vision. It was the very element of flame. This was the spirit of fire. Kes groped to control the elemental and drew its power into her. And it heeded her will.

Tuvok stared as the table, the lamp even the flame flickered, wavered not unlike a cloaked ship becoming visible. The molecules were coming apart.

"Alright, I think I've got all the Borg garbage out of the plasma intake manifold. Let's try reinitializing the antimatter reaction." Torres said from her position near a Jefferies tube conduit. More than anything she wanted her ship back to normal. The Borg, species 8472 and Chakotay had done a number on her baby and the Klingon wasn't in a forgiving mood.

"Matter antimatter reaction at twenty two cochranes and rising." Harry Kim announced. He was at one of the tri-stations near the warp-core. He like several others who had a level-three engineering skill had been transferred to Engineering to aid in all the repairs the war with Species 8472 had caused not to mention the heavy Borg assimilations both the Captain's ordered modifications and those the Borg reaction against Chakotay had caused.

Non-forgiveness became a full out grudge.

Warning alarms sounded and immediately silenced by B'Elanna hitting the panel with a little more force than was necessary. "Damn! What happened?"

Kim looked at the diagnostic computer in dismay. "Intake manifolds eleven and thirteen are still blocked!"

Whatever it was she snarled in Klingonese Kim could only guess was a long string of curses. "This is like pulling weeds. You think you've got them all out and then…"

Torres was interrupted by the crisp notes of a young Borg. "You have neglected to remove the autonomous regeneration sequencers."

"Ensign Kim, you remember Seven of Nine." There was no need to introduce the drone to the lieutenant since she had been working with the doctor to remove the hardware of the Borg implants and had been present during both times Seven had been roused from her sedations by the doctor at the behest of the captain.

"How could we forget?" Kim gave a nervous sort of smile looking at the tall emotionless woman before him. He didn't mean for his words to be as sarcastic as they sounded in fact the imposing figure intimidated him not to mention this powerful woman was Borg.

"We can't afford to delay repairs any longer so I've asked her to help us remove the Borg modifications." Janeway continued ignoring the nervousness of her Operations Officer and the scornful glare from the engineer. It was after all Janeway's insistence B'Elanna aid the Doctor which in fact DID delay the repairs. "She only has a few hours before she returns to sickbay. I suggest you put her to good use."

Seven merely stood still watching the scurrying of crewmembers as they went about the repair works even as they themselves were staring at her.

"You can start with the plasma relays" B'Elanna relented knowing she had no choice in the matter and was far more reluctant to admit she truly needed the drone's help. It was so much easier trying to help Seven of Nine than it was to accept help herself. "They're in Jefferies tube thirteen." She added.

"Jefferies tube thirteen alpha section twelve." Seven of Nine amended coldly, almost challengingly. "We fully recall the engineering specifications of your vessel."

Not to be put off by Seven's precision Torres snapped: "Good. Can you also recall the way it looked before you turned it into a Borg circus?"

"Yes." Again the flat cold response from Seven of Nine came.

"Well, now that the pleasantries are over, why don't you get to work?" Janeway gained another reproachful look from her chief engineer "I want updates every hour."

Torres knew why that last order had been given. It was a security check on the drone's progress, if she could be trusted to cooperate and not turn into a scorpion.

"Yes, Captain." B'Elanna tilted her head as a form of salute. After a pause she turned from watching the Captain leave Engineering to find that Seven of Nine had also been following the retreat of Voyager's commanding officer. There was a trifle rise of jealousy breeding contempt inside the woman's heart. Not for the fact Seven of Nine had been just as mesmerized by the captain or that the attention was not directed to B'Elanna herself but for the fact of skill.

'I'm a damn fine engineer; I don't need some toaster telling me what to do.' B'Elanna mentally slapped herself. Why should such an order vex her so sorely? 'A good engineer recognized the talents in others and is not threatened by it. Besides she knows how this Borg circus works better take advantage of it and further the advantage to learn about it all.'

"Hey before you go to the Jeffries tube Seven of Nine, take a look at this." B'Elanna moved back to the open paneling she had been earlier crouching at when the captain and Borg had entered Engineering. "What about these linkages? Every time I pull one out another one comes back in its place." She had never seen anything like it. Though impressive and if it could retro-engineered to work for and with Federation technology instead of taking them over it would advantageous. If the gel-packs could regenerate just like this it would save on a lot of work. After all the gel-packs could not be simply replicated and that was true of a few other components of ship.

"Autonomous regeneration sequencers." Seven said with almost reckless defiance. "They function to counteract resistance."

"Amazing." Kim spoke the very word running around in B'Elanna's tongue but had gone unspoken. "How did you come up with the pattern duplication design?"

Dismissively the drone answered "We came up with nothing. The Borg assimilated this technology in Galactic Cluster three from species two five nine."

B'Elanna was flushed with anger once again. With that remark she was reminded how the Borg came by technology. It was by no benign means. Her head still stuck inside the paneling she snapped her frustration, "I'm not interested in a history lesson. How do we disable it?"

The Borg was not swayed by the tart reply of the anger given to her by hybrid-Klingon. The Queen was direct and gave quick deceive orders, in fact Seven found herself responding to the swiftness with which this small engineer wanted to proceed with matters. "You must disconnect each sequencer conduit at the insertion juncture." She pointed to the junctures from over B'Elanna's shoulder.

Torres nodded now comprehending the procedure needed to neutralize the 'Borg circus,' with her diagnostic tricorder. "Why don't you two work on the Jefferies tube?" It was not a question. "Start with the plasma relays."

Seven turned on her heel heading for the designated area before Harry had even responded to the chief engineer. He gave a helpless shrug to his friend before trailing after the half armored drone like the lost puppy he resembled. Behind him Rothery followed as she was ordered to watch the drone and keep her under guard.

How despairing her form was, how beautiful and menacing B'Elanna thought. How different almost grotesque in the change from the terrified figure in sickbay to this cold and hardened figure now entering the closeted Jefferies tube thirteen.

For his part Kim was ignorant to the cries of terror or the wretched despair racking Seven of Nine only an hour before. He saw only a self-contained stern woman: a woman who was more of intrigue than fear to this ensign. Kim moved to a panel and began to remove the plugs connecting the plasma relays to the panel's face. "I'll start here." He said and when he gained no response from the woman he turned and tried once more to engage in conversation. "You said the Borg got this stuff from species two five nine. Who are they?" Still no answer came.

Seven of Nine had focused her full concentration upon the Borg interlink with the plasma relays. Harry was if anything persistent in his curiousity. "Guess the Borg meet a lot of people, don't they?"

This got a reaction. Seven turned her pale face to the human with mild irritation, not for the questions but constant interruptions to productive work. Ensign Kim was worse than Captain Janeway with irrelevant dialog.

"Stupid question." Kim mumbled disgusted at his clumsy attempted to chat-up the drone. He returned to the linking plugs and removed them one by one. "So, what's it like out there in Galactic Cluster three?" he smiled giving conversation one more try.

"Beyond your comprehension." Seven's voice was a sharp as any keen edged dagger. She had managed to remove one interface's panel to expose the internal workings of Voyager's conduits.

"Try me." Harry smirked, his ego jarred a little.

"Galactic Cluster three is a transmaterial energy plane intersecting twenty two billion omni cordial life forms." Seven said with little patience and irritant.

"Ah." Kim's face was of a blank stare. He had no idea what a transmaterial energy plane was or for that matter what in the name of the Great Bird of the Galaxy omni cordial life forms were. "Interesting."

Seven had ignored Kim's buzzing words when she saw something that gleaned hope. Her optical implant focused and refocused again upon the internal network of circuits, plasma relays and wires. There nestled in the back was a Starfleet issue communications relay. But to access it she would need to be free. "Ensign Kim, your assistance." Seven of Nine ordered crisply.

Kim smiled and moved to the side of the enigmatic female, she intrigued him and he was only to happy to oblige. Seven moved too fast for him to do anything but be stupidly surprised. By that time he was struck hard in the chest, sent hurtling out of the Jeffries tube and into the back of Rothery. The next instance the door slammed shut. An inspection of it would reveal it was locked from the inside. The hum of energy foretold to the experiences of the Starfleet engineers a forcefield had been erected.

Torres rushed to Kim's fallen form hoisted him up by the collar with her enhanced Klingon given added strength fueled by anger. "What the hell?"

Kim opened his mouth to explain but Torres pushed past him gave a discerning meaningful look to Rothery who had failed her task and turned attention to the closed hatch.

B'Elanna felt her back teeth grinding. What fell from her mouth was a string of Klingonese curses too garbled for Harry to even try and translate.

On the Bridge Paris in an abnormal click of attention on the dual Ops station scanners noticed something flaring across one of the screens. Normally he gave full attention only to piloting leaving the tedious monitoring of ships systems to Tuvok and Harry but with his pal down in Engineering the helmsmen knew he had to keep an eye on the systems in conjunction with Ensign Brumes and Tuvok's replacement Junior-Lieutenant Butler. The triple watch was SOP especially in hostile territory.

"Captain, somebody's trying to access the subspace transmitter."

Janeway was on her feet immediately hit her combadge on her chest instinctively she knew exactly what the problem was. "Torres report!"

Back in Engineering Torres was directing the hive of crewmen in their frantic efforts to reclaim the seized Jefferies tube. "Captain, I don't know how, but she's erected some kind of forcefield around the door. We can't break through it."

On the Bridge Chakotay entered his command codes into the panel trying to circumvent the drone's actions. "She's bypassed our security protocols."

"Disable the transmitter." Janeway hated the way her voice sounded tight and worried.

Chakotay shook his dark head, "It's too late."

Kes felt a tugging at her mind something tingled on the edges of the subconscious of the ship itself. It felt like someone had disturbed the strands of a spider's web.

"It's obvious your mental abilities have progressed beyond this particular Vulcan exercise. I suggest we…" Tuvok let a sigh escape his thin lips as Kes pulled away from her dangerous play at going beyond the subatomic. When he saw the startled expression on Kes's face he knew something was very wrong. "What is it?"

"Something's wrong." Kes commented almost dryly. Her eyes glazed over as her mind searched out the length of Voyager searching the discord in the harmony that was typical of the Intrepid class vessel. She searched for the disappearance in the familiar vibrations of Voyager's crew seeking out the unrest, the discord. Sending her mind cautiously out emptier parts of the ship, as to look for it. She had a fair idea where it might be. Engineering. Hopefully, it would be drowsing.

She recoiled swiftly as she touched it, realizing by the difference in the tension of the aura. The Borg. Kes could see the black armored female access the communications node. The drone's mind was as in much havoc as the circuitry around her. The drone was aware - but she was preoccupied, as if something else had her attention and it had little to spare to look about herself. Kes shockingly realized something was touching the drone's mind. 'She doesn't even know why she's doing what she's doing. She's reacting to a situation a lost child crying out for its mother. The Mother of the Borg!'

"The Borg is trying to contact her people." Kes said aloud.

The Vulcan didn't hesitate, didn't question. Kes had been instrumental with the contact between Species 8472; no doubt she was now just as reliable on her intel. "Tuvok to Security team one. Intruder alert in engineering."

Kes' voice again took on a hypnotic note. "Wait. I think I can stop her."

Kes examined the energies surrounding the Borg from a cautious distance, it was too occupied with her desperate call home she wouldn't notice the surge of cascading power until it was too late. Kes located the shielded plasma circuits. All she had to do was meld with the plasma as she had with the flame beyond the subatomic it would be easy enough to create a cascade failure and overload the power conduits.

Seven had managed to open up the communications node, plug into the system with her assimilation tubules and began transmissions. Soon… soon she would be home where she belonged. She would no longer be one. One alone. She would be once more Seven of Nine Tertiary Adjunct Unimatrix Zero One.

Seven of Nine was struck with amazement as the bulkhead where Ensign Kim had once been stationed began to ripple, water like something was distorting the deuterium on the molecular level. So astonished by the event Seven of Nine didn't move. At first she had rendered the phenomena was irrelevant, but that was futile. How could it be irrelevant when it was something beyond her ken.

Heat expansion?

No time to answer. The rippling bulkhead came like a fissure ripping a hole in the earth. Power surged behind the plasma conduits reaching out in tendrils of blue electricity. The fingers pounded into her chest, through the compromised armor flinging the drone back carelessly.

"It's over." Kes announced confidently. She took care not to kill or overly harm the Borg only render her unconscious. Kes felt no reason to further punish the desperate drone. It was clear she was terrified of being separated form her precious collective. But even Kes' compassion could not bring the crew of Voyager into danger for the price of one woman's comfort and desire to return to home.

"Tuvok to Bridge." The Vulcan hit his combadge. He wanted to trust his student but he would be remiss of his duties as Security Chief if he had done so. "Status."

Janeway had no idea what had happened in Engineering she only knew her the Chief Engineer had nothing to do with the neutralization of the Borg. Both Torres and Kim had been trapped on the outside of the Jeffries tube, Tuvok was not in the vicinity and with the forcefield up there was no way to beam the drone out.

Then Butler's voice gave out a cry of relief as she informed her captain of a surge of power exactly where the Borg had been. Perhaps she had accessed the wrong conduits and electrocuted herself.

Chakotay thought of no great loss. Had he not said the Borg were scorpions waiting to sting their prey. How foolishly trusting Janeway had been to allow that thing to roam the ship and have access to sensitive area. 'This is what comes from allowing compassion to rule. I told you! I warned you to kill the drone. Now look where it lead us.' The commander was mindful not to give voice to his thoughts. He was still earning back the woman's trust it would not serve him to cross her now.

Janeway glared at her first officer if she not Kes were psonically enhanced and knew what lingered in the males' mind. It was then Tuvok's voice called for status report so he might know what to do next.

"There was some kind of explosion in the Jefferies tube just as she was about to initiate her transmission." The Captain answered, "We don't know what caused it."

The chief's voice came over the come system as calm as ever, "I believe I may have the answer, Captain."

B'Elanna and a few of her team had managed to pry open the locked hatch to the closeted area of Jefferies tube thirteen each of them armed with compression rifles set on the highest level of stun possible. Fortunately Torres thought the precaution proved to be unnecessary as Seven of Nine was out cold.

The cadaver tone of her flesh now harbored plasma burns on her exposed shoulder but there appeared to be little damage to the rest of her body. Of course it would be hard to tell until the Doctor looked over her with a medical tricorder what lasting effects the explosion had on her internal organs and her brain not to mention the already seriously compromised Borg implants.

Whatever happened had not only a lasting effect on the neutralized drone but on the bulkheads themselves. Even if they now appeared normal B'Elanna knew on a gut level something was wrong with the Jefferies tube.

Lieutenant Amanda Rothery had taken control over the prisoner and had by her authorization was Security's second in command transported the drone directly to the brig with a level ten force field.

"B'Elanna, I am sorry I should have kept a better eye on her." Harry berated himself. "I was just making small talk and I shouldn't have let my guard down…."

"Starfleet, look be sorry all you what off-shift, I don't have time." Torres averted her attention from the sullen Ops officer to the Jeffries tube. Using her diagnostic tricorder she ran several scans over the area of explosion and snarled under breath when the beeping device relayed its findings. "Son of a Targ."

"Lieutenant." Vorik said from another section of Engineering, "I ran a level five diagnostic on the bulkhead outside Jeffries Tube thirteen. The entire area is compromised at the molecular level."

"Same here." Torres grumbled. "The entire infrastructure is weakened on the molecular level. Somehow I don't think the Borg had anything to do with this. There isn't a trace of her nanoprobes in that area." A small caramel fist struck the wall, "Whose fracking up my ship now?"

"That would be Kes." Tuvok said entering Engineering proper. He calmly made his way to the fiery Klingon. "She was somehow able to use her abilities to neutralize the drone. What has happened?"

B'Elanna gave a deep scowl to the Vulcan officer before giving him a run-down. "If it isn't the Borg trying to ruin Voyager it's Ocampans. She did a number on this deck, Tuvok." B'Elanna gave him the tricorder so he could see for himself the damage of Kes' impromptu actions.

His lips drew a thin line which was Tuvok-speak for 'We're fucked.' "What did the Borg manage to accomplish?"

"Not much from what I can tell. Though checking the bandwidth would be a prudent course of action." B'Elanna said. "If that's all I've got a lot of work to do."

Tuvok acknowledged the slight woman's words by nodding his head slightly. Not saying anything more he moved to one of the computer interfaces and started to do what Torres had proposed by checking the sensor logs to see how deeply the drone was able to tap into subspace communications. He would need a full report to deliver to the captain.

The Klingon returned to her duties, in the desperate attempt to restore Voyager, but her mind try as she might to ignore the diversions continued to spiral back to Seven of Nine. For her part, B'Elanna felt a little shame. It was the duty of every warrior to escape or die trying, and that was what the drone was attempting to do when she used a conduit in the Jeffries tube to contact the Borg. All Seven had done was what B'Elanna herself had done when a prisoner in both a Cardassian concentration camp and a Federation prison. She used all her skills to escape. Still escaping the Cardies was nothing like calling in the Borg Calvary for rescue. Seven of Nine was not endearing herself to the crew and certainly Chakotay would be calling for blood and so too would the Vulcan security officer who had only now left the Klingon's domain intent on meeting up no doubt with the Captain.

Part 13

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