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 7

Kes' delicate fingers typed in information on the wall computer inside the micro-biology lab inputting data from a hand held Data-PADD on their recent findings on the converted nanoprobes.

That's when she saw it reflecting back at her from the panel's opaque surface… the face of nightmare… the eyes of abhorrent wrath.

Kes whipped around waiting dreading to see the creature looming over her.

There was nothing.

Swallowing she felt dread eat at her. There it was in the room with her. Screaming its hate, stalking, rising pouncing, Kes screamed. Maleficent rage stuck her as a physical blow. She fell back hard against the bulkhead, sliding into a ball of fear and terror.

"KES!" the doctor rushed towards his fallen assistant. Worry coloring his holographic face.

"They're here." Kes uttered breathlessly. "Watching us."

Commander Chakotay's temper had grown steadily worse in the last three hours since the Captain and Tuvok had been taken hostage by the Borg. The cybernetic ship had only recently adhered to Janeway's request to let lose the tractor beam holding Voyager. Chakotay could only think the Borg had complied so easily was that they had something nefarious in mind for Voyager and her crew. 'You don't let go of prey unless you have bigger game in mind. Or you were masochistic and relished in the cat-and mouse game of torture.

His hate smoldered becoming a part of him, assimilating his sense of loyalty into disembodied rage. The whole situation was out of his grasp all he had left was the tailspin of unrealistic expectations and orders that were so highly questionable, Chakotay flirted with the idea of temporarily removing Janeway from command. Mutinous thoughts fought with his friendship with the woman who had in the past had taken leaps and bounds in a situation and overcome the enemy with surprising success. But as the Native American did the math Voyager's luck was dried up and shriveled just like an old spinster.

Chakotay tried pulling a Janeway as he entered Sickbay proper and saw a very agitated Kes sitting upon the bio-bed. Somehow Kathryn managed to keep a professional distance and yet feed her eyes, her expression with deep concern and warmth for any crew member heavily distressed and in pain as a result of duty above and beyond. Somehow she made the crew member feel as if they were not insignificant, they mattered. She had done so with Harry Kim who was still resting from his ordeal. She had done so with Kes and numerous others.

It was something Chakotay at this moment grudgingly appreciated about Kathryn Janeway. Somehow she could be very professional and yet personable.

Kes's stormy eyes were no longer clear, but ringed with dark circles, stress etched hard lines in the smooth elfin face. Since Voyager had sailed into the region of space, since Harry's attack she had been receiving a constant barrage of telepathic flashes of hatemongering necrotizing Species 8472.

"Commander," The EMH acknowledged his presence with a grave note in his tenor voice. "We have some disturbing news."

"At this point, I'm getting used to it."

"Her telepathic visions are increasing, both in frequency and intensity."

If Chakotay wanted to speak, to ask questions he didn't have a chance. The elfin Ocopian spoke, her voice unfathomably different than the first officer had ever heard it and it unsettled him. "It feels different this time... like they're right here... in the room..."

Both males spun around looking for what could not be seen save through the eyes of a stressed out telepath. They could not see what tormented her. They could not see the dark red alien eye glaring dilating in rage. The warrior's anger flaring the flesh- prey had made contact with the Hard-shells. They would be purged, this wasn't execution it was pest control.

Kes tried pulling back, desperate to cling to any margin of control she could exert. She wanted to curl up tight against the shadow within that stared out from the darkness. She was tired, so very tired—but she didn't dare sleep. Sleep left her mind unguarded and brought 'them' to the surface. Moving, breathing, seething… dreaming, planning, waiting.

She shuddered. "I'm trying to block them out... I can't..."

In the stillness of that moment she felt pulled, yanked jerked into the face of the beast. In its eyes she saw her own face staring back out at her. Kes twitched making soft sounds of protests and pain.

Chakotay slipped to the young woman's side, taking her into an embrace, lending his strength to steady her. Tricorder in hand, the Doctor quickly and thoroughly completed the medical diagnostic.

"There it is again." His photonic eyebrows bunched together before explaining what it was he had been referring to. "Every time she has a vision specific regions of her cerebral cortex go into a state of hyper-stimulation. Memory engrams. Perceptual centers." He paused obviously disturbed trying to make sense of what his medical readings were telling him. "I can't be sure...but I think there's more going on here than just a simple 'hello'."

Both turned looking at Kes, one calculating the other very concerned.

An icicle driven down Janeway's spine could not have been more chilling than the data the captain was now studying. Full schematics of Federation issued photon torpedoes entombed in Borg technology. There was a strange gothicness to the weapons that gave the normally sleek black encasings a more menacing air.

Tuvok seemed to share his captain's disconcerted appraisal of the weapon as well as admiration for the efficiency and speed in which the Borg had so readily adapted their technology with that of Voyager's.

For the past three hours Seven of Nine had said little but steadily worked. When one task was completed she immediately began the next, as fluidly as one draws breath one after the other.

Janeway couldn't help but be fascinated by her. It struck the captain in a very surreal sense that working with the Borg one to one had been easier than she had first anticipated. Unlike working with the Hive mind she wasn't pushed or intimidated. Seven at times tended to ignore her as being irrelevant as the typical tactical drone might have done.

Not once had Janeway allowed her guard to slip, her ease in working side by side with the Borg scientist to falter. Seven of Nine responded to the command requests as long as Janeway managed them in the precise measures and necessities that the Collective itself might have demanded.

"Enhance this grid. I want to take a closer look at the detonator." The Captain pointed to a section of schematics on the display monitor.

Seven of Nine moved fluidly, tapped the control requested so that the image now gave a magnified detail of the detonation device.

With maddening calm she fixed her mechanical gaze upon the smaller woman with such a frank expression Janeway felt as if she had been under a microscope, or more specifically like one of the butterflies pinned to a board as part of an entomologist's collection. "We must analyze the bio-ship." Seven of Nine quietly addressed Janeway before raising her hand, "Your data."

Saying nothing, but watching with extreme interests and wonder the captain of Voyager handed the Borg the PADD Tuvok had brought over with him. Wasting no time, Seven of Nine turned to a console at the table and began to work; ignoring the fact the other female was now so close to her that their shoulders were touching. If the drone felt the scrutinizing gaze of the older woman she gave no hint of it.

"You're human, aren't you?" Janeway's voice was smooth, soft and curious. Reaching but gentling as if speaking to a wild forest cat and talking it into not eating her for a midday meal.

The answer she received as no more and no less matter-of-fact "This body was assimilated eighteen years ago. It ceased to be human at that time." Her indifference unsettled not only Janeway but even Tuvok reacted in a most Vulcan way as an upraised eyebrow arched high onto his dark forehead.

'She was just a babe in arms when she was assimilated. She can't be more than twenty four-twenty five. Raised by the Borg, she would know nothing else. No wonder the Queen chose her. Still there must be something of the former self that remains. Locutus knew he was Picard.' "I'm curious." Janeway began again, another approach, "what was your name... before you were…"

"Do not engage us in further irrelevant discourse." Seven's voice became crisp, cold and digital. For a moment the captain wondered if it was Seven of Nine speaking or the Collective.

'Getting a little close are we?' Janeway thought about what that could mean. 'Assuming she is on the same level of Locutus who had been reached via the Betazed Ship's councilor Deanna Troi and the his closest friends and shipmates, does that mean on some level Seven of Nine can be reached?' The Captain smiled ruefully, the personal approach might not be working but it had triggered a dead quick response to shut the human out.

Further speculation was dropped at the strange twittering-crackling sound interrupting them. Strange because like the Voices of the Hive mind it was everywhere at once, a deep base sound Janeway felt the vibrations ricochet within her skull.

"We are being hailed by your vessel." Seven interpreted the noise for the Voyager captain and her tactical officer. Without further discourse the drone moved to a smaller monitor that was twelve inches in diameter. Janeway thought it looked like a lens on the end of a snake-like tubing. Deceptively delicate fingers in silver mesh activated a control panel near on the frame of the monitor so when it opened Janeway was now patched into the Voyager's internal com-system in sickbay.

It wasn't the doctor but Chakotay in the 'camera's' eye. Almost instantly Janeway's hackles rose. Had she been the tigress she impersonated earlier in the briefing room, her ears would have been flat against her skull and her tail thrashing wildly. Even without these appendages one could easily imagine it.

"Commander, what is it?" Janeway strove to keep the impatient snarl out of her voice. If he rang up just to nag about how he didn't approve of the alliance she was going to have him thrown in the brig from here to eternity. Right now the diminutive captain needed everything she had to stay one step ahead of the Borg, she could ill-afford to lend energy to a futile argument.

*It's Kes.* Chakotay said quickly having read the exasperated fury in his captain's now fully iron gray eyes. *The Doctor believes that the aliens are accessing her memory.*

The implications sent a chill into the Captain's heart. This was not a good day. Not a good day at all. "If that's true, they may already know what we're planning."

The man nodded, *I've ordered long range scans for bio-ships... nothing so far.*

As she would anyone of her crew, the words came out as an order even if it was a heavy handed suggestion "We should alter course... try to throw them off."

"Agreed." The Borg saw the complete merit of this action. Her eyes changed focus and in that instant Janeway knew she was in communication with the Hive mind. There was a point to the Borg's insistence of efficiency of transmitting ones communication directly into the mind, only two seconds had passed before Seven returned her attention to Voyager's crewmen. "Our course and heading have been changed.

Not to be out done but the Borg superior communicative skills Janeway didn't miss a beat with handing out her own orders. "Match them. Keep me apprised of any changes in Kes."

*Chakotay out.* He closed the communication with a small tilt of his head. Apparently he was wise enough to realize the moment now was not the time for posturing and protesting the Borg Alliance. And apparently he was still holding fast to the bruised ego of having to be reminded that it was Janeway not himself that was in command of Voyager.

It was a careful eye that tracked the young Borg female across the room to join the lanky form of Tuvok. Janeway was struck again with the lithe form of the drone Seven of Nine. The grace and fluidic movements were a betrayal to the hard body of her Borg exoskeleton armor it was disturbing and surreal to witness.

Tuvok didn't seem to be struck with the vertigo of clashing images working along side Seven of Nine. After the call from Voyager he had returned to the computer interface he had been using early. The schematics of the virtual torpedoes were now entirely assimilated. The permutations of their work seemed to be a success as far as the computer simulations were concerned.

"We now require one of your photon torpedoes and the nanoprobes." Seven of Nine's voice became analytical, precise if she were making an order from a menu at an up-scale restaurant and expected full obedient service.

"One step at a time." Janeway reminded the young drone. "We're not safely across your territory yet."

Seven of Nine found herself staring at the other female in confusion. How could the female dismiss the dangers Species 8472 represented? Had they not just labored on the refinement of the Federation ordnance with Borg ingenuity? The next step was to actually construct the weapons from the schematics. How could she refuse?

Urgency laces the drone's words imploring the other to listen to logical reason and conclusion. "We must construct and test a prototype - now. The risk of attack has increased."

"Irrelevant." Janeway adapted the Borg's demeanor. She would not yield the battleground even if the opposition had changed the rules. "We have an agreement. You're asking me to give up my only guarantee that you won't assimilate us. I won't risk it."

'Impact, Janeway. Round to Janeway. Janeway leads three rounds to indefinite score,'

Seven of Nine found herself studying this petite woman standing before her with her hands balled into fists and resting on her hips and realized she would never understand this particular specimen. Janeway had precisely the same dimensions of the Queen actually carried the mannerisms of the Borg Queen. She would make an excellent Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One. Her will would greatly enhance the perfection of the Collective if she was designated for Royal Protocol. Like Locutus, Janeway carried this essence of indomitable will that attracted the purpose of the Queen's own Unimatrix.

Seven might have been startled had she not been Borg to hear the Queen's voice within.

'Janeway is withholding the promised information by stalling this is unacceptable. Instruct her on the tactics of the Collective if she does not comply. They are small and fall easily to oppressive numbers, inform her of this tactical error of her willingness to risk a direct confrontation. Janeway is pragmatic and will not risk her ship or her crew. They can not resist the Collective. Remind her of the value of numbers.'

"Are you willing to risk a direct confrontation with us? " A trace amount of smugness and overconfidence laced the words of the young drone. "If we transport five hundred drones onto your vessel...do you believe you could offer sufficient resistance?" Each word perfectly and precisely enunciated.

Impact, Seven of Nine. Round to Seven of Nine. Janeway leads three rounds to one,'

The chamber became charged by strike and counterstrike. Will of the Collective versus the Will of one very determined Kathryn Janeway. Seven of Nine pushed the envelope of the agreement, using the ship as emotional blackmail and become entirely stymied when the captain did not relent. It looked like Janeway wasn't going to back down any time soon.

"We'd die trying." The captain responded evenly.

'Intriguing.' The Queen's voice sounded in Seven of Nine's mind. 'Janeway is stronger of will than other Federation Captains we have assimilated. Of her species Five-Six-One-Eight only Locutus gave sufficient resistance. Do not engage Voyager in a confrontation at this time. '

A stand-off. They gauge one another... Borg and human... this alliance a precarious one... finally, it's Seven of Nine not the captain who stands down.

"That won't be necessary." The tone flat mechanical denying the defeated tone to color it.

Impact, Janeway. Round to Janeway. Janeway leads four rounds to one,'

As if the stand-off had now become irrelevant the drone turns back to the console keying up more statistics. "We must construct a launching system to accommodate this design."

That was too easy Janeway felt the sentiments were obviously shared by the stoic Vulcan. He wasn't easily unnerved but this experience on the cube was taxing even his tight hold on his emotions and patients He admired his old friend's capability to not only remain in control but bring the Collective under restraint.

"The Collective must be truly desperate to follow your requirements and demands." He whispered despite the fact he knew the drone could hear them.

Janeway nodded. Despite the fact she had been counted on the Borg desperation it was very unnerving to have them comply with her ultimatums. They pushed, tried to manipulate the circumstances but fell back at every resistance to every wall the Captain built.

Just how desperate were the Borg?

It was assumed they cared little for their fellow drones. Kill one or a million and the Collective would think it irrelevant. They would simply replace the drones with new assimilated victims. But what if they felt it? What if each drones life snuffed out was a deep blow to the Collective. Did the Queen feel each death? If she felt it, was experience cycled throughout the Hive Mind? How many drones fell before the Collective became terrified enough to comply with the directives of one small woman?

The atmosphere on the Bridge was one of tension and subdued realization of fate. Still it was better than Sickbay or at least that was what young Harry Kim had tried to tell himself. Nearly two days had passed before the Doctor had released the helmsman from his internment and deemed him fit for duty.

Actually it had been Kes who had done the final convincing of the Doctor to let Kim go. He had grown agitated and anxious which was doing nothing for his blood pressure. The nanoprobes had worked a miracle in fact Harry hadn't felt this good in years.

And that bothered him. His fear had been that he would spontaneous sprout implants and turn on his crewmembers telling them resistance was futile while he robbed them of life as they knew it. 'At least it would be a life.' He trembled, thinking of the necrotizing plant like lifeform that had been slowly eating him alive. Anything would be better than that. Anything.

The Borg.

It had been the Borg that saved his life however inadvertently and now Voyager's only hope of escape was from the same soulless beings. Kim's eyes were drawn to the flashing panels of red though he already knew the ship had been on a constant red alert ever since the Captain's abduction.

Fluidly the Bridge crew toiled over COM-panels at each strategic station. He doubted that Chakotay, Torres or Tom had rotated their shifts as they were supposed to. No doubt on their thirty-two hour mark well since hit and passed. Gamma shift crewmen worked the various other stations a testament of how late it truly was.

It was Tom who swiveled in his chair in hearing the pneumatic doors swoosh open, hoping it was Neelix with food. His eyes sparkled when he spotted his buddy hesitantly take a step closer on the Bridge.

"Harry... welcome back." The boyish face was positively beaming.

"Thanks." He did not smile back but turned his gaze to the commander "Reporting for duty, sir. The Doctor gave me a clean bill of health." His tone brightened a little knowing just how ironic his nest few words would be "I... miss anything?"

For the first time since before the heated meeting in the conference room with the Captain, Chakotay found himself joining Paris in the smile of relief. "Not too much. Take your station, Ensign."

"Yes sir." Harry felt weight lift from him, he felt so at ease now that he was back into his familiar zone. Even Maquis with her arms folded over her chest was grinning at him with her bright teeth happily moving over to allow him access.

The Klingon nudged his shoulder with her own, "You've still got a tendril up your nose." B'Elanna said it so casually Harry actually checked rubbing his fingers under his nose before he realized she was having him on.

Harry shot her a look or reproof watching her move to the Engineering station taking it over from the engineer that had been assigned to man it. Even before Torres settled clarion wails shattered the relative silence. Harry jumped forgetting for a precious moment what it was like to be in a battle-ready situation.

"Commander," Paris called out nervously rechecking the data scrolling by on the helm-control "I'm picking up gravimetric distortions... twelve thousand kilometers aft" Blue eyes widen in galvanizing fear. "It's a singularity!"

Seven of Nine turned on Janeway so fast she was startled but what terrified the captain more was the deep concern in the one blue eye. The Borg was feeling fear…

"We are under attack."

There was no helping it, Janeway automatically assumed command of the situation. And for the moment the Drone almost…not…quite…but almost seemed very compliant to take the orders of the Starfleet captain as if it was the natural order of things. "WE need to secure stations."

'Seven of Nine, secure Janeway and Voyager from destruction all else is irrelevant. The needs of the Collective outweigh the needs of a single cube." This time the Queen had not spoken to Seven via the neurological implant, her voice not the Hive had reverberated throughout the entire vessel.

"Confirmed." Seven of Nine answered. Just who she was answering was anyone's guess. Any hint of her earlier distress was now absent. It was to an outside observer as if the drones possessed an emotion chip not unlike Commander Data of Enterprise-D. One moment they reacted the next nothing. Cold and mechanical as ever.

Screams of warp engines tore through the hull of the Borg Cube, outside they sailed a swift arc, its squid form glowing a warning its weapons were charging.

The viewscreen on Voyager shifted, trailing the flight path of the bio-ship.

"They're charging weapons." Paris announced - no one blamed his paranoia that Voyager would be the target.

"Shields! Keep a lock on the away-team!"

The order given not a Vulcan's heartbeat too soon, even with shields Voyager rocked hard from weapon impact. It would be over in seconds.

"Direct hit to our secondary hull!" Torres cried out.

"Transporters are off-line! Shields and weapons are down." Kim shouted, glancing over to commander wishing for the reassuring presences of his captain.

"Evasive maneuver," Chakotay roared, his own fear sinking in the pit of his stomach sinking watching the two titans trying to destroy one another with Voyager stuck in the cross-fire.

A burst of fire-bright torpedoes… one, then two, three, four, five… slipped from the cube and sailed with unerring aim toward the bio-ship. But after several volleys with the living vessel, the cube's defenses were weakening, as were Voyager's.

"Voyager has taken heavy damage." Tuvok announced gravely.

"We cannot let the nanoprobes be destroyed!" Concern filtrated the drone's voice, it was unacceptable that Voyager be destroyed. That small insignificant ship only days before cataloged as irrelevant now was the single hope of the Collective's existence.

"Voyager will not be destroyed." Seven turned to Janeway her single blue eye harsh and determined.

"You will not assimilate us." Janeway snarled, demanded. "COMPLY!"

Seven balked

"COMPLY! My people will transport myself and Mr. Tuvok from here. Your shields are gone you can't stop it, but you can save the Collective if you COMPLY!"

"I will comply."

"Not you Seven of Nine. I'm talking to HER." Janeway looked up at the chamber's ceiling as if it would help to address the Queen "ONE OF MANY you will comply. No assimilation and I will save the drones in this compartment; we will make the weapon in accordance to the agreement. But if I make it so your drones will consider ALL Voyager crew irrelevant and not assimilate us. Comply or the deal is off and you can be destroyed even if that means Voyager and her crew are. We will NOT be assimilated."

0000.3 seconds is a very long time.

Relatively speaking.

The Borg cube floundered under hit after hit. Bulkheads erupted un multicolored fireworks: sharp bits of debris flew past Tuvok's face and eyes, struck his skin as he pitched forward against the deck. The cube was beginning to come apart the Vulcan realized.

"WE WILL COMPLY" it was the voice of the collective, under the voice of an individual the voice of One of Many. It was the voice of the Queen.

Fires broke out along most of the deck's corridors engulfing drones in a wake of red death.

"Seven of Nine." Janeway addressed the lone drone. "On my ship I am QUEEN."

"Understood." The drone answered easily. "We will comply with your agreement Kathryn Janeway. The needs of the Collective outweigh the needs of the cube."

"You mean to sacrifice the cube to save Voyager?" Tuvok said wanting, needed reassurance. Climbing back to his feet moving for his captain not caring that he had been unnerved at the Borg's use of the Vulcan epitaph despite at the moment the philosophy was sound and most definitely working in Voyager's favor.


"By my authorization" Janeway said. "We will make this work Seven of Nine. I will allow this lab to be transported to Voyager's cargo bay two. But you will obey me on my ship. One drone out of step and I will terminate the nanoprobes, all data and all records and my ship, after all a hologram can't be assaulted nor can its matrix. And your Collective will be destroyed along with Voyager."

"The terms of the alliance are less than satisfactory however we will comply. The nanoprobes must not be destroyed."

"Yeah, I thought you'd say that."

'Impact, Janeway. Round to Janeway. Janeway leads five rounds to one,'

The bishop-squid bio ship flared once more, its weapons charging there was no defense against it, no shields strong enough to withstand its power.

"We're being targeted!" Paris hollered.

"Brace for impact!" Chakotay commanded praying it wasn't their last.

Seven of Nine was fully aware of the cube's movements. It had pulled back one quarter power allowing for Voyager to maneuver ahead as the larger target presented itself. The Bio-ship zipped in for the kill, a vulture feasting upon the dead. Tendrils of EM pulse weapons meant for Voyager struck home hitting the cube ripping large chunks from her side.

Bolts of amber lighting tore through bulkhead after bulkhead; drones in the way became vaporized. Ravenous tendrils of power ripped into the lab struck walls, computers, drones.

Janeway dashed for an alcove hoping to find cover, another blast roared, hit the far wall knocking out massive chucks of pewter wall only to backlash, against Janeway and Seven of Nine. The impact lifted the Captain off her feet flung her across the chamber dashing her headfirst into the floor.

The Cube spun out of control its bulk striking a collision course into the bio-ship. Full tilt ramming-speed the smaller vessel no matter how maneuverable had not the chance to move out of the way in time. The cube like a wounded dragon erupted taking its slayer with it.

Voyager whirled in a tailspin before righting itself, hit warp eight and ran from the battlefield.

Chakotay rose to his feet, clung to the back of Tom's pilot seat, his words disconcertingly removed of emotions. "The Cube?"

"Destroyed... and they took the bio-ship with them." Paris answered his voice stealing against the raw emotion of the thought of how the captain had been taken from them.

No one dared utter a sound. The cube had sacrificed itself for Voyager. The Cube with the Captain and Tuvok on board had been obliterated.

"Tuvok to Chakotay." soft. Desperate. Questing.

Harry smirked, B'Elanna had a full wide grin and Tom punched the air in relief. If Tuvok was alive then the captain had to be. Even Chakotay bore the expression of relief if not disbelief.

"Go ahead, Tuvok-where are you?" the words were urgent.

'In a great deal of pain.' The Vulcan's mind snapped avoiding the idea it was an emotional outburst. Lying on the metallic floor, Tuvok managed to prop himself up on one bloody elbow. His green blood trickling down mingling with the red life-force of the captains in a macabre sorted pool of Christmas colors. He pushed back the gag reflex at the sight and smell of charred uniform and flesh.

"I'm in Cargo Bay Two... along with the Captain... and a number of Borg. We were beamed over just before impact." He coughed, spraying emerald blood down his dark chin and uniform front. Strength vanished and his body crashed to the floor fighting to stay conscious for just a fraction more. "We require... assistance..."

"Tuvok... Tuvok?" Chakotay on his feet took the steps from the pit to the upper level of the Bridge his strides already taking him to the door. His eyes found B'Elanna's "Seal off that deck." His head whipped around towards Lt. Rothery who had taken over Tactical." He hit the com making a ship wide announcement. "Security Team to Cargo Bay Two. Sickbay we have a medical emergency. Rothery with me, Tom, you have the Bridge."

The next moment he and the Second in Command of Security were out in the turbo lift and gone. The seconds it took for the lift to take them to the correct deck and race down the corridors with fully armed Security guard was an eternity.

Chakotay didn't even hesitate giving the order to storm the Cargo Bay. Rothery and Samuels flanked him, both with phaser rifles. The EMH darted in of the four he was the only one not in risk of being assimilated.

Behind them, Chakotay noted with interests was pulsing white light super conductor from the Borg laboratory. Here on the floor their true quarry. Both the Captain and tactical office lay still on the metal deck in pools of their own blood.

Chakotay faltered on his feel when he saw his captain. For a moment he thought her dead. Her chest moved so slowly he wasn't sure it was moving at all. Her face, the classic Renaissance beauty marred with burns, blood and a deep gash going across the once smooth forehead. Her chest, the uniform badly scorched the commander dare not allow himself to think what mangled mess it was under the blackened burnt cloth.

The EMH quickly examined each prone figure before signalling the emergency medical transportation of both fallen heroes to sickbay.

Chakotay's eyes blinked as someone rudely flashed his face with a beam of targeting light from a weapon. A voice clear, precise and demanding accompanied the light.

"Lower your weapons."

The shadow the commander had seen early came it view. A female form suddenly, shark like was upon them. A weapon had yet to be lowered.

"We are here with your Captain's consent." Seven of Nine clearly informed Chakotay without any ceremony or introduction. "It was necessary to sacrifice our vessel to protect yours."

The large bear of a man resisted the urge to pull the trigger on his rifle. It would be so easy. Just pull the trigger. The mechanical creature would be put down like a rabid beast. His eyes filling with dead cold hate. 'Just pull the fracking trigger! Destroy her!' his mind wailed. His desire was to see her bleed, to see her obliterated. Raising the rifle, his finger dangerously close to squeezing the trigger all the way back.

"We have an alliance... do we not?" the drone tilted her head to the side, as if analyzing the actions of the man before her. She couldn't have missed his finger's pressure on the rifle's trigger.

'Pull it! Pull it!'

Seven didn't move, didn't say anything further. Her eyes had told the commander everything; he had been measured, and weighed and found wanting.

"I suppose you're right." Ever so slowly Chakotay lowered his weapon. "For now. We are going to see to our injured, you and your drones are going to stay here until we figure out what to do next."

"Construction of the weapon is the logical course of action. It is why the cube was sacrificed."

"I don't call it much of a sacrifice." Chakotay muttered to himself not realizing the female drone had heard him perfectly. "Regardless you people are staying put. The captain might have consented to you're being here but I don't concur. And don't think my people won't fire on you if they think any action you take is going to put us in danger."

"We negotiate only with Janeway." Seven informed him coolly not at all intimidated to his posturing. He was insignificant and small hardly worth the effort to assimilate him. Not like Janeway who the Collective believed a prime candidate for becoming an Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero-One. "See to her injuries and report back to us."

Part 8

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