This is dedicated to Gracie-chan; I hope I did your story justice.
Seven was back. Aside from a few extra implants, and some unpleasant memories, she was back to her old self. Janeway headed out into the corridor and the cargo bay doors hissed shut behind her.
She never knew what a thin line she walked that day. She never knew how differently things might have been.
"I gave you a direct order!" Janeway snapped.
"One order," the Borg Queen countered implacably. "One individual." She looked to Seven, daring her to respond. "Comply."
For a long moment, Seven stood torn between the two. The Queen's voice was in her head, overriding, commanding. Resistance was futile.
With a supreme effort of will, she broke away. "Captain!" she said quickly, before the Queen could reassert control. "Target the node above this chamber. It will disrupt her command control."
Janeway raised her phaser rifle, sighted and fired. The node blew outward, showering the chamber with metal fragments and the Borg shields came down.
In a million universes, that was the end of it.
"I gave you a direct order!" Janeway snapped.
"One order," the Borg Queen countered implacably. "One individual." She looked to Seven, daring her to respond. "Comply."
For a long moment, Seven stood torn between the two. The Queen's voice was in her head, overriding, commanding. Resistance was futile.
With a supreme effort of will, she broke away. "Captain!" she said quickly, before the Queen could reassert control. "Target the node above this chamber. It will disrupt her command control."
Janeway raised her phaser rifle, sighted and fired. The node blew outward, showering the chamber with metal fragments and the Borg shields came down.
In a million universes, that was the end of it.
But not here.
As the shields dropped the Borg Queen sent out an order to the drones scattered throughout the chamber. With the instantaneous speed of thought, she commanded them.
The drones, six in all, moved to surround Janeway and Seven just as the transporter began to shimmer around them. The transporter safeguards, recognizing the Borg as life-forms, automatically increased power in order to transport everyone within the beam safely.
"Shields are down!" Paris exclaimed triumphantly. "I've got them--stand by--"
Suddenly, there was a warning beep from his console. "Mass ratio's increased by three hundred ten percent!" he read.
"Abort transport! Send them back!" Tuvok ordered, rapidly. Paris was already attempting to do so, his fingers flying across the console, but it was too late.
Six figures appeared in the rear of the shuttle: Janeway, Seven, and four Borg. In desperation, Paris threw a force-field around the aft-compartment. It took one of the drones all of three seconds to adapt to it, and then they were in the cock-pit.
The battle was brief, and one-sided. Even Tuvok, with his Vulcan strength, was not match for the Borg in close-quarters combat. The four biological members of the Voyager crew were swiftly overpowered. Almost as an afterthought, one of the Borg fired a pulse from one of its weapons at the Doctor's mobile emitter, disabling it. The drone picked it up and rejoined the others of the group. All disappeared in a haze of Borg transporter energy.
He was lying on a cold slab of metal. All around him, green lights flickered and nebulous figures moved, intent on various missions. His limbs were secured; he couldn't move. It was dark.
I am on a Borg vessel. I am in an assimilation chamber. Fear.
Tuvok told himself sternly that is was useless as well as illogical to be afraid. There is something to be gained in every experience, he said silently, repeating one of the tenets of Vulcan Philosophy that his old Master was fond of quoting. Remain calm. A course of action will present itself.
"Tuvok?" Scarcely more than a whisper, but his sensitive ears caught it. "Captain? Anybody?"
"Mr. Paris," Tuvok answered, keeping his voice low. "Where are you?"
"I don't know." There was barely suppressed panic behind the pilot's voice. "It's too dark. I can't see anything."
"Describe your surroundings as best as you can." As far as Tuvok could tell, Paris' voice was emanating from below and to the left of the Vulcan.
"Uh--I'm lying on some sort of examination table. There's some sort of force-field restraint around me. I can't move. I can't see anything at all--no, wait--there's someone here. I can hear him moving around--" Paris' voice cut off abruptly.
"Ensign?" Tuvok called. "Are you all right?"
There was a long silence. "Tuvok? Are you still there?" Paris asked, his voice weak.
"I am here. What happened?"
"I don't know." Paris sounded confused. "There was a Borg here, a second ago. He did something to my arm--I can't feel it any more." The fear in his voice was more pronounced now. "They're assimilating me--a piece at a time--oh god, my arm, it's gone--!"
"Remain calm, Ensign!" Tuvok ordered.
"How the hell can you say that?!"
"It is the most logical course of action. Resistance is not futile, Ensign, but this is not an opportune time. We must trust that Voyager will come after us, and take any opportunity that presents itself."
"Right," Paris said shakily. "No problem. I mean, sure, Voyager could be hundreds of light-years away from here by now, and we'll both be drones by the time they get here, but hey, no reason not to look on the bright side."
Tuvok raised an eye-brow, one motion he could still perform. "We can hope that the Borg do not decide to add your sense of humour to their collective. It could be a devastating weapon."
"Yeah, well--" There was a sudden clatter from the direction of Paris' voice. "Hey! What's going on? Get away from me! Get away from me!--" There was a final up-scaling scream, and then silence.
Tuvok called Paris' name several times, but there was no reply. He was not surprised.
Methodically, Tuvok tested his restraints, searching for any weakness. There was none.
He had nothing to do but wait. Tuvok closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, sinking into a deep meditative trance. Before the drones arrived, his had to consider his options.
One course open to him was suicide. There were Vulcan methods by which mental control could be exerted over the body's autonomic functions. It would be undoubtedly best for Voyager if he did so; if the Borg assimilated his tactical knowledge, they would have a distinct advantage.
He considered the option, and then rejected it. The Borg had surely captured Captain Janeway, whose knowledge was equal to his own and who had no Vulcan techniques for willing herself dead. Suicide would serve no purpose.
Having ruled that out, there was only one other logical thing to do. Slowly, he began to construct walls within his mind, mental barriers held in place with all the strength he possessed. He would attempt to keep himself separate from the collective. He would likely fail, but it was the only thing he could think of to do. He sank deeper into trance, noting as his consciousness slipped away the sound of footfalls into the room.
Kathryn Janeway groaned, as she began to wake up. The oppressive heat was pressing onto her from all sides, and she looked around herself groggily. Black metal walls. Green lights. Air thick with humidity.
I'm in a Borg cube. Her previous memories came flooding back; the fight between her, Seven, and the Queen; the attack on the shuttle. Her heart leapt into her throat. Paris. Tuvok. The Doctor--they must be--
"Assimilated." The words sliced through the thickness of the air, and the Borg Queen stepped into view. "They have been made into drones. They serve the Collective." She smiled wanly, a mockery of the gesture. "You should feel honoured; they are their own sub-unit."
Janeway stared up at the Queen, a rage building up so vehemently inside her that she felt it would come shooting out, beams of energy, like one of Paris' insane Captain Proton villains. Paris. The thought of her good-natured pilot as a Borg made her want to cry, and single- handedly rip the cube apart with her bare hands until she found him. Until she found them all.
She did nothing, but watched the Queen through narrowed eyes.
The Queen did not deign to return the gaze, but turned, and watched something scroll by on a display panel. "You want to know why you are here."
"To assimilate me," Janeway snarled. "Why else?"
The Queen smirked again, although she still did not face the captain. "Why else, indeed." It did not seem a response, but more of a musing.
Janeway tried to stand up. She used the wall as leverage; her ankle hurt furiously, but she didn't think that it was broken. That was lucky, at least. Good luck. She ran a hand along her neck; no Borg implants. Better luck. When the Captain held her hand out, it brushed a force-field, which crackled weakly. It was reactive, she could tell, but she didn't test the theory. The run of good luck had ended.
The Queen turned her gaze once more upon Janeway, and the Captain returned it without any trepidation. She wasn't afraid of the Borg; fear had given way to intense loathing.
"You are resilient," the Queen said. "You all are. For such an inferior species, you manage to hold on in the face of insurmountable odds."
"We like to survive," Janeway retorted. The two women faced each other, and the human found it gratifying when the Borg turned away first.
"I can learn much from you, Captain," the Queen said simply. "That is why you are not assimilated."
"I will tell you nothing," Janeway growled. "I'd rather die."
"I've heard that before," the Queen replied, thoughtful. "But I don't need your co- operation, Captain. You teach me so much without ever realizing it."
Janeway had no idea why the Borg was rambling so; she kept her tongue and the Queen continued.
"I had originally thought that Seven would serve this purpose; that she would tell me all I needed to know. But she would not. Even in the face of reassimilation. Now I realize that it is you who is the teacher; and that is why you were spared." The Queen looked to the doorway, and a drone shuffled in. It left a tray at Janeway's feet, and then shuffled out again. The Queen poked the tray through the force-field with her toe. "That is nutritional supplement. Borg do not eat, but I suppose you already know that."
"I suppose I do," Janeway replied quietly. She made no move towards the tray or its pack of Starfleet-issue rations. She recognized it from the Flyer's supply.
"I will leave now," the Queen said, as if to an imaginary crowd, instead of one furious former Captain, and she left the room, and Janeway behind.
Janeway sighed, and slid down the wall, sitting as best as she could to accommodate her ankle. Despite her show, she was frightened, for herself and for her crew. She picked up the ration packet and examined it carefully. The seal was still set, so it hadn't been tampered with; but then the Borg could have tampered with it and reset the seal. They had the technology. They also had the technology, and the power over her, to do whatever they wanted, and as she well knew, they had no patience for indirect approaches.
She laughed to herself. She could not let such mind games get to her, or it would drive her insane. If they wanted to kill her, they would. if they wanted her alive, then--she tore open the package with her teeth, and ate a few of the "compressed nutritional wafers" (crackers).
They were supposed to have the taste of real wheat crackers, but did not; however, they were a vast improvement over earlier versions which were supposed to taste like food of some sort, but did not.
She wished she could have some of Neelix's spread to put on them, it made even Starfleet rations enjoyable. The stray thought nearly brought tears to her eyes. She knew that in all likelihood, she would never see the Talaxian--or any others of her crew--again.
If the Borg did not hold Voyager in its collective palm already, they surely would if the starship returned to save Janeway. She could not let any more of her crew share the same fate as Seven, Paris and Tuvok. Grinding a cracker between her teeth, she made a solemn, heartfelt wish to the deities of the universe that Voyager would not return to rescue her.
Seven woke up with a snap. At first, she did not know where she was. It seemed familiar, but only as if from a dream. Then the haze cleared from her mind and she realized she was still in Unimatrix One. She was--she looked down at herself, and felt as though she was looking through someone else's eyes; she saw a body, wrapped in metal, and hands; one human and her own, and one--a drill. She felt her world start to slip away from her.
She was a Borg again. And yet, she was still herself. The voices of the Collective swirled around in her head, but she was no longer part of them. They were not the only voice; they were simply a background noise.
"This is not possible," she said, but her mouth did not move, and her words did not ring out. She said it in her head; and yet the Collective did not hear. Did not respond.
A drone passed her, and turned, its mechanical eye whirring as it placed her.
"Unit, you are now One of Three, Primary Connection Module, Unimatrix One. You will assist Two of Three and Three of Three in the Research and Dissemination Module. Comply."
"We will comply," Seven replied, hearing her own voice speak for the Collective. She followed the drone, her legs moving in rhythm, while she fought with every ounce of motivation she had to resist. But the Borg had control of her body; they had control of her brain. But they did not have control of her mind, and they did not know that.
The twists and turns were infinite, it seemed to her; how far she had come from the last time she had walked these catwalks as a drone. As a true drone. Input from the Collective was downloaded into her neural network, but as her brain decoded the information, her consciousness shied away from it. She was frightened that any move she made might arouse suspicion from the Collective; in fact, she was terrified that her fear itself would cause notice. But the drone in front of her kept walking, left foot, right foot, left; the drones lining the hallways did not pry, did not make eye-contact; they kept to their side, and she kept to hers.
At last Seven and her "guide" reached the bulkhead that separated Research and Dissemination Module from everything else. She did not know why it was cut off, or why it seemed so "secretive", but she could not ask.
The door slid open. In the misted darkness, two drones worked silently at the computers. Her "guide" left her, and she stepped into the room, propelled by a rebel body. The two drones did not seem to notice. They were her new Unit, she guessed. She took another step into the room and one looked up. It was Two of Three, and it was also the former Tom Paris.
"Shields?" Commander Chakotay asked, wiping the blood from his chin.
Lieutenant Torres answered grimly. "Eighteen percent."
"We've got to get out of here," Chakotay said. He got to his feet. "Ensign Bateheart, do we still have impulse?"
"Aye sir," the ensign replied, teeth gritted.
"Good. Try to out manoeuver them. B'Elanna, we need warp speed." The Commander looked to her expectantly.
"I--" she began, but then Rollins stepped up to Tactical. He held his arm funny, but stood at attention. "I'll go help Carey in Engineering."
Chakotay nodded, briefly, as she shot out of the station and into the turbolift. "We need to buy us some time." He looked to Ensign Kim, at Ops, who was standing shock still, frozen in thought. "Ensign!" Chakotay barked, as another Borg blast rocked the bridge.
Kim blinked, and started playing across the consoles. "There's a planetary system half a light year away. We could try hiding there."
"Bateheart, do it," Chakotay swung around and directed the order towards Navigation. The ensign did not bother to reply but began to pilot feverishly, trying to manoeuver in a straight line--the quickest way to the system--while avoiding Borg fire.
"Commander, I've got an idea," Kim spoke up. "The largest planet in the system, a gas giant, has an unusually strong ionic field extending in orbit. If we take the ship in far enough into the atmosphere, it may mask us from the Borg sensors."
"May?" Chakotay clarified.
"I can't know for certain, Commander."
Chakotay sighed. "It's the best shot we have. Bateheart, take us in."
"Aye, sir," Bateheart replied. For a moment, the only sound that could be heard was the tapping of keys, while Kim fed Navigation the coordinates; while Bateheart piloted and while Rollins tried desperately to get the shields on-line.
The silence was broken by Rollins. "The Borg are firing!" he yelled, as a blast shook the bridge so fiercely that the commander feared the hull would come apart.
"We are the Borg. Resistance is futile--" rasped out the speakers, before Kim cut the power to them.
"ETA to the planet's atmosphere?" Chakotay asked, as he got up off the floor. His leg hurt, but he couldn't be bothered to examine it. He had more pressing matters.
"Three seconds...two...one..." Bateheart counted down, his teeth rattling as the ship entered the upper atmosphere. The inertial dampeners were shot and they all felt the effects. "We are in position."
"Cut power," Kim said, furiously taking a last-second sensor scan. "Help make us harder to see."
Chakotay nodded towards Rollins, and the former Maquis Ensign cut all non-essential systems. The effects were hard to see; the bridge was only lit by the red alert indicators at any rate. The commander took a sigh of relief, and tapped his commbadge.
"Bridge to Engineering."
"Carey here, Captain." The acting-chief sounded bone-weary and Chakotay knew how he felt. "The engines should be up in a few minutes, Commander. We won't have more than warp five, however, so you've got to make it count."
"Understood." Chakotay tapped his commbadge again, a cold dread clenching his heart. He walked briskly to Kim's station. "Ensign?"
"Commander, I think we should only have a few minutes, at most, before the Borg figure out where we are." The ensign did not look at his commanding officer, but kept his face to the console. "I did notice that there's a warp-conduit opening nearby."
"No good. They'd simply follow us in," Chakotay replied.
"I did realize that--but I have a way to seal the conduit behind us. It would take them hours to re-initialize it, long enough for us to get away." Now the ensign looked up. Misery was written so boldly on his face that Chakotay was reminded of how young and green Harry was when they first met up; now the ensign was harder, tougher, but still as easy to read as a first primer.
"Harry?" Chakotay said softly. "What's the catch?"
"We can't initialize the conduit ourselves, even if we wanted to," he replied darkly. "It'll take us fifteen light years closer to home, and--"
"Fifteen light-years farther away from the Captain," Chakotay finished grimly.
"We'll never have a chance to save them," Kim added, trying to stay in control of his emotions.
Chakotay felt the cold hand twist around his heart tighter. He wanted to save the captain, to see her again, but he knew that she would want him to save the ship first. Voyager should be his priority.
And yet, they risked themselves to save Seven. Should they do no less for their captain?
"Commander, we have limited warp capabilities," Carey announced abruptly, over the air. It disrupted the Commander's thoughts, but he knew he had to make his mind up now. Now, or never.
"Ensign Bateheart," he said slowly, "Get the trans-warp conduit's co-ordinates from Ops. Get set to move out of the atmosphere and initiate the conduit."
"Aye, sir," Bateheart said slowly. The bridge was silent. The implications were clear. "We're clearing the atmosphere." On the view-screen, the red-brown gas of the giant gave way to the clear blackness of space.
And the Borg cube.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Chakotay barked, but before Bateheart could act, the cube blasted them with several rounds of energy.
"Hull breach on deck eleven!" Rollins reported, amid the noise of sparking consoles and hissing vents. "It's sealed--Sickbay reporting casualties--"
"Ensign, get us out of here," Chakotay said in a low voice, staring down the Borg cube. Oh spirit guides, help us get through--
Voyager streaked past the Borg cube, evading the tractor beams that the aliens attempted to fix the starship with. With a touch of a panel, the ship leapt to warp five.
"Opening conduit," Kim announced. "Rollins, prepare a tri-cobalt device and deploy it on my mark."
"Aye, sir," Rollins replied, preparing the specialized torpedo. "Ready."
"Ready," Kim began. On the screen, the fabric of space rippled and wrinkled, a hole emerging. Voyager headed down the immense rabbit hole, and a poem edged its way into Chakotay's fatigued mind: beware the Jabberwock, my son/the jaws that bind/the teeth that catch/beware the Jabberwock, and shun the frumerous bandersnatch. He had no idea where the poem was from, or even what it meant; but it struck a cord and rattled inside his head.
"Fire," Kim said, a touch of regret and sadness in his voice. They were inside the tunnel already, when Rollins fired. The resulting explosion pushed Voyager further, an effect Kim must have counted on, before they shot out into deep space.
There seemed to be a collective sigh aboard Voyager; indeed, the ship itself seemed to sigh with relief as Rollins cut red alert, and restored power to the lights. Chakotay sat down heavily as the hideous realizations sank in.
We've stranded the Captain. Paris, Tuvok, Seven and the Doctor--left to the mercy of the Borg. He rubbed a hand through his hair, feeling faint. He couldn't go to sickbay yet, there was still too much work to be done. "Commander," said a voice at his side. He looked up to see Ensign Kim.
"Return to your post, Ensign," he replied wearily.
"Sir, I believe you should got to Sickbay. We can hold the fort up here."
"Harry--" Chakotay began, but Kim cut him off with a gesture towards the commander's leg. He looked down.
The gash was long, angry, and the surrounding material was thick with blood. Instantly, the wound began to throb horrendously. Chakotay was nearly sick with the sight of it. "Perhaps," he said, getting up very slowly, "I will go see Sickbay."
Seven recoiled in horror. Or would have, if her body had let her. Paris/Two of Three turned back to his work. He was not surprised to see her.
The other drone turned to face her, and she looked hard; but it was not Tuvok that stared back at her. She did not know the person inside the casing.
"State our mission," Seven said to Two, her voice Borg-level and free of emotion.
"We are analyzing the technology taken from the Delta Flyer," Two answered, his mechanically enhanced voice buzzing. "It is unfamiliar. It will add to our technology."
Seven looked down at the table. Immediately, her Borg eye began to scan the device, but it was unable to catalogue the small piece of equipment. But Seven could.
It was the Doctor's mobile emitter.
As Seven, aboard Voyager, she had analyzed the twenty-eighth century machine thoroughly. That information was in her brain, easy for the Collective to download and decipher. And yet, they hadn't. They didn't know what the emitter was. Which meant only one thing--
"It is a holo-emitter," Two said suddenly, disengaging himself from the scanner. "It is advanced technology. It must be added to the Collective."
"Affirmative," agreed the other drone.
If I can find a way to free the Doctor, Seven thought, he might be able to help me escape.
To her horror, she began receiving commands from the Collective and her body obeyed them. She walked to the other side of the room, to a console displaying Two's information on the device. She began to program to the computer to override the failsafe and activate the Doctor's program. She knew she mustn't, if there was to be any hope for her, but she could not stop herself. She was only a few seconds away from completion when a new command imprinted itself upon her:
We are being attacked. Species zero-zero-two. Report to Section Seventy-Four, Primary Matrix. Damage control.
Her body immediately compelled her out the door and down the catwalk. Inside, Seven felt like yelling for joy; a work detail while the Collective was under attack could give her the opportunity to try and disconnect herself completely from the Collective.
Species Zero-Zero-Two, the first species the Borg attempted to assimilate, was a fierce opponent, and one of only several the Borg had not subdued. Humans were among that group, but where humans only managed to survive, Zero-Zero-Two actively did damage.
Seven's body began to repair a damaged plasma relay, while Borg worked around her, repairing other circuitry. The Collective was distracted. This was her chance.
She knew that she had to be subtle in her planning. If she could modify her receiver implant, it could sever the link to the Collective. She would still receive the messages, and act accordingly if the need for deception arose; but she would also be able to act on her own initiative and disregard the Collective's commands.
She had one great advantage: the Borg assumed a great deal about their drones. As long as she did not act out of the ordinary, they would leave her alone.
She knew where her chip was. It was located in one of her facial implants, directly over her temple. She had to damage it, somehow. She was not sure how to.
Her body was not under her control, and she could not--
"You will assist us. Comply." A drone stood next to her. With a start, she realized that she had not been working. She had been thinking, and assuming her body would follow the Collective.
"We will comply," Seven automatically responded, over-joyed at the revelation. Her body was still under her command; but only when the Collective was occupied. It was now, or never.
She lifted her arm. It took great effort, but her drill arm lifted. She carefully held it to her head. If she succeeded, the chip would be damaged. If she failed, she would be dead. Either way, she would not be obeying the Collective.
The drill was harder to operate, but the moment she activated it, she felt a tremendous burst of pain. Staggering backwards, she dropped her arm and gasped out loud.
The drone next to her turned. "You are damaged."
"The damage is insignificant," Seven replied, her voice her own. "We will repair it."
The drone stared at her, and she felt her insides churn. What if she'd attracted the attention of the Collective? There was a long pause, and then the drone turned back to its original task.
She tried not to sigh as she stood up, and occupied her mind with the second stage of her plan.
Kim sighed, and took a second swig of the coffee. It was dark, and thick, and he was reminded of the mud puddles he used to jump in when he was small. Same consistency.
He was tempted to switch to a replicated batch, instead of Neelix's bathtub version, but he didn't. He didn't want to move.
He heard footsteps beside him, uneven ones. It was Chakotay, limping with a bandage around his leg. An actual bandage.
The commander--the new captain--sat down. "Mr. Kim."
"Captain," Kim said, averting his eyes. The silence was palpable, and just as bitter as his coffee.
"Harry," Chakotay tried again, "You know why I did it."
"I know," the Ops officer replied, darkly. "I suggested it. I carried it out. It's my--"
"It's not your fault, Harry," Chakotay blurted, trying to keep his voice low. "We did what we had to do. Remember that."
"I wish I couldn't," Harry said softly, finishing the brew and setting the cup down. There was a long pause, the only sound being the ensign's heart in his ears. "I froze."
Chakotay looked up. "It's natural."
"No, it's not, and you know it." Kim leaned back, rubbing a hand through his thick, black hair. "I could have cost us our lives."
"But you didn't." Chakotay shifted in his chair to accommodate his leg. "You're the reason we're not all drones."
Kim closed his eyes. "I was thinking of Paris."
Chakotay didn't reply.
"You had said, 'It'll buy us some time, from the Borg'," the ensign continued, "and I heard him say 'Buy time from a Borg? You might as well sell something for a profit to a Ferengi'. I could hear him, clear as day. As though he was still sitting there, at the conn."
"Harry, we're all going through the same thing--"
"And it doesn't stop there. I see the Delaney sisters, I smell coffee, I think of the Holodeck, or Captain Proton, or the Delta Flyer, and he's right there. In the back of my mind." Harry played with his cup, forcing back the tears that were welling in his eyes. "What's that ancient Earth ballad? `There's always something there to remind me'. I know everyone is experiencing the same thing. I can't even bring myself to think about B'Elanna. But..." he gritted his teeth. "I feel like I can't go on any more. What's the point of going home, if there isn't any crew left? What's the point?"
Chakotay had been very silent while Harry spoke. He didn't offer any platitudes, or advice, but sat, and listened. "Harry."
The ensign looked up.
"We will get home. Captain..." his own voice broke, but he steadied it. "Captain Janeway was determined to get this ship home. As First Officer, I always behind her. Absolutely. Now that I'm Captain..." He took a deep breath. "I need a First Officer just as willing. Just as determined."
Harry looked at him, strangely. He didn't say anything.
"I want you to be the second-in-command, Ensign--or should I say Lieutenant?--Kim."
Harry was speechless. "What?"
"I need someone I can trust. Someone with bridge experience. You'll still be at Ops, we can't replace you, but you will be the second officer." Chakotay gritted his teeth, and shifted his leg again. "I've got to do something about this leg."
"Why don't you go to Sickbay?" Harry asked, jumping out of his seat to help the new captain.
"I did. The only person we've got now, with medical experience beyond first aid one-oh- one is Neelix. And his methods, are, well, a little behind the times. Effective, but behind the times." Chakotay managed a weak smile. "On the plus side, his manner is much more pleasant than The Doctor's; he prescribed cookies to keep my morale up."
The two laughed at the joke. Harry offered his shoulder and Chakotay leaned on to him. "We'll be okay, Harry," he said to his new second-in-command. "We'll just take it one day at a time, and you'll see."
Kim just nodded, and they left the mess hall.
Janeway watched the steady flow of drones. They were coming, and bringing pieces of information to the Queen, which she then read and handed to another drone, who destroyed the relay. Why they didn't just tell her through the Collective, the human had no idea. But she could tell when something was going very, very wrong.
According to the Queen, she had no "primitive" emotions.
Then why did she look so frightened?
It wasn't until a blast rocked the walls that Janeway realized they were under attack. Someone--or something--was attacking the Borg. And holding their own.
"It is species Zero-Zero-Two," the Queen said, her back to Janeway. "They are relentless."
The former captain smiled slightly, but didn't respond. Any species willing to tackle the Borg was a friend of hers.
The Queen turned, slightly, to eye the human penned in the corner. "They are our only enemies. All others are merely assimilations waiting to happen."
"You can't assimilate Zero-Zero-Two?" Janeway asked, quietly, absorbing all the information she could. It would be useful when Voyager--she quelled that thought immediately; Voyager was not coming back for her. But the information might be useful some day.
"We cannot assimilate what we cannot touch," the Queen replied softly. Another Borg stepped in, and handed her a display padd. "The ship is badly damaged."
"One ship?" Janeway blurted. "One ship is attacking an entire Unimatrix? And winning?"
"They are not winning!" The Queen nearly spat, she was so furious. She gathered her composition. "They will be defeated."
"One ship," Janeway repeated, shaking her head. "We have a saying, back home: 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall'."
"We will not fall!" The padd smashed against the force-field, crackling as the Queen seethed. The drone stood in the corner, and watched it all.
Seven finished her repairs, and received a command to proceed to another area to work. As she walked down the catwalks, she realized she could access the Collective without anyone noticing; and so Seven checked for a progress report on the raging battle.
Zero-Zero-Two was causing significant damage, but they were badly damaged themselves. The battle would be over, shortly. However, a far more interesting piece of information popped up: the Queen was holding Captain Janeway prisoner. That meant that Janeway was both alive and still human. According to the Collective, the Queen planned to use the Captain as both an experiment and as a lure for Voyager. There was no other mention of the ship that Seven could find without digging, and possibly incriminating herself. With Captain Janeway trapped in the Queen's lair, and Paris and Tuvok assimilated, it was up to her.
B'Elanna Torres sighed, and rolled over. Her arm fell on the empty sheet, and she bit back her lip to keep from crying. She was surprised at how much she missed Tom. She had lost friends, and lovers before, but not to the Borg. Not like that. And not Tom.
She rolled over again, and curled up under the thin standard-issue blanket, tucking it under her chin. There were no complaints about how she was hogging the blanket, and that made her feel worse.
She lay, awake, in the dark, for longer than she knew before she decided to go back to sleep. She had a lot of work ahead of her, she couldn't afford to lose sleep. She drifted off...
With a soft swish, the doors to her quarters opened. "Tom?" she called, sitting up, confused. And wide awake.
There was a soft laugh. "Shush," he called, "go back to sleep."
"I had a terrible dream," she said, her heart leaping into her throat. "It was horrible--"
"That's okay," Tom reassured her, stepping around the corner. "Everything's going to be all right."
She screamed as his Borg scanner fixated on her, its red beam burning into her eye. He raised his drill arm, the bit moving and twisting, and two Borg assimilation needles sprung from it. He smiled, or the human half of his face smiled. "I said that I always wanted to be with you, B'Elanna. Now we can."
"Get away from me!" she screamed, leaping out of bed, and running from the room. He grabbed her by the arm, his metal fingers cold and sharp, his human ones cold and clammy.
"B'Elanna," he said soothingly, "Let's not fight."
Something jabbed into her arm, and she screamed again.
"B'Elanna!" There was a sharp slap to her face and she awoke abruptly. Chakotay was leaning by the side of her bed, but it was Lieutenant Carey that kneeled on the floor, that had slapped her. "B'Elanna? Are you okay?"
She nodded, slightly, and tried to get up. Her head was pounding and her face was stinging. "I was dreaming."
"We know. When you were late for work, I came to see what was the matter, and the Captain joined me," Carey said, getting to his feet.
Torres looked around her, confused. "The captain...?"
Chakotay was downcast, and Carey didn't say anything. She realized with a start what he meant. "Oh, Chakotay, I--"
"It's all right," he said, standing up, and rubbing his leg ruefully. "We've all been under a lot of stress lately. Can you be up in a few minutes?"
Torres nodded, and the two officers left her quarters to give her privacy. Alone, the quarters seemed a lot bigger. A lot emptier. She pulled her knees up under her chin and the blanket around her, and tried to not to think about anything.
Seven stepped out of her alcove, fully awake, feeling refreshed, and more importantly, still herself. The Collective had not yet noticed she was no longer connected. The fear that any moment they would find out and forcibly absorb her into the hive mind was something she tried to keep as buried as possible.
It was strange, she thought, that while she was on Voyager, she fervently wished to rejoin the Borg; but now that she had reassimilated...
A command came in: she was being sent to the Research and Dissemination Module. This was good; now all she needed was another diversion and she would be able to resurrect the Holodoc.
Holodoc. She paused, considering the name. She couldn't remember where she had heard it before.
She continued walking.
Two was in the chamber, already, pouring over schematics and diagrams. At the very least, Seven knew she would have to destroy the holo-emitter if she couldn't activate it; twenty- eighth century technology in the hands of the Borg was a very scary prospect.
She found Two staring at her intently, and wondered if perhaps some remnant of Tom Paris still remained. It seemed doubtful. A moment passed before she realized that Two was not staring at her; but at something behind her. She turned.
"State your designation," Two said suddenly, his metallic voice grating on Seven's nerves.
"Three of Three, Primary Connection Module, Unimatrix One," the Borg Tuvok said, his voice even more dispassionate than when he was a Vulcan.
Two paused for a moment more, then resumed his research. Three walked by Seven, and it was all she could do but stare. As the drone passed her, his hand lightly brushed her own.
It was simply the result of the cramped space, but the moment his hand touched her own, she saw flashes of memory and snatches of sound. Startled, she looked at him, straight into his eye. Three--Tuvok--nodded.
Janeway sighed. Her ankle hurt ferociously, but she wasn't going to give the Queen the satisfaction of knowing how much she hurt. She leaned against the wall, and closed her eyes for a second, before she heard footfalls. Her eyes blinked open.
The Queen was looking down at her.
"You look so peaceful," she said, smiling slightly. "So calm. I had expected that you would have broken down, by now."
"Broken down?" Janeway inquired.
"Asked to be assimilated, just for the release," the Queen murmured. "I want you to know how important you are to me, Captain. You are my pet experiment."
"What?" Janeway's patience for the Queen's cryptic remarks had long since run out.
The Queen smiled. "I am going to keep you alive, and inferior, for as long as you wish it."
"I don't wish it at all," Janeway retorted.
"You say that now, but sooner or later, you will see the beauty of our way. The way of perfection." The Queen gestured, and a drone brought in another ration pack. "I wish to know how long it takes, before you break. Before you realize that our way truly is the best way."
"You've got a long way to go," Janeway snarled, ignoring the pack. "A long way, because I'll never agree to it."
"That's what you say now," the Borg nodded to herself, as though the human had been agreeing with her all along. "But we shall see."
"I've got shields up for you, Captain," B'Elanna Torres said tiredly. "The warp core is our next priority."
"Good work, B'Elanna," Captain Chakotay's voice replied from the engineering console.
Torres turned her attention to the phase variance of the warp field, which was fluctuating, thanks to the malfunctioning plasma conduits which were damaged in the last attack.
"Lieutenant?" a hesitant voice asked behind her. She turned to see Ensign Vorik.
"Yes?" She didn't bother to address him to his face, but turned back to the console.
"Lieutenant, I believe you are in need of rest," he said, hands behind his back. "You have worked three straight shifts."
"I can handle it." Her hands flew over the controls.
"Humans require sleep at a greater interval than--" Vorik stopped abruptly as she turned to glare at him furiously.
"Ensign," she snarled, stressing the rank, "there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I need to do it. End of story. Go find something else to do." She glared at him for a moment longer before turning her attention to the computer display. He got the hint, and left with out a sound.
She stopped for a brief moment to massage her wrist. She was certain she had sprained it while working in the Jefferies Tubes, but she knew that all Doctor Neelix would do is prescribe rest and inactivity, and that was the last thing she wanted. Torres hadn't been to her cabin for three days. And if she had her way, she wouldn't be going back for a while yet.
"Captain, I wish to speak to you about Lieutenant Torres," Vorik said quietly. Chakotay looked up from his padd.
"Oh?" The Captain leaned forward on his desk. "She flinging people across the room again?"
"Sir?" Typically, the Vulcan did not pick up on the joke. "I believe she is experiencing some form of mental instability."
"Aren't we all," Chakotay murmured. He sighed, and leaned backwards in his new chair. He looked around his new office. A medicine wheel decorated one wall, and he had a colourful woven blanket slung over the couch. And he had a single picture on his desk: of a woman, a man, and their dog.
"She's taken three shifts," Vorik continued, concerned that his argument wasn't taking hold. "When Lt. Carey tried talking to her, she nearly slammed him into a bulkhead. She refuses to leave her station."
"That sounds like B'Elanna," Chakotay replied. He looked up at Vorik. "You and I both know that short of stunning her, there's nothing we can do."
Vorik took this response in, and then slowly nodded. "I understand, sir."
"Good." Chakotay picked up the padd, and started reading. His commbadge beeped.
"Bridge to the Captain," Harry Kim announced. "We've got company."
Chakotay got to his feet. "Vorik, get to Engineering, get the warp drive operational. I have a feeling we're going to need it."
"Aye, sir," the young Vulcan answered, a few steps behind the captain as they headed off the bridge.
"Report, Lieutenant." Chakotay sat in the center chair, and flipped open the display panel. "Is it the Borg?"
"Affirmative," Kim replied. "One cube, bearing one-oh-two, warp five."
Chakotay cursed under his breath. "Do we have warp?"
There was a sudden burst of static. "We are the Borg. Resis--"
Kim shut it off, knowing full well no one wanted to hear it.
"We can't out run them," Chakotay said slowly, "and there's nowhere to hide."
"We'll have to fight," Kim answered.
Bateheart, at conn, turned to stare at the first officer. "That's suicide!"
"Anything else is suicide, and I'd rather go out in a blaze of antimatter than serve the Collective," Kim snapped. Bateheart turned himself around and kept his comments to himself.
"No one's dying on my watch," Chakotay said sternly. "Rollins, do you have any of the modified torpedoes we discussed?"
"Yes sir, I've prepared five." Rollins, at Tactical, tapped a few keys. "I've calculated a maximum efficiency spread."
"Wait for my mark," Chakotay replied, standing up. "Ensign Bateheart, head directly for the cube. Dodge any tractor beams or phaser fire."
"Aye, sir," Bateheart muttered, already focusing on the job at hand.
Voyager spun in space, a zero-g loop, and flew straight towards the cube, dipping and weaving, avoiding any incoming fire. The Borg lashed out, but Bateheart managed to avoid all shots.
"Rollins," Chakotay began, his hand griping the top of Bateheart's chair, "fire the modified torpedoes."
A spread of five photon torpedoes, with fluctuating, Borg-enhanced shielding, struck the cube. Plumes of flames spurted out into space.
"Fire phasers!" Chakotay cried, his knuckles turning white.
The phaser fire was the coup-de-grace, and the Borg exploded into millions of shards. The entire ship seemed to sigh with relief as Bateheart piloted them towards their original flight plan.
"That was almost too easy," Kim said, with a grin. "I knew those torpedoes would work. Seven's legacy."
Chakotay didn't reply, but stared out at the view screen, at the few lingering traces of the cube.
The Queen gasped.
Immediately, Janeway perked up her ears. Anything she could learn might be useful in letting her escape from this hell.
"They destroyed a cube," the Queen said to Janeway, a touch of anger in her voice. "By using modified Borg technology."
"Before we left, Seven was working on a way to modify our torpedoes," Janeway admitted. There was no harm in telling the Queen what she probably already knew. Or had the access to, at any rate.
"I know," the Queen snapped. She rubbed a finger along the inside of her other forearm; it was the only idiosyncracy she had, as far as Janeway knew. "They are surprising, your crew. I had assumed that they would be anxious to rescue you. They are so surprising at times."
"What do you mean?" Janeway asked, carefully keeping her voice level.
"I mean, they're over fifteen light years from here, and heading in the wrong direction. I was sure they would risk everything to rescue you. Perhaps they are just planning a trap."
"Perhaps." Janeway felt light-headed. So Voyager wasn't going to rescue her. Her wish had come true.
Be careful what you wish for, Katie, sang the voice of her mother in the back of her mind.
Janeway took a deep calming breath. She would get herself out, or die trying. If Voyager wasn't going to be her shining knight, she'd have to steal a horse for herself.
"Captain?" Kim poked his head in through the door. "I've come to talk to you about B'Elanna--"
Chakotay sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, a habit he had picked up recently. "You're the third person in two days."
Kim stood at attention in front of the captain's desk. "Sir, I don't think she'll listen to anyone but you. She needs rest. I've found out she's been sleeping in the mess hall, cat-napping, and tripling shifts." There was a pause. "If this keeps up, she won't be in any condition to get the warp core up."
Chakotay stood. The bandages were off his leg, which was good, but the residual wound still hurt. Neelix had offered to replicate him some locals for the pain, but the captain refused, on the grounds that the replicator energy was better suited elsewhere. "I'll go talk to her."
Kim smiled, the first in many days. "Thanks, Comm--Captain."
We are under attack. Species: zero-zero-two.
Seven smiled to herself, very slightly. This was the perfect opportunity she had been waiting for. She was in the dissemination lab, with Tuvok/Three and Two/Paris. All three were working on the mobile emitter.
When the alarm sounded, Seven caught Tuvok's eye, and he nodded, reached over, and jacked into Two's left arm. Startled, the drone looked up; but all Tuvok did was give the command to "sleep". Two slumped forward.
Seven then gestured and Tuvok bent his head to her; she disconnected him from the Collective with a quick jab of her drill. He nodded, and she thought that he sighed with relief.
"We do not have much time," Tuvok said, his voice metallic and with a slight hum. "What is your plan?"
"We must activate the Doctor. We can then use him to reach the Captain, and escape." Seven began to "boot" the emitter, charging up the Doctor's program. "Hmm. The damage he sustained in the attack damaged one of the relays. I do not think he can be activated."
Tuvok took over. "I have an idea." He carried the emitter to one of the Borg relay stations, a direct link to the hive computer. With a few commands, he activated the emitter.
"Please state the nature--oh my God!" The Doctor leaped backwards as he realized where he was. "Get away from me! I won't join your Collective!"
"Doctor, it is us," Seven said, taking a step forward.
"Seven? Tuvok?!" The Doctor's mouth opened and closed several times, before Seven took his arm.
"Doctor, we do not have much time. You must help us escape. Captain Janeway is being held by the Queen. I do not believe the Delta Flyer is still intact, but other ships are being held." Seven found herself gripping his arm in desperation. If he could not help her--
"What can I do?" The Doctor said solemnly. "I could create a diversion, but--"
"I have a better idea," Tuvok interrupted. "I have used the Borg computer to load your program. That, theoretically, gives you access to the main frame."
"I'm being accessed through the Borg?" The Doctor looked behind him, and saw the emitter on the relay. "Ugh. I feel so dirty."
"Doctor," Seven blurted.
"What? Oh yes. The mainframe. Lead a revolt from the inside out, hm? Sounds like a plan." The Doctor rubbed his hands together briskly. Seven realized that his coolness and bravado was a thin layer over his real fear.
She patted his arm. What was the useless comment humans made to each other in times of stress? "Doctor--it will be all right."
The Doctor smiled. He saluted sharply. "I assume you can still receive orders from the Collective?"
The two drones nodded.
"If I can, I'll use the communications grid to inform you of my progress. There's no guarantees, you realize."
There was a pause, and then Tuvok was the first to speak. "I believe, Doctor," he said slowly, his mechanical eye whirling, "That we understand the consequences better than you do."
The hologram took a moment to reflect on that, before rubbing his hands together again. Tuvok stepped to the station, and keyed in the few commands. The Doctor's hologram turned two-dimensional, and started to flicker. Another control, and he faded away altogether.
Seven picked up the mobile emitter and placed it back on the table. Tuvok looked at her. "I have never been a believer in the Vulcan mythologies," he said softly, "but I do desire a deity to intercede on The Doctor's behalf."
Seven nearly smiled. "I think the human phrase is: "God help him."
Tuvok only nodded.
"B'Elanna, you've got to get some proper rest," Chakotay said with a sigh. He was leaning heavily on the bulkhead. While his leg was healing well, it was tired easily and hurt if he put too much weight on it.
"I am rested," the Engineer replied, still working at the console. "I had a nap just a few hours ago."
"That's not enough sleep. You and I both know it." Chakotay crossed his arms. If B'Elanna had been aware of him at all, she would have known it was his unconscious signal to stand down. "Don't make me order to you to your quarters."
At the mention of the word, B'Elanna blanched, and her shoulders tensed. But she still didn't look up.
"You can't," she said softly. "You can't make me."
"I can order Neelix, and as acting Doctor--"
"You don't understand!" B'Elanna looked up at her commanding officer, her eyes so intense it took all of Chakotay's self-control not to look down. And that meant there was less control to deal with the engineer's attitude. "I'm fine!"
"We're all coping with the loss of the Captain and the others in our own ways," Chakotay said, through gritted teeth. "Harry's become moody. Neelix has become over-protective. I'm trying just to move on, to deal with it on my own time. But you, B'Elanna, are becoming self- destructive. You need to get some rest."
She stood, and for a bizarre moment, the captain thought that she was actually going to try and hit him. But at the last second, she backed down. She stared at the floor. "I'll report to Sickbay."
"That's good," Chakotay said, calmly. "Get something from Neelix to help you sleep."
She nodded, and sat down, her head still tilted. Chakotay straightened up, presuming his work done, when he realized she was crying. Not wailing, or sobbing; just sitting with her head bowed, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Startled, the captain took a step backwards; he had never seen B'Elanna cry. He didn't even know she could cry. Some Klingons couldn't. He got to his knees--a painful procedure--so that he could be eye-level with her.
"B'Elanna," he said softly, not as a captain to his crew, or even as leader of the Maquis to a follower, but as her friend. "B'Elanna, we'll get through this."
"What's the point?" she asked, in a whisper so quiet he barely heard it. "We'll never get home. And even if we do--what's the point if we have no one to share it with? The Maquis are dead. The Captain--Captain Janeway is dead. Tuvok and Seven are dead. Tom--" her voice started to crack. She tried to make an effort to hold it in, to keep from bursting at the seams. Chakotay wrapped his arms around her, and she cried onto his shoulder. By now the entire Engineering section was dead silent, as one by one the crew realized the uncrackable, the unaffectable, B'Elanna Torres was crying. Weeping.
Sorrow is a thing that spreads; just as they realized that Torres--the Klingon who doesn't cry--could not longer hold it in, they too, let go of all the Starfleet training that says to keep a chin up and a stiff upper lip.
Ensigns cried softly in the corridors. Lieutenants stopped working in the Jefferies tubes, threw their tools against the walls in frustration, wept and wailed. So much had happened to the crew. They had seen comrades die, had been nearly killed themselves more times than they wished to count. They were trapped on a ship, their only refuge so far, far away from everyone they loved, cared about, dreamed of.
In the beginning of the mission, the grief was terrible. Thick in the air. Chakotay had thought that the crew had moved on, had left the grief behind them, like he did. But they hadn't; it was still there, only buried. Buried under a layer of determination.
Captain Janeway had a firm belief that Voyager would return home. Without her strong presence, the crew was starting to come apart.
The new captain, Chakotay, helped B'Elanna to her feet. On the one hand, he knew grief had to be expressed before relief could be found. But he also knew what went hand in hand with grief and frustration.
"I cannot abide this waiting," Seven confided in a low tone. Two was out of the room, called out for an errand; she and Tuvok were alone.
"The Doctor will notify us of any developments. The Borg themselves will let us know of any changes within the Collective." Tuvok leaned over the control panel. The Borg expected work to be done; so he was devising a program that would hinder Two's research, and keep the Collective from figuring out the emitter for as long as possible.
Seven shivered, although the mean temperature within the cube was well above human comfort. "I am...anxious."
Tuvok looked up, fixing his gaze on her with his good Vulcan eye, while his Borg scanner whirled. "I will give you the same advice I gave Ensign Paris; resistence is not futile. We must simply wait to be given an opportunity."
"I do not like waiting," Seven replied, quietly. Tuvok turned back to the console.
"It is illogical to waste energy in this manner. Your time and energy would be better spent researching a mode of escape."
She was silent and still for a moment. "Agreed." She stepped to one of the wall consoles, and began searching through the computer. "I believe we may be able to `hijack' one of the scout spheres," she said. "Several are nearing completion, and are not yet staffed. Their engines are operational, however; we would have access to transwarp conduits."
"That may be useful information," Tuvok agreed. "However, if we do not know where Voyager is gone, we may not be able to find them."
"I can research that as well," Seven said with a flash of insight. "I will attempt to discover whether the Borg have engaged Voyager after our capture."
A grim silence descended on the small lab, as both worked on their projects with absolute concentration. It was Seven who spoke first, gasping, and stepping backwards from the wall as though she could not believe what she read there.
"They left us," she said, her voice starting to break with the emotion it carried. "They went through a transwarp conduit on several occasions--they are now more than twenty-five light years away from here before the engines were damaged by a Borg cube that they later destroyed."
She turned to the Vulcan. "They left us! To the mercy of the Borg!"
"It is a logical choice, Seven. They could not have rescued us with out sacrificing more of the crew." Tuvok said it emotionlessly, and for a split second, he seemed to her more machine than alive. Her head started to spin and she felt the need to sit down.
Careful, Seven, came a small voice at the back of her head. Borg don't faint.
Tuvok stood poker-straight. "Did you hear that voice?" she asked him, her own voice low. "Was it...?"
Of course it was, chided The Doctor. I told you I'd get you out.
"Doctor!" they both exclaimed.
Naturally. Now, I don't think I have a lot of time; you need to rescue Captain Janeway. Do you know where she is being held?
"No, but I can soon find that out," Seven replied. "Doctor--what about Paris?"
Well, we can't just leave him here. We'll have to disconnect him--
"We cannot do that," Tuvok interjected. "The shock of being disconnected would kill him."
You two survived.
"Tuvok used a Vulcan technique the Borg did not anticipate, and I believe my altered physiology spared me," Seven replied. "But Paris has neither of those to help him."
Hmm. He'll be dead weight if we knock him out. And conspicuous--
"We cannot leave him!" Seven's voice was suddenly louder; she startled herself and Tuvok. She immediately lowered it. "I never believed I would say this of the Ensign, but we cannot leave him with the Borg."
There was a pause. I understand. I'll figure something out.
Tuvok picked up the emitter, and tucked it into a loose space on his carapace. "I have the emitter, Doctor, for when you need it."
Good thinking, Tuvok. I'll know when you rescue Janeway; I'll fill you in after. There was another pause. Good luck.
"We're going to need it," Seven said under her breath as she opened the door to the rest of the cube.
"I've broken up three fights in the past few days," Rollins reported grimly. "They're mostly in the mess hall, and not about anything in particular. They're just blowing off steam." Chakotay nodded.
"I know what they're going through," Kim said, at Chakotay's right. "Sometimes I just feel like lashing out, myself."
"Morale is--well, nonexistent," Neelix admitted. "I'm having to administer sedatives, tranquilizers--my entire collection of Relaxation Tea--"
Bateheart shook his head. "This isn't right."
Chakotay looked up sharply. "Continue."
Bateheart gulped, unsure of what he had just gotten himself into. He didn't have very much senior officer experience. "I--We shouldn't be like this. We've lost people before. We've fought the Borg--and won--before. There must be something else we're missing."
"We haven't lost the Captain before," Kim said quietly.
"Yes we have," Bateheart countered, quickly. "When she and Chakotay were quarantined with what we thought was an incurable plague. We had fights, there was a dip in morale--but nothing like this."
There was a long silence, as this sunk in. Bateheart is right, Chakotay thought. There must be something else.
"I don't think it's the same thing," Kim said, after a long moment. "We were looking for a cure for them. We knew they were still alive. That we could change what had happened. But now--" The lieutenant had been gesturing with his hands as he spoke; now they fell limply to the table. "We've lost the Captain. For good. And the Borg are still after us, still hounding us. No one's gotten any sleep, and that helps add to the frustration and anxiety, too."
"I think Harry's right," Rollins agreed. "If we had a chance to grieve, to get on with finding a way home, then we could deal with it better. Or if we were fighting the Borg, with Captain Janeway leading us, then we could cope. But constantly being under attack, and knowing--" he choked on the words 'she's a Borg' before continuing "--that she's gone, I think it's too much for the ship."
Chakotay nodded as well, taking a deep breath. "I think that what Rollins is saying is true. We haven't moved on, because we haven't had time, and I think it's just too much for everyone."
"There's a nebula not to far from here," Kim mused suddenly. "If we take the ship into the nebula, we can wait out any attacks for the meantime--and we can have a proper ceremony."
"We had a eulogy already," Bateheart reminded them. "You said one for Paris."
"I know," Kim snapped, a little too quickly. "But only a handful of people could come. That means that most of the ship hasn't had the closure. If we have a ship-wide service, I think it would help, a lot."
"I agree with Harry, again," Rollins said with a bit of a grin. "We've got to try something. I can't sort out fights and fight the Borg at the same time."
"Point taken. Kim, Bateheart, take the ship into the Nebula. Neelix, I want you to research some funeral customs from the different species among the crew. I'll go see B'Elanna, see if she can help me with the Holodeck." Chakotay set the padd that he was holding down on the table. The others took it as a sign of dismissal, and they all left, to head their various missions. That left the captain, himself.
He got to his feet, and started towards Sickbay.
She was lying on her side, staring at the Sickbay wall. "Hello," Chakotay said quietly.
She propped herself up and looked over her shoulder at him. "Hello."
"I came to see if I could get your help for something," Chakotay continued. He held out a padd to her. "I would reprogram the holodeck myself, except that--"
"You're a non-techie?" Torres sat up, grinning. She took the padd, and looked over it. "Seems straight forward." She scrolled down. "Oh. This is a funeral."
"It's a ship-wide service. We think it might help the crew dealing with the loss." Chakotay sat on the bio-bed next to her.
"Oh." She swung her legs over the side, and sat with her back to the captain, her feet dangling. "I guess I could help you. Neelix says my `morale' isn't up to par yet."
"No one's is," the captain admitted. "But we're coping. We're dealing."
"Yeah," she murmured. "I guess we are." There was a long silence and Chakotay thought the conversation was finished, and so he got up to leave. She turned, sharply. "I've been studying the Doctor's holographic subroutines."
"We can't replace the Doctor; but, but--I think I can make another. From scratch."
"Scratch?" Chakotay was incredulous.
"He won't be anything like the Doctor. Or rather, he would be like the Doctor when he was first activated. Rough. Unfinished. And unable to leave the Sickbay or the holodeck. But there are back-up copies of the medical texts and revisions; he would have the knowledge. Or she. It could be a she. It could be anyone we want." Torres looked to him for his response.
"But it wouldn't be the Doctor," Chakotay finished.
"It would be a doctor, not but the Doctor. We lost all his personalty subroutines when he downloaded himself into the emitter. There's no way to get them back, without the emitter itself." She sighed. "The emitter that's on the Delta Flyer, right smack in Borg Central."
"Well, do your best. I think it's a good idea; we could use another EMH. But first, I would like you to help me with the Holodeck."
"No problem," Torres replied, hopping off the bio-bed. "It would be nice to have something to do again."
Janeway shifted yet again. She was tired, and weak--weeks of living off of rations did that. They were meant to keep you alive, not healthy.
The Queen was watching her, like she always did. Janeway closed her eyes, and tried to get some sleep. It had taken getting used to, but once she believed that the Queen meant it when she said the human wouldn't be assimilated, the captain had been able to relax enough to sleep.
But just because she slept didn't mean she wasn't attentive when she was awake. She was waiting. Waiting for an opportunity to--
A drone stepped into the corridor. That was unusual; it wasn't feeding time yet. And the drone wasn't bearing--
Janeway's heart stopped the moment the drone's face came into view. "Oh no," she breathed, getting to her feet very slowly, her eyes wide.
"Captain," The Queen said with a smile, "this is Two of Three. But then, I believe you're already acquainted."
"Paris," Janeway whispered, putting her hand out as if to touch him. The force-field stopped her, but she had to try. "Tom."
"Our designation is Two of Three," Paris--the Borg--replied. He turned to the Queen. "Please state the mission objectives."
"Two of Three," the Queen said, stepping towards him, "your job is to talk to Captain Janeway."
"Talk is irrelevant."
"I know. But this talk is not. This is an experiment. You and I are going to convince the Captain of something."
"Convincing her is irrelevant. She will be assimilated." Two fixed the Queen with a blank but receptive stare.
The Queen's smiled dropped. She turned to the human in the corner. "I see it took. Some have been known to fight. But he went as quietly as a--what's the human term? Locutus once had a pet--lamb. That's it. Quietly as a lamb."
Janeway threw herself at the force-field with astonishing speed and brutality. The resulting crackle nearly knocked her unconscious, but the end result, the look of startled panic on the Queen, made Janeway smiled as she leaned against the wall, trying to catch her breath.
"That was futile," the Borg sneered, furious at Janeway for making the Queen react so. "Futile!"
"But I did it anyway." Janeway sat down with a thump. "I won't ask to be assimilated. Ever. I'd rather bash my brains out against a wall."
The Queen turned away, and Two, reacting to an unspoken command, turned to leave. As he did so, he bumped into two other drones heading into the room.
"Paris!" one of the drones exclaimed.
Janeway leapt to her feet.
"Impossible!" the Queen cried.
Two lunged for Seven and Tuvok, but the Vulcan broadsided him and deactivated him before the drone even had time to fire. "I hope the Doctor knows what he's doing," Seven muttered, rushing to Janeway's side.
"The Doctor, too?" Janeway exclaimed.
"Impossible!" the Queen roared, as a shower of sparks cascaded down from the ceiling. Panels and consoles blew off the wall, and the force-field faded to nothing. Seven helped Janeway lean on her shoulder.
One of the screens flickered to life, showing strange, small glossy-black ships attacking the Borg. The Queen whirled towards the screens. "No! Not now!"
"Species Zero-Zero-Two," Seven clarified. "There couldn't be better timing."
The Queen was torn. She looked from Janeway to Seven to the screens and back again. Her indecision was an opportunity for Tuvok, who stepped forward and fired his arm plaster. Borg shields were not configured to withstand Borg weapons; the Queen crumpled.
Tuvok fished out the emitter and activated it. The Doctor shimmer into existence. "Doctor!" Janeway exclaimed.
"Captain! You appear to be injured," he said, stepping towards he but she held him back.
"I'll be more than injured if we don't get out of here." She gave Seven's shoulder a squeeze. "Seven and I can manage."
"Indeed. With Borg strength your weight is negligible," Seven agreed. Janeway chuckled.
"Just what every girl wants to hear. Let's get going."
The drones and the hologram nodded. Tuvok and The Doctor carried Two's unconscious body between them. The corridors were empty as the Borg mobilized to fight Zero-Zero- Two.
"This way," the Doctor said, and they headed out.
The breeze was cool, and helped soften the heat of the day. Night was falling, very slowly, and the sun was a smear of orange and red.
Chakotay pulled on his dress jacket. No matter how smooth it looked, from the inside it felt like one giant wrinkle.
A good quarter of the crew was gathered inside Holodeck One; another quarter in Holodeck Two. B'Elanna had arranged for the two programs to be simultaneously linked; the crew were projected into the opposite holodeck and the effect was as though half the crew stood on the vast plain. Anything one person might say would be shown to the other side, so there seemed to be no difference between the two holodecks.
"I think we're ready," Kim said, at Chakotay's side. The lieutenant looked around the scenery, looking at people who were, and were not, there. "Nice job."
"It was B'Elanna's touch. I could never have pulled it off," Chakotay admitted. He didn't tell anyone, but the "non-techie" remark stung, and he was determined to catch up where he might be lagging. He cleared his throat. "Computer, activate program eulogy-one."
There was silence from the gathered crew. The only sound was the wind rippling through the grass. And then there was a crunching sound. Almost as one, the crew turned.
"Don't look so startled," Captain Janeway said, a grin showing even in the dim light. "It's just me."
There were startled exclamations and murmurings.
"I do believe some feel this is inappropriate," Tuvok responded, as he came from out of the thicket of hawthorn. "I believe it to be a logical and thoughtful expression of--"
"Tuvok," joked Paris, brushing aside a branch, "you're over-analyzing again. If you can ever not over-analyze anything..."
"Lieutenant Tuvok has a valid point," added Seven of Nine.
"My, it feels good to be in a holodeck again," The Doctor said to himself, not paying any attention to the bickering around him.
"Now, let's not argue," Janeway said sternly. She turned to face the crew, hercrew, with a sad smile. "I know this is hard. But we're a Starfleet crew. We need to move on. To accept and to grieve and learn to let it go. I know you will find your way home. You don't need me on the bridge to do that."
"Yes we do," exclaimed one ensign, from near the middle. The exclamation startled many of his comrades.
"Ensign Felding," Janeway began, "Voyager will return home. I know it will. I've always believed it. Chakotay always believed it. He's the one who will pull you through."
"You still think we'll make it home?" asked someone else, a science officer with the rank of Lieutenant (jg). "Do you really think we will?"
"No," Janeway said, seriously, "I know you will."
There was a silence, as the assemblage mulled through this in their heads, trying to figure out what Chakotay was trying to accomplish. The new captain realized he'd have to start things off.
"Captain Janeway," he began, stepping forward until he was only a few feet from her. "I'm going to miss you. And I want you to know that the ship is in good hands."
"I know it is, Captain Chakotay," she replied solemnly. "I've always trusted you. And I've got only one thing to say: get these people home."
"You know I will," he replied, embracing her. He knew that she was only a shadow, a light being that pretended to be the captain, that looked like her and acted like her. He tried not to think of where the real Janeway was. What she was. "I'll remember you, always."
"What, no hug for me?" Paris quipped, his voice light but his eyes serious. Chakotay laughed and pulled the ensign to him as well. Like a dam bursting, first a trickle of people came forward, to pay their respects and to say goodbye; and then the rest burst forward like a wave. Within moments there was the sound of laughing, and crying; hugs were being exchanged, not just with the holograms but with other members of the crew.
Kim and Chakotay stood to the side, after the initial farewell. "I was a little skeptical about the hologram idea, at first," the first officer said, "but I think it worked fairly well."
"I think it did, too. Sometimes a chance to say goodbye is all you ever need," the captain said quietly.
"Are you sure you can pilot this thing?" Janeway asked nervously, looking around the empty Borg scout sphere.
"Yes." Seven paused. "Well, reasonably."
"I will assist Seven," Tuvok added, stepping up to one of the consoles and jacking himself in. "It should be reasonably straight-forward."
"We are heading into the middle of a battle," Janeway reminded him. The Doctor, who was examining her ankle, laughed.
"Not quite," he said with a grin.
"What?" Janeway and Seven both stared at the Hologram in disbelief. Tuvok looked smug as he piloted the sphere out of the Unimatrix.
"I programmed the sensors. The Borg think they're being attacked. But they're not." The Doctor grinned, and gently massaged Janeway's ankle. "That was my diversion."
"I believed it to be as such," Tuvok said. "The timing was--too perfect."
"If I have any vices at all, it's that I'm too perfect," the Doctor agreed. "Now, Captain, I want you to stay off that ankle. It's healed wrong. It's not problem back on Voyager, but Borg medicine is a little...lacking." The Doctor turned his attention to Two/Paris, who was lying on the floor next to the Captain. She looked at him forlornly.
"I believe I can separate him," the Doctor said, "but--"
"I believe it is a chance Ensign Paris would be willing to take," Seven said softly. Tuvok and Janeway nodded.
The Doctor sighed. "--but I'll need Seven's drill bit to do the job," he finished.
"Ah," Seven remarked. She disengaged the drill bit and removed it from her arm casing. Janeway went a little green at the sight.
The Doctor took the drill bit and began fishing for the right circuit. Janeway watched the screen, as they flew by cubes of all sizes. All of which were firing at empty space.
"Engaging transwarp conduit," Seven announced. "There are several short jumps that need to be made before we reach the area Voyager was last seen."
"Voyager destroyed the main conduit," Tuvok added.
Janeway smiled. "I'm glad," she said. "The Queen told me of the trap she had laid. I was hoping Chakotay didn't come after us."
Seven turned sharply. "How can you say that?"
"I would rather be a Borg prisoner for the rest of my life than see any more of my crew end up like Paris," Janeway said solemnly.
Seven couldn't respond, so she turned back to her post.
"We have been gone several weeks," The Doctor reminded her as he fiddled with Paris' implants. "There might be a lot of changes we're not expecting."
"There will be a lot of changes when we reach Earth, too," Janeway replied, "But that hasn't stopped us. We'll still be welcome on Voyager. There will always be a place for us."
"Battle stations," Chakotay announced.
"Captain, the Gyaradosu cruiser is coming about." Kim looked up from Ops. "They're powering weapons."
"Shields at full," Rollins reported at Tactical. "Borg-enhanced torpedoes ready and waiting."
"Wait," the captain ordered. "Let's give them a chance to back down. They may be bluffing."
The shot that rocked the bridge said otherwise.
"Shields at eighty," Rollins reported.
"Let's show them we're not bluffing either," Chakotay retorted. "Ensign Bateheart, evasive maneuvers."
"Evasive maneuvers, aye," Bateheart reported, swerving the ship suddenly and missing the next Gyaradosu phaser blast.
The ship rocked again, harder, and Chakotay was nearly flung from his feet. "We've been hit by some sort of particle torpedo!" Kim exclaimed. "Similar to ours, but quantum in nature!"
"Quantum? Quantum torpedoes?" Chakotay got to his feet. "Rollins, arm our own torpedoes. They may have new technology, but we've got the Borg version."
"Sickbay to bridge!" exploded an angry voice over the commsystem. "What's going on up there? I have casualties!"
"I'm sure you can deal with it, Neelix," Chakotay replied sternly. "Bridge out. Rollins, arm torpedoes."
"Arming torpedoes." Rollins programmed the sequence in.
"Fire!" Chakotay ordered, just as Voyager swooped toward the bulky cruiser. Five torpedoes slammed in, right on target, and plumes of fire spouted from the ship's side. Bateheart expertly steered the starship out of range as the Gyaradosu blew.
"The ship has been destroyed," Kim reported.
Chakotay sighed. "It doesn't get any easier."
"Just take it one day at a time, Captain," Kim replied with a faint grin. Chakotay rolled his eyes at the remark.
"Throwing my own words at me, Lieutenant?"
"Never," Kim replied, mock-seriously.
"Ensign Bateheart, prepare to take us back to--" Chakotay was interrupted by Kim.
"Captain--a transwarp conduit is forming off the port bow!"
"Red alert!" Chakotay roared, leaping back out of his seat. "Rollins--get those shields back to maximum--cut life support if you have too--!"
"We have a visual," Kim reported. "It's a scout ship. And we're receiving a transmission."
"I'm sure we are. Rollins, fire the new torpedoes, on my mark--" Chakotay paced in front of his chair.
"Wait--Captain--you have to hear this message--" Kim blurted. At once, static filled the air.
"--repeat, Voyager, this is Lt. Tuvok. We are not the Borg. Repeat, this is Lt. Tuvok--"
"Open a channel," Chakotay said, his voice so low Kim nearly didn't hear it. "Voyager to Borg sphere. If this is a trick--"
"If it's a trick, I assure you, Commander, it's not a very funny one," Janeway replied, as the image of the inside of the sphere blinked on. Tuvok and Seven, both drones stood to either side of the Captain, and the Doctor. Another Borg lay prone at their feet.
"Captain..." Chakotay felt like collapsing, but luckily for his pride, his knees locked.
"That's right, Chakotay," she said softly, with a smile he would have killed to see again. "We're home."
B'Elanna Torres ran like a woman possessed. Twice she plowed into someone who had the misfortune of being in her way; but they knew better than to try and slow down the engineer. She opened the door to Sickbay.
The Doctor straightened up as the doors opened and she stepped in. Tuvok and Seven both sat on bio-beds, wearing the Starfleet Issue bed-robes; The captain stood talking with Captain--Commander Chakotay. Neelix was hovering by the surgical bed, hovering by his patient.
"Tom," Torres breathed, her heart pounding in her ears, her throat, everywhere except her chest. "Tom!"
She ran forward, but the Doctor stepped out to stop her. "Lieutenant, he's been under enormous stress. Don't frighten him."
"I wouldn't--couldn't!" she blurted, side-stepping the hologram and approaching Paris who watched her with wide blue eyes and an ocular implant resembling Seven's.
"Tom?" she said gently, wrapping her arms around him. "Tom."
He tensed under her touch. She drew away, confused. Neelix lead her back a few feet, his arm around her shoulder. "You need to give him time. He's been in a horrendously traumatic experience..."
Paris slid off the bio-bed, and stood on unsteady feet. He stared at her. "B'Elanna," he croaked, his voice metallic and strained. But he knew her. She broke free of Neelix and wrapped her arms around him, and he collapsed onto her, tears streaming down his face as he awkwardly tried to return the ferocious hug. "I...missed you."
"I missed you too," she replied, her voice strained as well.
Janeway tugged Chakotay's sleeve and motioned to the others. One by one they left the Sickbay.
"That was one reunion I was lucky to see," Janeway said, as they waited outside in the corridor. The patients had not yet been given a clean bill of health by either the Doctor orDoctor Neelix.
"So was I," Chakotay replied. He took her hand and squeezed it. "It's good to have you back."
"It's good to be back," she replied.
"Captain," called a voice behind them.
"Yes?" they both replied, smirking. It was a young ensign, and she handed Chakotay a padd, not making eye contact with Janeway. "Lieutenant Kim asked me to give you this."
"Thank you," Chakotay replied. He looked it over; it was repair estimations.
Janeway looked at him askew. "Lieutenant Kim?"
"There have been a few changes around here, Kathryn," Chakotay replied, smiling.
"You'll have to fill me in," Janeway said, leaning against the wall.
"I will. And don't worry; we'll just take it one day at a time..."