You are a Devore assimilated only a few days after birth. When you were
disconnected from the hive mind, you had no memory of what your name had been.
You chose Daylok, which is a common name in the Imperium (according to your
In your sixteen years, you have experienced many changes. You remember
Unimatrix Zero and the games you played there. You remember losing that
paradise, unreal though it was, and helping the Borg Resistance fight to free
all drones. You remember the Cataclysm, the fall of the Abomination at the
hands of a human, the wonderful knowledge that you were no longer hunted. You
remember Axum's Complex, the ideals he tried to uphold...and you remember
Pavriqur's Constructive, the power he promised. Like all the former drones, you
had to choose a side. Like all the former drones, you went where your now-free
heart told you to go.
You are the defense officer on this sphere, and your skill saved it from
destruction in the battle with the Sernaix. The crewmates who walk past you
speak words of congratulation and gratitude. Ankin Rotor, director of the
Constructive, has personally contacted you to thank you for a job well done.
You feel prouder than you've felt since the day you liberated your scout ship
after Unimatrix Zero fell.
You reach your station and look out the sensorscope. To your surprise, the
flagship of the BCF is in the sector, on course to intercept your sphere. You
hail it to ask what its mission is, and whether you can help in any way.
The ship sends back an audio-only message, three deciseconds long. It comes
over the sonic processor like a wave of static. To a humanoid, it would not
sound like a message at all. To a Borg, even former, it conveys information.
One sentence in the simple machine language Borg use to communicate. One
sentence that still brings to bear all the terror and power of the Old
Collective. The first sentence ever spoken by a Borg, the last signal to slip
from the Secondary Node's artificial consciousness on the day the New Collective
Two words in Devraic, three in English.
Resistance is futile.
Words no being was ever supposed to hear again.
Behind you, your crewmates stand stock-still as if frozen in place. Their eyes
take on a distant, hollow look. As you meet their dead stares, you realize what
has befallen them, and know it will now befall you.
You lose control of your movements. Your body immobilizes. You sense a
presence drawing your energy away for its own use. Your mind cries out, just
once -- and then all is silent.
You are reduced to a living consciousness in an dead, useless shell.
You are one of the victims of Ankin Rotor.
* * *
U.S.S. Voyager, somewhere in the Delta Quadrant
Harry's warning went out to all: "Incoming!"
Harry had correctly anticipated the launch from the available outward signs, but
was not in a position to do anything but warn the others. The projectile flew
through its inevitable arc, finally impacting where a warned crewmember had just
The crewmember looked down at the glob of infant gruel flung into his seat.
"Well, at least everyone is getting better at getting out of the way."
B'Elanna was not as complacent, horrified that her daughter was inconveniencing
others at best, and creating a mess at worst. "This throwing of food has got to
stop. Especially since I think I noticed her giving that one an extra little
push with her abilities."
Tom, whose offspring could do no wrong, tried to calm her. "It's not like she's
actually hurting anyone. She's just a normal kid doing what normal kids do."
He beamed false bravado, putting on the front for effect. "She's just better at
it than other kids." He dropped back to a smile and added, "Think of it as
extra combat training for the crew."
B'Elanna, somewhat defused, didn't know whether to strangle him for his
insipidness or simply appreciate what he was saying, so she just gave him a
look. "It needs to stop. Food should be eaten, not thrown."
An amused Seven, much more open with her comments than she used to be, added the
observation, "She seems to be getting much more consistent in where the food
lands. The number of what appear to be accidents seems to have dropped, and her
average distance has increased by a factor of two."
Tom smiled at the tacit support while B'Elanna turned to Seven and pleaded,
"You're not helping. I thought you were supposed to be on my side in this
against these irresponsible men. I have enough problems keeping him --"
indicating Tom -- "in line without you encouraging him."
Seven quipped, "I am sorry. I occasionally forget you are dealing with two
Tom grinned and returned to the issue at hand. "She eats fine the rest of the
time. As far as I can tell, she just doesn't like this stuff."
B'Elanna responded, "The Doctor recommended this. It's the best infant oatmeal-
type food for babies her age. A single serving contains all the nutrients and
vitamins she requires in a day, so if she doesn't eat well at her other meals,
she'll still be getting what's required. And it's easily digested."
B'Elanna picked up the bowl and started trying to feed the baby again. Miral
stubbornly refused to open her mouth, and started to avoid the spoon in a
typical child manner, her head moving this way and that to escape the spoon.
Then, less typically, B'Elanna found herself having trouble keeping the spoon
near Miral's mouth -- much like trying to push two opposing magnets together.
"Great, now she's pushing it away with her abilities."
Tom piped up, "That's my daughter."
B'Elanna skunk-eyed him again. "Making the meal more difficult is *not*
progress." She pushed the bowl over to him, saying, "If you think this is so
great, you get her to eat."
Tom took the bowl and tried the old "shuttle into the landing bay" trick. "Here
comes the shuttle into the landing bay. Vrrrmmmm...." Miral, caught up in the
game, opened her mouth as far as she could and then clamped down when the spoon
was in her mouth. She was then obviously reminded why she had quit eating in
the first place, and although she swallowed, she refused to be taken in by the
same ploy again.
"Well, I made it by the force fields once." Giving up, Tom put the bowl down
and turned back to B'Elanna. "You know, it doesn't matter how good the food is
if the baby won't eat it."
B'Elanna wasn't having any of it. "I need you to work with me. This is what's
good for her -- we have to get her to eat it."
Harry offered a suggestion. "Miral's pretty smart. Maybe she smells the scents
of the food around her and can tell that no one else is eating what she has."
B'Elanna considered. "That sounds like an idea. Tom, try eating some to show
her how good it is."
Tom picked up the bowl. "Sure. I mean, how bad could it be?"
Tom took a spoonful, and, turning toward Miral, smiled, went, "Mmmm," and put
the spoon into his mouth. He made a big production of chewing...before he
froze. At that point he continued with the appreciative noises and kept smiling
while he chewed a few more times and then, overcoming obvious resistance,
swallowed. He kept the smile glued to his face until he had turned away.
Tom's eyes were wide with disbelief. "This stuff is terrible!"
Seven quickly assumed her standard expression of 'Borg knows best, silly
humans' superiority, and, reaching for the bowl, took a spoonful of the gruel.
"When I began to ingest solid foods," she said, "the Doctor recommended a very
similar substance. It was neither attractively flavored nor notably repellent.
I cannot imagine this is that different."
Inserting the spoon into her mouth, Seven removed the gruel -- and, a moment
later, also froze. After a pause, to the accompaniment of a few facial quivers,
she choked it down as Harry nearly choked on his coffee with laughter.
Seven considered the remainder in the bowl. "Then again, the Doctor, being a
hologram, has no sense of taste, so it is possible he doesn't understand how
vile this concoction is."
Harry finished his laughter and reached for the gruel. "Here, let me try
something," he said, picking up Tom's plate and surreptitiously spooning some of
the gruel onto it, among the regular food. He then picked up the spoon and ate
a little of the other food, making noises about how good it was. Miral watched
this production with great interest, and as Harry moved the plate closer to her,
she leaned over to examine it. Harry then spooned up some of the gruel and she
greedily gobbled it up. Harry smiled. "It must be disappointing to find out
that all that good-smelling stuff still tastes like gruel."
Seven questioned the approach. "Is this not
deceiving the child, teaching it incorrect associations?"
"Whatever works," Tom cheerfully responded as
B'Elanna took the plate from Harry and continued the process of
feeding. Then, noticing that his plate was gone, he added, "Hey, now
I don't have anything to eat."
B'Elanna smiled and indicated the remaining
gruel in the bowl. "Miral gets your plate, and you get her bowl."
Tom contemplated the gruel in the bowl and
decided he'd had enough. This was worse than anything Neelix had
ever produced, and that was saying something.
B'Elanna relaxed and lamented, "I used to be
able to manage her, but she's changing on me. It's like fighting the
Borg -- she keeps on adapting." Seeing Seven's eye's light up, she
pointed the spoon at Seven: "And don't you go telling me it's an
admirable trait right now. I'm not in the mood."
Tom noted the time and began to stand up.
"Time for the duty shift. Come on, Harry." B'Elanna picked up Miral
and said she would drop her off with the Doctor on her way to
Which she set out to do. On the way, there
was an escape.
Miral was a good girl -- really, she was. She
would never intentionally frighten her mommy. But there was so much
out there that she couldn't see while being carried. Would it be so
wrong to go off on her own for a minute? Just long enough to visit
some of the other places on the ship that she never got to see?
Mommy was always talking about that "warp core" thing...she loved it
almost as much as Daddy. It would be wonderful to go inside it and
see what it was that was so special about it.
See? She was just curious. Nothing dangerous
As Mommy was turning a corner, Miral suddenly
pushed with all her might. To her surprise, "all her might" felt
just like that funny thing she could do that made her parents worry.
She hadn't decided to do the funny thing; she'd just done it,
instinctively, as soon as she'd started moving to escape. Before she
knew it, she was loose.
Freedom! Glorious freedom! Miral scampered
like a wild targ. This...this was living. Or crawling. She couldn't
remember the word, exactly.
Behind her, Mommy sounded pretty upset, so
Miral went faster to show that everything was fine and she was in
control. But Mommy kept trying to catch her. What was *that* about?
Surely Mommy could tell that she didn't want to be caught. As Mommy
reached down for her, that funny thing happened again and she fell
back. Miral kept crawling, faster and faster and faster and what the
"Lieutenant? I believe this belongs to you,"
"Thanks," said Mommy, brushing herself off.
She walked over to recapture Miral, who was straining like mad to no
avail. Why? Why had the big serious man with the funny ear things
picked her up? And why couldn't she escape again? Even her funny
thing wasn't helping now!
"I take it she 'made a break for it?'" he
Mommy sighed. "It was so sudden. I was just
taking her to Sickbay, as usual, and then all at once she was on the
"It is likely that she used her latent
telekinetic ability," Tuvok replied. (What did all those words
mean?) "Now that you know she can do so, you should have no
difficulty restraining her in future."
Taking Miral back, Mommy smiled at the ear
guy. "Thanks, Tuvok," she said. "That's a big assumption, but it's
nice to hear it."
The guy nodded. "Young Vulcans discovering
their telepathic abilities frequently use them unconsciously. I have
witnessed eleven such occurrences."
"Yeah, I guess with your family...." Mommy
got that Hmm, I've got an idea expression. "Tuvok, Tom and I...well,
we're a little worried. We love Miral very much, but these abilities
are so new and confusing...."
The guy understood, Miral could tell,
although his expression didn't change. "I am willing to render any
assistance you require."
"How about dinner? You can come to our
quarters...Tom and I will be off duty by then."
"I recommend that we make use of my quarters
Mommy looked surprised for a second, but then
it was gone. "Good idea," she said. "We'll be there at...nineteen
The guy nodded. "Nineteen hundred hours. And
I advise that Miral be elsewhere at the time. She is very young, but
I sense great awareness in her. She may find our discussion a cause
for concern if she is present."
Miral didn't understand most of that. It was
something about her, but beyond that, she couldn't make heads or
tails of it. Mommy apparently got it, though, and she said, "You're
right. I'll find someone to leave her with. Oh! It's almost oh nine
hundred -- we should be on duty by now. I'll see you later, Tuvok."
The guy nodded again -- it seemed to be his
hobby -- and then headed for the turbolift. Miral thought about
trying another escape but decided not to, since Mommy still seemed
flustered from the last time. She let herself be carried for now.
"Wasn't that nice of Mr. Tuvok?" Mommy said
in her slightly high-pitched tone, the one she only seemed to use
for Miral. "He knew it would be a hassle for Daddy and I to get the
quarters together in time for dinner, considering the mess *certain
people* make." She smiled through this last part and finished by
beeping Miral on the nose.
Well, all right. Beeping was good. Freedom
was okay too, but...no beeping. So what was the point? Miral relaxed
and made the rest of the journey to Sickbay, content.
As Tom and Harry headed for the turbolift,
Tom started talking about his latest project. "I've just put the
finishing touches on my modifications to the old Tahitian
holoprogram. It's got a lot more variety and detail."
He smiled knowingly at Harry. "Perfect for
that romantic overnight date, hmm?"
Harry tried to keep his poker face on and
gave a neutral reply, not really wanting to turn this into a
discussion. "Sure. Maybe we'll try it some time." Grasping for an
excuse, he quickly added, "I'm not sure I have enough holodeck time
saved up at the moment."
Tom looked at him like he had two heads.
"Huh? I thought Seven had tons of time saved up." He thought for a
moment, and then a knowing grin came over his face. "....or have the
two of you been busy behind everyone's back?"
Harry had known Tom long enough that he
didn't need to have Tom elbow him in the ribs and wink to know that
Tom was, in effect, elbowing him in the ribs and winking. So much
for excuses on the fly to avoid subjects. He'd have to ask Tom
sometime to teach him how he so smoothly steered people away from
certain topics. Every time Harry tried, it never seemed to work, or,
like now, ended up having the opposite effect. Harry sighed,
realizing there was no way he was going to get out from having to
discuss his relationship with Seven now. He and Tom were close, and
although this meant they could talk about anything, at some times
Harry didn't find that as beneficial as at others.
"Look, the truth is Seven and I aren't at the
point where we could...um...use an overnight program, okay?"
Tom's knowing grin changed to a bit of a
smirk. "Oh, come on, Harry. After all this time? It's not like
either of you has moral scruples about this sort of thing before
marriage." Tom's grin disappeared as a possibility occurred to him,
"Are you two doing okay? She didn't turn you down, did she?"
Harry entered the turbolift and requested the
bridge. "No, we're fine. We're just sort of stuck where we are in
the relationship at the moment."
Tom knew what that meant, and, smiling again,
translated: "In other words, you haven't gotten up the gumption to
try to move things forward." He looked at Harry and added, "Or have
you decided to try the monastic lifestyle?"
Harry tried to defend himself. "No! I just
want to know she's ready, and I haven't gotten any of the signs
Tom snorted out a small laugh. "What are you
expecting, to find it written in the stars? Come on, Harry, you're
the one with experience. Seven's made great progress personally
since we took her from the Borg, but it's not like she has a lot of
experience with this sort of thing. If you don't move things
forward, they just aren't going to move."
Harry was going to respond, but the turbolift
doors opened, and he decided it could wait.
As they exited the turbolift onto the bridge,
an ensign nervously stood up from the captain's chair to make it
available to whichever member of the senior staff was going to
relieve her. Thanks to the slower level of activities, Voyager was
taking the opportunity to rotate some of the newer ensigns through
the night shift chair -- and from the nervous look on this one,
it had to be her first shift. Tom tried to remember her last
Tom waved her down. "I'm not your relief,
Ensign Parks. The captain will be coming up." He walked over to his
station, and after relieving the pilot on duty, sat and turned to
the still-standing ensign. He suppressed a grin. "You can sit back
down, you know."
Parks shot back down into the chair. Tom
wondered if she remembered that, at the moment, she was still in
command. "So how was your first night at the conn?" he asked.
Parks seemed to relax a bit, and responded
while fidgeting with her sleeve. "It went fine. It was a little
nerve-wracking at first, realizing I was responsible for the whole
ship, but after a while I got used to it."
Tom noted her sleeve still getting its
nervous workout as he replied, "Harry used to do the night shift
regularly, didn't you, Harry?"
Harry looked up from in back. "It was a great
way to get some experience at the conn. Besides, not much usually
happened on the night shift. It was a great time to just sit back,
relax, and think."
Tom took the opportunity to tease him with,
"Yeah, I guess you always have had this preference for the monastic
life style, haven't you?"
He began to turn away as Harry gave him a
look, but thought of one more dig to get in. Looking up at Harry, he
asked Parks, "Oh, Ensign, in your long range scans last night, you
didn't find anything that said 'Now is the time,' did you?"
He waved off Ensign Parks' confused look with
a quick, "Never mind," and turned back forward.
Captain Janeway entered the bridge, and
Ensign Parks once again did her jack-in-the-box imitation. "Good
Janeway moved down and slid smoothly into her
chair. "Good morning, Ensign Parks. Anything to report?"
"No. It was very quiet last night," Parks
responded, then muttered something under her breath.
Janeway smiled as she replied, "Yes,
thankfully. Any activity in the sector we detected the Sernaix in
"None. We ran repeated scans of the area.
There does not appear to be a Sernaix presence there any longer."
"Very well. Dismissed, Ensign. Harry, ship's
"All departments report ready, Captain."
Tuvok looked up from the console. "One shield
emitter is down for scheduled maintenance but will be back online in
approximately twenty minutes. All other systems are ready."
Janeway turned forward again and leaned back.
"Very well. Mr. Paris, set a course for Sector 743. Let's go see
what the damage is."
U.S.S. Voyager, Sector 743
Janeway turned to look at Harry as they
entered the sector. "Anything?"
Harry continued to work the sensors. "Not
much. Some uninhabited systems, an uninteresting nebula -- " he
paused and worked a bit more, then found what they had come to
expect -- "and the wreckage of a ship. It seems to be Borg. Or at
least it *used* to be Borg."
"Used to be?"
"It's in so many pieces it barely registers
as a ship anymore."
Janeway considered. "Then it doesn't pose a
"Not unless we accidentally run into part of
The captain turned forward. "Fine. Mr. Paris,
take us toward the wreckage...and try not to bump into anything,"
she added with a small smile.
Voyager arrived on the scene and found a
spreading field of chunks of what appeared to have been a Borg cube.
The Sernaix attack had clearly caused an internal explosion.
"Any signs of Sernaix?" the captain asked.
"Other than residual weapon signatures, no."
"Stand down. Harry, scan the debris field.
Check for anything salvageable...though, considering the look of
things, I can't imagine we'll find anything."
Harry started working the console, and after
a few moments a beep caught his attention. Checking, he was
surprised at what he found. "Captain, I've detected a life sign!"
Janeway looked incredulous and indicated the
debris field. "In *that*?"
Harry confirmed, "There is a small piece of
wreckage that may be large enough to contain a sealed environment.
The reading is faint, but it's there." He looked up. "And it's
Janeway turned to Tuvok, got up, and started
to head for the turbolift. "Get a lock on it and beam it to Sickbay
once security measures are in place," she ordered Kim. "Tuvok, I
want full security and Level Ten force fields, and I want you there.
Get Seven to sickbay as well." She and Tuvok entered the turbolift
and the doors shut behind them.
The Doctor and Seven stood back as the Borg
drone was beamed into the waiting force field. The captain and
Tuvok, along with the security contingent, waited a few steps back.
Once materialization was complete, the Doctor and Seven went to
The drone was an average humanoid male.
Surprisingly, there seemed to be little in the way of injury,
considering the level of destruction sustained by his ship. Seven
and the Doctor quickly came to a conclusion and approached the
captain to reveal their results.
Janeway inquired, "Well?"
The Doctor started. "From the state of the
Borg transceiver, it appears to be one of the Borg freed from the
Collective. It also appears to have suffered little injury from the
destruction of its ship. Both organic and Borg systems are
The captain paused. "I don't understand. If
it's fine, why isn't it conscious? And how could it have survived
destruction on the level we're dealing with here, without a
Seven spoke up, "The drone is in a type of
dormant state used for self-repair. It also appears to have been in
that state for longer than would be expected if the repair had
resulted from combat injuries with the Sernaix. There are some cases
where more valued drones, upon injury, will be put into repair
chambers similar to the ones used to nurture new drones. I suspect
that this was the container the drone was discovered in. Some
unrelated injury was under repair, and the combination of the
protected environment of the container and the dormant state
protected the drone from injury when its ship was destroyed, and
preserved its life until we reached the wreckage."
Janeway considered what this implied for a
moment. "So we could just wake our friend up and he'd be completely
The Doctor responded, "Yes."
Janeway then asked Seven the question she
really cared about: "Will it have any information on the Sernaix
that attacked its ship, even though it was dormant at the time?"
"No," she answered. "Assuming it was dormant
at the time of the attack, it would have no such information.
Information updates only occur upon revival from the repair state,
to prevent interference with the repair process. It will know
nothing after the moment of its entering the dormant state."
"Well, let's go ahead and wake it up. At
least we can get an update on the state of the Borg and what
happened to its ship."
Seven returned to the drone and used the
medical interface to activate it. After a few moments, the drone
opened its eyes and sat up, looking a bit confused. That, if nothing
else, showed that it was no longer part of the hive. "Where am I?"
he asked, and the officers found it disconcerting not to hear the
echoes of the Collective in his voice.
"I am Captain Janeway of the starship
Voyager," Janeway responded smoothly. "Your ship was destroyed in an
attack by the Sernaix. We found you in the wreckage."
The drone's features took on an incongruous
look of worry. "Were there any other survivors?" he asked.
Janeway kept her voice measured; she'd
delivered this kind of news too often. "I'm afraid yours was the
only life sign we detected. We can only assume that the other drones
Sudden anger flashed. "NO! They were not
drones. Not anymore."
"The others on your ship weren't Borg?" asked
Janeway, startled at the fierce reply.
"They were Borg, and they were their own
races, and they were something in between," he answered, "but they
were *not* drones. A drone follows his leader blindly. My crewmates
were their own leaders. They deserve to be remembered that way."
And another first contact starts on the wrong
foot, thought the frustrated Janeway. I'd better do a little damage
control. "I apologize for insulting your shipmates. I wasn't aware
that your... people felt so strongly on the subject."
"We do. Our first leader made it very clear
that no citizen of the Complex was ever to be considered a drone
again. Now that the Collective no longer controls us, we are not
bound by its principles... or its terminology." To Janeway's
surprise, the former Borg smiled slightly.
Seven, however, was not smiling. "First
leader," she repeated. "Who was he?"
"Axum," the man replied.
A moment of silence passed, and the former
Borg suspected what it meant. "You must be Annika," he said. "This
is Voyager; I should have remembered."
"I was Annika," she answered. "I *am* Seven
The ex-Borg stared at Seven for a moment. "I
regret to inform you of Axum's death," he said.
"I knew," she said simply, and now Janeway
could see her purging the emotion from her face. She was calling on
her Borg conditioning to keep herself efficient; feelings could come
Stepping forward, Tuvok asked the survivor,
"What is your name?"
Good idea, Tuvok, Janeway thought. If he
rejects Collective notions, he's bound to have a name instead of a
"I am Xale," the ex-Borg replied. "Before my
assimilation, I was a member of a race called the Bufannsum."
"Species 7457," said Seven immediately.
"Humanoid, graminivorous, limited to one solar system. Assimilated
at time index 8A1.D96.2F. Their stamina was an asset to the
She's deliberately being more mechanical than
usual, thought Janeway. She probably hopes the familiar Borg
demeanor will help him feel at ease. But will it work, or just make
him more uncomfortable?
Xale apparently had neither reaction - his
tone didn't change at all. "Yes," he told Seven simply. "I am the
last of my kind now. Only nine Bufannsum had access to Unimatrix
Zero, and we were all on the ship whose remnants you found."
"What is the last thing you remember?" asked
the captain, steering the conversation back to the Sernaix attack.
Xale thought for a moment. "I was making a
difficult repair when I was seriously injured. To speed healing, I
was placed into a repair chamber and entered dormant mode."
"So you don't remember the attack?"
Janeway sighed, having confirmed what they'd
suspected. She moved on. "It's clear from what you've been telling
us that you're not part of the Collective. Are you one of the Free
"I am a member of the Constructive."
This term was new to Janeway. "The
"The Borg Constructive Force. We are a group
of former Borg who broke off from the Complex, which is what you may
be referring to as the Free Borg."
Janeway considered and, since the ex-drone
seemed to be talkative, decided to see what she could get out of it.
"I'm unfamiliar with these groups, and we haven't had contact with
any Borg for a long time. Can you tell me about them?"
Xale considered, then began to explain. "When
Voyager destroyed the transwarp network, the Queen and all drones
connected to the hive mind were terminated. We have called this the
Cataclysm - the end of the Collective's reign of terror. As soon as
the resistance learned of this, we gathered all our ships together
to take inventory and decide what action to take. While the census
proceeded, our leaders met and discussed the problem; in the end,
they officially dissolved the resistance and founded a new entity
called the Free Borg Complex. The goal was to help ourselves and
others recover from the effects of domination by the Borg, and
nearly all of us agreed to join. Axum was the first coordinator."
"No one opposed his leading the Complex?"
Xale laughed. "The Complex was his idea. Axum
had been our leader from the beginning, and not out of ambition. He
didn't seek power - power sought him."
The point clarified, Xale resumed his
history. "We began research into de- assimilation, and scout ships
were sent out to discover how the Collective was destroyed. In fact,
the Collective was already rebuilding itself, but we didn't learn
that until much later. Our problem at the time was what to do about
the other Delta Quadrant races. Axum tried communicating with one, a
species called the Kallidians -" Janeway and Tuvok both perked up at
that name - "but they didn't believe his story."
Xale frowned. "That was when disaster struck.
Mere days after our communications with Kallid ended, the entire
population was assimilated by unidentified Borg vessels."
"The new Collective," Janeway realized.
"Yes; it was our first clue that some remnant
of the hive still existed. To make matters worse, the Kallidians had
sent out a desperate distress call, claiming that the Complex was
destroying them for refusing to open communications. The call
reached many Delta Quadrant races, and their reaction was to send
two enormous multiplanetary fleets to end the 'threat.'"
"What happened to the fleets?" asked Tuvok.
Xale smiled grimly. "That's a rather long
story, but I can tell you the final outcome. The fleet led by the
Devore and the Krenim engaged Complex forces and lost. General Korok
led the battle and was careful to disarm, not destroy, their ships.
They returned home wondering why an empire of killers would let them
live. The other fleet, which we believe was organized principally by
the Vidiians, was unlucky enough to enter Collective space first.
They were assimilated."
"After that," said Janeway, "you must have
had more than enough information to find the new hive's hiding
"Our concerns at the time were internal,"
said Xale. "It was clear by then that we would find no allies
willing to look past our history, as Axum had hoped. Many of us
wished to take the logical course of action, the one that would
maximize our survival chances."
"Expansion," said Tuvok.
The ex-Borg nodded. "The Old Collective, for
all its faults, was not above learning from the races it
assimilated. One from your quadrant had a valuable rule: 'Expand or
"You wanted to consolidate your space," said
Janeway. "And then use your power to gain more. You wanted to start
the Borg agenda all over again."
"We wanted to defend ourselves," said Xale
with a touch of anger. "Among unassimilated species, we would never
be welcome. We had no other choice -- your kind taught us that when
they answered our greetings with weapons fire."
"You broke off from the Complex," said Tuvok
Xale nodded. "A group of us led by Pavriqur,
Axum's diplomatic officer, formed our own alliance - the
Constructive. Our goal was to defend ourselves by retaking the old
Borg territories. Axum did not see the need and tried to prevent
us...finally he forced us into open conflict. We have had many
battles. For a while we were evenly matched, but recently we have
proven the stronger and have begun to push the Complex back."
"Axum died at the MIDAS array early in the
war. He was followed by Pavriqur, who fell to a Complex spy. His
assistant, Ankin Rotor, took on his role of Director and has led us
ever since. He will find a way to conquer the Sernaix." A certainty
came to the ex-drone's eyes: "We have defeated all others, and we
will defeat this new foe."
"What about the Collective?" asked Seven.
"It no longer exists. Pavriqur's last
military victory was over them -- and it was complete. Our forces
annihilated their new homeworld and recaptured their ships."
Janeway paused while she absorbed all the new
information. "Voyager and Starfleet originally opposed the Borg
Collective. Do you consider us a threat?"
"You freed us from the Collective. As long as
you do not ally with our enemies, we are in your debt, and will not
"Do you have any needs while you are here? We
have Borg regeneration cubicles if you have the need. In the
meantime, we will do our best to find a Constructive ship to return
you to your people."
Xale hesitated, then lay back down, giving a
response that Janeway was not used to hearing under the
circumstances. "Thank you."
Janeway moved into the hallway with Tuvok and
Seven to discuss their passenger. "I don't see the drone as a
significant threat, but I don't want it left alone. Seven, I want
you to spend time with him. Give him a ship's tour, show him
around...keep him talking and find out as much as you can about
these new Borg groups. Tuvok, do you concur?"
Tuvok considered. "Though this new group, the
Constructive, appears to be quite formidable, I see no reason not to
use the opportunity to gather as much information as possible. Not
being a member of the Collective, the powers of a single ex-drone
should not be a threat."
Janeway turned back to Seven. "Give him the
works. Engineering, the bridge, you know the drill. I want you to
appear open: show him the whole ship, but without revealing any
sensitive details. See what you can get out of him."
Seven replied, "Yes, Captain," and returned
Is this fair, what I'm asking her to do?
thought Janeway. She's going to be dealing with someone who embraces
the Borg ideals that destroyed her life. That wouldn't be easy for
Watching the doors to Sickbay close, Janeway
reminded herself of Seven's record and felt reassured. If anyone can
handle it, she can.
Commander Chakotay entered the room in Borg
armour. He raised his prosthetic arm and extended its crackling
electric tip to Janeway, coldly intoning, "Your culture will adapt
to service --"
Janeway shook her head vigorously. No.
Chakotay's fine. Your mind is playing tricks on you.
The doorbell chimed. "Come," Janeway said.
To her relief, there was no Borg waiting on
the other side of the door. There was only Chakotay, and while he
still didn't look quite like his old self yet, he was clearly doing
fine. "Kathryn," he said warmly.
Part of Captain Janeway wanted to come out
from behind the desk and embrace him. That was the Kathryn part. The
captain part knew that this was the ready room, that it was time for
discussion rather than socialization, and its decades of experience
kept her in her chair.
Chakotay took the seat opposite her and
leaned forward. "I'm surprised at you, you know," he said. "Letting
a disconnected Borg on the ship? We haven't even gotten rid of the
*last* one yet."
She had to laugh at that. "I don't think
Seven has much in common with our friend Xale. Which brings me to
why I called you here. What do you think of him?"
The first officer's expression grew serious.
"I'll tell you, but I think it'll be redundant. How many times have
we had this conversation now, Kathryn?"
"I've lost count," admitted Janeway. "But
every situation is different, and I always need your input."
"You're right, this situation *is* different.
Xale isn't part of the Collective we're used to dealing with. He
presents us with an unknown risk."
"And unknown possibilities. The Collective is
gone, Chakotay. The Borg Constructive Force is a potentially
valuable ally for the Federation. The technology of the Borg could
be an asset in this war with the Sernaix."
"But we need an alliance with the
Constructive before we can expect them to share any of their
technology," Chakotay pointed out.
"We have Xale. By keeping him on board as a
representative of the Constructive, we would be building the
framework for an alliance. What do you think?"
It was obvious to Chakotay that the captain
had come to a decision. Still, she hadn't convinced him that it was
the best course of action to take, so he simply said, "You know how
I feel about the Borg, Kathryn. You've proved me wrong before,
though, and I hope you can do it again."
Kathryn smiled, knowing that Chakotay was
offering his support. "We'll make sure our guest feels at home here,
but in case you're right and his staying is a problem, we'll
continue to look for another Constructive vessel. On a more personal
note," she said, coming out from behind the desk and placing her
hands on his shoulders, "I'll see *you* tonight. My quarters."
Resting his hands on her hips, he smiled down
at her. "Will you be making dinner tonight?"
"Yes, I was thinking about cooking
something," she answered after a moment. Pulling out of the
near-embrace, she turned back to her desk.
With a sigh, Chakotay said teasingly, "I
guess I can work that into my schedule."
"You...guess?" Kathryn asked, glancing up
from the PADD she was reading. She had adopted a hurt tone and was
looking at Chakotay as if she'd been deeply wounded by his response.
"I'm still trying to decide if the benefits
of our relationship make up for your cooking," he explained, looking
"With that attitude, I'd have no qualms about
cutting you off from those benefits, Commander," she said sweetly.
"In that case, I've made up my mind: I love
your liquified pot roast."
Seven entered sickbay, her attention
immediately drawn to the former Borg drone. "Captain Janeway
requested that I give you a tour of the ship, Xale."
"That is acceptable, however if I was simply
allowed access to this vessel's computer core, I could access the
ship's schematics and crew complement. The process would be more
efficient and I would have a greater understanding of Voyager." Xale
fell into step alongside Seven as she led him from the confines of
the medical bay.
Seven knew that Xale was correct, however
that was contrary to Captain Janeway's instructions. It took her
only nanoseconds to fabricate an explanation that the ex-drone would
accept however. "It would be more efficient. However, Captain
Janeway is showing you a level of trust and acceptance by allowing
you to have access to the actual physical locations on board the
Xale inclined his head slightly as he
followed Seven into the turbolift. "Their manner of communication is
inefficient and inexact."
"Engineering," Seven called. "Their method of
communication reflects individuality."
"Some aspects of individuality must be
sacrificed for the common good. Accurate dissemination of
information enhances the ability of each member of a group to attain
perfection." Xale's tone was neutral but held an aspect of barely
hidden superiority. "This is why humanity and the other races of the
Alpha Quadrant persist in their inefficiency."
Seven could feel something inside her rankle
at the barely hidden slur against her family, but she could also
feel an edge of uncertainty deep inside. Had she embraced her
humanity to the extent that she had become less than she had been?
"Their method of communication communicates many levels of meaning
"All of them unclear and easily
misinterpretable," Xale interrupted and continued with his thoughts
on the matter. "The group often suffers to ensure that an
individual's personal method of expression can continue to exist.
Their methods of communication promote misinformation."
As the two Borg entered Engineering, Seven
found herself unable to find flaw with the ex-drone's logic. He was
essentially correct. The methods of communication used by the crew
were inexact and allowed for misinformation. Purposeful and not. The
entire conversation had been started because she had mislead the
Borg to comply with Captain Janeway's orders.
Perhaps her association with humans had
proven detrimental to her over all development. A strand of hair
slipped from the French twist that would have held it in place and
subconsciously Seven moved immediately to replace it in her
immaculate hair style.
"Come on, Miral...You know Aunty Kathryn and
Mommy don't like grape juice in the Engineering consoles." Tom
shifted his overly active daughter to his other hip and set to
wiping up the spill from the so-called spill proof cup that his
daughter had managed to thwart. "Oh, hey, Seven," Tom greeted her,
and eyed the other Borg with suspicion. "I'm just waiting for
B'Elanna to be free to come take our little terror off my hands.
Harry and I have to do some fine tuning of the helm system after our
little run out here to the Delta Quadrant."
Seven arched her eyebrow. "This is Tom Paris
and his daughter Miral."
"Human child rearing techniques seem to allow
too much possibility of stress on the child's environment and a
higher than necessary cost in resources. This individual's time
could be better spent elsewhere if the child was placed in a
maturation chamber. Then both could be productive members of
Voyager's crew," Xale observed coldly. Luckily for him Tom was still
working on cleaning up the mess before B'Elanna could see the state
that Miral had left her engineering console in.
Seven turned away from the scrambling father
and focused on the ex-drone once more. "There are advantages to the
individual approach. The child learns necessary interaction skills
from her close association with her parents." Seven looked back
towards Tom and Miral to find the child gleefully grinning as she
emptied the rest of her cup on another console. "Though I believe
that there are times that human parents would agree with you. Ensign
Vorik..." Seven turned her attention to the Vulcan officer who
happened to be passing them. "Please show Xale the slipstream drive
and our integrated Borg circuitry." The Vulcan nodded and led the
other Borg away, while Seven stepped to Tom and scooped the active
child off of Tom's hip.
"Thanks, Seven." Tom grinned at his shipmate
as she demonstrated the maternal instinct and skill she had
developed with the Borg children. "I swear with Miral sometimes you
need eight hands, not two."
Seven nodded slightly, as she focused her
attention on the child on her hip. "It is very obvious to those of
us who know you Lieutenant, as to who her father is." Harry slipped
up behind Seven and grinned at Tom who turned away from the mess and
towards the former Borg drone, eyeing her prospectively.
"Good one, Seven," Harry piped up, grinning
at his best friend. "Keep him on his toes. He's gotten slack since
he became a father."
"Very funny, Harry...Trust me, Miral doesn't
need your and Seven's help...I do. I'm plenty on my toes everyday."
Tom finished mopping up the last of the spills and focused on Seven
once more. "So how goes the tour, Seven?"
"Xale is difficult. I find his assumption of
superiority difficult to deal with," Seven admitted with a sigh as
she handed the child back to her father.
Tom and Harry shook their heads and did their
best to keep the grins from their faces. They failed. "An
opinionated drone...Who would have ever thought?" Harry shot Tom a
dirty look, but Tom just shrugged.
Seven frowned. Something inside her ached at
the thought that her crewmates found her equally annoying. "This
does not surprise you, which would lead me to the conclusion that
you have a similar reaction to me."
"Had, not have. You're nothing like Xale
anymore Seven, but when the Captain first started socializing
you..." Tom tried to scramble to make up for his callous reaction.
"Let's just say you've come a long way from what you were."
Seven pulled herself straighter and looked at
Tom defensively. "I believe you are mistaken, Lieutenant. I adapted
to my circumstances. I learned that Captain Janeway was often
correct. Would you not agree, Harry?"
"Ah..." Harry winced. The kimchee was
somewhere around his waist as far as this question went. His answer
would determine if he held his own, or sunk below the surface. "You
know I didn't really spend that much time around you at that point,
Seven. You'd be better off asking Captain Janeway something like
"That's why they pay her the big bucks, cause
she isn't afraid." Tom grinned slightly directing that comment at
Harry narrowed his glare at Tom. "Wouldn't
that be why you asked Chakotay to talk to B'Elanna about those
romance novels she was always reading?"
"All right, boys. Break it up." B'Elanna shook
her head at the two men, "And they call themselves grown ups." She
reached out and plucked Miral off of Tom's hip. "Don't you two have
helm controls to run diagnostics on or something?" Both the men
nodded and they moved on out of Engineering still arguing amongst
themselves. B'Elanna looked at Seven. "Don't ever let them convince
you that men actually mature... They just turn into bigger versions
of little boys."
Seven nodded as Vorik returned Xale to
Seven's custody. Xale focused on the mother and daughter. "There is
an interesting adaptation of Borg technology in this ship. I find it
interesting that you are willing to adopt superior technology, but
not superior social developments. I would like to observe more child
B'Elanna took a slight step back from Seven
and Xale and subconsciously shifted Miral back on her hip, away from
the Borg. "I don't know, Seven. I know the Captain wanted Xale to
see the ship. Sitting and watching Miral and me together isn't like
touring the bridge."
"I learned to appreciate Voyager's crew's
methods of interaction by observation and participation. Perhaps
that will be the same for Xale," Seven offered.
B'Elanna shook her head and against her
better judgement agreed. "All right. I don't know what he's going to
get out of it, but let's go before she spills something on one of my
Seven and the ex-drone walked through the
door of the Conference room that was typically used as a children's
play area. It had been a lesser used conference room, and had the
advantage of having a view of space, avoiding the closed in feeling
some areas of the ship without viewports created. The table and
chairs were gone, and in their place were some smaller furniture,
assorted toys, and various objects of interest to children of
Voyager had gone a long way toward
integrating family life into its operations.
B'Elanna looked up from rolling a ball back
and forth with Miral on the floor. It was obvious from her
expression that she was not happy about the intrusion, especially
considering who was accompanying Seven, but was aware of the
Captains wishes. She also didn't like the feeling of being a
specimen on display. Miral, on the other hand, did not seem to mind,
and having seen the ex-drone previously, gave a glance and went back
to the far more interesting game of rolling the ball with Mommy.
Seven surveyed the room, "This room has been
adapted to child rearing activities. Children may come to this room
to exercise their minds thought an activity known as play. This
reinforces the various connections in the cerebral cortex which
organize the behaviors that the children will need to learn to
perform as functional adult members of the ship's society."
B'Elanna hadn't heard Seven this into her old
borg speech habits in a long time. It was a bit scary, and served to
remind her of how far Seven had come in her socialization. She
wondered how rolling a ball back and forth fit into the ongoing
description, but decided she didn't want to ask. Since if she did,
she was sure to get an answer. And, as it turned out, she was going
to get one anyway.
Seven continued, "Currently B'Elanna is
engaging in a type of play activity involving the rolling of a small
pliable sphere back and forth. As well as acting as a practice
session for the child, allowing the development of motor skills and
manipulative control refinement, it reinforces the emotional bond
between the mother and the child."
The ex-drone asked, "Which is more important,
the emotional bond or the motor skill development?"
"It depends on the species. With Humans the
maintenance of the emotional bond between guardian and child is as
important to future successful behavior as is the development of the
motor skills. In other species, such as the Vulcan's, the
maintenance of the bond is less critical, as long as the child has
an adult of the species from which to learn the various cultural
approaches to intellectualization and emotional control."
Their visitor considered a moment, and
finally responded with an answer that had a familiar ring to
B'Elanna, "It seems very inefficient."
Seven hesitated, then softened a bit as Miral
turned and threw her a smile before returning her attention to her
mother, "I thought so as well when I first saw it, but I have
discovered the system does have it benefits."
There was a chirp from Seven's combadge,
Seven responded, "Seven here."
"Do you have a couple moments to spare? We're
having a problem here in astrometrics, and we could use your help on
Seven looked at B'Elanna, "May I leave our
guest here for a few minutes to observe? It does not appear that I
will be long."
B'Elanna wasn't happy, but the ex-drone seemed
harmless, "Sure. Just don't be too long."
Seven responded, "I will be there in a
moment," and to the ex-drone, "I will return in a few minutes to
continue our tour." She turned and left.
Seven had been gone a few minutes when
B'Elanna noticed that the ex-drone had begin to approach. She looked
up, "May I help you?"
The former drone looked down on her and
Miral, "There are much more efficient ways to train the neural
network of your child. The methods you are employing are erratic and
B'Elanna was uneasy, but tried to be cautious
not to offend, "It is what we are used to, and it has worked well
The ex-drone was not placated, and B'Elanna
started getting nervous, "It does not matter, your methods are
inefficient. The pursuit of perfection requires the adoption of
newer methods and approaches when exposure to superior cultures
makes them available." He reached down for Miral, "Here let me show
B'Elanna's nervousness exploded into full
blown klingon combat mode in the defense of her child. She drove
herself upwards, attempting to push the ex-drone back and away, "No!"
The sudden yelling startled Miral, and she
looked up, suddenly afraid at what she saw above her.
The former drone was pushed back, but
undaunted. "You will allow me to show you our superior ways. You
must be shown how inferior your approaches are." It stepped forward
again toward Miral.
B'Elanna had placed herself between the
startled Miral on the floor and the ex-drone in front of her, "You keep
away from my child!"
This time the ex-Drone did not simply push
back. As B'Elanna reached for her com badge, the ex-drone reacted to
the assault by raising it's arm and stunning B'Elanna, who fell
back, hitting the floor in front of Miral.
Harry and Tom were in a corridor working on a
system behind a panel when Harry suddenly stood up straight, looking
Tom looked up at Harry, "What's up, Harry, you
ok? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Harry dropped his tools, and without knowing
quite why, took a step down the corridor. "Tom, where's Miral?" He
took another couple of steps.
Tom got up and began to follow, confused at
the sudden behavior of his friend, "She's in the kid rec area with
Harry's tension and sense of urgency rose as
he began to jog then run down the corridor. "I don't know, but we
have to get there. Now. Something is wrong." He ran faster. "Very
Tom had no idea what was going on, but
quickly followed, summoning Security to the children's rec area as
Harry, having a head start, reached the door
of the rec area first. Upon opening it, he found a nightmare.
The former Drone was standing in the middle
of the room holding Miral. B'Elanna lay next to it on the floor,
obviously stunned and beginning to shake it off. Miral was squirming
and screaming, scared and frightened, and doing what little she
could to escape the horror.
Harry pulled out his phaser, but the ex-drone
saw it and activated his Borg shielding before Harry could get a
stunning shot off.
It was then that Harry saw what the ex-drone
was attempting to do. It was trying to hold Miral still so it could
line up its assimilation tubules to a spot on the back of her neck.
He hit his comm badge, "Seven! Get down here
now! The drone has Miral, and is trying to perform some sort of
Harry heard a response, accompanied by the
sound of running, "I will be there in 30 seconds."
Tom came through the door, phaser drawn,
"Miral!" He raised his phaser as an automatic response, then lowered
it, unable to use it with his daughter so close. Instead he dropped
it, and started to throw himself at the ex-drone.
Harry had remembered something he had learned
from Seven about Borg personal shielding, and held Tom back. "It
won't do any good."
Tom turned, "I have to do something!"
Harry looked at the ceiling panels, and
finding what he was looking for, aimed and fired. The beam cut a
hole, exposing a plasma conduit above. "Look I'm going to try
something, but you have to get B'Elanna away from there. Go get her,
now!" He shoved Tom toward B'Elanna, and Tom grabbed his wife and
drug her toward the corner. Getting there, he looked up to see Harry
point his phaser at the conduit and fire. The conduit exploded,
sending sparks and flame out from the point of impact. The flexible
section of conduit broke free from the ceiling and hung down loose,
the light show ending as the plasma breaker in the ceiling detected
the break and cut off the flow to the ruptured length of conduit.
The ex-drone had been momentarily distracted
from his attempts with Miral, but retained a firm grip on her as she
continued to squirm. Sure of his defenses, he returned his attention
to his captive.
Harry grabbed the loose end of the hanging
conduit, and bringing it near to the former drone, aimed his phaser
at the plasma breaker in the ceiling, disabling it. The break ceased
to function, and released the stream of plasma held back behind it.
The next breaker in sequence detected the break moments later, but
the few moments of plasma flow were enough for Harry's purposes. The
brief plasma stream flew out and stuck the Borg shields, causing an
explosion that was directed back outward, lifting Harry and throwing
him against the wall. The ex-drone's shields also ceased to function
and though the blast directed no energy inward, there was obvious
shorting and disruption of many of the ex-drone's Borg systems.
He staggered, then fell back, A scared and
screaming Miral bouncing off of the still form onto the floor behind
as the ex-drone hit the floor.
Initially jarred by the explosion, but farther
away and not in its direct path, Tom rushed over and grabbed his
daughter, retreating back to his wife's side even though the ex-drone
appeared to be unconscious. Miral reached for her father, still
crying in terror, and other than that appeared miraculously free of
injury. Tom hugged her to him, reassured that she was fine by the
Security and Seven came through the door at
the same time,
Indicating the former drone, he yelled, "Get
that thing out of here! Lock it up in the brig."
It was then that he noticed Harry lying in
the corner, unmoving.
Seven now knew exactly how the Captain had
felt sitting at Chakotay's bedside. This wasn't the detached concern
that she had felt standing at Chakotay's bedside, hoping that a good
friend, a member of her family would survive. At one point in time
she would have been able to list off her vitals, explain exactly in
pure scientific terms what was going on in her body. Now all she
could do was feel. Fear, anger, and confusion raged through her mind
and her body reacted accordingly. This was the reaction to the
possibility of loosing part of herself. She wasn't even aware of the
Doctor's words as he reported on Harry's condition.
"... in a few days, he will be as good as
new." These words finally broke through the miasma of emotion in her
brain and her head came up to regard the Doctor.
The Doctor sighed slightly regarding Seven
with a mixture of pain, tolerance and impatience. "As I was saying,
Seven, I have managed to stabilize Mr. Kim. He'll be healing for the
next few days but he should make a full recovery."
"Thank you, Doctor. What Mr. Kim attempted
was extremely dangerous. When Borg shields overload, the energy
dissipates outward. Therefore he could be certain that Miral would
be safe. However..."
The Doctor looked again at his patient. "...
He knew he was putting himself at risk." Shaking his head, the
Doctor pressed another hypospray against Harry's neck and released
the drug into the sleeping officer's body. "It never ceases to amaze
me how many of the Captain's bad habits this crew has managed to
pick up over our stay in the Delta Quadrant. I could write an
incredible thesis on it, but the Captain would likely have Lt.
Torres do something to my program as revenge..."
Seven looked at the Doctor questioningly, not
quite understanding that his diatribe was not serious but was in
fact a way of covering his extreme affection for all members of the
original Voyager crew from the Captain down to Crewman Gerron. The
Doctor under her scrutiny fell silent and went back to work on the
unconscious Lieutenant. Taking readings and administering other
medications. After a few moments, Seven once again spoke. "What I
fail to understand, Doctor, is how Lt. Kim knew that Miral was in
"They seem to be linked in some way. I
haven't been able to conclusively determine the cause of their link
as of yet, either. I have a theory that it is in some way connected
to both the powers that Mr. Kim and Miral are developing though they
are different in application and an event in Voyager's history
before you joined us, that both Mr. Kim and Ms. Torres shared." The
Doctor continued to work as he spoke.
Seven cocked her head to the side. "You are
referring to the Caretaker kidnapping both Lt. Kim and Lt. Torres."
The Doctor nodded in confirmation. "Then I fail to see why Lt.
Torres' offspring would develop both the link with Mr. Kim and
powers, while Lt. Torres would not. You are more likely dealing with
two unrelated events."
"Possibly, but I tend to doubt that, Seven.
However, as I said, it is a theory at this point. The fact remains
that Miral and Lt. Kim share a mental link and at least in this
incident, it was incredibly useful." The Doctor looked at Seven.
"Now, I believe you should rest as well, Seven. It's been a very
stressful day for you as well." He watched as Seven focused on Harry
once more. "Or perhaps I could make up the Captain's chair for you
to sleep in." His voice found its sarcastic edge once more.
"That will not be necessary, Doctor. I have
other matters to attend to before I regenerate."
The Doctor could only shake his head.
"Perhaps it's some sort of viral infection that the Captain is
spreading," he mumbled to no one in particular.
Xale stood immobile in one corner of his cell
as Seven approached. She nodded to the two guards and they stepped
away leaving the two Borg, one former and one of the new, but just
as dangerous species alone.
"You are an individual, yet you tried to
assimilate Miral Paris and in the process you injured my mate.
Explain." Seven's eyes flickered with anger though she kept her
expression and her voice carefully neutral.
Xale's face was purely impassive. It was not
a mask he wore to disguise feelings beneath the surface, it was
simply him. "The child would have benefited from the Borg
enhancements I was attempting to implement. There would not have
been a need for the inefficient activity that they were engaging in
to improve the child's motor coordination. I saw no logic in not
completing those enhancements."
"Miral is a child. A child's parents are
responsible for making decisions for that child." Seven stood
impassively on the outside of the cell. "You tried to force them to
accept your decision for their child."
Xale looked to Seven with an almost mirror
image of her expression on his face. "Their method of teaching was
inefficient. The enhancement I would have implemented was a more
efficient manner of achieving the same goal."
"The end does not always justify the means.
Miral should be allowed to grow naturally to come into her own and
make decisions for herself. The pursuit of perfection should not be
forced on any individual," said Seven, hands clenched behind her
back. How could one be an individual yet not understand the basic
tenants that Captain Janeway had instilled in her? "You attempted to
take the decision away from Miral, away from her parents. As the
Borg once took the decision away from yourself."
Xale continued to stare impassively at Seven.
"She would still have been an individual. A superior individual."
"It is not possible to be a superior
individual. It is the nature of an individual to be different from
all other individuals. In my time here I have come to understand
that we all have our own strengths and weaknesses." Seven's voice
was losing some of its neutrality and a frown was beginning to
play at the edges of her mouth. "What you and I perceive as a
weakness may prove not to be so. To take away even a weakness
without the consent of the individual is to dishonor that being's
"They take their individuality too far. Why
would they not automatically consent to a procedure that would bring
about the same goal they were attempting to bring about more
quickly." Xale was still as impassive as before.
"It is not the goal that mattered in this
case. The journey that the child would have gone through to achieve
the goal is at least as important as the goal itself." Seven's voice
was passionate now and her expression conveyed her dismay at the
actions of the Borg Constructive Force drone. "This is not what Axum
foresaw when he broke away from the collective. This is not what
your first leader wished for you all."
"What the first leader wished for us is
irrelevant. This is what the Borg Constructive Force is and what you
obviously are not." Xale looked at Seven as if re-appraising her.
"You have lost the clarity of thought that you once had Seven." The
Borg's tone conveyed that he saw Seven's moral stand to be a flaw in
achieving what they still sought. "If you continue in this line of
reasoning, you will have to give up the quest for perfection and
adopt the ways of these inefficient creatures."
Seven pulled herself straighter, looking Xale
in the eyes. Images of Harry, Captain Janeway, Chakotay, the Doctor
and the rest of the crew flooded her mind. All those who had taught
her what being an individual, what being human really meant. "I
believe I will."
Seven entered sickbay and moved directly to
Harry's bed as the Doctor finished his lecture. "You're off duty for
twenty-four hours, Mr. Kim." The Doctor turned as he became aware of
Seven's approach. "Seven, I trust that you will see to it that Mr.
Kim follows my directions. Far too many of the senior staff seem to
have inherited the same lack of concern for their own health that
the Captain has."
Seven inclined her head towards the Doctor.
"I will see to it, Doctor." The EMH moved away from the pair, as
Seven closed on Harry. His actions could have been interpreted as
giving the young couple some space, but in reality it was more
difficult for him to see them together than he would ever let either
of them know.
Seven's attention was so focused on Harry
that she failed to notice the Doctor's departure. "Your propensity
for taking risks has once again led you to be injured. I have noted
this pattern with you in the past as well. I find it concerning."
Harry shook his head and smiled at Seven. Her
version of concern was odd but it warmed him none the less. "There
wasn't any choice. I couldn't let anything happen to Miral and I was
the only one who could help her."
Sighing slightly, Seven put her hand over
Harry's, her fingers wrapping around his. "While it may have been
necessary, I still find I would rather not have had you become the
one to be put at risk." Her eyes reflected emotion that she still
found difficult to verbalize.
"I know, Seven," Harry said softly and smiled
at her. Where words failed them their body language spoke volumes.
The Doctor, who had observed the pair's
interactions re-entered the main medical bay and leveled a glare at
them both. He was doing his best to keep his voice friendly, but for
the most part it failed. "You know, I fail to understand this crew.
When I don't want to discharge you, you leave anyway. When I do
discharge you, you loiter around my sickbay..."
Harry held up his hand and slipped off the
biobed. "We get the message, Doc... Leaving sickbay. Now."
The Doctor nodded in satisfaction as Harry
and Seven moved towards the exit. "As you are recovering, you will
require what I have heard Lieutenant Paris refer to as TLC." Harry
turned towards Seven slightly surprised. Seven regarded him with a
quirked eyebrow. "I am the logical choice to be the practitioner of
this treatment for you. Therefore I will cook you dinner this
"You don't have to go out of your way for me,
Seven." Harry smiled and placed his hand in the small of her back,
guiding her down the hallway.
Seven sighed slightly, from the look on her
face he could tell she was contemplating something. "On the
contrary, I feel that I do."
Tom and B'Elanna arrived at Tuvok's quarters.
It felt a little odd to be together in their off hours without Miral
in tow, they weren't sure how to feel. On one level, they were
having some rare social hours together without having to care for
the third member of the family, while at the same time something in
the back of their heads kept telling them that something was
missing. Add to that the point of the evening being discussion of
Miral's issues, and it just didn't end up as one of those "fun to
get away" evenings.
Tuvok answered the door, greeting them with,
Tom and B'Elanna took their cue from the less
formal greeting, that the evening would be more in line with a Human
social encounter rather than a Vulcan one. This was a bit of a
relief as it would allow more open discussion of Miral.
"Good evening, Tuvok."
"Won't you come in."
They entered. His quarters, as always,
reflected his culture, uncluttered, but sparsely decorated with
various cultural and family items. Of course, Tuvok did not consider
these decorations, but items which by their presence reminded the
occupant of his own culture, helping him to maintain his mental
balance. As the end result in both cases was comfort, it was
possible that the difference between the two cultural approaches
were not as great as it at times seemed.
Tuvok seated himself at the table and Tom and
B'Elanna followed his lead. Tom resisted the urge to help B'Elanna
into her seat as would be appropriate on a human formal occasion.
Knowing that it was not expected by their host, as well as knowing
how much she disliked such attentions.
Tuvok began the conversation by asking about
Miral. "I assume that Miral has recovered from this afternoon's
B'Elanna felt anger rise at the reminder of
what had been done to her child, but took a moment and suppressed
the rage. It would do no good here. "Sometimes she amazes me. She
went through something that traumatic, and just two hours later she
acts as if nothing happened. She didn't even mind us leaving her
"She was willing to stay behind this evening?
It is better that she not be here for our discussion."
Tom smiled and said to Tuvok, "I was able to
find someone to take care of her for us."
Harry walked down the corridor toward Seven's
quarters for their dinner. Considering he had just had another of
his brushes with death, he was feeling rather well. Maybe it had
happened so many times, he was getting used to it. Almost kill me,
and I don't notice a few hours later.
He looked down at the bundle of energy he was
carrying and figured he wasn't the only one who bounced back so
quickly. From the smiles and joyful play, you wouldn't know from
looking at her what had just gone on either.
Tom had come by sickbay with Miral when Harry
was about to be released. Harry had thought he was stopping by to
see how he was, and though he did ask, Tom had obviously heard he
was fine, and had more important matters on his mind. Like baby
"I need a favor. Besides, you owe me one."
Harry grinned. "I almost die, and you come by
to ask for a favor? Maybe you should be taking bedside manner
lessons from the doc." Harry started making faces at Miral and got
some gleeful giggles. "Besides, I don't remember owing you one."
"Well, you will eventually. Besides, I'm in a
bind. B'Elanna and I need to discuss Miral's new abilities with
Tuvok tonight, and they said it would be better if we
didn't have her along to distract us. She seems fine, but frankly,
considering today's events, I'd rather I left her with someone she's
comfortable with." He looked down and smiled at the joyful
interactions going on between Miral and Harry. "Not that you make
her happy or anything."
Harry grinned back at Tom, "The problem is
you know I like her too much to ever turn you down. Sure, I'll take
her. Seven and I are having dinner tonight, but I'm sure three won't
be a crowd." Taking Miral from Tom, he held her with one hand while
he played with her with the other. "It's not like we're having a
quiet romantic dinner or something like that."
As Harry approached Seven's door, it occurred
to him he should have given her a heads up that he was bringing
Miral. Not that he would imagine Seven would mind, she enjoyed Miral
as much as everyone on board. He rang, and the door opened up,
giving him a view of the inside.
Seven was dressed in the attractive gown she
had worn to Tom's last formal party at Sandrines, and as then, had
her hair down, allowing it to flow freely about her shoulders. On
the table were two lit candles, and a variety of prepared foods that
must have cost Seven quite a few of her saved replicator rations. On
second thought, he noted that some of the ingredients had to have
been fresh. She must have cooked things herself.
He looked around the room, and noted that the
lights were appropriately dimmed, there was soft music playing at
just the right level, and he was even noting a gentle scent in the
air, something soft, inviting.
Seven was wearing perfume.
She was also looking at him with that raised
eyebrow look that told him he had missed the shuttle on something.
Actually, she had initially been looking at Miral with that look,
but had definitely settled on him in the end. He suddenly distinctly
remembered his comment to Tom about not having a romantic dinner.
Tom responded to Tuvok's query, "Oh, they'll
be fine. Harry assured me they didn't have anything special going
Back in Seven's quarters, Harry was
discovering that Seven was becoming more and more interactive as
there relationship grew. Unfortunately, *this* wasn't the kind of
interactive he'd had in mind. He was afraid she might be learning
her technique from B'Elanna, as Seven continued good naturedly,
though obviously a little put out, "You were just injured."
"Tom said if he took into account when I was
injured, I'd never get around to covering what I owe him. Besides,
I'm fully recovered. My mind wasn't affected."
"Of that we have no evidence...."
Harry attempted to continue, "...and I'm
fully physically capable of doing anything."
"You plugged a plasma conduit into a Borg
shield, and took the back flash. And you don't owe Tom sitting, you
have done far more than your share."
"The Doctor was going to release me, there
was no reason not to take her."
"You had a scheduled dinner with me, and you
did not even contact me to ask."
"For that, I'm sorry." Harry pulled out his
trump card, picked up Miral and held her on his lap. "But it was
just before I came here, and how could I say no to such a cute
Seven considered a moment, then responded, a
small tick of amusement in the corner of her mouth. If nothing else,
Harry always surprised her. "I'm going to inform B'Elanna that you
were hiding behind her child. We will see if you get to baby sit any
Harry bounced Miral a couple times, then put
her back in her seat, "Here, let's try to have that dinner you
B'Elanna shook her head, "Actually, the
eating situation seems to have improved since Harry's suggestion."
Seven looked on somewhat annoyed as Harry
again tried to get the food into Miral's mouth. She noted that the
success of mixing the baby food with other foods had worn off as
Miral was once again rejecting her dinner. Harry sighed and put the
spoon down. "I guess I'll just wait until later and try again."
Seven wished to avoid further distractions,
and did not want to have to go through the entire feeding ritual
later if possible. She pulled Miral's food plate toward herself, and
picked up the spoon. "I will attempt it now."
Harry warned as Seven brought the spoon up
directly in front of Miral, "Uh, Seven, I don't think a different
approach is going to do the trick right now. She really doesn't want
to eat." And noting Seven was keeping the spoon stationary within
reach, "Um, I also think you might not want to keep the spoon right
there...", but it was too late. Miral reached out and pushed the
spoon away. Expectedly, some of the gruel ended up smeared across
her arm. Unexpectedly, the spoon continued its path beyond her
reach, and pulling itself out of Seven's hand, continued off the
table and across the room.
Tom explained, "Miral's powers of telekinesis
only seem to get exhibited as extensions of her desires, she hasn't
seemed to use them to consciously manipulate her environment."
Harry crouched as the spoon of food hung by
itself in the air outside his reach over the couch as Miral babbled
away. He eased toward it little by little, having learned that if he
was obvious she would just move it away from him. "Tom didn't tell
me she had gained this much control. You think he could have warned
me about her new game of 'keep away.'" He took a deep breath and
dove toward it, but only succeeded in ending up prone across the
back of he couch as once again the spoon was kept outside his reach.
He looked over at an annoyed Seven, and decided that enough was
enough. "Uh, why don't we just go back to eating, and ignore it.
Maybe she'll lose interest and get distracted by something else."
B'Elanna continued, "And I haven't, thank
goodness, seen any indications of her using her powers against a
person. She really doesn't appear to be conscious of them."
Seven froze with her fork half way to her
mouth as the errant flying food suddenly impacted on the side of her
head to the sound of gleeful giggling from Miral. She looked up at
Harry as the spoon stayed stuck to the gruel, and began a long slow
slide down her hair, leaving a trail of creamy goop behind it.
"Apparently, she did not lose interest."
Tom and B'Elanna had just left with the now
sleeping Miral. They had started being rather conversational (through
whispering) when they had first entered, but upon seeing the
scattered remains of a romantic dinner set, had quickly accelerated
the process of retrieving their daughter. Harry had seen Tom turn to
say something to Seven, but whatever it had been, it died when Tom
noted the gruel trail running down Seven's hair. He stared for a few
moments, looked around the room again at what had obviously
originally been 'romance interuptus,' and then turned and favored
Harry with a slightly horrified look. Harry simply raised his
eyebrows and shoulders slightly in an accepting gesture. Tom turned
back to Seven and changed whatever he had been about to say into a
very quick, "Thanks a lot. I'm sorry if it was inconvenient. Good
evening," and practically ran for the door.
Harry sighed, and looked at Seven, who
returned his gaze from across the room. He smiled slightly as he
noted again the various food stains about Seven's person. "Why don't
you go take a quick shower and put something else on. You still have
gruel in your hair."
Seven's hand reached up and touched the
prominent smear. She shook her head, and headed for the bathroom.
"Your suggestion has merit. I appear to be wearing more food than
Harry moved to clean up as much of the mess
as he could.
Harry had just sat back on the couch when
Seven returned out of the bathroom. Her hair remained loose, and now
appeared free of goopy encrustations. The gown had been replaced by
the more casual off duty attire she had taken to wearing since
gaining her own quarters. Harry smiled as she approached. It didn't
matter what she was wearing, gown, casual clothing, or food, she
still looked incredible. Seven sat on the couch.
Harry and Seven sat close on the couch,
contemplating the remains of their desert. The cake had landed
mostly upside down near the center of the coffee table, crunching
the upper corner and causing a large chunk to split off, as well as
shifting the second layer sideways off the first.
Harry tilted his head slightly sideways, "You
know, it actually ended up being a sort of interesting shape."
Seven looked at the remains, "It is similar
to the appearance of the ships used by species 322."
Looking surprised, Harry turned toward Seven,
"Someone made ships that looked like that?"
"It was not a very technically competent
species. The majority of the ships encountered looked like this
because they had broken apart upon landing. The species eventually
gave up space travel, having concluded it was unsafe."
"And the Borg assimilated them?"
Harry looked back at the mess. "Good choice."
He sat for a moment, then asked, "You want some of the cake? It may
not look as nice, but it probably still tastes the same."
Seven sighed. "Perhaps later." Looking around
the room, she admitted, "This evening did not turn out as I had
Harry snorted, "Just a bit," and a bit more
seriously, "I'm Sorry."
Seven turned to Harry. "You have nothing to
apologize for. I had not told you what I had planned, and bringing
Miral with you would have been welcomed any other time." She smiled,
and turned to him, "Her presence did not exactly contribute to the
Harry smiled back, grinning playfully. "And
what was the goal of the 'desired ambiance?' I assume you had
something in mind?"
Seven hesitated a moment, then responded,
"This." She leaned forward, and cupping his head to her, kissed him.
Harry was pleasantly surprised by the
physical nature of the kiss. Until now, their kisses had always
seemed like an oral version of a handshake; stayed, sterile. This
was different. He sensed her desire for him, tentative, but there;
presented almost as a question to be answered, accepted or rejected.
It roused him, and reaching around, he pulled her to him, soon
sensing the warmth of her against him. He felt her relax, the
question fading, erased by their growing passion. She eased into his
embrace, and they slowly slipped into the enjoyment of the new
experience, the novel sensations of truly opening up to each other.
After a few moments, Harry separated from the
kiss, and held her eyes for a moment. He then glanced around the
room, and responded to her earlier statement, "Ambiance can be
irrelevant, you know." He looked back, and returned her current
smile before moving toward her again.
For the first time, she began to search him
out, discovering his back with her fingers as they embraced, kissed.
Eventually, her wandering hand found it's way to his waist and
having slowly untucked his shirt, soon traveled up against the bare
skin underneath, pulling his shirt up as she did. She caressed his
skin, gently, slowly moving to his chest, adding her other hand,
finishing her exploration by pulling his shirt up and off.
His form had always been visually pleasing to
her, and was again, but this time it was different, better. This
time there was the added sensation, the rush, of other
possibilities, the potential of more to come. She kissed him again,
lingered in the sensations, the warmth of his chest, his mouth
against hers, his arms surrounding her, his hand warm against her
neck. Warmth, touch, caresses, the sharing of their forms. Wanting
more, she pulled his hand from her neck and moved it down.
In the past, Harry would have hesitated, but
knew, could sense, that now the time was right. His fingers
carefully caressed her, exploring the curves of her upper body
through her garment as he sought to give her pleasure. He felt her
hand slow on his chest, then hesitate, as her awareness was
distracted by these new sensations. Reassured, his attentions became
more confident, eager. Fingers becoming hands as he sought to extend
her enjoyment and distraction. His actions continued, less and less
driven by conscious thought, ardor and instinct becoming the driving
force behind his actions, his own excitement growing at the
knowledge of the pleasure he was giving her. He pulled her closer,
pressing, driven toward more, and she responded. He quickly shifted,
and brought his other hand up to aid the first. After a few moments,
he was rewarded by the sensation of a small shudder and an intake of
breath for these added ministrations.
To Harry's surprise, Seven suddenly placed
her hand on his shoulder and pushed him back. He met her eyes,
staring into his, not being sure if he had intruded, gone too far,
or if she was having second thoughts. They remained that way for a
instant; both of them tense, Harry waiting. He watched her,
searching for a clue, his senses tuned to her. Her palms remained on
his shoulders, their contact conveying heat, touch, and hesitation.
Her breathing was short, irregular, the tension from the new
sensations drifting through her. After a few more moments, she took
a full breath, and letting it out, a small smile formed, beginning
in her eyes and transforming her features, filling them with a humor
and assurance that lit her face, releasing the emotions so often
hidden under the surface. Harry lost his breath as the change
overtook her. She was truly beautiful.
Harry tried to move to her, but she pushed
him back, maintaining their distance, her dancing eyes taking him
in. Those eyes drilled him as they contemplated, in control, then
narrowed slightly as she spoke, an eyebrow raising slightly in
"You suggested earlier you were physically
capable of doing anything you wanted?"
Harry hesitated, still balanced between the
sensations of being with her, desiring her, and the remaining
uncertainty of the moment. "Yes."
She hesitated one last time, then continuing
to hold his eyes with hers, removed her hands from his shoulders,
and raising them up behind her head, began to unfasten the clasp of
"Then let us make sure...."
"Captain," Ensign Dewhurst swung around from
his position at ops to face Janeway, "We have a Borg cube on the far
range of our sensors, closing rapidly."
Janeway looked at Chakotay and nodded.
"Yellow alert. Full stop. Shields up." She stood and straightened
her uniform then looked up at Tuvok. "Weapons ready, but don't take
the first shot."
"Understood, Captain." Tuvok focused his
attention on bringing all the weapons online.
Kathryn could see Lt. D'Tar's antenna's
twitch as the young Andorian spoke, "We have a communication from
the cube, Captain."
"On screen." Janeway moved instinctively to
the center of the Starfleet insignia on the carpet beneath her feet.
"I am K'Mar of the Borg Constructive Force.
You seek us, Janeway." The Borg onscreen had obviously once been
Janeway could feel Chakotay stand up and move
behind her. His presence near to her lending her strength as the
tension on the bridge thickened. "You seem to have me at a
"I remember you from Unimatrix Zero. I
remember Voyager from the Collective's knowledge of it." K'Mar
inclined his head slightly. "You have a member of the Borg
Constructive Force aboard your vessel. You will return him."
The Borg's words formed what could either be
an order or a question. To keep the tensions from escalating,
Janeway interpreted it as the latter. "I will return him to you. We
rescued him from the remains of a battle between your fleet and the
Sernaix. It seems we have a common enemy, K'Mar." Janeway tapped her
communicator. "Seven, you and Security escort Xale to the
"Aye, Captain." Seven's disembodied voice
filled the bridge and the tension began to climb by degrees. The
shields would have to be dropped when they beamed the ex-drone back to
his people. The shields that kept the Cube from destroying Voyager
with one shot.
"Xale will be returned to your vessel
momentarily, K'Mar," Janeway added. The Borg didn't acknowledge
Janeway's words only cut the transmission.
Chakotay and Janeway settled back into their
seats and Chakotay focused a slight smile at Janeway. "Hospitable
fellow isn't he?"
"As long as this doesn't escalate, I don't
care if he wants to call Voyager a glorified garbage scow." Janeway
Chakotay smiled back. "I bet you wouldn't say
that if this was the original Voyager, Captain."
"That's a sucker bet, Chakotay," Janeway
started to tease as Seven's voice filled the bridge once more.
"We're ready to transport, Captain."
Janeway took a deep breath. "Acknowledged,
Seven." Looking up at her old friend she took the leap of faith.
"Drop our shields, Tuvok."
"Aye Captain." Tuvok responded as the entire
bridge fell silent waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The seconds ticked past with not even a
breath to break the silence until Seven's voice once again echoed
from the communicator. "Xale has been returned to the Borg vessel,
"Raise shields, Mr. Tuvok." Janeway turned to
Lt. D'Tar once more. "Give me a visual, Lieutenant."
The main view screen lit up with the view of
a Borg vessel hanging in the space before them. Seconds seemed like
hours while Voyager waited to see whether there would be a response,
negative or positive from the other vessel. The only response was
the green glow of their transwarp drive being engaged and the cube
disappearing from sight.
Chakotay released a breath he hadn't known he
was holding. "Overall, I'd say that went exceptionally well." He
looked at Janeway, who just shook her head at him slightly but
didn't say a word.
Tom and B'Elanna were sitting in the Mess
Hall while B'Elanna fed Miral. "Well, at least she's eating better."
Tom responded, distracted, "Yeah. I wonder
where Harry and Seven are. I've known him to be late, but she's
always on time."
On queue, Harry and Seven walked in, Seven
nodding hello then heading to the counter, and Harry coming over to
say good morning. Miral reached up to give him a hug, so Harry
leaned over to reciprocate. "Good morning to you too."
As he went to sit down, Miral's hand caught
in his collar, pulling it down to reveal a small welt on his neck.
Both Tom and B'Elanna noticed, and grinned at each other. Noting the
grins, Harry asked what was up.
Tom indicated Harry's neck with his head,
"Now I understand why you were in such a hurry to get back to
'sleeping' last night." Harry obviously didn't understand, so
B'Elanna added, "Miral pulled your collar down. Rather interesting
mark there, Harry."
Harry realized they were referring to the
hickey, and responded sheepishly, "Well, so much for keeping
Seven walked over to the table and sat with
their meal, and Tom probed to see if the newly added dimension to
Harry and Seven's relationship was a sensitive one for her. "I'm
sorry if sitting for Miral at the last minute disrupted any plans
last night. We're not used to Harry being unavailable and, um,
B'Elanna spoke up, adding, "Though,
considering the number of times he has interrupted us over the
years, I guess a little pay back was due."
Harry decided to change the subject and asked
how Miral was this morning. B'Elanna turned from watching Miral
spooning in food. "She's fine. I think we have finally figured out
how to keep Miral happy and out of trouble." Behind B'Elanna, Harry
noted that Miral had ceased to shovel and was beginning to push the
food around a bit with her spoon. He smiled and decided a little
payback of his own was due, "So you have the food thing all set?"
B'Elanna smiled confidently, "Not even a hint
of flying food."
Harry grinned as he watched Miral load up her
spoon in a very familiar way as he responded, "Uh huh," and turning
behind him, yelled "Incoming!" as the morning's breakfast sent the
neighboring crewmen scrambling.
You are a Bufannsum
assimilated fifteen years after birth. When you were disconnected
from the hive mind, you remembered only your name: Xale. On your
world, it meant "son of courage."
Back on a Constructive cube at last, you
reach your station and look out the sensorscope. To your surprise,
the flagship of the BCF is in the sector, on course to intercept
your cube. You hail it to ask what its mission is, and whether you
can help in any way.
The ship sends back an audio-only message,
three deciseconds long. Behind you, your crewmates stand stock-still
as if frozen in place. Their eyes take on a distant, hollow look. As
you meet their dead stares, you realize what has befallen them, and
know it will now befall you.
You lose control of your movements. Your body
immobilizes. You sense a presence drawing your energy away for its
own use. Your mind cries out, just once - and then all is silent.
You are reduced to a living consciousness in
an dead, useless shell.
You are one of the victims of Ankin