Seven’s Awakening:

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all Characters from the Voyager universe and no profit was made from this story. It was written only for the enjoyment of Star Trek Voyager fans spanning the world.

Codes, Pairing: J/7

Rating: NC-17, Explicit and graphically detailed sexual content between two females. You’ve been warned! There are references and scenes alluding to J/m sex, and 7/m sex, and of course J/7, so if any of this offends you in anyway, please leave now and no harm will done.

Please be responsible, if you are under 18 or if this is illegal in your part of the world, go elsewhere. There is some violence in this story too, so please beware.

Note: Special thanks to my beta reader, Jay for her input.

Summary: Realizing something in her life is missing, Seven takes steps to fill it, having no idea just how complicated her journey of the heart would be.


>>> Continued from page 2

Seven's Awakening

by Scar

 

Day Eight, Evening:

Janeway stared at the whiskey glass in her hand as the Starship Voyager flew at cruising speed once more towards the Alpha Quadrant. Briefly, she felt like throwing it again, but ultimately what difference would it make. The woman she thought she loved was gone, this time for good.

Seven wasn't coming back.

As the ache settled into her, she wondered if it was love. How could she allow herself to fall for someone who would so casually dismiss her and her crew? Leave just like that, without even a goodbye. Doubt cascaded through her as she attempted to deal with the magnitude of her loss.

Trying to remain factual, Kathryn had to admit that it was wholly plausible that Seven could have outgrown Voyager. Still, some things were just not that easily explainable. Seven's rude tone towards her in Engineering the evening before she left, the intensity of the looks she received in the Briefing Room, the anger that seemed to brew under those marvelous bright blue eyes. There was such tension in the air between them during their last meeting in the Conference Room and then on the Bridge and as much as Kathryn didn't want to believe it, Seven held some deep resentment towards her.

Still in love with the blonde, Janeway tried to give herself excuses for Seven's aloof behavior, any logical excuse to lessen the emptiness she felt. Was it my fault Seven left? Why was Seven so angry with me? What have I done? It made no sense and Janeway couldn't even make an educated guess.

Conceding in the end that she might never know, Kathryn simply accepted the heart ache, knowing she would never have closure.

Regrettably, she had to resume their journey, minus one irreplaceable crewmember.

With tears dropping like rain from her eyes, Janeway silently stared out her forward window as her ship cruised along at one-quarter impulse speed.

 

*****

 

Day Eleven, Late Evening:

Chakotay chimed for admittance to the Captain's quarters, waiting nervously for permission to enter. Moments later, the door opened to reveal a pondering Janeway, sitting on her sofa in the subdued lighting while staring at the star fields through her port side windows.

"What can I do for you Commander?"

He stopped a dozen feet before her. "I wanted to apologize for my recent behavior." He knew he had been impolite and sarcastic towards her since his breakup with Seven when none of it was her fault.

"What behavior would that be?" She asked naïvely.

"I haven't treated you fairly." He paused. "And I felt a little resentful of your close relationship with Seven."

"What relationship?" She remarked stiffly.

"The one you cultivated in her until she left. I honestly thought she would stay because of the bond between you two."

She turned to look at him, the shadow from the starlight illuminating the right side of her face. "What would make you think that?"

"You’re her mentor. She has relied on you since you severed her from the collective. You taught her how to be human. You… " he hesitated before revealing inside information. "were important to her. She talked about you frequently." Almost too frequently.

She shook her head. "Obviously not that important considering the way she left."

"It was because of Axum, that’s why she left.”

“Guess she remembers her past with him quite well.” Janeway mumbled then turned to her maquis friend. “Were you in love with her Chakotay?" She asked, her curiosity begging for an answer.

The tattooed man reflected on the recent journey with his spirit guide. "I think I was in infatuated by her attention. I mean, the last thing I expected was to be asked out on a date and she is a rather beautiful woman with a brilliant mind to match.” Almost as beautiful as you.

He didn’t see the slightly upturned corners of her lips as Janeway nodded her head in full agreement, Definitely the most beautiful woman on the ship.

“But we didn't have that much in common really and she’s too complex for me,” he paused, smiling. “I guess I just don’t speak Borg."

Kathryn chuckled at his mirth. Thinking reverently, her eyes misted. “Seven has it all; intelligence, beauty and physical strength.” Sucking in a fresh gulp of air, Janeway muttered under her breath. "What a combination."

There was a heavy dosage of sadness laced throughout his friend's voice. "You're going to miss her." He fathomed.

Janeway speculated that she had probably said too much but she didn't have the strength to care anymore.

"Yes, very much."

Chakotay stared at his Captain's shadowed face thinking about possibilities he hadn't before. "That's understandable Kathryn, she's become like a daughter to you." He offered lightly.

Janeway laughed out right. "Uh, no I don't think so."

"You don't consider her family?" He asked surprised.

"You know I do," she asserted.

"A sister?" He smiled playing with her, remembering the stories of Kathryn's irritating younger sibling.

"No!" She thought of Phoebe and a small grin managed its way into her sullen features.

"A pupil?"

"I could live with that. What about you Commander?" She redirected the topic. "Are you going to miss her?"

"I'll miss her presence. You couldn't help but be affected by her, but miss her romantically? No, we never…” He choked for a second. “progressed that far."

Janeway cast big eyes on her first officer, shocked that Seven did not instigate intimacy at the very beginning of their relationship.

“There are always other women on the ship,” Chakotay teased. “Don’t you agree?”

Not for me, Kathryn admitted only to herself. “Yes, I suppose.” She capitulated.

“Maybe you should consider dating Kathryn?” He inquired gently.

“Perhaps someday,” She acquiesced too tired to care yet it seemed to bolster his mood considerably by the look on his face. "Well," the Captain tried to stifle a yawn gingerly stretching her arms and legs. "I should get some rest."

"Of course, I'll see you tomorrow Kathryn."

"Good night Chakotay."

 

*****

 

Day Fourteen, around Midnight:

A man with grey hair pressed heatedly against the woman with the flaming red mane, his arms out stretched as he moved rapidly inside his lover’s warm, slick folds. Plunging into her moist abyss of pleasure, he gave her what she wanted despite the effort causing his arms to wobble with fatigue. He struggled to keep his body weight off her until they could reach fruition.

Passion overwhelmed the woman’s senses as she continued to undulate into the rhythm that provided the delicious sensations. As the tip of his penis touched deep within her pleasure center, she could feel it building, growing exponentially, the release just over the horizon, coming ever so closer.

Before long, they became lost in the ecstasy, moving faster, harder, and fiercer, encompassing their wantonness with white, hot desire. With her blood near boiling, pounding in her veins, she erupted like a long suffering volcano.

“Oh God! Jaffen!!”

“Kathryn!!”

“Kathryn…. Please…” Seven’s eyes shot open. “Noooo!!!” She exclaimed, but her lover didn’t seem to hear, so distracted he was.

“Axum stop.”

There was no response.

"Axum, please… stop." Seven beseeched, feeling his hot body pressing down on her like concrete as he thrusted his hard aching member into her tight channel.

Lost in everything that was Annika, Axum tuned out all but what he was he was feeling. Her sex was a sweet, long lost haven, dripping with moisture as he thrusted deep within, fluttering and spasming around his hardened flesh, allowing him to feel her essence engulf him. Having waited years for a true physical joining with his beloved, he fully intended to enjoy every nano-second of it.

No! Seven shouted in her mind. She pressed her hands against his chest and pushed to force him off of her, but he did not move. Somehow her strength was insufficient.

Then he leaned forward to kiss her.

"STOP!!"

"Annika?" Axum called out.

"NO!" Seven frantically fought to remove the two hands that she felt on her shoulders.

"Annika!" Axum shook her. "Wake up!"

Seven awoke with a scream that reverberated throughout their small cubicle and down the hallway. Looking aghast at Axum, she pulled away. "Please, don't… " Standing up, she moved away from the bed until her back was pressed against the wall. Looking like a cornered lioness, in all her nude glory, Seven looked uncharacteristically petrified as she tried to perceive reality from dreamscape.

At first, his suggestion seemed innocent enough and with no other options, the blonde agreed to live with him in his modest quarters. By default that meant they had to share the only available bed until larger domiciles could be built on planet Eden. Axum insisted that nothing would happen between them unless she wanted it to and Seven estimated the close proximity would be beneficial to her emotional growth, since she needed to get to know her former boy friend all over again. She needed to become comfortable with the idea of becoming intimate with him eventually, only Axum wasn’t making it easy. Despite his words he had been pressuring her subtly to give in to sex; the way he looked at her at night before they went to bed, the way he would caress her arm and talk sweetly to her. It was evident in his body language and although he said nothing to the contrary, Seven could sense his growing impatience.

"Annika?" He asked concerned. "Don't what?"

"I… cannot." Unfortunately, having only been living with him for a week, the young woman wasn’t ready to be intimate with him and she didn’t know how long it would take, only that it would not be a quick process because, she was still pining over the loss of Janeway, no matter how much she didn’t want to be.

“Can’t what?” He asked before considering it further. “You were asleep Annika, did you have another bad dream?"

Seven had no idea that attempting to sleep would incur such vivid dreams; all of which were variations of the same theme – copulation; all with individuals she did not want to copulate with or worse, having to witness her Captain copulating with him. Trying to remain calm, the blonde came to believe the manifestation of the horrible nightmares were simply ‘withdrawal’ symptoms.

"It seemed so real." She choked out.

"What seemed so real?" He asked sympathetically.

"Nothing," Seven remarked distraught, grabbing her biosuit off the floor. Although, nudity did not bother Seven, displaying herself to him seemed inappropriate.

"Annika I know something is bothering you.” Her behavior the last week hadn't been optimal and the lack of a satisfactory explanation was starting to irritate him. “You've been like a brick wall every time I’m evenly remotely intimate towards you. I know I promised to go slow, but this is ridiculous." He leaned on his elbow, glaring at her. "Will you talk to me?!"

"I am not ready." Seven procrastinated.

"Yes I know, you keep telling me that!"

"What else do you want me to say?" She hastily pulled up her biosuit.

"How about the truth?"

"You do not want to hear that!" Seven declared forcefully. It was unfair to him, but the intensity of the feelings she once had in Unimatrix Zero for him had not come back, not like she expected they would. The memories did, but not the emotions.

"If you don't want to be with me, just say so." Axum's throat tightened as he said it.

Seven finished dressing and regarded him hesitantly. "I do not want to damage you…" Her voice was low and quiet.

"You're still in love with him, aren’t you?" He couldn't help but sound bitter.

"Him?!" Seven replied incredulously.

"Chakotay! Who else?!"

Seven scowled at him. "I am NOT in love with Commander Chakotay!"

"Then who?!"

Her face became bereaved. "It does not matter. She has found her mate."

"She!?" Axum racked his brain for a possible female that Seven could be so infatuated with and although he didn’t know the Voyager crew very well, one possibility came to mind. "Janeway?" He questioned in disbelief.

Seven did not answer directly, but he saw something tangible in the blue orbs that blazed with the truth.

"I can't believe this!" He threw off his sheets and started to get dressed. "You are in love with Janeway?! Your Captain?!"

Seven took in a precarious breath.

Fastening his pants, he lashed out. "You do know she's in love with that alien right!?"

Furious at her inability to be everything her Captain needed, Seven glared at him. "I do not need YOU to remind me of that!"

"Why did you come with me then?" He threw a shirt on and buttoned it.

"I needed to get away from Voyager," She looked away.

“Why?! Because she can’t reciprocate? Is that why you refused to see her? Is that why you’re running away?!" Axum felt disgusted. “So what am I, a handy diversion that happened to come along?!”

Seven's features held guilt, fear and loss all rolled into one. Her eyes glistened in the realization that there was a high price to pay for being in love with someone who did not reciprocate and that held true for everyone involved.

“Do you even love me!!”

“No,” she murmured in a quiet voice.

"I… I can't believe this!"

Seven shuddered as he stormed out of the room.

Unforeseen by both, a figure down the corridor disappeared out of view and into the shadows of an alcove as he passed by.

 

*****

My greatest fear has come

Now that you are gone

But your presence still lingers

Your face haunts my dreams,

And I’m bound by the memory of you

 

Janeway stared at the holodeck controls.

What program should I run? She scratched her chin, befuddled that she could not make a decision.

Why am I even here? She asked herself disgusted, but she knew why. It had been over a week since Voyager's Astrometrics officer left the ship and Janeway was still in disbelief. She still had not recovered.

There were so many things she would miss. She wouldn't be able to watch the young woman grow up to finally accept her humanity… and there was no doubt in Kathryn's mind that Seven would eventually become comfortable with herself and her Borg past.

Would Seven marry Axum? Have children? It truly bothered the older woman that she wouldn't be a part of Seven's life in any capacity. She was just gone making Kathryn feel even more alone than before. Jaffen had left as well, so she had no one to turn to for solace, no one to talk to about what she was feeling. No one onboard Voyager knew how much Seven's loss decimated her. Worse, it was starting to affect her work and Kathryn was not sleeping or eating well.

Briefly, Janeway thought of visiting her holo-family, but she knew she was fooling herself. Nothing she did mattered. There was no comfort for the individual hopelessly in love with a memory. Janeway had hoped that Seven's physical absence would help her cope with her emotions, not intensify them. Now they were haunting her instead.

Damn it! This is getting me nowhere.

She needed to forget, to drown herself in distraction, not remember.

Becoming impatient, Janeway scrolled back up the list of holo-programs and picked the first program that looked familiar. The choice ended up being Fair Haven; a program that used to have an open door policy until the lack of resources demanded otherwise.

Janeway managed a small grin and went inside. She quickly went through the town, looking out of place in her Starfleet uniform, and although the Irish residents recognized her as Captain Janeway, they welcomed her with open arms.

Entering Sandrine's, she spotted Michael behind the counter serving a drink to a patron. She went to join him and he smiled brightly when he saw her.

"Katie!" He exclaimed moving out from behind the counter and embracing her fervently, he hugged with gusto.

There was only one other man Janeway had slept with besides Jaffen since Voyager left dry dock and that was Michael Sullivan. Technically, he was only a hologram but he was a fully functional hologram. When she gave into the brief relationship, it was simply a means to an end. Kathryn conceded that was truly when she started thinking about Seven in a different light. It was a decent distraction a year and half-ago while she was in denial and needed to break herself from it, since she had vehemently refused to accept her attraction to the blonde. Michael Sullivan was supposed to liberate her from those developing feelings, but it didn't quite work out that way.

And in her current desperation, she even tried the same tactic with a live specimen, Jaffen, but that didn't work either. Apparently she was getting quite adept at utilizing sex as a distraction. Too bad it doesn't work, she thought ruefully.

When he pulled back, Janeway looked at him and studied his features. He wasn't a handsome man, but his finely chiseled face and rouged Irish looks made him distinguished and attractive. Yet as she gazed upon his face it wasn't him she craved, wasn't him she wanted or needed. It wasn't his face she saw in her mind and it made her pause.

"Is something wrong Katie?" Michael asked seeing the sadness in her eyes.

"No, you've done nothing wrong… " She stroked his stubbled cheek. "you've been a perfect gentlemen and a good friend when I needed one."

"I haven't seen you for awhile. Where have ya been?" He asked genuinely concerned.

"I've been busy."

"Running the ship, I take it?"

"Something like that."

"I've missed you. I know it's been only five days, but… "

Janeway smiled. It had been a lot longer than five days, but with the program shut down, he wouldn’t know the difference. It had been well over a year.

"I'm sorry, it couldn’t be helped."

"Well yur here now." He took her hand. "What do you say after the bar closes we get together. Just like old times."

There was a glint in his eyes that suggested he wanted more.

"Computer, halt program." She commanded. Everything and everyone froze.

What am I doing?! She chastised herself. Do I really want to go down this path again? Restless and irritable, she stared at him and the other occupants in deep thought.

Then an idea came to her. Maybe that will bring me closure?

"Computer end-program."

Janeway carefully proceeded to program a new hologram, instructing it to add special visual parameters to a new holographic template. Spending hours making personality adjustments, Kathryn didn't think of the repercussions of such an act or the foolishness of it, her only thought was of her immediate pain and how to relieve it. Once finished, Janeway gazed with intent upon the visually stunning hologram.

"Computer, enable the hologram's perception routines."

Staring at a perfect replica of the woman she loved, Janeway marveled at her handiwork. As she circled the blonde hologram, its crystal blue eyes calmly followed her.

"Do you know who I am?" Kathryn asked.

"You are Captain Kathryn Janeway."

"That's correct. Who are you?"

"I am Annika Hansen." She stated; music to Janeway’s ears.

Kathryn always had wondered what Seven would be like if she had never been assimilated and although no simulation could ever be entirely accurate compared to the real thing, she estimated what an adult Annika would be like devoid of implants then let the computer set the minor variables.

To her longing eyes, this was Seven. The Captain continued to circle the photonic energy that resembled her former crewman. "I wish I had the courage to tell you how I felt before you left." She spoke softly.

“What do you wish to tell me?” Annika questioned, with no change in her features. Yet Janeway didn't care, she just wanted to stare… and dream.

“So many things,” she whispered.

Kathryn wanted to run her fingers through the long, soft golden hair. Just as Seven's lips were plump and full, she longed to kiss them. And then there was the body. The breasts that she wanted to feel under her fingertips and the tip of her tongue. The junction at the apex of the legs, she wanted to explore.

Janeway shook her head. This is insane. It's just a hologram and yet because it resembles Seven, I want to have sex with it. Correction… I want to make love to it, like I couldn't love the real thing.

Janeway snickered sarcastically to herself, for she was falling hard for the beautiful Seven of Nine hologram. Closing her eyes for a moment, she fought to regain control of her rising emotions. Tears wanted to come, but she refused to let them through because if she started, she might not be able to stop.

The hologram tilted its head quizzically then just as Janeway opened her eyes, it reached out a hand to the redhead's face.

"You seem… sad."

Realizing the holo-Seven was going to touch her, Kathryn jumped back fearful. If she let contact start, she might not be able to stop herself. Holograms felt very real even if the programmed personalities weren't accurate… even if it wasn’t technically alive.

"I shouldn't," she resisted. “do this.”

“Do what?”

“Be here, with you.”

"Why not?"

"You're not real, that’s why. I’m deluding myself. You’re only a hologram."

Surprisingly the blonde agreed. “I am energy converted to matter and made in her image, yet I am a fully functional Seven of Nine. I can speak, hear, debate and even engage in intimate--”

"No,” Kathryn put her hand up. “I did not create you for sex. I just came here to--" She trailed off, finding it difficult to form the words.

"Yes?" The hologram encouraged her to speak.

"I never got to say…" She cleared her throat.

"Please continue," The hologram entreated.

“I never said to your face, how much I love you." Janeway choked on the words.

“Indeed,” the blonde replied in an emotionally devoid tone, not understanding how hard it was for Janeway to admit it out loud. The personality was rather rigid, but Janeway had no time to polish it up and now she wasn't sure if she wanted to.

"Goodbye Annika," Janeway stammered, barely withholding the anguish of her loss inside. Not being able to take anymore, she encrypted the program and quickly sped out of the holodeck.

 

*****

 

Laura and a half dozen former Borg drones were sitting in the lunchroom when Axum stormed in.

He came to halt at the doorway, scanned the room and moved to an empty table all the while, sporting a deeply etched frown on his face that not only spoke of an internal anger but a deeper pain as well. She watched him sit down at a table and sigh deeply. He was obviously disturbed.

Laura decided to go see if she could console him. "Axum?" She called out before seating herself across from him. "You all right?"

He stared at his hands intertwined not answering.

"It is her?"

His eyes drifted up to her. "Yes," he said quietly.

"What did she say to you?"

His nose flared and his eyes cast listlessly about the room. "Nothing I wanted to hear," he murmured.

"She is still in love with Commander Chakotay, I take it?"

He shrugged, his shoulders drooped. "No, it's not him." He said distastefully.

"Who then?"

"Does it matter?"

"Ultimately," Laura's voice became firmer. "No. It would never have worked and you know it."

His eyes met her, wondering is she meant that again.

"You know what we have to do," she clarified, deciding this was a good time to press him, since he was angry with his beloved Annika.

"NO!" He stared at her morbidly as fear cascaded through his very being. "I refuse!"

"You have no choice." Laura tried to tell him.

"There is always another choice! Don't you see? This planet has a natural cloaking field that prevents the detection of life signs."

"Yes, but that is only good from orbit. If anyone lands here, they'll detect us. Besides, the Grefahl own this planet or do you expect us to defeat them too?"

"If we have to!"

"You're letting your emotions dictate over rationality. Let her go."

He clenched his hands into fists. "I can't." He closed his eyes.

"You said it yourself," Laura pointed out. "She's not in love with you."

Briskly standing up, he glared at her defiantly. "But I'm in love with her! Can't you see that!"

A few of the other inhabitants looked up towards the voice that disturbed their quiet meals.

"Yes, I can, now please lower your voice." She motioned him to sit back down.

"She hasn't asked to go back to Voyager so I still have a chance. It just might take longer than I anticipated."

Laura bit her tongue to withhold the statement she was going to make. It was obvious he wouldn’t listen to anything to the contrary about his beloved Annika. "Very well." she acquiesced. Truthfully, she had planned to talk with the others anyways. The council needed to be addressed and she would convince them to act on his behalf since Axum was blinded by love. A love that wasn't even reciprocated and could cost them all their lives.

 

*****

 

Day Fifteen, Morning:

"We need to tell her." B'Elanna whispered to her husband from across the table.

Tom was right in the middle of swallowing his morning orange juice when he started choking as half of it went down the wrong pipe.

Harry was attempting to eat what looked like Leola root stew when he looked up to his half-Klingon shipmate and his choking friend. "Tell who?"

Torres gave Harry an exasperated you-know-who look.

Harry blanched at his two friends. "I thought you told the Captain what happened!?" He looked between the two of them. "What's the matter with you two?!"

"Harry calm down," B'Elanna suggested as heads started to turn in their direction at his raised voice.

"Calm down!" He tried to lower his tone. "Do you have any idea what she's going to do when she does find out?"

The pilot cleared his throat. "She might never find out now that Seven's gone."

"And what if that incident was the reason Seven left?" Torres asked her husband. "We're the only one's who know Seven has feelings for the Captain."

"You never told me that!" Harry complained.

"Keep your voice down," Tom warned him before turning to his wife, irritated. "It was an accident B'Elanna."

"I can't do this Tom." B'Elanna declared, the guilt clearly written on her face. "You can't ask me to live with this."

His perplexed gaze landed on his wife, but he knew it was wrong to ask her to cover this up.

"Come what may, I have to come clean," she added.

The young pilot didn't want to face Janeway, didn't want to see the disappointment in her eyes, that stern Janeway Look or the severity of the punishment that would surely follow… but he knew he had to. Tom was a changed man. No longer did he run away from his problems. He had responsibilities; which included a wife and a child.

Tom put his fork down. "No, I'll tell her. You're not involved. It was my idea and I didn't tell you exactly what I was planning. You were just trying to help her." He didn't want his wife suffering for his stupidity.

Reaching across the tabletop, Torres put her hand over his. "No, we'll go together." she smirked.

"Ok, but we can't tell her the whole thing. Not that."

"Tom?"

"She won't understand. She won't believe it was a holodeck malfunction. She'll think I did it intentionally! She will resent us B'Elanna and I'll get demoted… again."

"Tom."

"I've deleted the program. There's no way she can find out unless Seven comes back. So…" He took in a deep breath. "shouldn't we save her some embarrassment as well as ourselves?"

Torres shook her head disgusted.

“I didn’t really witness them… you know… doing it.” Tom elaborated in desperation. I just saw the code.

Torres didn’t see the actual results of the program either, so her husband had a valid point. "Alright," she capitulated. "We'll leave that part out… but if she ever finds out…"

"I know, I know, but she won't!"

"Uh… " Harry squirmed in his seat. "I don't have to… you don't expect me to--"

"You don't have to come with us Harry. You're not involved in this." Torres relieved him watching the tension drain from his face. "But thanks for helping us clean it up."

"Sure, no problem."

"We'll go this evening… after dinner." Tom chuckled. "It might be the last decent food I get to enjoy for awhile."

B'Elanna sighed. 19:00 was a long way off and her nerves would be on edge until this was over.

 

*****

 

The meeting in session was closed off to all except those individuals who were on the council. Soon after the Borg civil war, a committee of twelve individuals was appointed by a majority vote to make the critical decisions involving their livelihood.

Technically, there should have been 12 council members present today, but only 11 were. The 12th council member refused to agree with the others on this particular topic and was therefore purposely not told that a meeting was taking place.

There wasn't consensus between the majority of the former Borg drones present as Korok refused to agree, but as they concluded their discussion, they had 10 of the 11 present in agreement and that was more than enough.

Majority ruled.

Laura nodded to a Klingon; Croix and a Nausicaan; D'ruk. Both bowed their heads in acknowledgement and left the room.

D'ruk and Croix found Axum reclining lazily in his quarters doing nothing of importance. He had been staring at the ceiling thinking of Seven when they came in, interrupting his fantasy.

"Join us in the lunchroom, the Council is having a meeting." The Klingon told him.

"Now?"

"Yes," the Nausicaan replied sternly in his species gruff voice.

"How many meetings about the same topic are we going to have?" Axum complained. Upon receiving no answer, he got up and stood before them. "Very well," he stated and started down the hallway ahead of them. "but I’m not changing my vote."

Both of his escorts glanced quickly at each other but said nothing. They knew a consensus had already been made… without him.

While they were on their way back, Laura addressed the councils concerns. "I know this decision weighs heavily on our conscious, but it is for the best--"

"Best for us you mean." One voice stated irritably.

"Yes, but not for the young woman we've doomed to hell." Another voice spoke acidly.

"We had no choice. It's us or her!"

"There are always alternatives. We should fight!" Korok repeated his viewpoint again.

"We have no means by which to start a war with--"

"Quiet!" Laura shouted above the chatter. "The decision has been made and I will take full responsibility. I will take care of Seven of Nine." Laura told them, "…however, we have to be prepared to restrain Axum. He won't let her go without a fight."

Axum stood in the doorway, the color of his face changing from a normal fleshy peach to a deep crimson hue, both from betrayal and anger.

"So that's how it is," he stated coldly. "making decisions without me?"

Laura sighed. "You leave us no choice. There are no options here. You know that but you won't accept it."

He moved in towards her taking careful, controlled strides.

"There are always options, but you don't want to see any! You've always resented Annika ever since we first met up with Voyager and I want to know why?!"

Her eyes narrowed. "You're wrong! I have no personal feelings against her!"

Defiantly, he stood before her. "I don’t believe you!"

Laura took offense. "We're going to do this with or without your help."

"I will stop you," he threatened.

Laura shook her head. "No, you won't," she nodded to the Klingon.

Croix immediately reached to restrain Axum, but in his rage he was mentally prepared to resist. Stepping aside he grabbed and twisted the wrist of the Klingon forcing the warrior to his knees. When the Nausicaan charged, he let go of the Klingon shoving the body into the Nausicaan’s legs sending him crashing to the floor along with the Klingon.

"Axum!" Laura yelled. "Don’t be a fool. You'll kill us all."

"That's better than becoming one of you!" He shouted back, but the distraction was all the other male council members needed to subdue him. Five bodies jumped on top of him crashing them all to the hard metal floor.

"We're ensuring our survival." One member called out.

"This is wrong!" Axum persisted.

"Morality will do us little good if we are dead!" Another member shouted.

Axum continued to struggle but his efforts were in vain. He was vastly outnumbered and couldn’t fight them all on his own. He howled in protest as they dragged him to his feet.

Laura spoke confidently. “You will no longer interfere with what must be done.”

Teeth clenched, Axum trembled with barely contained pent up fury.

“Take him to his quarters and make sure he can’t leave.” She ordered Croix.

 

*****

 

Laura found Seven of Nine in section 214S, an area designed as a rudimentary science station. The young woman was lost in concentration, reviewing the readout before her on the wall display as Laura approached.

“Hello Seven,” Laura greeted lightly. "May I ask what are you doing?" She asked curiously.

"I am researching what type of anomalies could prevent a stable warp core bubble at speeds of greater than warp six."

“Ah, the Warp Six dilemma.” Laura knew what caused it and momentarily wondered how long it would take Seven to figure it all out.

“Yes, it is most puzzling, but I believe I may have theory.”

“Oh?”

“I believe it has to do with frequencies.”

Apparently, it won’t take her long at all.

"Exactly what did you find?" Staying a meter behind the blonde, Laura read Seven’s display.

The blonde’s eyes lit up with pride at her discovery. She had been working with Lt. Torres on the problem for weeks with no leads until now. "I am not entirely certain, but there is a reoccurring frequency that I have been detecting throughout subspace that does not belong there.”

Laura played ignorant. “Aren’t there all kinds of frequencies floating through space all the time? How do you what belongs and what doesn’t?”

“There are many, but not this kind.” Seven remarked confidently. “This frequency is quite unique in that it hides behind normal spatial background radiation and… ” Seven glanced at Laura with a slight rise of her implant as if impressed. “…it is even coded.”

“Coded?”

Seven nodded. “I have been trying to decipher it, but it has dozens of layers of encryptions.” The challenge to succeed was evident in her tone.

“So you believe this was intentionally designed by someone.”

“It is not a natural occurrence.”

Laura shrugged. “Whoever designed it was ingenious.”

“Highly intelligent perhaps,” Seven tapped some keys on her console. “but I question their morality.”

“I wonder who created it?” Laura remarked with a flash of knowledge in her eye.

“I do not know, but I intend to find out.”

Laura glared at Seven from behind, trying to build up the courage to do what she had to.

The former drone swiveled her head around to peer at the human. “You can assist me if you wish,” she offered. “It would go faster with your help.”

Laura looked away, a small amount of guilt swelling in her. “No, I don’t think so. I have no aptitude for that.”

“As you wish,” Seven answered casually, not bothered by the verbal refusal or the lack of expertise.

Laura lifted her head and pierced Seven with a determined gaze. Whipping out a small energy weapon she had hidden in a side pocket, she pointed it at Seven’s backside.

"I'm sorry Seven. I really am." Her tone was surprisingly soft.

“Why are you apologizing?” Seven started to question when the answer became abundantly clear after she turned her head to witness the weapon pointed in her direction. "What are you doing?" Disbelief clouded her eyes.

"It's nothing personal. I have no grudge against you." She told the blonde.

“Then what purpose does this serve?” Seven stalled for time, but without external assistance, fighting back was futile. She was in a wide open area with no weapon in sight.

Laura exhaled. “Your sacrifice will guarantee our survival."

“My…” Dread entered her heart as she realized the fate Laura intended for her. “…sacrifice?!” Seven felt panic swell up inside her. “Will you at least tell me why?!”

Laura thought about it then shook her head. “No, it’s better this way. Trust me.” She fired striking Seven in the upper chest, knocking her back into the terminal she had been working on.

Crying out in pain, Seven’s vision swam before her as she sunk to the floor. Her body filled with sharp tingles of electricity that scorched her skin. The pressure in her skull was enormous and breathing became a chore, yet she fought to remain conscious before the flash of another shot sent Seven into total darkness.

Laura dropped the hand phaser to her side.

“It is done.” She spoke to the unconscious woman lying before her as if the words could lessen the guilt.

 

*****

 

Day Fifteen, Evening:

The Captain stood before her sandy haired pilot, her face resembling a scowled form of the Look at its highest intensity he had ever seen. He felt like melting into the bulkheads. If only he could disappear at this moment and hide somewhere...

B'Elanna stood next to him, rigidly wondering how long her husband would be in the brig this time or if she would be joining him.

"So let me get this straight," Janeway spoke, like ice dripping off her voice it was so cool.

"You attempted to program a holodeck simulation to help Seven of Nine learn how to… feel?"

"That's correct." Tom voiced quickly.

"Did she make this request to you?"

Tom glanced to his wife.

"Um, she asked me Captain." B'Elanna clarified. "And I asked Tom for assistance."

"And how exactly did I get involved?" She asked Tom pointedly.

"We… uh… well, I… knew she trusted you. It was supposed to be a harmless knowledge-gathering lesson for her Captain. Nothing more."

"Did we or did we not kiss Mr. Paris?" She inquired harshly.

"I'm afraid so." Tom stated nervously.

"Then I would hardly call that harmless." She growled, moving back around her desk. "And this all happened because… a malfunction occurred in the hologrid?"

"Sort of."

"I'm not in the mood for guessing games." She tapped her fingers on her desk trying to reign in her steadily increasing temper.

Tom swallowed and began. "Our goal was to let Seven harmlessly assess how she felt… about emotions… feelings. So I made a program based on the template of another program I had made a few years ago. I didn't have time to program a character from scratch so I converted the character template over and simply changed her personality to match… yours."

"Unfortunately," B'Elanna spoke up to cover his blunder. "A small electrical storm we passed through left deck 6 without power for over an hour. This caused a power surge in the holodeck, which damaged the lead hologram. It caused the character personality to reset to its original programming… which caused the discrepancy in the hologram's behavior."

"Discrepancy?" Janeway repeated annoyed. "Is that what you call it when a holographic version of myself kisses Seven of Nine?!"

Tom lowered his gaze to the floor.

Janeway's jaw tightened. "Was Seven aware I was holographic?"

"No ma'am." Tom divulged.

Janeway was beyond angry, but acknowledged that it was not entirely his fault.

"And how did she react?"

"I don't know. I never had a chance to talk to her before she left." He answered.

Tom and B'Elanna both agreed not to admit to the Captain that Seven had been hot for her prior to the experience and they also didn’t divulge the entire truth... that it was highly likely that Seven had intimate relations with the hologram.

And just in case Janeway went fishing, they deleted every trace of the program they could find. It was irretrievable.

"B'Elanna wasn't aware of what I did Captain." Tom tried to spare his wife from the inevitable punishment he deserved.

Janeway folded her arms across her chest. "Did Seven didn't talk to either of you after this incident?"

Tom eyed B'Elanna imploringly.

"She spoke to me briefly, but she didn't say much. All I can say is that she seemed unsettled by what happened."

Already knowing that from the debriefing with Tuvok, Janeway turned hard bristling eyes on them. "What surprises me is that two of my senior officer's would intentionally keep information from me that could have been pertinent to retrieving a member of my crew!"

They wisely kept quiet, until after many agonizing seconds of silence Janeway continued, her voice cold. "I really don’t know what to say." She glanced between the two officers.

"I'm so sorry Captain." Tom apologized.

"We were just trying to help." Torres remarked.

Janeway took in a deep breath. "Unfortunately you made things worse." And most likely destroyed my most valuable friendship. It's bad enough I'll never get to love her the way I want to… and now I'll never even be a part of her life… not even as a friend.

"Captain?" B'Elanna questioned, glimpsing the raw emotion that briefly pass over the Captain's face before the command persona slammed backed into place.

She mumbled out loud her train of thought. "I couldn't figure out why she was so cold towards me when we talked in the Conference Room… but I certainly could tell she was angry… and it was directed towards me." Her eyes landed on them, full of blame.

"Captain…"

She put her hand up to forestall any more words. "Apologies won't bring her back."

Both Tom and B'Elanna hung their heads.

"Dismissed." She stated acidly.

 

*****

 

Seven awoke, feeling groggy and disoriented with her head pounding ferociously in her skull. Bringing her left meshed hand to her forehead, she stumbled off an incline, what sounded like familiar metallic plating. Groaning in discomfort, she tried to open her eyes, but a cascade of blurry green imagery was all that came to her. Therefore, she concluded she must be dreaming.

"Welcome home Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One."

The chilling words reverberated through her ears, burning a path of recognition to her cortical node. The identity of the voice was in her memory. It belonged to…

No, that couldn't be! She was probably regenerating in an alcove on Axum's ship and simply succumbed to another one of those damn nightmares.

"I know you can hear me Seven of Nine." The voice called out again.

Seven tried to ignore the voice calling to her, but as she reached out, stumbling forward, she found only cold, hard metallic constructs. This was a nightmare of epic proportions.

"I know you are awake. Your cycle has ended."

Seven's heart rate doubled to match the pounding of her head. Blinking profusely, she rubbed her eyes to clear them. Once she opened them it would end her cycle and the nightmare. Right?

"Come, it is time you fulfilled your destiny."

NO! Fear etched its way into the blonde's soul. Seven's eyes snapped open and fell on the object of her terror. Her heart fell in her chest. Was this reality?! Because even if it was, she refused it.

"You are not real."

"Oh, I am very real, my dear."

"No…" She eked out, with little strength as the truth sank in.

"Relax, my child, you will not be harmed unless you refuse to cooperate."

"Not again," Seven mumbled horrified.

"There is no need for concern, I won't let you go again."

The so-called apparition touched her. A black metal covered hand slithered over her shoulder. The icy cold touch made her stomach convulse.

"NO!" Seven yelled, pulling away. "Where am I?! How did I get here?!"

"You are onboard my vessel. The rest is irrelevant."

Looking around for the first time with clearer eyes, the blonde noticed the layout of the room she was in. This was fully functional Borg equipment. This particular room resembled the Queen's chambers and she haphazardly scanned the area hoping Axum was not present, that somehow the others had escaped.

"Where is Axum?!" Seven demanded.

The Queen delicately brushed her left implant hand down Seven's soft cheek. "We only retrieved you, my dear. I kept my word this time. We did not assimilate them, although I was sorely tempted… I now have what I want."

Seven felt heart-stopping fear. "I do not understand."

"I know, but be patient. All that matters now is that you are home again--"

"This is NOT my home!" Seven vehemently disagreed.

The queen rose a slime-covered eyebrow. "So what is your home then? A Borg sphere full of liberated directionless ex-drones trying to find a planet to colonize? Or perhaps the Federation Starship Voyager, which is heading towards the Alpha Quadrant… without you?"

Dropping her jaw in disbelief, Seven gravely realized the extent of her flawed decision by going with people she did not know as well as her Voyager crewmates. By casting aside her friends from the Intrepid class vessel and aligning herself with this new collective, there would be no rescue this time from Captain Janeway.

No second chance.

Life as she knew it was over.

Despondency reached in and grabbed her soul. All she had acquired for nothing; the difficult transition to regain even a small part of her dwindled humanity, all moot. Any love she thought she felt, irrelevant.

She had left because of anger and jealousy not because she outgrew Voyager. She had loved Axum, years ago, in a sense, but it was not the overwhelming love Janeway spoke of; and not even close to what she thought she felt for her Captain.

The Queen noted Seven's demure features. "You were right to leave Voyager. They could never offer you perfection like I can. They are weak minded individuals that will never accept you for what you are.

Seven's head shot up to gaze harshly upon her former queen. "How did you find me?"

"I made an agreement with the former drones of Unimatrix zero."

Rattled by that revelation, Seven could only shake her head in shock. Axum? Betrayed me?! Then it came back to Seven, in a rush of unpleasant imagery, being shot by Laura. Was he in league with her?! Did he plan this all along?

"I could have assimilated them, but I gave them their freedom all in exchange… for you."

This new information threatened to crush the precarious order that Seven had tried to maintain in her current fragile emotional state.

"Then I am truly alone."

"Oh no, my child." The Queen tried to soothe Seven's turbulent emotions. "You will never be alone again."

 

*****

Day Fifteen, Late Evening:

"I'm leaving you in charge of Voyager." Captain Kathryn Janeway came to a heartfelt decision in light of the new information presented to her by Tom and B'Elanna.

"Kathryn?" The words came as a shock to the tattooed man standing before his friend and Captain.

"I have full confidence that you'll succeed in getting this crew home and if I… don't come back," she paused speculating, "I know you'll make a fine Captain." She added truthfully with a hint of regret.

"Where exactly are you going?!”

"I have to find her." Janeway knew this would be difficult as soon as she asked him to the Ready Room and it didn’t take long for him to realize who exactly she was referring to.

"Seven?!" Chakotay was shaken at Janeway's blind loyalty to this one individual. What did Seven have over his Captain that would make her abandon her crew!? "She's made her choice. She doesn't want to come back with us."

"I have to try."

"It won't work." He replied perplexed and exasperated by her decision.

"You don't know that." Janeway retorted anger creeping into her tone.

"Why Kathryn?" He asked. "Why is she so important to you?"

Janeway stiffened not sure if this declaration was a good idea, but she was rapidly losing the ability to hide her emotions anyways.

"You're not going to like my answer."

"Since when did that ever stop you?" He stated dryly.

"This is different," she remarked in a quieter tone. "And I… can't afford to lose your support… your friendship… even if I am deciding to leave Voyager."

"It is that bad?"

"That depends on you."

Now he was totally confused and rapidly losing patience. "Just tell me Kathryn."

"I can't explain how it happened… " The Captain reflected. "but it did… over time. It was maybe a year, before I realized it, but even in the beginning I found myself inexplicitly drawn to her." She lowered her head, folding her hands together before continuing. "I casually denied it at first, but it grew against my wishes to become what it is today and I cannot deny it any longer." She lifted her head and stated in a low steady voice. "I have feelings for her--."

"You're in love with her?!" Chakotay's eyes were wide with the revelation.

"Yes," The word came out low, barely audible, but to the point.

Chakotay took a few moments to contemplate his Captain's words, but with her recent behavior, he thought it made perfect sense. The situation was awkward, because Chakotay was beginning to believe that he had a chance with Kathryn, but in light of her declaration, he was obviously mistaken. It was another hurt he would deal with and eventually move on, after all Kathryn had done the honorable thing. She had made no attempt to interfere with his relationship with Seven despite her feelings, so could he do any less?

"You haven't lost my friendship Captain." Chakotay remarked sincerely. "or my support."

She breathed a sigh of relief.

"In fact, you've made me realize just how much of a fool I'd been."

She looked upon his features curiously. "How so?"

"I didn't behave as honorably as you did Kathryn. I hit him." The tattooed man admitted, staring down guiltily as his large hands. "I hit Axum."

"You what?!" The Captain exclaimed, shocked. "When? No one reported it."

He avoided her question continuing. "I feel so ashamed of it now. I know I had been drinking but…" He trailed off.

"You said you were not in love with her… so why?"

"I don’t know, pride I guess. Like I said, I had been drinking." He shook his head. "Whatever punishment your deem fit--"

"Commander," she waved her hand lazily to halt his words. She would let this infraction go. Axum hadn't reported it and she wasn't in the mood to punish Chakotay. He'd been through enough. They all had. Hell, she even wanted to pop the alien in her jealousy, but she knew how to discipline herself… for the most part.

Janeway giggled at the visual of herself punching Axum. "I've wanted to smack him… "

He grinned back at her appreciating the humorous response instead of a lecture, which she had every right to give.

"How long have you felt this way about Seven?" He asked. The idea of loving someone for so long and doing nothing about it seemed familiar.

"I don’t know, but it’s been years. Three, I think, maybe more."

"I honestly didn't know." Chakotay replied feeling somewhat foolish. "If I had, I wouldn't have--"

"You have nothing to apologize for," Kathryn responded quickly. He hadn't done anything wrong and she should have done something sooner, before he even had the chance.

"Did you ever plan on telling her?"

"Actually, I did plan to, but once I finally got the nerve, I found out she was dating a close friend of mine." She replied dryly, the corner of her lip twitching.

"I thought you seemed a bit off that evening."

That's an understatement, she thought.

"You should have told her a long time ago Kathryn." Damn those useless Starfleet principles of hers. It’s what kept us apart. He shook his head pondering such foolishness to follow an unwritten rule of an organization that was over 30 years away. Ironic that she would deny herself happiness now just as she had years before when he had his only chance with her while stranded on a planet. They had been infected with a contagious virus and no cure could be found for months until against her orders Tuvok had contacted the Viidians; specifically a woman Viidian, the doctor had befriended awhile back, who knew of a cure for the virus. Unfortunately, with the virus cured his only chance at a romance with his Captain was gone. As soon as she returned to Voyager, Janeway was the pure professional she had always been leaving Chakotay with no idea how she felt about him. Although he had moved on, he had never completely gotten over her. Now he would have to.

So the question remained. How the hell did a former Borg, with very little knowledge of humanity let alone any powers of seduction, manage to catch a strong willed independent Captain in her clutches? How the hell did Seven do it?! It had to be more than just beauty and brains, but he surmised he’d never understand it.

"I know I should have told her sooner, but I just couldn't."

"Just because you're the Captain of this ship doesn't mean you can't have--"

"I know," Janeway dismissed her cowardice with contempt.

"I can't believe you were content to watch me court her?" He stated confounded.

"Content?" She eyed him. "No, but it was absolutely necessary that I maintain a professional distance."

"And now she's with Axum."

"Now's she with Axum." Kathryn listlessly repeated with sorrow edging into her voice.

"That's what's causing you all this distress isn't it? Her leaving takes you so completely out of her life that you finally feel the need to find her and tell her the truth…, but that's a grave mistake Kathryn." Janeway was his friend, but what if Seven treated her as indifferently as she had treated him? Would his Captain be any better off? Rejection hurts worse when you admit it to the person you're in love with… and he was so glad he didn’t say anything to Kathryn about his own feelings.

"Why would you say that?" Janeway asked her voice dangerously low. Did he think Seven was better off with Axum?

"This ship needs its Captain… and Seven… she won't… " he paused realizing his bad choice of words. "What if she won’t leave him?"

That very possibility scared the hell out of her, but then thinking about the young woman's holodeck experience; the kiss with the holographic copy of herself, made Kathryn reconsider and it gave her hope, but she would never know if she didn’t try.

"There's only one way to find out and I have to know, one way or another."

Chakotay took in a short breath. "You don't have to do this alone."

"Yes, I do."

"Kathryn?"

"This is a personal matter Chakotay. I am NOT doing this as the Captain of Voyager."

"Even so--"

"Commander… " Janeway warned him. "You have your orders. If I don’t come back, get this crew home."

The tattooed man sighed. "If that's what you want, Kathryn." He stated contemplative.

"It is."

 

*****

 

Day Sixteen, Evening:

Cruising through space on the sleek Delta Flyer still took Captain Janeway 20 hours at Warp Six to meet up with the Borg Sphere for the second time. Thankfully it was still in orbit over the planet designated ‘Eden’.

Arriving at the scout ship, Janeway hailed them three times before she finally received a response from Laura.

"Captain Janeway…"

"I need to speak with Seven of Nine.”

There was a short contemplative silence. "She doesn't wish to speak to you."

“I know we didn't part of the greatest of terms."

“I’m sorry, but she--”

“Please, I need to know if I've done something to force this decision…." She implored.

Janeway thought she saw a faint sigh coming from the other woman. "Well very, I will ask her." After the channel was cut, Janeway did the only thing she could. She waited… albeit impatiently.

Many minutes later, when Laura contacted her again, the young woman shook her head firmly back and forth before she even started to speak. "I'm sorry Captain, but Seven refuses to see you," she lied.

Since when has Seven ever refused to see me? What the hell did I do to her or was it that hologram?!

Janeway however, was resolute. "Tell her I'm not leaving orbit until she does." After smacking the communications button, she sat back grumpily pondering her next move or if she even had one. The current turn of events left her in a foul mood.

Meanwhile, on the Borg sphere, Laura immediately turned to Korok after Janeway had cut the comm link. "Scan for Voyager. Is she alone?"

"Yes," Korok had already done so when the Delta Flyer first entered their sensor range. He looked at her skeptically. "Why?"

Laura rolled her eyes. “We need to encourage her to leave.”

Korok blinked. "Do you intend to attack her?!" He asked surprised.

Laura spoke with regret. "I don't want to harm her, but she’s refusing to leave until Seven talks to her."

“And that is not possible thanks to you,” he reminded her.

Laura glared at him. “How dare you! We have our freedom thanks to me!”

"If you destroy Captain Janeway, you will dishonor us all. She risked her entire crew to save us from the Borg, or do you not remember that sacrifice?”

“I remember,” she remarked disgruntled. “And I won’t if I can help it, but if she finds out-- ” Laura left the statement unfinished. “I don’t know what she’ll do. We might have to retaliate to stop her.”

“Her blood will on your hands not mine. It is bad enough that we agreed to hand over Axum's mate and by Klingon customs that in itself is grounds for death at his hands."

She turned hard eyes on him. “Well I’m glad he is not Klingon.”

Korok shrugged.

“She's not in love with him you know." Laura informed him. "It would not have lasted. She would have left him eventually anyways, most likely to go back to Voyager."

Korok blinked ruminating on her statement. "What does love have to do with it?"

"Klingons…" Laura grumbled to herself while walking away.

 

*****

 

When Seven of Nine stepped out of the alcove after regenerating, her eyes met the Borg Queen’s, who stood before her with an emotionless gaze.

"Something has changed," the blonde grouched in her usual arrogant tone, also laced with fear and uncertainty.

“We have enhanced your visual cortex with a neural processing adjunct to increase synaptic efficiency."

"Why?!" Seven commanded in anger.

“So you can function at optimum efficiency.”

“Impractical, you do not need me to be efficient.”

The Queen tilted her head. "It is so our thoughts can be one. I wish to understand your fervor in wanting to keep these faulty human emotions and I want to monitor your thoughts in order to learn humanity from you, since I did not get to finish my last study of humanity before your Captain Janeway liberated you from my grasp. A mistake, I don't intend to let happen twice."

Seven's nose flared at the mention of her former Captain. It still hurt to think she would never see the redhead again. The blonde did not understand why her chest hurt, or why she still felt so strongly about an individual who mislead her, but she did. And now she realized, so too did her Borg crewmates. Everyone had betrayed her. Feeling grave, Seven was more alone than she had ever been in her entire life.

"There is nothing worthwhile you can learn from me," the blonde remarked distastefully.

"Interesting," the Borg Queen commented as she sifted through Seven's recent thoughts. Their eyes met briefly.

"You have feelings for someone." The Queen's voice held mild astonishment, because this information was unexpected. "Rather strong feelings."

Seven remained silent, but her ice blue eyes shined as her thoughts betrayed the truth.

"You believe you are in love with Captain Janeway." The Queen was truly astounded by this development.

"My feelings for Captain Janeway are none of your concern!" Seven tried to block the Queen's probing unsuccessfully, too emotionally distraught to put forth any credible effort.

"Ah," the Queen remarked. "I see the real reason you left your Voyager collective. You feel your dear Captain has betrayed you. Perhaps now you will come to realize why emotions are irrelevant after all."

Narrowing her eyes, Seven glared at her former Queen, her rage building.

"Look at what it has done to you. Human emotions are distracting, persistent, chaotic and…" The Borg Queen asserted. "Ultimately futile; the opposite of harmony and perfection."

Even as Seven's ire increased, she rejected the Queen's words. Being with Kathryn was perfection. Seven jutted her chin out in defiance. "My thoughts and my feelings are my OWN!"

"Spoken like a true individual." The queen spoke disdainfully. "Your feelings have betrayed you so much you can't even see the truth that is right before your enhanced senses."

Seven stepped forward confounded. "Explain."

"In due time," the Queen motioned for the young blonde to follow. "First, let me show you what we have planned this time for your fellow humans."

With no other choice available to her, Seven reluctantly followed the Queen. The former Borg would find out her plans and act accordingly to prevent it, even if it meant destroying herself in the process.

 

*****

 

Axum awoke staring at the ceiling in his makeshift bedroom. Swiftly, he sat up looking around.

Images of betrayal by his crewmates, especially Laura, cascaded throughout his mind upsetting him as thoughts of Annika being whisked away against her will spurred him into action. He had to find her!

Axum moved quickly in the attempt to leave the confines of his room, unfortunately a strong force field at the entrance stopped him cold.

"Laura!" He yelled out causing his voice to echo down the corridor.

A few minutes later, Laura and the Klingon, Croix stood outside his doorway. Croix was probably just an assurance in case he attempted to escape. He said not a single word as he stood by Laura's side.

"Where is Annika?!" Axum demanded angrily.

Laura kept her face neutral. "You know where."

"NO!" Axum screamed. "I don't believe you! You wouldn't."

He threw himself at the force field. The energy field pushed his body away forcefully causing him to land roughly on his back.

"Stop this! It's pointless now. We had to."

"Annika," Axum sobbed.

The brokenness of her friend, lying somberly against the far wall shattered her placidity. "I am truly sorry, but it was our survival at stake. Your heart refuses… it can't see that."

Axum had tears of anger and loss on his countenance as he forced his head up. "I will not forget this." He saw her with new eyes.

Laura swallowed lightly. She knew he was not threatening her life. It was not his way, but she also knew that whatever trust or friendship they had was gone. He would never trust her again. Whatever love she hoped he might have had for her died when she delivered his precious Annika to the Borg Queen, even if it did save all their lives.

"I understand," she remarked quietly, leaving him alone in his solitary confinement. No words could soothe what they had done.

He sucked in a deep breath trying to alleviate the guilt over his inability to protect Annika despite her declaration earlier of being in love with her Captain.

How am I supposed to just stop loving her, simply because she loves someone else?

Annika was in trouble, so he had to do something, but what? Even if he could escape, what could he do? Where would he go? He had no means for traveling long distances. A small shuttle pod would not catch up to the Queen's cube and he certainly couldn't take this sphere, not alone without assistance. He was beginning to think it was hopeless.

Almost five minutes passed before newfound hope hit him in the form of an idea; a simplistic plan, but if he could escape, even briefly, he could send a subspace message to Voyager before they got out of communications range.

Forcing his body to get up, he surveyed the room, looking for something that could help facilitate his plan. After perusing the entire area for an hour, he came up with an idea that was a long shot.

There was a power cable deeply embedded in the far wall behind his bed, only it was not long enough. Finding some redundant electrical cabling that was conductive, he stripped the ends of the insulation and stretched them along the length of his room. Tenuously, he dug his hands into the wall and disconnected the power cable. Having no power couplers, he laid the bare wire on top of the power cable to create a connection, then moved towards the forcefield and positioned himself to the side with the live wire in hand. Pushing the energy charged cord into the area that held the force field caused sparks and a shock blast that knocked him over.

The skin on his hands was slightly burned as he got up to test his handiwork. But when he cautiously reached out, no force field was present to repel his hand. Quickly, he proceeded with his plan. A communications node wouldn’t be hard to find on a Borg vessel.

 

*****

 

Over an hour later, Janeway was pacing the Delta Flyer furious with herself, Seven and the whole damn situation.

She scanned the vessel, trying to pinpoint Seven's life signs, but there was no way to pinpoint the young woman’s exact bio patterns with so many other former Borg present.

While trying to find Seven, Janeway haphazardly came across a subspace signal sloppily encoded with a Federation signature.

After intercepting and downloading the entire message, she decrypted it. Much to her astonishment, she found it was a dire warning from Axum and Janeway could only watch wide eyed in complete disbelief.

Knowing the Borg vessel containing Seven would be out of range after it cleared this system, Kathryn had to act. Scanning for the latest warp signatures, she punched the Delta Flyer into the highest warp it could go, warp six and prayed she made it in time. She just hoped the Borg vessel that had Seven couldn't go any faster than warp six either.

In all likelihood, Janeway was already too late. Would she have to witness Seven's assimilation? Or to her heart’s dismay, have to witness Seven already changed into a freshly created drone? Or would she fail to rescue Seven getting assimilated herself in the attempt.

Janeway took some comfort in the fact that if she was assimilated, her own emotional turmoil at having failed Seven would be wiped away in the sickly process.

 

*****

 

Seven followed the Queen to another section of her private chamber, an area that had a large view screen on the center wall, similar to that of the Astrometrics lab. Seven’s brow tightened as she studied it. This one contained a hypothetical scenario of sorts, with statistics and assimilation totals, but what haunted Seven was the familiar bluish green globe in sector 001.

"You plan to deploy a virus again?"

"No," the Queen remarked casually. "Not this time." The confident tone frightened Seven.

"What are you planning?" Her voice was low, concern laced throughout.

"I plan a direct assault on the Alpha Quadrant with my entire armada of Borg tactical cubes."

"No… " Feeling terror, her respiratory functions increased.

"You're feeling a normal emotional response, but you will adapt."

"I will stop you!"

"You will comply."

"I will NOT witness this!"

"Yes, you will. You have no choice."

Two drones headed in the blonde’s direction with Seven numbly watching as they approached. Was the Queen trying to use intimidation tactics or did she actually plan to assimilate her? "If you plan to assimilate me, I welcome it!" Seven challenged her Queen.

The queen cast an amused look at her former favorite drone, now reduced to a frail emotional humanoid trying to appear courageous. "No, I want you to witness our victory first…” She smiled, a small rare uplift of the corners of her mouth. “perhaps then I'll grant your request."

Seven was past caring about herself, but the likely destruction of Voyager, the annihilation of Earth and the take over of the Alpha Quadrant bothered her immeasurably. She had to remain calm and find out more information. "When will you order the invasion?"

“Once we have reached the transwarp hub.”

“It will take weeks at warp six to get there,” Seven assumed.

“Incorrect, we are currently traveling at Warp Nine.”

“How?!” Seven inquired perplexed. She figured the anomaly would have disabled the Borg as well.

The Queen turned to the blonde. “You are correct in that it would take us weeks to reach the transwarp hub… if we had to rely on high warp exclusively, but we do not. As you are aware, we have transwarp capabilities, therefore once we clear this planetary system, we will fix our currently non-functional transwarp drive and proceed to the transwarp hub.”

“Why haven’t you repaired it?”

“Because we have to come to a complete stop to do so.”

“That makes no sense,” Seven commented.

“It makes perfect sense,” she started to explain for her pupil’s benefit. “First we have to shut down the frequency inhibitor and remove the enhancements to our warp core drive before we can bring the transwarp drive back online. Unfortunately the process to remove it is as complex and time consuming as integrating it.”

Frequency inhibitor?” Seven’s features paled.

"It is a device that allows us to use the higher warp speeds by nullifying the rotating fractal algorithm I created to disrupt subspace fields. She explained continuing. “In order to prevent our vessels from being effected by the frequency algorithm, we had to create special components for our warp core to override it. Of course there still is the unfortunate side effect that can damage transwarp drives, if they are not rendered temporarily offline, but that is a minor inconvenience.”

"It was YOU that caused the anomaly!" Seven accused as comprehension dawned on her.

“I am confident you would have discovered the truth eventually.”

“I did discover it then I was rendered unconscious!”

The Queen regarded her with a knowing smile. “Even so, disabling its effects would have been difficult even for you.”

"Ingenious," Seven commented dryly, speculating on how to find a way to inform Voyager of her findings, otherwise she would be responsible for all their lives. Her jealousy and short sightedness could be responsible for destroying not only Earth but the entire Alpha Quadrant. Seven did not know how, but she had to contact Voyager! Somehow, she had to relay this information.

The Queen ignored Seven's thoughts of mutiny, smirking to herself. "Captain Janeway will not come to your rescue this time."

"Stop reading my thoughts!"

"Our thoughts are one, the way it should be."

“Why are you doing this?! This invasion requires an astronomical amount of resources."

The Queen regarded her stubborn over-emotional student. "I want you to witness the total annihilation of the human race… only then you will have no choice but to accept your real heritage… and that your future is with us."

NEVER! Seven thought forcefully, forgetting about the neural link.

“On the contrary, resistance is quite futile.” The Queen sent the thought with confidence to Seven's troubled mind just before the Borg began to chant.

"We have reached the end of this star system.”

“Excellent!” The Borg leader responded pleased. “Come to a full stop. Begin disabling the frequency inhibitor and remove the special components from the Warp core. In the meantime, we will be propulsion less and vulnerable. Send 15 vessels to rendezvous with our position.”

Seven blanched.

 

*****

 

"Korok I need your help."

"What in the name of Kahless?!" The Klingon jumped off his makeshift bed and approached Axum. "You're supposed to be confined." He grumbled.

"I have no quarrel with you," Axum pleaded. “but you must hear me out!”

Korok knew the fate of Axum's mate hung in the balance and if the situation were reversed, Korok would have wanted to kill everyone involved in taking his mate away from him, despite the necessity of it.

"Make it quick," He suggested crossing his arms. "No doubt the others are looking for you and I don't want to appear to be collaborating with you in a mutiny."

"Of course not," Axum commented wryly. "Do you agree with the council's assessment of the situation?"

"No."

"Yet you went along with it."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Majority ruled… and it was a better tactic than yours. You want to hide us on a planet… in a war zone no less, a coward's tactic."

"I did it to save her! Her survival was at stake!" Axum exclaimed.

"I was prepared to fight back after that bald woman let us go, but you insisted we cooperate. You agreed to her terms, bargaining your mate in exchange for our lives if you found her."

"I lied to her!" Axum shouted. "I didn't really think we'd ever find Voyager."

"But in your heart you wanted to," Korok assessed accurately.

His gaze fell to the floor. "Yes."

"And now, do you still want her?"

Axum lifted his head and met the Klingon’s gaze with intensely. "If you want glory Korok, then join me... because I intend to attack the Queen's vessel and take Annika back right from under her nose."

Korok bellowed. "Alone with no backup? As much as I enjoy a good battle, even I know that is suicide." The Klingon loved a good battle, yet even he knew this was foolish. "The Borg do not fight honorably, nor do they take prisoners."

"I sent Voyager a subspace communiqué. I know they will respond and attempt to rescue their former crewman."

The Klingon shook his head. "This is tactically unwise, even with their assistance."

"Korok?" Axum implored strongly. "I need you to help me convince the others. Will you help me?!"

The warrior ruminated, his brow furrowed.

"Or do we run like cowards?"

A soft growl of disdain came from the Klingon's throat, before Korok simply nodded his head.

At that moment, Laura, Croix and a Nausicaan appeared outside of Korok's quarters.

"Do you realized what you've done!?" Laura yelled. "We could not stop your transmission. You've most likely killed the crew of Voyager!"

Axum turned an icy face towards her. "As if you care what happens to them. You were quite willing to sacrifice Annika to save your own life."

"I will not debate this again with you." Tilting her head, she indicated to her comrades to apprehend him. "Take him!"

The Nausicaan and the Klingon, Croix stepped forward to apprehend Axum.

"No!" Korok stepped in-between them. "Hear him out."

Croix had a great deal of respect for Korok, who outranked him. He had been a subordinate under General Korok for a short time when their Bird of Prey mysteriously got sent to the Delta Quadrant and subsequently assimilated by the Borg.

The Nausicaan kept moving forward until Croix put a hand on the alien's chest.

"No," the two Klingons’ eyes met. "We will listen."

 

*****

 

Day Seventeen, Early Morning:

As the Collective spoke to her in unison, the Queen experienced a rare emotion that she refused to give the time of day as she transferred the sensor data to the larger screen.

“We have a visitor.” A ship strikingly resembling the Delta Flyer appeared before her silver eyes.

"Tractor beam, now." She commanded mentally to the drones of her vessel. Mere seconds later, two tractor beams grabbed the small ship like a vice refusing to let go. Seeing this, the Queen smiled victoriously, a subtle but confident grin.

"How many life signs?" She commanded out loud for Seven's benefit.

"One," the Borg voices rang out.

"Identify," the Queen stared at her star pupil.

"Female, biological patterns are consistent with the life form Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship--"

The Queen rose her hand up to forestall the conclusion. "Janeway," The Queen hissed. Turning, she witnessed the open jawed expression of her companion.

Seven's facial posture went from apprehensive to abject terror at the realization that it was her Captain all alone on the Delta Flyer and now a captive of her former Queen… just like she herself was.

"Bring her to me," she returned her gaze to the viewscreen, “alive.”

"Release her!" Seven demanded.

The Queen turned sharply to her wayward pupil. "You are in no position to make demands."

"She is of no use to you!"

"True," the Borg leader admitted. "but she has been a reoccurring threat that I intend to deal with once and for all."

"I will stop you," Seven advanced on the Borg Queen unmindful of the consequences to herself. "I will not let you harm my Captain."

"Your Captain?" The Queen responded haughtily at Seven’s audacity. "I believe you're forgetting something. You gave up that privilege when you willingly left Voyager to join the Borg rebels… Or have you forgotten?"

"Irrelevant!!" Seven stopped before the Queen. "You will not harm her!"

"I will do as I choose. You forget your place Seven of Nine. Luckily for you, I'm so taken by you or you'd be a drone by now--"

"Am I the only one experiencing déjà vu?" The familiar feminine voice called out from the doorway of the Queen's personal chambers.

"Captain," Seven breathed out.

Janeway looked to her former crewman, her eyes softening at seeing Seven still herself, before she cast a dire look at the Borg Queen.

She raised her compression rifle. "Release my crewman and we'll be on our way."

"I think not."

"Captain…" Seven stated in a low, but desperate voice not sure what good the knowledge would do two individuals on a Borg cube with no back up. "She intends to invade the Alpha Quadrant and assimilate Earth."

Janeway's eyes glanced the blonde's way before focusing on her target again. "I had a hunch she was up to no good. What's the matter, the Delta Quadrant not big enough for you?"

"We seek only to enhance the lives of those we assimilate."

"Our lives are just fine the way they are." Janeway eyed the Queen cautiously, moving further into the room, she watched all the drones moving around in her peripheral vision. "This is your last chance," Janeway warned. "I have the Delta Flyer rigged to self destruct if you don't release us."

"You are all alone with no backup. You won’t destroy your only means of escape." The Queen commented boldly.

"I'll fire."

"I've raised a dispersal field. Your weapon will not work here."

“You have one minute left," Janeway warned her. "before you have a large hole gaping out of your cube."

The Queen was irritated and it challenged her control. Janeway irked the small part of sentience that she had left.

She walked slowly, arrogantly around her chambers as if Janeway had no weapon pointed at her.

"Release the Delta Flyer… and destroy it." The command came and Seven heard it albeit… too late.

"Captain, you must--"

Janeway's eyes traveled to the viewscreen only to witness her ship explode into nothingness.

“Now that your vessel has been properly disposed of…”

In all honesty, Kathryn had no plan that could've worked. She knew the same strategy as before would get her onboard, but as far as getting out? It was a long shot, but she'd be damned to have come this far just to give up without a fight. Seven’s life was at stake.

"That won't stop me!” Janeway spat pressing the trigger, only the phaser rifle sputtered with no energy forthcoming.

Borg drones started to surround Captain Janeway. She struck out at the first one on her right with the butt of her rifle, creating a gash on the side of his face forcing him down hard. Turning, she whacked another one in the midsection with her weapon, who doubled over. Janeway then hit him on the back of the head as another drone grabbed her from behind locking her arms against her sides. Two other drones came over to subdue her as she struggled.

"Bring her to me," the Queen commanded of the drones holding Janeway securely. Kathryn prepared her mind for the inevitable. Yet before any assimilation tubules touched her skin, she heard a loud scuffle coming from her right.

Seven had thrown two drones against a bulkhead trying desperately to get to her Captain. The enraged blonde dispelled drone after drone, but she was tiring quickly from the exertion. Borg drones were heavy and almost three times stronger than the average humanoid.

"Cease your resistance. I have your precious Captain." The Queen sent this warning directly to her former pupil through their private link.

"No!!" Seven cried out in desperation assuming such an action was inevitable. After shoving two Borg drones out of her way, she advanced on her ex-Queen and the female leader was unexpectedly impressed with Seven's futile determination.

Once Seven reached the Queen, her arm came out to strike, but the Queen grabbed it stopping it in mid flight. Not a task many humans could accomplish, but the Queen's strength was ten fold than the average drones. Utilizing only one arm, she flung Seven over her left side.

The young woman slammed into a bulkhead head first, causing a nasty gash on her forehead.

"Seven!" Janeway shouted out her concern.

"Do that again… and I will terminate your Captain." The female leader raised her enclosed fist, the tubules hidden beneath the knuckles snaking out in preparation.

The blonde stopped awestruck by the possibility of having to watch her Captain die. "I will comply." She answered defeated. Struggling to get up, despite the soreness in her body, Seven knew the fight was over as the drones surrounded her, staying out of arms reach per the Queen's instructions.

Sensing her mentor’s gaze on her, Seven couldn't look Janeway in the eye. It was her fault that she was here and the blonde just couldn't fathom why. Did the Captain feel such foolish loyalty to Seven that she would risk her own life on a small vessel with inadequate firepower? Where was her ship?! Where was Voyager?!

"She will not be harmed… yet." The Queen stated and something in Seven knew this to be true. The Borg Queen did not lie, but it confused her as to why. Why wait to assimilate her? It was inefficient.

"I want her to witness the same thing as you.” The Queen heard Seven’s unvoiced thoughts. The complete annihilation of her home world… Earth and the destruction of her precious Federation.”

Janeway jutted out her chin. "That won’t happen," she stated proudly. "Not on a cold day in hell.”

"We shall see.”

We’ll find a way to stop you. We always do."

“Then perhaps I should assimilate you now.”

Janeway refused to let the fear of assimilation get a grip on her.

Seven swallowed down her own distress. "That is not necessary, you have me. I will take her place."

The Queen shook her head. "Graciously human to the end, my dear, but there will be no humanity left for it to make any difference. You both will become part of us. What else is there?"

"Your fascination with us is illogical!"

"It's perfectly logically when you know why. Don't you know why I keep coming back for you Seven? Can't you read my thoughts?"

"I do not wish to." Seven refused, not wanting the temptation the voices represented.

"Oh come now. You're not the least bit curious?"

Seven glared at her.

"You're important to the Borg because you've been one of us for years and you've tasted sentience. This gives you the necessary credentials to become… my successor.

Janeway gasped.

Seven's face was almost a ghost, she was so distraught… and the worst of it all was that Janeway had overheard it, thus she would know until the day she died that Seven was being groomed to be a monster; a Queen herself.

"I have no desire to become you!" Seven recanted outraged.

"I don't intend to hand over my crown just yet, but in due time when my human components give out, you will take over. You should take pride in it Seven of Nine, it’s an honor. When I was just a mere drone, I did what the collective wanted, now as the embodiment of the Borg, I command millions."

"I?" Seven questioned sarcastically. "There are no individuals in the collective."

"You are correct, but when 'I' speak for the Borg I am referring to the entire collective. The portrayal of sentience to other species is necessary. This is how I keep order."

"Why you? Why were you chosen?"

"Over the last few years, the Borg collective decided it would facilitate the assimilation of species quicker if we had a representative speak for us."

"Inefficient."

"On the contrary, it was very effective... at first." The Queen stated. "You remember Locutus, formerly Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Enterprise? The Borg tried to assimilate him and make him the voice of the Borg, but he hadn't been Borg long enough for him to speak for us effectively. He was controlled by the unified mind, yet, subconsciously he resisted us more than we expected."

Janeway listened carefully.

"However, we also didn't count on him being rescued. Because of that we came to the conclusion that we were flawed in our theory and decided that our leader must be someone who had been Borg for a long time, one who would not resist being Borg, but relish it. That would make us strong."

"Implausible." Seven argued.

"Factual and irrefutable because I stand before you," the Queen assured her pupil. "Yet nothing is infinite. I am not immortal. My physical body will eventually die, but of course my death would not affect the collective for long. They would replace me. A new Queen would be born out of my demise and I would live on through her."

Seven knew where this was going. "I refuse to become you." Seven rebuked hastily.

"The choice is no longer yours. You are next in line to become Queen."

“No!!” Seven yelled. “I would rather die!”

“Your feelings are inconsequential,” the Queen turned away from Seven, silently commanding her drones to comply. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I must regenerate," the Queen informed them as four drones shoved the two women into a corner. "You and your Captain will remain behind a force field until I awaken."

Heading to her center chamber, the Queen tilted her head.

“15 Borg vessels have entered this sector. The Collective informed her. The warp prevention frequency algorithm has been disabled. Removal of the special components, bringing transwarp engines online, still in progress; estimated completion time; 4 hours, 23 minutes.”

The Queen was pleased.

Seven gasped fearing their fate had been horrifically sealed.

 

*****

 

"Commander?" Tuvok's voice permeated the silence of the bridge.

Chakotay straightened up in the Captain's seat his head leaning on the knuckles of his clenched fist. He was deep in thought not seeing the viewscreen or his console on the right. He had been thinking of the past week. Kathryn, Jaffen, Seven, Axum, and the messy situation they had created when Tuvok's monotonous voice drifted to his inner ear.

"What?"

"I am receiving an encrypted subspace message. It has a Starfleet signature."

Chakotay practically jumped out of the Captain's chair. "Can you decode it?" He asked with zeal hoping it was Kathryn.

"Yes."

"Do it," Chakotay ordered. "then put it on screen."

Tuvok complied readily and after he finished with the decoding process, Captain Janeway's visual appeared on the forward viewscreen looking most determined.

"Chakotay," she started to say. "I'm in pursuit of a Borg cube that I believe has Seven of Nine onboard against her will. I'm not positive what's at stake, but there's an attached message by Axum that states the Borg Queen is back." Kathryn paused, her eyes roamed around the small cockpit of the Flyer in consternation.

"I know I gave you an order to proceed to the Alpha Quadrant Chakotay… "

He stared sternly at the viewscreen.

"And you have ever right to continue on that course… It’s your choice, you’re the Captain now... but know that I’m going to get Seven out of there… alone if I have to.” Raw emotion passed over her features before she regained control. "Janeway out."

Chakotay rested his hands on the railing before Tom's station. He took all of two seconds to make his decision.

"Tom plot a course for these coordinates."

"Sir? Aren't we going after the Captain? She's going to need our help."

"Follow my orders Tom."

Tom hesitated for only a second, perplexed by the decision. "Plot laid in, sir."

"Warp 6."

“Torres to Chakotay?”

"What is it B'Elanna?"

"By the data I'm reading, the anomaly appears to be gone!" She informed him.

“You mean we can go to high warp?” He questioned shocked, not expecting the turnaround so soon.

"I think so… " The Chief Engineer replied through the COMM link.

"Guess we'll just have to test that theory, B'Elanna. Tom Warp 9.”

“Aye sir.”

“Engage,” Chakotay crossed his fingers as Voyager's engines came to life. Tension filled in his shoulders and neck as he heard the familiar hum steadily progressing higher and higher. Finally, he breathed out a sigh of relief after Tom called out, ‘Warp Nine.’

Chakotay allowed himself a positive thought. Maybe this will work. He thought, praying they would make it in time.

 

*****

 

Brow furrowed in deep concentration, Seven stared out at the drone activity through the force field, her mind trying to fathom a possible means of escape. They were in a small round niche, only 10 cubic meters in space. To Seven's back was solid metal plating. To both sides and the front, a solid force field.

To her left, she spotted the Borg queen herself regenerating in the center of the room, in a special alcove designed for her while her minions worked around her like worker bees.

Seven had resigned to her fate, but now that the Captain was here, she felt elevated pressure to find a way out when there was clearly no means of escape. Why did she have to come?! Seven did not ask her to risk herself again! Why?! Typical of Captain Janeway in that she always thought she could succeed in any situation despite the horrible odds.

Seven became incensed over her lack of an idea on how to escape when softly spoken words interrupted her train of thought.

"Seven, we need to talk."

Finally, Kathryn was alone with Seven where neither of them could run away or be interrupted. No crewmen were nearby or senior officers, only emotionless Borg drones who couldn't care less what they discussed. And Janeway knew time was short.

The former Borg turned to her Captain infuriated. "Why?! Why would you risk yourself to come back for me?!" Seven asked outraged.

Janeway was taken aback at the strength of the verbal attack coming from the blonde. "I couldn't allow the Borg to have you! Not once I realized what had happened."

"How did you come to find me?"

"That's not important. What’s important is we need to figure--"

"I disagree," Seven shot back. "Where is Voyager?"

"I don't know."

This baffled Seven. It was inconceivable. "How could you not know where your ship is?" This was the indomitable Captain Janeway of the starship Voyager. Her ship, her rank, her career were her life and nothing that Seven knew of came before that.

"because I left Voyager over a day and a half ago to search for you.”

"I refuse to believe you came alone."

"Well, I did. I sent them an encrypted message before I followed your warp trail, telling them where I was heading, but--."

"Tuvok was right about you.” Seven interjected. “You are reckless! Your rescue attempt was flawed, inefficient, illogical… " The young woman started to pace the small area frenetically, leaving Janeway speechless. "You should not have bothered!"

"Seven," Janeway interlaced the fingers of her hands trying to remain calm despite her companion's attitude. "Why are you so angry with me?"

"Captain Janeway, you are… infuriating."

Kathryn blinked. Where did that come from? "I'm infuriating?!" It wasn’t the words as much as the way Seven delivered them that irked her. "And what about you, with your superiority complex, your arrogant insolent attitude, your deliberate disobedience of direct orders… " Janeway intentionally paused. “I could go on.”

Seven stopped and turned her head to make eye full contact. "Is that what you think of me?" She goaded with ice filled eyes piercing into Janeway to say otherwise.

"What? No!" The accusation startled Janeway. "Don't you turn this on me! You know that's not what I meant Seven."

"No I do not." Seven insisted defiantly. She could play this verbal game with her Captain quite effectively. "I understand nothing about you!"

Janeway walked right up to the blonde and pointed a finger at her. "You just don't want to face the facts that you often rub people the wrong way, Seven."

The words hit a sore spot. "Perhaps, you've forgotten that I was Borg for most of my life."

Kathryn's shoulders slumped visibly. Seven wasn't fighting fairly. "No, I haven't forgotten." She remarked quietly, her features softening perceptively. "I just want to know… what I've done to upset you so much."

"You've done enough… and I do not wish to discuss it further." Seven's tone was icy. "Besides, it is irrelevant now." The emotional baggage was still so heavy in her heart that she wasn't ready to forgive.

Janeway tensed. "I am sorry about what happened on the holodeck, if that’s what has you so upset."

Seven visibly stiffened.

"I can understand why that would… make you uncomfortable, but it's not your fault. I promise you regardless of what happened, we'll still be friends. Nothing will change that. There's no reason for you to leave Voyager because of that… unfortunate incident."

Unfortunate incident! This lame attempt at an apology inflamed Seven even more. "I do not need your pathetic attempts at reconciliation! You've obviously made your decision so live with it."

"Excuse me?" Janeway didn't appreciate the blonde's tone and there was a certain finality to the words that jabbed at Kathryn's heart. "Just what the hell are you talking about?"

The angry blonde did not want to hear any excuses or waste her energy on worthless explanations. "It doesn't matter. We will be deceased soon enough." The thought almost gave Seven comfort, knowing her emotional rollercoaster was almost at an end. She moved to the farthest end of their confined area to brood in peace.

“Seven?” Kathryn pleaded. “Please—“

“I do NOT wish to converse with you!” Seven shouted. “Do not speak to me!”

Backing away, Janeway left the enraged Borg alone, completely at a loss at how to get Seven to open up and talk to her. Should I tell her I love her? Janeway pondered. No, it’s too soon and she’s way too angry. She’ll just hurt me by throwing it back in my face. The time is not right. Janeway snickered to herself at her illogical thought processes. There wasn't enough time to make a difference any way so why upset Seven at this point with the truth. Reluctantly, Kathryn sat down on the metal plated floor waiting for fate to deal its final blow.

 

*****

 

Three ships stood at a safe distance all wary of the other, all the vessels with shields and weapons powered and ready.

Voyager happened to come across the two warring parties while in the middle of a fight and jumping right in between the battle, Chakotay with a little diplomacy and luck managed to get them to temporarily stand down.

He knew it was a calculated risk to contact the two warring factions and that it could be a waste of valuable time, but he had no other choice. Voyager couldn’t do it alone, so here he was with an open COM link to both ships attempting to converse with them, keeping his fingers crossed in the hope that his plan didn't backfire on him.

After a quick introduction, Chakotay got to the purpose of the meeting. "We need your help."

"What kind of help do you require Commander Ckakotay? We're kind of busy right now." The Grefahl leader spoke harshly. “We have a war to win.”

A grumble could be heard from the Kazarr Commander.

"I ask only for a temporary truce to fight a greater enemy. There is a ruthless species that threatens your sector of space."

With suspicious curiosity, the Grefahl leader nodded for Commander Chakotay to continue.

This also intrigued the Kazarr Commander. "Go on."

"They’re a powerful race called the Borg; Their only goal, the conquering of other worlds. They enslave people." He gave a quick overview of the race without giving exact details.

"What do you want from us?" Trezlar asked, his brow creased.

"I'm asking for your help... to fight them."

"Pfah!" A grunt came from S’Tal, the Grefahl leader. "With the Kazarr!?"

"I'm only asking for a temporary alliance."

The alien interjected. "What do you gain from this?"

"They have two members of our crew. We need assistance to get them back."

"What?" The Grefahl questioned. "You’re willing to risk your entire ship for a mere two crewmembers?!"

"Yes, one happens to be my Captain."

"This is insane!"

Trezlar sighed, almost rolling his eyes. "Are these… Borg really that much of a threat Commander?"

"I'm afraid so. They've assimilated hundreds of thousands of individuals in the Delta Quadrant alone."

"Assimilate?"

"In essence, they kill your mind and take your body, but you don't die."

Trezlar gasped. "They use their victims as mindless slaves?!"

"Yes,”

Silence engulfed both Bridges as the aliens thought about Chakotay's proposal. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford to be a patient man. Time was rapidly running out. "I apologize for rushing both of you, but time is short. I need your decision now."

The Grefahl leader grimaced. "It is probably a trap!"

"I'm sorry you feel that way, but we're going with or without your help." Chakotay assured him.

The Kazarr Captain tilted his head upon hearing this. "You do not expect any compensation for this assistance?"

"No."

"Then we will assist you against this threat." Trezlar stated coming to his own decision satisfactorily. "I do not believe your Captain or her people would set a trap for us."

S'Tal grumbled and cut his comlink.

"Thank you." Chakotay stated politely to Trezlar. "I'll send you the coordinates and instructions on what we're planning. Don't break formation until we get there. I'll be in touch."

The Commander turned to his tactical officer.

"Tuvok, plot a course for Janeway's last known location, extrapolate the heading of that Borg cube and send the data to the Kazarr."

Tuvok nodded affirmatively.

The two ships headed immediately into high warp and surprisingly the Grefahl ship followed a distance behind.

Chakotay smirked. "Send the coordinates to the Grefahl too, since they seem curious enough to follow."

 

*****

 

Day Seventeen, Afternoon:

Seven could sense her Queen's consciousness arise from her regenerative cycle. "The Queen will awaken soon." She relayed what she heard from the link to Janeway.

"Has it been four hours already?" Janeway casually asked.

"I can sense her."

"Are you linked to the Collective?"

"No, just the Queen, but…"

"But… but what?" Janeway cast concerned eyes upon her former Astrometrics Officer.

"I can hear them through her. If I concentrate enough I can hear the entire Collective.”

"You still feel a strong attraction to the voices." Janeway remarked, watching her closely. It was probably something Seven would always experience in such close proximity to the Borg.

“Yes… but it is disconcerting and exhilarating at the same time." I was trying to avoid this, but it feels so familiar… so comforting after all the pain I’ve been through.

With those disturbing words, Janeway spoke up. "That's understandable, but it’s probably better if you didn’t concentrate on them so hard." She didn’t want to take the chance that Seven could suddenly give into the temptation and turn on her, after all, they were under a lot of stress and Seven wasn’t exactly pleased to be around her Captain either.

Disgusted with her mental and emotional vulnerability, Seven complied closing her mind to the distant voices.

"There's got to be something we can do." The Captain ascertained trying to be hopeful. "Maybe we could change your bio-electric field. We did that once and... " She pointed to her COM badge. "I have a microfilament." Janeway became optimistic.

Seven turned to Janeway, completely stupefied. "And fight our way out through thousands of Borg drones?"

"That's thinking on the bright side." The redhead retorted humorlessly.

"What would be the point? We have no ship, no means of escape and we are weaponless."

"You've thrown in the towel. You've given up haven't you?"

"To coin a human phrase… yes."

Janeway knew time was running out, but she refused to believe they wouldn't come despite her orders that it was his decision.

"I haven't given up… on us or Voyager… Not yet." She stated strongly. "Not as long as I draw breath."

"A foolish notion," Seven mocked.

It was apparent, the blonde was intentionally being nasty and spiteful. "Whatever. I'll do this alone… if I have to." And you’re coming with me whether you like it or not. The Captain pursed her lips and turned away refusing to give Seven any more fuel to berate her with.

Silence passed as Seven studied Janeway's retreating backside view and after some time in deep rumination, the blonde spoke her thoughts. "Perhaps all is not lost in being assimilated."

Janeway spun around. "What the hell do you mean by that?!" This line of thinking floored her.

In her current state, Seven truly regretted not being able to have some of the potential benefits that assimilation promised. "Oblivion has its merits." She stated rather calmly. "For instance, there is no awareness of pain; physical or emotional.”

Seven oddly seemed to take comfort in that, but the redhead wasn’t buying it.

“And there’s no love either, along with no independent thought of any kind.” A hand went to Janeway's right hip. “So tell me Seven, how do you figure that has any merit whatsoever?"

“Because our thoughts will become one," the blonde stated with decisive arrogance. “And I will finally understand the contradiction that is Captain Kathryn Janeway."

Janeway lifted her chin, irked. "Great and I thought you respected my position as Captain."

"Respect?" Seven questioned intentionally. "The title yes, the flawed person hiding behind it, no."

"Really?" Janeway remarked sarcastically glaring back at the former Borg. If only you knew how flawed… after all I let myself fall in love with you, didn't I?!

Her eyes took on a deep shade of grey around the corners. "That's a two way process Seven. You sure you want me inside your head… to see all your fears… your imperfections? All the unstable emotions brewing under that carefully constructed facade of yours."

With piercing eyes, Seven met her gaze choosing to stay silent lest her temper get the best of her. If our thoughts were one, then you would truly understand how much you have damaged me!

"Go on, tell me Seven," Janeway could play the nasty verbal game too. "What's really fueling all this fire towards me?"

Hard icy blue eyes met stormy grey ones.

"That is none of your business! This conversation is terminated!" The young woman linked her clenched hands behind her back, lifted her chin, averted her eyes and walked to the other end of the area they were confined in.

Janeway groaned disgusted.

"Seven…" A voice echoed with an odd static surrounding it, making it unclear. The blonde looked around but there was no one else present besides her Captain. So where did the male sounding voice speak to her from?

"Did you hear that?"

"I didn't hear anything," Janeway murmured, still irritated at the younger woman.

"Seven of Nine! Are you there?!" The voice called out again, but this time the transmission was clearer and Seven recognized the voice. It was Commander Chakotay! He must have had the doctor's help in accessing the private frequency of her interplexing beacon!

"Commander?" Seven called out wondering if he could hear her.

Glancing toward her protégé, Janeway momentarily wondered if Seven was losing her mind.

Just then the Borg Queen opened her eyes. "An unidentified transmission has been detected." The Borg chorused to her.

"Where is it directed to?" She stepped off the dais of her personal alcove.

"Interplexing beacon, Seven of nine, tertiary, adjunct..."

The Borg Queen cranked her head around toward her guests. She couldn’t hear the actual conversation… but then again, she didn't need to. Interplexing beacons were private and virtually impossible to break into but… Seven's thoughts were being monitored so all the Queen had to do was wait for that information to come to her.

"Yes it’s Chakotay. Is Kathryn with you?"

"Yes."

"Are you both all right?"

"Yes, for now, but Commander I must warn--"

"Don’t worry,” he cut her off. “We have a plan, we're going to attack at these coordinates," he started to spew off a list of spatial coordinates.

The Queen strolled over to the corner she imprisoned them in. "Is that Voyager?" She assumed. "Say hello to Commander Chakotay for me."

"Track the location of the incoming transmission." She commanded her drones.

Seven's eyes went wide with fear.

"We're coming to get you! Hold tight!" He offered before closing the link.

"No!" Seven exclaimed. "You must not! You will be assimilated as well. The Queen knows your coming!"

Janeway grabbed the blonde's shoulders turning her towards her. "Seven, what is going on?!"

“Didn’t you hear Captain? Voyager is attempting a rescue." The Queen sneered.

Seven blanched.

"A rescue attempt that will fail!" The Queen asserted.

Janeway's face hardened. "We shall see," she countered.

"We have found the coordinates; grid five, zero, one, two. Long range sensors indicate three vessels on an intercept course." The Borg chanted.

"Send all fifteen tactical vessels to those coordinates." The Queen ordered mentally.

"Where's Voyager?" The Captain demanded. “Talk to me Seven!”

The young woman looked upon Janeway's face with penitence. "They are on their way to rescue us… " Seven said horrified. "and to their death."

"Why would you say that?!" Janeway stated aghast. It took a lot to shake Seven. "What's happening?"

"Tell your Captain." The Queen teased. "Tell her how in a few minutes Voyager will soon be no more."

Swallowing at the dryness in her throat, Seven complied. "Fifteen Borg cubes are on a rendezvous course… with Voyager." She morbidly informed her Captain.

"We will wait here until that business is finished before continuing on to the next phase of my plan." The Queen goaded.

"Coward!" Janeway spat out, the disdain dripping off her tone.

“We have full warp and transwarp capabilities.” The Borg announced.

"Excellent, once our cubes have taken care of Voyager and her allies we will enter transwarp and proceed to the transwarp hub."

Seven could only grimace.

 

*****

 

"Astrometrics to the bridge." The tense voice of Megan Delaney broke through the silence of the bridge.

"Go ahead," Chakotay answered.

"I'm detecting multiple Borg vessels heading our way! But I can’t get a clear reading on how many!?"

"Acknowledged, send all the available data to the helm." He cut the channel. “I honestly didn’t expect to catch up to them for weeks… certainly not until we reached the transwarp hub.” Chakotay was stupefied.

"We must be closing in on the Captain’s position to draw this much attention," Harry commented nervously.

"God I hope this works." Commander Chakotay remarked as he stared at the viewscreen.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow in question. "There are not many options at this point."

"How do we know one of those vessels won't have Seven and the Captain on it?" Tom asked.

"We do not," Tuvok divulged.

Chakotay hated not knowing his Captain’s whereabouts, but it was a chance he had to take.

"Send our allies the encrypted update, Tuvok."

As the Vulcan did so, the doctor crinkled his brow while standing behind the two Command chairs at Seven's old station. "I hope you realize that our backup plan is extremely dangerous to Seven." He blurted out.

"I know that doctor."

"And to the Captain if she's been assimilated."

Regretfully, he had thought of that. "You have the anti-dote correct?"

"Yes, I synthesized a fresh supply."

"Good have it ready."

"The pathogen works quickly. If we don't get to them in time, no amount of medication will matter." He asserted.

"Understood, Doctor." Chakotay was getting irritated at the Doctor's constant reminders. "ETA?" He asked the sandy haired pilot.

"Less than 5 minutes." Tom Answered.

"So far so good."

Tom could only shrug.

"Are we in formation?" He asked Tuvok.

"Yes,"

"Ok, let's do it." Chakotay stated. “Open a channel to the Grefahl and the Kazarr warships."

Harry Kim did so quickly.

"This is Commander Chakotay, drop out of warp and prepare yourselves. We are about to engage the Borg!”

Both factions acknowledged his communiqué and then waited for the battle to come to them as they slowed down to impulse speed.

The Commander turned to Harry. "Distance?"

"Five hundred thousand kilometers."

"How many vessels?" Chakotay asked his voice wavering.

"Sensors indicate… fifteen Borg tactical vessels," Lt. Kim announced taking a deep swallow. "…are on a direct course towards us… and one heavily armored cube holding position at the edge of this system."

“That must be the Queen’s vessel,” Chakotay commented. “Why didn’t we detect it before?”

“We weren’t close enough for sensors to get an accurate reading,” Harry informed him.

Inquisitively, Chakotay raised his tattooed brow; assuming that Seven and Janeway were with the Queen at a safe distance made this scenario work in their favor. Then after he dealt with the cubes, they could attack the lone remaining vessel to retrieve their crewmen.

“Three hundred thousand kilometers,” Harry announced.

The burly First Officer turned to the Vulcan at tactical. "You ready?"

"Yes."

Chakotay sat down in the Captain's chair. "Let me know when they're at fifty thousand kilometers."

Tom turned around from his console. "Isn't that… a little close? How are we going to escape the blast?"

"We pray," Chakotay answered honestly.

"Commander," Tuvok spoke up. "Sixty five thousand kilometers should suffice."

"We have only a few tri-cobalt devices and we need to take out as many of those Borg cubes as possible." He countered.

"Correct, but we also need to survive. I have experience with these weapons. Sixty five thousand kilometers, should have the desired impact and minimize damage to our outer hull and systems."

Chakotay raised his tattooed eyebrow. "We only have one shot to get the Captain and Seven back." He re-iterated.

Tuvok dipped his head. "It is your decision."

Although, his rigid personality annoyed the Commander more often than not, Chakotay knew the Vulcan was rarely inaccurate. Tuvok was very precise in his analysis and his logic was a strength that rarely failed him. On the other hand, Chakotay had limited knowledge of tri-cobalt devices and he didn’t want to leave anything to chance. More than just their lives depended on the success of this attack, so they couldn't afford to be wrong.

"Very well." He capitulated. "We'll do it your way."

Returning his gaze to the helm, Tom expelled a breath he had been holding.

"One hundred thousand kilometers and closing." Kim announced.

Chakotay stood up. "Count down for me Lt. I need exact distances for this is going to be very close."

"Yes sir," Harry replied avidly.

The Borg opened a COM link to start their infamous greeting. "Resistance is futile… You will be assimilated. Your biol--"

"Shut that off!" Chakotay barked.

"85,000 kilometers.

"Get ready Tuvok."

Nerves became tense on the bridge except for the Vulcan who remained outwardly calm despite an inner concern for his Captain and Seven of Nine's well being.

"70,000!"

"Drop the charge!"

Tuvok complied quickly resulting in a small round metallic object being ejected out of Voyager's torpedo bay directly into the path of the oncoming Borg fleet.

The lead Borg vessel stopped to scan the object.

“67,000!”

"Signal our allies to go to Warp!”

“65,000!”

“Activate it!" The acting Captain shouted. Just as Voyager and their companion vessels twisted the surrounding space to enter a stable warp field bubble, the device exploded.

A millisecond later, three ships cruised through space at high warp as a large fiery explosion ripped through over a dozen Borg cubes. Devastation resulted to anything within its grasp as the wave of destruction continued to expand.

"The shockwave is gaining on us!" Tuvok shouted from above the squeal of the overtaxed engines.

"Tom! I need more speed!" Chakotay ordered.

"We're already at 9.5!"

"Bring it up to 9.975!"

"That's only a theoretically maximum speed!" Tom argued.

"Do it!"

"Aye sir!"

The engines screamed for mercy as Voyager leaped out in front of the shock wave just as it was about to overtake the Intrepid class vessel. Then the blast subsided, dissipating in the wind, as if it had never existed.

"Commander?"

"Bring us back down Tom."

"The energy has dissipated. It is no longer a threat." The Vulcan informed them.

"Damage?" The First Officer inquired.

"Minimal with some minor injuries reported."

Lt. Kim eyes widened. "Um, sir. There’s another Borg cube, dead ahead."

Chakotay looked to the viewscreen with a determined face. I couldn't have planned it better. "Tom, Bring us in close. Harry, scan for any human life signs. Tuvok, send a volley of non concussive force torpedoes to their shield array. We need to disable it, not destroy it."

Hold on Kathryn!

 

*****

 

The cube rocked harshly from side to side as a volley of torpedoes struck its outer hull.

As a dejected Seven contemplated her role in the demise of the entire Alpha Quadrant, the force field holding the two women captive fizzled out. Without hesitation, Janeway grabbed the blonde and dragged her out of the Queen's lair.

Busy concentrating on the attack, to survey the extent of the damage done to her fleet, the Borg leader failed to notice their movement.

“Twelve vessels destroyed, two critically damaged, one currently inoperable.”

“Send for reinforcements, priority one!”

Then sensing Seven’s confusion, the Queen looked around to notice her captives were gone. "Follow them and assim… " Pausing she considered her actions. She had to admit these humans were the most aggravating species she had ever come across, but as un-Borg like and inefficient as it was, she wanted the redhead to witness her species’ destruction, wanted to break Janeway’s spirit first… and coerce Seven to willingly become her successor. Therefore, patience was necessary. " No… Bring them to me unassimilated!" What did they not understand about 'resistance is futile!?’

After three corridors and numerous turns to avoid drones, Seven came to her senses and asserted herself. "Captain! What are you doing? Where are you taking me?"

Janeway glared back at her charge. "Seven we don't have time to argue about this right now. Come on!"

The stubborn woman broke the grip Janeway had on her hand. "I will do as I please. You are no longer my Captain."

Peering around the young woman, Janeway kept her eye out for any drones. Thankfully none were present in their corridor, but she knew that wouldn't hold true for long.

Janeway tried hard to ignore the biting words. "We have to put some distance between us and the Queen's lair if we want to escape. She has a dispersal field that Voyager's transporters cannot penetrate. You know that, so why are you resisting?!"

Kathryn walked right up to the perturbed former Borg. "Are you purposely trying to get us killed?!”

Acting oddly aloof, Seven could only stare at her former Captain. "No."

“Then what? Do you want to be assimilated Seven!?" Janeway demanded.

“No!” Seven stated loudly despite appearing lost in conflicting emotions.

"I can't imagine what I must have done to make you this angry that you wouldn't trust me anymore, but try to understand I'm just trying to save our lives!"

Just then two Borg drones entered their junction. Janeway swirled around as she heard the familiar clank of their metallic feet on the floor plating.

"Damn!" Janeway spat. "We have to go, NOW!"

"I agree," Seven stated evenly apparently coming to her senses about the situation. Turning, they went in the opposite direction managing to get two corridors farther before six more drones blocked their path.

Stopping abruptly, Janeway shook her head grimly. "We're trapped."

"I will get us past them," Speaking with resolve, Seven moved passed her companion to engage them, but Janeway grabbed her arm from behind.

"No Seven... "

The blonde looked to Janeway, confounded. “We must fight!” She protested.

"There's too many of them. The Queen is going to assimilate us. It's just a matter of time."

“Captain?!” Seven could not believe her ears. Since when did Janeway admit defeat?

Janeway stared avidly back at her charge, desperation in her eyes. "There's something I must do before that happens." Janeway took in a deep breath. "And I hope you'll forgive me for being so bold."

Confused and shaken, Seven looked down at the small hand she felt covering her mesh appendage. She half heard the words, but had no time to consider the meaning. When she lifted her face again, warm thin lips and a small compact form were firmly pressed up against her.

Without permission, Janeway gently tasted of the plump red lips before her until she felt them literally dissolve underneath her.

For a split second, Kathryn had known a profound peace and experienced a rare pleasure until the sensual contact of their lips touching vanished only to be replaced by emptiness.

"Seven?"

The blonde was gone.

 

*****

 

The Federation Starship, USS Voyager closely followed the Queen's vessel with its two allies not far behind. All three ships were pelting the armor plated cube with photon torpedoes.

"I've got Seven!" Harry exclaimed.

"Their shield generator is back up." Tuvok stated.

"I can't get a lock on the Captain while their shields are up." Harry announced.

"Keep firing!" Chakotay demanded as Seven materialized on the bridge. Swirling around with a grimace on her face, she spotted the individual responsible for her sudden extrication and moved aggressively to stand before him.

"Send me back!" She shouted at the Commander.

He didn't appreciate how ungrateful she was. "I can't, it was a miracle we got you out in the first place."

"You mean you won't!"

"He's right Seven," The EMH spoke up. "If we do you could die… assuming the Queen has you linked to her like the last time. She does, doesn't she?"

"Irrelevant, the Captain will die if I do not return."

"She might die anyway." Chakotay blurted out.

"Unacceptable."

"Can you get a lock Harry!" He shouted over his shoulder.

"No, and they’ve initiated a scattering field. I'm having trouble just locating her bio signature. There's just too much interference." He said frustrated.

"You will send me back!" Seven demanded.

Tuvok took the opportunity to clarify what Seven didn't understand. "We are about to release a fatal pathogen into the Borg vessel. It would not be wise for you to be onboard when that occurs."

"I accept my fate… " Seven stated clearly. "but I cannot accept this… not for her."

Chakotay eyed Seven. Could it be possible, the young inexperienced woman felt something beyond friendship for the Captain?

"I'm detecting dozens of Borg cubes coming our way and fast.” Harry shouted.

“The Grefahl have withdrawn,” Tuvok spoke up. “And the Kazarr are hailing us."

"Put it through."

"Commander Chakotay, have you retrieved your crewmen? These Borg are formidable and I'm detecting more on the way. We must leave now!”

"I can't. My Captain is still onboard that cube and I'm not leaving without her."

"We've taken heavy damage. If we stay we won't survive. How will that help your Captain?" Trezlar questioned.

"Go, I appreciate the assistance you've given us, but this isn't your battle any more… "

"You're a brave species Commander, good luck." He commented before closing the channel.

Now that he was finished, Seven continued her tirade. "When I left several Borg drones were advancing on the Captain's position. There's a possibility… that." She had difficulty finishing the horrid thought.

"We're probably already too late,” he softened his tone.

Harry watched his console readings as the Kazarr joined the Grefahl in retreat. Then with fear constricting his throat, he witnessed two dozen Borg vessels drop out of transwarp and stop to hold position near Voyager. All were spread out over a radius of five kilometers, surrounding the small Intrepid class vessel.

"Tom, full stop."

Mr. Paris brought the ship to a halt. He had been busy utilizing every flight trick he knew in evading the Queen's fire and was for the most part successful… until now. There was no way Voyager could evade and fight so many vessels and survive.

"Tuvok, Hail the Queen's vessel." Chakotay ordered quietly.

"She's responding." Harry spoke startled.

"Put it through Mr. Kim."

When the image came into focus, Chakotay saw the Borg Queen standing proudly next to a disheveled Janeway who was being subdued by two drones.

"I am willing to negotiate for my Captain’s safe return," he offered.

"The Borg do not negotiate Commander. We take what we want."

"We have tri-cobalt devices." He tried to intimidate her. "And I'm prepared to use them, if necessary."

"Yes," the Queen drawled out with disdain. "I have seen its effect. Very impressive, you cost me fifteen tactical vessels. However, you only have one ship to lose and I have many. Therefore, I suggest you surrender to the inevitable."

"I have an infectious pathogen that kills Borg." Chakotay threatened.

The Queen looked upon him unfazed. "There is no such biological weapon."

"You don't recall one of your vessels succumbing to a rare biological abnormality last year? Perhaps you haven't heard of a young man, named Icheb who was assimilated by that vessel?"

The Queen no longer appeared as confident as the Collective informed her of the validity of Chakotay's statements. Once again she underestimated the humans, much to her dissatisfaction.

"These are my terms. I want Seven of Nine. You can have your Captain in exchange, then we will be on my way."

"Don't listen to her Commander. Get Voyager out of here--harrumph!"

“Be silent!” The Queen was at her patience's end. Wordlessly, a command was sent to the Borg drone to cover Captain's Janeway's mouth.

"And if I refuse?" Chakotay glared at her, appearing non committal.

"Look around you. You are surrounded. If you release the neurolytic pathogen, I will assimilate your Captain and destroy Voyager before my cubes are totally disabled. Our mutual annihilation is assured."

"You're forgetting the transwarp hub. The pathogen will destroy that too, even from here… Your access to the Alpha Quadrant or anywhere else for that matter would be severely limited wouldn't it?" Chakotay was stalling for time.

The Queen's silver tipped eyes gleamed through the viewscreen, assessing the potential threat of his words.

"I agree. You could do a considerable amount of damage, but you won't. This standoff won't end without heavy casualties on both sides Commander, also resulting in your Captain’s death and I know you don’t want that. With my offer, she will live… and I will let your ship go." For now…

Witnessing Seven’s look of disgust towards her made the Queen almost smile. "You are still connected to me child and you are not immune to the Pathogen either…” The cold thoughts reached Seven's mind. I suggest you convince your Commander to accept my more than generous offer… unless you would rather watch your Captain die."

Blanching at the prospect, Seven knew was she had to do. The blonde touched Chakotay’s forearm gently. “Please agree to her terms,” She entreated.

Chakotay glowered at her. "Do you know what you’re asking me?!" Would Kathryn ever forgive me?

“I am doing this for the Captain.” Seven retorted quietly.

Fuming inside, but hoping she had a plan, Chakotay reluctantly nodded. “I agree to your terms.”

“I need time to say goodbye to my colleagues.” Seven demanded to the Queen.

"Very well, you have two minutes."

After the Queen ended the communiqué, Chakotay addressed Seven. “I hope you have a good plan.”

"It is quite simple. I will exchange myself for the Captain."

"You can't be serious!" The EMH objected, not wanting to see Seven risk her life again. "We can't use the pathogen then!"

"You must," Seven stipulated.

"You'll be killed. How is that a solution?"

"The alternative is unacceptable. You do not realize that the Queen plans to invade the Alpha Quadrant with her entire fleet of Borg vessels. The transwarp hub contains an exit aperture only one light year from Earth. Your world would not survive."

"Then we will destroy it." Chakotay countered.

"It is unlikely you will destroy all of it, but you will destroy Voyager and that is not necessary, when I will go. That will give you time to escape with the Captain, but we must hurry."

He knew he had only two options and both were not ideal. Only one choice could be made, he only hoped Kathryn could forgive him for this… someday. Realizing the sacrifice, Seven was making for them, Chakotay lightened his voice. "What do you have in mind?"

"Doctor, I need a concentrated sample of the pathogen before I transport to the Borg cube.”

"This is insane!" The Doctor spat as he came down to the lower level. "You'll die."

“Irrelevant!” Seven spat. “We must hurry. The Queen will become aware of my plan in mere minutes.”

Seven turned to Chakotay. “I’m going to transporter room one. Demand a simultaneous transport with the Captain so the Borg Queen cannot go back on her word."

Feeling the weight of his command decision squarely on his shoulders, the Commander nodded.

 


Continued on page 4 >>>

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