by E. L. Zimmerman
Realizing that he had to shout in order to be heard over the frenzy the Voyager crew was making, Chakotay demanded, "We're not going anywhere until we have some questions answered!"
For the past twenty minutes, Borg drones had busily escorted ensigns after lieutenants after lieutenant commanders out of the starship, herding them like cattle into a containment area in the Spaceport bay. There, the crew waited, surrounded by the cybernetic sentries. Rain poured down on them through the open ceiling, and Chakotay noticed that, despite the shelter that the landed Voyager offered, his shipmates were getting drenched. Angrily, he looked up at the Spaceport commander, a Borg named Grayson, who had finally begun issuing what appeared to be new duty assignments for the entire crew.
That's when the revolt began.
"Your captain has sworn her allegiance to the One," Grayson emphatically explained to Chakotay. "A Federation captain speaks for her crew."
"That's correct," the commander agreed, "but -"
"Then negotiation is irrelevant," Grayson reasoned.
Gritting his teeth, Chakotay spat, "I’ve grown very tired with hearing what is and what isn’t relevant!"
Almost sniffing at his opponent, the Borg said, "Your fatigue is irrelevant. You and your crew will be inducted into Lemm Society."
Frustrated, Chakotay placed a hand on his face and wiped the rainwater away. "Look, Grayson, I’m not trying to be difficult here."
"That is commendable."
"We’re cold," the commander pressed, glancing back quickly at the crew gathered behind him. "We’re tired. Most of all, we’re soaking wet." He held out a hand as if asking for the Borg to shake it. "If you could give me something ... some piece of information on the whereabouts of Captain Janeway -"
"Your captain is presently being inducted into the Quorum of the One," Grayson offered. "That information is sufficient for you and your crew."
"Quorum of the One?" Chakotay continued, ignoring the fresh water trickling down his tight face. "What is that? Who is this One you speak of?"
"The One rules Besaria."
"This?" Chakotay asked, fussily pointing at the ground. "This entire planet? Are you kidding me? Look, when we entered orbit, I did a quick sensor scan. There’s only a single city on the entire planet. Are you telling me this is the expanse of his Foundation?" Lifting his hand and waving at the Spaceport, he added, "And this? This facility? You call this a Spaceport? It doesn't even have a roof!"
Grayson considered the Voyager’s first officer for several long seconds. "Your opinion is irrelevant."
"Yes, that’s no surprise," he barked. Trying a different approach, the commander said, "And since when do the Borg follow the directions of anyone other than the Borg Queen?"
The Spaceport head suddenly glared at Chakotay. For a brief moment, it appeared as if he were going to strike the man. Then, calming, Grayson’s face lost all expression, and he stated, "This conversation is irrelevant."
Gesturing toward the nearby sentries, Grayson ordered the Borg to move in on the Voyager’s crew. Whirling, Chakotay watched as the cybernetic army tried to corral his shipmates into a single line.
"Your induction into the Lemm shall begin immediately."
"Fine!" Chakotay shouting, resigning himself to what appeared the inevitable, turning back to Commander Grayson. "But, if you please … from one officer to another … give me your word that Captain Janeway is in no danger."
"You are no longer an officer," the Borg reasoned.
Staring intently at him, Chakotay emphasized, "You understand exactly what I’m asking."
Silently, Grayson stared straight ahead. He observed the Voyager crew and his sentries instead of making eye contact with Chakotay's irritated glare.
Eventually, the Borg said, "That is up to Ambassador Janeway."
"She is currently being inducted -"
"Yes, yes," Chakotay muttered. "Inducted into the Quorum of the One!" He backed away, the compunction to take a wayward swing at the obstinate drone nearly overwhelming him, but now wasn’t the time for an insurrection. "Yes! Thank you! Thank you very much, Grayson! You're a wealth of information!"
Over his shoulder, the first officer heard the sounds of a scuffle.
Quickly, he turned around in the knick of time to witness a Borg slam into the Spaceport floor hard, the drone’s limbs dropping to the surface. Yellow and blue sparks erupted viciously from the fallen sentry’s chest plates. Involuntarily, the body twitched for several seconds under the pouring rain – reminding Chakotay of one of his tribal childhood fairy tales involving a helpless tortoise on its back.
Over the fallen Borg stood B'Elanna Torres, her fist feverishly gripping several Borg control wires, her face contorted with Klingon fury.
"I said," she screamed, lifting her head in defiance, "for you to keep your filthy Borg hands off me!"
Quickly, Chakotay took off in a run in her direction. "B'Elanna!" he shouted, waving at the angry engineer. "Stand down! Stand down!"
Immediately, three Borg drones closed on the position as the Voyager’s first officer reached her.
Snapping her head in the direction of her commanding officer, she cried, "What did you expect, Chakotay? The Borg wouldn’t keep his hands off me!"
Stopping in front of her, he glanced down at the fallen Borg. Unsure of what course of action best, he sighed heavily. "Well, I guess someone's feeling better." Smirking, he then locked his eyes with her. "And, by the looks of it, someone's feeling a lot worse."
"Don't let them fool you, commander," she spat, calmed slightly by the closeness of her superior. "The Borg don't feel a thing."
Cautiously nearing her shipmates, Seven of Nine stepped through the gathered crew. She looked down at the fallen drone, and then she met the half-Klingon engineer’s eyes. "Your assessment is not entirely accurate."
Directing a vicious stare at her, B'Elanna grimaced. The two women exchanged fevered glances for a long time, neither one of them daring to speak a single word for fear of sparking the powder keg.
"However," Seven eventually conceded, turning her attention to the commander, "I am willing to accept B’Elanna’s hypothesis as a work-in-progress."
The closing Borg raised their prosthetics. Immediately, blades whirred to life, and their piercing cry cut the silence that had overtaken the group. Chakotay whirled around, positioning B'Elanna and Seven behind him, stepping away from the injured drone.
"Commander," the chief engineer shot, "in case you hadn't noticed, I can take care of myself!"
"Obviously," Chakotay reasoned, "but that Klingon attitude might get more than you killed, and that’s a risk we can’t afford right now, B’Elanna. If we stand a chance against this Foundation, I need every member of this crew following the orders of our captors. You’d better get that into your head before one of these drones slices you like butter!" Turning his head, trying to regain control of the situation, he yelled, "Grayson, what's going on here?"
The Spaceport Commander approached the scene where the altercation had occurred. "B'Elanna Torres is to be punished."
"How do you know my name?" she asked.
"I maintain the crew roster," Grayson explained, holding up one of Voyager’s PADDs. "I’ve recorded the names and completed service records of your shipmates into my individual memory cortex."
"Individual?" she spat. "Since when have the Borg done anything individually?"
"B'Elanna! That's enough!" Chakotay ordered.
"Or what?" she asked. "Are you going to throw me in the brig? In case you hadn't noticed, we aren’t the ones with a brig any more! They are!"
"Besaria maintains no prison facility," Grayson simply explained.
"What do you mean?" Chakotay asked. "If B'Elanna's to be punished, what are you going to do besides lock her away in a detention cell?"
"Besaria maintains no prison facility," Grayson repeated. "The rule of law is simple."
"The all shall serve the One, right?" Chakotay asked.
"Those who resist are exterminated."
Suddenly, Chakotay felt B’Elanna’s hand on his back. He couldn’t be sure without looking into her eyes, but he believed that she was abruptly caught off guard by Grayson’s statement. He trusted that she was frightened … as much as her Klingon temper would allow.
"So, you and these other drones might follow the beat of a different drummer," B'Elanna challenged openly, "but resistance is still futile? Is that it?"
"B'Elanna Torres resisted," Grayson concluded. "She is to be exterminated."
"No," Chakotay challenged simply.
"The decision is not yours."
"Grayson," the first officer pleaded, "give us a chance!"
"You are no longer in charge of this crew on Besaria."
"We don't know a thing about your civilization or your rules!" the first officer argued, sweeping B’Elanna and Seven further backward as he retreated even more. "You said we were to become Lemms -"
"You are trying to divert my attention."
"I'm asking you to be reasonable," Chakotay countered the lead drone. "What B’Elanna did may’ve been wrong, but she didn’t know your law. None of us do. How can you hold her responsible under those circumstances?" He stopped, and he realized the only sound filling his ears was the patter of the constant rain. "Be reasonable, Commander Grayson. That's all I'm asking."
As Grayson grew quiet, the Borg drones slowly lowered their prosthetics.
"B'Elanna Torres," Grayson finally began, looking past the Voyager’s first officer into the deep brown eyes of the half-Klingon engineer, "will you of your own accord accept induction into Lemm Society without further incident?"
Before she could spit her intended reply, Chakotay turned his head and muttered, "Pardon my language, lieutenant, but you know damn well what your answer had better be."
The group stood silent for several moments. In the respective Borg and Voyager crews, not a single person dared to move.
Staring Grayson in the eye, B'Elanna cracked.
"I will serve the One."
"Thank you," Chakotay whispered.
"Don't thank me," B'Elanna shot back. "I was only following your order."
"I understand Species 5618," he said. "I am a former member."
"What?" Chakotay asked incredulously. "You mean ... you're human?"
Again, Grayson bobbed his head once. "I formerly belong to species designation 5618. I understand the natural inclination to defy servitude. I am not without mercy."
"You were assimilated?"
"I served the Collective briefly."
"Briefly?" Chakotay inquired. "What happened?"
'A Borg?!' Chakotay mused. 'Smiling?! This can't be happening!'
"This conversation is irrelevant," Grayson concluded flatly.
"But if you're human, why haven't you defied servitude?"
Ignoring the inquiry, the Spaceport Commander turned to face the entire Voyager crew gathered before him. Formally, he took a single step forward, positioning himself where he calculated that he would be visible by all members. "The Lemm Society is the worker class of the Besarian Foundation. You will be inducted into the Lemm. You shall serve the One."
Quietly, Chakotay nodded. Shouting so that the crew could hear, he agreed, "Anything, so long as it keeps us alive … and just as long as you're not assimilating us."
"Assimilation is unnecessary," Grayson replied. "It is time for the demonstration."
Mechanically, Grayson turned and walked several paces away from the crew.
Except for Chakotay, B'Elanna, and Seven, the crew had been lined up, single file, near the base of the dry-landed Voyager. Grayson turned again and faced them.
Again, he smiled.
"Crew of the Voyager," he proclaimed loud enough to be heard over the pouring rain, "I welcome you to Besaria. This will be your only greeting. This will be your only explanation. Besaria City is the only habitat on the planet. This is the only spaceport in use. All others have been destroyed. Here, you shall serve the One. You are to be inducted into Lemm Society. You will be given positions of servitude according to your skills and your knowledge.
"So long as she proves fit," Grayson continued, "Kathryn Janeway will serve as your ambassador to the Quorum of the One. She will provide assistance to His Highness in the ruling this planet. For purposes of safety, the Quorum of the One is forbidden to interact with Lemm Society. They interact only with the Borg Army and His Highness. You will not see Ambassador Janeway again.
"The all shall serve the One. This is the only law of Besaria. As you now know, those who fail to serve the One will be exterminated for failure to obey the law. Your understanding is irrelevant. Your compliance is not optional."
The Voyager crew maintained a solemn silence.
"There is no escape from Besaria," Grayson began again. "Escape from this planet is impossible as it is secured with a planetary shield. His Highness, the One, retains exclusive operational control over the shield. I will now demonstrate the effectiveness of his defensive system."
Raising his human hand and letting it fall, Grayson signaled another Borg sentry standing before an independent Spaceport console. Glancing down at the controls before him, the sentry activated several switches on one panel. Complete, he lifted his head and nodded at the Spaceport Commander.
"Observe overhead," Grayson ordered.
Suddenly, Chakotay heard what sounded like a distant explosion. Through the opening in the Spaceport ceiling, he watched the fiery exhaust trail of a rocket spiraling into the dark heavens. The rocket gradually split the darkness, reaching higher and higher into the planet’s atmosphere. The flame of its engines burned brightly in its wake. It climbed higher and higher into the sky, approaching a blue haze occasionally flickering within the expansive storm clouds. At first, Chakotay had guessed the effect to be little more than high atmospheric lightning, an event common to some M Class planets. Now, he understood how wrong he had been.
"The planetary shield," he muttered to himself.
Slamming into the flickering blew, the rocket exploded. The collision produced a brief, intense ball of flame. Vanishing gradually, pieces of the missile rained in all directions, some scraping along the underside of the planetary shield, some succumbing to gravity and falling back to Besaria. Eradicated from existence, piece by fragile piece, the only thing burning in the night sky were fragile, sparkling embers, slowly extinguished by the dirty rain.
"The demonstration is concluded," Grayson broke the silence of the group before him.
Turning, Chakotay glanced down the line of Voyager shipmates. He noticed that their faces – all of them – were sullen.
"You will now be granted positions of servitude."
Remarking to B'Elanna and Seven, Chakotay mused aloud, "I don't know about the two of you, but I certainly hope that Captain Janeway is faring better than we are."