by E. L. Zimmerman
Ambassador Janeway opened her eyes to blackness.
Slowly, one by one, she saw the pinpricks of brilliant white light twinkling at her. They broke through, distant stars sprinkled throughout the maw of nothingness she beheld. As she watched, the stars split, like cells under a microscope, and where there was once one, two stars burned. They were multiplying, she realized. They grew in number slowly at first and, then, exponentially. As she watched groggily, a massive starfield emerged before her. After several moments, the field started to spin, increasing in speed, stretching wider and wider with every revolution. Unexpectedly, the stars exploded in a blinding flash, and she awoke, fully aware of the single, spherical fluorescent blazing down on her ...
Her right arm heavy as if strapped to the antigravity sled, she lifted her left hand and ran it across her bare thigh, up to her tummy, and beyond, to be certain.
'I'm ... naked?'
Breathing softly, allowing the dizziness to seep from her consciousness, she reached out with her mind for sensations. She found a faint, damp breeze blowing across her. She didnít have to see it to know that there must be an open window somewhere nearby. Next, she heard the rumble of distant thunder, and she felt the tremble of natureís wrath in her bones. Gradually, the sleepiness faded, eroded, leaving her with a dull ache on the right side of her body.
"Lights," she commanded, "off."
She raised her left hand to shield her eyes, but the illuminator remained unchanged.
"Lights," she tried again, her tone firm, "off!"
Then, she remembered she wasn't aboard Voyager. Images of Besaria, the Borg, the Quorum, and the One flooded into her mindís eye, and she gasped.
Cautiously, she tried to sit up but felt ... uneven?
Her right side was heavy.
"Lights!" she screamed. "Lights! Lights!"
She heard a doorway whisk open, and she turned to see Commander Cole enter the room.
"Ambassador," he said.
"Get that light off me, Cole," she ordered. "Now!"
Quickly, the light extinguished.
Her eyes adjusting to the darkness, Janeway warily reached over and felt her right arm ...
Ö or what was left of it.
A Borg prosthetic had been fitted atop her human skin!
"The all shall -"
"Stop with your brainwashed nonsense!" she demanded, barked directly at Cole, her heart racing. Hastily, she rose from the bed, nearly falling to the floor due to the unexpected weight differential. In the knick of time, she caught herself on the biobed that the operation had been conducted upon, and, pushing, she righted herself, swinging the prosthetic out and allowing it to slam into her body.
"You should relax, ambassador," she heard.
Ignoring the advice and realizing that she truly was naked from head to toe, she quickly found her balance, planting her feet solid on the cold stone floor. When she trusted she was safe from toppling over, she used her remaining human hand and pulled the sheet from the medical table, wrapping it haphazardly around her torso.
"You should relax, ambassador," she heard again. "The effects of the sedatives take several hours to fully wear -"
Slapping the Borg prosthetic, she faced Cole and shouted, "I demand that you remove this from my body at once!"
"Servitude in the Quorum requires it," the Borg explained matter-of-factly.
"No!" she screamed at the drone, who, to her surprise, was cautiously backing away toward the exit. Realizing she had the advantage, she took a step toward him. "No! I never agreed to this! Youíve Ö violated me! I want this thing off me, Cole, and I want it removed now! Right now!"
Flustered, Cole's human eye fluttered right to left. "You must relax, ambassador," was his only reply. "The effects of the sedative -"
Surprised, she noticed that he was actually shuffling his feet. Her outburst had confused him, and he was uncertain as to any other course of action save repeating his request for her to calm down.
"Cole," she pressed, "what are you going to do?"
"I ... lack the programming."
While she had him unsettled, she intended to keep him that way. "Then you get a drone in here who doesn't lack the programming!"
Cole considered her request for several seconds, his eyes and feet nervously wavering. Finally, he announced, "The Bushara-Lemm have the requisite training in Borg prosthetics -"
"I don't care who does!" she screamed. "I told you that I want it off, and you had better think about complying with my request, or you alone will suffer the consequences of one angry ambassador to the Quorum!"
"The Lemm will require a decree from the One," Cole interrupted.
Closing her eyes, Kathryn forced herself to breathe deeply.
'Don't panic,' she told herself, a mental focusing technique she had learned from BíElanna Torres. ĎDonít panic.í She reached deep inside herself and, slowly, found an inner peace, and she wrapped her imaginary arms around it. Forcing breaths one by one, she calmed, slowly. 'He's only doing his job,' she told herself over and over again. 'He's only doing his job.'
Finally, she realized what she had to do.
"I demand to see the One."
Taking another step backward, Cole explained, "His Highness is in chambers with the Quorum."
Stepping forward, teetering all the way over to her mortal enemy, Janeway pressed her face close to his. "Cole, I don't care if heís sleeping off a three-day hangover! I demand to see him! Now!"
Still visibly struggling, Cole rocked back and forth very slightly. "Ambassador, the One is in chambers with -"
"Fine," she deliberately surrendered the argument.
'He's only doing his job.'
Gesturing where her flesh and blood right arm once was, she asked, "Does the addition of this Borg prosthetic not make it perfectly clear to you that I am a member to the Quorum of the One?"
Cole struggled to maintain his emotionless Borg composure. Confused, he glanced at the floor. "You are correct."
She knew she had him.
"As a member of the Quorum," she pressed, "do I not have jurisdiction over the Borg Army in matters of the state?"
Failing, Cole stuttered, "The One is the commander-in-chief."
She had him.
She knew it.
He looked like a drone on the outside, but, on the inside, whatever steps the One had taken to sever his ties to the Collective had somehow suppressed his Borg programming as well. He was showing emotion, and, so long as she could keep him in that state of mind, she could best him in any exchange of wills.
Coldly, deliberately stressing each word, she asked, "Then do I lack simple jurisdiction over the sentry who has apparently been assigned my attaché?"
Again, Coleís lone visible eye jittered back and forth.
'He's trying to reason his way out of this,' Janeway told herself, 'but he's not going to. The Borg don't reason. They follow orders. Precisely.'
Finally, he answered, "You are correct."
Pulling the sheet around her more tightly, she demanded, "Then you are taking me to see the One."
With more coldness than she had ever imagined herself capable of summoning, she added, "Now."