by E. L. Zimmerman
Marching in step with his prisoner, Commander Grayson queried, "Do you require conversation?"
Granting no indication of her inner disdain for this world or its Borg Army or its Lemm Society, Seven of Nine stared in the direction of the building she approached. "The Borg have been programmed to understand that conversation is irrelevant."
"You are only part Borg."
She pursed her lips as she flashed him an intense glare, giving in to her emotions in a moment not so much of weakness as it was enlightenment. "I require no such dialogue from you."
"You refuse to use my rank," he observed.
"As I understand from my release, I do not report to you."
"You have been among Species 5618 for some time," the commander pressed.
"Your point?" she asked.
"It has been my experience that Humans require conversation."
"I do not."
Another morning had come to Besaria, but Seven knew it only by her internal chronometer. The sky was as dark as ever, and rain was falling heavily on her and the drone as they marched onward. They reached the squat building, and Grayson gestured at her to pass through the sliding opaque doors into the Besarian Sciences Complex. Together, they brushed efficiently past the various Lemm scurrying about to arrive at their respective workstations on time. As of late, Grayson noted that the Sciences Complex had been assigned more and more Lemm. He made a mental note to speak with Cytal on the dangers of allocating so many intelligent and industrious Lemms to one facility.
Furtively, Grayson glanced about the massive foyer. Despite the crowd, he eventually found who he was looking for, and he dragged Seven through the throng of bustling Lemm over to where the duty officer stood, busily reading from an info-LINK.
"O’NEK!" the Borg commander howled.
Startled out of his senses, O’Nek jumped, juggling the LINK he had inadvertently tossed into the air. Seven watched as it bounced from his right hand to his left, off his fingertips and his forearms, until he finally snatched it out of the air … with his teeth. Taking the unit out of his mouth, composing himself, he replied excitedly, "Greetings, Commander Grayson! To what do I owe the humble privilege?"
"The Borg Army has exhausted our interrogation of this Voyager-Lemm," the officer announced, purposefully sounding disappointed. "She has been most uncooperative. I seek your assurance that she will be assigned to a position of tremendous monotony."
"Interrogation?" O’Nek asked, lowering the LINK and leaning close for a better look at Seven. Reaching up, he lowered something that reminded her of human eyeglasses from his ridged nose, and he sniffed the air around her. "Commander, this is most surprising! Since when have the Borg begun interrogating new Lemm?"
Grayson whirled on the Gallenian. "SINCE WHEN HAVE LEMMS BEGUN INTERROGATING A BORG OFFICER ON PROCEDURE?!"
"My apologies, commander, apologies!" O’Nek offered, dropping the LINK this time, trembling, lowering his head to the Borg. "I intended no offense to you or your officers -"
Frustrated, Grayson reached out and slapped O’Nek on the forehead.
Teetering, the frail Gallenian would’ve toppled backward if Seven hadn’t reached out and grabbed one of his flailing red arms.
"She has proven useless to our needs," Grayson continued, unabated by his own actions or those of Seven of Nine.
"I understand, sir," the Lemm sputtered, righting himself, smiling at Seven. "I understand completely."
"His Highness had confirmed her assignment to your division of the Besaria Sciences unit."
"Another Voyager-Lemm?" O'Nek asked. He acted as if he had completely forgotten about the assault.
"Another?" Seven asked.
"Yes," the alien replied. "A Miss B’Elanna Torres is currently assigned to this division, under supervision of Borg Commander Krynn." The Gallenian turned back to the drone. "I have to say, sir, that His Highness, the One, has been most gracious in sharing his latest bounty with the Sciences Complex."
Again, his contempt as plain as the dark sky, Grayson spat, "They are scientists. That is all. There is not an adventurer among them."
O’Nek ignored the observation. "I thank you, commander. As you know, I always welcome another generous mind to our growing intellect."
"The all shall serve the One," Grayson droned.
"Without hesitation," O’Nek intoned happily.
His task complete, Grayson turned abruptly from the group and exited the building.
Pointing, smiling, O'Nek studied her, leaning close and sniffing the air around her once more. "You're human, eh?"
It was a question with an answer so obvious that Seven was uncertain as to a response. She briefly considered how to respond to the red-skinned Gallenian.
"You are correct," she said.
"How do you like Besaria?"
"I find your inclement weather alarming," she confessed, glancing around at the sciences facility. "I find your spaceport insufficient, incalculably dangerous, and generally incapacitated. I find your Borg drones unfit for service in any army." She turned back to her host. "However, I do find the overall lack of décor throughout the city highly efficient and visually refreshing."
O’Nek glanced about cautiously to see if anyone had taken notice of her remarks. "I wouldn't say too loudly around any of the Trakill," he advised with a grin and a bob of his head. "It might just get you scrapped."
"Ah," he concluded, searching for a moment, "dead?"
Nodding, she replied, acknowledging the danger. "Understood."
"What's your name?"
"That is correct."
"But ... that's a number, isn't it?"
"It is," she concurred. "It is prime. Among certain Earth cultures, prime numbers have been the foundation of detecting intelligence in other species, and they have as well been long considered a source of … luck … in scientific or gaming circles. ‘Seven’ also happens to be my name."
"And you are human?"
Sighing, O'Nek replied, "Humans have proven useless to Gallenian science." He shuffled his computer LINK amongst several others he had suddenly pulled from a waistline satchel he wore slung over his shoulder. "No insult intended, Miss … Seven," the Gallenian-Lemm offered. He turned, exhaustedly dropping all of his LINKs into his satchel. He gestured for her to follow.
"I was once Borg."
"You have my condolences," the Lemm replied, smiling.
Together, the two of them walked deeper into the busy complex. Lemms were hustling about, moving from one blinking console to the next, clearly with some purpose in mind, but Seven couldn’t fathom what it could possibly be.
"It has been my experience," O’Nek began, "that the human brain is too feeble, too limited in its capacity to understand the physical, the metaphysical, and the multidimensional constants of time and space. Elementary equations are a source of mental constipation. Humans just don’t grasp the intricacies of the One's science." He held up a hand. "Again, Miss Seven, I mean you no particular insult. I am merely stating what I have observed. Accordingly, I’ll warn you that I won’t be expecting much."
Uncharacteristically, she rolled her eyes.
"May I ask your function?" Seven tried.
"I am O'Nek," he explained, "and don’t confuse me with a commander here! My job is to provide Lemms with duty assignments. I wander. I observe. I ensure that all are completing a fair day’s work. So long as you do your job, I offer you my personal guarantee that you won’t hear a cross word out of me." Showing her a quick grin, he added, "I make no such guarantees for the errant Borg assigned to the Sciences Complex. They’re a bit … overbearing, at times."
"Mr. O'Nek, I will endeavor to function ... superlatively."
The Gallenian found his smile as they walked together. "Then, we will find you a task that grants you the opportunity to do so, Miss Seven. Come along."
Side by side, they walked through an archway and entered a very high-ceilinged antechamber, one brightly illuminated with a long wall, stretching from floor to roof, showing literally hundreds of viewscreens. Walkways stretched all the way to the ceiling, granting access so that science experts, mostly Gallenian-Lemms, stationed each viewscreen. Closely, they guarded their respective monitors. Each flickering image focused on a piece of engineering or a sector of the city or a glimpse of the atmosphere high above the buildings ... all pieces to a larger puzzle that was the planet Besaria.
"This is Observation Prime," O'Nek said, pointing at the massive bank of monitors. "There are fourteen such rooms in this building alone. High Highness, the One, requires that the Generatrix and all collateral defense systems are under constant surveillance."
"Around the clock?" she asked.
He nodded. "The application of his science is ... quite fragile ... if left untended."
Stepping forward, she studied the monitors. On one screen, Seven immediately recognized a Frenetta Power Coupling System.
"The Frenetta," she mused aloud, pointing at the display. "Species 1294. Their weaponry was formidable."
"Frenetta?" he asked, surprised. "Human, how do you know of the Frenetta?"
"I am, at present, human," she answered, hands behind her back. "As I said, I was formerly Borg … a member of the Collective. Consequently, I have retained much of the knowledge I accumulated as a drone."
He visibly stumbled. "You are Borg?"
"Correction," she stated, flatly. "I was Borg."
On another screen, she recognized an energy amplification module. "The Beklemanomen," she affirmed, pointing. "Species 7158." He watched as she smirked. "They thought very highly of their technologies, thought it would protect them against assimilation." Simply, she added, "They were wrong." Quietly, she turned to her guide. "Tell me: are each of these species represented here on Besaria?"
O'Nek shook his triangular head. "No, Miss Seven -"
"Please," she interrupted. "Just ... Seven."
"The salutation is unnecessary," she explained, "and unnerving."
"I’m sorry," he replied. Clearing his throat, he continued. "No, these species are not represented here. From what I understand, they reside in a sector of space extremely far from here, one that would take dozens of light years to locate."
Curious, Seven furrowed her eyebrow.
"Then might I ask how you have acquired their technology?"
O’Nek grinned, and Seven noticed that Gallenians had a mouthful of pointed teeth. "Compliments of the One," he admitted. "The all serve the One, you know." Glancing about to ensure his privacy, he whispered, "Gibberish, if you ask me, but no one does. Nor do they care. We’re fed. We’re clothed. We’re housed. What more could we require?"
"Freedom?" she asked. "But, such a proposition, I would imagine, might get you scrapped."
He pointed at her. "Now, you’re learning."
She walked the length of the room, examining each of the images on the consoles as she went. Reaching the end, she pivoted and returned to him. "Most if not all of the devices displayed on these monitors appear to be constructed of common equipment readily available to this region of space. However, the associated technology these screens represent is indigenous to species that reside in stellar quadrants very distant from Besaria. Is this correct?"
Laughing, O'Nek slapped himself on the knee. "Well, Seven, we might just have a place for you in our sciences unit after all!"
"Answer my question," she implored emotionlessly.
Taken back, he grimaced. Adjusting his satchel, he said, "Yes, that's correct." He followed her course down the wall, gesturing to the monitors as he walked. "Omecckian Injectors. T'Lendata Engine Matrices. Ridaru Manifolds. Beklemanomen Amplification Modules. Starrlact Turbines. Frenetta Coupling Systems. As you can see, there are hundreds more … and none of those species are represented on Besaria. But their technology is."
"How is this possible?"
Again, he smiled, nodding indifferently. "Like I said. It’s all compliments of the One."
Curious, she gawked at the Lemm for a moment. "Are you saying that the One has traveled to distant regions of space?"
Confused, O'Nek considered his answer.
"That's the question that’ll draw the attention of the Borg Army, if you’re not careful, Seven. To my knowledge, the answer is no. The One has only been here … on the planet. Who knows? He may have done so before he settled here, in Besaria City, where he began his Foundation."
Again, Seven studied the monitors.
"Something here is amiss," she finally announced.
"Seven," O'Nek tried, stepping closer to her, lowering his voice to a whisper, "this entire planet is amiss. However, what would you say if I told you that I – and some of my friends, Gallenian and otherwise – have concocted a little side project … one that we would be interested in having someone with that Borg brain of yours take a look at?"
Unfazed, she stared at him. "I am listening."
Casually, he slipped his arm around her shoulders and leaned in close.
"A graviton hyperspace probe," he whispered.
She arched an eyebrow. "Explain."
He held out his flattened free hand and gradually arched it toward the ceiling. "Let’s just say that we have this theory. It goes something like this. We amplify graviton particles, and the probe achieves escape velocity by launching itself into its own wholly-created wormhole."
Seven considered the prospects. "For what purpose?"
"We're planning on escaping Besaria. The only way to bypass the One’s planetary shielding is to create our own instantaneous wormhole."
Her curiosity peaked, she asked, "I thought you said you were constructing a probe?"
"I've never seen a probe large enough to sustain any life form."
He smiled. "Your precious Starfleet technology," he whispered.
"You’ll never fit," she explained. "Not a single one of you."
"We won’t," he replied, "but our transporter signatures will. We'd lock our signatures into a continuous resonance buffer custom-built to the probe’s power specifications." Careful, he glanced around to be certain that no one was eavesdropping on the conversation. "Once we were outside of the planetary shield, all we would have to wait for is a ship to come along and lock onto our signatures, beam them off the probe, and yes! We're free!"
"Highly improbable," she pronounced. "The mechanics of a wormhole transit are tenuous at best."
He tilted his head and quietly added, "We're working on such a probe right now."
"If you’re using a probe from the Voyager, then you’re making a mistake," she continued, working out the proper trajectory and gravimetric equations in her head. "While they are superior in design, the probes would still implode under the stress of its own artificially-created gravity field."
With a smile on his face, he glanced around once more for safety. "We're reinforcing the hull with Iorrka Plating," he whispered, "and that’s impenetrable to even Tenth Power Energy."
She hadn’t figured that variable into her mental equations. Making several adjustments, she was now facing a conclusion that O’Nek’s scheme, no matter how crazy it sounded, was theoretically possible.
"How would control its trajectory?" she asked.
"Pernallian Biocircuitry," he replied. "And, if that little bit of technology is still in that Borg brain of yours, then you know that it’s the most accurate flight and programming technology ever conceived in the known eight quadrants!"
"Eight?" she asked. "You are mistaken. There are only four quadrants to our space, hence the prefix ‘quad.’"
"Maybe on your blackboard." He licked his lips, considering the possibilities of where he and his cohorts could escape. "According to the Gallenians? To The Bushara? Let’s just say that they’re more than convinced that space has more than four quadrants."
Seven raised an eyebrow.
She concluded, after several moments of running the various permutations in her head, that O'Nek's theory had merit.
"Interesting," she agreed.
"Yes," O'Nek taunted, "even to a former Borg."
Surrendering to the inevitable, she studied the alien for several long minutes.
Then, she replied, "Show me."