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 didn’t 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 nature’s 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 mind’s 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 …
… 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! You’ve … 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 B’Elanna Torres. ‘Don’t panic.’ 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 he’s 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, Cole’s 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.”
Standing quietly, Seven of Nine glanced upward toward the visible cameras mounted near the ceiling seams. Surrounded by monitors that recorded her every move, she felt it irrelevant to give whoever was watching anything worth analysis. Instead, she stood completely still, arms crossed tightly across her chest, with a defiant expression on her face.
The door whisked open, and a single Borg sentry stepped into the dark room. He approached her easily, unafraid, and he stopped directly in front of her. Together, they stood in the small room, walls lined with textured gray stone, broken by the closed door and the four surveillance cameras. From overhead, a pale light shone down on them.
After a pause, the Borg stated, “You have remained in this position for the last fourteen hours.”
Seven considered his comment briefly. “Your observation is irrelevant.”
“Do you require regeneration?”
Arching an eyebrow, she replied, “Your concern for my safety is unnecessary -”
“Do you require maintenance?”
“- and unwelcome,” she concluded.
Adversaries, the two studied one another for several long moments.
Finally, the drone exclaimed, “We have some questions for you to answer.”
Studying his face, Seven noticed that the sentry’s biologic tissue appeared human. However, as she knew the unique world that was the Borg Collective far better than any member of Voyager’s crew, she trusted that the odds of his being human under all of the prosthetics were infinitesimally small.
“We wish to know further details regarding your experiences aboard the Federation starship,” he added.
Her face was as expressionless as his. “I will not comply with any requests.”
To her surprise, he smiled back at her.
“We believe you will.”
In all of her life, B’Elanna Torres had never felt more lost in a crowd.
‘What’s that expression Tom used to say?’ she wondered. ‘A big fish in a small pond?’
As if participating in a processional, she marched alongside hundreds of other beings, none belonging to species that she could readily identify, moving uniformly through the morning darkness and the pouring rain. Glancing up, she read the engraving over the massive transparent doors: “Besarian Sciences Complex.”
Apparently, Grayson was efficient. He had seen to it that the Lemm Society would make the best use of her engineering skills as was possible.
“Voyager-Lemm,” a voice broke her concentration. She recognized the intonation as being clearly Borg. Stopping inside the doorway, she turned, coming face-to-face with a nearby sentry with …
A smile on his face?
She still couldn’t get over such an imagine.
The drone pointed at her. “You are one of the Voyager-Lemm.”
Dismissive, she didn’t move, react, or challenge the drone. “I do have a name, you know.”
“You serve me now, Lemm,” he spat.
“Maybe you didn’t hear me, drone,” she tried again, placing her hands on her hips. “I said that I have a name.”
“As do we all,” he replied, approaching her. “Before this day is over, you will know mine very well.”
He stopped in front of her, clearly invading her personal space as the other beings shuffled around the two of them blocking the entrance.
“Is that so?”
“I am Krynn,” he continued. “I serve as commander for the entire Besarian Sciences Complex. You have been assigned to my unit.”
Suddenly, he grasped her forearm.
“How shall we begin?” he asked, again smiling.
B’Elanna glared bitterly at the Borg. Inside, she felt her infamous Klingon temper starting to percolate, and she sharply breathed the moist air, forcing herself to relax. The skin on her forearm, under his grip, felt unpleasantly flushed.
“You can start,” she warned, “by taking your hand off me … or suffer the consequences.”
“The Generatrix?” Chakotay asked.
Despite the rainfall, he glanced up at the massive building sprawled before him. Only a few stories high, the Generatrix was – like every other structure he had seen on the planet, from the Spaceport to the Lemm housing facilities – forged completely out of a porous charcoal rock. He remembered that someone had called it Burrk Stone. Marching shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other Lemm, he and Tuvok tried to stay side-by-side in the line of laborers heading to work. Fortunately, the two of them had been assigned similar detail, and that improved their odds for, together, concocting some scenario to free the rest of the crew, the ship, and Captain Janeway so that they could attempt escape. Despite the fact that he had yet to walk into the Generatrix, Chakotay couldn’t help but feel that the answer to all their prayers lay within the structure. As he studied the stout building, a flash of lightning silhouetted the structure, and the commander felt a chill run up his spine.
“Well,” he muttered, “with a name like that, I can only guess what purpose the Generatrix serves here, eh, Tuvok?”
The Vulcan reached up a hand, shielding his eyes from the rainwater running down his face. “I would assume,” he began, speaking louder than usual so that he could be heard over the other Lemm, “that the facility produces the energy needed to maintain this entire city, including the planet’s defensive shielding, commander.”
Chakotay smiled, elbowing his way past several chatting workers who had stopped in their path. “The question was rhetorical, my friend.”
Casually, Tuvok glanced over at his superior. “Then you must forgive my impudence.”
Thunder clapped loudly again, and Chakotay actually flinched.
“Tuvok,” he wondered aloud, “do Vulcans ever smile?”
“I understand from the crew manifest that you … cook?” the sentry stated.
Excited, Neelix lifted his eyes to the drone. Nodding, he replied, “I don’t like to boast, but I’m willing to venture a guess that you’re looking at not just a lowly cook but rather the finest chef there is in all of the Delta Quadrant! Why, despite the accumulated knowledge of the thousands of species you’ve no doubt assimilated, you still couldn’t begin to imagine the recipes I’ve invented while experimenting aboard the Voyager! An endless smorgasbord of possibilities and delicacies! I’m limited only by my own imagination! Yes, I give you my word! Yes, I can cook, and, if it’s a cook that you need, then I give you my personal and professional assurance that I’ll serve as one of the finest you’ll ever have!”
Confused, the Borg stared at Neelix for several moments.
When the silence appeared to be without end, the Tallaxian felt himself shrinking inside his garish teal outfit.
“I do not require the services of a cook,” the drone finally explained.
“Well, of course, you do!” Neelix opined, trying an even more convincing smile. “Why, everyone has to eat!” Leaning forward, he added softly, “I’ll tell you what. You get me in your kitchen facilities, and I’ll whip you up a Mylatopian Soufflé that’ll have your prosthetics energized!”
“I am Borg,” the sentry continued. “I regenerate.”
Exhausted from his speech, Neelix frowned.
“However,” the drone added efficiently, “the Lemm require sustenance.”
Stretching his arms wide, Neelix greeted the adversary as if welcoming him home from a long journey. “I knew I could trust you! I knew, if you thought hard enough, that you’d find a use for my culinary services! All you had to do was put your mind to it, Mr. … Borg!”
Mechanically, the drone snapped his prosthetic into the air between himself and the Tallaxian. Quickly, Neelix hushed.
“I do not require your services,” the sentry added. “The Lemm do. I regenerate. The Lemm require sustenance.”
Relaxing, the morale officer held his hands out. “I hear you perfectly! You don’t have to tell me twice!”
Repeating, the Borg said, “The Lemm require sustenance.” Deliberately, he lowered his implant and regained his composure. “You will comply.”
Pursing his lips, Neelix bobbed his head at the drone. “I can hardly contain my excitement,” he offered. Then, edging a step closer, the Tallaxian asked, “Mr. Borg, tell me: have you ever heard of Rawwen Oil?”
Despite the ‘legendary patience’ his Voyager shipmates had amply teased him about, Harry Kim grew tense.
“No, no, no,” he repeated, emphasizing each word with a subtle wave of his hand. He turned in the Sciences Station chair and glanced around at the seven Gallenians scattered around Voyager’s Bridge. He watched as they studied one another with expressions he had learned that signified utter exasperation, and Harry was trying to keep the work crew focused on completing repairs to the ship’s most critical systems. “Look,” he began, setting his PADD down on the console, “this has to do with survival. Namely, mine. Now, I’ll make a simple rule for all of us to follow. Okay?” They stopped watching one another, and they, collectively, turned to him. “Here it is: you can reroute all of the power you want from the ship’s secondary systems. Agreed? Reroute them all, as far as I care! But … the next Lemm who transfers power from Life Support again will be escorted off Voyager. Do I make myself clear?”
“Harry-Lemm,” Rojimmen protested, slapping his hands to his thighs, “the Gallenian do not require as high a concentration of oxygen that this ship maintains!”
“I do!” he argued. “Roji, how can I direct the repair of this ship if I keep blacking out?”
“But, Harry-Lemm -”
Incensed, the ensign rose from the Sciences Station and took a single step away from his station. “And another thing! I have a name, Roji, and it isn’t Harry-Lemm! It’s Harry! Just Harry! Not Harry-Lemm! Just Harry! No Lemm!”
Arguing, the Gallenian stepped toward the Voyager’s ensign. “Harry … I am following the protocols set forth by the Foundation!”
“I understand,” he conceded, crossing his arms, trying to find some inner peace, “but you’re on board my ship. We’re not under observation by any drones of the Borg Army.” He sensed the muscles in his neck tightening, and he cringed. “My Bridge. My rules.”
Again, his crew glanced around at one another, clearly unaccustomed to such informality.
“Roji,” Harry pleaded, “that’s why I’m calling you Roji and not Rojimmen-Lemm! It’s silly. It’s silly, and it’s too long.”
“My name is silly?”
“No, your name isn’t silly,” the ensign corrected. “But I’m tired of attached the word ‘Lemm’ to everything!”
Appearing hurt, Rojimmen replied, “But it’s my name!”
Exhausted from over fourteen hours of straight work, Harry uncrossed his arms and buried his face in his hands. “Mandakorr, can you help me with this?”
All restraint lost, Harry threw his arms at his side. “Mandakorr, don’t tell me that you’re starting to -”
Amidst the Gallenians, he saw a single Borg mingling.
Apparently, in his anger, Harry hadn’t heard the turbolift doors.
The drone stopped, turning to face the ensign.
“Complete your sentence,” he said.
Sighing, Harry glared at the floor before scanning the Bridge crew with his apologetic eyes. “I was going to say how disappointed I was that Mandakorr was now starting to follow Foundation protocols … to the letter.”
Turning, the sentry gave Harry his full attention.
“Understood,” the Borg replied, “and agreed.”
Relieved and astonished, Harry felt his face flush with embarrassment.
“You are behind schedule,” the sentry concluded. “Protocols impede efficiency. The One is not aboard this ship. Ignore Foundation protocols. Repair this ship. That is your priority.”
“I apologize,” the ensign replied, “but I’m working with a crew who is unfamiliar with these systems.” Mustering the courage, Harry argued, “I can repair the ship within the required timeframe, but I’m going to need assistance from a few of my own … Lemm.”
The drone considered Harry for a moment.
“Request denied,” he said. “It is against protocol.”
“I thought we were ignoring protocol?” the ensign snapped.
Abruptly, the Borg marched toward the ensign. He reached him within a few seconds, and he stopped, blocking Harry’s field of vision of anything but the drone.
“I cannot subvert the planet’s rule of law for the sake of one Lemm,” the sentry stated flatly. “You will maintain the required repair schedule. You will utilize the services of the assigned Gallenian-Lemm to complete the required maintenance. You will improve your morale.”
‘Did he say morale?’
“Sir, if you’ll pardon my asking, since when are the Borg concerned about morale?” Harry tried.
Smiling, the drone nodded his head once.
“The Borg are not,” he replied. “I am.”
The sentry turned and glanced nonchalantly around the Bridge. “My name is Jorta’Rel,” he added. “You now answer to me.”