Federation's End - Chapter 1 of 18

Chapter 1
by E.L. Zimmerman

On her knees, exhausted, Captain Kathryn Janeway glared up menacingly at the Borg commander standing over her ... on her very own bridge. He, and everything else around her, shimmered in the scarlet bath of the ship's red alert. Aching, she lifted a bruised and bleeding hand to brush the stinging sweat from her eyes. When her phaser had proven ineffective against the attacking Borg, Kathryn had resorted - like the rest of the command crew - to good, old-fashioned 'Kirkism,' as she called it. Blistering knuckles and jacking knees were defense enough for a red alert of this magnitude, strategically placing her blows where she thought, hoped, prayed that they would do the most good. Unfortunately, she found her hand-to-hand assault futile against the solid, black armor worn by her alien aggressor.

Raising herself slightly on one arm, she instinctively barked, "Report!"

"Your protocols are irrelevant," her attacker said.

"Not on my bridge, they aren't!" she replied, finding the strength to spit her words at him. "Report!"

"Captain ..."

She recognized Chakotay's voice. "Ensign Kim is unconscious," he explained, his voice cracking. He's obviously in the same shape I am, Kathryn thought. "So is B'Elanna. Seven is badly injured."

"My wounds are superficial," Kathryn heard her former-Borg crewmember say. Her voice wasn't broken, and the captain recognized a hint of defiance in that tone.

Good, Seven, she thought. Thank the stars that you're still on our side.

"We're a sitting duck, Captain," Chakotay continued. "Six ships ... all unidentified but definitely not of Borg origin that we've seen before ... dropped out of subspace off our port bow. Their phaser barrage took out main power. We're functioning on auxiliaries. But ... the bridge is overrun with Borg."

"Conversation is irrelevant," the Borg standing over Janeway warned. "Cease and desist."

"I want to see my crew," she protested weakly.

"Negotiation is irrelevant."

"We've nowhere to turn, Kathryn," Chakotay declared.

Finally, Janeway turned her head in the direction of her first officer's tired voice, and she found him leaning against one of the bridge rails, presumably for support. She studied him. His uniform was ripped in several places, and those tears were stained with blood. Through the haze of her own vision just starting to return to normal, she made out the gash on his left temple, tearing across his native tattoo. His tattoo. It has been a beautiful representation of the faith of his people, and now Kathryn Janeway found herself wondering if the Doctor could restore it to its original shape. Blood trickled down Chakotay's tired face and soaked crimson into his uniform.

He was looking back at her. Swallowing, Chakotay said, "Let's live ... to fight another day."

Calmly, Kathryn heaved a heavy sigh, and she felt the pain burn through her chest, her muscles knotted and strained. She felt a tickle on her check, and she touched the blood on her own face. She felt the dead weight of combat exhaustion setting in. She could have minutes of wakefulness left, or she could succumb to the sleep at any moment. Unable to glance around and clearly distinguish who on her crew was where on the bridge, she slowly sat upright, on the floor, under tremendous difficulty.

"We ... surrender," she said the words that she had feared all of her Starfleet life she would never have to say ... at least not to the Borg.

"Surrender is irrelevant," the Borg over her said.

"What ..." she began weakly. "What about ... the Collective?"

Mechanically, the Borg commander turned away from her, nodding to the other drones. She heard the heavy footsteps of sentries moving about, obviously taking command consoles from whatever Voyager crewmates still occupied them. But, there were other footsteps, she surmised ... softer ... gentler.

Not Borg?

"The Collective is irrelevant," she heard.

Startled, emotionally pulling herself together, Kathryn asked, "What?"

"I am Cole," the Borg explained. "Swear your allegiance to the One. Your ship and your lives will be spared for service to the One."

"What?" she repeated. She closed her eyes. Sleep was inevitable, the sensation to blackout was overpowering, but she fought back hard. She sensed her own mental and physical fatigue with every breath she forced into her weary body. "Cole ... who ... the one?"

"Swear your allegiance to the One," he repeated, mechanically.

Suddenly, she felt a hand close on her uniform collar. Cole yanked her up to her knees, and Kathryn Janeway yelped in pain. She opened her eyes, looking up at her attacker, studying his one, true...human?...eye. It was as nondescript and empty as the eye of any Borg she had ever seen. Cole gripped her with one hand, and he brought his mechanical limb toward her already bleeding face. On the Borg prosthetic, a series of silver blades piercingly whirred to life.

"Swear your allegiance to the One. If you do not, you will die. Your crew will die with you."

Out of the corner of her eye, Kathryn Janeway saw movement. Commander Chakotay lunged toward the science station where she knelt, alongside an unconscious Harry Kim.

Quickly, instinctively, she thrust up her hand, ordering her first officer to stand down. He stopped in mid-stride, and another Borg sentry positioned inserted himself between Voyager's commander and its captain.

A safety precaution? Janeway mused. Since when did the Borg consider us a threat?

"Swear your allegiance to the One," Cole repeated.

"The Borg Queen?" she asked.

"The One."

"Who is ..." she started.

"You have three seconds."

"... the one?" she tried again.

"You have two seconds."

Cole pressed his grinding blades near her human eyes.

"Kathryn!" Chakotay shouted.

She swallowed hard, adding quickly, "You have ... my allegiance."

The whirring blades stopped. Cole dropped Kathryn Janeway to the deckplates of the Voyager bridge. She winced in pain, doubled-up, and cried out from the sensations ripping through her body.

"The All shall serve the One," Cole said, and she heard the phrase repeated by the mechanical Borg sentries. Borg weren't the only voices, she thought to herself, always vigilant, always attentive, despite her medical condition. Her years of service with Tuvok had taught her to always seek out the illogical; often times, the illogical defined alternatives where none appeared. There are others here, and they're not Borg. The Borg? Working with others not assimilated? That's illogical!

Struggling to her feet, Kathryn glanced around. After several moments of alternating dark and light vision, she finally saw the main viewscreen. The six cylindrical ships positioned off the port bow were moving, slowly retreating from their attack on Voyager. They were heading away. Then, strikingly, they glistened and disappeared from view.

Into subspace, Kathryn guessed.

"Gallenian-Lemm," Cole ordered, pointing at one of the other lifeforms who had joined the Borg on the bridge. "Engage the ship's flight mechanisms. Plot a course for Besaria. At once, Lemm."

A Gallenian-Lemm, a tall, spindly, red-skinned alien with tentacled eyes, trotted quickly to the pilot's console and made haste with the controls. "The All shall serve the One," he (she?) said as it trotted hurriedly toward the console. He sat, and his fingers played out quickly, dancing almost rhythmically over the command keys, his funnel-shaped skull bobbing in unison with the movement of his thin fingers. "The All shall serve the One," he muttered just barely audible.

"Simple binary programming systems!" the Gallenian-Lemm finally announced excitedly, turning to glance at Cole. Kathryn noticed that the creature was actually smiling!

The Borg Cole gave only an expressionless reply, leaving the Gallenian-Lemm to return his attention to the pilot controls. "Course plotted for Besaria and laid in."

"Begin the journey," Cole ordered. "We shall please the One with this bounty."

Janeway steadied herself on the science console. Looking down, she studied the motionless form of Ensign Harry Kim on the floor before her. He, too, was bleeding from a wound to the head.

"Cole?" she asked, mentally shaking the cobwebs from her brain. "I'd like to call my ship's medical officer for assistance with the injured."

"Assistance is irrelevant," Cole replied.

"My crew could die," Kathryn reasoned. "How pleased would the One be with your bounty, then?"

"The ship shall serve the One," Cole continued. "The crew that remains shall serve the One. The All shall serve the One."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Over the course of the next several minutes, Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, and Seven cautiously gathered near the science station, over the fallen Harry Kim. The Borg paid them no attention.

"Captain?" Chakotay asked. "You're hurt."

She nodded. "More unnerved than weak."

"Captain, you're bleeding," Seven explained.

Janeway considered the bruised and battered face of Seven of Nine. Without question, Seven had fought the hardest and the longest. It only made sense. Seven had been Borg, not long ago. Physically, the Doctor had returned her to as near a human appearance as was possible. Only touches of Borg remained in her. Psychologically, Seven had eventually accepted her humanity, and now she served, with distinction, as a member of the Voyager crew. Freed from the Collective, Seven had accepted the principles of liberty, freedom of choice, and individuality. Perhaps that human instinct to denounce Borg assimilation was now stronger than ever deep within Seven's psyche.

"I'm fine," Kathryn assured her bridge crew. "What I need is to get you, B'Elanna, and Harry to sickbay." She turned slightly and said, "Cole, I'm repeating my original request to have the most severely injured of my crew taken to sickbay. My crew won't put up any resistance. Your sentries are free to escort them."

"Their injuries are irrelevant," Cole replied.

"Not to me," she stated firmly.

"You are not in charge."

"Neither are you," Kathryn challenged.

Cole turned to stare at her.

Kathryn stated, "I believe that the One might have something to say on the subject of your allowing the senseless deaths of his servants."

"The All shall serve the One," Cole said. "Injured or whole."

"Would you mind telling me how a dead crew can serve any master?" Chakotay challenged.

Cole turned his attention on the first officer for several seconds. Finally, after a moment's consideration, he gestured for two Borg sentries. "Take the crew members whom their captain has indicated to the ship's sickbay. Report back here once their wounds have been tended."

"Captain," Seven began, "I wish to stay with you and the commander."

"Seven, I need you to take care of Harry and B'Elanna," Kathryn explained. "We'll be fine."

Slowly, the former Borg nodded. "Yes, Captain."

Seven easily lifted Harry in her arms. One of the Borg sentries did the same for the unconscious B'Elanna. Chakotay moved to assist, but Cole commanded emotionlessly, "The uninjured will remain still."

The group exited through the turbolift doors and was gone.

Angered, Janeway turned back to the remaining members of her command crew.

"Something tells me," Chakotay piped in, "that these are not the Borg we've come to know and love."

"That's an understatement," Kathryn whispered, tenderly dabbing her right forefinger at the corner of her mouth. She had begun to bleed from there, as well.

"Captain," Tuvok finally broke his self-imposed silence. "These are not traditional Borg. They may appear so, but they are undoubtedly not serving the Collective. At least, not the Collective as we have come to understand it." He nodded curtly at his commanding officer. "Would you allow me to test a theory?"

Kathryn quickly realized that she had no other options. "I was hoping there was some theory playing itself out in that logical brain of yours, Tuvok. Just ... don't get us killed."

"I will do my best to comply," he said succinctly.

Tuvok pivoted and approached the Borg leader. "I have a question, Mister Cole," Tuvok began.

Cole turned to face the Vulcan. "Questions are irrelevant."

"Nonetheless, I'd prefer to ask."

"Conversation is irrelevant."

"What is your designation?" Tuvok pried.

"I am Cole."

"What is your Borg designation?"

"Borg designations are irrelevant."

Tuvok nodded. "It has been our experience that Borg sentries are assigned to individual work units related to the Collective's operational breakdown. It has also been our experience that the Borg maintain a distinct affinity in determining that which is and that which is not relevant."

"I am Cole," the Borg repeated. "All else is irrelevant."

"This ship and crew have encountered the Borg before," Tuvok continued, "and we've accepted that a great many things are irrelevant from a Borg perspective. For example, allowing prisoners of war to speak privately amongst themselves. Has it occurred to you that we, in fact, might be planning an insurrection?"

"The All shall serve the One," Cole stated.

"Yes," Tuvok replied, "I understand. However, speaking from my experiences as the chief of security of this ship, I would contend that the practice of allowing prisoners to openly exchange information relating to their captors and their captivity can be highly inefficient if not dangerous. Would you agree?"

"Conversation is irrelevant."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "Mister Cole, may I ask what is relevant?"

"Allegiance to the One."

"Mister Cole," Tuvok began, "I would like to offer myself to you and your crew for assimilation."

Kathryn gasped. Chakotay tensed, ready to spring into action in defense of his science officer and friend.

Cole immediately stood rigid. From where she stood, Kathryn noticed Cole's human eye pivoting rapidly from left to right, displaying an almost inner turmoil that the Borg faced. Cole gripped the bridge railing tightly with his one, human hand. Slowly, he said to the Vulcan, "Assimilation ... is irrelevant."

Tuvok nodded slowly. "Thank you."

Calmly, the Vulcan returned to the science station.

"What was that all about?" Chakotay asked. "For a minute, I thought you'd lost your Vulcan mind!"

"I was testing my theory," Tuvok answered. "Captain, I believe that we were incorrect in concluding that these aggressors are not Borg. Their speech, their two-dimensional logic, and their appearance are identical to the Borg we have encountered in the past. It is my conclusion that they are, in fact, Borg, in every way ... save one. Philosophically."

"Philosophically?" Chakotay asked. "Tuvok, since when have we debated philosophy with the Borg?"

"In short, these Borg fail to act on their core programming, as their counterparts traditionally would. This leads me to the only question we haven't asked ... how have they been modified? For that, I have only speculation."

Kathryn and Chakotay stared at Tuvok.

"Quite simply, the One has altered them," Tuvok explained. "Whatever or whomever that may be."

Suddenly, the ship rocked violently from an outside explosion.

The Gallenian-Lemm seated in the pilot's console slapped his hands to his forehead. "Cole, a Trakill assault craft is closing on our position! Griscelda Class! They have engaged their plasma weapons and are firing on us!"

"Destroy the craft," Cole commanded.

"Now, wait a minute!" Kathryn shouted. "I won't let you use my ship to destroy another!"

Cole considered her briefly. "Your objection is irrelevant."

"Cole," she pleaded, stepping forward, "we could scan that craft for its defensive capabilities. We just might learn that its weapons are potentially useless against Voyager and her shields!"

"Renegade Trakill have sworn their allegiance to destroy the One," Cole replied.

"Cole, at least let me speak to them," Kathryn continued. "Let me try to reason with them."

"This ship now serves the One."

"Then, let's have the One give the order to fire on that craft!" Kathryn challenged.

Once more, the Voyager rocked and rumbled from an external explosion.

"Conversation is irrelevant." Cole turned toward the Gallenian-Lemm pilot. "Destroy the Trakill craft."

"Yes," the pilot answered. "Understood."

Kathryn Janeway heard the familiar hum of the ship's phasers lashing out into deep space, and then she listened to the eerie silence that followed.

"Trakill assault craft destroyed," the Gallenian-Lemm confirmed.

"The All shall serve the One," Cole said, and his Borg crew and the other species present - Kathryn guessed that there was at least two more accompanying the Gallenian-Lemm - repeated the phrase.

"Gentlemen," she said, "I have the feeling that, before this is all over, we're going to grow very weary of that phrase."

On to Chapter 2

What people are saying about this story:

From Winnowill:
Well done! A sequel would be excellent. Resistance is futile, you will comply and make a Federation's End follow-up...

From Jack:
Federation's End was fantastic! I hope a follow-up is planned. Seven of Nine SMILING?? Ye gods, say it isn't so!

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