"Entering Besarian orbit," the Gallenian-Lemm pilot announced, and Kathryn Janeway sensed, by his lilting tone of voice, that the alien was personally pleased with his performance.
Besaria loomed in darkness on the main viewer. Its swirling, gray atmosphere glistened occasionally, punctuated with the white fluttering of lightning showers, high above the planet's surface. From where Kathryn stood, Besaria, as a whole, appeared to be inundated with thunder, lightning, and stormclouds. The world's gray surface was eclipsed by a sleek, blue, energy shimmer, possibly some form of planetary defense mechanism.
"Satisfactory," Cole agreed.
"Thank you, Cole," the pilot beamed. "The All shall serve the One."
"Commence docking procedures for the Spaceport, Besaria City, Docking Bay 17." The Borg commander turned to another of his kind, a supporting officer. "Contact Besaria Central. Request shield deactivation."
"Planetary shielding?" Chakotay marveled aloud. During the flight, he had gradually wandered around the bridge, ever widening his circle, testing his boundaries, until he finally stood behind the pilot's console, studying every movement that the Gallenian-Lemm made. Always the first officer, Kathryn thought to herself. Ensuring that the ship remains safe, even while it's in the hands of the enemy.
"That's quite a strategic advantage," Chakotay continued. "I can only imagine that it would take a tremendous amount of energy to protect a planet of this size." He turned toward Cole. "That I'm aware, the Borg don't possess that kind of technology. What power source do you use?"
Cole glanced momentarily at Voyager's first officer before returning his attention to the main viewscreen. "Your opinion is irrelevant."
"I was just curious."
"Your curiosity is unwelcome."
His head drooped, Chakotay slowly shuffled back over to the science station and took his place beside his senior officer. "So much for the small talk," he said.
"They're not giving anything up," she whispered.
"Agreed," Chakotay replied. "Then again, we are the prisoners. I don't know how much I'd share, were the situation reversed."
"Planetary shield deactivated," the Gallenian-Lemm confirmed.
"Commence docking," Cole ordered.
The ride through Besaria's atmosphere would be rocky, Kathryn reasoned. With all of those storms, Voyager would be bucking like an untamed steed.
"No word yet from sickbay?" she asked, hopeful.
Chakotay shook his head. "Tom was on duty."
"Perhaps we had better..."
Suddenly, Cole turned and pointed at the ship's captain. "You will accompany me to greet the One."
Kathryn declined with the wave of her hand. "We might be your prisoners, but I'm not going anywhere until I know that my crew is safe."
"Your crew is irrelevant. You have pledged your allegiance to the One. You are their captain. They share in your allegiance. They will be absorbed into Lemm Society."
"Lemm Society?" she asked. "What is that?"
"The worker class of the Foundation," Cole explained. "Your crew will be given jobs collateral with their skills. They shall serve the One."
"How many classes make up the Foundation?" Kathryn pried.
"Conversation is irrelevant," Cole continued. "Docking procedures shall begin shortly. You will accompany me now."
Chakotay stepped forward. "Now, just a minute..."
Kathryn took him by the shoulder. "At ease, commander."
"Stand down, Chakotay," she advised. Leaning close to him, she whispered, "A rebellion can do more good later, once we know what we're up against."
The turbolift doors opened. Seven and a Borg sentry stepped onto the Bridge.
"Captain," Seven began, "the EMH is apparently off-line." The former Borg briefly glanced at Cole. Kathryn couldn't be sure, but she thought she noticed a hint of vindictiveness in Seven's glare. "No doubt the damage from our recent engagement with these Borg." She returned her eyes on the captain. "Sickbay was deserted, except for several of the crew treating their own injuries. Under guard, of course."
"Where's Tom?" the captain asked.
"Mr. Paris's present whereabouts are unknown."
"Conversation is irrelevant," Cole stated.
Immediately, Cole seized Kathryn Janeway. He flung her toward the turbolift doors. She slammed into them so quickly that the mechanism wasn't allowed enough time to open properly.
"That's enough!" Chakotay shouted, leaping forward and taking hold of his captain, by her arms, before she slumped to the floor.
Cole extended his Borg prosthetic toward the first officer's face. Activating the whirling blades once more, the Borg stepped within centimeters of Chakotay's mouth.
"Remove yourself or suffer injury," Cole ordered.
Chakotay glared at the blades. Kathryn noticed the intensity in his eyes, and she knew that he was calculating how deftly he could move, if he was fast enough to overpower their captor.
"Commander," she began, slowly righting herself with a hand on his chest, "I won't repeat my earlier order. Stand down."
Slowly, Chakotay backed away.
Unemotional, Cole stepped past the first officer and entered the turbolift with her.
The doors hissed close.
Cole was on her in a moment, his human hand grappling the back of her head. Fearing her safety, she lashed out, slapping both open hands near the base of his flesh-exposed neck.
Efficiently, Cole raised his mechanical arm. Borg tubules lanced out and stung Kathryn in her neck. Fearing assimilation, she slumped floorward, but Cole held her firmly. Suddenly, her skin flushed, tingling. Her vision blackened, and then slowly blurred. The lines that made up Cole and the turbolift walls wriggled and danced and wound across and within one another, and she fell into a deep slumber.
Kathryn Janeway awoke to the sensation of raindrops pelting her face. Violent thunder crashed, and she opened her eyes. She was lying down, staring up into the glowing green pupils of a species she had not seen before.
"I understand," the being spoke, his voice guttural, "that your name is Kathryn Janeway?"
Tired, she muttered, "Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the United Starship Voyager."
The creature smiled, tilting his head, and she curiously noted that the color of his teeth matched his eyes. "Kathryn, there is no rank here other than ambassador."
Shaking her head, she tried to sit up, but a firm hand shoved her back down.
"Easy, Cole," the alien ordered. "The One would not approve of a member of his army doing harm to one of his ambassadors."
"Kathryn Janeway has not been inducted yet."
Kathryn glanced sideways and noticed that her Borg aggressor was still with her. Beyond him, she could see a variety of darkly-cloaked species bustling about the cluttered and dimly lit spaceport, running in the rain, possibly busily securing the Federation ship that Cole and his comrades had just captured. Looking up, she recognized the underside bluish coloring of the Voyager's hull, which had apparently docked at Besaria City. As she had predicted on the bridge, it was raining heavily. The rain rolled across Voyager's hull and dropped down on them.
Cole explained, "I woke you with the proper stimulant."
Still numb, Kathryn replied, "I thought you had assimilated me."
"You fear assimilation."
"How would you know that?"
"Species 5618 fears assimilation," Cole explained. "Above all else."
Janeway blinked the rainwater from her blurring eyes. "Yes," she agreed, "yes, I suppose that's correct." Glancing over at her green-eyed companion, she asked, "As long as we're becoming fast friends, would you mind telling me just what species designation you are?"
The alien laughed. "Species 3227, Ambassador," he replied. "And my name, should you care to use it, is Packell. Ambassador Packell, to be appropriate, but I prefer just Packell. Of the Trakill."
"Did you say, the Trakill?" Kathryn asked.
"Yes, Ambassador Janeway," Packell replied, and he pulled a cloak over his unblemished, bald head to shield himself from the rain. "The Trakill were the original inhabitants of Besaria City before we were graced with His Highness, the One. But, here," he started, and he gestured toward the nearby doorway. "Let's get out of this rain. Commencement will begin once we arrive."
"Commencement?" Kathryn asked, and she sensed the platform beneath her suddenly in motion, gliding smoothly toward the towering building. She guessed she was lying on some type of antigravity sled. "Commencement for what?"
"You are to be inducted, Kathryn Janeway, and granted ambassadorship in the Foundation," Packell explained.
The hallways around Kathryn Janeway were dark. Stone? Granite? They appeared to be so. Featureless. Void of any décor or color. There was a pervasive odor of dampness about the place. She was lying on the gliding antigravity trolley, with Ambassador Packell on her right and the Borg Cole on her left.
"Cole, answer me this: you were part of the Collective, weren't you?" she asked, breaking the silence.
"The Collective is irrelevant," Cole answered.
"But ... you were part of it? At one time?"
After a brief pause, Cole explained, "I served the Collective for a short time."
Again, Cole paused, before replying, "Here, the Collective became irrelevant. The One matters. The One disciplines. The One rules. The All shall serve the One."
They reached the end of the long, dank tunnel, and a massive doorway parted. Kathryn found herself whisked into a huge chamber, filled with a variety of alien races, most of which she didn't recognize. All sizes. All shapes. All colors. Some had many limbs. Some had few. Yet, all delegates had one distinct feature: a Borg implant where a right arm once was.
"Welcome to the Quorum of the One," Packell said.
The group parted, each member curiously pressing forward for a few seconds to glance at their new inductee, as the trio moved deeper into the grand room, its walls as indistinct and colorless as the hallway. The lingering sensation of the Borg-induced sedative was just leaving her mind, and Kathryn made out an elevated platform at the far wall of the chamber, where they were headed. On the platform stood a massive, ornate, silver throne.
On the throne sat a Borg, one much larger than Cole. He rose, his movements graceful, and Kathryn could tell that this drone was sleeker, more streamlined than the Borg she had encountered on her countless journeys. His Borg armor was uniquely void of the sharp edges, jutting metal attachments, and fragmented tubing that comprised most drone bodies.
The antigravity sled stopped, and Packell extended his hand to her. She took it and rose before the throng.
In unison, the crowd spoke, "The All shall serve the One!"
"What offering have you brought me today, Cole?" the Borg ruler asked.
"Species 5618," Cole replied. "Human. Kathryn Janeway."
"Human?" the ruler asked. "Here? In the Delta Quadrant, as I believe they call it?" The One considered the captain for several seconds. "I thought that Species 5618 was virtually non-existent on this side of the galaxy."
"My ship," Kathryn explained, "was delivered here by a power far beyond our ability to control. We've been making our way towards the Alpha Quadrant ever since."
The ruler stepped forward, glaring down at her. "Then, let me be the first to welcome you to your final destination, Ambassador Kathryn Janeway."
She noticed that his movements were almost fluid. Certainly, un-Borg-like, in every possible way.
"You are ... the One?" she asked.
"I am," he answered.
"What's to happen to Voyager?" she asked. "I'm her captain."
"You no longer serve that ship," the One explained. "That ship shall now serve me. You, as well, serve the One. On Besaria, the all shall serve the One."
With that, the One's form shimmered. He took on an odd radiance, a golden glow, and lost cohesion. The Borg Ruler literally melted before Kathryn's eyes, and it oozed into a puddle that spilled over the edge of the platform and onto the ground before her. Then, the liquid blended, stirred, morphed, and finally rose, colored, and found new cohesion in the shape of ... Kathryn Janeway.
"Yes," the One said, "I can understand why this form is so appealing. It's rather ... simplistic."
Kathryn pointed at the other version of herself. "You're a shapeshifter."
"That term is unfamiliar with me," the One said. "Please explain its origin."
She lowered her arm. "I'm sorry, but I can't do that."
"Pity," the One said. "For a frame so delicate, you're personally rather stoic."
"I might surprise you."
"Let us all hope so."
Suddenly, the Janeway shapeshifter blended and morphed back into a golden column that reached back up onto the raised platform, and the One returned to the former shape of a Borg giant. "Now, this frame, on the other hand, commands respect. It demands allegiance. That is why you're here, Ambassador Janeway."
"I've already sworn my allegiance to you," she retorted, "if that's what you're implying."
"She swore allegiance to the One under my witness," Cole confirmed.
"And her crew?"
"A Federation captain speaks on behalf of her crew."
"Good," the One cooed. "Then, she should have no trouble repeating her pledge of allegiance here, where it can be heard and celebrated by those species who have also sworn to serve the One."
Kathryn glanced around. She wasn't familiar with these species, but, by their faces, she reasonably assumed that there were few intelligent lifeforms actually happy to be here.
In defiance, she replied, "I've said it once. I see no reason for me to repeat myself."
The One laughed. Slowly, he stepped back and reclined on his throne. "You will do as I say."
"No," Kathryn said, simply.
"Ambassador Janeway," the One began, "let me explain a few of the finer points that I'm quite certain these automatons didn't elaborate upon. These Borg serve me. They are my army. They enforce my law. On Besaria, there is only a single law. The all shall serve the One.
"You and your crew constitute a single component of the all," he continued. "I, on the other hand, constitute the only component of the One. Thus, you and your crew shall serve me. These people, these races surrounding you ... everyone here serves me without question. It is the core principle of my Foundation.
"As the captain of your species, you will be made part of my ruling Quorum. The members of your crew shall become Lemms. The Lemms are our worker class. The Lemm is made up of all the species you see here. One hundred and twenty-seven species, to be exact. The Quorum, therefore, consists of one hundred and twenty-seven ambassadors, yourself included. Once inducted into the Foundation, there is no decommission. Service to the One is for life." He tapped the arms of his throne. "So ... in short, if I ask for you to pledge your allegiance to the One in front of this Quorum, you will do so ... without question, or your species will die as a result."
The One pointed at her. "As we speak, your crew is being assigned to the Lemm, being granted their proper positions of servitude, based on their skills and knowledge. Should you choose to disobey my request to hear your oath of celibacy, I will graciously stop your crew dissemination in favor of annihilation. Species who defy the One have no place in the Foundation. The choice is yours."
Biting her lip, Kathryn spat, "You're a madman."
"And you're wasting my time. Cole! Have her crew brought here at once..."
"No!" Janeway shouted.
"Then you have your order."
Quietly, she glanced around at the solemn faces that made up the Quorum. There were no friends here. No allies.
"On behalf of my crew," she began, "I pledge my allegiance to the One."
A silence fell over the chamber.
"The all shall serve the One," she said.
The One nodded.
"Fix her, Cole."
Kathryn Janeway felt the Borg tubule kiss the back of her neck. Once more, she slumped succumbed to unconsciousness.
What people are saying about this story:
Well done! A sequel would be excellent. Resistance is futile, you will comply and make a Federation's End follow-up...
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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