Kathryn Janeway opened her eyes to blackness. Slowly, pinpricks of brilliant white light shone through, distant stars in the maw of nothingness. The stars multiplied, and Kathryn watched groggily as they spun and spun before her, ever faster, ever widening. Suddenly, the stars exploded, and she awoke, fully conscious of the single, spherical fluorescent blazing down on her ...
... naked body?
She ran her left hand across her thigh, up to her stomach, to be sure.
I'm ... naked?
She felt a faint breeze blowing across her and knew there was an open window somewhere nearby. She heard a crash of distant thunder and felt that rumble of nature in her bones.
Gradually, the grogginess wore off, and then she sensed a dull ache on the right side of her body.
"Lights, off" she commanded, raising her left hand up to shield her eyes, but the illumination remained unchanged.
"Lights, off!" she tried again.
Then, she remembered she wasn't aboard Voyager.
Old habits, she mused.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she rose ...
Cautiously, she tried to sit up, but she felt uneven. Her right side was heavy. Trembling. Solid.
"Lights!" she screamed. "Lights! Lights!!!"
A doorway whisked open. Cole entered the room.
"Ambassador Janeway," he said.
"Get that damn light off me, Cole," she ordered. "Now!"
The light went out.
Her eyes adjusting, Kathryn Janeway reached over and felt her right arm ... or what was left of it. A Borg implant, the prosthetic arm, had been fitted over her human skin!
"Cole!" she screamed. "Cole!"
"The All shall..."
"Shut up with your programmed nonsense!" she demanded, rising from the bed, pulling the sheet of the operating table over her. Gesturing to her right arm, she shouted, "I demand this be removed at once!"
"Servitude in the Quorum of the One requires it," he explained.
"This is outrageous!" she continued. "I never agreed to this! I want this thing off me, Cole, and I want it off now! Right now!"
Flustered, Cole's human eye fluttered right to left. "I ... lack the programming, Ambassador."
"Then get someone in here that doesn't lack the programming!"
Cole considered her request for several seconds. "The Bushara-Lemm have the requisite training in Borg prosthetics..."
"I don't care who does it!" she screamed. "I want it off!"
"The Lemm will require a decree from the One," Cole explained.
Closing her eyes, Kathryn forced herself to breathe deeply. Don't panic, she told herself. Don't panic. She reached deep down inside herself and found her center. Forcing breaths one by one, she calmed, slowly. Cole's only doing his job, she told herself, he's only doing his job.
"I demand to see the One."
"The One is in chambers with the Trakill," Cole explained.
Stepping forward, Kathryn pressed her face near his. "Cole, I don't care if the One sleeping off a hangover, I demand to see him now!"
"The One is in chambers with..."
"Fine," she decided. He's only doing his job. He's only doing his job. "With the addition of this Borg prosthetic, am I not a member of the Quorum?"
"You are correct, Ambassador Janeway."
"As a member of the Ambassadorial Committee, do I not have jurisdiction over the Borg army in matters of state?"
"The One is the commander-in-chief," Cole explained.
"But ... do I not have jurisdiction over the Borg 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, Kathryn told herself, but he's not going to. The Borg don't reason. They follow orders. Precisely.
"You are correct," Cole finally answered.
"Then ... you and I are going to see the One ... now."
"Withdraw the Trakillian forces immediately," she heard, "or they will be destroyed."
Wrapped in her medical sheet, Kathryn Janeway marched through the small crowd at the front of the Grand Hall of the One. A viewscreen over the royal throne was active, but the One was not looking at it. Instead, he stared at the members of his Quorum gathered ... and now he looked at Kathryn.
Slowly, the One smiled.
The face on the viewscreen looked familiar to her. Quickly, Janeway glanced around the room, and she found Packell. He stood toward the rear of the small assembly. His expression, she guessed, was one of anger. Curiously, the Trakillian ambassador stared at her ... or perhaps it wasn't so curious.
Kate, you are wearing only a sheet, after all, she told herself.
"The Trakillian battlefleet will not withdraw," the face on the viewscreen announced, "not until you release all of the Trakill you're holding captive."
"Never," the One replied, and he began twirling his throne around and around and around.
"We will attack Besaria City!"
"Impractical," the One taunted, still spinning.
"We will destroy you and all that you have captured!"
The One finally stopped twirling, facing the viewscreen. "Impossible."
The Trakillian captain sighed heavily. "Our essence is with you, Packell," he resigned. Then, he gestured at a control panel.
The viewscreen blanked.
"What's going on?" Kathryn demanded.
The One turned to his latest ambassador. "Considering your attire, Ambassador Janeway, I was about to ask you the same thing."
"Your Highness, please!" the Trakillian ambassador shouted, stepping through the assembly and stopping beside Janeway. "You know ... Trakillian weapons are no match for your Pulse Cannon!"
The One replied, "Perhaps we should test the limits of that statement, Packell."
"Stop this!" Janeway ordered. "If what the ambassador says is true, then his fleet poses no threat to you. Why waste your royal effort to even return fire?"
"The way of the universe," the One began, "is extinction." He gestured at the Borg sentries guarding the door near the rear of the Grand Hall. "They understand that! Perhaps the Trakill need to learn it. That would be a lesson to the reckless! The ones who escaped my grasp in the very beginning! They escaped! They found freedom! They have it! And what do they choose to do with it? Waste it. Squander it away in a vain, futile attempt to free their brothers.
"Ambassador Janeway," he continued, "those Trakill have sworn to eliminate me! Why? They're free! Free to roam the galaxy! Free to go anywhere they like! But instead they choose to constantly provoke me!"
"You stole their planet," Kathryn countered. "What more reason do they need?"
Frustrated, the One stood from his throne and waved his hand across the assembly before him. "I will have justice served by eliminating every last Trakill! Extinction is the way of the Universe! Extinction of the Trakill will be my lesson!"
Calming slowly, he sat back down. "Or ... near extinction. I certainly can't hold Packell, nor any of the Trakill-Lemm, responsible for the actions of these renegades, now can I?"
Silence fell over the Grand Hall.
"Put the Trakill fleet on the viewer," the One ordered.
A Borg sentry activated the viewscreen. The display flickered to life, highlighting the approaching armada.
Kathryn guessed she saw thirty ships.
How many people? she wondered. How many people are going to die?
"One," she tried, "that fleet is insignificant next to your power! On the way here, your Borg Army used the Voyager to destroy one of those craft. I know the Trakill offensive capabilities, and they won't put a scratch on your precious shield. Killing them would serve no purpose."
"Extinction is the way of the universe," the One repeated. "Don't try to fool me, Ambassador Janeway. That fleet presents a hope for insurrection to the Trakill living here ... under my protection."
"Under your protection," she challenged, "or under your control?"
"Enough talk," the One declared. "Destroy the fleet."
The Borg sentry activated a comm panel.
Suddenly, a barrage of rocketing energy discharges burst onto the viewer, beams wide enough and powerful enough that they destroyed eight or nine ships per shot. The images of the Trakillian fleet turned to one of bucking flames and fiery debris.
The group fell silent.
"Ambassador Packell?" the One asked.
"Yes, your Highness?"
The One considered him briefly. "I am pleased to inform you of the following. First, I will not hold you nor any of your constituents responsible for the actions taken by your Trakillian brothers today. That would be barbaric, as I'm certain Ambassador Janeway would agree.
"Second, you will be pleased to know that you are now, without question, the highest ranking member of your species still alive."
The ambassador swallowed.
"Thank you, your Highness."
"You're a maniac," Kathryn spat.
"Borg Army," the One stated, "you are to remove all ambassadors, save Captain Janeway and Cole, from the Grand Hall immediately."
Slowly, the ambassadors, accompanied by the Borg, filtered through the exit. After several minutes, the ambassadors were gone.
"Ambassador, explain yourself," the One ordered.
From beneath her sheet, Kathryn held up her Borgified arm. "You explain this."
"Your consent was not required!" the One shouted. "Explain your attire!"
"I came here directly from your medical facility," she said, "the moment I learned what you had done to me."
"In the future, you will be more discreet," the One explained. "The Grand Hall shall not tolerate such disrespect, you foolish human! You have disgraced your people! You have disgraced my chambers!"
"Your actions bring about your own disgrace," she challenged.
The One considered her for several long moments.
"What do you want?"
"I want this removed," she ordered.
"Agreed," he replied. "In exchange, who of your crew shall I commit to death?"
"You heard me, human," the One said.
Suddenly, he rose, leaping from the raised platform, landing in front of her. "Cole will tell you. The last thing I am is unreasonable. I make the law, and I keep it simple. The all shall serve the One. Should you choose to defy the One, you will be eliminated. You are an ambassador, and, consequently, you are afforded all the rights and privileges thereof. One of those privileges is the Borg prosthetic. It is the privilege of every ambassador. If you do not wish it, so be it. In return for your wish to have the prosthetic removed, I require service. If I have it removed, who of your crew shall I commit to death? The choice is yours."
She considered his proposal. "You are insane."
"No stomach for command?" he teased. "You can choose one, or you can choose them all, for all I care."
"If this is the way you rule," she shouted, "then you may as well kill us all!"
"Ah, ah. You're excepted."
"What do you mean?"
"You are not part of the bargain, Ambassador," the One explained. "You have pledged your allegiance to the One. That oath must be honored. Your people can die. That is your choice. But you will not. I'll have Cole see to it. The Borg require little time to regenerate. Cole will ensure that you do not take your own life"
Sneering, he turned away. "Oh, come now, Janeway. I may be insane, but I'm consistent. That's it. Time has elapsed. The prosthetic stays. My decision. However, the next time you enter my chambers, I expect you to be wearing your Starfleet uniform, or I will see to it that a member of your crew ... a member of my choosing ... is executed. Do I make myself clear?"
Infuriated, Janeway lunged at the One, whose back was turned.
As if on instinct, the front of the One morphed through the backside of him. He took Janeway's outstretched arms. Angrily, he hoisted her from the ground and held her high above him. Stopping, curious, he considered her shape, the thin sheet barely covering her.
Cocking his head to the side, the One asked, "Ambassador Janeway, are you what one of your male comrades would call ... attractive?"
The One dropped her to the floor.
Picking herself up, she asked, "Where's my ship?"
"In my Spaceport."
"Where's my crew?"
"Broken up. Working. Around the city. Each according to his or her strengths."
"If you've harmed them in any way," she threatened, "you'll have more to worry about than the Trakill fleet."
Calmly, he turned to look at her. "The Borg files on Species 5618 were accurate. You define yourself by your relationships, don't you?"
She glared back him but didn't respond.
"Your bridge crew?" Strolling about the chamber, the One lost himself in thought. "Let me see. Chakotay and Tuvok, the Vulcan? They are working."
"Manual labor, Captain. Really, can this recounting be that interesting for you?"
"The pulse cannon you just witnessed requires a high degree of routine maintenance. Cleaning. Calibration. Chakotay and Tuvok have strong backs. They are being put to good use."
"Seven of Nine?" she pressed.
"Ah, yes," the One chided. "The former Borg. Yes. She, of course, was of curious interest to the Borg Army. They're examining her, as we speak."
"Re-assimilation, I assume?"
The One shook his head. "No. It was requested, however. I forbade it. No. At this juncture in her journey, Seven is more Species 5618 than she is Borg. She's best left that way. Regardless, the Borg wanted to ... how do you say ... experiment?"
"If she's harmed in any way..."
"She won't be harmed, Ambassador. Sciences, I believe, will make extensive use of her talents. Think what you will of me, but I'm not without heart."
"Ensign Kim? He's been given special assignment. Classified. I'm afraid that I can't share. However, I am comfortable assuring you that no harm will come of him or any of your crew ... so long as you cooperate."
"Sciences Lemm," One disclosed, tiredly. "As I said, to each his, or her, strengths. Do you plan on discussing the entire crew?"
The One, who had been pacing, stopped. He turned to her.
The One cocked his head. "A name I've not heard. Cole?"
The Borg sentry stepped forward. "There is no information available on a Tom Paris."
"Was he listed in the ship's registry?" the One asked.
"He was," Cole agreed. "He was not found aboard. He possibly fled when the Borg Army seized the Voyager."
"Curious." The One leapt back onto his platform, and he sat in his throne. "Were any craft detected abandoning the Voyager at that time?"
"The ship's log is replete with unauthorized shuttle launches."
"That's a cheap shot," Kathryn countered.
"Enough!" the One said. "The both of you! Were there any authorized shuttle launches during the completion of your mission?"
Cole shook his head. "None that I am aware."
"Then how can you reach the conclusion that Tom Paris fled?"
Cole did not reply.
The One leaned forward. "Cole, is my Borg Army in need of a new commander?"
Cole maintained his silence.
Dismissive, the One waved his hands.
"You both have something to think about," he said. "In the meantime, Cole, I order you to get this woman back into her uniform if you have to dress her yourself. The next time, if she enters the Grand Hall in anything other than her proper attire, she won't be the only one punished.
"And as for you?"
The One glared at Kathryn Janeway.
"Get used to the arm."
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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