The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, the Dominion drones and their allies had been destroyed--but it wasn't enough to bring the entire Collective back to Janeway. Weakened and distraught by the war and the diminishing of the Collective consciousness, by the loss of tens of billions of souls and countless resources, Janeway fears she has nothing left to give.]
Chapter 11: "God Save The Queen"
Riker was worried. Janeway had just dropped off the Net. And here he was, stuck deep in the Gamma Quadrant on a ship full of what might be leaderless drones. He'd been in that position before.
And to top it off, someone was coming.
Reaching for a phaser, Riker hoped against hope that it would be a friendly face.
Two drones advanced on him. He fired, taking out the first.
The second adapted its personal shielding, rendering his weapon useless. Raising its prosthetic arm, a wicked sawblade whirred. The laser eye targeted Riker's left shoulder. He didn't like the implications.
Sparks appeared behind the drone. It stiffened, then collapsed.
Seven, thank heaven.
I am still en route, Commander.
A petite figure appeared from a hidden alcove behind the spot where the drones had fallen. Her girlish features were scarred, evidence of Borg implants hastily removed. Her left arm ended above the elbow in an amputated stump. The other, fleshy human arm held a wicked-looking disruptor rifle.
He'd know her anywhere. But he never expected to see her again. Riker broke into a wide, disbelieving grin. "Four!"
Four of Seven blew on the muzzle of her disruptor rifle. "Miss me?"
"You have no idea. But I saw you--your core--"
Four of Seven held up the stump that had once anchored a prosthetic arm. "Lt. Lincoln is a miracle worker. I should have died when--" Four of Seven offered her disruptor to Riker, then gingerly patted the part of her stomach where her memory core had been. She winced; the wounds couldn't have healed fully yet.
Four of Seven offered Riker a fragile smile. "I'm not part of the Collective anymore." She reached behind her ear and showed him a transceiver very much like his own. "Lincoln got me into a regeneration chamber. The Queen kept the scavenger drones away. I've still got a lot of regenerating to do--but she woke me up when your proximity alarm went off."
"Can you still hear her?" Riker asked hopefully. Four of Seven pursed her lips, then shook her head sadly.
Thank you, Kathryn, Riker thought. Wherever you are. "Four, that's the best news I've heard all day."
The mousy ex-drone smiled. "Call me Janeanne."
Must hold on…must hold on…comply…please…
Do you want to be the queen? A new voice--voice of infinite stillness, of perfect compassion, spoke to that part of her that even the Collective could not reach.
I…don't know. I'm so tired. But they need me. If I lose control, the Borg will lose control. They'll assimilate and destroy without conscience. I can teach them a better way. I can lead them to explore, to do good in the galaxy.
I know it can be done!
But can you do it?
Janeway was startled. That was the big question, wasn't it? Could she hang on and lead the Borg for the rest of her life? She didn't feel like she could last another hour.
But if not her, who?
It can be done. And you can regain your life, Kathryn. But to do it, you need to let go. Just…let go.
Janeway let go.
Lwaxana Troi smoothed back the hair on Kathryn Janeway's fevered brow. She rocked back and forth, comforting Janeway as she would a sick child.
Janeway's eyes had closed. Lwaxana held Janeway's right hand and patted it gently.
"Is she going to be all right, Ambassador?" Chakotay asked. "Can you tell us anything?"
"She'll be fine, young man. I know you'll take good care of her. She cares for you deeply, you know."
"I don't know what to say--" Chakotay said, flushing slightly.
"Just promise me you'll take her straight home tonight. Don't let Admiral Paris stand in your way." Paris glowered at the ambassador, but said nothing. "She needs to go home."
Chakotay nodded. "I promise." He looked to Admiral Paris, then to Admiral Patterson; neither objected.
"That's all I needed to hear, young man."
Chakotay gasped as two tubules leapt from Janeway's wrist toward the elder Troi's neck.
The Collective knows how best to employ the assimilated. When a new mind joins the Whole, the tasks it is best suited for become readily apparent.
When Lwaxana Troi emerged as a full member of the Hive, there was no question where she would serve.
JANEWAY: My Queen… Janeway gasped.
LWAXANA: It's time to rest, Little One.
JANEWAY: All those lives…I couldn't control the Collective. I couldn't control--
LWAXANA: Trillions? Janeway felt the gentle laughter. My dear, you're only human!
JANEWAY: How did you get here, Lwaxana? Was it me? I didn't mean to assimilate you. Damn, I can't even control my own nanoprobes anymore…
LWAXANA: You didn't control them, Little One. You let go. I assimilated myself.
JANEWAY: You what?! No offense, Ambassador, but even I had to be dragged into the Collective! Are you sure you can handle the job? It's like herding all the fish in the ocean at once. I can't believe I thought I could handle it…
LWAXANA: You have enough to be concerned with, Kathryn. You've accomplished remarkable things! You brought your crew back from across the galaxy. You managed to earn the loyalty of your Maquis crew--the Federation could certainly use your expertise there! You've saved us from the Dominion--twice!
LWAXANA: And for a glorious season, you were Queen. They don't make just anyone Queen, my dear. I should know.
JANEWAY: They know better than to assimilate a redhead. Usually. [laughter] Perhaps you are up to the task, Ambassador.
LWAXANA: I am a daughter of the Fifth House, my dear. The Collective was an unhealthy place long before you arrived. Don't blame yourself. When the time came, you did your duty as Queen--and as a Starfleet captain.
Janeway's heart caught in her throat. Thank you for that.
LWAXANA: Now rest, Little One. You have family waiting for you--at home, and on Voyager. There's a handsome young man sitting next to you; if you're smart, you need never be alone.
JANEWAY: Chakotay? He's my first officer, and my friend. But beyond that!--
LWAXANA: Beyond that you have no control; I know. Trust me, Little One. I know how much the unknown and uncontrolled concerns you. But sometimes, it's the only option--sometimes you just need to let go and see where the currents take you.
JANEWAY: I--it's so hard…
LWAXANA: Shhh. Rest now. Let your mind drift, Kathryn…
The tendrils retracted from Lwaxana's neck. The elder Troi was as pale as a ghost--but there burned beneath the surface a fire that suffused her with an incandescent glow. The hair on Lwaxana's well-coiffed head, already a deep crimson, now shone with a halo of fire.
Lwaxana's laughter was the last thing anyone in the room expected.
"A girl could get used to this," Lwaxana remarked. With a thought, the nanoprobes in her system got to work, tending to the garden that was the Queen's body. Before the stunned eyes of Chakotay and the admirals, the already handsome Lwaxana Troi was sculpted into an ageless goddess.
This was Lwaxana as she saw herself. No wonder she'd always been so confident, Admiral Paris thought.
"Ambassador--what's happening?" Chakotay asked.
"Your captain is leaving the Collective. It's time for her to go home."
Chakotay nodded. He tapped his chest and hailed Voyager. "Two to beam up, Harry." As he lifted the captain into his arms, the exoskeletal "bracelet" on Janeway's right hand fell off. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome, young man. But remember--I want you to take her home."
"I understand." Chakotay and Janeway were caught up in the transporter beam, and soon were gone.
"But what about the Borg?" Admiral Paris asked.
Lwaxana laughed merrily. "You just leave the Borg to me. We won't be a bother anymore."
Admiral Paris was satisfied. But he dared a comment to Patterson in sotto voice: "Heaven help the Borg."
Seven of Nine arrived a moment later. She noticed Riker embracing Four of Seven. "I am--gratified to see you are undamaged," Seven said.
Four of Seven smiled impishly. "It's good to see you too--Annika."
Seven stiffened. "That designation is irrelevant."
"More relevant than you think," Janeanne said. Reattaching her transceiver, Four of Seven shared a little secret. A gift from Janeway--if Seven chose to take it.
I know what the Collective means to you, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix 01. But you're human, too. And you can be again, if you want. But that's between you--and Annika Hansen.
Riker added his voice to the tiny Collective. Give it some thought, Seven. Individuality's not so bad once you get used to it.
SEVEN: Doesn't it get…lonely?
RIKER: All the time. That's what friends are for. You don't have to share consciousness to make connections with others.
SEVEN: I would like to be your--friend.
RIKER: You already are.
FOUR: And mine. If it weren't for you, Seven, I couldn't have survived. I owe you my life. Thank you.
SEVEN: You are welcome.
Riker, Four and Seven heard a new voice. A voice of such confidence that it awed even Riker. I am Lwaxana of Borg. I am our new Queen. Any questions? The hum that Riker heard intensified--he suspected a billion questions asked at once. Gradually, it subsided. Good. Now that that's settled…
The cube began to move. Riker consulted the terminal even as Seven announced the new trajectory: the wormhole. And home.
"I really need to regenerate," Four of Seven said. "Riker, you big stud, take me to my alcove or lose me forever."
Riker broke into an epic grin. "Anything you say, darlin'." Lifting her into his arms, Riker nodded to Seven of Nine and practically floated down the corridor and out of sight.
Humans, Seven thought, watching them go. How could they survive the way they do? How could they spend their lives in the confines of their own mind and accomplish anything?
"Hey, Seven, are you coming? I could use a hand here."
Whether he knew it or not, Riker had said exactly the right thing. Seven of Nine sprinted down the corridor to assist her friends.
Data had not been assimilated, so he had little trouble disconnecting himself from the Collective.
Picard needed help.
He got it.
LWAXANA: Jean Luc! Our minds touch at last. And yours is so big!
PICARD: You do flatter me, Ambassador.
LWAXANA: Call me Lwaxana. Better yet, call me, My Queen.
PICARD: I'll call you at every opportunity, My Queen.
Picard felt her easy laughter. He also sensed the new calm within the Collective. He suspected the Borg were in capable hands.
But they were hands he'd rather stop holding. I know you have me where you want me, My Queen, but if I may beg your indulgence…
LWAXANA: Sigh. Running away so soon? Very well. Your nanoprobes have been reprogrammed--you'll be yourself again soon.
PICARD: Thank you, LWAXANA. I am forever in your debt. Picard could sense the weakening of his link to the Hive.
The final echo in his mind, though, was all too familiar. Locutus! Such wicked thoughts!
It was bad enough when Lwaxana said it. But when the entire Collective spoke in unison…Picard chuckled. God help the Borg. He shuddered to think of the Collective a year from now. Paisley Cubes, color-coordinated exoskeletons…
And soon it was over. Not even the residual connection to the Collective remained. For the first time since his original abduction, his mind was wholly his own. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, Picard shed the exoskeleton from his hand, still connected to Enterprise's navigation console.
He noticed the bridge crew looking at him. He sensed their anxiety. Offering a reassuring smile, Picard spoke. "Mr. Hawk: stand down Red Alert. It's over."
Lt. Hawk nodded crisply. "Aye sir." The lights came on--and with it, the mood of everyone on the bridge. It really was over.
Deanna Troi gave the captain a warm smile. "Congratulations, Captain."
"Thank you, Counselor." His smile faded. "Mr. Hawk, you have the bridge. Counselor, will you accompany me to my ready room?"
"Of course, Captain."
A moment later, the door closed behind them. "What is it, Captain?"
Picard sighed. "I'm not sure how to tell you this, Counselor. About your mother…"
[To be Continued…]
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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