The Best of Both Girls
A Captain Janeway Adventure
by Jim Wright
[As the last chapter ended, Janeway was eating everything she could get her hands on at a fancy San Francisco restaurant, fueling up for the unfolding Borg Rebellion. Meanwhile, Janeway prepares to send the USS Duchess through the Bajoran wormhole to fight the Dominion Drones, and has ordered Commander Riker and his team to return to DS9. Seven of Nine lies unconscious from a rebel Drone attack, but didn't lose her memory core. Four of Seven wasn't so lucky…]
Chapter 9: "You Are My Queen"
The shields had gone up.
It might seem odd for a restaurant to feature Starfleet-quality shielding. But the upscale seafood eatery on Pier 39 famously catered to admirals, ambassadors, and other galactic movers and shakers. Security was a regular concern. So was privacy--these were very special shields, designed as much for aesthetics as protection. Rather than an invisible, high-energy field, the impenetrable shields now obscuring the Paris party alcove had the look and feel of traditional Asian rice-paper walls that perfectly matched the décor.
Security, read the rules of the house, should never detract from ambience.
The reason the shields had been raised was obvious: Captain Janeway's table manners had begun to deteriorate. The sight of the petite captain inhaling every edible substance within reach had been amusing at first. But the grim look of determination in the Borg Queen's eyes, and the beads of nervous sweat forming on the brows of her VIP companions, had begun to unnerve the other customers.
Janeway was now receiving her food by transporter; the impromptu Bucket Brigade formed by the wait staff had not been able to keep pace. The master chef had given a valiant effort, but had finally collapsed from exhaustion. Admiral Paris had ordered that a high-yield replicator at Starfleet Academy be dedicated to keeping Janeway's plate full.
A nervous young cadet had arrived to coordinate the meal transfers via a replicator command PADD. She flinched when Janeway gestured her to come closer.
When two tubules sprang from the captain's wrist and assimilated the PADD, the poor cadet screamed.
Fortunately for the other customers, the decorative shields were also soundproof.
The color drained from Chakotay's face. Until now, Janeway had shown no exterior sign of her assimilation other than her extreme pallor and the fiery redness of her hair. The growth of assimilation nodules could mean anything, but he had to know. Kathryn had been protesting all evening that the meal, and thus the Borg Situation, was "fine."
"How is it, Kathryn?" Commander Chakotay asked again.
"I've had better," Janeway admitted.
The Collective was fragmenting. Worse, it was tribalizing.
Janeway loathed forced assimilation--the early 8472 and Dominion captives aside, she had forbade it. She did, however, appreciate the results of bringing disparate and warring cultures into the Hive mind. Old animosities were set aside as individuals were subsumed into the Whole, and cultures were compelled to blend rather than clash. The order within the Collective eliminated bigotry in any form. Drones didn't hate or envy or bear old grudges against each other; such self-defeating emotions were for lesser species. Pettiness detracted from the Collective's perfection. The Collective sought out species to assimilate who would add new distinctiveness, biological and technological, and enhance the Whole. And to the newcomers, the knowledge of thousands of species was given to them. They were enhanced. The sacrifice of individuality and its corrupting weaknesses was a small price to--
No. Assimilation was not altruistic, if it ever had been. The Collective's urge to expand its reach was an addiction--the insatiable need to grow in the only way it could, because it could not grow on its own. The Borg no longer produced anything; they only consumed. The quest for perfection had caused vast harm to the galaxy, destroyed freedom, robbed culture, left only ruin. The illusion of Perfection within the Collective came at the cost of greater entropy in the galaxy at large. The Borg left desolation in their wake. The price was too high.
Janeway had tried to liberalize the Borg. She invited little freedoms. She encouraged debate, did not squelch dissent. The fruits of her labors were now ripe: insurrection on a grand scale. The order that had so impressed her when she was first assimilated, which had prompted her to embrace the Hive and had led to her Queenship by universal acknowledgement, was collapsing.
The Dominion drones had reminded the other drones of their origins, sown the seeds of racial pride, stirred up the old hatreds. They had shown the drones whose passions they aroused how to use the unifying, stultifying power of the vinculum to their own advantage and reach out to like-minded minds--and let those tiny pockets of individuality every drone kept to grow.
The rebellion itself was not vast--ten billion or so in the immense sea of consciousness. But they were pervasive--no cell of the Hive was free of the corruption. By employing Leonardo's water locks concept, she had managed to identify many of the Vorta and Scolari ringleaders, and was readying her counterattack.
But as she was discovering, the individuality virus that had transformed the boyish drone Hugh into a Collective-shattering weapon was now sweeping through the entire hive mind. Not everyone listened to the Vorta or those tainted by their rebellion. But as Janeway's control ebbed, others who had cause to resent their assimilation began to resist as well.
Some drones simply wanted to break away and be left alone. None stepped forward to challenge Janeway for the Queen's authority, but there was a growing desire to do as they had done in the months before Janeway's arrival, and do without until a truly worthy Queen was found. Still others wanted to exact revenge on the Collective that had taken everything from them.
And some chafed against the moratorium. The addict needed its fix of new minds. Some Borg were ravenous. Earth was now as ever an inviting target for assimilation--so much the better that the Queen was there now. After the Borg losses to Species 8472 and to the unusually resistant humans, the need to expand was great.
Janeway sensed it all--she was perfectly aware of the rebellions being formed across the galaxy--but she knew that the rebels were laboring to cut off her access to their vessels so they could act without her knowledge. She still saw through those still-accessible sensors on ships and planets and through the eyes of the trillions who did not actively rebel.
Janeway understood some of the complaints. That part of her that hated the loss of individual freedom agreed.
Janeway developed some plans for her subjects, suited to the needs--and crimes--of each. She continued, as her body fed, to command the loyal voices, to reroute pathways cut off by the rebels. But the magnitude of her task, the billions of simultaneous actions required, was daunting.
Each new rebellion weakened her. But whatever might cause a drone to leave her, whether rebellion or destruction, every loss diminished her. Could she or her sanity survive the jettisoning of billions of extensions of herself? She was the Borg--the cost of victory would make it as bitter as defeat.
Janeway had a doomsday option--annihilating every assimilated soul at once, and herself with them. It was a gambit she had frequently taken on Voyager, and it had always paid off. But she knew she had often been damned lucky; Chakotay and Tuvok never let her forget that. It was their voices now that stayed her hand. She'd keep it in her arsenal; perhaps the threat of it would be enough. But the time might come when she lacked the power to carry it out.
Her entire life, there had never been a challenge Kathryn Janeway couldn't handle. But with the fate of the galaxy literally in her hands, Janeway feared she had finally met her match.
And she had nobody to turn to.
Jadzia Dax monitored the position of the USS Duchess from her station on DS9. "They're moving," she announced.
Sisko emerged from his office a moment later. "Report."
"We're being hailed," Major Kira said. "It's Commander Riker."
"Put him through. Go ahead, Commander," Sisko said.
Duchess requests permission to enter the wormhole, Captain, Riker said, his rich voice filling the command center.
Sisko noted Riker's guarded tone. "Is there a problem, Commander?"
The Queen wants to visit some of her new subjects. She's ordered us back to DS9. The Dodgers are coming home.
Sisko cast a look at Dax. "Permission granted. We'll be ready for you."
Drop us off near the Dabo tables, will you? I'm feeling lucky today.
"I'll be sure to warn Quark. DS9 out."
Sisko did just that. Quark, cursing at the mention of Riker's name, remembered all too well Riker's last run at the Dabo wheel. But he assured Sisko that the drinks would be poured before Team Riker finished materializing--provided, of course, that Sisko was buying. Sisko agreed, and motioned for Chief O'Brien to follow him to the promenade, leaving command to Kira.
"They're within transporter range," Dax said a moment later.
"Drop shields," Kira ordered.
True to his word, Quark had nine synthales and a whiskey sour queued up and an area near the Dabo wheel cleared to accommodate the transport. Sisko and O'Brien arrived a moment before the away team did.
Nine figures materialized on the Promenade. Quark frowned. "Where's Commander Riker?"
Chief O'Brien looked at Sisko. "He did say the Dodgers, didn't he, sir?"
Sisko stared back, missing O'Brien's point. Then he remembered. "The Dodgers were a National League team. They never used a designated hitter!"
"Sir?" Lieutenant Lincoln asked.
Sisko shook his head. "Baseball, Lieutenant. The Dodgers were a baseball team in the 20th century. They resisted the Designated Hitter rule until Los Angeles was flooded in the Quake of 2014. They were always a nine-man team."
"So where's the Commander?" Quark asked.
"Dodging drones, most likely," O'Brien muttered, which earned him a withering glance from the captain.
"Riker stayed on that monstrosity?" Quark asked, smiling despite himself. "If he's that stupid I wish he had come back; this is not his lucky day." He looked at the emptying tray as the nine arrivals eagerly grabbed pint after pint of synthale. "But who's going to take this whiskey sour?"
"I bought it," Sisko rumbled. "I'll drink it." Lifting the tumbler toward the ceiling, Sisko sighed. "To your health, Commander."
Commander, I ordered you to return to DS9. Janeway's Borg voice was more brusque than usual.
Riker was on the move through the Cube's corridors, putting distance between himself and the crew quarters. "I'm sorry, Captain, but the Duchess is my command until you relieve me. In person."
Unacceptable. The walls shook at that. Riker winced.
"Captain, I can't stop you from beaming me to DS9," Riker said. "But that's the only way I'm leaving. This vessel is my responsibility and I won't go willingly."
Aside from his footfalls, there was silence in the corridor. Riker didn't feel the grip of a transporter beam. Instead, he felt a tremor as the Cube entered the wormhole.
I would if I could, Commander.
Riker let out the breath he was holding. But then the import of her statement struck him. "Captain, you are still in control of this vessel."
Another pause. Not completely.
Riker sighed, this time with apprehension. He rubbed his face, cutting into the flesh of his fingers with his rough facial hair. "Tell me what you need me to do."
Enterprise to Captain Picard, Commander Data said through Picard's combadge.
Voyager to Captain Janeway, Lieutenant Tuvok said at the same time through Janeway's communicator.
The two captains were expecting the call, but not this soon. Janeway had only warned the admiral a moment before that rebel cubes were planning to come to earth; she didn't expect any vessel to be beyond her awareness this quickly. She suspected she was being fed false data, and began trying to verify.
"Here, Captain," Janeway said, tossing Picard her combadge. If Admirals Paris or Patterson resented her imperious tone, they wisely said nothing. Picard activated both communicators.
"Enterprise, Voyager--this is Captain Picard. Report, Mr. Data."
Transwarp signatures detected, Captain. Two vessels. Both Borg. Approaching at maximum impulse.
They are not responding to hails, Tuvok added.
All eyes turned to Janeway. She shook her head helplessly. "I can sense them. But I--can't control them. I'm trying, but I don't think I can stop them in time."
"Time to arrival, Mr. Data?" Picard asked.
Four point seven minutes.
"Enterprise, Voyager: Stand by."
Acknowledged, Tuvok and Data said in unison.
Admiral Patterson had lost most of the color in his already pale face. Admiral Paris seemed to be draining Patterson's color to darken the throbbing purple of his own. "Paris to Command. Condition Black. Repeat: Condition Black!"
Black was the highest alert level in planetary defense that did not require public notification. There were times when general panic would pose a greater threat to safety than whatever danger was on its way. Or if the threat was so dire that nobody expected the defense last long enough to make a difference.
"Options?" Picard asked the room, while looking at Janeway. Nobody spoke aside from Paris, who was busy talking to Starfleet Command.
"I can't control the ships directly. I'm starting to get some sense back--they're planning to release something in the atmosphere--a nanoprobe virus. It will assimilate the population over time. I'd ordered it destroyed, but clearly they didn't listen. We've got to neutralize those cubes before they can release it."
"Do you know how?" Picard asked.
"Yes--but I can't do it. No other cubes are close enough--the Duchess is in the Gamma Quadrant. Voyager and Enterprise could stop them, if I could control them. If both Cubes aren't destroyed simultaneously, the survivor will have time to launch the virus."
"Return to Voyager. I'll return to Enterprise. You can lead the attack."
"Jean-Luc, that won't work! I don't have the time to explain what needs to be done, let alone prepare the ships! Commander Data has the reflexes, if I could interface with him directly. But Enterprise can't do this alone."
Picard swallowed hard. "Data can take Voyager. I'll take Enterprise."
"Captain, I just explained--"
"Locutus can," Picard said. There was no mistaking his intent.
Janeway's eyebrows rose. Chakotay frowned, saying nothing. Admiral Paris looked up from his communicator, glaring at Picard. "Captain, tell me I didn't just hear that."
Picard left his seat and knelt beside Janeway. He took her by the right hand. He was stunned by the coldness of it, and felt a thrill of remembered dread. "I am…Locutus of Borg. You--are my Queen."
Janeway shook her head. "Jean Luc--"
"It's the only way. I've never stopped resisting the Collective. But I offer my individuality to you now, freely, for the sake of Earth." He smiled seductively. "I trust you won't abuse the privilege," he added.
Chakotay felt a chill. He had known the Collective voice. He still had nightmares about it. He had shared Riley's consciousness, known her as well as he'd known himself. Better, even, because he had been able to see himself through her eyes. But the shock of her manipulation of his will had never worn off.
Whatever he felt for Janeway, he could not follow Picard's lead. He would give his captain everything he had, including unswerving loyalty--but he could not sacrifice his identity. Never again.
Thank you, Mr. Data.
Janeway stared at the determined face of Captain Picard, so close to her own. She focused on his eyes--so full of life. She had reviewed Picard's logs intently before she had engaged the Borg, had seen the deadness in the single eye of Locutus. Only she and Picard understood fully what he was offering to do, and what it took for him to do so. Janeway's eyes welled with tears.
Alone as she was, Janeway knew there was no alternative. Earth was in the balance. She reached out with her left hand to caress the smooth head of the legendary Picard, the officer and gentleman she had long admired. Their eyes met, locked in a union of souls.
Then Janeway's right wrist twitched--and two tubules leapt upward and plunged into Jean Luc Picard's throat.
[To be Continued…]
Copyright © 1997-1999 Jim Wright
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