33 Seven in Red
“She is Borg
The Enqari scientist dismissed her colleague with an intense, but suppressed frustration. “She has no soul. She has no metaphorical ethic, no independent thought. We must appeal to her function.”
“That may be a straightforward matter,” replied her male counterpart, staring out the briefing room window of the Perseus Secondary hull, at the smear of smoldering light and spatial devastation that remained of the Enqar homeworld system. He turned. “However we may not fully understand the undisciplined organizational dynamic of her present authority base enough to persuade effective action,” he said, sitting. “We must prepare for uncontrollable contingencies as these Outliers will no doubt attempt their own evasions.”
“Well, we will just have to attempt rational communication, Doctor, won't we,” the Executrix said from her position at the head of the conference table. “Anything is better than creeping along the galaxy on thrusters
, for the love of Entropy! With a Dreadnought approaching a mere day
“Now Executrix, no need for language. The commanding Attendant of this vessel claims to be following direct orders to leave the sector. If you ask me she is making an excuse to perform some further illicit action in this
sector without violating her orders. Our course is so helical it is nearly circular.”
“They obviously have some sort of pseudo-organizational hierarchy in place. It is our task to ascertain their primitive reasoning processes in order to enlighten them how to proceed.”
She turned to the foot of the table, to eye Seven of Nine, who was flanked by Lieutenant Vorik on her left, and Doctor Salvatore on her right.
“We are insulting them,” said a younger man.
“You shall speak when you have something useful to contribute, Protégé,” the Executrix said. “And do remember the privilege of Personhood is not universally extended. It may be granted only by the Corporatarch to those who earn
Doctor Salvatore slapped the table, and Seven admonished him. “Doctor, emotional indulgences are counterproductive.”
“Yes, Commander. I apologize for wasting...everybody's
...time. Now can we get to the part of deciding where to drop our guests? In all due haste. Something tells me we don't want to be around when heads begin to roll.”
The Enqari delegation consisted of a triumvirate of scientists clad in laboratory gowns; an older male, Corporatarch Cyberneticist Doctor Rogitel Drurek; a young male, “Protégé Drurek” Tem Ros; and the delegation senior scientist, Executrix Doctor San Met, whose sleeves enclosed her hands entirely. They were each accompanied by two technician Adjutants whose mouths were obscured by the stiff ceremonial collars of their lab tunics. Three more Enqari Attendants were present, each employed to perform the physical duties of a scientist – they held out chairs, filled glasses and even lifted cups for drinking. These Attendants were clad in drab gray smocks and had a collarpiece that obstructed fully one half of the face and head.
“It is your Voyager Commanding Attendant who damned the Enqari,” the Executrix said. “Our lunar delegation of scientists and technicians have done little more than conduct colonization research – in the interest of planetary terraformation and the systematic industrial engagement of an economic strata of our own society.”
“Engagement?” countered Salvatore. “Don't you mean enslavement
“Enslavement applies to Persons
Corbin Tibalt Salvatore. Your Excellency.”
“Nor does the Enqar Alliance discriminate among its conscripts
”, she replied. “It comprises no less than four major races each with its own uniform scatter of minority sects, across the entire breadth of socioeconomic strata of the Corporatarch. Very unlike the obviously unequal species ratios pressed into service among, ahem, the crew of this
vessel. Of which your
human species is obviously the exploited Attendant minority of your Federated Planets. The Enqar Alliance affords every opportunity equally across cultures and Citizen Units to the development of their economic reclassification. Policy is enacted upon Citizen Units according to their status level on the given day of implementation. Every Enqari endorses and embraces this policy, as it is the self-evident ideal culmination of all social development systems. Outlier
Units such as the present company could never hope to comprehend it.”
She looked over the pad her assistant held for her and read. “It is nothing to be ashamed of to miscomprehend its complexities in comparison with whatever social system you Federated Outlier Units may use. Enqar society is based on enlightened rational objectification of all Social Units,” she said.
“Social units? You mean, people
?” asked Salvatore.
She looked at her assistant for confirmation, and then the Doctor. “I suppose that's what you
would call them, yes. On Enqar, Personhood is more accurately granted by the Algorithm of Corporatarchy. It is a perfected, unassailable system that fairly elevates many Citizen Units to the status of Personhood – and just as fairly penalizes any Discordants back to Unit Status. All entirely dependent upon our inherent or applied value to society, of course –”
“Your society,” Vorik said, “no longer valuates anything.”
“Lieutenant Vorik,” Seven interrupted. She was discomfited by the diplomatic problem she had taken on her cruiser, and eager to resume tweaking the PRAM parameters to locate either other hull of the Perseus
. The Tertiary cruiser hadn't arrived at the rendezvous and was not detectable within long range scans. So far, not even the PRAM sensor had turned up possible signatures within a long range radius of any designated rendezvous points. This was for one of two reasons. Either the hulls were not at those locations; or they were – and emitting zero energy output.
While Vorik had agreed with her assessment, the rest of the crew, it seemed, had not. Seven tried to understand where the logical breakdown was occurring and so far found herself – at a statistical loss. Compelled to obey orders she did not agree with – to return to Federation space – challenged her certitude in ways she dared not reveal to anyone. Her crew's tacit complicity with her circuitous route at sublight speed – her only assurance she had not yet entirely alienated herself nor the credibility of her emergency command. Her human deficiencies, however, were fast becoming clear.
Meanwhile, an Enqarian Dreadnought had appeared on an intercept course on long range scans, less than a day's travel away at current speeds. And then there was – this
delegation of Enqari.
“What was your analysis able to determine?” Seven asked.
Vorik stood and activated the wall monitor to reveal a topographical outlay of the moon's colonization infrastructure. “Our analysis determined that assimilation originated in this populous nodal zone here, Commander. Sensors indicate these are the oldest structures on this moon, the gas giant's only atmospheric satellite. This area appears to have been the central point of its social organization. The rate of assimilation in this case took over much faster than conventional Borg dispersion rates. We surmise this may be due to people being unaware of the process of internalized assimilation, and so less likely to mount resistance.”
“Agshoth City Colony,” Executrix Doctor San Met said. “The node is the colony's Corporate Congress, and the optimal epicentral deployment point of our nanoprobe agent.”
Seven looked at her for a beat. “You – deliberately released the nanoprobe agent into the society.”
“Yes, of course.”
“That's quite a field test,” complimented Doctor Salvatore.
“It was far more than a test, Corbin Tibalt Salvatore,” she read from her Adjutant's pad. Seven surmised the Enqari scientist was feigning difficulty with the name simply to avoid calling him by a title which she shared. Doctor San Met continued: “We were in the process of developing a new manufacturing base and workforce to industrialize the terraformation of the planet proper.”
“You did this – to your own people
,” Salvatore stared incredulously, a new strain for the rough lines of his face. “To turn them into cyborganic laborers.”
“But of course,” the elder male, Rogitel Drurek said. “But they were not 'people'. It was an Attendant Unit colonization force, similar to these Units here. The assimilation was intended to be confined to the moon.”
“Yet it obviously managed to escape the moon,” Vorik said. “Is there any indication of how this eventuated?”
Seven wasn't sure if she read the emotions right, but she watched as Doctor San Met draped her eyelids, seemingly loathe to respond, and mustering an effort of intercultural civility. “Commander Nine, kindly inform your Attendant that that fact is no longer relevant.”
“My designation is Lieutenant Commander,” said Vorik. “And it is your deniability, Executrix, which has little bearing on the consequences to your homeworld or the extinction of your race.”
“She doesn't know,” the young scientist interrupted. “None of us know.”
Doctor San Met nodded to her Attendant, who pushed a button on a pad.
The young scientist winced in mute pain and tore at his collar. He covered his eyes and mouth with the backs of his hands, and the Attendant relented. He sat upright once more, in perfect attentive silence. Seven watched droplets of sweat form on his temple while blood flushed his face and neck.
She looked at Salvatore, who took note of his tricorder, and turned it for her benefit.
The collar deployed a bioelectric signal that activated the pain sensors in his mouth and throat. The suit's biofeedback electronics meshed across his entire body – as did the clothing of each in the delegation – including the Executrix. Seven wondered what might have happened to Tem Ros if he had moved to silence his Executrix in the same manner. As a Borg, she found the technology – and behavioral modification technique – primitive. As a human, she found her feelings concerning and ill-at-ease, sensations that had started to interfere with her digestive process. She found herself deferring to an overriding Borg regard for the Enqari.
Doctor Salvatore administered a hypo to Tem Ros, who became visibly relieved. Salvatore put the hypo away and drew a phaser from his medkit. “If anyone uses that pain device again while aboard this ship, I will shoot you. Are we clear? Thank you.”
“You are a sworn healer,” the Executrix said.
“A sworn healer,” Doctor Drurek added, “with an energy weapon in his kit, Executrix.”
“As you were
, Doctor.” Seven watched Salvatore sit. In light of her being compelled to represent the Federation ship, she mustered a neutral tone with every erg of Borg resolve available to her. “Lieutenant Vorik, what have the system scans indicated?”
'There are no appropriate planets or facilities within range,” added Vorik, his Vulcan impassivity giving no indication of any emotional reaction to the meeting. “We will either have to rendezvous with the Dreadnought, or retreat, as the delegation has suggested.”
“No ship in the galaxy can outrun a Dreadnought,” said Doctor Drurek. “It travels at warp fifteen
“Approximately warp seven point four on our scale, Commander,” said Vorik.
“That's quite impressive,” said Salvatore. He turned to Seven. “Maybe we should surrender.”
“That is a typical response upon encountering the Enqarian Dreadnought,” finished Doctor Drurek, reading from an Attendant's pad. “However in this case I beg to suggest the alternative. An attempt at...evasion
.” He looked up and Seven noted him agreeing with what he had just said.
“Surrender is of course expected,” informed the Executrix. “However it has fallen incumbent upon me, in light of young Protégé Drurek's catastrophic incompetence with the nanoprobe containment, as well as the unprovoked Federate destruction of Enqar, to request refuge aboard this ship until the Corporatarch is able to confirm exoneration of this delegation from any punitive status. Once confirmed, we shall of course return to the Corporatarchy.”
“Asylum,” Drurek read from a pad. “They call it asylum.”
Seven noted his unease with the prospect of returning to the Dreadnought and facing possible punishment for the destruction of the Enqar home system. As concerned as he appeared, the man did not, however, care enough, she noted, to voice a differing opinion with that of the Executrix. She wondered what happened to those who did. If anyone actually did. Certainly none from this
delegation offered additional insights.
“You wish to remain aboard this ship to avoid culpability in your gross malfeasance and crime against your own homeworld,” Seven clarified. “You would rather request political asylum from those you accuse of completing the criminal process you
initiated. Your hypocrisy has failed to persuade our – questionable reasoning.” Seven stood and tapped her communicator. “Helm, set course for the Dreadnought. Warp nine.”
The Executrix read a pad and faced Doctor Drurek. “We have fifteen hours.”
Seven turned. “You have two minutes.”
“That is impossible.”
. Gather your people. Lieutenant Vorik will escort you to the transporter room now.”
Vorik stood to face the Executrix. “The honor is mine,” he said to her.