Seven in Red:
“The Dreadnought is charging weapons,” said the Ensign at tactical.
“Reinforce shields at the angle of deflection. Lock phasers on their tractor emitter. As soon as you get a clear shot, fire at that and only that installation. Helm, attack pattern gamma three on my mark.”
“Commander?” Ensign Hardesty turned, and with a single look from her, said “Gamma three. Laying in now, sir.”
The Dreadnought fired its disruptors. The Perseus Secondary shuddered under the barrage.
“Tactical – fire
“Phasers firing.” The Secondary discharged phasers against the Dreadnought's tractor emitter. It exploded. “Target destroyed, Commander!”
“Full power to propulsion. Helm, maximum warp!”
The ship shook under a disruptor salvo.
“Commander!” Hardesty shouted. “That blast hit our port lateral coil!”
On screen, a large ignited chunk of the port nacelle disintegrated under a disruptor explosion.
“Warp status!” Seven demanded.
“I'm having trouble establishing a stable warp field configuration. Port coil series four through nine are functionally destroyed. Commander, reading stress microfracturing in the port Bussard compression tanks. Isofield reinforcement at maximum, but – power's fluctuating in those decks!”
“Auxiliary power to the containment fields, Ensign. And engage helm at maximum achievable velocity.”
The Perseus Secondary jumped to warp. The Dreadnought followed.
“The Enqari are overtaking us Commander!”
Seven blazed through her panel calculations. “Evasive pattern delta four.”
“Two more incoming torpedoes!” Ensign Hardesty gripped his helm and Seven boosted thrusters to the last second, evading one – but not the other one. The torpedo exploded against the aft hull; the ship caromed off course and power went down across several decks and systems.
“We've lost navigation!” Hardesty cried.
Seven called up another system. “Computer, initiate pilot hologram.”
A holographic human compiled in a holographic chair at the helm beside Hardesty. “Navigator, you will manually enter helm coordinates from long range scans. Helm, evasive maneuvers.”
Hardesty turned. “Commander, we'll have no way of knowing our bearings – or if we should cross over into hostile territory.”
“Would you prefer the Enqari – or to warp into a star Ensign?”
“Protest withdrawn, sir.”
The Perseus Secondary heaved as it fell out of warp.
“It's no good, Commander. The port coil's series overcompensation burned out auxiliary circuits.” He blazed through failing commands on the helm interface. “Warp engines inoperative! Sir I can't even establish a field around the starboard nacelle!”
“Seven to Lieutenant Salazar,” Seven tapped her communicator.
Commander. Plasma distribution manifolds across the port nacelle have fused open. Enough power leakage is still reaching the functional port warp coils to create a harmonic field distortion and prevent a stable warp configuration –
“Which means quantum slipstream is inoperative,” added Vorik. “If we cut power at the nacelle TPS manifolds to eliminate the warp coil resonance, then magnetic containment of the integrity fields around the damaged gas storage tanks will collapse, resulting in an explosive decompression of hydrogen. The probability of eliminating all risk of electroplasmic stimulation of the gas from the nacelle is quite negligible, Commander. To say nothing of ballistic damage. It could create a field imbalance that would tear the ship apart at warp speed. We. Must. Defend. Ourselves. Commander
Seven considered without reply and faced ahead. Then she said, “Full impulse, Ensign. Evasive pattern alpha. Mister Vorik. The next time you make that recommendation – will be from your confinement in quarters. Is that clear
?” Seven glared at Vorik, who locked his gaze onto the main viewer with an intensity that belied his logical heritage.
It was not so long ago she would have shared his position. Self-preservation at any cost. Seven could practically see the command choked behind the set of his jaw, like a rock wall before a Vulcan sandstorm. The command to open fire on the Dreadnought boiled within – unseen, unvoiced, and undeniably constant.
For Seven – there was certainly a time when that directive of self-preservation was all-powerful. As a member of the Borg Collective she had stood by watching whole civilizations undergoing assimilation. All resistance destroyed by macroscopic energy weapons and microscopic nanoprobe infusions into body – mind – and spirit. She had taken them in. She had heard – and endured them one and all.
But as a human
– when exactly had she changed? When did she find herself holding onto this – irrational belief that she was no longer a force for the wholesale destruction of the galaxy? If she would not change here – and now – then for what did Captain Janeway risk her entire ship and crew on behalf of a single Borg drone, designated only a number – Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One? She was Borg?
We are Seven of Nine
Seven watched the Enqarian Dreadnought drop out of warp, looming on approach, and knew what she must do.
She stood. “You have the bridge, Mister Vorik.”
“Yes, Commander. May I ask where you are going?”
“To effect our repair.”
Seven paused in the corridor as a trio of science officers passed arguing an application of theoretical calculus on shield frequency rotation. When they were out of sight, she turned back – and entered the transporter room.
At the terminal, she activated an encrypted command sequence. Pallaj Rejental appeared on her screen.
What could you possibly want now, Borg?
“Pallaj Rejental. Your legal system requires the trial and sentencing of a guilty party for the destruction of the Enqar home system.”
As I have already explained. Did you hail me to debate legal code?
“No. I am here to...confess to the crime and receive justice on behalf of the Enqari.”
The Pallaj lit up with thoughts of possibility.
Seven continued: “I will beam over to your vessel and surrender willingly, and face the full punishment for the crime.”
You – would do this voluntarily?
He squinted sidelong. What is it you really want?
“In return you will stand down your attack on this cruiser – and you will either offer the Enqari delegation aboard this vessel immunity, or allow their asylum to go unpursued. And
their Adjutants and Attendants.”
Now this...is very strange behavior for a Borg, indeed. Whatever motivates your surrender? The Algorithm is not so easily placated. You must admit your reasoning with all due plausibility.
She paused and thought, To prove to myself that I am worthy of Captain Janeway's faith and the risk she took, and the crew of Voyager took, in rescuing me from myself. A risk I now reciprocate – to those voiceless members of the surviving delegation of the extinguished home system of Enqar.
“We,” she said, “are Borg.”
The Pallaj gave a solemn nod to an Attendant, who began entering data into a pad. After a moment, he scanned over several pads held to him, and frowned.
“Unacceptable.” He stood and walked to the viewscreen. “For a crime of this unthinkable magnitude the death of a single Outlier will not placate justice. Not even if she is the last living Borg in the galaxy.”
He read a pad. “The Algorithm has made its judgment. In view of the undetermined whereabouts of the Federation ship Voyager, guilt falls to the next available duly representative ship...the Federation cruiser Perseus, and all Social Units aboard, be they Outlier or Citizen. How perspicacious the Algorithm has not named any Enqari specifically for the destruction of the homeworld system, yet has not permitted the escape from justice of any complicitous Persons or Social Units. The Algorithm of Corporatarchy is all-wise.”
He motioned to an officer, who began entering a sequence into a weapons station referencing the Federation cruiser on a sensor map. “Justice will be served by nothing less than the destruction of your Federation Outlier vessel and of course, the Enqari science delegation who have brought this devastation upon us. Furthermore, the Enqari Algorithm of Corporatarchy has now officially
declared a permanent
state of war with the United Federation of Planets. No
Enqari will remain at peace until the Federation smolders in ruins! You
, Borg, will beam yourself to us immediately, to spare your crew a painful, prolonged death by torture. You shall all
face our consequences. And then
we shall destroy your Perseus. The Algorithm – has decreed, and your
Pallaj has spoken –”
“I do not recognize your artificial authority, nor your indiscriminate faith in technology,” Seven interrupted. “In addition, the actual basis of authority on your own vessel has expired
with the destruction of your world,” she countered. “Your Algorithm, like your title, is now obsolete
, Mul Brugnai Rejental.” She let that register in a psyche obviously unaccustomed to defiance, his face wooden, masking any sinking recognition of the reality of his position, and felt – pitilessness
for him. “I imagine the irreconcilable fact that the Algorithm had not predicted the destruction of Enqar – has only begun to generate its consequences on board your ship.”
“Admittedly, our explanations have required meticulous...crafting. For quashing the undisciplined concerns of the less civil-minded Attendant population.” He leaned in and bit, “We are redoubling our faith in strong order despite any
discord that continues to threaten peace. And despite the barbaric continuing threat of your...Federation
! No one
in Enqar history has ever escaped their sentence or the full panoply of the Algorithm's power.” He broke into a feral grin. “And neither shall you, Outlier. Now that the Algorithm has officially declared you
and your ship
guilty of the destruction of Enqar – nothing short of your trial and summary executions can restore Enqari peace aboard this Dreadnought.”
“Mul Rejental, learn what I have learned of Borg destruction. You may one day forgive yourself for surviving the destruction of your people.” She activated the transporter. “But you will never find peace.”
Seven of Nine stepped on the transporter pad and demolecularized, wondering if she should ever be whole again.