Seven in Red:
United Federation of Planets Starfleet Provisional Commander Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One reconstituted on an enclosed control mezzanine overlooking a cavernous interior space – of a colossal warp coil extending through the starboard nacelle of the U.S.S. Perseus Secondary cruiser.
Warning. Radiation levels at maximum human tolerance.
“Computer, verify the coils are powered down.”
Working. Verified. Links with damaged systems isolated and powered down. Unverified fluctuations in phase compensator links and subsystems. Warning. Radiation levels at maximum –
“Computer, silent mode.” Seven took an extra second to take in a view normally flooded with warp engine radiation, from a room usually only accessible by Jefferies tube. She activated the workstation and began a decoupling sequence; breaking the links between primary TPS relays that provided tetryon plasma energy for establishing warp fields. And breaking the promise she had made to Captain Janeway the only other time she had committed the act of – sabotage
The ship rocked under fire. Seven stumbled and righted herself. So far the regenerative shielding had repulsed much of the force of the Dreadnought firepower, and the ablative hull armor continued vaporizing and dissipating the less sophisticated disruptor energy. But it would not hold up indefinitely. The Dreadnought's vastly superior power reserves could generate phased energy millennia after Perseus had run out of power.
Her communicator chirped: Commander Seven of Nine
, Vorik said, the Enqarian Dreadnought has resumed its attack. Permission to fire on their disruptor emitters only.
“Negative, Mister Vorik. You will divert all power to shields, and standby.”
Commander, we cannot withstand attack indefinitely. Your indecision is putting this ship at unnecessary grave risk.
“Mister Vorik, you will standby and await my orders.”
Commander, perhaps if you gave the crew some indication of your plan – that is if you even have one –
The ship shook again as phased disruptor energy cracked in a sonic shockwave that echoed through the decks.
“You will cease disrupting my calculations immediately and await my arrival to the bridge. Divert all available power to shields and stand by. That is a direct order
And what of the Enqari delegation, Commander?
“We will share their fate, Mister Vorik.”
Seven strode the corridor and saw her reflection in a wall terminal. Her severe expression, her armored guard; and beneath it, an uncertain footing under the almost unbearable weight of a responsibility to ship and crew she had never felt before; in direct conflict with this awakening moral enigma the Enqari had provoked in her; in direct conflict with her Borg instinct for survival at any cost. A survival she now knew was – no life at all. A lesson it had taken her years to learn; begun with a single act of liberation. When Seven had asked her, years later – how Janeway could have known that such a risk against her own ship and crew, for a Borg
– could even possibly
succeed – Janeway had looked up from her mug, and into Seven's eyes, and said, “I only needed three things to know what to do about you. The bathroom mirror, and a leap of faith.”
“And the third?”
Janeway had toasted her coffee cup. “A life worth living.”
Seven still wasn't certain she fully understood the Admiral's meaning; but in comparison to a Borg existence – that old life she was later free to choose – she had willfully remained an individual. If only Janeway were present now – but no
. Seven no longer had the luxury of a superior command structure. She
was now the ranking officer – a position she felt less prepared for, the more she understood of her own humanity, and the longer she served on a continually-surprising individualist ship. The developments in this Perseus Trial were most...irrational...disordered...and continually defying adaptation. Compelled to obey orders she did not agree with, to alienate the crew, and to heed imperfect instincts or internal nanoprobes.
It was not so long ago the Borg she was would have simply run them through, over, in, or died trying. She thought back at a conversation she'd had with B'Elanna, during that run-in with the transient Caatati species. B'Elanna had demanded of Seven an emotional response, when faced with the Borg devastation of that unfortunate race. Seven had had none to give; but her eventual gesture of thorium replication technology had gone a long way with the Caatati, the Voyager crew – and the Captain.
And now, the Enqari – not so different from the Caatati. Yet Seven found herself not nearly so certain in her actions this time. Perhaps it was the additional responsibility of ship command. Perhaps it was the doubts of the lost Primary and Tertiary hulls burning the back of her mind. Or perhaps it was – the irreparable frailty of her seedling humanity, a mere molecule by comparison to the individual lives she saw obliterated – an irrelevant grain of soul emerging somewhere between beauty and the Borg.
Every disruptor barrage, bringing them one step closer to the systematic destruction of the U.S.S. Perseus Secondary cruiser with all hands. One sentence of execution at a time. With almost Borg inevitability.
A disruptor blast threw her to the wall. Ship's energy fluctuated and escaped in raw forms from ruptured conduits into the corridor.
She fell as the grueling tremors ate away her nerve. She wanted to shut them out, somehow. She could not adapt to them. She got up and started to run.
There was nowhere to run.
She was afraid. She ran for her life.
Another blast threw her to the deck. Warning klaxons sounded.
, the shipwide computer announced, chronoton feedback overload in lateral relay network. Evacuate decks eight and nine immediately. Warning: hydrogen decompression alert in port nacelle and pylon, evacuate....
She rose, and saw herself in the terminal – listening to the klaxons – and hearing the voices.
The billions...of voices.
The unity. The terror. The pain, and the numbness.
The Totality. Become silence.
She had heard her Unimatrix go silent. She had heard the Borg Collective go silent. She had heard the galaxy go silent.
But for the first time in her life, Seven of Nine heard the silence of the innocent – and knew what she had done.
She stood alone in the passageway; her ship, like her humanity, running for its life but not fast enough, deteriorating all around her. For what did Janeway risk everything
– for her? For what did Seven survive?
Disruptor fire crashed in her ears, as the Perseus Secondary quaked under the salvo.
Seven of Nine fell.
And got – angry.
“Computer. Emergency protocol twenty-nine alpha; seal plasma manifolds and taps to reactor-adjacent systems, and disengage impulse engines. Authorization Seven of Nine omega one four.”
Acknowledged. Warning: safety lockouts prevent that operation during flight.
“Alert engineering – and override safety lockouts. Now
The ship sounded a danger blast. Echoing through the deckplating, she heard the engines powering down to another kind of unnerving silence.
The turbolift opened. Under a stuttering light, Doctor Salvatore made room for her.
“Battle Bridge,” she told the computer.
“Doctor. Have you shot anyone today.”
“I'm happy to report no, Commander. Though the Enqari do test one's limits.”
She looked ahead. “That is an understatement.”
“Push you past your tolerances. Make a person do something they might never consider, otherwise.”
The lift stopped and Salvatore moved to exit. “But you, Commander? You've got something the Enqari will never have.”
Her eyes questioned him. “And what is that, Doctor?”
“Something worth fighting for. And that's how you'll defeat them. And I don't mean torpedoes and phaserbanks.”
“Mister Vorik would seem to strongly disagree with that assessment.”
“The Vulcan's disturbed?” He walked off. “What more proof do you need?”
Seven entered the battle bridge. Vorik sat in command, bracing himself against the disruptor tremors. “Commander Vorik, I have the bridge. Commendable endurance, Commander. Our refusal to fire has no doubt already confused their lack of imagination. Operations officer, arm chronophasic emitters. Auxiliary power to quantum drive. Navigator, take over helm.”
“Commander, welcome to the bridge.”
“Thank you Mister Vorik,” she said, sitting, and entering her calculations and commands into her panel.
“You might not wish to thank me yet,” he said. “I have yet to determine any sustainable course of action.”
“Which is precisely what the Dreadnought commander must believe of us. But now it's time to apply inferior reasoning to an oversized problem.”
The holographic navigator took over helm control, and Ensign Hardesty looked at Vorik and shrugged.
Seven continued tapping commands into her interface. “Standby Ensign Hardesty. This maneuver requires computational precision. It is nothing personal.”
Vorik scanned the systems report handed to him on a PADD. “Our engines are still inconveniently offline, for a reason that has escaped me. Would you happen to know anything about it Commander?”
“It was necessary to power down the engines in order to disengage the linkages.”
“You deactivated our engines in the midst of a retreat. Without consultation.”
“And this crew adapted skillfully, a tribute to your leadership. Now Mister Vorik, I suggest you bring the engines back online. We are about to need them.”
“Indeed,” Vorik replied, and motioned to the officer at the engineering station. “To what do you refer, Commander?”
She input her final commands. “Something humans call – a leap of faith, Mister Vorik.” Seven looked up. “Navigator, main deflector to maximum. Activate quantum drive systems. All stations stand ready.” Seven took a look around. The bridge crew manned their stations on high alert – and ready for whatever it was she would invite upon them. Vorik straightened and impassively faced the Dreadnought with cold, logical confrontation.
Only one thing remained for completion of her function: the cold command. Seven of Nine, the last mechanistic legacy of the Borg, faced forward. “Computer, execute command Pi Seven Nine.”