I would like to thank several people, my betas Ewigestudentin, Mriana, and Aeris.  I need to thank Aeris for the Queen Pictures and Camryn for the use of her wonderful fiddle for the end piece.  I also need to think Belanna and Xdana for reading the first two parts of the story and especially Dana for coming up with why the Borg picked a Queen instead of a King.

 

Disclaimer: All Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount.  No copyright infringement is intended.

 

The Three Queens

 

By Elorie Alton

PG-13

 

Prologue

"I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg" – The Queen

The Borg’s beginning extended back through a veil of years, back to a time lost to the great hive mind, back before the preservation of the perfect memory, back to the coronation of the first successful Queen.

Early records chronicling the rise of the Collective were faulty and incomplete, made by organic minds with petty organic desires. Desires now purged by the central processor that acted as Emperor and God to the Borg.

There were garbled accounts of Species One and their great ambition to conquer Species Two, acquiring their technology and using them as cybernetic drones to service the empire of Species One. The great central processor was created to control the slave drones thus protecting its creators.

The first clear records were of the central processor’s unification of both species, bringing order to the chaos of their long conflict. Together they were combined into a collective mind and individuality was purged.

Still, a component was missing. The Collective needed someone to speak, to conduct its myriad voices in one unified chorus. It needed someone to give direction to the hive mind. The central processor observed the individual drones and quickly recognized the perfection of the female gene with its precisely aligned chromosomes.

The problem with reduced aggression in the female was solved by inducing a steady flow of synthetic testosterone. Unfortunately, prolonged steroid use caused damage to the body, mainly a breakdown in the cardiovascular system. So the central processor removed ninety percent of the Queen’s body, replacing it with a cybernetic one.

The creation of the first true Borg Queen gave impetus to the Borg quest for perfection. As the one who was many, she was the individual whose innermost image of self was Borg. There had been others before her, failed experiments, lost with the memories of the before. Others that had fallen short, not quite ready, too much an individual, or too integrated into the collective itself.

But with the subjective mechanical logic that marked the basic Borg philosophy and through trial and error, the processes were formed and set in place. The chosen drone would be female, taken young. She would be just old enough for the ego to be in place but still malleable, ready to take the shape of Borg. She would be assimilated in a way designed to break all old familial ties and programmed in a particular type of maturation chamber, receiving special implants designed to shape her into a protoqueen. When mature enough she would be set free. If she returned and gave herself freely back to the Borg, she would earn the position of worthy successor.

Finally with the creation of the first true Queen, the great synthetic brain that controlled all Borg, decided that it no longer needed the organic memory engrams that had been a part of its programming from the very beginning. In its machine wisdom, it determined those organic parts to be irrelevant, no longer applicable because it controlled the organic brain of one unique individual in the body of its Queen.

In its automated view of perfection the Borg central processor believed it had achieved an accurate version of Species One’s original concept. With its handpicked Queen as the individual holder of all organic thought, it deleted the last biological components from its own great multitronic brain, and with that one act the Collective lost the final remnant of their originality. The Queen was the last creation of the Borg and with her birth, the last bit of Borg imagination was excised, sealing the Collective’s eventual fate.

There were always nine in the inner circle of Unimatrix Zero One. The Queen represented both herself and the synthetic brain that controlled the Collective through her. The rest of the places were filled with an odd assortment of drones, but at least three were female; two were always those that could be queen, and one or more would be the drones waiting for their final test of loyalty.

Not every princess would be able to take that final step. Some would fail, and because the Queens were long lived there would always be more princesses than were needed. Once a worthy successor passed the prime state of maturity for the transformation to be optimal, she would be transferred to another unimatrix and a younger drone would take her place.

This configuration was deemed perfect, and beginning with the ascension of the first Queen, the Borg began to spread out into the Delta Quadrant. They moved past the nearby systems that had been Borg before the ultimate adjustment to seek new technology to add to their perfection and cyborg slaves to spread the Borg vision of perfection.

Still, the steps away from those few surrounding star systems faltered and were weak until the assimilation of Species 149 and their medically advanced technology. The technique of acquiring drones through the assimilation process had always carried an extremely high fatality rate. Not only were humanoids susceptible to the trauma of the change, some could literally will themselves to die rather than give up individuality. But armed with 149’s advanced reactivation technique, the death rates dropped to virtually nothing and the Borg spread out over huge areas of the Delta Quadrant.

Their assimilation of worlds, people, and of technology accelerated, gaining speed with each world taken, with each soul silenced. They did not know defeat, only the drive to acquire. With artificial logic they held an unwavering belief in the gospel of perfection, and that their mandate took precedence over all others as if it had been handed down from some Borg Deity. They forced their will on anyone that held a new innovation, appropriating it to service them. They believed their right was to take what they deemed necessary to their quest and to reproduce themselves with unwilling people.

In their arrogance they failed to see the trap before them. They did not understand that they were only invincible until they met the race they could not assimilate or the one that possessed the power and will to resist.

So for hundreds of years the Borg moved out in a terrible jihad that each Queen directed. She ruled until the degeneration of her brain rendered her useless. Then she was replaced, and what organic properties remained to her were absorbed back into the collective. In the end, she, like any other drone, became just one more source of raw material.

The Borg thought the game was no-trump. The universe had other ideas.

 

Part One: The Queen of Clubs

"You can’t outrun them. You can’t destroy them. If you damage them, the essence of what they are remains—they regenerate and keep coming…eventually you will weaken—your reserves will be gone… They are relentless."-- Q

Darkness held her shackled in a muted silence bordering on pain and she strained against it empowered by strange feelings. She sought her voices, those that whispered in unison across her mind. She was utterly alone and it was more than she could bear.

A familiar metallic rhythm gradually began to slip past the waves of emotion. As she considered it, the sensation abated but she clung to it trying to retain the reaction because even that awareness was better than the empty silence of her mind.

Finally, she perceived one voice within the rhythmic beat that silently pulsed inside her. It crooned gently for a while then solidified into words, and she began to follow the message that resonated in her mind.

"You who were Six of Nine, Auxiliary Interpreter of Unimatrix Zero One, awake," the one voice hummed, deep and strangely metallic. Then it softened, still echoing a mechanical click. "Open your new eyes, Argine, and behold what you have become."

Yes, that fit. I was Argine long ago before the Borg elevated me. She opened her eyes to find herself oddly high, suspended on two conduits. The body of a drone – her own, she knew - lay on the floor. Its head and shoulders were missing and in a strangely detached way she watched it disintegrate, the organic parts turning to liquid, the liquid spreading out sinking into the floor itself, leaving the metallic parts to be swept away and everything returning to a raw state.

"Who are you?" she asked, though her mouth never moved to form the words.

"I am the Borg, and you are now its Queen." The voice whispered in her mind, the mechanical quality lost as it held her enthralled. "I can give you pleasure, Argine." And pleasure surged through a body she no longer possessed, but her mind remembered.

Finally she was lowered into an artificial body and the block in her mind was lifted. Once again the voices of billions of Borg filled her mind, only this time in supplication, needing the direction that only the one who speaks could give. She sensed the great power of the Collective, the power that she alone could direct and she embraced it as if holding a lover close for the first time.

She could stand apart and identify each individual cell; she could perceive the link that held them all together, the one that knitted all drones into one unit, with one purpose, and one dream. The power captivated and seduced her as surely as the pleasure that still echoed through her lost body, and she craved more of both sensations.

The voice never spoke to her again. It did on occasion, send her a pulse of pleasure, but it was never sufficient either in frequency or duration.

Argine was the first of her species to be made a Queen. The strongest queens always came from newly assimilated races, for the queens had to be freeborn, taken and seduced.

She never spoke her name, it was only hers to use but for the first time in twenty years she again thought of herself as I, and knew herself to be Argine. This was the beginning of her reign, the same beginning that all the previous queens experienced, she knew this was so; she had access to all their memories. Memories that extended back for hundreds of years.

Her first duty was to choose a replacement and she chose one of the last freeborn young females from Species 125. With the passage of time the two that could be queen grew too old and were released from Unimatrix Zero One to be replaced by other females and so the cycle began anew. This time she chose two, one of them from her own species.

She swiftly settled into a routine of accessing data and deciding which move would be the most beneficial to the Borg. She chose which bit of technology or which civilization would be added to their perfection. Her reward was always a new sensation recorded in the network of Borg Vinculums.

The years passed until a new species caught her attention. Argine took great interest in the small family from an unknown group, discovered within the shadow of a cube, apparently studying the Borg. A new species was always interesting but this one had a female child of the correct age and she decided that it was imperative to acquire this child, to see if this species was capable of producing queens. The family didn’t threaten the Borg, but the child was a valuable commodity.

She sent her drones to take the family and to assimilate the adults immediately. The child was set apart for a short time to allow the adults to be fully integrated, and then the female was sent to assimilate her own child. She had died in the process, as had Argine’s mother at her own assimilation. The practice assured the breaking of familial ties and allowed the child’s identity to be formed around being Borg. This circumstance was gratifying as it always produced the strongest Queens. Six-year-old Annika Hansen was placed in one of the special maturation chambers and her programming began.

Argine had the human male assigned to her Unimatrix and Magnus Hansen become Nine of Nine, Primary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. She studied his individual purged thoughts from the vinculum, discovering the Federation, and possibly new sensations unique to humans.

From Nine of Nine, she learned the scope of the Federation. Its civilization encompassed many species, people that apparently existed in comparative harmony, but without the direction of a collective mind and the suppression of individuality. She could not understand how so many individuals could accomplish anything; much less arrange a cohesive society. Disarray flourished and to her mind the Alpha Quadrant offered boundless opportunities once order was brought to their chaos.

The study of Nine of Nine gave birth to the desire to spread out into the Alpha Quadrant. They had already made inroads into the Beta Quadrant. So she sent out scouts and initiated the construction of the new transwarp networks needed to gain entry.

Species 5618 and Nine in particular captivated her. She toyed with the idea of setting him free, just to see if he would return. Argine never took that step because as the only drone of his species he was a special product. In her capacity as the one that protected the manufacture of the resource, she would always decide that the possibility of failure and the loss of this drone outweighed all other considerations. But somewhere in the Argine part of herself, she wondered what new sensations he could introduce her to.

Finally, the timetable was set and the Borg readied itself to enter Federation Space. Argine planned to take a spokesman at the beginning, one that she hoped she could seduce with the power of the Borg and who would give himself – or herself – as freely as she once had given herself.

They would first need to gain the attention of the Federation, probably by attracting one of their starships close enough for the Borg to obtain someone. She searched the hive mind for a plan and while sifting through the individual thoughts housed in the vinculum, she found the perfect bait with which to set her trap. She procured a perfect scenario and set out to conquer the Alpha Quadrant and the Federation.

She hoped to secure a highly ranked individual, someone used to directing lesser beings. A politician would be acceptable but a hero would be better.

One of the Federation’s outermost colonies was selected. They assimilated the people and took all the technology even though they found it substandard, leaving only a crater where the colonists’ city once stood. Then they waited to see who would be attracted by the distress signals.

By accessing the knowledge provided to the collective by the newly assimilated drones, Argine recognized the investigating vessel as the starship Enterprise. She knew that the captain was highly respected by these people and she knew he would make the perfect spokesman, and just maybe the perfect consort. So she established contact and the voice of the Collective demanded his surrender.

While she did not understand why Enterprise made an attempt to fight she was not particularly surprised. Most species were reluctant to embrace the Borg in the beginning, but that would soon change – it always did. She watched them hide in a nebula, a futile effort because when they emerged again she sent her drones to invade the ship and take Picard.

=^=

Argine waited, silently in the dim light as her special guard escorted Picard through the maze of corridors past regenerating drones. Five of Nine, Primary Interpreter of Unimatrix Zero One led him to the central chamber, and throughout the journey the chorus of the collective called out.

"Captain Jean-Luc Picard, you lead the strongest ship of the Federation Starfleet. You speak for your people," it echoed with the inflection of a billion Borg.

"I have nothing to say to you, and I will resist you with my last ounce of strength," his voice defiantly echoed through the open places within the Borg cube.

"Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours," the multiple voices countered in a litany that Argine conducted.

Again his deep voice rolled above the metallic clanks and echoes of the Borg vessel, "Impossible, my culture is based on freedom and self-determination."

"Freedom is irrelevant. Self-determination is irrelevant. You must comply."

"We would rather die."

"Death is irrelevant."

Finally Picard wiped at the sweat that glistened on his forehead. "If you are going to try to assimilate me, what are you waiting for?"

His words reverberated in a defiant litany and a new sensation rushed through her, one that took her a few moments to identify. Intensely powerful anger rolled through her, clenching her hands into fists and urging her to violence.

She felt his eyes following her as she left the shadows to stand in front of him speaking with only her own voice. "Your archaic cultures are authority driven. To facilitate our introduction into your societies, it has been decided that a human voice will speak for us in all communications. You have been chosen to be that voice."

"No, I will not be your mouthpiece," his quiet unyielding words were filled with an emotion that she had never encountered, much less understood.

"You will comply," she whispered as Five of Nine penetrated his carotid artery with her assimilation tubules, and he crumpled down, the nanoprobes pouring through his body and taking away his control.

Argine had him stripped, his body restrained and his uniform stowed away. Then she silently waited for him to regain consciousness. The nanoprobes began their work, weaving his still individual thoughts into the hive mind. The link began working and she could access all his knowledge, yet she still allowed him his individuality.

"Awake, Jean-Luc, and behold what you have become. You may open your eyes."

He blinked twice, and she could feel the struggle as he tried to will any part of his useless body to move.

"Do not struggle," she adjusted her mental voice to a whispered purr. "We want to elevate you, not harm you."

"What do you want?" his determination still strong, battling with hers.

"I am here to offer you power and pleasure. All you have to do is give yourself to us."

Argine had never seen a reflection of herself, it was irrelevant but now she saw herself reflected in Picard’s thoughts. She didn’t understand the nausea that welled up inside him nor why he would associate unpolished steel with her eyes. The only thing she cared about were the strange sensations that poured through him when he looked at her.

"I don’t want power," he thought back.

"But you have not tasted it yet, nor the pleasure I can give to you, the pleasure we can share," and she leaned over him running her tongue down the center of his chest, then opened her mind to experience more of his feelings. His sharp intake of breath told her that the throb of pleasure was too fast. She could tell he missed something and probed deeper into his mind, finding that he missed a steady building, and she had only given him a sharp spike of orgasm that stabbed at him. There was no love, no joy, only sharp cutting need and then empty satisfaction.

"NO!" his thoughts screamed, and again he battled with her, trying to dominate. She realized this wasn’t working at all, that he would never join her. He would take her power.

Her anger was palpable; it was the rage of a cosseted child that had been told NO for the first time in her life. Again it urged her to strike back.

She grabbed his throat, penetrating him with her own tubules, "YOU, will, comply!" and she took the last of his individuality. As the link took him she witnessed his last individual thought, a female with brightly colored hair, and one word. Beverly.

Within hours she installed Locutus as the spokesman, and set course for the heart of the Federation. They had a rather minor encounter with The Enterprise when it caught up with them and attempted to use their deflector dish to stop their cube. The plan had not worked; they simply disabled Enterprise and continued toward Earth.

Starfleet attempted to stop them. The Federation attack was repelled by superior Borg technology and the Starfleet tactical knowledge gained from the assimilated Picard. Within a few minutes thousands of Starfleet personal were either killed or assimilated.

After gathering her Unimatrix and the most interesting of the newly assimilated drones, Argine departed from the cube in her sphere and returned to the Delta Quadrant, thinking she would soon have the Federation in the palm of her hand.

Her rage was cold and terrible when she learned that the cube had been destroyed and Locutus reclaimed by Starfleet. They would pay and she would see to it. She would not be denied the new sensations she craved, so she began to plan anew.

Shortly after her return to the Delta Quadrant one of the protoqueens died in her desperate attempt to return to the hive mind during her test of loyalty so in the fortieth year of her reign the Queen chose a final time.

This time she chose the first female taken from species 5618 and Annika Hansen, the first human Borg princess, became Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One.

Argine had pondered this choice, considering it from all logical angles, knowing that some females cannot make the transition from protoqueen to worthy successor. But this one was unique and had all the signs of being a strong queen. It felt like fitting revenge to queen a human when humans had handed the Borg their first defeat in centuries.

When it came time for Seven’s loyalty test, she was set free with three other drones from Unimatrix Zero One. Not only did Seven return, she brought her three companions with her. She had linked them in a primitive collective and had of course rendered them useless to her unimatrix, but Seven’s performance was admirable. The three were transferred and Seven entered the circle of worthy successors.

Argine made plans. She repaired the transwarp corridors that stretched into the Alpha Quadrant almost to the Sol system and Earth itself, and others that led directly to the strongest Federation worlds; she would not be defeated a second time. If she could not defeat the Federation then she would manipulate time itself. It would not be the first time the Borg had used time to acquire a new species.

As the time for invasion drew near the Borg encountered and assimilated species 8463. This species had been a legend in the Delta Quadrant. One that the Borg machine logic had deemed a myth until by accident a small vessel with two specimens was discovered.

The Borg not only acquired Species 8463’s knowledge of selective rotating cloaking protocols, they also found that using certain feedback pulses through a simple deflector dish would open a gateway to another place, another universe, and to a completely new species – Species 8472.

Species 8472 seemed the pinnacle of biological evolution, and Argine was eager to add their knowledge to the Borg’s, her mind eager to acquire new sensations. But they found that they were unable to assimilate any of the individuals and none of their unique living spacecraft.

As the time for the invasion of the Alpha Quadrant drew near the Borg were entangled in a conflict that none of their previous encounters had prepared them. Argine faced a choice, and she chose to continue with her invasion of the Alpha Quadrant, and hope that the technology of the Federation could provide her with the answers she needed to defeat Species 8472.

This time however she went alone, without her Unimatrix. She vowed to take the Federation or to keep it from forming in the first place, for at the bottom of all her plans was the desire for revenge.

The massive central computer monitored her; it saw her attempt to escape a second defeat by taking her sphere into a time vortex to the past. It knew immediately that she had failed when the Enterprise emerged from a temporal rift with no change to the Federation. So after weighing the pros and cons of Seven of Nine, he called Five of Nine, Primary Interpreter of Unimatrix Zero One to his central chamber.

 

Part Two: The Queen of Diamonds

"It is my opinion that the Borg are as close to pure evil as any race we’ve ever encountered." Captain Amasov – The Starship Endeavor

"You, who were Five of Nine, Primary Interpreter of Unimatrix Zero One, awake," the one voice hummed deep and strangely metallic. Then it softened, but still echoed a mechanical click. "Open your new eyes Ragnel, and behold what you have become."

The cycle began anew.

Like so many of the previous Queens her first reaction was fear but she soon overcame it led by the central processor and the realization that she had the power of the Collective at her finger tips, and from the memories of Argine she learned anger.

Ragnel’s species had long been a part of the Collective; she was taken with one of the last groups of that species’ existing freeborn members. When the few drones left were returned to a raw state, performing the final service to the Borg, Species 125 would be extinct, and all that would be left were a few memories recorded in the Borg data base.

She didn’t grasp the true significance of the fact, only pride in their service to the Collective. She also failed to understand the grave danger faced by the whole galaxy in the form of Species 8472. It never occurred to her that almost simultaneously the Borg had encountered the Species they could not assimilate and were defeated by individuals from the civilization that had the resources and the will to resist.

The central controller reminded her of her duty to the Borg, but this time one point had changed. The Queen was no longer only required to protect Borg resources; she must also protect the transwarp corridors, the Unimatrices and the basic bond that linked all the Borg together into the Collective. She must protect the distribution of Borg assets.

To do so she must maintain order in the Collective, and she had to counter the chaos of Species 8472. This time the central processor would take an active part instead of watching silently.

Ragnel knew that Argine thought the answer to the problem lay with the Federation. To a point Ragnel agreed, but the Federation was on the other side of the galaxy and Species 8472 was right here.

The Borg were helpless to stop the destruction of cube after cube and the loss of drones. But just at that moment, when all her appropriated ideas were depleted, a starship from the Federation contacted the Borg with an offer to provide a way to defeat 8472, if the Borg would provide them safe passage through Borg Territory.

Her chorus of Borg voices threatened to simply take the technology from them. The captain countered stating if the Borg attempted to take Voyager or assimilate any of her people the technology would be destroyed along with Voyager and her crew. Ragnel had no choice but to believe Captain Kathryn Janeway.

So Ragnel had Voyager towed toward the Alpha Quadrant, and sent one of the worthy successors, her own favorite Seven of Nine to oversee the agreement. Using the Queen’s ship Seven reached the Borg Cube in a short time.

Janeway demanded a spokesperson, using the example of the creation of Locutus from Jean-Luc Picard. She would not even consent to a neural transceiver to link her and her Vulcan officer to the hive mind, allowing only the frustratingly slow communication of language.

Ragnel drew upon what little patience she possessed and sent Seven of Nine into the holding area to speak for the Borg.

She planned to assimilate Janeway and the Voyager crew at the first opportunity, but she had not counted on an attack by Species 8472 and the destruction of the cube. She did however manage to put Seven of Nine and a handful of Drones on Voyager.

Without the cube her link with Seven was somewhat distorted and communication took longer but they managed. The biggest problem was that Kathryn Janeway was injured and the Borg had to deal with Commander Chakotay. Ragnel thought they were handling everything properly until Voyager’s first officer opened the cargo bay doors and jettisoned all the drones except Seven of Nine.

The final blow came when Seven of Nine was forcefully severed from the Hive mind, and for the first time a worthy successor was lost to the collective. She waited for Seven to seize Voyager and return to the Collective as she had done once before, but before that could happen Voyager simply disappeared.

Ragnel was determined to wait for Seven’s return, so she did not immediately fill her position in Unimatrix Zero One. There was some evidence that Voyager had used their weapon on Species 8472 because the enemy had retreated from Borg territory back into their fluidic space. Ragnel vowed to find Seven of Nine, assimilate Voyager, and take the weapon.

In the meantime the Borg assimilated a people with advanced weather and agricultural technology. It included an interesting virus that could be released in the upper atmosphere of a planet. The inventers had used it to introduce nutrients back into their soil, but with the inclusion of Borg micro assimilation nanoprobes, they could assimilate worlds with it.

She sent out a multitude of the smaller probe ships to search for Voyager. The Borg knew the likely heading, knew where to search but they hadn’t counted on the mental force of one transformed Ocampa and the 9.5 thousand light years push she gave Voyager putting them completely out of Borg controlled space. It would be two years before Voyager was found.

=^=

Ragnel allowed herself a few moments of pleasure when at long last Voyager was sighted, she immediately ordered the ship to be taken and everyone assimilated. But that didn’t happen when the starship slipped through their fingers. Janeway destroyed the Borg probe ship killing all the drones aboard. Her one mistake was salvaging enough active Borg technology to allow the Queen to locate Seven of Nine and eavesdrop on Seven’s thoughts through her neural transceiver.

The Queen expected the former drone to be eager to rejoin the Collective, but that was not the case. She was highly offended when she realized that Seven not only desired to retain her individuality but had no memory of the Borg Queen or her own position of worthy successor until she was confronted with Ragnel herself. After spending spent all this time thinking she would rescue her own personal favorite, Ragnel found that Seven did not want to be rescued. This situation was completely unacceptable.

Janeway’s plan to seize a crippled and regenerating sphere angered her, but she carefully kept her mental voice serene as she offered Seven a compromise. Return to the Collective and Voyager would be spared – a promise she had no intention of keeping. She intended to make them pay for taking Seven from her.

Her plan was overridden by the central processor. It only let her take Seven and return her to Unimatrix Zero One giving up her plan for revenge. Seven was rare; Seven was to be left as she was. One unique individual, a companion to the Queen perhaps, until she begged for reassimilation. The central processor forced Ragnel to comply.

So Janeway was allowed to take the transwarp coil and Voyager was left to continue her journey to the Alpha Quadrant while the Sphere brought Seven to the Queen.

Ragnel noticed the change in Seven of Nine the moment she entered her chamber. She seemed indifferent even resigned and obviously didn’t want to return to her drone status, yet the Queen could not believe that Seven was lost to the Borg. She again requested to reassimilate Seven immediately but the central processor was firm. Seven must ask for reassimilation before she could rejoin the Collective. Her loyalty must be proven.

=^=

Ragnel thought perhaps power would persuade Seven, and decided to greet her with a grand entrance of the Borg Queen in all her glory, but apparently Seven was not so impressed as she stoically accepted the Queen’s , "Welcome home," and her gentle caress to Seven’s cheek.

The Borg found beauty irrelevant, but the Queen was aware that Seven’s appearance pleased her eye and she was surprised, also something new. Ragnel didn’t completely understand all the emotions she experienced, but she did know she wanted Seven back.

Seven stood in the center of the Queen’s chamber, impassive and silent. Her eyes didn’t even track Ragnel as she moved around the chamber always illuminated by the twin beams generated by the command interface. She had to get through the wall that Seven wrapped around herself.

At first Ragnel used a gentle reproach, criticizing Seven’s attire and emphasizing how much her appearance had changed.  She stressed that underneath Seven still belonged to the Collective.

Seven countered with a form of humor and no small amount of pride in her individuality.

The Queen then tried flattery using Seven’s uniqueness, again Seven stood firm.

Finally she resorted to outright lies, telling Seven that no one had ever left the collective before and that they had placed her on Voyager on purpose and the only answer was a request for an explanation.

No one but the central processor had ever questioned anything Ragnel said and she had not formulated any kind of answer.  So the Queen demanded that Seven regenerate, and as Seven closed her eyes Ragnel wondered how the conversation could have gone so wrong and what she could do to make Seven beg to be returned to the Collective.

She determined that she would have to prove to Seven that resistance was futile and to instill in her the pride of being Borg.  Maybe participating in a simple assimilation exercise would open her to the power of the Hive Mind.

Even before the Queen could present her with the assignment Seven resisted. She did not like the enhancements to her visual cortex, even with Ragnel’s assurance that she would not be assimilated.  She tried to use simple logic to get through to Seven but even that failed.  Seven of Nine was determined to remain unique and small.

Seven had paled when Ragnel told her they were going to assimilate Species 10026, even expressing compassion for the three hundred and ninety-two thousand individuals targeted for assimilation.

Ragnel thought the experience of participating in an assimilation would impress Seven; she was sadly mistaken, a fact that the central processor had promptly reminded her. Seven not only refused to see the advantages of reassimilation, she had actively engaged in helping potential drones escape and Ragnel was forced to destroy them, all the while seeing Seven of Nine beg for their lives. It was intolerable and again the anger within her grew hot.

Seven would not be allowed to desert the Borg, and her Queen. If she had to destroy every other human in the galaxy, she would before she would allow Seven to leave her again.

=^=

Ragnel had Seven escorted to the Queen’s control room. She wished she could read Seven’s emotions; they colored her thoughts making them chaotic as if her feelings were in a dialect that Ragnel couldn’t quite understand. It was a frustrating feeling. Her emotion kept a barrier between them.

Again Ragnel set a task before Seven, to program the nanoprobes that would be used to assimilate humanity in the Alpha Quadrant.  Instead of compliance she was met with defiance.  The Queen lectured, she threatened, she tried every ploy she could think of but to no avail.  Finally she decided to use force.

"You’re torn between your desire to be one with us and your loyalty to them," Ragnel mentally called her drones to force Seven to obey. "It’s time for you to complete your task. All of your emotions, grief, guilt, remorse, compassion will be irrelevant once humanity is assimilated. Forget Voyager. They were never your Collective," she said backing Seven into the bulkhead.

"I am Annika Hansen. Human," she challenged.

"I remember Annika. Does she remember us? She wasn't afraid, why are you?" she said, invading Seven’s space forcing her to yield and relishing the anger and fear that colored Seven’s thoughts.

"You attacked us. You murdered my family," Seven accused.

"We did no such thing. We gave them perfection," and Nine of Nine, Primary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One stepped out into the dim light in answer to the queen’s silent call.

"Papa?" Seven paled.

She watched Seven looking at Nine and knew Annika only saw his empty eyes that never turned to her as hers did to him. "Your family's here. You're here. Be one with us again."

But just as she had caught Seven’s attention by revealing the drone that had been Magnus Hansen, Seven paused listening to another voice, that of Kathryn Janeway.  Ragnel dropped all pretence and gave into the anger that burned within her.

Orders to locate and eliminate Voyager’s captain went unheeded as they were unable to stop her from entering into her chambers.  She pitted her collective mind against Captain Janeway but just before Ragnel could claim victory, Seven and Captain Janeway damaged her command interface and escaped.

She ordered the vessels to follow but within minutes she lost contact with each of them when Voyager somehow managed to collapse the transwarp corridor.

Ragnel reluctantly filled Seven’s place in Unimatrix Zero One and following the central processor’s orders turned her attention to other species. Still she bided her time, watching Voyager from afar and waiting for the moment she could find Seven again and destroy Captain Janeway for taking Annika from her.

=^=

For months Ragnel examined the purged thoughts of Seven of Nine, but unlike Magnus, the Vinculum only contained a few infantile thoughts and as such were not very helpful. Next she accessed the drone monitoring logs and isolated all the recorded data collected pertaining to Seven of Nine.

The first logs Ragnel looked at were Seven’s cranial transceiver logs, including the records of regeneration. She downloaded all readings taken of Seven in her maturation chamber, and even each separate programming activity, hoping to find some clue to why the Borg had lost a protoqueen.

Weeks stretched into months as she sifted through the information never finding anything to indicate any error until finally she isolated a strange carrier wave that only exhibited activity during regeneration. When she checked the properties, she found the wave had an unknown Borg designation, Unimatrix Zero.

There was no reason for Seven to be connected to anything unknown to the central processor. It seemed impossible. The original programming protocols didn’t show anything to account for it. Maybe this was a malfunction and if she could repair it the Borg could reclaim Seven of Nine, just as quickly that thought passed, Seven had been given her chance.

Ragnel began to search through the data logs for the drones closest to Unimatrix Zero One. Slowly time passed as she methodically widened her search out in precise increments until finally she found the carrier wave activity in a male drone, Four of Twelve, Subjunction of Unimatrix Five Two Five. She ordered the drone to be brought to her.

She looked into his mind, she checked his purged thoughts, again there was no reason for his malfunction yet there was the same carrier wave, assessed during his regeneration cycle with the unknown Borg designation of Unimatrix Zero.

She isolated him from the link that bids all drones to the hive mind and to the perfection of the Borg, but she found no knowledge of Unimatrix Zero, she ordered him into regeneration and easily found the carrier wave, and at last she discovered the mutation that he shared with Seven of Nine. At the end, she severed his connection and questioned him verbally. He continued to claim ignorance so she had him disassembled and his head brought to her for further study.

She summoned two analytical drones and they set up an examination area within the Queen’s chamber. They opened the skull of Four of Twelve while Ragnel scrutinized their every move. She inserted instructions as she saw fit and when they exposed the cortical node, she had them examine it for mechanical breaks and to trace the connections.

"Scan the node for residual harmonics," she ordered, moving to stand behind the two drones.

The expression on his face was odd, she thought to herself. Drones normally had no facial expressions but his seemed animated and yet strangely devoid of anything. So she moved again this time facing her subject and tracing her cybernetic finger down his cheek in an obscene caress.

"It's a shame you're not alive to experience disembodiment," she taunted. "It's the epitome of perfection," she preened, almost touching herself, the most perfect of the disembodied.

As the drones extracted the node she demanded it with a curt, "Give it to me," stretching out her hand.

"We have isolated the carrier band but it's useless to us without the precise frequency." She tried to order her thoughts, speaking more to herself than the analytical drones.

"We need additional data," and she touched the pad of her terminal accessing data visually. She entered first one command then another watching the screen as the lines crossed and narrowed the search.

"Two more of the mutations have been discovered in spatial grid six four nine."

"Have their cortical nodes removed and analyzed," she ordered, adding, "Bring me the results."

Ragnel paced, impatient for the new date, but she spent the time planning, indulging in visions of revenge. She no longer wanted Seven back she realized, she wanted her dead. Ragnel’s pride would not put up with abandonment of the perfection of the collective. Annika had betrayed the Borg and their Queen and for this there could be no forgiveness.

The muffled noise of drones cleaning her chamber caught her attention and as she looked around she saw Nine of Nine sweeping up the mechanical components of the disembodied subjects and disposing of them into a recycling bin.

Her hatred for Seven of Nine boiled and with the power of a Queen she terminated him, thoroughly enjoying the sight of Magnus Hansen’s body returning to its basic components and then swept away as his final service, and Ragnel knew this was only the first installment of Seven’s debt.

The new heads were brought to her and she had each of their cortical nodes removed and analyzed, again directing the examinations.

Once more her drones examined and probed but nothing they did disrupted the link.

"If we can't terminate their link then we'll simply have to pay them a visit."

Using the carrier band she adapted a number of drones and sent their minds into Unimatrix Zero to collect data on the people gathered there. They all had the mutation and maybe she could identify them more easily from the inside.

Once her drones were in their regeneration alcoves, the queen matched the frequency for Unimatrix Zero and sent her drones in under her total control. She watched the scenes unfold through their eyes, and heard with their ears. The sight of so many running from her drones, trying to escape gratified her because her pride allowed no course of action but complete and total surrender.

As each person was caught, the drone pierced them with assimilation tubes, learning who they were and where they were located. Ragnel called out a welcome to each drone returned and then ordered them terminated.

She witnessed the pursuit of a child, one that was probably in a maturation chamber. He was aided by another, who hacked at her drones with a cutting weapon that Species 5008 referred to as a bat’leth. It rankled her to see the child escape. But nothing had prepared her to see Captain Kathryn Janeway, there in Unimatrix Zero. Her anger boiled over and again she was filled with thoughts of revenge.

Ragnel decided that the only thing she could do was contact Voyager and offer Janeway a way back home. Once she had destroyed Unimatrix Zero, she would destroy Voyager. She initiated a transwarp signal activating their comm system, and using her most persuasive voice she made her generous offer, but to no avail.

Kathryn Janeway refused her. No one ever refuses the Borg or their Queen, but she prepared herself because she had battled Captain Janeway before and she had no intention of losing a third time.

She did not have to wait very long. Within hours Voyager attacked Tactical Cube 138 and while Ragnel watched a smaller vessel approached, moving in very close to the Cube beaming three people aboard before the Borg could destroy it and then Voyager moved away.

She found the effort disappointing; she had expected more from Janeway and Voyager. The drones aboard the cube quickly subdued the trio and assimilated them. Ragnel calmly waited for the nanoprobes to complete their programming so she could welcome the three to the Collective. The only thing that pleased her was watching Kathryn Janeway’s introduction to the Hive mind. Very soon she would have all Voyager’s secrets and all Voyager’s crew and most importantly she would have Seven of Nine at her mercy.

Within minutes her pleasure turned to exasperation when she tried to contact their minds. She could not hear Janeway or the other female at all but she kept getting glimpses of the male. He was of Species 3259 and members of that species had well organized minds. She directed her choirs to sing to him.

She could hear him for a moment and then much to her frustration he was gone again but she continued to call his name. She could feel his struggle she reveled in his subjugation and finally she had him. He was hers.

"Where are you, Tuvok?" then caught his answer, "The central plexus."

For a moment she was distracted by the reappearance of Voyager on her monitor, It was so easy, she pulled the codes for Voyager’s tactical controls from Tuvok’s mind and lowered their shields. Voyager retreated. She would deal with them later.

"Thank you Tuvok," she greeted her new drone.

Almost immediately she began to lose voices, hundreds and then thousands of drones became silent.

Even one of the analytical drones in her chamber was gone. She sought him looking into his eyes before she could identify him. "I can't hear you. Why can't I hear you?"

"You’ve disconnected from the hive mind. Explain. Comply," she demanded.

"No!" He shouted and tried to attack, but her personal shield threw him backward into the arms of other drones. As they pulled him away he continued to scream "I’m not alone. You can't stop us all."

Ragnel had him terminated.

She had no other choice but to talk to Janeway face to face, so she had the Captain put into a holotransmitter.

 

"Why am I here?" Janeway demanded.

"You've caused a great deal of suffering. I wanted you to see for yourself. You are the cause of his death, Captain. You disconnected him from the hive mind," she accused.

"You didn't have to kill him."

"He was confused, irrational. I had no choice. Many more will die unless you tell me how to counteract the virus."

"Sorry, we didn't think to develop an antidote."

"I'll assimilate Voyager, then. Your Doctor created the pathogen. He can find a cure."

"My First Officer has orders to delete the Doctor's program if you go anywhere near Voyager. The resistance is already underway. It won't be long before thousands of drones begin to fight back," Janeway countered.

"They will fail."

"Maybe, probably, but a lot of damage will be done before they do."

"Yes, a lot of damage. Spatial grid nine four, cube six three zero. Complement sixty four thousand drones, but I can no longer hear three of them. No doubt they've joined your resistance. Are they trying to sabotage the vessel and liberate others? I don't know because I can no longer hear them. Initiate self-destruct. An effective solution, don't you agree? Spatial grid zero nine one, sphere eight seven eight. Complement eleven thousand drones. Only one is silent but I have no choice. I must silence all of them. I know how this must upset you, Captain. As a Starfleet officer you value all life, even drones. How many more are you willing to sacrifice? Thousands? Millions? You can put an end to this. I want you to go on a diplomatic mission. It's one of your primary functions, isn't it? Negotiations?"

"Go on."

"Tell them to rejoin the Collective, and I'll stop the destruction."

"They will never agree to that."

"They're individuals now. They have a choice. What are you afraid of, Captain? That they may co-operate? You've been waiting for a chance to damage the Borg, now you've found one. You're only using them."

"If you really wanted to negotiate, you'd visit Unimatrix Zero. You found a way to send drones. Surely you could go yourself, or are you afraid that a taste of individuality might make you realize it is something worth fighting for?"

"Comply or you will be responsible for many more deaths."

"You'll have to destroy the entire Collective to find them all."

So Ragnel stepped into a regeneration alcove and sent her mind into Unimatrix-Zero.

She encountered the small boy and persuaded him to speak to her. She wove a tale of friendship and family within the Borg, it was a lie of course because her own mother had died at Ragnel’s assimilation and her father had abandoned them both to the Borg when they were taken.

When she returned to Captain Janeway, she took great pleasure in dismissing Unimatrix Zero as an illusion. Then she showed her the nanovirus, modified to kill all the mutated drones. Her next action was to demand that Janeway tell the errant drones that the only way they could escape is by rejoining the Collective before she released it within Unimatrix Zero itself.

Enjoying the Captain’s predicament she allowed her one last communication with Voyager.

She watched as Janeway told her crew that Unimatrix-Zero could no longer exist but she hadn’t counted on Voyager with the help of freed drones destroying it from the inside. Helplessly she watched all her plans disappear, and before she could even complete the self destruction of Cube 138, Voyager had rescued Captain Janeway and her crew members.

She screamed out her frustration, she wanted to kill them all starting with Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine.

The drones turned to the portals as if ordered and suddenly Ragnel realized that she couldn’t hear them, none of them. The voices she had lived with for most of her life were gone and she was alone. She looked around for some place to hide, and there was no place and all the anger gave way to a crippling fear and the body she had discarded three years ago begin to heat up.

The silence in her mind was terrifying. The heat in her body increased until she felt like she was standing in flames, and she began to scream.

The clamps that held her artificial body to her gave way and she tumbled down to the floor blind and mute. Only the central processor remained connected to her and through its monitors she watched in horror as her organic parts melted away until darkness smothered her.

 

Part Three: The Queen of Spades

 

"In their collective state, the Borg are utterly without mercy, driven by one will alone" the will to conquer. They are beyond reason, beyond redemption." Captain Jean-Luc Picard – The Starship Enterprise

"You, who were Eight of Nine, Auxiliary Compiler of Unimatrix Zero One, awake," the one voice hummed deep and strangely metallic. Then it softened, but still echoed a mechanical click. "Open your new eyes, Pallas, and behold what you have become."

The central processor pondered long over the choice of Eight of Nine as Queen. She, like Argine, showed sensitivity to the synthetic hormone. Yet Argine’s failure could not be directly attributed to that alone. Pallas was younger at the time of assimilation, a point in her favor.

The loss of Seven of Nine made things difficult because she would have been the prime choice but now she could only be considered an enemy. Pallas’s first duty was to protect the Collective and in doing that she needed to get rid of all possible threats including Seven of Nine and Captain Janeway.

Pallas rapidly settled into her new role as Queen. As an individual she had access to her own memories; memories of a powerless child born late in her parents’ marriage and used as a pawn between two warring people. She had been taken with a much older sister that the Borg had assumed to be her mother. But as her sister had died after actively assimilating Pallas, the central processor allowed her to be given the Queen programming.

The Collective deemed all previous life experiences of a drone irrelevant. In the case of a potential queen, it was a matter of simply forcing the child to disconnect with her previous life, from mother and father, from family and friends so that as the one unique individual she would be Borg. The central processor did not understand that Pallas had already disconnected from her family long before they took her.

Pallas secretly hoped that somewhere her parents were alive and that she could sweep down on them with all the power of Borg and take revenge because, like Ragnel, she had learned anger. The controller nurtured this emotion believing it to be the key to Borg ascendancy.

There was a long list of Borg enemies that needed to be dealt with starting with Seven of Nine, including Species 8472 and ending with the entire Federation.

The first order of business was to inspect the transwarp systems and construct new vessels. She also kept a watchful eye on Voyager knowing the ship would come within close proximity to one of the hubs, hidden in a nebula near Voyager’s projected path home. She also made long range plans on how to rid herself of Seven of Nine, and ultimately destroy the Federation itself.

With each plan she made the list of individuals needing to be dealt with grew. Soon, very soon, the whole galaxy would feel her wrath for Pallas wouldn’t stop until the Borg revenge was complete and Borg order was extended through the entire galaxy.

Just as she suspected Voyager did skirt the outer edges of the nebula. Pallas carefully arranged for several cubes to move closer to Voyager and finally to have one be seen. Like a cat toying with a mouse, Pallas teased them allowing Voyager to retreat from the nebula intact. She smiled with the thought that Voyager had come so close without really finding out what the Borg had hidden.

She would have her revenge, but at a time of her choosing. She thought she would toy with Kathryn Janeway and her crew, picking them off one by one and savoring each as a victory.

Then something unforeseen happened. A time rift opened in front of Voyager and a small shuttle slipped through with an older Kathryn Janeway at the controls. She smiled, pondering the implications of two Kathryn Janeways to torment and the opportunity to double her revenge.

Her amusement however turned to anger when she discovered that Voyager had changed its course and was heading back to her nebula. She thought it was time to pay her former rival a visit.

=^=

She waited until Seven of Nine began her regeneration cycle, and then contacted her subconsciously, forcing Seven into a mental link.

"Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One." She waited until Seven opened her eyes, "It's been too long."

"What do you want?"

"Do I need a reason to visit a friend?" Pallas scolded.

"We're not friends," Seven’s angry words gave Pallas a strange kind of satisfaction.

"No, we're more than that, we're family." And keeping her voice in a gentle chide she moved closer, standing in front of the former drone. "And while we're on the subject of old friends, I see that Voyager has just gotten a visitor and she's come from the future. Tell me why."

"You may be able to communicate with me while I'm regenerating but I'm no longer a drone. I don't answer to you."

Again Pallas let Seven’s anger slide, "I've extrapolated Voyager's trajectory. I know that you're returning to the nebula. I suggest you alter course."

"Why should we comply?"

"You've always been my favorite, Seven," she slid her hands down Seven’s arms in just the same gesture as Ragnel once used. "In spite of their obvious imperfections. I know how much you care for the Voyager crew, so I've left them alone. Imagine how you'd feel if I were forced to assimilate them," she threatened, stroking Seven’s cheek.

"Voyager is no threat to the Collective. We simply want to return to the Alpha Quadrant."

"I've no objection to that but if you try to enter my nebula again, I'll destroy you," her last words were hard and full of fury. Pallas cut the connection, leaving Seven of Nine to fall from her alcove unconscious.

=^=

Voyager did not change her course, but Pallas had not expected her to.  Captain Janeway had never given in to such simple threats in any of their previous encounters and in all likelihood Admiral Janeway would not either.

Pallas had discovered the great pleasure when a plan produced such results. Janeway’s actions were predicable and the Queen had maneuvered Voyager into a trap waiting to be sprung.  It was not logical, but neither were most humanoids; you tell them not to do something and they would try it almost every time.

Still the older Janeway worried Pallas.  Her appearance could only mean one thing; she was here to change the timeline.  That fact very possibly meant that the Borg had done considerable damage to Voyager.  There was pleasure within that thought and the fact that Janeway had come back alone.

In the meantime she sent in three of her most powerful tactical cubes to guard the Transwarp Hub hidden in the nebula; she had no intention of failing like her two immediate predecessors.  She would have preferred to prolong Voyager’s agony, but she could not take the chance of another defeat.

As if on schedule, Voyager entered the nebula a second time.  The Queen observed the deployment of a new kind of armor that completely covered Voyager’s surface, and one at a time she sent her tactical cubes in to engage the Federation starship.

The first cube fired disruptor weapons on Voyager but the beams slid off the plating without doing any damage.  Torpedoes were fired next with no effect. Finally, she had the Cubes engage their tractors and while they didn’t stop Voyager they did succeed in decreasing the effectiveness of Voyager’s shielding.  She could hardly wait for the Borg to assimilate such impressive technology.

Then Voyager released two torpedoes and blew one of her powerful cubes apart as if it was nothing. She could not believe her eyes when she watched a second cube meet the same fate.  Realizing that assimilation was impossible the central processor ordered the rest of the Borg vessels to retreat and Voyager sailed on toward the center of the nebula.

Pallas’s ire was terrible to behold; she could not fight the central processor and took readings and ordered scans. She had to find some way to adapt to these two new weapons, because if she did not there would be no way the Borg could defeat Voyager and all her plans for revenge would die.

Voyager moved in until they were close enough to see the great Borg Transwarp hub as it floated above the dwarf star that provided it with the energy needed to power the facility. 

Then for no apparent reason, Voyager reversed its course and flew out of the nebula.  She could not imagine a reason for that move, but she refused to take the chance that Voyager would not be back.

=^=

Within a day, Voyager was again moving toward the Transwarp Hub hidden in the nebula.  The voice of the collective informed her as she stood silent in her alcove in Unimatrix Zero One.

"Voyager has altered course.  Current position: spatial grid three six two, trajectory one one two mark five."

Then a new voice softly taunted her.  "I don’t know how you do it.  All those voices talking at once.  You must get terrible headaches."

As Pallas sent out the silent order for drones, Admiral Janeway moved into the dim light, "If you’re calling drones to assimilate me, don’t bother."

Pallas held the anger inside of her in check as she stepped down extending her fist, "I don’t need drones to assimilate you," plunging her own assimilation tubules into the older woman’s neck.

The Admiral’s mouth twisted slightly into a crooked grin, "I'm not actually here, your Majesty, I'm in your mind," she mocked. "I'm using a synaptic interface. If I were you, I wouldn't waste my time trying to trace the signal. For the moment, it's beyond your abilities."

"What do you want?" Pallas moved around the Admiral at the same time silently directing drones to triangulate her true position.

"To make a deal. Captain Janeway thinks I'm here to help her destroy your transwarp network."

"That's beyond your ability."

"Oh, I know that, and I tried to explain it to my naive, younger self, but she wouldn't listen. She's determined to bring down that hub."

"She'll fail."

"Yes, but she has weapons that I brought from the future. I believe you're familiar with them."

"Transphasic torpedoes. We will adapt."

"Eventually, but not before Voyager does a great deal of damage. I'm willing to tell you how to adapt to those weapons now."

"In exchange for what?" The thought of a Janeway cooperating with the Collective intrigued Pallas. She knew that a corrupt Janeway would be easier to manipulate, easier to distract until they could find where she was hidden.

"Send a cube to tractor Voyager and drag them back to the Alpha quadrant."

"You're asking me to believe that the incorruptible Kathryn Janeway would betray her own crew," Pallas could not believe how easily it was all falling into her hands.

"Not betray them, save them from themselves. I brought technology to help Voyager get home but the Captain's arrogant, self-righteous, and her officers are so blinded by loyalty that they're prepared to sacrifice their lives just to deal a crippling blow to the Borg."

"But you'd never try to harm us."

"I've become a pragmatist in my old age. All I want is to get that crew back to their families."

"You wish to ensure the well-being of your Collective. I can appreciate that. I'll help you but it'll cost more than you're offering," just a little longer and she would find Admiral Janeway’s hiding place.

"What do you want?" The admiral sighed, resignation in her voice.

"Your vessel and its database."

"I told you, I'll show you how to adapt to their torpedoes."

"Insufficient."

"If I let you assimilate technology from the future, there's no telling how events would be altered."

"You're willing to alter the future by getting Voyager home now."

"Oh yes, but there's a difference."

"Do what all good pragmatists do, Admiral, compromise," now Pallas knew she had her, and knew they were moments away from knowing her coordinates.

"All right. I'll give you the shuttle after Voyager arrives safely in the Alpha quadrant."

"You've already lied to your younger self. How do I know you're not lying to me?" Just another moment, that was all Pallas needed.

"I guess you'll just have to trust me."

"That won't be necessary. You underestimate me, Admiral. While we've been talking, my drones have triangulated your signal."

Admiral Janeway disappeared in a shimmer of light, but Pallas ordered her to be beamed directly to the Queen’s chamber.

"Very clever. Hiding right on my doorstep. Were you planning to attack us from inside the Unicomplex? Not feeling talkative?" She drove her tubules into the Admiral’s throat and Janeway slumped down in the alcove as the nanoprobes took control of her body. "You and I don't need words to understand each other."

The voice of the collective intoned, "Voyager has entered aperture eight two three, access transwarp corridor zero nine. Redirect vessels to intercept at subjunction…" the words became garbled and a painful electrical pulse shot through Pallas.

"Must be something you assimilated,"

Chaos reigned through her mind, like a swarm of black bees it spread out from her into the unicomplex, then outward to all the other unicomplexes and to the Borg vessels, faster and faster.  It ran through the synaptic connections poisoning the body of the entire collective and at the heart the queen herself pumped it out in increasing dark smoky waves.

"What have you done," she said, reaching for one of the supports.

"I thought we didn’t need words to understand each other," the Admiral’s smug replay echoed from the floor, as Pallas attempted to regain her balance.

Pallas reached into Janeway’s mind, bypassing the normal Borg connection to link directly to her.

"You’ve infected us with a neurolytic pathogen." The pain of confusion grew steadily stronger, and she watched parts of her complex explode. 

"Just enough to bring chaos to order," she replied.

"Voyager will be destroyed."

"They’re ahead of the shock wave.  They’ll survive.  Captain Janeway and I made sure of that.  It’s you who under-estimated us," and pulling herself up the Admiral stood in Pallas’s alcove.

Pallas began to lose connections with her own cybernetic body as her left arm begin to short, putting the rest of her systems at risk.  She jerked it away from herself and tossed it to the floor.

The strange deafness seeped across her consciousness, she could hear the familiar clank of metal against metal that had always sang in the background of her Borg existence.  She could even hear the hiss of the systems that sparked and then died around her, but the myriad voices of the collective were fading into a black silence.

She sent frenzied thoughts outward, searching and finding a few drones on one sphere that could hear her.  "Sphere six three four, they can still hear my thoughts," and she sent them into the Transwarp corridor after Captain Janeway’s ship.  "I may have assimilated your pathogen but I also assimilated your armor technology."

Again her body shorted, and her left leg died and fell away throwing Pallas off balance. She struggled to remain standing, grabbing at anything, to no avail, then looked up at Admiral Janeway leaning against one of the metal struts still upright.

"Captain Janeway is about to die.  If she has no future, you will never exist and nothing that you’ve done here today will happen."

Her head filled with the death screech of the central processor, no words, only the discordant hum of feedback that crackled and then paled into a fatal silence.  As the connection faded the clips that held her in her cybernetic suit gave way leaving her helpless and dying on the floor below where Janeway stood.

There was only one voice left laughing softly in her head, Kathryn Janeway still living emphasizing the failure of her sphere to destroy the Captain. In that moment Pallas knew that she had been the one maneuvered, that Admiral Janeway had come here to be assimilated and to die.  The connection held Pallas prisoner as the Admiral’s thoughts poured out in a torrent engulfing the last Borg Queen, and all Pallas could do was accept them.

She saw the faces of Kathryn’s crew, the ones that had died and every death was a direct result of Pallas’ carefully planned revenge, revenge that would now never happen. She saw Seven of Nine and Icheb dead along with Mike Ayala and Megan Delaney.  The names and faces continued to assault her, Freddie Bristow, William Chapman, Renlay Sharr, William Telfor, Kashimuro Nozawa, Noah Lessing, Walter Baxter, Chell, Susan Nicoletti, William McKenzie, Lydia Anderson, Doug Bronowski, Pablo Baytart, and Gerron.  Name after name, face after face twenty-two in all and she knew that she had destroyed all of them, ending with Commander Chakotay finally succumbing in the Alpha Quadrant years later from Borg inflicted injuries.

She saw the Federation, still strong and undefeated but she also knew that many had died placing themselves between the Federation and the Borg.  People like Jean-Luc Picard and his entire crew using Enterprise E’s self destruct rather than becoming a part of the Borg Collective.

Her dreams of conquest, ones that took billions of lives had always fallen short and now they would never be at all.

In her mind Pallas screamed at the Admiral, ranting about revenge and Galaxy domination and why it was the Borg quest for perfection that was the one true way to enlightenment and still Kathryn Janeway laughed.

Finally the laughter stilled and Pallas could feel the Admiral moving away, her mind drawn to a beautiful light, and silhouetted against it was the form of a human male.  When he stepped forward she recognized the uniform of a Starfleet Commander and the mark he carried on his forehead.  She witnessed the couple’s embrace and then turning away from her they walked into that beautiful light.

For one fleeting moment Janeway looked over her shoulder back at the fallen Queen, and in the light she was beautiful, her hair no longer white but again the soft red of Captain Janeway.  Through the light was just at the point of being blindingly bright, Pallas perceived a window high in space and below it, Earth turned slowly.

She tried to follow, knowing that the Admiral’s body was with her in the disintegrating chamber of Unimatrix Zero One, but she couldn’t move and she didn’t know how to set her conscience free as the Admiral had.  She was doomed to remain within the Borg complex, and looking at the Admiral’s body slumped in death and the peaceful smile that graced her lips.

She felt the heat building in the deck beneath her and the pressure in the atmosphere that surrounded her and like a trapped child she begged for anyone to save her.  The only answer came with a fire ball of searing heat and then she knew no more…

 

The Queen of Hearts - Epilogue

 

"For you, and for the boy that I was. He needs you more than you know. Don't you see? We're going to get a second... chance." The Adult Jake to Ben Sisko – "The Visitor"

The Borg could never produce a Queen of Hearts for Judith protected the soul, and the very existence of the Borg depended on the soul’s destruction.

The Borg thought they were playing no-trump where death conquers all, even love.  They did not understand love and therefore discounted it. The Universe, however had other ideas and in the beginning stacked the deck and called Hearts as the trump suit, then it sent the Queen of Hearts in the form of Admiral Kathryn Janeway to conquer the Queen of Spades and set things right.

=^=

It didn’t seem possible, with everything happing in a mad scramble, but there it was, framed in the windows of her ready room. Home, gleaming like some longed-for trophy, and for the first time in seven years Captain Kathryn Janeway relaxed.

She held her coffee mug in a silent toast to her older self. The universe had changed and everything was new. Once again she could let herself wonder what the future held without the fear that had accompanied those thoughts.

Behind her, the door chime announced a visitor so she told the computer to allow that person to enter. Still watching Earth, she didn’t know who entered until she heard the gentle tone of her closest friend.

"Kathryn, I’m here to talk about promises. Ones we made to each other years ago. Am I too late?"

Silent tears glazed over her blue eyes as she turned to him and moved into his arms.

"No." she whispered. "It’s time to cross that last bridge, Chakotay."

"Yes it is," he said wrapping her in his arms and dipping his head to press his lips to hers for the first time.

The End

"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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