The Truth Of Truths
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: After Unimatrix Zero and before Endgame. Oh to heck with Endgame; there was no Endgame!
“I was not always Borg. Once I was imperfect, like you. Alone.”
The Borg Queen tilted her head her head slightly and smiled. “Now I hear millions of voices.” She turned and walked to where a drone stood awaiting any order she might give. He would wait forever if she wanted. “Now I am perfection.”
There was a disturbance in the Collective. Two cubes were under attack by a fleet of ships in spatial grid three four six. Swiftly, she sent the order to three cubes to leave the central nexus and aid their brethren.
“What about the individual you could have been?”
“Individuality is nothing.” The Queen smiled as four hundred new drones were assimilated by cube one one four seven.
“Don’t you wonder?”
“No.” Stalking over to him, she ran a hand over his shoulder, clinically noting the texture of his skin.
His flesh crawled under the cool touch. “How did you become the Queen? I had heard you were dead.”
“My predecessor.” Trailing her fingers through his hair, she wondered why Janeway was so fascinated. It was dirty, matted with sweat and blood.
“When she died – you became Queen?” Biting back a cry of pain as she tugged on his hair, he forced himself to speak calmly. “Did they pick you?”
“They? The drones?” A smile curved her lips. “Of course not, drones make no decisions. Only I make decisions.”
“There’s more than one Queen?” Despite the situation, he found himself genuinely curious.
“No.” Sliding a gray fingertip along his cheek, she noted the warmth of his skin. “There is only one queen.”
“Then how – “ He blinked as the silver eyes peered into his own. “How do you – “
“We do not – breed. “ She said the word as if it tasted bad. “Nor am I a clone. That was your next question, I believe.”
It had been his next question, and now he fished for another one. “So you were a drone?” The questions weren’t only for his own curiosity; his time was limited to how long he held the Queen’s curiosity.
“Yes. And no.” Stepping back, she regarded him critically, taking note of the trembling in his arms from being restrained above his head. “Your arms, do they hurt?”
“Yes.” Why lie?
“Interesting.” Walking behind him, the Queen ran a finger down the length of his spine. “As a drone, you will feel no pain.”
“I’ll take the pain – given the alternative.” Her fingers dug into his muscles and he stifled a cry. “You – you were – assimilated – “
“I was assimilated as a child, and my distinctiveness was added to the Collective.” The skin had turned a bright red where her fingers were, the Queen noticed. “I was placed in a maturation chamber.”
“You were a child – what about your parents?” He tried not to shiver as her hands slid up to cup the back of his head. With her strength, she could easily crush his skull. “Were they assimilated as well?”
“Yes. They were also added to the Collective.” She cocked her head to one side and listened. “They are here with me. A part of my perfection.”
“The Queen took notice of my unique qualities and selected me as a candidate to replace her when the time came.” She spared a brief nanosecond to recall that queen two predecessors ago. “We cannot risk the Collective falling into individuality and chaos.”
“Candidate?” He watched her walk to a nearby console and lay her hand on it. The console lit up immediately, and data began to scroll by faster than he could read. “There are more than one?”
“Several.” She turned and smiled coldly. “In various secure locations. Do not think you can reach them.”
“I wasn’t saying that.” The idea had more than an ounce of merit, however. “I meant that you weren’t the only one. How were you chosen?”
“By eliminating my rivals.” There was no malice in her voice. “When candidates reach a certain level of maturity, they are given knowledge of other candidates at that level. They each view the others as imperfections that must be eliminated for the good of the Collective.”
“Survival of the fittest?” He said sarcastically. “The best individual effort?”
“There are millions of drones. Each is the same. The Queen must be unique.” She brought up a display with just the wish that it be so. “Maintaining the calm and order requires certain abilities.”
The screen displayed a section of space crowded with Borg vessels. His stomach lurched as he tried to count them and failed.
“Each new drone receives instructions and training through their new implants or through the maturation chamber in which they are placed.” The Queen raised her hand to the mottled flesh of her chest. “Those chosen as a possible successor for the Queen are placed into special maturation chambers.”
“Quaintly put, but accurate. As a candidate, I received data directly from the Queen.” Once again, she turned to look at the drone standing patiently by the hatchway. “Data that a drone does not need in order to function.”
Of course not, that might lead to independent thinking. He kept that thought to himself. “The Queen runs training classes?”
“Classes?” She sorted through data until she found a visual; the time it took was too small to be measured by anything other than Borg standards. “That would be inefficient. All information the Queen possesses is transmitted to her candidates. Decisions, consequences, triumphs, failures – all are broken down and disseminated.”
“Failures?” Shifting his weight, he tried to ease the pull on his arms. “The Borg admit to failures?”
“Perfection is not achieved without failure. To ignore failure is to repeat it.” The Queen walked back to him. “Janeway has taught the Borg several valuable lessons.”
“I’ll tell her you’re grateful.”
“You will not have the opportunity.” She cupped his chin in her hand and lifted his face to look deep into his eyes once again. Black velvet? “You will be a drone – working for the good of the Collective – by the time Voyager is captured and Janeway is assimilated.”
“She’ll never let you take Voyager. She’ll destroy the ship before she'll let you assimilate the crew.” It was no idle threat. Everyone on board down to Naomi Wildman knew that the ship would be ordered to self destruct if there were no other way to escape assimilation.
“With your knowledge, I will be able to stop her.” The Queen gripped a handful of his hair and pulled his head back. “The command codes you possess will allow me to order Voyager’s computers to shut down the self destruct sequence.”
“They’ll be changed as soon as she realizes I’ve been captured.” It was foolish, but he couldn’t resist defying her.
“Your security systems are primitive. It will take but a few moments to go through all the possible sequences to find the correct one.”
Shivers rippled up his spine. The Queen was right; no matter how complex they might think their security system, to the Borg it was like a child’s puzzle.
“I believe I will leave your eyes.” They were a fascinating color. “Perhaps I will assign you to my unimatrix.”
“Is that what you do?” Fear almost choked him, and he channeled it into anger. “Chop off the parts you don’t like? Is that what happened to you? The Queen trimmed you down to size?”
“Your ignorance is amusing.” A hand went to the seams along her chest. “I am able to function more efficiently.”
“Without all the dead weight?”
“I can connect directly into the central plexus.” A smile curved her lips and her eyes closed blissfully. “Every ship, every drone, every bit of information flows directly to me.”
While that sounded like the Queen’s idea of heaven, it wasn’t his. ”Then why the costume? Why put on arms and legs if it disconnects you?”
“I am still connected to the central plexus. I am always connected.” Her tone was disdainful. “This is not as… rich… as being in the plexus itself, but it is sometimes necessary.”
“Your distinctiveness will be added to the collective.” Her hand left her chest and reached for his throat. “I shall savor your memories.”
“Do you amuse yourself often with your victims?” His time had run out, and he had nothing to lose. “Do you play with them like a child? Enjoying their fear and pain?”
“Such spirit.” The Queen paused. “It is no wonder Janeway prizes you above the others in her collective. No wonder that her thoughts were of you.”
He didn’t answer, unsure of what she meant. Thoughts of him? Or the ship and crew?
“Her thoughts were primitive, foreign, and yet – “ She ran a fingertip over the dark lines inked into his forehead. “And yet exciting.”
“Friendship and caring is part of being an individual.”
“Friendship and caring? Do they include this?” Pressing her lips to his, the Queen held his face in an iron grip as he struggled.
His lips were crushed against his teeth, and he tasted blood before she released him.
“She had numerous thoughts of doing this with you.” She wiped the blood from her lips. “In her quarters, the ready room, the turbo lift, and a place – a planet – called New Earth.”
Kathryn had thought of kissing him? Weren’t those feelings dead and buried. He still cared for her, but was it possible that she still cared for him?
“Shall I tell you what other thoughts she had?” The Queen moved her hands over his body, mimicking the thoughts she had taken from Janeway, tracing the muscles along his chest and stomach. It intrigued her, these thoughts of Janeway’s for a single individual. Perhaps his reactions would help her to understand Janeway better. Understanding would lead to victory.
He gasped as she cupped his balls and squeezed. Just as he was about to cry out from the pain, she released him. Sagging in his restraints, not caring that his arms were bearing his body’s weight. Gulped air in gratefully.
She had a grip like a Cardassian, and he wondered if he’d be able to lay with a woman again. The absurdity of the thought almost made him laugh. He was moments away from assimilation, and he was worried about his ability to get a hard on.
“She had many thoughts of joining your bodies in the way that humans mate.”
“You’re mistaken.” Kathryn had thoughts about having sex with him? “We’re only friends.”
“This part of you.” She cupped his genitals again. “She had thoughts of you placing this within her body. I have the memories of millions of species, and this is considered mating.”
There was no arguing with that logic and with his balls in her hand once again, he wasn’t going to argue anything.
“Golden skin, black velvet eyes, angry warrior – “ The Queen ran her hands over his belly and chest once again. “Why does she prize you above the others in her collective? Tuvok’s mind is more orderly, B'Elanna’s more skilled, and yet she thought of you.”
Sadness replaced his fear. Sadness and remorse that he had never pressed Kathryn to admit her feelings. To find out now that there might have been a chance for them sapped the last of his strength, and he let his head fall forward.
“You share these feelings.” She said shrewdly. “You share her desires.”
“Yes.” Why deny it now? He would never see Kathryn again. “Yes, I love her.”
“Love?” She accessed millions of memories in an instant. “A powerful emotion that leads to foolish decisions.” The sliver eyes narrowed. “Such as returning to rescue a single individual at the risk of the entire collective.”
“She won’t risk Voyager just to save me.” Even as he said it, he knew better. Kathryn was too stubborn to give up even one member of her crew.
The Queen strode to a panel, and the display slid open as she approached. Voyager was firing a spread of torpedoes. Two other ships arched in from opposite angles, firing on the Borg ship.
There was rumbling as the torpedoes struck the cube. “A valiant effort. But futile.”
Sparks escaped from several panels, falling to the floor as the cube rocked and shuddered once again. The Borg Queen frowned in annoyance.
“She thinks to rescue you.” Turning, she stalked over to him, stumbling as the deck tilted. “She will fail.”
He pulled back as she approached. Using the restraints for leverage, he lifted his feet and slammed them into her chest, crying out as the muscles in his shoulders and arms tore.
The Queen staggered back and pressed a hand to her chest. Angrily she whipped her head around. “Where are my shields?”
“Shields are failing.” The drone by the door reported tonelessly. “Primary systems are damaged. We are adapting.”
“Adapt faster!” She approached him more cautiously this time, dodging his kicks and grabbing his throat. “Resistance is futile. You will comply.”
“No!” The black tubes pierced his throat, and he screamed in agony as the nanoprobes poured into the carotid artery and up into his brain. They crawled under his skin and he screamed again, looking wildly around the room for his father, for the spirit horse, for anyone who would save him from this torment.
The Queen filled his vision, her voice crowding into his mind. “No – no!” She shimmered and then Kathryn was there, her small hands reaching through a haze of blue.
“Kathryn...” Smiling, he closed his eyes and embraced oblivion.
Oblivion vanished and the pain returned. His skin was on fire, and he screamed as Borg implants burrowed their way through his flesh.
“Hold him down!”
“Get them off!” He reached up to claw at the fire eating through his shoulder.
“Lie still, Commander.” The EMH pressed a hypo spray to his throat.
“They’re eating me!” Fighting off the hands holding him down, he rolled over and fell off the edge of something, striking the deck hard. He clawed desperately at the implants bursting through his skin.
Horrified, he watched the nanoprobes scurry under his skin and explode out onto the back of his hand. Sharp metal spikes lanced out and back down into the bone. “Help me!”
“Chakotay!” Kathryn paused inside the doorway. She had forced herself to stay on the bridge until Voyager and her new allies had escaped, leaving the Borg cube badly damaged but already regenerating.
As soon as the ship had jumped to warp, she had bolted off the bridge and run to the transporter room Chakotay had been beamed to.
Blood streamed from his face as he clawed at the metallic implant that was burrowing out of his cheek. Sam Wildman, Ayala, and Neelix were struggling to hold him down while the Doctor tried to help him. In his pain and fear, Chakotay fought them, alternately screaming at them to get away and begging for their help.
“Chakotay!” Kneeling next to him, Kathryn tugged at his hand where the nails were gouging into his face. “Chakotay, let the Doctor help you!”
“Kathryn?” The black velvet eyes were wide with terror. “Kathryn? They’re eating me!”
“Stop fighting us.” She pulled him into her arms, ignoring the blood that smeared her face and uniform. “The Doctor has Icheb’s virus; let him help you.”
“Kathryn – “ His throat was clogged with something trying to crawl up it. “I – “ Helplessly, he tipped his head back, trying to tell her he loved her before he died.
Raising a hand, he touched her cheek and tangled his fingers in the auburn hair. l love you – Kathryn – She smiled down at him and her lips moved, but he could no longer hear her.
“Chakotay!” His head lolled back and his eyes closed.
“He’s fine.” The Doctor pressed another hypo spray to Chakotay’s throat. “I’ve sedated him.” He motioned to the waiting security team to bring over the stretcher.
Kathryn stepped back as they lifted Chakotay onto it. His body jerked and twitched, the only sign of the war that was going on inside of him. She grabbed his hand and trotted alongside his stretcher as they activated the antigrav units and began to move. “Hang on, Chakotay.”
His eyes felt heavy, and he forced them open. The ceiling was fuzzy but familiar. Sickbay. Someone squeezed his hand, and he turned his head to see Kathryn standing beside the bio bed. “Kathryn – “ He choked and coughed.
“Shh… don’t try to talk.” She brushed his hair back from his forehead. “You’re fine. All the nanoprobes are gone.”
“She told me…” He tried to lift his hand to her face. When he couldn’t, there was a moment’s panic when he realized he was restrained.
“Relax.” Kathryn patted his shoulder. “We had to tie you down. I think we can let you up now.”
“She told me – “ He cleared his throat.
“I’m sure she did, but this is my Sickbay, and I make the decisions here.” The EMH caught the glare sent his way. “And I’d say it’s time to undo these.”
“Can he go back to his quarters?” She rubbed his wrist where the restraint had been.
“Certainly.” The Doctor switched off the biobed’s sensors. “The pathogen destroyed the nanoprobes, and I removed the implants. He’ll need to wear a monitor for tonight; I’d like to keep an eye on his vitals.”
“Want to go home?” Kathryn helped him to sit up.
“You have blood on your cheek.” He touched the smear of dried blood. “Did I hurt you?”
“Do I?” She wiped at the spot. “No, this is yours, I haven’t had a chance to clean up. And by the way, mister, you owe me a uniform jacket.”
“I talked to the Queen.”
“Did you?” A smile crooked the corner of her mouth. “Did she do the usual ‘resistance is futile’ line?”
“Pretty much.” Sliding off the biobed, he grabbed her shoulders for balance as his knees wobbled.
“Take it easy.” Sliding an arm around his waist, she pulled his arm over her shoulder.
“Where are my clothes?” Chakotay looked down at the gray standard issue Sickbay pants.
“They ended up in the recycler.” Kathryn didn’t tell him that the Doctor had cut the filthy pants and boots off of him to get at the implants as quickly as possible. “Doctor, if you’re finished?”
“Far be it for me to actually keep a patient in Sickbay.” He attached the monitor to Chakotay’s neck.
“Computer, initiate site to site transport – Commander Chakotay and myself – directly to his quarters.”
“He can have a light dinner and fluids.” The Doctor called out as they vanished in a column of blue sparkles. “And no coffee for you!”
They materialized in the main room of Chakotay’s quarters, and Kathryn helped him walk to his bedroom. His legs were wobbly and he took slow hesitant steps.
“Do you want to take a shower?”
“No. I just need to rest.” Sitting on the edge of the bed, he watched Kathryn pull back the covers. “I feel like I’m ten days into a two day drunk.”
“If it’s any consolation, you only look five days in.” She helped him get settled, putting the pillows behind his back so he could sit up comfortably. “How about a cup of tea?”
“That would be nice.” He smiled up at her as she tucked the covers in around him.
When Kathryn came back with the tea, Chakotay told her between sips about his odd conversation with the Queen.
“So she chooses likely candidates? How?” Kathryn mused over the rim of her cup. “Intelligence? Ruthlessness? Looks?”
“This Queen looks very similar to the last one. It’s possible that she wants to always appear the same.”
“To help maintain continuity?” He frowned. “But the drones wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
“Vanity maybe?” She chuckled. “You know how women are.”
“She is – “ He yawned. “She is vain.”
“You should go to sleep.” Setting her teacup on the bedside table, Kathryn took his and set it there as well. “You’ve had a rough day.”
“Kathryn, she told me some things. Things we need to talk about.” He sat up as she pulled the pillows out from behind him so he could lie down. “It’s important.”
“You can tell me later.” She helped him get comfortable, once again tucking the blankets around him. “Go to sleep, we’ll talk when you wake up.”
“Kathryn – “ Chakotay caught her hand. “We need to talk.”
“We will.” Leaning down, she smoothed the raven hair back and kissed his forehead. “But you need to sleep first.”
Kathryn waited until his eyes fluttered closed before going to her own quarters long enough to grab the PADDs with the reports she had been working on and to change out of her uniform. Slipping on a comfortable dress, she looked at her shoes and decided against them. Chakotay’s quarters were just next door, so she wasn’t likely to be caught barefoot in the corridor.
Peeking into his bedroom, she saw that Chakotay had curled up on his side and was sound asleep. She locked the door open in case he needed anything and settled on his sofa with her reports and a fresh cup of tea.
She was halfway into Neelix’s report on Voyager’s food supplies when she heard a soft cry from the bedroom. Even as she put the PADD down, the cry changed to a scream of terror. Bolting up from the sofa, Kathryn ran into the bedroom.
“Get them off!” He was clawing at his shoulder. “They’re eating me!”
“Chakotay!” Grabbing his shoulders, she shook him. “Wake up! It’s only a nightmare!”
“Get away!” He swung wildly, his fist catching her in the face.
Stars went off inside her head and Kathryn tumbled off the bed. She sat for a moment, blinking and trying to right herself. Another terrified cry from Chakotay forced her to climb to her feet again.
“Chakotay – Chakotay! Wake up!” He was digging his fingernails into his skin, tearing at implants that were no longer there. “Janeway to Sickbay! Medical – “
“I’m already here, Captain.” The EMH appeared beside the bed. “The monitor alerted me.”
“Get them out! Get them out!” Blood ran down into Chakotay’s eyes, blinding him. “Kathryn! Help me!”
“Chakotay, I’m right here.” She lowered her voice to a more soothing tone. Giving up on restraining his arms, and not wanting to catch another fist to the jaw, Kathryn laid across him, holding him down with her body while the Doctor pressed a hypo spray to his throat. “You’re safe – you’re safe – “
“Kathryn...” The drug seeped through his body, filling his head with fog. The visions of the Queen and her nanoprobes faded away. “Don’t leave…”
“I won’t, I’m right here.” She moved to lie next to him, pulling him into her arms. “Go back to sleep, I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
“’Fraid…” He mumbled into her neck.
She didn’t blame him. There was nothing more frightening than the Borg. Kathryn tightened her arms around him. “You’re home now – you’re safe. I won’t let her hurt you.”
The Doctor ran a dermal regenerator over the scratches on Chakotay’s shoulder. “He may suffer flashbacks for some time.”
“I didn’t.” She turned Chakotay’s face so that the Doctor could heal the ugly claw marks on his cheek and forehead. “I don’t think B'Elanna did either.”
“Lieutenant Torres beat her fears to death on the holodeck, and you – well, you repress extremely well.” Ignoring her arched eyebrows, he pulled a sterile wipe from his med kit and used it to wipe the blood from the newly healed skin. “You recall the incident in chaotic space?”
“Only too well.” Chakotay had suffered hallucinations as a result of the activation of a genetic defect. “He was frightened that he was losing his mind.”
“Terrified might be a more accurate description.” The EMH said. “Commander Chakotay has a deep seated fear of insanity – of not being able to control his mind. To be assimilated – “
“Would be his worst nightmare come true.” Kathryn pulled the blankets up over Chakotay’s bare chest. “Thousands of voices in your mind? The few moments I had with the Queen in my head were more than enough.”
“I’d recommend a few days off, but we all know how effective that would be.” He said sarcastically.
“I’ll try to keep him on light duty for a few days.” Closing her eyes, she gave a sigh as the Doctor ran the dermal regenerator over her face and the ache faded.
“That’s quite the shiner you have there, Captain.” He smirked as the bruise faded. “I’m going to leave a sedative in case he has another episode.”
“Don’t thank me. It’s my calling after all.” The Doctor walked out of the room. “Tireless doctor caring for his charges. Who never listen or do what they’re told.”
Chakotay shifted in his sleep, finally settling with his head on her shoulder. Brushing his hair back, she traced the dark lines on his forehead. “Sleep. When you wake up everything will be all right.”
“She told me you thought of me.”
“Did she?” Kathryn looked down at him, she’d thought he was asleep. “Stop fighting the sedative the Doctor gave you.”
“That you thought of kissing me.” He touched his lips. “She kissed me.”
“She what?” Jealousy hit her hot and hard right between the eyes.
“Don’t worry, she wasn’t good at it.” Chakotay laughed softly. “Did you?”
“Did I what?” Get jealous and want to rip her bald head off?
“Think of kissing me?”
“I – “
“She told me that you had fantasies of kissing me.” Laying his arm over her waist, Chakotay pulled her closer, yawning as he did so. “Of making love with me.”
“She told you – all of that?” Her cheeks grew warm; some of her fantasies of Chakotay were explicit. Be honest, Kathryn! They’re finely detailed creations, down to what that golden body would look like on your white sheets!
“Mating.” Yawning again, he shifted his body against hers. “Like it was dirty.”
“I’ve never had any fantasies of us I’d call dirty.” Kathryn said indignantly.
“But you have had fantasies?”
Oops… His voice was soft and sleepy, and she wondered if he would even remember the conversation. “I’ve – I’ve had a few.”
“I’ve had… so many…” He pressed a kiss to her shoulder. “So many dreams…” His words were slurring, and he yawned again.
“Go to sleep.” She rubbed her hand up and down his back. “We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Kathryn – “ His body felt weighted down, and he struggled to lift his head. “I have to tell you – “
“Chakotay, you can tell me tomorrow.” The black velvet eyes were unfocused as he looked up at her. “You need to rest.”
“I love you – I almost died, and you would have never known.” His arms wobbled, and Chakotay had to lay his head back down. “Hearing that you wanted me – gave me strength. Even if isn’t true.”
“But – oh, Chakotay, it is true.” Kathryn hugged him and brushed a kiss across his temple. “I do care for you – more than I’m allowed.”
“Would it matter?” He whispered. “If I had died – would the rules matter?”
“No.” The fear that he had been assimilated – murdered – in the long hours it had taken to track down the cube that had captured his shuttle had let her mind play out a thousand scenarios of life without him. “If you had died – nothing would matter. I would be just as dead.”
“Me too…” Snuggling against her side, he let himself drift off.
“Chakotay, I’m glad you’re alive. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Kathryn laid her cheek against his hair. “I love you.”
She smiled as she rubbed her cheek against the soft, raven hair. “We’ll see.”
Kathryn wiggled against the warmth, not wanting to wake up. Something tickled her nose, and she turned her head, hiding her face against the firm chest. Chest? Rolling onto her back, she looked up into Chakotay’s eyes. He smiled down at her. Reaching up, she touched the dimple in one cheek. “I haven’t slept this good in years.”
“I can arrange for you to sleep this good every night.” He lowered his lips to hers, moving slowly in case he was misreading her. “As long as you have forever.”
“Forever is free.” Sliding her hands up his chest, she smiled as he kissed her. “The Doctor said to keep you on light duty – think this qualifies?”
“I’ll try not to strain anything.” Chuckling, he kissed her again.
Poets are all who love,
who feel great truths,
And tell them; and the truth of truths is love.
Festus. Scene xvi. The Hesperian Sphere.
Philip James Bailey (1816-1905)