Title: Ambassador Author: Jemima Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Series: VOY Part: 6/19 Rating: PG Codes: 7, AU Summary: What if the scorpion had held back its sting just a little longer? An AU based on the episode "Scorpion". Disclaimer: I took these characters from an alternate universe without copyright laws. Mwhahahaha! Date: April 2001
It is a hum and a song, a mother and a lover, a sun and a sea - it is all she has known for eighteen years. There was something before - some other existence, another plane of being - but it is irrelevant. There is only the ebb and flow of calculations, the tuning of instruments, the quest for perfection and the Queen. Spatial grids like chessboards before her, the Queen moves the pieces - drones, ships, species, worlds - from square to square.
The Queen sends a cube into fluidic space in the quest for perfection, and soon after, there is pain. The screams of the assimilated have never brought pain - individual nerve centers and random electrical fluctuations are irrelevant, as the assimilated learn soon enough - and the loss of a cube here and there is a negligible wound to the body Collective. Now, however, the ebb and flow of calculations has become a rocking and jarring as drones on far-flung cubes are forced to take the places of a million annihilated brethren.
The eternal computation that constitutes the Collective mind is itself threatened, for entire unimatrices are being wiped out, leaving terrible, gaping holes in the Collective consciousness. As the puny individual mind screams out at the necessary amputation of inefficient limbs, the Collective mind groans under the heavy losses of planets, sectors and unimatrices.
The distressed Borg have no weapon against Species 8472, nor any samples of the species to experiment upon. They destroy cubes and drones, but the Borg can neither capture nor kill one of them. Species 8472 is more perfect than the Borg - the Borg will be assimilated. The Borg will adapt to serve Species 8472--
This depressing line of thought is cut off suddenly by an incident in Inhabited Star System 568 (inhabited by the Borg, that is). A member of Species 5618 - Humans, origin Spatial Grid 325 - is attempting to negotiate with the Borg. Inhabited Star System 568 is rendered uninhabited by Species 8472 while the Borg waste time 'negotiating' with the Human woman.
The woman claims to have a weapon of use against Species 8472. There is no time to assimilate the woman and her starship - moreover, the woman threatens to destroy the weapon before assimilation. Deliberations rage across the thinning Collective mind - it is inefficient to endanger the weapon, inefficient to work with individuals, inefficient to go on dying at the hands of Species 8472 - perfection is but a memory to the Borg. The Collective agrees to an alliance with the humans.
But it is a headache, a migraine headache, to the Collective mind. The woman talks too much; the man - Species 3259, Vulcan - too little. They refuse neural transceivers, they threaten again to destroy the weapon. The woman demands that a representative of the Borg be designated merely to speak to them. She mentions Locutus of Borg.
In the cube, the sole surviving cube from Inhabited Star System 568, there is a drone assimilated from Species 5618. That drone is chosen; the burden of pre-processing the humans' semi-rational speech patterns is now delegated to Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One--is delegated to me.
I wrap my mind carefully around individuality, that great weakness, that shattering and scattering which the unassimilated hold so dear. I form an interface out of billions of heretofore irrelevant memories of individuality - I create a personality that is at once Borg and not-Borg. I speak alone, as I have not done these eighteen years; I say to the woman:
"I speak for the Borg."
Now the humans are my headache, my migraine headache. Their queen Janeway wishes to avoid collateral damage - I wish to annihilate Species 8472. She is so small - what are star systems, what are innocent lives, compared to the survival of the Collective mind?
But the Borg are still with me, calculating, calculating distances, times, yields and the rate of loss of cubes, systems, Unimatrices. They--we--agree with the woman - small weapons quickly, the advantage of surprise. Larger weapons later, the satisfaction of annihilation, I think, but do not speak it.
Janeway attempts to engage me in irrelevant discourse. Meanwhile, the 8472's access her crewwoman's mind. If this defective drone Kes had been Borg, she would have been destroyed at the first sign of danger. Instead, Janeway is refusing outright to speed up the weapons program, threatening again to destroy the weapon. My migraine increases, though pain is irrelevant. Their thoughts are not one, their actions are not one, they are inefficient, alien.
Species 8472 returns to destroy us, because of this weak Kes. I am forced to sacrifice the entire cube - and each cube is precious now - to save the humans' nanoprobe weapon. I am able to transport only a few drones to the humans' ship.
The weak queen Janeway has been damaged in the attack, and now another drone has taken her place. He is even more uncooperative, even more fragmented, weak and afraid than she was. I miss her, and I fear for the alliance. How will these humans protect themselves now that my cube is gone?
The Collective is losing the war. There is no time for this vessel to cross Borg space - we must return to the nearest Borg cube. But he - Chakotay - refuses. He reneges on the alliance.
I lash out at him: "When your captain first approached us we suspected that an agreement with humans would prove impossible to maintain. You are erratic, conflicted, disorganized. Every decision is debated, every action questioned. Every individual is entitled to their own small opinion. You lack harmony, cohesion...greatness. It will be your undoing."
They are unmoved by logic. And the Borg are dying - more planets, cubes, drones are lost. The Collective must seize this vessel. I take control of the deflector dish, while my enemies open the Cargo Bay doors, expelling my remaining drones into the vacuum of space. I alone remain, yet I am able to draw the vessel into fluidic space. Here they must deploy their long-awaited weapon.
Chakotay is small and cannot understand, but Janeway is repaired and renews our alliance. She will make a fine drone someday.
We attack Species 8472 successfully using the nanoprobe weapon, both in fluidic space and in the Delta Quadrant proper. The Borg have prevailed. Janeway is speaking about our guarantee of free passage through Borg space. She offers me the use of a shuttlecraft to return to the Borg.
"Unacceptable," I reply, after consulting the Collective. "The Borg have found our alliance to be...efficient. We wish to maintain the alliance. I will remain aboard this vessel as the representative of the Borg."
Janeway pales visibly. "What guarantee do I have now," she asks, "that you won't assimilate Voyager?"
"The Borg possess many vessels, but no allies. You are more useful to us in your present state."
"That's not a guarantee."
"What guarantee do the Borg have that you will not tamper with this drone?" I ask rhetorically. "What guarantee do I have that Commander Chakotay will not expel me into space as soon as you let him out of the brig? We will have to trust one another."
Tuvok raises an eyebrow, but Janeway nods. I am now the ambassador of the Borg.
Ambassadors have certain privileges under Federation law, but I cannot abide such wasted, idle time. I must serve a function. The crew is unwilling to work with me, however. Chakotay glares at me; Torres refuses to let me near the engines.
Janeway allows me to go on an away mission with two particularly open-minded crewmen. Our shuttle is attacked and destroyed; we are taken prisoner by a primitive species. I destroy many of them, but I am hampered by my attempts to preserve my two weak allies - I know that if I survive alone, I will be suspected and this will harm our fragile alliance with the humans. The enemy sense my weakness, take advantage of it, overcome me, slay my drones. I lose consciousness...
"Seven of Nine?" a familiar voice asks.
"My aural processors are functioning, Doctor." Other data from my self-diagnostic is less promising. "I am in sickbay," I surmise, though something is seriously amiss with my visual processors. "Why?"
"The Hirogen..." The Doctor hesitates.
"They attacked the shuttle. The other two drones were destroyed."
"You were almost 'destroyed' along with Ensigns Crag and Ming."
"My ocular implant is malfunctioning."
"Your ocular implant is gone. The Hirogen took it as a trophy, along with your body armor. We were lucky to get you back in one piece."
I experience an irrelevant surge of emotion, which I quickly suppress. I do not consider myself to be 'in one piece'. My missing parts could be replaced easily by the Borg, but the Doctor will be unable to replicate them.
"You may place me in stasis until you are able to obtain the necessary parts from the Borg." I have assimilated the inefficient medical concept of 'informed consent'.
"That won't be necessary," the Doctor replies cheerfully. "You'll be up and about in a few days."
"Have you recovered the 'trophies' from the Hirogen vessel?"
"No. You'll get along just fine without an ocular implant and body armor, just as the other humans on board do."
"I am Borg."
"Of course," the Doctor agrees condescendingly. "All of your essential cybernetic implants are still in place. You could still assimilate someone if you wanted to." He chuckles, though that is no laughing matter to me. I am comforted, or would be if I experienced emotion, that my primary function is not impaired.
"I'd like to give you a sedative now to help you rest," he adds.
I close my eyes in acquiescence.
My sacrifice is appreciated by the crew, although I failed to save Ensigns Crag and Ming. Even Chakotay seems slightly less hostile, now that I am unarmored and my skin tone matches their own sickly yellow coloring. Individuals are so irrational - I am what I was before, whatever the change in my appearance.
The Collective judges it inefficient to send a cube to restore me to full functionality. Moreover, they see an advantage in my new, sickly appearance. The missing equipment is unnecessary for my mission, while my more human form is only furthering trust of the Borg, at least among the male crew. It is time to take the next step.
I offer the Captain the Borg's knowledge of astrometrics in return for any new astrometric data gathered through my planned Borg modifications of the sensor array. She voices an unexpected objection: "I don't want to gather any information the Borg may use to assimilate people later."
"That is not my purpose here."
"Nevertheless, it's a likely outcome."
"The Borg are familiar with this sector of space and see little promise in it. The data will be merely supplementary. Your concerns are irrelevant."
"That's not a guarantee."
"The Borg could very easily send a tactical sphere to follow Voyager wherever we go. It is inefficient to attempt to conceal this information from them."
"It would be immoral to give it to them."
"The Collective does not seek only to assimilate. They seek perfection. Perfect knowledge of the universe is part of that goal. We have as much of a right to seek pure scientific knowledge as you do." I am learning how to 'push her buttons', as Tom Paris would say.
"You have a point," she says, and eventually agrees to the exchange of information. Ensign Kim is assigned to help me build an astrometrics lab with Borg sensor modifications. He is a pleasing choice - he is among the many male crewmembers disarmed by my unarmored body.
"For maximum communication," I tell Ensign Kim as soon as we are alone in the half-built astrometrics lab, "I will fit you with a neural transceiver. We will work as one mind. The link is temporary; you will not be damaged."
"Seven," he protests, as I affix the transceiver to his skull, "I don't think the Captain would approve."
"You have the right to communicate with me by whatever means we find most eff--comfortable. I have been reading Starfleet regulations - mental links are permissible."
"It's not just regulations, Seven."
"If you do not wish to be linked to me, we may communicate the inefficient verbal way. But we are far from the nearest cube - the Collective voices are faint, and I am lonely." I look down at the floor of the lab, avoiding Harry's eyes.
Human social interactions are complex, but the Collective has thousands of lifetimes of them recorded during our former incursions into Federation space. I am sure of my ability to simulate them when the need arises.
"Let me go check it out with the Doc, Seven."
I let him go.
Through certain modifications I have already made to the almost-complete astrometrics lab, I am able to maintain surveillance over the entire ship and crew. Thus I can see and hear the arguments about me as they happen:
"What going on, Doctor?" Janeway asks.
The EMH motions the Captain and First Officer over to Harry's biobed and parts the hair on the back of his neck to reveal the neural transceiver.
"Is it on?" Chakotay asks. He looks angry.
"No, she didn't activate it."
"Are there any nanoprobes in his bloodstream?"
"No, this is all I've found."
Harry speaks up, saying, "She only wants to communicate."
"Can it be used to control him?" Janeway asks the Doctor, ignoring Harry.
"I don't believe so. It's a short-range device, and there's only one Borg in range. It would be, essentially, her mind against his, and his is more individualistic." Away in the astrometrics lab, I nod at the Doctor's evaluation.
The Captain marches into the EMH's office; Chakotay follows.
"I know what you're going to say," she begins.
"Why should I bother, then?"
"Seven hasn't harmed any of us. This is a unique opportunity--"
"--to communicate with the Borg, to make peace, to effect change--"
"--and we can't let it pass. They know where we are - they could catch up with us in days. It shows their goodwill that they don't."
"The scorpion can only hold back the reflex to sting for so long."
"I'm going to let Harry do it, if he wants."
"Of course you are. We're all free citizens of the Federation, for the time being."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know how I feel about our Ambassador."
"And you know where I stand."
Further surveillance reveals nothing of interest.
Life with Harry in Astrometrics is peace and bliss, almost the hum of the Collective. There is only the ebb and flow of calculations, the tuning of instruments, the rapid exchange of information.
"It's amazing," Harry tells Tom over dinner a few days later, and of course, I hear. "It's like being inside someone else's mind."
"It *is* being inside someone else's mind, Harry, and that mind has been around the block a few million times. Try not to catch anything while you're in there."
"You don't understand, Tom."
"The the last thing I want to do is understand how wonderful it is to be hooked up to the Borg, even one Borg. Be careful, Harry."
"I will be."
Tom seems to doubt it.
Time passes, but the Borg are infinitely patient. Eventually, I find myself addressing a meeting of the senior staff.
"The Borg find your meanderings through the Delta Quadrant inefficient. They have instructed me to install a transwarp drive in order to return you home."
"With you in tow, no doubt," Chakotay comments.
"I am their ambassador to the Federation, and you are my embassy. They wish to speed our progress."
"You must realize that you'd be giving transwarp technology away to the Federation." Janeway seems puzzled; the rest of the senior officers are merely shocked by my generous offer.
"You are our allies. Your best opportunity to destroy us was by letting Species 8472 do it for you, yet you did not. The Borg do not fear you."
"I believe *that* much," Chakotay mutters, but of course I can hear him. Janeway hears too, and glares at him.
"You know the Borg are perfectly capable of sending a hundred cubes to the Alpha Quadrant--"
"Is that a threat?" Chakotay asks me.
"It is a fact. Yet they choose to send me instead - an ambassador, rather than an army."
They dismiss me in order to discuss my offer, but of course, I still have access to the internal sensors.
"That was a threat," Chakotay insists.
"It was a fact," Tuvok counters him.
"We can't run away from the Borg." Janeway's voice, the voice of reason.
"We can space her and try," Chakotay suggests. The others - Torres, Paris, Neelix, Kim (with his neural transceiver off, as though that could hide anything from the Borg) - seem too shocked to speak.
"Commander, are you asking to go back on brig-warmer duty?"
"No, ma'am." Chakotay appears to have given up all hope of swaying her, and thus does not bother to argue with her.
Janeway responds, "Any other objections?" No one dares oppose their queen. "Then let's build a transwarp drive."
So work begins on the transwarp drive under my supervision, with help from Harry. Torres is displeased, but still curious. Chakotay, however, has been behaving strangely. I observe his movements carefully, and note a pivotal meeting in his office:
"Tuvok, thank you for coming."
"Commander," the Vulcan responds, nodding.
"This meeting is off-the-record," Chakotay says. Little does he know of the Borg record.
Tuvok nods again. "You are concerned about the Captain's plans."
"I was *concerned* when she allowed the drone to remain aboard. I was positively worried when she let it assimilate Harry Kim. Now I'm mutinous, Tuvok, and I need to know if you're with me."
"I do not believe the situation calls for mutiny--"
"There is no way I'm allowing that Borg into the Alpha Quadrant. Trillions of lives are at stake, Tuvok. We have an obligation to all things sentient--"
"Commander, I agree with you about Seven of Nine. My disagreement is in the matter of mutiny. I believe there must be a more...diplomatic way to rid ourselves of our unwanted Ambassador."
I wait for Tuvok's answer, but I hear nothing. I switch to a visual of Chakotay's office. Tuvok's hand is spread across Chakotay's face. Accessing Borg records on Species 3259, I discover that this is a form of telepathic communication. My enemies are forming a collective to combat me. I admire them far more now than ever before. Still, I must retaliate.
Let the Borg record show, I tell the Collective, that *they* were the ones who upped the ante. Yet I fear the idiomatic expressions I have picked up from Harry Kim are beyond the Borg.
"What's that you're working on, Seven?" Tom asks as he strides into Astrometrics in search of Harry.
"It is a Borg interlink node," I reply.
Tom is already leaning over my shoulder. "Did you break yours?" he asks, as he tries to back away inconspicuously.
"No, this one is yours." I stand up and face him in the blink of a eye. Surprise is written across his face, and other emotions - fear, loss, despair - that I have seen on the faces of the assimilated a million times, but never appreciated quite the way I do now.
"Curiosity killed the cat," he mutters sadly; then, with a last burst of energy, he attempts to argue with the Borg: "Look, Seven, I'm sure assimilation is an honor, but I prefer individuality. Why don't you just assimilate Harry some more?"
"Ensign Kim is of more use to the Borg in his present state."
"I'm sure he is."
I admire his bravery in the face of annihilation. In his eyes I see regret, and I wonder what he's thinking of - B'Elanna Torres, or sunrises, or flying? If I had a will, I might choose not to do this, but I have only the will of the Collective. If I had a soul, I might regret it, but the Borg have no regrets.
The nanoprobes are devouring his insides before he has even seen me strike out with my tubules, and that terrible, searing pain that is over already was the miniature interlink node being forced into his brain. Then I come in with the voices, the billion billion voices, and drown his soul.
We are Borg.
My new drone's first assignment is to reprogram the Doctor to overlook his implants and nanoprobes. As work progresses on the transwarp drive, Tuvok assimilates Vorik and Torres; I respond by assimilating Lieutenant Carey.
Harry and I prepare to test the drive. I am suspicious - Torres and Vorik are here on the upper engineering deck with us, but Carey has been detoured elsewhere. I spot the feedback pattern before Harry does. The Vulcan's collective is crafty - I and my protege will be killed in the explosion, yet it will appear to be an accident. We have, at most, six seconds to live.
Six seconds is an eternity of processor time in the Collective mind, but they are jamming my subspace interlink with the Borg. Still, my enemies have not defeated me - I have my own Collective nearby. I switch to a local frequency they have not thought to jam, because they thought I was the only drone aboard Voyager.
Faster than the speed of light, I upload all my data on the transwarp drive to Joe Carey. His cortical array is not yet fully formed, but it will suffice. Even if my drones are unable to contact the Collective, they will be able to rebuild the transwarp drive and spread to the Alpha Quadrant. When the upload to Carey is confirmed, I delete all information on transwarp from my own neural processors. Thus, if my cortical array survives the flesh-searing explosion, the Vulcan collective will gain no information from it.
Ensign Kim notices the feedback pattern. His hands flash across the console, and the beginnings of panic seep over to me through his neural transceiver. I ignore him and contact my other drone.
Tom Paris is at the helm, ready to steer Voyager through the transwarp conduit. The enemy is directly behind him - Chakotay and Tuvok are both on the bridge, doubtless receiving their own sort of information from Torres and Vorik. Paris does not frown at my news - the loss of an individual drone and the fellow-traveller Kim is irrelevant. Across the interlink, Tom and I plan for his future in lightning flashes of image and data.
Tom sees himself in the Captain's ready room a week from now. 'Joe thinks he can rebuild the transwarp drive,' he says. 'Do it,' she replies. After the Vulcan collective breaks up, as Tom knows it will, B'Elanna comes home exhausted one day to find Tom working over a small object - 'What's that?', she asks. 'A Borg interlink node,' he answers. He sees a familiar look of terror in her eyes, and the sudden realization that the Vulcan collective failed, after all.
He is stronger than she - he has perfect control over his body now - he has her pinned against the desk before she can scream and assimilated before she can cry. With her help, no sensor on Voyager will ever detect nanoprobes or cortical nodes.
"Seven, there's a feedback loop in the secondary power matrix." Harry's voice drifts through the Collective consciousness, but the information is superfluous.
Then the Vulcans - Tom and I think as one, plan as one - and then Chakotay. There will be no need to assimilate Janeway - she is so determined to reach home that she will do it with a crew of Borg drones and never notice the difference. Once the transwarp drive is rebuilt and Voyager reaches the Alpha Quadrant - pictures, there is time only for pictures:
Two shuttles full of Maquis drones making a break for it; Janeway being debriefed, but the rest of the crew contacting their families, adding their biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. In the flurry of celebrations and reunions, half the Admiralty are assimilated - the Borg spread until they are secure enough - great cubes being built at Utopia Planitia - and finally the disguise and pretense can be dropped, and proper cybernetic implants made to improve this all too weak, sickly yellow human flesh.
Having planned for the future in the space of five seconds, I am ready to face the final perfection. There is no time to respond to Harry verbally - by my calculations, we will be dead in another second. Some reactionary tendency within me makes me devote my final second not to a calculation of use to the Collective - nothing is pressing in my queue, in any event - but to comforting Harry Kim. Individuals, I know, fear death.
Until now, I have filtered our communications over his neural transceiver. I have listened in on all his thoughts, relevant or no, but I have shared very little with him. Now I open my mind to him and sing him the song of the Collective - the infinite, undying melody, in which every drone is a note.
And Harry hears the siren song and is lost in it, but he also knows everything I know - he knows he has betrayed humanity to the Borg, and he would regret it with a pain more terrible than that which is only milliseconds away, but now there is no more time for regrets.
And there is a flash, and a searing fire, and Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix Zero One, and Ensign Harry Kim, fellow-traveller, are no more than a memory and a byword in this, the Collective mind.