Chapter 42: Shadow Agendas
“Lord Nemesis I presume.” Grand Admiral Thrawn said with a short bow of the head.
Lord Nemesis strode into the massive conference room of the Executor. The room was designed to host a meeting of an entire fleet’s ranking officers. The room was cavernous and now held only an elite few.
Grand Admiral Thrawn stood in the center of a small gathering. Directly to his right stood the imposing figure of Darth Vader, to his left stood Admiral Piett. Slightly behind them were Jerjerrod, who stood stoically behind Thrawn holding several datapads and looking as unemotional as possible. There was one other in the room that looked completely out of place. Kahn stood behind most of the gathering, actually still seated and absently toying with a glass.
However his eyes were tracking them, examining each one with a hunter’s gaze.
Nemesis felt a ripple in the force flowing from this man. The Force was reacting to his presence. He was not meant to be here, but there was a destiny around him, a design that could not be denied.
Nemesis was flanked by Grand Admiral Kittaine, Captain Branna, Admiral T’Vor and Mara Jade.
He stopped short of the assembled Executor officers and regarded each one coolly, eyes drifting over each one and only pausing over Darth Vader. The two groups stared at each other for a long period of silence, hardly what either one expected. Kittaine had dreamed of this moment from the very first night in this galaxy, dreamed of seeing the Imperial relief forces and personally thanking the commander of those forces. Now he regarded the new arrivals as of all things, intruders.
Mara Jade was silent and sullen. This was not at all what she expected. She had actually begun to hope that she had found a place for herself, somewhere where she was no longer a servant. Here she was the Dark lady and a small part of herself also recognized that she had also found her dark lord. Together they would have stood like pillars, holding up a new Empire and perhaps even sending forth her children as heirs to this empire.
She shook her head slowly.
Since when had she ever thought about children?
Admiral T’Vor was the most openly hostile to this new group. He knew what they were, what they represented and there was something not right about them. They did not have the same noble air as these Imperials. None of them had the bearing of Lord Nemesis, the dangerous beauty of Mara Jade, the quiet confidence of Grand Admiral Kittaine. They looked like thugs, come to demand their share of the booty, and this Lord Darth Vader, a Sith lord? He was not a tenth of the man that the true lord of the Sith, Darth Nemesis was. He was nothing more than a black clad cybernetic monstrosity.
“Grand Admiral Thrawn.” Nemesis broke the silence.
Thrawn stared at the young man, the Hero of Yavin who had blown the Death Star into oblivion and opposed his Emperor at every possible moment, now standing before him, in command of an Imperial fleet, dressed in the black robes of a Sith lord. What had his emperor been thinking? Treason was written on this young man’s face.
“Lord Nemesis, surely, welcome back to the fold after these long months.” Thrawn said with a curt nod.
“Indeed. It has been a long time.” Nemesis replied. Some of the assembled officers shuffled their feet or coughed nervously.
Thrawn pursed his lips slightly. This was a dangerous gambit to play right now but he could not abide treason within the ranks, not here, not now. His plan depended on the utter and complete loyalty and unity of his forces.
“Although I am troubled by the account of my communications officer.”
“Troubled?” Nemesis let the word hang in the air like a feather before smiling softly. “I find that discipline is most effective against officers and men that disappoint and trouble you, Grand Admiral.”
Thrawn nodded barely perceptibly.
So it would be thus. To be truthful he preferred it this way.
Kahn watched the exchange, riveted by acting as nonchalant as possible. This young man was powerful, a leader of men. Of that there was no doubt. If worse came to worse he would throw in his lot with him, but right now, Kahn had his own plans in motion. His eyes briefly flickered over to Jerjerrod.
“Ah, well we all know what sort of discipline a Sith Lord prefers. Although I must admit, I see most of your senior staff here.”
“Indeed.” Nemesis smiled. Not because of Thrawn’s observation but because of the effect the observation would have.
Kittaine glanced over at Branna and Mara Jade. It had never occurred to them, not once until now. They had been living in fear under the constant threat of Nemesis’ anger but not once had he slain one of his own officers since beginning this battle for control of the galaxy.
It slowly dawned on Branna and Kittaine that all this time they had been afraid of his discipline but not once had he ever slain them, not even Tarsi for his failure on Vulcan.
And they looked upon their Lord with new eyes, and Nemesis smiled even more broadly as he felt the sudden waves of newfound loyalty.
Thrawn noticed the exchange and instantly realized the gaffe he had stepped right into. His eyes narrowed on the young man.
Not again, little traitor, not again will you maneuver me into such a position. Thrawn swore.
Nemesis glanced at Vader.
“And what new does the Emperor bring us? When can we expect to cross over?”
“There have been complications.” Vader answered.
“We will conquer this galaxy and return home, but first you will answer my question.” Thrawn added coolly, not glancing over at Vader. He would not allow the Sith lords time to speak and plot. He was well aware that more likely than not Vader and Nemesis had spoken via use of their extra sensory power but he would do what he could to stymie their efforts on his end until he came up with a viable way of neutralizing both.
“I was unaware that you were asking one…and unless I mistake your tone that sounded suspiciously like a demand.” Nemesis replied casually and suddenly Thrawn felt his throat constrict and air was cut off. He did not flounder, he did not flail. He locked eyes with Nemesis.
“Release him.” Vader ordered curtly.
Nemesis’s eyes flicked over to Vader and the tension in the room skyrocketed, Nemesis’ men suddenly crowded closer to their lord and Thrawn’s men crowded subconsciously closer to him.
“He has the authority of the Emperor himself as well as a mandate from him to conquer this galaxy, you will release him now, Lord Nemesis.” Vader growled and took a step forward. All eyes suddenly drifted down to their lightsabers. Vader’s right hand was hovering over his lightsaber. Nemesis’ hand was also close to his lightsaber.
Mara watched the exchange with a growing sense of alarm. She had never seen Sith lords in open conflict. Nemesis was pushing the very boundaries of his power and authority. Vader was the senior Sith Lord, having served the Emperor for a generation, Nemesis was a new comer and not trusted very far even within the Emperor’s inner circle. Too many looked on him as Luke Skywalker, hero of the rebellion, destroyer of the Death Star.
She also saw something else. Her instant need to be by his side, to protect him.
She was the Emperor’s Hand, there was no room for anyone else in her loyalties. She was serving Nemesis because it suited the Emperor. If need be she was to kill him if he committed treason against the Emperor.
He was doing just that and assassination had only entered her mind as an after thought.
What is happening to me? She lamented.
“As you wish.” Nemesis replied and made a dismissive gesture. Thrawn suddenly gasped and rubbed his throat as he caught his breath.
Vader smiled beneath the mask. His son was powerful and wore his authority like a suit of armor. He was proud of him, but also frightened for him. He did not know how long Vader had been plotting Palpatine’s downfall, how many years were spent currying favor, expanding his own power base, extending his knowledge of the Force without Palpatine’s knowledge. Training harder and harder, becoming more powerful. But it could all be for naught because his son had no patience.
Vader was troubled. Not by his son’s recklessness and brashness, not by the leaps and bounds in which his son’s strength in the Force grew, not by the apparent treason, but because Lord Vader did not know what he would do were he faced with the choice of giving up all he had worked for or slaying his son.
“Now that we have that out of the way and I see the route you are willing to travel, then you leave me no choice, Lord Nemesis.” Thrawn said coldly, absently rubbing his throat.
“I am accusing you of treason.”
The room suddenly grew as silent as a tomb.
“What did you say?” Nemesis whispered.
“I have the evidence here.” Thrawn nodded to Jerjerrod who activated a datapad recording where Nemesis’ voice was clearly heard: “This is Lord Darth Nemesis. All rebel ships are to stand down or be destroyed by order of the New Empire.”
“That is your answer?” Thrawn replied.
“What do you want me to say? That after being stranded so far away from home that it would take us 3,000 years in hyperspace to get home, and be flung thousands of years into the future that I would believe that we could ever be united with the Empire? What do you take me for? A fool.”
“A loyal subject of the Empire.” Thrawn replied without skipping a beat.
Thrawn’s eyes narrowed on the young man. You are a smart one aren’t you?
“Those are pretty words, Grand Admiral, but utterly useless out here. Do you realize that as we stand here and talk, the Empire we both knew is gone, it is thousands of years into the future in this galaxy? Millennia have passed and whatever we knew then is long gone.”
Some of Thrawn’s officers exchanged troubled glances.
“That is not the point, you had an obligation to continue your loyalty to the Empire to the bitter end, and here I find a fleet of the Emperor’s finest, having abandoned the core beliefs and honor that bind us all together.”
“They’ve gone native.” Piett whispered to Jerjerrod who ignored him. He could see a titanic power struggle now in the works.
“Do you know what I see? I see a group of people that have stood together against incredible odds and through the sacrifice of blood and tears we have forged a new empire in the image of the old. We have embraced who we are and through our own ingenuity and loyalty to each other we have persevered. I am honored to lead these men.” Nemesis replied regally and whipped his cape around him.
Kittaine felt a chill run down his spine. There was real pride in his voice and he could not help but fight a tear out of the corner of his eye. All this time, Lord Nemesis had been proud of them, he had whipped them, pushed them, struck fear in them but he also loved them.
“And we proud to serve with you, my lord.” Branna suddenly announced with emotion in his voice.
Thrawn paused as he tried to find a way to defuse what he and Nemesis were setting into motion.
“Have you no shame?” Piett hissed.
“I know you, Piett.” Kittaine suddenly spoke up. “Admiral Ozzel was a good man you little conniving bastard and I’ve heard enough about how he was stained by you that I would have a word with you alone.”
“You and what army?” Piett sneered.
“I have quite the fleet at my disposal, little man. Care to have a try?” Kittaine replied coolly.
Nemesis could barely suppress the smile.
“This is not the place for this nonsense.” Vader interjected.
“You and what army??” Jerjerrod whispered to Piett in disbelief.
“It was the first thing that came to my mind.” Piett whispered back out of the corner of his mouth.
Jerjerrod could not help smiling. Perhaps Piett was not the total ass he imagined him to be.
“The Romulan Empire stands by Lord Nemesis and his fleet.” T’Vor announced and stood still. He knew what he was doing may damn his people to destruction, but he had invested too much trust and time in Lord Nemesis and their people and it was obvious that this new faction was not welcome here. It was time for the Romulans to carve out their own niche here. If Nemesis’ faction won, then the Romulans would have assured their ascension in this galaxy forever as the premier power in the galaxy.
“The Imperium is grateful.” Nemesis replied with a nod to Admiral T’Vor.
“Imperium?!” Jerjerrod exclaimed.
“New Empire will simply not do. Particularly with your presence here. No, I have decided that the alliance between the Imperial fleet under my command, the Romulan provincial forces, the Federation Protectorate and Klingon occupied territories will now be called the Imperium. I have assigned Grand Admiral Kittaine as the man with which you may discuss your plans and agendas.”
“Grand Admiral?” Piett sputtered.
“You know what you have done?” Thrawn asked quietly.
Nemesis looked at each of the Imperial officers on the other side of the room before settling his sight on Thrawn.
“Indeed I have. I am preserving the status quo.”
Thrawn’s face remained impassive but his eyes were burning into the young Sith lord. He did not say it. He was walking on the very edge of the line but he was not saying it.
“I am holding on to what we have fought and died for. The Imperium was my response to this new galaxy. Here together, with the Romulans, Federation and Klingons, I have forged something new. What do they know of the Empire? Nothing. But what do they now know of the Imperium? They will fight and die for it.”
Thrawn did not reply, the little bastard was dancing on the very edge of treason. Thrawn should order him killed, have Vader finish him but there were two reasons why he did not.
“Besides, Grand Admiral, you need us. If you decide that we are an obstacle, we will become that obstacle and then where will your conquest of this galaxy be? Warring against your own was hardly what the emperor wants.”
But he did foresee it arrogant little Sith. But there was one reason.
“Work with us and I can assure you that this galaxy will be ours.”
The assembled officers had clearly drawn their lines and glared at each other across the room. They all realized that Nemesis had all but said what was on everyone’s minds, but he was a Sith lord and SAYING it was the key. And there was the second.
He had played his gambit well, but Thrawn now knew that he had an enemy in his midst and he would not forget Vader’s relative silence on this matter. If anyone else had even come close to what Nemesis was espousing, they would be writhing on the floor like a gutted fish as Vader crushed his trachea. Now they were simply staring at each other.
It must not be easy having to kill your own child. Thrawn mused. But there would be no doubt, if Vader was going to shy away from his duty, Thrawn had a plan to deal with both Sith lords should the need arise.
“We will discuss these matters more fully later. For now, let us cast aside our differences and embrace the fact that you have found each other despite the vast intergalactic distances.” Kahn said with a jovial smile.
Thrawn turned his head sharply and pinned him with a harsh gaze.
“And who might this be?” Nemesis asked.
“I am but a wayfarer, rescued by the noble Grand Admiral from a dead planet, marooned there by James T. Kirk.”
“That’s correct, Lord Nemesis. My name is Kahn Noonian Singh and I am here to help you eradicate that man.”
“I do believe that enough has been said by you, Kahn.” Thrawn interjected tightly. He looked back at Nemesis and slowly walked over to him, the first to break the invisible line that seemed to hold both groups back. Nemesis watched him closely.
“We have come across the gulf of stars by order of the Emperor himself to bring his fleet back home and that is what I am going to do, Lord Nemesis. Now, together we shall crush our enemies, drive them before us and bring this galaxy under our banner.” Thrawn stated coolly and extended his hand.
Nemesis stared at it for the briefest moment before extending his own. Both men stared at each other as they shook hands. A cold understanding in their eyes. The gauntlet had been thrown down and only one of them would be allowed to go home.
“We are secure from warp speed.”
“Excellent, R-7. Quickly, short range scan.”
Picard stared at the view screen, normally the sight of what appeared to be a massive fleet of Borg cubes utterly decimated would have made his heart soar. Not this time. Instead, he felt an odd sense of dread as if he were seeing the beginning of something horrible, of a terrible calamity on the horizon.
As the Valhalla sailed though a sea of shattered cubes he felt a chilling premonition that he was looking at the future. The ship itself was silent as usual, the android crew working in silent unison, communicating via a subspace channel between each android made talking unnecessary.
Picard had grown accustomed to the silence as the other Shadowfleet captains told him he would.
“Short range scan reports at least 5,000 cubes and assorted Borg vessels scattered around us for several million kilometers. We are also picking up heavy damage on the surface of the Unimatrix.” R-7 reported dispassionately.
“Any signs of life?”
Picard slumped in his chair. He had come too late for whatever calamity had occurred here, but there was a driving desire to continue forward. He had heard the Collective’s scream, but there was more. So much more.
Suddenly Picard stiffened.
Sorrow, a deep abiding sorrow washed over him and he heard something in his head, as if whispered from far away.
“Thank you, Captain Picard. You taught me all that I needed to know on how to be a Starfleet officer and a man.”
Then there was emptiness.
“Wesley.” Picard whispered as he recognized the voice. He stared off into space for a moment, trying to make sense of what he had just felt. What was happening to him? First the call of the Borg, now this. Sometimes, just sometimes, he wondered if he was going to wake up and think of this as the most vivid and disturbing dream he had ever had in his life.
“Sir we are picking up a strange subspace cascade on the surface of the Unimatrix, at the heart of the superlaser impact point.” R-7 reported.
“A subspace cascade? What is the cause?”
“Unknown, but all subspace domains in that immediate vicinity are no longer in phase with the surrounding domains.”
Picard glanced down at the report. It looked as of someone had carved out a hole in the local subspace domains.
“Take us in closer, but maintain alert status. We have no idea whether the Imperials will come back.”
The Valhalla glided closer to the planet that had served as the heart of the Collective. A huge gaping crater had been blown into the side of the planet, molten magma spewing in great gouts of liquefied rock into space. The enormous crystal mountains that rose up in exact intervals around the planet, usually crackling with the sickly green energy of the Collective’s consciousness were dark, some shattered by the attack that had slain the Collective.
“I’ve waited years to see this, R-7. The Borg laid low, their Collective shattered beyond repair. Now that I see this laid out before me, I feel no peace of mind, no sense of accomplishment.”
“Perhaps because you did not achieve this personally?” R-7 offered.
Picard glanced at the android and nodded slowly.
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I wanted to smash them myself.” he replied softly.
“The sensor sweeps are having more success now. The subspace cascade is becoming more clear, we will soon be able to determine an origin point.”
“What is down there that could have survived the heart of that blast?” Picard wondered.
“This can’t last forever you know.”
“Patience, Captain. I have everything under control. Certain contingencies have been activated.” The Queen replied soothingly.
Archer stared at the Borg Queen for a moment, uncertain whether to laugh or to shout. He elected to turn his back on her and tare out of the bubble they were in. All around them, molten red magma flowed, sometimes erupting upwards into the inky black sky above. It was unnerving as he watched it flow around him, although he could not even feel the warmth of the molten rock he still shuddered at the thought of what would happen if he were suddenly in phase with this reality.
“Do not worry. The Subspace bunker does not allow us to interact with this domain. We are safe from harm.” Seven whispered to him, putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He looked over at her and smiled softly, gripping her hand with his and staring into those beautiful eyes.
“Well, Seven, if you say so.”
“She has said so since the first hour of our safety. Must she constantly reassure you, Captain Archer?” The Queen asked snidely.
Archer frowned and turned his head to look at the dark woman.
“Look, I didn’t ask you anything. You dragged us into this thing without telling us what to expect, now here we are trapped kilometers below the surface of a magma bed and you expect me to take all of this calmly.”
“I told you that contingencies have been put in place to assure our rescue. We will not remain here for long.”
“This bunker was never in any of the Borg archives. This technology seems almost alien to me.”
The Queen smiled.
“I spent generations funneling research and materials into a special project of my own design. It would assure my continued existence should anything happen to the Collective.”
“Yet you espoused the invulnerability of the Borg.” Seven countered angrily. She felt an odd pang of betrayal. She was no longer a drone but she spent more of her life as one than as a full fledged human being and to see the layers of her superiority and belief about the Borg peeled away one at a time by this being that was once her Queen was painful.
The Queen regarded Seven with a cool gaze, and an almost bemused expression.
“Even you must conceded that all possibilities must be explored. That the fact we may have been destroyed by a more powerful force was always a possibility. Look at the war with Species 8472, we were almost annihilated yet no one in the Collective believed it was possible even near the very end. I could not allow our own arrogance and logic to deny the possibility however remote.”
“That and the fact that you maintained your independence from the Collective, everything, the Borg, the Collective, assimilation, it has all been used to serve you and your desires and purposes.” Archer replied.
“And why not? I am the voice of the multitude. I created then, made them what they are.”
“No, you were only assisting in the creation of a new life form and you botched it up.”
“Who are you to question me?” The Queen hissed.
“Someone who could see that maybe the merger of man and machine to stop a war millennia ago was meant to be something more than this. The Borg, they are not what was intended, the Borg could not have been born from peace, for the desire to see the killing stop. They could not have decided to make war on the rest of the galaxy fro untold millennia.”
The Queen stared at Archer for a long moment then started laughing softly, her face twisted in a grotesque mask of humor and annoyance.
“You truly are a naive idealist Captain. That has always been the flaw in your Federation. A flaw which I am now taking advantage of.”
“What are you talking about?” Archer asked.
“There is one more Borg left that can still aid me and he is almost here.”
“What are you-“
Seven blinked as the realization struck her.
“Locutus.” She whispered.
The Queen only smiled.
“I’m going down there.”
“Sir, that is highly inadvisable. We are uncertain if the transporter can even penetrate the subspace bunker.” R-7 replied as he followed Picard off the turbolift towards the transporter room.
“I’ve looked at your sensor data, R-7, I known enough about subspace field science to know that we can briefly bring the matter integrating stream into phase with the subspace bunker, more than enough time to beam down there and see what we can find.”
“You are taking an unacceptable risk.” R-7 stated but as usual did not seem to be losing his temper at all.
“Then you’re coming down with me, grab a phaser.” Picard said casually as they entered the transporter room and he pulled a phaser rifle off the wall rack and flipped it over to him. One thing about shadow fleet warships was there were weapons racks and lockers everywhere.
R-7 caught it without missing a beat and immediately slung it over his shoulder as Picard set the transporter coordinates.
“Captain, I am uncertain as to why you are attempting to proceed in such an illogical manner. The Borg have all been destroyed, the only sign we can pick up on our sensors are faint hyperwave transmissions, like background noise in most of the ships, but the planet itself is dead. They are all dead, there is no sign that the Collective exists, power generation on the planet is at nil. Every reactor core has been deactivated.”
“It’s as if someone threw a huge off switch, isn’t it R-7?” Picard interjected as he double checked his coordinates.
R-7 cocked his head in confusion for a moment.
“Ah, the analogy was difficult as I had to access several databases but you are essentially correct.”
“Good, I like being right, now come on R-7.” Picard urged and stepped on to the transporter pad. He felt something tingling in his belly, like a warning that something awful was going to happen. There was a driving need in his head, like an urge to overcome, to fulfill a mission but there was part of him that was holding back, almost afraid.
What was wrong with him?
R-7 stepped on the pad, rifle at the ready. The android turned his head to Picard.
“We could have attempted to beam up whatever is in the Bunker.” He stated matter of factly.
Picard blinked. It was as if he had been slapped, or splashed with cold water while in a stupor.
“You’re right, what the hell am I-”
Picard dematerialized with R-7 in a column of light.
Picard rematerialized in the subspace bunker. At first he was alarmed as the sea of molten magma seemed to flow around him in seething fury but he could not touch it, could not feel it.
“Now there’s a sight for sore eyes.” Archer exclaimed and walked over to Picard.
“Captain Picard, thank god you—”
“Down!” Picard shouted and aimed his phaser rifle at the woman standing behind Archer. The one that had infested his nightmares since that dark day of his assimilation, the one that had stolen his humanity and made him doubt himself. The one that still whispered to him in those dark places in his mind where he still dared not go.
The Borg Queen smiled at him, a soft gentle smile but there was an edge to it, a razor sharp edge.
“Locutus. How good it is to see you again.” she said coolly. he aimed at her head and pulled the trigger without hesitation. At least he tried to pull the trigger, suddenly his entire body felt heavy and limp. The phaser rifle remained rigid in his hands, pointed at her but his body refused to respond to his commands.
R-7 stood dumbly by his side, the only sign that he was at all functioning was the frantic movement of his eyes.
“Did you just try to harm me?” She whispered and sidled over to him, running her hand seductively over the barrel of his phaser rifle, her eyes not leaving his. Archer began to speak but he too felt disoriented and weak.
Seven tried to move as well, suddenly aware of the Queen’s treachery. But something was wrong, her sense s were dimmed and she found herself on her knees without any idea of how she had gotten there.
“Fools. All of you fools. Did you really think I was helpless. I AM the Borg. These things you see around us, these trappings of steel and flesh are nothing more than extensions of myself. How could you, an ex drone, you an inferior machine entity, you a mere human and you, my chief consort and creation think you could turn against me?” she said, her voice dropping even lower.
She nestled in close to Picard, bringing her lips inches from his own and staring into his eyes, he stared back, hatred and frustration in his gaze.
“It was a simple matter, Locutus to activate one of the many post hypnotic suggestions implanted deep in your mind. Those that think themselves free of us are allowed to think that. But once you have been assimilated then you are forever mine. Your mind is my play thing. For instance Locutus, what did you think when you cam down here? Why the hurry?”
Picard stared at her and his gaze was like fire.
“Ah, so you know how craftily you were manipulated. You see my love, there was never any escape. I ALLWOED you to win and escape our clutches over your pathetic little world. Did you think me a fool? Of course I knew that one cube would not be enough, but it was enough to ensnare you and make you my drone without your knowledge.”
Picard’s eyes widened slightly.
“Yes, Picard, I assimilated you without your even knowing. And while I must admit that you plagued me from time to time, it was worth it in the end for this moment. I knew that one day the Collective could face a foe that would crush it, I knew that one day I would be placed in a position where I would have to rebuild. But now that I am here I can see how daunting the task is.” She ran her hand along his cheek and glanced up at him with a cruel smile on her face.
“They ejected me from paradise, Locutus. My own children said that I had failed them one time too many but they did not think it through. You know that the Collective lacks the creativity and foresight that your species has. Now look at them.” she glanced around at the sea of magma where the Collective used to reside. She waved her hand in the air above them and an image shimmered into place. The graveyard of thousands of Borg cubes littered the space above the planet. Already a constant bombardment of ribbons of fire and light were streaking across the night skies of the dead unimatrix world. The first of the closest debris was now raining down on the planet and would do so for the next thousand years.
“They were foolish and weak and they were wiped clean. Resistance is futile, Locutus. The Borg were not distinct enough, not powerful enough. I will change that. I will remake them in a new image. They will stride through this galaxy like the mighty goliath they should have been and I have this Empire to thank for it. I will show them my gratitude when I assimilate them.” She whispered like a lover in Picard’s ear.
Picard pinned her with his gaze.
“How? You want to know Locutus? That I leave up to me. But you have provided me with the resources I need to begin this new rebirth. Now I have what I need.”
The viewer focused on the Valhalla.
“With this vessel I will blaze the trail to new glory, Locutus.” She slowly unhooked a device from her thigh and started typing command stings into it. She paused and looked back at Picard. “Do not fear my love. I will not abandon you to this fate. When I am reborn I will return to you and we will be reunited and you will be the first to be assimilated into the New Collective and together we will rule this galaxy as it should have been long ago.”
Picard tried desperately to say something, anything, even just to curse her but he could not move.
She smiled at him again and slowly turned to Seven. She knelt down on one knee and lifted Seven’s face to look into her eyes.
“And you my little drone, what shall I do with you? You have failed me too many times to count. I allowed you to break free of the Collective to serve us better as a spy and a scout, but you embraced this pathetic humanity of yours and what else is there now? you will not rejoin the Collective, you do not ant that at all. In fact I suspect you would destroy yourself first before you allow yourself that again, wouldn’t you?” she asked. Seven could not say anything but she knew the horror that she now felt welling up in her heart at the very possibility that she would be assimilated again.
The Queen glanced back at Archer.
“And your feelings for this male are all too clear. You have allowed yourself to devolve into this pathetic creature now kneeling before me, a creature that still comforts herself in the knowledge that she meant something as a Borg, that she was part of something grand. Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix zero one, you were nothing more than a cog in the machine, a tool to be used and disposed of at my whim and I have now chosen a place for you in the new order.” She hissed and jerked Seven’s face up to hers. “You will be assimilated and kept as an heirloom, an antique of an old age when Borg drones were nothing more than mindless machines at the whim of the Collective, your weakness to be on display forever.” The queen roughly shoved Seven’s face down and she stood up straight and entered the final code sequence.
“Do not concern yourselves. The bunker will remain in place until I return. Then we will forge a new Collective and I assure you, Resistance will indeed be futile.” she announced grandly and disappeared in a shimmering green stream of light.
Suddenly they could all move and Archer immediately raced over to Seven helping her up.
“Are you Okay?” he asked looking her over.
“Please, I need time to myself.” Seven replied hotly.
“Don’t call me that!” She snapped and shoved him away.
Picard looked around and shook his head. he had been manipulated and used like another tool.
“I do believe that she has seized control of the Valhalla.” R-7 noted, watching the image on the screen of the starship slowly coming about and the nearest chunks of debris making way while several armored plates drifted over and welded themselves to the outer hull of the Valhalla.
“She is making the ship worthy to carry her.” Picard stated grimly and threw his rifle on the ground.
On the Valhalla, The Queen stood stoically in the center of the bridge, the androids manning their stations were no longer recognizable, their bodies twisted and fused into the work stations themselves and long spindly cords running from their backs, along the floor to pool at the queen’s feet where they hooked into a device at her hip. She smiled softly as she found the core she needed. A transwarp drive unit, relatively intact floated out from the wreckage and settled down on the broad spine of the secondary hull of the Sovereign class vessel. Tactical cube armor plating was encasing the more vital parts of the ship and soon she had formed around the Valhalla, in a tight diamond shape formation four cube like structures, essentially giving the starship far more power than it could have ever generated as new plasma torpedo launchers regenerated on the outer hull casings of the empty cubes. The shuttle bay was filled with a brilliant green light as she beamed over her most promising subjects for re-assimilation.
She smiled at her work as the new ship was formed in a matter of minutes. More power than a squadron of Borg cubes, faster than a Borg scout ship and carrying within it the seeds of a new Collective. She took one last look at the unimatrix that had been her home for millennia and smiled softly.
She looked upon her works and it was good.
The Valhalla disappeared in an explosion of light as the transwarp drive activated and drove the ship on to its final destination.
“So, this is how it ends for us, trapped in the heart of a dead planet awaiting the tender mercies of the Borg Queen when she gets back.” Archer spat and kicked at the floor in disgust, but his eyes wandered to Seven who was standing in the far corner of the bunker staring out at the molten sea, an empty expression on her face, fist clenching and unclenching.
He wanted to reach out to her.
“We can’t just give up, captain. There has to be a way out of this.” Picard said grimly as he checked the dimensions of the bunker.
“Unfortunately Captain my onboard sensors detect no gap or foreseeable exit point in the subspace bunker. We are completely and totally out of phase with the space and reality around us.” R-7 noted.
“Picard, you haven’t been sitting in this thing for the last day or so like I have. We tried everything, but the only one who knew anything about this bunker was the Queen and she wasn’t sharing knowledge.
“Even if we did discover a way out, it would only let that in here.” Seven added softly, indicating the sea of magma with a nod of her head. She did not turn back to look at any of them, instead she remained riveted to her place.
“She would create the perfect trap for us, and the most frustrating thing of all is that I know where she is going.”
“You do?” Archer replied in surprise.
“Yes, she may like to pretend that she has total control over me, but I learned long ago that the connection she maintains with me is partially two way and I managed to see the image in her mind and I remembered the place from a deeply buried memory.”
“Where is she going?” Seven asked, finally turning her head, but her arms were crossed over her chest, as if hugging herself for comfort.
“Where it all began.” Picard replied.
“But I thought…” Archer’s voice drifted off as he slowly realized what they had all assumed.
“The Unimatrix is not the Borg homeworld. It is the place where she chose to establish the visible base of the Borg.”
“But she chose to allow the true homeworld of the Borg to disappear into obscurity.” Seven added, understanding the depth of her malice and guile.
“And now she returns to the birth place of the Collective, to the one place that she can remake it in her image, to the Chamber of Creation.” Picard whispered as if reading from a book.
“Damnit!” Archer cursed and made to punch the invisible wall of the bunker when he heard a squeak. He paused.
“Did you hear that?”
The sound came again, it chirped now, louder and he looked slowly down to his own chest.
Picard’s eyes narrowed on Archer’s communicator.
Archer hesitantly reached up and touched the combadge.
“Captain, we thought for sure you were dead, but when that starship showed up we picked up transporter activity at this location.”
“Reynolds?” Archer replied in shock. His XO’s voice was almost like out of a dream.
“How in the hell-”
“Sir, we took a bad hit and it fried our communications array. We managed to get the cloak working and decided to hide out as we were WAY outclassed. We managed to get the array working for short range communications but we’ll need a drydock to replace the array to get long range communications back. Sorry we didn’t get in touch sooner but with the Imperials hanging around and us thinking you were dead, we were waiting for the neighborhood to quiet down before we left.”
“Damnit Reynolds! I could care less about that! You guys are alive!!” Archer exclaimed happily.
“Yes sir and we’re standing by for your orders.”
Archer looked up at Picard.
“We’re going after her.” He said grimly.
Three figures move deftly through the winding streets of Romulus’ capital city. they moved quickly but never too quickly, always cautiously glancing around but never making enough of a scene to attract attention. They wove through the crowds, intent on clearing them as swiftly as possible and reaching their destinations.
The three figures took to back alleys and moving through dark corners, each looking back and around them as they moved.
They finally came to a small building at the edge of the industrial sector, the noise of the automated refineries could be heard like a dull roar. hardly the place anyone would want to live unless they were down on their luck, out of options or not wanting to be found. The lead figure paused at the door and touched the recognition pad. It glowed dully for a moment and the door clicked and hissed open. They walked through and the door slid shut behind them.
The figures paused at the turbolift and two went inside while one took to the stairs. The turbolift took off, rumbling loudly, obviously in need of maintenance and reached the third floor almost as soon as the lone figure cleared the stairs.
They approached one door and waited for a moment, one of them holding up a cautioning hand and listening. There was noise, a conversation to be precise drifting out from the door and the cautious figure looked at the other two and nodded curtly. They all drew weapons and the cautious figure held a special key to the door. It clicked and hissed open hesitantly, the door almost jamming a third of the way open on the runners.
The figures were already in motion and one nearly cleared the door but got his leg caught and nearly tripped flat ion his face. An old woman turned suddenly startled.
A disruptor was suddenly pressed hard against the lead figure’s nose.
“Ok, let’s try that again. First you will apologize to the nice lady.” a cold voice broke the sudden silence.
“We have no time for this.” the Romulan with the disruptor at his nose replied, sounding rather nasal.
“There’s always time for politeness in this cold society especially in terms of respecting your elders.” The disruptor pressed hard into the Romulan’s nose. “NOW, apologize…nicely.”
The Romulan stared at the gunman and looked at the old woman holding a small kettle of tea. She looked scared and confused.
“I apologize for our barging in like this mother. It was not our intention to disturb or frighten you.”
“I can’t believe this.” One of the figures stuck outside the door muttered.
“I heard that.” The gunman chimed.
“Apology accepted?” The gunman asked turning his attention to the old woman. She nodded reluctantly.
“Good.” The gunman holstered the disruptor in one clean motion and walked back to her., The grumbling Romulans entered and the door trundled closed.
“Really , that was unnecessary, Adare.” the lead Romulan snapped angrily.
Michael Adare nodded to himself and smiled softly as he took a seat and the old woman smiled kindly at him.
“More Timaul tea?” she asked.
“Of course. This is the best tea I’ve had in a long time.”
“You’re too kind, Mr. Adare.”
“Please, call me Michael. Your son did so much for us how could I ask you to be so formal?” Adare replied jovially. The three Romulans exchanged flabbergasted expressions.
“You tell me such kind things about my son, but I am no fool, Mr. Adare.” Adare began to protest but she held up a hand. “I am Romulan and we are a traditional people.” She added sternly. Adare smirked and held up his hands in surrender. “He was a good child, but I am no fool, my son was not a normal man, he was retarded by all means of measure.”
“Save for his love for you and the Empire.” Adare replied and took a sip of the tea. He made a rubbing the belly motion and added an emphatic “Mmmmmmmm.”
She laughed and slapped his shoulder playfully.
“You stop that.”
“Sorry, but if you please, my associates seem impatient and the quicker I get rid of them the quicker I can tell you the story of how I penetrated a Gorn arms depot and made some luggage out of them if you get my drift.”
“You know, for a human, you’re actually very entertaining.” She replied and glared at the three Romulans before retiring to the kitchen,
“Do you mind explaining what this is all about?” The lead Romulan snapped angrily. Adare sipped at his tea and closed his eyes for a moment.
“Let me tell you something, this business is fucking dark, S’ton. There’s no need to bring that darkness into every part of our lives. So either take the time to be polite to those that need it most of all or get busy being nothing more than a killing machine. This.” He pointed to the tea and then indicated the surroundings. “Is called sanity. So that’s the only answer you’re getting out of me.”
“Can we then discuss matters that are far more pressing?”
“What was all the hubbub about last night?”
“The attack.” Adare pressed.
“Your Federation fleet attacked Romulus and was driven back by the Imperium forces. The Imperium also seems to have gotten reinforcements.”
“Ain’t that nice.” Adare replied glumly.
“We also finished receiving your packages.”
Adare nodded and leaned forward.
Each of the Romulans handed him a small package. He set them out on the table and opened each one carefully.
“It was not easy getting them past the customs inspectors, but your people seem to have a gift for smuggling objects onto other worlds.”
“They got me inserted without any of you knowing about it.” Adare commented without looking up and took out a small handheld device and checked it.
“It doesn’t look dangerous.” One of the Romulans commented.
“We expected something more lethal.” Another added.
S’ton watched Adare carefully. He had been in the Tal’Shiar long enough to know that appearances were very deceiving. The fact that Michael Adare was even here on a mission spoke volumes about the organization he represented. All other clandestine operations groups in Federation space had been liquidated or driven so far underground that their only concern was surviving.
Here they were mounting an operation deep behind enemy lines.
“This is a subspace field generator.” He lifted a long tubular device that was blinking with many dim lights. “This is a transporter transmitter.”
“That’s the smallest I have ever seen.” One commented.
“What will you do with that? Beam into the compound?”
Adare frowned as he unfurled a smaller package and carefully laid out three slugs.
“Look, my people may be advanced but we haven’t got a transporter that small with the range I need to beam myself in there.”
“Those look like…bullets.” S’ton noted curiously.
Adare smiled and held one up to the light.
“You see gentlemen, what we have here is the unstoppable bullet.”
The three Romulans exchanged skeptical glances. Adare smirked.
“Our target is infamous for being able to use this Force to guide his hand and deflect things like blaster bolts and disruptor fire.”
“I have seen it with my own eyes.” One of the Romulans countered.
“So have I. But this little baby is beyond even his reach.”
“Why, his reflexes allow him to actually block near light speed projectiles, how much faster can you project this bullet?” S’ton commented.
Adare stared at the bullet for a moment, holding it up between his index finger and thumb, turning it slowly in the light.
“I’m not going to shoot this thing any faster than a standard slug thrower. Its not the speed, my friends, its this.” He held up the transporter transmitter and subspace field generator. He glanced at each one and despite their poker faces could see confusion when he saw it.
“I am going to beam a bullet into Lord Nemesis’ brain pan.”
“What?” S’ton exclaimed.
“He can’t touch this baby because as I fire it, it will be disintegrated and transmitted to his brain where the bullet will beam back in. The effect should prove…spectacular.”
The three Romulans were stunned.
“All I need to do is be in line of sight of Lord Darth Nemesis and…” he made a shooting sound with his mouth and held the bullet up to the light again. “Lights out, game over, sayonara, pass the beer.” He said simply and looked at each of the Romulans.
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