Stardate 220324.9 (Fri 18 Sep 2381): The Borg have traveled back in time to change the events of the first invasion of the Federation.
U.S.S. Voyager NCC-74656
Friday 18 September 2381 1412 hours
The doors parted with a swift hiss, light spilling from the corridor into the darkened room. A silhouetted figure stepped through the doorway, then was enveloped in darkness as the doors hissed shut behind him. He continued into the room, ramming his shin into a chair. He muttered a muffled curse, then said, "Lights."
The room quickly came to full illumination, and Lieutenant Commander Dan Phillips, science officer aboard the Starship Voyager and reserve agent of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations, shuffled across his quarters, slumping into the couch under the window. He lay still for a moment, then muttered another curse, damning Tom Paris for getting him interested in late-twentieth century music.
"Computer," he called, "access musical database; Earth, 1990s. Play something by…" He paused, trying to determine to what he should listen this time. "Aw, hell. Play something at random from that time period." The computer beeped in confirmation, then began playing something vaguely electronic, with a pulsating bass line. He couldn’t place the artist, and was too tired to ask the computer.
A moment later, he asked, "Computer, do I have any messages?"
"Affirmative," the automated voice replied.
"Play them back, please," he said. The terminal on his coffee table blinked to life, displaying a three-dimensional holographic image of Kenneth Zimmerman, Voyager‘s resident holographic physician.
"Commander Phillips," the recording began, "This message is to remind you that your annual crew physical is scheduled—"
"Delete," Dan said. The image disappeared, then was replaced by that of Lieutenant Marla Gilmore, Voyager‘s chief of Operations—and his girlfriend of the past five years.
"Dan," the image said, "just reminding you that we have a romantic dinner for two scheduled—by you—tonight at nineteen-hundred hours on Holodeck Two. You said you had something special in mind." She smirked, and the image vanished.
A new image appeared, and it caused Dan to sit upright in shock—the chiseled face of Nathan Harrington, director of DTI. "Agent Phillips," the recording began, "I know I’m the last face you expected to see, since you’re not scheduled to return to DTI Headquarters for another two months. Unfortunately, we’ve got something of a situation here.
"Fourteen years ago, during the first Borg invasion, we received a time-locked message—from you. We were only able to access it this morning, and it would seem we’ve got ourselves something of a predestination paradox on our hands. And it gets better—your message calls for not only yourself and Agent Gilmore, but also Lieutenant Commander and Mrs. Harry Kim. Considering the origin timeperiod of this message, I’m sure you can guess why you requested their presence.
"Get your gear packed, get the others and get to headquarters. Fast. We’ll be waiting." The image vanished, leaving only a pale-faced Dan Phillips in its wake.
"Sir," Dan said as he entered Captain Chakotay’s ready room. "I just got a message from my superiors at DTI. I need Marla, and we need one of the Delta Flyer shuttles."
"Now?" Chakotay asked, surprised at the request.
"Yesterday," Dan said seriously.
"It’s that serious?" Chakotay asked.
"Worse," Dan said. "I can’t tell you more than that—security."
"The Delta Flyer is at your disposal," Chakotay said.
"Thank you, sir," Dan said, then turned and left the ready room.
Dan pressed the chime button next to the door to Marla’s quarters.
"Enter," her voice came over the speaker a moment later. The doors slid open and Dan stepped into the room.
"Dan," Marla said, surprised. "I wasn’t expecting you yet. Dinner’s not for almost three more hours."
"We’re going to have to cancel dinner," Dan said. "I’m sorry."
"Why?" Marla asked.
"I just got a call from Director Harrington," Dan said. "We have to leave immediately. There’s a predestination paradox out there with our names on it, courtesy of the Borg."
"Oh, God," Marla said.
"I don’t think God has much to do with it," Dan said.
The head and shoulders of a young lieutenant appeared above Dan’s coffee table, holographically projected by his communications display, and Dan thought the young man couldn’t be more than twenty-two years old.
"Starfleet Command," the lieutenant said, "Corps of Engineers, Research and Development division. I’m Lieutenant Haskins. How can I help you, sir?"
"I’m Lieutenant Commander Dan Phillips," Dan said, "science officer aboard the Starship Voyager. I need to speak with Lieutenant Commander Harry Kim and his wife, Annika. Tell them it’s urgent."
"I’m sorry, sir," Haskins said. "They left here about ten minutes ago. I can connect you to their residence, if you’d like."
"Please do," Dan said. Haskin’s face disappeared and was replaced by a three-dimensional representation of the UFP seal, with the stars representing member worlds placed, to scale, the proper distance from each other, the stylized olive branches rotating around the dark blue, starred globe.
A moment later, the image vanished and was replaced by the head of a four-year-old boy. Recognizing Dan, his eyes widened and a smile crossed the boy’s face.
"Tommy," Dan said, before the boy could speak, "are your parents home?"
"Yeah," Tommy said. "They just got here."
"Could you put them on, please?" Dan asked.
Tommy’s expression changed to mild disappointment. "OK," he said.
"Maybe we can talk later," Dan said.
"OK," he said, then turned and yelled, "Mommy! Daddy! Unca Dan’s on the comm link for you!"
A moment later, the images of Harry and Annika Kim appeared in the holoprojector on Dan’s coffee table. "Dan," Harry said. "Good to see you. How are you?"
"I’m fine," Dan said. "Thanks for asking. I see you’ve weaned Tommy from using his neurotransceiver whenever he wants to talk to you."
"Actually," Annika said, a wry grin crossing her features, "I was simply out of range."
Dan chuckled, then said seriously, "I’ve got some bad news. I got a call from my boss at DTI. Apparently, the Borg Queen’s going back to make sure Earth gets assimilated the first time around, which caused me to go back after her, and it all turned into a predestination paradox. You’ve gotta go back with me, so you’d better clear your schedule for the next few days."
Harry’s face paled. "When will you be here?" he asked.
"Tomorrow morning," Dan said. "Sorry I couldn’t give you more of a warning."
"We will need to procure suitable care for the children," Annika said.
"I’ll call you when I get to Earth," Dan said.
Shuttlecraft Delta Flyer
En Route to Earth
Friday 18 September 2381 1812 hrs
"Entering Slipstream," Marla said, her hands gliding over the Delta Flyer‘s controls. "Autopilot engaged. We’ll be at Earth in ten hours."
"I’m sorry about dinner," Dan said as they made their way to the aft compartment of the shuttle.
"That’s the sixth time you’ve apologized for that," she said. "Don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault."
"Yes it is," Dan said. "Harrington called based on a time lock from a message I’m going to send fourteen years ago, and I’m the one who set the time lock."
"You wouldn’t have set it for now unless it was really important," she replied. "Of course, you probably set it for now because you knew that setting it for a different time, although more convenient for us, could introduce more instability into the existing instability of a predestination paradox."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "Now, be quiet about dinner. I brought it with us."
"What?" Dan asked, confused.
"Naomi found out we had to go," Marla explained, "so she and Jeffrey hacked into the holoprogram you’d made for our dinner tonight, then replicated the food for us to take."
"Sneaky little devils, aren’t they?" Dan muttered. "Remind me to encrypt my holoprograms from now on, will you?" As they set the table, he continued, "This wasn’t the dècor I’d had in mind when I’d originally planned this whole thing out."
"You don’t say," Marla said. "What did you have in mind, anyhow?"
"Well, for one thing," Dan said, reaching for his glass of wine—replicated, and therefore synthehol, "I had elegantly anachronistic, tuxedo-clad maitre d’s serving each course, and we had the entire dining hall of the resort we stayed at on Rrasskarr to ourselves."
"This is a bit cozier, isn’t it?" Marla asked. "Maybe we can do that when this is all over."
"Maybe," Dan said. "Or maybe it’ll be like every other time. There’s always something coming up, getting between us. Well, this may not be like I’d wanted it to go, but I’ll be damned if I let anything get in my way anymore. Marla, will you marry me?"
She gasped, surprised. "I—I don’t—I mean, I didn’t—" She paused, collecting her suddenly tumultuous thoughts. "Yes, Dan."
Shuttlecraft Delta Flyer
In Earth Orbit
Saturday 19 September 2381 0433 hrs
"Harry, Annika," Dan said after the pair had transported aboard. "It’s good to see you again, although I wish the circumstances were better."
"Don’t we all," Harry said. "Do you have any other details?"
"Not yet," Dan said. "When I called earlier, I told you everything I knew. Were you able to find someone—"
"Yeah," Harry said. "Tom and B’Elanna were able to take care of the kids. I don’t feel too comfortable about leaving Elizabeth this young, but at least she and Linnis are about the same age."
"They’ll be fine," Dan said. "Right now, you’ve got a lot more to worry about—like making sure our timeline isn’t eliminated by the Borg. We’ve got a while before we get to DTI Headquarters. You might want to get some sleep between now and then."
"Good idea," Harry agreed, although he didn’t think he’d be able to sleep at all until this mission was over. Dan and Marla made their way to the cockpit of the Flyer, leaving Harry and Annika in the aft compartment. The room had been rearranged, with the table stowed and the bunk pulled out.
Harry looked to his wife. "Do you think you’ll be able to handle this mission?" he asked, his voice laced with concern.
"I’m not looking forward to it," Annika admitted. "My last encounter with the Borg Queen was… unsettling." Harry nodded, remembering the weeks of nightmares his love had endured following that incident. The Queen had tried to coerce her into rejoining the Collective and helping assimilate humanity, only to watch the drone that was once her father killed during their escape. God only knew what had become of her mother after the Hansens had been assimilated.
Shuttlecraft Delta Flyer
On Approach to Gateway
Saturday 19 September 2381 2306 hrs
As the Delta Flyer approached the isolated world known as Gateway—and knowledge of its existence was limited—Marla’s fingers danced over the helm, avoiding the temporal eddies surrounding the planet.
"This is the Delta Flyer," Dan said, keying the communications system, "carrying agents Phillips and Gilmore and party. Request permission to land."
"Delta Flyer," a voice replied, "this is approach control. You are cleared to land at the main complex, pad one."
Minutes later, the shuttle settled on the landing pad. The rear hatch opened, and the four made their way out, where they were greeted by a somber Nathan Harrington.
"Phillips, Gilmore," Harrington said. "Come with me. I’ll fill you in on what’s going on." The group walked briskly into the headquarters building, then made their way to Harrington’s office. As soon as everyone was seated, he began explaining the situation.
"Fourteen years ago, we received a message from Agent Phillips—whom we believed to be dead at the time. It was encrypted with a time lock, and we were only recently able to read its contents. Simply put, we’ve got a predestination paradox of immense importance."
"What do we have to do?" Dan asked.
"Apparently," Harrington said, "the Borg Queen will send herself and five other drones back in time and onto the cube somewhere between Wolf 359 and Earth. That could explain Picard’s later recollection of the Queen, while searches of the vessel conducted by the Enterprise-D crew failed to show any sign of her.
"The Queen’s intention, obviously, is to somehow alter history so that the Federation is assimilated. I don’t think I need to explain why that needs to be prevented." He paused, then handed a stack of PADDs to the others. "These PADDs contain a copy of the message—minus several edits necessitated by temporal security—and an overview of what training will be required to prepare for this mission. Any questions?"
"Sir," Harry asked, "why have parts of the message been edited? Didn’t you say this was a predestination paradox?"
"If I may?" Dan said, looking to Harrington. The director nodded, and Dan continued, giving his attention to his friend, "Time is still mutable. If we know exactly what’s going to happen ahead of time, we could become careless and make a mistake that could completely unravel the timeline. Trust me, it’s better this way."
"Do we know the Queen’s point of origin?" Annika asked.
"Not precisely," Harrington said. "We know it’s within a window of six years from our current point in the timeline, although I’m not at liberty to elaborate on that at this time."
Dan scrolled through the training itenerary for the Kims, then looked up. "We’d better get started."
Monday 23 May 2366 0237 hrs
The air inside the cube shimmered, and Dan, Marla, Harry and Annika leaped into existence.
"The drones do not appear to notice our presence," Annika said as they oriented themselves. "It would appear the bio-dampers in our personal shields are effective."
"Annika, get to a console," Dan said. "Find out exactly when we are, and look for any interference from the future. Marla, any signs of temporal disturbances?"
"Nothing," Marla said, reading her tricorder’s display. "I’ll let you know if I spot anything."
"It is Stardate 205000.3," Annika said, kneeling in front of an interface node, her assimilation tubules imbedded in the device. "This cube is currently engaged in combat with Starfleet forces at Wolf 359. There is no indication of the Queen’s presence."
"OK, everyone," Dan said, shifting the weight of his phaser rifle in his hands, "let’s get moving. Watch your shields, and keep your eyes open."
"Temporal displacement wave approaching," Marla said two hours later, glancing at her tricorder and pointing to an open area ahead of them. "Look. Ten seconds." The air shimmered, and the Borg Queen appeared, flanked by five drones.
"Tag ’em," Dan said. The four pulled small devices from the pouches at their belts, activated them, then attached them to each of the drones. "Did they detect the tracking devices?" he asked a moment later.
"I don’t think so," Harry said.
"Let’s stay with the Queen," Dan said. "She’s the real threat here."
The Queen made her way into the bowels of the cube. She reached a platform that overlooked the heart of the cube, another drone staring out at the immensity of the cube’s interior. No, not just another drone. Locutus. She pressed herself against him and began running her fingers across his features, sensously. It was a stark contrast to the commonly-held image of the Borg.
"Be careful, Harry," Dan said suddenly. "That drone that just passed you came pretty close to your shield emitter."
"Trust me," Harry said, "the last thing I want is for them to notice me."
"The Queen’s getting pretty cozy with Pica— Locutus," Marla noted.
Suddenly the drone in the alcove behind Harry came to life. Before he could move out of the way, the drone stepped down, grazing Harry’s shield emitter. It sparked, then died. The Queen spun, looking directly at Harry, then raised her hand. Within seconds, he was surrounded. He tried desperately to reactivate his shield, but was grabbed by two drones.
"No," Annika whispered.
"Damn!" Dan swore under his breath. "Come on, Harry. We can’t help you without jeopardizing the mission. Get away from them!"
A third drone appeared behind Harry, then injected his assimilation tubules into Harry’s neck. He cried out in pain, fire coursing through his veins.
"Help him," Annika pleaded, glancing with pained eyes to Dan and Marla.
"We can’t," Dan said. He looked to Annika. "I’m sorry."
Harry’s veins were dark with replicating nanoprobes. Within seconds, spiderlike implants burst through his skin, imbedding themselves in his flesh. The Queen, her attention focused on Harry, suddenly began looking around the area.
"I know you’re here," she said, her voice reverbrating throughout the chamber. "Reveal yourselves. Resistance is futile."
Dan, Marla and Annika remained motionless as the Queen looked around the large, central chamber of the cube. Their shields protected them not only from weapons fire, but also from the visual sensors the Borg relied so heavily upon; their voices,likewise, were dampened and transmitted via communicator. As soon as Harry had been injected with nanoprobes, Marla had severed the audio link.
"So," the Queen said, still searching in the vain attempt to visually locate the temporal security force, "you knew I would be coming to this point in the timeline, and you followed me here in a pitiful attempt to stop me. Do you really think the three of you can stop thousands of Borg, all by yourselves?" She paused, again scanning the room with eyes so heavily dependent upon implanted photoreceptors that they couldn’t see what was right in front of them.
"We’d better get moving," Dan said. "It’s only a matter of time before they figure out our bio-dampener frequencies, now that they know we’re here."
"Oh yes," the Queen continued, "I know who you are. Dan Phillips, Marla Gilmore, and—" Two drones grabbed Annika. They tore her shield emitter from her arm and brought her before the Queen.
"Damn," Dan swore. "Let’s take out those drones she brought with her, while we still can. I only hope Annika can buy us enough time to pull this off." He locked eyes with his fiancee. "We’ll get them back, Marla. There’s no way in hell I’ll leave them on this cube to die when it blows up." They ran from the chamber, dodging drones all the way.
"I should have known," the Queen said, looking Annika over distastefully. "You would know more about us than anyone else in the Federation. Of course, that also means that I already know your bio-signature. Seeing through that pitiful dampener was easy, once I knew to look for you, Seven of Nine."
"That designation no longer holds any meaning," Annika spat.
"Oh, forgive me," the Queen said sarcastically. "Annika Kim. Wife. Mother of two children. Is he worth it?" The Queen pointed to Harry. "You gave up a chance to rule the Collective with me because of him. Tell me, does Janeway still think you left because of her pitiful speech at Unimatrix Zero-One?" The Queen turned to Locutus. "Take him to an assimilation chamber. See that he is… properly outfitted." Locutus left the room, Harry following close behind him.
Monday 23 May 2366 0700 hrs
"Don’t move," Marla said. "Get behind something. The Enterprise‘s rescue team just beamed aboard." Moments after she and Dan took cover behind an alcove, Worf and Data walked past, their phasers at the ready. "So why aren’t the Borg after them?"
"Between the fight going on outside," Dan said, "the ongoing search for us, and the Queen’s preoccupation with Annika, maybe they’re just too busy to consider them a real threat. As it stands, they might not even care to keep Picard here, since they’ve already taken what they needed from his mind."
"OK," Marla said, "there’s the second drone." They made their way to the alcove in which the drone in question was regenerating. Dan took aim with his phaser rifle and fired at less than point-blank range. The drone jerked, stiffened, then slumped to the deck, dead.
"Two down," Dan said, "three to go."
"I just wish we could save them," Marla said. "Cut them off from the Collective somehow and take them back with us."
"Not in this mission’s parameters," Dan said, "but I know the feeling."
23 May 2366 1147 hrs
Several hours had passed, and Annika was in a heated debate with the Queen. Locutus had been successfully retrieved by the Enterprise crew, just as history had recorded, and Harry was now fully assimilated, standing at the Queen’s side in the main chamber.
"Why should I even think about rejoining the Collective?" Annika spat.
"You desire perfection," the Queen replied coolly. "Harry is closer to perfection. You can be, once more."
"The Borg are far from perfect," Annika said. "The Collective has fallen greatly since I was first assimilated."
"You are mistaken," the Queen said.
"Am I?" Annika retorted. "Tell me, why are you now an individual, rather than a manifestation of the Collective as you once were?" The Queen eyed her icily. "You are less efficient, now that you have split yourself so."
"There is no disparity," the Queen said. "I am the Collective."
"Are you?" Annika asked. "Then why do you have to give orders to drones verbally? Why do the Borg now use control panels? Were you also affected by the reintroduction of Hugh to the Collective?"
"You couldn’t possibly—what?" The Queen spun, suddenly disoriented.
"You’ve been cut off from the Collective," Dan said, dropping his bio-dampener on his shield and stepping from around a corner. "We’ve isolated this entire chamber. You no longer have the collected intellect of the Collective at your disposal."
"You are vulnerable," Annika spat. "Weak."
The Queen turned to Harry. "Assimilate him." Harry stepped forward stiffly, headed straight for Dan.
Annika grabbed him from behind, wrapping her arms around her husband’s head and holding him firmly in place. "I’m sorry, Harry," she said, preparing to break his neck.
"Annika, wait," Dan called. "We can still save him." She faltered. "Now, Marla!"
Marla stepped out of the shadows, her phaser rifle at the ready. She took aim at the Queen, then fired at point-blank range. In a searing burst of light, the Queen vanished. An implant at the base of Harry’s skull sparked violently. He stiffened, crying out in intense pain, then fell forward limply. Annika caught him as he fell, holding him tightly. Other drones in the room, particularly those in regeneration alcoves, were also affected in the same manner.
Hundreds of other drones soon made their way toward the central chamber from other parts of the cube. Those arriving first on the scene began placing their injured counterparts into nearby alcoves as the second wave moved past them toward the four time travelers.
"Oh, crap," Dan said. "We’ve got a problem here." He glanced at his team. "OK, we’ve taken out all the drones, killed the Queen… Now I’ve gotta send the message and that should be that." He crouched down, bringing up the full text of the message—actually a copy of the message saved from its reception at Gateway. Ironic, really, that no one ever actually typed the message—it had always just been there. He decided not to think about it, lest he risk a migrane trying to make sense of the paradox.
The message sent, he stood, then looked at the others. "Why are we still here?" Marla asked. "I thought that the Guardian always brought you back when you’d finished your mission."
"Now we’ve really got a problem," Dan said. "It does, which means we’ve still got something to do." The drones, entering the chamber and only a few meters away from the team, suddenly stopped. They turned around and made their way to the nearest unoccupied regeneration alcove.
"Look at the drones—they’re all regenerating," Marla said. "We must be in Earth orbit."
"They have received the regeneration command from Locutus," Annika said.
"And shortly after the entire cube went into regeneration," Dan said, "there was a sudden overload in the engines. The cube blew up."
"The regeneration cycle would not cause that effect," Annika said. "It would be necessary for an outside agent to manually set the engines to overload."
"Namely," Marla said, "us."
"Annika," Dan said, "you’re the expert on Borg systems. Let’s blow something up."
"I no longer have the ability to effect the commands for engine overload," Annika said. "I would not be able to do so at all, were it not for the forced regeneration command sent by Locutus."
"What do you mean?" Marla asked.
"The implants necessary for connecting me into the hive mind were removed by the Doctor several years ago," Annika said. "I cannot send the commands."
"Yes you can," Dan said. "Through Harry. You can send it through his implants!"
"Of course," Annika said. "I should have thought of that myself. I do not—"
"Wait a minute," Marla said. She pointed to one of the drones regenerating in a nearby alcove. "That drone looks familiar."
"Marika Willkara was assimilated at Wolf 359," Annika said, "as well as several other Starfleet officers."
"No," Marla said. "I saw her earlier, when they got into the sphere that left the cube and went back to the Delta Quadrant six hours ago. This is someone else. Annika, she looks a little like you."
"Me?" Annika asked. "That is impossible." She looked up, then gasped in shock.
"Do you recognize her?" Dan asked. "Who is it?"
"Yes," Annika said. "It’s— it’s my mama."
"Dear Lord," Dan breathed. "Annika, get to work with Harry. Marla, we’ve just added rescue and retrieval to this mission’s parameters. Help me get her out of that alcove."
"Harry," Annika said, "you must wake up." His eyes opened.
"S-Seven?" he asked. "The voices… So loud… H-help me."
"I will, Harry," she said. "But first you must help me. We are still aboard the cube, and I must initiate an overload in the engines. I no longer am able to do so on my own, but I can send the signal through your implants."
"D-do what you have to," he said.
Annika raised her cybernetically-enhanced hand to his neck, and her assimilation tubules shot into his skin. They both closed their eyes, and she began sifting her way through the Collective’s mind-net. Dan and Marla lowered the unconscious form of Erin Hansen next to Harry and Annika just as the former drone opened her eyes and looked at them.
"The sequence is entered," Annika said. "The engines are on a chain reaction that will destroy this vessel."
"Great," Dan said. "Now would be a good time for the Guardian to take us back." They kneeled on the ground, silent, waiting. Nothing happened.
"Thirty seconds," Annika announced, her voice catching in her throat. Finally, they felt the welcome tug of the Guardian pulling them back to their proper point in the timeline. With a slight glimmer of light, they vanished. Five seconds later, the cube exploded.
Five forms emerged from the Guardian’s portal as Harrington and a security detatchment waited. Dan and Marla supported Erin’s unconscious form on their shoulders, while Annika helped her husband walk stiffly away from the ancient machine.
"Five?" Harrington asked. "Phillips, Gilmore—explain yourselves. Who is that?"
"Sir," Phillips said, "meet Mrs. Erin Hansen, Annika’s mother. She would have otherwise died in the explosion of the cube, so there’s no impact on the timeline by bringing her back with us."
"I see," Harrington said. "I take it your mission was a success, then. The hospital is ready and waiting to treat Commander Kim. I suppose one more de-assimilation won’t be asking too much of them." The pair was placed on antigrav stretchers and loaded into a waiting ambulance. Annika followed and, moments later, they were airborne.
"Good to have you back," Harrington said, turning to Dan and Marla after the ambulance had disappeared into the distance. "I’ll expect a full report in the morning." He turned and walked toward a waiting hovercar.
"Dan," Marla said, "this makes two temporal incursions by the Borg that I know of. What’s to stop them from trying it again?"
"Us," Dan said. "That’s DTI’s mission—protecting yesterday from tomorrow."
"Now," Marla said, "about those wedding plans…"
Hospital Recovery Room
Sunday 20 September 2381 1953 hrs
Annika sat, thoroughly exhausted—both physically and emotionally, in a chair near the window in the hospital room occupied by both her husband and her mother. She was about to nod into unconsciousness when she noticed her mother’s eyelids begin to flutter. A burst of adrenaline brought her to the bedside in less than a second.
As Erin opened her eyes, she was extremely disoriented. For more than a decade, she had endured her mind being subjugated by the will of the Collective—her own voice drowned out by a multitude of others. For all those years, she had fought, futilely. She had assimilated. Murdered. Destroyed. She had become a monster.
But now, the voices were gone. She was looking into the face of a beautiful woman. She had a cybernetic implant above one eye, and she looked vaguely familiar.
"Wh-where…?" Erin began, but couldn’t find the strength to finish her question.
"Shh," the other woman said. "Lie still. You are safe. We have disconnected you from the Collective."
"W-who…?" Erin asked.
"I— I am Annika," she said.
"Annika?" Erin asked, her face hopeful. She wanted desperately for this woman to be her Annika.
"Yes," Annika said. "It is I, mama."
Erin’s face lit up in joy. Tears began streaming from her eyes. "H-how…?" she began.
"How long has it been?" Annika asked. Erin nodded. "The year is now 2381, but we rescued you while on a time travel mission to 2366. I was liberated from the Collective in 2373."
Erin’s hand reached up and began stroking her daughter’s cheek as the tears continued to stream from her eyes. "Magnus…?" she asked.
Annika’s face fell. "I," she began, "I saw him during an encounter with the Borg Queen in 2374. He— He died when her vessel was destroyed by the Starship Voyager." Erin’s expression changed to one of sadness. "The cube you were on was about to explode, as well. One of my friends noticed you, and you were brought back to the present with us."
Annika’s head snapped to the side as she noticed Harry take in a deep breath. Erin turned her head slowly as well, to see what had caught her daughter’s attention. Annika moved slightly so that she was now over her husband’s bedside as his eyes fluttered open.
"S-Seven?" he asked. "Wh-where are we?"
"Shh," she said. "Rest. We are on Gateway. You are safe now."
"I— I remember," Harry began, "the Queen was talking to you… It was me? You rejected her offer because of me?"
"I love you," Annika said. "Rest." Harry relaxed his body as Annika tenderly kissed his lips. He closed his eyes and was soon asleep once more. She watched as his breathing slowed and became more regular.
"Annika," Erin breathed from behind her. Annika turned, giving her attention once more to her newly-rediscovered mother. "Who…?"
"You must rest," Annika said. "You have a long recovery ahead of you." Erin began to try and sit up, and Annika gently pushed her back into her bed. "He is my husband, Harry." Erin’s face looked at her now-fully grown daughter with a mix of joy and sadness. So much of their lives had been stolen by the Borg. "We have two children. Tommy is four, and Elizabeth is one. Now, you must rest. There will be more than enough time to meet them when you have recovered."
Annika stepped into the hallway, gently closing the door behind her, as Dan and Marla were about to enter the room. "They are resting," she said.
"They already woke up?" Marla asked.
"Briefly," Annika said. Tears began to stream from her eyes, and she began to cry. Marla pulled her into an embrace, and held her friend tightly.
"Let it all out," Marla said. "It’s all right. We’ve just been through hell, especially you."
"These are not tears of sorrow," Annika said between sobs, "these are tears of joy. My husband has been returned to me from assimilation by the Borg, and I have saved my mother as well."
"That doesn’t change what you’ve been through," Marla said. "We’re here for you."
Previously received feedback:
Jarhead (26 Dec 2000)
You did an absolutely kick-ass job making sense of all of the contradictions TPTB have handed out over the years concerning the Borg.
One of Borg (08 Mar 2001)
Okay, this’s a bit different from the usual Star Trek, IMO. I’m not saying that in a bad way – I like what you’ve written. Plain, easy to read, technical in parts, but only where necessary. Good.