The sins of the past are not so easily forgotten… or forgiven.
Written by Richard Chu
Release 22 Nov 2002
A little girl’s scream startled Annika into consciousness. Eyes wide open, beads of sweat lining her forehead, she looked left and right for a girl screaming in fear. She knew this girl; she had seen her before, and looked frantically for her. She wanted to end the girl’s fright. She wanted to calm her and end the screaming.
But all she saw was a dark room, lighted only by the glow of warped space around the ship. She realized she was in her quarters aboard Enterprise, in bed with a calm, slumbering Harry Kim sleeping with his eye mask securely around his face.
She looked at a display panel to find that it was 0525 hours, much earlier than her usual wake up time. She gave a muted sigh as she stealthily got out of bed, making sure not to wake her husband and Captain. She knew he had a very important day ahead of him.
With the little girl’s screams still echoing in her mind, Annika instinctively went in to Katrina’s bedroom to check on her. While she implicitly knew that Katrina wasn’t the little girl she heard, she wanted to make sure her adopted daughter was safe and sound asleep. She silently stepped into Katrina’s darkened quarters and felt a sense of relief seeing Katrina comfortably in bed.
Her relief quickly left her as the worry of the little girl returned to her mind. Why was she having nightmares about this little girl? Why was she being tormented by the screams of a little girl each night for the past several days? Who was this girl?
She slowly walked into the living room. It was a mess with reports scattered over the coffee table, dining table, and clothes lying over the armrests of chairs and the single couch along the window-side of the room. While the mess would ordinarily bother her, she ignored it, sat on the couch, and looked out into space.
While Annika did not know who the little girl was, she knew why she was having her nightmares. It had something to do with their eminent arrival at Sarpedon, she thought, although, she did not expect her return to have such a psychological impact.
Annika remembered how, months prior to their departure towards the Delta Quadrant, she had played an instrumental role in determining which worlds to visit first and engage in direct contact. The Talaxians were an obvious choice, but beyond that, Delta Fleet Command knew very little about the space not directly visited by Voyager.
Sarpedon seemed like an obvious choice, as it was a nearby planet that had managed to resist complete Borg assimilation, one of the few worlds in this region of space that had attracted the Collective’s attention, and managed to repeatedly repel their subsequent attacks. Delta Fleet Command was very interested to ally with such a powerful and clearly resourceful people, as were the Talaxians and Haakonians, eager for the opportunity to trade with a possibly new ally that had until now rebuffed all outside offers of friendship. And so Sarpedon was first on the list, despite their penchant for isolationism.
The past several nights had proved difficult for Annika. At first she felt a general uneasiness, which incrementally grew into flashes of guilt, and finally to her current nightmares. Even the Vulcan meditations that Tuvok had taught her many years ago when she was first liberated failed to calm her mind and focus her thoughts.
She tried to rationalize what had happened those many years before, telling herself that she was not in control of her actions, forced to comply with the will of the Collective. She couldn’t have stopped herself even if she wanted to. She was there by a twist of fate, being on the cube designated with the task of assimilating a species the Queen saw as a means of enhancing the Borg’s perfection.
But having been human for now half of her life, the human frailties she initially disliked had completely enveloped her being. No rationalization could dampen the disgust and frustration of being a pawn for an overpowering totalitarian. No realization of the facts could shield her from the overwhelming sense of remorse, and feelings of desecration that came with the knowledge of her participation in such horrific, inhumane acts of utter barbarism. And the closer she knew she was getting to Sarpedon, the stronger these feelings became.
For the first time in a very long time, she was afraid, self-conscious. Not about what others might feel or think about her, but how she would respond and act in front of them. It was a fear that seemed to expand beyond her ability to control. It was a flame that singed the edges of her sanity. She was afraid. And she felt alone.
Her Borg past and her actions as a drone were no secret, especially to those close to her. While she was beyond vanity and pride that would normally prevent someone from sharing a skeleton in one’s own closet, she was not beyond being afraid of losing the trust of those that mattered to her. She tried to convince herself that everyone, especially Harry, would understand the situation and tell her all the rationalizations she already developed about her situation, she still couldn’t bring herself to face this truth, even if it was slowly gnawing away at her composure and efficiency. The respect and position that she had gained was too precious to her to lose, especially Katrina. While she had never concealed her history as a drone from her daughter, she had always glossed over the details of the atrocities committed while under the control of the Collective. She didn’t know how she might react to the full realization that her mother helped to participate in the assimilation of millions of innocents, and it was a conversation she wanted put off as far as possible.
As Annika gazed inattentively at the warped space outside the window, she brought herself to accept the situation. If she couldn’t bring herself to speak about the full details, she would do everything in her power to hold on throughout the Sarpedian mission. It would only be a few days at most, she thought. Following Harry’s negotiations, a few diplomatic functions, a sharing of technological databases, they would be on their way to their next destination. She could handle that.
She hoped she could. Everything depended on it.
The capital city of Sarpedon shimmered as its dew-covered buildings basked in the warm morning sun rising in a light-purple sky. The city was like a mountain rising out from the lush fields of yellow, orange, and green wild grass, its tallest structures standing at the center of an urban forest of geometric shapes curving ever higher into the vibrant sky. The tallest towers were buildings of commerce, others were sleek, covered in a layer of glass-like material reflecting the sunlight across countless kilometers. Ornate religious buildings stood at the midpoint between the centre and the edge of the city, its presence unmistakable with its rich domes decorated with religious icons made of shining precious metals.
Adjacent to a cathedral-like structure was a rectangular building fortified by pillars around its outer edge and dotted with small, elegant, white domes over the four corners. Like the religious edifices around it, the building looked old, having withstood an indefinite period of existence. This was the office of the First Council of Sarpedon.
First Council Sohssian Gartou had olive colored skin and triangular ridges above his eyebrows that decreased in size on his forehead until they reached the hairline, a typical profile for a member of his race. He just finished signing a government order behind his desk when an aide entered his office. "Senator Partasis Nikkan of the canton Frumiseh has arrived First Council."
He put down his pen and gave an audible sigh. He looked up to the aide standing behind the door. "Send him in."
The aide closed the ornately carved wooden doors and an unpleasant, simmering dread started to rise in his chest. He was not looking forward to meeting Senator Nikkan whom he had never met until now.
He felt little guilt for never having set foot in Nikkan’s home canton, as it was not expected for the democratically elected planetary representative of Sarpedon to visit each of the over 400 national regions of the planet. Such a task was left to regional governors who represented the First Council in all planetary matters. It was rare for a First Council to even meet with a canton senator but Nikkan was proving to be a new challenge to the First Council’s plans of intergalactic cooperation.
Gartou could hear the quick, heavy steps of a man approach his office. They were the steps of a determined man, a disconcerted man. But Gartou was expecting such a persona, having read many reports of Nikkan from various sources within the government’s bureaucracy.
Nikkan’s political history was a rags-to-riches type story. A son of a small farming family, he grew in political stature at the reciprocal rate of decline in his family farm’s ability to sustain itself financially. It was fortunate for his family, which quickly became a prominent political family in Frumiseh.
As with most local politicians, Nikkan’s quick rise to power and influence bloated his ego. One bureaucratic report went so far as to say that his psychological profile mirrored that of an egomaniac. He apparently craved the attention of his constituents, demanded the loyalty of his local constituency office workers, and would aggressively challenge any criticism of his leadership and abilities.
The confident steps grew louder as Nikkan approached, and without missing a beat, as the footsteps ended, a quick knocking resounded from the door. Gartou responded, "You may enter."
The door swiftly opened revealing a tall, male humanoid wearing an indigo suit trimmed with military-like bars on his shoulders. Nikkan wore four bars on each shoulder, which represented his political position rather than military rank. Seeing the political bars on his shoulders, Gartou’s impression began to align with the reports he had read of Nikkan. He clearly was a proud man–proud of his accomplishments as a canton representative, perhaps proud of simply being a senator. Whatever the case, Nikkan clearly wanted to elevate his position from that of an ordinary Sarpedian citizen, especially in front of the First Council. Gartou was slightly amused at this blatant display, however, he felt disconcerted as well. Such a man likely had the charisma or the forceful character to incite fear, even terror, to the general populace. That was simply not an acceptable scenario for the First Council.
Nikkan walked briskly to the First Council’s desk and bowed respectfully. "As the representative of the canton of Frumiseh, please accept the best wishes of my people to the First Council and his planetary government."
Remaining seated, Gartou bowed his head slightly in acceptance of the formal greeting. "On behalf of my government, I welcome the support of my fellow Sarpedians in Frumiseh."
Nikkan bowed respectfully in reply. "I also wish to thank you for your generosity in giving me an audience about the most pressing of issues that affect, not only Frumiseh but all of Sarpedon."
"Yes," Gartou replied. "I was informed that you wanted to share your concerns regarding my government’s policy on interstellar cooperation."
Gartou sensed an uneasiness in Nikkan’s voice. "Yes, First Council. But they are not merely the concerns of a canton senator. They are the concerns of a great number of Sarpedian citizens who are alarmed about the potential dangers that could come from opening our space to outsiders."
"I can assure you and your constituents that we do not take your concerns lightly, and will do everything possible to ensure they are addressed," Gartou said diplomatically.
Nikkan responded swiftly, "Your government’s care for the people is not in question, First Council. Rather, many of us are concerned about the many aliens you would attract to our planet. While we are confident you would do your best to ensure the safety of your people, the fact remains that no one can control the spread of information about us. You cannot control how far word of our existence would spread."
Gartou gave what appeared to be an ignorant statement. "One would hope that word of our glory and high civilization would spread to all corners of the galaxy."
Nikkan gave an incredulous look. "First Council! Surely you do not need to be reminded of the Tribulation!"
Gartou feigned offence. "You need not remind me of the greatest loss to our civilization, Senator."
Nikkan looked aware of his overstep of protocol and bowed his head. "My apologies First Council. I meant no disrespect…"
"You are forgiven, senator," Gartou interrupted, trying to fluster the senator.
"…Th-Thank you, First Council," Nikkan replied without continuing.
Gartou did not speak for a moment, intentionally creating an uncomfortable silence for Nikkan. After a few seconds, Gartou said, "Senator, I appreciate your concern for the safety of our civilization against alien enemies, both known and unknown. Vigilance is a necessity when expanding our sphere of influence beyond our system. We must indeed be cautious. But at the same time, we must beware of becoming overly cautious, overly vigilant, to the point that we lose sight of the potential for development. We need to have a vision for the future."
Gartou could see slight disagreement under Nikkan’s flustered façade. "I am very pleased that the First Council has such a grand vision of the future for Sarpedon," Nikkan said respectfully. "Yet, it is my most humble opinion that we not disrespect the past in forging a new future. We must utilize our past experience and take care of all those who have sacrificed so much. We simply cannot neglect such a course of action."
"I do not plan to neglect anything, Senator," Gartou replied firmly. "I am very well aware of the sacrifices our people have sustained in the Borg attacks on our world. I am aware of the lost mothers, fathers, children and grandchildren that the Borg took from all of us. I am aware of the tens of millions that were lost. And beyond being aware, my spirit is forever scared by such a Tribulation on our civilization. It cannot be allowed to happen again, and I will do everything in my power to prevent it from happening again."
"I am very relieved to hear you say that, First Council."
"Then I hope you will also be pleased to hear that in order for us to prevent another Borg assault, we must gather the ingenuity of other independent civilizations to succeed. The Borg are a vast collective mind. If we are to defend ourselves, we must utilize our own collectivity that is based on freedom and self-determination."
"Your plan is bold, First Council, but such actions will also attract the Borg, as well as many other unsavory alien cultures in our neighborhood," Nikkan said with a tinge of desperate fear. "Surely that is something that concerns you."
"Indeed it does, Senator. But what kind of a future are we leaving future generations when we fail to protect them from the suffering we experienced in our youth when the Borg attacked our world 35 years ago, killing and assimilating over 10% of our population? Are we to doom the future of our civilization just because we are afraid to act now, while we still have the chance to change our destiny?"
"First Council, what I fear most is that your vision will only accentuate the Borg’s interest in our planet, dooming our current generation to purgatory as drones."
Harry Kim woke to something he hadn’t experienced in a long while, a cold bed. He rolled over to Annika’s side of the bed and felt an emptiness that felt so out of place. While Annika usually woke up a bit earlier than Harry, she never woke so early that the bed felt as if she was never there. He raised his eye mask up to his forehead, to catch a glimpse of her wife in the room.
He rose up and walked into the living room and found who he was looking for, sitting on the couch, gazing out into space. He smiled seeing her familiar face that represented an incredible life together, full of wonder, challenges and successes. After touching a rush of memories of their life together, he remembered why he got out of bed. "You were up early this morning," he said.
Annika turned to him and replied, "I could not sleep so I decided to wake up early."
She smiled at him, and stood up to walk over to Harry where she embraced him. "Good morning," she said as she lightly kissed him.
"Good morning," he said with a smile. He looked at Annika’s ruffled appearance and continued to smile. "It’s been a long time since I saw you with morning hair."
"It has been a while, hasn’t it?" Her smile diminished momentarily before it returned. "I am usually preparing breakfast by the time you and Katrina wake up."
"But not today."
Annika’s lips curved down to a neutral position. "No, not today," she said as she ended her embrace and turned back towards the window.
Harry sensed an uncertainty in her voice, something else he hadn’t experienced in a long time. Ordinarily, she was alert, aware, and very strict about everyone staying on time with his schedule. But today everything seemed different. "What’s on your mind?" he asked.
There was a long pause before she answered. "The mission to Sarpedon."
"What about it?"
"The unknown," she replied, turning to him. "I brought us on a course to Sarpedon based on very limited knowledge about the planet. All we know is that they have a planetary shield that managed to repel the Borg. The rest of the information is incomplete. I am not sure how reliable my information about the planet really is."
Harry gave an understanding smile. "I guess it’s been a while since we really started to explore the unknown again. We’ve been so used to the comforts of the Federation and familiar space. But here we are, on the frontier again. I certainly understand if you feel a little trepidation."
"Perhaps I am less bothered by the unknown then I am about returning to where the Borg once tread."
"In what sense?" he asked.
Annika moved closer to Harry. "I have lived for 25 years as a human, regained my humanity, and grown to understand and express my individuality," she said as she gazed into his eyes. "I’ve come to experience the love of a man, and share a mother’s love. These are things that I cannot risk losing," she said, wrapping her arms around her husband. "Never."
Harry gave an understanding smile and caressed Annika’s face. "I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I would never let any harm come to you or Katrina."
"I know," she smiled. "But I still worry."
"So do I," he said. "I think about it each day we’re in the Delta Quadrant."
"Coming back to the Delta Quadrant has brought back memories of when Voyager was first stranded here. It was so difficult being thousands of light years away from everything I had ever known, everyone I had ever cared about. I was away from my parents, and what made it hard was that I didn’t know if I’d ever see them again."
Annika sighed. "I am sorry if I’m giving you more pressure. You have enough as it is commanding the ship on our mission."
He smiled softly. "It’s okay," he reassured her. "It really is. I know in the past while we haven’t had a real chance to talk about our mission together–the inherent dangers that we’ve managed to avoid mentioning–but at least we’re talking about it now. Obviously, we need to talk about it before we get too preoccupied with our responsibilities."
She smiled. "It is good that we are discussing it, and it makes me very happy knowing that we will get through everything together."
Harry held her tighter in his arms. "Nothing makes me happier than having you and Katrina with me each day. I dare say it probably makes me a better Captain."
"Absolutely," she said grinning. "It forces you to make good command decisions, because otherwise you’ll get an earful when you come home."
"Absolutely…Admiral," he said jokingly just before giving Annika a kiss.
"Is someone going to make breakfast?" Katrina asked from her bedroom doorway, rubbing her sleepy eyes.
Harry chuckled, noting their compromising position in front of Katrina, although, she didn’t seem to notice, or even care. "What would you like for breakfast?" he asked, as he stepped away from an equally grinning Annika and turned toward the replicator. Annika walked towards the dining table.
Katrina’s eyes lighted up at the question. "Oh, I’ll have a stack of pancakes smothered in maple syrup, and…"
"Absolutely not," Annika interrupted, standing at the foot of the table. "Breakfast supplement #133 is what you will be eating this morning."
Katrina frowned. "Come on, Mom, I had Bolian oatmeal yesterday. Why can’t I have something better this morning? Isn’t today a special day?"
"Today is not special enough for you to let you start your day with a nutritionally inadequate meal just before school," she said firmly, sitting herself down at the table, with Katrina sitting to her left.
"I could fortify the pancakes," Harry suggested as he stood in front of the replicator.
Annika gave him a disapproving look. "She is having Bolian oatmeal," she stated.
"Yes ma’am," he said, holding in a grin. He looked over to Katrina. "Sorry, in the interest of intergalactic peace, I have little choice but to compromise."
Katrina rolled her eyes. "I have yet to read about an intergalactic incident caused by pancakes."
"And I plan to keep it that way," Harry replied as he handed her a bowl of bluish oatmeal. "So why did you say today is a special day?" he asked as he walked to sit across from Katrina.
"You’re going to be making first contact with the Sarpedians today, aren’t you?" Katrina said, forcing herself to take a spoonful of the clumpy blue paste.
"How did you find out about that?" he asked.
"Oh, come on, Dad! It’s all over the ship. Not to mention I heard you guys talking about it last night. Good luck keeping a secret around here."
"I do not like your tone, young lady," Annika said in a maternally scornful voice.
Knowing where this was going, Harry cut in to try and defuse the situation. "Ladies, I think you should calm down. Katrina, you have to get to school in 20 minutes, so finish your oatmeal."
The remainder of breakfast was eaten in relative silence, and once Katrina finished her meal, she said her goodbyes, and left for school. Once she left, Harry turned to Annika. "What was that all about?"
"She should not be listening in on our private conversations," she replied matter-of-factly.
"Yes, but you didn’t need to come down on her like a Klingon. It wasn’t that big a deal."
Annika slammed her hand on the table, catching Harry off guard. "Not a big deal? How can you say that? We are entering unknown territory, full of species we haven’t met in 20 years, and full of enemies whose capabilities we know nothing about. With all that classified information in Katrina’s head, she could be hurt for what she knows, and I do not want anything to even remotely create that possibility." Her eyes were glazing over with tears. "I do not want any harm to come to her."
Clearly this mission is starting to take its toll on her, Harry thought. He put his hand on top of hers on the table. "I’m sorry," he said, giving her a gentle kiss in her hair. "I’m sorry."
She seemed to respond to Harry’s warmth and presence as he tense shoulders relaxed. She wiped a tear from her eye. "No, I am sorry. I know you will not let anything bad happen to our daughter. I’m just frightened. I don’t want the same thing that happened to me…to happen to her."
Harry grew adamant and gazed straight into Annika’s eyes. "I will never let the Borg assimilate our little girl. Never. I’d die before I’d let that happen."
Commander Kalan marched into the conference room and was prepared to begin the mission briefing when both Harry and Annika entered the room. "Sorry for the delay, but there was an urgent matter that needed my attention," the Captain said as he sat down at the head of the table. Annika remained silent as she entered the room and grabbed a seat between Krell and Wildman.
As she sat down, Harry started the meeting. "I’ve read the departmental reports from Commander Kalan and am very pleased with the performance of the ship and crew. I’m sure the Sarpedian First Council will be very impressed."
"And in the mood to talk, I hope," Bartok added. He did, after all, have a vested interest in the good will of the Sarpedian people, as he would be leading the initial away mission to establish first contact. In addition to his duties as counselor, Finnegan Bartok had the added responsibilities of diplomatic liaison and protocol expert with government dignitaries. It was a role that suited his generally positive disposition quite well.
"Indeed," the Captain said. "But before that," he turned to his Chief of Security, "Cyrus, what have your long range scans indicated about Borg activity in the region?"
"Fortunately, not a thing, Captain," Krell said. "We haven’t detected any residual traces of transwarp activity in this whole sector of space, which leads us to hope that the Borg lost interest in the Sarpedians long ago. Either that or they’re massing for another, more pronounced attack."
"Do you have an idea which scenario is most probable?" the Captain asked.
"Well, based on the preliminary data we received from the Sarpedian government, the Borg have completely left the planet alone for the past 35 years, which is odd, if I may say. It was my understanding that the Borg don’t leave anything…unfinished."
Annika concurred with Krell’s opinion. "That is correct. In my experience, the Borg never left a civilization partly destroyed–at least a society it was aware was still in existence."
"Exactly," Krell said. "Which leads me to believe that the Sarpedians have been able to somehow mask their existence from the Borg."
"That is a rather remarkable achievement if true," Vorik said.
"Absolutely," Wildman interjected. "Such a revolutionary technology would completely change the way we deal with the Borg."
"Indeed," Vorik said. "However, such a valuable technology would not likely be easily gained from the Sarpedians. If it fell into the hands of the Borg, it would become completely useless, threatening the peace, and perhaps even the survival of their civilization."
"But the question remains: does this technology really exist?" the Captain asked. "Are there other possibilities as to why the Borg have left them alone? Whatever the answer is could be an equally groundbreaking discovery against the Borg."
"Of course, it’s possible the Sarpedians just managed to scare them away," Bartok joked.
Harry took an audible deep breath and exhaled. "Clearly, coming to Sarpedon has raised more questions than answers. But it’s all the more reason for us to stay sharp and on our toes. We’re not in Kansas anymore, and we’re going to have to proceed very carefully in the next few days ahead."
A general sense of agreement permeated the room. Looking to Kalan, Harry ordered, "Once we enter Sarpedian space, and have made contact with the Sarpedian government, I want the ship to stay at Yellow Alert for the duration of our visit until we’re certain of where we stand. And I want continuous scans and analysis of the region, both long and short range. I don’t want to be caught off guard."
Harry paused. "If there’s nothing else…"
Dr. Saldeed interrupted him. "Actually, Captain, there is something else we need to discuss…The Sarpedians themselves."
"What about them, Doctor? Everything we need to know is in Dr. Kim’s report. Not to mention the information sent by the Sarpedian government."
Saldeed did little to hide her smugness. "Captain, the information in Dr. Kim’s report is over 25 years old, and we have very little concrete proof that the information the Sarpedians sent us was unbiased in their favor. We don’t even have a sociological profile on their society."
"As I recall, we didn’t have sociological profiles of any species we had first contact with, the Romulans included."
"My point exactly, Captain. One little mistake and our hosts may become our newest enemy."
Kalan leaned forward in his chair and glared at Dr. Saldeed, "Do you question your Captain’s ability to carry out his duties, Doctor?" he asked testily.
Saldeed gazed calmly back at Kalan. "I have very little intention or interest in taking over Captain Kim’s position, Commander. I am simply stating my objection to the blinded approach to first contact that we seem to be embarking on."
"We are not going in as blind as you think," Harry said. "We are aware of their sensitivity to the Borg because of the tremendous suffering they caused in their last attack on the planet. For that reason, I have decided to keep Dr. Kim’s Borg background inaccessible information."
"And if they ask for it?" Bartok asked.
"We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but I don’t expect that they’ll be needing it."
"Do you think that one omission will be enough, Captain?" Saldeed asked as she raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"Since I’ve decided this information is classified," Harry replied sharply, "and thus on a need to know basis, the Sarpedians don’t necessarily need to know. I have no doubt that they’ll be keeping secrets from us until they get to know us better."
Bartok cleared his throat. "Well, I guess we shall see how…blinded…we really are."
Nikkan paced worriedly around his small, but ornately decorated office in the capital city, growing increasingly uneasy about the impending arrival of the ship from across the galaxy. Despite the First Council’s assurance that these people were trustworthy and a necessary ally against any hostile outsiders, he could not shake his confident fear that they would trigger hostile interest in his world. It was an unwise decision on the First Council’s part, he thought to himself.
He was startled by the dominant sound of the bells from the clock tower outside his office indicating the time was approaching high noon. His hands turned to nervous fists with each ringing of the bell, his mind growing increasingly frantic about the prospects of the arrival of this starship from the far side of the galaxy.
But there was little he could do about that anymore. He had tried and failed to make the First Council reconsider, so now he was forced to wait until the Enterprise arrived and do what he could to force them to leave. But he didn’t know how he was going to accomplish that. Having combed through all the information about the Federation, the Delta Fleet project, and the crew of the Enterprise, he found nothing he could use against them. While he did find some strange decisions made by the Federation and their allies throughout history, there was nothing damning that he could bring before the people.
His last hope was to simply wait and see them for himself, a prospect he was not looking forward to. ‘I’m doing it for Sarpedon.’ he convinced himself.
A beep came from his desk. "Senator, the information you requested is now available," a voice said over a communications device.
"What do you have to report?"
"The Enterprise will be entering orbit in seven minutes."
Nikkan closed his eyes and took at deep breath to calm himself. "Are they within sensor range?"
"Very well, please feed all the sensor data to my computer."
"As you wish."
Moments later the monitor on his desk glowed with charts and graphs of data pertaining to the Enterprise. The technological advancements on this ship were very impressive to the Frumiseh Senator. He understood why the First Council had decided to allow them to arrive at Sarpedon. Sarpedon scientists would be able to integrate many of their defensive capabilities into their own ships and maybe even planetary defense.
But his greed for their technology paled when he realized that such a technologically tempting piece of hardware would undoubtedly bring their planet back into the sights of the rest of the galaxy. The fragmentary contacts they had regarding the surrounding sectors were not encouraging. The Kazon had unified into a single powerful dictatorship, the Krowtonans remained enigmatic and ruthless behind their heavily patrolled borders, and the diseased Vidiian ghouls were avoided by others at all costs. And then there was the terrifying potential return of the Borg themselves. It was a dangerous galaxy out there, one that Sarpedon was better off having nothing to do with.
He refocused himself on looking for any flaws or potential dangers that wasn’t reported in the database sent by the Enterprise. For a couple minutes he combed through the information, but he was not a scientist and his needle-in-a-haystack search was proving fruitless. He decided to ask an expert. "Computer, locate any unusual discrepancies on board the Enterprise."
He paused, unsure if he could clarify. He had no idea what to look for. He blurted out, "Look for anything that…could relate to the Borg."
A two-dimensional cutout schematic of the ship popped up on the screen and little green dots began appearing throughout the ship. "There are 286 Borg-related signatures about the starship Enterprise," the computer said.
He was momentarily stunned by such integration of Borg technology into their systems, but he remembered that the Federation and their allies had many encounters with the Borg, most of them occurring away from their homeworld. As he scanned the schematic with his eye, he noticed that one of the green dots was moving. "Computer, identify the Borg-related signature that is moving on the Enterprise."
"That signature is not part of the starship’s infrastructure," the computer replied.
"Then what is it?
"It is a humanoid."
Nikkan slowly became wide-eyed as that piece of information churned in his mind. "A humanoid," he repeated in a hushed voice. ‘They must have a Borg drone on board their ship’ he thought. That was the only possible explanation. Perhaps someone had implanted Borg technology into his or her body, but he couldn’t believe anyone would dare do something so inhumane and grotesque.
In thinking about this humanoid with the Borg signature, a dark smile appeared on Nikkan’s face. This humanoid was the one piece of evidence that would turn the current situation in his favor. When the time was right he would strike and save his planet from the unspeakable terror that would reign if these aliens from the Alpha Quadrant were allowed to stay at Sarpedon and establish themselves in orbit. This humanoid was his greatest defense, and he would keep a very close eye on this person.
As the Enterprise entered orbit over Sarpedon, they contacted First Council Gartou. "Welcome to Sarpedon," he said. "I trust the journey was a safe and uneventful one."
"We were pleasantly surprised at the peaceful nature of your region of space," Harry replied. "Although, I’m sure you can understand our trepidation about traveling after our recent encounters with the Kazon."
Gartou smiled. "Yes, I will admit that I have those same fears. Between our history with the Borg and the recent aggression we’ve noticed in the surrounding sectors, we have learned the necessity of being very cautious and discrete when it comes to the existence of new technology on our world."
"That is one of the things I was hoping we could discuss in the near future. Many of my senior staff are understandably curious about your apparent ability to keep the Borg at bay."
Gartou laughed genially. "Your curiosity will not be disappointed, Captain. I will make arrangements for your crew to visit our science facilities when your landing party arrives."
"That is very much appreciated First Council. My diplomatic liaison, Commander Bartok will lead our initial away team to greet you, and I will be sending our Director of Science and Chief of Operations along with him."
"I trust you will be arriving once the arrangements for your reception have been completed?" Gartou asked.
"Exactly as your requested, First Council," Harry replied. As per Sarpedian custom, a diplomatic team would be sent ahead to pre-negotiate the terms of reception, prior to the captain’s arrival. It was a tradition that dated back to the ancient monarchs of Sarpedon’s distant past, one that Harry intended to honor. By sending his wife as part of the away team, it served as a symbolic proxy for his own presence on the surface. Although, he thought, had he realized earlier the anxiety that Annika was now starting to show, he might have reconsidered the idea.
Gartou was understanding and appreciative. "I look forward to meeting your people, Captain, as well as you," he said before bowing his head slightly in respect and ending communications.
After an approving nod from Harry, Finn and Naomi left their stations and walked into the turbolift and headed for the transporter room where they would meet with Annika and beam down together. As they entered the lift, Naomi asked, "Is it me, or does everyone seem a little on edge today?"
"What gave you that impression?" asked Bartok amiably.
Naomi looked up at Finn with disbelief. "I guess this morning’s briefing didn’t feel at all tense to you," she said sarcastically.
"It’s not just you," Bartok replied. "I guess people are just nervous about our first real First Contact in the Delta Quadrant."
"I don’t see why everyone is so tense about it, though. It’s not like we haven’t had any experience with other species in the past few years," said Naomi.
"No, but the fact that we have so many different civilizations represented on this ship that makes everyone nervous. Everyone is just so uncertain how it will go, establishing a first contact protocol with so many combined elements."
Naomi nodded in agreement. "So that, plus our lack of knowledge about the Sarpedians and our seeing first hand the handiwork of the Borg…"
"And you have a recipe for nerve stew," Bartok concluded as they exited the turbolift and headed towards the transporter room.
Gartou paused and smiled contently after concluding his communiqué with Captain Kim. His goal of re-establishing Sarpedon with the galaxy was finally becoming a reality, and it pleased him that it was beginning with such a powerful and noble civilization from the other side of the galaxy.
Gartou reflected on the moment, recalling his father’s dream of a powerful, fearless Sarpedon that did not thrive on the fear and pain caused by numerous Borg attacks that came to euphemistically be called the Tribulation. While Gartou’s family was among the millions who lost family and friends to the Borg attacks over the generations, he himself, losing three aunts, four uncles, and six cousins, his father remained steadfast in his conviction that his family must not become trapped by grief, anger and the thirst for revenge.
Gartou’s recollection was halted by a comm. Beep. "First Council, Senator Nikkan is here and respectfully requests an audience."
"Very well," he sighed. "Let him in."
Nikkan’s steps were quick and he entered within seconds. He entered and Gartou noticed that he appeared out of breath. Nikkan took deep breaths, trying to hide his body’s need for air. After a few breaths he said, "Thank you First Council for permitting my unscheduled appearance."
Gartou smiled diplomatically. "I am here to serve, Senator."
Nikkan smiled back mechanically. "In respect of your time, I will concisely state the urgent purpose of my visit. I would like your permission to be part of the welcoming entourage for the Enterprise officers and representatives."
Gartou raised a concerned eye. "I’m afraid that would not be possible as it is grossly against official protocol in such matters."
Nikkan stepped closer to the First Council’s desk. "I realize this, and I have the deepest respect for official protocol. However, I believe this meeting is of great importance to the Sarpedon people."
Gartou remained stoic. "As I recall, I am the planetary representative of Sarpedon."
"Of course, First Council. I meant no disrespect. However, I am not ignorant of the fact that I am one of the strongest opponents against breaking our isolationist policy and that a vast number of Sarpedians are against changing the status quo. In this respect, I represent their interests, and thus, I believe I have a responsibility to observe our planetary visitors on behalf of my constituents."
‘Your constituents, eh?’ Gartou thought. He remained stoic in his appearance. "Senator…you bring up a very…novel suggestion."
He paused to consider his request. Gartou knew that Nikkan had developed a very strong and expansive following with his ideas of isolationism. For months prior to the arrival of the Enterprise, he had been very vocal and active in promoting non-association with other worlds. And he did so by playing on the underlying fear of outsiders that all Sarpedians had developed for generations. With rhetorical brilliance, Nikkan managed to sway public opinion by bringing to a boil the simmering desire for vengeance against the Borg and using that to block attempts at initiating contact with other worlds. Undoubtedly he would have announced his intentions to meet with the Enterprise delegation to his followers. "In the interests of the Sarpedian people, I will allow your presence at our first meeting with the Enterprise crew," said Gartou.
Nikkan gave a sigh of relief. "Thank you, First Council."
Gartou responded sternly. "Keep in mind, however, Senator, that aside from this single breach, protocol will be firmly respected and you will not speak unless I have directly addressed you. Is that clear?"
Nikkan bowed stiffly. "Yes, First Council."
"Now, if you will excuse me, I have other business of planetary importance to attend to before our visit with the Enterprise crew."
Nikkan bowed again and made a respectfully swift exit from the First Council’s office. Gartou sighed in frustration. The situation with Nikkan was becoming increasingly problematic. He was not used to having another politician directly interfering in his own affairs. Yet, given the broad implications of reintroducing Sarpedon into the galactic community, he knew it was unwise to ignore a large segment of the planetary population. It would create a political situation that he would rather soon avoid.
Annika, Naomi, and Bartok beamed down into a vast domed cathedral beside the First Council’s office. The interior was richly layered in a metal-like foil that resembled gold. First Council Gartou was waiting for them along with Senator Nikkan and several other aides. After they finally materialized, Gartou stepped forward to greet them. "On behalf of all Sarpedians, welcome to our world," he said to them.
Bartok bowed respectfully, recalling the litany of Sarpedian diplomacy from his briefing. "On behalf of the Enterprise and the Delta Fleet, please accept our most sincere appreciation for your welcome. May this day be the first of many where cooperation will strengthen the peace in the galaxy."
Gartou smiled. "Thank you, Lieutenant. I will do everything in my power to bring about this peace that will not only strengthen my world but bring two halves of the galaxy together in friendship."
He went on to introduce his senior staff and other planetary representatives and only briefly mentioned Nikkan. He barely let the Senator take a breath before he prompted everyone to start walking down a large hallway that would lead to the First Council’s office. As they headed towards Gartou’s office, he gave a quick history of the many busts of notable Sarpedians that lined the way in the cathedral. While most were religious figures of ancient past, Gartou made special mention to those who were honored for their sacrifice during the several attempts by the Borg to assimilate their world.
As they approached an arched doorway out into the Sarpedian alleyway, Finn took the opportunity to ask, "First Council, I am admittedly curious about how you were able to withstand a planetary assault by the Borg. As yet, the Federation has not been able to substantially protect a planetary settlement from Borg attack."
As they approached a gray, rectangular, sterile doorway that an aide opened for all the dignitaries, Gartou replied. "In all honesty Commander Bartok, I do not know the exact details about our planetary defenses. I will leave the specific details to my Defense Minister and our military and experts. But suffice it to say, in addition to our planetary shield, we had layers of orbital weapons platforms, and an armada of warships."
"And that was what saved your planet from total annihilation?" Bartok asked with a tone of disbelief.
Gartou smiled at the emphatic response. "That and sheer determination. It is amazing how focused and determined a civilization can be on the eve of its destruction by an unrelenting alien race."
They walked through another set of corridors lined with busts of prominent Sarpedians as Gartou said, "Your own history of defense is what interested me to your proposal of establishing a treaty with us, Commander. Your Federation has a long record of interaction with a multitude of alien species throughout your sector of the quadrant, and even in ours. In contrast, my world has remained in isolation for almost a hundred years. We lack the experience and the diplomatic skills to establish our own foundation for intergalactic integration. All we know is fear of the outside universe and that has dominated our foreign policy for decades. But I want to create a new era for my people, Commander Bartok, where we are not dominated by our fear of the unknown, and our ignorance of the universe around us."
Annika, who had remained a silent participant as they walked through the corridors of the First Council’s office smiled warmly to Gartou. She had been unusually quiet since beaming down to the planet’s surface, a silent observer of the city and the people around. But something about Gartou cause her to relax and open up. "It is a great honor to be in the presence of someone who values the freedom of existence that the Federation values so highly."
Gartou smiled back but shook his head humbly. "You give me far too much credit, Doctor. I am perhaps equally influenced by the Borg’s attacks as the next Sarpedian. But I have chosen to fight the negative feelings within myself, rather than live with hatred and fear. I see very little future in that."
Nikkan gave an audible sigh. Gartou saw him on the edge of his peripheral vision and added, "Although, I have to admit that there are many on my world that do not agree with my conclusions, such as Senator Nikkan."
"Is that so, Senator?" Bartok asked.
Nikkan gently cleared his throat before he spoke. "While I see great value and potential in the First Council’s plan for Sarpedon while he is in office, many people I represent are afraid of the possible attention your arrival, and our re-association with other worlds, will bring. While the Borg may have stayed away from our world for whatever reason, I believe the one true reason why they have not returned is that we have kept to ourselves and not become involved in the affairs of other races. I think our policy of non-engagement has provided Sarpedon with unprecedented security since the last Borg attack."
"You point of view has validity," Annika said. "However, such a policy would threaten the long-term survival of your society. Isolationism never adequately defended the political, social, or cultural attributes of a civilization. It often brought about the long-term dissolution of the society in question. In the end societies were defeated by the apathy and carelessness and that proved to be its greatest weakness."
Nikkan tried to sound open-minded. "Perhaps. But I think the opposite has an equal opportunity of becoming true. Isolation allows an emphasis for self-reflection, self-analysis and societal development. We can become increasingly vigilant in such moments, bringing greater rewards than thought possible."
"As you say, Senator, it is possible," Annika said diplomatically as they were ushered into yet another corridor.
As they approached the last few meters before Gartou’s office, suddenly loud warning klaxons sounded bringing everyone, including the First Council to an abrupt halt. The doors behind them swung open and a dozen security officers rushed in with hand weapons drawn. Gartou had a furious look on his face. "What is the meaning of this! I demand an explanation!"
A rather bland look on Nikkan quickly turned dark as a sinister smile appeared as the alarms continued to sound. "Remember that vigilance I mentioned, First Council? Well, it is in action as we speak."
"Vigilance? For what?" Gartou asked loudly.
"Against breaches of security and threats to our way of life," he answered euphemistically before getting a scanner from one of the security officers. "You see, First Council, while you were preparing yourself for the visit of our guests, I made it a point to get as much information about them as possible. And in my search, I discovered that one of our guests is our mortal enemy."
Gartou rolled his eyes. "What gibberish are you talking about?"
Nikkan scanned Naomi, Cyrus and stopped at Annika. "It is not gibberish at all, First Council," he said looking up into Seven’s eyes with a malevolent grin. "What you have in your midst…is a drone!"
Before Gartou could say anything security officers scrambled around Annika, Naomi and Bartok and whisked them away out of the corridor.
A few seconds after they were taken away the alarm was shut-off, leaving a stunned and speechless First Council with an evilly gleeful Senator. Gartou paused to compose himself before he said, "There has to be a logical explanation for all of this."
"There is indeed," Nikkan said. "The Enterprise tried to trick you, but thanks to my vigilance, any threat to our world and any spying for the Borg was averted."
Gartou was disbelieving. "I studied their historical database myself. These Federation people are not capable of such deception. And I read every crewmember’s file before they even arrived in the system. None of them are who you claim them to be."
Nikkan’s tone hid none of his pride. "Clearly, First Council, you have been deceived to your detriment. You are fortunate I was with you today, because now we have a priceless opportunity for all Sarpedians."
"What are you talking about?"
"Justice can now be served by executing their Borg spy."
Harry rushed onto the bridge as soon as the turbolift doors opened. "Commander, report!"
Kalan rose from the Captain’s chair and turned to him. "Moments ago for unknown reasons the planetary shield of Sarpedon was fully raised and we lost our transporter lock on the away team. Sensors detected an armed group of individuals entering the corridor and taking Dr. Kim, Commander Bartok and Lieutenant Wildman into custody and securing them in a holding facility. Communications with the away team have been disrupted as well."
"Have you tried hailing the First Council’s office?" Harry asked as he approached his chair.
"Yes, Captain, however they are not responding."
Harry looked out at the planet on the main viewscreen. "What the hell is going on down there?"
"Shall we go to Red Alert, Captain?" Kalan asked, as if ready and eager for battle.
Harry turned and stared at his First Officer. For a moment it seemed as if Kalan’s question was out of order, as they had come to Sarpedon to establish peaceful relations, not start an intergalactic incident. But Harry came to realize that the Commander was just doing his job. The away team’s safety had been compromised, and all contact with the surface was lost. Red Alert seemed like an obvious course of action. But he didn’t want to give the wrong impression to the government down below. "Commander, keep us on Yellow Alert, but do not raise shields or charge weapons. I don’t want to escalate the situation unnecessarily."
"Aye, Captain," he replied.
Looking back at the viewscreen, Harry glanced over to the tactical station, "Mr. Krell, can you scan the shield and report on its effectiveness?"
After a moment, Cyrus Krell glanced up from his HCARS interface, "The shield output is over 6,000 petawatts and encompasses the entire planet, up to 35 kilometers above the surface. It looks like it can absorb a lot of punishment, sir."
"I need more specifics, Lieutenant," Harry snapped, the tension in his voice rising. He slapped his combadge and contacted Engineering. "Mr. Vorik, I assume you’ve been monitoring the situation on the surface. Can you suggest any weaknesses in the shield?"
"Nothing substantial, Captain," the Vulcan engineer answered over the intercom. "In fact there is very little in our arsenal that could weaken it. I can now see how they were able to repel the Borg. But the Sarpedians would require an extraordinary amount of energy to generate such a deflector field."
"Right, sir," Krell concurred. "My scans indicate an intricate web of shield generators distributed evenly on the surface of the planet. While I can’t get an exact reading from each generator through the interference, the output is such that even if we were to disable one, surrounding generators would increase output to compensate."
"So much for the offensive option, then" Harry said.
Harry turned to Kalan and asked for his recommendation. "Captain, I believe this would be a prime opportunity to use the phased cloak."
Vorik’s disembodied voice responded by saying, "Captain, I do not believe it would be safe to use the cloak against such a strong energy field. We may be able to pass through normal matter, but I am not sure how our phased state would react to such radiation. I would recommend another course of action."
Harry nodded in agreement. "With so many people on board, I don’t want to risk it unless it was absolutely necessary."
"Our only other alternative is to wait for communication from the surface," Kalan said.
"It’s not my most preferable choice, but nevertheless, Commander, keep hailing the planet. In the meantime, I want options."
"How are you coming with the modifications to your combadge?" Bartok asked as he sat on one of two cots in a cramped room that had a book-size window beaming in the waning afternoon light opposite a heavy metallic door.
"Not far," Naomi replied. "There is only so much I can do with the limited output that the communicators have. There must be a shield surrounding this building."
"Makes sense since we appear to be in a detention cell," Bartok said. There was a lengthy silence before he looked at Naomi and asked, "Are you, okay?"
Bartok forced a cheerful smile. "It’s not over until we’re either dead or back on the ship," he said, trying to generate a comforting level of authority in this bleak moment.
"We seem to be heading toward the former," she said.
Finn kept silent, barely even breathing as if holding something in. The lengthy silence was broken when Naomi stood up quickly and turned to him. "We don’t even know why we’re being held here. No one has said anything!" she said.
"It should be obvious since Annika isn’t with us and that Senator gave her an evil look before carting us away."
"I know why she’s being imprisoned, and now realize why the Captain decided to keep her personal history a secret. But that doesn’t explain why we’re here instead of being forced back to the ship."
"Maybe we’re considered accomplices."
"Accomplices in what?" she asked in frustration.
Bartok replied calmly. "In bringing her here."
"Well, I sure as hell am not going to get killed for being a damn courier!" she snapped, furious at the thought of not ever seeing her little girl again. Naomi knew that as a Starfleet officer, there would be certain risks she’d be exposing herself to. But even so, she hadn’t expected it to come on a world where they had received such a warm greeting from the beginning.
Without warning the door slid open and First Council Gartou entered. He had a very disappointed look on his face. Bartok and Naomi stood showing respect despite their unjust confinement. Finn stepped forward and said, "It is good to see you First Council. I hope this will be an opportunity to clear up this whole misunderstanding."
Gartou looked sadly into Cyrus’ eyes. "I wish this were a mere misunderstanding, but I’m afraid the facts of the matter appear otherwise."
"What are the facts, First Council?" Naomi asked.
He looked calmly at her and said, "Dr. Kim has been formally arrested on the charges of genocide and war crimes against the Sarpedian people. She will be immediately tried in our High Tribunal here in the capital city. And I’m sure I do not need to tell you that if she is found guilty for any one of these charges, the only sentence available to her is death."
"These charges are ridiculous!" Naomi blurted out harshly to the First Council.
"Lieutenant!" Bartok admonished. He turned back to Gartou and asked, "What is the basis of these charges?"
The First Council sighed before continuing. "Dr. Kim is being tried on evidence that she was a drone during the last Borg attack on our world 35 years ago. And if proven to be true, she will be found guilty of the charges laid against her.
"I appreciate you informing us of the situation," said Bartok, "but surely you understand that we can’t allow a Federation citizen be tried in court without proper legal council."
"Of course not, Commander," said Gartou. "That is why both you and Lieutenant Wildman will serve as Dr. Kim’s defense."
"Us?" said Bartok incredulously. "We’re not lawyers. There are far more qualified individuals on the Enterprise who could defend her, First Council, and I believe she deserves that defense."
"I agree with you, Commander. I’d let your Captain select the best defense if it were in my power to do so, but I am very limited in what I can do. The laws of my people are quite clear on this matter. Individuals closest to the accused must be sworn in to serve as their advocates. Our philosophy has always been that those who know the heart of a defendant are best suited to speak on their behalf, rather than a stranger whose loyalty is only out of payment."
"But, we don’t know a thing about your planets laws," said Naomi urgently. "Sir, you’re the planetary representative of your world. Surely you have some sway with the justice system."
"Indeed I do…formally speaking. But public opinion is running exceptionally high right now. It is impossible for me to simply ignore what my fellow Sarpedians want. They want justice, and I have very little reason not to give it to them."
"You have every reason to!" Naomi said loudly. "It is wrong for you to try her for something she had little power to fight, even if it can be proven she was in fact here so long ago. She’s not the same person she was back then, and to go through this whole process is pointless!"
"Hardly pointless," Gartou exclaimed. "I’ve gone through your own world’s history databases. Your planet’s history is filled with examples of devastated peoples searching for justice. In every case, the victims spent years, in some cases, whole lifetimes to find their attackers, many of whom were feeble old men by the time they were caught. That didn’t stop your people. I don’t see why this situation is any different."
"The difference is the basic fact that Annika had absolutely no free will in doing whatever it was she did, if she was even on your world 35 years ago. She didn’t have a choice. She was simply following the commands of the Collective," Naomi defended.
"Exactly, Lieutenant. Soldiers always claim that they were only following orders, or that they acted within the rules of war. There have been similar shameful examples in the history of both our peoples."
"But Annika isn’t like that anymore. She hasn’t been for over half her life."
Gartou sighed. "I can appreciate the fact that Dr. Kim has been an upstanding citizen of the Federation and has served your Starfleet with distinction. She has been fortunate to live in such a forgiving society. But from our perspective, living the good life after the fact, doesn’t atone for her alleged past crimes. Simply put, she must be brought to justice."
Naomi looked urgently at Finn for support but found nothing that could adequately counter the First Council’s argument. Gartou, himself, sighed despondently. "I know this is difficult for you, and you may not feel you are the best people to defend your friend and colleague. But it is the best I can do given the circumstances. I can’t abrogate the laws of my people regarding justice, especially not under circumstances such as these. In fact, I should tell you that having the both of you act as her defense is a benefit as Senator Nikkan was insistent that a Sarpedian defense advocate be given to Dr. Kim. But I knew if that happened, justice would not be the agenda of the trial."
"Then we owe you our thanks, I suppose," Finn said. "I hope we won’t be completely isolated in trying to build a proper defense."
"I will do everything in my power to ensure you have as fair a trial as possible."
"That’s not very reassuring," Naomi said flippantly.
Bartok tried to ignore Naomi’s reaction and continued his thought. "Then I hope we will be able to at least gain access to the Enterprise’s records as well as all the information available about Sarpedon, its legal traditions, and the history behind the Borg attacks, as well as the evidence against Dr. Kim."
"Of course, Commander. I will give you all the information you require."
"Excellent," said Bartok. "And one final thing that we will need is access to Dr. Kim."
Gartou was initially hesitant. "That may be difficult," he said.
"Surely the defense must be able to gain the insight of the alleged criminal in order to gain all the facts about the case."
Gartou was non-committal. "As I said, that may be difficult, but I will do the best I can to arrange regular visits. After all, according to our laws, the advocates of the accused should already know the defendant quite well. In the meantime, I would strongly suggest you start working on Dr. Kim’s defense, because I can assure you that Senator Nikkan will do everything in his power to convict her."
"Thank you, First Council," said the counselor with a sad smile.
The First Council shook his head with a weariness of his own. "This was not the way it was supposed to be. I had hoped that by this time we would be sharing a state dinner, celebrating the collaboration of two great societies."
"We’re off to a rough start, but I haven’t given up hope just yet."
"I wish I had your optimism," Gartou commented.
Bartok remained confident. "First Council, we are here after coming all this way across the galaxy. We don’t intend our mission to fail."
Gartou smiled in affirmation. "I don’t intend to give up either. I wouldn’t be here in this room if I had. But this trial…does not bode well for diplomacy."
Annika sat in a seamless detention cell, with a single gateway that sealed her in with an undoubtedly powerful forcefield. The high-frequency audible buzz of the field suggested it was a more powerful forcefield than normal–established, no doubt, to keep a Borg drone secure and isolated. Two guards stood on both sides of the gateway, facing outwards, while another guard sat at a computer console facing her cell.
Glancing at the man at the console, she noticed that the guard kept a very close eye on her. A vicious look on his face, the guard did not put down his guard for a moment, and simply stared at her as if recording her every move. While she assumed that she was under extensive observation, noticing that fact with the guard’s stare made her feel very disconcerted.
"Why do you stare at me?" Annika asked abruptly.
The guard laughed maliciously. "Why?" he snorted with disdain. "Vaitan!" he called to one of the guards securing the gateway. "You here that? Her Borg programming is so ingrained, she’s forgotten she’s a drone."
Annika saw the guard on the left laugh. "I am not a drone," Annika stated. "I am an individual, like any one of you, and your detention of me is a clear violation of diplomatic protocol."
The guard at the console laughed mockingly. "She thinks she’s a diplomat! Want a little of that diplomatic immunity, eh?" he said directly to her.
"I am Dr. Annika Kim and a human representative of the United Federation of Planets, and I demand that you release me!"
The guard got up and walked up to the forcefield. "You’re in no position to make demands, drone. Your lies mean nothing here. Get that through that perfect little head of yours and keep your mouth shut before I seal it shut for you and do a little implanting of my own," he threatened.
Annika stood resolute. "My husband is the captain of the vessel in orbit of your world. He will not allow this transgression to go without response," she said.
"I don’t think you’re in much of a position to issue threats, drone. Your starship doesn’t stand a chance of getting through our planetary shield. And if you think you can try something yourself, go right ahead. Nothing would make me happier than to see a few of your implants fry."
She stood firm, but took an extra look at the forcefield. The guard laughed mockingly at her response and walked back to his console.
Accepting her confined state at the moment, she stepped back and sat on the cot at the opposite wall of the cell. Looking back at the staring guard, Annika felt very uncomfortable with him calling her a drone. Even if he was unwilling to give up anything to her, the effect of his attitude gave her the knowledge that they had discovered her Borg past somehow. Someone probably scanned the ship and realized her presence on board, and tracked her to the planet until the right moment to capture her.
But Naomi and Bartok were also arrested, and she felt great concern for their safety. She had been separated from them shortly after being apprehended. Annika hoped that nothing was happening to them because of her.
Worrying about their safety reminded her of her own uncertainty and her choice to come to this planet. She had been certain that the Sarpedians’ fear of the Borg would easily bring them to understand the necessity of the alliance with the Delta Fleet. But obviously that hope had backfired. Her own selfish desire to see the people she had once caused harm to, to somehow believe that by helping make contact, she could make amends.
Thinking about the immediate situation, Annika’s doubts began to surface, starting with the little girl in the early morning. Maybe that girl was a dream to warn me about this mission–a warning that I completely missed. She had ignored her intuition because of an inherent fear that she didn’t want to express–a fear that she just wanted to disappear. But because of that desire, she had jeopardized the mission, and now was risking the safety of her friends, Bartok and Naomi. With the frustration building within her, she wanted to scream.
The Enterprise bridge was a cacophony of activity as crew members and officers tried to figure out what had happened down on the surface of the planet. Harry sat in the Captain’s chair reading over the latest reports from various departments on the circumstances they were able to gain from their sensor data. For a moment he looked at the planet they orbited and a unease came over him as he realized that his wife was down there…somewhere.
From tactical, Cyrus Krell announced, "Captain! We’re being hailed by the First Council."
Harry’s face became serious as he looked ahead. "On screen."
The First Council’s image materialized. "It is good to finally be in contact with you, First Council," Harry said. "We have been continuously trying to contact you to find out what has happened on the surface."
Gartou was notably pensive. "I must…regretfully…inform you that Dr. Kim has been arrested and charged for high crimes against Sarpedon."
Harry’s brow furled angrily, his heart racing, but he tried not to let it show. "What’s the basis for these charges?"
"It had been discovered that Dr. Kim is…or was…a Borg drone several years ago. Our building sensors detected Borg signatures in her body and as we have an obvious…and understandable…desire to be cautious when it comes to the Borg, she was immediately confined for the safety of our world. However, in the past several hours, we have also discovered evidence showing that she was on Sarpedon as a drone 35 years ago, and we charged her according to our laws."
Harry tried to conceal his disbelief, but even he couldn’t hide the look of surprise from those around him. "But that was 35 years ago. Annika is no longer a drone and has led a completely human life," Harry stated.
"I have already heard all your arguments from your Commander Bartok," Gartou said hurriedly.
"So no one from our delegation has been harmed?" Harry asked for confirmation.
"Of course not, Captain."
Gartou noticed Harry’s sigh of relief and said, "I appreciate the situation you and your crew are in. This was not the way I had ever intended our first meeting to turn out. However, the facts appear very clear about the choice we have at hand. Justice must be served to the billions of people who suffered from the Borg attacks. And I can assure you that I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure a fair trial and give you as many opportunities as possible to acquit Dr. Kim."
"Thank you, First Council. But I would also ask that that I be able to see for myself the condition of my officers and participate in her defense."
Gartou paused to consider his request. "I will have to confer with my colleagues and advisors before I allow you to come to the surface."
Harry’s attitude stiffened. "Surely as First Council you are able to make such an executive decision."
"Yes, I am," Gartou stated matter-of-factly. "However, I have to make sure that your interests are not damaged by anything I may do."
"Very well. I await your response. But in the meantime, I would ask that all the information and evidence pertaining to Dr. Kim’s case be transmitted to us."
"Of course, Captain. As a request by Commander Bartok, he would like full access to your ship’s library and database from which to launch a defense."
"Thank you, First Council. In the meantime, I will establish a link with your office and the ship. All our resources will be made available to you and my officers on the planet."
"Excellent," Gartou said before pausing. "On a personal note, Captain, I am very sorry this situation escalated to the point that it has. I never intended for any of this to happen, and I still hope we can salvage some diplomatic understanding between the Federation and Sarpedon."
"I hope so too, First Council…I hope so too."
An uneasy sleep forced Naomi Wildman to wake up before any sunlight had entered the room through the small window. She didn’t have any means of establishing the time, so she was left to assume that it was still sometime in the middle of the night. But what darkness suggested to her, her dry eyes and heavy eyelids were explicit in their feeling that she was very tired. She decided to lie down again and hope she’d drift into unconsciousness.
But in the darkness Naomi thought about the possible fate of her dearest friend, Annika. The idea of her death did not settle very well with Naomi at all. It served to remind her of the many times she felt afraid for her mother back in the days on Voyager, worried that she would never return from an away mission. Back then, when she was so young, she believed the comforting words Neelix would tell her about why her mother was late or was missing for a short period of time. But as a young adult, her analytical mind rejected anything that tried to confuse herself. ‘I’m too smart for my own good,‘ she thought.
But thoughts of her mother and of Annika migrated to her own daughter, Sabrina. What kind of life was she setting up for her by being in the Delta Quadrant, she thought. While she momentarily felt amused at the irony of the situation, where the next generation in the Wildman brood lived up to the family name, her present situation made her doubt the decisions she had made. As protected as Sabrina may be on board one of the most powerful ships built by the Federation, nothing could protect her from the potential traumas associated with deep space missions in inherently dangerous space. Who’d be there to tell Sabrina those comforting stories that Neelix told to her, she asked herself.
She gave a frustrated sigh and sat back upright. If she couldn’t sleep, she thought, then she’d work. She felt around her bed for the Sarpedian version of an old-style Federation PADD, and found the thicker rectangular-shaped object near the end of her bed. She tapped the screen and it displayed the basic root menu of the Sarpedian computer system. She decided to look for information of cases that resembled theirs, but to her disappointment, the computer said that there were no relevant trials for war crimes from alien origins. She assumed that Sarpedon was so strict in its policies against offworlders that no one had a chance to commit any major crime while they were here.
She decided to look for any government documents pertaining to the Borg, and found a lengthy list of files, spanning as far back as the first Borg attack on Sarpedon. Out of curiosity she opened one of the reports made during the last attack. She decided to read the transcript than listen to it and possibly wake up Finn:
"….Thousands of drones are heading toward this compound, so I don’t know how much longer I have left. They are coming so quickly, and completely relentless. All of our weapons are becoming useless because they are adapting to all the available frequencies. Even if we had an electromagnetic bomb they would be able to survive it…I don’t know what else to do…they have already killed my brother, injected another with nanoprobes and beamed him to their cube. Now it is my turn and I don’t know which place I would rather go…death and the unknown, or the perpetual twilight of the Borg collective. I know this is a morbid thought, and I apologize for anyone who manages to find this record after I am gone and the Borg have left the planet. But I’m so afraid…so very afraid…"
In the darkness of her room, she shivered as she finished reading the report. Between death and assimilation…it was an unfathomable choice. She randomly picked another article and chose a news article from nine months after the attack:
"Survivors from the Borg assault, what many are calling the Tribulation, were demanding the government to take swift action in rebuilding their civilization. Tens of millions were still living in tent-villages with only the barest of essentials available, including many wealthy and prominent Sarpedians who had lost everything in the attack. Many urban centres were heavily damaged in the multi-point attack that virtually shutdown every technological system on the planet."
"Second Deputy First Council Gartou released a statement saying that the government was working hard to negotiate relief agreements with local canton officials, but that the process was being hampered by excessive demands by Senators and local government officials. ‘The planet has been declared a disaster area, but given our limited resources, we simply cannot provide everyone with everything they are demanding. This planet only has so much resources,’ Gartou said in his statement."
"Questions were still raised as to how the military managed to repel the Borg after their initial assault, however, the government remained tight-lipped about the event that some are defining as a miracle since there were as many survivors as there were. Opposition leaders took advantage of the government’s silence, accusing the Defence Ministry of negligence, saying that the military should have activated the planetary shield long before the Borg entered orbit."
Naomi stopped reading the article and asked herself the same question. Why didn’t the Sarpedians use the shield when they had the chance? It was a question she wrote down on the PADD to reminder to ask Gartou the next time she and Finn saw him.
She continued to research as the black darkness slowly turned to lighter shades of grey, then light purple, as the Sarpedian sun rose at dawn. She didn’t realize the approaching sunlight until a beam shown down at her through the window, bathing the PADD screen with masking brilliance. The light beamed onto Bartok’s eyes and he slumbered back to consciousness. Watching him stir away, Naomi wished she could have had at least some of the relief that Bartok managed to gain.
His eyes blinked open and he turned to Naomi. "Good morning, Lieutenant."
She smiled like Mona Lisa. "’Morning, Finn."
He stretched on his under-sized bed and gazed at Naomi as his body energized itself into consciousness. "You haven’t had much sleep, have you?" he commented.
She sighed. "No, I didn’t. Worried too much about Annika, thought a lot about Sabrina. Couldn’t get myself to relax."
"Well, you better get some sleep in the next couple days," he said. "I’ll need your help if we’re going to have any chance in acquitting her of the charges."
She nodded tiredly. "I know." She put the PADD beside her on the bed and rubbed her eyes with both hands. "I’ve been doing some research on Sarpedon in the meantime."
Feeling awakened, Bartok sat up on his bed. "What have you found?"
"I understand why they hate and fear the Borg. The Borg didn’t just assimilate their technology and damage their cities; they destroyed their way of life. Nobody was unaffected by the attack. Nobody."
"That explains why they are so determined to make an example of Annika. But did you find any of the proof they claim exists that she was actually on the planet 35 years ago?"
She closed her eyes sadly and handed Finn the PADD. "I didn’t find any proof that the Sarpedians would know about, but I did do a search on Annika’s old Borg designation, and found it in one of the Sarpedian Defense databases."
He took the PADD and examined her findings. "That doesn’t mean she was on the planet."
"Not conclusively, no, but given that the Borg are grouped into sub-hierarchies which are used as identification for drones on Borg vessels, the fact that her designation appears anywhere suggests that she was related somehow to the attack."
"That’s pretty thin evidence, Lieutenant."
She gave a sarcastic chuckle. "Maybe to us, but to the Sarpedians, it’s probably the Holy Grail."
At 0800 hours, Kalan, Cyrus Krell, and Vorik were seated before Harry in the captain’s ready room. A formal briefing would have been far too depressing, he thought, what with three of their senior staff missing. Harry was at wit’s end, trying his best to keep the tension he was feeling bottled up. He was, after all, the captain. Ordinarily, he’d share his anxieties with his wife or Finn Bartok, either of whom would have something comforting to say right about now. But neither of them were available, leaving him emotionally adrift. He turned to his First Officer and asked, "Status report, XO?"
"The ship and crew are at full readiness, Captain," said the Klingon.
"What is the latest situation on the planet?" he asked Krell.
"The First Council’s office has informed us that Dr. Kim’s trial will begin at 0930 hours. It will apparently be presided over by a panel of five senior judges."
"That may be to our advantage," Kim said grimly, trying to generate some kind of optimism.
"Yes, Captain. According to what the First Council’s aide said to me, the only way the death penalty can be sentenced is if all five judges have a unanimous verdict," Krell said.
"Do we know anything about these judges?"
"Not yet. They have yet to send us the profiles of the presiding judges." Kim expressed an annoyed look.
Kalan interjected by saying, "Lieutenant Krell and I have been formulating a few plans to rescue the away team."
"As I recall, Vorik," said Kim as he turned his attention to the Vulcan engineer, "you were certain that nothing could penetrate the shields long enough for us to locate our crew and beam them out of there."
"That is not entirely true, captain," Vorik said. "I said that it would be dangerous for Enterprise to attempt to phase through the planetary shield. However, upon further study, I believe it may be possible to modify the transphasic torpedoes to match the shield’s resonance frequency. The phase will be disruptive, but it is likely that at least one would survive the phase through the shield to detonate over a single shield generator on the surface. This would permit a two-second window of opportunity for us to lock on and beam up our away team before another generator could come online and close the gap."
"You’re suggesting we use transphasic torpedoes?" said Harry in alarm. "On a planetary target?"
"I am not making any such suggestion, captain," said Vorik grimly. "I am merely presenting an option. Unfortunately, the transphasic torpedoes are the only weapons in our arsenal with the potential for a successful shield penetration. And since most of the shield generators we are likely to hit are in close proximity to populated areas, a zero-point energy detonation against a highly energetic target would almost certainly result in casualties numbering in the thousands."
"That is completely out of the question," said Harry harshly. "What you’re describing is a declaration of war against Sarpedon. Our mission would be a complete failure if it came to that."
"With all due respect, Captain, our mission is already a failure," Krell said. "They have captured our away team and are threatening one of them with death. There seems to be no further diplomacy possible here."
Kim was resolute. "Mr. Krell, aside from Annika…Dr. Kim, I’ve known Commander Bartok and Lieutenant Wildman for years. I know that they would not want thousands of innocent people killed just so that they can be rescued. We came here to be friends with these people, not massacre them. The First Council is still very interested in finding a positive resolution to the situation."
"We all hope that turns out to be the case, sir," Vorik stated matter-of-factly. "But to rely entirely on hope would be illogical, given the facts of the situation. It is clear that events have moved far beyond the First Council’s control. Given the circumstances, and the safety of our captured crew, rescue and retrieval would be an option worthy of strong consideration."
"I won’t disagree on that, Commander," said the captain. "But if our only option is to commit mass murder to get our people back…" Harry shook his head wearily, trying to process everything that was happening. He wanted Annika back more than anything, and was even willing to bend the rules for her. But thousands of casualties? No, he would not go that far, not even for Annika. "That is simply not an acceptable scenario, gentlemen."
Krell sighed. "Captain, the trial is beginning in less than two hours. We have 48 hours at most before Dr. Kim’s fate is decided. We have to take some kind of action before that happens," he said.
"I agree," Harry said coolly. "Which means you have that much time to find another course of action. I suggest you start looking. Failure in either case is simply not an option. Dismissed, gentlemen."
Krell and Vorik got up to leave, but the first officer remained behind, waiting for the others to leave the room. As soon as the door slide closed, he turned back to the captain.
"Sir, we must look at the situation objectively," Kalan said bluntly. "We simply cannot allow the Sarpedians to go through with their so-called trial. The fact that they have refused giving Dr. Kim proper legal counsel is a blatant attempt at manipulating the case in their favor. It’s no better than an old Cardassian court."
The captain said, "Can you bring me a solution that will return my wife and our people without killing anyone, and still open the door to peaceful relations with these people? Because anything less that that and we’ve failed here. The First Council has assured me…"
Kalan leaned over the table, his passion getting the better of him. "Assurances mean nothing, sir. It is time to end this situation and end it now, or our credibility in this quadrant will be nonexistent. How can we be regarded as a strong ally against the Kazon or the Borg if we allow ourselves be held hostage by petty local politics?"
"What exactly are you implying, Commander? Surely you’re not suggesting that we actually fire a transphasic weapon at these people?"
"No," said Kalan, as he smiled craftily. "But perhaps the threat of doing so will convince the Sarpedians of the wisdom of releasing our people."
"Absolutely not!" said Harry harshly. "If we do that, Commander, then we will be reinforcing every negative stereotype these people have about outsiders. Our mission will have failed completely. I shouldn’t have to remind you that we’re here to build an alliance, not show weakness with threats and hit and run tactics at the first sign of trouble. Real honor comes from victory, not defeat, and I will not risk the life of innocent people in a pitiful attempt at saving face!"
Kalan gave a forced smile, realizing that his frustration had crossed a boundary that he had promised his captain would not be crossed. "Aye, sir," he said sitting himself back in his chair. "Nevertheless, captain, I would recommend that you consider the advice your crew has given you, especially since it has to do with your wife. You may be able to save her life or save Fleet Command’s hope of an alliance with these people, but not both. Events may not cooperate to give us everything that we might want."
Harry wearily sat into his chair again. He wasn’t proud of himself for letting the tension he was feeling inside rise to the level it had between him and his first officer, but he had to believe that his wife and crew would be returned to him. To think anything else, and he’d be useless to his ship. "I appreciate your input, XO," he said with exhaustion. "I’m not prepared just yet to declare this mission a failure. I owe our people that much."
It was less than 20 minutes until the start of the trial, and Wildman was frustrated. Promises that they would be able to see Annika before the trial failed to materialize and she felt they simply didn’t have enough time to do an adequate job of defending their colleague and friend. There were just too many procedures and facts to be studied. But, they were already being led to the courtroom by half a dozen armed Sarpedians that she assumed were either security or police.
They were led to a short corridor that led to a pair of four-meter-high wooden doors that Naomi assumed was the courtroom. Her assumption was proven correct as the doors opened and revealed a brightly lit chamber with ornately decorated vaulted ceilings. Large rectangular panes of glass stretched from a metre from the floor to the base of the domed ceilings six meters above.
The silence of the corridor increased to the volume of gossipy whispers as Naomi and Finn were taken to the defense side of the courtroom opposite the doors. As they walked across the room, she felt very disconcerted by the shear number of people in the audience. She estimated at least 150 people crammed into the public benches. Her trepidation jumped when she saw what appeared to be media devices protruding in several locations along all four walls. Turning to the judges’ bench, she noticed a device located above-and-behind each of the judge’s chairs, probably to get a particular judge’s perspective of the courtroom. In front of the judges’ bench were several security personnel observing Naomi and Finn’s every move. On the opposite wall to the doors, on the right-hand side to the defense desk, there was a large enclosure made of what Naomi assumed was a kind of clear material. A single door was all that led to the box that contained only one chair, and she assumed that was where Annika would sit.
It was disconcerting to know that virtually everything would be broadcast all over the planet. She began to have shallow breaths as she began to fully realizing the pressure she and Bartok were in. Not only were they trying to save their friend from certain death, they were going to be de facto representatives of the Federation on this distant world. Every word, every movement, every flinch would probably be replayed and analyzed by countless media personalities, academics, students, parents, and probably even young children. How they responded to each accusation against Annika would determine whether people would say, "I don’t trust them" or vice versa.
Once they approached their designated seats, the prosecution attorneys entered the courtroom. Naomi grimaced as she saw a team of eight lawyers enter the room like soldiers, each with thick cases in their hands. They certainly are going all out to convict Annika, she thought. They have more lawyers then there are judges in this case.
"I have a very bad feeling about all this," Bartok said.
Naomi remained silent after his remark. She felt her throat constrict. "I don’t think I can do this, Finn," she whispered.
He turned to her and put a reassuring arm around her shoulders. "We’ll do fine, Lieutenant."
She turned to him and he smiled warmly to her. "I bet the only thing you’ve been thinking about is the pressure."
With fearful eyes, she nodded. He kept smiling. "It’s only natural. But try to focus on the task at hand. We’re here to defend Annika. Nothing more. Everything else is…well, irrelevant."
"I’ll keep that in mind, Finn," she said looking forward at the judges’ bench.
He gently elbowed her. "You’d better, Lieutenant," he said jovially. "That was an order." A wry smile appeared on her face.
Without warning, the rich sound of a gong reverberated through the chamber. They were bewildered but saw everyone in the room stand and followed suit. A door opened on the right side of the chamber, facing the public benches and the five judges steadily entered the courtroom wearing regal purple robes. The third judge to enter the chamber wore an extended white collar that extended down mid-chest. By that difference in wardrobe, Naomi assumed he was the Chief Justice. Once the last person entered the room, the third judge sat in his chair and everyone silently followed.
The court was completely silent as everyone waited for the Chief Justice to indicate the start of the case, but he and the other judges simply organized the material in front of them as if oblivious to the people waiting in front of them. With what Naomi felt to be several minutes, the Chief Justice looked up and momentarily assessed the audience before he addressed one of the security guards. "Send in the accused."
The door to the clear enclosed cage opened and a weary-looking and unkempt Annika stepped in, her hands cuffed together. When the door to the cage closed, the buzz of a forcefield came up and the audience started to jeer and scream in her direction.
Naomi looked angrily at the mass of people, thinking that her look would stop their yelling, but it had no effect whatsoever. She turned to the Chief Justice to see if he would do anything, but he simply glanced at Annika’s direction in a careless manner. "Are they just going to let this continue?" Naomi asked Bartok.
"I suspect so. It makes for good broadcast entertainment," he said in disgust.
She stood from her chair and shouted about the jeering to the Chief Justice. "Your Honor, are you going to just let this unnecessary disrespect for the rule of law to continue?"
The audience hushed to silence upon hearing Naomi’s question to the judge. The judge looked up from his notes and simply gazed at Naomi for several seconds as if sizing her up. He folded his hands onto the table and said in an austere tone, "Young lady, I will assume for the moment that you are unfamiliar with the procedures and protocols of the Sarpedian court, and thus forgive your blatant irreverence to our legal system."
"I do not mean any disrespect, your honors–"
"Then you should not speak until you are spoken to," the judge said sternly. "No one speaks in this court unless one of the justices sitting here addresses you, directly. There is a set procedure we follow on our world, Ms…" he looked down momentarily at his notes before continuing, "…Wildman."
"Lieutenant," she corrected him, her eyes remaining focused and defiant. "Commander Bartok and I are officers, and we request that we be addressed as such." When the judges said nothing, she held in her frustration and looked to Bartok for guidance. His look suggested that she sit down, and so she did.
The judge, still staring at Naomi said in a loud voice, "Very well. Since Lieutenant Wildman here has decided to commence these proceedings, in the interests of intergalactic cooperation, we will proceed and avoid any further…embarrassment."
Naomi gritted her teeth in frustration and kept quiet. After several seconds of silence, the judge grabbed what looked like a percussion stick with a padded ball on the end, and hit it firmly on his desk. Instead of hearing a thud, a gong sound could again be heard. Naomi assumed that was the Sarpedian version of a gavel. "Dear honored Sarpedians who are here today to witness this sitting of the dispensement of justice," the Chief Justice said, "I welcome you to our sacred hall that is a testament to the equality and fairness inherent in of our way of life."
"Ama-sattan," the entire audience replied in unison to the surprise of Naomi and Finn. This must be the ceremonial beginning to Sarpedian trials, Naomi thought. All five judges bowed their heads respectively to the audience and then the Chief Justice began administering the case. "We are here with the full panel of judges to adjudicate in the trial of Dr. Annika Kim, an alien representative from the planet Earth who was a Borg drone and is alleged to have participated in the Tribulation 35 years ago on our homeworld. She is charged with one count of committing planetary genocide during the great Tribulation and one count of committing war crimes against the Sarpedian people during the great Tribulation. If found guilty on any one of these charges, the automatic sentence is death implemented in a specific way, on a specified date to be determined by this full panel of justices of the High Tribunal of Sarpedon."
"Annika Kim, please stand and state your plea," the Chief Justice concluded.
An expressionless Annika rose to her feet and stated, "I am…not guilty."
The Chief Justice noted the intent in her voice at the apparent omission of the word ‘plea’ in her statement, but the judge played along. "You are indeed not guilty in this courtroom until you are proven guilty by the prosecution of this case. Nevertheless, I will take your statement as a plea of not guilty, if my fellow justices agree with this decision."
They all nodded. "Very well, then. You may sit down, Dr. Kim." Turning to Bartok and Wildman, the judge said, "For those in the defense who are unfamiliar with the process of this trial, I will give you a brief overview to assist in the challenging role you must play. The trial will begin with the prosecution forwarding their case before the panel of judges. They will be able to call their witnesses and present evidence to solidify their case. Regardless of how long it takes for the prosecution to complete their case, the defense will have the opportunity to witness all that happens and develop your case."
"Upon completion of the prosecution’s presentation, there will be a six-hour recess that will serve as a timeframe for the defense to solidify their case against the prosecution’s evidence and claims. After that time, the defense will present their case to their satisfaction without interference from the prosecution. Following the defense’s presentation, the court will be in recess until this five-judge panel decides on a ruling. Is this clear?"
Bartok stood to ask a question. The Chief Justice said, "Do you have a question, Commander Bartok?"
"I do, your Honor. What about cross-examination?"
"There is no cross-examination," the Chief Justice said frankly. "Our judicial process contains only three main procedures from which to dispense justice and ensure the rule of law. Any further procedures were abolished over 120 years ago, as it was deemed as a hazard to the judicial process. Attorneys used cross examination as a way to extend the timeframe of the case and improve their financial position."
"But without cross-examination, how can we be sure that the whole truth is expressed in this court? What if mistakes are made and innocent people are unjustly sentenced, even killed?"
"That unfortunate circumstance has never happened on our world, and will not happen here. Both sides are given adequate time prior to trial to ensure full disclosure of the facts."
"Then I request that this trial be postponed, because the facts in this case are not fully available, let alone fully disclosed. We have not been given enough time to adequately provide a meaningful defense for Dr. Kim," Bartok said.
The Chief Justice leaned back and conferred with the other judges about Bartok’s request. After a few moments, he leaned forward and said, "We are aware of the particular situation in this case, and the relatively lack of time given to the defense. However, the fact that you know Dr. Kim better than any Sarpedian would, implies that you are able to mount a fair defense for her. Thus, your request for a delay of proceedings is denied."
"I must object, your Honor."
The Chief Justice looked amused. "I’m sure you do, Commander Bartok. But in the interests of Sarpedian security, we do not have the luxury of time. You are from another world, likely to be leaving our system following this trial, and we simply cannot give your ship the opportunity to find ways to cause any harm to our planet or our people with an attempt by your ship to rescue you. Also, since we are dealing with the Borg here, expediency is recommended, as I’m sure you would agree."
Bartok paused, momentarily trying to think of another solution, however was unable to come up with one, so he sat down. Noting his action, the Chief Justice said, "If there are no other concerns, then I give the floor to the prosecution."
One of the prosecutors rose and walked to the centre of a triangle with endpoints reaching the defense side, the Chief Justice’s bench, and the prosecution. "Your honors," the man said, addressing both the audience and the judges by the audible volume of his speech, "In the accused box, we have a being that was once a Borg drone. That creature–sitting there–was once covered in layers upon layers of Borg implants, integrated–absorbed–in the totalitarian web of the Borg Collective Consciousness. She enacted the will of the Collective, and stopped at nothing to accomplish her goals as a member of that single mind."
"And that single mind–that aggressive intelligence–came to our world 35 years ago and inflicted a torture that has forever scarred the psyche of our people." He pointed fiercely at Annika and said, "That monster came with thousands of other drones and tried to destroy our people and add our distinctiveness to their own. But, of course, she failed–and with our superior individual ingenuity, we repelled that terrible evil from the face of our world, and vowed that we would never be a victim of such atrocity and such horror again."
"Your Honors, it is our greatest duty and most noble responsibility that we are given this opportunity to bring this abomination and all her kind to justice by proving her direct involvement in the Tribulation with the death of over 554 million Sarpedians and the destruction of 63% of the great Treasures of Sarpedon. She not only took away our loved ones, but destroyed our culture and brought chaos to our society."
"And your Honors, it is our greatest joy that we have also been given the opportunity to play an integral role in saving our planet from a new wave of attack of the Borg. Not only will we prove that she participated in the attempted genocide of our race, and committed atrocious war crimes against our world, but that she was actively engaged in the clandestine attempt to obtain valuable information for the Collective to give them the knowledge to return and assimilate our world. This concludes our opening statement," the prosecutor said.
"Very well, you may call your first witness," the Chief Justice said.
"We call on Dr. Annika Kim to the stand."
"Very well," the judge said. He turned to Annika and asked her to stand. "Dr. Kim, as an alien on our world, we must ask whether you will tell the full truth and nothing but the truth to this court, to the best of your ability from beginning to end. How do you answer?"
"I swear that all my words will express the full truth in the protection of my rights as a citizen of the United Federation of Planets," she replied.
The judge nodded in acceptance and allowed the prosecutor to proceed. With a PADD in his hand, he walked over close to the accused box and looked at her for several moments before asking his first question. "Dr. Kim, can you please describe for me what it is like to be a drone."
"I cannot," she replied quickly.
The prosecutor huffed. "Why not? Do you feel that such a description will remind you of your past?"
"No, I simply cannot answer because any description I give will not be the full truth."
"In what sense?"
Annika remained resolute. "No individual can fully understand the reality of being a Borg drone. To simply state that you hear thousands of voices in your mind is only part of the truth. To say that you are part of a greater Collective is only part of the truth. To say that you have no free will is only part of the truth."
"So you are saying that you do have free will as a drone?"
"Not as you would describe it. There is awareness…"
"And where there is awareness, there is will. Isn’t that true, Doctor?"
"I cannot answer that question," Annika stated.
"Because my answer would not be the full truth. I was but a single drone. I cannot answer for the entire Collective consciousness."
"But they are a part of you, are they not?" the prosecutor asked.
"They were a part of me, yes. However, I have spent the better part of my life to rid myself of that existence."
"You mean to say you have been trying to move on in your life?"
Annika paused momentarily before answering, "Yes."
The prosecutor smiled and turned to the judges. "Your Honors, we have heard a most enlightening account from a past Borg drone, and a very fascinating account, if I may add. But more importantly, and very relevant to this case, from Dr. Kim’s eye-opening explanation, we see a classic case of denial, rejection, subjection and willful ignorance of the past–clear indications that she has something to hide."
Naomi was infuriated by the accusation and stood up to address the judge. "Your Honor, I object to that statement!"
The judge gave a scolding look at her direction. "Lieutenant Wildman, need I remind you again that you are not to speak in this courtroom unless spoken to, and you have no right to object during the prosecution’s argument of his case."
Bartok gently, but firmly held Naomi’s arm and nudged her to her seat to which she complied.
The judge looked to the prosecutor and said, "You were saying?"
"Your Honors, it is well documented, both on our world and in Dr. Kim’s, that denial is a very powerful way for someone to deal with the psychological shock of a traumatic event. A victim blocks out the memory of an attack, a family relocates after the death of a loved one, and a criminal can change his identity, both in his mind as well as on paper, to deal with the effects of his actions.
"Your Honors, here sits a creature that has done the same as any one of countless billions of Sarpedians who changed their identity to block out the past. She changed her name, changed her character, and changed her past history to rebuild a new life as the person we see here today. Such a grand transformation is clearly indicative of an equally grand crime that she is unwilling to resolve."
The prosecutor paused in his arguments as he walked back to the prosecution’s table to pick up another PADD. He turned back to the judges and said, "Your Honors, up to this point, what I have said is pure supposition and pertinent theory. But here and now, I will prove the truthfulness of our case with facts from Dr. Kim’s personal history."
He walked over to Annika again and began to ask questions. "Dr. Kim, is it not true that in the Earth year of 2374, you falsely accused a man of assault, a trader by the name of Korvin?"
"Yes," she said quietly.
"And this was the result of misdirected memories where you assumed an assault was done by Korvin, but in fact it was done by you to someone else?"
Annika tilted her head downwards and closed her eyes in remorse. "Yes."
"And these memories were of you assimilating another individual."
"Yes," she whispered.
The prosecutor turned to the judges and said, "Your Honors, here is but one example–directly from her life–where she tried to tuck her torturous past away and blaming another individual for her own evil crimes. And worst of all, she inflicted this harm on a man who lived by his reputation. By falsely accusing him of assault, his life was over, and he killed himself shortly after the incident.
"We in the prosecution believe that this example unequivocally shows how, even with, or perhaps because of her full capacity for free will, she chose to try and transfer the full responsibility of her actions on to someone else. She was fully aware of her actions as a drone, those memories etched into the technologically modified brain, and she did everything she could to deny their existence. She denied to herself the responsibility of her actions, and an innocent man died as a result.
"Now, if this was just one case, it could be considered an anomaly and discarded as a mistake, a horrific mistake. But in fact, such situations continued to occur in the following months and years ahead."
The prosecutor turned again to Annika and asked her, "During the following year, did you not experience a form of multiple personality disorder, where you experienced a multitude of neural signatures of assimilated drones?"
Annika sighed. "Yes, but they were not caused by me. It was the result of an infected vinculum that was emitting random signatures that my cortical implant detected."
"Yes, I see that in the report," the prosecutor said. "But my point is that, as the personalities flooded into your mind, your own personality began to fade away. Without medical attention from your crewmates, your personality would have been lost."
The prosecutor grinned and turned to address the judges. "Your Honors, here is another case where the weight of her guilt played so heavily in a difficult situation, that she was willing to lose herself to the different minds filling her body, rather than ultimately face the consequences of her atrocities as a Borg. If it wasn’t for the dedication of her crewmates to save her, she would have succeeded and killed herself that day."
Naomi Wildman was bubbling with frustration at the sheer lies the prosecution was exclaiming. In no way did Annika, then Seven of Nine, want to kill herself. She wanted to live, as herself, and live out her humanity. ‘For heaven’s sake, I was with her that day!’ Naomi thought to herself. She wrote down on a PADD this part of the prosecution’s case, because it was something she was intent on addressing when the time came.
The prosecutor continued his case. "Up to this point, we have labored to prove that Annika Kim has something to hide. We now get to see what it is she has done. Clearly, as a Borg drone, her purpose is to serve the Collective. And this invariably involves actively participating in the assimilation of another species. In her record, there are many instances where her active participation in assimilation came back to haunt her." He turned to Annika again and asked, "For example, Dr. Kim, do you remember what happened on Stardate 53049.2 on your calendar?"
"Yes. Three drones who had been severed from the Collective came to me because they remained interconnected."
"And why did they come to you?"
"Because they believed I was the cause of their lack of individuality."
"And were you?"
"In fact, Dr. Kim, were you not the one who connected their minds together?"
"When you crash landed on a planet and were disconnected with the Collective, you were given free will and decided to impose a hive mind on them, didn’t you."
Annika could not speak. "Didn’t you?" the prosecutor asked more forcefully.
"So rather than allow them to regain their individuality, you re-assimilated them again. Injecting them with your own nanoprobes and reprogramming them with your own Collective. A linked mind that ultimately led to their early death because they could not exist without the connection you created."
"Yes," she barely uttered, looking down on the ground in front of her.
He turned to the judges and said, "Your Honors, we have virtually a full confession of her explicit act in assimilating another individual–three other individuals–and forever affected their lives until their untimely death. But how this willfulness relates to our world, will be seen now. I call as my next witness, Tressa Marton, a woman who was a direct witness of the Tribulation 35 years ago."
The doors behind the audience opened and a middle aged Sarpedian woman entered the room. She must have been in her late forties, early fifties, Naomi thought. There was a perpetual forlornness in her facial expression as she walked up the centre isle to the witness stand beside the judges’ bench in front of the prosecution table. She looked as if the life was drained out of her, a distinctive paleness in her complexion. She gave a Sarpedian Oath of Truth before the prosecutor continued with his case. "Madame Marton, can you please give us a brief description of where you were during the Tribulation."
I can still see and hear and smell the horrors so clearly still," she said wistfully. "Explosions were everywhere; they were loud and soft, forceful and distant. I kept hearing people screaming as they streamed past my home on the second floor of my housing complex. I shielded myself with a metallic plate that covered the width of my waist. I don’t know why the Borg didn’t come after me, but maybe that plate blocked me from their sensors…The screaming was so constant and so loud…" she said as her mind seemed to drift and her eyes glazed over, presumably with shock.
The prosecutor touched her hand to regain her attention, and she recoiled immediately, her revealing tremendous fear. "I did not mean to startle you, Ms Marton. But I wanted you to look at a picture for me and tell me if you know her."
"Okay," she said childishly.
The prosecutor pushed a button on the PADD in his hands and a screen came down from the wall above the accused box, opposite the witness stand. A picture of the current Annika displayed on the screen. "Do you know this woman?" the prosecutor asked.
Marton looked at the image for a long time, squinting to get a good look at the picture and to remember if she knew that woman. After a long pause, she said, "No. I have never met this person in my whole life."
"Thank you Ms. Marton," the prosecutor said kindly. "Now, what about this image?" he asked, pushing another button and revealing an old, full-body image of Seven of Nine.
The fearful look she gave the prosecutor when he touched her hands returned to Marton’s face and magnified every second the image remained on the wall. "Yes, YES, YES!!–I KNOW THAT FACE!" she screamed.
The prosecutor fumbled his PADD for the button before removing the image. "Who was that drone?" he asked.
"She was the one who came to my room. I was watching the people on the ground, running frantically away from two-dozen drones following them. One of them looked up at me and saw I was there and marched into my building. That picture was of the drone that came into my home and was walking towards me…"
"What did she do?" the prosecutor asked.
Marton held her breath for a moment before answering. "She broke open my front door and looked for me. I didn’t move and was still near the window, and that was where she found me. But, she did nothing to me. She marched five steps at my direction and then suddenly stopped. Moments later she dematerialized. I looked down in the streets and the Borg were gone and the explosions had stopped."
The prosecutor returned the image of Annika on the wall and asked again, "Are you sure you don’t know this woman?"
"Yes, I’m sure."
"Really?" the prosecutor asked, slowly bringing together a close-up of Seven of Nine’s face and that of an older Annika. Marton looked closely at the two images and realized what she was seeing. "That woman is the Borg I saw!"
"That woman, Ms. Marton, is sitting in this room."
She looked at the accused box and her face contorted as her lips frowned and her eyebrows furled downward in anger. "That woman assimilated dozens of people as they attacked in the streets. I saw her take a crying baby and inject her nanoprobes into that innocent little boy. His crying had stopped and he was immediately beamed away, probably to a Borg ship."
"So you are saying that this woman sitting in the accused box, was here as a drone 35 years ago during the Tribulation."
"Yes!" she said angrily. "She’s the one!"
The prosecutor put a hand on her shoulder to calm her down before saying, "Thank you, Ms. Marton. You may step down now."
As she stepped down, the prosecutor addressed the judges. "Your Honors, Ms. Marton is a witness to the fact that Dr. Kim was here as a drone, and played a direct role in the Tribulation. But aside from direct witness, we have documentary proof as well."
The prosecutor pushed a button on his PADD and another image appeared on the wall above Annika, this time of encrypted Borg code. "What we have here is a computerized record of the Borg’s activity that came directly from a neural processor of a killed drone during the Tribulation. Now, up to this point, we have never been able to decipher the Borg language, but with the help of the Federation database, where we found the decryption key to the Borg language, we found this," he pushed a button and the image translated into readable words, with the word ‘Seven of Nine’ bolded on the screen.
"Damn," Bartok whispered as he expressed a grimaced look at Naomi.
"Dr. Kim, may I ask, what was your Borg designation."
She sighed and paused before answering. "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One."
"Thank you, Doctor. As you can see, your Honors, that designation appeared on the drone manifest found in this drone’s processor–clear evidence that Dr. Kim was here on the planet 35 years ago. And with Madame Marton’s testimony, proves that she was a willful participant in the attempted genocide of our people and our way of life. By assimilating one, perhaps out of dozens of babies and children, she showed a blatant disregard for the value of individual life, and thus participated in a great crime against the Sarpedian people."
The prosecutor returned to the prosecution’s table and addressed the judges again. "Your Honors, what we have shown you this morning is a mere glimpse at the long history of terror and evil that Dr. Kim has tried so hard to ignore, paying little respect to all those she helped assimilate and take from us and our world. She, along with her fellow drones, brought havoc, death and destruction to our world that we have still not recovered from."
"We have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she has something to hide, and that secret was her participation in our worlds Tribulation by the Borg. As a drone, she had intent, and she exercised it with Borg perfection. In light of the necessities of time, we have limited our evidence to what has been provided, and in the interests of planetary security, we has for a speedy decision of guilt and of sentence. With this we respectfully conclude our case against the defendant."
"The Chief Justice nodded his head once to affirm the conclusion of the prosecution’s presentation and stated to the everyone in the room. "This court will now be in recess and will return to order later this evening with the presentation of the defense’s case." The Chief Justice raised his gavel and hit the gong, ending the first part of the trial.
Both Bartok and Wildman sat in their seats, numb by the experience. Naomi looked up in time to catch a glimpse of Annika look in her direction–a stoic look that showed neither success nor defeat. Naomi wished she had that confidence.
Walking back from the courtroom to her cell, hard tears flowed from Annika’s eyes, flowing down an expressionless face, burdened with traumatized eyes. Against the desire of every fiber in her being, she was forced to relive some of the most difficult memories from her Borg existence. As she walked to her cell down a long reinforced concrete tunnel, she simply wished she could assimilate herself and let it all be done with. Give the Sarpedians what they want and simply be done with it.
The guards seemed unaffected by an emotional prisoner in their midst. They walked just as briskly as ever, prodding her along whenever she started to fall behind, or drift slower because of her grief. There was no pity, no compassion, no warmth towards Annika from the guards. Only a march back to her cell in wait for the defense.
As she walked into her cell and the forcefield was re-energized, her tears transformed into sobs of anguish as she cried into a pillow on her bed. She couldn’t hold in the grief and the guilt and the responsibility of assimilating and harming all those countless people 35 years ago. She may not have remembered the woman, or even assimilating the baby, but regardless of the facts, she knew of her participation and it scraped her spirit raw inside.
The open flesh of her soul expired any sense of hope in seeing anyone she loved again, and that realization only added force to her guttural sobs, slightly muted only by an increasingly damp pillow. She wanted to see Katrina, but she could not. She wanted to be with Harry, but she could not. She wanted to be free of her past, but she could not.
She cried until her eyes were sore; she wept until her voice was hoarse. She whimpered hopelessly until her consciousness fell asleep. And she lived in her dream what was apparently far from reality for Annika Kim.
In his quarters, the Captain leaned back in his chair trying to calm himself after watching the entire trial on screen. He was growing increasingly worried about the fate of his wife that was being decided on the planet below. The prosecution’s case was exceptionally well developed, undoubtedly because of the skills of the Sarpedian lawyers.
Just thinking about everything they presented in the case, it was hard even for the Captain of the Enterprise to find a way around their clearly laid out attack. It was flawless, with the most damning piece of evidence being the Sarpedian witness and the Borg neural processor data. What made it even worse was the fact that he had given them all the arsenal they needed to convict Annika. The guilt in knowing his actions led to the death of his wife and the mother of his child was almost impossible to bear, and yet it flooded his consciousness like lava. A helplessness burned through him, the tension tightening countless muscles in his face, his throat, his chest. For that moment all he thought about was his wife standing beside him, so close that he could embrace her soft, tender body, feel the blood pulsing through her, hear the beat of her heart. He wanted to be there to protect her; he wanted her to caress his yearning spirit. He wanted her home.
For the moment he thought long about Kalan’s foreboding words, ‘You may be able to save her life or save Fleet Command’s hope of an alliance with these people, but not both.’ At this moment, he cared only about Annika, and said to himself that as long as she was safe, everything would be okay. There were plenty of other solar systems in the Delta Quadrant, and many with great technologies that could be traded for. This would not have been the first time that an unexpected circumstance hardened relations between the Federation and a new world.
He had sounded so certain with Commander Kalan that a torpedo attack on the planetary shield was out of the question, but the truth was that part of him, deep down, had seriously given thought to implementing the plan and damn the consequences. Anything to get his Annika back safe to him. But he knew that he couldn’t let it go that far, not even for the love of his life. To save three lives at the cost of thousands would not only be immoral and unethical, it was purely inhumane. The Enterprise would not only create a bad relationship with the Sarpedians, but undoubtedly word of their misdeeds would pollute the Delta Quadrant, further inhibiting their ability to build any significant friendships. During its day, Voyager had acquired a mostly unfair reputation as being a ship of death among some of the worlds of this quadrant. He would not let the good name of Enterprise be sullied by literally becoming a harbinger of destruction for people who had already suffered enough.
Harry sighed hopelessly knowing that this intellectual exercise brought him back to the same place: no options. He remained just as helpless as he was a few moments earlier. He wondered of other captains ever faced the same dilemma alone and unrecorded–facing a rock and a hard place with only the knowledge, experience and intuition locked in his human brain.
"D-dad?" came a weak voice from behind him. He turned around to see his daughter standing, looking lost and alone.
"Katrina," he said softly, not sure what to tell her to make everything all right.
"She’s going to come back, isn’t she?" she said desperately as she trembled in the dim lighting. "I mean, you’ve got a plan, right? You always have a plan."
"Sure, princess," Harry said, not convincing to anyone. "Your mother will be back. She…she has people down there fighting for her. People she and I trust with our lives."
In an adjacent conference room near the courtroom chamber, Wildman, and Bartok thought in silence on opposite sides of a long table, overwhelmed by the seemingly near-impossible task of defending their friend. As an act of kindness, First Council Gartou had graciously arranged for Annika to be with her advocates, so as to be properly prepared for the defense phase of the trial. Bartok was contemplatively looking out one of the three large windows in the room. Naomi paced back and forth, her arms crossed tightly. "I can’t believe you let them get away with all their lies and manipulations of the facts!" Naomi burst out angrily.
Annika gazed downward and calmly spoke. "I knew that I could not fight the system, and that any attempt at doing so would be more detrimental to my case. It is not relevant anyway."
"What are you talking about?" Naomi shouted. "Their system of justice is so blatantly unfair!"
"To our standards, perhaps," said Bartok.
"Naomi, we cannot interfere in the traditions and laws that govern their society," he said rationally.
"Even if it means Annika will die?"
"Perhaps this is justice," said Annika somberly. "Why should they be deprived of what they are entitled to?"
"Annika, I can’t believe you’re saying this," said Naomi fervently. "This is your life we’re talking about. Are you saying you don’t even care if you live or die? What about your family, your friends, everything you’ve built up and contributed over the years. You can’t expect me to believe that none of that matters to you!"
"My life matters very much to me," said Annika. "Do you think I would throw it away so casually, knowing the pain it would cause to Harry and Katrina and so many others? But I cannot escape the fact that I am guilty of everything that the Sarpedians have accused me of."
"I know that!" she snapped. "But…oh god, Annika! If you knew all that, then why the hell did you ever set foot on this planet? Didn’t you even consider the possibility that something like this might happen?"
"Nothing like this," said the older woman vacantly. "I expected hatred, perhaps expulsion, assuming I were discovered. But nothing upon this level. I never imagined the depth of the pain I helped to inflict on Sarpedon."
Finn could not help but empathize with what she was feeling. It was no less easy for him to hear all the negative evidence against his friend and captain’s wife. The look on the Sarpedian woman’s face was particularly disturbing. Seeing her face, he realized the severe ramifications of Annika’s past as a drone. Like most people, he thought it was fascinating that Annika was a liberated drone, a great asset to the Federation against a mortal enemy. Meeting her, getting to know her, she was more like a unique life form than either completely human or Borg. She was special.
Bartok wondered if the experience of the Sarpedian woman was not unlike that of the Jews looking into the eyes of their Nazi tormentors following the Second World War. The anger and disgust he saw in her eyes was a disturbing look into the Sarpedian soul. To see it aimed at his friend, Annika, made him feel uncertain where his morality lay.
"Then why come back? Why the secret?" said Bartok amiably, more counselor now than advocate. "Everyone who knows you knows the things you did as a drone. None of us could possibly hate you for that. Was there something so important here that you had to see for yourself?"
Annika was silent for a long time before finally speaking up. "These past twenty-three years, I have been…happy, more happy than I ever thought I could be, or deserved to be. My life in the Federation, my marriage, the bonds I have formed…there were times that I could forget that any of my years with the Borg ever took place. That it was all a dream." She then looked up desperately at Finn, her eyes trembling with anguish. "Then there came Sarpedon. I knew…I knew what had been done here, what I had done. I saw the images they sent, the tales of their cities and their civilizations. I simply had to see…if they too had put their lives together again, if the pain was now behind them as well."
"To assuage your guilt," said Bartok sagely. "If a world you helped to assimilate could move on from the past, then so could you. Is that it?"
"Perhaps," said Annika, her tone more dejected than ever. "But my shame was a selfish act. I have put my life at risk and well as yours, caused anguish to my family, and likely endangered the Enterprise’s mission. I thought only of myself, and gave no consideration to the consequences. It would seem that despite the passage of time since Voyager, I have grown only older, but not necessarily wiser."
"Don’t talk like that, Annika," said Bartok. "It’s not over yet."
"You are ever the optimist, Finn Bartok," said Annika with a forced smile. "But I fear that reality may yet leave your hopes undone."
They heard a knock on the door, and saw Gartou enter the room. He smiled, but Bartok sensed it was a forced smile. "Your performance this morning was, shall we say, unique," Gartou said of Naomi’s unprecedented outbursts.
Bartok said, "My apologizes, First Council. We didn’t prepare enough for the procedural aspect of the trial."
Gartou shook his head. "It’s not your fault, Commander Bartok. If anything it’s mine. I neglected you from the moment you were put into custody, and in the process I have lied to you."
"We understand that you are a very busy man, First Council."
"All thanks to the Isolationists," Gartou said with disgust. "They pulled every trick possible to keep me preoccupied so I couldn’t help you before the trial. They’ve been maneuvering ever since Dr. Kim was arrested. I should never have…" His voice trailed off in midstream as he glanced over to see Annika sitting silently at the table. It was the first time that Gartou had had the opportunity to look upon her since her arrest, but now he was looking at her in a much more…uncertain light.
The First Council stared at the former drone intently, as though he were searching for something lost within the features of her face. "I look at you," he said with bewilderment, "and I don’t know what to make of you. Are you a victim or are you a monster?"
"Perhaps," said Annika sadly, "I am something of both."
"Make no mistake, Dr. Kim," said Gartou, "I hate what you and the Collective did to my world and my people. Rationally, I know a drone has no control over his or her actions. But these are not times of reason on Sarpedon. The people want their vengeance."
"And yet, you have shown me every consideration," said Annika softly. "You have been compassionate and principled when every political calculation should have informed you to lead the charge against me. Why?"
"I…I too, like many on Sarpedon, lost family during the Tribulation. Uncles, aunts, cousins…but there was one cousin in particular. Janosh was like a brother to me. He was taken early during the Borg attack, snatched away by drones and never seen again."
"Then you, as much as anyone, would have cause to despise me," said Annika.
"I suppose I do," said Gartou. "But I also think of my cousin, somewhere out there, most likely still trapped in the Collective. I see you here before me, a woman freed from the clutches of an unimaginable evil who has recreated a life for herself. I suppose I want to believe that there is still a possibility that Janosh could one day be severed from the Collective, that a new life might be available for him as well. That’s what I see most of all with you, Dr. Kim. I see the possibility of hope, both for Janosh and all the other Sarpedons, that one day they might all come home to us again, and become the people they were meant to be."
Naomi then saw the wild look on the counselor’s face. Something had obviously just gotten him excited. "What’s the matter?" she asked.
"I think I’ve found it!" Bartok exclaimed excitedly. "First Council, I believe you may have just given us our defense!"
"But what about all the millions of angry victims out there who lost loved ones to the Borg?" asked Naomi. "Have you forgotten them?"
"Forgotten them?" said Bartok, the gleam back in his eyes. "Lieutenant, I’m positively counting on them."
Several hours later, they had returned to a full courtroom with both Gartou and Senator Nikkan in the audience. Nikkan sat behind the full prosecution bench while Gartou sat behind Bartok and Wildman across the dividing banister. All the judges entered the room and the gong sounded to commence the second half of the case.
After a moment of silence as the judges organized themselves, Bartok stood and waited to be addressed. See him immediately, the Chief Justice said, "You may proceed with your defense, Commander Bartok."
"Thank you, your Honor," said Bartok. "As our esteemed opponents in the prosecution have very effectively shown, Annika Kim was an unfortunate participant in the Borg attack of your world 35 years ago. It is an experience that I know Annika has regretted being a part of. Undoubtedly, she has felt an extraordinary amount of guilt that has only magnified since coming to your world."
"If I were in the same position as you, I would feel the same desire for justice, for vengeance against the great loss that you have all been dealt from the Borg. Our Federation and other major civilizations on our side of the galaxy have also experienced the same devastation, death and chaos that the Borg inflicted. When the Borg first came to our world, hundreds of ships were lost and thousands of officers and civilians were killed or assimilated. Entire colonies were destroyed. The families of those officers and explorers felt the same great loss that you have all experienced. And the families of those explorers grieved the same as you do to this day."
"Like the people of Sarpedon, our people have questioned if exploration and colonization are worth the risk. They wonder if they should just stay at home and enjoy the life that generations of people have dedicated their lives to building."
"But Annika Kim represents one of many great achievements that come with our exploration of the galaxy. As we expanded our travels into the unknown, we opened our eyes to the wonderful encounters with species that have done nothing but enhance and improve the lives of countless trillions of beings that live in peace across the galaxy. Societies that were once at war, engaging in conflict because of past misdeeds, past misunderstandings, and past injustices now live in peace because they made the conscious and moral decision to overcome their anger, hatred and prejudice against one another.
"Annika herself has played a key role in nurturing mutual understanding between the Federation and another great civilization, the Romulans. Fourteen years ago, she and Captain Kim adopted an orphaned Romulan baby who had lost her parents in a destabilizing civil war that devastated their homeworld and entire way of life. To support those suffering on Romulus, she has cared for, loved, and nurtured that innocent child into an intelligent, energetic, hopeful young woman. Undoubtedly she yearns to see her mother again."
"The prosecution has also taken great pains to show how Dr. Kim blatantly tried to hide her Borg history, doing everything in her power to ignore, forget and even wipe out the memories of her life as a drone. I would counter, however, that she has done nothing but the opposite–dedicating her life to the moral pursuit of helping anyone from their terrible suffering."
"Your Honors, the three drones that the prosecution mentioned did not die because of Annika’s actions. Rather, they lived a peaceful life as individuals, separated from each other by Annika herself. She knew that they would die without their interconnectedness, but she granted them their choice of living a short life as individuals, rather than an entire existence as Borg drones. Rather than bring them back to the Collective, she willfully freed them of the purgatory they suffered from the Borg. Annika did not assimilate these individuals, but in the end saved them from their suffering. Rather than let them live supposedly forever as drones, she listened to their request and severed their connection, helping them gain a peace they had sought ever since they were freed from the Collective."
"The prosecution also made great strides to suggest that she was simply a perpetrator of crimes against Sarpedon as a drone, but I must state that Annika too is just like all of you: a victim of her past, forced to live with losses that, as of yet, have remained unresolved."
Turning to Annika in the accused box, he said, "To prove my assertions, I call Annika Kim to the stand."
"Very well, Mr. Bartok. Proceed," the Chief Justice said.
Bartok turned to Annika and gave a reassuring smile. She gave a muted smile back. "Dr. Kim, do you regret being a drone?"
"Yes. Each day I live with the knowledge and memory that my existence was used to destroy another species’ way of life against their will."
"But have you not gained anything from the experience?" Bartok asked.
"I do not see anything in my life as a gain or loss, but a simple set of facts and experience. I have gained nothing but remorse and contempt for what I was."
"So would you consider yourself a victim of the Borg?"
"I have been used as an instrument of destruction." She raised her right hand and said, "This hand has been used to assimilate countless individuals. This same hand that I used to nurture my child…"
"How do you live with that knowledge?"
"One moment at a time," she said softly. "I have gone through the countless times I have assimilated other individuals and wondered if I could have stopped myself from complying. Perhaps I could have, but simply didn’t because the lure of the Collective was so strong."
"Is that an excuse?"
"No…it is a fact. As I said to the prosecutor, all drones maintain their distinctiveness, but it is tailored to the needs of the Collective."
"So, you did not want to assimilate other beings."
"No, I did not."
"You were a victim of chemical, biological and technological subversion?"
"Yes," Annika said.
Bartok turned to the judges and said, "As you can see your Honors, rather than being a consenting individual in the assault on your world, she was given no choice. She was a victim of a totalitarian force that imposed its mentality over her individuality."
Turning back to Annika he said softly, "I’m sorry I have to ask you this." He raised his voice and asked, "What biological functions have you lost as a result of being a drone?"
She paused uncomfortably before answering. "As a result of my Borg implants…I have…lost my ability to conceive."
"Which means you cannot have children."
"How does that make you feel?"
"I feel that my humanity has been taken away…ripped away…and can never be returned. Who I am…who I have become…will end the day I die."
"In other words, because of your past, you have no future."
Annika tried to maintain her composure. "Yes," she whispered.
Bartok turned to the judges and looked into the eyes of each of them before speaking. "Your Honors, the prosecution has maintained that Dr. Kim suffered only from guilt from her past, but as you can clearly see, she lives with more than just guilt. She lives with a horrible tragedy inflicted by the Borg on her own existence. She has been wounded–scarred in virtually identical ways as any one of the victims on your world. I must ask you whether you can live with sending to her death another victim of the Borg assault."
Bartok paused to let his arguments sink in. All five judges appeared somewhat uncomfortable with what he had said, so he assumed he was making the right impact. Noting the pause, the Chief Justice said, "Please continue, Commander Bartok."
"Your Honors, I fully realize that the life Dr. Kim has led cannot atone for the crimes she was accomplice to on your world. Perhaps nothing can atone for the great loss any civilization has felt with a Borg attack."
Looking out into the public benches, he stated, "But what is perhaps more disturbing is the precedent you may set here today regarding the potential future of those that were lost 35 years ago."
A hushed murmur of surprise erupted over the crowd. "That’s right!" he exclaimed. "If you are all intent on killing a single Borg drone in a symbolic attempt at justice, you are declaring the millions of people assimilated by the Borg to be equally guilty!"
The crowd’s voices increased to a roar that forced the Chief Justice to sound the gavel to regain order. As the audience calmed itself, Bartok continued. "Your Honors, before I present proof of my claims, I wish to call to the stand Senator Nikkan of the canton Frumiseh."
A surprised senator looked in surprise at Bartok and then the judges, before complying with the request. After entering the witness stand and giving his Oath of Truth, Bartok asked him, "Senator, you are a strong opponent to opening relations with offworlders, are you not?"
"Because I, and many people who share my views, believe that doing so presents an unnecessary risk that could bring the return of the Borg."
Bartok paused, thinking about Nikkan’s response. "You fear the Borg."
"Of course!" he replied. "They brought chaos and death to our world. They have altered our way of life, taken our heritage, and erased our peace of mind."
"Did you lose anyone in the Tribulation, Senator?"
A resentful look came on his face. "Yes."
"My grandparents. Three cousins. An aunt and uncle, in addition to over a dozen family friends."
"You knew them well?" Bartok asked.
"Yes. They were some of the best people I ever knew. I was so honored to be a part of their family. I miss them greatly."
"I can certainly understand that, Senator," he said compassionately. "It’s not easy to lose so many people all at once. I lost a close friend to the Borg when they attempted to assimilate my world, 27 years ago. He was only a cadet in Starfleet Academy. Nineteen years old." Bartok recollected with a smile. But his smile fell as soon as it came. "His ship was destroyed as a Borg cube approached my world. He stayed behind so that others like myself could be safely evacuated from our ship. Is that what happened to you, Senator? Did you witness the death of family members and friends?"
"Actually, no. I was in school at the time of the attack. I didn’t even know their fates until days after the Borg left."
"So you don’t know if they were killed or assimilated."
"No…I don’t. Their bodies were never found."
"I see. Well, let me paint a picture for you, Senator. Let us say that you are correct and that the presence of our ship and the resumption of trade between your world and neighboring worlds attracts the attention of the Borg, and several cubes return to finish what they started. And so the drones come and beam all over the planet, attacking unarmed civilians, injecting them with nanoprobes and beaming them to their ship to complete assimilation. And a group of drones come to your office, intent on adding your distinctiveness to their own–"
"I would do everything I could to destroy them," the Senator said nervously.
"–You manage to lock them out of your office, but they are pounding at your door. There is no escape. They break the door down and march in your direction; their laser eyepieces focus all on you. And as they move closer," Bartok paused, "you see it is your grandfather."
"That’s ridiculous!" Nikkan exclaimed.
"Is it?" Bartok asked loudly. "What if you saw that drone was your grandfather? What would you do?"
"It’s not a reality–my grandfather is dead!"
"Are you sure, Senator? Because you said there was no body. What if he was alive right now as a drone, suffering under the oppression of the Collective mind, his free will suppressed as his body was ordered to comply with a relentless will intent on taking all that is good in the galaxy and twisting it to their end? Would he too be guilty of crimes against others? Would he also be on trial here today?"
"Never!" Nikkan cried out. "My grandfather was a good man! A compassionate man! He’d never have done…he’d never do anything to hurt anyone else!"
"Not even if he were assimilated by the Borg?" asked Bartok. "How can you be sure, Senator? How do you know what your loved ones, assimilated as drones, are out there doing to other innocent people as we speak? What if one of those races managed to capture your lost loved ones and severed them from the Collective, as was the case with Annika Kim? Would they deserve to be punished for their actions as well? Would you punish them, Senator?"
Nikkan didn’t say a word. "Well, Senator? Would you punish them?" Bartok pressed.
Nikkan remained silent, shaking his head, unsure of what to believe, what to do. Bartok turned to the judges and asked, "What would you do?" Turning to the audience, he asked, "What would you do?"
The courtroom was silent for several moments as Bartok let his question sink in. The faces that were once so determined for vengeance were filled with uncertainty. Some had tears in their eyes. Others just looked blankly forward.
After a long pause, Bartok walked closer to Nikkan and looked him in the eye. "Well, Senator? What is your answer?"
"I…it’s not the same thing," he said weakly. "Our people…they wouldn’t do anything like that. They couldn’t. They aren’t like her at all."
"And Dr. Kim would?" said Bartok. "She herself was assimilated by the Borg 45 years ago. Young Annika Hansen lost her humanity as a child–when she was just six years old–and lost her parents as well. Do you expect everyone here to believe that a six year old girl would harbor thoughts of genocide?"
"But it’s not the same at all!" Nikkan cried out desperately, trying to convince himself as much as everyone else in the room. "She isn’t one of us! She’s an outsider!"
"On the contrary," said Bartok to the audience in the public benches, "Annika Kim is one of you. She is an individual being who was victimized and transformed by the Borg. And while her life was forever changed by the event, at her core, she is a human being–flesh and blood. What makes her different is not what planet she was born on or what race she belongs to. What distinguishes her from your loved ones is the fact that she survived. She lived to walk away and reclaim her freedom. And this happened, ladies and gentlemen, because 27 years ago, the crew of a lost starship felt compassion for a drone severed from the Collective. And that compassion reaped its own rewards a million times over."
Turning back to the judges, he said, "If you condemn Dr. Annika Kim to her death, you condemn the millions of Sarpedians who were assimilated in the great Tribulation. You condemn them all to an eternity of guilt and punishment, never to taste the freedom and equality that this courtroom, and Sarpedian society represents and cherishes. For by sentencing Annika Kim to death, you say that in essence there is no hope for all the loved ones who were taken away from you. For if Annika Kim is guilty for the crimes committed against your people, then surely those Sarpedians assimilated are equally undeserving of mercy."
"Your Honors, you have a great opportunity here to create a precedent that could affect your world for countless generations to come. You can condemn Annika to her death for being a victim of Borg atrocities, or you can usher in a new era of compassion and trust that will bring greater security, new hope, and immeasurable peace and prosperity to your world." Turning to the audience, he said to them, "It is up to you."
The area around Annika’s detention cell was very quiet after she was returned there. Annika slowly paced back and forth from behind the forcefield. Finn and Naomi stood outside her cell between the two guards, waiting for the decision that would determine the fate of their friend, and the outcome of their mission.
"You did a great job out there, Finn," Naomi said warmly.
"I hope it was enough," he said softly as he gazed at Annika’s face.
They heard quick steps approach Annika’s cell, and from around a corner came Gartou. The guards stood at attention as he approached. "I was told I would find you here," he said to Naomi and Finn.
"Do you have news?" Naomi asked.
"No, not yet," Gartou replied. "But I thought it would be appropriate for me to be with you as the fate of both our worlds gets decided."
"Your presence honors us, First Council."
"As does yours, Commander Bartok. It has been an eye-opening experience to struggle alongside you in this time of great turmoil within our society. What you have done here today, no matter what the outcome, is plant the seed for cooperation within the psyche of our civilization. When we see the stars in the night sky, we can no longer look with blinded, hateful eyes."
"I hope we are successful, Gartou."
"As do I," he said firmly. Turning to Annika, he asked, "How are you feeling?"
"I am understandably anxious, First Council."
Stepping closer to the forcefield, he said softly, "I’m sorry to put you through all this, Dr. Kim. We have done a grave injustice to you, opening old wounds that you tried so hard to heal and repair. It was unjust for us to inflict that suffering upon you."
Annika gave an emotional sigh. "Perhaps they were not as healed as you think, First Council. I brought us here in the name of the Delta Fleet, but deep down I had this insatiable concern about the suffering I caused on your world, and on countless other worlds. I have never fully dealt with the pain…perhaps I never will."
"Then, I must express my most sincere appreciation to you for your return, because you may have brought us to a new level of self-awareness that not even my father thought was possible. You have awakened us from our self-pity, and opened our eyes to the darkness within that was decaying our way of life."
At that moment the guard who had been sitting quietly at his console got up and walked towards Annika and stood beside Gartou. Instead of his usual disdainful look, he looked thoughtful, gazing into Annika’s eyes, searching, wondering. "Is there something I can help you with officer?" Gartou asked.
The guard broke his gaze and straightened his posture to attention after being spoken to by his commander-in-chief. "No thank you, sir."
"At ease, Mr–"
"Rehthal, First Council. Officer Rehthal."
"What were you looking for, Mr. Rehthal?" he asked in a casual tone.
"To be honest, sir, I am not sure…Hearing the defense today, I couldn’t help but think about all the people who were lost. Perhaps I was seeing if she really believed it was possible to live a normal life again after…after going through what she did."
"It is, Mr. Rehthal," Annika said. "It will not be a simple, nor a short-term process, but it is possible."
He looked at her intently once more before he paused and returned to his console. The forcefield came down.
"What are you doing?" one of the guards asked Rehthal.
"I’m letting her go," he said flatly. "She may have been a drone, but if she can come back and be healed, then maybe my sister can to."
Annika cautiously looked at the gateway and then quickly stepped out. She walked over to Rehthal and said, "I can make no promises that your sister can be found," she said sadly. "The Collective is vast."
"I know, but at least now I know that its possible. That’s more than my family had yesterday," he said confidently just before his console started to beep. He pushed a button and a voice echoed in the detention center. "Bring the accused. The judges have returned with their decision."
From the stuffy, ceremonial atmosphere that defined the trial earlier in the day, the courtroom resembled a mass gathering as citizens of all stripes and social classes crammed the public benches to standing-only room. It was a clear violation of court procedure, but the court security officers could do very little to limit the number of people who wanted to witness in person the decision of all five Sarpedian judges.
Annika stood in the accused box, without a forcefield, and with guards surrounding her–not to keep her confined, but protected. Given the massive shifts in public opinion, no one wanted to risk any fundamentalist attack on Annika and her defense advocates.
As the judges entered the chamber, each noted the over-capacity crowd in the public benches, but seemed understanding and did nothing to clear the court or reprimand security. The Chief Justice struck his gavel and the gong-like sound echoed throughout the room, calling all to silence. The center judge took a deep breath before he began his presentation.
"It became readily apparent when we first heard about this case that it would be a significant trial, not just for the victims of the Tribulation, but for all Sarpedians. It was the first chance for us to put on trial a Borg drone, with the goal of enacting the tiniest semblance of justice we could provide for the countless individuals who suffered the loss of their livelihood, their heritage, their culture, and their loved ones."
"It is clear that Dr. Annika Kim was one of countless perpetrators from the Borg who participated in the infliction of suffering on our world. It is also clear that she participated in the assimilation of other species throughout our are of the galaxy, inflicting the same devastation on countless other worlds."
"What this panel of judges deliberated, however, was whether it was entirely clear if real justice could be paid on Dr. Kim and whether that would serve or frustrate our people. As the defense was emphatic in pointing out, Dr. Kim was not simply a perpetrator…she was a victim–like any one of us, and perhaps more so, as she not only felt the suffering of loss with her parents, but lost her individuality and sense of self through the assimilation process we deplore more than anything," the Chief Justice said.
"Is the greater good served with her conviction and death? Or with her acquittal and continued life? If we acquit Dr. Kim, are we letting a heinous crime go unpunished, or are we letting her atone for her coerced actions and working towards the return of our family and friends assimilated by the Borg?"
He paused before saying, "I would be lying if I said that this was an easy case to render a decision, and this panel would be lying if we said we knew which was the absolute truth."
He paused again before raising a piece of paper and read, "It is the judgment of the High Tribunal of Sarpedon that Dr. Annika Kim of the USS Enterprise and official representative of the United Federation of Planets, be found…not-guilty!" A roar of noise broke out in the chamber; some boos, but surprisingly, a majority of cheers. "…not-guilty of the charges laid against her, and that she be fully acquitted and allowed to fully access her free will and self-determination for the sake of her people and ours."
An overjoyed Naomi ran to Annika in the accused box and hugged her, shouting her laughter and bliss along with the audience in the public benches. Bartok looked to First Council Gartou and smiled as he raised his arms and shook Gartou’s hands in compassionate victory.
Captain’s Log: Stardate 76572.4
Two days after the full acquittal of Dr. Kim on Sarpedon, we have successfully signed a treaty of friendship with the Sarpedian government, granting mutual access to all information and resources between the Delta Fleet and the planet. As part of our agreement with the Sarpedians, we will help them to construct a hyperlink relay to allow communications with the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, to aid them in their understanding of other worlds without putting their own at risk.
Also as part of our agreement, we will begin exploratory research in to the possibility of identifying, locating and ultimately retrieving Sarpedians who have been assimilated by the Borg. While this project has admittedly long odds of success, it was a gesture of compassion that I’m certain ultimately won support for the treaty.
Chief Engineer Vorik has not wasted any time examining the Sarpedian shield grid, and the many technological wonders they have developed. The Sarpedians have done so much research to defend against the Borg that this will play a very beneficial role in solidifying our presence in the Delta Quadrant, even though much work remains to be done.
In the streets of the capital, Gartou, Harry Kim, his wife and daughter, all walked between the tall buildings that marked the center of the city. "You think we’ll be able to go back to the roof of the central tower before we beam back?" Katrina asked his father enthusiastically.
"Are you sure there isn’t anywhere else you’d like to go? We were up there for a pretty long time," Harry replied.
"Yeah, but it was slee’mah plus. You could actually feel the entire building sway with the wind. I mean what could be better than that!" Katrina said excitedly.
"Well, we could just replicate it on the holodeck," Harry suggested.
"Right…this coming from my dad the Captain who is on a mission to boldly go where no one has gone before…" she commented to Gartou, with whom she had become quite comfortable with over the past couple days.
"She’s definitely got you there, Captain," Gartou said jokingly.
"Perhaps on our next visit, Katrina, we will visit the tower again," Annika said.
"And when will that be?" the girl asked with a pout.
"In another six months," Harry said.
"Six months! That’s so tocky," she said.
Gartou got up and gave a confused look to Harry. ‘Tocky?’ he asked.
"It means ‘bad,’" he replied amusingly. "I’m afraid the young people aboard my ship have designed themselves a language deliberately intended to confuse old folks like us."
"It is much the same on Sarpedon," Gartou laughed. "My own nieces and nephews seem to want to keep their secrets as well."
"Hopefully," said Annika, "they will learn as they mature that it is not always best to keep things concealed."
"A lesson we could all learn," said Harry warmly, as he squeezed his wife’s hand with affection. As captain, he had not been happy that Annika had not revealed to him the truth about her past on Sarpedon before embarking on an away mission. He had every right to discipline her for her actions, and had to – for the record – withdraw her from all away missions for the next six months. Handing her planetside duties off to Professor Yola Mahat was indeed a fitting punishment. Of course, things might get a bit chilly in the Kim quarters for a while around the time of the next few away missions, but such was the price of being captain.
They finally stopped in front of the First Council’s Office and smiled at each other for one last time. "I guess this is where we say goodbye," Gartou said to the Kim family.
Harry smiled and shook Gartou’s hand. "I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did for my wife and for having faith in us during this whole ordeal."
"It was the spirit that your crew embodied that ensured a positive outcome in the end. It’s to you and them that we owe a great future."
"I look forward to being part of that great future," Annika said sincerely to Gartou. "You have helped bring some peace to my life, and I can only hope I can offer the same to the people on your world."
"You are inextricably linked to this world, Annika," he replied ardently. "And we shall never forget it."
She smiled one last time at the First Council and she, Harry and Katrina stepped back a step. "Three to beam up," Harry said, and they returned to their ship, headed off to a new world in an unpredictable frontier.
—And the Adventure Continues…
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