Her eyes were closed and her face serene, suggesting the peace of meditative slumber but actually a result of the fact that her system had shut down in response to the attack. In her bloodstream ran thousands of small machines, busy laying down the foundations of change. Her incapacitation was something of a blessing, and even as he watched, suspended above her in the air, he gave some small thanks for the fact that she was immune to pain as something erupted from the skin near her clavicle. Even more when the spinning blade started to descend towards the whitening flesh above her right eye. He tried to look away but found he couldn’t, and so he steeled himself for what was about to follow.
His composure was lost as her eyes flicked open. She looked right at him. The expressionless face betrayed by the panic in her eyes. The same panic he’d seen as she’d been briefly revived when they’d found her.
As the spinning blade started cutting into her brow, she screamed.
Dan Hart splashed wave into his face and reached for a small towel near the sink, burying his face in it.
His experience as a counsellor meant that he knew the nightmare was born of a combination of stress, exposure to potentially traumatizing events, and the need for his own mind to start synthesizing what it must have been like for her. In that role, should he have been talking to someone who was experiencing a dream like that, he would have recommended that they embrace what they were feeling and explore what it meant for them – learn from it. Perhaps even take some time off if they needed too.
But as a ship’s Captain, he had no such luxury. There was a job to be done. Alot of people now depending on him. An entire ship to look after.
He looked himself in the mirror, squarely in the solid black of each Betazoid iris, and breathed slowly and deeply as beads of water still ran down the sides of his face.
That was all the time he would need. It was all the time he would get.
As if a confirmation of the fact, a small tone sounded.
“Captain?” It was the tentative voice of his Science Officer, Brenda.
“Hey Bren. Yes, I’m awake.”
“She’s conscious again.”
Hart dabbed the towel at the last of the moisture framing his face.
“I’ll be there in five minutes.”
He nodded at the security at the door and one of them gave him a quick perfunctory smile, then faced forward again. The other didn’t show any reaction at all. Hart had seen this one only a few times since their last berth near Earth Spacedock and he’d come aboard, and now seeing his stoic appearance Hart made note to try and introduce himself in the near future. Put the guy at ease.
His empathic skills alerted him to the crewman’s inner turmoil despite his composure. He’ need to find out what that was about.
But in a moment he was inside the brig and attending to matters at hand. Brenda’s short frame was in front of him in seconds. He gave the other operations officers inside a quick nod before he turned to her.
“Captain, it’s a been a full 24 hours and she’s shown no signs of hostility or aggression. Her body may soon start to reject some of the implants if we don’t move her to medical so that...”
“Not just yet.”
The Lieutenant Commander gave a quick sigh through her nose, barely enough to be registered. “We can’t really give her the attention she’s going to need in these quarters, Captain”
“I know, Bren, but we’ve got no idea what she’s capable of just yet.”
As if on cue they both turned to look at the figure leaning on her bunk behind the forcefield. They found her staring right back at them, her head cocking slightly as she noticed them examining her.
“She hasn’t said more than the usual, and she’s been unconscious for most of her time on board.” He turned back to his Science Officer to see her clear hazel eyes looking at him almost pleadingly as he continued. “I don’t think we’ve seen enough to assess how much of a risk she is.”
Brenda nodded slowly, biting her lip before she made the next suggestion. “Then perhaps we should start finding out?”
The Captain smiled at her with his eyes. “Yes. Perhaps we should.” She held his gaze for a moment then looked away, feeling guilty for the reproach.
Hart took a couple of steps up to the low hum of the force-field, looking in at the woman they’d liberated from the borg sphere. As he noticed the curves underneath the black augments and implants he briefly wondered how much she still identified herself as female. Or even humanoid.
Apart from standing away from the bunk she made no response. Her gaze passed over him in a slower and cooler version of the assessment he’d made only seconds beforehand.
“Do you know where you are?”
She looked to his face, the device over her right eye adjusting slightly, focusing itself on some detail. But she still said nothing.
Hart tried to pick up on some sort of emotion, and felt the customary anxiety he’d noticed borg often exhibit when they’re cut off from the collective. Apart from that, she was even more taut and expressionless than the security officer he’d passed at the door. The Gnostic’s Captain was aware that in both cases this was a mask.
“Tell me how I can help you.”
Some of her anxiety dissipated.
“Take this vessel to unimatrix 172 for rendezvous and assimilation.”
“I’m afraid that’s not something I can help you with...”
The Captain quickly made a dismissive wave of his hand, which he was surprised to find silenced her.
“Not futile, I think we’ve established.”
She took a step closer to him, straightening up defiantly. Hart heard operations moving for their phasers behind him.
“You’ve only delayed the inevitable. There have been several modifications to our technology over the years thanks to the additions of the distinctiveness of several procured species in the delta and alpha quadrants. The resistance you’re talking about is a temporary setback.”
Hart recognized the security that came with talking about something that had dominated her life for well over a decade. She looked like she was still young. Early to mid thirties maybe, in appearance. He knew her too be much, much older. He decided not to challenge her beliefs, especially since he wanted her to feel some measure of assurance.
But he wanted to make some progress towards freeing her from the binds that tied her. That ran through her flesh.
He linked his hands behind him and looked at the floor thoughtfully for a moment. “Procured species. I see. Such as the El-Aurians.” He glanced up to note her reaction, which was as slight as a widening of the eye.
“They must have been a valuable acquisition.”
She took a few moments to look at the other crew-members assembled in the room behind Dan Hart before she answered. “The species you’re referring to was assimilated long before we first encountered your Federation. They were valuable, but not relevant to the issue of our recent enhancement.”
The Captain scratched under his eye with a slight grunt, then pointed at her with the same hand.
“But they’re relevant to you right? I mean, that’s what you are. Or am I wrong?”
She pursed full lips, which were slightly blue, then answered in lower tones than before.
“You are wrong. I am borg.”
The Captain didn’t respond, but linked his hands behind him again, and affected a puzzled expression.
He felt her anxiety rise again as she tried once more to hear the many voices of those that she’d just identified with, and heard nothing.
“You must return me to the collective.” It was more a request now than a demand.
“We’re going to try to. Just not the one you’re talking about.”
The borg looked at him steadily.
“We’re also going to return you to something even more powerful.”
The thin eyebrow not covered by the augmentation obscuring her face arched sightly.
“We’re going to return you to yourself.”
He noticed her blink once slowly, then take a small step backwards. Brenda was suddenly beside the Gnostic’s Captain, whispering closely.
“She’s weakening. She needs sustenance.”
Dan Hart nodded, aware that a device had already been prepared by engineering. The Borg he’d been talking to had turned away from him slightly, and seemed to be looking to make her way back to the bunk.
Hart turned his head slightly to his Science Officer.
“See she gets what she needs. And take her to medical to see what we can do about removing some of those implants.”
“I don’t think we can do that much. There’s been changes since the days of Seven of Nine. The implants are more pervasive and less likely to be rejected by the host now, so..”
“Bren.” He cut her off with a slight smile. “Just...whatever can be done.”
The diminutive officer blushed slightly and then nodded. “Aye, Captain. Whatever can be done.”
“Good.” Noticing the Borg once more on the opposite side of her cell, leaning against the bunk again and looking at the floor he assumed he’d gotten all he was going to this time around. He took a step toward the door.
The Captain’s eyebrows raised and he turned to find the borg once again standing upright, looking right at him.
“What is your designation?” She asked, curtly.
He smiled, amused at her brashness.
“Well, I guess it’s Captain. Captain Danen Hart of the U.S.S. Gnostic. And you ?”
She seemed to make a strange face, as if pained, before she once again adopted a serious expression. “Two of Seven, Primary Adjunct of Unimatrix 729.”
The Captain nodded once, slowly. “Yes. So I’ve heard. But that’s a little weighty. Do you go by anything else?”
One of the operations crew gave a small snort of amusement. Brenda tsked.
The borg’s head cocked slightly. “It is my designation," she responded abruptly.
“Very prim and proper,” Hart said, almost to himself. Then, he stepped back towards her. “In fact that might be just the ticket, Ms. Primary Adjunct. Prim. How’s that sound?”
They all looked to the borg, watching her seem to rock back and forward on the balls of her feet for a moment.
She said it once to herself, as if testing the sound of it.
There was a silence as she seemed to consider it carefully, her head falling forward to examine her feet.
Everyone had been looking at her anticipating a verdict on the new name, so they were moving towards the borg even before her falling body hit the floor, unconscious.