DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2023 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

Unrelenting (Part 1)

by Djinn




You haven't seen Liam in weeks. You brought him back to life with nanoprobes, watched over him as he lay in an induced coma during the recovery, and then he was whisked away to Starfleet Medical.


When you went down to visit him, he was gone. A nurse told you he was released but on her face was an expression you read as distaste—for you? After what happened with the Borg?


You had no idea where he might have gone so you went to the VOQ. He wasn't there. Ohk had no idea. Mura had no idea.


You stopped short of asking Raffi to use her sources to track him down.


He had to know you brought him back to life. If he's not seeking you out, it's because he's not happy about it—and you're frankly exhausted at the thought of dealing with a Shaw who's again unhappy with you.


You brought him back from the dead. He's not Borg, just benefitting from you having been that. If he's unhappy with you, he's a dick.


Only you thought—


No, whatever you thought is irrelevant. Whatever you feel for him is irrelevant.


The fact that your heart is breaking is awful but also, sadly, irrelevant.




I wake up and somehow I know this isn't Starfleet Medical. My chest—I touch it and remember the phaser blast, a direct shot, but not who shot me.


Does it matter? They're all Borg. My whole fucking crew—the younger members anyway—are Borg.


"You are awake." A voice I know. Softer than expected in the dim light.


"The Borg?"


"Have been defeated."


"I was dead, wasn't I?"


"You were. Seven of Nine brought you back to life using Borg nanoprobes."


I feel the rush of fear—fucking A, am I Borg? What the fuck did Hansen do to me? "Where the fuck is she?"


"Nowhere near. And your vitals are rising rapidly so I presume you are afraid you are Borg. You are not. But what you are is needed, Liam Shaw."


I look over. Resolute eyes, as always. We are not friends. But I trust this person. "What do you need me to do?"




Samantha Alara wanders the corridors of Starfleet Command, people nodding at her—the newest, youngest, member of the Federation Council. Before, she was stopped at the gates to this hallowed building as if she was a danger to society, but now, she is free to take it all in.


And imagine it free of everyone who's not human. If this latest misadventure convinced her of anything, it was that the Sol system would be better off with just its own kind.


But she has to start small.


"Council Member Alara," a voice behind her says, an affectionate spin on it, and she turns and sees Liam Shaw. His eyes are twinkling. "Or Five of Ten once removed."


She's the daughter of the fifth survivor of the Constance but she hates the nickname. "I told you not to call me that."


"I've always called you that. I thought consistency would be appreciated."


He's right. She can't call attention to herself. Not while she's building her coalition—her army. She just didn't expect him to be part of it.


It's a wonderful surprise. "It's nice to see you again."


"Where are you going? I'll walk with you. Provide...information, if you need it."


"Yes. Good." She has always found him handsome, never cared that he is so much older than she is. She never thought he noticed her even though she's beautiful. But that would be out of respect. His friend's daughter. He had no idea he was her favorite fantasy—would it have changed things if he had? "I'm on my way to meet with the CINC. Courtesy call." She laughs softly, bitterly. "A hollow victory after so many years of them denying me entrance."


"You shouldn't have been kept out, Samantha. Starfleet needs people like you." He leans in. "Patriots."


That word has meant so many things over the history of Earth—she refuses to think of it as Terra even if she tries to refer to it that way on the council floor. But in the human-only crowd, "Patriot" means something specific. He hasn't used it with her before, but now she sees a message in his eyes, in the way his lips don't turn up, the way he leans in closely.


He excites her even more than he always has. "Patriots who died to save Earth." The way her father did in the Borg invasion. Gunned down by the Andorian he'd been mentoring.


An Andorian she'd had killed once she'd tracked down the culprit. She'd watched the footage to make sure they were going after the right person, had been happy it wasn't a human who'd taken the shot.


The footage should have been off limits but it was amazing what she can get now that she has a seat on the council. People are constantly pushing resources at her in exchange for her support on their various issues. Resources that can then be used to bribe officers who feel the same as she does about other species, who have access to the information she needs.


"The politically correct way to say it would be that your father and I—and all the others—died to save the Federation."


"Are we concerned with political correctness?"


"I've found it allows one to blend. So you might need to pretend to be, Sam."


"Point taken." She smiles at him in the way she's always wanted to, woman to man, not daughter of his friend to pretend uncle. "So, Liam Shaw, what will you do now that a Borg has taken over your ship?"


"I'm waiting to find out."


"Have you been on your ship since they renamed it?"


He shakes his head and she sees anger, at his legacy being so casually painted over, at the idea perhaps that they gave a human the Titan but a fucking ex-Borg gets the storied Enterprise.


"There's a christening reception on the ship this weekend. I lack some suitable arm candy to bring with me as my plus one."


He laughs out loud. "Never been called that."


"I'd be honored if you would accompany me. Together, we would send a strong message."


He looks down, the way her father used to when he was thinking of that horrible day when all his friends but nine died. "I'm not sure I'm ready. Captain Hansen—Seven of Nine. She..."


"She what?"


"Gives me the fucking creeps."


"But she brought you back to life." She's not supposed to know how but again, that information was easy to get with her new position. "And with...Borg tech." She stares up at him, refusing to give him quarter. He doesn't seem surprised that she knows why he's still alive. "Would you have allowed that if she asked first?"


"Fuck no."


"I figured that."


"She never asks first. For anything."


"Why did you pick her?"


He laughs and it's an angry sounding laugh. "As if I had any choice? Oh, that's what Janeway would like everyone to believe but the truth is if I wanted any of my other picks approved, I had to take her instead of the person"—he lowers his voice—"the real human I wanted."


"If I promise I'll protect you from the nasty ex-Borg bitch, will you come with me, Liam?" She says it as sensually as she can.


"Promise?" He trusts her with his full grin. It's crooked—her father always told her he was self conscious about it—but she loves it.


"I promise."


"Then it's a date."




You want the ship to be perfect. You've seen the guest list. You have no idea why your former captain is coming with Samantha Alara, and it bothers you immensely.


Not just that he seems to have a date but that he's with her. A woman who has been vocal about your promotion to captain, of the injustice of an ex-Borg again being given the Enterprise after it was clear the plot could never have succeeded without Picard's genetic material.


"If he'd been humanely put down, the way we would a rabid dog—if all the ex Borg were—we'd never have faced this." She actually said that to reporters.


You wish your ship wasn't going to be in space dock for so long. You wish you could be out on it and put your former captain and people like Alara behind you.


But you can't, so you have to smile. You've asked Raffi for whatever information she can dig up on Alara. Asked her if Liam was ever involved with her.


The most she could find was that Alara was the daughter of one of the Constance Ten. Which you already know because that's available to anyone with a search engine. You wanted Raffi to go deep but she says she's lost access.


But she and Worf are close. Why can't she do this for you? Is it because she wants Liam out of your life so she can get back in?


Shit, you have to stop thinking of him as Liam. He's Captain Shaw. They haven't promoted him yet. They promoted you but not him.


One more reason for him to be mad at you.


You take another look at the flowers planned for the ceremony and decide they're too much. Trying too hard. You cut the order by half.


Then you hand it to Raffi and ask her what she thinks. She's so much better at these kinds of things than you.


"More flowers," is all she says.


Shit. You had it right the first time.




I report in, sitting in the dim room where we always meet, an unmarked closet with a desk and two chairs.


"Did you make contact?"


"Yes. Going to the christening reception with her."




I debate mentioning the vibes I was getting but it might be important. "She, uh, she like-likes me."


"Is that a juvenile way to say she is interested in you sexually?"


"Fuck you. She's my friend's daughter. It's... uncomfortable."


"You with her would be an excellent step. She is emotional. You would be a stabilizing element. And she is necessary to our cause."


"You want me to fuck her?"


"I want you to have a relationship with her, if that is what she wants."


"What about what I want?"


"We are united in our mission, are we not?"


I nod.


"Then if you must feign some level of affection you do not feel, so be it."


"It feels dirty."


"Failure would feel catastrophic. For more than just yourself."


"I realize that." Fuck. "Fine: anything for the cause."




Alara sees the ex-Borg looking at how Liam has his arm around her—can she tell he has his hand low on her back? It's a sign of possession, and she loves that he's sending that message to this woman who replaced him on the ship.


A woman who looks hurt—if only for a nanosecond—that he's with her. Alara resists licking her lips in anticipation as she guides Liam toward his former first officer.


"Captain Shaw."


"Captain Hansen," he says, pushing harder on Alara's back, as if reminding her of her promise.


The Borg's rage is immediate, but again pushed down so quickly only someone really looking for it would see it. "The records have been officially changed. It's Captain Seven of Nine now."


"Yeah, I'm going to have a hard time saying that."


"You said it the last time we talked."


"I was throwing you a fucking bone." His voice could cut durasteel.


She has to give the Borg credit though. She doesn't back down.


"I see." She wears disdain like it's a comforting shawl.


Alara almost wishes she could meet a never-assimilated version of this woman. They might be friends.


The Borg turns to her with more respect than she expects. "Councilor Alara. Congratulations on your election to the council. Quite an achievement for one so young."


"It was the right time to be the daughter of a survivor of Wolf 359. Also fortuitous that my father was slaughtered during the invasion." She loads bitterness on the last statement—her detractors say she played on public anti-Borg sentiment to win her seat. She imagines this woman might feel the same way.


"My condolences."


"Really? You would have done the same thing as a drone, wouldn't you? Shot him dead?"


"To be honest, no. I would have assimilated him, that is true. But large scale eradication of the older population would have been seen as a waste of resources."


"And yet eleven thousand dead at Wolf 359," Liam softly comes to your rescue, anger apparent in his voice even if he's not calling attention to their discussion to those around them. "What do you call that?"


"A massacre. I think you know that, Captain."


He scoffs, contempt so clear in his voice. "Right. That's what you think now. But then? No way."


She seems at a loss for words.


Alara smiles in a way that doesn't go to her eyes—she wants this woman to know it's a fake expression. "I can't say I'm sad that you saved Liam, but the way you did it, Captain. Was there no other way?"


"You mean a less Borg way?"


She nods.


"No. There wasn't." She looks at Liam. "Would you have rather stayed dead?"


"Then be filled with Borg blood? Yeah, maybe."


The response hits home even though he says it casually, not with venom. She can see the Borg is hurt.


This woman has feelings for him.


"Well, Captain"—she wonders if the Borg has figured out she will not say her name, not her Borg name anyway—"good luck on your assignment."


May it be as short as humanly possible.




You realize you're shaking with anger—and hurt—and tell Raffi you're going to the observation lounge to make sure everything is ready. She'll hold down the fort, be gracious in a way you never will.


The room is set up with extra seats so people can watch the bottle of champagne crash against the hull.


Stupid fucking tradition.


You walk the room, avoiding the crew setting up, trying to square this version of Shaw with the one you served with.


The man who would never use your name. Not until his dying breath.


You smell the overwhelming perfume of Alara and turn. You are behind a screen in an area where bottles of champagne are on ice but you can see her with Liam through the small circles cut at eye level for the wait staff to monitor. You realize the rest of the crew have left, are no doubt in the back area finishing prepping the food.


You are about to walk out, to let Alara and Shaw know you are there, when you hear her say, "I think that poor woman's in love with you."


"Which poor woman?"


"The Borg."


His laugh is immediate. "Yeah, no."


"But what if she were."


"She's not." He sounds amused.


The idea of you having feelings for him is amusing?


"What if she kissed you, pressed her cheek against yours? Either side you'd have a Borg implant against you."


"Yeah, let's not contemplate that, all right? It was bad enough having to sit next to her."


God damn him. What is his problem with you tonight?


"Especially when she wasn't even your choice."


You forget how to breathe. What?


"Sam, sometimes I think what it would have been like, serving with a human and not that fucking ex-Borg bitch." He says it with the same acid he used on Picard during dinner.


Did you really think he didn't include you in his condemnation of things ex-Borg?


"Well, that's in the past, Liam. We can only look forward. To a better world." She pulls him down and he kisses her. Not in surprise, not reluctantly.


Like he's done this before.


"Would we get caught if we fucked right here?" Her laughter grates on you; you want to stride out, punch her—and him too.


You force yourself to stay still.


"Yeah, we would. And this is still my ship. I wont disrespect it. Even if Starfleet did by giving it to her."


But he gave it to you. When he died. He said, "The ship is yours."


A sound threatens to escape you and you puts a hand over your mouth as Liam looks over at the screen but doesn't appear to see you. It's a mix of rage and pain you feel. And stupidity.


You really thought he might feel anything for you? Like, say, respect? Much less love?


You're a fucking idiot.


"Let's make a fashionably late entrance," Liam says as he nuzzles Alara's neck. "Don't look too eager to see this ridiculous name change."


"Good idea." She takes his hand and leads him out.


You crouch, feeling light headed, feeling rage and disappointment warring inside you.


Did you ever really know Liam Shaw at all?




The meeting room feels claustrophobic but it's safe so that's what matters. I sit waiting, not used to that.


The door opens and there is no preamble on why he's late. "The reception?"


"Uncomfortable." In so many ways. Not least seeing my ship's beautiful name changed to one that I'd have never been given command of.


Why did it have to be named after Picard's ship?


The old fart hasn't even stopped by to thank me for what I did. For fucking dying for him. Asshole.


"And Alara?"


"Is uncomfortably interested in me."


"Are you saying you have rejected her?"


"I am not. I'm just saying she's..." What? Detestable? Desperate? Fucking insane, which is why Starfleet wisely never let her in?


"I am aware of how she is. What is important is how she can help us. The mission matters. Not your personal feelings."


"I uh, I may have burned some bridges with Hansen." Fuck, it's hard to think of her as Seven of Nine—almost a reflex to all her Hansen—but I can't disrespect her in public anymore. Not now that her name's been fixed in the system. Not now that she's a fellow captain, not a subordinate.


"Irrelevant to our cause."


"Is it? What if we need access to the ship?" I'm relatively sure she won't be letting me back on if she has the choice. Relatively sure that was her hiding behind the screen and not some poor server.


She heard fucking everything.


"We will get it another way. Have you learned anything useful from Alara?"


"No." So far I've gotten moans during sex and nauseatingly saccharine sweet nothings afterwards. Nothing that we need to move forward. She acts as if she's going to burn down the world but seems interested only in screwing. Her lack of progress—of a plan—is maddening.


"Continue. Patience is a virtue when the course is slower than one hopes."


"Of course it is. You're not the one having sex with her."


"No. Fortunately not. You are a better actor than I am."


"That remains to be seen."




Alara lies in bed with Liam, watching as he changes channels on the vid screen. "You're very far away."


"Hmmm? Oh that's just me. Way to work off the stress, you know?"


"By changing channels?"


"You never know when you'll find a favorite old movie." He puts down the remote. "Am I boring you?"


"Hardly." She cuddles into him and sighs as he strokes her back. "Do you ever wonder who shot you?"


"No. I don't want to know. It wasn't their fault."


"No, it's never anyone's fault when they're ex-Borg. God, that story's old."


"There's a lot of people out there in Starfleet now who are ex-Borg. They didn't ask for it."


She loves that he's so caring. Almost innocently so. Even with the Borg blood running through his veins—a fact she's kept to herself. Some likeminded souls might not see the distinction between ex-Borg and a little bit of Borg blood, so they simply have no need to know.


Hell, it doesn't even show up on a scanner. She knows that for a fact. She's scanned him while he was sleeping.


"They're tainted, Liam."


"They're traumatized. Just like your dad and I were."


"No. You escaped. They didn't. And it was a biological assimilation not via a tube. Who's to say they won't be turned again?"


"How?" He sounds impatient with her. "They've been scrubbed clean."


"Says the mother of the Borg Prince."


"Okay, but the Queen's dead."


"Not all of them." She takes a deep breath. "The Jurati Queen is technically the same queen only combined with Agnes Jurati. I've read the reports; Picard brought her forward, a replica of the Delta Quadrant queen."




Her lip goes up in what she knows is disdain. She tries to bite it back but she can't, and he seems to register it. "I've read the Voyager logs when they first took in your former first officer. The old fable of the scorpion and the frog comes to mind." Chakotay's logs were particularly revealing.


She takes a deep breath and lets it out. "It's only a matter of time before they're called. Some of the more traumatized have already joined the Jurati collective."


He looks surprised. "Why?"


"Because tigers don't change their stripes."


"You're mixing your metaphors."


She just makes an impatient face at him and sees some sort of disappointment on his. Did he actually expect her to argue with him? That's not her idea of love.


She leans in and kisses him because she does love him and she wants him to feel that. She doesn't think he's there yet, no matter how vigorously he makes love to her.


But he will be. She's got a gift planned for him: the person who shot him.


Once she figures out who that was.




You are in the mess after an afternoon of interminable meetings when you smell a familiar—once beloved—cologne as you reach to grab a tray. You turn, knowing how pissed off you must look and Liam murmurs, "Keep looking that pissed," as he roughly shoves you out of line.


Just this side of an assault.


"I am pissed, Captain Shaw."


"I know but sometimes your eyes go soft, Seven. I can't have that. I don't know if I'm being watched." He shakes his finger in your face the way he never did when you served together and you swat it away, trying to digest that you just heard him use your name.


But if he wants you to act pissed, well, fine. Not like it will be hard. "What the fuck do you want?"


"Do you know who shot me?"


You nod.


"Get them off the ship. Somewhere safe. For the foreseeable future." He frowns even more deeply than he was before. "Do not soften your eyes, Hansen."


You realize he's calling you that to get you back to being pissed off at him rather than utterly confused.


"Worf's going to kill me when he finds out I outed myself to you. But I don't know what he considers an acceptable loss. I mean, they just left Riker behind, right?"


"They did." You look down, like he's hurt you. "Does Raffi know you're...?"


"I don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know." He makes what would look to an outsider like an angry gesture. "Worf took me away before I could wake up and say thank you for resurrecting me. Before I could say a lot of things. And I picked you as my first officer, I swear it. But you have to be full on Ranger for me. Do not let on. Keep those eyes hard. I am your enemy. And I'm fucking that lunatic. I hate it, but there it is."


You see people approaching and shove him back a little and they do as you expect: give you a wide berth. "Why are you telling me all this?" You know pain is in your eyes as you look up at him.


"Do not let your eyes go soft when I say it's because I love you."


You know your eyes are going soft before he says, "Fuck it all, Hansen. If you can't play your role, we are well and truly fucked."


You start shaking your finger in his face. "I can play my fucking role, dickhead. I can play it with so much gusto. I can't believe you just told me that after saying you were fucking her."


"Yeah, well, it's me. Asshole in place of charm, remember?" He looks like he's going to storm off but then turns back, his face hard. "Oh and tell your buddy Agnes to tighten up security. Only tell her in a way that is not fucking traceable. And watch your back. Sam's got a hard-on for you, although the idea that you're being hurt by us being together might be enough for her. I'm sorry that I'm hurting you."


"How do you know you are?"


"I saw your face. Behind the screen—that was you, right? You looked like I felt. Sick. I love you, Seven. Now turn on your heel and stalk over to the line while I storm out." He's still standing there.


What the fuck for? "So storm out already."


"Say it back."


Your get right up in his face. "Fuck. You. Liam." You want to spit in his face but resist the urge. "I'll say it when I'm goddamn good and ready." Then you turn on your heel and stalk off.


He storms out and you keep your face drawn down, angry, channeling every bit of how it felt to be a ranger.


When inside you feel so much lighter. He loves you.


But what the fuck does Worf have him working on?


And how soon can you get up to the ship and get the poor ensign that shot him moved?


You have Ranger tricks to reach Agnes. Normally you'd just ask Raffi but if she knows about this and didn't tell you...


Was that why she wouldn't give you any useful info on Alara and Liam?


What the fuck is going on?






You're walking up the path through the grass and trees of the Starfleet Command campus. Raffi is at your side and she's strangely quiet.


You stop and she does too. As tuned to you as she's ever been, and that's a big reason she's in the second seat. You trust her at your side, at your back, in your place even if you're off the ship.


"Raff, is there anything you want to tell me?"




You roll your eyes and take the kind of long suffering deep breath that used to tell her you were this close to getting super pissed off with her.


"What's your deal?"


"Nice deflection. I'm serious. We're out here. We can stare at the grass and stand close and whisper so any surveillance can't catch what we're saying. Is there anything you want to tell me?"


She meets your eyes and hers are guileless. Confused even. "Uh, I sometimes don't floss when I'm super tired. What the hell, Seven?"


"I'm sorry. I'm just...I'm just on edge."


"Because of Shaw? And Alara? And them...together?"


You nod because you've told her nothing about what you heard in the observation lounge or what Liam told you in the cafeteria. You are keeping her out of this the same way you know she's keeping you out of it too.


"I speak from experience, my friend. It does stop hurting when the person you love doesn't love you back." Her smile is kind—too kind.


But you nod and touch her shoulder the way you always do when she's comforted you. "Go on in. I'm just going to walk for a while." You know she has a meeting. You've planned the timing down to the second, the same way you would have a ranger take-down.


"I am sorry." She turns and is gone and you head to where OCS is being held. Their break is in ten minutes, so you sit where you remember you all had to pass by when you were in the class.


You see Jack. He's alone and looks...guarded. But then he sees you and his grin is immediate and real.


You know how he feels. You weren't exactly anyone's favorite person in OCS and that was without you assimilating half of Starfleet.


You stand and say, "Walk with me. If you're hungry, we'll grab something and eat on the go."


"Captain agrees with you, Seven."


"Yes, it does." She motions to the hot dog cart that's always set up near the fountain. "You want?"


"You buying?"


"Only fair if I'm stealing your free time."


"Two with everything."


"Define everything. I take it quite literally."


"Oh, hell, so do I." His grin is the one you sort of fell in love with—but in a motherly or big sister way, not romantic.


"Three dogs with everything," you say and grab a bottle of water. He grabs a sugary soda, which surprises you not at all. You did the same when you were having to go back to a class where no one seemed to like you and the syllabus appeared to be designed to bore the shit out of you.


"You were at the christening?" you ask.


"I was," he says between bites of his first hot dog. "What the hell was Liam doing with...her."


"If I tell you, I'm trusting you with something that stays between you, me...and Liam. It's because I need your help. Your help, resourceful and slightly criminal Jack Crusher, not whoever OCS is trying to make you."


"What's in it for me?" He smiles gently to let you know he's just acting the part and you laugh.


You enjoy this young man. He deserves so much better than he's gotten so far. "A place on my ship."




"I'm serious." Although you'll do it even if he doesn't want to get into the middle of this shit.


But he grins and says, "I'm all ears. And ready to engage naughty boy mode as my mother insisted on calling it even once I was well past puberty."


"If you took how much parenting you had from your mom and how little I had from my mom and dad, we'd probably have a normal parent between us."


He nods and moves on to his second dog. You're still working through your only one. It tastes amazing as always.


As you get further and further away from campus—and you see he notices you're getting far away from the people enjoying the lunchtime sunshine—you say, "Liam is working on something. I don't know what. And he's..."


"Undercover? Please say undercover. So fucking cool. And he has that generally 'I'm going to kill you if you piss me off, and I'm already there so say goodbye, sucker' look anyway."


You laugh harder than you mean to. That's an admirably succinct while still being hilarious summation of Liam on a normal day. "All of that. But...I need to talk to him. And he may be watched. I have a place, but I can't be interacting with him too much where Alara or any of her people see. I don't want to put him in danger."


"But I'm all over Command."




"And known for being a pain in the ass and not afraid to speak my mind."


"I need you to pick a fight with him. He'll catch on quick. He's good at going with the flow." You remember those days with such fondness—can you just go back to them, before Picard? Only then there'd be no Jack, and you kind of love him.


"Of course I'll do this and anything else you need me to do. But, I have a question. Why no Raffi here, glaring at me like if I fuck this up, I'll be answering to her?


"I'm either leaving her out of it, or she's involved—but not in the sense of being on the bad guy's side—and she's leaving me out of it. Pick whichever version makes you happiest."


"Honestly neither do. You two are a good team."


"I used to think so." You feel the hurt you wish you didn't. The sense that no one fucking has your back, not really, not ever.


"Hey, believe me, I understand. But...I've got you."


"Thank you, Jack." You press a piece of paper into his palm. "Make sure he gets this. Make sure no one else sees you giving it to him. It will dissolve after opening so don't fucking open it, and tell him to read fast."


"I don't know he's kind of old..." He's grinning as he says it and you realize he's just trying to make you laugh, cheer you up.


"I will get you on my ship. If I have to think up a brand new station, I will."


"And I'll get this to him." He surprises you by touching your hand implant very gently. "You're braver than I am. I don't know how I would navigate the hate if I had it there every moment of every day."


"We can't let hate win."


"But it does. So often it does. I saw it again and again and I bet you did too when you were a Ranger. Also...I know about your son. I know you saw what hate did to him."


"Actually, in that case, it was just greed. Hate would have been more understandable, I think. Less banal." A fucking meaningless death that you had to deliver. "I'm here for you. If things get too bad. And I have some very good friends high up now—unlike when I first got back to this quadrant. I'm...protected."


Or as much as you can be when people like Alara are out there.




 It's been a while since they've been in the same room, definitely a long while since she's stormed into his office, secretary trailing along ineffectually behind her, trying to stop her from getting to him.


Raffi's having none of it. She's pissed that she's lying to her friend and captain. And she's pissed that Worf isn't telling her the whole story.


Worf has to bite back the smile that threatens as she successfully tells Myriamna—who is as fierce as a Klingon when it comes to gatekeeping his work domain—to get lost as she shuts his door.


"I can't do this, Worf."


"There is nothing to do."


"You know what I mean. Nothing—that's a thing, well the lack of a thing, but you know how I get when you tell me to do nothing." She looks at him in the way she's discovered he's helpless against. Half pain, half warrior.


He knew he could not keep this from her forever. "Captains Shaw and Seven of Nine are...on the same page."


"What?" She is instantly outraged—what kind of intel officer is Shaw, anyway? Or was it Seven? Did she Ranger her way to the truth?


Worf eyes her tolerantly. "There is the mission and then there is one's par'Mach'kai. And what one will do for that individual. The rules one will break, the outcomes one will forsake to keep them safe, to maintain trust."


He knew Shaw would not be able to keep Seven of Nine in the dark. He saw how close they sat during his and Raffi's briefing on the ship, how Shaw's arm had ended up behind her chair, how she leaned into him even though they were not touching.


He recognizes that kind of attachment. "They are in love." He regrets such a blunt statement may hurt her.


"Duh." She stands and walks around his desk. Studying him. "You know from experience what one would do for a par'Mach'kai?"


He nods.


"Because of Jadzia?"


"Yes." He meets her eyes as fearlessly as she is meeting his. Is now finally their time? "And no."


"Like spilling classified info on your partner's family's devices so they think the news reports are playing info about their previously oh-so-unwelcome mom who is now a hero?"


"The information was not spilled. It was carefully delivered and just as carefully wiped when it had been observed. But yes, I took an oath to protect classified information, and for you, I broke that oath."


She frowns. "Why didn't you want me working with you then? If you'd asked..."


"I did want that. But this is the shadowlands, Raffaela. And you deserve to be in the sunshine." He would like to see her in the sunshine. But not on Risa—he still fails to appreciate the appeal of that planet.


"I'll be on a ship most of the time, Worf. The only sunshine will be from the UV lights in the gym they use for those with seasonal affective disorder and space sickness."


"I believe my version was more poetic. But it is a fact that Klingons are more romantic." He smiles at her expression but before she can come up with an impassioned retort, says, "I am watching out for both Shaw and Seven of Nine. Your captain will no doubt bring others to bear in this. But not you. I need to keep you in reserve. In case things go off track. I have faith in your ability to fix their mistakes."


"Or yours?" She loves how he's trying to act like it's all going to be on Shaw and Seven. Then again, knowing what idiots they can be when it's time to run into danger, maybe he's right.


"There is only one mistake of mine—a moment where I did not act—that I wish I could let you fix."


"Let me fix?" She sees a look in his eyes she has never seen before. A longing. "Show me?"


He stands, walking to her, taking in her beautiful eyes, her glowing skin, the curls he adores. "It was when you found out I had shared the information. You embraced me."


"I shocked you with that."


"You did. But also...what I felt when you did it shocked me." He takes a step closer and she smiles at the expression in his eyes. "Please, may we 'do it over'?"


She pulls him into an embrace, and he goes willingly, his body supple like when they spar, not stiff and taken aback like when she did this the first time.


His arms come around her, his lips are on her neck. He does not mean to say it, but his heart overtakes his intellect and he whispers, "I would do anything for you, Raffaela." Then he waits.


She pulls away enough to study him, to smile at him, to say "Right back at you, big guy."


She shares the same untamed heart, the same good humor despite what life has put her through, that Jadzia did. She is a warrior and she makes him look forward to the sunrise and possibly seeing or hearing from her during the day. Even if it is just her reports to him. Which she still sends, unbeknownst to Seven and unrequired by him—as the old saying goes: "You can take the woman out of Intel, but you can't take Intel out of the woman."


She has not made a move so he says, "Do you think you could find it in your heart to include kissing me in the 'doing anything' category? I am your superior, Raffaela, and it would be a breach of trust for me to initiate any such beh—"


He has to shut up because she's kissing him, and she wants to push him against the wall but there's a knock at the door and his assistant is saying, "Sir, do I need to call security?"


"She really has zero faith in your ability to subdue me." She laughs and lets him go.


"We are fine, Myriamna. Your concern is appreciated." He touches her hair in a way he would never have allowed himself to do before. "In my youth, I was, at times, impatient for things to move along at my pace, rather than their own. For you, I would like to be patient. I would like to take it slowly."


"How slowly?" She laughs at his expression. "Oh, wait, was that you being all poetic and romantic and me being a schmuck?"


"I will resign myself to your lack of sentimentality."


"Resign yourself to nothing, Worf. You have no idea what you might discover. Measured is fine. Slow...well, the ship's only here so long." She gives him a playful kiss, one he is happy to give back, and backs away. "Okay, so you plan your snail's pace poetic and romantic pursuit of me and my friends better not get hurt in the meantime."


"Understood. And I admire your loyalty to them."


"Yeah, yeah." She turned. "Oh, and forget chocolates. Cupcakes are the way to my heart. Red Velvet. Carrot Cake. Mocha. Caramel."


"So noted. There is a prune juice made in France..."


She laughs and he frowns. Why do humans always get that look when he mentions the drink?


"I assume you don't drink it for regularity?"


Oh, that is why. They could not tell him something so simple? Preferred to enjoy his discomfort instead?


But she—she has told him the truth. And he knows once more that he is right to want her.


"What part of France? I'm not up on the various varietals of prune juice."


"I will send you the information. Courting is a mutual process in my culture."


"I like that." With a sweet smile, she leaves him, and he hears her talking with Myriamna, making her laugh, brightening her day as she brightens his.


It is a good day to be head of Starfleet Intelligence.




We stand and wait for our newest pilgrim. Seven of Nine has sent him to us. We know without her telling us why.


He was Borg, but not ours.


He hurt someone he loved or respected.


He misses—in some deep part of him—the sense of the collective.


But he strides out and we are perplexed. He lacks the demeanor of those brutalized by the experience of assimilation. He also does not seem overwhelmed by guilt.


He stops in front of us. "My captain asked me to give you this."


We open the note—paper, how quaint. It is as terse as Seven normally is.


Agnes—this young man is Ensign Miller. Do not assimilate him. Do not let anyone know he is with you. If you could find a way to clear the block he has on what happened on invasion day, it would be most appreciated. If you do that and he wants to stay with you, so be it. Also, enemies abound (but Shaw is not one of them no matter how it looks). Extra security is warranted. We never spoke. - Seven


All this written in Borg. She has not forgotten that part of her. And clearly expects no answer.


As the paper dissolves to dust in our hand, we say, "Ensign Miller. We are the Jurati Queen, but if it is easier for you, you may call us Agnes."


"Thank you, Agnes."


"We will not harm you. Your captain trusts us." We see something in him responding to that. Some guilt awakening. "Just as she trusts you."


"No. She sent me here because she doesn't." He meets our eyes. His are now haunted the way we have seen others arrive here, but in his case, it was arriving here that made him so.


"You did not know where she was sending you?"




"We are going to keep you safe. This is not a punishment."


He turns and paces.


"Speak your mind, Miller. Or would you prefer to be addressed by your first name?"




"Jarred. Speak your mind."


He turns to us and we can see he is mentally far away, a time traveller, back to the day of the invasion.


"I killed Captain Shaw. I tried to kill Commander—Captain Seven."


We know Captain Shaw is alive. We felt the moment Seven's nanoprobes went into him. Our blood, our tech—our children. We decide not to tell this young man that yet. He might never lower his walls if he knows Shaw survived.


"Are you hungry? Would you like to meet others here?"


"Do they look like you?" He suddenly looks terrified and we are amused. "No offense."


"None taken. We are aware we can be offputting. But those that come here generally get used to it. Some even stay because they love this place. Perhaps you will. Perhaps not. In the meantime, I will keep you safe as your captain requested."


We turn but he stops and says, "There's a message board. For all of us that turned. One person who shot the father of someone important is dead."


We know this. We read their board. We even participate under an alias—our pilgrims do not just happen upon us. We encourage them. We do not tell Jarred this.


"I killed my captain. Only now he's alive and dating the woman whose father was killed during the invasion. We were Borg, we didn't know—couldn't fight. And still they blame us. And now I'll have disappeared and they'll think everyone is a target."


We suddenly see why Seven sent him us. And the kind of problem that may be brewing.


"We will take steps to protect your location if you wish to communicate with the others. But we warn you that the board is monitored by more than just those who were turned." We have seen them and done nothing to tip our hand that we know they are there. We assumed they were Starfleet Security or Medical, assessing the state of their youngest officers. Now, we are not sure.


There are other message boards we can check, not for young Fleeters, for people vile and rabid. We have access to them all, no matter how safe the users think they are. Their posts are full of hatred and anger and threats of violence. We find these boards both depressing and an inefficient use of time.


We are now revising our opinion. We will spend more time on them. We will notify Seven of anything she might need to know.


"I might wait a few days. Maybe shit—things will blow over and I'll get to go back."


We recognize Shaw's influence on the boy's language. It amuses us because we have seen a similar affect on Seven of Nine when we read her logs.


"As you wish. Just know you are safe here, Jarred. We have had four hundred years to learn how to protect ourselves—and you." We touch his shoulder to see how he will take it.


He barely shudders.


He will do fine.




Alara watches the video of Liam and the Borg interacting in the cafeteria that one of the officers loyal to her took. The way Liam pushes her out of line—yes! She has no right to be there. The obvious argument they are having gives her such glee. The pain she sees in the Borg's face at times. Confusion.


All perfect.


Well, not perfect. Perfect would be dragging her on her knees to a podium where she would gun her down in front of a cheering crowd. But the Borg is too well connected to risk that kind of thing. The movement Alara's part of is too young to risk scrutiny from Janeway and Picard and all the people they would have working the issue if something happened to their Borg rescue pet.


She watches the interaction several more times. Enjoying each viewing more than the last. Then she erases it because Liam is an engineer and she doesn't know if he ever checks her padd the way she does his.


Patriots are often paranoid. Even with each other. It's why she's having him watched. Why he might be having her watched but he'll never see anything he won't like.


She's devoted to him and she thinks he's testing her. He's told her tonight is not for her. He's told her he's not interested in being tied down completely now that he's free on Earth.


But other times, when he is with her, he's so sweet. He calls her "Baby," with such love. Even if he won't tell her he loves her—even if she won't say it back until he does, because she wants to be what he is and undoubtedly wants: an independent and strong woman. She can tell he feels more than just lust but it may take time for him to realize it.


If he has to get some things out of his system before he settles down with her, she will let him.


If he has to fuck other women, so be it. Unless she finds out they aren't human.


Then they'll have a problem.




Jack isn't a hundred percent sure where the hell Liam is, but he wanders around Command after class like he owns the place, ignoring the looks. Saying hello to the the few people from the Titan-now-Enterprise who aren't totally done with him.


Actually, there are more of them than he expects and it sort of cheers him up. He's hopefully going to be on that ship with them, people that don't actively wish he was dead.


If Seven has her way. But he can't imagine trying to say no to her when she really wants something. She's sort of like a really great-looking human-hurricane.


Finally he sees Liam going into the officer's club. He's alone so Jack follows him in, his new ensign's pips letting him into the club. His Borg Prince rep making a lot of people glare at him.


"Oi, Shaw!" He pulls every bit of the annoying little shit he used to have to be when his mother was dragging him around the back end of the quadrant. Stares at Shaw like he's the enemy, which technically given who he's been seen with, he is. Or so Jack will pretend. And he's good at pretending. Acting is a skill and he loves to get a good character going.


Only this is him, not some random alias. He needs to do this as himself.


"Oh, great. The fucking Prince of the Borg." Shaw grabs his beer and walks over. "What the fuck are you doing in here?"


"Slumming obviously, if you're here. And Starfleet must agree with me. Seven got a promotion but here you are, still Captain Shaw, even after giving it all for the mission." He hopes he's not going too far—it's so intense he wants Liam to see that he's here for Seven, not to give him shit.


And he does. He doesn't know when he learned to read this man so well, but he sees the exact moment he susses to what's up. "Fuck. You. Crusher. You fucking Borg prick!"


He strides over, gets right in Jack's face and fuck's sake he's tall. And broad. It's massively intimidating but Jack pushes him back, and Liam takes an extra step as if he's lost his balance.


"Oh, did Captain Shaw lose some of his mighty asshole mojo? Here let me straighten you up." He pats down his jacket in the most arrogant way possible. "Little wrinkly here, Shaw. Not what we'd call regulation in OCS but you're probably an Academy dweeb, aren't you?"


Shaw grabs him, pulling him in, his arm tight around his neck, but then he lets enough for Jack to breathe easily but not so much anyone else will figure it out. "Right, I've lost my mojo. You never had any, you little fuck!"


Jack pretends to be trying to get away and puts the message in Liam's pocket then whispers, "It self destructs after you open it. Read fast, memorize."


"Got it," Liam whispers than says in a normal voice. "You lame-ass punk. Why am I wasting my time with you?" And he pushes him away hard and Jack does have to work to keep his feet. "Get the fuck out of here before I make you."


He has a retort ready about how making him will constitute violence against a fellow officer but he sees impatience on Liam's face. No one else would but he does.


The man wants to get to Seven in the worst way possible. And that makes Jack so happy for them that he almost drops character. "Oh, sod off, you old has been." And he walks, but quickly, out of the O-club.


He checks his padd to make sure the captain doesn't want anything more from him and then texts Sidney. "Want company?"


"Yes, but civilized company is sorely lacking tonight. You'll do in a pinch."


He loves how surly she can be. It makes the sex and how generous she is then so much fun. She keeps him on his toes between the sweet and spicy act. "See you soon."




I down my beer and let Jack's exit fade into memory as I hear a disconcertingly large amount of "Attaboys" and "You told him" before I go to the restroom and into a stall.


My hands are shaking as I pull out the note Seven's sent. I want to see her so badly it's killing me. Fortunately, Sam's so scarily into me she's willing to let me sow some oats if I need to before things get serious. Her words, not mine.


I don't want her. I want Seven. I've wanted Seven for over a year now. The women I meet on shore leave, the friends with benefits from other ships, and especially Sam—I just pretend I'm with Seven. I know it's shitty but it happens.


I want her so much and she's what I see. It would be a damn big problem that I would seek some help for if she didn't want me too.


Fucking A why didn't we do something about this on my ship when we had the chance? But I know why—Mister By the Book. Don't fuck your first officer. Not even if she's the love of your fucking life.


I don't know the address but I know where it is generally. I memorize it and the name and the time to meet her as the paper turns to dust.


Self-destructing paper. God damn she's so fucking awesome. I mean...


And she pulled Jack in and not Raffi. Interesting. Not that I mind. I hope he knows I didn't mean that shit I said, but then I could see he hoped I knew he didn't mean what he said either.


And good goddamn, they are going to promote me if Worf ever takes me off the fucking injured reserve list. Or redshirted players. Or whatever he calls his "a Spy when we need him to be" program.


And now Jack's pulled into this too and Worf will be livid but I find I really don't give a rat's ass. I trust this young man. Have since that time in sickbay, when I was bleeding out and beyond frustrated that I knew Vadic was finding us somehow but I was going to die before I could get it across to anyone that it mattered—that they needed to go fucking find the reason.


But he got it. He did understand both the task and the urgency. He read me and I read him and I knew he'd take care of it.


Just like now I knew if he was showing up here, he had to be here for her. She trusted him. I trusted him. No one else in this fucking fleet might, but he's got us in his corner.


If I leave now, I'll be just a little too early, so I make sure I have antitox and grab another beer and take it to a table near the windows.


"Need company?" someone asks and I look up to see a commander I don't know.


"I'm gonna head out in a bit. But sit if you like. Commander...?"


"Acevedo. And I know you, Captain Shaw. What you did. A miracle they were able to resuscitate you."


I find it both reassuring and deeply creepy that Sam hasn't told anyone how I was brought back to the land of the living. Would it be a dealbreaker? Borg blood? I've scanned myself—it doesn't show up. "Yeah, I got lucky that Borged-out kid was such a suck shot."


"Or a higher power was on your side. A power that wants men like you to survive. As you've already survived. But then humans have the best survival instincts—clearly the superior species." His eyes have the glint of a zealot.


"Yeah, we're something."


"I'm here, sir. If you need anything. And I have friends. If that little bitch son of Locutus gives you shit and you want him shut down for good."


"I will let you know. But I don't. Not yet." I have to hold back my dismay and disgust. This is nothing that Starfleet should be, should value.


"You've got plans?"


"Me and Sam both." I'm taking a chance bringing her into this but I'm finally, maybe, getting somewhere.


"Yeah, she's going to make a huge difference for our cause. The two of you together...perfection."


I smile in the way that I did when Riker was trying to get me to change course and I was playing along. No one ever realizes that's fake as fuck except Seven. And I think Jack probably would. Well and Raffi. And maybe Worf.


Okay, a lot of people are fooled by this smile.


This guy among them.


I stand and let my hand rest on his shoulder even though he makes me sick. "Be ready. When our moment comes..." This is something I've heard Sam say. I want to see if it's just her or some kind of group slogan.


"It will be gloriously human."


I feel dirty. What the fuck is wrong with these people? "Have a good night, Commander."


"You too, sir."




You pace the room in the upper level of the restaurant. The owners of the place are people you helped get resettled years ago from a very nasty world with a very nasty person after them. A person who is now dead.


To say they are grateful is to not understand that word. You've kept a large amount of supplies in this bedroom, in spaces hidden unless you know where to look. You used to stay here when you were on Earth as a ranger. Sometimes for long periods when you needed a break and a chance to just be safe for a while.


Bonus, the restaurant has some of the best food in the city. The wife asked you when you got them here what food was the most popular and you told them Chinese and Indian based on your experience with what people used to reminisce about on Voyager. She learned it, now they have four locations.


But this one is the one where they know you and never make any kind of deal when you walk in, hair up and baseball cap pulled down, gloves on to cover your implant, padded coat so your shape is harder to make out by security cams.


The coat is thrown over a chair, the hat and glove on the table. You've let your hair down because you know Liam loves it that way. He told you once when you were both very drunk in the middle of an argument about whether the blue steak he was eating was a crime against humanity.


You were so taken aback, he actually stabbed a piece with his fork and had it in your mouth before you could complain. And then you tasted it and you had to admit—or would have if being difficult wasn't something you both excelled at—that it was fucking marvelous.


You check your pant's pocket to make sure the regenerator's still there. It's tiny but mighty and you used to carry it everywhere as a ranger.


And he just might need it when you're done with him tonight. You're dying to see him but you are also very prepared to let him have it.




That you love.


Which pisses you off even more.


But he loves you. Which still feels so damn good. You know your eyes are very soft but it's your room in your safe place and fuck him if he tells you to be hard right now.


There is a knock on the door and you open it, letting him in, then going across the room from him when he tries to pull you into his arms. "No."




"No. Talk first." You lean against the table and cross your arms over your chest. "What the fuck, Liam?"


"The last thing I remember is you holding my head, is watching you cry, is thinking how goddamned gorgeous you are and I was not going to get to ask you out the way I'd planned to once you were off my ship. And then I was gone. I remember nothing. Until I woke up and it was dark and quiet and was nothing like Starfleet Medical and Worf was there."


"They told me you'd been released."


"Yeah to him. He told me it was a little bit of a fight to get them to let me go."


You think about the way the nurse looked at you, she'd been mad but maybe at Worf, not you. Maybe she felt for you.


"I looked for you."


"I'm so sorry. There was no way to contact anyone. I was in and out for a while. Then I had to get briefed and re-briefed and..." He walks toward you. "Please, give me a hug at least?"


You stop him as he goes in for one with a hand around his neck.


"Seven, I can't go back to her broken."


You pull out your regenerator.


"Oh, well, carry on then. If you're pissed off, let me have it and—" He has to stop talking because his breath is torn out of him as you slam him against the wall, as you say "Fuck your hug" viciously and kiss him, not caring if you bite.


He somehow turns you, has you against the wall, is hiking you up and is kissing you even harder, biting too.


You pull his shirt off before blood can get all over it because his lip is torn a little. And so is yours.


"Okay, Baby, my lip really hurts."


You laugh and as he holds you up and against him, as you feel how much he wants you, you heal his lips and then your own. "Sorry. I'm just really pissed at you. And if you call her Baby, don't ever call me that."


"You don't understand. I never did call anyone that before you. I hated it. But then, once there was you, and I wanted you so badly, I was afraid I'd call out your name—admittedly probably the one you hate because I was a dick—and hurt whoever I was with. So I started saying, 'Baby.' But I was really saying your name. Whatever I told them, I was saying it to you. When I fuck her, I think of you."


"That's really disturbing."


"Yeah, well, it's me."


"It's also highly arousing." You kiss him more gently this time. "Fuck now, talk later."


"Finally." He makes short work of your clothes and has you on the bed, is inside you, going so slowly, never looking away, saying, "Seven," so easily when before he wouldn't. "I don't want you to ever wonder who I'm with when I'm with you." He lifts your legs up around his waist, then higher, over his shoulders and the angle and the size of him—the fact that the two of you are finally together—it all sets you off. You're scrabbling at the bed instead of at him because even though you could heal him, you don't want to. You want to be kind to him. You want this man you loved to be around to be happy as you come, as you call out loudly and manage to also get out, "It's super soundproofed."


And then he's going hard—harder you imagine than he goes on that batshit crazy assignment of his.


"Tell me you love me," he says as he starts to go.


"I fucking love you, you goddamn piece of shit."


"Oh yeah. That's my girl." And he's gone and you pull him down so you can feel him as he shudders inside you and around you as he holds on, as your skin lies tight against his, as his lips find your neck and kiss so gently. As he murmurs, "I love you so much. I don't want to be anywhere but with you."


And then you realize he's crying and you ease him off you and cradle him and say, "What is it?"


"I didn't want this. Crazy ass people who want a human-only Federation. I just wanted to escape Worf and his stupidly important plan and get to you. To take you to my favorite place to get blue steak. To make love to you under the stars on a private roof deck. But he needed me and Sam's dad was my friend. I had the 'in' he needed. I was needed."


You kiss his tears away.


"I feel like shit when I'm with her. I hate her so much." His crying stops but his sobbing seems involuntary and you just hold him and say, "Once upon a time, in an alternate timeline, I saw what that kind of sentiment can lead to. Q took Picard back and some of us got to ride along whether we wanted to or not."


He eases away from you to watch you as you speak.


"I was the president. I don't mean I saw me as the president. I mean Q put us in those places. Replaced the ones—well, I guess we were those ones assuming the change that happened in the past wasn't changed. I had never been assimilated. I was...in charge but I don't know if it was because I was a true leader or if my husband in that timeline used me because my parents were heroes for discovering the Borg and launching the war. The Jurati Queen came from that timeline. We took her to the past. She and Agnes merged. She came forward through time but we got pushed from the to now in one jump. I don't understand any of it because I got reassimilated and I know I'm not making sense. My point is, Liam, that I lived it. It was horrible."


He seems to see where you're going with it.


"If we can stop it now, while it's still just small fires, before it envelopes a population, then you have to do this."


"And you'll forgive me?"


"There will be nothing to forgive. Or if you're going to insist on feeling guilty you can say it's fair trade for me betraying your trust and getting you killed."


"Yeah, that makes me feel better." He wipes his eyes. "God, what a man I am, huh?"


"I love that you feel that bad about it. I love that you love me that much."


"I do love you. I had all these plans for us once we weren't on the same ship."


"Were you going to finally call me Seven?" You're grinning so he rolls his eyes and nods. "Tell me your plans while I play with your better half down here and get you ready to fuck me again."


"Not fuck. I fuck her. I make love to you. Only you."


"Okay. Tell me your plans." You go to work on him, although he's semi ready for you as it is. You wonder if the nanoprobes will effect him and he does look down in sort of wonder, so maybe something really nice for him other than living again will be the result of this.


"I was going to woo you."


"Yeah? We weren't going to tear each other's lips apart up against a wall?" He is definitely coming back fast.


"We were not. I was going to sweep you off your feet."


"You already did that. When you gave me the chance no one else seemed willing to even with your trauma from Wolf 359. I loved that you told me about that in the interview, by the way."


"I loved how you reacted, how thoughtful you were, the questions you asked. I'm coming back really fast, Seven. I don't doubt your skill but this is..."


"Maybe the nanoprobes," you say and he grins and then he's pulling you on top of him and onto him and you slide down and say, "How were you going to sweep me off my feet. Other than the blue steak and making love to me under the stars."


"I was going to take you dancing. Not salsa dancing or swing because I'm a lousy dancer for that kind of thing. Somewhere we could just sort of hang onto each other and sway. And I could whisper to you about funny times we had. And I'd take you by surprise and you'd make that cackle laugh of yours that I'm completely gone for."


"And when would you take me home and make love to me?"


"When we were there. When we were over all the shit. When we were ready." He closes his eyes and you think he's full of remorse that he can't do this.


"Hey," you say, slapping his face lightly until he opens his eyes. "We're fucking ready now, Liam. You and I have had lives that don't go right and don't give us presents wrapped up in puppies and unicorns and rainbows. We fight and we go on and we deal with loss and we do what needs to be done. And now we have a moment to take this for ourselves and we're doing that because we just can't not. And that's all that matters to me. I want to do those things with you. But it's okay if we do them as established lovers. Because this mission is important. And it's about more than us."


He nods and pulls you down for a long, tender kiss. "I could not possibly love you more than I do right now."


"Oh," you say as you shift, wanting to get you both into a lighter place, so you have this to think about, to be your haven if these opportunities prove rare until this godforsaken mission is over. "I think I might be able to make you happier." And you start to move excruciatingly slowly, sliding up and down and you are so glad you work on your core because this is not easy.


He understands because he holds you, helping lift you, smiling as he starts to play with you with his oh-so-talented engineer's fingers. You're trying to concentrate on what you're doing but you can't, he absolutely owns you as he does this and you sink down on him fully, letting him finish you off until you collapse on top of him.


He kisses you, sweet quick touches of his lips on your cheek, your neck, your hair. Until you finally can move and you sit up and he says, "No fancy tricks. Just go hard on me."


"I don't want to punish me."


"If it's what I want, it's not punishment. Not at all."


"Tell me if it's too hard."


"I will."


And you let go, and at first it's just energetic but somehow it turns this side of vicious and you meet his eyes in concern but he's nodding and watching you and you think he's trying to hold back.


Until suddenly you can't see him that well and tears begin to drop onto his chest and he moans and thrusts and comes inside you as you weep.


"Baby, it's okay. Seven, it's okay."


"You can call me Baby. As long as it really means me."


"It really does. I never used it before you. In my fantasies I called you that." He wipes the tears from your face. "You needed to let it out."


"I didn't know it was there to be let out. How did you?"


"Because you're my girl. And my first officer. And my colleague. And sometimes a fellow engineer. And my drinking partner. And my sparring partner every so often. And..."


"Your lover."


"The love of my fucking life. And now...my lover." His smile is finally untroubled.


You know yours is too.


Even though he's going to have to go back to her: he's yours.






I'm still thinking of Seven when I ring at Sam's door. I wish I could have woken up next to her but we both thought sleeping together was a risk we couldn't afford. Still we had dinner catered by her friends—great food. Once this is all over, it's going to be a favorite take-out place.


And the sex. More than I fantasized and I have a lot of creativity when I do that. Seven... She's just everything. And her nanoprobes. Fucking yippee ki-yay. Parts of me are not in their fifties. Or at least not with her—I hadn't noticed that reaction with Sam.


I know my face is super soft and if it was Seven, I'd tell her to wipe it. But Sam will like this, will think it's for her.


She opens the door and her happiness is immediate. But there's also almost a manic excitement as she grabs my hand and says, "I have to show you this."


What the fuck happened to this woman? I remember her when she was a teen, giddy with an obvious crush at times, but so smart, so in love with hearing stories from her dad and me.


Too in love? All she wanted to do was follow in our footsteps. She changed when Starfleet turned her down. I can only think the shrinks saw something we all missed, something that came out for all of us to see once that route was closed to her.


She gave Five of Ten some issues, using drugs, running with a rough crowd, never home. Manic as fuck at times.


But then she settled down. And the Constance Ten breathed a collective sigh of relief.


But were we wrong? Was that when the Humans-Only crowd had gotten to her—radicalized her?


She sits me down in front of a terminal I've seen her use before. She's told me not to use it and I haven't. Even if I think there's info on it I might be able to use, I'm no hacker and I have no idea what kind of safeguards she might have.


On the screen at the moment is a video waiting to start. The title of the vid says, "A Human Hero for a Human Moment."


Please God, don't let me be that hero.


She hits play, and the video starts. Thank fuck it's not me. But it may be worse. Stock footage of James T. Kirk plays as a message of hate disguised as reasonable concern plays under it. It's his voice—only I doubt he ever said these words. Until we get to a shot of his son, a typical head shot that blood starts flowing down as Kirk's voiceover says, "I could never forgive them for the death of my boy." And then underneath, as some weird echoing whisper of "Let them die," plays on repeat, it ends with "The Party of Kirk. Make Earth human again." A huge MEHA splashes over a picture of Kirk with a phaser—clearly a publicity still Starfleet released back in the day.


"Do you want to watch it again?"


I nod, more in disbelief than general enthusiasm. But yeah, it's really that bad.


Only...if you're inclined this way, they just gave those who need a hero to rally behind a huge fucking one.


But only if you cherrypick the facts.


"We do know that his Vulcan first officer was his lover, right?"


"Half Vulcan. And that lover thing has not been proven."


"Actually it has."


"We have alternate facts."


"Of course we do." I sigh. "But still, they were best friends. An alien."


She spins my chair out so she can crouch in front of me, hands on my knees. "Half alien. One who spent nearly no time on his home world once he could escape. One who Kirk helped find his emotions."


"I think he found them before. Also he spent time on his home world trying to purge those emotions."


"You're a fan of Spock?" She sounds surprised.


"Yeah, and of Kirk—when I was a kid I may have been a bit obsessed with them. But they are iconic. A lot of people will know this is bullshit."


She looks taken aback and I'm worried I went too far. But then she nods and says, "We don't need a lot of people. We just need enough people who lost someone in the Borg attack, who lost someone in the Dominion War, who lost someone at Wolf 359, who lost someone to aliens during a routine mission. Angry people." She smiles widely. "Armed ones."


"Sam, I get it. I do. I want that too." God it's hard to get that out so it lands but somehow I manage. "But Kirk and the Klingons. He went to fucking Rura Penthe, surrendered after the murder of Gorkon, saved his daughter from assassination even though it was one of his best friends behind it. Forgetting that, do you know how many aliens the guy fucked? I think we can come up with a better face to hang the movement on is all I'm saying."


"Yeah, I'm not in love with those facts either. But here's another for you. Look at his key crew. The ones that followed him for years and years. All human. Except Spock, yes I get that. But Spock is at least half human."


"So you're going to do this no matter how lame I think it is?"


She nods. "Some of us understand that the anger and hate we feel is righteous. Others are more reticent. They need an example." She points to Kirk.


"Hate needs a face...so we're giving them one."


"Exactly." There's a weird look on her face, like she's not quite telling me everything. She pulls me down to her, saying, "I missed you," as her mouth opens to mine.


I say it back even though it's a fucking lie. I try to find Seven in my mind as Sam leads me to her bed, try to wash away the face of my childhood hero being used for this goddamn travesty of a cause with that of the woman I actually love.


But I can't. I can't unsee that.


Thank fuck for Borg nanoprobes. They rise to the challenge even if emotionally I'm very far away.




You walk onto the bridge to see Raffi in her chair, happily eating a cupcake. "Ooh, new admirer?"


"Maybe," she mumbles, offering you one as you sit next to her.


You see carrot cake and mocha and caramel, and she seems to be eating a red velvet one. "All your favorite flavors. Someone who knows you then."


She nods in such a happy way it makes you smile. You take the caramel one and don't have to work to hide the smile you've been trying to bite back since yesterday.


Sex with Liam was more than you expected and you expected a hell of a lot.


"Wait a minute, you look pretty happy yourself," Raffi says as she closes up the box and puts it on the floor.


"Ran into an old friend."


"Did more than run into them if that smile is any indication."


"Had to quit obsessing over what sex with Liam would have been like." You love that answer because it's not even a lie. "If he wants to hang out with that human abscess, that's his business." You take another bite of cupcake and sigh happily.


Raffi doesn't have a sharp retort and that surprises you. Instead she just happily devours the cupcake.


Once you are both done, you say, "I want to get Jack on the ship. Any objections?"


"Nope. What position?"


"Who's this third chair for?" You've never been sure and Liam used it to hold your padds when your didn't have guests who might want to "take a load off" visiting.


"You know, I have no clue. I guess whoever we want it for."


"Let's make up a role for him." You sigh, remembering how you felt in OCS. "He's having a tough time."


"Yeah, well taking on Shaw in the O-Club isn't going to help that."


You wonder if she's made a mistake—is tipping her hand—but then she hands you a padd. Someone captured the confrontation and shared it. The caption isn't nice—how deep does the hatred for aliens, but especially Borg, go?


"Your former captain is acting like an ass."


"He sure is." And acting well—if you didn't know what Jack was there for, you wouldn't see it. Even knowing, you don't see the handoff. Just the altercation. "Can we not talk about him? Let's focus on Jack. Figure out a position title that could mean anything. He has a lot of skills."


"Criminal ones even."


"Pfff." You laugh at her expression. "Could come in handy."


"Sadly, they could."




Jack is with Sidney, walking her to a class that's on the way to his OCS room, when they run into Samantha Alara. Almost literally, she takes the corner too fast and they barely stop in time.


He doesn't apologize and Sidney starts to but then seems to realize who they're dealing with.


Alara's smile is a mean one. "The Borg Prince and his ex-Borg consort."


"We're humans." Sidney sounds like she might deck the woman just on principle.


"Well, you were. Him...?" She looks past them both and smiles.


Jack turns and sees Liam coming fast. "Oh the has been is back."


Sidney shoots him a warning look. He knows she's disappointed in her captain, but she's also willing to make excuses for the man she idolized.


"La Forge. Lose this asshole if you want your career to progress." Liam is playing his part to the letter and Sidney's face falls.


Jack wants to tell her the truth but that's not his place. Plus it'll put people he cares about in jeopardy.


His mother used to say, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead." Which is not the greatest thing to think of since there's already three of you. He'll go with the old WWII one then: "Loose lips sink ships" and keep his mouth closed.


"Sir, with all due respect, I think I got the better man." She pushes past Alara and goes to class. It looks brave but Jack also knows she hates being late.


He could give a flying one about that so he stands in the hallway and crosses his arms over his chest. "What are you doing, Shaw? What possible benefit does this kind of person and what she stands for bring you?"


Alara's laugh is more of a snicker. "What kind of person do you think I am, Crusher?"


He gets up in her face. "The kind who said my father should be humanely put down. Like a fucking rabid dog."


Liam pulls him back with a hand on the back of his jacket. He does it gently though. "That'll be enough, Crusher. Come on, Sam."


"The scales are going to balance on this, Captain Shaw." He tries his best to sound brave and very British—the kind of disappointed only a headmaster or royal can really achieve.


"Oh you mean that malarkey about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice? Yeah, right." His eyes send no message but his use of the word malarkey rather than bullshit does. Liam knows which side is just and Jack can tell he's hating playing on the opposite one.


"I thought you were a good guy." And he still does but he has to sell this. "What a massive fool I was." He turns and heads down the hall before either of them can ruin his parting shot.




"He'll be one of the first to go." Alara takes Liam's hand in hers.


"He kind of looks like Kirk, though. Why not use him as your stand-in for the campaign?"


"Very funny, Liam. Besides..." She has to keep her mouth shut. He can't know.




"He's Borg. We need someone with no Borg taint."


"Yeah, well don't make it me. Nanoprobes and all."


"Don't worry. I'm not going to call that kind of attention to you. I love you, Liam." There she's said it.


He searches her eyes as if he's amazed by what she said. Then he smiles and says, "I love you too, Baby."




We watch the video again. It has been out for a week. It has too many likes.


We see Jarred is watching it and go to him. He does not flinch any longer at our appearance. "What do you think?"


"It's bullshit."


We assess the tones of his voice, the frequencies we can detect but others might not.


There is no deception. This is not a trait the part of us that is Queen used to employ. But the part that is Agnes rightly pointed out that we were played too many times. And together we enhanced our abilities to spot lies.


We have never regretted joining.


But we have also never seen such a threat to our continued existence. And not just ours—any aliens. It reminds us too much of where we were when Picard rescued us—under duress, but still—and how that world had come to be.


Young Jarred has not gravitated toward the peace of the collective, even if he has come to the first level of acceptance with his role in the invasion of the other Borg. We know he wants a more active form of atonement.


"We need you to bring someone to us. They will be resistant. You must vouch for us." We show him who we want him to bring.


"May I ask why?"


"You may ask. We will not answer."


He processes that. "But it's not to hurt anyone, right?"


"We cannot guarantee that. However, it will not be innocents."


He lifts an eyebrow, we think in an unconscious mimicry of Seven of Nine. "See, you could be using all kinds of criteria to determine innocence versus guilt. Who are you against?"


We gesture to the padd. "Those who threaten us and the diversity of the Federation."


He actually laughs. "Would that have been so hard to say?"


We enjoy this boy. "Perhaps not. But we are used to obfuscating."


"Well, if I'm going to be your Boy Friday, maybe tell it to me straight."


"We will remember that going forward. And our...temporary Boy Friday, you mean?"


He pockets his padd. "Let's see how it goes. Maybe not so temporary. You could use someone who isn't Borg as your assistant."


"We could? Why?"


"Because nobody trusts that the ones who join your collective aren't under your control."


"Nobody trusts that?"


"Well, I sure as shit didn't." He grins and we think it is to take the sting away. It is what the Agnes portion of us used to do when dealing with older colleagues who caught her in an exaggeration.


"Interesting. We will consider your words. Now, can you find the one we need without getting taken captive?" This is not how Seven of Nine said to use him, but she also wanted us to break his barriers. Once broken, he needs to be built back up. This mission will help him.


"I'll find them."


We watch him go and begin preparing for our guest.




You're watching the video again, wondering what Icheb would have thought watching his hero espouse a human-only world. He makes it clear that even those who were Borg but now are not are a threat.


Which is nonsense.


You are waiting for the rally that is scheduled to be televised—one teased as having a big surprise. They're playing the video as warm up. You see Alara walk onto the stage and she's smiling. "We've gotten overwhelming support for our first few steps as the Party of Kirk. We know that you long for what was. And so, it is my extreme honor, to introduce to you Captain James T. Kirk—resurrected."


You lean forward and scan the crowd for Liam but if he is there, he's wisely staying off camera. Posterity will not be kind to those who were part of this.


But you stop looking for him because striding onto the stage is James T. Kirk. Although the movements are a nanosecond off, the smile, the words as she says, "Thank you, thank you." He looks over to Alara. "And thank you, Samantha."


She dips her head.


"It was at the behest of Councilor Alara that I was brought back. I am constructed. I'll be honest about that. But I'm also AI that was trained on all things Kirk. I know the man. I know what he'd say, what he'd do, who he was—and who he loved. In every respect that matters: I am Kirk. And I don't like what I've seen. The Borg threat—the alien threat that sits among us in Starfleet waiting to deploy—is just like when V'ger threatened to destroy us all. A problem that would have been much smaller if we'd gone out and found it before it found us. If we'd eradicated it rather than let it go."


Let it go? Kirk and his crew only survived that because of the former Captain Decker.


"There are some who say V'ger came from the Borg, that our tech and their tech merged into something destructive. That we made the Borg stronger with our relentless, foolish resolve to find new life forms. We offered a hand of friendship when we should have eradicated them like the vermin they are."


The point makes no sense. That seems to bother the rallygoers not at all. They are cheering wildly. For a fucking android of a man who had a Vulcan for a first officer and a legendary friend.


"I stand ready to support Councilor Alara and all who are true patriots as we move forward to protect Earth and all human worlds from the threats that surround us." His grin is the one you remember from the pictures Icheb collected. Cocky and a little seductive.


The crowd goes wild as the door to the lift opens. Raffi walks out, looking at her padd, mouth open. She sits down next to you and says, "They made a Kirk android. And these people love it."


They sure do. Why didn't Liam warn you about this? Or did he not know? Is he not as deep inside as he thinks?


And if he's not, can he get the fuck out and away from this shit? You remember what happened to the French Maquis who had to pretend to be collaborators. Some were killed as just that, their killers never knowing they were executing heroes.




There are two people who desperately want to talk to each other but cannot find the time during the day—too many other priorities compete for their time. Finally, when shift is over, he contacts her and asks her to beam down to his apartment.


"What happened to taking it slow?" She is teasing him, doesn't care how slow or not he wants to take this.


"You know what happened." He can see her process that, can see her adjust her expectations for what she thinks this meeting will be about.


"I'll be right down," she says with all seriousness and a half hour later is at his door. He does not note the half hour because she had to take care, could not just ask the transporter tech to beam her directly to his place. A circuitous route, full of double-backs was needed.


Despite the need to stay on mission, he cannot help but notice she is wearing very formfitting clothes, cut a little lower than her usual.


And she grins as he can't help but give her a long once over. "Yeah, I might have picked this outfit on purpose." She moves closer. "A Kirk android? What the fuck, Worf? Is this on your zen plan of not doing shit and letting amateurs handle it."


"It was not. And that is not how I refer to my plan."


"Don't care." She begins to pace. "It's not even that good an android. The smile is off. The walk is stiff. Have you ever seen vids of young Kirk?"


"This is not young Kirk. This is the Kirk who had lost his son. Who saved the planet multiple times."


"He saved more than just Earth." She is surprised to hear him refer to it that way.


"I know that and you know that. But those people in the audience do not appear to care about truth and falsehood. They like the narrative; they will believe it."


"Do you have a plan?" She looks like she believes he must and he wants to tell her he does. But he does not. "I believe we need new eyes. Picard."


"We can't just leave JL alone with his grapes and whichever woman he's currently with?" She's not sure why either Laris or Beverly are putting up with his inability to choose, but they are.


Or....maybe...they're not. Maybe he's chosen, but both of them. She doesn't really think she'd choose that if Seven said she wanted her but only if Shaw could play too. But both Laris and Beverly have shown themselves to be forgiving types. Unless it comes to keeping Jack safe.


"You want me to call him, don't you?"


He nods.


"Are you at least going to cook me dinner before I go?"


"I will cook you breakfast as well, if you wish."


"Someone's upped his timetable."


"Before, I knew the terrain in front of me. Time was a luxury we had. Now...now I am unsure. I do not want to look back with regret if this becomes unstable—if something happens to me."


"Or me. My adopted son"—she made it official after he died and was brought back—"is Romulan."


"Yes, he is." He pulls her into his arms. "The prune juice was delicious."


She wraps her arms around his neck. "So were the cupcakes."


"Do you really feel the need for dinner?"


"It can wait."


"A warrior's choice, Raffaela."


She rolls her eyes. "That barely makes sense. Clearly some of the blood to your brain has been diverted."


He does not dignify that with an answer. Merely scoops her up and carries her into the bedroom. Her laugh is like Jadzia's. She is not like her in bed though. A fact he is grateful for. She is her own person and he honors that.


"Okay, now I'm hungry," she says as she lies bonelessly next to him, feeling muscles she has possibly never used twinging. "And I need a replicator."


"I will prepare food after I heal you."


"No, it's kind of a nice feeling. Get me food first."


"That is an excellent answer."


She gives him the kind of smile that says she's well aware of that.




Data sits in the shuttle next to Ensign Miller and watches the video again. This isn't even that good a job at a Kirk android, and yet the people—humans—at the rally appear to be eating it up. Data does not understand how a non-human Kirk can be a beacon for a cause he would never have espoused. The voice clips that the video plays of him clearly were taken with no idea of the larger context.


The ship docks and Data follows Miller to the Jurati Queen. She looks different than the Queen Data met in the past.


"It is interesting to see you again," Data says, since it is interesting but not necessarily good.


"We have not met. And yet, in some vestige of memory and time streams, we have."


Data understands what she means. "You asked for me. Ensign Miller went to great pains to assure me that you mean me no harm."


"Indeed, we need your help."


"Perhaps you should have asked Admiral Picard instead."


"He is happy with his grapes. And would only slow you down. Unless you feel that you cannot succeed at this without him."


Data feels annoyance, can do this alone of course. Providing she ever says what "this" is. Data just thinks that Picard would be more inclined to help her than Data currently is.


The Queen motions for Miller to leave and he does. Then she moves closer to Data, her voice pitched so low very few other beings could hear her. "We wish to speak of Project Phoenix."


And suddenly Data understands why the Queen did not ask for Picard instead. She does not need a member of the old Enterprise or even of Starfleet.


She needs the former security AI of Daystrom Station.


And given what she wants to talk about, Data absolutely knows why.






I wake to find Sam out of bed and not in her bathroom redoing her face before I can wake the way she usually does. I have actually never seen her without some form of makeup on.


"Sam?" No answer.


I get up and pull on my clothes then walk out to the kitchen in hopes of coffee. She's sitting at the table nursing a mug, and just points at the coffee pot.


She looks like she just lost her dog or best friend or something.


"You okay?"


"I should have done this last night. But I wanted one last time with you."


Oh fuck? Am I gonna get shot again? Only why would she be offering coffee to a dead man?


"Talk to me, Sam." I use the voice I'd use with Seven just in case she is thinking of killing me.


"There are sacrifices that we have to make. In the name of the mission."


Yeah, I'm fucking dead. God damn it.


"And even though I really love you, Liam. And even though you kind of maybe love me back. It's time to end this."


This? Not...me? I'm fucking confused so I pour myself a coffee and sit down at the table across from her. "What are you talking about?"


"The Kirk android."


"Uh huh."


"Well, he's market-testing really well."


Wait, they market-tested this thing? "With whom?"


"Our base. Or neutral observers. I don't know exactly—there's a company that all they do is this kind of thing. Anyway, there's been one consistent complaint."


"He's an android schilling for a human-only movement?"


"No. That it's not Kirk without a beautiful woman on his arm. So...well...I..." She takes another sip of coffee.


"You what?" I try to sound hurt, but I don't think I'm selling. This is all so fucking unbelievable if she's saying what I think she's saying.


"I'm going to be the woman at his side. While also being the strong councilor I am." She sounds less secure on the second part and for a moment I remember the girl I thought was so sweet, the one who seemed to have limitless potential.


"Sam, you don't have to do this. It's a fucking android—how much fun can that be?"


She looks away but not before blushing.


"Wait. You took him for a test drive?"


"Liam, don't be mad." She takes my hand, stares soulfully at me as if—if I really were butt-hurt over this—that would make me feel better. "This is goodbye."


"But I'm part of this. I can be of use to you, to the mission."


She shakes her head. "I asked them. They said no."


"They? Who is they?"


"It's safer for you not to know. You can be free to find a nice girl and settle down. My heart will be broken when you do, but...you deserve to be happy. And the Liam Shaw I know would never settle for being my boy on the side." She blushes again. "And I'm not sure I want that. Androids...well..."


"But I can do more—I can work for the cause. On the inside..."


She gets up and walks around me and for a moment I'm worried, but then she bends down and hugs me fiercely. "You were never meant to be on the inside. Well other than inside me because I wanted that. But—and I went to bat for you and did not mention the nanoprobes—they consider you just outside what they'd look for."




She goes back to her chair and sighs as she sits. "Liam, your bridge crew. It wasn't Kirk's. So not human. And your CMO was an alien. And your chief engineer. And your security officer. And then you bring in a Borg. It's like you're some kind of 'let's all come together and do great things' guy."


"Yeah, I can see how that'd be a problem."


"It wasn't for me. It is for them."


I have no idea what to say to that.


She sighs. "I think you should go."


I'm torn. Do I pretend to be totally busted up and try to convince her not to? That's so not me. Well, unless it were Seven. But otherwise, it's so not me.


So I stand and nod and say, "I guess maybe at the end of the day we're two different people," which has to be the lamest fucking thing I've ever said, but somehow it works for her and she nods with tears in her eyes. "Am I in danger?"


"No. They promised to leave you alone."


A thought occurs to me. Probably a really fucking stupid one but... "Can I earn my way in?"




"Belly of the beast, baby." I grin and I let it be the full-mouth one, the one that's crooked but women seem to dig it. "You said Hansen's in love with me."


"I believe she is."


"Then I get close to her. And by extension get close to Janeway and Picard—I assume they're not part of this. The head of intel is someone she knows. Hell, the Jurati Queen. I'm your man on the inside. If you need that."


"You would do that? For me? For the cause?"


I have to be careful. I can't let her see how much I want her to be okay with this. How I want to be seen with Seven and not risk the two of us getting killed for it. "I would. But...they might not understand. I don't want to get shot doing it. Once is enough."


She sits back and for the first time I see the politician and not the girl with a crush. "Your chief engineer was killed during the invasion. If you were to take that position..." She takes a deep breath. "That's a really good idea. The flagship with you as part of the command team. Don't do anything yet. But...let me run it by them."


"Okay." I brush her hair with my hand. "You have people in Starfleet that can make this happen?" God, I hope not.


"That Borg will make it happen once she knows you want in—especially if you grovel and tell her how sorry you are."


I have to work to keep my expression even. She has no idea how much Seven would not forgive me for this if I'd really been seriously interested in Sam.


"And, as you said, she's tight with Janeway, who does make those kinds of decisions. It would be revenge for making you take the Borg in the first place." She frowns and looks up at me. "You know there's no record of that in your logs, right?"


Fuck, how deep did they go on my logs? Thank fuck I've never been one to use my personal logs much. "It's not the kind of thing you record for posterity. And Janeway told me in person, so there'll be no record of any meeting, because you don't get where she is without knowing how to game the system." Just in case Sam decides—or has already tried—to find evidence of Janeway forcing Seven down my throat.


She takes a deep breath, leans into my hand, and then says, "Goodbye, Liam. I'll remember these weeks forever."


Yeah, me too but not in a good way.


I grab my jacket out of her closet and leave. Once I'm out, I go to the VOQ, throw the whole thing down the refresher just in case she put any listening or tracking devices on it. Then I take apart my communicator to make sure it's okay. My padd hasn't been touched by anyone but me or it would have a small symbol in the lower left screen—I'm not hacker but I know how to set up alerts for unauthorized log-ins.


Also it used to make me happy to see how often Seven and I shared it during missions. Before I had the real woman—and hopefully will again.


I make some breakfast and am about to shower when a text from Sam shows up. All it says is: "Do it."




Jack is standing in line with Seven in the cafeteria when he hears a low cough and feels Seven stiffen next to him. She slowly turns around so he follows suit and sees Liam standing there.


"What the hell do you want, Shaw?" Her tone is fierce and if Jack didn't know better, he'd totally buy her act.


"Look, I uh..." Liam sighs. "I owe you two an apology."


"I don't know what mind games you're playing but we're not in the mood." She gestures for Jack to get moving, out of the line, out of the whole damn cafeteria?


"Captain, I'm hungry."


"We'll get hot dogs."


"But I have them every day. I was looking forward to this and he looks sincere—"


Her glare stops him and he turns and heads out, can hear her near-stomp behind him. "Really wanted something other than a bloody hot dog."


"He needs us," is all she says as she passes him and heads away from the hot dog cart, into a part of the trail where trees line the path and they aren't visible from the building.


"Jesus, am I not going to even get a freaking hot dog?"


She glares at him and he shuts up.


A moment later, Liam joins them. "I went to the cart. You weren't there."


"Well, you found us so what's the fucking problem?"


"It's just if you're going to call out the hot dog cart, maybe you should be there."


"You found us."


"I know but—"


"Guys, please. I'm so damn hungry and I have class in like forty-five minutes. I'll settle for a hot dog."


Liam actually pulls out a credit strip and tells him to go nuts, get them all something. He looks at Seven but she just nods.


"Now I don't want to miss whatever it is he's going to tell you. You just want to get rid of me and I don't think it's so you two can have a passionate reunion." He hands back the strip to Liam. "I'll grab an energy bar. What is going on?"


"I'd like to know that too." Seven's face is stern, if he were Liam, his nuts would be shriveling.


"Okay, first, Sam dumped me for the Kirk android."


He's not sure he heard that right so he looks at Seven. She has her head cocked and her eyes narrowed so he thinks she doesn't get it either. "She dumped you for the fake Kirk?"


"Yeah. And kicked me out of the radical tree fort. But...I got back in. By suggesting that, since she noted you were into me, Captain Seven of Nine, I could be their man on the inside."


"Of me?" She sounds so pissed, Jack almost grabs the strip to leave them to sort this and he can eat.


"No, of all the people they can't touch—like your many fav admirals on the Janeway and Picard side. Of the flagship. Of possibly Agnes."


"Of me, too." At Liam's look of not caring, he says, "What? I'll be on her ship too."


"As what?"


"TBD, mate. But I'm on it. Don't tell my father. It's a surprise."


"Yeah me and your pop aren't exactly trading secrets these days."


"He didn't say thank you? I mean you died, right? That's the word on the street."


"Yes, I died. No, he didn't."


Just when Jack thinks maybe he's unearthed some personal warmth in his father, he goes and forgets to do the human thing and thank the guy who let him pretty much destroy his ship and then died for him.


"So they want me to convince you how sorry I am and woo you—so we will get some of that after all, and you can be as bitchy as you want in payback for this whole thing—and then you're going to select me as your new chief engineer."


"Why would I do that?"


"Because that's the plan."


"That you worked out. On your own. Without talking to me."


"Hey, it's that or sneak around for the foreseeable future. I just didn't want us to be shot in public if one of them saw us together. Now I'm on a mission to spy on you by being with you like all the time." He says that last part like he's some kind of uber spy. Sure, Liam Shaw playing Liam Shaw. He should get a few dozen aliases under his belt before he gets too cocky.


Starfleet only knows of a few of Jack's noms d'crime.


"What are the other things?"


"Well, that's pretty much it. I'm going to be hanging around and trying to act contrite and—God damn it your eyes are too soft again."


He glances at Seven's expression. It hasn't changed as far as he can tell.


These two. He gave up lunch for this?


"We're in the middle of a thicket."


"But you have to practice. You can't look at me like that because then I look at you like this."


Jack glances at Liam. Nope, no change in his expression either. They fucking deserve each other. "Give me that strip. I'll have dogs for all when you two get done arguing. Was this how it was when you served?"


"Yes," they say in unison.


"You want everything on your dog, man?"


"Ask for Chicago style on mine." He hasn't looked away from Seven.


It would be an epic love story if they looked like they liked each other even a little.


He leaves them to it and gets a couple hot dogs for himself, one Chicago style because he likes to try new things, and by the time he finishes, they're coming up the path to the tables set around the cart.


He checks Liam's lips—no trace of the tinted lip balm she wears. And neither is flushed. They probably wasted their chance to grab a quick make-out session and argued instead.


Seriously: they deserve each other.




You let Jack go back to class—he's having too much fun watching the two of you, and then say, "We should walk the more traveled paths."


"Yeah, we should."


You can tell he wants to touch you; you want to do the same thing. But his plan is an amazingly good one and it's likely to keep you all safe.


As you enjoy the sunshine, you ask, "Do you have to see her from time to time? Check in? Do other things?"


"I'm not sure. I'm thinking not on the sex because she needs to seem faithful."


"To an android?"


"I did not say it was logical. But yeah, we may from time to time need to give some false intel." He looks over at you and his eyes are soft the way they would be if he really were trying to get back into your good graces. "Looks like I get to woo you after all."


You bite back a grin at how excited he sounds over that. "I guess so."


"I was surprised how involved you're letting Jack be."


"You don't trust him?"


"No, I do. I guess maybe what I'm saying is where the hell is Raffi?"


"Lying to me about your involvement with Worf. And she seems to have her own thing going. It's not beyond the realm of possibility for him to be running more than one op on this thing." You laugh softly. "What's he going to think of your new mission?"


"Don't know. Don't care." You see him swallow hard. "Okay, maybe I'm slightly terrified to find out but there was no way I wasn't going to find a way for us to be public without getting killed for it if I could."


"We could still get killed. We don't know how fanatical their followers are."


"I know. I can't believe they wouldn't let me in."


"Liam, you are sort of a model of diversity and inclusion."


He laughs. "I know. I see skills not the faces. Once I get the faces, I treat them as they require to thrive. But initially I just see skills."


"It was one reason I loved serving with you. I knew everyone was there because of what they could do." You stop walking and just enjoy being with him for a moment. "I have a meeting to get to. I don't want to leave, but it will look more convincing if I don't spend the entire afternoon with you when I really should be telling you how hard you're going to have to work to get back in."


"I'll do anything." His regret is clear, even if there's no need.


You know why he did it. You're sort of amazed he figured out a way to make the two of you work and still keep those assholes happy. But he did. And that was another reason you loved serving with him. He's surprisingly clever when the chips are down.


Like when he flew the Titan into a tractor beam. You still get a little thrill when you think of that—granted he'd been pissed as fuck at you and so he'd been extra risk-tolerant, but still: it was awesome.


"Could we meet? At the restaurant?"


You give him the smile you've always wanted to. Coy. Teasing. Making him wait. "What was it you said? We would have made love when we were ready, right?"


"Ohhhh, that's not fair."


"You think now you've had me, you don't have to work to get me again? Silly, silly boy." You turn on your heel and walk away, just in case anyone is watching.


You can hear him biting back laughter as you do.




They have decided it will be best to go to Picard rather than have him in the building. Inevitably he draws a crowd of admirers, especially after the Borg invasion, and neither Worf nor Raffi want that.


Raffi waits in the main part of Worf's suite of offices, talking to Myriamna about their granddaughters.


Then Myriamna says, "Oh, where you're going, at this time of day during this time of year, has sun that's low and blinding." She opens a drawer that's full of sunglasses.


"Uh, why do you have an entire drawer full of those?"


"Captain Worf makes everyone wear them at staff meetings if he feels like they've forgotten that they're Starfleet first and intel second. They all look so stupid—plus I dim the lights so they can barely see their notes—they stop acting like they're super spies and more like the officers they really are."


"He's pretty Section 31 averse."


"Amen." She hands her a pair. "These will look great on you."


Worf can hear them talking as he finishes a report that must be turned in before they leave. He enjoys the way Raffaela has become part of his life—so gracefully. Myriamna does not like many people but she loves her.


He hits send, grabs his own sunglasses, and joins her. "Admiral Picard has asked us to stay for dinner."


"Call him Jean-Luc, Worf. You've earned it. Or do what I do." She's knows this is a losing battle, saw Riker try over and over to get him to loosen up.


"JL is your name for him. I will not usurp it." He knows he looks nervous. "Will we acknowledge...?"


She waits for him to finish.


Without looking up, Myriamna says, "He wants to know if you'll admit to being involved with him."


"Oh, hell no."


"She says 'Oh, hell no.'"


"You are both deriving far too much enjoyment from this."


"If you're going to be a big weepy baby about it, then yes, we can let them know."


"I have never been a weepy baby anything."


"That's true," Myriamna says, again without looking up.


He calls for beam out before this can devolve further.


As they appear at the front of Chateau Picard, she says, "Let's see if they figure it out. Don't hide it, don't flaunt it."


"Very well. But..."




"But you are with me, yes?"


"No, I'm just using you for the sex. Yes, you big doof, I'm with you. Par'Mach'Kai and everything."


"I am relieved to hear it. I know you have warm feelings for Captain Seven of Nine."


"Warm feelings that were that of a lover and now are that of a friend. Besides, as you well know, she's totally gone on that idiot Shaw."




"Which I admittedly don't get but I'm wise enough to know when I'm beat."


"So I am second prize? In Klingon competitions there is one winner, the others are losers, no matter how close they came."


"If we'd done this right after the Borg thing, that might have been the case. But we waited and things settled down and I settled in, and"—she turns his face so he has to look at her—"I really missed you. So shut up about losing. You have me. Enjoy it. I am the prize."


He laughs and feels the truth of her words. She loves his laugh and grins at making him happy.


Then they turn as one to greet Picard and...his women. Laris and Beverly have their arms around each other.


Worf thinks the Admiral's relationship arrangements are none of his business—although this configuration is surprising. Raffi decides she does not want to know.




Alara sits in a live interview with a network that is sympathetic to their cause. The Kirk android is next to her, and he is the one being interviewed; she is just the arm candy she asked Liam to be.


The Kirk android looks at her often, his eyes crinkling with mirth, with affection, with love—none of it real. As much as she wishes she could think of it as the real JTK, she can't.


Her father told her so many stories about the man, about the things he did, things he sacrificed.


For peace. For peace for everyone. Not just humans.


To hear this version of her father's hero espousing hatred, saying the only part of Spock he enjoyed was the human one, that sacrificing himself for the sake of Federation-Klingon peace had been a mistake: it's jarring.


It's so jarring she's begun to take her meds again. The ones Starfleet suggested she take and they would reevaluate her application in six months. She'd stormed out.


But after the wild times, just before she found her home with a cause that spoke to her, she went to a therapist and went on the meds.


Something so simple as a chemical imbalance. Something so simple and yet they still can't fix it for good. The meds take away the highs and lows but for someone like her, it's hard to live in the middle.


It's boring.


She went off and threw herself in with the crowd, won her election by ranting about aliens and riling crowds up. Just as her handlers had told her to.


She isn't in the inner core even though she made Liam think she is. She's not even on the far rim. She's the politician they have in their pocket, the daughter of a man who never would have stood for being a hero of this kind of cause.


The concubine to a machine that looks like an old Starfleet legend. A concubine who is now back on her meds and feeling concern rather than excitement over this whole thing.


She has to resist pulling out her padd, looking at the footage someone sent her of Liam and the Borg talking. Rapprochement. She could see it the first time she watched it. The Borg will let him in.


But she also saw something on her fifth time through that shocked her. A softness to Liam and to the Borg. A comfort that should be lacking. An understanding that goes beyond anything she ever had with him.


She believes she may have been played.


"Isn't that right, darling?" The Kirk android is asking her something. Shit, she isn't even paying attention.


She gives the serene closed-mouth smile and gentle head tilt that she's found can answer just about any question.


He goes back to yammering.


She feels alone and unseen in front of so many people. She decides she won't out Liam and his ex-Borg.


Someone should be fucking happy. It sure as shit isn't her.




We sit with Data, assessing his comfort level with us. It is low. We access the many time-streams that coexist in us. There is one where he had sex with us. We think this might be the core of the problem. Especially as his emotions seem all over the place.


We have seen it with the pilgrims we bring in. That emotions can limit growth, can retard progress. They must be discussed, brought into the light.


"Data, this body has never known your touch. We were Agnes Jurati and a Queen who never met you."


He nods.


"Please relax."


"I appreciate your attempt to put me at ease. But...it is not the sex I had with a version of you that gives me pause."


"Then what?"


"I...I do not wish to go back to the Daystrom Station."


We hear true fear in his voice. He once ran the station but it was not him, not as he is now. "You fear re-assimilation?"


"I do." He looks surprised. "I do." We see him coming to terms with that. "I did not know that I did."


"Hidden fears are just that: hidden." We stand and walk to a view screen, to give him time to process. "Do you wish to know the roles I see for you in this?"


"I am not sure."


We turn and fix him with our fiercest stare. Most turn away but he does not. "Perhaps you could guess."


"You wish me to get him. Before they can."


We nod. "And there is another task. Not at Daystrom."


"You see the Kirk android as a wild card."




"You wish to assert control."


We incline our heads. So pleasant to discuss things with a being so clearly on our wavelength.


"I would be seen as soon as I tried to get near the Kirk android."


"It can be done remotely." More accurately, we have the capacity to do it remotely. We are unsure if anyone else does.


"They will have security on the pertinent code. Trying to take control of its speech or motor controls will set off a variety of alarms across the system. Even if it were a simple model, which it does not appear to be."


"Agreed. But...what about the self-destruct?" Every android has one, even if the creators deny it. The "Just in case" switch.


We see surprise, then a smile. He enjoys our idea, the challenge of it. Those commands are buried. It would be not a true challenge but something he could not do in his sleep—if androids slept. "It could be done. But what good would it be if we can't get near it? It could become a martyr for the cause. It would know it was dying. It would say what Kirk would say—counter effective to your plan."


"We think not. Also there is more than one plan."


"You do not intend to share your other plans with me?"


"No, for you may get captured. Get what we need out of Daystrom and we will fill you in." We think about the task we have set for him. "We will give you Miller to accompany you. A human may be comforting on this mission."


"Comforting for me?"


"For Kirk, once you decant him from wherever they have him hidden."


We can see he is accessing files he may never have shared with Picard and the others.


"We realize there may be more than one of him. It is what we would do. We need the one who died with Picard, the one who most closely matches the android."


"And the others?"


We sit and consider. Data is silent as we think. "The Project Phoenix code remains, even if we take every version."


He nods.


"One Kirk stolen is easily blamed on the Human-Only movement. Especially if it matches the android. We can generate chatter that goes to Daystrom that the android's performance is less realistic than hoped."


"So you would leave him there? All the versions of him? And the code?"


We smile and it is the smile of Agnes Jurati, who had so little choice in her own life, at least until she became us. "We will ask him. Once he is here. If we succeed in our mission." We meet Data's eyes and see his approval of this plan. "We will give him the choice."


Continue to Part 2