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 2)

by Djinn





I'm sitting in the mess on the ship with Seven. I'm trying to look like I'm falling all over myself to apologize to her, but people keep walking by and bumping me, or glaring, or saying, "Asshole," under their breath.


I can see Seven is getting more and more pissed because this happened in the corridor from the shuttle back to the cafeteria too. But what can she do? Not like I can come clean and say, "It was just me pretending to be an intolerant dick on behalf of Federation Intelligence."


But then La Forge walks by and bumps me so hard that I spill my coffee on the table, just missing my uniform, and Seven slaps her combadge before I can stop her.


"All hands setting."


The thing chirps three times and I say, "No."


"Fuck this," she mouths back, then says, "Attention Enterprise crew. This is your captain." The loudspeaker is playing in the mess too so I am hearing this in a weird delayed stereo.


"Captain Shaw is currently sitting in the mess. If you have anything to say to him, you walk down, and do it now. And then you're done. Get it out of your system the way I am doing. But the next person who curses him out—and yes, I realize given his language that is ironic—or bumps him, will be put on report. He's an asshole, but he's our asshole. I will not have him disrespected." She cuts the connection, then stands up and walks into the middle of the mess. "Am I clear?"


No one makes eye contact.


"Anyone who did one of those two things can now come and apologize."


"Seven, no." I stand and join her. "Look, I know why you're pissed off...I was a little lost after what happened that day. After dying. I can't excuse it. But it's over and and I'm out of that group of freaks and trying to make amends. No one has to apologize, just please give me a chance to make it up to anyone I've offended."


I realize Jack is in the mess—I have no idea why—and he gets up from the table he's sharing with Sidney and walks over. "You done with that human-only piece of garbage you were dating?"




"You really believe my father should have been euthanized? That we should be—those of us who turned?"


Suddenly every eye is on me from the junior officers, and I realize he has somehow become a leader of them. Even though he was the one who activated them. If they can forgive him...


"Jack—all of you—if I'd thought that, I'd have had the phasers set to kill, not stun that day. You're my crew—or many of you were. None of you asked for what happened to you." I look at Jack. "Not even you."


Suddenly Sidney is rushing me and I think she's going to punch me this time since she's already done the hard bump, so I resign myself to sporting a bruise, but instead she crashes into me so I have to grab her to stay upright as she hugs me tightly. "I knew you couldn't be that kind of asshole."


"Any other kind though..." Seven laughs as she says it.


"Right, any other kind is fine. But not that kind."


I look around the mess, see Ohk watching me with confused relief—I couldn't tell her but doesn't she know me well enough to know I wouldn't have gone over to that side, not really?


Esmar walks over and says, "I hope you mean it." They don't look happy with me.


"I do, Kova."


They don't hug me but they nod and go back to their table.


Only Mura looks like he never believed it of me. God love him.


I meet Seven's eyes, swallow hard.


"Anyone else need some time with him or can the two of us go back to mending our own fences?" She sounds like a captain should. Looking out for them but also in control of the situation—and not someone you want to piss off.


Which I've always known. This is what I saw for her, her future with her own ship. I just never thought I might be on it.


She puts her hand gently on my arm and eases me back toward the booth. "We'll tell them the truth eventually," she says in the nearly subvocal way we perfected over so many missions.


I want to hug her but I settle for a smile and a sincere thank-you once we're seated again. "You didn't have to do that."


"I did. I don't care how much they hate someone. Disrespect anybody on my ship at your peril."


"Your ship." I sneak a quick touch of fingers on her hand and she glares at me, but I mouth, "I had to."


She goes back to eating. I can feel eyes on us but they aren't as hostile as before.


Thank God.




You go to the bridge once you've walked Liam back to the shuttle bay and find Raffi working at the table in your ready room. Staffing requests for various sections are due and the two of you have been discussing the vacancies and how you want to fill them—or not.


"So...that was interesting. Your first all-hands and I'm not sure you'll ever top it." Raffi is laughing as she says it.


"Shut up." You grin as you sit down.


"So you really forgiving him?"


"So you really know nothing about why he was with her in the first place?" You don't look away when she does. Just wait for her to lie to you—but not look at you. She's not good at lying to your face.


She only sighs. At least it's not a lie. It might be all you get so you look down at the table.


"The cupcakes came from Worf."


You look up. "Are you sharing good news because you're happy about that or are you using good news to try to mindfuck me out of a conversational track you don't want to be on?"




"Well, at least you're honest." You reach over and take her hand. "I saw a lot of chemistry between you. I'm not entirely surprised. He seems like a really good partner for you."


She squeezes. "I think he is. I amuse him. Way more than I amused you. But then you think Shaw is funny so..."


"He is funny. Just not when he's undercover." You let that hang in the air. Not willing to call it back. "Does Worf know he's not dating Sam anymore?"


"I'm not going to talk about this with you. Also I have no idea what you're talking about."


"I accept that. But tell your new boyfriend one thing from me. If he uses Liam again—and I don't care what reason he pulls out of his ass to justify doing it—he and I will be solving our problem in an arena."


"He's a Klingon, Seven."


"And I'm an ex-Borg trained by a Hirogen to cage fight to the death. Who will be fighting for someone she loves. My latinum's on me." You don't look away. You want her to understand how enormously serious you are.


It shook you to your core to see how the crew were reacting to him. He deserved so much better after everything he did—after everything you put him through.


"Shit. Never seen this side of you."


"You have actually. The last person I was this angry with was Bjayzl. And we both know how that went down. I'm sure you don't want your new relationship ended that way."


"You once told me you had nothing to live for back then. It made you unstoppable that day."


"And if anything happens to Liam because of what Worf made him do, the only thing I'll have to live for will be revenge."


"Worf didn't make him do anything. He agreed."


"After Worf took him out of Starfleet Medical before he was even healed. So I couldn't get to him. So none of his friends could. I have no idea what kind of state Liam was in when Worf broached the idea to him. He should have left him alone. Liam should have been with me." You can feel your voice breaking and push away from the table, going to your desk to look for some lip balm, forcing yourself to calm as you do.


She wisely doesn't try to comfort you. Or escalate. She just says quietly as you sit back down. "He was doing it for the good of everyone."


"Liam's given enough for the good of everyone. And this whole dumb adventure accomplished jack shit at stopping the movement. I hope whatever you two are up to is more effective."


You see a look of doubt cross her face before she can call it back.


"Great. We are so fucked."




Data sits next to Miller in the ship one of the Jurati Borg is piloting. It has cloaking tech Data has never seen the like of and would like to share with Starfleet but is not sure if they are ready for it yet.


Data thinks Agnes knew this would be a quandary. Yet she will leave the decision up to Data. The trust she places is curious but also pleasant.


Data can tell Miller is nervous. They have time until they are close enough to Daystrom to beam in, so Data asks, "On the shuttle, you told me you were under the Queen's protection. That she was keeping you safe. Yet she assigned you to this mission. The opposite of safe."


Miller smiles but it is a smile Data has difficulty reading. "She understands me. Doing something is good. I'm not great at talking about my feelings."


"Why would you need to?" Data enjoys the therapy sessions with Troi but is unsure why this ensign would need to. He does not appear troubled, aside from understandable nerves at the nature of this mission.


"I uh...I killed Captain Shaw."


Data is unsure what to say, heard Shaw fall, heard Seven of Nine yelling, then Raffi. "He is no longer dead."


"Yeah, no thanks to me. But he's dating that Federation Councilor who's all humans only so maybe I should have killed him better."


Data can imagine this might provide some comfort, a bandage over guilt. "I have, over my time in Starfleet, become quite skilled at observing and identifying human actions and reactions. It helped me learn to identify emotions—and later express them."


Miller looks at Data as if he doesn't see the point of this.


"There are physiological reactions under a human's control but there are others that are not. Especially regarding attraction. While Samantha Alara clearly had feelings for Shaw in the vids I saw of them together, he did not display the same for her. Moreover, it was quite apparent that he did have such feelings for your current captain—and she returned the sentiment. So if he is with Alara, it is not out of true interest."


"Shit, man. You gotta make it horrible again?"


"I do not mean to. But you are operating under a false premise. And that's never ideal. You did not mean to shoot the captain. You were in fact compelled."


"I tried not to. Some part of me that got weaker and weaker the longer I was Borg. But once I was free..." He takes a deep breath. "Now...it's all I see. All I remember. Not wanting to do it and doing it anyway."


"Believe me, I understand."


"We're here," the Jurati says, and Data stands. "I believe, Ensign Miller, that the only way for you to truly find peace is to talk to Captain Shaw. I assume you haven't?"


"I tried. Well, sort of. I went to sickbay but chickened out." He stands and checks his weapons. "Shaw was so nice to me when I reported to engineering. I was one of his own, sir."


Data does not want him overly emotional so he puts a hand on Miller's shoulder and says, "And he will be nice to you again. People are surprisingly consistent in their behavior. And now you have a plan. Next time you are in proximity to the captain, you will know what to do." He studies Miller then nods. "And now I must do something that I do not want to do."


"Go home?"


"That is not home. That is a prison."


"So's guilt. You help me not get stuck in mine, I'll make sure you don't get stuck in yours."


Data likes this young man so much.


Walking to the control panel, Data eases into the security system, avoiding the alerts Daystrom has set up, seeing where they've changed certain things.


And where they didn't. Checking to make sure their target has not been moved, Data nods to the Jurati. "I have input the coordinates. Beam us down." They have Jurati communicators to call for beam out. "There will hopefully be three of us coming out."


The transporter effect feels subtly different. Another change effected by the Jurati to the tech, no doubt. But not one Data will be at liberty to share.


"What the f—" Miller stands frozen looking at the vats around them.


"Welcome to Project Phoenix."


"This is Captain Kirk." He turns. "And so is this, like from when he first made captain. And I guess maybe this kid is too? And this baby..." He sounds horrified.


Data stops in front of the first one Miller noted, the one who looks like the Kirk from the photos of the Enterprise B launch. "I will be in the system. Please guard us."


Miller draws his phaser as Data goes inward into the system, seeing where the memory data is stored, stolen after Admiral Picard buried Kirk under the cairn—Section 31 was in far more quickly than they could have expected, collecting the body and extracting the nearly degraded engrams.


Data wonders if Spock visited the cairn, mourned his lost friend, not realizing he was gone. Not realizing he could be alive again.


Data waits as the download is initiated and then wipes the traces of it ever happening. The vat slowly drains and as it does, the walls lower.


Miller grabs a towel and catches Kirk as he sags. "Clothes would be nice."


"We will replicate him something on the ship. Is he breathing?"


Miller nods, checks the pulse—"Nice and steady."


Kirk opens his eyes and stares up at Miller. "David?"


"No, sir. Jarred. Ensign Jarred Miller."


"And I am Data."


"Aren't I dead? Also why am I naked and wet?" He pulls the towel Miller is using lower, covering himself. "If this is heaven, I liked the other one better, with the cabin and the horses and my girlfriend."


"We will answer all your questions, Captain Kirk. But please let me get us out of here first." Data hits the communicator. "Three to beam out."


The transporter feels just as strange on the way out.




They are having their first fight. To be more accurate, they are having their first fight as a couple. Arguing comes as naturally to them as it does to Shaw and Seven, even if Raffi would deny that vehemently and Worf would try to spin the interaction into something Klingon and honorable rather than general bickering.


"I did not make Liam Shaw do anything, Raffaela."


"But you didn't not make him. Seven's right: you stole him out of Starfleet Medical."


"He was released to me. There was no theft."


"With no notice to her." Raffi still sees the pain in her friend's face, the unyielding certainty that if Shaw were gone she'd have nothing left.


It had shaken her deeply—she knows she never meant that much to her, or not after the first few months at any rate.


Worf thinks she is being overly invested in her ex's feelings. But this is one reason he did not ask her to stay in intel. Raffi often operates on her emotions—even if there is intellect and valor driving her decisions. She has a soft core—one that he thinks Seven of Nine might lack. Or more accurately, Raffi's caring encompasses many and Seven's is more selective.


Raffi feels bad for Seven and Seven knew exactly what to say to make her feel that way. On that, they at least both eventually agree.


"Raffaela, Liam Shaw is infamous for his ability to say 'No.' There are humorous pictographs—"




"As I said, with him saying nothing but that word. If he did not wish to help, he would have said so. Your captain is upset that he went immediately back into danger and..." He does not want to say the next part.


"And chose the mission over her."




"But ultimately, he didn't."


"Yes. And now she knows she will always come first. Which is not what I intended but Alara does not appear as 'connected' as I once thought so perhaps he will learn more as a double agent than he would have just being with her."


"So you think she's nothing but a pawn."


He nods.


There is a soft knock at the open door—Myriamna has gone home for the night and the outer office is unattended and dim. "Am I interrupting anything important?" Picard asks.


Raffi hugs him, Worf nods fondly, and they abandon their first fight, which was winding down amicably anyway, as they sit at Worf's conference table.


"Laris is working this from her angle."


Worf does not understand how Picard interprets "tell no one" to mean "tell anyone around me I think might have an idea how to do the thing I was asked to secretly do" but it generally seems to. He hopes Laris does not still have ties to the Tal Shiar.


Raffi shares a look with him, but sees no need to say anything: JL isn't going to change now.


"In the meantime, I had an idea. I was approached just after the Borg invasion and offered a seat on the council. I said the grapes and my son would take my time, but my son is in OCS and my grapes are ably looked over by Laris."


"Did Beverly move out?" Raffi immediately regrets asking it—she really does not want to know what kind of arrangement these three have—but he laughs and says, "Oh, heavens no. She's just not interested in winemaking."




"My point"—he smiles at Worf, seeing his impatience—"is that I could be a countering force to Alara. Both on the council but also...perhaps with her. Maybe I could reach her? She reminds me a little of Ro."


Worf agrees that in looks she does. In temperament though... "Or she will put you down as she said she wanted to do."


"Or that. But I trust you can find me some bodyguards, old friend."


"I can. Are you sure you wish to do this? It may yield nothing but time away when you could be spending it at home with your...women." He has a hard time saying that and sees Raffi stifle a laugh.


"Oh, I'm driving Laris quite mad with my tinkering with her new varietals. She thought this would be an excellent idea. If nothing else, it keeps us in the game at the highest levels."


"Provided you stay awake during Council meetings, JL. I've heard they can be a snooze fest."


"I've heard that too. Ah well, once more into the breach, my friends."




We see Kirk sitting in a chair, in the uniform of the before times, which probably brings him a sense of familiar comfort. He is in the sunroom so many of the pilgrims find soothing when they first arrive on the ship. Data and Miller are sitting near him but leaving him in peace as he processes what he has been told. Data can explain what was done to him as well as we can. Miller provides the human context.


And now...we will add the Borg element. We walk slowly, our footsteps quiet but he turns.


There is no panic on his face, and we have to remind ourselves that he comes from a time when the Borg were still unknown. "Hello. You aren't catching me at my best, Ms...?"


"I'm the Queen of the Jurati Borg. But you may call me Agnes."


"Agnes." He seems to sense our reticence to impose proximity on him and gestures to the couch next to him. "Please."


We sit and study him.


He runs his hand through his hair and says, "It's a lot to process. I remember dying. But, not what came after."


"That is because you were not the Kirk who died."


"I'm an echo."


"A new creature. We are acquainted with the sensation—the strangeness—of not being what we once were and still can feel we are. We were one thing, a Borg, a powerful creature and then time changed. And we were taken from our people and watched them die all around us. We were held captive, half a body, hanging and dependent on our captors for survival as time laughed at us."


"As poetic as that is," Data says, "you are leaving out a great deal."


"Such as?" Kirk asks.


"Such as the Borg being really bad aliens in the book of bad aliens." Miller looks at us with apology in his eyes. "Sorry, but it's true."


We nod. "It is true. But we met a human who wanted us to be more, a scientist who wanted us to form a cooperative of willing participants, not those assimilated into our collective against their will. We merged. This body is hers. But there are two of us in it."


"I've experienced that a couple of times. Disorienting. I didn't like it."


"Was the other entity in charge?"


"Yeah." He makes a face; we find it charming. His naturalness is refreshing: we are so used to distaste and fear being the first reaction to us.


"It is better to share equally."


"I'll keep that in mind for next time." His grin is what the Agnes part of us used to deem dangerously radiant. "So you were human?" He studies our appearance, but in a scientific way.


"You are curious."


"They used to call me a textbook with legs when I taught at the Academy." He laughs. "They were right."


We sync without a thought to the video monitor. "There is no image of how we looked when there was only the Borg portion, but this is our human appearance before we joined."


We feel the part of us who was Agnes respond with mixed feelings to the image.


"You look sad."


"We were." But so few saw it. This man though... We search for a picture of him when he was young and display it next to the one of Agnes.


"They couldn't bring me back that age?"


We look at Data and he shakes his head. Clearly he and Miller have not told Kirk about the other versions of him yet. "We need you this age."


"Yeah, your crew tried to explain that to me."


"We are not her crew," Data says.


"Well, I might be," Miller says, but he sounds torn and we wonder what Data said to him on their journey to Daystrom.


Kirk isn't paying attention to them but to the pictures on the screen. "We look equally sad."


We assess the picture and see something in the eyes of the man he was.


"I'd lost someone then. Had to let her die. So history could play out."


"Agnes before we joined was forced to kill her lover against her will."






He seems to shake himself out of the memory and studies us instead, our appearance, the joins of tech and flesh.


"This is fascinating. I've seen this coloration in creatures that avoid the light. Do you?"




"Is this room painful for you?"


"No. I would not have come in if it were. Or I would have adjusted the lights. I thought it would be welcome to you, after the darkness of the vat."


"I don't really remember that."


"Providing we accomplish what I hope, we will discuss that place later."


"I'm a little unclear on the details of what you need."


"We have a plan. But we lack...finesse at times. We believe you are a master of that."


"I've been known to plan a caper or two in my day."


We sync again to the screen, let him see the version of Kirk that is being used to sell the Earth for Humans ideology.


"Something's off about that guy."


"It is an android," we say.


"Why is it always an android?" He looks quickly at Data. "No offense."


"None taken, sir."


"First Christine's fiancé makes an android to replace me. Harry Mudd was going to do the same, I think. And don't get me started on changelings and how annoying they are when they fight you using your own face."


We are all staring at him.


"I guess someone didn't read all my logs in history class."


Miller looks down as if he is, indeed, guilty of this. Data seems to be accessing the logs as we speak. We find ourselves smiling; a more open mouthed expression than our norm.


"That smile lights up your whole face, Agnes." Then he turns back to the screen. "I would never say the things he's saying."


"There is a great deal of history to catch up on. People are...primed to retreat to what they used to have."


"Yeah, isolationism in the name of homogeneity. Only once they split off by themselves, they'll find some other way to hate each other. Religion, the color of skin, the way they choose to love." He sighs. "It's an old, old story."


We are moved by his words and he is only making a point. We imagine him in the android's place, the hearts and minds he might change from behind a podium. "You can change that."


"Except that they're expecting an android and I'm a human—and an old one. Well, not that old I guess since you decanted me today, but I feel old."


"We have ways to enhance you. Cybernetic components beyond comprehension and nearly undetectable." We see Data's interest. "We plan to share them with the Federation at some point. We are still refining them for general use. To date, we have only used them for emergencies. For the very injured or sick."


"This isn't an emergency yet in my view." Kirk turns to us and he frowns. "How far downstream can you see?"


"We can extrapolate all the way."


"And by the look on your face, stopping it now is a really good idea." He frowns. "Is it the only time to stop it?"


"No. There are numerous points along the timeline that appear equally effective. But, they involve many casualties. And as Jarred said, the part of us that is not Agnes has much to atone for. We would prefer to stop this before the deaths begin."


Miller coughs gently.


"Yes, you are right, Jarred. Someone has already died." At the question in Kirk's eyes, we elaborate. "A Starfleet Officer, in retribution for the death of the father of the woman who is with the false Kirk."


"He was a murderer though?"


"It is more complicated than that." We gesture to Miller. "Take the captain for refreshment—we are told our food is quite good."


"It is," Miller says.


Kirk stands. "I could eat."


"And rest, Captain Kirk. We will catch you up on all you are missing when you have had time to process all of this." We rise to leave but he stops us with a hand gently landing on our arm—it is strange being touched.


"Agnes, you rescued me from being a floating lab rat. Call me Jim."






I'm puttering around the VOQ, sick of this place but in housing limbo until I'm officially assigned somewhere. I'm hungry but I can't decide what I want from the replicator so I just sip my scotch as I straighten up.


The chime rings and while normally I'd either ignore it or just say, "Come," I'm a little paranoid these days so I ask, "Computer, visual on door."


The terminal lights up with the view from the door cam. It's Seven. She looks pissed.




She doesn't charge in the way I expect. She walks slowly and she gives me a long, assessing look before walking to where I keep the booze and pouring herself a generous glass of bourbon.


"Mi bourbon is su bourbon."


"We're fucking. It'd be 'tu.'"


I decide now is not the time to say we only fucked the one evening so technically we're a one-night stand until she decides it's time to move on with this charade we're playing. "Tu bourbon."


She sits in the chair and sips her drink, not looking at me. I think she's chosen it over the couch so I can't join her.


"You're blowing our 'slowly forgiving me' schtick by being here."


"Fuck you, Liam."


Wow. Okay. Not what I expected, especially not after she defended me in front of literally everyone on the ship the other day.


I sit on the couch, far enough away so I'm not crowding her. I sit the way I used to in the big chair, leaning forward, as if the problem is an engine I'm going to fix, but first have to study. "What's wrong?"


There is a long silence until she finally asks softly, "Why?"


She won't make eye contact and it's driving me crazy. I can usually read her through them, see where she's going, if this is her just being butt-hurt over some reg I made her mind or if I actually did something.


But I've got nothing.




"Why did you say yes to Worf? Why didn't you tell him you needed to talk to me first? Why did you go to Sam—be with Sam—without talking to me first?"


I have so many answers I could give her. About duty and the right thing and secret stuff being easier to keep secret if not that many people know. But instead, I say what's in my heart at this moment. And it's angry and I'll probably regret it, but fuck it. "Like you talked to me about helping Picard and Riker?"


She finally meets my eyes. I expect rage. Instead she starts to laugh. "God damn it, Liam. That's the one thing that actually..." She gets up and starts to pace, which is something I've found over time signifies a better state of mind than when she is sitting absolutely still. "Was it payback?"


"No. Jesus, Seven."


"You said you wanted to ask me out. You cried over having missed that chance for us. But you chose to do it. I didn't tell you to and I bet Worf didn't blackmail you into it." She turns to the window, which has a great view of the gardens. "You just left me. After..."


"After just leaving you by dying?"


She nods.


"Maybe you rubbed off on me? Doing good and kicking ass and taking names. With hardly any kicking ass, but...?"


"You didn't exactly take names either. Except of the woman you were fucking." Her exhale is ragged, the way it gets when she's letting go of her anger but might cry.


If she cries, I'm fucked. Angry Seven who can't control her tears is the most difficult version of her there is. So I sit quietly and let her get herself to an emotional place she wants to be, not one I've sent her to.


I'd love to say I didn't do it, but she's right. I did. "I made a stupid choice given how it's turned out. But I also blew the operation when I told you about it. You do come first, even if it took me a bit to figure that out." I get up and take her glass gently, refilling it as well as my own and when I sit down on the couch, I'm much closer to her.


"I should have talked to you that night. After dinner. Before I had Sidney change course. We could have been on the same page."


"We might not have been. My trauma around Picard... My...jealousy of how you were turning to him, how I could see that I...embarrassed you in front of him."


She frowns. "Because you were a dick. Not because of who you are. I love who you are. Well, other than the name thing."


"And making you mind the regs."


"Yes, that was also often annoying. I was never embarrassed by you. I would have been so proud to present a united front. But we just kept not doing that."


I think of how we bickered just before Vadic murdered T'Veen. Not our finest moment by any stretch of the imagination.


I settle my glass on the side table and lean back, closing my eyes. "So much to regret, Seven."


"What if you'd picked someone else for first officer? Where would we be?"


"Probably dead for real. We made a difference in that fight with the Changelings and Borg. We just left each other bruised and bloody as we did it. Me literally." I smile tightly because I'd prefer to not remember how beat up that mission left me. Repeatedly. Ultimately fatally.


She makes a sigh of surrender.


"Also, there was no way I wasn't going to pick you, Seven. No way in hell. Don't get me wrong, there were other great candidates. But it was you for me. After our interview, I felt like I was walking on air instead of solid ground."


She smiles and finally it's the one I love. "Me too."


"That worried me. I may have over-corrected because I didn't want to make you uncomfortable by how strongly you were affecting me. I think that's why I wouldn't use your name. But in my fantasies, I did. All the time."


"I thought you called me 'Baby' in your fantasies?"


"There are very few endearments I haven't called you in my fantasies. And I'm not really an endearment guy." I can see her thinking back to all the things she's heard me say.


"You use 'kiddo' a lot."


"Only with the junior officers who don't have something to prove though. It can be read as an insult. Any endearment can when used professionally."


She nods. "You usually just go by names." She puts her glass down next to mine and shifts to the couch, cuddling into me. "I don't want to pretend anymore. I just want to be with you. Like this. Talking after work, being close."


"Me too. Only, you were right. I didn't talk to you about the chief engineer thing. If there's someone else you want—I know it's weird to have your former captain as your first engineer chief."


"Of course I want you. What other engineer is going to let me come down and play with the engines with them?"


I grin and kiss her forehead. "Probably all of them. Have you seen you?"


She laughs and kisses me slowly and tenderly and as if we have all the time in the world, as if we don't need to get right to sex this time. Maybe it's her way of wooing me?


If so, I love it.


"I'm hungry, Liam. And I'm so sleepy. Get us something that won't make me feel sick if we sleep right after eating."


"You're going to sleep here?"


She nods. Her eyes are defiant.


"All right then." I get up and order us a ham and cheese omelette and hash browns.


We eat them curled together on the couch, one plate, two forks, laughing as we both go for the last piece. She gets it but then she feeds it to me.


We kiss and she tastes savory and salty and like home.


"I love you, Seven."


"I love you too, Liam."




We are sitting with Jim at a table. Multiple screens are in front of us and he moves from one to the other, stopping footage and starting it, taking it all in so quickly.


We know, of course, the legend of this man. But also know the history—the logs that we have now read in total, not wanting to fail to understand his references to past missions in the future.


The reality of the man is quite different from the legend.


And it is causing a war within us.


"Samantha Alara. She's with this guy and that's the kind of affection that doesn't lie. Reminds me of Miri."


A girlhood crush. Yes, we can see that she is looking at Liam Shaw that way.


"Sadly for her, he reminds me of how I was with Miri. Tolerant, fond, but really not going to go there. Except this guy did and the woman isn't a young girl so that's fine. But there's a connection there I think, that she was young once and maybe..." He shakes his head. "Anyway, Then bam, she's with an android. Doesn't add up. And look at this." He's lined up vids frozen on her face on the screens. Her expression over time. "Do you see it?"


We look and we do see. "She is not happy."


"Less and less by the day. This Shaw guy. Your know him? What do we know about him? Any chance we can talk to him? I want to know more about her before I go in pretending to be an android until I learn who's behind this or see my big moment to make the next Gettysburg Address."


We laugh because his good humor coating such deep intelligence and integrity is a combination we cannot resist.


The idea that there are more of him out there worries at us. That he does not know about the other vats. That is what is causing the war between the part of us that is Agnes and the part of us that is Borg. We have not felt such dissension between us for centuries.


"Agnes?" He's looking at us in concern.


"We will bring Shaw here." Also Seven of Nine, who will no doubt insist on coming with him. We have reports they are together now but we need more insight on if this is more subterfuge or not.


"You're distracted. Care to tell me why? Or do you only include me on the parts that concern me?"


And just like that, the Agnes part of us wins. "Tell him" we can hear her screaming.


"There were more of you."


"More? Of me?" He frowns. "I don't follow—" But then he does, of course he does, he is too quick not to. "Oh. More vats with...me in them?"


We nod. "Different ages. Data estimated one to be equivalent to the picture we pulled up of you. One as a teen. And one as an infant."


"And you just left them there. You all just left them there." He gets up and walks to the view screen, staring out at the conduit we have guarded this whole time. 'You left me there. Except this me, because you needed this me."




He turns and his eyes don't convey surprise so much as resignation. "As a leader would. Not necessarily the kind of leader I'd want to follow, but still I can see the logic. Especially after what I've been told by you and Data and Miller about the Borg. And Agnes Jurati."


We incline our head. He is not wrong.


"But what I don't understand is...why tell me?" He stalks over to us, his grace even at his age not lost on us. We admire efficiency of movement, clarity of purpose. He has that. "You could lose me. So why tell me the truth?"


"Because we cannot not tell you the truth."


He studies us. "Okay, I like that answer. But you're not a single impetus kind of gal. What's the other reason?"


"They have destroyed the young version and the teen."


He closes his eyes.


"But the infant remains. And the code to make more. They are being moved. We are tracking them but..."


"But Section 31 could get the better of your means of tracking?"


We nod.


"What do you think the odds are that Baby James is going to be given to a nice couple who desperately want a child? Grow up to be something all his own?"


"Slim to none."


"And slim just left town." He shakes his head. "This is me—or I'm the closest thing to the original Kirk there is—so I think I have a right to say what happens."


"So do we."


"We get the baby. We destroy the code." He looks at the table. "But you need me there. With her. Pretending to be a goddamn android. So, Agnes, you get the baby. You destroy the code. Promise me you'll do that. No matter what happens to me."


"It is illogical to interfere in this. It will make us and our people a target if we do this."


"It's the human thing to do, Agnes." His smile is blinding and then it fades. "You're not going to do it, are you?" He sighs. "So many people here that you're helping. That are helping you. You'd never trade that for one child. The needs of the many...God I hate that saying."


We move closer. "We will find the child. We will make sure he is safe and content. We will take steps to prevent him from being used."


"Take steps. You mean kill him?"


We find we cannot answer.


"You mean kill him. I wasn't born yesterday. Damn near, but not." He sits down, running his hand through his hair as he does when he is beset by emotion. "If this works, this ridiculous plan of me replacing an android—have you considered I have to sleep? Take a whiz? Not very android like."


"If you can turn her—Samantha Alara—you will not have to pretend. You are experienced in turning vulnerable women, James T. Kirk."


"Not something I'm proud of."


"Yet the picture most have of you is a phaser in one hand and a gorgeous possibly vacuous female over the other arm."


"I liked scientists." He mumbles it but we hear him. "The ones that mattered were mostly scientists. I had a son with one."


"The Kirk infant is not your son."


"I know that. But it's still me as a baby. Without parents who care, a brother. Starfleet." He sits down heavily. "What would I have been without Starfleet?"


"Exceptional, we imagine. At whatever you tried."


"But would I have made a difference?"


We do not have an answer for him, but we think he would have. No matter what circumstances he found himself in.


"Would you like privacy?" we ask softly.




We leave him alone. We are not certain telling him was the smart thing to do.


But it was the right thing.




You wake to the unaccustomed feeling of Liam spooning you, holding you so tightly against him, you might feel trapped if you didn't love him. His breathing is even but loud. Not a snore exactly but a sound you'll remember, know is him even when you enter a darkened room in the future.


The thought makes you happy.


You turn to see if he'll let you go and he does, moving easily in sleep as you slide against him, front to front, skin to skin. You were too sleepy to make love last night. You want to now. But he looks so peaceful so you cuddle in and hook your leg over his, snake your arm over his side.


His breathing changes and you freeze. You can feel him growing against you and pretend to be sleeping.


"Really? You're just going to leave me hanging like that?" He laughs and reaches down, and you realize he's making sure you're ready for him. You love that—he doesn't assume, is concerned for your comfort, your pleasure.


But then he keeps his fingers there and starts to move and he's telling you sexy things, that you're beautiful and you're wet and you're his and he's going to take you hard once he's made you come.


You pull his face to you, kiss him as you feel yourself coming, end up crying out into his mouth, and then shuddering as you come down, as he kisses your cheek and tells you how wonderful you are, how...his you are.


Then he pushes in and pulls you closer, moving hard like he promised. It's everything you ever wanted from him—from anyone. This surge of desire, this almost violent fucking that might be too much if you didn't know him so well, if you didn't trust him, if you didn't know how much he cares about keeping people safe.


He will never hurt you. But he'll excite the hell out of you.


And then he's going and he's speaking utter gibberish as he laughs and buries his head in your hair. "Fuck me, Seven. So, so good."


You hold him as his breathing slows and when he pulls away finally, he plays with your hair, touching your face so gently, kissing you with such tenderness it's the perfect counterpoint to the passion you just unleashed.


"You're everything I want."


"You're everything I want. And the world will rejoice that we've taken each other off the market." He laughs and rubs your nose with his, a whimsical move that makes you laugh too.


As you lie still together, his padd begins to chirp. "What the hell?" He pulls it to him and lets you see it. "Message from the Jurati Queen. Are we expecting a message from the Jurati Queen?"


"Uh, no."


You watch as he tries to open it. It's resisting.


"Jesus, she encrypted this five ways from Sunday." He sits up and you curl into him so your head is resting on his leg. "Finally, okay what does she want—"


You glance up at him.


He hands you the padd. You and Seven of Nine are required. I will send a ship in two days to collect you. Tell no one where you are going.


"Okay, now I'm officially sick of this spy shit." He takes the padd back. "Should I just answer 'Fuck you'?"


You shake your head and stare up at the ceiling as he plays with your breasts. "She is generally several steps ahead."


"In a good way or bad?"


"Well, I seriously doubt she's joined the Humans-only movement."


"Good point. But my question stands. There are other forms of bad than just them."


You think how Miller is there. Liam doesn't know and you decide not to mention it. You trusted her for that. "I've always wanted to see her ship. How it differs from a traditional Borg ship."


"Oddly I really haven't wanted to see that."


You laugh because you love his sarcasm. You reach for the padd, key in "We'll be there," then put the padd on the nightstand as you crawl over him, straddling him.


"Well, hello there."


"I would like to fuck you on her ship."


"Well, I guess that settles it. I mean if you hadn't already answered for the both of us before our discussion was even done."


You reach down, bringing him back to life with deep strokes. "At least we were discussing it. We're getting better at this."


"You always see the silver lining." He pulls you onto him, and says, "Slowly this time."


"Anything you want." You kiss him deeply. "Anything at all."






Alara is working in her office at the Federation Council when she hears a soft knock on the door. It's super late and she expects it's the Kirk android come to collect her for some impromptu photo op or interview its handlers have set up.


But instead, it's Admiral Picard. "I've been introducing myself to the other councilors all day. I thought I'd save you to last."


So he can kill her? For saying he should be put down?


"Oh, my. I imagine I'm a bit of a personal bogeyman for you. Your father...Wolf 359." He has the grace to look stricken and she feels herself softening. "We can do this some other time." He turns and leaves.


She sits for a moment, then gets up and runs into the hall. "Admiral?"


He turns.


"Please. Let's walk. I could show you my favorite art."


His look changes. He understands why she's suggesting a walk rather than sitting in an office that may be bugged. "That would be delightful."


She notices two bulky men trailing them. "You have security." So does she when she's outside, but it's because people don't like what she has to say. If he has security and they're inside, it's because she's helped rile up those who might not otherwise have cared.


This man destroyed her world.


This man also saved the Federation.


They walk quietly until they come to a multi-media piece that always catches her eye. "Why are you reaching out to me?"


"Because..." He takes a deep breath. "Because I think you're better than the path you've taken, Councilor."


"Starfleet didn't."


"Starfleet can make odd decisions. They turned down Seven of Nine as well. Now she's in and doing well—so what did they know?" There is a note of humor in his voice she finds reminiscent of her father.


"I have mental health issues so I don't think it's the same thing." Holy shit, why did she just say that? He's not her father, no matter how warm his voice, how much his eyes twinkle.


"So might she for all I know. Or at least trauma at the hands of the Borg. You share that." He gets them walking again. "I discovered, only a few years ago, that I had years of repressed memories. About my mother. Her death." His breath is ragged. "It changed how I viewed the world and myself—how I related to others...or didn't—when I recovered those." He meets her eyes. "Perhaps the way medicine changes you? You have been less vociferous in your human-only calls of late. And yet it was that stance that made you a force the Council couldn't ignore. You speak for many."


She isn't sure what to say. She thought she was being subtle toning things down, yet this man saw it.


Who else did?


"Samantha?" It's the voice that is starting to grate on her and she makes a face before she can stop it.


She glances down the hall and sees the android waiting. "I'll be right there, Jim."


Picard's eyes narrow. "I knew the real James T. Kirk. I'd love to meet this one."


"Maybe some other time." She can tell by the android's voice that there's something she has to do. Sit and look pretty while it talks, no doubt.


"You could always tell it no." Picard is looking at her with concern.


She does tell it no when it comes to sex. Or rather she doesn't ask for sex anymore. The android never initiates. She also asked it not to come into her bedroom for any reason: a request it honors.


"We lie in the bed we make. My father always told me that when I was back at home after acting out." She sighs. "I miss him."


He nods gently, his eyes soft.


"Samantha?" The android sounds irritated now, but she knows it's just programmed to sound that way, to get her going.


Possibly to make her afraid.


"That thing is not James T. Kirk, Sam."


The way he says her name is just like her father did. Loading it with so much warmth even when she'd embarrassed him or hurt him with angry words during a manic period.


"Well aware, Admiral. Welcome to the Federation Council. If I didn't say that earlier, I was remiss." Then she hurries off to the android before it comes to get her.




I beam with Seven from the main transporter hub in San Francisco to Cuernavaca to make it look like we're on leave.


Why Cuernavaca is beyond me. That's not anywhere I would have taken Seven but it's where the Queen wanted us to be.


"The Rangers use it all the time," Seven says when I bitch about our location to her. "Low security camera to street ratio. Nothing to watch us beam away again." She strides off, seemingly unconcerned that the remaining Borg Queen is so jazzed to have us on her ship.


This is how it's going to be—following my new captain into bizarre situations she finds normal. My appointment as chief engineer was approved. Janeway worked her magic and got it through extra fast.


I'll be moving up to the ship at the end of the week, assuming we don't get assimilated before then.


My communicator pings three times—one long and two short—and I looks at Seven as I send the same code back. "If she kills us, this is your fault."


She's laughing as we materialize on a small ship. Seven turns and smiles as she takes it in. "It reminds me of the Delta Flyer."


I have to agree with her. I'm about to check out some of the panels when the copilot turns and says, "Hello, sir."


"Miller. What the fuck are you doing here?" I stare at him, watching as he swallows visibly, as sweat breaks out on his forehead, and say, "Oh. It was you." Then I turn to Seven. "You sent him to the Jurati to be safe."


She nods. "But safe would be sitting in Agnes's ship. What the hell are you doing, Ensign?"


"Making a difference, ma'am." He stands. "Could you maybe take my seat while I talk to Captain Shaw?"


She immediately softens and I love her for that. "Of course." She nods to the Jurati pilot as she sits then turns to face away from me.


I take a seat and Miller sits next to me. I chose this kid when he was still a cadet on assignment to the ship, sending my offer for him before he'd even graduated. I'd had him work with me when I dicked around in Engineering, when I couldn't take the captain's chair one minute more.


For the first time since Seven brought me back, I can see the whole scene in the maintenance bay: his face behind the phaser. "Miller, it was you who shot me, wasn't it?"


His eyes fill with tears and he nods. "Is that why you joined the humans-only group?"


"That was..." I shouldn't tell him but God fucking damn it, I'm going to. "That was me undercover. I don't feel that way. I never have. And I certainly don't blame you or any of the crew who were turned Borg. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have shot me otherwise, right?"


He laughs almost against his will. "No, sir."


"I wanted you safe after what happened to Shral. Why aren't you hiding out?"


"I needed to do something, sir. Hiding...hiding just made me remember."


"And I guess the Queen creeps you out?"


He looks at me like I'm an idiot. "Agnes is amazing."


"Oh. Okay." I laugh. "Got a little crush going?"


"No, I like guys. She's just...I really like being there."


"As in you might not come back to the ship? What if I told you I'm going to be chief engineer?"


"For real?"


I nod.


"Why would you want to be reminded of that day?" His eyes are welling up again.


"You're more than just one day, Jarred. I fucking handpicked you for my ship and I would do it again in a second." I pull him in for a hug. "If you don't think working for me would be healthy for you, then that's another matter. But as far as I'm concerned, we're good."


For a moment, I feel him relax against me, feel him exhale and sense a little of the pain he's getting rid of. Then he eases away. "I'd really like to come home, sir."


"Well, then home would really like you back, kiddo. Now go take the co-pilot seat so I can talk to our captain."


"Is that weird for you, sir? Working for her now?"


"Not in the least. I'm super fond of her. And she's a natural at this captain shit."


"And good at engineering. I remember times you were both there." He frowns. "Arguing a lot."


"Yep. That's how we communicate half the time. Worry when we aren't arguing. One of us is a Changeling."


He frowns.


"Too soon?"


"Too soon, sir." He smiles though and leaves, switching seats with Seven.


She studies me as the ship suddenly jumps in a way that does not feel familiar. "You okay?"


I nod. "He's okay, too." I lean in closer. "I really want to take this ship apart and see what makes her tick."


She smiles in perfect accord. "Me too."




Jack is wolfing down his lunch in the cafeteria. Class ran over and he has hardly any time to eat.


And then Raffi and Worf sit down at his table. They're wearing twin expressions of creepiness.


"Where are Captains Shaw and Seven of Nine?" Worf asks softly.


"How the hell should I know?" He keeps eating, an eye on the clock.


Raffi reaches across and slowly pulls his tray away from him. "Let's try that again. Where. Are. They?"


"And I repeat: how the hell should I know? You're head of intel and you're her first officer. Me, I'm just a bloody student. If you can't keep track of them, how would I?" He tries to pull the tray back, but Raffi won't let go of it, so he snatches the plate off it and goes back to eating.


"They trust you," Worf says.


He makes the kind of shrug/wide eyed expression that his mother always understood meant, "Okay, and..." He keeps a good hold on his plate in case Worf decides to dive in for it or Raffi tries to tip it into his lap by pushing the tray back.


"Jack, we're your friends."


"Since when?"


They take twin slow inhales—he's pissing them off and it's so satisfying. Even though it shouldn't be. They are superior officers and he's supposed to show respect.


But he's spent his whole life causing trouble and getting away with it in the worst parts of the Federation. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.


"Why would they go to Cuernavaca?"


"I give up. Why?" He really wants to grab his water but is afraid Raffi will capture his hand and then he'll have to stop eating.


He's huddled over his plate now like a falcon mantling over its prey. "Guys, why would I know anything? If they went to Cuernavaca—wherever the hell that is—it's probably to shag their brains out. They had a bit of a rough patch while he was being an 'everyone but non-assimilated humans suck' dick." He gives them a look that he hopes translates to him not believing Liam was a dick of his volition. Or at least not about that. Liam being a general dick is pretty much steady state for him.


"Raffaela?" Worf leans back. "Does he know nothing or is he an accomplished liar?"


"I am a really good liar. Tough call, eh?" He snags his water and takes a healthy swig.


"Sadly, I believe him." She leans back in her seat, and he gingerly pulls his tray back and sets the plate and water back on it.


"What did you think? That they took off to do something stupid and secret but told me so someone would know where the hell they went in case something went wrong?"


"Yes." Worf sounds super put out.


"What can I say?" He loves that answer. It's not technically a lie. It's not technically anything but a question that people always assume means the wrong thing.


"Do you want a cookie?" Raffi asks him. "To make up for us bugging you during lunch?"


"No, because you're just going to leave me alone with Worf so he can attempt to terrify me one last time into talking. And it's been a shitty enough day as it is. I'll get my own cookie, thank you very much." And with that he gets up and leaves them sitting, then snags enough cookies for his table-mates at class.


He waves at them as he leaves the cafeteria.


They do not wave back.


"Tough crowd." All this drama over one little trip to see the Jurati Queen. Wow.




You stay next to Liam as you follow Miller through the ship. It's an amalgam of Borg and other species. Feels only vaguely familiar and for that you're grateful.


As you round the corner, you see Agnes standing next to Data. "Oh, it's you."


Data looks annoyed. "May I ask what your problem is with me, Captain? I did save your life."


"Barely," you reply.


"You okay?" Liam says so softly no one would normally hear it except you imagine both Data and Agnes have extraordinary hearing.


You nod, but you're not okay. You know it's unreasonable to resent him, but you do. Starfleet wouldn't let you in but a synthetic life form, no problem. They let the Doctor in too, but you love him too much to be mad about that.


This has to end though. You're not some angry Ranger anymore. You told Liam no one would be disrespected on your ship and you just did it to Data.


"Wait," you say and Agnes and he turn around.


"I apologize, Data. That was rude of me."


He looks surprised. "Apology accepted, Captain."


"Call me Seven. We're in her territory now." You smile at Agnes who is watching you with approval.


"Do we need to introduce ourself to you, Liam Shaw?"


"No, ma'am. Or should I call you Your Majesty?"


"Agnes will do."


You feel Liam's hand on the small of your back as they turn away, rubbing gently. "Agnes it is."


"We have a surprise for you," Agnes says as she leads you into a large work area with many tables and many terminals and a man sitting reading a padd. When he turns, you realize it's the Kirk android—only why is he wearing reading glasses?


"All these years, Ag, and they can't find an alternative to Retinax?" He looks at you. "So, you're the new captain of the Enterprise huh?"


"Agnes, why have you kidnapped the Kirk android?"


Liam is acting weird, the way he did when he gushed at Geordi. "Sev, androids don't wear glasses." He's standing in front of Kirk, mouth open a little. "Sir, this is, I mean I, everything you did, read it, and, wow."


"The real Kirk is dead, Liam."


"Define real, Captain Seven of Nine," Kirk says with a gleam in his eye. He reaches over, takes Liam's hand in his. "Captain Shaw. I hear you put my Mister Scott to shame with your engineering acumen."


"Oh, no, not Scotty, he's a hero, you've heard that—who told you?"


You start to laugh. Liam with his heroes is just so fucking adorable.


"I hear you're not much of a Picard fan. I'm just glad he's not showing up. I helped him and ended up dying."


"Same here."


"Death's getting more temporary." His grin is huge and Liam seems to be melting in it.


You cough to remind him he's not a free agent anymore.


"Baby, it's James T. Kirk. We all get one cheat, right? I mean yours would be Janeway, right?"


"You do not get one cheat." You physically push him away from Kirk. "You're a menace," you tell the captain you've been compared to by Liam more than once. Is this why? He wanted to bang him too?


"Ah, captains and first officers. They sure do get close, don't they?" He winks and turns to the terminals. "Shaw—or may I call you Liam?"


"Yeah. Sure. Yes. Absolutely."


You roll your eyes.


Samantha Alara comes up on the screen. "I need to know everything you do."


Liam frowns, finally free of whatever spell he was under. "Why?"


"Because I'm going to take their android's place."


"You're fucking human. The first time you fart, they'll know."


"Well, maybe I won't fart then, Liam." Kirk's voice has gotten tighter.


"Or piss. Or yawn. Or blink too many times."


"Which is why," Agnes says, smoothly inserting herself between them, "we need him to be able to quickly get Samantha Alara on his side. Will you help us?"


"Us? Why are you even involved in this?" Liam looks at you, probably because you're not saying anything but he's asking all the right questions so why should you?


"Because this Human-Only movement is a problem for Earth and ultimately everyone else. We remember..." She looks at you. "So do you, President Hansen." Her eyes accuse you.


"That was not me. That was other me. I was just pretending to be other me."


"Not well," Agnes says.


"Oh, and your improv took the cake? Annika Seven Shots? Really?"


"Only half of us is offended."


"Anyone else in the dark?" Kirk asks. "Or is it just me?"


"It's not just you, sir."


"Call me Jim, Liam."


"Oh, wow. Okay. Jim." He sounds like he's going to burst out of his skin.


"Now, about this woman. Everything that matters, even things you think don't. No matter how personal."


"You'll excuse me if I don't want to stay and listen to that." You motion to Agnes to get you out of there.


"You are with Liam now?" she asks as she leads you to a room filled with simulated sunshine.


"Yes. You realize your plan is ludicrous?"


"We do not believe it is. A speech is planned for a fundraiser. We get him installed with Alara just before and he can turn the tide on this."


"With a speech? Why not just make an Alara clone?"


"We did not make him. That was you."




"Starfleet. Section 31."


You take a deep breath. What don't these idiots do? Then you see something in her face. "What aren't you saying?"


"That is irrelevant to our mission."


"Starfleet Intelligence is on this."


"Yes we are sure Raffi and her new paramour are working very hard on this." Agnes actually rolls her eyes. "Admit it. We have the best plan and the most resources."


You concede it with a nod. She's Borg and she's Agnes. Terrifying in combination but an accomplished closer. "How will you get rid of the Kirk android?"


"Data is working that end."


"No one's noticed he's missing?"


"We assume he put in the same paperwork young Miller did." She gives you a gotcha type look. "Or you and your new paramour."


You lean back and close your eyes, letting the false sunshine soothe you. "My paramour who is even now giving the resurrected James T. Kirk dating pointers on the woman he used to fuck."


"Yes, well, we cannot help with that part. Although Kirk is not resurrected. The original died."


"Whatever, Agnes."


"I am going to join Jim and your Liam. Shall I send Miller in with food for you? You sound as you often did when you had forgotten to eat."


"I don't forget to eat. There was no food I liked on your shuttle, Agnes."


She just stares at you.


"I got a little distracted by Miller and Liam working shit out and then I fell asleep."


"So you did forget to eat."


You close your eyes and nod but you really want to tell her to fuck off instead. You feel her hand on your cheek and open your eyes.


"It is really good to see you, Seven." Then she calls out, "Jarred?"


Miller must have been in the hall. "Ma'am?"


"Get Seven some of your favorite dishes and keep her company while she eats." She watches him hurry off and says, "He is a good man."


"I think so too. He really likes you."


"The feeling is mutual. We will let your decompress." She walks to the door.


"Agnes?" you say and she turns. "It's really good to see you too."






The table is set, the food newly prepared by the replicator, as the door chime rings and Worf says, "Come."


Raffi could say it now too. She's on the door and has moved some things in to make getting ready easier in the morning. She loves Worf's place, loves that he put a hook on the wall for a spare sword he has given her. Beautiful and elaborately carved on the handle. She loves it.


Worf leads in Picard for their breakfast strategy session before they all report to their various posts. He knows Picard is determined to view Alara as Ro, and he worries that this may blind the admiral to what she is capable of. She did have Shral killed.


But it is impossible to stop Picard once his heart is engaged. Many think he does not have one, but Worf and Raffi both know he does. Both know he feels deeply, just doesn't always advertise the fact.


They both love him. They both would do anything for him. They listen to him report on his progress and hope he is right, that he is reaching Alara.


Once he finishes, he reaches over and pushes the top of Raffi's tank top strap toward her neck, just enough to expose her shoulder. "You've been injured?"


It's where Worf bit her during sex. A wound he supposedly regenerated after their shower.


She feels her shoulder and glares at him. "You left some of it?"


"I enjoy seeing it."


"You left some of it?" She makes it the tone that has brought Seven to a full stop.


It does the same to Worf. He hangs his head. "I enjoy—"


"Finish fixing it. Now."


He gets up and heads into the bedroom, and JL laughs and says, "My but don't you know how to handle him?"


She starts to smile. "I do, don't I?"


"He's very happy. I can tell." He touches her hand gently. "As are you. And I'm glad. I know Seven gave you a bit of a dance."


"You could say that." She stops talking because Worf is coming back out.


"Do not stop talking about your ex who did not ultimately make you happy on my account," he says as he starts to heal the mark. He is saddened; it would have made a magnificent scar.


As Worf works, Raffi says softly, "Speaking of her. Shaw and she are missing."


"What?" He looks at Worf who nods.


"We know they trust your son, Admiral," Worf says as he sits back down after Raffi checks to make sure she agrees he's done. "We thought perhaps he would tell us where they were, but he did not appear to know."


Raffi nods.


Picard sits back, a deep frown on his face. "How did he take the news that they were missing?"


"Like the little shit he is," Raffi says with a wink.


But he doesn't smile. He's instead shaking his head. "I'm surprised at you two."


They look at each other. What the hell?


"Jack is a scoundrel, but he has deep, undivided loyalty to those two. Shaw gave his life to help—and tasked him with finding out how Vadic was locating the ship. During all that mess of who did what to whom, Shaw trusted Jack to do that, and Jack will never forget that.


"Seven and he share a bond that is even deeper—both because of their similar childhoods alone on a ship and the Borg link. Also—and he thinks I don't know this, so please don't say that I do—I know Seven has gotten him assigned to your ship, Raffi. So you see, if you told him they were missing, and he didn't immediately want to help you find them, then he knows exactly where they are. And that they are not in danger."


They know they are both staring at him; Raffi can feel her mouth drop open.


He makes a dismayed face. "You do realize I hope that you can't become a captain without having some insight, some sense of what drives people. And I am getting to know my son. And you two have been fooled quite ably." Now he smiles; they can tell he is proud of Jack. "I think what you need is dinner at the Chateau. I'll make sure he comes so we all can worm the truth out of him. I'll tell him his mother and I have an announcement."


"What happened to Laris?" Raffi curses herself as the words come out. When will she stop digging into this?


"I meant we'd pretend to have an announcement."


"But if you had one, it would include Laris, right?"


Worf shoots her a look—why can she not let this go?


"I didn't know you were so fond of her."


"I'm not sure I am. I just don't get your love life, JL." There, it's said.


He laughs at her and looks at Worf. "Do you, Mister Worf?"


"I do not. Moreover, I do not wish to."


He chuckles. "Never change, old friend. Never change."




Jack charges into the Chateau, pissed that class got out late, and stops suddenly when he sees Worf and Raffi are waiting for him alongside his father, mother, and Laris. They all have their arms folded over their chests and look pissed.


He tries for innocence anyway. "Sorry, I'm late. Didn't know we'd have guests."


"I bet you didn't," his mother says, her voice the one of so many years of dealing with his rubbish.


"Jack," Laris says, as always the most reasonable because she has no genetic stake in this but also the most terrifying because she's bloody Tal Shiar. "We're not mad at you."


"Speak for yourself," Raffi says. "Where. Are. They?"


He looks at his father; he's not sure why. For help? For advice?


His father nods once and Jack sighs and says, "Paying the Jurati Queen a visit on her request."


His father frowns. "Agnes? Why?"


"Okay, I'm really not lying anymore. They didn't know what she wanted."


"But they just went?" Worf sounds incredulous.


"Agnes saved her life," Raffi says softly. "She owes her."


"But Shaw didn't," his father says. "Was he going willingly?"


"Well, he wasn't going to let Seven go alone, now was he?" He realizes he's getting a little worked up. "I don't know what she wanted them for."


Everyone looks frustrated with him except Laris.




She meets his eyes, her smile slow and gentle and really, truly terrifying. "Call them, Jack. You have a number. Just like you look out for them, I think they look out for you. They'd never leave you without a way to contact them, would they?"




Worf glances at Laris. "You are more afraid of her than of me." He sounds beyond annoyed with him and Jack gulps.


"Son, call them."


He sighs and pulls out his padd, dialing Seven's personal communicator number.


"Are you all right?" she asks immediately.


"Full house listening in, Captain." Then he realizes she might think he means Alara and company. "Friendly full house."


"Hello, Seven," his father says.


"What're you doing, hon'?" Raffi says, threat oozing from her voice.


"Jack..." Seven doesn't sound pleased.


"Oh, he fooled Raffi and Worf. It was I who figured out he knew." His father beams at him and he stands a little taller.


Not just because he got one over on Worf and Raffi, but his father actually knows him well enough to call this? He feels all warm and gooey inside.


"Do you have a plan, Worf?" Seven has gone on the attack and Jack loves her for that. "Because we do."


"I'm working on Alara," his father offers.


"Do you have any other plan?"


Worf makes a face Jack decides is the Klingon prelude to utter bullshit. "We are currently examining multiple avenues of—"


"Yeah, that's what I thought. We're fine. I'll fill you in when we get back. Leave Jack alone. Seven out."


Wow, way to make an exit. He's so proud of her. But he keeps his face as neutral as he can. "So, is there actually food at this dinner because I'm starved?"




I walk with Jim to the solarium and find Seven and Miller both conked out. She's sleeping way more than usual so I hold my hand up to wait and put my hand to my lips as I pull out the medical scanner I made Ohk teach me how to read when I first became captain. I scan first Miller then her.


She's fine. Just wiped. Jim must be reading my body language because he murmurs, "You always carry one of those?"


I nod.


"I guess that's why you had the highest safety rating in the Fleet?"


"I don't like risk." I realize Agnes has had Scotch and an ice bucket and glasses placed on the table, so I ask, "Neat or rocks?"




I hand it to him, then choose rocks just so he knows I'm my own man. I sit at the end of the couch Seven is curled up on and she moans and puts her feet in my lap.


He laughs. "She normally sleep a lot?"


"No. She feels safe here, I guess." I take a deep breath. "It's been a time. I put her through a lot." This man knows—I told him everything I could to help him with Sam. "And being captain..."


Jim nods. "Yeah. Hard at first."


"And you never feel safe. You feel prepared if you do your job right, but safe...?"


Seven sits up and shifts so her head is on my lap instead of her feet then she smiles up at me. "We felt safe, Liam. Your people."


Jim smiles. "There you go then. And it's our people who keep captains safe. Depend on them, Seven. If you'll indulge an old man who thinks he has wisdom to give."


"I will." Her voice is so soft, so sexy that I smile and play with her hair. "What else you got?"


He laughs. "You want Uncle Jim's words of wisdom?"


She nods and snuggles into me but is looking at him. Then she says, "Scotch me, Shaw," and I hold the glass down while she sits up a bit to drink. "Okay, now I'm ready for the cascade of old-man wisdom."


"She's got sass, Liam. I like her."


"Yeah, well she's mine."


"I don't like her that way."


"Everyone likes me that way." She laughs at my expression. "They do."


"I'm not disagreeing. Just marveling at the ego."


She rolls her eyes and says, "Captain Kirk, do you not take it as a given that everyone wants to have sex with you?"


"Pretty much, yep." He grins as he sips his drink.


"Everyone wants to fuck Liam too, he's just too dumb to know it."


Jim waggles his eyebrows, and I know I'm grinning way too wide and crookedly but neither of them seem to mind.


"Go back to the captainly wisdom, Kirk. You're going to make me blush."


"Okay." He studies her. "Normally my first advice is to get to know not just what a ship does but why and how. But I think you already know that, don't you?"


"Yes," both she and I answer.


"My second would be it's the last people you expect who step up or fall apart in a crisis. Reward the former, get the latter off your ship ASAP."


"I saw that in the last crisis."


"She put a chef at the helm," I say with pride that brims over. I can't help it. It's so fucking Seven.


"That's amazing." He laughs and as Seven and I share long sips of the Scotch, he gets up and snags the bottle, settling it between him and me so I can pour more without getting up. "Okay, next one. Don't be afraid to fall in love with your ship or your crew. And I don't mean like you are with this meathead."


I grin at the insult. I have a feeling he doesn't do it unless he likes you.


"I'm already in love with their potential. It's nice to have been the first officer for so many of them."


"That is nice. I didn't have that on my Enterprise."


"Did you have a meathead of your own?" she asks very gently. "Your first officer, maybe?"


He nods. "I've read the gossip. Even still, they never do us justice. I miss him. And he's...gone. Just like I was. No body. I have to wonder if maybe he's alive somewhere. His own version of the Nexus." He sighs and says, "Okay, one more and then you can ask questions. Follow your gut."


"God, no problem there," I say, rolling my eyes dramatically. "Captain Reckless, what are you going to do to my poor engines today?"


She laughs—and it's her cackle and it cracks Jim up, probably because it's so surprising a sound to come from her—but Miller shifts and we all go quiet, waiting to see if he wakes up.


He doesn't.


"What's your biggest regret?" she asks.


"That I didn't know my son better."


"I had a son." She pushes against me and I rub her back. "He..."


"He died," I say, sparing her from having to say she had to kill him. Out of mercy. Out of love.


"But I knew him. I loved him. I'm sorry you didn't get to know David."


He looks surprised she knows his son's name.


"Icheb was such a fan of you. He knew all the little details." She sighs. "He'd have killed to meet you."


"I would have been honored to meet him, Seven. Miller looks a bit like David. When Data and he woke me up, I thought he was...thought I'd made it to Heaven after all and my boy was waiting—" He takes a quick sip, blinking hard.


"But then you saw Data...?" She smiles at him gently.


"But then I saw Data." He shakes his head. "So strange to be alive."


"Right there with you, my friend." I hold out my glass and he clinks it gently.


"Strange but good, right?" Her voice is strangely vulnerable.


"Not just good. Not when it comes to you, Seven. Incredible. My heaven is here with you."


"Okay. Good." She shifts and closes her eyes. "I'm so sleepy. Keep talking, you two. You won't bother me."


Jim is watching her, nodding as if solving some problem while I play with her hair because it calms her and me too.


"This isn't her safe place, Liam," he says once she's fully asleep. "You are."






We are standing in the quarters that are ours alone, staring out at the conduit. There's a chime at the door and we say, "Come," expecting one of our own but it is Jim.


"Ag, where have you been?"


"I thought you might like to have some time alone with them. Three captains. Three humans."


"Okay, that was nice of you. But come join us now."


"We do not wish to."


He moves closer, and we can feel him next to us, the energy that seems to crackle around him.


We dislike how it makes us feel: vulnerable. "We need to discuss something with Seven of Nine."


"Right now? By your tone, it's not good."


He can read our tone? When we work so hard to modulate it to a single even mode? Then again his lover was a vulcan so perhaps he can. "It is important." We start to move but he gets in front of us.


"Move aside."


"Let them have this night. Or at least tell me what the problem is so we can work it out before you lay it on them."


"This is not your concern. It is not Liam Shaw's concern. This is a Borg matter and we will speak to Seven of Nine. Now."


He actually reaches for us, his hand stopping us and in our anger, the assimilation tubes come out.


"Take care what your next step is, Captain Kirk."


"Agnes, I don't know what those tube things are but I'm not in the mood so put them away now."


We stand startled at his tone. No one has ever used that tone with us.


"Now," he says without raising his voice.


We retract the tube.


"Good. Now we can figure this out. She must have done something. What was it?"


"She put herself and us and everyone in our collective in grave jeopardy."




"By bringing Liam Shaw back to life with an infusion of her nanoprobe-rich blood."


"Oh. Shit. He left that out. I thought he was just resuscitated."


"He was dead for many hours."


"Wow. Okay. And you're afraid that if people know, they'll want you to heal all their dead friends and relatives?"


"Yes. But we could not do all. There is a limit. They must be no more than twenty hours dead or else in stasis. And the donor of the blood must have relatively fresh nanoprobes, which she has because of us because we recently reassimilated her—sort of."


"Don't care about that part. I think it's going to be confusing for me."


"You are not incorrect."


He starts to pace. "So, okay, you have a narrative that you don't like out in the world. In my experience, the way to beat that is to put out an opposing narrative. The only thing people love more than amazing cures is how the cures aren't what they're cracked up to be—that they're dangerous, worse than what you're curing in the first place."


We begin to smile.


"That's a much better look than before."


"We are sorry. The Agnes part of us thought she was unwelcome and was depressed. The Borg part of us also thought that and was..."


"Pissed?" He grins and we nod grudgingly.


"Will you come out now and talk to us? We can even talk about this, but let's all do it. Liam's no dummy and he's at risk too if people think his blood is magic now too."


"It is not. But you are correct." We take a deep breath. "May we tell you something else that is honest but unpleasant?"


He nods.


"The part of us that is the queen remembers Seven of Nine as our child. But the part of us who was Agnes, remembers her as...something we would never be. Wild and untamed and...the kind of woman no one would force a meld on, force to kill her lover. Agnes wanted to be her—felt envious."


"So maybe the Queen part of you needs to remind the Agnes part of you that Seven was a drone who did whatever you told her to do, if I understand how the old-style Borg worked."


We smile—he is right: sometimes we let the Agnes portion of us take too much control. "That is true."


"Not so untamed, after all. Everyone has baggage, Ag. You think she doesn't have some? That she's not vulnerable. Come out with me and see her with Liam and tell me she's not."


We turn away and face the view screen again. "Our discussion with Seven can wait. You do not have to be a part of it."


"Why not?"


"We must not rely on you for such things."


"And again I ask why not."


"Because soon you will go to Earth and seduce a woman into changing causes. A beautiful, human woman. We would be foolish to grow too fond—reliant on you. For you will soon be gone."


"I also many soon be dead."


We whirl. "Are you ill and have not told us?"


"No I mean if I'm caught. They'll kill me."


"We are taking steps to prevent that. Along with the cybernetic enhancements that are almost finalized. You will be as safe as we can make you."


"Well, I appreciate that." He exhales loudly and studies us. "How many friends do you have, Agnes?"


"You have seen how many. I have shown you my ship. The projects we have across the quadrants. So many—"


"You're their queen. How many friends?"


"This is a dangerous road to go down. The Agnes part of us—"


He strides forward, takes us by the arm, and shakes us lightly. "Stop blaming one half of you. Because you're you, both halves, and believe me I know how that works. The good and the bad, the lamb and the wolf. They coexist and are necessary for each other. You aren't half Agnes and half Queen, you are a whole being who's afraid to admit that she might be upset I'm leaving. Because subjects don't leave the collective, but I'm not in the collective and I don't want to be."


"We know that too. It is not in your nature."


"Damn right it's not. But that doesn't mean I'm not your friend."


We stand for a long moment, until we finally nod.


"Now let's get out there before those two decide to retire for the night because there is no way they aren't going to break in one of your beds in all the right ways."


"We did not require that image, Jim." But we follow him out and then catch up and pass him. This is our ship: we will lead.


Seven and Liam are still on the couch but Miller has gone to bed. She looks up at us and says, "What's wrong?"


"The nanoprobes. While we do not begrudge Liam his resurrection, you have put us all in a very difficult position."


She looks down. "I know."


"There is danger to all of us. Magical blood that gives eternal life—how many beings would not kill to acquire that?"


Seven nods and Liam looks thoughtful.


"Fortunately," Jim says, "We have a solution. The story's going to get out. We all just have to make sure that another story goes with it. Of how wrong the thing goes. Of how Liam here is the exception, not the rule."


Liam starts to smile. "You need the meme master of Starfleet."


"That's an actual title? This place has really changed since my time."


He looks at Seven. "Tom Paris drops that kind of stuff all the time. And he knows the contacts on the outside that boost the signal."


"And you know this how?" Seven asks.


"That's for me to know and you to maybe, someday, find out." He looks at us and Jim. "Tom is Janeway's exec."


"Ah." Finally this makes more sense. "Janeway is the head of Fleet Operations for Starfleet."


"And also Seven's cheat." Jim laughs.


Seven bristles. "We do not get cheats and I never said she would be mine."


"Oh, she so would." Liam glares at her but not in a convincing way.


"This is all well and good," we say. "The idea seems sound and could be quick and effective. Unless you save others." We meet Seven's eyes. "Can you resist that? When one of your crew or friends lie dead?"


She goes very quiet. We can see the struggle in her eyes. "Eventually I won't be able to. The nanoprobes are fresh now but won't be in a year or two."


"That is not an answer. Let us phrase it another way: they may consider Liam to have magical blood. Do you want him to be at risk also?"


She closes her eyes. "People on Voyager know I saved Neelix."


"So this Tom fellow needs to make sure his disinformation includes all the times it didn't work on that ship." Jim is studying Seven. "I'm not sure, if I had this ability, I would be able to resist saving people."


She seems to think about it. "If I or Liam become a target, then my entire ship becomes a target. Everyone on the ship. I too served with a Vulcan. I know that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few."


"Or the one," Jim says. Then he gestures to Liam. "Except that one. We're okay with him being alive."


We realize Jim just spoke for us as if we are some kind of joined unit.


We are not sure how we feel about that.


Although we would have approached Seven of Nine with the authority of the Queen and the instability of Agnes's anger. She would have stormed off before we had said more than a few sentences.


He was right. This way was better.


"Raise your hand, Seven," Jim says. "I solemnly swear—"


"Fuck you. I reserve the right to tell the needs of the many to take a flying leap out an airlock."


"You must exercise restraint," we say.


"Not her strong suit," Liam says. "And I'm not sure in this case it should be, but..."


We can see he is thinking so we wait.


"If it happens, then Ohk needs to change the medical charts. So nanoprobes aren't even mentioned."


Seven glares at him. "I can't ask her to do that."


"We'll do it together. If it comes up." He looks over at us. "Is that good enough?"




Jim turns to us with a warning look.


"But for now, it will have to be. We will trust you two to talk to Tom Paris and prebrief your doctor—waiting until you are in the middle of a situation is suboptimal. She needs to understand the danger before it happens so she does not inadvertently file more reports mentioning nanoprobes."


"We're on it," he says and Seven nods, her expression serious.


Jim rubs his hands together. "Well, great, that's solved. Now, let's all sit and have a drink and talk about nicer things."


"Or go over the plan again," Seven says, clearly unsure about it, even though she told us she told Picard and the others our plan was good.


We look at Jim. He winks at us and says, "Sure we can go over it again."


Normally we would resent anyone speaking for us. But with him, it just seems natural.


We sit, pour a minuscule amount of Scotch, and prepare to critique the plan or any deviation from it as they go over it.


We can feel Jim's eyes on us and glance at him. He grins and holds up his glass. "To us," he says to all of us.


We return the salute. But we do not feel the lightness he seems to. For we are the Queen and we will stay here, with our collective.


While he will soon leave. Possibly forever.




You stare out the view screen of the quarters you and Liam have been given. You're wearing a robe and nothing else.


He comes up behind you, nuzzling your neck, and whispers, "Which thing are you obsessing over? The plan or the nanoprobes?"


"Sam knows about the nanoprobes."


"Sam also loves me."


"Not if she figures out we're together for real, not out of your sense of loyalty to her cause. What if she tells?"


"Jim's right. One success among a shit-ton of failures is the right way to go. And Ohk will keep this to herself. I know her. If it protects her patient—and anyone you save becomes a target too potentially—she'll keep any mention of nanoprobes out of the reports."


You turn so he can pull you into him. His robe is silk and it feels good against your cheek.


"What vibe are you getting from Jim and Agnes?"


You laugh. "A really weird one."


"Yeah, me too. Is she his type?"


"I thought he was your hero?" You pull him down to you for a sweet kiss.


"But you're the one who knows all the details."


You pull him to the bed. "Some of the crew used to tease Icheb with his hero worship. Called Jim 'Captain Cock' instead of Kirk. He would defend him, would say if you look at the facts, he was a serial monogamist not a playboy. And he liked smart women." She shrugs out of the robe and lets it drop to the floor. "Scientists, lawyers."


"The Dohlman of Elas." He grins. "That one is famous. So royalty isn't a new thing either."


You make a face. "I'm naked, Liam. Are you going to spend your time thinking about your new boy crush's preferences or are you going to take care of me?"


"Well," he says, as he pushes you to your back. "When you put it like that..."


You giggle as he hits a sensitive spot and untie his robe, but pull it open so it is covering you too as you pull him into you.


"Wow, no preamble tonight? You don't want—"


"I want this." You squeeze down to prove your point and his eyes close almost involuntarily. "Slow."


"Slow it is." He can move almost excruciatingly slowly and he adjusts so he's hitting you just right, but the slow speed is keeping you on the edge, almost there but not quite.


"You are so beautiful when you're like this. Right there—mine to take the rest of the way but not...quite...yet..." He kisses you sweetly, his tongue probing gently.


You suck on it and wrap you legs more tightly around him, pulling him in as deep as you can and holding him still.


"You are so fucking strong. Such a turn on." He goes back to kissing you as you try to milk him and he says softly, "You keep doing that, you won't get to come."


"What? You don't have a mouth, fingers, your toes if it comes down to that."


He starts to laugh. "My toes are not that nimble."


"That's actually reassuring." You let him go and let him resume his slow thrusts. "Please?"


"Please what?"


"Please make me come." You kiss him more fiercely. "Please, please, please."


He starts to go faster. "Like this?"


You're going and you screw your eyes closed and bury your face in his shoulder as you cry out because you're not sure how soundproof Agnes has her ship. "Don't wait. Take your pleasure."


But he goes back to going slow. "I want to take you there again. I think there's more in the tank, baby." And then he's reaching down and you whine because you're sensitive but he ignores you, building you up because he's right, there is more.


You're even louder and try to muffle it but he says, "No, let them hear it if they couldn't bother to add sound barriers." And his grin is mischievous and as you come down he's going harder and faster and you nod because words are beyond you.


And then as he's going, you watch his face, smiling at the contortions, at how beautiful he is as the two of you give and take pleasure.


He collapses on top of you, then rolls to the side and pulls you with him, trying to wrap you both up in his robe but it's not quite big enough. "Gonna order one two sizes up," he says as he gives up trying to make this one do more than it's meant to.


"Order me one too? I like the fabric."


"Color? They come in lots."


"Whatever you want to see me in."


"Okay." His voice is soft and you yawn.


"Sleepyhead." His tone is so sweet. "I love that you feel safe with me, Seven. It could so easily have gone the other way."


"Same." You curl into him as he attempts to get the covers out from underneath you both.


"This would be easier if you'd help, Baby."


"You're the engineer who rivals Scotty. Figure it out." And to the sound of his laughter, you close your eyes and let him do that as you fall asleep.




Alara sits with Picard in the gardens of the Federation Council. She came here to avoid the Kirk android and found him walking in the rose garden.


"What did it feel like? To be Locutus?" She can't believe he's letting her ask so many questions about that day, but he is so she's going to keep going until she hits something too painful.


She's spent her life trying to figure that day out. What it did to her father and his friends, the other nine.


"I didn't want to be. I tried to keep some part of me...me. Jean-Luc Picard and not whatever number she was going to slap onto me."


"But she gave you a name."


"The only Borg so dangerous they gave him a goddamn name. Liam said that to me. He was right."


"Did you keep that part of you safe?"


"No. Resistance really is futile. Although Janeway found ways around it but I think if she had been in my place, she wouldn't have."


"What was it like being Borg?"


He seems hesitant so she waits, having learned with her father not to jump in to fill the silence. That answers often come if left alone to get out.


"I'd always felt apart. No matter how well I did, how high I went in Starfleet, I felt alone. I think now it was because I'd repressed so much of my childhood. There were gaps and I read them as me being isolated rather than what they really were. But whatever the cause, I felt cut off from the others."


She nods. She's felt that way too. Sometimes her father went too far into the silence—even she couldn't bring him out.


"You can't imagine how it feels to be part of something so vast and unified. To be but one voice and soul in a hive full of them." He seems to shake himself from a reverie. "I don't mean to glorify it. The feeling may have been overwhelming in how complete I felt but the intent was pure evil. I was pure evil. And all I knew was my mission, the Queen's directive. Assimilate or destroy." He looks down and she sees his hands are shaking.


Before she can think better of it, she takes them in hers the way she used to her father. "You always have the excuse that you weren't yourself when you did evil. What if..." She imagines the young Andorian who killed her father. He hadn't been in control. Maybe had tried to fight.


She'd had him killed anyway.


"What if what?"


She shakes her head and lets him go. "Nothing. It's nothing." But it's not. She's starting to dream of him. He's not faceless. She saw his face in the video where he killed her father.


In some of her dreams, he kills her father again. In others, she kills him. In the worst ones, she kills her father—or he kills her for being worse than the Borg.


"Samantha, is the Kirk android...hurting you?"




"You said you were avoiding him."


"I'm tired of being its shadow."


"Then tell it to leave." He makes the pronoun change almost effortlessly.


She knows he's trying to worm his way into her heart. She's fully aware.


And yet, there's a note of caring she can't help to respond to. Something that isn't feigned. "Who do I remind you of?"


He looks taken aback.


"You have no reason to be nice to me. Not after what I've said and done. And yet you are. And you look at me with..."


"Regret. It's with regret." He takes a long shuddering breath. "I lost someone in the Borg invasion. Someone I had lost much earlier—had never forgiven. We had a moment to reconcile...to forgive. But not enough. Not enough time." His voice shakes. "You resemble her. Both in looks and in energy. She had such passion—often not pointed where it should have been."


"But you're also smart enough to know I'll respond to this, aren't you? A now father-less daughter."


"I imagine you're father disappeared to some extent after Wolf 359. Changed."


She nods.


"And that's my fault. Perhaps I'm just atoning?"


"If you weren't yourself, is there any need for atonement?"


His smile is a fragile one. "That is a question I've wrestled with my entire life since that day, Samantha. And I still don't know the answer."






You're up early, ready to go back to Earth, when Kirk finds you and says, "Walk with me, Seven."


As you do, he says nothing, and you finally ask, "Is there some part of the plan you are unclear on?"


"You aren't as enamored with me as, well, everyone else, are you?"


"No. But it's nothing personal. And I don't dislike you. I've just..." You smile. "I think perhaps I've had my quota of idols. They all had clay feet."


"Yes. Yes that's usually the case." He seems to be assessing where you are in the ship but is looking up at something that you finally realize might be surveillance cameras. In the cube, the Queen could see anything through any nearby drone. And there were so many drones, many regenerating, that every area of the cube was covered.


You believe Agnes does not assimilate that deeply. Enough to take away free will—and bodily autonomy.


But you wonder if she would, in a crisis. You would not put it past her.


As he continues to walk and not talk, you finally say, "If you are looking for a place where Agnes cannot overhear us, there isn't one. Or so I would imagine. This is my first time on her ship."


He shakes his head and keeps walking.


You finally stop and fold your arms over your chest.


He immediately stops and turns back to you. "You went further than I thought you would."


"That was a test?"


"An assessment. Of how willing you'd be to follow."


"I gave you extra time on account of being dead—and my son's hero. Also possibly my boyfriend's man crush."


He laughs. "Do you ever flirt, Seven?"




"Don't dismiss it. It's a great tool to have in your diplomatic tool case. And the way you answered reminds me of Spock."


You smile and see his surprise. "I used to be far more like a Vulcan than I am now. Life and loss ripped the emotions out of me to the point where Liam considers me an open book. And being a ranger did it. Did you have those?"


"They were just getting started when I retired."


"Not a great life. I wish..." You look away. When will the hole Starfleet left in your heart when they rejected you fill? You're a captain now.


"What do you wish?"


"That Starfleet had let me in when I first applied." You head off. "Walk with me, Kirk."


"You ever going to call me Jim?"


"Fine, Jim. I'm going to ask you something. What's going on with you and Agnes?"


"We're friends."


You stop, hearing a playful note you don't like because you're not sure if it's out of fondness or if this guy really was the fuckboy the less positive histories said he was. "Do not hurt her."


He frowns and it seems a sincere one. The right muscles are being pulled—hard to fake true confusion. "How did we go from she and I being friends to me hurting her?"


"I think we understand each other, Jim. Agnes was my friend and the Queen was quick to retaliate when disappointed. Take from that what you will."


He doesn't seem upset, just looks at you like you're missing something. "I think you're trapped by your own history, your own experience of the Borg. Agnes isn't two things: she's unified them into one. She's had four hundred years to do that." He gently touches the implant on your hand. "How long have you been working on that?"


You jerk your hand away. "I think we're done here."


"She could use more friends, Seven."


"Is that what this is about? This little walkabout pretending to be a leadership lesson or some such bullshit?"


"If something happens to me, just promise you'll look in on her every once in a while. She'll never ask you to."


You're simultaneously annoyed with him and touched. Which annoys you even more. "I promise. Now let me by."


He does and you hurry back to Liam in your quarters. He takes one look at you and says, "What's got you aggravated?"


"A weird talk with Kirk."


"Did he tell you Agnes could use friends? Because he gave me that one at breakfast." He glances at you. "No? Then what?" Now he seems concerned.


"No, it was that." You walk over and let him pull you into his lap. Into his ear, you whisper so softly you hope any microphones can't pick you up, "She may own me. She said I was her first when she saved my life by reassimilating me. I'm not sure I want to be her friend."


He moves so your ear is against his mouth. "That's fair," he whispers. "But maybe think about it. It's probably lonely out here. Not unlike being captain."


You nod and try to get up but he touches your face gently. "What?"


"I love you. Just that." He urges you up. "Finish packing. It's time to go.




Data works with Agnes on the finalization of the enhancements that to the common observer—and scanner—will make Kirk look like an android.


"You seem pensive, Data," Agnes says softly.


Data paces, the way that calms, even if it tends to make those observing less calm.


"All right, if you're not ready to tell us why, look at this." She brings up another schematic.


Data abandons the pacing and studies it. "Ingenious. Has it been tried?"


"No." She sounds worried. "But it's based on things that work."


"I have faith in you, Agnes." Data goes back to pacing. Until she finally steps in his path, and gives a stern look. "Fine. I do not wish to cause the android Kirk to self destruct. They are rudimentary and easily wiped of the Kirk programming. I believe they could grow and learn and be their own creature."


"Like you?"


Data looks down. "Or possibly like Lore."


She nods, and Data knows it's because she understands how uncertain future states are when emotions are involved. "What do you need to make that happen?"


"I would like to modify the self destruct to give two alternatives: a hard shut-down as well as a physical destruction of vital components."


"And if you do not destroy them, will you take them to Soji?"


"Yes. I believe that is the best place for them to thrive."


"Do you need our assistance in the modifications?"


"Yes. I enjoy working with you, Agnes."


"We enjoy working with you too."


Data brings up the schematic for the Kirk android that is in process. Data already has access to the self-destruct command.


"Will it surprise you to know that we will miss you, Data?"


Data considers. No, it isn't surprising. They work so well together. "I will miss you too."




We walk Seven and Liam to the shuttle. This time Jarred is staying behind—he has chosen to help Jim and Data. But then he will leave us and we feel both a heaviness and lightness at that. We will miss him, but we have helped him. It is the dichotomy we feel whenever someone comes to us but does not join our collective.


Neither version of ourselves would have dealt with that with any equanimity. Loss equaled defeat for the Queen and pain for Agnes. But we are more than that. We will not force our way on anyone.


"You okay?" Jim murmurs, so low only Data will hear him.


"We are," we answer back just as softly.


Seven turns to us. "Thank you. For helping. I know you didn't have to."


We did have to help—we will do anything to avoid the dark future we experienced. But she does not want to be reminded of her role in that. So we only say, "You are welcome."


Jim pulls Liam into the kind of hug that Agnes saw men do all the time. A-frame, groins not touching, shoulders being slapped. Man to man, she was told but it really signified they did not want to look like they were having sex.


We think Jim and Liam would be attractive having sex. We know Seven would not agree—or if she did, would never admit it.


Jim holds out a hand to Seven, but she pulls him into a hug and says, "Good luck. It was...really weird meeting you."


"Good weird, I hope, Captain."


"Yes, good weird, Captain." She lets him go and reaches for Liam's hand just as he reaches for her. They are a collective of two—as long as he is alive, she will never need us.


We are untroubled by that. We wish her happiness. She has had so little and we—some version of us—had a hand in that.


And then they are gone, and we turn and say, "We are ready to install the cybernetic enhancements."


Jim nods and Jarred looks uncertain if he is needed.


"We have something for both of you."


Now he looks worried.


"To protect you, Jarred. Not to make you appear to be an android."


He looks enormously relieved. "Good. No offense, Data."


"None taken."


"Let's get started then." Jim rubs his hands together as if we are offering him a great meal. And perhaps we are: he is a man of action. Our home is not a place of such things, but rather peace. We wonder if it reminds him of the Nexus.


Boring. Stultifying.


We bite back the sigh that threatens. How he views our home is immaterial. He will leave to do this mission and providing he survives, then he will determine what his life will be next.


On Earth, with a human woman at his side. A woman he will have to convince to switch sides—and we know what method he will use to convince. Seduction is a tool to him, and we respect that. A version of us used that with Data after all.


Jim looks back at us. "You sure you're okay?"


"Yes. Just making sure we've forgotten nothing."


He gives me a strange smile. We give him one back that is probably equally strange.


And then we get started.




We beam back to Cuernavaca from the shuttle, and Seven is about to get in line at the outgoing padd when I stop her and whisper, "I'm hungry. I bet the food here's great. Let's eat."


She nods and takes my hand as we wend our way along the main avenue, past sidewalk cafes, until we find one where the food smells so good we have to go in.


"There'll be four of us," I say to the host.


"The others will be here in five or so minutes." She smiles at me.


I love that we're on the same page. We discussed what we'd say to Worf and Raffi, but not that we both thought they'd be meeting us as soon as we beamed down.


No doubt with stern looks and bristling with bladed weapons.


"You got your boot knife on?" I ask.


"Air, knife, water."


I laugh because I've heard that Ranger koan and love it. "I really think food and sex should be in there too."


"They are now. Unspoken. But there." She smiles at me with such affection it makes my breath catch. We were so tight with each other so much of the time on the ship. This easiness, this happiness. It's like a breath of fresh air. "Why did you ask about the knife?"


I pull mine out and lay it on the table. "For show. You know they're going to come in armed."


"It's still so odd to think that knives became a thing everyone carried during the Dominion War. That the transporters don't even alert to them."


"Oh, carry enough of them and they will. But one in the boot—everyone did it. And probably resurrected the practice since the invasion if they gave it up."


She pulls her knife out and lays it next to her plate. Hers isn't as pretty as mine but it looks like it's been used. Mine was only ever used on me to prove I wasn't a changeling. Her history as a ranger is tantalizing to me. Eventually, I'll get her to tell me stories. The ones that don't hurt at least. I know it wasn't always a good time for her.


"Well, well, well." Worf is, as suspected, bristling with Klingon blades.


Raffi seems to be armed with only her glare. Which frankly is just as effective.


"Hi, guys," Seven says, and it's so breezy I almost laugh. "Sit down, we haven't ordered yet."


"We are not staying." Worf glares at us when neither of us move. "Let me make myself more clear: you are not staying."


"Yeah we are," I say, just as breezily as she did only with me it comes out with a side of asshole.


He seems about to try to take us by force when Raffi says, "Worf, the food smells great. Sit down and let's not cause a scene."


"Yeah, where'd all that stealth go?" I'm swatting a bear and I know it's stupid, but I just can't resist.


"I can see why Jack Crusher looks up to you, Liam Shaw. You are just as annoying."


"Thanks, Worf. I love you too." I make a kissy face at him and Seven cackles.


"He's rubbed off on you," she murmurs and I know Worf and Raffi think she means Jack, but I know she really means Jim. And yeah, maybe he did. Wouldn't be the worst thing.


They say don't meet your heroes but I'm damn glad I've met mine.


"So," Raffi says, once we've all ordered. "How's Agnes?"


"Good." Seven drinks her water and stares back innocently.


"Hansen, so help me God—"


My knife coming down between them shuts Raffi up. "You do not get to call her that. No one does. Unless of course she wants them to." I look at Seven, and she pulls the knife out before the wait staff can see it and lays it next to her plate—probably so I can't do it again. It's not the first hole in the table so I think I'm not the first to have done that. Especially if this town is as low-security as she's said.


But okay, it was an overreaction. I did not like hearing how I must have used her name. As punishment.


Seven's very calm as she says, "Call me that again and we'll have a problem. I trust you both understand that?"


"Why aren't you talking to us? I'm sorry I used his name for you. But I thought maybe it's what you respond to. Since you don't talk to me anymore."


Funny how it went from talking to us to talking to me. I mean I get it. Losing Seven would suck. But she's got reasons and I expect she'll let Raffi have it eventually.


But not like Raffi's trying to goad her into. Not like she might have before we went to Agnes, when she was exhausted and uncertain about us and on edge all the time.


She just sits calmly, and finally says, "I stopped talking to you when you took Liam's life and made it your own."


"I didn't do that. Worf did."


"I did." He seems to want to be supportive of his woman even if it makes him look bad. Good trait.


"But you wouldn't help me when I asked. And knowing you, you went to Worf if you didn't already know about what be had planned. But you kept it from me." She leans in and I see something new in her—the captain. "You let me get hurt. Emotionally. You could have filled me in." She stops talking when the server brings our plates. The server eyes the hole from my knife but says nothing.


"You are many things, Seven of Nine, but a good actress is not one of them." Worf tucks into his food as if he did not just insult her.


"Actually, she is." I've seen her be a good actress on missions and when I look at Raffi, I can see she's seen it too.


I don't look away, because I'm angry too that she let Seven be hurt by my words when she might have been warned. But maybe that's because it's easier to be mad at her than at myself for saying them in the first place—especially when I suspected Seven was in the room.


I sigh, as if giving up to the bad vibes at the table. "Okay, here's the deal. We sent Miller to Agnes because Sam wanted to kill him for me. But he wasn't doing well, and Agnes thought he needed to be able to see me, to talk to me. He's coming back to us, eventually. To me, in engineering." I look down because I'm an even better actor than Seven is and I know they won't expect it. "It was...unexpected for it to be him. I'd blocked it out—I remembered getting everyone in the shuttle and then I remembered falling after being shot and you covering us. But not who shot me..." I'm so deep into it, it's no longer acting and Seven puts her hand on my knee. "Seeing him..."


Everyone is so quiet. Even Worf has stopped eating. "I picked him as a cadet. I fucking love that kid. To have him be the one—to have him have to deal with being the one..." I look up at them and my eyes are filled with tears and they aren't fake. "Agnes gave us a gift. Sorry we didn't clear it with you first. It was a surprise for me to see him there."


When I was a kid, I had an uncle who was a magician. He taught me a few basic tricks. "Keep their eye on your right hand and make the experience good so they never stop to wonder what your left hand is doing."


They don't need to know about Agnes's plan. I'm tired of working for Worf. I was the one who got myself back onto the ship, into Seven's life and now I work with her. End of story.


If I have to open a vein to make it convincing, so be it.


Raffi looks down. Worf nods and goes back to eating.


Seven says softly, "I needed the break too. I haven't been sleeping."


Raffi looks at her, betrayed again, I can tell. "You could have told me."


"Why? So you could hold me until I fell asleep?" Her voice is bitter and there is a frustration that's coming off as rage to me.


It's too much, and I put a hand on her knee this time, but Raffi gets up and says, "Let's go, Worf."


"Her question is valid, Raffaela. And this food is delicious. Please answer it while I eat."


I expect her to bean him over the head with her plate, but instead she sits down.


"Is that what you wanted? Is that why you didn't tell me about Liam working for Worf?" She puts her hand over mine, squeezing so tightly it hurts but I don't let her know that. She needs me.


Raffi's expression is pure pain. "When we first started, you told me I was the best thing you'd ever known. After Agnes saved you, I gave you a home, with Elnor, and you just left. You'd rather be alone on a ship crewed only by holograms than with me. And I thought it was you. That you were just so fucked up by what you went through as a child, as a Ranger, with Icheb, that you couldn't love. But then I saw you with him." She turns to me. "She wouldn't leave you when you were dying. She turned her back to the crew firing. The Seven of Nine I knew never, ever turned her back on hostiles."


I look at Seven and she nods and says, "That's true."


"So yeah, maybe I did. Maybe once he was gone, I thought you'd reach back again—for the best thing you'd ever had. Instead of this asshole who wouldn't even use your fucking name."


"I might have done the same thing," I say into the silence. "In your place."


She shoots me a surprised look. Worf nods again as if what I've said doesn't surprise him. And Seven says gently, "I love him. Believe me, there were times I wished I didn't."


"Probably a lot of them."


She glares at me but it lacks heat. "That's not going to change."


"And I don't want it to anymore." Raffi touches Worf's hand and he turns it so she's holding him, palm to palm. "But back then, I was still hurting—and hoping." She looks at Worf. "I'm so sorry."


"There is no reason to apologize to me, Raffaela. After I lost Jadzia, when the Dax symbiont came back in Ezri, she and I came together. I was looking for the love I'd lost and she felt residual sentiment. But it was not enough—my relationship with Dax was over. But I had to try it with her to find peace. To be able to ultimately let her go."


"That's beautiful, man." I feel Seven's hand on my knee again, this time warning me. "What? I meant that."


"Sometimes it's hard to tell." She gives me a sheepish smile as she lets up on my knee. She turns back to Raffi. "Can we just eat now? The food really is good."


"I guess the food wasn't that great in Agnes-ville?"


She laughs in a way that seems to support that. The food was amazing in Agnes-ville. Who says my Seven can't act?




Continue to Part 3