Room 1471, Nerilan Resort Hotel
0206 (local time)
Silently and suddenly, Annika was aroused from her sleep, just as she had programmed her vestigial cranial implant to do when contacted after hours.
Gingerly, she removed her arm from beneath her partner, so as not to disturb her sleep. It probably wouldn’t have mattered; these days, Raffi was such a sound sleeper that it would have taken an orbital bombardment outside their window to awaken her before she was ready. That also meant Raffi wasn’t likely to notice Annika softly kissing her left earlobe before getting out of bed. Annika did it anyway.
She had hoped not to receive this signal. So had Raffi. They were supposed to be on vacation, after all. Furthermore, assuming her instructions had been followed, she would only have been signaled if the Borg surveillance mission her device had made possible had somehow gone sideways – which would undoubtedly mean that an interrupted holiday would soon be the least of their concerns.
She slipped on a bathrobe and then made her way to the charging stand, upon which rested the Starfleet-issue PADD that she’d brought with her. Sure enough, the PADD display indicated an incoming transmission, marked as Priority One. She took the PADD, then sat down at the suite’s small dining table. Tapping the PADD to open comms, Annika Hansen immediately recognized her commanding officer, her liberator, her mentor, her first real friend, and the head of her first real family, a family that still knew her by her Borg designation: Seven of Nine.
“Seven,” Admiral Kathryn Janeway began, “I’m sorry I’ve had to interrupt your leave.”
“It is all right.” But Seven quickly noticed something wasn’t quite all right with Janeway. Her tone of voice was subdued, her facial expression downcast – and, judging from its unusual sheen, slightly damp. “Admiral,” Seven asked, “have you been… crying?”
Janeway nodded sadly. “It’s Harry.”
Those two little words sent a shudder of raw emotions through Seven, as shock, sorrow, guilt and fear suddenly coursed through her veins like so many nanoprobes. Of all the things that could have gone wrong on the Rhode Island‘s mission, she’d failed, or maybe just couldn’t bear, to consider that harm coming to Harry himself might be among them. Capt. Kim had offered to take on the mission in Seven’s place after Starfleet Command had fast-tracked it, putting it on a timetable that conflicted with her long-planned holiday with Raffi. He did so that she and her partner could enjoy their well-earned and long-overdue quality time together; that his kindness may have gotten him killed – or worse, assimilated – might be too much for her to bear.
“That’s why you called,” she said to Janeway, fearing the worst. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“Not yet,” answered Janeway, “but he was severely injured, along with many of his crew, during an incident in the Alini system. His condition is currently unknown. There’s another ship on her way out there to render assistance; I just finished speaking with her captain and the Rhode Island‘s first officer. For now though, all you or I can do is hope for the best. That’s not a position I’ve ever enjoyed being in, least of all when it comes to… family.”
“Nor I, Admiral.” That Capt. Kim wasn’t definitively dead did little to ease Seven’s mind, especially now that she knew not only Kim himself, but his crew had still suffered on her account. But Janeway was right: For the moment at least, there was nothing either of them could do for him, so she turned her attention back to the mission. “This incident,” she said, “I take it the Borg detected the Rhode Island and attacked?”
Janeway shook her head. “Here’s where things get strange – and it’s the other reason I called.” As she spoke, Seven was slightly gladdened to notice the sorrow ebbing from the admiral’s voice, as her on-edge, yet purposeful tone, familiar from any number of crises during the Delta Quadrant years, began to reassert itself. “Apparently the Borg were fighting each other, and one of their ships was destroyed using some kind of novel weapon. The Rhode Island was merely caught in the explosion.”
“Borg fighting Borg?” Seven’s eyebrows raised at this revelation. “Very interesting… and not in a good way.”
“Any idea what’s going on here, Seven?”
“Several possibilities come to mind, Admiral,” replied Seven, “some more unsettling than others. However, I would need to analyze the raw data from the device in order to significantly narrow them down.”
“That data was dumped onto the Rhode Island‘s black box, and launched away as a precaution,” said Janeway. “The ship sent to assist them has the black box and its data now.”
“Which means I would need to rendezvous with that ship, and the Rhode Island, in order to analyze it.” Seven sighed in resignation. “I’ll have to arrange transport.”
“I’d send Voyager to pick you up,” Janeway said, “but under the circumstances, a ship with a little more muscle is in order. Luckily, I’m well-prepared on that front.” She touched a control on her desk monitor. “Janeway to Captain Auslin – prepare the Pax for immediate departure.”
“Aye, Admiral,” came another female voice in response. Seven recognized her as Serida Auslin, captain of the U.S.S. Pax Federatica, with whom she’d previously worked on a number of occasions, including last year’s Vaadwaur crisis in the Delta Quadrant. “What’s our destination?”
“The Alini system, by way of Casperia Prime. Advise your chief engineer that we’ll need maximum warp speed for both legs of the journey. The sooner we can get there, the better. I’ll be joining you shortly. Janeway out.”
“You have the Pax on standby for backup?” a mildly surprised Seven remarked. “I knew Starfleet considered this a high-priority mission, but not quite that high.”
“Not just Starfleet,” replied Janeway. “Khitomer Alliance Fleet Command has also taken a great interest in this mission. The Pax is part of their standing Special Strategic Operations task force. She’s no Voyager, of course, but, I must admit, the Pax is pretty damned impressive in her own right.”
“Well, I’d hoped not to have to put on my uniform again for a few more weeks, but I did pack it, just in case,” said Seven. “I’ll be ready to go upon your arrival.”
“So much for your vacation,” Janeway remarked ruefully. “Again, I’m sorry.”
“It’s just as well, Admiral,” said Seven. “Knowing Harry may be dead and the Borg Collective may have gone crazy, it would have been difficult for me to enjoy myself here. In any case, I’m certain Raffi will understand. She’s Starfleet too.” Her voice began to tremble. “And we both know, all too well, how it feels to lose someone we love.” She thought of Icheb and Elnor, and how devastated she and Raffi had been by their deaths; even though Elnor ultimately returned, the heartbreak Raffi had to endure in the meantime was something Seven wished for neither Janeway to experience, nor herself to repeat, having already gone through it with Icheb.
“We can only hope that won’t be the case with Harry,” Janeway replied, emotion creeping back into her voice as well. “Tuvok’s much older than me, so I may be out of luck there, but the rest of you? I want you all there at my funeral, not the other way around. Janeway out.”
With the transmission ended, Annika set the PADD down on the table and buried her face in her hands, as all those raw emotions finally overcame her. Now it was her turn to cry – for Harry, for his crew, for Kathryn, for the rest of her Voyager family, for Raffi and for herself. After sobbing quietly for a few minutes, she rose from her chair and started toward her travel bag to stow her PADD there, but then stopped herself short, realizing there was one thing she needed to do before showering up and preparing to depart.
She turned back toward the bed to gaze at Raffi, who had since rolled from her side onto her back but was still fast asleep. Expecting that she’d be well on her way to the Rhode Island by the time her partner awoke, Annika activated the PADD’s recording feature, addressed the recording to Raffi’s own PADD, and began to tell Raffi what Janeway had told her.
She desperately hoped that by the time they saw each other again, it wouldn’t be to mourn the loss of another loved one.
Chaos to Order is the first interactive story in the Star Trek Online Peacemakers series. It is currently in development.