Paul Gadzikowski


Who Would Be King

Chapter 5

Captain's log, supplemental: Breaking our stalemate with the Borg cube commanded by the assimilated Master, the Doctor and I have beamed aboard from the Enterprise and discovered what we each knew we would: a new Borg Queen to replace the one lost in the past.

"I thought so," said the Doctor casually to Picard. "You can't have the kind of immortality that your Borg Queen claimed, with implants alone. You'd have to transfer your mind and memories into successive new bodies. On Gallifrey we have bodily regeneration - this is a much cruder process." He pointed out several constructions on the overbuilt regeneration alcove in which the dormant new Queen was ensconced. "Note the advanced devices for cloning procedures - the primitive genetic deterioration ameliator - Oh, that must be the vivication initiator -"

"This one," said Picard, "was left behind in case the Queen I met failed in her plans. You," he said to the Master, "must have been told to wake this Queen if the old Queen didn't return."

"But you didn't, did you?" Anger rose in the Doctor's voice as he spoke. "You've tried to assume her place but you've failed! You haven't spoken in first person singular since you contacted us, probably not since you were assimilated. You're just another drone - only your Time Lord mental powers keep you from getting entirely lost in the collective like anyone else! You don't have control. No one does!"

"We'll see who has control," said the Master. The drones who'd unveiled the dormant Queen now moved on the Doctor. They surrounded him quickly, and one of them extruded a tube and briefly injected assimilation nanites into the Doctor's neck.

For a moment Picard was frozen into inaction. The Doctor's concern hadn't been misplaced: as often as Picard had nightmares about being assimilated again, the horror of watching someone else's assimilation - someone Picard respected and honored, for all their differences - was crippling. This was exactly what he had meant to avoid, on Data's behalf, when he agreed, in 2063, to join with the Borg Queen of his own free will.

"Ouch," said the Doctor.

In a flash Picard understood - not just intellectually, but as never before on an emotional level - how the Doctor used his posturing and even clowning in the face of danger as an emotional defense, for himself and those about him, even as he endangered himself physically in the defense of individuals or worlds. For defense it was - it was a denial that any being may, can, take control of the fate of any other. It was belittlement, not of danger, but of those who cause it and their petty motivations.

"Doctor!" Picard shouted, and his was the voice of the captain of the starship Enterprise. "What's happening?"

"You may as well cease struggling, Doctor, you're doomed," said the Master, but his words were choppy and came through clenched teeth.

"You're doomed," said the Doctor. Surrounded by suddenly still drones, here in the mechanized heart of a Borg cube ship, he still might have been alone on some Old West dirt street with the Master, the way they faced each other across the space between them. "You can't even still fight the collective, as I am doing."

"Why should we fight what does our will?"

"'Our' will! Have you any will left that isn't Borg?" The Master didn't respond. Picard was afraid to distract the Doctor from the unseen war he was battling, but he needn't; the Doctor grunted, "Captain - wake the Queen."

Picard went to the regeneration alcove. Either the drones saw no threat in his movement, or - as Picard believed more likely - the mental struggle between the Time Lords had immobilized their collective. He looked over the panel which the Doctor had identified as the vivication initiator. There were no labels, of course - a collective mind doesn't need them - but while Picard reviled the memories of his actions as Locutus he still retained the knowledge of Borg procedure that he had learned. With no difficulty he identified the switch to initiate vivication and worked it. The panel lit up, and a guage began to rise.

The strange duel between the Time Lords continued. Each was perspiring now. Picard could only guess at the marvelous mental forces marshalling on the plane of the collective from the verbal exchanges that leaked into his own frame of reference. "We are the Master!" the Master grunted. "You will obey us!"

"That's it, isn't it?" the Doctor retorted. "All that's left of you is your sorry need to feel you have power over someone else - anyone else."

The guage Picard was watching had risen two-thirds to full when the Borg Queen in the alcove began to stir. Picard stepped directly in front of her, that she might be the first thing she see when she awaken, like Sleeping Beauty's prince.

"We are Borg," said the Master. There was no longer any inflection in his tone. "You will be assimilated."

"Captain," choked out the Doctor. "Hurry."

Picard forced himself to stand motionless while the guage needle rose. It came to rest a fraction of an inch from the very top. The Queen's eyelids fluttered. They opened, and focussed slowly, drawn irresistably to the only bright color in sight, that of Picard's uniform collar - and thence to his face.

"Locutus," Sleeping Beauty slurred to her prince. "You've come."

"My Queen," said Picard.


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