Chapter 48 – D.C. al Coda

"You will take us to the primary unicomplex, and you will shut down all drones."

Several frantic cries intruded on Seven's demands that the Queen "comply immediately." Two Starfleet officers dragged the shinless drone by her arms, not caring for any pain this might cause.

"Redemption can't take much more of this!" warned Proudmoore. It hadn't helped that several Vengeance-class starships, the ones who'd announced they were carrying Plague against orders, hung back and refused to engage.

"I have taken 50% casualties" reported Neela, sounding professional and collected for the first time. "We cannot maintain this posture forever."

"We must decide quickly" intoned Tuvok.

"Decide on what?" asked Captain Janeway.

"Whether to, as some have put it, 'sell our souls' in order to save them."

"We have the weapon" came an exhausted-sounding voice. "Three Vengeances were loaded with enough Plague to saturate this entire sector. It would wipe out every drone and end this!"

"You heard him" said Seven, letting anger show through. "There are those among us who do not approve of the use of these weapons, but it is unlikely we will be able to restrain those who possess them."

The group moved deeper into the complex, through chamber after chamber of suffering—half-finished drones hobbled about. Piles of corpses stacked many meters high.

"Even if it was my desire to end this conflict, I could not" replied the Queen.

"You no longer hear the voices…"

"That job fell to a man you called Kyle Lurtarn" she answered. "His, untimely departure, means that the Collective is now leaderless. An animal without function, a machine without programming."

"Lurtarn was running the collective?" demanded Jaina.

"Look at this!" Janeway dragged the Guardian to a nearby console. "He was assimilated, but it wasn't your ordinary drone job. He had more processing hardware than any drone I've ever seen before. Even the Hansens never observed anything like this!"

"It must have driven him mad" gasped Jaina. "So that's why…" She couldn't finish her sentence.

"If you cannot stop this, who can?" The usually emotionless Seven of Nine, previously known as Annika Hansen, began to panic.

"We can" came the word from orbit. "Let us use the weapon, and strike down our enemies!"

"So you would destroy us."

Ultimately, angry screams rang out as someone commanded the biogenic weapon ships to fire, fire, fire!

"Jam in the launch systems! The high-yield canisters won't move!" cried one surprised captain.

"Of course they won't." A new voice, one not all present recognized. "We made sure of that."

"TRAITORS!" screeched Sela, revealing her presence aboard the stolen Prometheus, beyond her previous yelling. "I promised you everything, new bodies, immunity to the phage, and this is how you repay me?"

At least someone got me a decent cloaking device…

"Your empty promises of turning us into war machines may have bought you the loyalties of Mahburge or Dengue, but the New Republic gave us what we were really after with no strings attached. Those craven, mad scientists tried to make Denara Pel mean nothing more than outcast, betrayer of Vidiian society, but it I who cast you out!"

"Denara, I admire your principles, but…" Janeway found herself cut off.

"If we win with this weapon, we'll be no better than the Vidiians you condemned for killing entire colonies to survive. Do you really want that?"

"Captain!" Seven of Nine pulled her commander's attention to a large sensor readout. "An interdimensional rift is forming. It is larger than anything I encountered during my time with the Collective. The closest item in size would be the wormhole…"