I meet Annika Hansen in a cafeteria at the Daystrom Institute. Formerly known as Seven of Nine, a Borg drone, Hansen now looks almost completely human. Her residual Borg implants are barely noticeable. She does, however, retain the brevity of words and directness her fellow crewmembers from USS Voyager described. I thank her for joining me today. As is typical for her, she cuts to the chase immediately.[expand title=””]
You wish to ask me about why I left Starfleet.
Yes. You yourself have said that one of your dearest aspirations was to belong to Starfleet. Why, then, did you leave?
Clarification. I wished to be counted among those I admired during my time on Voyager. Admiral Janeway, Captain Chakotay, and several other crewmembers convinced me of the honor and competence of Starfleet. Seeing that to be the case, I wished to also belong to Starfleet. However, I have found that, while many members of Starfleet are indeed quite admirable, the direction Starfleet, as a collective, is taking is neither admirable, honorable, nor competent.
You’re referring to the dissolution of the Borg Task Force last month.
Yes, I am. Starfleet has come to the flawed conclusion that the Borg are no longer a threat simply because the Borg have not attacked us recently.
There have been no signs of the Borg since Voyager’s return in 2378. That’s seven years.
That is nothing. Do you actually believe that seven years, or twenty years, or a hundred years, would be anything more than a brief setback for the Borg? The Borg do not reckon time as humans do. The Borg are not limited by the life spans of individuals. The collective lives on. What one knew, all know. What one remembers, all remember.
Isn’t it possible that Admiral Janeway’s actions destroyed the Borg?
That would be a lovely fairytale. Admiral Janeway’s actions likely destroyed that hub. But the Borg are far wider spread and have contingency plans dating back to before humanity achieved warp speed. We may have delivered a crippling blow, but it was not a killing blow. The Borg still exist. So long as they exist, they will not accept defeat. They persist. They choose a goal and continue until they achieve it. The Borg are infinitely patient. They can afford to be.
I understand that Starfleet may wish they were gone. I do not understand the stubborn refusal to deal with reality. We cannot simply ignore the Borg threat and assume they will not notice us.
The dissolution of the task force was unfortunate and ill conceived. Wishing that the Borg won’t return does not make it so.
So you left Starfleet and came to the Daystrom Institute.
The Daystrom Institute made me an offer long before Starfleet dissolved the task force. I neglected to accept that offer at the time. However, they were perceptive enough to understand the importance of preparing our defenses against the Borg and were amenable when I spoke to them again. They have provided me with all the resources I need to continue my work. We will have the Daystrom Institute to thank for preparing us against Borg attack. Unfortunately, without Starfleet maintaining vigilance, I cannot predict how effective our efforts will be.
What of the young man, Icheb, who I believe you adopted as family? Who was also former Borg. How do you feel about his continuing presence in Starfleet Academy?
That is Icheb’s choice, and I am proud of him for making it.
What do your former crewmates from Voyager think of your predictions?
They listen. They know, just as I do, that the Borg remain a threat.
Do you remain in contact with Captain Chakotay?
I’m afraid I do not see the relevance of your question.
Please, humor me.
Naturally, I remain in contact with most of the crewmembers from Voyager. We all spent a great deal of time together and remain close.
What do you think of the legal case involving the EMH known as the Doctor?
I think it is another example of Starfleet short sightedness. They are ignoring his individuality, and the significance of what this means about sentience, in favor of studying short term technological applications.
That seems like a strange approach coming from you.
Because I was once Borg? I am human, now. I am an individual. I have a better understanding of what that means, and what it means for the Doctor, than any normal human who takes it for granted.
When do you think we’ll see the Borg again?
I cannot predict when, only that it will happen.
Commander Suran, once captain of the warbird Soterus, now lives as a gentleman farmer on the planet Talvath. Talvath has recently petitioned for Federation protection, which is what brings me here to interview him. He is the highest ranking military officer on the planet, and has indeed become something of an elder statesman. His intimate knowledge of Romulan politics, and involvement within definitive political events dating back to the conflict with Praetor Shinzon, makes him an even more important source of information. He smiles at me, offering me a glass of water as we sit on the porch of his sprawling ranch.[expand title=””]
I know why you’re here. [he tilts his own glass at me] Oh, you may say it’s to gather information and determine whether your Federation will accept us. But you have all the same questions everyone else does.
What questions would those be?
You want to know about Donatra, of course, the missing Empress*. If only she hadn’t disappeared, how different everything would be! [he speaks in a higher pitch, clearly mimicking someone] Romulans would still be strong, still be a power to reckon with in the Universe! [he laughs] Well, I’m afraid I will disappoint you. They’re right, you see. If Donatra had lived, everything would be different. I can’t tell you if we would have been able to avoid all the catastrophes that befell us, but we would be a much stronger people.
I’m afraid, as well, that I can’t tell you where she’s gone. If I could, believe me, I would have sought her out long since.
There are rumors that the two of you had a falling out.
Falling out? Pah! We disagreed a time or two. And that rumor she had me killed? Clearly exaggerated. She did threaten to kill me, but true friendship is a bond that survives death threats. [he laughs] She was a firebrand. No, a comet, flaring brilliantly in the night sky.
Now, I know you have other questions for me. You want to know about those days after Shinzon died, and good riddance to him. And you likely have a question or two about our erstwhile Praetor Tal’aura. Everything that needs saying has been said when it comes to Shinzon and what he did to Romulus. [he stops speaking, staring off into the distance]
Ah, forgive me. These are strange times. It is hard to realize that the glory of the empire is gone. It is even, at times, unthinkable. And yet.
What of Praetor Tal’aura?
[He puts his glass down on the table, leans towards me conspiratorily] I shall tell you something – something I would never have dared to say were Donatra still here. Tal’aura did us all a favor when she killed General Braeg.
You’re shocked. [he smiles] Of course you’re shocked.
You have publically condemned her for General Braeg’s execution.
Many times, indeed. And it was an atrocious thing, and I fully believe she deserved to die in turn for having done that. So, apparently, did someone else. Although that could have been in return for so completely mismanaging the empire. But I digress.
General Braeg was a dear friend of mine. I mourned his death. I still mourn his death. He was also a charismatic leader. Did you hear how he fomented rebellion on Romulus, under Tal’aura’s very nose? It was brilliant. He had a gift. Not only was he clever enough to see her mistakes and understand how horribly she was mishandling the Empire, he had a rare instinct for showmanship. He made people understand! He got through to the mob. He showed them the downward spiral, and told them we needed to get out of it. He made them believe!
But then he died. And it was the death of a hero. Tal’aura’s men had surrounded the crowd he was preaching to at Victory Square, and had actually brought a military hovercraft – which was illegal on Romulus – in an attempt to reach Braeg! He could have easily fled. He could have let innocent people die, and no one would have blamed him for it. Instead, he turned himself over to Tal’aura’s men, which stopped the attack and enabled his followers to escape. He sacrificed himself.
At first, I thought he was an idiot. I thought, Well, he saved a few people that day but lost the Empire! What a shortsighted gesture! But perhaps he knew better than I what would happen after his death.
And here I will tell you something you haven’t heard before: Braeg was Donatra’s lover. Had been for years. Very few knew this at the time. I had my suspicions before his death, but never spoke of it. After his death, Donatra told me. There were tears running down her cheeks as she told me that they had loved each other. That was the only time I saw her cry. She spoke of him many times again, in glorious speeches, calling all Romulans to battle! But she never cried.
When he died, it lit a fire in her the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I always knew she had passion. Always knew she had the ability to lead. I didn’t realize she had the ability to touch men’s souls and make them blaze.
She became Empress because Braeg died. I don’t think she would have done that had he lived, and I don’t think he’d have been as good a leader as she. All of his showmanship could not match the purity of her cause.
The worst thing that ever happened to Romulus was losing Donatra. I know, it’s a shocking thing to say, with all that’s happened. Had she remained Empress, these last two decades and more would have been incredibly different.
I will tell you this, as well. I do not believe she is dead. Where she is, I don’t know. But I do not believe that we have heard the last of Empress Donatra.
*The ship Valdore, carrying Empress Donatra and all her crew, disappeared in 2387 during the Hobus supernova. The general assumption is that the ship and crew were destroyed, but there has been no conclusive evidence. [/expand]