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All Things Are Subjective


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“Ambassador?”

It was a deceptively simple formation, yet it encompassed not only a physical enigma but a slew of philosophical questions, both personal and existential, that any sentient might ponder at some point in their life. The majority of them boiled down to: What if? The angular slab of stone before him might well hold the answers, but it wasn’t talking. It had not spoken since Captain James T. Kirk had discovered it, over four hundred years ago, and the view through its portal showed nothing more than the desert plain beyond. Perhaps it would never speak again.

“Ambassador?”

What if? Such a simple question, but the answer was rarely so. The multiplicity of the universe was established fact, but it was the nature of it that one never saw what happened to those selves who made the other decision; well, rarely. So there were never firm answers, only suppositions, and Terrans had a wonderfully relevant expression; “The grass is always greener on the other side”. One might imagine what would have happened, but one could never be certain. And there was some comfort in known that, for those other selves out there, you were the What if?

He had thought that, at the end of his life, he might ask just that. There were so many questions yet unanswered. But now that he was here he knew that he had as much right to ask as any other, and no more. In truth it was not the stone that he should ask but himself, and the Guardian served merely as a foil for his thoughts. No, he had no regrets, not any more. He had done always what he felt he should, and he was content.

“Ambassador Saveron?”

Allowing his meditative observance of the Guardian of Forever to be interrupted, the tall Vulcan turned slowly to regard the earnest young scientist who had approached down the durasteel ramp constructed to keep them from damaging the fragile soil. That same sandy soil was instead scouring away at the steel, already burnished matte where once it had gleamed. Perhaps in time the entire research outpost would be gone, worn away by the wind, and nothing but the Guardian would remain.

He was aware that he was wool gathering.

“Yes?” He said at length.

She gave him an odd look and he saw himself reflected in her eyes. Impossibly old, deep lines on his lean face, hair that was once black was now silver-white, still worn long. Grey eyes that had seen the breadth of the galaxy, peace and war and politics in between, half-hidden in a sea of wrinkles.

“Sorry to bother you sir, but the Nimitz is now in orbit.” She said, a faint frown creasing her brow.

The Nimitz. No doubt they were all keen to see that infamous ship gone from their orbit, and it would not leave without its passenger.

“I see. Please inform them that I shall be there presently.” He said, nodding politely in acknowledgement of her words, of her making the effort to tell him personally rather than using a communicator.

The scientist nodded and [...]ed her head slightly, her vision becoming unfocused for a moment as she used her implanted communications chip to send the message back to the research base. It was a fascinating piece of technology, and an example in his mind of how nothing was ever black and white, everything was a continuum and even the influence of those things one initially abhors can eventually, subconsciously get under one’s skin. The Federation had never been a stranger to cybernetics.

Her dark gaze focused on him again before flicking past him to the Guardian, proud amongst the myriad sensors that now crowded it’s previously barren plain, just in case it should once again demonstrate some sign of activity. Thus far, to the wonders of Federation science it remained an inanimate piece of stone.

“Will you not speak to it, Ambassador?” She asked at last. Saveron glanced over his shoulder for a moment before turning back.

“Would you have me do so?” He asked mildly. The Federation’s finest had begged, pleaded and hurled imprecations at it, and it had remained mute.

“Please.” She replied.

And who could refuse such a request? He turned slowly back on old, aching bones and regarded the monument once more. What, now that he was here across the vast distance of space, would he say to it? If he had any suspicion that it might answer, what words would he have answered? He had stood there for many minutes, and it had served best as a mirror for his own thoughts.

At last he inclined his head politely in the Guardian’s direction. “Thank you,” he said, and turned away.

It was not far to the research station itself and the raised transport pad used to receive shipments and personnel from above. There was no rain here, only the ever present wind, and the platform was open to the elements. There were several of the station’s personnel nearby, but they were keeping a respectful distance, and it was easy to see why. The Nimitz had sent a crewmember to collect him.

Ironically he thought that he recognised her, from before she joined that ship. The triangular jaw, bobbed blonde hair and distinctive arch of her nose-ridge were very familiar; he recalled their meeting on Deep Space Nine, over two hundred years ago now, when she had sought to ask him about the Subjective. What are they like? She had asked. But the real question was what is it like? And it was a question that he could only answer from the outside. What if? It was a pervasive thought that worked away at one’s consciousness, begging resolution. And in this branch of the multiverse she had taken the plunge.

Her skin was far paler now and the metal of the small visible implant at her temple gleamed in the evening light. She wore a close-fitting black suit on which here and there more understated metal gleamed and occaisionally a light blinked, no doubt connected to deeper cybernetics. But her hands were bare and unaltered, clasped casually before her. She looked up at him as he approached, and he noted a faint gleam of circuitry in one iris.

Sochya, Taril Emiri.” He greeted her by name, making the ta’al with fingers grown knobbly and wrinkled with age. She smiled at him.

Sochya Ambassador Saveron. I’m pleased you remember me.” She replied, warmth in her hazel eyes.

Behind her Saveron could see a technician’s expression of mild horror as he eavesdropped and realisation dawned. The Vulcan ignored him.

“Of course I remember you.” He had an eidetic memory but he didn’t doubt she would have remained fixed in his recall. “You were one of the first.” He regarded her for a long moment. “Is it what you thought?” He asked.

“No.” She said, and her smile broadened. She didn’t try to explain and he didn’t ask; assimilation into the Subjective was something that had to be experienced. “We are ready for you, Ambassador.” She said, and in using the plural he knew she spoke for the Subjective as a whole.

Saveron nodded before turning to his escort from the Guardian. “Thank you for your indulgence.”

“Of course Ambassador, any time.” She replied with brittle brightness. Yet he didn’t doubt she realised that he would not be back. He was already pushing the boundaries of the Vulcan life span, his body failing him. No, he had given his all to the Federation, and this was one of the few things he had asked. But he would not be back; it was time to go home.

Turning to Emiri he nodded and stepped slowly up onto the transporter platform. “Let us go.”

She gave only a nod for his benefit, and the green light of the Borg transporters took hold. No doubt the research center would be glad to see them gone; no one liked have a Borg ship in orbit, not even a Subjective ship. They were only slightly more enthusiastic about the presence of the man who caught lifts with the Borg.

As the two figures disappeared from the platform a man rushed out of the research station in the direction of the Ambassador’s escourt, PADD in hand.

“What did he say to it?!?”

They materialised aboard the Nimitz and Saveron was struck by the way that Federation technology had been meshed with Borg technology, rather than overrun by it. Even back when the USS Mercury had first encountered the assimilated USS Nimitz they had recognised that these Borg were different. They innovated, used weapons rather than brute force and moved as individuals rather than a hoard. But it wasn’t until their attempt at assimilating the Mercury herself had led to her crew capturing a fledgling Queen that they had realised what they had.

Even then many were more than prepared to tar all Borg with the one brush, but Saveron had isolated this Queen and spoken with her on several occaisions, fathoming the nature of this Borg splinter group and their prisoner, sounding out the reasons for their difference. And it was then that he did the unthinkable; he infected the Borg Queen with a weapon designed to neutralise her Collective. Not a virus or a bacterium but something far more insidious; an idea. The idea that for a whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, those parts had to be free to be different, to explore and conjecture and think on their own, to have individual will and ideas, which then contributed to the Collective.

There was a certain irony that it was something the Nimitz’s splinter Collective had already begun to realise. His act, in returning the Queen to them with that idea, merely hastened the change that had already begun.

And so the Nimitz Borg had begun to change. No longer focused solely on expansion and acquisition, they developed or rediscovered their own impulse for scientific exploration, for philosophy and aesthetics, for invention and intelligent debate. Their physical expansion had slowed and at last become negotiable, he himself had managed many of those negotiations. This had been replaced by an intellectual and creative expansion that no other species could match. The Quadrant’s greatest philosophers and scientists were all part of the Subjective. With the flowering of its composite minds there were suddenly horizons to chase and boundaries to push which had nothing to do with space and time.

Not that they were no longer a threat. Several times in recent history the original Collective had made attempts to assimilate the Alpha and Beta quadrants, however they had found the Subjective as protective of their independence as the native sentient species, and far more adept at driving them back. Indeed they often ‘liberated’ Collective drones in the process. It had been forty-seven years since the last encounter. But people still viewed the Subjective with suspicion; racial memories took far longer to fade.

There was an attractive, flowing and familiar architecture to the internal corridors as Saveron walked them at his own slow pace; he had done so many times before, no one barred his progress. He passed members of the Subjective, some undiscernible from their original appearances, some unrecognisable; each to their own preference. Subtle sounds might have been communication, song or the ship’s workings. The air was temperate and easy to breath. A capsule that no Starfleet member would recognise as a turbolift brought him at last to what had once been the bridge of the USS Nimitz. It too had been modified far beyond its original construction, yet for some reason the viewscreen still showed a view of the stars, and the Captain’s chair occupied the traditional place. Nostalgia perhaps? Seated in that chair was a figure that no Starfleet member would ever have thought to see there, but she rose with a smile to greet him.

“You have returned to us.” The Borg Queen said warmly. And whether it was the same one that he had spoken with centuries ago he could not know. They were many, created not assimilated, coordinating the Subjective. He had spoken to others on other vessels, but he spoke to each as though they were the same; in all senses they were. Physical manifestations of the heart of the Subjective. She had not changed in all the time that he had known her; had presumably seen no reason to.

“Affirmative.” He replied evenly, making his slow way across the now gently sloping floor, coming to stand before the viewscreen that he might look down on the planet below.

“Did you find that which you sought?” The Queen enquired, and he heard her approach, felt her presence just behind and beside him. He considered the question.

“In order to find one must know what one seeks.” He admitted, not bothering to hide what many would consider the maunderings of old age. She knew him far too well for it to matter, better than any other being yet living. She had watched him grow old. “Sometimes one must face an option, have it within one’s grasp, to realise that one has no desire to take it.”

“Sometimes wanting is more satisfying than having.” She returned; a phrase that she had learned from him.

“Illogical, but true.” He agreed, looking down at the dusty planet below.

“If the Guardian had opened for you, what would you have changed?” She asked gently, too familiar with the workings of sentient minds not to anticipate what he had been thinking.

“Nothing.” He replied simply, and knew it for the truth. “But I might have watched it all over again.” He admitted. She gave him an oddly gentle look.

“You face your mortality.” She surmised, easy conclusion to come to. He only nodded. “Look not back on the past, but around you at the future.” She counselled. “Look at what you have wrought.” And there was a warmth, a humour in her voice. He knew what she meant; the change that created the Subjective came about because of his interference, all those years ago.

“I still wonder that you ever tolerated my input.” He admitted. He had been Ambassador to the Subjective, understood it’s members as well as anyone could who was not amongst them; but the Queen herself still fascinated him.

“You were right.” She said simply. “Growth by assimilation only was a very limited route. Now we are virtually unlimited.” She said, and he caught her wide-sweeping gesture out of the corner of his eye. “Not even by warfare with your kind; it is no longer necessary.” She said, knowing that had been one of his primary goals; that he had done what he had not for the Borg’s benefit but for the benefit of those species yet free of them. “Now we do not need to actively assimilate; beings come to us.” And there was a distinct satisfaction in her tone.

“Those who have free will always value it.”

“Those who are a part of us value that more.” She said, and with the minds of thousands who joined of their own free will, he supposed that she could make such a judgement.

“A decision made freely is always more valued.” Saveron agreed. It had been an unforseen side-effect of his efforts.

“They are your children Saveron, as much as those of your failing body.” He hadn’t heard her move, but she was suddenly close beside him, touching his face, his silver hair, her fingers cool against his wrinkled skin. “It was always your mind that I valued.” She whispered. “You saw so much potential in us, where others saw only threat. Whatever your reasons, you changed us for the better.”

“Only because you permitted it.” He acknowledged, grey eyes turned to watch that strange, familiar face.

“Change had become necessary. I had looked for others to guide it, perhaps incorrectly. Locutus never gave himself to us. Representatives of other species looked to their own people’s interests unless they became drones, then they contributed nothing new. Only you sought to change us without destroying us. Only you had the courage to walk the difficult path.”

“All life should be preserved, in harmony where possible. I never wished your people harm, only that they should do us no harm in turn.”

“And you achieved it, where others failed or dared not even try.” She acknowledged in turn. “Will you give up on us now?” She asked.

“I have no more to give; my work is complete.” He said quietly. “You do not age, but I am old, and tired.” He admitted.

“Your body is; your mind is not.” She knew the restlessness that was in him even yet. “And I hold the answer.” A hand to his cheek, she pulled him gently around to face her. “Are we not everything that you have striven for? Have I not given you all that you asked?” And she smiled. “Will you not know the perfection that you have wrought?” She asked, her face mere inches from his own. “I have waited these long years for you.”

Grey eyes scanned her face, the one constant in his life, when others came and went, to other pursuits or to the great beyond. Always she had offered, and always he had resisted, had needed his separation to do his work. Yet he had known that he would never return to Vulcan.

After a long moment he dipped his chin in the faintest of nods. “I am ready.”

She welcomed him with open arms and he learned at last what it was to be a part of a greater whole; his questions finally answered.

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