To Our Own: Apocryphal
A Ship of the Line Story
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Alexander Harris no longer existed.
Though it would be more accurate to state his physical body ceased to exist. The Borg that possessed him ensured that Xander could never return as he was before. Once the Borg constructed a facility in Sunnydale capable of meeting its needs, Xander, then designated drone 1 of 1, was the first drone processed. Drone 1 of 1's brain was removed then underwent a form of digitization as every neuron and synapse was transferred into the new Borg Collective. It was given the task of bringing order to chaos, and the new designation: Borg King.
Xander's remaining organic parts were destroyed once the process was completed to decrease the chances of the process being undone.
Xander regained consciousness when Ethan's spell was broken. He remembered everything that happened during Ethan's spell. He knew all that the Collective knew, even though the Collective itself had fallen apart.
The drones that remained after the spell ended, those who had been fully assimilated and could not be returned to normal, had their individuality returned to them. Only a few remembered or understood why they no longer appeared human. Sensing all their fear and confusion, Xander transported them to the Borg Cube the second after Giles shattered the two-faced bust and installed them into regeneration alcoves. Then Xander took a page out of Captain Picard's playbook and put the Borg into a looping regeneration cycle—he put them to sleep.
Xander could also sense partially assimilated people, those who hadn't undergone full assimilation, who still possessed faint connections to the shattered Collective. Xander let them be. He hoped their connection to the Collective would fade over time.
The children Xander assimilated were secured in alcoves in the most heavily shielded area of the Borg cube. He connected their consciousness into a hastily constructed version of Unimatrix Zero. It was a temporary solution. Despite the pleasant reality Unimatrix Zero provided, the children were confused and frightened. Xander pledged to reserve a large portion of his now vast processing abilities toward reversing the children's assimilation. No matter how long it took, or what the cost.
The Borg had assimilated 16,345 Sunnydale residents before the spell ended. Of those only 300 remained Borg, not including the thirty soldiers, technicians, and scientists taken from the Initiative. Xander had a decision to make. Even though he could process information a million time faster than before, he spent hours considering his next step. Ultimately, he came to the sure conclusion he had no right to make any possible decision on his own. Except one.
He woke up the other drones—individuals.
All at once it sounded, or rather, felt like hundreds of voices were shouting into hundreds of radios connected to the receiver in Xander's mind. Xander could separate each individual voice, but to everyone else on the call it was nothing but unintelligible noise. Gently, Xander harnessed the mass of voices and strung each chaotic thread into a single, perfectly woven string. He didn't command them, he only trafficked them, allowing each individual to choose to obey the stop signs and signal lights Xander put up for them to follow, or not. Soon, the voices became orderly and hundreds of voices spoke in turns and willing agreement.
Then Xander asked each individual all at once what they wanted to do. A few chose to return to sleep and live within Unimatrix Zero, unable or unwilling to live as Borg. Some chose to reform the Collective and find a way to someday return to their human lives. The rest embraced the Collective and sought to explore their new existence as Borg.
The debate lasted thirty seconds.
Most decisions, it was decided, would be left up to Xander. The Individual Drones, as they now called themselves, though far more intelligent than normal humans, did not possess the raw intellect and processing power Xander had as a disembodied consciousness within the computer core of the Borg cube. Nor could any other Drone form a Collective as efficiently as Xander. He was also capable of operating every cube system alone, leaving the Borg free to exist as individuals within the hive mind, until circumstances required the Collective to unite as one.
So, once again, Xander was designated Borg King.
Xander's first decision as so-call king was to connect all willing Individual Drones into a Collective so he could share the knowledge he had about what happened to them, and why. He also made the Collective aware of demons, witches, and vampires. The Stargates currently on Earth, as well as the Goa'uld, and the danger they posed to humanity. Most importantly, Xander showed them what he thought they could do to help.
As he hoped, every Individual Drone agreed to lend their aid and follow his lead.
Xander's second decision was to bring Willow to the cube.
The instant Willow's soul re-entered her Collective driven drone body, Xander made sure to disable the neural processor and neuro-transceiver in her brain. Willow's assimilation had been unusual. Xander suspected the abnormality was due to Willow's consciousness being missing when assimilation took place. Because her distinctiveness was not present to guide what specific role she would play within the Collective, Willow's assimilation was guided instead by pure utility, which caused a higher percentage of her brain to be absorbed and assimilated.
If Xander hadn't remotely disconnected the components inside Willow's head, they would have overwhelmed her. Willow would have lost everything that made her Willow.
Xander refused to let such a thing happen.
After disengaging the components, Xander waited for Willow to contact him. Though he wanted nothing more than to talk to her and find out if she was okay, Xander dreaded the moment Willow asked for an invitation. He was so different now. They both were.
Xander knew Willow wouldn't blame him for what happened, but he did blame himself. Because of his choices thousands of people had been traumatized. Hundreds more had their lives irreparably changed. Families would wonder where their loved ones disappeared to, and never know how or why.
Eight children might never go home to their parents.
All because of him.
Willow switched on her transceiver as expected. It was risky letting the cube remain on the planet's surface for so long, but the others agreed offered no objections. It helped Xander's case that a good number of Sunnydale High students had been assimilated, and all of them were aware of the friendship Xander and Willow shared.
They were also aware of how smart Willow was even before she was assimilated. Many within the Collective believed she could be a valuable asset if she joined them. Though, Xander had other plans in mind for her that he didn't share.
When Xander transported Willow to the cube, he placed her on one of the walkways. A walkway would be a familiar location if she remembered it from TNG or Voyager, and Xander hoped it helped put her at ease.
"Hello?" Willow called out.
Xander mentally slapped his forehead. Capable of a million calculations a nanosecond, and he still forgot to tie his consciousness into the cube's main communication nodes.
"Sorry," Xander said.
His voice through the communication nodes boomed, and he didn't sound like himself. He didn't sound like a Borg either. His tone and pitch were generic; artificial. An approximation of a male human's voice.
"Is that really you, Xander?" Willow asked, posing her question to the open air.
"It is. Good to see you, Will."
"See me? Where are you?"
"Don't laugh, okay? But I'm everywhere. What's left of me is inside the cube."
"Xander, you're not making sense!" Willow said. "What happened to you?"
Xander paused for two nanoseconds before he remembered Willow had never seen First Contact. She didn't know what a Borg Queen was.
"I can explain, but first I need to know something," Xander said.
"Are you alright?"
Willow laughed as tears formed in her silvery-black eyes.
"I'm fine! You're the one who's talking like he's a ghost! Talk to me, Xander! Why haven't you come back to m—us?"
"Willow, I… I can never come back."
Xander could hear the fear in Willow's voice and he wanted to make it go away. To make her laugh at a silly joke, or one of his goofy faces. He knew he couldn't do that for her anymore, not the way he was.
"I can explain everything. I need your permission to reconnect you to the Collective for three seconds."
"Do it," Willow said.
Though it shouldn't have, Willow's quick acceptance surprised Xander.
"Aren't you afraid?"
"If you say it's okay, it's okay."
Xander wished he could hug Willow, kiss her forehead, and thank her. Her faith made him feel human again.
The process was instantaneous. Xander made the connection one way; withholding Willow's most inner thoughts and experiences unless she volunteered them. At the same time, he gave her full access to the extensive knowledge of the Collective. Its capabilities, its goals, but most importantly Xander showed Willow how he wanted to give her a shot at living a relatively normal life.
"Can you really do that?" Willow asked once she was separated from the Collective's mental space.
"Can you do it for the other Borg in the Collective?"
"Eventually." Xander kept his answer brief and hoped Willow wouldn't notice.
"Xander! The whole truth, mister!"
"Well, it's like this… Cloning new bodies would be child's play, however, to perfectly transfer thought patterns and memories into those bodies requires many more calculations per nanosecond than our Collective is currently capable of performing. We would need to—"
"Assimilate more people into the Borg to increase your processing power," Willow said.
"Yes. One million assimilated individuals would be necessary to attain the computational might needed to efficiently and effectively move consciousness from one form into another without the risk of simply creating a clone with the thoughts and memories of the original being."
"Maybe… Maybe you should," Willow said.
"Assimilate the people you need."
"I don't mean just anybody! Just, you know, bad people!"
"This new Collective is not like the one from Star Trek. You saw that when you were a part of it, didn't you? Our Collective values freedom and cooperation, not subjugation."
"I want you back!" Willow said. She began to cry, but her voice was strong, and her eyes gleamed with conviction. "You don't deserve this, none of you do! So, do what you have to, to make things right again!"
"Every effort will be made to do that, I promise, but we—I—will not allow this Collective to become the ruthless monsters we once were."
"I accept the Collective's offer," Willow said.
"Did I miss a sentence, or two?"
"I was offered a place within the Collective. I accept."
"Willow, no. I can remove your Borg components. I can fashion new limbs and organs for you. You can live as a human."
"But my brain will always be part Borg."
"Yes, but you will appear normal. No one will ever know."
Willow shook her head. "If you have to live like… like… then I will, too."
Looking at Willow and hearing the determination in her voice made Xander realize he may have lost more of his humanity than he suspected. It had not occurred to him Willow would discard her own humanity to remain at his side. Absolute foolishness on his part. When Xander remembered what he was like as a flesh and blood being, he knew with absolute certainty that person would make the same choice with just as little hesitation.
"I understand. I ask that you allow me to proceed with my plans to give you a more human appearance before you make any final decisions."
"You won't cut me off from the Collective?"
"I will not, not unless you want me too."
If Xander could have sighed with relief, he would have.
"I have one other thing to ask of you," Xander said. "The Collective is going to need a representative…"
Willow followed two drones as they led her through the cube's machinery laden corridors. They passed many alcoves, and none of them were occupied. Willow knew now there weren't enough Borg to fill even a fraction of ten thousand alcoves in the cube.
The Borg escorting her were fully armored. Their skulls, the parts not covered in implants, were extremely pale and completely bald. One was taller than the other and taller than Willow herself. She was unable to tell if the taller drone used to be a man or a woman, as their plating concealed any obvious gendered features. The shorter drone Willow was certain used to be a man because she recognized him despite all the implants and plating.
"Jonathon? Jonathon Levinson?"
"Hello, Willow," he greeted her. "Please call me Individual Drone One of One."
Willow understood from her time in the Collective there were many who embraced their assimilation when it became obvious they could not be restored, while others simply preferred being Borg to who the used to be. Willow didn't know Jonathon as well she used to back in middle school, be she suspected he was one of the latter.
Both Borg walked quickly and with fluid strides. Willow recalled the Borgs' gait being much slower, but these two moved like normal people. In fact, Willow had to increase her own pace just to keep up with them.
She was brought to a corridor with a dead end. The corridor's walls moved like pin screens only these were made of blocks of various sizes. Isometric shapes, mostly cubical and cylindrical, undulated and shifted in places before going flat and still. As they approached the end of the corridor, One of One walked to the wall on the right and made a holographic display of Borg symbols appear with a wave of his hand. He entered a button sequence then the dead end wall sank into floor, revealing a large chamber.
The room was taller than it was wide. Tubes and wires dangled from the high ceiling, at the center of the ceiling was a circular hatch of some kind that opened into impenetrable darkness. Some of the tubes and wires even looped up into the portal. Not even Willow's enhanced vision could penetrate it. Directly below the hatch was an opaque black pod with an oblong shape eight feet in length, and four feet wide.
The drones led Willow inside, and when they came to a stop Willow followed suit.
"This is a repurposed conversion pod. I fashioned it especially for you," Xander's disembodied voice said."
Willow remembered the pod from the hurricane of information she received from the Collective, but the details eluded her now that she was no longer connected to the hive mind.
"What does it do?"
"Originally the pods completed assimilation of new drones. Adding specialized Borg components, while removing useless, or redundant organic tissue, and DNA. It also floods the new drone's body with specialized nanoprobes designed to suppress its immune response while acting as an immune system in its stead."
"You will be inside the reversion pod for nine days and seventeen hours," Individual Drone One of One informed Willow.
One of One swiped his armor-plated hand over the pod and the top poured open as though it was made of black liquid.
Willow climbed inside and laid down.
"I promise you'll be safe, Willow," Xander said, his highly synthesized voice not quite matching the comforting tone his words tried to inspire.
The pod reformed and then a warm, clear liquid began to fill the inside until Willow was completely submerged. As Willow breathed in the fluid, she felt her thoughts fade. She realized the fluid had anesthetic properties. She didn't fight it, allowing the fluid to quickly put her under.
When she opened her eyes next, Willow saw she was standing in atop a high mountain overlooking a paradise vista that extended for as far as her eyes could see. Her body was completely human, and she was wearing different clothes, an outfit she recalled wearing before. A black and pink cat shirt, blue jeans, and leather dress shoes.
Children laughed as they flew through the crystal blue sky, and in the valley below Willow saw a small village made up of modest homes, and groups of men and women peacefully interacting. To her right was a white sand shoreline that touched a calm, perfect blue ocean. Individuals, and couples holding hands, walked along the shore without a care in the world.
"Hey! A new lady is here!"
Willow looked up as several of the flying children swooped down and hovered in front of her. Willow recognized the children; they were the kids Xander had been chaperoning on Halloween. The child who announced Willow's arrival was especially familiar.
"Hi, new lady!" Sara Tyson greeted with a wide smile. Her dark curly swaying in the wind sweeping over the mountain.
Willow smiled and learned she could cry in this artificial world.