Azera Xi: In Memoriam
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Join Date: Dec 2012
02-18-2013, 04:48 PM
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"On stardate 90550.35," Admiral Kane began as he paced back and forth across the head of the conference room, "the USS Roanoke received a distress call from Starbase 114 stating that a Borg cube appeared to be on a direct course for the Celes System. At 1100 hours the Roanoke intercepted the Borg ship and hailed it. At that moment, Ensign Azera Xi fell into a trance-like state that gradually became more intense until she fainted. The Roanoke continued its battle against the cube and, with the aid of the USS Galaxy and the USS Phoenix, destroyed it before it could complete its attack on the starbase. At 1307 hours Azera Xi awoke in sickbay with no memory of her actions on the bridge. Starfleet Intelligence was asked to assess the situation for any potential threat it could pose, and I've been investigating it personally since then."
"Azera Xi," Admiral Quinn asked curiously as soon as the speaker paused, "you mean the Roanoke's acting captain? The one who fought the Borg fleet at Vega Colony?"
"Interestingly enough," Marcus answered with a nod, "yes, the very same one. The first sign of her trance appeared when the Borg answered the Roanoke's hail. I was able to isolate the following sounds from the ship's records: this is both the Borg ship's response and Azera Xi's voice isolated from every other sound and synchronized to the same time frame."
He tapped a few buttons on the table's glowing LCARS panel, and the file began to play.
"We are the Borg," a mixture of both the Borg's droning chorus and Azera's lilting voice rose and fell in a perfectly matched duet, "you will lower your shields and escort us to your homeworld where we will begin assimilating your species. Resistance is futile."
"Her mind linked with the Collective," Admiral Zelle murmured to herself in the startled silence that followed. After another moment, Marcus continued his report.
"Once communication with the Borg ship was terminated, the crew became aware of the changes in her behavior. They reported that she fell back against the rear consoles, hugging herself and whispering about, and I quote, 'machine priests' and 'black cubes.' This is borne out by the following sound file I isolated from Captain Taggart's request for medical aid."
He tapped another glowing panel on the table, and Azera's whispers filled the room.
"...are the dissenters, the apostate worlds, deniers of the perfection that they..."
"Her whispers reportedly grew faster and more frantic until she cried out for her parents, and then she lost consciousness. She was immediately taken to sickbay where she was found to be in a condition resembling REM sleep, but at the same frequency as a waking state. While she's not human, that doesn't match any of her baseline neural oscillations either."
"Mental synchronicity followed by withdrawal, regression and loss of consciousness," Admiral T'nae remarked with a detatched Vulcan calm that couldn't quite conceal the worried look in her eyes, " this almost sounds like the Borg telepathically attacked Ensign Azera."
"I don't think it was an intentional attack," Marcus replied, "but that seems to be exactly what happened. She has psionic abilities roughly comparable to those of an untrained Vulcan. When she heard the Borg's voice, she came into mental contact with them, something she'd never experienced and wasn't prepared for. Everything after that was her mind's attempt to hold onto itself against their collective will, until it shut down entirely as a last resort."
"That is logical," Admiral Valoth pondered from the far side of the table, "yet Vulcans themselves face no such difficulties when confronting the Borg's hive mind."
"No, they don't," their host agreed with a shake of his head, "the Borg task force speculated that their collective consciousness has a way of shielding itself from psionic contact, presumably after suffering early defeats against telepathic societies. But this isn't entirely unprecedented either. Jean-Luc Picard reported similar contact with the hive mind during the Battle of Sector 001, as did Annika Hansen in her encounters with Borg vessels. Individuals who have been liberated from the Borg often retain a psychic awareness of the Collective."
"So she was a drone once," Admiral Quinn asked skeptically.
"No, there are key changes to the genome we'd expect to see if she had ever been assimilated by the Borg. She's never been exposed to their nanoprobes."
Marcus sat down at the head of the table and tapped a few more buttons on the embedded touchpad, flaring the wall console behind him to glowing life.
"This is an archived video file of her waking up aboard the USS Columbia twelve years ago, preserved for the historical record as first contact with an unknown species."
The flickering screen showed a sickbay in shambles. The blue-lit control panels crackled and sparked as a wave of concussive force smashed across the wall, a telekinetic windstorm sweeping the hyposprays and scanners into a cyclone around a panic-stricken, salmon-haired child in kimono-like robes. She crouched atop one of the biobeds like a feral cat, dark eyes darting wildly among the scrambling medical staff, the short spiky bangs of her hair revealing the flattened external eardrums that marked her as an alien. One of the nurses tried to say something reassuring, only to quickly duck away from a medical kit sent flying at her.
"Alouric nax ti!" Azera screamed furiously through her tears, "anak nen ceasselas jetla!"
"Why isn't the translator working," the doctor shouted back over his shoulder, and then he lifted his hand up as he tried to approach the strange girl, "it's okay, you're safe..."
He suddenly slammed sideways against the bulkhead, doubling over a shelf with a pained groan as the child aimed one outstretched palm at him. Then she swung her panicked stare back toward the entrance, raising her trembling hand toward the security team gathering outside.
"Nalai kul," she shouted at them, "nalai kul orea! Zilou nax ti!"
"Look kid," the red-haired woman leading the team said slowly, keeping her phaser aimed steadily at the little girl, "we don't want to hurt you. Just calm down and..."
"Desael, desaela na," Azera shook her head frantically, "nen cil isar thussyn..."
The last syllable on her lips faded away into a groggy moan, her violet eyes drooping as she wobbled atop the bed and then tumbled backward into the doctor's arms. He sighed with relief and tossed away the hypospray he'd kept hidden behind his back, and then gestured for the rest of the medical team to help him monitor the sedated girl's vital signs.
Marcus paused the playback.
"The universal translator couldn't get a fix on her language at the time," he said quietly, "and by the time she'd learned English, she'd forgotten almost everything about her life before waking up on the Columbia. Xenolinguistics has progressed since then, however, and her brain activity's much better documented now. If you update the file's translation matrix..."
He tapped in a few silent commands, and the video played again.
"Stay away from me! What did you do with mama and papa?"
"Let them go! I said let them go! Get away from me!"
"It's a trick, you're trying to trick me. You're the machine priests..."
The admiral paused the video, and then turned it off again with a few more taps. For a long moment nobody dared to speak. The last two words she'd said seemed to echo silently through the conference room, weighted with each of the officers' silent thoughts.
"The original analysis of her escape pod indicated that it'd been in space between one and two hundred years," Marcus spoke quietly, "but that's not really accurate. The ship was moving at variable near-light velocities with no chronometer and an unknown trajectory. Due to time dilation effects, we don't actually know how long she was in stasis. One or two centuries is the bare minimum estimate. In all likelihood, it's been exponentially longer than that.
"I did, however, pinpoint the technology used in the vessel's construction," he continued, "the power distribution system relies on a Bussard collector for fuel, but it shows a characteristic modulation that makes it especially vulnerable to a phaser attuned a narrow range of high-band electromagnetic frequencies. Commander Shelby discovered the same vulnerability in the Borg's auxiliary generators prior to the Battle of Wolf-359. The pod's hull uses a variant polytrinic alloy that replaces tritanium with dentarium, and the pictogram language inscribed on the ship bears at least a more than passing resemblance to the Borg's alphanumeric code."
"Are you saying," Admiral Quinn asked slowly, "it's a Borg escape pod?"
"It's more than that. I think we're looking at Species 1 technology."
"Species 1," Admiral Akaar's frail voice finally asked, less out of confusion than surprise.
"The Borg classify sentient species by the order in which they encountered them," Admiral Kim answered him, "they call humans Species 5618. Talaxians are Species 218. Species 1 is, at least hypothetically... it's where it all began. The Borg's ancestors."
"Isn't it possible," Admiral Trem broke the long silence with another question, "that the resemblance comes from the Borg having assimilated her people's technology?"
"Possible, but I don't think it's likely," Marcus shook his head, "the Borg have a very modular design philosophy. They don't alter their technology so much as add more and more components to it. Their capabilities are constantly changing, but without the ability to innovate on an individual level, the underlying technological base is extremely static. Remember what they say: 'your culture will adapt to service us.' Not the other way around.
"What we're seeing in this pod is that same technology stripped down to its most basic form, with none of the enhancements they've assimilated from others since."
"She can hear their thoughts even though she's never been assimilated," Zelle said quietly, as much to herself as the rest of the admirals, "she calls them by a name nobody's ever heard before. This isn't just about the ship... it's Azeri Xi herself. She's Species 1."
"Now you know why I didn't bring my report straight to the Federation Council," Marcus nodded as he stood up again, "if this information leaves the room, it'll spark diplomatic and military chaos all across the quadrant. She'd be the target of every organization that wants to understand the Borg and doesn't have any ethical compunctions about how they do it."
"The Tal Shiar would give anything to tear her mind to shreds with their probes," Zelle agreed forlornly, "just to extract the information that might be locked in her memories."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Admiral Quinn squinted his eyes in dark thought, "if Section 31 decided to use her to design a Borg bioweapon. It wouldn't be the first time."
"The Klingons wouldn't even be that practical," Admiral Yashinov's brisk Russian accent broke in, "their judicial system may well blame her for all the Borg's crimes since."
"And what," Admiral Akaar asked softly, "about the Borg themselves?"
"I can't even guess," Marcus answered reluctantly.
"Are they wrong, though," Admiral Trem muttered quietly, and then he spoke up, "I don't mean dissecting her or probing her brain or anything. But we have an unimaginable opportunity. A member of Species 1 is literally serving in Starfleet. What do we do with that?"
"What would you suggest we do," Admiral Kim glared, "have Valoth grab her for a mind meld when she's not looking? We're Starfleet, not the Obsidian Order."
"We could at least try asking her," the Tellarite snapped back, "are we really going to just send her off on planetary surveys? Isn't she a more valuable resource than that?"
"Maybe he's right," Admiral Zelle hesitantly replied, "if all the other powers in the quadrant would try to use her, isn't that even more reason for us to take action first?"
"It seems likely that the Borg's cybernetic implants are designed using her species' genome as a base," Valoth mused, "if one were to analyze her body's reaction to..."
"Enough," Marcus suddenly growled, slamming both his fists across the conference and waiting until the rest of the admirals had jerked up from their growing feud into shocked silence, "this is exactly the sort of thinking that I was afraid could tear the quadrant apart! We are the United Federation of Planets. For almost 250 years we've stood as a beacon of hope in the galaxy, welcoming anyone who'll join us, promising liberty and equality regardless of their species, regardless of whatever prejudices once defined them. An orphaned child escaped from a nightmare to find a new home on Earth, she pledged herself to our ideals, she joined Starfleet to fight for them against an enemy she has every right to be terrified of - and within five minutes of finding out she has even more to offer, we're already trying to figure out the best way to exploit it. It's easy to talk about liberty when there's no advantage to doing otherwise, isn't it?
"All of us took an oath to protect the Federation and its citizens. That includes her. If she was born as Species 1, that means she needs our protection more, not less. A society where even her people can be welcomed without judgement, without fear of being hunted or exploited simply because of what she is, is exactly what the Federation's founders dreamed of. Azera Xi's entire career in Starfleet is a testament to that dream, and to everything we've done since to make it come true. Maybe you're right, maybe using her somehow really would give us an advantage. Who knows, maybe it'd even be the key to destroying the Borg. But if we did that, we'd be selling our souls for victory. The dream would be dead. We'd just be another empire.
"I don't outrank everyone here together," he sighed after a moment, "so this is really your decision, not mine. But I believe in the Federation and its ideals. And I believe in her. That her worth as a person is greater than her worth in a petri dish. But the choice is yours."
"Of course," Trem nodded humbly, breaking the long silence that followed, "war has a way of turning us all into warriors. Thank you for reminding us that we are men of peace."
"We are all in agreement with you, Admiral Kane," T'Nae replied thoughtfully, "but she could pose a very real strategic risk if she's vulnerable to the Borg's influence."
"She's confronted the Borg several times since with no trouble," Marcus answered her, "she seems to have quickly learned, at least on an unconscious level, how to keep their thoughts separate from her own. Nonetheless, Starfleet Intelligence will continue keeping a close eye on her and the Roanoke, especially when it comes to missions against the Borg."
"Do you think she should be told," Admiral Quinn asked, "as head of Starfleet Intelligence, you are the one who decides whether she should be given classified information."
"I haven't decided yet," he answered a little ruefully, "unless anyone has questions, this meeting is adjourned. Or more precisely, it never happened to begin with."
Last edited by sparklysoldier; 02-19-2013 at