Literary Challenge #39 : Lone Drone
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Join Date: Jul 2012
02-20-2013, 07:40 AM
"Now entering the Gamma Orionis Sector," Ensign T'Natra reported crisply from the helm of the
In her command chair, Captain Amanda Palmer felt a nervous fluttering in her stomach as she surveyed the forward viewscreen, and the half-destroyed hulk of a Borg cube.
"Red Alert," she ordered. "Analysis?"
At ops, Lieutenant Brandon Mayer looked over the sensor reports.
"Sensors are picking up residual traces of particle weapons fire, but whatever did that to the cube is long gone. I'm also detecting considerable subspace turbulence, a transwarp conduit could open within minutes."
"Status of the cube?" Palmer demanded, nervously clenching her fist and grinding her fingertips into her palm.
"Dead in space," Mayer replied. "No energy output, minimal lifesigns. Maybe only a handful of drones left-"
"Captain! Quantum torpedoes are firing!" interrupted the deep voice of Lieutenant Commander Bellic Chanos from tactical 2 behind Palmer.
On the screen, she watched the blue-white glow of the torpedoes streaking towards the ravaged cube, slamming into its only intact side, and triggering an explosion from deep within the bowels of the vessel, before leaping from her chair.
"I did not order weapons fired!" she thundered. "There were survivors on that ship, disconnected drones are considered to be injured friendlies, not active targets!"
"Nor did I fire them, Captain," Chanos replied at once. "I was reporting on the events, not on my actions."
"Captain, I fired the torpedoes," reported Commander Rynar Lambert, standing back from tactical 1, his hands held behind his back. "It was... a kindness."
Palmer's eyes widened and her jaw tightened as she fought to reign in her temper. The idea of an officer behaving without proper authorization was bad enough, but for it to be her first officer of over a decade: She had never felt such utter betrayal. Eventually, she found enough of a voice to speak.
"My apologies, Commander Chanos. Relieve the first officer of his sidearm, and escort him to his quarters."
"Aye, Captain," Chanos replied, holding out a hand for Lambert's phaser. Without hesitation, Lambert relinquished the weapon, then silently strode across the bridge to the access door on the rear port-side, Chanos closely following him. As the doors closed, a silence fell on the bridge which could have been cut with a knife. It hung like a shroud, before Mayer discreetly cleared his throat.
"Captain, I'm picking up a single drone in the debris field which is still functional. The subspace turbulence is also increasing. If we don't want to encounter another cube, I suggest we leave immediately.
"Understood," Palmer replied. "Bridge to transporter room two: Lock onto the functional drone and beam them directly to sickbay. Helm, bring us about and get us out of here, maximum warp."
"Aye, Captain," T'Natra replied, as if nothing untoward had even happened.
"Lieutenant Mayer, you have the bridge," Palmer said as she walked briskly towards the rear access door. In the corridor, her thoughts were a dervish of confusion as she rounded the corner towards Lambert's quarters. Chanos stood by the door, the confiscated phaser held at his side in a position of relaxed alertness. Reaching out to touch the door's control pad, Palmer stalled her fingers, and turned to the muscular Bolian.
"Mister Chanos, I would like to sincerely apologize for my accusation on the bridge. I have never had cause to doubt your competence or your integrity."
"There is no need for apology, Captain," Chanos replied. "Your confusion at the situation is understandable."
Nodding silently, Palmer reached out to touch the control pad, sounding the door chime. After a moment, she tried again, but there was no acknowledgement. Reaching up, she tapped her comm badge.
"Palmer to Lambert. Commander, open the door," she said firmly. There was still no answer, so Palmer reached out, tapping in an over-ride code and the doors slid open, revealing the darkened rooms.
"Ryan!" she exclaimed, seeing the form of Lambert slumped on the floor, naked, except for the ivory fabric of the qIvSut, the warrior's loincloth. Kneeling beside him, Palmer could smell the intensely bitter scent of adanji incense, and as she rolled Lambert onto his back, Palmer saw a gaping wound across his lower abdomen, and a mevak dagger buried hilt-deep in his chest. Lavender blood stained the qIvSut, a vile contrast to the purity of the garment. By Lambert's side, was an unlocked PADD. Palmer snatched it up and read:
I was just a boy when the Borg destroyed our colony. The armada of cubes so vast, the sky turned as black as the beard of Kahless. On that day, with my parents and brothers slain, I swore vengeance, and for every one of those monsters I killed, I got a little piece of that life back. I have dishonored myself by disobeying my captain, and can no longer stand proudly as a warrior. Today was a good day to die.
With a sigh, Palmer dropped the PADD to the deck, and shook her head in mute disbelief. Reaching out, she took hold of the mevak dagger, working the blade free from Lambert's chest, and wiped the blade on the sleeve of her uniform jacket.
"Commander Chanos," she said, rising to her feet. "Please have the first officer's body moved to the ships morgue, and then seal the room. I need to contact Starflee-"
"Sickbay to Palmer," interrupted the disembodied voice of the
's chief medical officer.
"Go ahead, Doctor," Palmer replied, passing the mevak to Chanos as she stepped into the corridor.
"Captain, you might like to join us in sickbay. We've landed ourselves quite a catch..."
"On my way, Ben," Palmer said. "Oh, and while I have you on the line, please note in your log that Commander Lambert has been found dead in his quarters, having taken his own life."
As she entered sickbay, Palmer was immediately greeted by Doctor Ben Kincaid, who gestured toward the main surgical bay, which was encased in a shimmering force field. By the biobed, stood the rescued drone. Her exo-armored form was slender, willowy, the facial area free of implants, the extended cranial structure and elegantly beautiful features were unmistakable.
"Captain, I don't think there's any need for introductions," he said dryly.
Palmer tilted her head in a parody of a bow,
"Your Highness," she said, moving closer to the surgical bay.
"No, we are not the One who is Many," said the Borg, her hands raising in a placating gesture. "Please, allow us to explain."
Stopping mere inches from the force field, Palmer folded her arms across her chest and raised an eyebrow.
"Enlighten me," she challenged.
"Our designation is Eleven of Twelve. Before we were assimilated, we were a Starfleet officer, assigned to the
. We were a processing drone when our cube was attacked by an unclassified vessel. In the confusion, several drones were abducted, and the One who is Many was destroyed, triggering the Royal Protocol.
"Our form was being modified by the Protocol so we could succeed the One who is Many and oversee the regeneration of our cube. We were separated from the Collective so we could bring order to chaos, but we were then attacked again, and we were blown into the debris field before the Protocol was completed. In the explosion, our neural transceiver was damaged by plasma discharge.
"We no longer have any facility to contact the Collective, and our past memories have returned. Please, help us, Captain. Allow us to prove we are telling the truth."
Palmer pursed her lips.
"Do you know who initially attacked your vessel?" she asked.
"The vessel was of an origin unknown to the Collective, and we intended to add its technological distinctiveness to our own," Eleven replied. "It was sleek, like this," she pulled the artificial fingers of her right hand into a spear-shape, positioned her left hand first above her wrist, and then below it. "Its tactical systems were superior to our cube, which was only a survey probe, and we were nearly destroyed."
Palmer realized immediately that Eleven was describing the
, and nodded thoughtfully.
"Very well, everything you have told me will be investigated. How do you intend to prove your sincerity?"
"We will willingly turn this humanoid form over to you for analysis," Eleven replied. "We will sacrifice movement and place ourselves at your mercy."
As she spoke, the retention hooks around the neckline of her exo-armor retracted, and the artificial shoulders dropped, exposing the deltoid muscles below.
"Lower the force field," Palmer said, not taking her eyes from the now stationary Borg.
"Captain, are you sure?" Kincaid protested, his dark eyes narrowed with concern. "This may be some kind of ruse."
"Ben, there are two armed guards standing behind me. At the first sign of hostility, I can assure you they will open fire."
Kincaid did not reply verbally, but Palmer could hear the muted chirps as he entered the deactivation code into a console, and she saw the force field wink out of existence.
"What do I have to do?" she enquired, stepping forward until she was almost toe to toe with the Borg.
"If you place your hands on our mandible structure, you will be able to lift our exo-skull from the humanoid form."
Palmer reached out, about to place her hands beneath Eleven's jaw, when she suddenly spoke again.
"We may be heavier than you anticipate. Please, do not drop us."
"Why are you letting me do this?" Palmer asked, positioning her hands on the slick, clammy skin, bracing her palms under the jaw, and her fingers cradling the sculptured cheeks.
"We were a Starfleet officer, you are a Starfleet captain. We do not think you will intentionally harm us." Eleven replied. "We wish to prove our good intentions."
Palmer pushed upwards, lifting the considerable weight of the exo-skull clear of the neckline. It was not a solid weight, the motion of the spinal clamps created a pendulous motion, and she swiftly readjusted her grip. Momentarily holding Eleven's head on a level with hers, Palmer recalled a historical record played in her second year ethics class at the Academy. The impassioned words of the debate rose in her memory:
"Your Honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life... Well There It Sits! Waiting..."
Eleven held Palmer's gaze with her shimmering silver eyes, and for a moment, something passed between them: Awareness, understanding, like the trust between two lovers, and with a silent nod, Palmer began to maneuver herself closer to the biobed.
"Ben, support her spine," she ordered, gently rotating and lowering the exo-skull into place on the biobed as Kincaid moved into place on the other side of the biobed, preventing the tail of the spine from digging into the padding. Palmer looked down and tried to avert her eyes from the internal structures visible by the spinal clamps, fixing her attention on Eleven's face. "Is there anything you need?" she asked. "How long can you survive like this?"
"We will need to regenerate in twelve standard hours," Eleven replied. "Until then, we will not need our humanoid form, but even then, as I promised, it is in your hands, to do with as you wish. We would very much like to be able to move again, once we have proven ourself to you,"
"What was your position aboard the
?" she enquired
"We were an exobotanist," Eleven replied. "Our name was Holly Masters, Lieutenant junior grade. Maybe we will be able to return to active duty once we are debriefed by Starfleet Command..."
"That shouldn't be an issue," Palmer replied. "Many people liberated from the Collective return to their positions within the fleet. Of course, the
was destroyed over a decade ago, but there will still be positions available for you."
Kincaid returned to the other side of the biobed, and handed Palmer a PADD. She glanced at the screen, and the cheerful, auburn-haired officer upon it, her rounded features considerably different to the statuesque elegance which the Royal Protocol had created.
Reaching up, Palmer tapped her comm badge, and looked up and away.
"Palmer to Bowen," she said. "Do you have a moment, Commander? I have an unusual request for you."
"More unusual than fabricating an articulation frame in the mid twentieth century?" came the amused Welsh accent of chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Meliden Bowen.
"Considerably," Palmer said. "Do we have the schematics for Captain Data in the engineering archives?"
"I beg your pardon, Captain?"
"Captain Data, the formerly commanding officer of the
, NCC 1701 E. An artificial life form," Palmer clarified.
"I know who you mean, Captain," Meliden replied with an exasperated tone. "I doubt there's an engineer in the fleet who wouldn't. I simply wondered why you would need his schematics."
"I need you to replicate a positronic body based on those schematics, but with a minor modification. The gender needs to be switched from male, to female."
"Captain, is this some sort of joke?" Meliden demanded. "There's no way I can create a functioning positronic brain, I'm an engineer, not a miracle worker!"
Palmer smiled, forgetting that the engineer could not see the expression.
"I don't need you to create the brain, Meliden, just the body. Compare the captain's schematics to all known records of the Borg Queen, and medical files for a Lieutenant Holly Masters. I need you to fabricate an android replica of her form, capable of interfacing with a Borg Queen's systems."
"Captain," said Eleven, attracting Palmer's attention. "Before we were assimilated, we were only five feet tall. When our exo-armor was modified by the Royal Protocol, we were ten inches taller, may we stay that height?"
"Did you hear that, Commander?" Palmer enquired. "Disregard the comparison to Lieutenant Masters, instead, use-" she paused, searching her memory for an example which matched the slender form of the Borg Queen."Use Tilly Jameson as a physical reference."
"That skinny Risan porn star?"
"Closest example I can think of," Palmer explained."How long do you think it will take?"
"Maybe a couple of hours to create the replicator templates," Meliden replied. "But other than that, pretty straight forward."
Four hours later, Palmer stood in the science lab across the corridor from sickbay. In the center of the lab, the newly created artificial form stood passively in a scaffold, waiting. Strategically placed screens of frosted transparent aluminum maintained its modesty, while Eleven's exo-skull was gradually lowered into place by a supporting gantry.
"The body is designed to interface with your existing neural calipers," Meliden explained. "It's considerably less durable than the Borg exo-armor, so treat it accordingly."
"How will we regenerate?" Eleven enquired, as her spinal clamps disappeared into the torso of the android form.
"There's a universal charging port in the wrist of the right hand," Meliden replied. "It will be able to draw power from almost any outlet, and filter it directly to the systems in your exo-skull, as well as maintaining the charge of its own internal power cells.
"In an emergency, you'll be able to regulate the power distribution between the two systems, and will be able to power the body directly from your exo-skull, and vice versa, although I wouldn't recommend doing that for long. I also added a camouflaging subroutine which your nanoprobes will upload, and then alter your skin tone to match that of the body."
As she spoke, the shoulders articulated upwards, closing over Eleven's organic body, and the bioplast skin of the neckline made contact, immediately forming an invisible pressure seal. Within moments, Eleven's face and neck took on the same light tan as the rest of her body. She stood for a moment, looking down at herself.
"We are breathing," she remarked, noting the steady rise and fall of her breasts.
"Thermal regulation," Meliden replied, holding a tricorder near the now-invisible attachment point and running a scan. "And you'll find you have a pulse as well, thanks to the flow of micro-hydraulics."
"Fascinating," Eleven admitted, hugging her arms around herself, before running her hands down her sides to rest on her hips. "The level of tactile feedback is considerable, and far superior to that of our old exo-armored body."
"I'm glad there's no signal degradation, I was wondering how well the neural relays would interface," Meliden admitted. "You'll even find that you're, uh, fully functional, should the need arise, and you don't need to worry about any kind of separation, the clamps locking your exo-skull in place can withstand more force than it would take to wrench off a Human head. I'm just sorry I can't do anything about..." her voice trailed off, and she twirled a finger above the crown of her own head, as if outlining the tubing that exited and re-entered the back of Eleven's extended cranium.
"This form is more than adequate, Commander, thank you," Eleven said, as Palmer handed her a blue surgical gown to put on.
"I think we made a good exchange," Meliden replied as she keyed a sequence into the side of the scaffold. The modesty screens retracted, allowing Eleven to walk forwards, her steps hesitant yet graceful. "We now have a fully functional Borg exo-skeleton to examine. I can't even guess at how much it could evolve the field of cybernetics."
"How do you feel?" Palmer enquired, as Eleven slowly paced the lab, stretching and rippling her fingers. Her hairless brow furrowed while she pondered, before replying:
An hour later, Palmer stood in the rearward torpedo launch bay, wearing her dress uniform. At either side of the loading gantry, the senior officers stood in solemn silence.
"We are gathered here today to pay respects to our honored dead. None of us can know the demons which played upon the mind of our friend, nor can we judge the way in which he conducted himself in those last moments, for he lived by a code different to ours.
"Klingon tradition says that the body of the departed is an empty vessel, and to treat it as such. Our friend lived and died as the embodiment of Klingon tradition, so by honoring that, we shall honor him. We are here for our own benefit and need for closure, our friend has passage on a different course to the rest of us.
"Let us not forget that by his actions, he has delivered a new friend into our midst: Releasing them from a torment few can comprehend, and that for our new friend, his actions were indeed, a kindness."
A nod from Palmer was all that was required, for the master chief petty officer to engage the loading mechanism and set the torpedo casing, draped in the Klingon flag, in motion. Within moments, it had entered the launcher.
At the order, every officer snapped to attention, before throwing back their heads an unleashing a collective roar: A warning to Gre'thor that a warrior approached.
raced towards Earth, stars streaking passed it, when from below the impulse engines, another solitary point of light sped into the darkness, quickly lost among the unwinking eyes of the stars.
Last edited by marcusdkane; 02-21-2013 at