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Republic Veteran
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 23
# 17
03-01-2013, 12:40 PM
ADDRESSING UNIT DESIGNATED CAPTAINS LOG, STARDATE 84558.9:



She had four eyes. Two human eyes, in the normal place, with two robotic eyes right above them, staring out of her forehead. The mechanical eyes whirred gently as the metal irises dilated around the dull red glow of her electronic pupils, allowing her to focus on what was probably a viewscreen showing an image of herself.

I had to ask the computer to stop recording right there, so I could bury my face in my hands.

At first, I thought it was a prank. Maybe there was some precocious and mischievous child that had fiddled with one of the ship's photonics, and that same monstrous little creature slipped this crap into the ship's logs as a prank on the ship's captain. An unfortunately sloppy captain that I would have to waste my time writing up, presumably posthumously. I groaned at the prospect of investigating, filling in inane details, and rolling my eyes at the minutiae of routine concerns instead of enjoying that new holonovel that just had just come in over subspace.

I looked back up at the screen, this time gazing at her human eyes. Those eyes stared back at me blankly, with all the lifelessness that I assumed I might someday see in the mirror, should I slowly come to accept life as a low-ranking starbase bureaucrat.

I really hated that job. Bile rising in my throat, I asked the computer to resume playback.




WE ARE THE BORG.



I cringed. Yes, as an ensign, I did a tour on one of the old Galaxy-class ships before they all got recalled for the refit. Our crew was unfortunate enough to have an encounter with them. We narrowly escaped, and only because our captain was smart enough to entice them with a colony-sized distraction and play the part of the biggest coward in fleet.

But what I saw on the screen wasn't them.

For anyone who has had to endure it, the difference was simple: a borg transmission sounds like a chorus with no sense music. It sounds like they're speaking while simultaneously grinding enamel teeth against metal teeth. It calls to mind a spooky sense of unity.




BOARDING OPERATIONS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED.



This wasn't them. It was more of an it. A single voice, flat, thin, and carefully screaming at a recording device.




YOUR SHIP AND ITS TECHNOLOGIES ARE OURS TO COMMAND.



I looked out of my office's viewport at the ship in question. With fully half of her parts coming from six different ships floating around the junkyards at Qualor II, she was redesignated a decade ago as the U.S.S. Returning Favor--most of her parts were maybe from a positively ancient Miranda-class light cruiser with a history that stretched back through so many refits, rebuilds, and system replacements that it was doubtful that a single original hull plate remained.

Assignment to such a ship would likely have been a death sentence for the career of an ambitious captain. For the Borg, though? Yeah. I figured that this would be probably be the Collective's crowning achievement--capturing a vessel so advanced would no doubt spawn epic tales of everlasting glory to be told in toneless choruses of Borg-bards wearing floppy hats and puffy pantaloons made from weaves of thick insulated wires.

Still, the Returning Favor was something of a mystery. She had been found by accident, drifting at relatively high sublight speeds through interstellar space, bordering on the unknown reaches of the B'Tran cluster before she was towed back here. There were no life signs of any kind aboard when she was found--no sign of any sort of habitation. All the crew quarters were empty. No personal effects. No bodies.




--STANCE IS FUTILE.



There was a skip; a blip of static in the recording, but it was clear that a large chunk of this recording was missing. I really did not want to sit around that office to waste so much as the little time it would take the computer to clean up and reconstruct that log.

I know, I know. I should stop complaining. But you know why I took that assignment?

Her name was Julia Jones. I always kinda knew that someday I'd have to give up on all my dreams of her and accept that I should stop wasting my life. To stop following her into worse and worse postings just so I could stay near her. You know what would have been a better career than chasing a hopeless crush? Any career. Being a useless dandy on Risa, sleeping in a different bed every night. That would have been the life, I tell you. I could have gone a lifetime without her warmth, her beautiful smiles, and her pleasing curves, the stuck up little...

Anyway, the computer chirped and announced that it had reconstructed the recording. I asked the computer to restart from the last bit that made sense.




YOUR SHIP AND ITS TECHNOLOGIES ARE OURS TO COMMAND.

YOU WILL REESTABLISH DOWNLINK WITH UNIMATRIX ZERO-ZERO-EIGHT-FOUR.

SITUATION REPORT: DEADLINE FOR SUCCESSFUL CONTACT: UNKNOWN. CURRENT ASSIGNMENT: UNKNOWN. CURRENT DESTINATION: UNKNOWN. SURVIVORS: NONE.

UNIT DESIGNATE: FIFTY-TWO OF SEVENTY-FOUR/TRIMATRIX SEVEN-FIVE-NINE MAINTAINS PARTIAL UPLINK. AWAITING RETRIEVAL/REINTEGRATION.




I know we've all heard the stories, but I simply could not believe that people have had attempted conversations with these things. I have a newfound appreciation of whomever originally called these creatures "drones."

At that point in the recording, the drone's mechanical pupils whirred again, shrinking down in size to appear scarcely larger than pin-pricks of that dull red light. She sat there, barely moving, for hours.

I may have hated the job, but when I do things, I do them right. So I sat through it all. Watching her. Rechecking parts of it multiple times. Did she twitch at time index four eighty-seven? If she did, what did it mean? I wondered if she was born into that life, or if she had been--repurposed. Assimilated. Did she have a name before that? Was she single?

I tried superimposing Julia's image over hers in my mind. That worked eerily well, and it made me impatient. I wanted the recording to end.

Hell, if I had to watch that recording much longer, I think I may have wanted everything to end. Even if the recording was real, and the Returning Favor had picked up a stray Borg that eliminated her crew and took control of her systems, so what? The ship had been swept over multiple times before she was towed to starbase. There were no emissions of any kind, across any spectrum. There was nothing on board the ship except standard equipment and the logs leading up to this.

The prior log entry did have the captain saying that she was going to investigate some unusual wreckage.

But a fully reconstructed account of what happened would have as much impact on my life as the hours spent watching that recording, you know? It wouldn't have brought me anywhere nearer to any of my personal goals. Nothing was going to bring me closer to my personal goals. I decided right then and there that my work was pointless. That, by extension, all work is pointless.




EXISTENCE IS FUTILE.



"You said it, sister," I said aloud before realizing what I was doing, and then continued to speak aloud, because why not? "Wait, what did you just say?"

We found the ship empty. No signs of Borg. No real people, either. Was that her way of--of augmenting some underlying feeling of emptiness by leaving behind nothing but a physical emptiness? Had I really heard her right?

I asked the computer repeat.




EXISTENCE IS FUTILE.



So, she went a bit off script. Was it an erroneous reconstruction by the computer? Was it a prank? Was it really for real?

It doesn't matter how it came about. It matters only for what it was: a wake-up call. For me. I'm not attaching any mystical significance to it or anything, it was just that suddenly, everything came into focus. I knew that it was futile to keep chasing after things that I didn't really care about. I knew that I didn't really care about a little lost Borg and her existential crisis. I didn't really care about an office in a star base. I didn't really care about Julia, not really, just the fantasy she represented.


You know what I've recently found that I do care about? The difference between synthehol and Scotch. It's pretty well obliterated questions of a more trifling nature.

Can I get you a drink?