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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,831
# 3
03-05-2013, 05:28 PM
Literary Challenge #39 - Lone Drone

The Final Voyage of the Hybrid

Her official designation was USS Hypatia, NCC-95784. To her crew, and her detractors, though, she was the Hybrid, built from whatever ship parts were available after the Battle of Vega. Her hull came from a Miranda-class light cruiser; she also carried the overarching strut and torpedo launcher of a ShiKahr-class, and the wide-spread winglike pylons and warp nacelles of a Centaur. It was an odd assemblage, compared by more than one engineer to a pile of spare parts flying in close formation, and existed only because Starfleet Command wanted their intact ships to be available for front-line assignments. They kept trying to send her on milk runs; somehow, however, she seemed cursed to fly through interesting times.

So far, though, this mission seemed to be exactly the sort Command had intended. She had just rendezvoused with a cruiser from Task Force Omega, and transferred over a number of eager young officers needed to fill slots which had opened on the task force's ships. The young men and women and others were quite visibly happy to leave the confines of the shoddy little vessel that had brought them to the Gamma Orionis sector. And the ship's commander, Grunt, was honestly just as happy to see them leave. He'd had it to the top of his Ferengi ears with snide comments about the conditions aboard the Hybrid - Hypatia, he corrected himself wryly - and he was eager to make headway back out to Sirius Sector, and the relative safety there. Obviously it wasn't entirely safe; that's hard to ensure, when the enemy can change shape and use transwarp drive, as had been driven home with the supposed Vulcan ambassador at P'jem. On the other hand, the Undine weren't thick as gree-worms on a fresh corpse, and usually weren't actively hunting you. The same couldn't be said for the Borg here.

In his command chair, Grunt stretched. "Are they all gone?" he asked.

"Aye, sir," his Klingon science officer, Roclak, replied.

"Good. Not a moment too soon. Mr. Gydap, best speed back home, please."

"Course laid in," the Andorian at helm replied. "Executing at warp factor seven."

"Seven?"

"Vovenek's been worried about the intermix matrix, sir. He's asked us to keep it down to seven or less unless it's an emergency."

"Ah," Grunt replied. "Yes, it would be unfortunate if our poor ship were to suddenly explode without even having the courtesy of being shot first. By all means, warp 7 it is."

The ship hummed loudly as the warp drive activated - then began to groan and shudder as the streaks of light on the viewscreen dopplered back down into stars.

"What? What just happened?" Grunt demanded.

"It's not going," a voice crackled over the intercom.

"How very droll, Mr. Vovenek. Can you be at all precise?"

"The warp drive cut out when the coordinator went down, sir," Vovenek replied. "It'll take me a few minutes to track down the issue and get the intermix chamber warmed up again. Then I can make it go."

Grunt frowned. His Pakled engineer enjoyed mocking the common perception of his people, but Grunt saw little profit in joking at a moment like this. "Make it quick," he snapped. "I don't like hanging defenseless in Borg space."

"Well, technically we're still in Federation space, because the Borg come from--"

"Not now, Mr. Vovenek!"

"Aye, sir," the Pakled replied after a moment. "I'm on it."

"Sir," Roclak said from his station, "I'm picking up some odd readings nearby. Looks like metallic debris, probably Borg - but there seems to be a life sign as well. Not human, or any other humanoid I'm familiar with. It could be a Borg drone."

"Borg drone. Really." Grunt's mood lightened. "This mission might be profitable after all. Do we have a brig cell with a suitable force field?"

"Are you intending to bring that - thing - on board? Sir?"

"22nd Rule of Acquisition, my friend," Grunt grinned. "'A wise man can hear profit on the wind.' If we bring back a live drone to liberate, that will get us a commendation from Command. If we have to kill it, there'll still be some information to extract, which is bound to please somebody."

"And Rule 33," the Klingon rumbled. "'It never hurts to suck up to the boss.'"

"So, you have been reading the Rules of Acquisition I gave you!"

"Rule 194. Also the writings of Kahless, and the human philosopher Sun Tzu. Know your opponent."

Grunt chuckled. "We'll make a Ferengi of you yet, my boy!"

"Fek'lhr spare me," Roclak growled. "If you insist on bringing that thing aboard, we have a transporter lock on its signal. I have a squad standing by in the brig."

"Excellent. Beam it in, and we'll go have a look at our prize. Mr. Gydap, you have the conn. Please ask Ms. Shelana to join us in the brig, along with a few of her bright young men."

"Aye, sir. I have the conn," Gydap repeated, his antennae twitching.

--------------------------

Grunt and Roclak entered the brig to find Lt. Shelana, the Andorian security chief, waiting outside the largest cell, accompanied by two large humans and a Vulcan, all in Security uniforms. Inside the cell, a humanoid form stood, covered in bits of metal and tubing. The three-pronged claw at the end of its right arm spun and clacked idly.

Grunt walked up to the wall. "I'm Lieutenant Commander Grunt, captain of the Hypatia. Do you have a name?"

"Names are irrelevant," the Borg - well - droned. "You are Ferengi, species 180. Klingon, species 5008. Andorian, species 3424. Human, species 5618. Vulcan, species 3259. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to the Collective."

"About that," Grunt interrupted. "We don't particularly want to be assimilated, and you're not in contact with the Collective right now. Are you?"

"Desire is irrelevant. Contact is unnecessary. This unit is capable of assimilating all species present, and bringing the grouping to the Collective. You will adapt to service us."

"And if we refuse?"

The Borg raised its mechanical arm - and the claw slipped through the cell's force-field door as if it were merely pretty lights. "Refusal is irrelevant."

The security guards immediately opened fire. Phaser beams flashed along the Borg's surface, beginning to penetrate its plating - when its own deflector fields sprang up. The beams, reflected away, began chewing channels into the ceiling and walls of the room before the guards could stop. The clawed arm then moved more quickly than the eye could follow, tearing the Vulcan's own arm completely off. The Vulcan collapsed, spurting green.

"Um, yes," Grunt said. "Gentlemen? Shall we adjourn?"

"Adjourn?" Shelana asked.

"That means RUN AWAY!" Grunt shouted, suiting words to action. Behind him, he could hear the others pounding along. Shelana paused when her surviving men had cleared the door, then welded it shut with a plasma pistol.

"That should hold it for a few minutes," she said. Almost immediately, the door began to bulge as the Borg attempted to force it open.

"Computer!" Grunt shouted as he ran. "Activate emergency force fields, rotating shield frequencies! Authorization Grunt seven alpha delta omega three one two!"

"Unable to comply," the computer responded primly. "Force-field projectors on deck seven are offline."

Grunt swore. "Okay, let's get to the lift and blow the deck! Let the bastard try breathing vacuum!"

The survivors piled into the turbolift. As the door closed behind them, Grunt barked, "Bridge! And emergency evacuation of deck seven!"

The turbolift hummed into motion. "Unable to evacuate deck seven," the computer said. "Detonation systems are offline."

"What the hell IS online??" Grunt screamed.

"Clarification requested. Would you like a complete shipwide diagnostic?"

Grunt groaned.

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand that last command."

"Never mind!" Grunt shouted. "Take us to the armory!"

"Deck three," the computer responded.

Grunt tapped his commbadge. "Grunt to bridge!"

"Gydap here."

"Lieutenant, the Borg has escaped custody, and the emergency force fields aren't working! Put us on Red Alert, and dispatch security teams equipped for a Borg!"

"Right away, sir!" The alarm klaxon began screaming, as status lights changed from green to red. "Bridge to all security teams. There is a Borg drone on deck 7. Set phasers to random frequency rotation, full power. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill!"

At that moment, the klaxon went silent, the lights went out, and the turbolift shuddered to a halt.

"It's tapped the power systems, sir," Roclek said unnecessarily. "The Hybrid's been compromised."

"She was built compromised," Grunt snapped. "But she's mine, and I'm not letting some damned Borg take her to the Collective to be scrapped all over again! Get us out of this thing, and head for the hangar deck!" He tapped his commbadge again. "Grunt to all hands! All hands, abandon ship! Repeat, abandon ship! We're going to scuttle!"

"Scuttle, sir?" Shelana asked. "How can you scuttle the ship when there's no power to run the computer?"

Grunt grinned savagely. "The problem with the Hybrid, my dear, has always been more a matter of keeping her from blowing up. That's why we were stuck here in the first place. There's a few wires behind a panel near the shuttle bay that just need to be crossed, and the antimatter containment field will run out of reserve power almost instantly. And when that happens..."

"When that happens," Roclak growled, "I'd like to be at least a parsec away. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here." The Klingon's shoulders bulged as he forced the doors open, revealing the corridors of deck 3 almost level with the lift. "Well, that much is going right, anyway," he remarked.

The group ran toward the armory. After equipping themselves with a fair array of weapons, they headed for the Jeffries tubes. Four decks below, and seventeen bulkheads aft, they emerged from the cramped tunnels, all but Roclak puffing from the exertion.

"This way to the shuttles," he said, pointing.

"Profits, Rock, let us at least catch our breath!" Grunt said.

Roclak bowed. "Of course, sir," he said sarcastically. "I'll just go ahead and prep your shuttle. Be sure to say hello to the Borg for me when it arrives!"

"What (gasp) makes you think (gasp) it can find us?" Grunt demanded.

As if in answer, the corridor lit a sickly green, as unfamiliar characters swirled on a nearby panel.

"That does, sir."

"Yes, it would seem that way. Okay, everyone, rest break is over! Let's move!"

As the group entered the bay, a young ensign called to them from the one remaining shuttle. "Captain! Over here! She's ready to move, but I don't know how much longer the bay doors will answer!"

The group ran for the shuttle. Grunt paused. "Okay, everybody, get on board," he called out. "I'll be right there!" He ran back toward the corridor, where he pried loose a wall panel, and felt around inside. Finding the connection Vovenek had jury-rigged the previous month, Grunt twisted the wires loose, then twined two of them about each other. That ought to do it, he thought, and ran for the shuttle.

"Hurry, sir!" the ensign called out.

The shuttle door closed behind Grunt, and the tiny ship lifted clear of the floor. The bay doors opened, then hesitated and began to slide shut again. The ensign gunned the thrusters, and the shuttle slid through the opening just in time.

"Move her out!" Grunt ordered. "Best speed!"

The shuttle's thrusters fired, as behind her the warp core began to erupt, spraying plasma into space. Abruptly, the entire ship shook, then exploded into a fiery cloud.

"Did everyone make it?" Grunt demanded anxiously.

"Sensors indicate 97% of the ship's personnel made it into various shuttles and escape pods," Roclek replied, hands sliding over the sensor controls. "All of those made it beyond the two-kilometer safe zone - some of them might be a little shook up, and of course, anti-radiation meds all around, but assuming we get picked up inside the next three hours, everything should be all right."

"Very good, my friend. Very good indeed!"

"Good?" the Klingon asked unbelievingly. "You call this 'good'? And what 'profit' are you hearing on the wind now, o wise one?"

"Simple, Rock. The Hypatia was lost to enemy action, while clearly in a situation that was way over our heads and therefore not our fault. And she can't be fixed, not from this - they'll have to give us a new ship! And it has to be a step up from the Hybrid..."

Three Weeks Later

"You asked to see me, Admiral?" Grunt said hesitantly, as he entered Fleet Admiral Quinn's office at Earth Stardock.

"Ah, Mr. Grunt! Come in, please." The Admiral gestured toward a seat before his desk. "Don't worry, the court of inquiry cleared you and your men. You were clearly acting in accordance with Starfleet directives when you tried to capture a Borg, and if your ship's systems had been up to snuff, all would probably have gone much better. In fact, we were even able to keep your command crew together for your new assignment!"

------------------------------

As the shuttle entered the dockyards, Grunt peered ahead eagerly, anxious to see his new command. A cruiser! The USS Bastogne! Grunt had never heard the ship's name before, but he wanted badly to step aboard her...

"There she is, sir," Vovenek said from his position in the pilot's seat. He pointed.

Grunt looked. Then he sagged into his chair. Ahead of them, directly where the Pakled's finger pointed, there floated a ship. Saucer above, angled neck connecting to the oblong engineering hull, twin nacelles sweeping upward - and the entire ship sporting at least three separate paint jobs, in addition to the gleam of bare metal where hull patches had yet to be painted.

"The Bastogne," Vovenek said. "Twenty years past her retirement date, but Starfleet can't afford to go scrapping ships just because they're obsolete. They say she's been repaired so many times that none of her original parts remain." He paused, then smiled wickedly at his commander. "Word around the dockyard is that she's properly called the Bastard..."

"Why me?" the Ferengi groaned. "Why is it always me?"
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I'm old enough not to care too much about what you think of me --
But I'm young enough to remember the future, the way things ought to be...

- Rush, "Cut To the Chase", Counterparts

Last edited by jonsills; 03-05-2013 at 06:00 PM.