Ensign
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 17
# 11 Lone Borg Drone, A Haiku
02-23-2013, 02:09 PM
Captain's Log
USS Vendetta
Battle Group Omega
Gamma Orionis Patrol

Message follows:

"In the Vorn System,
We found a damaged Borg Drone
And killed it with Fire."

End Transmission.

Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 106
# 12
02-24-2013, 12:48 PM
Azera Xi: Fools and Children

"We've lost engines, helm control, external sensors... damn it!"

Azera hadn't ever heard Luverala swear before, much less bang his fist against conn station, but if the situation could drive even her shy, nervously introspective Betazoid engineer into a glowering fury, it had to be even worse than he'd admitted. She rose from the captain's chair and cast a worried glance at the unnervingly blank gray viewscreen before darting over to his station and looking over the young man's shoulder at the flashing red warnings.

"It looks like engineering still has auxiliary controls. First priority's to get back to Federation space, we can deal with restoring the rest of the systems then."

She tapped her combadge.

"Bridge to engineering, prepare to go to transwarp on my mark. Engineering?"

She straightened up from Lieutenant Onplav's station, looking back at the darkened screen looming over the Roanoke's bridge like a shroud and then tapped it again.

"Azera to engineering, can you hear me?"

She shook her head once and tapped it yet again as she paced back toward her chair.

"Azera to security, we have an emergency situation. Hello?"

She sank back into her chair and gave her communicator another frantic tap.

"Azera to sickbay!"

The young captain muttered a curse under her breath that'd leave Luverala's frustrated exclamation pale in comparison had anyone else on the bridge overheard it, ran her fingers nervously back through her long rose-pink hair and then sighed and tapped her combadge one more time, even as her expression slowly sank into frustrated resignation.

"Captain Azera Xi to all hands, respond if you can hear this message."

No answer, just the deathly silence of the comm channel amid steady hum of the bridge systems all flashing their error codes to the bewildered officers. Her first officer finally broke the tensed stillness, her blue antenna flared back across her head with muted anger.

"She's cut us off from the rest of the ship. We're trapped on our own bridge."

As though to prove Commander Corspa wrong, Azera's combadge beeped at that moment. The two women exchanged startled glances and Azera quickly tapped it.

"Azera here, who is this?"

"We are the Borg," a young girl's voice said tonelessly through the channel, "we will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile."

"Six of Twelve," Azera growled, "stand down immediately."

"Your offensive and defensive capabilities will be unable to withstand us," the girl calmly replied, and then she paused for a moment before continuing in a subtly plaintive tone that only seemed emotional in contrast to how dead it'd been before, "Azera Xi, captain of the starship Roanoke. You should be happy. You should want this more than anyone."

"Nobody here wants to be assimilated, Six! Stand down!"

Azera's communicator chirped again and went silent.

"Luverala," Azera leapt back to her feet and began to stride purposefully around the bridge as she barked orders to the crew, "we need the turbolifts unlocked and our combadges working right now. Focus your efforts there, but don't let her get into any other primary systems. Lieutenants Auslaz, Cregin, you're both with me. Corspa, you have the bridge."

"Captain," Corspa nodded in assent, "where will you be?"

"Once we're able to leave, the armory. We're taking back this ship."

* * *

Three Days Before

Captain's Log, Stardate 90768.26 - While on a reconnaissance mission in the Gamma Orionis sector, we detected the remains of a Borg probe crashed on the surface of a small class L moon in the Vorn System. The energy readings indicate at least some of its systems are still active and we're preparing an away mission to investigate. Though the risks of sparking a confrontation right in the heart of the Borg's enclave in the Beta Quadrant are enormous, the prospect of gaining insight into their activities in this sector cannot be ignored.

"Inviting," Corspa muttered with a quick shudder as she looked around at the barren, windswept plateau, its rocky outcroppings tinged with ice beneath a dim purple sky. Since her Andorian first officer came from an ice world, the captain could only guess that her shudder came from the desolation surrounding them and not the wind biting through her uniform. As for Azera, she drew her hands up into her sleeves and tried to keep from shivering.

"Better tell Risa they've got competition," Auslaz quipped through her chattering teeth, and then her voice grew lower, "it's just over that ridge. I can't get a fix on any individual drones, but there might be interference from the wreckage. We should proceed with caution."

Azera nodded wordlessly and drew her phaser, and the rest of the away team silently followed her lead, raising their own weapons as the group began to march up across a gently sloping gravel mound. Pebbles skidded and tumbled down behind them with each footstep, their boots sliding precariously through the loose rocks as they climbed up higher, but after a few more carefully measured steps the team stood atop the crest of the shadowy hillock.

And beneath them stretched the shattered wreckage of a nightmare.

The night-black metal didn't just cover the valley below: it melted into it, twisting through the ground, infecting it with a cybernetic leprosy that'd begun leeching the very soil as raw material with one last expiring gasp before it'd died. Azera couldn't help but think of the wrecked ship as a creature, a leviathan gliding through the abyss with its drones as mere cells in its body, tending to it and attacking its enemies like leukocytes converging on germs. She dug her fingernails tight against her palms, took a single trembling breath and nodded to each of her crew before taking the first cautious descent into the dim, flickering green glow of the pit.

"They're dead," Nyzoph reassured the apprehensive girl as her purple eyes glanced from one pallid white corpse to another strewn about the shattered alcoves and twisted girders, and he studied his beeping tricorder for a moment, "cortical implants are fried. It looks like maybe a solar flare overloaded their ship's shielding and the feedback fed through the implants."

"Still," Corspa answered him with a quick glance over her shoulder as she walked slightly ahead of the group, "we might be able to extract something useful from them..."

She nearly slammed headlong into a Borg drone standing alone amid the debris, and instantly fell back with a scrambling cry as she fumbled and lifted her phaser. Azera raised her weapon at the creature, fighting her panicked instinct to open fire, and in another second the whole group had formed into a crescent of phasers aimed at the solitary Borg.

It didn't move. They kept their phasers aimed at it.

"I think it," Auslaz remarked curiously, lowering her weapon slightly as the tensed standoff began to gradually give way to hesitant confusion, "I think it's a child..."

"Is it alive," Azera asked warily as she stared over the creature. It certainly looked smaller than any drone she'd ever seen, though still clad in familiarly dull black armor, its white skin mottled with the cybernetic wiring beneath. One dark eye stared at them alongside the flickering red laser of its eyepiece. She shuddered in revulsion and shook her head once, and then looked at it again. It did look like a child, actually... it looked almost like a little girl...

"Her vital signs are fine," Kwam nodded, the Bajoran doctor studying the tricorder he'd already pulled loose from his belt and waved over the immobile drone, "but there's severe damage to some of her implants. Her proximity transceiver's burnt out, her neural transceiver's been destroyed... captain, I don't think she's linked to the collective at all."

"Is she dangerous," Corspa asked, her phaser still drawn on the impassive drone.

"She doesn't have assimilation tubules," he replied, waving the medical tricorder once more and then scrolling through the readout display, "too young for them, I'd guess."

"Can you hear us," Corspa turned her attention to the young drone.

The drone gave no answer, no hint that she'd even heard the tactical officer's voice.

"Are you aware of our presence," she shouted a little louder. The Borg stood as utterly still and silent as before, practically a mannequin of a drone perched before them.

"I don't think anyone's home," the Andorian murmured nervously as Azera stepped a little closer to the drone, her apprehension gradually overcome by scientific curiosity.

"Where did you come from," Azera wondered aloud to herself.

"Grid 318," the drone replied in a tonelessly female voice.

Azera jerked her head up with a start to find the Borg looking straight at her. The rest of the away team had lifted their weapons again, and Corspa spoke again.

"Can you hear us," she asked, each word hissed impatiently this time.

The drone didn't speak or move, or give any hint she'd done so before.

"Can you hear me," Azera hesitantly asked.

"Yes," the young Borg replied as she looked up at the captain.

"This isn't creepy at all," Azera said with a quietly gulping laugh, and then she spoke louder again, looking the strange drone in the eye, "what is your designation?"

"Six of Twelve, Tertiary Processor of Unimatrix 83."

"I'm Captain Azera of the USS Roanoke," she continued, forcing her voice to sound calm and steady in spite of herself, "a Federation starship. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Then you understand that you've been captured as a prisoner of war."

"Yes."

"Will you resist us," Azera asked intently, "if we take you back to our ship?"

"No," she answered as impassively as before.

"Okay then, I'm glad we have that settled," the captain nodded to the drone, then she looked over the Borg's shoulder at the rest of her team, giving them a firm nod betrayed only by the bewildered look in her eyes, and then she tapped her combadge, "Azera to Roanoke, have security meet us in Transporter Room 1. Six to beam up when you're ready."


* * *

Azera grabbed one of the phaser rifles mounted along the armory wall, lit up the electronic readout with the touch of a button and checked the power level before handing it to her security chief without a word. She lifted up another one, checked its settings and passed it over to her nervous science officer, and then snatched a third phaser rifle from the wall, flipped it on and slung the loose strap across her left shoulder to let it hang along her right side.

"Captain," Auslaz began haltingly, "I know this is bad, but... are we really...?"

"If it means saving the lives of this crew, that's not even a question," Azera grimly shook her head, and she led them back out into the deserted ship corridors. At that moment her combadge beeped again, and the captain took a quick breath before tapping it.

"Azera here," she answered.

"Captain," a stammering male voice piped through the channel, "it's Lieutenant Onplav. I'm just testing the combadges, and since reaching you was our top priority..."

"Hi Luverala," she smiled with relief, and then tried to make a nervous joke, "I was expecting someone else. I take it you've restored shipboard communications?"

"Yes sir," he answered, though his voice crackled and wavered slightly as though speaking through an old handheld radio set, "she's using a narrow subspace scrambling field to block our transceivers, but I've got most of them tuned to a few bands she missed. It's not the best quality, but our communicators should be okay at least. We've also got the ship's sensors and internal scanners working, but long range communication's still offline."

"Guess we're on our own," Azera muttered, and then she spoke louder, "good work, lieutenant. You said internal scanners are up: do you have a fix on her location?"

"Yes sir," he replied, "she's on deck 2, heading for engineering."

"Get a security team to engineering now. We're heading there as well."

"Aye captain," he answered quickly, and the channel went silent, only to suddenly beep again a second later. Azera tapped her chest as she began to pace down the hall.

"Azera here."

"Captain, it's Corspa," her first officer's steady voice crackled slightly through the interference, "we've just picked up three ships at the edge of the system, heading right for our position. It's the Borg, sir. They know we're here, and they're coming."

"Engines are still offline?"

"Afraid so," Corspa tersely replied, "we still have shields and weapons, but if she gets direct access to the override controls in engineering, it's a safe bet that'll change."

"Understood," she nodded, "Azera out."

* * *

By the time the door to her quarters chimed at the arrival of a visitor, Azera had changed into her pajamas, forced herself into bed, stared up at the darkened ceiling for half an hour, climbed back up and was in the middle of trying read a book, her eyes scanning the same paragraph she'd read eight times without thinking to flip it over to the next page.

"I'm sorry it's so late," Corspa smiled sheepishly at the door, "I'm honestly surprised you answered your combadge. If you're up for it, we can go over the report tonight."

"I'm really, really up for it," Azera answered as she ushered her first officer into the lounge and grabbed two cups of coffee from the replicator. She handed one of them to Corspa and then tumbled into a cushioned chair beside her, gulping her own cup down in one swallow.

"So the subspace dampening field's working," she asked.

"Yes sir," the Andorian nodded as she took a smaller sip, "her transceiver and interlink node are completely irreparable, so she shouldn't be able to send or receive any subspace transmissions anyway. But the dampening field will block any signals just in case."

"Good. Have you had any luck analyzing her neural processor?"

"I'm afraid not," Corspa shook her head a little, "we'd need to reconfigure the implant's settings just to download the data, and there's no way to do that without killing her."

"Hm," Azera nodded to herself and looked out the window for a moment before setting the empty coffee cup on the table between them and rising to her feet. Corspa blinked in confusion and stood up as well, and then spoke up as Azera began to move toward the door.

"There is more to the report," the commander awkwardly broke the silence, "we've been trying to interact with her, to reach out to her. But we're not having much luck."

"She's not cooperating," Azera asked suspiciously.

"She's not doing anything at all. She just stands there."

"Oh," she shrugged a little, "well, that's what they do."

"Not when you're around," Corspa replied, "she talks to you."

"Barely."

"It's a start. Captain, if you could help us, if you could work with her..."

"What about Lieutenant Onplav," the rose-haired girl suddenly cut off her first officer with a question, "he's a Betazoid. He could reach her much better than I would."

"Borg drones aren't easy to read," Corspa shook her head a little, "and besides, he can't sense anything if she's not thinking anything. I don't know why, but she only comes to life when she's talking to you. You might be our only hope of reaching her as an individual."

"That's a shame," Azera answered quickly, "I have too much to do right now."

"But sir, we have standing orders to make every effort to liberate a drone who..."

"We're already wasting three senior officers on this, Corspa," the captain suddenly snapped, whirling around to face her with a glare, "I'm not getting pulled in too."

"Captain..."

"That's all, Commander."

"I see," Corspa sighed to herself, and then after a pause, "permission to speak freely?"

"Go ahead," Azera replied warily.

"You're weird about the Borg."

"...excuse me?"

"None of us like them," the older woman explained, "but you don't even want to think about them. It's like most of the time you try to pretend they don't even exist."

"Your point," Azera glowered.

"This whole ship's a rumor mill when it comes to the senior officers. You should hear what they say about me and Nyzoph," Corspa tried to smile, to lighten the mood, only to be met by Azera's scowling frown, "but Azera, there are rumors about you too."

"Oh really?"

"About the way you act sometimes, about the Borg. I know," the Andorian paused for a moment, glancing down at the floor as though wondering whether to keep talking before giving a soft sigh and looking back up into Azera's eyes, "I know you can hear them..."

"Why would you say that," Azera snapped, mortified panic boiling over into fury.

"Well, because..."

"Who told you that," she snarled defensively.

"Azera, I..."

"How would you know?!"


"Because you talk like them!"

Corspa's defiant shout, rising instinctively to match Azera's own furious tone, instantly gave way to a look of wrenching sympathy at the way her captain just stared back at her, the blood drained out of her face, her dark violet eyes wide for a moment and then suddenly twisting away with shame to stare out the window, fixing her stare on the streaking stars.

"It doesn't happen often," Corspa's voice a soft, reassuring tone again, "and I've never mentioned it to anyone. But we've faced the Borg enough now that... Azera, when you're tired, or there's too many of their ships, sometimes I see your lips moving a little when they're hailing us. Like you're speaking along with them. I know you don't notice it, but..."

Her words trailed off, her translucent reflection standing behind Azera in the glass.

"Telepathy," Azera answered softy, her voice shaking a little as her eyes kept tracing from one star to the next, "it's just because I'm telepathic, that's all."

"But it doesn't happen with Luverala," Corspa gently insisted, and then her voice steadied, "I know there are things about your past that you don't like to talk about, that you don't even want to think about. But right now they're clouding your judgement. It's my duty as your first officer to confront them... and as your friend, I want to help you through them. Azera...

"They assimilated you once," she asked softly, "didn't they?"

"NO!" Azera shouted in a panic, wrapping her arms tight around herself and staring harder through the window, and then she whispered hesitantly, "I don't know."

"Sir," Corspa said after a long silence between them, "you've more than earned my loyalty, and that of everyone on this crew. You've gotten us through things that would have destroyed any other ship. We've saved whole worlds under your command.

"I think the reason this is bothering you," she continued, "is because dealing with her reminds you of yourself. I think she sees it too somehow, and that's why she'll only talk to you. But whatever happened to you, you overcame it. You took the second chance Starfleet gave you and you really knocked it out of the park. Maybe we can help give her a second chance too. Look at what you've accomplished. Wouldn't you like to see what she can do?"


* * *

One of the red-clad security officers slammed backwards against the wall, his phaser dropping out of his hand as he stumbled dizzily and tried to balance himself against the railing, and another guard charged forward at the impassive young drone standing between the intersecting corridors, only for her to grab him by the throat with one small pale hand and fling him back down the hallway like a rag doll. She flexed her fingers once and silently continued down the silver corridor, and then paused again as a phaser beam sliced the air behind her. The orange glow melted against the translucent green bubble of her adaptive shielding as she glanced over her shoulder at the ensign firing the weapon, and then at the second and third officer aiming their phasers as well, three separate beams sweeping harmlessly across her shields.

She flung her mechanized left arm straight out toward a flashing blue corridor panel without turning around, and a pair of thin, snaking wires leaped out of her robotic hand to impale the touchscreen and twist deeper into the ship's circuitry. In another moment the gleaming tubules lashed themselves free again and she continued her stride as flashing red errors began to sweep along the corridor, bathing the whole deck in a strobing crimson glow.

"Deck 2 life support has been compromised," the computer's automated voice rang overhead, "all personnel evacuate immediately. Life support failure in 60 seconds."

Nyzoph had already sent the rest of his engineering staff to safety and narrowed his gray eyes at the sight of the Borg drone pacing steadily toward the engineering archway, his own powerfully built silhouette framed against the pulsing blue warp core. He turned away and darted to the engineering consoles to quickly type in a series of manual override codes.

"Computer," his voice tensed and steady, "increase the structural integrity field around engineering, seal off all the entrances and begin restoring life support, now!"

A shimmering white force field leaped up between the approaching Borg and the blue-lit shadows of the engine room. She took a cautious step toward it, just enough for the field to barely crackle with light along the tip of her nose, and then lifted and pressed her flat palm against the glowing surface. The emerald light of her own force field flared brighter and began to flicker against the security field, pulsing and blazing in a hissing duel that sent electric ripples sweeping through the air. Her eyepiece silently scanned the frequencies and adjusted her personal shield to match them and, after a few seconds, the force field projectors overhead exploded into a shower of sparks as the energy field vanished. She stepped through the raining sparks and continued her implacable march toward the warp core and its flashing panels.

"Six," Nyzoph shouted as he raised a phaser at her, "you don't have to do this."

The young drone paced around the engine and gazed calmly over the touchpad displays, and then lifted her cybernetic arm to unleash a pair of whipping tubules through the air, the writhing strands injecting themselves into the console. The screen instantly began to flash with a dizzying barrage of diagrams, schematics and readout displays from all over the ship. The chief engineer fired his phaser, stubbornly keeping the incandescent beam steady on the Borg even as it faded harmlessly away into the the ghostly green shell of her energy shield.

"Life support failure in 10 seconds," the computer announced.

The Andorian engineer lowered his weapon and cast one last, frustrated glance at the Borg drone calmly studying the charts and readings racing across the engineering console, and then he turned around and ducked back through an open pair of turbolift doors. He tapped a few buttons on the console and then leaned back against the wall, slapping his right palm across his combadge as the beige doors slid shut again and the turbolift began to rise.

"Nyzoph to the captain," he called out.

"Azera here."

"Six of Twelve's taken control of the engine room. She cut life support to deck 2, but I think we can reroute power from the science lab to get it back online."

"Did everyone get out okay?"

"Yes sir," he answered, "the security team was injured trying to stop her, but our people got them off the deck in time. They should be on their way to sickbay now."

"Understood."

"Captain," Nyzoph continued, "there's one more thing. She must have downloaded the tactical modulation algorithms from our database. Our phasers won't work on her."

"I see. We're almost there, see what you can do about life support."

"Yes sir."

* * *

Two Days Before

"Great serve, Six!" Angel cheerfully called out across the holographic tennis court to his unlikely partner. The short, slight drone made no reply to his compliment, instead studying Azera and Corspa intently from across the net and then lifting her bare right hand to catch the yellow tennis ball as it materialized a few feet overhead and dropped into her palm. Against the bright blue sky of a simulated spring day, Azera could begin to imagine what the young girl she'd once been must have looked like. Even now, she couldn't be much older than nine or ten.

"Hey Six," the captain tilted her head as waved the Borg girl over to the net. Azera jogged across the court to meet her and then braced her palms against her bare knees, catching her breath and flipping back her ponytail with one hand before standing up straight again.

"Why," Azera asked the calmly approaching girl, "won't you talk anyone else?"

"They are irrelevant," she answered.

"But you think I'm relevant?"

"Yes."

"Well," Azera pressed her hands against her knees to lean down closer and look the little girl in the eyes, "I think
they're relevant, so wouldn't that make them relevant too?"

Six paused for a moment, quietly considering the statement, and then she nodded slightly and turned to look back over her shoulder at the Roanoke's security chief.

"Your performance has been acceptable," she stated simply.

"Stop it," the brown-haired man couldn't help but grin, "you're making me blush."

In truth, the two-on-two game might just as well have been Six practicing serves alone. What the armor-plated child lacked in agility she more than made up for with cybernetic strength, the geometric precision of her swings and the instantaneous calculations of her eyepiece as it scanned the court and mapped out a dozen different trajectories at a time. Azera jogged back to her corner of the court, lifted her racket as Six tossed the ball into the air... and as she blinked, a yellow flash darted across the net and the computer announced another point.

"Game-love. First set, Six and Cregin."

"That was," Corspa paused and shook her head with wonder, "decisive."

"You're telling me," Azera replied with a wincing smile, and then she looked up at the drifting blue clouds overhead and thought for a moment before calling out, "computer, import the physics settings from tennis training program Azera 34. Resume game."

Azera answered Corspa's confused look with a playful wink, and then lifted her hand to catch the holographic tennis ball as it dropped into her palm. She bounced it up and down a few times, tossed it lightly into the air and swung the racket to begin her serve. Neither Angel nor Six had time to take a single step before the ball had already flown past the net, bounced across their side of the court and vanished over the edge into the invisible walls of the holodeck.

"15-love," the computer chirped as Azera snatched the materializing ball out of the air.

"30-love," it declared a second later, and then "40-love."

Azera gave another swing of her racket and the tennis ball flashed impossibly fast across the net, bouncing right between her opponents and ricocheting out of bounds again.

"Game-love," the computer announced, "Second set, Azera and Corspa."

The drone immediately marched back to the net with a look that could almost be a scowl.

"You cheated," she flatly declared as Azera jogged back over to meet her.

"Maaaybe," the young captain sang, and then started whistling innocently.

"You altered the program's physics to accelerate the ball," Six continued, "you also changed the trajectory calculations so your serve could not go out of bounds."

"But you still lost," Azera smirked, leaning down with both her hands clasped behind her back to look the young girl in the eye again, "does that bother you, hmm?"

"It is irrelevant," Six answered, "this is an unproductive game."

"We could reset the program for one last round. But if it's irrelevant..."

"I will comply."

"Oh, I didn't mean that as an order," Azera answered with an obviously exaggerated tone of innocent misunderstanding, "after all, you're right. It's just an unproductive game."

"You are attempting," the drone looked decisively back up at the captain after a long, introspective pause, "to provoke an individual response through competition."

"Yep, probably," Azera smiled brightly, "is it working?"

Six of Twelve stared at her for a long, wordless moment, meeting Azera's look with one dark gleaming eye, and then she lifted her racket across her shoulder.

"You will lose," she announced as she turned back toward her side of the court.

"That's the spirit," Azera couldn't help but grin as she watched Six's proud march, and she spoke up, "computer, reset the physics parameters to default. Resume game."


* * *

"Azera to sickbay," the captain called out as she tapped her combadge and paced impatiently before the locked turbolift doors. She lifted a thin flat PADD from her belt, linked it to the ship's safety protocols to try to override the lock and sighed a little, reading the flashing red environment code beside its schematic diagram of deck 2 with a worried scowl. She focused her attention back to the voice that'd just answered on the other end of the channel.

"Dr Umliz here."

"Doctor, it's Azera," she repeated, "how's the security team?"

"Surprisingly intact," his voice as calm as ever, twinged with only a subdued hint of the tension permeating the rest of the ship, "considering that several of them went hand to hand with a Borg drone. A broken bone, several sprained ribs and bruises, but nothing serious."

"That's a relief," she answered with a small nod, though her voice hardly wavered from its grim focus, "Kwam, what happened to Six? Why did she turn on us?"

"I'm not sure she had a choice," his voice wavered through the static, "I can't be completely certain without having her in sickbay, but judging from the internal scanners, it looks like her subspace transceiver's working again. She's connected to the hive mind."

"Our scans showed it was too damaged," Azera snapped, "that it couldn't be repaired."

"It was," he replied, "the translink frequency's slightly different. The transceiver wasn't just repaired, it's been completely replaced. The EM field her nanoprobes use to coordinate their activities has jumped almost tenfold since our readings at the crash site. My guess is they've been slowly rebuilding her cortical implants ever since we found her. It just took this long for them to finish the process so they can go online and and reconnect her with the collective."

"I thought the nanoprobes couldn't do that," she insisted, "repair, yes, but rebuild them from scratch? Why haven't we seen this happening with other liberated drones?"

"Captain," he said quietly, "this might be happening precisely because of those other liberated drones. The Borg may be adapting to make it harder for them to escape."

"That's horrible," Azera whispered softly, giving her head a quick shake before speaking louder again, "what about the dampening field? Shouldn't that have stopped them?"

"I'm afraid all I can say is what you already know: it didn't work."

The ship suddenly bucked and lurched beneath their feet, nearly spilling the trio down a dangerously tilted corridor. Angel locked one arm around the railing and grabbed onto Auslaz's hand to keep her from falling while Azera snatched the turbolift doors with both hands. In another instant the corridor had leveled itself out again, leaving behind only a sickening vertigo.

Azera's combadge beeped again, and she tapped it.

"Captain," Corspa's voice rang from the bridge, "we're under attack. The Borg are trying to lock a tractor beam onto us and they're hammering the shields with torpedoes."

"Do we have weapons," Azera barked at her communicator as the ship lurched again, swaying precariously forward for just a second as a barrage of plasma torpedoes slammed across the Roanoke's aft shields and then leveling out again beneath her swaying legs.

"Negative," her first officer answered, "Lieutenant Onplav has his hands full just trying to keep Six from bringing our shields down. She's breaking the encryption codes as fast as he can set them up. A few more hits like that, though, and they'll come down either way."

Angel tapped his own communicator, listened intently to a muffled voice that Azera couldn't quite make out over the creaking, groaning onslaught against the shields, and then the security officer closed the channel with a tap of his finger and nodded to Azera.

"Sir," he called to her, "Nyzoph just confirmed deck 2 life support's back online."

"Good," the captain nodded to him, and then she spoke again to her combadge before tapping it and scrambling into the open turbolift to join her officers, "reroute power to the shields and have Luverala prepare for transwarp as soon as they're secure. We'll deal with Six."

* * *

Yesterday

"What was your name," Azera asked the girl over her shoulder as she leaned down to scroll through the holodeck's library of simulations, "your real name, I mean?"

"Six of Twelve," the pale, black-clad drone replied with just the slightest hint of confusion at the captain's question, "Tertiary Processor of Unimatrix 83."

"Okay," Azera persisted, "but what was your name before that?"

"Irrelevant."

"Then there's no harm in saying it, right?"

"If you like," the young drone answered reluctantly after a slight pause, "Enala."

"Enala," Azera smiled a little as she stood upright again to look at her, the two of them framed by the hulking exterior archway of the holodeck, "that's a beautiful name."

"Beauty is irrelevant," Enala answered in a rote, flattened voice that sounded more like repetition than conviction, "that name is inefficient. It conveys no meaning."

"I think it conveys all kinds of meaning," Azera said softly, turning around to tap a few more buttons on the console before nodding, "okay, the program's ready."

The thick metal doors slid back to reveal a rolling, gently sloping meadow tinged with pale blue light, the turquoise-stemmed flowers waving through the steady breeze as thin wispy white clouds drifted across the sky toward a horizon ringed by dark leafy forests. The captain led the way through the arch and the Borg girl followed after a moment, glancing curiously about the landscape as the doors closed behind them and faded away into the azure fields.

"It's just a planet," she declared with what could almost have been a shrug.

"I guess you've seen plenty of them," Azera smiled, "huh?"

"My memory," Enala answered, "contains experiences from 1,307 planets."

"Impressive," the young woman whistled, and then she back up a few steps, stretching each of her legs like a track runner, "but you know the bad thing about memories?"

The girl didn't answer, but glanced toward Azera with a curious tilt of her head.

"You can't do impossible things in them," Azera said, "here we go!"

The captain took a running start across the field, her pony-tailed hair fluttering in the wind as she sprinted through the flowers, and then she leaped as high as she could into the air, her slender form silhouetted against the sky for a moment in its casual blue pants and wraparound, rose-colored tunic. Then her shadow darted higher into the air, swooping up across the clouds, spinning and diving toward the ground, and the Borg girl suddenly found herself watching Azera bobbing happily before her like a dandelion seed, her feet dangling above the ground.

"We are," Enala paused with muted confusion, "in a selectively weightless environment."

"Very selective," Azera winked, "come on, try it."

The drone looked sideways at the tree-rimmed horizon and took a quiet breath before she began to spring forward as well, the weight of her armor and implants gradually giving way to the building momentum of her run. As she ran the air seemed to grow thicker, more buoyant around her swinging limbs and, after a few more steps, she kicked herself up off the ground and suddenly tumbled headlong through the air and toward the clouds. Azera swooped up beside her and turned to face the young girl as they both flew higher above the cerulean fields.

"Just kick your legs whichever way you want to go," she explained to the startled drone, "and hold out your arms to fly faster. If you want to stop, just push back a little with your arms. You'll get the hang of it after a second - it feels more natural than it sounds."

Enala nodded and closed her single eye for a moment, and then kicked herself in a spinning, twisting arc above the ground like a rocket, her arms held out straight to send her racing across the meadow. She suddenly noticed the trees looming dangerously ahead and quickly pushed her palms downward to fling herself up past the branches and above the shadowy forest in a spiraling ascent that finally left her hovering hundreds of feet above the ground, immersed in the archetypal dream of flying that's molded into every non-avian child's thoughts.

When Azera floated back up in front of her, the girl spoke a little breathlessly.

"This is," she retorted through the straining hint of a smile, "an illusion."

"In a way, perhaps. But tell me something," the captain replied thoughtfully, "all those planets that you remember, how many of them did you physically set foot on?"

"None," Enala replied matter-of-factly.

"Then I'd say this experience, right here and now," Azera concluded as she dived up higher into the sky and beckoned for the girl to follow, "is more real than any of them. Come on, we're still too close to the ground. You haven't even seen what it's like in the clouds."

"How high does it go," the girl asked with stifled, barely-repressed curiosity.

"All the way to the stars," Azera called out from overhead with a wave before dipping down in a quick orbit around Enala and floating back up again, "I'll show you."

The drone kicked her feet down against the air and propelled herself even higher, leaping ahead of Azera and plunging upward into the shimmering, glowing white mists of the clouds drifting above them. For a moment, despite the eyepiece and angular black prosthetics of her body, Azera could only see her as Enala, a lost child beginning to find herself again amid the wonder of a holographic fairy tale. And as the girl stretched her arms to swoop down like a bird, past Azera and up into the clouds again, the sky rang with her giddily surprised laughter.


* * *

"Six of Twelve," Azera called out sternly through the ominously blinking shadows of the engineering deck at the drone plugged silently into the consoles, and then she lifted her flat palm toward the Borg. A wave of invisible force swept around the captain like a windstorm and suddenly flung itself out across the room to batter against the intruder. The drone began to stumble backward for a second and then suddenly clamped her metallic feet tighter against the beige carpet and continued scanning the readouts as the wires slide deeper into the control panel, oblivious to the pounding energy. Azera lowered her hand after a moment, panting.

"She's anchoring herself with the gravity plating," Auslaz shook her head as she flipped open a tricorder and waved it toward the drone, "telekinesis won't budge her."

"Maybe I can pull her away," Angel replied, and he took a quick breath as he began to sneak into the engine room to try to surprise the young drone with a tackle.

"Wait," Auslaz shouted in panic, "don't go near her!"

"I'm not going to hurt her," Angel sighed, his plan already ruined by her worried shout.

"It's not that," the Trill science officer called back to him, "it's her readings! Dr Umliz was right, her implants are being rebuilt. She has assimilation tubules now!"

"Six," Azera shouted frantically across the engineering archway as their security chief reluctantly rejoined the two of them, "Six of Twelve, Tertiary Processor... Enala!"

The girl looked up slightly from the control panels, casting one gleaming eye across her shoulder to meet Azera's stare for a moment, even as the engineering displays continued to silently flash with her cybernetic struggle to unlock the shield's encryption codes.

"She's connected to the Borg," Auslaz whispered sideways to her captain as she read the tricorder readouts, "the bandwidth is still low, but it's getting faster. 78% and rising."

"Enala, it's okay," Azera tried to steady her voice, "this isn't your fault. We didn't know the implants could replace themselves so quickly. Come with me to sickbay and we can turn them back off again, and keep them off for good this time. We'll be just like we were before."

"This way is better," the drone replied with a slightly echoing but still childish voice, and Azera couldn't tell if she was speaking with her own lips or through the computer itself, "your voice will be with me, and your crew's voices will be with you. We'll all be together."

"84% now," Auslaz read from the tricorder as she fidgeted helplessly with the device.

"No, we won't be together," Azera shook her head quickly, trying to blink away the gleaming tears from her eyes, "that's not how it works. You'll know everything we know, but that means there'll be no more talking together, no more sharing anything, no more learning about each other. We won't have any more experiences together, just memories."

"But we'll be one," Enala's voice rang unsteadily, and Azera suddenly, vividly sensed that the drone wasn't making her own arguments, she was repeating back the arguments the rest of the Borg were giving her. The emotion in the girl's own voice was pleading confusion.

"If we're all one," Azera answered her softly, "that means we're nobody. Let us help you. There are so many more experiences waiting for you out here, if you'll trust us."

The drone stared over her shoulder for a long, wordless moment and then turned back to look at the control panels, the numbers scrolling across the screen racing faster now. The ship suddenly rocked and shuddered beneath their feet again, another barrage of torpedoes slamming against the shields, and Azera steadied herself as Auslaz read her tricorder again.

"Connection's at 92%" her science officer sighed, "it's not her anymore. It's them."

"You don't want," the girl's slightly metallic voice rang out again, "to rejoin us?"

"No Enala," Azera pleaded with her, "we want you with us, but we can't go with you."

The Borg made no sign of having spoken, no upward glance, no shift in posture as she continued to scan the display with her eyepiece, her mind linked into the ship's computer and playing a lightning-fast chess game against the bridge to hold onto every system she'd captured and usurp the shields as well. A few more moves and she'd have a checkmate.

The ship rocked again under the relentless salvo and Azera's combadge chimed.

"Captain," Corspa's voice began even as Azera's digital tablet beeped from her waist, "we're not going to make it through another round like that. I recommend we..."

Azera had already completely stopped listening, the thoughtless habit of lifting up her PADD to see the message giving way instantly to wide-eyed shock at the words on it. She lowered the thin touchscreen device from her face to stare at the Borg drone still swiveling her head slightly left and right as she monitored the cybernetic struggle within the computer, then back at the words on the screen. Her dark lilac eyes shimmered brightly in the shadowy gloom as she clutched the tablet tighter in one hand - and then she quickly hoisted up her phaser rifle with her right arm, unleashing a quick flurry of phaser bolts through the engine room.

The orange bolts slammed through the Borg's armor, sparks bursting from her circuits as she tumbled backward from the controls and fell lifelessly against the floor.

"Azera to the bridge," the captain said blankly as she tapped her communicator again, "the shields should be secure now. Can you restore access to transwarp?"

"Aye captain," Corspa's audibly relieved voice answered, "engines are back online."

"Transwarp to Sol System now."

The universe suddenly elongated around them, corridors stretching out endlessly for an instant, the walls twisting and folding themselves into impossible Moebius shapes that forced Azera to close her eyes tight. When she opened them again, the world had changed back to normal, and the creaks and groans of the Borg's onslaught had fallen silent.

"We're in Earth orbit," her first officer practically shouted with relief into the combadge, "and there's no matching Borg transwarp signature. They're not following us."

"Good work," Azera answered tonelessly, "Azera out."

She stared at the fallen drone on the floor, the phaser rifle hanging loose from her shoulder as her left hand tightened its trembling, white-knuckled grip on her PADD. Auslaz and Angel both walked up behind her shoulders and hesitantly broke the ringing silence.

"Captain," Angel asked, "how did you get past her shield?"

Azera answered him by simply handing him her electronic tablet before staggering a few steps away to try steady herself. He looked over the oddly black screen with blinking confusion before he gradually understood what he was seeing. All the ordinary blue buttons and frames of the LCARS display had vanished to leave two tiny yellow words in the middle:

shield off

"Yellow's her favorite color," her voice tremored a little, "she told me that this morning..."

* * *

Captain's Log, Stardate 90771.31 - It's been almost an hour and there's no sign of Borg activity within the sector. It'd seem that the loss of resources an attack on Earth would entail simply isn't worth one dead drone in their view. Starfleet would prefer a more thorough autopsy and analysis of the Borg's new regenerative subsystems, but I've insisted that Enala's body will be afforded the funerary rites of her people. We've performed more than enough scans for their purposes, and besides, she's already given her life for us. Isn't that enough?

"I never thought to ask about her species," Azera confessed to Kwam as the two of them stood in the corner of the cargo bay, watching the rest of the crew gathering and talking in hushed whispers around the gleaming black torpedo casing that served as Enala's coffin, "everything happened so fast, and I thought we'd have time to talk about stuff like that later...

"Did your scans show anything," she asked the doctor after a long pause, "do we know where she came from, or what her people would have wanted for her?"

Kwam gave a soft nod and he glanced across the room at the casket, the top panel opened to reveal the girl's pallid face, her one natural eye closed as though asleep.

"They would want her buried in the soil," he explained gently beneath the crew's murmurs, "so that her comra can be released into the afterlife. She was Ocampa, captain."

"Ocampa," Azera repeated in shock. Kwam nodded again

"There's a very, very small number of them living in this quadrant. Her family must have been assimilated sometime late last year. She was a little less than six months old."

"Six months," the captain breathed to herself, "she'd hardly had any life at all..."

"Just what she'd learned from the Borg," he sighed, "and what she experienced here on the Roanoke. It wasn't nearly what she deserved, but I pray that it was enough."

Azera nodded to him and slipped into the crowd to join the rest of her friends already standing by the young girl's coffin. Luverala stood apart from them, lost in his own thoughts, while Nyzoph and Angel spoke softly a few feet away. The captain wondered what most of the crew must think, having never met or known anything about her other than that she was a Borg drone, but they still spoke as softly and respectfully as they would at any wake. Azera was glad for that. Even if she didn't get to live as a person, at least she could be remembered as one.

The captain joined Corspa and Auslaz as they looked down at the young girl.

"I still don't understand something," Auslaz reflected as she looked up from the casket at her captain, "when she asked if we'd 'rejoin' them. What did she mean by that?"

"She was confused, Auslaz," Corspa shook her head a little, "damaged."

"Aren't we all," Azera said quietly, and she lifted up the bright yellow blanket she'd brought with her to slip it beneath the casing and tuck it gently around Enala's shoulders.

Last edited by sparklysoldier; 04-11-2013 at 04:44 PM.
Rihannsu
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 216
# 13
02-24-2013, 02:12 PM
"Red Alert! General quarters! All hands, man your battle stations!" Bryan yelled out. "Borg probe, thirty kilometers off the bow!"

Alarms blared and crew began scrambling onto and off of the bridge as they moved to their battle stations. Shortly thereafter, Ibalei took her place in the chair to Bryan's direct right.

"How much further until we can get a detailed scan, Athena?" Ibalei asked of the AI.

"Should be in range...Now." Athena responded.

"Helm, all stop." Bryan called out.

"Thank you Bryan," Ibalei said, nodding slightly. "Athena, get me a deep scan of that vessel. I want to know-"

"Just what is going on here Admiral?" A voice shouted from the turbolift on the starboard side of the Athena's bridge.

"Ambassador Zizania," Bryan said, acknowledging the Joined Trill his ship was carrying to meet with a race the Federation had just made first contact with. "We've just encountered a Borg probe. I'm not going any further until it's either destroyed or confirmed to be completely captured and secured."

"That could take hours! I'll be late for-"

"First of all, if you're late, your late. if need be, I'll apologize later," Bryan snapped. "Second, this ship has a quantum slipstream drive, remember? You should have nothing to worry about."

"But what if-"

"Justin, escort the Ambassador to his quarters."

"Right away, sir," the Athena's security chief said. "Come on Ambassador. Before you get into trouble."

"Athena, report?" Bryan called out, as the Ambassador and Justin left the Bridge.

"The probe is all but completely disabled, sir. The ship has no weapons, engines, or shields, the hull is breached in multiple zones, and there is only one active drone remaining. All others have either been ejected into space by hull breaches, destroyed by weapon impacts, or otherwise eliminated."

"Justin," Bryan said, tapping his combadge, "When your done taking the Ambassador to his quarters, I want you to get your best MACO team and have them meet Ibalei and I in transporter room one. There is still an active drone on that ship that I want captured. Clear?"

"Yes, sir," came his reply.

"Ibalei, get your combat gear. Let's get ready to move out."

"Sir, Starfleet regulations require me to inform you that you are not supposed to join an away mission without a full security compliment, and only once the zone is confirmed to be completely clear of hostiles." Ibalei warned rather sarcastically.

"Noted Ibalei." He responded.

"Good. With that out of the way, let's go get this thing done."

At that, the pair left for the Athena's armory to get their combat gear and prepare for the mission

********

The team beamed into a narrow corridor of the probe. Bryan silently motioned for them to spread out and search the room, but they found nothing that could be of any use, not even any evidence of who attacked the ship.

"All right, form up on me," Bryan called, and the team moved over to him. "Justin, how far away from the Drone's position are we?"

"Should be in the next room, sir" He said.

"Good. Set up to breach, and set your weapons to the maximum possible stun level."

The away team moved to the doorway and pressed themselves against it. After Justin finished setting up a photon grenade with a special shaped charge, Bryan silently counted down on his fingers, and when he got to zero, the grenade blew, destroying the door. The team moved in and spread out once more. All of a sudden, there was a single shot, and it connected squarely with Bryan's armor.

"Return fire!" Justin yelled out, and the entire room lit up with phaser fire.

"Bryan, are you all right?" Ibalei said once the cacophony died down.

"Yea, I'm fine," Bryan said, staring at the faint plasma burn in the armor's chestplate. "Caught me in the armor. Looks like they were right about this MACO equipment being much better than standard gear."

"Good. I'd hate for you to die right before the wedding," She laughed.

"Funny. Is the drone still online?"

"Looks like we just knocked it out," one of the MACOs said.

"Good. Everyone, get ready for transport. Justin, grab that thing to take back with us. I'll have Six and Syiseda see about trying to liberate it. Athena, five plus capture to beam out."

The faint hum of the transporters enveloped them once again, replacing the dark, angular corridors of the Borg probe with the clean and sleek appearance of the Athena's transporter room.

"Welcome back, sir," the transporter chief said.

"Thank you chief. Everyone, back to your posts."

At that, they all stepped off of the transporter pad and left for the armory to put their gear back where it belonged

********

"Status report," Bryan called out as he stepped back onto the bridge.

"Everything looks good so far, sir," Six called from her station.

He sat back down into the Captain's chair. "Good. Thryiss, target that probe and prepare to launch a full quantum torpedo salvo on my mark."

"Aye, aye sir," the Athena's Andorian weapons officer called from her station.

"Fire!"

Outside the front window, the three blueish white torpedoes sped away from their tubes and slammed into the probe's hull, finally destroying the crippled vessel. Suddenly, there was a bright green flash of a Borg ship warping into the area.

"Sir, Borg cube detected, twenty kilometers to port side!" Athena yelled out.

Bryan sat forward in his chair. "If I had to guess, that cube was coming to assist the damaged probe. Helm, take us in to engage," he said forebodingly.

"Bryan, are you insane?" Ambassador Zizania called from the entrance to the bridge.

"Maybe a little," Bryan conceded. "But the Athena is completely state of the art, right down to her polarized neutronium armor. She was designed to be able to take on a Borg cube."

"Just...Don't let me down, old friend," the Joined Trill responded walking up to Bryan. "I've already lost enough to the Borg."

"Don't worry," He said, standing up and gripping the Ambassador's shoulder, "I can do this."

Bryan sat back down as the Ambassador left the Bridge once again. "Are we in weapons range yet?"

"No, sir. Should be a couple more seconds." Thryiss said.

"Six, reroute auxiliary power to weapons and standby to reverse shield polarity on my mark."

"Aye, sir," the Athena's resident Liberated Borg said.

"Thryiss, overload the axial phaser banks and load a quantum torpedo salvo. Fire a full alpha strike on my mark."

"Yes, sir." The Andorian replied.

The cube drew steadily nearer, slowly and menacingly. Suddely, the one voice everyone had come to dread came on over the intercom. "We are the Borg. From this moment forward, your lives are forfeit. Your distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."

"Fortune favor the bold," Bryan whispered to himself. "Thryiss, Six, now!"

The Athena lashed out at the Borg cube, her axial dual beam bank firing two massive orange beams towards the cube, followed closely by a trio of quantum torpedoes. Despite the onslaught from the Athena's most powerful weapons, the cube's shields barely held. The Borg return fire was also ineffective, however, as their heavy plasma beams hit the shields. Though some ships would have lost a fairly large percentage of their shields from the Borg's fire, the Athena's were capable of not only resisting more damage that most, but temporarily turning it into additional shield power for the vessel. The Athena began to turn ponderously around the massive cube, firing every weapon she had as soon as they came into arc. The Borg had one advantage that Bryan could not counter however.

"Sir, Borg shield neutralizer incoming!" Athena called over the intercom.

The Athena's shields glowed a bright green before dissipating in a short burst of light. Before he could say anything else, a Borg plasma beam ripped away from the Cube, catching the Athena's neutronium armor straight on. The hull held true however, and the ship kept fighting.

"Damage report!" Bryan yelled out.

"Moderate structural damage to decks seven and eight, starboard-bow quarter, zones four, five, and six," Six of Nine called out.

"Time to end this," Bryan muttered. "Thryiss, ready another quantum salvo, but hold them until I give the signal. For now, concentrate on bringing the Cube's shields down. Dwayne, match our movement speed with the Cube's rotational speed. Let's see if we can't overwhelm their shields."

The Athena's phaser banks continued to gradually melt away at the Cube's shields, until they finally sputtered and died.

"Now Thryiss!" Bryan yelled out.

Three more quantum torpedoes sped away from the Athena, this time passing through the recently downed shield and slamming into their target's hull, ripping open a massive breach.

"Sir, the Cube is preparing to warp out!" Athena said.

"Thryiss, get another torpedo right through that hull breach! See if you can't collapse the ship's hull integrity!"

One more torpedo sped away from the tube, passing through the hole in the previous salvo had created, and impacting the interior of the massive vessel.

"She's about to go critical sir!" Athena warned.

"Helm, full impulse away from that cube! Now!" Bryan yelled.

By the time the Cube finally went down the Athena was already well out of range of the main shockwave. The ship shuddered faintly when the blast impacted, but was otherwise unaffected.

"Report!" Bryan called.

"The Cube has been destroyed, sir," Athena called.

"Some minor structural damage to decks three, four, seven, eight, and ten, sir." Six called.

"Syiseda," Bryan said, tapping his combadge to signal the Athena's Betazoid chief medical officer, "How many injuries are we looking at?"

"Twenty-one injuries, sir," She reponded, "One of which is the Ambassador."

"How is he?"

"Critical condition, sir. I doubt he'll survive."

Bryan paused. "Are you sure?"

"Quite, sir. We're already preparing to remove the Symbiont, just in case."

"Athena, at best speed, how far are we away from Trill?"

"Five to five and a half days, depending on how much we rely on the slipstream drive," the AI responded.

"I'll be down there in just a moment, Syiseda," Bryan said, speaking again into his combadge.

"All right, sir." She said, her voice almost a whisper. "He said he wanted to speak to you anyway."

Bryan tapped his chair's intercom button and called, "All hands, this is the Admiral speaking, secure from general quarters. The vessel is no longer under threat. Return to standard duty rotations, beginning with beta shift."

"Bryan, do you mind if I go with you?" Ibalei asked.

"Of course not," Bryan said, looking slightly distressed at the news of the Ambassador's injury. "I'd really appreciate the company."

*******

"You know," Ambassador Zizania said laughing slightly, as Bryan strode up to his bedside, "I always thought you'd be the death of me."

"Nonsense," Bryan said, looking into the eyes of his old friend and mentor. "You're not done berating me for everything I do yet."

"You're right. Shotgun diplomacy only works if your opponent doesn't have a weapon of his own."

Now it was Bryan's turn to laugh. "Three and a half years out of the Academy, and you're still trying to teach me the fine art of diplomacy."

"Of course. It's my job." the Joined Trill said, smiling.

"And will be for a while." Bryan said, his voice beginning to falter.

"Sir," Syiseda said as she walked up behind him, "it's now or never. I need to get the Symbiont removed right away."

Bryan looked back at her. "Are you sure there's nothing more you can do for him?"

"I've reached the limits of modern medical science, sir," she replied, looking sadly towards the bed where Ambassador Zizania lay. "The physical trauma was easy enough to repair, but he lost a lot of blood, and there may still be some internal bleeding."

Bryan waited for a second. "Very well," he turned back to the Ambassador.

"So, I guess this is goodbye?"

"No. it's not. I'll see you soon, my friend." Bryan said, smiling. "Syiseda, do your best to simulate the Symbiont's natural environment in any way you can. I want to make sure that Zizania survives until we reach Trill."

"Already done, sir. Ibalei was a huge help in getting it set. It should theoretically last for at least six days."

"Good. I want him to live on. At least now he has a chance at doing just that."

At that, Bryan turned and began to leave when he remembered the guest they brought aboard.

"One more thing Syiseda, have you already taken care of the Borg we brought aboard from that Probe?"

"Yes, sir. She's in the Brig if you'd like to speak with her."

*******

"Designation and Unimatrix number." Bryan said tersely as he entered the Brig.

"I am unit Ten of Ten," The Borg said mechanically. "Formally of Unimatrix Zero-Zero-Three-Nine, assigned to recon probe designation reconnaissance vessel twelve of seventeen."

"And what was your mission?"

"To scout the sector for the possibility of adding it to the distinctiveness of the collective. Our probe was attacked by species designation 8472, or, as you refer to them, the Undine."

"And you no longer hear the collective?"

"I will always hear them. But I no longer serve them."

"Six," Bryan said, speaking now into his combadge, "Can you confirm what she just said?"

"One step ahead of you sir. She is no longer a member of the collective."

"There is another like me in your crew?" Ten asked.

"Yes," Bryan replied. "Her designation was Six of Nine. She was in the Khitomer system."

"I would like to speak with her."

"I'll have her sent down. But first, I have a question for you."

"What is it?"

"How good are you with torpedoes and the like?"

"My primary function on the probe was to utilize torpedoes."

"In that case, would you like to serve as a projectile weapons officer on my ship? I am short several crew, and I am able to waive any and all training as circumstances require."

"Very well." Bryan began to walk away as the Borg spoke up once more, "Thank you...Sir."

"Of course. I will always be happy to do anything and everything for my crew."

*******

"Admiral on-" Justin began to say as Bryan stepped onto the Bridge.

"Save it Justin." Bryan interrupted him. He walked across to his chair in the center of the bridge and sat down. "Aara, can you contact the Trill Symbiosis Commission?"

"Right away, sir." The Orion said.

"Admiral Valot," the head of the Commission said as he appeared on the screen." What do you want?"

"I wish I could be calling with better news, but Ambassador Pakan Zizania was killed when a Borg Cube attacked the Athena en route to the rendezvous in Gamma Orionis."

"And the Symbiont?"

"Still alive. We were able to recover it before the ambassador died. My chief medical officer has placed it in a simulated environment that should be able to last until we arrive at Trill."

"Which will be how long?"

"About five days. The Symbiont's environment should hopefully last for Six."

"Very good, Valot. We will meet with you outside the Caves of Mak'ala once you have reached Trill."

"I'll contact you with any new developments. Valot, out." The large cetral viewscreen switched back to an image of the night sky. "I'll be in my quarters if anyone needs me."

*******

Bryan and Ibalei were startled awake by the sound of Bryan's combadge chirping beside the bed. Sighing, Bryan picked it off of his uniform, tapped it and said "Bryan, go."

"Sir," came Syiseda's worried voice, "I've got bad news about the Symbiont."

"Is there any other kind?" Bryan muttered to himself. "All right, what is it."

"You and the First officer had better get down here so I can explain in better detail."

"Fine. We'll be there in a minute."

Both Bryan and Ibalei climbed out of the bed and began to put their uniforms back on.

"I hope the Symbiont is all right," Ibalei said worriedly.

"I agree," Bryan replied. "Zizania was one of my favorite instructors back at the academy."

"What do we do if the Symbiont is in trouble?" she asked.

Bryan paused. "I don't know yet. I'd need to contact the Symbiosis Commission for their opinion."

"Sir, I'd like to confess something."

"Go ahead, Ibalei."

"You recall I told you that I was considered a likely candidate for being joined?"

"Yes. You basically told them you wanted to live your own life first, correct?"

"Yes, well, they had already picked a Symbiont for me, one that had only been in three other hosts. I'll give you one guess which it was."

"Zizania?"

"Yep. He hand-picked me too. I was to succeed Pakan as the fourth host. I imagine they've already chosen someone else though."

"Well, let's hope that the Symbiont will last the rest of the trip."

With that, the two left the room, now wearing their full uniforms and headed towards a turbolift. "Sickbay," Bryan called as they stepped inside, and the lift sped away. Several seconds later, the doors opened, this time revealing the Athena's main Sickbay, which also happened to be where Syiseda's office on the ship was.

"What do you need Syiseda?" Bryan asked.

"Sir, you know the habitat Ibalei and I prepared for the Symbiont? Our estiamtes were wrong. It won't make it until we arrive at Trill. By my estimates, it will only last, at most, six hours."

Bryan immediately felt a sense of dread. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"Ibalei?"

She had been completely silent the entire time, and looked as though she had seen a ghost. "The entire environment is collapsing," she said, studying the readout for the the artificial habitat.

"I'll contact the Symbiosis Commission. Let's see what they have to say about this."

Bryan left the room and headed back to his quarters. he sat down at his desk and tapped a few commands into the console Suddenly, the screen changed, showing the Symbiosis Commission's leader.

"Valot. What do you need now?"

"There's been a...Complication with the Zizania Symbiote," Bryan replied, looking down slightly.

"Define 'Complication' Admiral," The Trill said, obviously very worried.

"The environment has started to destabilize earlier than expected. We estimate that we have only six more hours until we lose the Symbiont for good. Meanwhile, it will still take us about a day before we reach Trill, even at our best possible speed."

"Where is the nearest medical vessel?"

"Athena?"

"Around ten hours, even with Quantum Slipstream frive."

"Give me a full listing of all of your Trill crew members, Valot," the Symbiosis Commission's leader said, looking pale as a ghost.

"Athena, compile a full list of all Trill crew members on the Athena," Bryan called.

"Done, sir," the AI said, less than half a second later. "Shall I forward it to the commissioner?"

"Do it."

The Trill on the screen picked up a PADD and began studying it. He briefly stopped, but continued on. After several minutes of looking, he set the PADD back down.

"Two things, Admiral. First, I noticed there is another Joined Trill in your crew. Sujoi?"

"Yes, she serves as the ship's chief counselor," Bryan said, remembering one of the Athena's more recent additions to the crew. "The fact that she has multiple lifetimes of experience to call upon has been very helpful to the crew when talking to her. What was the second thing?"

"I noticed that Commander Ibalei Zera is your First Officer. The fact that you have another Joined in your crew will make what I'm about to ask a little easier for Commander Zera to do."

"Let me stop you right there," Bryan said, knowing what the Commissioner was about to ask. "Ibalei has already informed you and the rest of the Commission that she has no desire to be Joined, correct?"

"Yes, but the circumstances are different now. First, I can all but guarantee that the Zizania Symbiont will accept her. I can't say the same for any of the other unjoined Trill in your crew. Second, given that she is a telepath, she can join with Sujoi's mind, and have all of the required training and information within an hour. Third, as you are quite aware, the Symbiont will not survive the remaining trip home."

"How can you be sure that the Symbiont will accept her?"

"Because it chose her. Very few Symbionts make a choice like that, but when they do, it has almost always been the correct one."

Bryan looked out the window at the far end of his quarters solemnly. "I'll let her know as soon as I can."

"Thank you, Admiral. Was there anything else you needed?"

"No. I'll contact you once we've implanted the Symbiont."

"Very well. Symbiosis Commission, out."

Bryan sat back in his chair, wondering what to do. He had just made two contradicting promises in one day. He, on one hand, subtly promised Ibalei that he wouldn't make her join with the Symbiont, but on the other, he promised the Symbiosis Commission to do just the opposite.

"Ibalei, could I see you in my quarters for a minute?" he said tapping the intercom button, still thinking about what to do. By the time she stepped through the door, he still had no idea which side he should take.

"You asked to see me, sir?" She said, her voice filled with sadness.

"Yes. I just finished my call with the Symbiosis Commission," Bryan said, preparing to make a final decision.

"And I take it they asked that I be joined with Zizania?"

Bryan sat there silently.

"Let me save you some trouble Bryan," she said, telepathically sensing Bryan's dilemma. "I'll do it."

"Well, what about the other Trill on the Athena? I mean, there's Sanati, Jenes, Corsan...Among others."

"Yes, but only one Trill on this entire boat was handpicked by the very Symbiont that we are transporting. I imagine he also suggested that I get the necessary training by telepathically joining minds with Sujoi?"

"Yes, he did."

"Then I'll also be better prepared for what is to come than some others might be. I only have two requests, however."

"Of course. Anything you need, just ask."

"Thank you, Bryan. First, I'd like to speak with my family before being joined."

"Of course. What else?"

"I'd like you to be there during my Zhian'tara."

Bryan smiled a little, "Of course I will. I had intended to if you were going to take the Symbiont."

"Thank you," She said, smiling for the first time since they got the bad news about the Symbiont.

"I'll give you some privacy so you can talk to your parents."

*******

Bryan walked back in, about half an hour later, to find Ibalei sitting at the desk crying.

"Ibalei, what's wrong?" he asked, walking over to her.

She got up from the chair and walked across to the window. "My parents have effectively disowned me."

"What?" Bryan almost shouted. "Why?"

"Well, first, I told them about the fact that I'm being Joined. That wasn't what upset them initially, as they though I was doing it by my own choice," She said, her voice rife with grief. "But then I told them about why it's happening. That's what they were initially angry about. Eventually, when things were starting to actually cool down, I told them about us. It was at that point that they said 'No daughter of ours will ever marry a human.'"

"Well, if it's any consolation, mine said basically the same thing about me marrying a 'Spot head.'" Bryan said bitterly.

"So, it looks as if it really is just us against the universe," Ibalei said with equal bitterness.

"Well, if it were going to just be me and one other person, I'm glad it's you," He said, smiling as he looked into her eyes.

"Same here," She said, smiling slightly as well, despite the tears still in her eyes.

"Well, are you ready to begin?"

"I guess so," She said.

Bryan tapped his combadge and called, "Sujoi, could Ibalei and I see you in my quarters please?"

"Right away, sir," the Joined Trill replied.

It didn't take long for her to arrive. She stepped through the door and said, "You needed me, sir?"

"Have you already been briefed on what you and the First Officer are going to be doing?"

"Syiseda informed me, yes. Are you ready Ibalei?"

"As ready as I can be for something like this."

"Very well. This will feel like a lot longer than it really will be, although it will still take about an hour. Rest assured, however, you'll have as much, if not more, training than most other hosts."

At that, both looked carefully into each others eyes before the stares of both became blank.

*******

"Done," Sujoi said, blinking heavily.

Ibalei almost fell, as Bryan ran over to catch her. "Well, that was..Not what I was expecting," she said in a slight daze.

"Are you all right?" Bryan asked worriedly.

"I'll be fine. But the sooner we can get this over with, the better."

"Come on, let's get you down to the med bay."

All three silently left Bryan's quarters. Once outside, they found an open turbolift and stepped inside. "Sickbay," He called, and the doors hissed shut. They continued to stand silently until the doors slid open, once more revealing another one of the Athena's sleek corridors.

As the trio entered the sickbay, Bryan called out, "We're ready Syiseda."

The Betazoid stepped out of her office. "Are you sure?" she asked. "This is your last chance if you want to back out, Ibalei."

"Yes," she replied. "It's my duty, both to the Federation and my people."

"Very well. Let's get you sedated. Bryan, I'm going to have to ask you to step out side while we preform the surgery."

"Good luck Ibalei," Bryan said, "and know that I'll always love you, no matter what happens today."

"Don't worry," She replied, kissing him lightly, "I'll still be me. I'll just have three others with me as well."

*******

Bryan paced around the hallway outside the sickbay. He couldn't stop thinking about what had been going on inside for the past hour. Occasionally, he would stop at the door, and press his ear against it, hoping to hear anything, but to no avail. After what seemed like an eternity, Syiseda finally appeared in the doorway.

"How is she?" Bryan asked anxiously.

"She'll recover," The Betazoid said. "She's still unconcious for right now, but the Symbiont shows no sign of rejection. Primary brainwave patterns are still similar to Ibalei's before being joined, however, there are now a number of competing secondary ones. For the moment however, it appears that she'll still be, for the most part, the same Ibalei we've all come to know."

"Good. I guess that means we need to get to Trill to preform her Zhian'tara, correct?"

"That's a common misconception, actually. the Zhian'tara is not required, but it is strongly recommended, as it will help her sort through which voice belongs to whom."

"Well, we're still going to have it done. She already expressed that she would like for me to be there for hers, which I will."

"I was doing some reasearch on the Zizania Symbiont earlier," Syiseda said thoughtfully. "From the looks of it, of the now four hosts, Ibalei is the first female."

"Really?"

"Yes. The first was a police officer on Trill approximately 200 years ago. Killed in the Line of duty 185 years ago. Second was actually a Starfleet officer. He reached Lieutenant Commander rank, and served as the chief engineer on the U.S.S. Yorktown. Died of old age approximately 75 years ago. You already know the third."

"How much longer until she wakes up?"

"She should reawaken by the time we reach Trill. I've already contacted the Symbiosis Commission to have them prepare a guardian for her Zhian'tara."

"Good. Athena," he called, this time speaking to the Ship's AI, "I'll be in my quarters. Let me know when we reach Trill."

"Yes, sir," the AI replied. "Do you want me to inform you if and when Commander...Zizania awakens as well?"

"Yes, Thank you Athena."

*******

Bryan sat sleeping in a chair near the window at the far end of his quarters when the doorbell startled him awake.

"Enter," He called, rubbing his eyes. "What do you need?"

"And here I though you'd be happier to see your wife," came a familiar voice from behind him.

Bryan quickly turned around and looked into her grey eyes. "Ibalei!" He shouted, almost jumping out of his chair as he ran over and gave her the most passionate kiss he could.

"That's the reaction I was hoping for," she whispered quietly when they both finally came up for air.

"Athena, why didn't you inform me that Ibalei was awake?" Bryan called.

"I did," the AI replied calmly. "You were asleep."

"Also, Athena told me to tell you that we're about five minutes away from Trill," Ibalei said.

"Good. I'm really glad you're still...You," Bryan replied, smiling a little.

"Don't worry, I'll always still be me," she said, smiling as well, "I just have a few more voices in here, that's all."

"Athena, once we arrive at Trill, tell Ensign Dwayne to establish standard orbit. Ibalei and I are going to beam down with a small away team so that we can perform her Zhian'tara. Did you have in mind who else you want to bring with you?"

"Yes. I was hoping Justin and Dwayne would as well."

"That sounds like a plan. You may want to let them know of that, though," Bryan said, chuckling a little.

"Agreed," She said, laughing a little herself. "We'll...Wait...I'll tell them as soon as possible."

Bryan laughed a little. "We'll?"

"Oh shut it. It's going to take a little while to get used to having all of these different voices in my head."

"Don't worry. I'm sure you'll get used to it soon enough...Dax."

"Very funny Bryan," she replied sarcastically, despite starting to laugh herself.

"Come on, let's go get Dwayne and Justin," Bryan said, smiling.

*******

The four of them beamed in right outside a large cave, where several others were already standing.

"Greetings, Admiral Valot," one of the Trill, the one Bryan had been speaking with during the ordeal on the Athena. "And it's nice to see you again Zizania."

"Same to you, Bireir," Ibalei said, clearly speaking for her new Symbiont. "Shall we get on with this?"

"Are your companions here for your Zhian'tara?"

"Yes. Justin will be speaking for Endrin, Dwayne for Hinar, and Bryan for Pakan."

"Very well. Let us begin. First, are you all ready for what is about to happen?"

"Yes, we are," Bryan replied, even though he didn't quite feel ready.

"And are you ready, Ibalei Zizania?"

"I guess so," she said.

"Then empty your thoughts and clear your minds. This will be done before you know it."

*******

"So, how does it feel Ibalei?" Bryan asked, back in his quarters on the Athena.

"I'll admit, it's not what we...erm...I was expecting," she replied.

"Well, I'm just glad to know that you're still you," he said, smiling.

"Well, who were you expecting? Dax?" She replied sarcastically.

Bryan leaned back in his chair. "I was expecting not to have to Join you with a Symbiont partially against your will."

Ibalei shifted into the chair with him. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I'm actually rather glad to have been given the opportunity. Something about it just feels...right."

"I just wish it could have been under better circumstances," Bryan replied sadly. "Though, that's a complete 180 from your previous stance on being joined."

"I guess actually being joined has allowed me to put it in perspective. Not to mention the fact that talking to the other hosts during my Zhian'tara gave me an opportunity to realize just what joining is really about."

"And that is?"

She leaned her head against Bryan's shoulder. "I guess it's to build a living history of the entire Trill race. At least that's how I interpret it."

Bryan leaned his head onto Ibalei's and placed his arm around her shoulders. "I guess this begs the question where do we go from here?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, our parents are no longer acknowledging that we exist, you're sharing a body with three others,...and we still haven't planned when to have the wedding."

"Well, planning can be taken care of at some other time. As for our parents, it actually feels kind of freeing to know that they're not going to be watching my every move anymore. And as for sharing a body, the...others can provide me with advice, but they still don't really have any control over me."

"I can't wait to see what you're able to do with that advice."

"Agreed. But, for right now, we're off duty," she said, kissing him playfully. "Both Zizania and I think that we should make good use of the time we have here before we need to get back on-duty."

"Oh really?" He said. "What did you two have in mind?"

Ibalei whispered something into his ear and Bryan chuckled a little. With that, the pair walked through the door way to Bryan's bedroom and kissed passionately before the door shut behind them.

*******

Ibalei lay awake next to Bryan, thinking about what she had just been through. She wasn't the first Trill to be joined under a state of emergency, and she knew that she wouldn't be the last. But she was for the moment, happy. She stood up from the bed, slipped an undershirt on, and looked out the window, watching the Asynchronous Warp field pulse gently against the night sky.

"You've done quite well for yourself, Ibalei," the remnants of Pakan whispered in the back of her mind.

"Well, he's been a big help," She thought, looking over to Bryan, who was still sleeping on the bed.

"All the same, you're a strong women, and you truly deserve this honor."

"Thank you Pakan. Both for helping me through this, and for being there for both of us during the academy."

"Of course," He whispered as he started to fade back into her subconscious.

"Wait, before you go, I had a question."

"What is it Ibalei?"

"Why are you still letting me be...well...me? I mean, from what I've seen most others who have been are usually different than before they were joined."

She felt him pause a moment, just before the Symbiont spoke up, "Because, you've worked hard to get to where you're at. You have a life. I've complicated that for you. It would be best for me to only advise, and speak through you as little as possible."

"I..."she paused mid-thought, realizing the sacrifice Zizania had made for her in giving up the freedom some Symbionts have to let her continue to, for the most part, live her life as her own. "Thank you Zizania. You won't regret giving me this chance."

She felt the Symbiont's happiness about that comment. "I know, Ibalei. In addition to all of this what I just mentioned, you and Bryan have both had enough hardship. I don't need to add to it. After all you two have been through in the past three years alone, not to mention what could still happen, with the Federation fighting a war on three fronts."

Ibalei would have yelled out with joy, had Bryan not been sleeping right in front of her. "I..I don't know what to say. Thank you so much, Zizania."

The Symbiont faded back into her subconscious as she smiled and turned back to look out the window. For the first time in her life, despite effectively cutting all ties to her family, it seemed as if everything was coming together, and she was grateful to be able to share it with Bryan.
Vice Admiral Bryan Mitchel Valot
Commanding officer: Odyssey class U.S.S. Athena
Admiral of the 1st Assault Fleet
Join date: Some time in Closed Beta

Last edited by ironphoenix113; 02-25-2013 at 12:15 PM.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 1,117
# 14
02-24-2013, 07:51 PM
Literary Challenge #39: "Lone Drone"

Tales of Alyosha Strannik
"The Call"


Personal Log, Encrypted. Captain Alexei Ivanovich Strannik, commanding officer of the USS Chin'toka.




There are two calls that every Starfleet captain dreads having to make.

The first is the one that begins with, 'I regret to inform you that your son or daughter gave their life in the line of duty.' This was the other one. And sometimes it's hard to tell which is worse.



We'd been on patrol in an asteroid-filled system just outside the border of the Argolis Cluster in search of True Way activity when sensors picked up a transwarp conduit forming just off our starboard--its signature unmistakably Borg, preliminary mass estimates suggesting a tactical cube. The Chin'toka's systems leapt automatically to red alert.

"Warp nine--get us out of here!" I called, as if Ensign Mirrsh weren't already keying furiously at the helm controls.

"Negative, sir!" the Saurian shouted back. "We're too close to the aperture. Our warp bubble is collapsing!"

"Normal-space ingress imminent in fifteen seconds," droned the computer.

There was no way--no way--a lone escort would survive against a tactical cube. Not by conventional means, anyway.

"That asteroid!" my Aenar first officer called. "We could push it into the apert--"

I cut him off. "Do it!" Yes, I could see we'd have to go to full impulse with the tractor repulsors engaged to shove the asteroid where we wanted, and yes, the force of the impact would be severe on the Chin'toka even with full shields. I knew the risks. But if we could place the massive rock directly in the path of the Borg ship as it shot out of the conduit before they had the chance to raise their shields, it would shred through that reinforced hull plating like an enormous, armor-piercing TR-116 bullet.

Commander ch'Valek engaged the tractor repulsors just as Helmswoman Mirrsh set a collision course for the asteroid, our breakneck trajectory running almost perpendicular to the expected aperture opening and the asteroid started moving.

I punched the comm button on the armrest of my command chair, keying on the shipwide channel. "Engaging subspace field modulator--brace for impact!"

The bulkheads wavered around us as they shifted just .001 units out of phase--thinning disconcertingly for the rest of the crew, a bit more solid, more real for me--just as Thraz cut off the tractors, Mirrsh pitched the ship into a nearly 90-degree climb, and the first shockwave from the asteroid's impact with the tactical cube slammed into the Chin'toka, sending us hurtling through space with virtually no course control.

Then, just as the field modulator gave its last, the tac cube lit from within in a grand conflagration of plasma, matter, antimatter, and every form of hard radiation to which not even a Devidian would have been immune. As it was, even with our shields raised, most of the crew would surely need a round of hyronalin injections to allay any ill effects from the fallout. I gave thanks for the fact that the explosion had occurred in a lifeless system, for the ecosystem impact likely would have been catastrophic, just like what had happened millennia ago to Mol'Rihan.

As the blast subsided and Ensign Mirrsh righted our course, silence fell over the bridge as we beheld the tumbling, sparking hulk on the viewscreen.

By all rights the tactical cube should have fragmented completely upon impact. The fact that it hadn't was a chilling testament to the strength of the cube's neutronium plating. Instead, it hung together by the thinnest of twisting pipes and cables, only a few portions of the wreckage having been ejected outward and careening away at the velocities set for them by the detonation.

"Status report," I ordered. "I want a damage assessment on the cube." Given the severity of the threat, that came even before surveying the Chin'toka's own wounds.

"Large sections of the cube are without power," Lieutenant ch'Sherrin reported from tactical. "Minimal regenerative activity detected. Lifesign readings indeterminate. I recommend we blow the debris to hell while we still can."

I nodded. The thought of that thing somehow reconstructing itself even after the extraordinary amount of damage we'd inflicted on it was a monstrous one. "Do it," I ordered.

The Andorian unleashed a scatter volley from the Chin'toka's cannons, followed by a brace of photon torpedoes--archaic weapons by 25th-century standards, but with the tac cube robbed of its shields, they got the job done quite efficiently. And with the added bonus of ensuring the Collective at large would not be informed of any more technology they hadn't seen before.

Commander th'Valek conducted one last sensor sweep on the debris field. Suddenly his antennae shot upright, quivering with tension at their ends. "Captain! I'm picking up a single life sign near the cube's central plexus!" The shielded device that formed the dark heart of a Borg cube was darned near impossible to take out, and if it regenerated it could quickly turn into a signal platform far more powerful than anything even Project MIDAS had ever managed--

"That life sign--is it a drone?"

"Yes, sir."

"Prepare to beam him aboard on my mark."

Ch'Sherrin glowered at me from tactical; I didn't have to turn around to know his expression. "Sir, with all due respect, you cannot seriously be planning to beam that thing aboard, not while we're still too damaged to go to warp!"

I spun around on my heel, favoring him with a hard glare of my own. "We do not refer to sentient beings as things, Mister ch'Sherrin." Perhaps most captains would have considered this an inappropriate time to fight that battle...but as one belonging to a species subject to such labels, were my crew to know the truth, it just wasn't in me to casually dismiss the remark. The best I could do was move on from the subject, once addressed. "Your security concerns are duly noted, though. We'll beam the drone into a brig cell under full isolation protocols and armored security guards. The med team will have to do what they can under the circumstances. My hope is that with the drone isolated and the central plexus destroyed, we'll delay a Borg response long enough to transwarp in some reinforcements from Task Force Omega."

The Andorian returned an abrupt nod. "Understood, Captain. Notifying security teams Alpha and Bravo, and brig guard Echo."

"In the meantime," I said, "as soon as we've signaled Task Force Omega, I want us to rig for silent running. The more we blend in while we get the engines back online, the better." These light- and energy-abatement procedures would hopefully help the Chin'toka blend in with the debris--maybe even temporarily fool the Borg into thinking we'd been destroyed by our own asteroid stunt--if they tried to come through again.

I took in the panorama of the bridge all at once, though save for Commander th'Valek, they had no way of knowing just how far my field of vision really extended. So before I sat back in my command chair to hail Task Force Omega, I turned to face them all...ch'Sherrin included. "You did good work."



It took one tense half hour for a carrier group from Task Force Omega to arrive on location. Admiral N'Riuw's sleek, Caitian-built Atrox deployed a veritable armada of worker bees to help us shore up the Chin'toka's four strained nacelle pylons in record time.

Once my engineer had cleared us for warp speed, I hailed Admiral N'Riuw to express my thanks. "Commander Temm would like me to pass on the highest regard for the M'Ress' engineering teams," I told the Caitian, forcing myself to meet his intense, laser-assisted stare.

"It's much appreciated, Captain Strannik." N'Riuw returned a fanged approximation of a human grin. "You could always sweeten it by sending over a bottle of Stolichnaya. 'Alexei' is a name from your world's Clan Russkiy, correct?"

Clan Russkiy? I laughed. "Close enough, though the nation is Rossiya. Russkiy is the adjective. But anyway, sir...what makes you think I'm partial to Stoli?" I leaned closer with devilment in my eyes, enjoying the double entendre this admiral obviously wasn't cleared to recognize. "And what makes you think I even drink in the first place?"

"Auuh, an ascetic. We have a few of those on Cait. Far too straitlaced for my taste, but I guess I can forgive you, Strannik, considering you did take out an entire tactical cube on your own." The entire screen lit red in that moment, virtually all traces of the admiral erased.

Oh, dear...how to say this...

"Sir," I ventured, hoping the calm, matter-of-fact approach would work best, "would it be possible for you to redirect your targeting laser elsewhere? I'm afraid you've washed out the image on my end."

After a moment, the transmission cleared up. "Apologies. I forget sometimes." The admiral shrugged. "I suppose I could have it removed, but the truth is I find it useful. And if I can turn their technology against them--all the better."

I nodded without comment. The Borg had destroyed his last command, beaming their assimilation teams straight onto the bridge. N'Riuw had risked assimilation to get the rest of his senior officers to the safety of the turbolift--a bluff the Borg had called him on. The Borg didn't get far with him before his rescue though--his time in the Collective, and the extent of his physical injuries, had been mercifully brief, a few hours at the most, but they had kept him long enough for him to lose an eye. Rumor had it the man lived hard--partied hard--in the hope of denying the Borg even the slightest evidence that they'd touched his personality. And perhaps to forget.

Momentarily serious, N'Riuw focused his good eye on me. "I also want to thank you for taking a chance on that drone you rescued. My officers took that chance on me, and I'm grateful for it...well...most days," he admitted. "No matter how it turns out...you did the right thing, Strannik."

"Spasibo bolshoi, Kontr-Admiral."

Someone took a chance on me, too.



"Her condition is...I guess you could call it stable," Dr. Sei reported. "She took some serious damage in the explosion. And that's not even counting what they did to her."

"How bad is it, Jiana?"

The joined Trill's lips pressed into a tight line. Then she said, "She's one of the...extreme examples of assimilation. They've literally gutted her. They at least did her the 'mercy' of building her a full exoskeletal frame around the vivisected areas--but there are so many vital organs gone that she'll rely on her cybernetics forever. It also looks like they've tried to erase her features. She was Cardassian once, but the neck ridges are gone, and you can barely see what's left of her eye ridges."

'We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own.' No--it's worse than that. That's absorption. Digestion.

"Has she woken yet?"

"I think she will, very soon. We've at least disabled her assimilation tubules and neural transceiver, but too many of her Borg systems are still online for her to stay sedated for long. Once she adapts, she'll be flushing out the sedative much faster than we can pump it in. We're going to have to transfer her to the rehab center in the Draylon system as soon as we can."

"Thankfully that's not too far from here," I mused. "But if she's from Cardassia, we'll have to run this upchannel. There may be a family in Cardassian space to notify. We need to try to find her identity."

Sei shook her head, disgusted. "There's not much of her original genetics left, Alyosha. If we have a chance at gaining some insight into who she was, it's going to come from her memories. But the state she's in--" The Trill doctor turned away, coughing alarmingly in a manner suggesting she was at the edge of throwing up.

Nurse Ludjira's voice crackled over the comm. "Doctor, her heart rate's elevating! I think she's clearing the sedative!"

"On my way!" Sei called at the ceiling. She scooped her medkit off the table and prepared to head into the brig.

I tapped my commbadge. "Commander th'Valek, report to the brig on the double! Our 'guest' is waking up--we need you to observe." With luck, perhaps the Aenar's powerful telepathy would serve to discern something from the rescued drone as to who she was.

"I'll be coming with you."

"Sir," Dr. Sei warned, all military discipline now, "I can't advise that. If she gets out, we can't have the Borg getting their hands on you." She glanced around to verify we were alone. "We've never had any evidence of the Borg engaging in interphasic travel. If they were to add your distinctiveness to their own..."

"Agreed. But..." An idea took shape. "Did you find any evidence of a phase discriminator among her implants? Any chance her ocular implant would let her see me if I were already phased?"

"Her ocular implant was pretty much destroyed. She's half blind."

I nodded. "Then I'm coming. My telepathy isn't very strong, but I may be able to detect something with my other senses. Are you ready, Jiana?"

"It won't bother me."

The Tellarite nurse shouted again. "Damn it, Sei, where are you?"

"Had to grab some engineering tools," Sei snapped back, Tellarite-style, "to deal with this Perversion-of-Symbiosis."

As she moved towards the door, I ceased the energies within my body that helped me maintain phasic alignment with my crew. For Dr. Sei and everyone else aboard the Chin'toka, I was now completely invisible and inaudible without the help of a finely-tuned set of triolic pattern enhancers. I, however, still had no trouble perceiving them, though everything seemed fainter, and distinctly blue-shifted, for they moved forward towards me in time, though never quite catching up to where I was.

I relinquished my human form as well--I needed every bit of focus for this. Energy rippled across my body as I activated and deactivated the microscopic arrays of photoreceptors embedded throughout my skin. This, rather than the illusion of human eyes I created, was how I truly saw.

I perceived, too, the flashing of energies between symbiont and host in Dr. Sei--their syncopated rhythms at once dissonant and aligned. No wonder she reacted so furiously to the violation the Borg imposed on their drones: seen through my Devidian neuroelectric sense the reality she lived was a thing of extraordinary beauty. To disrupt it in any way would be...unthinkable.

I followed her through the door into the brig--and there lay the drone. Even through the phasic distortion there was no mistaking the terrible, twisted form into which the Borg had wrought her.

Lord have mercy! I drew a sharp breath through my immobile mouth: erased had been putting it mildly, when it came to what they had done to her face. Her facial ridges weren't just subtle as they might be on a hybrid of Cardassian ancestry: they appeared almost melted, as if from severe burns. I couldn't shut off my forward-facing photoreceptors. I just couldn't.

Thraz th'Valek rushed in behind me, taking up a position just centimeters from my side. One of the Aenar's antennae twitched in my direction. Could he feel my presence? Now wasn't the time for me to try to reach out with my mind to his, though: the drone was stirring.

The security guard spoke firmly to the drone from outside the forcefield. "Don't move--you're badly injured. You're also under heavy guard, and if you do anything we aren't expecting, we are under orders to fire."

The drone stared back at her, motionless and without response. Worse--much worse--was the pattern of her neural energy: never in a living being had I perceived something so close to the artificial energy generator I fed from...there was something too periodic, too precise in its oscillations. Utterly predictable...devoid of that which fed a being's flights of heart and fancy. Even a Vulcan's neural output, for all they claimed it to be otherwise, was poles apart from this stunted regularity.

Is there nothing left at all? Had we--had I--made the wrong choice? Would it have been more merciful to end her life that perhaps her spirit, shackled to this mutilated body, might be freed into some sort of hope in the hereafter?

Commander th'Valek took on a much gentler demeanor. "Do you know where you are?"

"Chin'toka, Advanced Escort, Starfleet vessel designate 27421," the drone intoned. "This drone must return to the Collective."

"You don't belong to the Collective," Sei informed him. "You...come from somewhere in Cardassian space. Do you remember your name?"

"We are Borg, designation Six of Twenty."

Sei shook her head, lowering her voice. "No...not your designation. The name you had before you were assimilated. Your Cardassian name." The doctor disabled the universal translator, asking a question in a sibilant-laden tongue that sounded at moments almost like Old Church Slavonic to my auditory receptors--but I knew it to be Cardassian. I'd learned a few phrases myself during the war, and recognized Sei's question as, "What is your family name?"

For a moment the drone froze. Then her head twitched side to side in an awful, mechanical way, like a broken maintenance robot. Something--some emotion stirred within her for the first time, a primal amalgam so overwhelming that I could find no words to describe it. My claws dug deep into my palms. Her mouth worked in the same artificial rhythm--soundlessly at first, and then, finally, something emerged. "Ta--ta--ta--ss--Tassok--Tassok--Tassok--"

Suddenly her lone eye went wide and a strangled scream ripped from her throat. Her body stiffened and she fell back to the bunk with a metallic clatter. Whatever light--whatever true life--had entered her neural pattern had faded. And she herself had faded from consciousness, looking for all the world to be dead, though my senses told otherwise.

Sei and Ludjira worked furiously to stabilize the insensate...Tassok?...as Thraz bolted from the room, clutching his head as if it had suddenly erupted in a horrible migraine. Maybe it had.

I couldn't help it: I did the same, telekinetically throttling myself all the way out of the brig, past the antechamber, and into the hallway. There I crouched down, threw back my head, and let out a glass-shatteringly high-pitched shriek of anguish.



I sat down in my ready room, feeling as though someone had turned the ship's artificial gravity field up much too far. We had arrived in the Draylon system, where we would soon beam the tormented drone for treatment...but there was one more thing I had to do before I transferred custody to the rehabilitation facility.

Admiral ch'Harrel and I had put in a request to one of my fleetmates, a Cardassian exchange officer who might have the connections to locate a Tassok somewhere in the former Cardassian Union who was missing a mother, a wife, a daughter. He had found one--and now I instructed the computer to open a channel to the CDS Ari Otarrak, Gul Selim Tassok commanding.

The Cardassian onscreen was one of the young guls--a man who had never served in the pre-war Cardassian Guard. He wore the simpler armor favored by many guls who stood against the True Way.

Gul Tassok leaned forward, eyes wide, as if hoping to relieve a parched tongue in the desert. I tried to imagine, as I beheld Gul Tassok's visage, what his child might have looked like once. "What news do you have about my daughter?"

I hadn't even had a chance to introduce myself, so I did, buying myself just one more moment before I dropped the bomb on him. "My name is Alexei Ivanovich Strannik, commander--" I paused. How could I name my ship before this man--its name that of a victory against Cardassia in the Dominion War? "Of the ship that found your daughter."

Oh, Lord, how would he react? I'd heard the stories of families that disowned the victims of assimilation outright--even demanded their deaths. "She was taken by the Borg," I said, "and she's in very serious condition."

Gul Tassok's reaction was swift--and utterly heartbreaking. Berat had warned me about this: as much as Cardassian culture claimed to disavow emotion in favor of pragmatism, when it came to their families, Cardassian men were far more demonstrative than socially encouraged in many human cultures. "My baby--my Minda! Ten years...don't tell me it's been ten years with them..."

Tassok broke down. Just as Berat had said, the man made no effort to hide his tears. And why should he? I could make myself appear to weep if need be...but to hide my natural reactions until I was alone--it tore at me sometimes, to never 'laugh' or 'cry' as instinct compelled. I would ask the same of no one.

So I sat quietly, my gaze respectfully averted, and allowed Gul Tassok to compose himself when he felt ready. Once the gul looked up at me again, I confirmed the bad news. "By all indications...yes, it's been years. The physical and psychological trauma are extensive. We are transferring her to our rehabilitation facility in the Draylon system--"

Tassok slammed his palms into his desk and shot to his feet so fast the camera almost didn't keep up. "My daughter will not go to some facility! She belongs at home! The Borg had her for ten years and there is no way in the freezing tundra that I'll let the Federation keep her from me too!"

Oh, the terror in his eyes--how could he fear what would give her the best chance of survival and some degree of psychological recovery? And then I comprehended the root of his fears. "Gul Tassok...I can't say I understand in the same way you do, but in the part of Earth where I grew up, there was a time when the state and the intelligence apparatus corrupted the medical profession and used it for political purposes.

"I give you my personal assurance that your daughter will be treated with dignity. I know you want her at home. I want that to happen as soon as possible. But I...have seen her. And there's a great deal of work that will have to be done before she can make the transition into society, even with the best home care." And I had no doubt that with the Cardassian family ethos, the services available for in-home treatment were quite a bit more extensive, and more often used, than those on Earth. "She won't be a prisoner. But she'll need her family to make decisions on her behalf until she's ready."

"I will be there in two days," Tassok declared. "Tomorrow! I will put in my retirement application at once! I am not going to spend another moment away from my girl!"

I focused a somber expression on the Cardassian gul. "Sir...it's going to be very, very difficult for you, especially in the beginning. But..." I debated whether or not to tell him. But I had to give the distraught father some sort of hope--something to sustain him through the painful weeks, perhaps years, ahead. "She doesn't seem to remember much of who she is...but she did remember her family name. That's something not everyone in her situation has."

Gul Tassok nodded. "I...understand. Still--family is all. More than my career. More than my life. I will be there. Thank you, Captain Strannik, for bringing back my daughter."

"You are welcome, Gul Tassok."

But I only brought back her body, I thought as the grieved Cardassian closed the channel, and I leaned back into my chair, exhausted. It would take the love of a father to bring back her soul.
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Last edited by gulberat; 02-25-2013 at 09:40 AM.
Ensign
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 8
# 15
02-27-2013, 12:48 AM
The Lieu- sorry, the Commander (I have to get used to saying that!) was easy to pick out. This was Risa, after all, planet of flower-printed sarongs and fruity drinks with little umbrellas in them. The drab and the dangerous stand out, and the Commander (yes! I remembered!) is both in an unsteady mix. She was an angular, hairless sort of woman, all hips and chin and shoulders, with blotchy, jaundiced skin, like she'd been dipped in acid by the topknot. Among the bright colors and flowing silks, she stuck out in that moving, brown leather bodysuit - it covered her all the way to the tips of her hair, but she did like to draw the faceplate back in social situations. She looked like a Jem'Hadar shock trooper in a toy store. It was hilarious. I had to hug her.

"Congratulations, Commander!" I squealed out as I ran across the sand and wrapped her in the tightest hug I could. She tensed up like a copper-bondium-platinum alloy coil under a light photonic charge, all rigid back and pained expression. Eventually she patted me on the back, mechanically, and jerked out a "You too, Lieutenant," before peeling me off of her body like I was an unwelcome second skin. "Promotions all around, it would seem. I just got back from checking in with the Admiral. Who knew a reward involved this much paperwork?"

"But it's Risa, Commander!" I was getting better at the title thing, I could just feel it. "You should see Seichu, she's confusing everyone at the firewalking pit. Buried up to her neck. Lyell's in the clinic after the fight last night. Half a bruise, she is. It's wonderful! Can't you just relax for once?"

"No can do, Lieutenant Judun," she said. She was holding a datapad under one armored brown arm, and flashed it up to me. I could recognize the lined face of Doctor Dorig even in profile. "Oh, no," I whimpered, "They've scheduled you for psych tests again?" I mean, yeah, the Commander is of a particularly weird kind of species - if it even is a species, there's definite evidence for genetic tampering. But she can't help what she is, and she does good work even if it does leave her a little scattered sometimes. Hell, when you look at it, none of our little band is particularly unbroken: Lyell is walking post-traumatic stress disorder, Seichu is a deprogrammed cult member, and T'Pame is... well, Vulcan. Me? I'm Osroe. I think that's a disorder in and of itself.

"Every time I get a new berth, it seems. Which is even more paperwork. I have to put in for requisitions, once I actually decide what kind of ship I'd like to Captain next. Provided they don't peg me as incurably insane or insatiably hungry for the mnemonic juice of the innocent, that is." She sighed a great, Commander sigh, as if her lungs were pressed flat by an incalculable weight of stone. "This may take a while, Osroe. Might as well enjoy your shore leave."

"About that," I said, tapping my elegantly manicured finger against my elegantly molded chin, "I have a little side project I'd like to see done, before we go back to scampering about the universe getting shot by all and sundry. Before they reassign the Compulsion, think I could borrow the runabout? I've got Anderson coming with me and everything. See, there's this guy on Hotep IV, kind of a nut, huge biological collection that I've been itching to get my tricorder into..."

I laid it all out for her. How could she resist? The Celeii Sky Dragon had been thought extinct for decades! If this guy had one in medical stasis, then I'm certain I could clone the species back to a healthy breeding population in no time. All it required was a little negotiation, and who would be better at buttering up an overeducated hermit than blonde, beautiful, freshly-tanned science officer Osroe Judun? All I'd really need to do is nip some samples, and voila - one extinct species, ready to serve.

Of course I was approved. Half the crew was on Risa already, and as much as I love the place (and the people, and the drinks, and watching Commander Mnemophage bake in the sun), I was already feeling that itch at the back of my knees that comes when there's something more important I should be doing. So it was the very next day that me and Brian Anderson beamed back aboard the Compulsion - the lovely, black-painted, beat-to-hell Nova that we had all called home for the last year and change - slipped onto her well-appointed runabout and flew right out to talk one cranky old biologist out of his extinct apex predator.

Transwarp is an odd place, especially for a Trill. Ever felt that there's a pothole inside you, growing larger with every bump and rustle? But it's blessedly short (usually), and we popped right out in the Gamma Orionis system before we even had time to replicate some breakfast. Brian is a nice sort of fellow, very courteous, an old-style English gentleman - it was actually him who insisted on coming with me, out of some outdated notion of chivalry, I suppose. Or he liked me. Bundle of repression, that guy. Still, I can replicate my own eggs, and left Brian at the helm while I attended to the very important business of eating (and studying up on my Celeii animal cell biology). We switched only when he was perfectly certain I was absolutely satisfied - a gentleman! And not that bad looking - and so it was me who got the first long-range sensor readings on Hotep IV.

And me who almost fell out of her seat at the sight of Borg debris circling the inhabited world. There were colonists down there! I had to interrupt Brian's tea, at least long enough to get him to notify Starfleet, while I increased our speed and collated the data as it came in. A lot of wreckage, and in a state where I couldn't readily identify what it had belonged to. It was Borg to the buttons, though, from the right angles and gunmetal finish to the ugly green gases spewing out of its wrecked interior. A big, stretched ring of former menace - perhaps a Cube, or several Spheres - circling the planet like a closing fist of doom. And none - no, one life sign. Something had hit this thing hard, and Starfleet had no idea it happened. We knew why they came here... but what had beaten them down?

We pulled out of warp directly over the planet, sensors agog, Brian on the horn with Starfleet appraising them of the situation. We were ordered to remain in orbit and continue to take readings, while a science vessel would be dispatched to check on the planet itself. I agreed wholeheartedly - doesn't take a beautiful genius Trill to gather that two officers in a runabout are the wrong sort of people to walk into a potential foothold situation. And there was still that one life sign, all alone in his sealed and drifting portion of wreckage. You could almost feel bad for the guy - except that, as a Borg drone, he probably wasn't feeling anything for himself anymore.

I continued to poke him with the sensors, though. Definitely male, probably of Vulcan or Romulan origin, and the only reason he survived is because he was, well, halfway to a machine. The section of wreckage he was stuck in was some sort of exterior weapons platform - he was sealed in, no way to regenerate, no light, heat or power, effectively in stasis. Once we got some proper equipment we could see about disconnecting and removing some of his implants - he'd sure have a story to tell, once he got used to being the only man in his own head again. And almost as if in anticipation of rescue, I saw the little dot of wreckage light right up - minimal power reserves, enough to get the lights on, as if telling the universe, hey! I'm here, I'm waiting for you!

Except then he shot us.

We weren't in any way expecting it. Sensors showed no torpedoes, no way there was enough power to support a beam weapon, but it was none of the above - a new sort of projectile that fired quick and came at us screaming through the black, dark on dark and difficult to target. We made a stab at it with the phasers but then it was on us, connecting with an all-consuming crash that ate our aft shields and pierced the hull. Then the wreckage read no life signs... and our runabout read three.

I turned to check on Brian just in time to see it reaching for him. Ghastly white face, half-burnt, a leering black-fanged monster inside - and it had Brian by the throat! I shot him, I did, all sympathy gone and burned out but what did it matter? Brian fell to the floor, grabbing at his throat, and I could see by the labored breathing - by the little black veins already twining up his face - that it got him. And he looked at me with this absolute shame, like it was all his fault and said, "Please, miss, think of your own safety," and that's when I knew I couldn't shoot him. I was never very good at shooting anything. I just shut the door to the aft compartment and blew the controls from the outside. There would be a ship here soon, after all. They'd get him in time. We'd be fine.

We weren't fine. That projectile - boarding pod - whatever, it had done a number on us but good. I could see one of our nacelles just drifting out in front of us, sheared right off, and the other wasn't responding. Just grazed the power system at that, taking out one of the buffers and making the EPS conduits do a crazy realignment dance just to keep all the systems in place. Engines were right out, and we were bleeding power. Drifting closer and closer to Hotep IV, just one more piece of debris among our brethren - but unlike them, our orbit was decaying. We had two days, six hours, forty-four minutes and counting before our poor little runabout kissed the atmosphere and killed us both - providing, of course, that the environmental systems lasted that long.

Provided we did. Oh, Brian, why did you have to go and get yourself assimilated? I couldn't help it: I hit the comms, spoke as cheery as I could, smiling because I know you can hear it even if you can't see it. "Hello in there," I chirped, "How are we holding up?"

Horrible gasping. Raw, wretched, wet sounds, like a steak being cut with a cricket bat. "Never better," he growled. "Atmosphere is sealed. I have the replicator. I'm certain I can last forever. Would you do me the great favor of decompressing the aft compartment?"

"No can do, sweetie. Too much paperwork." Still smiling, always smiling.

"But of course. Then please beam yourself to ground. I'd rather they find one drone than two, after all." It sounded like it hurt to breathe, let alone speak. Something had gone horribly wrong with his voice.

I did a quick checkup of the power reserves. Bad, and getting worse. Not that I couldn't still engage the transporter; I could, but that would cut life support from two days to about fifteen minutes, and in his state - in any state - he'd be dead before help arrived. They can do great things with Borg these days. We've all learned so much. They'd get to us in time, and he'd be back to his prim, chipper self. Iced tea on the beach, and a girl that doesn't mind that it clinks when they kiss.

So I lied. "Too far gone for that, mister. You're going to have to deal with me for a while yet. I've got a distress beacon up and you rang Starfleet, we'll be good, okay? If you start hearing voices, you can tell them where to shove it."

"That's what I worry about, miss. They know very well where to shove it." Another bout of horrid gasping. "I'm very glad there's no mirror back here. Please don't engage the video." So of course that's exactly what I did, and there was poor Brian Anderson, a fallen soldier in Tactical red, hand over his throat like it was stuck there. He was already going white. Hair falling out. Little black bits sticking out of the corners of his mouth like a half-swallowed spider. I cut the feed and that was when I broke, big warm tears, and I think he heard me too. Why else would he cut the comms?

I tried to keep busy. Did a complete scan of the planet's surface, down to every last ant and fungal colony. Would you guess there wasn't a single drone anywhere? I could even pick up that Sky Dragon, one heartbeat per hour, all alone on a little island well away from the rest of the world. Hi there, little guy. Sleep well. Except by that point transporting even one person was out of the equation; I had underestimated the compounded effect of the power drain. Make it one day and that was stretching it. At least we'd never see planetfall. I set a program in place to kill non-essential systems in cascading order of importance. We'd have time. They'd find us. We'd be fine.

I tried to sleep. You have no idea how weird that is for me. There's this little metal button, see, nestled right up where the spinal column meets the skull, designed, tested and implemented by yours truly as the most reasonable cure for a lifetime's worth of insomnia. I max out at two, two and a half hours of sleep a night. Just fine on a starship. Pretty awful in a derelict runabout. When I managed it, it was fitful. When I didn't, I was pacing my little six-by-six foot coffin, checking how bad the systems were at, watching that stupid nacelle get farther and farther away from us, watching Hotep IV get closer in the viewscreen, trying not to eat off all my fingernails. Every now and again I would check on Brian, just a little Hey, Sweetie, but all was quiet back there and I couldn't check visuals, I just couldn't.

I forget what I was doing - checking one of the subsystems, shutting down the weapons, something - but in time, all too short a time, something started banging on the aft compartment door. Something. Because I did open comms, "Hey, Sweetie?" but what responded said "Release us!", and it was using Brian's voice. Something there, but not anyone I knew. Shut it down. Nobody needs that. They'll just give him a little stun when they get here, gentle as gentle is, and then he'll wake up in some sickbay wondering where did the hours go? We'd be fine. Where was that damned ship?

Bang, bang, bang went the doorway. I kept working. Shields were down to absolute minimum needed to keep the microdebris from piercing the hull. All it would take would be a breath to knock us over, spin us into one of those Cube chunks, wham, gone. Wham went the aft door, again and again, like a metronome. I could hear him calling through the door. "You will comply. Release us. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." Didn't even have the accent anymore. Wouldn't that be a funny thing, a Borg drone with an English accent? I'm pretty sure I laughed.

Hunger came quicker than thirst, but thirst is always more ravenous. He did have the replicator back there, after all. Before long I was smacking my lips and sucking on the ends of my hair. Long range sensors were the next to crap out - bye bye, hours of scanning the depths of space for anything like a rescue - and already I could almost begin to see the lights start to dim. He just never stopped with the banging, the yelling. I started to yell back, after a while, Shut Up, Just Shut Up, but that only made it worse, knowing I was listening. He started using my name - "Osroe Judun, you can not continue this pointless persistence" - and I thought I heard parts of the accent start to creep back into Brian's voice. See? Getting better by the minute.

Short range sensors died next, leaving me with nothing more than dim running lights and the visual feed from directly outside the runabout. Without having to worry about maintaining those non-essential systems, I busied myself with rigging up a makeshift water still using the left sleeve of my uniform, a boot, and a console coolant tank. And it was going quite well, too, until the gravity died on me, spewing big grey gobs of indigestible silicon-saline liquid into the cabin like the tears of all my fallen hopes. Wham went the aft door, and I could feel it in the deck plates beneath me.

"This ship is dying, Osroe," shouted the thing that was Brian Anderson, "but we do not have to die with it."

That got to me. I hit the comms - visuals, audio, all of it, uncaring of the power drain - and just started yelling. Listen Mister, and then a lot of well-meaning but truly desperate defiance, because the truth was I was scared out of my half-ruined uniform, I was thirsty, I was wired on adrenaline, I can never ever sleep and no one was coming to save us. The last functioning parts of the console gave us maybe four hours at this point, even with the cascade shutdown, at which point environmental systems would die for good and then maybe, maybe half an hour. The cold would get me before the oxygen did. Didn't know if that was a good thing or not. Didn't care.

They keep telling you of the risks, when you join Starfleet, especially in this day and age. War going on, after all. Terrible risks, wonderful rewards. And after the Host program decided they wanted nothing to do with a vain, insomniac Trill, who else could I count on to expand my education to the levels it deserved? You never do think about the dying, though. If you do, you always figure it's going to be a quick thing - disruptor fire, exploding consoles, maybe flash decompression. But the lights were going, the gravity was gone, and I was spinning above an uncaring world while the animate corpse of my former friend beat on the door and tried to convince me to just give up.

But you see, I couldn't. It had him now, I could see it. Still in Tactical red, bless his heart (or what was left of it), pale skin corpse white and contrasted against the black metal bits eating their way along his formerly familiar features. Hair only in patches, now. Centurion plates growing over his cheeks. Green glass frosting one blue eye, crack by crack as I watched. And he knew I was watching, and he looked at me.

"We know about you, Osroe Judun," he said to me. "We have the experience of Brian Anderson and we know you do not wish to die here." Damn right I didn't. And I didn't want him to die, either, and none of us would if I could help it. "Sleepless Osroe. You cannot stand one night of unconsciousness. How will you endure an eternity of nothing?" He lifted one white hand, skeleton outlined in hard black metal. "The one you call Brian Anderson is part of something vast and undying. His shell will adapt to the conditions of this failing vessel. You do not have to die here. You do not have to die at all. You will be assimilated." And damn it, he was beginning to make sense.

So I killed the link. "Go to hell," I whispered, and once again, he began to smash against that bulkhead, heavy and regular as a piston. Three hours, forty minutes to go. I was beginning to get the mother of all headaches. I checked and - yep, environmentals beginning their steady decline. Could be the noise, could be the stress, could be the beginning of oxygen starvation. Borg nanites often serve as CO2 scrubbers inherent in the lungs, and can erect filter modules in minutes. Internal heat sources can draw from ingested biomass. In extreme cases, a drone can enter a state of hibernation which can survive exposure to vacuum. If given enough time to generate the needed components. Like, say, three hours, forty minutes.

All I'd have to do is open the door. Just cut it open and I'd live forever. Kind of.
I kicked myself to the viewscreen and looked out at space. We had finally stopped our spin, caught in the gravity well of the nearby planet, with our nose pointed blessedly outward to the rim of the uncaring universe. The law of averages assumes that somewhere out there, if not now then at some close future time, someone like me will come round again. Maybe she'll find berth on a starship, maybe she'll make some odd friends. Maybe she'll be able to sleep through the night and get joined to something older and greater. Bang bang on that door, brother Brian. It's not such an odd concept after all.

At T-minus two hours it began to get pretty chilly. I mean, I've been in some cold places, and you don't traipse around the universe in a miniskirt without expecting environmental resistance, but there's cold and then there's black void of space cold. I did actually take my jacket off, set my phaser to the lowest setting and fuse that sleeve back on with a bit of repurposed chipwork from one of the dead consoles. Ugly looking thing, but it helped, a little. If I cupped the frost on the viewscreen in my hands, my body heat would warm it enough to drink. It tasted like desperation.

Bang. "You are failing, Osroe Judun. You will be assimilated. You will live through this." Yes, he had definitely reacquired the English accent. Wonder if this is a new adaptation? Wonder if it serves a purpose? At T-minus one hour I had to hug my legs in to keep warm, rub all up and down my spots to keep the blood flowing. Tricorder showed a distinct threat of frostbite if I couldn't maintain an adequate temperature. Bang went the closed door. He seemed to be doing all right in there. Keeping active.

Frost on the viewscreen, like white wings over dark sky. T-minus thirty minutes.

I had my phaser in my hands then. I had some half-cocked idea to gather loose materials and see about getting something embering, completely forgetting that they design these things to be fire retardant and I really shouldn't be using up my oxygen in any case. Or maybe I just didn't want to die, because when what used to be Brian said for the thousandth time, "Resistance is futile," all I could respond with was a tired little, "Sure".

There was a strike to shake the universe, a wham that coursed through the entire vessel. I had my phaser pointed at the door and my eyes at the stars. All those little fires. The whole universe seemed to shudder from some all-consuming impact..

And then the beautiful, bulbous blue saucer of a Horizon-class Starfleet vessel just filled the screen, spearing slow from right to left like a hand breaking the surface of a lake. Grasping a drowning man's hair. Pulling him up. With a stasis field, as it turned out. Like all good drowning men deserve.

There was a tick from my communicator, and I slapped it, frantically. "Starfleet Runabout Twitch, this is the USS Fugue. How's it going in there?"

I floated, goggling. "Lyell?!" I practically screamed.

"Just the one. Turns out old Dorig knew the Captain better than she let on. This beauty was waiting for us almost before the paperwork was done, and we figured we'd stop by and pick you up. You and our runabout. Which you're fixing, you know. What happened out here?"

The tears were freezing on my cheeks even before I knew they were there. "Anderson... Brian is..."

"Going to be fine," interrupted Seichu. Lovely, alien Seichu with her voice like cracking walnuts. "Medical scans show that not even half his organs are integrated yet. You're going to love this ship, my companion. Let's get you home."

"Osroe Judun!" cried a muffled English cyborg. I was right. It was kind of funny. "You will not escape. Resistance is futile!"

"Sure," I said, "But better than the alternative. Fugue, two to beam up." And with a great rush and sparkle, I became the light.

Last edited by mussapiens; 02-27-2013 at 05:51 PM. Reason: Formatting.
Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 587
# 16
02-28-2013, 03:18 AM
Personal log: Tylha Shohl, officer commanding USS King Estmere NCC-92984

The air is hot, stale and dead. We move in a tight, nervous huddle through pale green underwater light, through the maze of metal that is the Borg ship.

We are, I reflect, at least fully representative of the Federation. I've brought my medical officer and my four assault team leaders with me; so, I and fellow Andorian Nozys Hyhr are at the front, the two humans, Soledad Kleefisch and Dr. Samantha Beresford, in the middle of the group, and the Tellarite Lolha and imperturbable Vulcan Sirip guard the rear.

I don't know what we're guarding against. Normally, aboard a Borg ship, the air sparks and chitters with unseen energies as the Collective talks to itself... but, here, there is nothing. Our breathing, our footfalls on the deck, are the loudest noises, save for some odd creaks and groans deep in the structure. Our footfalls are light. The artificial gravity on board the Borg probe is weak, and getting weaker. This ship is dying, maybe dead already... and we have no idea why.

We round a corner in the twisting, turning corridors, and pause while Samantha takes more readings with her tricorder. Her other hand holds a phaser pistol in an unbreakable grip. "There's a big chamber... about twenty meters ahead," she says. "Possibly a vinculum...."

I nod. The controls of a Borg ship are decentralized - effectively, the whole ship is a node of the Collective - but every control system needs some access points, some traffic control, and the Borg vinculum meets that need. If there are answers, we might find them there. And, then, there's the question of the feeble life signs we detected, somewhere in this area....

We turn another corner. Nozys's eyes narrow and she whips up her phaser rifle to ready, but doesn't shoot. The Borg drone is slumped in a regeneration alcove, inert, looking dead. It's the first drone we've seen so far.

"No life signs," says Samantha.

I sidle forward to look at the body. The front of its chest is scorched and scarred, penetrated in places by weapons fire... "Looks like plasma burns," I mutter, aloud. Samantha comes to stand beside me, her tricorder humming as she records the scene.

"Who else uses plasma weapons?" Lolha asks. "Romulans? Would the Roms do this?"

I shake my head. "Not enough to go on." But I look around. The damage... The Collective doesn't care for the aesthetics of its ships, any more than I worry about the colour of my own brain... but there is scarring on the metal walls, burn marks on the cables and the conduits. There has been a battle here... and the Borg lost. But who won?

We make our careful way forwards, and then I stop. Nozys and I exchange glances. "You hear that?" I ask.

Nozys nods. "Hear what?" asks Lolha, fretfully.

"I... cannot hear anything," says Sirip. Oh, those Vulcan ears: so elegant, but not actually all that good.

I can hear it, faintly, up ahead; a sharp, rhythmic, mechanical noise, a regular popping sound. I take a firmer grip on my phaser pulsewave rifle, signal the others to move forward with me.

No doors on a Borg ship, just an open archway leading to the vinculum... and a scene of utter devastation. The central control node is smashed, half-melted, and around it lie the bodies of drones. The walls of the chamber are seared and blackened, and the signs are obvious: more plasma fire.

And now we can all hear the steady popping sound; my antennae twitch as I locate the source. The noise is coming from the bulbous shape of a Borg plasma turret; a mechanical relay deep inside it is clicking, over and over again, trying insensately to fire the thing, though its energy reserves are long since depleted.

I stand by the turret for a moment, and try to recreate the scene in my mind's eye, to try and understand what it was firing at... and nothing makes sense. I look at the bodies strewn across the floor. Some of them are clutching at each other, as if for comfort... or in combat. Most of them have weapon-arms outstretched. Samantha is scanning, again....

I kneel down by one body, and my eyes widen in shock. The face is blue-grey, one eye concealed by some chunk of Borg machinery, the white of the other webbed with mechanisms... but there is no mistaking the two antennae that spring from the head, even though Borg circuits twine around them like obscene ivy. This was an Andorian. And now... now he is a Borg, and he's dead. And the plasma burns on his chest armour... I look back at the turret. There is no other explanation. Its muzzle is pointed directly at the vinculum's control node.

"I think," I say slowly, "this probe... killed itself."

---

We follow the signal on Samantha's tricorder towards the life signs... and we follow a trail of dead Borg drones, all battered and burned, some locked together in attitudes of struggle. One drone has literally torn off the head of another, and the headless carcass has its arm-mounted plasma guns buried in the crater that was its killer's midriff.

It is now more urgent than ever that we find out what has happened. And soon: the systems aboard the derelict probe continue to decay.

"In here," Samantha says, through bloodless lips. We step through the archway -

In a small room, one regeneration alcove is occupied. The Borg drone looks as though it used to be a human male; it is tall and powerfully built, but it's impossible to say how much of that is its original body. Implants and reconstructions have covered most of it; its limbs are swathed in exoskeletal armour, half its head is machinery, the remaining half is grey and lifeless-looking. But it stares as we approach it, and the one visible eye flickers with some sort of awareness. The grey lips move.

"I am Three of Eight, quaternary affix to overmatrix nine zero seven," the drone says. Then the grey face twists with some sort of agony, and its voice changes as it says, "Jonathan Forestal. Commander, science division, USS Calypso. Help me." The drone shudders again, and it says, "I'm Simon Kriegmayer. I need -" It stops.

I turn to look at Samantha. She seems as baffled as I am. "I don't know -" She frowns at her tricorder. "This is the source of the life signs, all right. But these readings - I don't know how to interpret them."

"Whatever killed the rest of the Borg is affecting him," says Lolha. "We should find out what it is."

"I'd need to do a full physical examination, at least," Samantha says doubtfully. "We could try standard liberation procedures, as well."

I look at the drone. The one human eye flickers with motion, but the dead half-face has no answers for me. "Standard isolation process, first," I say. "Burn its subspace transceivers, take out the assimilation nanoprobes. Make it safe." As safe as any Borg can be.

Then I hear something, a faint whistling sound at the edge of awareness... and my antennae stir in the slightest of breezes, riffling the dead air. "Make it quick," I add. "Hull breach, somewhere... the structural integrity is failing."

Samantha has her laser scalpel in her hand. She does a quick, efficient job of butchery. Severed neural cables drop to the deck, twitching like live things. I pull out my own tool set, scan the transceiver nodes, burn them out one by one. There are a lot of them; this drone's brain had strong links to the Collective. The grey face spasms slightly as each node dies. By the time we have finished, the breeze has grown stronger, a hollow wheezing sound filling the dead corridors of the ship.

"Let's move," I say. I slap my combadge. "Prepare to beam up away team and one Borg drone, full bio-safety protocols in effect. Once we're done, transport antimatter demolition charges and sterilize." The probe ship, dead though it looks, can't be left intact; no telling who might come across it in the future, repair it, start the whole loathesome Borg thing up again. "Acknowledged." Anthi Vihl's voice is cool and professional as always.

The air shimmers. The dead room around us fades away in the haze of the transporter beam.

A minute after we transport, the antimatter charges beam in and detonate. The Borg probe vanishes in a million-degree ball of light, then fades slowly away, ionized gas dispersing into the void between the stars.

---

"I still don't know what's happening," Samantha mutters.

We are clustered around the bio-bed in the sickbay, the one that's been rigged as a Borg regenerator... and a confinement cell. Samantha is staring at her psychotricorder, and her face wears a worried frown. On the bed, the Borg drone is a grey-black inert shape, one muscle twitching in the jaw, the single organic eye watching, gleaming....

"Who are you?" I ask it, again.

"Three of Eight," the drone replies. "Forestal. Kriegmayer. Three of Eight. Forestal. Kriegmayer...." The voice tails off.

"As far as I can make out," Samantha says, "it's telling the truth. Each time."

I sigh. "What about... other checks? Objective checks? Was there a USS Calypso lost to the Borg, and was there a Forestal - or a Kriegmayer - on it?" I look again at the drone. "Is it possible," I say, speculating aloud, "that the Collective... transferred the memories of another person into this one? That it - merged - them, somehow?"

"I... don't see how, sir," says Samantha, thoughtfully. "Nor why. The Borg generally don't care about the individual lives they absorb... why would they do something like that?"

She stares ruefully at the psychotricorder. "I doubt that machine holds all the answers," says Soledad Kleefisch in her soft voice.

"Indeed," says Sirip. "I might, if necessary, attempt a mind meld -"

We all stare at him. "Are you out of your pointy-eared head?" Lolha demands.

"This drone is no longer connected to the Collective," Sirip points out, mildly.

I shake my head. "But he still has a head full of memories of being part of the Borg," I say, "besides whatever other identity confusion is going on. No. The risks are too great."

Sirip nods. "It was not something I was anxious to try."

"We need to try something," says Samantha. "Whatever is going on in his mind, it's not helping his body. If it wasn't for the Borg implants regulating his metabolism, his production of stress hormones would be damn near off the scale. I don't think we can run the risk of removing any more of the implants, at this stage."

I look down on the forbidding grey-black form of the drone, and wonder what to do. Would I want to live, like that? But standing orders are to reclaim and liberate people from the Borg, wherever it's possible... and, besides, this is our only clue to what happened on that probe. "Set the bio-bed to run the Borg's regeneration cycle," I tell Samantha, finally. "Let it... sleep. And let's go over whatever other evidence we have."

---

Time passes. Messages hurtle across subspace to the Federation's central databases, messages that take appreciable time, even at subspace speeds... King Estmere is a long way out on the fringes, many light-years from the nearest Federation base - and, we thought, light-decades from the Borg front. So what was a solitary probe doing, out here? And what happened aboard it? Questions, I think wearily to myself, staring at a PADD in my ready room. Questions, and no answers.

The answers we do get... confirm some things. The drone's physical characteristics and genetic coding match Jonathan Forestal, the science officer aboard the USS Calypso - and the Calypso is one of the many, many ships missing, presumed lost to the Borg. But there is nothing, yet, on the other name....

And there are more chilling details coming in. Samantha Beresford's scans were necessarily hurried and incomplete, but they yielded enough information to identify some of the dead Borg: more members of the Calypso's crew. The Andorian we found was, once, a Lieutenant Commander named Thereb Ysihl. I can't help feeling I remember the name from somewhere... I try to remember where or when we might have met....

Then my communications console chimes. Incoming message. I hit the button to accept, without noting the code giving the call's origin... and only then does it register: there is no code.

The face on the viewscreen is a familiar one; a sandy-haired human face, undistinguished except for the scar that runs down its right side - a bad scar, worse than my own, an obvious scar, that you're meant to notice. So what, I always wonder, is it meant to distract me from?

"Hello, Vice Admiral Shohl," says Franklin Drake. "It's been too long."

I stare wordlessly at the face for a moment. I don't believe for a second that it's his real face; I'm not at all convinced that "Franklin Drake" even exists, except maybe as a cover and a hologrammatic disguise, for one person or many people, working for an organization that almost certainly isn't called Section 31. "So he's one of yours," I say, finally.

"Who is?"

"Forestal... or Kriegmayer. Whoever it is that we've got. Our records say Forestal, but if you people are involved -"

"Well," says Drake, "both of those names raised... alarms, in some quarters, when you started asking after them."

"So what is your involvement?" I ask, shortly.

Drake smiles. "I hope you're sitting comfortably, Vice Admiral," he says, "because I'm going to tell you a story. And you're not going to like it."

He tells me a story. I don't like it.

---

I march into the sickbay, motion to Samantha Beresford. "Drake called," I almost spit the words. "Wake him up."

Samantha's hands move on the console; the drone twitches on the bio-bed as the regeneration cycle ends. "So," Samantha says, "I suppose you want to be alone?"

"Drake said, make sure there are no witnesses," I say. "So - please, stay. Maybe we should get the whole crew in here."

Samantha shakes her head, a wry smile pulling at her mouth. "You realize he knows that's how you think?"

"I could wear out my life trying to second-guess Section 31," I say, "or I could just go ahead and do what I think's right." I walk up to the bio-bed. "You. Listen to me."

The one human eye turns in its dark socket. I take a deep breath. I've been told what to do.

"Apple green," I say. "The sound of glass breaking, honey on brown bread, a left hand in a right glove. Override."

For a moment, there is no reaction: then the still form on the bed shudders like someone on the edge of sleep, and awareness comes into that one eye. The drone raises his head, looks at me. "Andorian," he says. "So... a Starfleet ship?"

"USS King Estmere. I'm Tylha Shohl. And you are -?"

"Simon Kriegmayer." The eye closes, opens again. "Listen. First thing you do is, tell Drake it didn't work."

"What didn't?" Samantha asks. The drone glances at her, looks away again, fixes his gaze on me.

"The personality overlays," he says. "It's - sort of a combination of neurosurgery, hypnotherapy, and some stuff about the Vulcan katra that I don't think we're meant to know about... certainly not to use like this."

"So Jonathan Forestal... wasn't real? Just a cover identity?"

"More than that. A cover personality. The idea was, if I was... assimilated... then Forestal would be taken over by the Borg, but I - Kriegmayer - would remain free." A spasm passes over his face. "It didn't work. The Collective is too... too loud. A billion voices inside my head. It drowned out... every part of me."

"It must have done something, though." I'm speculating aloud, now. "The Collective knew something was wrong with you... they isolated you for study...."

"On the probe, yes," the drone - Kriegmayer - says. "It detected something, but it couldn't work out exactly where the problem was. So it detached me and all the former crew of the Calypso... some standard drones, too. Once we were out here, with access to the main body of the Collective severely limited - well, that's when things started to go wrong. That's when I started to regain some sort of control - but the others...."

"You triggered some sort of - defense reaction, I'd guess. Something that turns the Borg against defective drones. But the probe wasn't sure which parts of it were defective... so it tore itself apart from the inside."

Kriegmayer nods. "A sort of mental auto-immune disorder. We'd hoped to get something like that happening inside the Collective as a whole... but it won't work. Too loud. And the Collective will have learned something from what happened... it'd be harder next time...." The voice fades to a whisper, then comes back sharper. "There won't be a next time. Tell Drake I quit."

"Wait a minute." Samantha's face is slowly clouding with anger. And all I can do is confirm her worst fears.

"Yes," I say, "Section 31 set the Calypso up. To be assimilated by the Borg." I look down on Kriegmayer. "In order to get their agent in place."

"Forestal didn't know what he was doing," Kriegmayer says. "I knew... the guilty knowledge... that's all mine."

"How many others?" Samantha demands. "This is one filthy Section 31 idea - how many others are out there? How many people? Damn it," she puts a hand to her suddenly pallid brow, "how do I even know that I'm really me? It could be any of us -"

"It could," Kriegmayer agrees, bleakly. "The process is - complicated. Expensive and difficult. But they might use it... wherever they see a need. I don't know. Maybe I'm the only one. Maybe there are hundreds. I don't know. You must understand, they wouldn't tell me. Operational security, need-to-know... I was part of this thing, and I didn't know." His voice is choked. "Jonathan Forestal was a good man. So were the others, the crew of the Calypso...."

"What happens now?" I ask.

Samantha shoots me a troubled look. "Drake won't let this get out," she says. "No way...."

"You can't prove anything," Kriegmayer says. "I'm just a liberated Borg drone with a bizarre fantasy. That's the story that'll get out, that'll be believed. No need for anything dramatic, no heroic death arranged for you and your ship.... I am so damned sick of this."

I look down on him. "You signed up for it. At the start."

"I thought it was right," Kriegmayer assents. "If it had worked... maybe I'd still think so."

The end justifies the means; the motto carved on the black heart of Section 31. But Kriegmayer is suffering, clearly: his soul ravaged by guilt just as his body is ravaged by the Borg prosthetics. "I don't know what to do with you," I say. "I'll... give Drake your message. Beyond that... I don't know."

---

Franklin Drake's face is uncharacteristically sober. Perhaps it is a real face, after all.

"We owe Simon a lot," he says, after a long pause. "I'd like to see he's properly taken care of. We're not monsters, Tylha."

"No," I say, "just people who know how to act like them. I don't know if that makes you better, or worse."

"You're a military officer." The face on the viewscreen regains its sly look: or is that just my imagination? "You've sent men out to die - you know that sacrifices have to be made, sometimes. For the greater good."

I say nothing. He might be right... but I remember Thereb Ysihl, now. Two years below me at the Academy; a bright young thaan, cheerful, a scion of one of those old Andorian military families... like my exec, Anthi Vihl. A quirk of fate, a shuffling of papers at Starfleet Personnel, and he might have been the one at my side on the command deck, and Anthi might have died with Borg implants wrapped around her soul. Did he deserve to be sacrificed like that? For the greater good?

"In any case," Drake says, after another long pause, "we'd like - I'd like - to do the right thing for Simon, at least. Come on, Tylha, you've seen him. Don't you think he's suffered enough already?"

"I honestly don't know," I say. "But there's one thing I can tell you. He doesn't think so."

---

Samantha Beresford's readings confirm Kriegmayer's wretched state. If he were still human, he would be virtually catatonic with stress-related illnesses. The Borg implants, though, hold him together, regulating his glands and hormones, keeping him intact in a prison of icy sanity. He is lying in the bio-bed, at the end of another regeneration cycle, his eye fixed firmly on the ceiling above, when I see him next.

"I don't know what to do," I tell him. "Officially, you're a Starfleet officer - we will do whatever we can. But I just - I just don't know."

I turn to go. From behind me, Kriegmayer says, "I do."

I turn back. He is sitting up, his eye intent on me now. "I'll need your help," he says. "It'll have to be you, or someone like you. Please."

"What can I do?"

"Did Drake tell you everything about how this thing works?"

I shake my head. "I very much doubt it."

He nods. "I can build a new persona... a new me. Reconfigure the personality overlay, is the technical term." His face is haunted, the one eye pleading. "Don't you see? It's the only way out. Kriegmayer is guilty, Forestal is... a fake. A new me... Three of Eight. Use the rudimentary personality of the Borg drone as a springboard to a new identity. Because being a Borg drone... an ex-drone... is the only way I can be innocent, ever again."

"But it'd just be another fake," I object. "Anyone - Drake, for instance - could bring you - um, Kriegmayer - back." My head is spinning with trying to follow his identities; I can't imagine what it must be like for him.

"That's where you come in," he says. "Drake must have told you how the sensory cues work."

"Yes," I say, slowly. "I name sensations, the words evoke memories in you, and those memories form a code that unlocks...."

"And you're an Andorian," Kriegmayer says, and his eye glitters with expectation, with pleading. "You have sensory memories that I don't have, that I can't have. Use those. Lock the door on Kriegmayer, and throw away the key."

My head is still spinning. I don't know what it means, for him. Absolution? Forgiveness of sins? Or death? Or maybe both? Does Simon Kriegmayer deserve forgiveness, or death? Does a new person deserve life?

I look at the pleading half-face, and I make my choice.

"Ever drink Dh'syara tunnel wine?" I ask.

"That stuff!" He pulls a face. "No way. I know how it's made."

"The light on Andoria's snows by planet-rise," I say. "A cup of warm tunnel wine. The taste of a thunderstorm far off, in my antennae. The feeling of intimacy, shen to zhen." I speak the last word with every ounce of authority I can muster. "Lockdown."

His eye closes. For a moment, I think he has stopped breathing. He sits on the bed, silent and still.

The door of the sickbay hisses open behind me. "What just happened?" Samantha demands. "His readings... his stress levels just suddenly dropped. Like you flicked a switch...."

I think I've just killed two men. Or no men. It all depends on your point of view.

The drone opens his eye and stands up, smoothly, efficiently. The voice that speaks is calm, measured, not Kriegmayer's... not quite. "I am Three of Eight," he says, "formerly quaternary affix to overmatrix nine zero seven, now a free agent. I would like to offer you my services. If accepted, I will serve loyally." The one eye glistens with unshed tears. "I have no wish to betray... ever again."
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?
Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 366
# 18
03-02-2013, 02:02 PM
"Admiral on the bridge."

Amber bars pulsed warningly around the ring of Washington's command center, an underrepresented color amid all the stark white, steel grey, and shades of blue on black. Through all its years of service and multiple refits, the Akira-class escort carrier had retained its original bridge module, in a style that hearkened back to an even earlier age of starships: cool, clean, and dangerous. No one setting foot on this deck would mistake it for the posh, soft-lit luxury of a Galaxy or an Emissary.

The thaav who'd just emerged from one of the rear turbolifts was also a product of another era. Fresh out of the Academy, he'd been thrust into the fire of the Dominion War, a war the Federation had come far too close to losing. Those flames had burned all the callowness out of a young ensign eager for battle and glory, forging him into a disciplined officer. He'd seen the true face and cost of war, lost good friends and comrades to it, and come to appreciate both peace and those who remained. Now the fire had come again, engulfing the whole quadrant - another war born of deception and misdirection, paranoia and old grudges, former allies set against each other in a burning house while the true enemies went unchallenged. The kind of war that one old soldier had hoped to never see again.

Fortunately, along with an admiral's bars came the authority to write your own orders. Which was why Washington was here, in Gamma Orionis, holding the line against a force that threatened to consume Federation and Empire alike while they were distracted.

Salroshan th'Gaav strode to the railing that separated the sunken center of the bridge from the rim and surveyed his officers. "Report."

"Debris field ahead, sir." Korrath had risen from the center seat at Roshan's arrival and now stood beside it. Decades of serving (and fighting and carousing and sometimes mourning) together had erased any strangeness from seeing the XO in a Starfleet uniform rather than a warrior's leathers, or doubts about his loyalty. "From mass and composition, a Borg sphere or a couple of probes. Also reading traces of Undine plasma and weapons fire, and a warp signature - all about twenty hours old."

Roshan nodded, lips and antennae quirking briefly. "I doubt they even slowed down." He circled the bridge but did not take his seat, instead facing the science station. "Full scan of the field, Mr. Curtis. If it's dead, we'll mark it on the charts and resume our patrol."

"Aye, sir." The science officer bent to his task. In moments, a false-color image of the smashed remains of the Borg vessel (or vessels) spread across the bank of displays. Roshan glanced at the main viewscreen, which showed none of this detail; most of the field was tiny fragments of dark Borg alloy, reflecting little or no light from the system's primary star, visible only when they drifted in front of the nearby gas giant. "No movement... no power sources... wait a second..." Brackets appeared on one of the monitors and expanded, zooming in on part of the field. A brighter dot appeared, with a few lines of text in thin tiny letters. "One lifesign, faint but steady."

"A survivor?" Roshan asked, moving to stand beside the lieutenant at his console. The two men were a study in contrasts, even more so as one was not technically a man at all; Command red and Science blue under their grey uniform yokes, cornflower blue and mahogany brown above their collars, feathery white bangs and tight black buzz-cut. The intensity in their eyes and expressions was the same, however, as Curtis narrowed the scan focus further. "What's it doing?"

"Just drifting. Looks like it - he - was blown clear." A few more passes and the pixelated blur became a recognizable humanoid figure. Curtis' dark eyes flicked to another set of readouts before making his report. "Klingon, sir."

Roshan straightened and half-turned to catch his exec's eye. Korrath was already looking at him expectantly. The admiral had only to nod.

"Phasers locked on target. Firing." A warning tone sounded as Korrath's finger touched a key. Outside, orange light speared out into the floating debris. Flesh and metal alike puffed into vapor at its touch, freeing a warrior's spirit to find its eternal reward. No one on the bridge said anything for a moment, each making their own silent observance.

"Thank you, Mr. Korrath, Mr. Curtis," Roshan acknowledged, nodding to each. "Helm, get us clear of the field and back on course." Now he finally did sit down, feeling every bit of his age, as the stars wheeled to port on the viewscreen. "Steady as she goes."

Washington's nacelles flared as the starship leapt back into warp, leaving one more war grave in its wake.
Join Date: January 2011

Last edited by hfmudd; 03-02-2013 at 02:06 PM.
Former PWE Community Team Lead
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 9,046
# 19
03-05-2013, 01:55 PM
It looks like resistance was futile when it came to this Literary Challenge! Bad pun, anyways, really outstanding work, all. Thank you for participating, and as always, please feel free to still contribute an entry even though #40 is going up... especially when you see the topic for #40

Cheers,

Brandon =/\=
Brandon "BranFlakes" Felczer | Former Community Team Lead for Perfect World Entertainment
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 178
# 20
03-05-2013, 02:06 PM
LC39: Drone Alone

Quote:
Captain's Log, Stardate 86893.33. The Lord English is currently exploring a rogue planetoid straddling the border between Gamma Orionis and unexplored space on the suggestion of Admiral M'Sarabi of the USS Pride Rock. Long range sensors detected a foundering Borg probe in its orbit. As Pride Rock's sickbays are already overworked reclaiming Borg drones, Lord English will help pick up the slack, and perhaps net some Borg salvage.
===

In the far reaches of space, the faint green glow of a derelict Borg probe illuminated for the first time in millenia a jet black planetoid making its way through the galaxy. The probe's light was soon joined by a brighter beam, as USS Lord English shone its bow floodlight on the probe. On the bridge of Lord English, Admiral Remus Lee consulted his chief medical officer and former Borg drone, Four of Thirteen.

"Four, what should we be expecting today in terms of resistance?" Lee asked.

Four consulted his wrist imager, a leftover from his days as a drone.

"Borg probe, interceptor variant. Structural integrity at 47%. Borg activity at or near 0%. Life signs indicate one possible survivor, but data is inconclusive at current range. Recommend an away team for closer examination," he replied.
"Admiral," First Officer Kay Taylor interjected. "The Borg probe is in a perilous state. Any away team that goes onto the probe must be kept small, and I cannot recommend that you be on that away team."
"Well, since you won't let me go on a clearly dangerous away mission, who do you think we should send?" Lee inquired.
---

Commander Sabrina Honda would rather not have to remember her time as a Borg drone, yet here she was, exploring a derelict Borg probe with the chief medical officer of the Lord English. It didn't help that Four of Thirteen kept calling her by her Borg designation, Ten of Twenty-Five, nor did it help that he still possessed most of the Borg exoskeleton the Borg assimilated into him. The worst thing about the whole ordeal, though, was that Four of Thirteen was her estranged grandfather, lost at the battle of Wolf 359 without ever seeing the birth of his son. She never could shake off her fear of the Borg, a liability which led to her assimilation at Vega IX. She was lucky to have escaped the Collective with the help of the Borg counter-agent, even if it did cost her her human legs. Now here she was, working with a liberated drone who spent twice as long in the Collective as she spent living.

"Structural integrity of the probe is dropping at a rate of 1% per minute. This probe will be uninhabitable within the half hour," she told Four.
"Ten of Twenty-Five, at the signal, access node 2 of 4 to shunt power from the interplexing beacon to the structural integrity field," Four replied.

As Sabrina and Four began transferring power from the probe's damaged systems, Sabrina wondered how life would have been different had Commander Edmund T. Honda, chief science officer under Admiral J.P. Hanson, stayed by his wife's side in Nagoya instead of meeting his fate at Wolf 359. Having spent forty years of his life as a drone, Four of Thirteen was now completely dependent on his Borg implants, and Sabrina was always afraid that at some point he would revert under Collective control and start assimilating people again.

"Approaching assimilation chamber. Lifesign erratic, species cannot be determined. Ten of Twenty-Five, be ready to provide fire support," Four orders.
"At the ready, commander," Sabrina replied as she drew her weapon. At times like these, she acknowledged that her time in the Collective reinforced her physical and mental constitution. She would no longer cower as she did that fateful day on Vega IX.

As Four brought down the bulkhead to the assimilation chamber, Sabrina leveled her weapon, ready to blast hostiles with a decisive plasma bolt. The assimilation chamber was littered with drone body parts, inert Borg technology, and fading consoles. In the middle, a scintillating puddle of Borg nanoprobes pooled at the bottom of an restraining table. Sabrina checked her tricorder in astonishment; the puddle was the source of the erratic lifesign.

"Commander, what do you make of this? This mass of nanoprobes is the lifesign that we've picked up on sensors," Sabrina exclaimed as she waved her tricorder over the mess of nanoprobes.
"Unknown lifeform or Borg technology emitting lifesigns," Four responded matter-of-factly. "Further investigation is neccessary."
"How do we bring it back to the Lord English? The transporters aren't able to get a lock on... whatever that is," Sabrina reminded Four.

In response, Four wrenched the bottom third of the restraining table off its mount. Sabrina rolled her eyes; her grandfather's legendary indelicacy apparently survived his assimilation. Four contacted the transporter room.

"Chief Moore, arrange for transport of personnel Four of Thirteen with unidentified lifeform and Ten of Twenty-Five to sickbay."
"Aye, commander," Moore replied. "Beaming you back now."

The two drones materialized on the transporter pad in sickbay. The table piece Four was carrying was empty; the nanoprobe puddle was nowhere to be seen.

"Chief, we're missing the lifeform we picked up off of the probe," Sabrina hailed. "Can you check the transport logs?"
"Two personnel and an unidentified lifeform were beamed off the probe," Moore replied. "It looks like the lifeform didn't survive the transport process. I'll check the transport buffer to see if it's there, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. It was a weak signal to begin with, even with Doc there to boost it."

Sabrina felt disappointed at the outcome of the mission. Four felt nothing, as his emotions were lost during his years in the Collective. Four contacted the bridge.

"Four of Thirteen to Admiral Lee. Mission to retrieve unidentified lifeform has failed. Borg probe is no longer of strategic value to the ship. Recommend destruction to prevent recovery by enemy forces."
"Welcome back, Doc," Lee replied over the comm channel. "It's a shame the mission wasn't more productive. Let's frag this hulk and call it a night. Get some rest, you two. It's back to pirate hunting tomorrow."

Lee closed the channel. Sabrina cheered up a little, as she could discern from Admiral Lee's tone that he was relieved that there were no casualties on the mission.

"Looks like our job's done, commander. Good night, grandfather, I'll see you tomorrow," she said as she exited the sickbay.

After putting the table piece on a counter, Four entered his regeneration alcove and began his regeneration cycle.

---

As the swing shift ended, the night shift started. Commander Newa, the Caitian chief technician, entered the bridge and took command. Commander Twimek, the Reman biochemist, entered the sickbay. Bowing ceremonially to Four of Thirteen, who was still in regeneration, he set about treating the first injury of the day, a crewman Griswold suffering from necrotizing facsiitis. None of the commanders noticed the expanding stain flowing from the ceiling of sickbay...

---

As Admiral Lee awoke the next morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic vermin.

Struggling to move his body off his back, he was acutely aware that he was unable to breath. As consciousness began to fade from his flailing body, Sabrina entered his quarters, searching for him. Recognizing the dire situation immediately, Sabrina grabbed the two-meter vermin from the bed and tossed him into the tub, at the same time filling it with water. Life returned to Admiral Lee as he extracted oxygen from the water with his new gills. Having saved Admiral Lee, Sabrina quickly darted off to check on the other crew members.

When she awoke, Commander Sabrina Honda found herself in the middle of a zoo, as overnight, the crew of the Lord English had been transformed into animals. Sabrina discounted Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome almost immediately, as her Borg implants failed to detect any viral contaminants. Sabrina left her room to make it to the bridge.

"Mrrrooooowwwwllll~"

When Sabrina turned the corner as she made her way to the bridge, a blue-haired cat rolled out of First Officer Taylor's room, struggling with what appeared to be myriads of tiny mites. As Sabrina knelt down to assist the cat, the mites jumped from the cat and onto her hand. These were not mites, she realized, but Borg nanoprobes, enlarged to macroscopic sizes and trying to assimilate her hand. She quickly smashed her hand into a wall console, electrocuting the giant nanoprobes. As a token of thanks, the blue-haired cat rubbed up against Sabrina's leg.

"I'm sorry to pull rank, Commander Taylor, but I need you to stay in your room," Sabrina said, as she carried the cat into the room. The cat purred as Sabrina replicated Feline Supplement 47 for her before leaving.

The bridge was a sorry sight, Sabrina thought. The night shift bridge crew had to a person transformed into animals. Commander Newa, transformed into a Caitian pocket mouse, was busy chewing on isomagnetic conduits as the rest of the bridge crew roamed the bridge, smashing a panel here, tearing up a console there. The most unnerving thing to Sabrina, though, was what was displayed on the viewscreen. At some point, somebody had set the Lord English on a course deep into Borg space. With the Borg-enhanced engines of the Lord English, the ship and its crew would be among the Borg in 15 hours.

"This must have something to do with that Borg goo we picked up," Sabrina thought to herself. "There is only one other person who could help me."

---

A cow suffering from necrotizing fasciitis stampeded out the sickbay as Sabrina made her way down the damaged corridor. The entire medical wing of the Lord English was now covered in a shimmering layer of giant Borg nanoprobes, much like a layer of water. The sickbay itself was crawling with nanoprobes, pouring out from the ceiling and cascading onto the floor. A Reman dwarf bat lay on a piece of restraining table floating among the nanoprobes. Sabrina picked up the fitfully sleeping dwarf bat and put it in her pocket before slogging towards Four of Thirteen's regeneration alcove. The former Borg drone was still regenerating, oblivious to the chaos erupting aboard the ship. A quick yank of the power cord by Sabrina brought him out of his regeneration cycle, and the drone raised a gimlet eye at Sabrina.

"Ten of Twenty-Five, the power supply to Borg Alcove 4 of 13 has been disabled. Discover the source of the power lost and rectify immediately," he said.
"Grandfather, I believe we have a greater problem than the loss of power to your alcove," she replied, almost in disbelief.

Four of Thirteen surveyed the infested nanoprobe bog that was once his sickbay.

"Borg nanotechnology has replicated to visible sizes, and is about to take over the ship. Inform the admiral at once, Ten of Twenty-Five," Four ordered.
"Admiral Lee has been turned into a giant sea scorpion, and the rest of the crew is in the same state. Look at Commander Twimek," Sabrina hissed, as she pulled the dwarf bat out of her pocket. "We are the only two people on this ship left unchanged, and I have a suspicion that it has something to do with the Borg technology we brought back from that probe."

Sabrina put the bat back into her pocket as she confronted Four of Thirteen again.

"We are currently traveling towards Borg space," she said as her emotions started to boil over. "I don't know about you, grandfather, but I don't want to be a Borg drone again, so, please, help me find a way to save our ship and our friends!"

Four of Thirteen stood there as Sabrina struggled to keep herself from hitting him. Two tears rolled down her left cheek as she stared at her grandfather with pleading eyes. Finally, Four responded.

"Ten of Twenty-Five, sadness will not bring the ship back under friendly control. Please reconnect the regeneration alcove to the EPS system."

Something in his tone of voice convinced Sabrina that everything was going to be alright. As she reconnected the alcove, Four stuck assimilation tubules into the alcove's nodes. Within seconds, nanoprobes began flowing from Four into the ship's EPS conduits. As the ship's consoles began flashing with Borg script, the giant nanoprobes began convulsing and retreating back into the sickbay. Soon, the ship was clear of giant nanoprobes, and Sabrina felt it coming out of warp. As the last of the nanoprobes crumbled to dust, a small, shimmering brown puddle remained on the sickbay floor. Sabrina quickly sucked it up with a pipette and transferred it to a beaker. The brown puddle began settling, as if finally relaxed.

"The Lord English is no longer travelling towards Borg space," Four said as he removed his assimilation tubules. "Recommend transwarping back to Deep Space 9 to undergo EPS conduit cleaning and to revert ship personnel," he added, falling over.
"Grandfather!" Sabrina cried as she rushed over.
"The ship is out of danger," Four stated as he faded out of consciousness. "Recommend regeneration."

===

Quote:
Personal Log, Sabrina Honda, supplemental. Lord English is back at DS9. Engineering crews are scrubbing the EPS conduits while medical crews are slowly bringing the ship's personnel back from their transmogrification. Apparently, the Borg had stumbled upon a Founder and had attempted to assimilate it, with the result being a nanoprobe which injected Founder DNA into its victims, changing their genetic make-up. Ship and station transporters are currently working overtime to remove the traces of Founder DNA from the ship's crew, but they will not be done for 12 hours. In the meantime, Commander Four of Thirteen is peacefully regenerating in his alcove. I will also take a well-deserved break.
---

Commander Sabrina Honda curled up in her chair with a bowl of Feline Supplement 47. A blue-haired cat jumped into her lap and started eating from the bowl as she started petting its ears.
http://sto-forum.perfectworld.com/showthread.php?p=5629511#post5629511

Literary Challenges Entries- Star Trek Online: Lord English
Dramatis Personae of Star Trek Online: Lord English

Last edited by zidanetribal; 08-09-2013 at 09:44 PM.
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