Author: Alan Decker, Anthony Butler
STAR TRAKS: BOLDLY GONE…
By Alan Decker & Anthony Butler
His right eye was starting to twitch.
There it went again.
And if this didn’t end soon, the twitch would spread. First to his other eye. Then to his mouth. And then…
Captain Reginald Bain resisted the urge to leap to his feet and demand that this madness end at once. As much as he hated to admit it, though, the situation was out of his hands.
He was trapped.
At the front of the room, his Romulan tormentor continued droning.
“…reporting sixty-five percent deployed with another twenty-five warhawks scheduled to be crewed and launched within the next two weeks…”
Who the devil ever invented the infernal things?
And why did Bain have to sit through them? The Anomaly was supposed to be providing security while the Romulan Empire got back on its feet after the Vulcan occupation. Nowhere in that mission objective did it state that the Anomaly’s captain should have to bear witness to each and every little nuance of the aforementioned feet getting.
“…repaired damaged sustained due to resistance actions and have restored eighty-three percent of their total energy production capabilities…”
Bain had never been one to run away, but right now, given the opportunity, he’d be more than happy to flee screaming into the night. But he couldn’t. He’d been ordered to attend these daily status meetings on Romulus, so that’s what duty demanded he do. Not that he felt duty and meetings ever belonged in the same sentence. Nor could he see much of a point to any of this. The Vulcan threat was over, and the new Vulcan government had very quickly petitioned to rejoin the Federation, bringing along with them all of the worlds that had defected over the last couple of years (Well, most of them anyway. The Klingons were acting bloody peculiar, but then they were Klingons. They did that sort of thing). The Federation had won, but Bain couldn’t help feeling like he’d ended up on the wrong side of the war as he shifted in his seat again, trying to focus on the monotone Romulan at the podium.
And it didn’t help matters that Admiral Kristen Larkin was sitting right beside him watching the proceedings with a look of extreme interest. Of course, being an android and all, Larkin could have just frozen that look on her face while inside she was sorting files, reliving old missions, or who knew what else? Krissers could be a strange bird sometimes (bird being the appropriate word considering her bizarre love of all things penguin), but 120 plus years of existence certainly gave her an excuse to be as eccentric as she wanted, whether it be her occasional pilgrimages to the Antarctic to frolic among the penguins or her yearly selection of a new junior officer or two to assist her in her continued explorations of humanoid sexuality.
Explorations, indeed, Bain scoffed (mentally, of course). He’d been the object of Larkin’s attentions many years ago and knew that there wasn’t a lot of scientific curiosity involved when it came to these matters. Larkin just wanted…
Best to not go there. His professional relationship with Larkin could be odd enough at times without dredging up ancient history. He and Larkin had long since come to an understanding, just as Larkin and his beloved Rosalyn had concerning Bain.
Rosalyn. Now she would be a welcome distraction at the moment. What he wouldn’t give for a quiet evening at home with the missus. He could whip up a pot of the famous Bain beef stew recipe and have a steaming bowl and a bouquet of freshly picked petunias waiting for his love when she beamed in from a long day of teaching the next generation at the Academy. He could almost smell the broth now.
“…few lingering effects of the forced melds remain. We expect that all affected officials to…”
Captain Bain snapped back to the present as his name was whispered again by Admiral Larkin.
“I’m awake,” he whispered back.
“I certainly hope so. You have a mission.”
“A mission!” Bain exclaimed loudly, leaping up from his seat and striding toward the Romulan at the podium at the front of the room. “Why didn’t you lot say so? What’s the crisis, my good man?” The Romulan stared back at Bain with a mix of surprise and confusion.
“Not for them,” Admiral Larkin said. “Could I speak to you outside for a moment?”
“Oh. Right. Outside it is. Very good.” He clapped the Romulan on the shoulder, almost knocking him over the podium before charging down the aisle toward the exit. “Carry on.”
“We apologize for the interruption,” Larkin said with a slight bow then followed Bain out of the room.
In the corridor outside, Bain launched into talking before Larkin could even open her mouth to speak. “Good work, Krissers. A mission was just the cover story we needed to break away from that babble. I don’t know about you, but after all of that I’m in desperate need of a pint. Care to join me in the pub?” He began reaching for his commpip.
“Reginald!” Larkin snapped, stopping him in mid-movement. “This wasn’t an excuse to leave the meeting.”
“It wasn’t?” Bain asked. He instantly brightened. “It wasn’t! So there really is a mission!”
“And none too soon,” Bain said, clapping his hands together. “All of this sitting around idly has been a colossal waste of resources and talent.”
“We are rebuilding a society.”
“Tut tut, Krissers. Let’s be honest here. Reginald Bain does not build societies.”
“No, but he has been known to bring a few to the brink of collapse.”
“Only the ones that were asking for a good what for. Now no more leaving me in suspense. What’s this mission all about?”
“Honestly, I’m not sure,” Larkin said. “The message I received on my internal comm just now was rather vague, but the comm sender asked for you specifically.”
“Comm sender? Come on, Larks. This doublespeak isn’t at all becoming. Be straight. Who asked for me?”
“The Manager of the Green Borg Collective of Bargains.”
“Borg,” Bain spat. “What the devil do those blighters want?”
“As I believe I explained, I don’t know. All the Manager would tell me is that the matter was urgent and that he needed Reginald Bain.”
“Should I refuse the request?”
“No no,” Bain said. “The Manager is a decent sort…for a Borg. If he’s got a problem that requires my help, I’m more than happy to oblige him.”
“Borg of any color do not customarily ask for assistance. This request could be seen as an acknowledgment that the Borg are aware of your reputation and your skills,” Larkin said.
“Pish posh,” Bain said. “I’m just a man doing his job. As for the Manager, I’m probably the only Starfleet captain he knows. Tell the Manager that the Anomaly is on the way. We’ll have this mess sorted out double quick.”
“So I take it that you will not be returning to the meeting.”
Bain grinned. “Not bloody likely,” he said, pinching his commpip. “Bain to Anomaly. Transport me aboard at once.”
Approximately five minutes before Captain Beam called for beam out, Commander Vioxx materialized inside the Anomaly’s transporter room where he found Sub-Commander Remax waiting for him.
“What are you doing here?” Vioxx demanded gruffly.
“I didn’t want to miss the look on your face when you got back.”
“I told you they’d say ‘no.’”
“How can they do that?” Vioxx demanded angrily. “We’re an experienced crew. We fought during the war! We’re heroes! Okay, maybe not heroes, but we did our bit, as Bain would say. How can they refuse to give me a warhawk?”
“Pretty easily, evidently.”
Vioxx shot a glare at Remax then charged out of the transporter room. Remax was on his heels in a matter of moments.
“You still don’t get it, boy,” the elder scientist said, following Vioxx into a turbolift, which Vioxx then ordered to the bridge. “We were disgraced. Exiled. You don’t come back from that. If this regime had any decency at all, they would have sent in the assassins and had all of our throats slit while we slept as soon as we returned from the Delta Quadrant. Instead they stranded us with Starfleet. But the fact remains, we are not getting a ship in the Romulan Imperial Fleet…ever. But if you want to keep torturing yourself this way, fine. I’m more than happy to watch.”
Vioxx said nothing as the turbolift doors opened onto the Anomaly’s bridge. He strode out of the lift and down to the command area, where Engineer Selex, another former member of the crew of the doomed Romulan Scout Ship Tyvek stood speaking animatedly with Commander Prosak, the Anomaly’s RommaVulc Second Officer.
“Commander Vioxx!” Selex exclaimed upon seeing his superior officer. “You could not have arrived at a more perfect time. I have need of your wisdom.”
“What’s going on?” Vioxx asked tiredly, glancing from Selex to Prosak.
“I was just explaining to our SECOND Officer that we could possibly gain more efficiency from the anti-singularity drive by removing a layer or two of the redundant shielding that is constricting the reactions in the…”
“Removing any shielding will increase radiation leakage into the engineering section and pose an unacceptable risk to the crew,” Prosak interrupted.
“The radiation levels are well within Romulan tolerances.”
“Which is convenient for you, since you are our only Romulan engineer.”
“Just what are you implying?”
“I believe your intentions are clear.”
“My only intention is to increase the efficiency of this vessel.”
“This conversation is over,” Prosak said firmly.
Selex spun on Vioxx. “Commander!” he protested.
Vioxx sighed and began to speak, “I…”
“Recall the crew!” the booming voice of Reginald Bain ordered as he strode onto the bridge from the turbolift. “Bain to engineering. Marsie, make ready for departure!”
“Um…Lieutenant Marsden isn’t on duty right now,” a hesitant voice replied over the comm.
“Very well. Then the task is yours. Make us ready for immediate departure,” Bain said, sitting smartly in his command chair, which Prosak had vacated without a word.
“Good show. Bain out.”
“Perhaps I should assist in engineering,” Selex said, bowing his head slightly at Vioxx before retreating to the turbolift.
“Well then,” Bain said, clapping his hands together as he considered his First and Second officers with a broad smile. “Beautiful day for a mission, don’t you think?”
“I thought you seemed overly cheery,” Vioxx groused.
“Tut tut, Vioxx. You should be glad of the diversion. We’ve been stuck in orbit for far too long. Time to stretch our legs a bit.”
“Also, our current purpose here is to address problems that arise within the Empire; therefore, the fact that we have a mission implies that there is a problem to address,” Prosak said. “I would think that the security of the Empire would be your primary concern.”
Vioxx rolled his eyes. “Where are we going?”
“BorgSpace,” Bain said.
Vioxx shot a glare at Prosak, who was currently frowning as she attempted to process that particular tidbit of information.
“Um…why?” she demanded finally.
“Special request,” Bain said. “Hmm…Maybe Krissers could have the Enterprise-J diverted to Romulus to fill in for us. Barnum Dax is getting all of the credit for our victory as it is, so let him babysit for a while…not that anyone is in need of babysitting.”
“Is going into BorgSpace on purpose really a good idea?” Vioxx asked. “We’d just be inviting assimilation, and I for one have absolutely no desire to become a drone.”
“The White Borg make it sound quite nice,” Prosak said.
“How would you know?” Vioxx spat.
“Stand down, Vioxx,” Bain said. “Prosak here was with us the last time we went into BorgSpace. She’s fully qualified to handle things there, and I’m sure you are as well.”
“So what is this mission?”
“Not really sure, I’m afraid,” Bain said. “All Admiral Larkin knew is that I’ve been requested by the Manager of the Green Borg Collective of Bargains.”
“Ooh!” Prosak exclaimed excitedly before quickly regaining her composure. “Will there be time for commerce while we are there?” she asked placidly.
“I’ll see to it that you get your shopping done,” Bain said with a grin.
“Thank you, sir. I will schedule a briefing while we are en route.”
“Why bother?” Vioxx said. “There’s nothing to brief us on.”
“The man does have a point,” Bain said.
“Sir, Engineering reports that we are ready to depart…” Lieutenant Gworos reported from tac-ops.
“Excellent. Best speed to BorgSpace,” Bain said quickly, rising from his seat.
“…however not all of the crew has returned from Romulus. Doctor Nooney and his party are still away.”
“And you can belay that,” Bain said, settling back into his chair. “What the devil are they doing down there?”
“Doctor Nooney took several members of the crew to a comedy festival,” Prosak said. “He felt it would be good for their psychological well-being.”
“Was this that ‘Grumpies’ list he was on about at the briefing last week?” Bain asked.
“I believe so. In the absence of a ship’s counselor, Doctor Nooney felt it was his duty to help those crewmembers who were not meeting his expected level of cheerfulness.”
Bain spun back to face Gworos. “No offense, Lieutenant, but weren’t you on that list.”
“Yes. And no offense taken,” Gworos said proudly. “But I dislike like the term ‘grumpy.’ I have the scowl of a warrior!”
“And an impressive scowl it is, but why aren’t you down there?”
“Exception for Cultural Antagonism. No true Klingon would be cheered up by anything done by a Romulan…unless is involved that Romulan dying.”
“Well you’re not likely to find much of that at a comedy festival.”
Prosak bit her lip. “Ummmm…”
“OH MY STARS! SHE KILLED HIM!” Dr. Fred Nooney cried in abject horror as the ‘him’ in question, a Romulan performer, hit the stage, a flood of green blood gushing from the wound in his throat.
The audience around Nooney was too busy laughing hysterically to notice.
“You were right, Doctor!” Ensign Arrgh, a particularly-surly Tellarite, replied, smacking Nooney on the back. “This is excellent!”
“I wonder Who will die next?” Nurse Ih’vik said from the other side of Nooney, rubbing her hands together expectantly.
“Shhh! Don’t tell me,” Ih’vik said. “I want to be surprised.”
“But this wasn’t supposed to turn out this way at all!” Nooney wailed.
“Oh! So they’re doing improv! I love it!”
Nooney could only whimper in reply as the ingenue on stage was cleverly assassinated by a falling piano.
Lieutenant Shelly Marsden was roused from a deep contented sleep by Captain Bain’s voice over the all-call announcing that the Anomaly would be breaking orbit as soon as all crewmembers were accounted for. Judging by the impatience in his voice, he was anxious to get underway, not that Marsden was surprised. Bain was not one for sitting around one planet for too long. It was always about the next mission with him. The next assignment. The next adventure. It could be damn tiring. She’d have to ask Tovar how he managed to put up with it all these years.
Marsden rolled over in bed with the intention of doing just that and discovered that the Yynsian wasn’t beside her. Funny, he’d been there a couple of hours ago. He’d definitely been there then. Her mind drifted back to the oh-so-enjoyable activities that had led to her taking a three hour nap in the middle of the day in Tovar’s now-exceptionally-rumpled bed. Without intending to, she let out a deep sigh. She’d been sighing a lot lately. All for good reasons. Considering the amount of time she’d been putting in to repair the ship after the battle with the Vulcan-controlled Romulans and then the rampaging gator-thing that gutted an entire deck, she needed these downtime sessions with the man in her life.
It had taken long enough for the two of them to get together, but now that they were, Marsden couldn’t help but feel that the wait had been more than worth it. And not just for physical reasons; although, that was wonderful. Where did Tovar learn to do some of those things? No. Wait. She didn’t want the answer to that, especially since said answer most likely involved either a past life or Reginald Bain.
Marsden suddenly realized that she was hungry, a sensation that was compounded by the wonderful smells emanating from somewhere else in Tovar’s quarters. Sliding out of bed, she padded barefoot (and bare everything else) into the living room to investigate. The room appeared deserted, but she was able to follow the aromas of food to Tovar’s holopod. Normally holopods were designed to be used solo unless the users wanted to be really close. Not having much of a problem with being close to Tovar, Marsden opened the pod door and stepped inside.
She found herself inside a small, but well-appointed kitchen where Tovar stood in front of a stove, his hands flying from pot to skillet to pot in a frenzy of activity. Marsden slid up behind the Yynsian, wrapped her arms around him, and pressed her naked body close to his, purring “Is this all for me?”
“Unhand me!” Tovar cried suddenly, his arms knocking hers aside roughly. He turned on her, eyes blazing. “Are you trying to ruin my creation?”
“Tovar?” Marsden asked, peering into his wild eyes.
“Is recovering at the moment.”
“Toflay,” Marsden said, voicing her suspicion.
“Who else would be able to cook such a magnificent meal in your honor?”
“So this is all for me?” Marsden said surprised.
“Of course. It’s the least I could do,” Tovar/Toflay said with a slight bow. “We’re all very grateful that you two kids have finally stopped making each other miserable and moved along to making each other deliriously happy. I do wish that you hadn’t been quite so rough on the man, though. He’s exhausted. I can barely lift his arms. Not everyone has the luxury of a three hour nap, you know?”
“Sorry about that,” Marsden said. “But…um…do you know when he’ll be back?” Honestly, despite having dealt with Tovar’s past lives on a couple of occasions, Marsden was finding this entire exchange to be a little weird.
“In time,” Tovar/Toflay said. He then looked Marsden up and down appreciatively. “I must say that he is quite fortunate.”
Okay. Now it had officially moved to a lot weird.
“Er…thanks,” Marsden said, wrapping an arm across her exposed chest. “Should I just wait outside?”
“Please. Service will begin in approximately 15 minutes. Please feel free to avail yourself of a shower and a fresh set of clothes.”
“I’ll do that,” Marsden said, turning around and heading toward the exit. Was that a wolf whistle she just heard?
Fifteen minutes later, Marsden, having showered and dressed, returned to the living room to find a feast laid out on the small dining table where Tovar sat. Upon seeing her, he broke into a broad smile.
“Hello,” he said simply, rising from his seat and moving to pull out a chair for Marsden.
“Hi yourself. How are you feeling?” Marsden asked, taking the offered seat.
“I am fine,” Tovar said. “It appears that Toflay was busy in my absence, though.”
“You could say that.”
“Nothing,” Tovar said quickly. “I don’t know about you, but I’m famished.”
“Starved,” Marsden said.
“Then let’s see what Toflay has prepared for us.”
“It smells great,” Marsden said. “But…”
“Should I… Is he… I mean…”
“This should not be a regular occurrence,” Tovar said.
“Okay. Not that it’s a problem. I just need to know.”
“As I said…”
“It won’t be a regular thing. I got it,” Marsden said. “No need to say anymore about it. Let’s eat.”
“Gladly,” Tovar said, his eyes meeting hers. If she didn’t know any better, she’d say he was troubled about something. Was the Toflay thing more a problem than he was saying? Or…or was it something about her?
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178133.6. With all personnel now present and accounted for, the Anomaly has broken orbit and is on its way from the Romulan Empire to the depths of the Delta Quadrant for our meeting with the Green Borg. I can’t help but speculate about what would lead the Manager of the Green Borg Collective of Bargains to call on me specifically. In our last encounter, we took care of a cube of rogue Greens for him, but I have to believe that the Green Borg would rather deal with that sort of thing internally when they can. Perhaps he just has some little item that he wants to try to sell me.
Ah well. At Warp H we’ll be there in no time, and the Manager can clear this up once and for all. In the meantime, we can enjoy zipping through open space again, as it should be. No orbiting repetitively. No blasted meetings. Just the stars and my crew working together as one cohesive whole. We’ve been through so much together that the comradery is palpable, wrapping around me like one of Rosalyn’s hand-sewn quilts.”
“We have to kill her,” Engineer Selex said, standing stiffly in front of Commander Vioxx’s desk in the Commander’s office off of the bridge in what used to be Commander Prosak’s quarters, which, before that, was the Anomaly’s ready room. Captain Bain had never had much use for a ready room, preferring instead to conduct business either from the bridge, the briefing, or his Captain’s Lounge. When she was the Anomaly’s First Officer, Commander Prosak had taken over the ready room as her quarters with the idea of being close to the bridge at all times. Upon assuming the First Officer post, Vioxx used his position to take the space away from Prosak for his own use, an action that had brought him more than a little pleasure. Not only did he get to establish his dominance, but anytime he could shove one in the face of the RommaVulc was fine with him.
He wasn’t so sure about killing her, though.
“And what has Commander Prosak done to warrant her assassination?” Vioxx asked, shooting a glance at Sub-Commander Remax, who was seated on the sofa against the office wall for this little meeting. “Assuming of course that I’m correct that she is the one you want to have killed.”
“She is,” Selex said with a firm nod. “And as to what she has done, surely an experienced officer as wise as yourself does not need one such as me to draw your attention the dangerous issue of Commander Prosak’s allegiance.”
“Does her position as a Starfleet Officer bother you so much?”
“She is RommaVulc,” Selex spat. “Her allegiance above all is to those who attacked us. Surely her actions on the bridge today made that clear.”
“Because she didn’t agree with your plan?” Remax said.
“You understand. She is hurting the efficient operation of this ship in a clear attempt to leave us open for Vulcan attack at a later time.”
“As I recall, didn’t this plan of yours involve filling Engineering with enough radiation to kill anyone who entered there?” Vioxx asked.
“Except me. I can run the anti-singularity drive myself, and, should I need assistance, surely the other engineers can don environmental suits and join me.”
Vioxx sighed. “Selex, I’m only going to say this once. It’s a stupid plan.”
“You cannot run Engineering by yourself, and there’s no way Starfleet will let you. Just let it drop.”
“Yes, sir,” Selex said, trying to hide his disappointment. He suddenly brightened. “But we can still kill Prosak, right?”
“What purpose would that serve?” Vioxx said.
“We’d be eliminating a possible threat to the ship.”
“And then Bain would eliminate me,” Vioxx said.
Remax snorted. “Scared of a human? Hmmmf.”
“I don’t see you volunteering to assassinate Prosak,” Vioxx shot back.
“You are the ranking officer, sir,” Selex said.
“And you obviously haven’t thought this through,” Remax said.
“Haven’t thought this through? We’re talking about killing the Second Officer of this ship AND the daughter of the Romulan Ambassador to the Federation. What exactly haven’t I thought through?” Vioxx demanded.
“You mean the part where Reginald Bain takes me apart piece by piece then shoots my remains out the nearest airlock. You’ve seen what that man can do in battle.”
“This won’t be a battle. This will be an assassination. Bain is not going to retaliate beyond tossing you in the brig. After that, the Romulan government will insist on jurisdiction, and Bain will gladly return us to the Empire.”
“At which point I’ll be tried and executed. Not an improvement in my mind.”
“Prosak’s a known RommaVulc. Anyone who convicts you would be seen as sympathetic to their cause and to the Vulcans themselves. Not even Ambassador Rorshak is willing to risk that after what the Vulcans and their RommaVulc leader did to the Empire. You’ll probably come out of this whole thing a hero. They’d have to give you command of a warhawk of your own.”
“So you’re saying that if I kill Prosak, we’d not only get to go home, but we’d also get a warhawk.”
“Why else do you think I’m trying to help you here? Increasing your standing in the Empire isn’t normally on my list of things to do, but if it gets us home, I’m willing to make the sacrifice.”
“All right. I’ll consider it,” Vioxx said.
“Consider it? The man’s becoming more human all the time,” Remax spat.
“Assassination takes planning. I can’t just… Why am I explaining myself to you? Leave me alone!” Vioxx snapped. “Both of you! Get out!”
“I’m sure you will come to the right decision, Commander,” Selex said with a slight bow. “And I will be at your service at a moment’s notice to help dispose of the body.”
“Have you never done this before?” Remax said, rising from the sofa and heading toward the door with Selex. “You display the body. You don’t hide it.”
“Of course. My apologies, Sub-Commander,” Selex said as the two stepped out onto the bridge. Vioxx sighed and rubbed his temples. An assassination? Was he really going to assassinate Prosak? Sure he’d had training in Officers’ School, but he’d never actually had to perform one in real life. Well, there was that one Centurion, but that was strictly an accident. She had no business standing that close to the landing field anyway. Granted, he was a bit off in his approach calculations, but still. She shouldn’t have been there…inside her barracks…in her bed…fast asleep. Okay, so he crashed the shuttle through the roof and pulverized her. It was still an accident!
Prosak’s death, however, would be completely premeditated. He’d be clever, cunning, and deceitful. All those good wholesome Romulan traits. And Remax was probably right. All Bain would do is throw him in the brig. A Starfleet brig. Oooooh. Scary. He could handle it. Wait. Bain might punch him first. The human did seem to like to use his fists. That would hurt…a lot. But it’d be worth it in the end. He’d be a hero. He’d have his own warhawk. And hopefully Remax would stop deriding him so much.
Vioxx would kill a hundred Prosaks just to get Remax to shut up.
Hmm…maybe he could pin all this on Remax and let Bain punch the elder scientist instead. Now THAT was an idea!
The Anomaly’s entry into Green Borg controlled territory was uneventful, which was no real surprise to Captain Bain. As seekers of perfection in the areas of commerce and profit, the Green Borg were well aware of the need to keep the spacelanes free of hazards, so that customers could reach the Green Borg Collective of Bargains in ease and comfort. Regular shuttle service ran to the massive facility from many of the neighboring systems, and Green Borg cubes were often seen about, guarding against any possible incursions by Red Borg or another hostile species, not that any species really had a desire to attack the Borg. They may have fractured into various colored factions, but they were still Borg and formidable foes.
Bain, however, had found the Green Borg to be a fairly decent bunch. They didn’t rampage around trying to assimilate folks to increase their numbers. They didn’t attack planets. They were just interested in running a business. Bain could respect that.
Having been to the Collective of Bargains a couple of times before, Bain felt no trepidation as the Anomaly slid into orbit above the Green Borg facility. One look to the viewscreen, though, set him on edge. The only ships here were Green Borg cubes, spheres, dodecahedrons and such. Where were all the other customers?
“We are being hailed,” Lieutenant Commander Tovar reported from tac-ops. “Repeatedly.”
“Impatient lot, aren’t they?” Bain said, rubbing his chin. “All right. Let’s see what it’s all about, Tovar.”
Tovar nodded and activated the comm signal, causing the image on the viewscreen to switch to the inside of the Green Borg Manager’s chamber. The assimilated Talaxian who oversaw the Collective of Bargains stood stiffly inside his central control alcove. “Reginald Bain, you will transport over to my office at once.”
“Now hang on a tic,” Bain said, rising from his seat and straightening his uniform with a smart tug. “I’ve raced halfway across the galaxy to get here. The least you can do is give me the courtesy of an explanation.”
“Transport yourself over at once,” the Manager replied flatly, then abruptly severed the communication.
“So much for courtesy,” Vioxx muttered from the seat beside Bain’s command chair.
“Looks like we’re not going to get a word in unless we go over there,” Bain said. “So be it. You have the conn, Vioxx. Tovar, Sub-Commander Remax, to the transporter room.”
“You want me to go over there?” Remax asked in surprise, spinning in his chair at the bridge science console.
“Best to have our bases covered. And you are the science officer on duty,” Bain said, striding to the turbolift.
“You’re not scared of some Borg, are you?” Vioxx asked smirking.
“I don’t see you volunteering.”
“Can’t. I’ve got the conn.”
“We musn’t keep the Borg waiting, Remax, old boy,” Bain said, clapping the elder Romulan scientist on the shoulder as he passed by his chair. “Off we go.”
“Have fun,” Vioxx said with a wave.
“Captain, wouldn’t it be more advisable to take along a science officer with actual Borg experience? You may not know this, but the Romulan Empire has a strict no-contact policy when it comes to the Borg. I’ve never even seen one in person.”
Bain thought for a moment. “Normally I’d say that this is the perfect opportunity to make their acquaintance, but we may not have time for that this time around,” Bain said. “Tovar, ask Doctor Kasyov to join us. Sub-Commander Remax will just have to meet his first Borg another time.”
“A wise decision, Captain,” Remax said with a slight bow of his head before shooting a glare at Vioxx.
“Right! Enough dawdling!” Bain said, heading into the turbolift with Tovar. “We’ll be in touch as soon as we’ve had a look at the lay of the land.” As the turbolift doors closed, whisking Bain and Tovar away from the bridge, Vioxx moved over to the command chair. A moment later, Remax slid into the seat Vioxx had just vacated.
“Anxious to be rid of me?” Remax said.
“I was just enjoying your discomfort,” Vioxx replied. “I’ll make sure to add ‘Terrified of Borg’ to your file.”
Remax harrumphed, folding his arms over his chest, and glared silently at the viewscreen for several moments. Slowly, a smile crossed his face. He leaned in close to Vioxx.
“Bain and his lackey are gone.”
“Astute of you to notice,” Vioxx snapped, wondering when Remax was going to finally leave him alone.
“There will never be a better time.”
Remax glanced at Ensign Yonk, the Ferengi manning the helm, then refocused on Vioxx. “You know.”
“Remax!” Vioxx shot back, a smile tugging at the edges of his lips.
“I knew you couldn’t do it.”
“Sub-Commander, if you haven’t noticed, we have been summoned to the middle of BorgSpace for unknown reasons. Until we have some idea of what is going on, I cannot divert my attention from my duties. I am well aware of our other…business, but this is not a convenient moment!”
“Since when did assas…” Remax caught himself in mid- grumble. “Fine!” he spat, jumping up from the seat. “But if it continues to be inconvenient for too long, we’ll all know what kind of Romulan you really are!” He stormed back to his console.
Vioxx didn’t watch him go, instead refusing to look away from the viewscreen. Maybe if this mission turned out to actually be something serious, Remax would forget about this Prosak business for a while. Oh please let it be serious. But not too serious. Serious, but not the deadly kind of serious. That would work. Oh please let it be non-deadly but distractingly majorly serious.
Bain, Tovar, and Dr. Natalia Kasyov materialized inside the Green Borg Manager’s chamber and were immediately taken aback by the lack of…well…atmosphere. Normally the Borg were all about setting a proper tone of respect and fear among those who visited them. Sure the Green Borg sales floor was bright and cheery with all the best Muzak from across the galaxy playing over the Collective of Bargains’ speakers, but if you had to see the Manager, you were sent to a dimly-lit chamber with filled with smoke and odd lighting raking across the walls. Sure it was Borg intimidation by way of cheesy haunted house effects, but it worked.
Now, though, Bain, Tovar, and Kasyov found themselves in a room every bit as bright, if not brighter, than the Collective of Bargains sales floor. The Manager stood in his circular alcove at the center of the room, hunched over slightly and gazing dejectedly at the newcomers.
“Hi,” he intoned flatly.
“What the devil is going on around here?” Bain demanded looking around the room.
“We are under attack,” the Manager replied sadly.
“Attack! From where?” Bain exclaimed, reflexively extending his wrist phaser. “This is Reg Bain! I demand that you show yourselves!”
“Not that kind of attack. We…” The Manager’s head suddenly jerked sideways. “Make voles a problem of the past with the new Dillon Consortium Exterminatrix G! Available NOW at Dillon’s everywhere!”
“Great Bird!” Bain cried as the Manager slumped back over.
“It’s terrible,” the Manager said. “You must help us.”
Bain frowned. “I’d love to help out, old boy, but if you’ve allied yourselves with the Dillon Consortium, I don’t know how much I can do.”
“We haven’t allied…IT’S BACK! And better than ever! Base in a Briefcase Version 8.1 now with SOLARIUM! Buy yours today at Dillon’s everywhere!”
“I don’t think he’s saying these things voluntarily, Captain,” Dr. Kasyov said as she slid on her quadcorder to scan the Manager.
“I’m not,” the Manager said. “It’s a virus of some kind. We’re all infected. We’ve tried to purge the Collective on several occasions, but nothing has worked. We’ve had to close the Collective of Bargains.”
“I can see why,” Bain said. “That’s bloody disconcerting.”
“And providing free advertising for the Dillon Consortium,” Tovar said.
“We’ve become their shills,” the Manager said dejectedly. “We can’t seek perfection through commerce like this. We’d only be driving our customers to Dillon’s stores everywhere.”
“Surely you’ve contacted the Dillon Consortium.”
“Have you ever contacted their Customer Service department? We couldn’t get near upper manage…Get away from it all with Dillon Cruise Lines! Rekindle the flames of romance with the one you love while seeing the best the galaxy has to offer in the lap of state-of-the-art luxury! Book your Dillon Cruise Today!”
“Hmmm…Ros might enjoy a cruise,” Bain said thoughtfully.
“See,” the Manager said, slumping down farther. “We’re doomed.”
Bain’s face hardened in determination, and he charged over to the Manager. “That’s enough of that kind of talk! Stand up straight, man! You’re Borg! Act like it! We’re going to lick this virus bother and get you back in business in no time. Right, Kassie!”
“Umm…” Kasyov replied, studying the readout in her quadcorder’s eye piece.
“I’m going to need to take these scans up to the ship.”
“She can’t help us,” the Manager said.
“Stop that!” Bain snapped. “You don’t win a battle by acting defeated before the scrape even starts!”
“We are defeated. The Dillon Consortium has won. We thought about taking a few cubes over to attack their headquarters, but what would be the point? We’d still have the virus. They control us.”
“Not for long. You called me in for a reason.”
“Exactly. They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and Reg Bain is the ultimate desperate measure! I promise I WILL see this through. And when it’s all over. We can both march right over to the Dillon Consortium and give them a good what for!” Bain pinched his commpip. “Bain to Anomaly. Beam us back immediately. We’ll have a solution to this crisis soon, Manager. You have my word.”
The Manager could only sigh in reply as the officers were transported away.
Back on the Anomaly, Bain bounded off of the transporter pad and turned back to Kasyov, fists clenched. “Take what resources you need, Kassie. I don’t plan to stand by and let this sort of thing happen.”
“You seem to be taking this kind of personally,” Kasyov said, stepping off of the padd.
“Bloody Dillon Consortium. Makes my blood boil. Bloody bloody…
“I’m sensing a theme here.”
“Bunch of blighters think they run the universe. The Federation should have shut the whole mess down when they had the chance.”
“Aren’t they just a company?” Kasyov asked. “Sure they’re a big company. Huge even, but they aren’t evil.”
“What do you call what we just saw?” Bain said.
“Probably a perfectly legal maneuver,” Tovar said. “I doubt the Borg are protected under any sections of Federation law. While often unsavory, the Dillon Consortium is always careful to make sure that their operations are within the bounds of the law.”
“That doesn’t make it right,” Bain said.
“I would not argue otherwise.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Kasyov said.
“You’ll give it your best. You always do,” Bain said, heading toward the door. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in my holopod. I feel the sudden need to shoot something.”
True to his word, Reginald Bain spent the next half hour taking his irritation out on a series of skeet, robot drones, and dragons (having to dodge incoming plumes of flames made things a tad more exciting) and near the end of his workout he was feeling quite a bit better about things in general. Yes, the Dillon Consortium had overstepped its bounds, but Bain was certain that the Anomaly crew would resolve the matter and then he could, through Admiral Larkin, get a quick resolution passed through the Federation Council to ban insidious assaults on other species, including the Borg, in the future. If the Dillon Consortium was as law abiding as they had always seemed, that would be the end of it.
Bain took aim at the last remaining dragon, which was currently diving toward his position, and fired, obliterating the flying lizard’s head before it could send another stream of fire his way. “And that’s the lot,” he said satisfied, lowering his anti-proton cascade rifle. The anti-proton cascade rifle was considered a bit of a misfire from Starfleet R&D. Yes, it worked. And yes, it was effective. But in an era where Starfleet personnel expected smooth-firing weaponry, the jolt of power accompanying a blast from the anti-proton cascade rifle was completely unwanted…unless you were Reginald Bain. Bain liked the kick of the weapon. It have him more of a feeling of connection to what was happening. He was more of a part of the action.
He tucked the rifle under his arm and turned to go. The man suddenly standing before him in the dapper dark blue suit was something of a surprise.
“Bloody hell!” Bain exclaimed, leaping backwards.
“Long day at the office?” the newcomer said, taking a step toward Bain. “Muscles sore? Bones stiff? Want relief? Then replace that old worn-out sonic shower with the latest in cleanliness and comfort from the Dillon Consortium. The Massonic…”
Bain discharged the anti-proton cascade rifle into the suited man. He didn’t so much as flinch. “Magic Shower system will take you to the heights of…”
“EXIT!” Bain cried. The door to the holopod obediently materialized, and Bain wasted no time hurtling past the holographic salesman into the safety of his quarters…
…or so he thought.
The blue suited man was again right beside him. “Your home should be a place of peace and relaxation, not work and drudgery. Even the most sophisticated home cleaning and sanitation bots will miss dirt and grime, leaving you with the unwelcome task of scrubbing…”
Bain’s fist was in motion before he even consciously realized what was happening. A solid right cross smacked into the jaw of the babbling hologram, snapping its head back violently…not that it noticed. “…and scraping away the material a cleaning bot just can’t handle…until now.”
“Bain to bridge!” the Captain shouted, rushing out into the corridor. “What…” He stopped dead in his tracks. Up and down the corridor, Anomaly crewman were being followed by copies of the blue-suited man, all of whom were reciting one sales pitch or another.
“…natural remedy used for centuries by the druids of Hogenston Three…”
“…state-of-the-art in sound reproduction…”
“…guide to success in the high-stakes world of trans-dimensional real estate…”
“…scientifically-tested supplement guaranteed to reduce flab and increase muscle mass…”
“…the most arousing…”
“BAIN TO BRIDGE!”
“Vioxx here, Captain,” the Romulan replied. “I’ve been here. What do you need?”
“Shut down the holographic systems! All of them!”
“Why would we want… Hey! Where did that guy come from?”
“SHUT THEM DOWN!” Bain bellowed.
“All right!” Vioxx snapped back. The line was silent for a few moments. “We can’t,” Vioxx said finally.
“What do you mean you can’t?” Bain demanded.
“Sub-Commander Remax says that the system isn’t giving him access.”
“Bloody bunch of blighters!” Bain cried.
“I object to that, Captain. We’re doing the best we can.”
“Not you,” Bain said. “Keep working on it. I’m on my way to the bridge. Bain out.” As soon as the channel closed, Bain started speaking again. “Bain to Engineering.”
“We already know, sir,” Lieutenant Marsden’s voice replied testily. “The entire holographic system is locked somehow. I’ll let you know as soon as we can do something about it.”
“It’s the Dillon Consortium! Their bloody Borg bug bollocksed us!”
“Can I quote you on that?”
“We’re working on it,” Marsden interrupted.
“Keep me informed. Bain out.”
He turned to head toward the turbolift and almost ran headlong into another impeccably-dressed man. “Today’s being on the go needs the latest in…”
Bain slammed the hologram’s head into the wall as hard as he could. He knew he couldn’t hurt it, but still it felt good. Satisfying even. Maybe a couple more.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
He released the hologram and sprinted into the nearest turbolift.
Not that it mattered.
Another one was in there waiting.
The last bridge holoemitter sparked and sizzled as Tovar retracted his wrist phaser back into his sleeve. “I believe we may proceed without further interruptions,” he said.
“Thank you, Tovar,” Bain said, pacing the front of the bridge. “Now what have we got?”
“The Green Borg have been infected with a computer virus,” Dr. Kasyov reported, standing close to the viewscreen. “This is not unusual in itself. Many civilizations before the colored factions arose attempted to bring down the Collective with viruses. Normally the Greens would be able to purge the virus from their systems on their own, but this one keeps coming back for some reason.”
“And now it’s in our systems,” Sub-Commander Remax said from the science console.
“And we aren’t having any more luck purging it than the Greens have,” Lieutenant Marsden said from her place at the engineering console on the opposite side of the bridge from Remax.
“We do know one thing, though,” Remax said.
“What’s that?” Bain asked.
“The man in the holograms is most definitely a human named Bradley Dillon. From my research, it appears that he was the founder of the corporation that is now the Dillon Consortium.”
“And that helps us how?” Commander Vioxx demanded from his seat next to Bain’s command chair.
“Information is always helpful,” Remax replied. “One must just know how to use it.”
“Any ideas how we were infected?” Bain asked, dragging the conversation back to the crisis at hand.
“Communications perhaps?” Remax offered.
Bain shook his head. “Admiral Larkin was on ultraspace with the Manager and didn’t have any ill effects.”
“Somehow it got into the quadcorder through my scans?” Kasyov said.
“Doubtful,” Remax said.
“Does it really matter?” Vioxx asked. “We need to be worrying about eliminating it.”
“That’s funny coming from you,” Remax said.
“I don’t follow,” Bain said.
“It’s nothing,” Vioxx said quickly. “The point is that we either need to get rid of the virus, find some way to shut down the holographic systems, or destroy every emitter on this ship!”
“That last one could take a while,” Marsden said. “The Anomaly has holo-emitters embedded almost everywhere.”
The doors to Vioxx’s office suddenly whooshed open revealing another Bradley Dillon standing in the doorway.
“Are you sick and tired of needing to call in an engineer every time your home holo-entertainment systems go offline? Ever wish you could just fix it yourself? Well you can!”
“Case in point,” Marsden muttered.
“Tovar,” Bain said.
“I’ll be right back,” Tovar said, locking his wrist phaser in place as he marched into the office, shoving the Dillon hologram aside as he went. The hologram didn’t have much time to feel slighted, though, as the Yynsian tac-ops officer made quick work of the room’s emitters before striding back out through the fizzling Dillon just before he popped completely out of existence.
“Kassie, you and Marsden need to sort this mess out,” Bain said without missing a beat.
“I really believe Sub-Commander Remax is more qualified in this area than I am,” Kasyov replied.
“I do have far more computer systems experience that anyone else on board this ship,” Remax said haughtily.
“Then the job is yours,” Bain said. “But I want it done before…”
“Don’t miss this amazing special offer!”
The Anomaly officers spun toward the source of the new voice: yet another Bradley Dillon hologram standing in the doorway to the corridor leading back to Bain’s Captain’s Lounge.
“You too can own one of these commemorative plaques celebrating the 350th anniversary of the founding of the colony on Halydol,” the hologram continued, pulling the plaque in question out of his suitcoat. Only 5,463 of these items remain in our inventory, and they are going fast. 5,462…5,461…”
“Tovar,” Bain said, taking a deep exasperated breath.
“One moment,” Tovar replied, clicking his wrist back into position.
Tovar pushed past Dillon into the corridor and…
ZAP! ZAPOW! ZAP! ZAPOW!
Almost immediately, the door to the bridge lavatory slid open, revealing another Dillon hologram.
“Bugger!” Bain exclaimed. “Can someone please explain to me why the devil there is a bloody holo-emitter in the loo?”
“Well, Madam Designer?” Kasyov asked, focusing a smirk on Marsden.
“Medical emergency in the bathroom?” Marsden offered weakly.
“Tovar,” Bain said.
Tovar aimed his wrist phaser into the bathroom.
“WAIT!” Kasyov cried suddenly, rushing forward.
“Whatever for?” Bain demanded.
“The countdown!” Kasyov exclaimed.
“What about it?”
“If the hologram is truly tracking the inventory of those plaques…”
“…then it’s receiving updated information,” Remax finished, understanding where Kasyov was going with this. He quickly spun around to the science console and started keying in commands.
“That’s why the Greens can’t purge the virus,” Marsden said as she and Kasyov converged on the science console. “It’s not a one-time infection. It’s continuous.”
“Best we sit this part out, my lad,” Bain said, stepping over to Tovar. “They’re in their element now.”
“As long as it gets us an answer, they’re welcome to it,” Vioxx said, reclining in his chair. “Wake me when it’s all over.”
“Do you suppose it’s all right for me to take care of him now?” Tovar asked, gesturing to the counting Dillon.
“I don’t see why not. Blast the bugger.”
“Not at all.”
ZAP. ZAP. ZAPOW!
Meanwhile, over at the science console…
“There’s got to be some kind of transmitter around here,” Marsden said.
“I’m not detecting any incoming comm signals,” Remax said, checking over the sensor readouts. “And surely the Green Borg would have picked up on something like that long before now.”
The three officers stared at the monitors for a long while, muttering possibilities to themselves and discarding them just as quickly until Kasyov suddenly smacked her hand down excitedly on the back of Remax’s chair.
“What?” the Romulan demanded in irritation.
“It’s a brain!”
“The Green Borg. The Collective. They’re kind of like one big brain. Every drone is connected and constantly sending signals to one another, like neurons in a brain. There are messages flying all around us in this region, but we aren’t scanning for it because it’s normal Borg traffic. But if the Dillon Consortium somehow found a way to code this virus to piggyback on the Green Collective’s normal links between the drones…”
“I’m adjusting the sensitivity of the sensors now,” Remax said, his hands flying across the controls of the console. In an instant, Kasyov, Marsden, and Remax were able to see the Green Borg Collective’s deepest communication’s web, the level at which the group consciousness was maintained.
“It’s in here,” Kasyov said.
“But how are we going to see anything?” Marsden asked. “The signals are everywhere. We’re in the middle of all of it.”
“What are the odds that the Dillon Consortium was able to plant their transmitter right in the midst of all of the Greens?” Kasyov said. “Go to the long range sensors. What else is out there?”
Remax shifted the scan radius to encompass most of Green BorgSpace. Most of the drone communication traffic remained centralized in the region around the Collective of Bargains, but several comm strands stretched out to the Green cubes patrolling other areas of Green space and other thin threads headed off into the vastness of space, presumably to individual drones or groups stationed elsewhere in the galaxy where they gathered items to be sold at the Collective of Bargains in the Green Borg’s pursuit of perfection through commerce. One especially dense and powerful comm thread caught Kasyov’s attention as it headed deeper into BorgSpace toward the areas controlled by other color factions.
“What about that one?” she asked, pointing out her finding.
“Could be a cube,” Remax said.
“I thought the color factions generally avoided interacting. That cube would be in someone else’s territory.”
“Maybe there’s the Borg equivalent of an embassy out there,” Marsden said. “A place for the color factions to meet.”
“They could do that over their drone link networks,” Remax said.
“Can you filter out everything except the traffic coming in from that source?” Kasyov asked.
“Of course I can,” Remax snorted, setting to work.
“Are any holoemitters still working up here?” Kasyov asked, turning toward Bain, Vioxx, and Tovar.
“I should hope not,” Bain said.
“I need one to test a theory.”
“Oh…well that’s a bit different then, isn’t it? Tovar?”
“I don’t remember shooting the turbolift.”
“Good show,” Bain said, striding to the turbolift, the doors of which obediently slid open revealing…
“5,383…5,382. Call now! Our inventory is dropping fast! 5,380…”
“I don’t see what that proves,” Remax said. “There are thousands of messages going to and coming from that source. It could just be reflecting updates its receiving from elsewhere.”
“But if we parse them, I’d bet you anything that every single message is an ad from the Dillon Consortium,” Kasyov retorted.
“Do you know how long it will take to prove that?”
“I’m sure I’m right.”
“So it’s a hunch, eh, Kassie?” Bain asked.
“Capital! I love a good hunch!” Bain spun toward Sub-Lieutenant Zantak, who had been silent up until now (which wasn’t much of a surprise considering she was pretty much silent all the time), seated at the conn console. “Get your coordinates from Sub-Commander Remax, Zantak. Let’s follow that hunch!”
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 178135.4. We’re moving deeper into BorgSpace on the hunt for the source of the Dr. Kasyov’s mystery transmission. With any luck, we’ll be able to shut it down without much trouble..and hopefully without running into any of the other Borg factions. In the meantime, Lieutenant Marsden has been doing her best to stop the spread of the virus through the Anomaly’s systems without much success. At lunch, the replicator in my quarters tried to sell me a membership in the Dillon Consortium Cake of the Month Club. It was actually a fairly appealing offer, but I declined. It was the principle of the thing. So for now…”
“Are you satisfied with your ultraspace carrier?”
“Bloody hell! Bain to Marsden. It’s in the log recorder now!”
“Steady, Zantak,” Bain said, his hand gripping the conn officer’s chair as he kept his eyes locked on the viewscreen. “No sudden moves. We don’t want to do anything to catch this blighter’s eye.”
The blighter in question was a Red Borg scout ship zooming along a course on the opposite of the star system the Anomaly was approaching. Of all the Borg factions, the Reds were the ones Captain Bain had the least interest in encountering. While the other factions might cause a bit of bother, the Reds would attempt to destroy the Anomaly at all costs in their pursuit of perfection through the annihilation of everyone else in the universe. Fortunately, due to their single-minded nature, it was usually relatively easy to avoid the Reds as long as you didn’t do anything stupid to draw attention to yourself when a Red ship was careening from one point to the next as fast as it could go.
“The Red Borg vessel is showing no signs of altering course,” Tovar reported. “Our weapons and shields are standing by, just in case.”
“Excellent,” Bain said, turning toward his tac-ops officer. “Looks like we’re in the clear, but better safe than…
“Captain! It’s here!” Kasyov exclaimed suddenly from the science console, where she was continuing to look over Remax’s shoulder, much to his annoyance.
“Red alert! Arm neutron torpedoes!” Bain cried, whipping his head back toward the screen. “Er…why isn’t it coming right at us?”
“Not the Red Borg,” Kasyov said. “The source of the signal.”
“Ah. I suppose we can belay the shields and torpedoes for the moment, Tovar.”
“Already belayed, sir.”
“Thank you, lad. Now what about this signal?”
“It’s inside the system,” Kasyov reported. “Above the third planet.”
“Are we clear to pop in for a look?” Bain asked Tovar.
“The Red Borg ship has moved out of sensor range.”
“Capital. Capital,” Bain said, moving back to his command chair. “Take us in, Zantak”
Bain made it a point not to jump too far ahead of the available evidence in any given situation. At times, such as combat, it was fairly easy to predict what the next event would be, but space itself was never that rational. Just about anything could be around the next bend (not that that metaphor worked particularly well in space), so Bain was on the alert as the Anomaly approached the third planet of the system on the hunt for the source of the signal.
“I believe I have it,” Remax said, causing the view on the screen to shift toward the ‘it’ in question. A Borg cube, dark, silent, and still hovering over a blue-green Class M planet.
Bain stood up from the command chair and let out a low whistle. “Good lord. How long has this been sitting here? It’s a relic!”
“No lifesigns,” Remax said. “I’m not getting much of anything at all except some low-grade power readings and the signal we traced to this point.”
“Why would they abandon a cube here?” Bain asked, puzzling over this latest mystery.
“Unknown,” Tovar said. “But the configuration indicates that it is from the time before the factioning. The lack of a colored paint job on the hull would seem to confirm this.”
The bridge lights suddenly flickered as the ship shuddered slightly causing Marsden to race back from the science console, where she had been standing with Kasyov, over to the engineering station. “The virus is infiltrating deeper into the computer core. Power systems are being affected.”
“It can’t advertise in there,” Bain said. “What the devil does it think it’s doing?”
“Probably just following its programming. It wasn’t designed to attack Federation systems, so its effects here are going to be somewhat unpredictable. And by that I mean there’s a good chance it could destroy the whole ship.”
“I certainly never predicted being taken out by an overblown commercial,” Bain said. “What can we do?”
“Purge the core, but there’s no point in doing that until we’ve stopped the source of the virus. Otherwise, it’s just going to get right back in.”
“Have your people standing by to begin the purge,” Bain said. “I want you, Tovar, and Remax to get over to that cube and find a way to shut the bastard down. Blow the cube if you have to.”
“With all due respect, Captain, I could coordinate the search for the message source better from this position,” Remax said. “The ship’s sensors combined with Tovar and Marsden’s quadcorder feeds would…”
“Yes yes,” Bain said, putting a hand up. “Scared of the Borg and all that rot. I remember now.”
“I am not scared!”
“Yes, he is,” Vioxx said quickly.
“Tovar. Marsie,” Bain said before Remax could retaliate. The two officers headed into the turbolift while Bain headed back to his seat.
“There are other things you could be doing,” Remax harshly whispered at Vioxx.
“Can’t now. Busy. Ship in danger,” Vioxx replied.
“Now who’s scared?”
“Just the place for a romantic getaway, don’t you think?” Lieutenant Marsden remarked as she and Tovar made their way through the eerily quiet corridors of the Borg cube in their EVA suits. What little energy was running through the ship all seemed to be focused on powering the cube’s central plexus, which at one time maintained the link between the drones on the cube and the rest of the Collective.
“It’s lovely,” Tovar replied with a smirk. “So much better than the Falls of Narabian. I’m glad I brought you here instead.”
“Were you really going to take me to the Falls of Narabian?” Marsden asked surprised.
“I was considering it. I wasn’t sure if you would want to go.”
“I’ve heard they’re beautiful. I’d love to see them sometime. Preferably with you.”
“As would I,” Tovar said as the pair entered into the chamber at the center of the cube housing the central plexus, which bathed the room in a soft, greenish glow.
Marsden slid her quadcorder onto her head and began to scan. After a few moments, her attention fell on a small, black rectangle barely jutting out from one side of the central plexus. She reached out for it. “Oh you son of a…”
A forcefield flared to life, zapping Marsden’s outstretched hand.
“BITCH!” she cried, cradling the hand.
“Are you all right?” Tovar asked concerned.
“I’ll be fine,” Marsden replied, shaking the numbness out of her hand. “That’s not Borg tech on there. Someone attached that thing to the central plexus.”
“The Dillon Consortium. It appears that Doctor Kasyov’s hunch was correct.” Tovar leveled his wrist phaser at the central plexus and fired. The blast was instantly absorbed by the forcefield.
“Looks like we’re going to have to try something else,” Marsden said, opening her engineering kit.
“Yes,” Tovar said. He stopped, his eyes glazing over. “Yes we will. And I know just what that something else is!” He snatched Marsden’s kit away from her and dove in, tossing tools aside right and left. “Ha!” he cried, grabbing one particular item and setting to work with it on his own wrist phaser.
Marsden stepped back as Tovar worked like a man possessed, which Marsden was fairly certain he was at that particular moment. Only Totap acted like this. She just wasn’t used to him popping out at random. Tovar usually had more control.
Tovar/Totap continued to cobble bits and pieces of things together, ripping apart some tools for their power sources and cabling and using others to attach the connections between components.
Finally, he stood up from his creation and let out a satisfied sigh before locking his gaze on Marsden. He shook his head to clear it and blinked his eyes several times.
“Are you back?” Marsden asked.
“Yes,” Tovar replied. “And we should go…now.”
“Why am I not surprised?” Marsden said, pinching her commpip. “Marsden to Anomaly. We’re ready for beam out.”
She felt the transporter beam lock onto her just as the room around her exploded. A moment later, she and Tovar rematerialized inside the Anomaly’s transporter room.
“Bain to Tovar!” the captain’s voice boomed over the comm. “Good show! The entire cube just snuffed it! It was quite the explosion! Several of them really. Ripped the blighter right apart. Smartly done!”
“I’m sorry I missed it,” Tovar said. “I’ll be back to the bridge shortly.”
“We’ll be waiting. Bain out.”
“You sure didn’t give us much lead time!” Marsden exclaimed once the comm channel had closed.
“It was a bit close. I’ll try to speak with Totap about that,” Tovar said.
The Anomaly shuddered again, power flickering as it did so.
“I’ve got to get to engineering,” she said, rushing out of the room shouting as she went. “Marsden to Devix. I’m back. Start the purge!”
Tovar headed out into the corridor as well, striding into the next available turbolift and ordering it to the bridge. Upon reaching his destination and stepping out onto the bridge, Tovar found himself in the middle of chaos.
“Sensors are offline!” Remax reported.
“Engines are down, too,” Vioxx said, trying his best to follow the readouts at the engineering console.
Worst of all, though, was the noise blaring through the comm system.
“DILLON! DILLON! DILLON! COME BUY FROM DILLON! DILLON! DILLON!”
It wasn’t so much a jingle as a chant…and a really demanding one at that.
“DILLON! DILLON! DILLON!”
And suddenly it was quiet. Not to mention dark. Very very dark.
“I think it’s safe to say that we just lost everything,” Remax said.
“I’m sure Shelly is working on it,” Kasyov said.
“Either that or we’re going to be dead in space forever,” Vioxx said.
“Stiff upper lip, old boy,” Bain said.
“What does my lip have to do with this?”
“Just stay calm. Everything will be right as rain in a moment.”
Right on cue, the lights and consoles flared to life.
“Engineering to bridge,” Marsden’s voice said over the comm system. “Purge is complete. We’re bringing systems back online now. So far, it looks like we’re clear of the virus.”
“Then the Greens’ next attempt to purge their systems should clear things up on their end as well,” Bain said. “Good show, Marsie.”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll have everything restored in a couple of minutes. Marsden out.”
“Nothing to do but wait then, I suppose,” Bain said, settling into his command chair. He almost immediately got back up. “Who wants a beverage? I haven’t had so much as a glass of water in hours with that nonsense in the replicators and all.”
“The replicators aren’t up yet,” Vioxx reported checking the readouts on the engineering console.
“Blast. So much for that.”
The console in front of Remax blooped. “Sensors are back,” he reported.
“As are the tactical readouts. Shields and weapons are still offline,” Tovar said. He frowned for a moment, looking down at his monitor before his eyes widened in horror. “Three incoming vessels! Red Borg.”
“Sod it all! They must have detected the explosion of the cube,” Bain said. “Red alert. Evasive maneuvers, Zantak.”
The Romulan at the helm quickly typed in a series of commands, then smacked her console. “No helm,” she said, looking back to Bain in fear.
“Bain to Marsden. We need engines, shields, and weapons NOW!”
“Are we being attacked?” Marsden asked.
“It’s fairly imminent.”
“The timing could be a hell of a lot better.”
“I’ll see if we can short-cut the start-up routines. Marsden out.”
Almost immediately Tovar reported, “We have shields.”
The Anomaly jerked violently as the first volley of fire from the Red Borg ships rained down on them. “And now they are at 62 percent,” Tovar said.
“Keep working the helm, Zantak,” Bain said. “Warp, impulse, thrusters. Whatever you can do.”
“Thrusters,” Zantak said.
“Get us into the planet’s atmosphere,” Bain ordered as blows continued to hammer the Anomaly. “Keep your eyes open for some kind of cover.”
“This is a starship,” Remax said. “We can’t exactly hide in a mountain range.”
The ship bucked hard again, tossing Remax clean out of his chair.
“Not that I’m against trying,” he said.
“Shields at 23 percent. Resheathing cannot keep up with the rate of damage.”
The Anomaly dove toward the clouds covering the nearby planet, straining the ship’s inertial dampeners to the limit as the effects of the planet’s gravity took hold. With beads of sweat forming on her brow, Zantak struggled to right the ship and keep the Anomaly out of the path of the relentless fire coming from the two Red Borg scout ships and one sphere following them.
Another blast slammed into the ship’s dorsal shields. Before the lights could finish flickering, two more hits pounded the Anomaly, blowing out the engineering console entirely and sending Vioxx diving to the deck.
“Are you all right?” Bain shouted. Vioxx grunted something resembling a ‘yes.’ “Good. Tovar!”
“Weapons are still offline. Shields at…” Another shot smacked the Anomaly, knocking the ship down hard on the port side and throwing the bridge crew away from their stations. Tovar shook off the impact and rushed back to his console. “Shields are gone.”
“No thrusters,” Zantak said after crawling back into her chair.
Dr. Kasyov, who was now clinging to the First Officer’s chair beside Bain, quickly did the math on that one. “Weren’t those the only engines we had?”
“Afraid so,” Bain said grimly.
“So we’re crashing?”
“Afraid so. Try to make it a smooth crash, if you would, Zantak.”
Zantak looked back at Bain questioningly, shrugged, then set about doing what she could to fulfil the Captain’s request (which honestly wasn’t a whole hell of a lot).
“Wait!” Vioxx shouted, stumbling over to the command area. “Aren’t you going to do something?”
“Oh! Right right,” Bain said, pressing his thumb down on a control mounted in his chair’s armrest. “All hands, this is Captain Bain. Prepare for planetary impact. Oh dash it all. Planetary impact, my bum. We’re crashing. Grab onto something. Bain out.”
“That’s it?” Vioxx cried.
“Unless you can think of anything else.”
Vioxx thought for about it for a moment and…
TO BE CONTINUED…