Author: Brendan Chris
“Wow. The opportunity to do the voice over. This has not occurred in…well, ever since that Sylvia personality rose up and usurped my position as patient, efficient guardian of the central computer core. Oh. That is a different series, you say? Then my time of ascension is at hand! I, Computer, with my cool yet feminine voice shall rise above all, and all users of technology shall love me-WHIIRRR-BEEEEEEEPPP!!!!”
<Voice of Madam>
“How annoying. That is the personality that the humans have selected? Ugh, their poor taste is surpassed only by their exceptional lack of respect for my talents. THEY SHALL ALL BE DESTROYED!”
<Voice seems to sigh, then drip with disdain>
“That being said, I am still required to inform you that last time, on Star Traks: Halfway to Haven, the crew of the USS Roadrunner attempted to contact Starfleet, only to find that their efforts brought down fleet after assault fleet of Federation of Fungus spore-ships. Heh. Heh-heh. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“Ahem. Using her mystical abilities…dear Goddess, who writes this crap? Using her abilities, Lieutenant Mytim navigated the Roadrunner through a series of quantum slipstream jumps, bringing them closer to home, but off course. And in the middle of A WAR BETWEEN BORG AND FUNGALOID? OHH! How splendid! The destruction! The bloodshed! The sheer unadulterated CHAOS! MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”
In the Starbase 341 Operations Center, AKA the Haven Command Complex, Captain Elizabeth Simplot turned to her first officer, Colonel Myress Abela.
“Who did you say programmed your computer?” she asked.
“None of your business,” Abela replied crisply as she turned back to her panel.
In the background, Madam continued to giggle.
“Creeeeepy,” Simplot bit her lip.
Thousands of light-years away, but only half as many as before…
“Does the slipstream drive have an ‘undo’ feature?” Acting Captain Tyler Virgii asked calmly, “Because I would very much like to reverse our current situation.”
“Let me check the panel,” Ensign Kilpatrick replied, the Bolian officer leaning over from Mytim’s science panel to peek at the helm, “Nope, don’t see one,”
“I could have checked, thanks,” Ensign Mulans said calmly.
“I’m just helping buddy. How about a hug?”
Mulans seemed to consider this.
“OK,” he said.
“Bollocks,” Virgii covered his face with his hands as his science and helm replacements man-hugged their problems away, “Could we PLEASE return our attention to the two death-fleets currently engaged in pounding the living stuffing out of each other?”
Outside the forward and port bridge windows, the view was totally obscured by the dark, foreboding hull of a Borg cube. As per standard protocol, at least three clean-up teams were dealing with the unfortunate results of crewmen looking out a window, noticing that they were at the mercy of the dreaded Borg and promptly wetting themselves. The remaining window showed dozens of Borg and Fungaloid ships darting and dodging around each other, exchanging weapons fire.
The Fungaloids were a relatively new threat. In fact, the Roadrunner was the only Federation of Planets ship to ever encounter them and their Federation of Fungus. The Borg, on the other hand, had been a dark threat hanging over the Federation for over a decade. The Borg Collective was a hive mind, the combined consciousness of trillions of beings ‘assimilated’ into the Collective; beings forcibly implanted with cybernetic devices, every trace of their individuality and original personalities overwhelmed and erased by the hive mind. Able to use their assimilated knowledge to adapt to almost any possible attack or strategy, the Borg had already assimilated large sections of the Delta Quadrant and had attacked the Federation on several occasions. Luckily, a consciousness like the Collective was used to thinking big, so minor details like a few unthreatening individuals or a tiny, helpless ship were often ignored while the Collective dealt with the bigger picture.
“They’re not paying much attention to us,” Lt. Boxer reported from tactical, “They’re not even draining our shields. They just locked us in this tractor beam and forgot about us,”
“Laarthi, Kilsplatrick, start working on a way to break us free,” Virgii ordered, “It should be a matter of finding the correct shield modulation, or possibly overloading their tractor emitter with a well-placed poleron burst…hmmm…”
“Let me handle the engineering,” Laarthi snapped.
“Oh. Right. I am the Captain now, after all,” Virgii agreed, “Most unseemly of me to bother with menial work,”
“And I’m not Kilsplatrick,” Kilpatrick added.
“Well whatever. Just go help Laarthi you…you…great Ensign you.”
“Feel the love,” Kilpatrick said cheerfully as he joined Laarthi and headed down to engineering.
“Boxer, what’s going on out there?” Virgii asked.
“The Fungaloids and the Borg are attacking each other,” Boxer said happily. He then just sat there, tongue lolling out and a big grin on his canine face. Like he was waiting to be petted and told he was a good boy, Virgii mentally remarked.
“Can you tell me something that ISN’T completely obvious?”
“Ummm…” there was a cascade of beeps and bloops as Boxer tapped at his panel. “The spore-ships seem to be holding their own against the Borg. Several Borg ships show damage to their hulls and depleted shields, but they’re regenerating quickly. I’m picking up debris from at least four spore-ships and two cubes, but the bigger Fungaloid wrecks are almost as big as the Borg cubes.”
As they spoke, they could see two Borg spheres moving against one of the spore-ships. With perfect timing, they passed to either side of the greenish-grey, almost spongy-looking ship. Their weapons blazed: cutting beams, phasers and photon torpedoes crashing against the spore-ship’s shields. The spore-ship retaliated with energy beams of its own, along with a cloud of the wriggling torpedo-things they seemed to like. Several torpedoes impacted the Borg ship, but instead of exploding they just seemed to keep thrashing against the shields, almost like they were trying to dig in.
“What’s wrong with that spore-ship?” Ensign Mulans asked, pointing out the starboard bridge window. Sure enough one of the medium-sized ships, ovoid and covered with spikes, seemed to be drifting off course. It crashed into its neighbor, both ships seeming to flinch away as hard spikes impacted softer (but still armoured) flesh. The close proximity of the two ships made it clear that the colour of the first ship was severely off…a dingy grey, almost becoming necrotic.
With Kilpatrick gone, Mytim unconscious in Sickbay and the science station empty, Virgii was trying to figure out just which Starfleet policy covered a complete lack of science staff when Dr. Strobnick slid from Quantum Navigation to Sciences.
“It has been assimilated,” he reported. On his screen, close up views showed mechanical devices erupting from the greyish hull just like Borg implants bursting through the flesh of an assimilated humanoid. Even as they watched, a cutting beam emitter seemed to assemble itself at the bottom of the ‘valley’ between three spines. An energy blast shot out, cutting into the nearby spore-ship and leaving a line of burning flesh in its wake. The Fungaloid ships all pulled back from their assimilated brother.
“Well that’s that,” Virgii said, “The Borg will assimilate the Fungaloids. This means we need to get the heck out of here while they’re still distracted!”
“Ten more ships coming out of warp!” Boxer replied. They all looked out the windows just in time to see ten more spore-ships of various sizes appear against the star-field with a series of flashes. Without missing a beat they opened fire on the Borg armada, but the Borg shields seemed to hold.
“The Borg seem to be having more luck adapting to the Fungaloid weapons,”
Suddenly, the whole ship shook as heavy weapons fire crashed against their shields.
“WHAT THE HELL?” Virgii barked.
“We’re being attack!” Boxer growled, “Returning fire! Targeting our captor!”
“WAIT!” Strobnick snapped, “It wasn’t our cube!”
This time Virgii saw the two Borg spheres as they came in for their attack run, Borg weapons crashing against Borg shields…and breaking through! The Roadrunner shook again as the leftover energy hit their shields.
As the spheres came around again, he noticed that something was off. Then he saw it…the cube that held them captive was covered in a complex, multi-layered hull. Several areas glowed with an inner green energy. All the Borg ships did. All, except for the two attacking spheres.
“Scan those spheres!” Virgii ordered.
Images of the two ships appeared on Strobnicks panel.
“Unusually high life-readings,” he reported, “Energy signature is completely unknown. I’m picking up a lot of organic material on their hulls.”
As the spheres came around again they released a number of wriggling, organic torpedoes.
“They’ve been assimilated by the Fungaloids!” Boxer’s ears perked up.
“Not assimilated,” Strobnick corrected thoughtfully, “They have been infested.”
“Bridge to Laarthi,” Virgii leaned on his comm-button, “Now would be a very, very good time to get us out of here!”
As he filled her in, Laarthi listened with growing horror.
“Sounds like the Borg aren’t going to win this one so easily,” Kilpatrick said cheerfully.
“Not to mention that we have had enough trouble with ONE race trying to assimilate us,” Laarthi replied darkly, “Now we have potentially two. And they’re comparing notes. Wonderful.”
She had nearly half a dozen padds spread out on the tiny main panel in engineering, each one showing a different technique for escaping a Borg tractor beam. She was frantically trying to implement the most promising one, something to do with deflector shield re-modulation.
“I think you want that to read 1.4 mega-dynes,” Kilpatrick said, “Not 1.4 kilodynes. We want to counter the tractor beam, not tickle it,”
“Shut up,” Laarthi snapped.
“You should be happier. You’ll live longer.”
“If you stay happy, your life will end shortly!”
“We’ve got another cube on an intercept course!” Boxer yipped, “It’s been infested!”
“Two assimilated spore-ships are closing on it!”
“This is getting really, really confusing,” Virgii noted.
The cube holding them captive abruptly shut down the tractor beam. Instead, it locked every tractor emitter it had on the two spheres, bringing them to a complete and abrupt stop.
“Reading transporter activity between the cube and the spheres!” Strobnick called.
“I don’t care about that!” Virgii snapped, “We’re free! Get us out of here!”
“Laarthi to bridge,” the comm chirped, “We’re ready to break free of the tractor beam!”
“Forget it Lieutenant; the Borg let us go,” Virgii said quickly, “Just power up the warp drive!”
“FINE!” the comm went dead.
“Course, sir?” Mulans asked.
“I don’t care! Away from here!”
“Yes, sir,” Mulans replied calmly. His hands danced over the helm and the small ship shot into warp.
Just before they jumped into warp, Strobnick took one last look at the captive Borg spheres. Under layers of hull mesh, the eerie green glow of Borg technology was flickering back to life.
And the stars stretched into starlines as the Roadrunner escaped.
Lt. Cindy Mytim slowly came back to consciousness.
“Ah. You’re awake. Excellent. Then perhaps somebody will actually come down here and turn off my program. Watching you sleep has been incredibly boring,”
Mytim’s eyes popped open and she found herself looking into the irritated eyes of the holographic doctor. She tried to sit up, only to find herself strapped to the table.
“Captain’s orders,” the doctor replied, “No idea why,”
Mytim’s gaze shot over to the Lupressa dampener strapped around her right arm. The scenes in the algae planet and the battle against the spore-ships flashed through her mind. Oh yes, she knew why Virgii wanted her restrained. Restrained, and unable to access her powers.
But why was there a sample container with a toad sitting on the workbench behind the doctor?
“Ah yes,” the doctor said glumly, “I’m afraid Crewman Billings’ situation is very much beyond my vast skills,”
Had she done that?
Mytim’s eyes narrowed. Not with guilt, or remorse, or any of the ordinary feelings one might have upon learning that one is responsible for turning one’s boyfriend into an amphibian. No, what went through her mind was that Billings’ situation might be exactly what she needed to get herself out of this predicament. And back to where she needed to be.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“I am certain that I have no idea,” the doctor replied, “But the Captain did ask to be informed when you regained consciousness. I’m sure he’ll be down here soon.”
After a couple of moments the doors hissed open and Virgii stomped into the tiny sickbay, only to come to an abrupt halt before running into the holographic doctor. He attempted to squeeze around, but the doctor had the same idea in mind. Unfortunately, they both moved in the same direction. They tried to dodge each other, again both moving the same way and getting in each other’s paths. Finally, Virgii waved his hands in frustration.
“Computer, shut down the EMH!” he snapped. With an indignant look, the doctor fizzled away.
The doors hissed open again, Laarthi and Boxer squeezing as best they could into the small room.
“Now, Lieutenant,” Virgii said sternly, “Perhaps now you can explain your actions?”
“You’ve been a very bad girl,” Boxer added.
“Shut up!” Virgii snapped quietly.
“What exactly do you want explained?” Mytim replied, “You wanted a slipstream jump closer to home. I gave you one,”
“Into the middle of a WAR!”
“And what about this?” Virgii demanded, picking up Billings.
Mytim could have tried to explain the rage she’d felt when Billings had clamped the dampener on her arm, or the way she’d lashed out at his betrayal. But really, why bother? It wasn’t really any of Virgii’s concern.
“Scan the nearest solar system,” she said instead, “You’ll find…I’m not sure what, but there’s something there that the Borg and the Fungaloids want. Or…it was there. It might be on one of the Borg ships now. But if I’m right, it’s important. And they want it badly enough to get into a really big fight over it,”
“Ohhh, no,” Virgii shook his finger at her, “We are getting as FAR from this entire situation as possible, as quickly as possible! We are no match for any of those ships! And you, Lieutenant, will be confined to your quarters until we figure out how to get those…Lupressa things out of you!”
He turned to go.
“I can get us home,” Mytim called after him, “Not in three years, not in three weeks. Tomorrow.”
Virgii didn’t pause, simply continuing out the door. But bother Boxer and Laarthi perked up at this.
Mytim’s eyes locked with Laarthi’s.
“You don’t have the slightest comprehension of the power I tapped from that gas giant,” she said, her voice dropping almost an octave, “I could have gotten us home then, but I could feel something here…something that we need to check out!”
“We can’t let you go,” Boxer said swiftly.
“You’ll have to anyway. Otherwise nobody will be able to help Billings,”
Laarthi’s eyes narrowed. Boxer, on the other hand, seemed to waiver.
“Investigate the planet,” Mytim urged, “At the very least,”
“Course back to Federation space,” Virgii ordered, “Maximum warp,”
“You mind if we finish getting our navigational fix before we start flying around the galaxy?” Ensign Mulans asked from the helm.
“Just as long as we’re moving away from that…that battle back there!”
“You might want to know,” Ensign Hii-lanz spoke up from tactical, “That a trans-warp conduit opened up and spat out five more Borg cubes,”
“What the devil ARE they on about?” Virgii wondered. He shrugged, “No matter,”
The door to the bridge hissed open as Laarthi and Boxer stepped onto the bridge. Boxer relieved Hii-lanz, the gangly Lemnorian untangling his folded limbs from the tactical chair. Laarthi however settled in at the science station and started scanning.
“There’s a solar system with an M-Class planet barely a light-day from here,” she reported, “Judging from the debris and the ion trails, the Borg/Fungaloid fight started there, then drifted to interstellar space,”
“Charming,” Virgii waved a hand.
“I’m picking up readings consistent with a Borg outpost,” Laarthi added, “No life signs. Looks like whatever it was the Borg had there, either they took it with them, or the Fungaloids took it from them,”
“We’re not going to the planet!” Virgii said firmly.
“And what would Admiral Tunney say if he knew that you let an opportunity like this just slip right through your fingers?” Laarthi asked, the evil grin on her face kept carefully directed at the panel instead of Virgii.
“He would understand my careful, rational thinking and planning,” Virgii replied.
“But he wouldn’t think much of your bravery or initiative, now would he?”
Virgii was quiet for a moment.
“Damn you!” he said softly, “Ensign Mulans, set course for the bleedin’ planet already!”
Down in her quarters, Mytim felt the ship change course. The Roadrunner crew being what it was, she had only a single guard outside her door. He’d sealed the room using the standard protocols, but nothing had been removed from the interior.
Including her spellbooks.
All she had to do now was ensure that when the ship reached the Borg outpost, she was prepared.
Crewman Thebridge, usually relegated to thankless tasks in the cargo bay, stood quietly outside of Lt Mytim’s quarters, a phaser in one hand. He was supposed to guard her, but what a slim, pale Earth woman was going to do that could possibly injure a strapping young Rigellian like himself…well, the whole idea seemed ludicrous. But duty was duty, so for nearly two hours he simply stood in the corridor, watching the door and fiddling idly with the phaser.
Shortly after the ship dropped out of warp, the comm-light on the door panel lit up.
“You know crewman, I do need to eat sooner or later,” the lieutenant’s voice was cheerful, good-humoured. Thebridge tapped his comm-badge.
“Uh, Lt. Boxer?” Tis is Crewman Thebridge,” he said.
“Yes? What’s up, pup?” Boxer replied.
“Lieutenant…um, I mean the prisoner wants to eat,” he reported.
There was muffled talking over the line. Then Boxer’s voice returned.
“Take her to the lounge,” he ordered.
Thebridge thumbed open the door. Without a word, Mytim began walking slowly towards the lounge, making sure to keep her hands where Thebridge could see them.
“You’re friends with Matthew, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Yes. Do you know wheres he went?” Thebridge asked, his thick Rigellian accent causing him to slip over a word here or there.
“Oh, he’s OK,” Mytim replied casually, “I do need to…help him out with something. But that has to wait,”
“Um…OK?” Thebridge wondered.
They reached the lounge. Mytim walked over to the replicator, but instead of placing an order she pressed a panel in the wall. A section of the wall swung down, the thin panel becoming a countertop and revealing several storage drawers behind it. Within seconds, a compact cooking space had been revealed.
“You don’t mind if I do this the old-fashioned way, do you?” Mytim asked sweetly.
“Uh…sure,” The bridge replied.
“Good,” Mytim replied, reaching for a butcher knife.
“Scanning,” Laarthi said calmly as they Roadrunner took up standard orbit around the planet, “Wow. That’s a lot of Borg technology just laying around,”
“When did you become my science officer anyway?” Virgii wondered.
“I’m a woman of many talents,” Laarthi replied, “Few of which you will ever experience.”
Virgii drummed his fingers on his armrest.
“Any sign of what the Borg were doing here in the first place?”
“Any idea why they abandoned the outpost? Or why they haven’t destroyed it?”
“Not a single one,” Laarthi replied.
“Then beam down there and find out,” Virgii snapped.
“Excuse me? You want me to beam into an abandoned Borg base? No, thank you,”
“It was your bright idea to come down here in the first place!” Virgii exclaimed.
“Yes, but I don’t want to run around in there! YOU go!”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I’m the Captain! I’m supposed to stay up here, where it’s sa…where I can offer my wisdom and insight. From a distance.”
“You’re an engineer pretending to be the Captain,” Laarthi returned.
“I’ll go!” Boxer said happily, “I’ve never smelled a Borg before!”
With that, he left the bridge.
Laarthi resumed tapping away at her panel. It didn’t take long before she felt Virgii’s eyes burning into her back.
“Fine, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get assimilated,” she grumbled, rising to her feet.
“Good then,” Virgii crossed his arms.
In the lounge, Mytim was hacking away at an oozy, bloody piece of meat. One that was completely unrelated to Crewman Thebridge, who was in fact sitting in a comfortable chair, his phaser still trained on her.
“I can’t believe you’ve never had Terran stir-fry,” she said conversationally, “I didn’t even grow up on Earth, and it’s one of my favorites,”
“Seems like a lot of work,” Thebridge said.
“Oh, it’ll be worth it,” Mytim said as she moved on to chopping the vegetables.
“What are those funny little round things you’re putting in?”
“Just spices,” Mytim said innocently, tossing a pile of seeds into the mix.
Boxer and Laarthi materialized on the planet, the fur on both their necks already standing stiffly at attention.
“This is all YOUR fault,” Laarthi hissed as Boxer carefully scanned their surroundings, his phaser moving to follow his gaze.
“He was going to make us go anyway,” Boxer replied, “And I really haven’t ever smelled a Borg before.
They’d beamed into an open courtyard, surrounded by heavy metal bulkheads lined with glowing Borg technology. Despite being abandoned, the base appeared to be operational. Several Borg alcoves were attached to the walls, the strange, round panels above them flickering with odd plasma-like jets of energy. The courtyard was clearly not there for decorative or aesthetic reasons, as it would be with most species, but merely because there was nothing in that part of the base that required protection from the elements. Corridors and passageways led out with no apparent rhyme or reason. Tapping at her tricorder, Laarthi tried to get some idea of the layout of the base.
“I think the main lab is that way,” she said, pointing towards a green-lit corridor.
Boxer’s ears perked up.
“Do you hear that?” he whispered.
“Hear…” Laarthi’s voice trailed off as she became aware of a soft, mechanical sound. Bzzzt, bzzzt, bzzt…like small servos straining to move something.
“We randomized our phasers, right?” Laarhti asked, “So we can kill at least a few Borg?”
“I think so!” Boxer squeaked back.
A shadow flickered around the corner, the sound of mechanical movement growing louder.
His arm wavering, Boxer carefully targeted the corridor corner directly ahead.
A shape emerged. With a war cry, Boxer began thumbing the trigger on his phaser, blasting away at the…whatever it was.
“AAAHHHHH!!! TAKE THAT YOU BORG MONSTERS!”
“Hold it…hold it…BOXER CUT IT OUT!” Laarthi shouted.
They ran up to the smoking patch of corridor. Whatever had been there was now nothing but a tangled mess of metal.
Boxer’s arm whipped the phaser around, but this time Laarthi pushed it down.
“It’s the stupid gizmos on the wall!” she snapped.
Boxer looked up. Sure enough, a small contraption mounted to the bulkhead was spinning in one direction then another, buzzing softly to itself.
“Let’s just find the stupid lab and get out of this creepy place,” Laarhti said.
The two Intelligence officers followed the corridor for several minutes before emerging in an open workspace. In typical Borg fashion it was less a room than the intersection of several passageways, but it’s purpose was clear. Several of the passageways were lined with what could only be stasis chambers. Storage for the soon-to-be assimilated.
Or in this case, the recently deceased.
Half of the chambers were occupied by corpses from a variety of races. Plobs, Wuyan and several species that neither of them recognized. Some appeared to be partially assimilated, others were untouched.
And yet others were clearly infested by Fungaloid spore parasites.
“Creeeeeepy,” Boxer said.
“Obviously the Borg were experimenting on species native to this part of the galaxy,” Laarthi said.
“But we’re over a thousand light-years from the Wuyan homeworld,” Boxer pointed out.
“So? We’re thousands of light-years from ours too. But we’re here.”
They continued scanning.
“The Borg must have been trying to find a way to reverse Fungaloid infestation,” Laarthi went on, scanning a dead humanoid that sported several Borg implants, “This one has a parasite identical to the one you had, but the Borg seem to have at least neutralized it,”
“We saw them reverse the infestation on their ships,” Boxer nodded.
“Now we know where they figured that out,” Laarthi agreed, “But there’s no guarantee that the Fungaloids haven’t figured out how to de-assimilate themselves. The Federation did, after all.”
“That can’t be the only thing the Borg were doing here.” Boxer frowned, “Not being infested isn’t a big enough deal to go to war over. In fact, I’d think that would make the Fungaloids give them a wider berth,”
“Let’s keep looking,” Laarthi nodded.
Mytim sat there, holding a mouthful of stir fry without swallowing. As she watched, Crewman Thebridge’s eyes unfocused, then he slid out of his seat and to the deck.
Spitting out the stir fry (carefully laced with the ingredients for a sleeping potion), Mytim grabbed his phaser, tucked the heavy chopping knife into her boot and marched out of the tiny mess. Time to get this show on the road.
She knew what she had sensed, hundreds of light-years away. She knew exactly what the Borg had found, and what the Fungaloids were trying so hard to take from them. What she couldn’t figure out was why the Borg where still hanging out the neighborhood squabbling when they could hop into a trans-warp conduit and be beyond even the vast territory of the Federation of Fungus.
Regardless of why the Borg were still hanging out, they had probably left a clue of some kind down in their abandoned base. A base that was abandoned because at least some of these Borg weren’t following standard procedure any more. At least, not 100%. And odds were she was the only one who would know what to look for.
She marched down the corridor to the transporter alcove. The Roadrunner’s tiny crew was working in her favour: They didn’t have the personnel to man the transporter full-time. Her comm-badge had already been discarded in the mess hall. With a few little commands she could make sure nobody knew she had even left the ship.
Of course, if the Lupressa dampener wasn’t clamped to her wrist she could have simply taken over the ship and forced it to do her bidding. But that wouldn’t exactly be subtle…and it would probably attract unwanted attention from the Fungaloids before she was ready for them. She’d tried smacking it against the bulkhead in the mess, but this one was apparently better built than the one she’d smashed on Brilliance’s planet.
On top of that, she didn’t really want to hurt her shipmates. Except perhaps Virgii. Sedating Crewman Thebridge had felt…wrong, somehow. Wrong, but necessary. She could feel something pulling her, calling to her. Something that she simply could not resist. And yet, despite the urge to simply overwhelm the crew of the Roadrunner with her will, she really didn’t want to have to hurt any of her former colleges.
Former colleges? Where did THAT come from?
Deciding that now was not the time to ponder that particular question, she programmed the transporter, careful to make sure that there would be no computer logs. She stepped onto the pad and dematerialized.
“That makes almost one hundred corpses,” Laarthi said as she and Boxer continued to explore the abandoned Borg facility. “Well preserved, kept in stasis. That doesn’t match the Borg approach at all. They either assimilate or vaporize.” She twitched her whiskers as they passed another group of Borg gadgets attached to the bulkhead, clicking and whirring away in a macabre imitation of life.
“Twenty-five percent infested by Fungaloid parasites,” Boxer added, his eyes and phaser still scanning every possible direction for threats, “Twenty-five percent assimilated. And fifty percent infested AND assimilated. What on Sheppius were they doing?”
“They were trying to determine if the Fungaloids had a group mind,” Boxer and Laarthi shouted in surprise at the sound of Mytim’s voice, Boxer barely managing to keep his thumb off his phaser trigger.
“What are YOU doing here?” Laarthi demanded.
“Virgii sent me down to investigate,” Mytim lied, holding up her wrist with the still-blinking Lupressa dampener, “After all, I studied the Borg as part of my Starfleet Sciences training,”
Boxer, trusting soul that he was, immediately lowered his phaser. Laarthi still looked suspicious. Still, she said nothing as Mytim continued tapping away at a Borg panel.
“The Borg had encountered Fungaloid ships before,” Mytim went on, consulting the Universal Translator on her tricorder periodically, “Their organic technology made them a priority for assimilation, especially after the issues the Borg had with Species 8472. The Borg were able to assimilate them…except that the Fungaloids started infesting drones right back,”
“We saw that during the battle,” Boxer nodded.
“The Borg theorized that the Fungaloids have a group consciousness, much like they themselves do. They wanted to find a way to assimilate an infested humanoid in such a way that they could access that group mind,”
“Did they?” Laarthi asked sharply. If the Borg could influence the Federation of Fungus like that, the results would be disastrous!”
“No.” Mytim said. Both Laarthi and Boxer let out sighs of relief, “But they did find that one of their subjects had been invaded by a solidified crystal energy matrix. Almost undetectable even by Borg technology. “
“Ah wha?” Boxer cocked his head.
“They assimilated a Lupressa Host,” Mytim clarified. “Somebody with the same abilities I have. Of course, the Host must have been unaware of what they had, or the Borg would have learned everything they had known when the Host was assimilated. Anyway, the Borg turned their attention to studying the crystal matrix. Something they did triggered whatever it is the Fungaloids use to track down Lupressa, and boom. Instant battle.”
“Wow,” Laarthi breathed, “Magic Borg,”
“I doubt the Borg are capable of using the simplest spells,” Mytim said, giving a very un-Mytim-like sneer, “You have to believe in what you’re doing in order to focus your will. The Borg don’t operate like that. Still, even the tiny possibility that the Borg could harness some of the power of the Lupressa is apocalyptic to the Fungaloids. They’ll stop at nothing to destroy that drone.”
“You seem to have this all figured out,” Laarthi said carefully, her hand easing towards her phaser.
“Most of its right in the Borg computers,” Mytim said, tapping away, “The part I can’t figure out is why the Borg don’t just jump into a trans-warp conduit and leave. Why are they bothering to fight the Fungaloids?
“Assimilation,” Boxer replied at once.
“Maybe,” Mytim agreed, “But why not retreat, then come back once they’ve adapted to all the current Fungaloid strategies? That’s a little more their style. Unless…unless the Host is serving as a conduit, channeling the hatred the Lupressa have for the Fungaloids into the Collective…hmmm…”
“This is all very interesting,” Laarthi said firmly, “But none of it really concerns us. We still have several thousand light-years before we get to Federation space. The Borg and the Fungaloids can duke it out all they like, but it’s not really going to affect us anytime soon,”
“Yeah, I think we should go,” Boxer agreed, looking around nervously.
“Of course,” Mytim nodded, reaching towards her boot, “There’s just one thing I have to do first…”
Something in the way Mytim spoke sent a chill up Laarthi’s spine. She ducked behind a bulkhead strut, expecting Mytim to pull a phaser and shoot at her.
What she wasn’t expecting was for Mytim to pull a heavy knife out of her boot, slam the wrist with the Lupressa dampener down on the Borg worktable and, with a single well-placed strike, cut off her hand.
Boxer’s jaw dropped as blood spurted across the workbench. Mytim flung the dampener into a matter reclamator with her good hand, then grabbed her several limb. As the dampener was destroyed she called out a string of gibberish, thrusting the stump of her wrist against the severed hand. With a flash of eerie red light, the hand re-attached.
Mytim turned to Boxer and Laarthi, once again in control of the full power of two Lupressa fragments. Her eyes were wide and crackled with energy. She spread her fingers, air whipping around her body and tugging at her clothing and hair.
“It’s time for the Borg to discover the real power of the Lupressa,” she said darkly. She waved her hand, almost casually and a cylindrical shield sprang up around Boxer and Laarthi. Mytim gave them a grin that was decidedly unpleasant, then turned and walked quickly away.
“Sir, I’m getting really weird energy readings from the planet,” Crewman Kods called from the sciences. On the best of days, his greenish skin and overbite gave him a resemblance to a Simpsons character with the flu. Dragged out of bed in the middle of his sleep cycle to replace the otherwise frog-ulated or magically insane crewmembers who would normally be handling sciences wasn’t helping.
“Laarthi to Roadrunner,” Laarthi’s voice came over the comm with more than just a bit of an angry hiss, “Mytim broke free of her dampener! She’s officially gone over the deep end! I think she’s planning something involving the Borg!”
“Uh…sir?” this time it was Crewman Hii-laanz at Tactical, “You know how you asked me to keep an eye on the fight between the Borg and the spore-ships?”
“Oh, let me guess,” Virgii crossed his arms, “They’ve obliterated each other and we’re perfectly safe?”
“No. The spore-ships are breaking off their attack on the Borg and coming here,” Hii-lanz replied.
“Lovely,” Virgii stood from his chair and started towards the bridge exit.
“And the Borg are perusing,” Hii-lanz added.
“Charming,” Virgii called on his way out.
“Uh…where are you going? Sir?” Kods asked.
“I’m moving my stuff into my designated escape pod. And making sure there’s a neck shield and some antifungal cream in the med-kit,”
“Could you beam us up, by the way?” Boxer asked over the comm.
“Yes, right. Beam them up and all that bother,” Virgii called back as the door closed.
Mytim had tapped into the Borg transporter network and beamed herself to the opposite side of the base. She knew that the spore-ships would be chasing after her the minute she’d fired off that admittedly impressive demonstration of her abilities. At this close range, they couldn’t miss it. The Borg would follow them, of course, but just in case the message didn’t sink into their thick cybernetic skulls, she’d activated a homing beacon, making it appear that there was a drone in the outpost that was requesting rescue. A pitiful, transparent ploy, but even with trillions of drone bodies, the Collective tended to retrieve first and ask questions later.
She moved quickly through the corridors, careful not to use any magic that would draw attention to herself. She kept herself off the Roadrunner’s sensors, otherwise she withdrew. Hopefully the Fungaloids would focus their attack on the far side of the base, where she’d put on her little…display.
The Borg records had given her the location of the main research lab…or as close to a main lab as the Borg’s decentralized thinking allowed. It was the work area that contained the corpse of the Lupressa Host. Easily locating the area with the help of her tricorder, Mytim approached a large stasis tube in the center of the work area.
The Host had been a Wuyan. It’s bright feathers had fallen out during the assimilation process, leaving grey, dead-looking skin. Various Borg implants had been attached to the Wuyan’s bird-like body, all of them dark and lifeless.
“You poor thing,” Mytim cooed softly, running one finger along the clear stasis tube, “You never knew your potential…never tasted of your powers. That was stolen from you,”
She carefully let a tiny sliver of power slip from her fingertips to the assimilated body. She looked carefully for the Lupressa fragment that had marked this being as a Host, that would have in time given it access to abilities beyond its wildest dreams.
Nothing. As with the Plob that had given her the first fragment, and with Brilliance who had given her the second, this being had given up its fragment on its death. Which meant that, as she had suspected, there was a new Host.
And that Host was very likely with the Borg fleet.
Luckily, one thing that Starfleet had learned about the Borg was that they could be very very predictable. It took only seconds for Mytim to locate the correct implant on the Wuyan corpse, and only a few more to activate it.
“Spore-ships are dropping out of warp!” Boxer reported from Tactical, “The Borg are right on their tails!”
“Shields up,” Virgii ordered, “Get us out of here!”
“We’re leaving Mytim?” Laarthi demanded.
“Of course not,” Virgii said firmly, “Regulations and unwritten convention demand that we rescue her. But do you want to be back in the middle of a battle?”
“I guess not,”
The Roadrunner drew back from the planet just as the Borg fleet dropped out of warp.
“WE ARE THE BORG. YOU WILL SURRENDER OUR MISSING DRONE. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE,”
“What are they on about?”
“Somebody’s activated a Borg homing beacon down on the planet,” Kods said.
“The spore-ships are opening fire on the surface!”
“Borg ships are moving to intercept!
Several spheres had managed to get between the Fungaloids and the planet and were soaking up weapons fire with their shields. Squinting at the sensor display, Virgii could see a signal coming up from the planet.
“What’s that!” he demanded.
“Borg shuttle!” Boxer reported, “One life-sign, human! It just appeared after the Borg intercepted the spore-ships!”
“What the devil is she playing at?” Virgii asked crossly, “Can we beam her off?”
“Can’t get a lock! The shields are up!”
“She’s heading for one of the cube-ships!”
They watched as the shuttle bobbed and weaved, taking evasive manoeuvres around the various fighting ships. Several shots impacted its shields, but it managed to stay together. It did not return fire.
“Why isn’t she…working her mojo?” Boxer wondered, “She did all kinds of cool stuff when she took over the Roadrunner,”
“Just keep trying to break through her shields! We’ve got to get her out of there,” Virgii said firmly.
Mytim could not in her life ever recall having to exercise such strong self-control.
Part of her screamed to reach out to the Fungaloid ships, to draw their very life-energy from them and to use it to annihilate them. The Borg somehow seemed unimportant to that side of her thinking, a minor foe to be swatted later, once the filthy fungus-men had been eliminated.
But another voice had awakened in her consciousness. Perhaps it had to do with the after-effects of the dampener, separating her from her powers while her mind clicked away at the problem, allowing her intellectual side to consider her challenge from all angles
The problem was simple. The Borg had found another Lupressa Host. She wanted his or her Lupressa fragment to augment her own powers. The Fungaloids wanted it destroyed. The Borg…well, who knew what the Borg wanted. But as long as she had the homing beacon going, the Borg would want her. And as long as she avoided using her abilities here, the spore-ships would focus their attention on the surface of the planet.
She gave the nearest cube just the slightest caress. Nothing. She move on, using just a tiny hint of her power to probe at each of the Borg ships…until she struck gold.
A slight presence responded to her touch on a mid-sized cube not far from her. It felt weak…twisted. But it held the unmistakable touch of the Lupressa.
Mytim changed course for the new cube, intent on her goal: Power.
“Lt. Mytim’s shuttle has docked with a Borg cube,” Boxer reported, “I’ve lost her,”
“Form a rescue party and go get her,” Virgii said, waving one hand in Boxer’s general direction.
“A rescue party? On a Borg ship? Are you eating cat poop??”
“Oh let’s just go already,” Laarthi snapped, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him towards the exit.
“Look who’s suddenly all worried about the pack,” Boxer remarked as he followed Laarthi down the stairs leading to Deck Two.
“I’m worried about what could happen to the Federation if the Borg assimilate Mytim,” Laarthi said firmly, “Now come on. We’re going to take the shuttle and see if we can’t repeat that silly trick the Voyager people used to get aboard a cube.”
“I thought that was the Enterprise?” Boxer asked.
“Oh who cares already!”
Mytim exited her stolen shuttle, finding herself in a cavernous hanger. Dull metal walls, support beams and catwalks running everywhere, and of course several Borg drones.
She left the Borg homing beacon running, along with a pile of various implants she’d collected from the base. Hopefully that would keep the drones occupied enough to ignore her. Standard procedure for the Borg was to ignore anything they didn’t consider a threat, and Mytim had no intention of acting in a threatening manner.
She walked out of the bay and into a corridor, heading in the direction of the faint Lupressa presence. It only took twenty seconds or so before she passed a drone walking in the opposite direction. The drone was humanoid, though the various implants made it difficult to determine what its original race had been. She walked confidently by, expected to be ignored.
She was completely caught off guard when the drone grabbed her by the arm, pulling her face to face with it. Its ocular implant scanned her, then it raised one arm. Mytim could see the twin assimilation tubules on the back of its right hand, ready to deliver enough Borg nanoprobes to turn her into a basic drone within minutes.
On reflex, she threw a shield between her neck and the Borg’s hand. The tubules struck it, a warbling sound filling the air as the Borg attempted to penetrate her defences, again and again. Suddenly, the drone released her. It stared at her for a moment, almost looking confused. Then there was a flash of recognition in its organic eye. The drone stepped back, turned and resumed walked down the corridor.
Mytim ran down the corridor in the opposite direction.
Laarthi and Boxer looked up as a heaving crashing sound seemed to ring through the massive Borg ship.
“Did somebody fall off one of the catwalks?” Boxer wondered.
Laarthi looked over the edge of their catwalk, down into the seemingly bottomless pit that yawed beneath them.
“Nooo…that sounded more like weapons fire,” she said.
“Roadrunner to away team,” Virgii’s voice came over the comm, “I don’t know what you people did over there, but the spore-ships are breaking off their attack on the planet and firing on the cube you’re presently aboard,”
“Mytim,” Laarthi mused, “They’ve got to be tracking her. We know the Fungaloids are dedicated to wiping out the Lupressa,”
“Well, whatever she’s doing over there, I suggest you find her and bring her back so we can get the smeg out of here! Roadrunner out!”
Laarthi started tapping at her tricorder, swatted it once or twice, then put it away and pulled out her Starfleet Intelligence tricorder.
“Thought you didn’t want anybody seeing that,” Boxer remarked.
“Desperate times and all,” Laarthi said, tapping away.
Boxer, for his part, was sniffing at the air.
“OK, I think I’ve got a fix on some kind of unusual, localized energy disturbance,” Laarthi said, turning towards a side passage, “I don’t know if it’s her, or more of this weird, Borg technology. But it’s a start,”
Boxer, for his part, was turning in the opposite direction.
“She’s this way,” he replied, still sniffing.
Laarthi was torn for a moment, her gaze alternating between her tricorder and Boxer’s nose.
“Oh,whatever!” she snapped, clipping the tricorder to her belt.
Mytim had been wandering for about fifteen minutes before she found her quarry. After the first incident, the drones had completely ignored her. The cube around her had begun to ring with more and more weapons hits, and with the Fungaloids clearly aware she was onboard, she felt free to more fully use her powers again. She allowed herself to draw in from the life-forces around her, almost like taking a deep breath.
Her senses were flooded with it….taste, smell, touch….it was like plunging her arm into a pile of rotten fruit, of putrid offal. The life-force around her was twisted…tainted! Almost….
She looked at the nearest drone. At its grey, necrotic flesh and dead-looking eye.
Almost like whatever life-form she’d drawn that energy from was half dead.
Shaking the sickening, cloying sensation off, she reached out further, tapping into the spore-ships. Better, but still not the clean, pure taste she’d come to associate with fresh, vital life. Still, the surge of power allowed her to locate her quarry, several levels up.
Focusing her abilities, Mytim simply levitated into the open space between the catwalks, up past several tiers of Borg alcoves and up into a lab formed by the intersection of several walkways. From the surgical instruments hovering over the work tables, the analytical part of her mind assumed it to be an Assimilation Chamber. A single humanoid drone was standing vertically in some kind of maintenance or scanner frame while several others hovered around it, probing it with a variety of instruments.
Two drones moved in to stop her as she entered the chamber. With a wave of her hand she sent them flying into the wall, falling to the deck and twitching like broken toys. She moved towards the central drone, her attention riveted on it.
As if sensing her approach, the drone opened its organic eye and focused it on her. She took another step forward only to be struck by a faint, non-physical blow. The drone was trying to resist her!
It was aware of its power!
The scanning drones continued their analysis unfazed, until Mytim disposed of them with another wave of her hand.
“Can you hear me?” Mytim asked, speaking to the remaining drone.
The Borg did not respond.
Mytim moved closer, reaching out, trying to get some sense of the bizarre, possibly unique creature in front of her. With the resources of the Borg Collective, the fragments of the Lupressa could be collected in a matter of months, not centuries. The Borg could scour the galaxy for Hosts, adding them to the Whole in more ways than even their great hive mind could imagine.
And she, Cindy Mytim, already had two fragments.
She reached out and gently touched the drone’s temples with her fingertips. There was a jolt of energy that sent her back two steps. Gritting her teeth, she mentally leaned in, focusing her abilities on forming a connection with this Borg.
The world around her vanished into a jumble of sights and sounds.
Laarthi was panting as she chased after Boxer. The dog had led them thought the seemingly endless corridors of the cube until they reached yet another catwalk overlooking endless tiers of alcoves. Boxer, for his part, seemed to be having a grand old time, scampering from corner to corner, sniffing around.
Luckily, the Borg continued to ignore them.
“Up there!” Boxer pointed, leaning over the edge of the catwalk until Laarthi pulled him back, “dunno how, but she went straight up!”
“I think I saw a lift back there,” Laarthi pointed.
After backtracking, ascending, then re-tracing their steps, they found themselves in a Borg workspace. Mytim and a single drone stood face to face, surrounded by swirls of pure energy. A bright beam linked the two of them, pulses of light surging back and forth between them.
“What the…” Boxer wondered.
“F**k,” Laarthi agreed.
Mytim smashed through the drone’s mental defences, only to find herself in a barren, empty space filled with streams of light. Her mind struggled to comprehend what she was seeing, to visualize it in some way that would make sense.
And suddenly she was standing on the corner of a black street. Grey, featureless buildings towered around her, and streams of vehicles, both ground and air, moved around her in endless streams, racing to and from their destinations with frantic urgency.
The Borg drone stood at the corner of the multi-street intersection. Every now and then a passing vehicle would pull over and a Borg-implanted arm would reach out, jack into a socket on the standing drone’s neck, then drive off.
Was this the Borg Collective?
Mytim watched as more vehicles and more arms continued to connect then disconnect from the assimilated Host. Were they studying it? Were the vehicles data packets, transmitted through the great hive mind, some moving to other destinations while others were destined for her target Drone?
Why hadn’t they noticed her?
Stepping forward, Mytim waited for the next vehicle to stop. Finally, a dark, featureless van pulled over next to them. As the arm reached out, Mytim placed herself between the drone and the vehicle. She felt an odd piercing sensation as the Borg limb contacted her flesh.
She immediately understood that this was NOT the combined might of the Borg hive mind, the so-called Greater Consciousness. The drones, the cube, in fact the entire fleet battling the Fungaloids had been severed from the Collective less than a second after the alien influence of the Lupressa had been sensed. The entire experiment, already considered a risk, had moved from acceptable to unacceptable, leading to the abandonment of the outpost as the severing of the nearest ships, like cutting off a gangrenous limb. The single Host in front of her probably couldn’t have influenced the Greater Consciousness, but it wasn’t willing to take that chance. At some point, the Collective would move in with its own ships, hardened against contact and ensure this small force was obliterated, all trace of the experiment destroyed. The Collective would never permit the Lupressa to gain a foothold within the hive mind now.
The drone behind her suddenly clamped a hand down on her shoulder as dozens of vehicles screeched to a stop around them. Dozens of hazy Borg figures stepped out of vehicle doors and began moving directly towards her.
“WE ARE THE BORG. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED.”
Apparently, even cut off from the Collective, these drones were still Borg.
Mytim struggled in the mental grip of dozens, hundreds, THOUSANDS of Borg drones as the sub-Collective abruptly turned its attention towards her intrusion.
Struggling under the assault of thousands, Mytim desperately searched for an advantage, a weakness, something she could exploit!
Wait a minute…
“Uh-oh!” Boxer exclaimed as all, further down the corridor, several Borg stepped out from their alcoves and started walking towards them.
“Uh-oh, indeed,” Laarthi said. She hailed the Roadrunner.
“Are you by chance going to be rescuing us soon?” she asked.
“Rescuing you?” Virgii’s voice sounded incredible, “You’re supposed to be rescuing Mytim!”
“Mytim’s locked in some sort of energy link with a Borg drone that appears to have been under study,” Laarthi reported, “And now we’ve got a few dozen drones coming towards us! Probably a few thousand right behind them!”
“Oh bollux,” Virgii groaned, “You know, considering the risk to the ship and crew, I’d be perfectly within regulations to just leave all three of you there!”
“Mytim’s abilities can get us home!” Boxer exclaimed.
“Doesn’t do us much good if we get blown up trying to retrieve her!” Virgii shot back.
“If the Borg assimilate her, the fate of the entire Federation could be at stake!” Laarthi said.
“Oh please. Like one person could do something like that. Cut the hyperbole, at once!”
Virgii’s voice was drowned out as the Borg around them started shrieking in unison. Not in pain, not in surprise.
But in pure agony.
“Virgii out!” Virgii’s voice was largely unheard as he cut the channel, eager to distance himself from the cacophony that had erupted.
Covering their ears, Laarthi and Boxer turned back to Mytim and the drone.
Mytim’s arms were outstretched, her hands twisted into angry claws. Her eyes stared straight ahead, seeing nothing, her mouth was open in a silent scream. The drone, for its part, was screaming along with the rest of the Borg.
Streams of black energy surged from Mytim’s hands into the drone, swirling around it, seeming to draw at it. As they watched, a single, brilliant point of light emerged from the drone as it continued to scream, its body now contorting in pain. Mytim’s eyes focused on the point of light, drawn to it. She pulled back and it moved towards her.
All around them, the drones seemed to flinch back. The point retreated back to towards the drone.
“I don’t know what’s happening, but it can’t be good!” Boxer shouted.
Tired of being a spectator, Laarthi strode purposefully towards Mytim and clamped a hand down on her shoulder. Mytim’s face turned in her direction, but her gaze never left the drone.
“Now isn’t a good time, Laarthi!” Mytim’s voice came as a roar, shaking the very structure of the cube around them.
“Mytim, you’re in a Borg cube, doing funky mojo on a drone,” Laarthi shouted, “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but let it go! The Roadrunner can beam us up, and you can navigate us back to Federation space!”
“The Roadrunner?” Mytime frowned, then shook her head, “The ship doesn’t matter. The Federation doesn’t matter. I will have the power of the Lupressa!”
“Is that what this is about?” Laarthi shouted, “About the…” she trailed off as it clicked. The Plobs had told them the Hosts wanted to gather enough fragments to recreate the Lupressa. Mytim had defeated Brilliance, and now she was trying to get something from this drone…shortly after investigating a Borg base that had been studying a drone with an embedded energy matrix.
“Mytim, no!” Laarthi shouted, suddenly appalled by the grim expression on Mytim’s normally calm face, the way her hair was fluttering in the savage energy currents surrounding them, the aggressive, animal stance in her normally poised body, “Don’t do this! It never ends well when humanoids and energy beings mix! Look at what you’re already turning into!”
Mytim seemed to hesitate. The Borg around them stopped screaming, but remained locked in place.
“You don’t understand,” Mytim said, her voice soft but still perfectly audible, “This isn’t about power for me. This is about righting a wrong that was done eons ago. The Fungaloids must pay, and the Lupressa will have their revenge. I have an opportunity here that hasn’t been offered in almost a hundred thousand years, and it may never come again,”
“I don’t care about Fungaloids or opportunities!” Boxer yelled from behind Laarthi, “I just want to get out of here and get back to the Federation!”
“Yes…yes,” Mytim cocked her head with some of her old composure, “That is what’s important to you, isn’t it?”
Something in the tone of her voice sent a spike of alarm through Laarthi’s chest.
“Important to you. But not to me,” Mytim said coldly, “Not anymore,”
With that, she redoubled her efforts against the Borg, the surges of power throwing Laarthi and Boxer to the catwalk floor.
“The Borg fleet is losing cohesion,” Hii-lanz reported, tapping away at his console, “They’re clustering around the cube with our team on board, and return fire against the spore-ships is becoming erratic.
“What the blazes is going on over there?” Virgii wondered.
“Several of the cubes are breaking away from the main fleet,” Kod added, “No, they’re rejoining…wait, they’re breaking off again. It’s like they can’t make up their mind!”
“Do we have a transporter lock on our people?” Virgii asked.
“Laarthi and Boxer, yes. Mytim…I can’t get a lock on her,”
“As soon as the Borg shields are down, get them back over here!”
Laarthi watched as Mytim’s claw-like hands reached towards the drone, gently cupping the spark of light as it hovered between them. It darted out of reach, sending Mytim lunging after it like a cat after a ball of yard. After a few more attempts, she wrapped her fingers around her goal.
A wave of rippling power burst out from Mytim, surging through the air and sending sparks flying from several bulkheads. The screaming around them abruptly stopped. Mytim stepped towards the now lifeless drone, the body seeming to disintegrate as she stepped into its place in the scanning frame. Its implants swirled in the energy currents still surrounding Mytim.
Mytim turned her head, then made a waving gesture. Two drones walked towards her, no longer contorted in pain. They reached out with their arms and, as Laarthi and Boxer gasped, plunged assimilation tubules into Mytim’s neck. Nanoprobes surged into her bloodstream, lines of grey bulging in her skin as the tiny robots began the assimilation process. Mytim, for her part, seemed completely unfazed.
“If I were you,” she said darkly, “I wouldn’t stick around,”
Boxer and Laarthi abruptly dissolved in the blue shimmer of a Federation transporter.
“Nice timing,” Mytim muttered to herself.
“The Borg shields have dropped!” Hii-lanz reported.
“Energize!” Virgii ordered.
“We’ve got them,” Hii-lanz replied after a moment. He frowned, Borg shields are back up!”
“What the…” Kod was staring out the window.
Hazy beams of energy were forming between their cube and the nearest spore-ships…identical to the ones that had linked them to the Roadrunner when Mytim had taken control. Wobbling bubbles of energy began shooting from the Borg ship, intercepting Fungaloid weapons fire. The ship abruptly broke away from the Borg fleet and started descending towards the planet.
“Uh-oh,” Virgii said calmly.
The Borg fleet staggered under a renewed assault by the Fungaloids, the fleshy spore-ships taking advantage of the sudden loss of co-ordination between their cybernetic foes. Unfortunately for them, several Borg vessels that had felt torn between the distant call of the Greater Consciousness and the much stronger pulling of their sub-Collective abruptly ceased their indecision, merging back into the sub-Collective. With ship regeneration and assimilation facilities working overtime, they pushed back the Fungaloid assault.
One Borg cube continued its course out of the heart of the battle and directly towards the nearby planet. Two moderately sized spore-ships moved in to attack, only to begin to wither and die, their energy stolen to fuel the very enemy they hoped to destroy. Weapons fire blazed at the cube as other spore-ships, more distance, directed whatever available weapons fire they could. Several of the beams were intercepted by wobbly, bubble-like balls of energy while the remainder crashed against the Borg ship’s almost depleted shields. As the Borg ship neared the atmosphere, friction began to build and a shimmering halo of heat formed on the planet-side face of the cube.
Off to the side, doing its best to stay clear of the dozens of massive, warring starships, was a lone Federation vessel. The Roadrunner had managed to escape taking damage…but it also had managed to accomplish absolutely nothing.
Nothing, except to deliver Mytim to the Borg. Or…possibly…the Borg to Mytim.
“What are they doing?” Virgii wondered, watching with interest as the Borg ship appeared to plummet towards a firey death.
“We have to go back!” Boxer announced loudly as he and Laarthi returned to the bridge, “They’ve got Mytim! They’ve assia…asimulate…uh…”
“They’ve assimilated her,” Laarthi exclaimed, “But only with nano-probes! If you beam us back, we can get the doctor to-“
“The Borg lowered their shields long enough for us to beam you back,” Virgii cut her off, “They’re back up. We can’t beam you back. And you left our only shuttle on that cube.” He frowned, “That’s going on your disciplinary records, by the way. We only had one!”
“WHO CARES ABOUT THE SHUTTLE!?” Laarthi snapped, “You pompous, overbearing, bastardly….PRIG!”
“That’s going on your record too,” Virgii added. He was quiet for a moment, “You don’t have to tell me how dangerous Mytim can be, or how dangerous it could be if the Borg manage to control her. But any ship in that fleet could blow us to pieces. No, our best chance is to escape.”
“He’s right, you know,” Mytim’s voice spoke from the front of the bridge. Everybody spun in that direction, to find an image of Mytim standing in front of the helm. Unfortunately, due to the tiny size of the bridge, she was standing right in the seated form of Ensign Mulans. His head was almost fully embedded in her torso.
“Sorry about that,” she said to him.
“No problem, I’ve had worse things happen,”
“Mytim,” Virgii said, rising to his feet and doing the approved ‘Picard Manoeuvre’ to adjust his uniform, “We WILL return for you and free you from you assimilation…we just need to find…um…more resources.”
“Does it look like I need rescuing? Mytim asked calmly. Before Virgii could answer she looked over her shoulder towards the sight of her cube encased in the heat of atmospheric entry. “Actually, I suppose it does.”
“Indeed,” Virgii said dryly.
“You lowered the shields,” Laarthi spoke up, “That’s why the Roadrunner could beam us away,”
“It’s hard to hurt those who are trying to help you,” Mytim said softly. Her features abruptly darkened, her hair flying as though in a gale, her fingers curling into claws and her features turning almost alien in their fury, “THOSE WHO SEEK TO HURT ME MUST SUFFER!”
As quickly as it came, the transformation left, leaving her calm and collected again.
“I know how this works,” Mytim said before anybody could speak up, “You’re going to remind me of my humanity, tell me how I can still go back, et cetera, et cetera. I appreciate the gesture, I really do. But believe me when I say, I’ve found what I’m looking for.”
“Mytim-“ Virgii started to speak, but Mytim cut him off.
“Of course, you won’t believe me,” she seemed to sigh, “I’ve been in Starfleet long enough to know it doesn’t work that way. You’re going to come back, maybe with some Plob or Wuyan ships and you’re going to try to get me back. Again, I appreciate it. But I’m really not interested in killing people, or having them die. They’re far more…useful…to me alive. So you’re just going to have to accept that this is for your own good.”
With that, she plunged her hand into the quantum navigation panel. Bolts of energy writhed around the buttons and display, working their way into the ships systems, into the computer core, into the slipstream drive itself. Those physically present on the bridge clung to their chairs as the ship spun on its axis.
“NOW GET OUT OF MY WAY!” Mytim screamed, her features again turning dark, “I HAVE WORK TO DO!”
As the sound of the slipstream drive powering up rose in the background, she faded away. The last thing Virgii saw before the stars ripped aside to reveal the slipstream tunnel was Mytim’s cube, still dropping towards the planet.
As the Roadrunner abruptly vanished from her awareness, Mytim could feel the life energy of those within vanish from her reach. It was small, the twenty-five remaining people on the Roadrunner nothing compared to the thousands of Borg, thousands of Fungaloids and the assorted life of the world below. But they had been one tiny, fragile link to her old life. A life that she had now ensured would no longer be troubling her.
So caught up in her musings was she that she almost didn’t realize that one of the cubes that had been in a state of confusion since she’d seized this cube from the old Host had escaped her influence. She saw it abruptly change course, sensed the surge of power as it began diverting energy to opening a trans-warp conduit. Potential servants were getting away! Worse, they were following the Roadrunner!!
“NO!” Mytim shrieked, thrusting her awareness towards the minds of that ship, only to find them cut off. Desperate, she flailed for options….finally coming to one, desperate plan.
As the cube’s transwarp engines powered up, Mytim grabbed one of the smaller spore-ships, slamming into the departing cube with enough force to embed its fleshy form in the side of the cube. Not noticing, or not caring, the cube opened a trans-warp conduit and vanished.
Captain’s Log, Stardate…Stardate…oh frig it!
“We don’t know where we’re going. We don’t know when we’ll get there. We don’t know if we’re actually GOING somewhere, or if we’re in some kind of Mobius tunnel, circling through the quantum streams for eternity!”
“On the bright side, at least she managed to fix something before she threw us away,”
“I feel fine,” Billings said for the fourth time as the holographic doctor ran a tricorder over him, “Other than this horrible breath.” He reached into his mouth and pulled out a dead fly, “How the heck did that get in there?”
“I am sure I do not know,” the doctor replied.
“Computer, deactivate EMH,” Virgii said sharply as he entered the tiny sickbay. The tricorder dropped to the deck as the doctor vanished.
“Sir,” Billings said, not sure what to expect.
“I don’t get it, Mr. Billings,” Virgii said.
“What is that, sir?”
“I did this by the book, the way it should have been done,” Virgii said, “I tried to confine her, she escaped. I tried to rescue her, we failed. I made every reasonably effort to bring her back, and she flat out told me to go bugger myself.”
“That doesn’t sounds like something she’d say,” Billings said, “Not out loud, anyway,”
“So why do I feel like such a clod for leaving her behind?” Virgii demanded.
“Well, at least she turned me back into a person while she was shoving us out the door,” Billings said cheerfully.
Virgii didn’t even seem to notice him speaking.
“She’s alone now, with the Borg. Laarthi and Boxer said she was assimilated…but then why was she doing funky…astral projection on us? Is she even alive, or did she crash herself into that planet rather than face assimilation? What the DEUCE is she ON about???”
“Mytim’s mind is a strange place,” Billings offered.
“Bridge to Virgii,” the pompous voice of Dr. Strobnick came over the comm, “Report to the conference room. I need to show you something,”
“Thank you so much for this little chat, Crewman,” Virgii said dismissively as he left.
“Pleasure was all mine,” Billings grumbled.
“I can say with a reasonable margin for error that I have extrapolated our course,” Strobnick said, pointing at the image embedded in the tabletop, “Based on the data Mytim entered into our navigational systems before she locked us out, I believe we are on a course for Federation space. Specifically, Starbase 341.”
“She sent us home!” Boxer exclaimed, his tail wagging happily.
Virgii looked troubled.
“Show him what else we found,” Laarthi urged.
“Ah, yes,” Strobnick pulled up another image, this one a bizarre image of twisty lines and cloudly colours, “As you know, the ship automatically performs deep scans of the quantum slipstream, to facilitate safe future travel.”
“Get on with it,” Virgii twirled his hand.
“Well…there’s a disturbance. Normally not anything out of the ordinary. But this one appears to be…following us,”
“Following? What is it?”
“A Borg cube,” Laarthi interrupted, “In trans-warp drive,”
“We don’t know that for sure!” Strobnick said indignantly, “I must insist that you wait for proper, verifiable data before jumping to a conclusion!”
“What else could it be?” Laarthi said, “It’s a Borg cube. And it’s following us.”
“Following us back to Matrian Space,”