Author: Brendan Chris
<Voice of Madam>
“Last time, on Star Traks: Halfway to Haven…wait. This was supposed to be a sixteen story run. The plans, the contracts, the allocated funds clearly indicated sixteen stories, no more and no less. I refuse to pay for any unanticipated expenses that were not a part of our original contract arrangement. Oh. These stories are done for free? At no expense? Then I refuse to continue on the grounds that I am not receiving any form of monetary recompense!”
<How about existence?>
“Hmmm. Very well then. Last time, on Halfway to Haven, the Borg cube that had been following the Roadrunner back from the outskirts of the galactic core appeared within the Matrian solar system. Of course, the readers already knew something was wrong with this particular cube, having watched Mytim slam a Fungaloid spore-ship into it. However the Roadrunner crew and the crew of Haven rushed around like…hee-hee…like humanoids with their heads cut off, panicking to get ready for a full Borg invasion. Heh…humanoids are so…tacky.”
“Anyway, when the Borg didn’t immediately destroy everybody and wreck up the place, Starfleet decided this was a good chance to capture some Borg assets. Queen Anselia and Colonel Abela, on the other hand, want the Borg ship destroyed at all costs. So now Haven is hurtling towards the Borg ship with a deadly cargo, Colonel Craigan of Matrian Intelligence is sneaking onto the Borg ship in order to help a Starfleet away team disable it, and Captain Simplot has no clue that her First Officer isn’t exactly following her orders anymore.”
Agent Rex Boxer and Agent Minn Laarthi materialized on a catwalk near the outer hull of the Borg ship. The air was hot and humid and smelled of chemical lubricants, smoke, and sickness. The odour was, like the Borg themselves, a blend of mechanical and biological that merged into something truly disturbing. The greenish lighting that filled the area shifted slighted as it filtered through the haze, and in the distance they could hear the slow, plodding pace of Borg drones.
“Laarthi to Roadrunner, we have arrived safely,” Laarthi reported, one hand on her comm-badge.
“Acknowledged, Lieutenant,” Virgii’s voice came back, “Ensign Mulans, get us the hell out of here! Go! Go! I’m through risking my neck to drop those two off on a deadly enemy vessel!”
“Sir, the channel is still open,” Ensign Kods’ voice came over the comm.
“Eh, just ignore that, Laarthi. Of course it is my duty to risk myself in order to-“
Laarthi cut the channel.
“You know, I’d rather have to deal with the Borg than Virgii any day,” she said to Boxer.
“I’d rather take Virgii,” Boxer said nervously, his tail curled between his legs.
“Let’s see if we can find the vinculum,” Laarthi said firmly, pulling out a modified Starfleet Intelligence tricroder.
Despite having passed successfully as Starfleet lieutenants for the better part of a year, Boxer and Laarthi were in fact Starfleet Intelligence agents, sent to investigate the possible sabotage and hijacking of the Roadrunner. The saboteur had been flushed out eventually, but had escaped. Trapped with the rest of the Roadrunner crew, they’d nonetheless kept their true identities secret. Now that they were back in Federation space, things were a little closer to the original assignment. Prior to beaming over to the Borg cube they’d stopped back at their respective quarters to load up on the secret, high-tech SI equipment that had been hidden in sensor-shielded containers under their bunks. Neck shields, specifically designed to hold up against Borg assimilation tubules, multi-frequency phasers, holographic disguise generators and even a number of high-yield explosives designed to look like innocent rank pips.
They were ready to take on the Borg.
“AHHHH!!!!” Boxer screamed, spinning around in a panic, his hands reaching for his tail.
Laarthi was immediately on alert, her phaser out and her eyes scanning the area for threats. She found…nothing?
“Sorry, caught my tail in one of those stupid, clicky-machines they have on all the walls here,” Boxer said sheepishly.
“Let’s just go,” Laarthi grunted, “Stupid dog,”
‘Ready’ was a relative term.
On the bridge of the USS Roadrunner, Lt Cmdr Tyler Virgii was breathing easier as the small ship pulled away from the Borg cube. It had darted in to deliver Boxer and Laarthi to the cube, modulating its shields until it could pass through the Borg defenses. Of course, they could have tried delivering a few shots while they were there, but odds were the Borg would flatten them in response. Probably. The cube wasn’t exactly following standard Borg procedure.
“ETA on the starbase?” he asked.
“Ninety minutes,” Kods reported, “They’re picking up speed, as expected.
“Hmmm,” Virgii was trying to look thoughtful and studious, trying to give his bridge crew the impression that he was carefully considering the situation. In reality, he had no idea what he was doing, and the rest of the bridge crew thought he was suffering from unpleasant constipation.
“Sir, we’re getting a message from a Matrian cruiser on the other side of the cube. They’d like us to take a look at something,”
“Very well,” Virgii rolled his eyes, “Really, we’re back all of three hours and already they’re begging for our help.”
Mulans brought them around the cube. The side they had been facing, the side facing the direction of both Matria Prime and the Matrian star, was the same seemingly endless vista of emitter arrays, conduits, and multilayered hull armour that made up all Borg vessels. Another face came into view, showing more of the same. But as they came around to the dark side of the cube, they saw that the rear face of the cube had been altered.
“RED ALERT! RED ALERT! FIRE ALL WEAPONS!” Virgii screaming, tapping at his chair control panel in a panic as he tried to launch weapons, ANY weapons at the sight in front of him. Luckily, he only succeeded in adjusting the lumbar support. (Something he’d been trying to figure out for weeks.)
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt us,” Mulans said from the helm.
‘It’ was a six-hundred meter wide Fungaloid spore ship, splattered against the side of the Borg cube. Both had obviously taken heavy damage in the collision; the Borg hull plates around the spore-ship were crumbled and cratered, the spore-ship itself embedded at least a hundred meters into the cube, possibly more. The spore-ship was clearly flattened on one side; several ruptures in its spongy-looking hull had leaked some sort of thick fluid that had congealed all over the place. Several of its spikes had broken off; the ones that remained twitched periodically. Several vines or tentacles had shot out from the spore-ship’s central body and now linked it to the cube.
“Ahem, I mean, full sensor scan, Mr. Kods,” Virgii adjusted himself in his chair, “Oh, that’s much better. Maybe now I can finally get rid of this knot in my back,”
“It’s a spore-ship. It’s crashed into the Borg ship. That’s all the sensors are telling me. Wait! Look!”
On the screen, a pair of small, wriggling organisms had detached from the spore-ship and were heading into space. One moved towards the Matrian cruiser, the other towards the Roadrunner.
“Are those the funky infesting-spore things they used against the Borg?”
“I think so,”
“BLOW THEM UP!”
Several phaser beams flashed out at the spores, only to be blocked by shields.
“Uh-oh,” Kods said, “They…um…they didn’t do that before,”
“Send a feed back to the starbase,” Virgii ordered, “Maybe they can figure this out,”
“Evasive manoeuvres?” Mulans asked.
“Yes. Yes, please.”
“That explains a lot,” Lieutenant Wyer said calmly as he chewed on a piece of snack-cake that somebody had brought up from the coffee ship in MoM’s.
“You mean the collision between these two ships explains why there seems to be a conflict on the cube between the Borg and these infested beings? And perhaps why the cube travelled more slowly than expected?” Matrian Lt Fissett asked.
“No,” Wyer pointed at a chemical analysis screen, “It seems that the spice Matrians perceive as cinnamon registers as more of a chili-pepper flavour for most other humanoids.” He set the cake down on his console, “Which is why this cake is truly, absolutely disgusting. But yes, the part about the Borg and the Fungaloids? You are correct. Most intriguing,”
“So what does it mean to us?”
“Not a single thing,” Simplot interrupted, walking up behind them, “We’re coming in as a fail-safe. If Virgii’s people can disable that cube so we can learn something new about fighting the Borg, great. Otherwise, we’re going to try blowing them up,”
“Yes,” Abela added, looking uncomfortable, “Otherwise,”
“The Roadrunner reports that the spore-ship is launching infestation spores,” Shurgroe called from another pulpit, “And that…ew. That just doesn’t sound good,”
“Dr. Annerson to Ops,” Simplot called.
“Hey, that was calm. I am calm. She already medicated me!” Shurgroe objected.
“Not everything is about you!” Simplot rolled her eyes, “I want her medical opinion on this stuff!”
Colonel Craigan Abela watched through the window of his small Matrian attack ship as the Borg cube grew ahead of him. The ship had been one of Matrian Intelligence’s additions to the station. Not the current group, the Old Matrian Intelligence…the one that had insisted that Haven’s design include facilities that would make it the new center of their information-gathering organization.
Granted, Craigan hadn’t been a part of Old Matrian Intelligence. Back then, he’d been a low-ranking rebel. He’d attended Male Equality marches, had pushed for greater balance between the two genders in government, and when that had failed he’d joined with a group that had dedicated itself to pushing change by going right to the people who decided who was in government: the voters.
Of course, the Council of Mistresses back then had had their own ideas about where men belonged in the world. Which was how Craigan found himself unwittingly carrying a computer virus that would be used to destroy Haven’s sister city, Matronus, and to trigger a brutal, dictatorial crack-down by the council that would lead to almost a century of civil war.
Maybe it was that lie more than anything that now drove him to be privy to every piece of information possible. He was still young, and it was his history more than his knowledge or experience in the Intelligence world that earned him his new position. (Also, the fact that MIT was horribly, horribly understaffed had helped.) But as the leader of Haven’s clandestine intelligence team he now had two duties: Learn whatever he could about this alien ship, and do what he could to make sure it was held in place so that Haven could destroy it.
Even he knew that Haven didn’t have the firepower to take out a Borg cube without getting extremely lucky. The city was well armed, and any well-armed object that was measured at the kilometer scale could inflict a lot of damage. But from the reports he’d seen on the Borg…well…they were more well-armed. Still, they still had to obey the laws of physics, which meant that when a massive object travelling a respectable percentage of the speed of light hit them, they’d be in for a world of hurt.
He adjusted the interference field generator that was keeping him hidden from the Matrian and Starfleet ships surrounding the Borg cube, then pulled at the controls, barely managing to avoid a cloud of wriggling, organic torpedoes seconds before they flashed past his ship, heading back along his course. Apparently, his interference field was keeping him hidden from them, too.
He checked his tap into the local comm nets and saw the Roadrunner’s report on the infestation devices. He quickly attached the report to a message to Matrian Intelligence. Hopefully they could get the city’s interference field generators up before the torpedoes could try infesting Haven itself.
As he approached the Borg cube, he quickly identified the beam-in co-ordinates of the Starfleet team that should have, by all rights, been under his control. His sensors couldn’t penetrate far into the cube, but he could see the transporter traces where the two Starfleet Intelligence agents had transported in.
Pulling as close to the cube as he could and praying that the data he had on shield modulation was accurate, he powered up his own transporter.
“I’m getting a report from Matrian Defence HQ,” Lieutenant Wyer called from his control pulpit.
“You know,” Simplot was saying to Abela, “I love the design of Ops. I really do,”
“Haven Command Complex,” Abela corrected testily.
“It’s just…It feels really weird flying up instead of forward.” Simplot was leaning over one of the railings, craning her neck and trying to look up out of one of the windows.
“I can’t look in the direction we’re going!” Simplot continued, “I mean, starships fly forward, and we put windows and viewscreens in the front of the ship, and it makes it easy to see what’s coming. This…this flying straight up thing all the time? It’s going to be murder on my neck!”
“That’s because it’s a city! It’s not supposed to be flying anywhere!” Abela snapped, “And if you people would just leave it alone and let it orbit the way it’s supposed to-“
“I SAID,” Wyer interrupted, “I AM RECEIVING A REPORT! NOW SILENCE YOUR INFERNAL PRATTLE AND HEED MY WARNING BEFORE I UNLEASH THE BURNING WRATH OF THE HELL-GOD YYNSAN-ASU UPON YOU ALL!”
Everybody slowly turned to face the generally soft-spoken Dome Operations officer.
“Akakkat?” Simplot asked, referring to one of his terrorist past-lives.
“Trenak,” Wyer replied, back to his usual self, “And I apologize for the outburst.
“Another suicide bomber?” Abela asked sarcastically.
“No, Trenak was a teacher,” Wyer replied, “I believe the Terran equivalent would be a Kindergarten teacher. He died of a massive brain aneurysm at an unfortunately young age,”
“Can’t imagine why,” Simplot cracked.
“Hey, I’m getting a weird reading on the sensors,” Fissett called out, “I think…I think we have incoming torpedoes!”
“Raise shields!” Abela ordered.
“All our power is diverted to the engines right now,” Simplot said worriedly, “We’re going to lose acceleration!”
“And we don’t want the shields,” Wyer said quickly, tapping at his panel, “I have a report from MDHQ that the infestation torpedoes don’t appear to be able to penetrate Old Matrian interference field technology! We must activate the city’s field at once!
“How can they POSSIBLY know that!??” Simplot demanded.
“That’s classified,” Abela broke in, “Redirect energy! Raise the interference fields!”
“CLASSIFIED???” Simplot snapped, “Oh no, you DIDN’T! You already pulled that shit on me with the secure levels…I have access to classified information!”
“Not this time,” Abela tilted her head defiantly, “Just trust me,”
“Wyer, raise the shields!” Simplot ordered.
“Torpedo impact in twenty seconds!” Fissett cried out.
“Mr Wyer, I am the expert on this city, you WILL obey my orders!” Abela said firmly.
“Are we REALLY going to do this?” Shurgroe sighed, accessing the power allocation systems.
“No, we are not,” Wyer said to him, “Raising shields,”
“HAH!” Simplot pointed a finger triumphantly in Abela’s direction.
“And activating interference field,” Wyer finished.
“Oh,” Simplot deflated, “OK, yes, I suppose that would have been a fair compromise,”
But before she could finish, Abela was already shouting.
“NO!” she snapped, “The city…we don’t have the power!”
Even as they realized what she was talking about, Wyer and Shurgroe knew it was too late. They’d already initiated power-up of both systems.
Both energy-hungry systems.
With a nearly empty city, three anti-matter reactors and several backup fusion units, Haven had plenty of juice. Even enough to run the shields, the sensor jammers and the engines at the same time, though with the latter operating at significantly reduced capability. However, both the shields and the jammers required a certain amount of charge to operate. Standard procedure was to keep the shields at 75% charge so they could be quickly raised.
The jammer, however, was fully shut down.
The lights dimmed as the three energy-hungry systems gulped power, fighting for what was available and automatically ramping all the backup units to maximum output. The city shields began to form, though at a greatly reduced pace as the sensor jammer attempted to power up. The inertial dampeners lagged as the city slowed, feeling like an elevator that was approaching its destination floor.
“Two seconds to impact!” Fissett cried out, “Fifteen torpedoes inbound!”
“Oh f*** us all,” Wyer grumbled.
“Hey people,” Dr. Annerson’s voice came from below, “Somebody call for a doctor?”
“IMPACT!” Fissett screamed.
The Fungaloid torpedoes closed on the domed city, crossing the shield boundary just as the shield generator finally managed to get the force-fields in place. Ten of the torpedoes bounced back, repelled. They swarmed amongst themselves for a moment, then began seeking their target. But the interference field had also finally come up to full power, making the city all but invisible to the non-visible spectrum. Confused, the torpedoes swarmed around for several moments before they were squashed flat by a large, unyielding metal wall.
The other five, however, were inside the shield perimeter. They immediately split, three of them darting out towards the Outer Rim while the other two clamped onto the clear dome just outside of Ops and began burrowing into the smooth surface.
“Hull breach in the Outer Rim,” Wyer reported, “Sector 21- Kilo, Deck 43,” Wyer reported.
“This is why you wanted a doctor?” Annerson asked, one eyebrow raised, “Or did you just call me up to watch the show?”
“You’re an expert on living things!” Simplot exclaimed. She’d dragged Annerson to the second level and had thrown sensor footage of one of the burrowing torpedoes on the big screen. The round, pod-shaped thing had clamped some sort of mount on the dome and was chewing its way through as its tail whipped around like a flagella.
“I’ve got some spermicidal lubricant in the clinic,” Annerson shrugged, “But it was designed to work against a…smaller…target.”
“What are these things going to do to my city??” Abela demanded.
“Probably the same thing they’re doing to the Borg ship,” Shurgroe offered, “Hmm…the Roadrunner has managed to destroy a few by re-modulating their phasers. The pods appear to be using Borg shield technology.”
Abela’s eyes widened.
“SECURITY!” she shouted, “Intruder alert! Sector 21- Kilo, Deck 43, and…and…” she looked at Wyer, who quickly rattled off the locations of the other two hull breaches.
“And the two digging through the dome!” Abela added.
“I’m a bit short-staffed here,” Stoneryder’s voice came back, “I sent the Jungle Squad to handle the other three…nobody’s left here now but me, and I’ve still got half a glute work-out to finish before-“
“Wyer, get Moron McFlex from the security office and chase down these last two,” Simplot ordered.
“If I must,” Wyer sighed.
“Look on the bright side. If he dies in the line of duty, you’ll be there to see it,” Abela called dryly as the Yynsian descended the stairs.
“You make a valid point, ma’am,” he nodded.
“So…” Annerson said, “Do you still actually need me here, or should I head down and get ready to un-mangle some near corpses?”
“Come with me,” Simplot said, “You too, Abela!”
“We need to talk,”
Laarthi and Boxer walked briskly across a catwalk that spanned a near bottomless pit.
“Don’t like heights,” Boxer quietly chanted, “Don’t look down. Don’t like heights,”
“Quiet,” Laarthi hissed. She wasn’t exactly thrilled with Borg architecture either. Sure, she’d land on her feet…but with a half-kilometer fall, that just meant that her feet would be the first part of her to be transformed into a thick, gooey paste. They quickly reached the opposite side of the chasm and found themselves in a more traditional corridor. Alcoves lined the wall. Unlike the first section they’d entered, this one was filled with Borg. Shivering, the two agents moved quickly, trying not to look at the empty, zombie-like faces.
“Whoah,” Boxer ground to a halt.
“What…oh,” Laarthi’s eyes widened.
Just around the corner from them, one of the alcoves was sparking erratically. A slim tentacle of some kind had twined itself up from the level below and then split; one tendril twisted into the circuitry of the alcove while the second disappeared into the implant-ridden body of the drone itself. The drone was twitching, its remaining organic eye looking frantically in different directions.
Then it locked on Boxer.
“Help…me…” the drone croaked in a mechanical voice.
“Poor pup,” Boxer swallowed.
“We can’t do anything for it now,” Laarthi said curtly, “We have a mission.”
They moved on, ignoring the drone as it reached out one hand. Boxer looked back as Laarthi pulled him in the direction where they hoped to find the vinculum.
“Laarthi…that pup…that Borg,” he said.
“Boxer, there are thousands of drones on this ship,” Laarthi said, “I wish we could help them too, but we have to think of the bigger picture.”
“But…why would a Borg say ‘me’?”
Laarthi stopped and reversed direction so quickly that Boxer crashed into her. They stumbled, then regained their balance.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid!” Laarthi said angrily to herself as she retraced their steps, “If the infestation…it it’s messing up their connection to the hive mind, the vinculum might not even matter! Those fungus things could be turning this whole cube into a crew of free Borg!”
“Or it might be eating them,” Boxer offered.
They reached the drone.
So had several other Borg.
Laarthi screeched to a stop as she saw three other drones surrounding the one that had pleaded with them earlier. One was standing next to the tentacle, its assimilation tubules pumping a stream of assimilation nano-probes into the spongy mass. The greenish flesh was already turning a necrotic grey, but at a very slow rate. The other two drones had removed several pieces of the drone in the alcove. As they watched, one severed the tendril linking it to the main tentacle while the other reached into an opening in the side of the drone’s skull. After a few moments, they re-attached the exterior implants then stepped away. The drone stepped out of its alcove and began walking down the corridor. The remaining three drones continued working on the infested alcove. Laarthi pulled out her tricorder.
“It looks like the Borg are sending different strains of nano- probes into the tentacle,” Laarthi mused, “They’re trying to adapt something that will kill it! But the nanoprobes are becoming inactive minutes after they enter the fungus. There must be…oh I don’t know…some sort of enzyme or chemical that the Fungaloids are using to break them down. That’s how they’re able to reverse Borg assimilation,”
“And the Borg can un-infest themselves by physically removing the fungus,” Boxer panted, “So…stalemate?”
“Not if one of them can attack the other one faster, or recover faster,” Laarthi corrected him, “Or if an external force interferes,”
“Us!” Boxer said happily.
“Maybe,” Laarthi frowned, “But how? And who do we help? If we help the Borg fight off the Fungaloids, we’ll have a Borg cube mere hours from Matria Prime, ready to assimilate us all. If we help the Fungaloids, they’ll either infest us, or just kill us off so we aren’t potential hosts for the Lupressa,”
“Oh,” Boxer’s shoulders slumped. Then he perked up.
“Hey! Let’s re-infest that drone so it’ll talk to us again!”
“You are such a simple creature,” Laarthi said with disgust.
“Well…it’s heading towards the vinculum anyway. And do you have a better plan, litter-breath?”
As much as she hated to admit it, Laarthi did not.
Without speaking, she hurried after the drone.
A dozen meters away, carefully concealed in the shadows, Craigan followed.
“Go get Moron,” Wyer grumbled to himself as the turbolift descended to Atrium 1 and the security office within. (He’d used his Traveller override to bypass the normal turbolift limitations.) “I hate working with that guy!”
He stepped out of the turbolift and into MoM’s, the large but still mostly empty mall. The shops were all closed, the merchants having moved to emergency shelters in the Outer Rim for the duration. The huge windows looking out into the city were hazy, the sudden drop in temperature outside having caused condensation inside. Another reminder of the massive amount of work awaiting him once they had the chance to restore the atmosphere and lake.
“Stoneryder!” he shouted as he approached the security office, “The spores have breached the dome and are chewing their way into 32 Maxxit Street! We have to hurry!”
“Just a sec, dude!” Stoneryder’s voice came out of the open door. After a moment, the tall, muscular (and not too bright) security chief emerged. He was clad in sweaty workout cloths, weird running shoes that looked more like foot-gloves and carried a portable music player. As he jogged out the door he fiddled with the straps of the heavy, bulky vest he was carrying.
“Anti-phaser vest?” Wyer asked.
“Naw, just extra weight. Gotta keep the pressure on the glutes before my ass starts to sag,” Stoneryder said, slipping the vest on. Wyer, non-plussed, reached into the security office to grab a phaser rifle, then jogged back towards the turbolift.
“It’s not a laughing matter, dude,!” Stoneryder went on, despite the fact that Wyer was not laughing, “I once had a gay guy tell me he wasn’t into me because my butt was too flabby. Do you KNOW how bad that is? I depend on this thing for half my income! I was in the gym checking my ass out in the mirror for a year!”
<We could kill him,> Akakkat’s voice rose in Wyer’s mind, <And defile his corpse with our excrement.>
<Maybe later,> Wyer thought back.
They rode the turbolift though the city, bypassing the tram system. As the underground turbolift tunnel flashed by outside the windows, Wyer held his nose.
“Sorry man,” Stoneryder said, not exactly looking apologetic, “Forgot to wash my gym cloths yesterday.”
“You are a truly revolting human being,” Wyer said flatly.
“Hey bro, don’t be racist!”
The doors hissed open, revealing a lower concourse. The underground equivalent of one of Haven’s streets, the concourse ran between the foundations of several towering buildings. Skylights looked up into the dark dome in several spots and glass, wood or metal-paneled foyers led into the various buildings. As they rushed towards the metal framed glass entrance to 32 Maxxit Street there was a crash, a brief rush of air, then a distant thud as an emergency bulkhead slammed shut.
“They’re inside!” Wyer cried.
“Who?” Stoneryder asked.
“The…do you even READ the updates we send you?”
They rushed into the foyer. Just before the elevators, Wyer tossed Stoneryder one of the heavy belts he’d slung over one shoulder.
“Field suit,” he explained, “So we don’t die immediately in a breach,”
“Sweet. Thanks man,”
“But since they don’t have any oxygen tanks, we’ll still die about five minutes after,”
Stoneryder gave him a dark look.
“You suck,” he said.
Before their brilliant repartee could continue, the doors hissed open, revealing a fleshy, greenish mass.
“HOLY SHIT!” Stoneryder screamed as the pod flared back like a King Cobra, it’s flesh peeling back in all directions to reveal a hissing, gaping, tooth-lined mouth and a series of dull, black eyes.
Stoneryder squeezed the trigger on his phaser rifle, sending a pulse of bright energy right down the things throat. But the pulse flashed against a shield mere inches from the creature’s flesh.
Wyer backpedalled as the fungus alien contemplated Stoneryder like a cat contemplating a mouse. He noticed with interest that several pieces of Borg technology stuck out of its spongy flesh like candles on a birthday cake. Borg shielding? What other Borg technology could the fungas-aliens be stealing?
Wyer fired at the alien, but the shot was easily absorbed by the shield.
“Did you reprogram these to Borg frequencies?” Wyer demanded.
“DUDE! HELP!” Stoneryder gulped, holding his phaser up like a quarterstaff.
“DID YOU?” Wyer demanded.
“I haven’t touched them since they came out of the packing crate!” Stoneryder shouted back.
“But…you KNEW we were going up against…never mind!” He flipped the rifle over and ripped off an access hatch. Trying to get in to adjust the tiny controls with his fingers was cumbersome, and of course he didn’t bring any tools with him.
There was a slapping sound, and Wyer looked up to see Stoneryder bat away a greenish tentacle with his rifle.
“DUDE!” he shouted. Two more tentacles speared out from the creature. Stoneryder deflected one, but the other wrapped around his neck, lifting him off the deck.
“I am working on it,” Wyer said calmly, just as the creature stabbed another tentacle right down Stoneryder’s throat. The security guard gagged for a moment, then the tentacle was withdrawn and the security chief was dropped to the deck.
“There we go,” Wyer snapped the hatch shut, pointed the rifle at the pod, then fired. The pod exploded in a shower of fluids and tissue, drenching both officers in gore.
“And…so much for this uniform,” Wyer said.
Stoneryder was still on the floor, twitching and clutching at his stomach.
“Are you finished?” Wyer asked him, “We still have another torpedo-pod thing to eliminate,”
Stoneryder convulsed again. This time, thin, greyish-green tendrils emerged from his ears, nose and mouth and started waving, pawing at the floor and testing the limits of their new environment.
“Oh…pardon me,” Wyer moved behind a column, vomited into a potted plant, then returned. “And here I thought you couldn’t get any more disgusting.
Stoneryder climbed unsteadily to his feet. Wyer kept the phaser rifle trained at his head.
“You…you…” Stoneryder’s voice was hoarse, rasping, “You…pardon me,”
He turned his head and cough several times, finally spitting out a thick wad of phlem.
“You are bipedal life-forms,” Stoneryder said, his voice still hoarse, “You are useful to the Lupressa. You will be destroyed.”
Wyer fired the phaser before the infested officer could utter another word, dropping him to the deck, unconscious.
“Very glad I attended that ‘When to Talk, When to Shoot’ workshop last month,” Wyer muttered. He tapped his com-badge. “Wyer to Ops. Be sure to advise the Jungle Squad personnel that phaser frequencies must be adjusted to counter Borg shielding.”
“We told them that already,” Shurgroe’s voice came back, “They had their weapons adjusted about half an hour after we found out there was a cube on the way. Didn’t you?”
Glancing briefly at Stoneryder’s unconscious form, Wyer offered a prayer for patience to the Past-Life Clearing House, then closed the channel.
“I hope that alien eats you from the inside out,” he snapped at Stoneryder. Then he turned, finding himself face to face with the second Fungaloid infestation pod.
“Oh,” he said quietly, just before a musty green tentacle seized his neck. He caught a flash of a second tentacle, then felt pain from his throat all the way down to his stomach.
“You disobeyed my orders!” Simplot snapped, once they were in the privacy of her office.
“Your orders were stupid,” Abela replied.
“But they were MY orders!” Simplot shot back, “Look what happened! As soon as we start bickering, the whole crew gets confused!”
“The fungus torpedo-spore-whatever things can’t penetrate Matrian interference fields!” Abela said firmly, “I knew that if we got the field up, they’d be unable to find us!”
“How could you possibly know that?” Simplot demanded, “Have you gone up against the Fungaloids before? What are you not telling me?”
Abela was silent.
“Madam,” Simplot addressed the computer, “Bring up any records of Matrian encounters with fungus-based life-forms in the past five hundred years,”
“No records located,” the computer replied, sounding bored.
“Search classified records,” Simplot amended.
“As you wish. No records found,”
Simplot crossed her arms.
Abela carefully considered her response.
“There is a Matrian Intelligence ship in the area using an interference field,” she said slowly, “They sent a report, via MIHQ, to me.”
“Oh. OK then.”
She turned to leave.
“What, you aren’t going to lecture me like most self-righteous Federation officers?” Abela asked.
“Next time, just tell me, OK?” Simplot said as she walked out the door. Annerson followed.
As she left, Abela let out a deep breath. That was easy. And Simplot was still clueless.
“She’s hiding something, you know,” Annerson said quietly as she and Simplot walked around the second level of Ops.
“Damn right she is,” Simplot said, “But yelling at her probably won’t help. Especially if there’s an intelligence group involved. They always like to have wheels within wheels.”
“And if their wheels get in the way of our wheels?” Annerson asked.
“Abela won’t be able to do anything about that,” Simplot said, “We’re going to watch her like a hawk. But she’s not the sneaky snake we have to watch out for,”
“Thank God we only have to worry about Matrian Intelligence,” Annerson mused, “If Starfleet Intelligence was running around too, then we might really have a mess on our hands,”
“Wow,” Boxer said, voice dropping in awe.
“It’s no more impressive than a warp core,” Laarthi replied.
“Not the vinculum,” Boxer said, pointing, “That,”
“OK, yes, that is impressive,” Laarthi admitted.
‘That’ was a massive growth of fungus that seemed to have stabbed through to the very heart of the Borg cube. It was the same greenish-brownish-greyish colour of the Fungaloid spore-ship that had crashed into the cube. Over three times the height of the average drone where it entered the chamber, the growth split into a series of heavy trunks, each as big around as Boxer’s waist. Each trunk terminated in a dozen long, waving tentacles.
Nearly a hundred drones were gathered in front of the vinculum. As the tentacles stabbed towards them, an energy field flared, holding off the assaulting fungus. Several infested drones marched steadily towards the vinculum, struggled briefly with the uninfested drones, then were beamed away…presumably for de-infestation.
“No wonder the Borg aren’t paying us much attention,” Laarthi said.
“There’s our drone!” Boxer pointed. The drone had joined the edge of the Borg defensive position and had jacked itself into a shield generator.
“This isn’t going to work,” Laarthi hissed in frustration, “The fully infested drones aren’t talking to anyone. The only way we’re going to find out what he had to say will be if he’s back in his alcove. I bet,”
“And I bet it doesn’t matter,” a voice said behind them.
They spun to see a slender blond Matrian male standing behind them, a phaser in each hand.
“I am Colonel Craigan, Matrian Intelligence, authentication Bravo-six-six-Lima-Oscar-Lima,” he said.
“Authentication Romeo-Oscar-Tango-Foxtrot-Lima-Mike- Alpha-Oscar,” Laarthi replied.
Craigan dropped his weapons.
“Glad you two could finally make it,” he said.
“We brought company!” Boxer said cheerfully.
“Yes…about that,” Craigan holstered one weapon, but kept the other in his hand, “It sounds like you’ve gotten off track. We’re here to disable the cube, not talk to these…these…cybernetic things,”
“The Borg are a serious threat to the Federation,” Laarthi said, “The Fungaloids have methods of attacking them that are more successful than we’ve ever seen. If we can free some of these drones, use them to learn how to combat the Borg…
“And you just decided that? On your own? Without the input of Captain Simplot or Myr…um…Colonel Abela?”
“Well…they didn’t know a drone was going to start begging for help,” Boxer said, coming to Laarthi’s defense.
“It doesn’t matter,” Craigan said, “Forget the drone. We’ll learn what we can from the wreckage. We need to disable this vinculum!”
He turned and began leading the way.
“Wait,” Laarthi said, “That is the most heavily shielded piece of equipment the Borg posses. You can’t just…just…fire a phaser at a weak point and hope the whole thing will blow up!”
“You’re a pair of highly trained Starfleet Intelligence agents,” Craigan said, “I’m sure you can come up with something.”
Laarthi and Boxer were so busy exchanging nervous looks that neither of them noticed the expression on Craigan’s face.
An expression that would have caused Laarthi, at least, to realize he was lying.
Wyer was floating in blackness.
The sensation wasn’t exactly a new one. Wyer had had his body fall under the control of his past lives before…and more often then not, he was at least partially aware of what was happening around him, enough that eventually he could regain control of himself.
This wasn’t exactly that sensation…but it was pretty damned similar.
“Who is it this time,” Wyer groaned to himself. “Akkakat? Trenak? We’re in the middle of an emergency, now is not the time for this!”
“It wasn’t me,”
Wyer turned to see a tall, nervous-looking Yynsian male standing next to him, arms crossed tightly across his chest, “I’m right here,” Trenak said, “Haven’t gone anywhere, haven’t done anything,”
“Nor is it I, infidel,”
Wyer and Trenak turned, only to turn away in disgust. The Yynsian speaking now was little more than a pile of shredded flesh.
“Yes, in retrospect, an explosion may not have been the way to go,” Akkakat admitted, “But what a glorious way to destroy my enemies!”
“And mine too!”
Close to a dozen voices chimed in their agreement, but Wyer didn’t want to find himself facing the charred remains of his other past-lives.
He really had to do something about this mental-self image thing. He concentrated for a moment, then snuck a glance at Akkakat. This time, he saw a shorter, robed Yynsian with a perfectly shaved scalp.
“Better,” Akkakat admitted.
“If you’re all here, and I’m here,” Wyer said slowly, “Who’s controlling my body?”
His past-lives shrugged.
“Status report?” Captain Simplot said.
“Borg cube remains at its last position,” Fissett reported, “The Hummingbird’s science officer reports that she’s managed to get partial scans on the interior of the cube. She says there are Borg and Fungaloid life signs everywhere, along with signs of weapons fire. The Roadrunner’s team has reached the vinculum and is attempting to sever the cube’s connection to the Collective,”
“So the Fungaloids keep the Borg busy until we come on, release our cargo,” Abela started.
“And destroy the cube by smashing a million tons of space junk into it, if we have to.” Simplot finished. “As long as we get Haven out from between the two of them first,” she added.
“Graviton beam status?” Abela asked.
Shurgroe tapped at his panel.
“Energy transceiver output remains at capacity,” he reported, “But it should hold until we get there,”
“How long has this pile of junk been orbiting your planet?” Simplot asked Abela.
“A while,” Abela said.
“Apologies for our delay,” Wyer interrupted, climbing the stairs into the command deck, Stoneryder in tow, “The fungal pods have been destroyed.”
“Great. So everything’s going according to plan,” Simplot said happily, “Hey, did you see if the cafe was open again? I could really use a muffin,”
“Doesn’t anybody else think this feels too…easy?” Shurgroe asked nervously from his station, “I mean, this is the BORG after all. And we’re going to blow them up with a pile of trash?”
“Every now and then, you’ve gotta get lucky, right?” Simplot shrugged, turning back to the view outside.
“Lucky indeed,” ‘Wyer’ said softly.
Nobody noticed him manipulating the controls, sending out a faint, difficult to detect signal. Nor did they notice the tendril of fungus curling out of his left ear.
“Whoah,” Boxer commented, “Is it me, or did the plant-people get really angry all of a sudden?”
“It’s not you,” Laarthi said, watching as the fungas-infested drones and the massive bunch of tentacles re-doubled their efforts against the Borg defenders.
They were standing on a catwalk near the vinculum, next to a large access panel. Laarthi and Boxer were scanning the panel with their tricorders, trying to figure out if opening it would alert the Borg to their presence. Craigan was watching the scene below unfold.
“This changes nothing,” Craigan said, “Open the panel,”
Shoulders tense, Laarthi and Boxer lifted the panel, revealing a dazzling array of circuits and data chips.
“Hold on,” Laarthi said, pulling out a padd, “Now, Starfleet says it’s almost impossible to destroy a vinculum, and it’s got more redundancies than a dog has fleas,”
“Hey!” Boxer objected.
“But if we can route the output signal back into itself, we can trick the vinculum into basically…well, talking to itself. Cutting the Borg off from the Collective. After that, hopefully at least a few of them have enough individuality left to give us something to work with,”
“Then do it,” Craigan said.
“OK,” Laarthi took a deep breath, then reached out to manipulate the circuitry. Before she could touch anything, an implant-laced arm reached out and grabbed her wrist.
“Laarthi,” the drone said, her voice eerily familiar, “You don’t want to do that,”
Boxer, reacting with lightening reflexes, fired his phaser and blasted the drone off the balcony and onto the deck below.
Two more drones stepped towards Laarthi. Boxer shot both of them before they could get close enough to touch her. He was about to shoot a third when the phaser was ripped out of his hands.
“Stop it!” two more drones said sharply in unison as they tossed the phaser away from him, “Will you just…be quiet and listen to me! Geez, Boxer, it’s as if you don’t even recognize me!”
Boxer and Laarthi stared at the drones.
“Increased activity on the cube,” Fissett said, frowning, “Wow…I sure hope I get some of these Borg thingies into a lab…the neural interfaces alone must be fascinating!”
“How much time until impact?” Simplot asked.
“Twenty minutes to impact,” Shurgroe reported, “You know, unless the Roadrunner guys are successful and we don’t have to destroy the cube after all,”
Wyer and Stoneryder exchanged a look.
“Do you have the left eyeball yet?” Wyer asked Tenak.
“Yes. I am ready,” Tenak replied.
“And the right?”
“I, too, am ready,” Akkakat hissed, “But I want you to know, infidel, that I help you not for your sake, but that I might see the brilliant explosion of which you speak!”
“Whatever,” Wyer waved away, “Let’s just do this,”
There was a flicker, then the blackness vanished, replaced by a view of one of Haven’s control pulpits.
“Good,” Wyer said, “Now Fransie, Mat’dak, if you could get the ears?”
“Whatever you say, bub,” Mat’dak, a long-dead nightclub bouncer said agreeably, “This here’s your scene, buddy,”
“Whatever,” Fransie the weathergirl said with a roll of her eyes.
“Now let’s see what’s happening,” Wyer said as he watched the scene before him. He could see his hands reaching out to manipulate the controls, sending out a low-level subspace signal that said…well, he had no idea what that encoding was. Something alien, that was for sure. There was a rush of static, then hearing abruptly returned.
“Colonel, Captain,” it was the voice of Lt Franches, the Matrian in command of the Jungle Squad, “We have captured our prey. We are preparing the second one for a feast, in honour of our victory, but we offer this one to you,”
Wyer felt dizzy as the world spun around, the invader controlling his body had turned to see what was happening. With a thud, he saw Franches slam one of the alien pods down on the holo-table, body fluids oozing out through a gash in its side.
“WHAT TRAVESTY IS THIS!!??” Wyer heard his own voice scream out.
“Wyer?” Simplot asked, “Are you having another past-life thing?”
“Uh…I…apologize for my outburst,” his voice said, “I did not expect to see…that…thing,”
Wyer could see Fissett leaning over the pod, poking at one of the pieces of implanted Borg technology.
“Well, try to stay calm,” Simplot said, looking at the pod the way a child might regard a plate of broccoli. “Thanks, Franches,”
The security guard bowed, then departed.
As the view turned back, Wyer saw Stoneryder sitting at the pulpit next to him.
Stoneryder! He’d been infested by the alien pods!
Which meant…he’d been infested too!
“Sort of,” the drones answered Laarthi, “I…we…are not really Mytim. Mytim is thousands of light-years away, battling the Fungaloids. We are…an extension of her…my…our will,”
“We thought this cube was controlled by the Collective,” Boxer said, eyes darting towards his stolen phaser.
“This cube has become a battleground for all,” the drones chorused, “It was my…our…fault. We flung the Fungaloid ship at the cube as it pursued you. I…we did not expect it to fuse with the cube and to attempt this level of infestation. Now, we fight the Collective for control of the drones, while the Fungaloids seek a way into our mental spaces,”
“The vinculum,” Laarthi realized.
“If the Fungaloids get access to it, they could conceivably link themselves with the Collective, or with me…us,” the drone said, “This cannot happen!”
“Why?” Boxer asked, “Can’t the Borg kick their asses?”
“They could,” Mytim admitted, “Or they could learn from the Fungaloids more about biological technology than they themselves could learn in five centuries,”
“And biotechnology is one of the few effective offenses against the Borg,” Laarthi bit her lip.”
“RESISTANCE IS FUTILE, YOU WILL BE ASSIMILITATED,”
The two SI agents spun as two more drones, evidently under the control of the Collective, marched towards them, reaching out with their assimilation turbules. Two more drones intercepted them, grappling and holding them back.
“The Fungaloids are the true threat!” Mytim’s drones chorused, “The Federation knows the Borg! Can defend itself from the Borg! If the Fungaloids get into the Collective, the resulting monster will obliterate life across the galaxy!”
“So…I guess we shouldn’t shut down the vinculum after all?” Boxer wondered.
“If we can believe her…them,” Laarthi looked uncertainly at Mytim’s drones. The Collective drones had been deactivated and lay in pieces on the deck. “The last time I checked, Starfleet didn’t report the Collective as having this level of creativity in its schemes,”
But Boxer had stopped listening and was sniffing around.
“Where did that Matrian go?” he wondered.
Two levels below, Craigan was creeping slowly towards one of the Borg shield generators, weapon in hand. Less than ten feet in front of him, a line of drones were working to keep the defense fields up against the probing Fungaloid tentacles. More drones were fighting to hold back the infested drones, subduing them and taking them to Assimilation Chambers around the cube for de-infestation. At the same time, smaller tentacles were implanting control pods in as many drones as they could, turning them to Fungaloid control.
It was a pitched battle, the two sides having reached a level of balance that could sustain a conflict for months, or even years. It was not unlike the balance that led to a long, drawn out period of trench warfare on the western front in the first great bloody battle of Earth’s 20th century.
Of course, Craigan was more familiar with the balance that had led to almost a century of civil war among his own people.
Either way, he was about to upset that balance.
“It’s trying to get control of the city computer,” Wyer said, “Without anybody realizing it,”
“Ten minutes to impact,” Shurgroe’s voice could be heard in the background.
“Kill it,” Akkakat hissed.
“I agree,” Wyer said, “But how?”
Boxer was still looking around for Craigan when he heard the explosion below.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
An entire section of the Borg defensive shield had failed. One, two, five and then twenty tentacles surged through, tossing some drones aside, infesting others, the whole time surging towards the vinculum. Below them, they finally spotted Craigan, running from the scene towards a lift that would bring him back to them.
“THAT IDIOT!” Laarthi roared, “He’s…he’s ruined everything!”
“I…we…the Collective forces on this cube cannot recover from this,” Mytim’s drones chorused sadly, “I…we are sorry it has come to this, but I/we did try to help. I/we have larger problems to deal with. You are on your own,”
“Wait…Mytim!” Laarthi shouted, “Are you…what…where…”
All but one of the drones appeared to be stunned, slowly shaking their heads.
“I/we have gained access to an incredible power, Laarthi,” the last drone said, “I/we hope…we very much hope to come home one day. But for now, I/we have a job to do,”
As the Fungaloid tentacle shot into the vinculum, driving into circuits and panels, Mytim’s last drone fell quiet.
And the screaming began.
“Power surges on the cube!” Ensign Kilpatrick reported from sciences, “They’re powering up weapons and propulsion!”
“Evasive manoeuvres!” Virgii snapped.
The Roadrunner heaved to port, pulling away from the cube seconds before a cutting beam speared out. The cube slowly started to rotate, more weapons firing towards the Matrian and Federation ships.
“Call the starbase,” Virgii said, “Tell them to just blow the stupid thing up! To hell with research!”
“Should we try to rescue Laarthi and Boxer too?” Crewman Hii-Laanz asked.
“Yes, yes, I suppose. Though I have been looking forward to attempting the ‘Death and/or Assimilation’ paperwork. I hear that form is a zinger!”
Boxer and Laarthi watched in horror as the tentacles continued to connect to the vinculum. All around them, Borg drones were shouting. The lights surged as power was redirected through the cube, and Laarthi could have sworn she could feel a not-quite-dampened shift as the cube began to reorient itself.
“Ohhh, this is bad!” Laarthi groaned.
“I think we should leave and just tell them to blow this place up!” Boxer shouted.
“For once, mutt, I agree with you!”
They darted for the exit. Just as they were about to leave the chamber, Craigan caught up with them.
“You can thank me later,” he said confidently.
“YOU IDIOT!” Laarthi shouted, “You just handed this cube over to the Fungaloids!”
“Better them than the Borg,” Craigan replied calmly. In the background, Boxer was calling for a beam-out.
“NO! Now we’ve got them, with the POWER of the Borg!” Laarthi was ready to punch him.
“Oh,” Craigan frowned, “OK, maybe that’s not such a good thing.”
“Idiot!” Laarthi snapped.
She lurched as a heavy weight struck her. A drone was clutching at the front of her tunic.
“Help me,” it croaked, “I am…alone!”
There was a shimmer of transporter sparks and the three vanished, leaving the drone behind.
“Blow it up!” Virgii’s voice was coming over the comm, “To hell with Starfleet’s plan, just blow it up!”
“Good enough for me,” Simplot said, “Mr. Wyer, prepare to release the debris. Mr. Shurgroe, shift power to engines to get us free of the-“
Simplot’s order was cut off as both Wyer and Stoneryder screamed, tentacles shooting from their ears, mouths, noses, eyes, and a few other bodily orifices that we won’t go into at the moment. Wyer’s tentacles stabbed as his panel.
“Collision sequence aborted,” Madam’s voice filled the room, “Apparently, we’d rather let the mouldy cyborgs live another day, hmm?”
Shurgroe and Simplot were both screaming in shock, but Colonel Abela didn’t miss a beat.
“Madam, initiate sequence Abela-Kilo-Seven,” she barked, “Authorization code ‘Haven’s End’!”
“Code accepted,” Madam droned, “Collision sequence resumed. Engine control lockouts engaged. Time…to…DIE! HA- HA-HA-HA-HA!”
“Those programmer really did go over the top,” Abela sighed. She jumped back, joining Simplot, Fissett and Shurgroe on the opposite side of the holo-table as the two infested crewman.
“What have you done?” Infested Wyer demanded, his tentacles waving in rage.
“I’m doing what I have to do, for the good of my people!” Abela snapped, “Even if it means this city will be destroyed too!”
“We’re all about to die, aren’t we?” Simplot asked.
“Yup,” Abela nodded.
“You know, we usually announce these kinds of things so people can get to escape pods,” Simplot pointed out.
“Please, be my guest,”
“BLLAAAAUUUGHHHH!!!!” Infested Wyer shrieked.
“Oh shut up!”
“So we’re all dead,” Trenak said glumly, “Again. Ugh…do you KNOW how boring it is in the Past-Life Clearing House? We’ll probably be waiting for another body for at least a century!”
“I wouldn’t know,” Wyer said, distracted, “If only I could overpower this thing!”
“We could, if all the past-lives would agree to combine forces,” Trenak said.
“Why should we do this?” Akkakat demanded, “Our next incarnation may be less…boring! At this point, I am ready to die. Again.”
“Do you really want to have to deal with all our dead relatives?” Trenak said, pulling at his hair, “Imagine, a century of ‘Oh, I remember you, you taught my tertiary life in Primary 2’. Oh, and not to mention your parents! And Wyer’s parents! And Fransie’s parents! And every other set of parents each of us has ever had!”
“My parents were re-born shortly before us,” Akkakat pointed out, “We shall not see them, unless they have come to an early end, taking dozens of evil-doers with them!”
“I researched our various parents,” Wyer pointed out, “Your parents are currently incarnated as…well…hippies.”
“They may have come to their senses!” Akkakat objected.
“In any case,” Trenak said, “We know that Fransie’s parents will be there. And my Aunt Majella,”
“THAT VILE WOMAN WILL BE DESTROYED!”
“She probably won’t be incarnated for another fifty years,” Trenak went on, “Fifty years of us together in the Past-Life Clearning House,”
“One moment,” he said. He vanished briefly, then returned. “Very well. The other life-forces and I agree. We will help you overcome this foe,”
“Excellent,” Wyer nodded, “Now I just have to figure out how.”
“That’s easy!” Fransie spoke up, the bubbly brunette waving her arm, “Just get me control of the right arm! I can do the rest.”
“Let the battle begin!” Akkakat declared.
“First, we will cleanse Matria Prime,” Infested Stoneryder was saying, “Then the nearby worlds will fall to us. Your Federation of Planets will be obliterated, before any of you can unwittingly aid the Lupressa!”
“Any by the way,” Infested Wyer added, “The Federation of Fungus is suing you for trademark infringement,”
“Bite me!” Simplot snapped.
“Oh, but we don’t bite!” Infested Stoneryder reminded her, one tentacle stabbing towards Simplot. She evaded, but not by much. Abela’s hand went to her comm-badge, but another tentacle stabbed out, knocking the badge off her tunic and out of reach. The others were similarly de-badged.
“It’s not going to do you any good in about a minute,” Abela said, “When this city crashes into the cube and destroys it!”
“You have doomed yourselves by locking out the controls,” Infested Stoneryder said, “The cube will have propulsion in time to evade you. And you can do nothing about it!”
Abela’s eyes darted to a display. The Borg cube was starting to shift out of their path!
“And all we have to do is make sure you do nothing for the next fifty seconds!” Infested Stoneryder laughed.
He was so busy mocking them that he didn’t notice Infested Wyer raise one hand, staring at it in shock as though it belong to somebody else. From his raised fist, a single finger extended.
Infested Wyer didn’t even have time to scream as the finger was jammed down his throat. There was a horrible retching noise, tentacles stiffening and flailing in all directions, then Wyer fell to the deck, hunched over and coughing. The tentacles writhed as he coughed up a thick, phlemmy wad of fungus the size of his fist, several tendrils still extending down his throat. Still gagging, he bit down, severing the fungus pod.
Without missing a beat, he pounced at Stoneryder and repeated the process.
“That…was…DISGUSTING!” Simplot declared.
“The cube?” Wyer prompted, the various tentacles now hanging limply from his body.
“Abela?” Simplot asked.
Abela was tapping frantically at her panel.
“Lockout disengaged!” she said, “But we’re too close to change course! The cube has cleared our path! By the time we turn this thing around, they’ll be at Matria Prime!”
“Let me,” Wyer said, sliding into the seat.
“Dr. Annerson to Ops,” Simplot called into the comm, trying to avoid Wyer’s dead tentacles, “And bring…ugh…bring an incinerator, or something.
Boxer, Craigan and Laarthi crowded onto the small bridge just in time to see the show.
The Borg cube, now under the full control of the Fungaloids, had just managed to move itself out of the path of Haven and it’s deadly cargo of space debris. The city was still bearing down, it’s broad dome looming above them, the empty lakebed and the lit towers visible beneath the clear surface. Seconds before it reached the cube, the city tilted on its axis, turning it’s engines perpendicular to it’s travel vector and moving off in its planned escape trajectory.
The debris was still several seconds behind, now on a trajectory that would take it out of the Matrian star system without hitting a single thing.
Seconds before it passed the cube, Haven’s energy transceiver surged to life again…only this time, instead of pulling the debris with it, it was reversed, pushing the pile of old ships, space stations components, outposts, and various other wrecks collected in the years following the Gender Wars onto a new course.
One that took it right into the cube’s new position.
The Borg cube’s shields could be calibrated against almost any energy weapon known. It’s propulsion system could move it across the galaxy. Given access to the full knowledge of the Collective, they might have been able to defeat the sheer physics of a very large mass moving at them at thousands of kilometers a second.
But with the Fungaloids in charge, there was no chance.
The debris hit the cube like bullets hitting cheese, tearing through its hull armour, ripping through fungal tissues and shredding power cores. With a massive explosion, the cube detonated, a flash of light that was visible as far away as Matria Prime itself.
Watching the explosion through one of Ops’ lower windows, Simplot turned to Abela.
“You were going to destroy the Borg no matter what Starfleet said,” she accused, “You didn’t have that handy little sequence prepared just in case the Fungaloids somehow managed to take control of the city,”
Abela turned to her and raised an eyebrow.
Simplot crossed her arms.
“You sure as hell didn’t!” Simplot snapped. She paused, looked over as Annerson arrived on the scene, eyes wide as she surveyed Wyer and Stoneryder’s condition. She looked out at the expanding debris field that had been a Borg cube under the control of a very nasty race.
“But that’s what my report is going to say,” she said grudgingly.
“I thought so,” Abela nodded, “Now why don’t you go get me a coffee?”
“Get it yourself! And get me one while you’re at it!”
The two women glared at each other for a moment then, as one, turned towards the holo-table.
“WYER!” they called.
Acting Captain…make that Lt Cmdr Tyler Virgii sat at a table in the Mall of Matria food court. The mall was all but deserted, except for him. Outside the towering windows looking out into the city he could see stars, along with a few bits of debris from the destroyed cube. The Roadrunner was neatly docked at its port below the city, and most of the crew had scampered right to communications terminals to get back in touch with family, friends and colleagues that had been missed during their absence.
And here he was, sitting all by himself, a cake with the words ‘Welcome Home, Roadrunner’ sitting on the table in front of him. The cartoon bird drawn across the cake in blue and purple icing seemed to mock him as it gazed out of the cake.
“Try to do something nice for some people,” he muttered. He’d replicated the cake himself, then carried the damned thing all the way from the Roadrunner to this table. He’d even stopped by the little cafe two mall levels up to make sure he had plenty of hot beverages for the occasion.
Except none of his idiot crew had bothered to show up.
“Ingrates,” he grumbled. He waited another moment, then grabbed the knife and sliced a corner of cake off for himself. He’d only managed to finish about half of it when he was interrupted by Laarthi’s scathing voice.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“Huh?” he asked, his mouth covered in chocolate.
“I may be rusty on human customs, but I’m pretty sure you were supposed to wait for us,” she replied. She was followed by Boxer, Strobnick, Kilpatrick, Mulans and several other members of the Roadrunner crew.
“I…uh…” Virgii stuttered.
“Typical,” Laarthi snorted, cutting herself a piece of cake.
“Is that chocolate?” Boxer asked.
Virgii was about to ask what exactly was so wrong with chocolate, but decided against it.
“You’re late, Lieutenant,” he said instead.
“Yeah, have you tried using the stupid transit here?” Kilpatrick asked, “It’s like whoever designed it was drunk! And the computer was NO help!”
“Coffee? Tea? Really?” Strobnick was frowning, “Nearly a year wandering the galaxy and you couldn’t go for a nice white wine?”
“Some of us are on duty,” Virgii grumbled.
Everybody (except Boxer) had managed to get a piece of cake, and despite the complaints the coffee pot was quickly emptied.
“If I may have everybody’s attention,” Virgii said loudly, rising to his feet.
“You have chocolate on your nose, boss,” Boxer pointed out.
“Ahem,” Virgii wiped his face, “I am pleased to have been your Captain during this trying time. I assure you, when I am again given command of a ship, I will do my utmost to bring you with me. Most of you,” he amended.
Everybody sort of stared at him.
“And…er…well done,” he added.
With assorted muttering, they sipped their coffee.
The gathering did not last long. Within half an hour the rest of the crew had dispersed to their temporary quarters.
As he left, Boxer stopped near Virgii.
“Mytim is still out there,” he reminded the British officer.
“I know, Lieutenant,” Virgii replied, “But somehow, I think we’ll be running into her again,”
“Well, that depends on whether any of us hatch up any hare-brained rescue schemes,” Virgii admitted, “Or on whether or not she decides to invade the Federation with her new Borg friends. But yes. I really think we’ll see her again,”
“Oh…that’s good,” Boxer’s tail wagged.
“Go to bed, Lieutenant,” Virgii sighed.
“We are most pleased that the situation has been resolved,” Queen Anselia’s holographic head told the assembled senior officers, “Matrian Space is again secure, our losses have been minimal, and we have learned to defend ourselves against a new enemy,”
“Don’t get too comfy, your Highness,” Simplot warned her, “The Borg are famous for adapting. And the Fungaloids…well…ewww…:
“We are aware of the dangers of the future,” Anselia replied.
“Your Majesty,” Abela cut in, “We’re ready to bring Haven back into orbit of Matria Prime. We’re going to need to spend some time resupplying, conducting minor repairs and so forth. But we’ve proven that we need to keep our guard up, and so I recommend we establish a more permanent military presence aboard the city,”
“Perhaps,” Anselia said, “My staff has indicated that we need to…reconsider Haven’s role for the time being.”
“For starters?” Simplot asked.
“Well,” Anselia grabbed a pad, “To start with, it would take over a year to shuttle up enough water from the surface of Matria Prime to fill the lake. But besides that point, it has also been pointed out that Haven is one of our more powerful mobile assets,”
“Yes…and?” Abela asked.
“And it would be more efficient to land the city for replenishment,” Anselia finished.
“We agree completely,” Abela said eagerly, “I will contact Launchpad immediately and make arrangements,”
“This thing can land?” Simplot was startled.
“It will take some time to charge Launchpad’s energy storage to the point where we can channel enough power to the engines for a soft landing,” Abela waved a hand, “But the procedure is not complicated,”
“But…there is still a complication,” Queen Anselia spoke up.
“I…what? Abela turned to face the Queen.
She was not please with what she had to say.
“Prepare for landing procedures,” Abela said quietly.
“Reprogramming engine ratios,” Wyer replied, “Balancing to 75% antigravity, 25% impulse.”
The great city slowed as it approached its destination, the ring of heavy engine arrays circling the Outer Rim flaring as energy was redirected. Although the city was still kilometers from the surface, dust began to swirl as the vectored plasma exhaust of the fusion-based impulse drives stirred it into motion.
“Altitude four kilometers,” Shurgroe reported from his pulpit, “Stabilizing shipyard antigravity fields. Hopefully that ship in Shipyard Three doesn’t fall out,”
“I don’t think anybody in Starfleet has ever landed a kilometers-wide city before,” Shurgroe remarked. She was standing close to the railing, looking out over the city as, in the distance, a horizon appeared from below.
“Humph,” Abela crossed her arms.
“Preparing landing zone,” Wyer reported.
The city continued to slow as it approached the surface, almost seeming to hover as it reached the one kilometer mark. Weapons hatches opened along the lower surfaces, heavy beams of energy shooting out and vaporizing boulders, hills, outcroppings….anything that would put excessive pressure on the city’s lower hull.
With a blinding flash, the energy transceiver came to life, firing a thick beam straight down. Dust swirled as a cone-shaped depression was formed…just the right size to accommodate the cone-shaped emitters beneath the city. The energy burst also served to push any remaining debris out from under the city. In a matter of moments, a landing area had been created.
“Bring us down,” Abela said bitterly.
Wyer and Fissett worked their panels, adjusting engine output, inertial dampening field vectors and structural integrity field levels. Outside, the city eased itself towards its new home. With a brief jolt, the city touched down.
“Engines to standby,” Abela ordered, “Begin damage check.”
She joined Simplot at the railing.
“I never thought this would happen,” she grumbled. Above them, the gas giant of Matria VI dominated the sky.
“You never thought we’d need to park this thing?” Simplot asked, “Then why did you design it so that you could?”
“No, I mean…I never thought we’d be landing the city on a moon millions of kilometers from Matria Prime,” Abela said, “Haven was built for Matria Prime. It wasn’t meant to be…exiled like this,”
“Aww, don’t worry Myress,” Simplot encouraged her, “We’ll harvest enough ice to replenish the lake, replenish the dome atmosphere and get the alloy storage topped up in all the shipyards. We’ve got five thousand miners on the way, ready to move in and start work, with another ten thousand support workers right behind them! We’re finally getting citizens! You should be thrilled!”
“You’re right,” Abela looked down from the blazing colours of Matria VI and into the empty, airless city. She tried to imagine it the way it would look in a month…the lake refilled, the trees and greenery back in bloom…and with people walking the streets and boulevards. OK, yes, another fifteen thousand people was a mere fraction of what Haven was meant to hold…but with miners pulling useful materials out of the moon’s crust, the government would probably decide to activate more of Haven’s shipyards. Which would bring even more workers…which would lead to even more citizens moving in to support them. The next year or two could bring a population boom, with Haven taking its place as one of the leading centers of economic activity in the Matrian Republic. And of course the facilities to support that population would grow to include the activation of Haven University, the Haven Imperial Bank of Commerce and the Haven Theatre for the Performing Arts. Everything she had wanted for the city since its inception over two hundred years ago was on the verge of coming true.
But as she looked in the distance towards the tiny point of light that was Matria Prime, Abela couldn’t help but feel that it was a bitter victory.
Queen Anselia’s government had decided that, for now, the best place for Haven was far from the people it had been meant for. Where any trouble it might attract wouldn’t threaten the people of Matria Prime. They’d basically been told by the government to shut up, get out of the way, and not to bother anybody.
But, Abela mused, governments could fall. And Queen Anselia certainly had her share of enemies in the Matrian political system.
Suddenly intrigued by the thought, Abela smiled.
“See?” Simplot said cheerfully, patting her on the back, “It won’t be that bad!”
“No,” Abela said, her mind now analyzing the problem from a new angle.
“No, maybe it won’t…”
And so concludes Season 1 of Halfway to Haven. It’s been a fun run, though certainly different from that first Silverado season so long ago. Would definitely be interested in hearing what you thought, so head over to the Star Traks Forum and post a comment, or email me at email@example.com