Author: Anthony Butler
Lord Gravan stepped out onto the bridge of the Flarn warship Vendregad feeling hung over and stuffed. As the commander of the vessel charged with transfering the stockpile of Alpha Quadrant prisoners to the holding colony near the edge of Flarn space, Gravan enjoyed certain luxuries. His superiors assured him that, in exchange for his loyalty, it would be acceptable to skim a little off the top if he wished.
He considred fourteen humans to be “a little.” Still, he felt that by number fourteen, he might have been overdoing it, and with the added factor of the Garibid slug wine he had gorged on, he had been pretty much incapacitated for the evening.
“Report, Benzra.” Gravan said, allowing himself to fall peacefully into his command throne. He really would have to get some sort of antacid after the situation on the bridge was settled. That fourteenth human would just not digest.
Benzra stood at attention, looming over Gravan uneasily. “My Lord, we have located the remainssssss of the Garibid ssssssssupply ship Mondakar. She seemsssssss to have been dessssssstroyed.”
“By what?” Gravan asked angrily.
“Unknown.” Benzra replied.
“That’ssssssss no kind of anssssssswer, Benzzzzzra. Give me detailssssss.”
“The distressss call they sssent mentioned a large, cube-ssssssshaped sssship.”
“Have we located thissssss…cube vesssssssel?” Gravan asked.
“Yessss, sir. Bearing 311 mark 069.” Benzra said. “It is traveling quite fasssst. It should be at our position within the hour.”
“Sssssuperb.” Gravan said excitedly. “Ready our weaponsss ssssystems. We ssssshall disposssssse of thisssssss menace possssste hassssste.”
Benzra bowed. “Yesss, ssssir. Sssshould I alert the homeworld?”
“Of courssssse…” Gravan replied. “But only after I exterminate thessssse pathetic invaders.”
“I assure you, Overmaster Krenek, this is a very serious situation.” Prime Minister Wujan said, appearing quite disturbed on the Interim Overmaster’s comm terminal.
The ample Flarn leaned back in his chair and laughed a hearty belly laugh.
“You have to underssssstand the humor in thissssss, Missssster Prime Minisssssster. You’re assssssking the Flarn to ally theirssssselvesssss with the Sulani! Are you insssssane?”
“I assure you, I am not. The threat is imminent and I asssure you it is very real. We will have to combine our forces if we are to be victorious.”
“Ah, yessssss, the infamous Borg invassssssion. I have heard the reportssssss, and I am unimpresssssed. We have a ssssship near the sysssstem where the disssssstressss call originated, Wujan. They will disspatch of thessssse Borg pressssssently.”
“You do not know what you are dealing with, Krenek. Just look at this footage that Captain Baxter gave me…”
Wujan’s face was replaced by a clip of the Battle of Wolf 359, presumably taken from a quickly retreating escape pod.
To Krenek, it just looked like several ships resembling the Aerostar swarming around a giant, black cube and firing on it with everything they had.
“Keep in mind, Wujan, you are talking about the Federation.” Krenek said, once Wujan’s face had returned to the screen. “They are a weak and ssssssimple people. Why sssshould I believe that becausssse they were no match for the Borg, we will not be assssssss well?”
“Krenek, I’m simply saying that you’ll need all the help you can get. We have to fight this menace together. Otherwise this quadrant will be torn apart.”
“I’m ssssssure.” Krenek said dissmissively. “The Flarn Emporer would never conceed to any type of alliance. Thissssss matter will be taken care of by our government and oursssssss alone. Then we will take out our frusssssstration at having to deal with this messssss on the crew of the Aerosssssstar.”
“I really wish you would listen to me, Overmaster. I think we could come to some sort of under-“
Krenek cut the communication, turning around in his seat and looking out over the dark, ornate spires of Flarn Prime’s capital city. How dare they assume that his people would not be able to handle any challenge that these Federations dished out?
The thought of defeat never crossed Krenek’s mind.
Captain Andy Baxter paced back and forth in front of his desk, listening to what Wujan had to say. “…I think we should consolidate the Sulani fleet and aid the Maloxians in building up their own forces.” Wujan said. “You yourself told me that Jum seemed optimistic about raising the support of his people.”
Baxter stopped, rubbing his chin. “For what it’s worth, I guess. In that case, I suggest we send the Aerostar ahead to the Borg’s last known position so that we can assess the exact size and capabilities of their ship and attempt to stop them before they reach inhabited space.”
“You’re making this personal, aren’t you Captain?” Wujan asked with concern. “You want to fly in there with the Aerostar and destroy these things yourself.”
“This is personal,” Baxter replied. “We are responsible for causing this mess, and it is our responsibility to fix it.”
“You had no way of knowing about this stowaway of yours, Captain. Besides, it’s too late to be pointing fingers. The problem has arisen, and it is time to find a way to stop it.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Baxter said. “But still, I’m going to go along with my original plan. My people have experience in dealing with the Borg.” Baxter was being a little vague there, since no one on his ship had actually been at Wolf 359. They had all heard of the Borg, however, and they had access to Starfleet’s Borg database in their computer files.
“If I cannot dissuade you from this course of action, at least let me send two of my ships along with you. You will need all the firepower you can get.”
“Fine, Wujan. Just make sure they’re here within the hour. The sooner we get going the better.”
“Very good. In the meantime, Captain. I suggest you get some sleep. I would guess that’s something you haven’t had much of in the past two days?”
“You’d be right there.” Baxter said tiredly, unzipping his uniform jacket. “I’ll keep you posted on our progress.”
“Pleasant dreams, Captain. Wujan out.”
Baxter changed into his Starfleet emblem pajamas and slipped into bed, trying his best to let the tension of the last couple days slip away. But, hard as he tried, he couldn’t seem to ignore how empty his bed felt without her there.
The Captain folded his hands behind his head and stared up at the blank ceiling, trying to figure out how he was going to get his crew out of this newest plight.
He had almost gotten to sleep when Charlie jumped onto the bed and on top of Baxter, knocking the wind out of him. Baxter leaned up on his elbows and rubbed Charlie’s ears, enlisting a moan of sadness.
“I know, boy. I miss her too.”
“So what are you saying, Larkin?” Lt. Commander Richards asked, staring across the security field at Private Christopher Henricks.
“Private Henricks claims to be your first year roomate at Starfleet Academy, sir.” Larkin said matter-of-factly. “He also claims to be my creator.”
“Impossible.” Richards said, turning around to look at Larkin. “My first year roomate was a guy named Elliot Finglass. We used to call him ‘Stinky.’”
“That’s what you think. Elliot Finglass replaced me after I left. I just made you think he was there all along,” Henricks said, laughing coldly.
“What do you mean?” Richards asked, turning around.
“I was able to reconstruct your neural pathways from the instructions in my Neurology 101 textbook.”
“I’m not buying this,” Richards said.
Dr. Browning stepped forward, looking at Henricks skeptically. “I don’t know, Chris. What he’s saying could be true. I’ll have to look at your brain patterns to be sure, but…”
Richards turned to Larkin. “Wait a minute. You say he created you? How can that be?”
“He says he has proof,” Larkin said.
“What proof?” Richards asked.
“Larkin: activate subroutine zero zero zero omega.” Henricks said, standing up and approaching the doorway of his cell.
Larkin cocked her head. “I am not familiar with that subroutine.”
“No reason you should be. Activate it.”
“That would not be wise.” Larkin replied.
“Go ahead and do it, Larkin.” Richards said, staring at Henricks. “I want to see what happens.”
“But sir, if this is some trick…”
“Just do it, Larkin.” Richards said, standing in front of Dr. Browning. “We have to know if what he’s telling us is true.”
“Very well.” Larkin said, averting her eyes momentarily and cocking her head “Subroutine activated…I…seem…to… be…”
Suddenly, the android dropped to the floor, unconcious, for lack of a better term.
“What the hell…” Richards said, staring at Larkin’s limp body.
Deep inside Lieutenant Kristen Larkin’s positronic brain, past the centers of computation, memory, and limb control, beyond the reach of normal scans, there was a special subconcious thought process that had been set in motion by Private Henricks’s command. On a purely subconcious level, the Lieutenant wondered what was happening to her.
If she had to guess, from experience among humans, she would have to say that she was hallucinating, or dreaming…but that was impossible. Or was it?
Larkin suddenly found herself in a cramped and messy room. She could hear someone whistling happily, and there was an unmistakable smell of sweaty undergarments in the area. This was a memory! But instead of calling up the memory from her database, she was living it!
She knew exactly who was whistling too.
Cadet First class Christopher Henricks looked Larkin up and down with approval. It was then that she noticed she was absolutely naked. She knew how that was a recurring theme in human dreams, but she couldn’t understand why she was naked in this particular dream.
She surmised that this was a memory that her positronic subconcious had locked away in a safe place. And who was she to argue with her subconcious?
“I like it. Man am I good. You can hardly tell she’s an android.” Henricks said with a twinkle of youthful joy in his eye. “I can hardly wait to try you out!”
What could he possibly mean? A second of cross referencing answered that question. The cadet wanted to use poor Larkin as a glorified humping post. It was all coming back to her now! She was made in the image of his ex-girlfriend, and took her namesake from the same. Unfortunately, the real Kristen Larkin had enough pride to look for a more appealing guy. Henricks was definitely a loser.
“Tonight’s the night, tonight’s the night!” chanted the happy cadet.
Larkin tried to remember what happened next. It was as if all of her memories had been locked away for years, and just now the horrible truth was coming out.
“Let’s get started, shall we?” Henricks asked excitedly.
Somehow, although in theory the android should have had no free will, she managed to show a scrap of pride. “Cadet, are you aware that I possess over two million gigabytes of information that can be processed at the rate of one thousand megabytes per second? I can compute the speed of the earth’s rotation by simply looking out the window. I can make twelve different kinds of chicken, I can hear a bee buzzing in a garden three hundred thousand kilometers away. And the first thing you want to do after activating me is…copulate with me?”
“I swiped your brain from my roomate. I could care less what that can do, I’m more interested in what that can do.”
Larkin didn’t need to look where Henricks was pointing.
Well, at least she knew now why she was always falling apart; the person who had assembled her was a complete moron.
She closed her eyes, ready for the onslaught of the hideous human.
Then door to the dorm room burst open.
Henricks turned around, annoyed. “Can’t you see I’m busy here? No, I don’t know where your positronics project is!”
Larkin couldn’t seem to get a clear picture of who else was in the room. She assumed that it was Henricks’ roomate, but she couldn’t make out the boy’s face.
“I want my brain back.” The unidentified boy said. Larkin could almost make out a picture on the boy’s shirt. What could it be?
“What’s happening to her?” Dr. Browning asked in amazement as Larkin lay unconcious on the deck.
Richards shrugged, glaring back at Henricks then opening the top of Larkin’s head and examining her brain. “Hell if I know. It seems like she’s in some kind of feedback loop. She’s getting power to her brain, it’s just not getting to her limbs.” Richards narrowed his eyes as he examined the brain. “Boy, now that I look at this brain…it seems familiar…”
Save the…Save the…
What the heck did that tee-shirt say? If it was possible for Larkin to become frustrated, she was getting there, that was certain.
The image on the boy’s tee-shirt became clearer, as did Larkin’s reccolection of the events.
“You put the brain I made in her, didn’t you?”
Henricks laughed. “Huh huh. So what if I did?”
“It was MY brain. I MADE it. Besides, I thought you said that wasn’t important in a girl anyway.”
“Well, she kept drooling without the brain. I had to do it.”
The other boy lept across the room. “Well then, I’m taking YOUR brain in its place!”
“Oh, no!” Henricks tried to break for the door, but it was too late, the other cadet grabbed him and pushed him across the room.
Larkin narrowed her eyes, staring hard at the other cadet’s shirt. What was that picture?
Save the……….PENGUINS! It was a penguin on the boy’s shirt!
Everything made sense to Larkin now, and her brain worked quickly to choose what she had to do next.
“Kick him in the ‘nads, kick him in the ‘nads! If there is any of the real Kristen Larkin in you, KICK HIM IN THE ‘NADS!” the roomate yelled.
Suddenly, a burst of power surged into the Larkin’s actual limbs. She knew what she had to do.
Richards ran a tricorder over the unconcious android. “I don’t know what he did to her. I…” The tricorder let out a shrill bleep. “Wait a minute…power is off the scale, something’s happening!”
Suddenly, without warning, Larkin’s knee flew up at blinding speed, making contact with Richards’ crotch and sending him flying across the brig and straight into Dr. Browning.
“Bloody hell, why did you do that?” Richards asked, lifting his head up dizzily.
Larkin cocked her head, making the necessary calculations to adjust to the situation. “Forgive me, Commander. I was, for lack of a better term…dreaming.”
Richards got up and waddled over to Larkin. “That really hurt.”
Larkin looked at the engineer with a surprised expression. “I am positive now, it was you. You created my brain. You were Christopher Henricks’ roomate.”
The engineer fell back against a panel. “I honestly don’t remember him. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember what my final project in that positronics class was.”
Larkin’s memory was now intact. “But you did create a brain, Mr. Richards. And when you discovered that your roomate had serrupticiously used it for his own project of…love, you tried to get it back, and Private Henricks did something to wipe your memory of the entire thing, and must have used that as his project instead.”
“Exactly.” Henricks said proudly from inside his cell. “They liked it so much they let my results stand without letting you know about the whole incident. They were really proud of my work.”
Richards helped Dr. Browning up. “Then answer me this…” Browning said, dusting off her uniform and trying to straighten her slightly messed up hair. “What happened to you, Lieutenant?”
Larkin called up the proper files. “I escaped from Cadet Henricks and went on to do several odd jobs around the Terran system, later joining the academy myself and becoming an officer. Previously, my memories began the day after I left Mister Henricks.”
“I don’t believe it.” Richards said, astonished.
“Believe it.” Henricks said proudly.
“So where’s the real Kristen Larkin?” Browning asked.
“Last I heard,” Henricks said, “she was the captain of a small interstellar freighter. If we ever get back, you should look her up, Lieutenant.”
“That would be…interesting.” Larkin said. “That brings us, I believe, to the reason you are here.”
“J’hana already interrogated me.”
Larkin raised an eyebrow. “Yes, and, from what I hear, you told her nothing.”
“You shall, in fact, tell me.”
“Why should I?”
“Because you still love Kristen Larkin.” Larkin replied, earning surprised glares from Browning and Richards.
“No…I don’t. I found a new girlfriend just before I was booted out of Starfleet Academy.”
“Let me guess.” Richards said. “Fratrenization.”
“How did you know?” Henricks asked.
“Just call it a hunch.” Richards replied. “So who is this other girl?”
“Let’s just say she’s nearby.” Henricks said, leaning back and smiling.
In the brig across the hall, Lt. J’hana pounded the bulkhead in frustration.
“You did not answer the question, Lieutenant!” Lt. J’hana cried. “Who sent you? Who are you working for?”
Lt. Fresca folded her arms, sitting peacefully on her cot in the brig. “I’m working for the devil. And I’m going to steal your soul. HA HA HA HA HA!”
“Very funny.” J’hana said, stalking back and forth in front of Fresca’s cell. “Now tell me what you know.”
“Or I will climb in there and gut you with my bare hands!” J’hana shouted.
“Were you this persistent with Mr. Henricks?” Fresca asked peacefully.
“More.” J’hana wheezed angrily, finally sitting down. “Now, where were we?”
“That’s enough, Lieutenant.” Commander Conway said, standing by the doorway to the brig.
“What?” J’hana asked, looking back at Conway. “What do you mean?”
“I mean I’m taking over this interrogation.” Conway said. “Go run a few laps and beat up some people on the holodeck. Or chant, or growl, or whatever.”
J’hana bowed. “As you say, Commander.” The Andorian paused at the doors to the brig. “But if you need some help…disciplining the prisoner, let me know.”
“I think I have the situation well in hand.” Conway said, as J’hana left.
Commander Conway dismissed the ensign at the security console and ordered a cup of coffee. “Something to drink, Lieutenant?” he asked cordially.
Fresca unfolded her arms. “No.”
“Fair enough.” Conway said, sitting down at the console and pulling some information up on the screen. “Where do we begin then?”
“That’s up to you, sir.” Fresca replied, still smiling.
“Very well then. Let’s start with you. Your real name is not Fresca Jenel. Nor are you Bajoran.”
“Oh no?” Fresca asked. “Then what, pray tell, am I?”
Conway paged through the information on the screen. “You’re a Terran, by the name of Jennifer Prescott. You’re actually a Lieutenant Commander, and you work for Starfleet’s Office of Internal Affairs. You have an apartment on Burlingame Avenue right outside San Francisco, and you have a cat named Sebastian and an iguana named Spike. Did I miss anything?”
The officer’s smile dissappeared. “No, that just about covers it.”
Conway stood up, walking around the terminal. “We did a little checking on your background. It was pretty tough, since we didn’t have a Starfleet network to get our information from. We had to rely on what information we had on our ship.”
“But they wouldn’t have allowed that information to be…”
“No, they wouldn’t.” Conway said, smiling. “We had some help from Lieutenant Tilleran.”
Prescott clenched her fists angrily. “The Betazoid.”
“But all she did was help us search your quarters…” Conway said, walking out of the brig.
The Starfleet agent sat there alone a moment, tapping her fingers on the cot nervously.
Conway returned with a small padd in his hand. “This look familiar?”
Prescott buried her head in her hands. “You found
“Yep.” Conway paged through the information. “You really like my eyes?”
“Can we just get on with this?” Prescott said in annoyance.
“This entire time we thought you were just overzealous with your sex drive.” Conway said, setting the padd down and approaching Prescott’s cell. “But now it turns out you came on to me, the Captain, and half the male crew…just so you could find your mark.” Conway picked the padd up again and paged through it. “One PFC Christopher Henricks.”
“And now it turns out he wasn’t the only stowaway.” Prescott said angrily. “How could I have been stupid enough to let a Romulan and a Changeling slip right underneath my nose? I’m the best, Commander.”
“Obviously not.” Conway said, setting the padd back down. “I guess the only question now is, why did Henricks do this? Who gave the order? Why were all of us left in the dark?”
“The android already figured all that out, Commander.” Prescott said in annoyance. “Or haven’t you been paying attention? Christopher was here to seek out any threat to Starfleet security in this system and destroy it using the Borg homing device.”
“Which was taken from the crash site in the Argolis cluster.” Conway said. “Where the Enterprise had rescued a Borg from a downed scout ship.” Conway paused, glaring at Prescott incredulously. “They used the homing device from that ship to call the Borg here?”
“And away from the Federation.”
“Possibly killing millions of innocents.” Conway said angrily. “Including us.”
“But the Alpha Quadrant would be safe.” Prescott said. “Or at least, that’s what Admiral Neilson had hoped.”
“So Internal Affairs sent you in to stop him?”
“Yes sir. What they didn’t bargain on was the destruction of the portal that would bring us home. Starfleet has known about the Bermuda Expanse for a long time.”
“And Admiral Neilson has been working independently of the Federation Council?” Conway asked. “How could that happen?”
“She’s been working independently of Starfleet Command too.” Prescott said.
“So why didn’t you arrest Admiral Neilson to begin with?”
“We needed proof, Commander.” Prescott replied. “We needed to find Private Henricks. Which now, thankfully we have.”
Conway laughed. “A little late, don’t you think?”
“Better late than never.” Prescott said, smiling. “The question is, what do we do from here?”
“I don’t know.” Conway said, shaking his head. “I know the Captain is going to take us into a confrontation with the Borg. And I know we may not survive.”
“I know about the Borg, Commander. I can help you.” Prescott said. “I reported directly to Admiral Hansen during the Borg invasion. As a matter of fact, I was at Wolf 359.”
“You survived Wolf 359?” Conway asked, amazed. That was something he had not dug up in his search.
“Well,” Prescott said sheepishly. “I was on one of the perimieter stations. I am the only member of Hansen’s core task force aboard your ship, however.”
“Good point.” Conway said. “I need to talk to the Captain about this.”
“Better hurry.” Prescott said as Conway left. “From what I hear, we’ll be leaving shortly.”
Conway left the brig hurriedly, briefly wondering how the hell Lt. Commander Prescott knew that.
“I’ll be darned.” Dr. Browning said, staring at Richards’ readings on the biobed. “He was telling the truth. Your neurological readings were definitely blocked.”
“And you’re just now figuring that out? Couldn’t someone have figured that out before now?” Richards asked incredulously.
“Not unless they knew what they were looking for.” Browning said. “So what do we do now, Lt. Larkin?”
Larkin stood between Richards and Browning, considering the situation. “This is indeed a strange situation, Commander.”
“You know, if you created the brain, and Henricks created the body…” Browning said, looking from Richards to Larkin. “That would make him the father and you the…”
“Mother?” Larkin offered helpfully.
“Very funny.” Richards said, jumping off the biobed. “These events don’t change anything. We’re still heading for a battle with the Borg. What’s in the past is in the past. As for Henricks’s crimes,” Richards said, “that’s for J’hana to figure out.”
“Speaking of which,” Larkin said. “I am sorry about what I did to your crotch, Commander.”
“Think nothing of it.” Richards said, not turning his head back as he headed towards the door to sickbay. “I don’t have time to talk about it now though. I have to make sure Engineering is ready for the battle we’re about to have with the Borg ship my former roomate was nice enough to bring here.”
After Richards had left, Larkin looked to Doctor Browning. “I take it Lt. Commander Richards has not fully adapted to our new situation.”
“Well, we’re not Borg, Larkin, we have emotions.” Dr. Browning said, heading for her office. “Well, most of us do, anyway.”
“Flarn Starship Vendregad, surrender to us or be destroyed,” the corus of voices boomed over the Vedregad’s bridge speakers.
“Lissssssten, I don’t know who you are….” Lord Gravan said angrily. “But if you know the Flarn at all, you…”
Suddenly the Vendregad pitched hard to port, throwing Gravan out of his command throne.
“Sssssir!” Benzra cried. “They are activating some sort of cutting beam!”
“Return fire! All weaponsssssss!” Gravan cried, climbing back onto his throne. “Show them that we are not cowardssssssss!”
The Borg cutting beam lanced out again and carved off one of the Flarn vessel’s wing struts.
“Flarn Starship Vendregad. We are Borg. We are here to find our lost hive member. Help us or be destroyed.”
“My asssssss!” Gravan cried. “Throw everything we have at them!”
“Antiproton blasterssssssss having little effect on their shields, sssssssir!” Benzra cried. “Our hull is breached on sssssssseveral levelsssssss. They can cut right through our sssssssssshields!”
“Ssssssend a disssssssstresssss call! We will not be–” Gravan cried, as the cutting beam lashed out again from the lead Borg ship and carved the Vendregad in half.
The two halves of the badly damaged ship spiraled in opposite directions, emitting atmosphere and sputtering wisps of flame.
The Borg ship hurtled through the wreckage of the Vendregad, continuing toward the last known source of the distress call.
Stardate 51989.6. After interrogating our…guests, Commander Conway and Lt. Larkin have reported back to me with some rather unusual news. Then again, I guess, for us, the unusual is pretty damn usual.
Captain Baxter threw the padd down onto his desk and sat down on the desk, facing Commander Conway and Lieutenant Larkin.
“So let me get this straight.” He wiped a hand down his face, looking down at the floor a moment and then looking back up. “The two that we do have in custody are the good guys?”
Both officers nodded.
“I suppose it would depend on how you define the word ‘good’, Captain.” Larkin said. “They are not, however, Romulans or Changelings.”
“Well, I guess that’s a start.” Baxter said, walking behind his desk and sitting down. “But still, one of them stowed away in the bottom of the ship for nine months and the other one has been lying through her teeth since day one.”
“That about sums it up, Captain.” Conway said. “What do you think we should do?”
Baxter thought a moment. “And you say Lieutenant Fresca, I mean, Lieutenant Commander Prescott, is an expert on the Borg?”
“THE expert on the Borg, at least on this ship.” Conway said. “We could definitely use her skills.”
“What about Private Henricks?” Baxter asked, turning to Larkin.
“I have studied his background, sir.” Larkin said. “In light of the events mentioned in my report, I have decided that it might be a good idea to get to know my…”
“Daddy?” Conway offered helpfully.
“Considering the relationship he wished to have with me, I do not think that term would be accurate.” Larkin said.
“Oh well.” Baxter said. “Incest is best, as they say. Now what do you know about this guy?”
“He has been in the Federation Marine Corps for approximately six years, trained in search and rescue, infiltration, and special operations. His I.Q. level, however, is seriously lacking.”
“Guess you get your brains from the other side of the family.” Conway said helpfully.
“I’m not laughing.” Baxter said, turning back to Larkin. “Can we use him?”
“He has a great deal of tactical information about the Borg. I believe he can be an asset to our crew.”
“And frankly, sir, we need every man we can get.” Conway added.
“Fine.” Baxter said. “Have J’hana put a man on both of them…neither of them pees without us knowing about it. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir.” Conway said, standing up.
“Tilleran to Baxter: the Sulani warships Serat and Drovna have arrived. What should I tell them?”
Baxter stood up, leading Conway and Larkin out of the readyroom. “Tell them we’re about to get underway.”
Baxter stepped out onto the bridge. “Mr. Ford, lay in a course for the last known position of the Borg ship and engage at maximum warp.”
“Aye, sir.” Ford said from the helm.
“This is not what I ordered.” Lt. Hartley said in annoyance, staring down at the bubbly blue drink that fizzled annoyingly beneath her nose.
“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry!” The equally blue Bolian said, whisking the drink away and running to the other side of the bar. “This must be Ensign Dawson’s Tellarite Martini.”
“I ordered a Laughing Vulcan.” Hartley said angrily. “Don’t you remember?”
“You have to excuse me.” The Bolian said. “I am still a bit new at this. I mean, yesterday I was cleaning out the waste reclamators on Deck 27, now I’m serving drinks. This bartending stuff is quite compicated!”
Hartley made a face of disgust. “You did clean your hands after cleaning out those reclamators, didn’t you?”
The Bolian looked down at his hands. “I believe so,” he said.
“Just give me the damn drink, little boy blue.” Hartley said in annoyance.
“Right away!” The Bolian replied cheerfully, running over to the replicator. “And the name’s Elli if you need anything else!”
“I hope I don’t.” Hartley said, grabbing her drink and searching out an empty table.
“Lieutenant.” A gutteral voice suddenly called.
Hartley turned around, to find Lt. J’hana slouched in a booth, a glass hanging loosely from her hand. Her eyes had almost rolled completely backwards, and her antennae hung especially loose.
“Are you okay, Lieutenant J’hana?” Hartley asked with concern, sitting down.
“I am fine.” J’hana said, getting control of her eyes back and leaning across the table to address Hartley. “I wanted to apologize.”
“For what?” Hartley asked.
“For accusing you of being a traitor. I see now that I was wrong.” The Andorian suddenly let out a hideous shriek that caused every head in the Starlight Lounge to turn momentarily. “Pardon me.”
Hartley stuck a finger in her ear and jiggled it around. “I think I was more annoyed by that Andorian belch than your insinuations, J’hana.”
“You are quite forgiving.” J’hana muttered, refilling her glass.
Hartley took the bottle from the tactical officer and sniffed it, pulling her head back. “Romulan Ale? Are you nuts? How much of this stuff have you drank?”
“Enough.” J’hana belched. “Enough to convince me of some grievous errors. Do not fear, though, Lieutenant, I am quite capable of metabolizing this…” J’hana let out another gut wrenching shriek. “…substance.”
“Evidently.” Hartley said, sitting the bottle back down. “Any word on Peterman, Gellar, or Mirk?”
J’hana shook her head drunkenly. “No. We are more concerned with combatting the Borg at this time.”
“Oh.” Hartley said. “So we’re giving up on them?”
J’hana reached across the table and grabbed Hartley by the front of her uniform, pulling the other woman right up into her face. “I am not giving up on anything. Is that clear?”
Hartley nodded quickly.
J’hana released the transporter chief, patting her lovingly on the shoulders, straightening her uniform and smiling. “We will find our lost crew, Lieutenant. You can be sure of that.”
“Are you okay, Lieutenat?” Hartley asked.
J’hana rammed her palm into the side of her head, trying to clear away the blur of dizziness. “Do I look okay?”
“No, as a matter of fact, you…”
“You know,” J’hana interrupted, grabbing the bottle of ale and swigging directly from it. “I saw the Counselor just as she was about to go off to her quarters. Had I stopped her…”
“You can’t think like that, J’hana. Hind sight is twenty-twenty.”
J’hana thought a moment. “Perhaps you are right. Perhaps….” J’hana trailed off for a moment and then seemed to remember what she was saying. “It’s all my fault. I should have been able to break through that field! I should have been able to stop the Changeling from escaping with the Counselor!”
“Listen…” Hartley said.
“No, don’t bother. I let a Romulan, a Changeling, a Starfleet Spy, and a Federation Marine slip past my watchful gaze. And now, because of that, our friends have been taken away. And this crew–this whole quadrant–is in danger.”
“Stop this insanity, J’hana!” Hartley said, slapping the security officer roughly across the face and shaking her. “Do you hear me? Stop beating yourself up! There’s nothing you can do to change the past, that’s why it’s in the past, damn it!”
Hartley stood up, letting J’hana sink back into her seat, looking slightly dazed. Suddenly the transporter chief wondered if she’d just done something really bad.
J’hana pulled herself to her feet. “You have assaulted a superior officer, Lieutenant. You have also challenged the honor of an Andorian warrior of the Ninth Hive. Either offense alone would mean the end of your life as you know it…”
Hartley gulped as J’hana clamped a hand on her shoulder.
“But because you have done both, I shall buy you a drink.” That said, J’hana passed out on the floor.
ROMULAN WARBIRD TERMINIX
“As you can see,” Colonel T’Phil said, at the front of the briefing room, “it’s very simple. We fire a concentrated ionic pulse into the subspace convex region. If we adjust the signal variance to the proper frequency, we should be able to reopen the portal.”
“But it’s all conjectural.” Ensign Taylor said, from his seat at the conference table. “How do we know it’s going to work?”
T’Phil leaned down into Taylor’s face. “We try it, you fool!”
“Of course.” Taylor said, leaning back. “But if you’re wrong…”
“If he is wrong,” Jelo said, sitting silently at the other end of the table. “Then he will be a dead man very shortly.” He had kept his head in the shape of a monkey since arriving from the Aerostar for some reason, and, frankly, it was really bothering Ensign Taylor. The changeling resembled something from an old Earth movie. Planet of the Monkeys or something.
“Are you threatening me, shapeshifter?” T’Phil asked, walking over to where Jelo sat.
“Do I have to keep reminding you how dangerous my people are, Romulan?” Jelo said, annoyed. “Now, if you have a plan, why don’t you implement it already?”
“That was just what we were about to do.” T’Phil pressed a button on his wrist. “T’Phil to bridge. Take us into the Cluster.”
“Are you sure about this, T’Phil?” Cridis asked with uncertainty. “This is a sacred place for my people.”
“You didn’t have a problem violating that sacred place when you took the Inspiration in there after the Aerostar, did you?”
“That was different.”
“Yes, it was.” T’Phil said, cracking a wicked smile. “You’re working for me now.”
“Making course for the Cluster, Colonel.”
“Good.” T’Phil said, looking around the table at Jelo, Ensign Taylor, and Lt. Atkinson. “Be assured, gentleman, I am as much a scientist as a soldier. This will work.”
“It better.” Jelo said, standing up.
T’Phil followed Jelo out of the conference room and onto the bridge, leaving Taylor and Atkinson alone in the briefing room.
“Are you sure this was such a good idea, Doug?” Taylor asked with uncertainty. “Betraying our friends and all just so we could get back home and make a few bars of latinum?”
“The Colonel knows what he’s doing.” Atkinson responded, standing up and heading for the bridge. “Besides, it’s too late to go back now.”
“How’re you doing, Chris?” Baxter asked, leaning over the Master Systems Display in Engineering as Lt. Commander Richards worked on the shield modulation systems.
“Pretty freaking confused, sir.” Richards said, not looking up as he worked at the console.
Baxter sat down at the display table. “The last couple of days certainly have been strange. But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.”
Richards momentarily looked up at Baxter, who quickly rethought what he had said.
“Okay, maybe we haven’t seen this exact thing before,” Baxter admitted. “But at least it’s nothing we can’t handle…”
“Okay, we’re doomed.” Baxter said, raising his hands in defeat. “Come take me away, Lord. It’s my time!”
“Stop it.” Richards said, getting up and walking over to the warp core.
Baxter followed, trying to ignore the sound of Richards’ staff as they sang. After the last few days’ dark events, their tunes took on a slightly darker tint. Right now they were singing R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
“I just have one question…” Baxter said, as Richards did a diagnostic on the dilithium crystal chamber. “What was with the penguin tee-shirt?”
“A present from mom.” Richards said offhandedly.
“Isn’t it strange that a simple picture on a shirt would spawn Larkin’s preoccupation with penguins? A psychologist might even say that it was a subconcious manifestation of the truth trying to rise to the concious level.” Baxter said, following Richards around to one of the engineering stations.
“Fascinating.” Richards said, tapping away at the panel.
“Counselor Peterman would agree with me, if she wasn’t locked up in the brig of a Romulan Warbird right now.” Baxter said, his expression darkening a bit. “But you don’t see me letting that get me down!”
“I’m not down.” Richards said, continuing to work at the panel.
“Then what the hell are you?”
“Busy.” Richards said, moving to another panel.
“One Anti-Borg task force reporting as ordered!” Lt. Commander Prescott said happily, as she and Private Henricks were ushered into Engineering by a security officer.
“Hi roomie.” Richards said, not looking up.
“Well, well, well.” Baxter said, looking at Prescott and Henricks. “You two have a lot of work ahead of you. And it should be refreshing to actually get to tell the truth for a change.” Baxter said, heading out of Engineering.
“I look forward to it.” Prescott said, smiling. “Oh, and Captain?”
Baxter stopped a moment. “What?”
“Sorry I had to shove my tongue down your throat.”
“Think nothing of it.” Baxter replied, walking away.
“You did what?” Henricks asked in annoyance.
“It was all part of the job, sweetie.” Prescott replied sweetly.
“I’m sure. Was sex also part of the job?”
Prescott smiled. “As a matter of fact…”
Richards stood, glaring from one crewmember to the other. “Enough, both of you. We have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time.”
Prescott sat down at one of the Engineering stations and began to work. “Fair enough.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Henricks asked, as Prescott and Richards worked on the ship’s tactical systems.
“Stand there and look pretty dollbaby!” Prescott replied.
“Now that I can do.” Henricks said proudly.
Suddenly Lt. Larkin emerged from one of the Jeffries’ tube access ports, straightening her uniform. “I have finished adjusting the shield primary shield power distribution nodes, Commander.”
Richards looked up. “That was quick. Now we have to get the phaser couplings set up for randomized modulation.”
“Aye, sir.” Larkin said, taking a seat next to Prescott and beginning to work.
“He’s mine.” Prescott whispered as Larkin worked.
“Who is yours?”
“You know damn well who. I’ll bet he programmed you to lust after him, didn’t he?”
“If you are referring to Private Henricks, no he did not. As a matter of fact, I find him extremely distasteful.”
“Is that so?” Prescott replied angrily.
“I guess she favors after her mother’s side.” Lt. Commander Richards said from his console.
“What do you mean it disssssssssappeared?” Overmaster Krenek asked angrily, staring down at the cowering image of Lord Jevna of the Crastat on his terminal.
“We have confirmation, Overmasssssster. The Vendregad was lassst ssssseen in the Darsa ssssssssystem. According to our lasssst communication with it, it came into contact with a Borg ship and engaged it. Our salvage vessel has only been able to located a small part of the sssssship and sssssseveral dead.”
“And the human stock?”
“Gone, along with the resssssst of the Vendregad.”
Krenek pounded his desk in frustration. “These Borg are inssssssssideous. They mussssst be sssssstopped.”
“If I may ssssssuggest, Overmassster, perhapssssss it is not ssssuch a bad idea to take Wujan’s offer into consssssideration.”
Krenek narrowed his eyes at the Flarn on his viewscreen. “Never! You will asssssssemble a fleet immediately. We sssshall meet thessssse Borg with the utmossssst force. They ssssssshall rue the day they challenged the mighty Flarn.”
“If you ssssssay sssso, Overmassster.” Jevna said with uncertainty. “Crastat out.”
“Come on, honey, that’s it, you can do it.” Nurse Holly Carter said, gesturing to Crewman Wilcox as he stepped off the turbolift.
“Gimp on the bridge.” Ford said, looking back from the helm.
Captain Baxter turned around in his command chair and stared at Wilcox. “What is this all about, Nurse Carter?”
Carter smiled, patting Wilcox on the back. “It’s all part of Dr. Browning and Counselor Peterman’s program to get Mr. Wilcox readjusted to living in society.”
“But he’s clinically braidead!” Baxter said, watching as Wilcox walked over to the science console.
“Walking.” Wilcox said happily. He was wearing a blue off-duty uniform, and his head was still bandaged, but at least it had stopped oozing.
Carter followed him over to the console. “That doesn’t mean he can’t lead a normal life.”
Wilcox looked down at the readings on the console. “Space.”
“That’s very good, Dean.” Carter said with approval. “We’re in space.”
“Could we do this another time?” Baxter said. “We’re kind of going into battle…”
“No.” Carter replied harshly. “He has to stick to his rehabilitation schedule. Counselor Peterman said that it’s very important for someone of his…special abilities…to have a regimen to stick to.”
“You can’t expect him to operate that science console, Nurse Carter.” Conway said, staring at Wilcox as he worked.
“I don’t see why not.” Carter replied.
“Warp speed.” Wilcox said.
“Right again!” Carter said, clapping her hands. “Very good!”
“What about the Nanites?” Richards asked tiredly, leaning over the master systems console.
“No chance.” Prescott said from the other side of the table. “Due to pressure from several Nanites rights groups, that plan was discontinued.”
“That’s just great.” Richards replied. “What about modifying the weapons arrays to fire bursts similar to a Defiant-class ship?”
“Preliminary simulations indicate that such a power increase would burn out the main phaser relays in three minutes.” Larkin replied from next to Richards.
“It looks like we’re going to have to rely on the quantum torpedoes and tri-cobalt devices.” Prescott said, pulling up some specs on her monitor. “From what we know, the Borg have had little experience with these weapons. We might be able to do a fair amount of damage with them.”
“I agree.” Richards replied. “The only problem is, after our battle with the Inspiration a few months ago, we’re pretty low on quantum torps, and we used one of our ten tri-cobalt devices several months ago, when the ship was taken over by the evil goo.”
“We shall, therefore, be at a great disadvantage.” Larkin said, summing things up. “We should use what little heavy firepower we have sparingly. I suggest we target the Borg’s primary transfer nodes. We can use the Enterprise’s records as a guide.”
“Good idea.” Richards said, pulling up those scans on his panel. “I want you and Prescott to work on that.”
Suddenly the comm system bleeped. “Baxter to Engineering. We’ve detected the Borg on long range. We’ve got less than an hour. Tell me you guys are making some headway.”
“Yes, sir,” Richards replied. “We’ll have some strategies for you momentarily. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Fine. Don’t take too long, though. Baxter out.”
“I suggest Commander Prescott and I work on the tactical simulations and then bring them to the bridge.” Larkin said.
“Okay,” Richards said, standing up. “I’ll get a team working on the phaser couplings.” He gestured to Private Henricks as he made his way to the Jefferies’ tube. “You’re with me, Private.”
“Call me Chris.” Henricks said, ducking into the hatch. “I mean, we were roomates for a year, you know.”
“Sorry, I guess it slipped my mind.” Richards said, making his way up the ladder to the primary phaser control room.
“Come on, Lieutenant. You should have been at your post ten minutes ago.” Lt. Hartley said in annoyance, as she dragged J’hana down the corridor, with one of the tactical officer’s arms slung over her shoulder.
“Firing photons, Captain.” J’hana said drunkenly. “Target destroyed.”
“Snap out of it!” Hartley cried, shaking J’hana roughly. So far, walking her around the ship was doing little to clear her head.
Hartley finally came up to her quarters, dragging J’hana inside quickly; they were already getting strange looks from all the passing crewmembers. The transporter chief threw J’hana down onto the couch and walked up to her replicator.
“Computer. Replicate me the strongest cup of coffee you can come up with. Preferrably one of Commander Conway’s blends.”
“Warning, caffiene content is extremely high. Please use with caution and consult a physician first.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Hartley said. “Just replicate the damn coffee.”
Hartley grabbed the coffee out of the slot and put it up to J’hana’s lips. “Come on, drink up.” Hartley said urgently, pouring the coffee into J’hana’s mouth.
The coffee dribbled out of J’hana’s mouth as she lay there. “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…” The tactical officer mumbled half-conciously.
Hartley continued trying to pour coffee into J’hana’s mouth, at the same time tapping her comm badge. “Hartley to sickbay.”
“Browning here. What is it, Lieutenant?”
“I need you to come to my quarters really quickly. And bring a medkit.”
“All right. But this better be important.” Browning said. “We’re about to fight a Borg ship, you know.”
“Believe me, I know.” Hartley said, watching as J’hana lie drunkenly on her couch.
“Hand me that coil spanner, Private.” Richards said, sticking his hand out of the access panel.
Henricks placed the tool into the Engineer’s hand. “You don’t like me, do you?”
“You messed with my mind, stole my positronic brain, hid aboard this ship for almost a year without letting anyone know, and then lured the Borg to this quadrant in hopes that everything here would be wiped out. What do you think?”
Henricks thought a moment. “I don’t know.”
“Figures.” Richards replied, continuing to work on the phaser controls.
“We are entering the Crebius Cluster now, Colonel.” Cridis reported from the Terminix’s navigation console. “Encountering gravimetric disturbances.”
“Compensate.” T’Phil ordered, leaning back in his command chair and steepling his fingers. “We don’t want any turbulence on this ride.”
Jelo stood behind T’Phil, hands folded behind his back. “This better work, Colonel.”
“It will.” T’Phil said, rolling his eyes in annoyance. “Don’t you worry about that.”
“We are nearing the subspace convex region.” Cridis reported. “Shall I prepare the ionic pulse?”
“Affirmative.” T’Phil said. “Begin adjusting the signal variance, Mister Taylor.”
Taylor looked up from the science station. “It’s hard to get any kind of reading at all through all this gravimetric interference.”
“Find a way through it.” T’Phil said impatiently. “Now.”
“Sir!” Atkinson said from the Engineering console. “The gravimetric disturbance is increasing!”
“What?” T’Phil asked. “But it shouldn’t…”
“Hull stress has doubled!” Taylor shouted. “We’re being torn apart!”
Suddenly the Terminix began to shake violently, lights flickering all over the bridge.
“It’s a great plan so far, Colonel!” Jelo hissed, as the ship rocked.
Lt. Larkin entered the bridge, followed by Commander Prescott. “Commander Richards is almost finished with his adjustments to the weapons array, sir.” The android said, replacing Ensign Madera at ops.
“Good.” Baxter said. “How about the tactical maneuvers?”
“They have been prepared as you requested, Captain.” Larkin said.
Prescott took a seat next to the Captain, the seat Peterman normally occupied. “I hope it’s enough.”
“It’ll have to be.” Baxter said, trying to hide his annoyance at having the lying infiltrator sitting in Kelly’s seat. He had to remember that she was one of the good guys, no matter how much she had lied to him and his crew.
Larkin briefly glanced back at Crewman Wilcox as he and Nurse Carter worked at the science console. “Am I to assume that Crewman Wilcox has been returned to active duty?”
“No.” Baxter said flatly. “Have the…internal…modifications I asked for been made?”
“Yes, sir.” Larkin replied. “Per your specifications.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.” Baxter said. “Time until we meet up with the Borg, Mister Ford?”
“Twenty-four minutes.” Ford replied from the helm.
“Hey,” Conway asked, looking back at the empty tactical station. “Has anyone seen J’hana?”
“She was due on the bridge twenty minutes ago.” Larkin said, looking at her panel.
“Baxter to J’hana.” Baxter said quickly.
“Lt. Hartley here. J’hana will be along shortly, Captain.”
“What’s going on, Lieutenant?” Conway asked. “Where’s J’hana?”
“She was just…um…teaching me some tactical maneuvers.” Hartley said nervously.
“Fine.” Baxter said. “Just tell her to get her Andorian ass up here.”
“Well?” Hartley asked impatiently, hovering over Doctor Browning.
“This should bring her back into the world of the living.” Browning said, pressing a hypospray into J’hana’s neck. “The Andorian physiology never ceases to amaze me. That amount of Romulan Ale would have killed a human or a Romulan.”
“Will she be fit for duty?” Hartley asked, as J’hana began to come around.
“I’m not sure.” Browning replied, putting her hypospray away. “Can you hear me, J’hana?”
J’hana blinked several times, sitting up. “I am guilty of actions unbefitting my position. You should kill me now.”
“She sounds fine to me.” Browning said, standing up and heading for the door. “Enough of the death stuff, Lieutenant, just get to the bridge. We’ll be fighting the Borg in less than half an hour.”
J’hana adjusted her uniform, staring at herself momentarily in the mirror. “Thank you both for your help.”
“Don’t mention it.” Hartley said quickly. “Just go!”
“Sidearms have been distributed among the crew, sir.” Commander Conway said, taking his seat next to Baxter. “And they’ve been equipped with modulation devices in order to prevent the Borg from adapting.”
“Let’s hope we don’t have to get that close.” Baxter said, as Lt. Commander Richards and Private Henricks stepped out onto the bridge.
“The modifications to the ship are done, sir.” Richards said, swinging behind the engineering station. “We’re squeezing as much juice as we can out of the weapons and shields. If we survive this, we’ll need a complete overhaul of the power systems.”
“Small price to pay for victory if you ask me.” Conway said, taking his seat.
“You’re telling me.” Baxter said, tapping a button on the arm of his command chair. “All hands, this is the Captain. As I’m sure you’re all aware, we are about to enter a very hostile situation. All hands are to report immediately to battlestations. And if I don’t get the chance to say it later, I want you all to know it’s been an honor serving as your Captain. Baxter out.”
“I’m touched.” Conway said sarcastically.
Baxter ignored his first officer, turning around toward the science console. “Nurse Carter, if you would be so kind as to remove Crewman Wilcox from the bridge and return to your duty station…”
“Sure. Come on, baby! The Borg are coming.” Carter said, taking Wilcox’s hand.
“Borg?” Wilcox asked inquisitively.
“That’s right, the Borg are about to kick our butts. Let’s get going!” Carter said happily.
“Bjorn Borg? Ernest Borgnine?” Wilcox said, following Nurse Carter into the turbolift. She had been showing him old Earth TV recordings while she was at work, to keep him occupied. Most of what he watched was suitable for someone of his mentality. He especially liked C.H.I.P.S.
“Not quite.” Carter said, just as Lt. Tilleran emerged from the opposite turbolift.
“I just finished analyzing the Borg homing device, Captain.” Tilleran said.
“And what did you find?” Baxter asked.
“Nothing more than Starfleet R and D did, I’m afraid.” Tilleran said, taking her position at the science console. “If we had more time, we might be able to adapt the signal bandwidth modulator to break through the Borg shields, but as it is, it’s little more than a paper weight.”
“Just great.” Baxter said.
“Maybe Dean can take a look at it.” Nurse Carter said, standing by the turbolift doors with Crewman Wilcox.
“Are you still here?” Conway asked, turning back.
“I’m waiting for the lift.”
“Let Mister Wilcox go to town, Miss Carter, and if he is able to figure something out that Lt. Tilleran and Starfleet R and D hasn’t, I’ll eat my comm badge.” Baxter said.
“It’s a bet.” Carter said, yanking Wilcox into the opening turbolift, just as Lt. J’hana stepped out.
“Sorry I am so late, Captain.” J’hana said, stumbling to take her post. She definitely looked a little peaked.
“You can explain later.” Baxter said. “Provided we survive this confrontation.”
“Are you okay, J’hana?” Tilleran asked, looking over from her station.
“I am fine.” J’hana said uneasily, taking a phaser and holster from the weapons locker and strapping it on. “I shall be able to perform my duties adequately.”
“What’s happening?” Lt. Gellar asked, as he felt the deck below him rattle.
Mirk looked around, feeling the bulkhead, concentrating with all his might. “We’re in the Cluster!”
“They’re going to try and take us home!” Peterman said. “Is it possible?”
“I don’t know…” Mirk said, as the rocking grew more intense. “But something is wrong…”
“Could you be more specific?” Gellar asked worriedly.
“Um…” Mirk said uncertainly.
Suddenly the panel across from their cell exploded, sending the Lobstraxian guard that was watching over them flying forward.
With a sharp crackle, the security field around the group dissipated.
“Well, let’s not just sit here,” Gellar said. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”
“Agreed.” Mirk said, running out of the brig and grabbing the fallen guard’s weapon.
Gellar grabbed two disruptors out of the cabinet near the guard’s desk and tossed one to Counselor Peterman. “Here, Counselor. I trust you know how to use one of these?”
“How hard can it be?” Peterman said, eying the weapon carefully.
“Come on!” Mirk shouted, rushing out into the corridor. “We have to go now!”
“Where are we going?” Peterman asked, following Gellar
and Mirk out of the brig.
“Good question.” Mirk called back.
“We will reach the Borg vessel in approximately two minutes.” J’hana said from tactical, still feeling a bit shaky.
“Raise shields and go to Red Alert.” Baxter said, straightening in his command chair. “Arm all weapons.”
“Tri-cobalt and quantum warheads at your discretion, Captain.” J’hana said. “As well as conventional phasers and photon torpedoes.”
“Tactical maneuvers ready, sir.” Commander Prescott said, checking the panel near her seat. “Weapons modulators online.”
“I have the Borg schematics loaded on my terminal, Captain.” Lt. Tilleran reported. “Defense countermeasures are ready.”
“Shields up and ready for modulation.” Richards said. “Engines are at optimum output level.”
“Damage repair crews standing by on all decks.” Commander Conway said.
“Sickbay reports all is ready.” Larkin said from ops. “All nonessential personnel have been evacuated to safe areas.”
“Uh, I’m standing here next to Lt. Commander Richards.” Henricks said, seeming embarrassed at not having an important job. “Um, that’s about it.”
Baxter looked back at J’hana. “Time?”
“Forty seconds sir.” J’hana said quickly, leaning forward with anticipation. The caffiene was starting to kick in. And however late, it would indeed make its presence noticed.
Mirk, Gellar, and Peterman ran through the dimly lit corridors of the Romulan Warbird, pushing by panicked Maloxians as the ship rocked.
Mirk could hear the hull beginning to creak as the ship moved through the cluster, sounding almost like a primitive wooden sailing vessel that was being torn apart in a storm.
“We have to try and make our way towards the shuttle bay. It’s the only way out of here!” Gellar shouted.
The group approached a turn in the corridor, when suddenly the floor above them came crashing down, blocking off their route.
“What’s happening? Someone give me a report!” T’Phil called out as one by one the bridge panels exploded in a shower of sparks.
Lt. Atkinson held fast to his station. “The gravimetric pressure is ripping the ship apart! We can’t stay here!”
“Adjust the shield modulation to break through the spatial conflux!” T’Phil shouted.
“The spatial conflux isn’t there,” Taylor replied. “Our ionic
pulse isn’t working!”
“What?” T’Phil asked. “That isn’t possible.”
Jelo steadied himself on T’Phil’s chair. “You heard him, Colonel. This mission has failed. Pull us out of here before it is too late!”
“I won’t argue with you, Changeling.” T’Phil said, standing up and stumbling over to Cridis’ station. “Can we get out of here, Cridis?”
“I can’t seem to get the engines to respond!” Cridis shouted. “We’re dead in the water!”
T’Phil turned toward the engineering station. “Of course! The engines! Lt. Atkinson…deactivate the warp engines and lower the shields. Our quantum singularity power source must be causing the gravitons to become unstable and resonate off our shields!”
“It’s worth a try.” Atkinson said, tapping the commands into his panel. “I’m shutting everything but the batteries down.”
Suddenly the ship stopped shaking, and the bridge became deathly quiet.
“Well?” T’Phil asked impatiently.
“Graviton fluctuations have been reduced to sustainable levels.” Taylor reported. “Hull stress has dropped back to normal.”
“Excellent idea.” Jelo said, walking around to face T’Phil. “Now we’re stuck here.”
“Quit your complaining.” T’Phil muttered. “At least we’re alive. Taylor…I want you and Mr. Atkinson to work on a method of opening the portal and getting us through without the warp engines.”
“Aye, sir.” Taylor said. “What about the lower decks? They were damaged during the graviton fluctuation and some of the people down there are cut off.”
“We’ll worry about that later.” T’Phil said in annoyance. “Just find a way to get us through that damned portal.”
“It’s no use.” Lt. Gellar said, as he and Mirk pushed against the crushed bulkhead. “We can’t move it!”
“Then we’re stuck down here?” Peterman said, beginning to panic.
“I don’t–” Mirk said, when suddenly he heard a panicked cry.
He bent down to a half-meter sized opening in the fallen bulkdead, peering in.
“Help!” The voice cried. “I’m stuck!”
“Danel?” Mirk asked in amazement. “Is that you?”
“Mirk?” The voice asked. “Mirk, is it really you?”
“I think we’ve established that you two are who you say you are.” Gellar said, annoyed.
“What are you doing here?” Mirk asked.
“Being crushed by a fallen bulkhead right now!” Danel said urgently.
“Don’t move!” Mirk cried, attempting to squirm through the small hole.
“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.” Danel said. “Just hurry!”
Mirk squeezed through the hole, finding himself stuck halfway through.
On the other side of the bulkhead, he saw what he assumed where Danel’s legs sticking out of an open doorframe, where, presumably, another section of celing had collapsed.
“Danel?” Mirk asked.
“Help!” Danel replied, wriggling her legs.
The ship continued to shake, lights flickering and panels exploding. Mirk continued to try and squirm his way through, when suddenly he saw an approaching group of Maloxians, their weapons drawn.
“There are the prisoners!” a Maloxian shouted.
“Damn.” Mirk said, fumbling for his disruptor. It was lying next to his hand, which was still stuck in the hole.
“Need help, Mirk?” Lt. Gellar asked helpfully from the other side of the bulkhead.
“Yes!” Mirk shouted. “Push me through! Quickly!”
“Whatever you say.” Gellar said with amusement, when suddenly Mirk felt a foot impact roughly against his buttocks.
The bartender shot through the hole, disruptor and all, sliding across the deck.
“Get him!” a Maloxian cried.
Mirk lifted his disruptor and fired, rolling to the side to avoid return fire.
“Mirk!” Danel cried. “What’s happening?”
“Hold on!” Mirk said, firing his disruptor again, causing two more of the approaching Maloxians to fall.
Suddenly there was a great explosion, causing the bulkhead Mirk had squirmed out of to fly forward, knocking him down and smashing into his assailants.
Lt. Gellar and Counselor Peterman climbed over the rubble toward Mirk.
“I set the disruptor to overload.” Gellar said proudly.
“Thanks…” Mirk gasped, the wind knocked out of him.
“Don’t mention it.” Gellar replied.
“Someone get me out of here!” Danel cried.
“Oh, yeah. Hold on,” Mirk said sheepishly.
“That’s one damn big ship.” Ensign Ford said with a low whistle from the helm station.
“Federation starship. We have determined that you are carrying the homing device that summoned us here. Surrender your vessel and relinquish the device or you will be destroyed.” The chorus of Borg voices said ominously.
“Um,” Baxter replied, staring at the ship on the viewscreen. “Can’t we talk about this?”
A green beam lashed out of the Borg vessel, impacting against the Aerostar’s shields.
J’hana steadied herself at her station. “Shields holding. Minimal hull damage.”
“I guess that’s a ‘no.’” Commander Conway said, looking to Baxter.
“I agree,” Baxter replied. “Return the favor, J’hana. All weapons. Helm, attack pattern Theta.”
The Aerostar soared toward the Borg vessel, torpedoes and phasers streaming from its saucer and weapons clusters. The Sulani ships that flanked it fanned out and began their assault as well.
“Two percent damage to the Borg ship’s superstructure.” Larkin said from ops. “A negligible strike.”
“Bring us around, Mr. Ford. Hit them again, J’hana. Target the main power nodes, and advise the Sulani to do the same.”
“Acknowledged.” J’hana said, typing the commands into her panel.
The Aerostar rose over the Borg ship, phaser fire raining down from its dorsal sections and impacting on the surface of the cube-shaped vessel.
“Sulani vessel Serat has taken major damage. Their shields are at thirteen percent.” Tilleran said from the science console.
The Aerostar shook again as the Borg’s fire increased.
“Shields down to sixty percent.” J’hana reported.
“Tell the Drovna to cover the Serat. We’re going to go in for the kill.” Baxter said, leaning forward in his command chair. “Send in the big boys, J’hana.”
“Tri-cobalt devices loaded and ready, Captain.” J’hana replied. “Main power nodes targeted.”
“Fire!” Baxter shouted.
The Aerostar drove straight toward the Borg vessel, four twinkling blue tri-cobalt devices streaming out of their launchers and impacting on the surface of the cube ship.
The devices exploded, blowing a large sized chunk off the Borg ship’s hull.
“We damaged thirteen percent of the Borg’s outer hull. Their main power transfer node is also inoperative,” Tilleran said from the science console.
“Gotcha you son of a bitch!” Baxter shouted, clenching his fist. “Fire again!”
Four more tri-cobalt devices streaked towards the Borg ship, blowing up another chunk.
“Surface damage now at twenty percent.” Tilleran said. “We’re doing it!”
Suddenly the Aerostar’s power levels seemed to flicker, and the ship began to convulse violently.
“What’s going on?” Baxter asked in panic.
“The Borg have locked on their tractor beam.”
“You were saying, Tilleran?” Conway said angrily as Aerostar was pulled towards the Borg vessel.
“Pull her out, Counselor!” Mirk grunted, as he and Lt. Gellar lifted up the bulkhead.
“Why do I always get the hard job?” Peterman asked, grabbing Danel’s legs and pulling her out of the doorway.
As soon as Danel was out, Mirk and Gellar let the bulkhead drop with sighs of relief.
“Why are you here, Danel?” Mirk asked. “Did they kidnap you too?”
“Yes,” Danel gasped as Mirk helped her up. “They knew how you felt about me…how we felt about each other. They knew they could get you to do their bidding if they had me.”
“What is it they want me to do?” Mirk asked.
“I don’t know…” Danel replied, when suddenly disruptor blasts sizzled through the air over the group’s heads.
“We have to get out of here!” Gellar cried, firing back at the group of Maloxians that closed in on them.
“The turbolift!” Mirk shouted, putting his arm around Danel and helping her limp away, leading the group down the corridor as Lt. Gellar fired at their pursuers.
Mirk slammed his hand on the turbolift access panel, and within seconds the door opened to let the group inside.
Disruptor blasts could be heard hitting the outer doors of the lift just as the doors closed.
“Main shuttlebay.” Mirk gasped.
“Whew!” Counselor Peterman said, wiping her forehead. “We’re safe.”
Suddenly there was a sound of grinding metal as the turbolift worked free of its housing and plummetted down towards the bottom of the ship.
“The tractor beam is draining our shields. They’re now at forty-five percent and falling!” Richards shouted.
“Modulate the shields!” Commander Prescott said, trying to climb back into her seat.
“Modulation is having no effect!” J’hana cried. “They must have anticipated that response.”
“Load the quantum torpedoes and fire a full spread.” Baxter said, crawling over to the tactical console as the ship rattled. “See if they anticipate that fucking response.”
“Aye, sir.” J’hana said, entering the commands. “Targetting tractor emitter and firing.” The Andorian looked up at the screen as the torpedoes collided with the source of the tractor beam.
“Borg tractor beam destroyed!” Lt. Tilleran called out.
“Pull us back, Mr. Ford!” Baxter shouted. “Full impulse.”
The ship continued to shake violently, throwing bridge officers off their feet as they worked frantically at their stations.
“The Borg are hitting us with ionized plasma charges, Captain.” Larkin reported from ops. “One more hit will knock out our…”
Suddenly the ship rocked again.
“Shields.” Larkin finished.
“You know what happens next.” Commander Prescott said solemnly, looking back at Baxter and J’hana.
“Intruder alert, Captain.” J’hana looked down at her panel. “We are being boarded.”
“Sending out security teams.” Commander Conway said.
Suddenly six Borg shimmered into existence on the bridge, right in front of Commander Conway.
The First Officer rolled out of his chair and withdrew his phaser, firing on the group with repeated shots. “Intruders on the bridge Captain!”
“I can see that!” Baxter cried, pulling out his phaser and firing. “Hit ‘em with the surprise, J’hana.”
“Acknowledged.” J’hana replied.
Suddenly a shimmering blue field appeared around the Borg.
One of the Borg soldiers stepped towards it, and was thrown back.
“Containment field established.” J’hana said proudly.
“Good.” Baxter said. “Get us out of firing range, Mr. Ford.” Baxter said, walking around to where the Borg stood, emotionlessly staring around the bridge, examining the field that pinned them in.
“Didn’t expect that, did you, you smug bastards?” Baxter asked, smiling.
“What we expect is irrelevant.” One of the Borg said. “You will surrender the device to us and tell us where our hive-member can be found.”
“We don’t have any of your little friends, but you’re welcomed to take the…”
“This is not up for debate.” The Borg interrupted.
“Captain!” J’hana shouted. “Look out!”
One of the Borg was holding up his arm appendage to the field, which suddenly and quite disturbingly disappeared.
“What, J’hana?” Baxter said, turning around in annoyance.
Before J’hana could reply, the Borg Baxter had been talking to reached out and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him off the floor.
“Urk.” Baxter croaked as the Borg tightened his grip.
“Captain!” Larkin said, getting up from her station and ramming her clasped hands into the base of the Borg’s spine.
The Borg dropped Baxter to the floor and flicked Larkin away as if she were a rag doll.
“Die!” J’hana cried out, leaping over the tactical railing and jumping onto the Borg’s back.
“Let’s kick their asses!” Henricks cried, grabbing his phaser rifle and firing into the mass of Borg.
Two Borg dropped to the floor as Henricks fired, but when he hit the third, a force field appeared over the area he fired on.
“They’ve adapted to the new phaser frequencies!” Lt. Commander Prescott shouted, jumping towards the nearest Borg and ramming into him with her shoulder, knocking him to the ground and punching him repeatedly.
“You’ve got to love her!” Henricks said proudly, jumping into the heat of combat.
“See, Dean, it’s square!” Nurse Carter said, pointing to the Borg homing device. She pointed to her comm badge. “This is a circle. And this is a triangle. See…tri…an…gle.”
“Tri…an…gle.” Dean said happily. “Square.” He pointed to the Borg homing device. “Like square.”
“Well, it’s hip to be square.” Nurse Carter said, smiling. She’d been so busy teaching Dean she had hardly noticed the sounds of the ship being pounded by the Borg and the Red Alert sirens blaring.
“Intruder Alert. We are being boarded.” J’hana’s voice said over the comm system.
“Jeeze, that sounds bad.” Carter said, when suddenly three green transporter beams appeared in the science lab, forming into Borg soldiers.
Carter grabbed Wilcox’s arm and dragged him towards the door. “Bad people, Dean! They’re the Borg! We have to run away!”
“Bad?” Dean asked, grabbing the Borg device and sneering at the Borg as Carter dragged him away. “Bad Bjorn Borg!”
The Borg chased after Carter and Wilcox, grabbing Carter by the shoulder before she could reach the door and tossing her into the nearest bulkhead.
Wilcox looked down at Carter’s unconcious form. “Hurt Humma. Need Humma. Love Humma.”
“You will surrender the device, human.” One of the Borg said menacingly.
“No.” Dean said, sounding like a selfish child. “Mine. Can’t have.”
“You will surrender the device.” The Borg repeated in the exact same tone. “Now.”
“No.” Dean repeated, laughing. “Mine mine mine!”
“Then you will come with us.” The Borg said, latching his arm onto Dean’s wrist.
“Stop it stop it!” Wilcox said, as he and the other Borg began to dematerialize. “No fair!”
Lt. Larkin swung the Borg soldier around by his legs and tossed him effortlessly into another Borg, causing them both to fall to the deck in a tangle of arms and legs.
Suddenly more Borg materialized in place of the fallen Borg and continued to attack the bridge staff.
“Surrender our hive-brother!” One Borg said, shoving Baxter up against the viewscreen.
“I don’t know what the hell you are talking about!” Baxter replied. “Honest!”
“Honesty is irrelevant.” The Borg said, tossing Baxter aside.
“Look out, J’hana!” Tilleran said, a Borg that was advancing on J’hana. Luckily they hadn’t adapted yet to her phaser frequencies yet.
“I am indebted to you, Lieutenant.” J’hana said, unsheathing her Andorian blade and ramming it into the Borg’s chest. “See how you adapt to this, you mechanical freak!”
“Don’t mention it!” Tilleran said, ducking to avoid a blast from one of the Borg’s armatures.
Ensign Ford lept to the deck, narrowly avoiding another Borg thrown by Lt. Larkin. “Watch where you’re throwing those guys!” Ford shouted. “You almost hit me with that one.”
“My apologies, Ensign.” Larkin replied, ramming one of the Borg into a bulkhead.
Private Henricks rammed the butt of his phaser rifle into the skull of one of the Borg that was attacking Commander Prescott, crushing his forehead and causing his systems to fizzle out noisily.
“I had him right where I wanted him, you jerk!” Prescott cried, roundhouse kicking another attacking Borg. “And you had to mess me up!”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Henricks shouted, swinging his phaser rifle into another Borg and sending him flying through the air.
“I love you!” Prescott cried passionately, wrapping her arms around Private Henricks.
“I love you more!” Henricks replied, enveloping her in a sloppy kiss.
“The foreplay can wait!” Commander Conway shouted, firing his phaser at a Borg that was advancing on Prescott and Henricks.
“Very well.” The Borg who had originally been talking to Baxter said. “If you will not show us to our comrade, we shall take one of yours in his place.”
The Borg clamped his hand down on the nearest person’s shoulder, dragging him towards the center of the bridge.
“What the-“ Private Henricks said, as he was pulled backwards.
“Christopher!” Prescott called out, as Henricks, his captor, and the remaining Borg disappeared in a flash of green.
“Damn.” Baxter said, jumping back into the command chair. “Status report.”
“The shields are gone and warp power is fluctuating.” Richards called out from the Engineering console.
“We have to get him back, Captain!” Prescott said frantically, running back to her seat and checking the console beside it.
“The Borg vessel is coming back toward us.” Larkin said, sliding back into her chair at ops.
“Gun it, Mr. Ford!” Baxter shouted.
“Aye sir.” Ford replied, bringing the Aerostar around and engaging the impulse engines.
“Status of the Sulani vessels?” Conway asked.
“The Serat has been destroyed, and the Drovna has been heavily damaged.” Larkin replied.
“Then I guess it’s up to us.” Baxter said. “Toss the remaining tri-cobalt device and the last of the quantums at them, Lt. J’hana.”
The projectiles hurtled towards the Borg vessel on the screen, and bounced off their shields harmlessly.
“They must have adapted!” Tilleran said.
“Damn.” Baxter cursed. “Hit them with the remodulated phasers. That’s all we have left.”
“It is no use, Captain!” J’hana said. “We cannot penetrate their shields!”
“INCOMING!” Tilleran shouted.
The Aerostar shook as a green ball of light emerged from the Borg ship and exploded against the engineering section.
“Massive hull breaches on Decks Twenty-six to Twenty- nine!” Richards cried. “The warp core has been heavily damaged! We’re going to lose containment, Captain!”
“Drop the core then, damn it!” Baxter cried.
“I’m trying, but we’ve lost subprocessors all over the saucer section!” Richards replied.
“I am creating a new command pathway, Commander. One moment!” Larkin said, her hands flying across the ops console.
“Hurry, Larkin!” Conway barked, as the ship rocked.
“Captain!” Tilleran shouted. “The Borg have engaged their cutting beam!”
“Oh, hell,” Baxter said, as the beam lashed out from the cube ship on the screen.
The Borg cutting beam sliced along the side of the Aerostar, opening up a gash along the lower saucer section and slicing right through the port warp nacelle pylon.
“We’ve lost the port nacelle!” Richards cried, as the nacelle floated aimlessly by on the viewscreen, suddenly exploding as the antimatter left within it combined with the leftover matter.
“What about the core?” Commander Conway asked, as the ship continued to spasm.
“We have less than thirty seconds!” Richards replied.
“That should suffice.” Larkin said, her hands working across her panel so fast that they could barely be seen.
The Borg beam lashed out again, this time carving a massive trench in the saucer section, leading from the outer edge directly toward the bridge.
“The cutting beam is heading right toward us!” Tilleran cried.
“Evasive action, Mr. Ford. Use whatever we have left!” Baxter barked.
“I don’t have a lot to work with here!” Ford replied, tapping at his panel.
The Aerostar turned slowly, sparks showering from where the port nacelle was once attached.
“Warp core successfully jettisoned.” Larkin said, as the warp core slid out of the damaged lower hull, spinning through space.
“Hold on!” Richards cried.
The warp core suddenly exploded, accompanied by a bright shockwave that bathed the bridge in light, causing the Aerostar to pitch forward, just as the Borg cutting beam was about to carve into the bridge.
Then everything went dark.
TO BE CONTINUED…