The Vega Colony Attack, Part Six: Afterward

USS Nautilus, Acting Captain’s Log, Stardate 86956.2

It’s been three days since the Borg attack on the Vega Colony.  Repairs have been proceeding well and search and rescue operations in the system are complete.  Of the 56 starships that arrived in the system to repel the Borg, only 14 were destroyed.  The Borg damaged nearly every ship, however, and boarded most of them, slaughtering many of their officers and crew before they were repelled.  No one was assimilated.  The cube responsible for this attack has fled and hasn’t been seen since, so the mystery of the Borg’s bizarre behavior remains one for survivors and scientists to puzzle over.  As for our own Borg, Tanya is in recovery.  I and the EMH were able to successfully remove most of her implants and her condition has stabilized.  I wish I had the same good news to report about the morale on the ship.  Damaged systems can be repaired.  Broken bones can be fixed and broken implants removed.  Grief is harder to deal with and the loss of our captain and 58 members of our crew leaves us with a lot to grieve.  We may never be the same.

“Computer, end log,” Drel said.  She stroked Snaggles the Sehlat cub, which murmured and licked her fingers in response.  It was built like a small bear and had six-inch fangs, but it was as tame as a kitten.  Drel and the other bridge officers had bought it a couple of years ago for Sokar as a joke, and he had kept it.  She wondered if it knew it’s owner was dead.

The door chimed and Drel stood.  “Enter,” she said, and the door to Captain Sokar’s quarters opened.

T’Paie entered.  “I was told you would be here,” she said.

“Just taking stock of the Captain’s effects, saying some final words…petting Snaggles.”

T’Paie raised an eyebrow.  “Curious to see that it has survived while so many others have not.”

Drel nodded.  “I’ve experienced death twice in my lifetimes.  Perciv’s was peaceful, in old age surrounded by family and friends.  Antori’s was violent and…well, you know the details of that.”  Her hand brushed the scar on her cheek and Drel remembered the pain Antori had felt as the Klingon mek’leth had ripped through his chest.  “Every time, I wake up in a new host, a new life, a new personality.”  She looked down.  “Sokar didn’t even have a chance to pass on his katra.  He’s gone.”

T’Paie blinked.  “Perhaps, and perhaps not.  There are many things in this universe which surpass even Vulcan science and knowledge.  My mate Vorix died 65 years ago in a shuttle accident and never passed on his katra.  Nevertheless, I have never believed that his katra was lost or destroyed, simply that it is no longer with us.  The same may be true of Antori Drel, your symbiont may not be the only place where his spirit lives on.  I believe the same to be true of Captain Sokar.”

“And where do you believe his katra is?” asked Drel.

T’Paie shrugged her shoulders almost imperceptibly.  “Our knowledge is finite, while that which may be known is infinite.  Logic dictates that there will always be things beyond our knowledge.  This may be one of them, although many races claim to have this knowledge.  The Bajoran’s believe in the Celestial Temple.  The humans believe in Heaven and Hell.  The Klingons believe in Sto-Vo-Kor and Gre’thor.   The Ferengi believe in the Divine Treasury and the Vault of Eternal Destitution.  It is impossible to speculate without the testimony of one who has actually been to any of these places and returned.”

Drel smirked and fought to suppress a laugh.  “Sorry, T’Paie, I was just imagining Sokar in the Ferengi afterlife.  It was a funny image.  Sokar and anything Ferengi is a funny image.”

T’Paie raised an eyebrow.  “Sokar found the Ferengi to be highly illogical.  However, I fail to see the humor in that.  The Ferengi are illogical.”

“If you say so, Lieutenant,” Drel said.  “What did you want to see me about?”

T’Paie stepped forward and handed Drel a PADD.  “A full report on the status of repairs, Lieutenant,” she said.  “The flight pod will require the facilities of a Starbase to repair fully.  I have returned the forward torpedo launchers to full operational status, but the aft launcher will remain offline.”

Drel nodded, scanning the information on the PADD briefly.

“There’s also this, Chief Petty Officer Thomas asked that I get it to you.”  T’Paie handed her another PADD.  T’Paie never used Mercy’s nickname.  Sokar hadn’t either.  Apparently nicknames were illogical.

Drel saw the Federation seal and the first few lines.  “A message from Starfleet Command,” she said, and began reading.  “Admiral Quinn wants us to return to Earth Spacedock for full repairs and to pick up replacement personnel.”  She paused.  “I wonder who they’ll assign as our new captain.”

“It is illogical to speculate,” said T’Paie.  “We can only deal with our current situation in the best possible manner.  Speaking of which, a growing sehlat cub requires proper care and nourishment, which it will not receive by remaining in Sokar’s quarters.  Someone must take it in.”

Carlin eyed the creature dubiously.  “I’ve never been one for pets, especially not something like Snaggles here.”

“I will care for…Snaggles, then,” said T’Paie.  “I am the logical choice.”

“Thanks,” said Drel.

Just then, her combadge chimed.  “Sickbay to Drel,” said the EMH’s voice.  “There’s something down here you should see.”

“On my way,” said Drel, tapping her combadge to close the channel.  She gave T’Paie an exasperated look and headed out the door.

T’Paie followed.  “What do you suppose it is, Drel?” she asked.

“I don’t know.  Last time he wanted to brag about the artificial eye he’d made for Tanya, as if he didn’t just copy its schematics from the files on the old Seven of Nine procedures from the databases of Voyager’s EMH,” said Drel.  She had gotten so tired of hearing the boyish Mark II rehash the exploits of Voyager’s EMH as if they were his own, instead of the deeds of a previous version of the Emergency Holographic Program who had exceeded and expanded his original programming to become a unique individual.  “Why do they have to program them all to be so egocentrical?  No wonder Doctor Howard refused to upgrade the thing twice.  I’m surprised he didn’t wipe it all together.”

“And yet, if he had, Tanya would no doubt be dead, along with many others,” T’Paie pointed out.  “As it is, he has returned all his other patients to their feet and his operations on her seem thusfar successful.”

“I guess that makes the EMH a necessary evil, then.”  She frowned.  “Get back down to Main Engineering, Lieutenant.  I intend to get us under way for Earth as soon as possible.”

“Aye, sir,” said T’Paie, turning on her heel.  Drel continued to Sickbay alone.

On arriving in Sickbay, Drel scanned the room for the EMH and found him smiling smugly at her, standing in the doorway to the Doctor’s office.  “What is it?” Drel demanded.

“Lieutenant, may I present my finished masterpiece,” said the EMH.

He waved a hand toward the office and a young woman emerged hesitantly.  She had dark brown hair gathered into two pig-tails, fair skin, and brown eyes.  She wore a long-sleeved, silver dress with a blue sash, a low-cut neck, and a high-cut skirt, showing off most of her legs and stopping just short of exposing any cleavage.  If not for the long sleeves, Drel would say the outfit was designed to show off as much of the girl’s unblemished flesh as regulations and common decency would allow.  Drel was about to ask the EMH who’d given him the permission and the testosterone to make himself a holographic skank when she noticed something above the girl’s right eye–almost hidden by her bangs.  The words died in her throat.  It was a Borg implant, shaped like a half crescent with three branching prongs that reached toward her eye.  Blue lights blinked on and off on the implant.

“Tanya?” Drel said.

The girl nodded shyly.  “Zee medical program removed my implants, most of zem anyvay,” she said.  “It vas unable to remove some of my implants.”  She touched the implant by her eye and then rolled up one of her sleeves, revealing a spiderweb of metal implants beginning just above her wrist and extending up her arm.  She quickly pulled her sleeve back down.  “Do you like it?” she asked.

Drel smiled.  “You look beautiful,” she assured.  “Did you pick that dress yourself?”

Tanya nodded.  “Is it appropriate?”

Drel hesitated.  She understood now why the former drone had chosen to dress as she did.  She didn’t intend to court indecency, merely to show off her newfound humanity.  After all, a Borg drone couldn’t show off any skin at all–at least not any skin that didn’t look death-gray.  Tanya now could, and doing so was a physical reminder of her independence from the Collective.  Drel didn’t want to take that from her.  “For most, perhaps not,” she said at last.  “But for you, it’s perfect.”

Tanya beamed and rushed toward Drel, catching her in a brief friendly hug before turning back to the EMH.  “Zank you,” she said.  “Zank you both.”

“Don’t I get a hug?” asked the EMH, looking disappointed.

“Computer, end program,” was Tanya’s response.  The EMH vanished and Tanya laughed.  “Zee program is very helpful, but sometimes it can be difficult,” she observed.

Drel nodded.  “Difficult, but necessary until we get a replacement for Doctor Howard.”  She left Sickbay with Tanya in tow.  “Starfleet Command has ordered us to return to Earth Spacedock for repairs and to take on new crew.  I’d like you to provide relief for Ensign Datri as he pilots us there.”

“I vill vith pleasure, Lieutenant,” said Tanya, smiling.  She paused.  “Have you been able to locate my family?”

She shook her head.  “That was another thing I wanted to talk to you about.”  She looked back and forth down the corridor.  It was empty.  “We ran your genetic profile through the Starfleet medical database, and we couldn’t find any matching records for a 16-year old human female from 2404.  The EMH gave up, but I broadened the search and found a perfect match for one Tanya Pierce, age 16, human female, parents Michael Pierce and Arina Mihailova.”

Tanya’s face beamed.  “You found my family!”

Drel shook her head again, more forcefully this time.  “Tanya Pierce and her parents went missing when the Borg attacked Starbase 236.  The Enterprise-E reported the entire Starbase had been destroyed with no sign of its inhabitants or any survivors.  They were all presumed assimilated.”

Tanya’s face fell.  “Zen my parents are vith zee Collective.”

“I believe so, I’m sorry.  There’s one thing more though, that I don’t understand,” she stopped and turned to face the girl.  “According to Starfleet records, Tanya Pierce was assimilated around stardate 85813, in 2408–only one year ago.  You’re genetically identical to her records and you bear the same name and the same memories, so you seem to be the same person, but you are 4 years older than you should be.  Do you have any idea why?”

Tanya’s face became unreadable and she fell silent.

“You knew, then, didn’t you,” Drel said.

Tanya nodded once.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“Starfleet regulations require zee upholding of zee Temporal Prime Directive,” said Tanya.

Drel examined the girl.  “You’re from the future,” she said.  “The Borg who attacked the Vega Colony–”

“Are native to this time,” Tanya insisted.

“But you’re not.  The other drones with implants like yours, they weren’t either.  That’s why they had to use verbal communication and why your neural transceiver had a temporal phase variation.  You weren’t connected to the present Collective at all, you were connected to a Collective four years in the future.”

Tanya shifted uncomfortably.

“And what did they travel back in time for?” Drel demanded.

“Temporal Prime–,” began Tanya.

Drel glared at her.  “The Temporal Prime Directive doesn’t apply if the Borg have already altered the timeline by coming here.”  She raised her hands.  “If the Borg hadn’t come back here, none of this would have happened.  Sokar would still be alive, along with the rest of the officers and crew.  14 starships would still be intact and dozens more would be undamaged and without casualties.”

“Alternatively, all of zee colonists in zee Vega System would have been and assimilated and any starship responding to zeir distress call would have been destroyed with all hands aboard,” Tanya said flatly.  “Zee Borg of zis timeline were already intent upon attacking zee Vega Colony.  Zee Borg of zee future merely convinced zem to alter zeir methods.”

“To what end?” Drel demanded.  “They left the colonists alone and the ships intact and just slaughtered officers at random and jammed sensors like mad…”  She let her voice trail off.  “It was a diversion,” she said suddenly.  “The Borg attack on the Vega Colonies was altered to create chaos and confusion while the Borg from the future did something entirely different.”

“Temporal Prime Directive,” Tanya warned.  “You have surmised much–perhaps too much–but you must not reveal it to anyone.  Zee Borg failed in both zeir attacks, or you and I would not be standing here having zis conversation.  I would still be a drone, and likely you would be dead or assimilated as well.  Zat is all you need to know.  To tell you anything more could result in damaging zee timeline.  You might prevent zee Borg from coming back–in which case, zee attack on zee Vega Colonies would be carried out as efficiently as possible and zee would be assimilated–or you might avert the disaster zat met the Borg from zee future–which would result in much more dire consequences.”

Drel nodded soberly.  “I’ll keep this between us.  As far as I’m concerned, your records couldn’t be found and you’re just an unlucky girl named Tanya assimilated around stardate 81800, in 2404, and freed by a malfunction of your neural transceiver on stardate 86947, three days ago.  There may be questions, though, if anyone tries to look up your genetic records again or examines your implants too closely.”

“Then I will continue my asylum here on Nautilus, where such questions are unnecessary,” said Tanya.  “This should minimize my impact on the timeline.”

“I’ll make the arrangements with Starfleet,” said Drel.  She could only hope that, whoever the new Captain was, he or she would choose to honor the agreement as well.  Carlin brushed a strand of her hair back with one hand and turned down the corridor.  “Come on, then, Tanya,” she said.  “We’re not getting any closer to Earth standing here.”

Tanya smiled and followed.  “Affirmitive.”


The Vega Colony Attack, Part Five: The Final Contest

USS Nautilus, Acting Captain’s Log, Stardate 86948.0

It’s been three hours since we destroyed the Borg subspace transmitter on Vega IX–or should I say, Tanya, formerly Four of Five, our liberated drone, destroyed it for us.  Frankly, I’m not sure whether to be shocked at the brashness of her actions or amazed at her heroic success.  There can no longer be any question that she is our ally or that she can be trusted–to an extent.  The only question is whether she or we have any idea what a fully equipped drone now acting on her own initiative is capable of.  Shonos seems to be amused but I am not.  One thing I am certain of is that I will need her help.  Repairs of the shields and weapons are complete now and we will have to get back into the fight soon–and I have no desire to find out how Crewman Jefferson handles the helm in combat.

“We’re receiving a hail from the Renown,” said Mercy Thomas from Ops.

“Onscreen,” said Drel, stepping toward the center of the Bridge.

“Lieutenant Drel,” said Vo’Lok, appearing on the viewscreen.  He glanced at Tanya, the former drone who stood to one side of the Bridge.  “So this is the exceptional friend you told me about.”

Carlin nodded and affected to smile.

“Very good,” said Vo’Lok.  “Unfortunately, pleasantries must be laid aside for the moment.  My science team has finally been able to track down the source of the Borg jamming signals in this system.  It seems the Borg have been using a variety of probes scattered throughout the system to confuse our communications and sensors, but now they are gathering the probes in the outer system.  They may be up to something.  I am contacting every capable Federation ship in communications range to go to the outer Vega System and engage the Borg there.  At the least, we should be able to destroy their jamming capabilities.  I’m transmitting the coordinates now.”

Drel nodded.  Perhaps the Borg were regrouping, preparing to leave–or, knowing their regenerative abilities, perhaps they were simply regrouping in preparation for another attack.  Whatever the case, they needed to get those jamming probes offline as quickly as possible.  “We’ll warp there immediately, sir.  Nautilus out.”  She turned to the rest of the Bridge.  “Stations everyone.  Red Alert.”  Mercy turned to the Ops station and Tlohhd to Tactical while Carlin took her place behind the Science station.  Shonos stood to the side of the Bridge, cradling her phaser rifle and keeping one eye on the former Borg drone.

Drel turned to face Tanya as well.  “Earlier today you said we needed a pilot and you could fly the ship, does that offer still stand?”

A smile tugged at Tanya’s mouth.  “I remain a capable pilot.”  She moved to the Conn.  “You are relieved, Crewman.”  Jefferson abandoned the post, and certainly did look relieved.  Tanya stood behind the chair, then frowned when she tried to reach for the controls.

“It’s traditional to sit down,” Mercy offered.

“Tradition is irrelevant,” said Tanya.  “However, in zis case practicality requires it.”  She carefully stepped around the chair and awkwardly sat down.  She shifted back and forth several times, as if experimenting with the new sensation of sitting.

“Plot a course for the outer Vega System, Warp 2,” Drel ordered, taking her position behind the science station.

“Course laid in,” Tanya reported.  “Initiating now.”  The starfield on the viewscreen blurred, but it was the only indication that they had gone to warp.

Drel was pleased.  “Raise shields and charge weapons,” she ordered.

“Shields up,” said Mercy.

“Weapons charged, sir,” said Ensign Tlohhd, a grin spread across the Bolian’s face.

Carlin caught herself grinning too.  Tactical officers really are crazy, and it’s contangeous, she mused.

A few minutes of travel brought them to the coordinates Vo’Lok had given them.  They dropped out of warp and Carlin ran a quick scan.  “The jamming is intense here, I can’t break through,” she said.  “We’ll have to rely on the viewscreen and manual targeting.”

“Borg probes up ahead, sir,” said Mercy, pointing at the elongated black shapes on the viewscreen.

“Fire at will, Ensign!”

“With pleasure,” said Tlohhd.  He pressed the controls and photon torpedoes streaked away, blasting the nearest probes to rubble.  Tanya brought the ship about and Tlohhd struck out with phasers against the remaining probes.

“Jamming’s clearing up,” Carlin announced.  “I’ve got more targets for you, Ensign.  Six Borg probes, bearing 298 mark 46.”

“I see them.”

Suddenly the deck trembled.  “They see us, too,” said Mercy.  They’re firing weapons.  Shields holding!”

“Return fire!”

The Nautilus came about and fired photon torpedoes and phasers.  The shields of three of the Borg probes flared, the collapsed.  The other three probes continued firing.  Sparks flew from a consol behind Drel.  “Shields at 87%!” Mercy reported.

“There’s another vessel arriving–no, two,” Carlin said.  “The USS Mon Elari and the USS Ural.”  The former was a smaller Centaur-class ship, the later a ShiKhar-class–a significant tactical overhaul of the Nautilus’ own design.  The Borg probes stood no chance against the combined forces of all three ships and were destroyed quickly.  Unfortunately, the jamming didn’t go away.  It did go down to a single source, though, and that source was approaching rapidly.  Drel swore.  “It’s the Borg sphere!  It’s en-route and its weapons are hot!  Evasive maneuvers!”

“Initiating!” said Tanya.  The deck pitched, but this time it was not bad piloting that was to blame.  Tanya’s flying was quick–a little too quick for the inertial dampners–but not rough, and the Nautilus evaded several torpedoes and beams from the sphere before taking a grazing hit to her stern quarter.

“Shields at 75%!” Mercy reported.

The Borg aren’t pulling any punches, Drel thought.  Just then, a tractor beam lanced out from the sphere and caught the USS Ural.  The ship was unable to escape from the beam’s grasp.  “It’s draining they’re shields!” Carlin said.  “Tlohhd, target that tractor emitter!”

Before she could respond, two more beams lanced out at the Nautilus and the Mon Elari.  The lights on the Bridge began to flicker as the Borg drained the Nautilus’s shields.  Drel swore–one of the foul oaths Antori had picked up in his less-than-ideal childhood.  “Mercy, see if you can reverse the shield polarity and break us free.  Tanya, full reverse!”

“No effect, Lieutenant!” said Mercy.

Tanya frowned.  “We will adapt,” she said and leaned over to inject the Con station with her tubuals.  The shield harmonics rotated first one way, then another.  Suddenly, the Borg tractor beam broke off.  “We are free, Lieutenant,” Tanya reported, withdrawing her tubuals.

“We have got to teach you to use buttons,” Mercy muttered.

“I suggest we withdraw immediately, Lieutenant,” Tanya went on.  “My adjustment of zis vessel’s shields was effective because zee sphere did not expect it.  Zey will not be so easily dealt with next time.”

“We have to stay and defend the other ships,” Drel said.  “Tlohhd!”

Just then, the sphere fired two graviton torpedoes into the Ural.  Her shields had already failed, so the torpedoes ripped right through her hull.  The vessel exploded.  Drel swore again–a different oath this time: Antori had picked up plenty.  “Concentrate all fire on the tractor holding the Mon Elari!”

“I’m trying, Drel, but phasers are having little impact!” said Tlohhd.

“Fire photon torpedoes!”

The Bolian tapped his consol.  “Torpedoes away!”  A pause.  “Tractor beam is fluxuating.”

“Keep firing!”  Carlin checked her sensors.  The Mon Elari’s shields were almost down.  She suddenly noticed that the sphere’s torpedo launchers were powering again.  “Tanya, take us in between the sphere and the Mon Elari!”

“Zat will endanger zee safety of zis vessel and its crew,” Tanya pointed out.  “Zee conditions of my asylum specifically stated–”

“To hell with the conditions of your asylum!  If the Mon Elari goes, we’re next!  Interpose our ship or so help me I’ll take the Conn myself!” Drel said, forgetting for the moment that she and all her hosts were worse pilots than Jefferson.

“Initiating maneuver,” said Tanya.

The Nautilus angled between the sphere and the captive starship just as the torpedoes were launched.  Both slammed into her dorsal shields and one penetrated to hit the back of her flight-pod–blowing its aft sections to smithereens.  On the Bridge, Drel was thrown forward against her consol.  Behind her, the communications station exploded and caught fire.  Sparks rained down all over the Bridge and the deck pitched violently, then went still.  Drel pushed herself back into a standing position.  “Report!” she shouted.

“Dorsal and aft shields are offline!” Mercy replied.  “Hull breeches in the aft section of the flight pod.  Emergency forcefields are holding.”

“I’ve lost the aft torpedo launcher, sir,” said Tlohhd.  “The foreward launchers are looking iffy, too.”

“Zis ship vill not survive another attack like zat,” said Tanya.

“It won’t have to,” said Carlin, checking her sensors.  “The Mon Elari is free!  Let’s get out of here!  Mercy, see if you can get aft shields back online, otherwise we’re sitting ducks.”

“No can do, Lieutenant,” said Mercy.  “The relays are completely fried.”

Drel’s consol bleeped.  “They’re firing at us again!  Tanya, evasive maneuvers!”

But just then, another ship arrived, taking the torpedo against its shields as the Nautilus had done for the Mon Elari, then turning on the sphere.  “It’s the Khitomer!” Carlin said, smiling as the Federation cruiser hit the sphere with a volley of phaser fire and quantum torpedoes.  The sphere’s hull split and erupted in gouts of green fire.  “Bring us about!” Drel ordered.  “Tlohhd, let’s finish this.  Everything you’ve got!”

“Yes, sir!” the Bolian shouted.  He struck out against the sphere with phasers and a volley of torpedoes before reporting, “Foreward torpedo launchers won’t reload, sir.  Continuing with phasers.”  Meanwhile, the Mon Elari turned around and fired its own phasers and torpedoes into the sphere.  Khitomer hammered at it relentlessly all the while.  In a matter of seconds, the sphere began to break apart, then was completely destroyed in a giant fireball.  Everyone on the Bridge gave a cheer.

Carlin followed it with a sigh of relief.  “The interference is gone.  We can see the Borg cube now.  It’s heavily damaged, about 3 million kilometers from here, attempting to escape at low warp.”

“If it escapes, it vill regenerate and return,” warned Tanya.  “Ve must pursue.”

Khitomer’s already organizing a pursuit.”  As Drel spoke, the Khitomer and the Mon Elari both went to warp, after the cube.  According to her sensors, nearly half of the fifty-odd starships scattered across the Vega system did the same.  Damaged as it was, the cube didn’t stand much chance against that many ships.  It’s best hope would be to hold them off long enough to go to transwarp.  “With torpedo launchers offline we won’t be joining them.  Phasers are useless at warp velocities.  We won’t have anything to offer in a running fight.”

“Neverzeeless, vhen zey…run down zee cube…,” said Tanya, suddenly clutching her side.  “Zey vill…zey vill…”

Carlin pulled out her medical tricorder.  “Tanya, what’s wrong?” she asked, approaching cautiously.

“I am…malfunctioning,” said the former drone, then collapsed from her chair.

Drel was standing over her in an instant, scanning.  “Her human immune system is reasserting itself.  Her body is rejecting her implants and she’s gone into shock.”  She muttered a curse.  “Bridge to Sickbay!  Medical Emergency!”

“What is it now?” whined the EMH’s voice.

“We need to remove Tanya’s implants immediately!  Computer, one to transport directly to Sickbay!”  Tanya’s body dematerialized from the Bridge.  Drel turned to Ensign Choxx Tlohhd. “Keep an eye on that cube.  If it drops out of warp, we may be needed.  I’ll have Jefferson sent up here, if you need a pilot.  He’s–”

“Don’t bother, Lieutenant,” Shonos said, grinning.  She had moved to the Science station and was tapping the controls to the long-range sensors.  “The Borg cube has fled.  It took a little pounding from the lead Federation ships, but it managed to go to transwarp before they could destroy it.  The Borg are gone.  The battle’s over.”

“The final contest will be for the life of our new friend, Tanya,” said Mercy.  “And that’s the doctor’s battle to fight.”

Drel rose and frowned.  She had trained as a medic in Starfleet Academy, and she had Perciv’s engineering knowledge.  The EMH will need my help, she thought.  “I’ll be in Sickbay, assisting the doctor,” she said.  Never send a hologram to do a Trill’s job.

The Vega Colony Attack, Part Four: Rescue Operations

USS Nautilus, Acting Captain’s Log: Stardate 86947.6

Following the death of Captain Sokar and most of the command crew, I, Lieutenant Carlin Drel, Chief Science Officer, have assumed command of the USS Nautilus.  The ship is in bad shape, shields and weapons down and an unknown number of Borg drones still aboard.  Ensign Shonos from the USS Khitomer has graciously agreed to serve as Chief Security Officer for the time being while Chief Mercy Thomas will serve as Chief of Operations.  The loss that I feel most keenly, after the loss of my old friend Captain Sokar, is the loss of Doctor Howard.  Not only does it rob me of another good friend, but it leaves the ship with no Chief Medical Officer, reliant on the services of the Emergency Medical Hologram–whom I personally find quite irritating.  Nevertheless, we must all work together if we are to return the Nautilus to fighting shape before the Borg return.

Carlin Drel stood beside the Captain’s chair on the Bridge of the USS Nautilus.  The chair was empty, the bodies having been taken to the morgue half an hour ago, but a dark green stain remained on the upholstery.  The stain could eventually be removed, but the loss it represented was permanent.

Just then, the lift doors opened and Drel looked up.  Ensign Shonos entered and set her phaser rifle down beside the tactical consol.  “We’ve completed a search of the ship.  Twenty drones were found in all and eliminated,” Shonos reported.

“Good work, Ensign,” said Drel.  She turned to the communications station, where a channel was open to Engineering.  “T’Paie what’s the status of repairs?”

“Engines are online, but weapons and shields are still disabled,” the Vulcan reported.  “Our internal sensors should be operational in another hour, Lieutenant.”

“Looks like we’re not getting back into the fight anytime soon,” Mercy Thomas remarked from Ops.

Drel nodded absently.  She’d been monitoring the comm channels during the interim and she wasn’t sure there was much of a fight.  There was a lot of chatter about damaged ships and Borg boarding parties repelled with heavy casualties, but no one seemed to know where the Borg cube or the Borg sphere had gone, and there was still an incredible amount of sensor jamming going on all over the Vega System.  About ten minutes ago, the USS Khitomer had completed repairs to her vital combat systems and headed out on the hunt for the Borg with three other ships.  Commander Davis had contacted the Nautilus before he’d left and had graciously agreed to allow Ensign Shonos to stay aboard.

Suddenly, the science consol pinged an alert.  Carlin moved over to investigate.  “Another Federation ship just warped into the area, Olympic-class hospital ship, registry NCC-58550-B,” she announced.  Another ping.  “They’re hailing us.”  She opened the channel and the face of an elderly Bajoran woman appeared on the viewscreen.

“This is Captain Alco of the USS Seacole.  We’ve been tasked with taking charge of search and rescue operations in orbit of Vega IX, in the wake of an engagement there with the Borg cube,” said the woman.

“You’ve seen the cube?” Drel asked.  “Was it destroyed?”

“I’m afraid not.  It had partially regenerated and was driven off again, heavily damaged by the Renown and her escorts, all of which were also badly damaged.  My ship arrived after the engagement, but unfortunately our transporters are down.  Our shuttles are out there rescuing the crews of the damaged ships as fast as they can, but we need help.  Your vessel seems to be in the best shape of any in this area.  Is your ship’s transporter operational?”

Drel nodded.

“And your warp drive?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then please ask your captain to join me in the rescue efforts.  There’s no time to waste and your ships transporter capacity could save many lives,” Alco pleaded.

Carlin touched her hair.  “I’m afraid my captain is dead.  I’m in command here now.”

The Bajoran woman bowed her head.  “My condolences and prayers for your loss, Lieutenant.”

Drel nodded absently.  “We’ll help you,” she assured, and closed the channel.  She turned to the Conn.  “Crewman Jefferson, lay in a course for Vega IX.  Warp factor 4.”

“Warp 4, ma’am?” Jefferson repeated.

“Yes, Crewman, we need to get there quickly.”

“Yes, ma’am, it’s just…well, I’ve never warped a starship in system like this before.  Only shuttlecraft, and them never past Warp 2.”

Carlin ran a hand through her hair.  The computer records had backed up her memory and the loss of Ensign Shuster and several other personnel left Jefferson as the most experienced pilot they had, until Ensign Datri recovered.  Drel certainly didn’t qualify as a pilot: she’d never been able to fly her way out of a paper-bag–nor had either of her previous hosts.  “Just do your best, Jefferson,” she said.  “I’m sure it’s not much different from a shuttlecraft, just a little bigger and faster.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Jefferson turned to his controls and Carlin took her usual spot behind the science consol.  She tried to ignore the empty seat in the center of the room and also the queezy feeling of nervousness in her stomach.  She could still see the stain on the floor from the last time she’d lost her lunch up here.  She wasn’t about to do it again.

Suddenly, the ship jerked as the stars blurred in warp.  Drel had to grab the edge of her consol to avoid being thrown against the com station.  A moment later, the ship jerked again, pitching her forward this time.  The consol hit her in the gut and knocked the wind out of her.  Carlin gritted her teeth against the pain and managed to look up at the viewscreen.  The blue-green orb of Vega IX hung in front of them,  a little further away than Drel would have liked, but it was there.  They’d arrived.  She saw the form of the USS Seacole drop out of warp some distance ahead of them.

“Move us…into orbit…Mr. Jefferson,” Drel managed between gasped breaths.

“Yes, ma’am.  Sorry, ma’am!” said Jefferson.  The deck trembled a little as the impulse engines kicked in.  The orb of Vega IX grew on the viewscreen.

Meanwhile, Drel concentrated on catching her breath and forcing her fingers to release their death grip on the edges of the consol.  Jefferson is never allowed to go to warp ever again, she thought.  I don’t care if he’s the best pilot left standing on the ship.  I bet Datri can do better without using his hands.  Even the computer could have done better than that.  At least they were all still alive.

When Drel had fully recovered, she turned her attention to the sensors.  There was still a lot of interference, but four ships were broadcasting distress signals on all channels, making them easily detectable.  There were two Vesper-class cruisers along with an Akira-class and Zepher-class heavy escorts.  All had taken a severe pounding and their warp cores were becoming unstable.  Shuttlecraft were zipping back and forth from the damaged ships to the Seacole, but they were clearly not going to be enough, not for all the lifesigns she was detecting.  Carlin called an image of the ships onto the main viewscreen and pointed at the nearest one, the smoldering hulk of the Akira-class USS Kevin.  “Take us closer to that ship, Mr. Jefferson.  We need to beam aboard the survivors immediately.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

The deck shuddered again as the Nautilus changed course. Drel tried to ignore it and not wonder whether or not the Crewman was trying to tear the impulse engines off.  Instead, she focused on trying to boost transporter capacity and range.  There were thirty-eight lifesigns still aboard the Kevin, and they would have to pass pretty close to get them all.  And if the warp-core blew while they were in that close…Carlin tugged her pony-tail over her shoulder and tried not to think about that.

Drel’s consol beeped when the Nautilus was in range.  Drel tapped her combadge.  “Bridge to Sickbay!”

“Sickbay here,” said the voice of the EMH.  “Bridge, what’s going on down here.  I have some very badly injured patients down here and I can’t treat them with the ship shaking all over the place!”  Jefferson hunched over his controls.

“We’re doing the best we can…Doctor,” Drel answered.  “We need you to prepare to take on survivors.  I’m beaming the injured directly to Sickbay.”

“Directly to Sickbay?!  But I don’t have room!  I can’t–”

“It’s only temporary,” Drel said, then closed the channel and turned to Mercy.  “Chief, help me with this transport.”

“Will do,” said Mercy.  “Energizing!”

The consol bleeped affirmatively.  “We’ve got them!  Let’s move on to the next ship before their warp core goes.”  She pointed to a Vesper-class the viewscreen with half its saucer section missing.  “That one, Mr. Jefferson, the USS Oakland.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  The ship changed course again and the deck tilted crazily to the left, nearly throwing Drel off her feet.  She tried to ignore it and concentrate on the fifteen lifesigns that needed rescuing on the ship ahead.

Soon, they had them aboard and moved on to the other Vesper-class, the USS Montreal whose nacelles had been sheared off, but the rest of her seemed deceptively undamaged.  Her warp core seemed the most unstable of them all.  They had just transported her survivors aboard and moved out of range when an explosion ripped through the Montreal, followed by another one on the Kevin.  The twin shockwaves tore the abandoned Oakland apart and hit the Nautilus from the rear, pitching the ship forward end over end, then side over side.  Drel fell to the deck but quickly recovered.  She could feel the ship spinning beneath her and could see the curve of Vega IX growing larger and larger on the viewscreen, the horizon rolling around crazily in front of them.

“Mr. Jefferson!  We’re falling out of orbit!”

“Yes, ma’am!  I can’t stabilize her!”   He worked frantically over the controls, but the spinning only seemed to get worse.  He was clearly out of his depth, and Drel knew of nothing she could do to help.

In a few seconds, we’re going to hit the atmosphere and start burning up!  We’ll go down with all hands, as well as all the survivors from the Kevin, Oakland, and Montreal.

Just then, the ship jerked to a stop and started pulling up.  Drel looked on the viewscreen to see the blueish curtain of a Federation tractor beam holding the Nautilus.  The communications station beeped with an incoming hail.  Carlin put it onscreen.

A Vulcan appeared on the viewscreen.  “This is Captain Vo’Lok of the USS Renown.  Do you require assistance, Nautilus?”

Drel blushed.  “Thank you, Captain, but your current assistance is all we need for the moment.  We still need to rescue the crew of the USS Bohr.”

“That mission has already been accomplished,” Vo’Lok said.  “While your vessel was rescuing survivors from the other three ships, my engineering teams were able to restore the Renown’s transporters, as well as the engines and tractor beams.”

“That’s very fortunate,” said Drel, smiling.

“Perhaps, but fortune is illogical.”  He paused.  “Where is Captain Sokar?  It would be most fitting to speak to him.”

Drel looked down.  She remembered that Sokar and Vo’Lok had been friends back in the Academy, even serving together back in the Dominion War so many years ago.  She raised her eyes again and said, “Sir, I’m sorry to say, but Captain Sokar is dead.  He was killed by a Borg boarding party about an hour ago.”

Vo’Lok was silent for a moment, but his face betrayed no sign of emotion.  “His loss is…regrettable,” said the Vulcan at last.  I assume you are the new commanding officer, Lieutenant…?”

“Drel, sir, Carlin Drel.”

“I have heard about you, in your previous host from Captain Sokar,” Vo’Lok said.  “He spoke very highly of Antori Drel.  I expect Carlin to live up to the Drel name.”

She nodded.  “Yes, sir.”

“You may beam your wounded and any survivors you’ve taken aboard to the Renown, Lieutenant,” Vo’Lok instructed.  “This vessel has superior medical facilities and more extensive space.  We will see them safely to the USS Seacole.  We’ll also be beaming over engineering teams to the Nautilus to assist in repairs.”

Drel nodded, then frowned.  “Sir, correct me if I’m wrong, but the Renown is one of the new Typhoon-class battleships, one of the most formidable vessels in Starfleet.  The Nautilus is an old Miranda-class, nearly forty years old, a veteran from the Dominion War and not much more than a frigate in combat standing.  Wouldn’t it be more…logical to repair the tactically superior vessel?”

“Your logic is valid, Lieutenant,” said Vo’Lok, raising an eyebrow in what seemed to be appreciation.  “However, your information is incomplete.  The Renown is vastly superior to your vessel in all respects except one: the Renown has suffered heavy damage to its war core’s superstructure.  The core has been stabilized, but will have to remain offline for several days while repairs are made.  Thus, this vessel is unable to pursue and engage the Borg, should we gain any insight into where they have fled.  Your vessel, however, has a functional warp drive.  If my engineering teams can help speed repairs to the Nautilus’ tactical systems, then the Federation will gain one of its starships back to full combat status, with the necessary mobility of warp drive.”

Drel nodded.  “Logical,” she said.

“Thank you, Lieutenant,” said Vo’Lok.  “Stand by to receive our personnel momentarily.  Renown out.”  The viewscreen returned to an image of the curve of Vega IX–only this time viewed from their position in a stable, standard orbit.

“That was close,” Shonos remarked.

“I’m sorry, ma’am!” said Jefferson.

“No need to apologize, Crewman, you did your best,” Drel said.  Mentally, she started organizing a message to ask Vo’Lok if he could spare a pilot.

Just then, the com station beeped again.  There was an incoming hail, this time from the surface of Vega IX.  Carlin put it onscreen.  A dark-skinned human appeared on the screen.  “This is Commander Kelly to any Starfleet vessel!  We have Borg down here!  They’re rounding up the colonists, but so far they aren’t assimilating them.  We need reinforcements to get the colonists back and we’ve got to act quickly, before the Borg start going back to their old ways.”

Drel opened her mouth to speak, but just then the image on the screen was replaced by the face of Captain Vo’Lok.  “I will handle this, Lieutenant Drel.  My security teams are beaming down as we speak.  In the meantime, you should investigate the Borg presence aboard your own ship.”


“We swept the ship before we came, sir,” Shonos said.  “We haven’t seen any Borg since.”

Vo’Lok raised an eyebrow.  “Nevertheless, someone is transmitting a Borg distress message from the flight pod of your vessel.”

Drel checked her science consol and swore.  “Sir, our internal sensors are down.  I’m going to have to ask you to transmit those coordinates to me so we can trace the signal’s origin.”

Vo’Lok nodded.  “Transmitting now, Lieutenant.  If your require further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.  Renown out.”

Drel checked the coordinates from the Renown.  They were indeed for a section of the ship’s flight pod–the one-deck-thick bulge in the Nautilus’s “rollbar,” as the structure extending above her saucer section from her nacelle pylons was casually called.  With the internal sensors down, the only way to triangulate the transmission’s source further would be with a tricorder.  Drel pulled out her tricorder and motioned to Shonos.  “Follow me.   Have a security team meet us in the flight pod.”

“Yes, sir!” said Shonos.  She picked up her phaser rifle and joined Drel in the turbolift.  Once inside, she handed Drel a hand phaser.  “You’ll need a weapon, sir,” she said.

“Thank you, Shonos,” said Drel.  She checked the charge and holstered it.

“I’m not sure how the Borg managed to evade our patrols,” Shonos went on, not making eye contact.  “I was very through.  The only thing I can think is they must have hidden in the Jeffreys tubes, moving around so as not to be spotted.”  She paused.  “I’m sorry, sir.”

Carlin caught herself tugging at her pony-tail.  She tucked it back over her shoulder with effort.  “It’s not your fault, Ensign.  You did the best anyone could do, the Borg are just…especially tricky today.  I only wish I knew what that Borg signal was saying and who it was trying to raise,” she said.  “The last thing we need is the Borg cube or sphere showing up again.”

“Agreed,” said Shonos, hefting her rifle.

A few minutes later, Drel and Shonos met a team of five security officers in one of the corridors of the flight pod.  Drel unholstered her phaser and opened her tricorder, scanning.  “I’m picking up the transmission,” she said.  “It seems to be coming from one of the science labs in the forward section of the pod.

Shonos nodded and directed her team to advance with a motion of her hand.  They stole down the corridor, with the only sound being the gentle chiming of Drel’s tricorder.  As they came closer, she shut the tricorder and even that was silent.  Ahead, she could hear the whine of servos and the clomp of heavy metal feet.  There was another sound, like a forcefield discharging over and over again.  The Borg were just up ahead, around the corner.  Her tricorder had registered at least five lifesigns.  She indicated that silently to Shonos, by flashing her fingers.  The Andorian nodded and directed her men to take up positions on either side of the corridor.  They closed in.

Once around the corner, Drel saw four drones standing outside the science lab.  The door had been ripped from its sockets and lay on the floor, but it had been replaced by a forcefield that glowed a pulsing green.  One drone was walking into the forcefield over and over again, apparently unable to adapt while another had interfaced with the control panel by the door using his assimilation tubules.  The other two were pulling panels off the bulkheads, trying to access the EPS conduits.  Drel had no idea what they were up to, but she knew she couldn’t allow them to succeed at it, whatever it was.  She took aim and fired the first shot, hitting the drone at the door panel in the back of the head.  He twitched and his tubules withdrew, then he fell.  The other drones turned their attention to the Starfleet officers immediately, but there was little they could do.  They were outnumbered two to one and had no time to adapt.  Shonos and her team made short work of them.

As the last drone fell smoldering to the deck, Drel pulled out her tricorder again.  “I’m still detecting the signal,” she said.  “And it’s definitely coming from that lab.  We’ve got to get in there.  There’s still one drone inside.”

“But why would one drone lock out all the others?” Shonos asked.

Drel shrugged and approached the doorway cautiously.  Inside, she could see that her tricorder had been right.  There was a single Borg drone–a human female, by all appearances–interfacing with one of the science stations using her assimilation tubules.  Her back was to the door.  Drel reached gingerly toward the forcefield with the tip of her phaser.  The moment it touched the barrier, the discharge from the forcefield knocked the phaser from her hand and tossed it across the corridor, bouncing it off the bulkhead twice.  Drel’s eyes went wide.  “Alright, nobody touches that,” she said.

The drone looked up and turned around at her words.  Drel noted now that her exoplating was of a lighter shade than that of the other drones, and the lights on her eyepiece glowed blue.  Just like the talking drone on the Khitomer, she thought.

“State your designation,” the drone said.  Her voice was not as harsh as Drel had expected.  She had a slight Earth accent–Russian, Drel guessed.

“My name is Carlin Drel,” she answered.  “What’s yours?”

“Four of Five, Auxiliary Processing Unit of Unimatrix Zree-Seven,” the drone replied automatically.

Drel exchanged glances with Shonos.  She tapped her combadge.  “Drel to T’Paie.  There’s a forcefield blocking our entry to the science lab on the upper deck of the flight pod.  See if you can find a way to deactivate it.”

“Acknowledged, Lieutenant,” said T’Paie.

“We cannot allow you to do zat,” the drone warned.

“We?  Are there any more drones up here?” Shonos demanded.

The drone cocked her head.  “We are…we…we are alone.”  Fear and sadness showed in her human eye.

“You’ve been disconnected from the Hive Mind,” Drel said.

She could see instantly from the expression on the drone’s face, so lost and helpless, that she was right.  “We must rejoin zee Hive Mind.  We must re-establish contact.”  She turned back to the consol and began punching in sequences to boost her transmission.

“I don’t understand,” Shonos said.  “The other drones here, the ones you locked out, they could easily have rejoined you with the Collective.”

The drone shook her head.  “Zey would have disassembled zis drone.”

Carlin nodded, recalling what she’d learned of the Borg culture–if it could be called that–back at the Academy.  “The Borg sometimes disassemble damaged drones, but only if they’re deemed irreparable.”

The drone glared at her.  “We are not damaged,” she insisted.  “We have run a complete diagnostic of zis drone.  It is functioning normally.”  Her lips pouted.  “We should not have lost contact with zee Hive Mind at all, and we will regain it soon.”

“If you weren’t damaged, why would they have disassembled you?” Drel asked.

“And if you aren’t damaged, why aren’t you still in contact with the Collective, like they were?” Shonos added.

“Zeir Collective is flawed.  We are superior,” the drone replied.

“What are you?” asked Drel.

“We are Borg.”

“But you’re not like the others,” she said.  “They are Borg.”

The drone looked at her, glanced down at the dead drone lying at Drel’s feet, then turned back to her work.  “We are superior.”

“How so?”

“Our technology is more advanced, as is our Collective,” the drone answered.

Your Collective?” Shonos repeated.  “Sounds like we’re dealing with a civil war within the Borg.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Carlin.  “The Borg are all one mind: there is no conflict within their Collective.  It’s not even possible unless the Hive Mind starts to lose its grip on individual drones.”

“They’ve clearly lost their grip on this one,” said Shonos.  “Gave her some shiny new implants and now she’s gone and developed an individuality and a superiority complex to go with it.”

“I’m pretty sure the Collective already has a superiority complex.  She probably just borrowed it,” Drel put in.  She turned to the drone.  “Your individuality is re-asserting itself,” she told the drone.

“Individuality is small and weak.”  The drone’s voice trembled and her hand shook visibly.  “Individuality is irrelevant.”

“Far from it,” said Shonos.  “Individuals took down your friends here.”  She glanced at Carlin, casting her eyes from the Trill’s face to her abdomen, where the Drel symbiont lived.  “More or less,” she added in a whisper.  Carlin rolled her eyes.

“We are Borg, we do not have friends,” said the drone.  “Zose were temporary allies, nothing more.”

“These were a part of your Collective, four drones within your Hive Mind,” Drel countered.  “You were once a part of them, but your individuality has taken over.  You’ve been an individual ever since you started thinking in terms of us verses them.  Your Collective verses theirs.  There’s really only one Collective, and you walked away from it without even realizing it: your individuality is that strong.”

The drone trembled and started to double over.  It took Drel a moment to realize the poor girl was crying.  “Individuals are small and alone!”  She sobbed.  “I don’t vant to be alone!”

Drel gave her a compassionate look.  “You don’t have to be alone,” she said.  “End the transmission and lower the forcefield and you’ll be with us.  We are not Borg.  We are individuals, but we are not alone and we are strong when we stand together.”

The drone disconnected her tubules from the science station and her shoulders slumped.  “Zee Collective is not responding, and further transmission risks only drawing zee attention of zee other Borg.”  She began to sob into her hands, looking for all the world like a dejected teenager–and making about as much sense as one, too.  “Ve are alone!  Ve are one!  I…I am disconnected.”

“Lower the forcefield, and you’ll be with us,” Drel said again.

The drone, Four, looked up for a moment, then shook her head.  “You vill disassemble us.  Our technology is superior to your own.”

“You have my word we’ll do nothing of the kind,” said Drel.  “We won’t even touch your implants unless we deem it necessary to preserve your life.”

“You will be in danger for zis,” Four said, her eyes met Drel’s.

“It’s an acceptable risk,” Drel said.  “An individual is of incalculable worth: each one is irreplaceable.  You are irreplaceable, and I promise we will treat you as such.”

Four nodded and stood straight.  “Lieutenant Carlin Drel of the USS Nautilus, NCC-31910.  You are zee commanding officer aboard zis vessel.”  It was a statement, not a question.

“I am,” said Drel.  “How did you know?”

“We…I interfaced with your computer and obtained all pertinent files,” said Four.  “I…I am requesting asylum aboard zis vessel, as outlined under Starfleet regulations, Article 4, Section 14, Paragraph 1.”

Drel blinked.  She hadn’t quite expected this turn of events.  “You, uh, realize that I can’t grant you asylum if you’re deemed a threat to the safety and well-being of this ship or its crew.”

“Paragraph 2, Subsection 1,” Four referenced.  “Yes, I am familiar with it.”

“The risk of assimilation or being shot or pounded into hamburger by mechanical arms are all deemed threats around here,” Shonos said.  “As is attempting to contact the Collective, which would like nothing better than to do all those things to us in no particular order.”

Four’s face looked sad.  “You are denying my request?”

“I didn’t say that,” said Drel.  “And neither did Shonos.  We’ll wipe your record and give you a clean slate,” she told Four.  “What you did in the past does not concern us.  It is what you do in the present and in the future which will earn or destroy our trust.”

“And if you violate our trust, asylum is over,” Shonos warned.

Four nodded and cocked her head.  “I will not take any action to threaten zee safety or well-being of zis vessel or its crew,” she said.

“Including no contacting the Collective,” Shonos warned.

“I am unable to re-establish my link with the Hive Mind, and the Collective here is inferior,” she said.  “I have no desire to contact them.”

“Still a little screwy,” Shonos whispered.

Drel ignored her.  “Then consider asylum granted, Four of Five.”

She was not prepared for what happened next.  No one was.  Four’s face lit up with a big smile and she ran at them, full tilt.  With all those implants, she could move surprisingly fast.  She passed through the forcefield as if it wasn’t there and slammed into Drel, grabbing her.  She was 5 centimeters taller than the Trill, a kilogram or two heavier, and several times stronger.  Her momentum carried both of them into the bulkhead and knocked the wind out of Carlin.  She struggled to think, to breathe, and to move.  Her arms were restrained, held at her sides by the drone’s arms.  This is it, she thought.  She’s going to assimilate me now.  I’ve just let a maniac drone loose on the ship!

But after a moment, she realized that Four wasn’t assimilating her, just holding her and squeezing while rocking back and forth excitedly and–squeeling?  Yes, she was squeeling, a loud girlish squeal.  I don’t believe it, Drel thought.  I’ve just been hug-tackled by a Borg drone.

Shonos and the other security officers had their weapons trained on Four, uncertain what to do.  Drel managed to raised her hands partially and said, “Don’t shoot.  That’s an order!  Four is only…expressing her individuality.”  At least, that’s what I think this is.

After a moment, Four let Drel go.  “I can never express my full gratitude to you, Lieutenant.”

Carlin popped her back and brushed off her uniform.  “I think you’ve expressed quite enough of it, thank you.”

Four cocked her head and examined Drel with her mechanical eye.  “My apologies if my expression vas incorrect.  I do not know vhat came over me I have not experienced a sensation like zis since…since before I vas assimilated.  So much pleasure, such excitement and…lightness.  Endorphin levels are elevated.  I did not vish to damage you, Lieutenant, but it is wery good not to be alone.”

“Don’t worry, you didn’t damage me, but try to go a little easier on the hugs in the future,” Drel said.

“Acknowledged,” said Four.  She turned to the security officers and started giving each of them in turn an awkward hug as well.  One or two refused, though when Drel eyed them they reluctantly submitted to a brief pat on the back from the former drone.  Even Shonos got a hug.

When it was all through and Four was sufficiently welcomed to her new collective, Drel motioned toward the forcefield.  “Would you mind?” she prompted.

Four cocked her head, then seemed to understand.  She strode over and injected the control panel with her tubules.  In a moment, the forcefield deactivated.

“Thank you,” said Drel.  “Now, we’re going to have to take you to sickbay, for a routine medical exam.”

“That is unnecessary,” Four insisted.  “Zis drone is functioning within normal parameters.”

“Except for the hugging part, I take it,” said Shonos, popping her back.

Four cocked her head.  “Perhaps you are right.  An external diagnostic may be of assistance.  First, however, I must show you the modifications we made to your photon torpedo launchers.”

“You did what?” Drel asked.

Four didn’t answer.  She strode down the hall toward an open Jeffery’s tube and pointed down its length.  Drel and Shonos followed her and looked where she pointed.  There, down the tube, were a series of cylindrical Borg devices, all black metal and green lights.  Drel pulled out her tricorder and scanned them.

“Zey will need to be removed before your torpedo launcher is fired,” Four said matter-of-factly.

Drel let out a slow whistle.  “No kidding.”  She met Shonos’ eyes.  “If these readings are right, those are energy conduits designed to reroute plasma flow during launch from the venting shafts directly to the main torpedo bay.  Once that plasma hit the torpedoes stored there, it’d blow the ship to confetti.”

“It is impossible to transform this vessel into a collection of colorful paper streamers using an explosive force,” Four said.  “But otherwise, your analysis is correct.”

“Why are you showing us this?” asked Shonos.

“I have no desire to be destroyed, and allowing harm to fall on you or your vessel would violate the terms of my asylum,” said Four.

Drel nodded.  She tapped her combadge.  “Drel to Engineering.”

“Engineering, T’Paie here.  Drel, the forcefield has deactivated on its own.”

“I’m aware, Lieutenant.  The situation is under control,” said Drel.  “I want you to send a team down here to Jeffrey’s tube 41-C.  There’s some Borg booby-traps we need to uninstall before we get the torpedo launchers back online.”

“Understood,” said the Vulcan.

Drel turned to Four.  “Is there anything else we should know about?”

“There are no other pieces of Borg technology installed aboard this ship.  Zee Collective deemed zis device subtle and sufficient to accomplish zee task.”  Four paused.  “You require a more experienced pilot however.  You should be aware zat I have zee capacity to fly over four million different types of vessels, including zee Miranda-class Federation starship.”

“One thing at a time,” Drel said, still not sure how far to trust the newly-liberated drone.  “We’ll take you down to sickbay first for that medical exam.”

“I will comply,” said Four.

Together, they headed back for the turbolift, rejoining the security team as they walked.  “Deck Six, Sickbay,” Drel ordered the computer as soon as they were all inside the lift.  They rode in awkward silence, Four slightly apart from the others and all eyes on her.  Carlin didn’t doubt that, if space had allowed some of the security personnel would have their weapons trained on the former drone as well.  A part of Drel felt the same fear, but at the same time, she was beginning to trust Four–or whatever her real name was.  She had been Borg, true, and all precautions must be taken lest she revert, but she was Borg no longer.  She was an individual who deserved a chance.

Just then, Drel’s thoughts were interrupted by the chirp of her combadge.  She tapped it.  “Drel here.”

“Incoming message from the Renown for you, sir,” said Mercy’s voice.  “Shall I patch it through?”

“Yes, go ahead, Chief,” Drel answered.

After a moment, the voice from the combadge changed to that of Captain Vo’Lok.  “Lieutenant Drel, the situation on the planet has grown more urgent.  Commander Kelly has just informed me that the Borg are constructing subspace transmitters at five sites surrounding the colony.  Is the situation aboard your vessel contained?”

Drel glanced at Four, who stood patently at the door of the turbolift, hardly moving at all.  “It’s contained, sir,” she said.

“Good,” said Vo’Lok.  “My teams on the ground will require the assistance of your security personnel.  Please assemble a team and beam them down to Vega IX.  They will be assigned one of the transmitters to disable and my four teams will disable the remaining transmitters.”

“Yes, sir,” said Drel.  “I’ll have a team down momentarily.  Drel out.”

“Zee Borg must not be allowed to complete zee subspace transmitters,” Four said, breaking her silence.  “Zey would use zem to contact zeir Collective, and zey must not be allowed to do zat.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Shonos.  “Lieutenant, with your permission, I and my team will take some spatial charges from the armory and beam down immediately.”

Drel nodded.  “Be careful, and bring everyone home,” she advised.

“We’ll do our job, sir,” said Shonos.

Before Drel could say anything else, the door opened and deposited Drel and Four on Deck Six, just down the corridor from Sickbay.  Shonos watched them step out.  “Are you sure you don’t want a couple of my men to stay behind?” she asked, jerking her head toward the ex-drone.

“You’ll need every man you’ve got down on Vega IX,” Drel said.  “And I’m sure I’ll be fine.”  At least, she hoped she would be.  She seriously doubted that the Borg were capable of pretending to be liberated from the collective, as Four seemed to be–and if she was genuinely free, the risk should be minimal.  Carlin resisted the urge to tug at her hair and instead told her acting chief of security.  “Go on, Vo’Lok needs you.”

“Yes, sir!” said Shonos.  “Deck Two, Armory,” she told the computer, and the doors closed.

“Will zey require assistance?” Four asked as soon as the turbolift had departed.

“I don’t think so,” said Drel.  She could only hope she was right.  She walked Four down the brief hall to the Sickbay she had left just that morning.

When she entered, it was a whole different world.  Battle damage had left a couple of dark smudges on the ceiling and many of the bio-beds were occupied by the wounded and the dead.  Doctor Howard’s familiar face was, of course, nowhere to be seen.  Instead the boyish EMH was running the show, demanding hyposprays and surgical instruments in a frustrated baritone from two orderlies.  He didn’t even notice Drel and Four enter, but one of the orderlies did.  He tapped the EMH on the shoulder and the hologram whipped around.  “What now?!” he demanded, then spotted Four.  A look of sheer panic crossed his face and he reached for his combadge.  “S-sickbay to Bridge!  Intruder alert!”

“Belay that,” Drel said sternly.

“But, Lieutenant, she’s…”

“She is evidently no longer connected to the Collective and, as a simple medical examination should be able to confirm, no longer a threat,” said Drel.

“I don’t know how you expect me to operate in these conditions,” said the EMH.

“I can delete your program if you prefer,” Drel said, glaring at the annoying subroutine-personified.

Faced with the prospect of computerized oblivion, the EMH came about instantly.  He grabbed a medical tricorder and came over to scan the former drone.  Four stood perfectly still, though her human eye followed the doctor’s movements with rapt attention.  As he finished his first pass, she said suddenly, “You are not real.”

The Doctor looked annoyed.  “I’m a hologram, if that’s what you mean, but that doesn’t mean I’m not as real as anyone else.”

Four cocked her head.  “Curious, its program contains emulators for self-awareness.”

If the Doctor was annoyed before, he looked dangerously peeved now.  Drel decided to steer the conversation elsewhere before the EMH became distracted by an argument for his existential nature.  “What’s your name?” she asked the former drone.

“My designation is Four of Five, Auxiliary Processing Unit of Unimatrix Zree-Seven,” she said automatically.

“No, I mean your real name, the name you had before you were assimilated?”

Four blinked.  “I fail to see zee relevance of zee question.  Is it required for zee medical examination?”

“No, but surely you remember.  How long ago were you assimilated?”

Another blink.  Her human eye wandered the room while her metal-plated feet shifted on the carpet.  “Zis drone has been a member of zee Collective for five years.”

“Five years, and how old does that make you when you were assimilated?”

“Sixteen,” the EMH interrupted.  “My scan indicates about a twenty-one-year-old body under all those implants, which would have made her–”

“Your assistance in zee calculations is unnecessary,” snapped Four.  Drel could see tears running down her cheek and knew she had pressed the issue too far.  Four noticed it as well and touched the tear-streak with one of her fingers.  “My ocular glands are malfunctioning, you vill repair zem, program,” she ordered the EMH.

“Your eyes are just fine,” said Drel.  “You’re crying, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.  It’s like hugging, it comes naturally.”

Four sniffed and wiped her cheek.  “It is not as pleasant.”

Carlin shook her head and traced the line of the bat’leth scar on her own cheek.  “No, it’s not pleasant, but sometimes it’s necessary.”

The EMH was untouched by the scene, still peeved by the personal insults he’d endured.  “Well, if you two are quite done…”  He touched a wall display and downloaded the results of the tricoreder scan to the display.  “As you can see, her neural transceiver is apparently malfunctioning.  It’s not receiving signals because of a temporal phase variation in its receiver array.  I doubt the malfunction can correct itself, so it’s as good as deactivated.”

“Zee transceiver is functioning properly,” Four insisted.  “Zee signal has been terminated.”

“Even so, I don’t want to risk the transceiver becoming reactivated or repaired,” said Drel.  “That would be a grave threat to this ship and its crew.  With your permission, Four, I’d like to have it removed.”

“Zat will not be necessary, I can deactivate it,” said Four.  She tilted her head, closed her eye, then re-opened it.  “Zee transceiver has been deactivated,” she reported.

“And how do I know you won’t cock your head like that again and turn it back on?” asked Drel.

Before she could get any answer, her combadge chimed.  She tapped it.  “Drel here.”

“Lieutenant, this is Shonos,” came the reply.  “We’ve reached the Borg transmitter, but it’s protected by a forcefield that we can’t penetrate.  You’ll have to destroy it from orbit.”

Carlin went to a nearby consol and called up the sensor readouts.  “Weapons are still offline and that’s too risky.  The facility is right on the edge of the colony and that forcefield looks pretty strong.  If we have the Renown fire on it with enough power to overwhelm the forcefield it’ll blow half the colony off the map.”

“It’s what they’ve done with the other transmitters,” said Shonos.

“The other transmitters are kilometers away,” Drel pointed out.  “I can’t authorize orbital bombardment here unless you, your team, and the colonists get out of there first.”

“That’s gonna take some time.  The Borg are still running amuck down here, trying to round up colonists.  We don’t have the time to deal with them.  This transmitter’s almost done.”

“My assistance is required,” said Four.

Drel shook her head.

“Lieutenant, I am zee foremost expert on Borg technology at your disposal, and my personal forcefield remains functional.  It should allow me to pass zrough zee forcefield surrounding zee transmitter unhindered.”

“And what about the Borg down there?  What if they try to stop you, or force you to rejoin the Collective?”

Four paused for a second, then her human eye narrowed in determination.  “Zeir resistance vould be futile.”

“I’m not so sure,” said Drel.

“Zere is insufficient time to deal with your uncertainties,” said Four.  She pushed past Drel and the EMH and headed out the door.

Drel had to catch herself against a consol to avoid falling from the push.  Four remained prodigiously strong–which only served to remind Drel of what a threat she would be if the other Borg on the planet convinced her to rejoin them.  She regained her balance and dashed out the door after Four.  Outside Sickbay, there was no trace of the former drone, and Drel remembered just how fast Four had been able to move earlier, when Drel had granted her asylum.  She was probably already headed for the transporter room.  Drel raced down the corridor after her.  She rounded the corner just in time to see the door to the transporter room closing behind a metallic foot.  She sprinted for the door, but as soon as it opened she knew she was too late.  Four was already standing on the pad.  The technician swore helplessly at the controls as they initiated a transport sequence.  Drel had a second to catch a regretful look from the former drone before she was beamed down to the surface.

“The drone’s gone, sir,” the technician explained unnecessarily.  “I don’t know how it did it or why, but when it injected its tubules into the consol it just started the sequence on its own.  I couldn’t override.”

“Is it working now?” Drel demanded.

The technician tapped a few buttons.  “Seems to be.  Why would a drone do that?  And didn’t security clean them all out?”

“I’ll explain later,” said Drel, stepping onto the pad.  “Right now, I want you to beam me to the same coordinates she used.”


“That’s an order.”

“Aye, sir!  Energizing!”

The room around Drel dissolved in blue sparks and she found herself standing on uneven rocky ground.  It was night, and the lights of the colony were visible just over the hill to her right, but that was not what grabbed her attention, the tower of black and glowing green that rose at the top of the hill did.  She could make out the figures of Shonos and her team, circling the tower, looking for a way past the forcefield.

“It was unwise of you to come,” said Four, from behind her.  She spun to face the former drone.  Four stood about of foot from her, unperturbed.  “You are at risk here, Lieutenant.  You will be assimilated.”

Drel drew her phaser.  “I will resist, and my crew will help me.”

“Resistance is futile, but perhaps my assistance will alter zat,” said Four.  “Individuals are weak, but zey need not be alone.”

Carlin let herself smile.  “You’re starting to understand.”

“Zere is no time for that,” Four countered, starting up the hill.  “Zey will complete the subspace transmitter soon.  Zey must be stopped.”

Drel followed Four up the hill till they met up with Shonos and her team.  On seeing the drone marching toward them, several of the men leveled their phaser rifles.  Before they could fire, Drel interposed herself and raised her hands.  “Don’t shoot!  We’re here to help.”

“We?” asked Shonos.

“Yes, we,” Drel confirmed.  “Four figures she’s the only one who can get through that forcefield in time.”

“I will require your spatial charges,” she said, holding out her hands.

Shonos looked from Four to Drel and back again.  “Give them to her,” she ordered her team.

The team handed over the disc-shaped charges, then Four marched straight toward the tower.  The forcefield flared briefly as she passed through it.  There were three drones inside who all turned to her the moment she passed through.  “State your designation,” they said as one.

“My designation is irrelevant.  Your Collective is inferior.  Your existence vill be terminated.  Resistance is futile.”  With that, she held up her left arm and fired three precise bursts from a forced plasma beam in her wrist.  Each blast hit a drone in the chest, sending it to the ground in a sparking heap.  Four then stepped over them, placed one of the charges on the base of the tower, set it and returned to the away team.  “Zat charge should be sufficient.  However, it is set to detonate in 20 seconds.  I recommend immediate evacuation of zis hilltop.”

Carlin tapped her combadge.  “Drel to Nautilus!  Eight to beam up!”

“Acknowledged, Energizing!” came Mercy’s reply.

“Coincidentally, Lieutenant,” said the former drone, standing beside her.  “My name is Tanya.”

Then, transporter caught them away just before the charge blew, taking the tower with it.

The Vega Colony Attack, Part Three: Sokar

USS Nautilus, Chief Science Officer’s Log: Supplemental

With the Khitomer out of danger for the time being and my new friend, Ensign Shonos at my side, I’m returning to the Nautilus.  We haven’t been able to contact Captain Sokar or the Bridge, but Lieutenant T’Paie’s hail indicates that the ship was disabled and boarded just before the Borg sphere withdrew.  Internal sensors are down aboard the Nautilus, so I have no idea what I’m beaming into…or how many of my friends and shipmates are still alive.

Carlin Drel and Shonos materialized onto the pad of Transporter Room One aboard the USS Nautilus, their weapons leveled.  The Operations chief behind the consol raised her hands in surrender.  Drel recognized Chief Mary “Mercy” Thomas and lowered her phaser rifle.  “Good to see you again, Mercy,” she said.

“Good to see you, too, Carlin,” said Mercy.  The transporter chief was one of the few people aboard the Nautilus who never called her Drel, just Carlin.  Perhaps it was because Mercy had transferred to the ship about the same time Carlin had–when she was still the unjoined Carlin Agran and Drel was still Commander Antori’s symbiont.  In any case, Carlin was glad of the special bond of familiarity, especially at a time like this.

“Who’s your new friend?” Mercy asked, pointing to the Andorian.

“Allow me to introduce Ensign Shonos of the USS Khitomer,” said Drel.  “Ensign Shonos, Chief Petty Officer Mercy Thomas.  Shonos volunteered to help us retake the Nautilus from the Borg.”

Mercy smiled.  “Nice of you to lend a helping hand.”

Shonos grinned, but Drel ignored the joke.  “Mercy, what do you know about the situation?”

“Only that a Borg drone tried to take a swing at me a couple of minutes ago, but Crewman Jefferson made him real sorry.”

Drel turned to the burly security crewman sitting on the deck beside Mercy, bandaging a cut arm.  “I snapped his neck, but he made me a little sorry, too,” Jefferson explained.  “He had this wicked blade on one arm…”  Jefferson shook his head.

“The drone didn’t try to assimilate either of you?” Shonos asked

Mercy and Jefferson shook their heads.  “It just tried to cut us up and pound us flat,” said Mercy.

“It was the same on the Khitomer,” said Shonos.  “I wonder what’s gotten into the Borg.”

Drel wondered too, but she didn’t have time to speculate right now. She gave her hand phaser to Mercy.   “You two,” she said to Mercy and Jefferson.  “There’s an armory on Deck 2, Section 9.  Arm yourselves properly and get down to Main Engineering.  See if you can help Lieutenant T’Paie secure the ship from that end.”

“And where are you going, Carlin?” asked Mercy.

“Shonos and I are going to the Bridge to see if we can re-establish contact with Captain Sokar,” she said.

“Be careful,” Mercy advised.  “No one’s been able to raise the Bridge since they made a medical emergency call just before we were boarded.”

Drel swallowed and wished the cold pit in her stomach would go away.  “We’ll be careful, Mercy.  You and Jefferson watch each other’s backs.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said the Chief, then they all went into the corridor and split up, Drel and Shonos going left and the Chief and Jefferson going right.

They proceeded cautiously down the hall.  Flickering red alert lights made for poor illumination.  Drel glanced at the Andorian.  “You didn’t have to do this, you know,” she said.

“I know I did,” said Shonos, never taking her eye off the corridor in front of them.  “You saved my life and saved my ship.  No daughter of Telav ever forgets a debt of honor.”

“Telav?”  Drel repeated.  “As in, Admiral Telav, commander of the Ninth Fleet?  The one who defeated the Klingon armada at the Battle of Capella?”

“You know of him?” asked Shonos.

“Doesn’t everybody?” said Carlin.  She checked down the last corridor, then made her way to the turbolift door.  “I was on the ground on Capella IV during the battle, a field medic with the away teams helping to protect the natives and the mines from Klingon raiding parties.”

“Then you saw my father’s victory from the planet,” said Shonos, smiling.

“I’m afraid I didn’t see it at all.  I was injured about six hours before and beamed up to the Nautilus.  While your father was defeating the Klingons, I was undergoing two major surgeries.  I owe him my life for making certain they weren’t interrupted,” she said.

“Then it is fitting that fate has bound us together,” said Shonos.

They reached the turbolift and stepped inside.  “Deck One, the Bridge,” Drel instructed.  The turbolift hummed and rose briefly.  Then its doors snapped open onto a nightmare scene.

Four Borg drones were wandering aimlessly around the Bridge, unopposed.  Around them, the bodies of the Bridge crew lay scattered, including the mutilated corpse of Doctor Howard, which sprawled across the floor just outside the turbolift.  As soon as the doors opened, the Borg started toward them, waving their heavy mechanical arms like clubs.  Drel fired at them and Shonos joined in, creating a deadly crossfire.  Three of the drones went down, but the fourth adapted.  It advanced straight toward them, its heavy mechanical arm raised high.  Thinking quickly, Drel ducked back into the turbolift, pulling Shonos in after her.  The drone swung at the Andorian, but missed.  It turned its attention on Drel, swinging at her.  She jumped out of the way, slamming herself against the side of the turbolift.  “Computer!  Seal turbolift!”  The doors slid shut on the drone’s oversized arm, trapping it.  Shonos began pounding it with the butt of her phaser rifle, but it showed no signs of damage.  Meanwhile, the drone wedged one of its legs into the gap between the doors, trying to force them open.

“Computer!  Emergency decent, five decks!” she said.  The lift jerked into sudden motion, plummeting five decks before coming to a stop again.  Carlin’s stomach churned, and not just because of the motion.  The drone’s arm and leg had been caught in the door and the sudden decent had sheered them off, leaving them bleeding and sparking on the floor.  The smell was terrible.  Drel groaned.  “Sometimes I wish my plans wouldn’t work out so well.”

“Hold that thought till we finish him,” said Shonos, recalibrating her phaser.  When she was finished, she said, “Computer!  Bridge!”  Drel readied her weapon as well and braced herself.  The doors opened and they did a quick scan of the room.  Shonos spotted the drone first, leaning against the bulkhead.  A single burst from her phaser rifle and the drone was dead.  “I think that’s all of them,” Shonos said.  She crossed the Bridge to check the doors to the Conference Room and the Captain’s Ready-Room.  “Empty,” she reported.

Only then did Drel lower her phaser rifle and allow herself to survey the ruin around her.  The Bridge was a slaughterhouse.  Aside from the drones she and Shonos had killed, there were two others lying dead on the floor, along with the bodies of the entire bridge crew.  Captain Sokar lay in his chair, impaled by a drone’s mechanical arm.  The drone who’d done it lay atop him, its neck twisted at an impossible angle.  Apparently, it had underestimated the Captain fatally.  Lieutenant-Commander Toban’s head was a mess and his body had taken several cutting blows as well, but his blue fist still held a phaser.  Judging from the smoldering burn marks on the sixth drone’s body, it was he who had downed it.  Lieutenant Mordom slumped across the Science consol.  He’d taken a powerful blow to the back of the head that had split open the Zaldan’s skull.  Drel saw Ensign Shuster lying on the floor.  Her consol had exploded and she had severe burns to her chest, but the killing blow had been the crushing of a metal boot into the front of her skull.  Drel tried to comfort herself with the knowledge that poor Claire had probably been unconscious already when they killed her.

Shonos shook her head at the scene.  “This is beyond insane.”

Carlin clenched her jaw, till it made the three upper molars on her left side hurt.  They’d always been sensitive since a blow from a Klingon bat’leth had injured her upper jaw there.  It was the wound that had forced her from Capella IV, though it was not the wound she remembered the most.  The one she remembered the most was losing Antori that day.  Right now, she didn’t mind the pain of the molars half as much as the pain in her heart.

But grief and self-pity weren’t going to avenge these deaths.  “We’ve got to see if we can get internal sensors and coms up again,” said Drel.  She went to the Science consol and gingerly moved Mordom’s corpse aside.  She called up the internal sensor and communications networks.

“That doesn’t look good,” said Shonos, pointing to the sensor grid.

Drel nodded.  “Half the grid’s been burned out by power surges.  It’ll take a while to get it back online.  The comm network’s another story, though…Main router’s fried, but the auxiliaries should be able to handle the traffic, as long as we compress the bandwidth a little.”  She adjusted the controls.  “There!  Let’s give it a try.”

She opened a channel.  “Bridge to Engineering!  This is Lieutenant Drel.”

“Engineering here,” said T’Paie’s steady voice.  “Lieutenant, what is the situation up there.”

“The Bridge was boarded, but the Borg have been killed,” said Drel.  “Unfortunately, the Bridge crew was already dead by the time I arrived, including Captain Sokar and Lieutenant-Commander Toban.  Lieutenant Mordom is dead as well, along with Doctor Howard and Ensign Shuster.”

There was brief silence on the other end.  “It appears we have sustained heavy casualties, indeed,” T’Paie said at last.

“And very important casualties,” said Drel.  She chose her next words carefully.  “Lieutenant T’Paie, with the deaths of Captain Sokar and his acting first officer Lieutenant-Commander Toban, you are the senior-most surviving officer aboard this ship.  Command passes to you.”

Now the silence on the other end was much longer.  When it passed, T’Paie’s voice seemed hesitant.  “Lieutenant Drel, with all respect, I have no command experience, nor have I ever desired any.  It is not…logical.  Your current body is young, but you retain the experiences of your previous hosts, whose seniority outstrips my own.  Antori Drel was Commander and first officer aboard this vessel before his death, as you know.  Perciv Drel also attained the rank of Captain, I believe.”

“He never commanded anything but the drawing board, T’Paie,” said Drel.

“Still, between the three of you, you have command experience and 114 years of service in Starfleet to my sixty,” said T’Paie.  “You are the logical choice to command this vessel.”

“You’re both lieutenants.  Either one of you can take command,” Shonos pointed out.  “From what I’ve seen, this ship couldn’t go wrong with you in command.”

Drel took a deep breath and forced a smile for the Andorian.  “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she said.  She cued the shipwide intercom.  “Bridge to all hands!  This is Lieutenant Carlin Drel speaking.  Captain Sokar and most of the Bridge crew have been killed in action.  I am assuming command of the ship.”  I can’t believe I just said that.  She went on before the conflicted feelings having a wrestling match in her stomach could stop her.  “Internal sensors are still offline, so we may still have a number of Borg drones aboard.  All personnel are to remain on alert while security teams from this ship and the Khitomer conduct a deck-by-deck sweep.”  She silenced the mike for a moment while she considered her next move.  “I’ll need an all new bridge crew.”

“I would be honored to join your new Bridge crew,” said Shonos.

“Won’t the Khitomer be missing you?” asked Drel.

“They hardly need the services of a junior security officer as much as you need a new chief of security,” said Shonos.  “I’ll get to work organizing the deck-by-deck searches immediately.”

Drel managed a smile at the Andorian’s enthusiasm.  “Very well, consider the position yours, at least until Commander Davis on the Khitomer says otherwise.”  Shonos hurried off into the turbolift.  She enabled the audio pickup again.  “Ensign Shonos from the USS Khitomer will be joining us as acting Chief of Security.  All security teams, report to her.  Chief Petty Officer Mercy Thomas, please report to the Bridge to assume your post as acting Chief of Operations.  Ensign Choxx Tlohhd, you are now acting Chief Tactical Officer.  Ensign Tristan Datri, you are acting Chief Flight Controller.”

Drel’s combadge pinged with an interruption.  “Lieutenant Drel, Ensign Datri is in sickbay, recovering to third-degree plasma burns over his face and arms,” said the voice of the EMH.  “And when is Doctor Howard coming back down here?  I’m a doctor, not a nursemaid.  I wasn’t designed to coddle patients while the ship’s physician is on holiday.”

Drel clenched her fist, then slowly released it.  “Doctor Howard is dead,” she announced.  “The Emergency Medical Hologram is now acting Chief Medical Officer.”  That was a position she would soon have to replace.  She didn’t know how long she could stand having a snarky young hologram trying to fill Doctor Howard’s shoes.  Maybe Khitomer would loan her a real doctor.  Meanwhile she racked her brain for other qualified pilots on board to replace Datri.  Crewman Jefferson was the only one who came to mind, and she didn’t think he’d ever flown anything bigger than a shuttle.  “Crewman Jefferson, please report to the Bridge to take the Conn,” she said.  “I would also request a medical detail to the Bridge to…to take care of the bodies of our shipmates and fellow officers.”

Then Carlin closed the channel and staggered into an empty chair.  Alone on the Bridge, surrounded by the bodies of her friends and the cybernetic madmen who’d killed them, she became violently ill.

The Vega Colony Attack, Part Two: Aboard the Khitomer

USS Khitomer, Chief Science Officer Carlin Drel’s Log, Supplamental

While the Nautilus forms up with the rest of the fleet–or what’s left of it–I’m beaming over to the Khitomer to assess the situation.  The only signal we’re getting is from the EMH on the Auxiliary Medical Bay, though sensors show lifesigns and firefights all over the ship.  There’s no way to tell who’s who or how many of them there are.  I just hope I’m not beaming into one losing battle, while my friends fly into another.

Drel materialized into a chaos.  Alarm klaxons were blaring and the deck of the Khitomer trembled, threatening to shake her off her feet.  Explosions and the whine of weapons-fire could he heard from down the corridor, above the screams of wounded men.  Before she could even move, the EMH set upon her.  “Thank goodness you’re here!  Are you all they sent?”  He peeked behind her as though she might be hiding an officer or two behind her back.

“I’m all they could spare for the moment,” she said, getting her bearings.  She was in the Auxiliary Sickbay, and every bed was occupied.  One of the patients tried to get up, then collapsed back onto the biobed.  Carlin brushed off the EMH and rushed over to him, pulling out her medical triocorder.  “Radiation poisoning,” she reported.  “He needs some hyronalin and somebody to keep him in bed.”

“That would be nice, but as you can see I have limited medical staff,” said the EMH, tapping his own chest.  He did seem to be the only one on his feet in the whole sickbay.

“And where’s everybody else?” asked Drel, pulling a hypospray from her medkit.

“How should I know?  I’m a doctor not a directory!”

“Great.”  She handed the hypospray to the EMH.  “I’ll see if I can find you some help.”  She tapped her com badge.  “Drel to Nautilus!”

Nautilus here,” came Sokar’s voice.  “What is your situation?”

“I’ve got about a dozen wounded down here and only one EMH tending them.  I could use…two, maybe three medics.”  Nautilus should be able to spare that many, and they would be enough to at least relieve the situation here.  “Be advised, there’s also weapons-fire nearby.  I’m going to investigate.”

“Acknowledged, proceed with caution, Lieutenant.  Nautilus out.”

“Help is on the way,” Drel said to the EMH, and started for the door.

“You’re leaving?!” the EMH said.  “But I need your help!  I wasn’t programmed to deal with this many patients–”

Drel rounded on him, hands on her hips.  “And were you programmed to deal with fire-fights?  From the sound of things, you’ve got one on its way here now.”  The EMH fell silent.  “Look,” Drel added, “You’ve got medics on the way.  They should beam in any minute now.  I’m just gonna check out the shooting war out there and make sure you and your patients aren’t in immediate danger and then I’ll come back.”

“Very well,” said the EMH, still sounding peeved to be losing a helper.  “Just hurry, and be careful, Lieutenant.  The last thing I need is another patient on my hands.”

Drel nodded and left the medical bay.  She heard weapon’s fire coming from one of the open doors down the corridor and headed in that direction, drawing her phaser.  Peeking around the corner, she saw a female Andorian Ensign frantically firing a phaser rifle.  Three Borg drones were almost on top of her.  She managed to hit two of them.  One the drone’s took a hit in the chest.  It’s exoplating shattered and its torso exploded in a shower of sparks and acrid smoke.  The second drone took one hit in the arm, nearly severing it.  While the drone reeled, a second bolt from the phaser rifle hit it in the torso, but merely splashed harmlessly across the drone’s personal forcefield.  They had adapted.  Now both drones came closer, backing the Andorian against a consol.

Drel took aim and fired, hitting the damaged drone from behind.  Sparks flew and the drone’s left arm fell to the floor, completely severed.  Sparks flew from the stump and the drone convulsed.  Still it managed to turn slowly and regard her with a mechanical eye.  A red laser light swept over her body, scanning it.  Drel fired again, this time, hitting the drone in the abdomen.  The drone staggered backward and fell.  She took aim at the other drone, but this time her phaser beam refracted harmlessly off the drone’s shield.  She mashed buttons on her phaser, frantically trying to recalibrate, but it was too late.

The drone and the Andorian were already locked in melee.  The Andorian clubbed the drone in the head with the butt of her phaser rifle.  The drone recovered from the blow almost immediately and raised a mechanical arm toward the Ensign’s head.  She tried to block it, but the drone swatted her rifle away with its other arm.  Any moment, Carlin expected to see the drone inject the helpless Andorian with nanoprobes.  She braced herself to see the gray palor of assimilation spreading under the Ensign’s skin.  There would be no help for her after that.

But the Borg didn’t stop to inject nanoprobes.  Instead swung with the mechanical arm, a heavy blow aimed right at the Andorian’s head.  The Ensign jerked her head backward, but still caught the blow on her nose.  Flesh tore and bone splintered.  Bright blue blood splattered the drone’s arm and ran down the Andorian’s face.  She spat and punched the drone in the stomach.  It jerked a little to one side, off-balance, but otherwise did not react.  It raised its arm for another bone-crushing blow.

Drel had seen enough.  She fired again at the drone, even though her phaser wasn’t recalibrated yet.  The shot momentarily distracted the drone.  “Over here!” she shouted at the Ensign.  The Andorian saw her and rolled over the consol.  The drone’s swing missed and shattered the consol instead, sending a jolt of electricity up its arm.  The drone spasmed, but managed to pull its arm free.  The other drone seemed to be recovering too.  It was trying to rise.  There was no way Drel was holding off both of them with a hand phaser.

Thinking quickly, Drel moved to a wall consol and pulled up emergency atmospheric containment protocols.  She turned to the Ensign.  “What Section are we in?  Quick!”

The Andorian spat, clearing her mouth of blood.  “Twenty-three, Auxiliary Computer Control.  Least that’s where we ought to be.  Why?”

“I have an idea that might buy us some time.”  She entered the coordinates into the system, followed by a sequence that should trigger an explosive decompression drill, simulating half the compartment being ripped away by battle damage and triggering emergency forcefields to respond.  At least, that’s what she hoped it did.  Hopefully, there’d been no upgrade to the emergency atmospheric containment protocols since Perciv Drel had supervised their design for the Sovereign-class cruisers, the predecessor of the Valor-class Khitomer.  If there had been, all she’d get is a brief error message, and those drones were getting awfully close…

Fortunately for her, the protocols had not changed.  The simulation worked and the computer responded by erecting an emergency forcefield across the center of the room, dividing the drones from the Starfleet officers.  The lead drone walked straight into the forcefield and rebounded.  Its head cocked, as if surprised.  The other drone stopped just short of the forcefield and swatted at it with its remaining arm, which rebounded as well.

“No telling how long till they adapt,” Drel said, picking up the wounded Andorian.  “We’ve got to get you to the Auxiliary Medical Bay.  It’s just down this corridor…”  Her voice trailed off.  The door to the corridor was on the other side of the forcefield, with the Borg drones.  So was the room’s other exit, across the room from the first.  She hadn’t trapped the drones, she’d trapped herself.  “Brilliant!”  She groaned, then tapped her combadge.  “Drel to Nautilus, I need a site-to-site transport down here.  My way is blocked by a forcefield.”  No need to tell them who was responsible for that forcefield.

Her combadge answered only static.  She was about to tap it again when Sokar’s voice broke through.  He was shouting to be heard, but his tone was still emotionless as ever.  “I’m afraid that will be impossible, Drel.  We have engaged the Borg sphere and are taking fire.  Were I to lower our shields and attempt a transport, the results would be…unfortunate.”

Drel laughed nervously at the Vulcan’s choice of words.  “Well, that’s an understatement.  Best of luck to you, old friend,” she said.

“Luck is illogical, but perhaps not unwelcome at this point,” came the reply.  “Live long and prosper, my friend, until this crisis has passed.”

If we live that long, without getting assimilated, Carlin thought, but did not say.  “Drel out,” she said instead, closing the channel.  “Looks like there’s been a change of plans,” she told the Andorian, laying her on the deck.

The Ensign moaned as her head touched the floor.  Her antenna were writhing, a clear indication of her pain and fear.  “The Borg?” she asked through clenched teeth.

Drel pointed her phaser at them, expecting to see them breaking through the forcefield by now.  They hadn’t.  Instead the armless drone was standing there, staring at the forcefield while intact drone–a medical drone of some sort–had retrieved its fellow’s severed arm and was attempting to reattach it.  Carlin turned back to the injured Ensign.  “The Borg have called a truce for now.  Let’s take a look at your face.”  She opened up her medkit and tricorder–not that she needed it to tell that the Andorian’s nose had been torn half off her face.  At least the blow had only grazed her complex nasal bone-structure.  It was still largely intact, with only a couple pieces broken off that Drel thought she could reattach in the field.  “Hold still, this will probably hurt a lot.”

The Ensign winced and bit her lip as Carlin carefully rearranged the pieces of her nose, then held first a skeletal then a dermal regenerator over them.  The torn blue skin knit itself back together, healing over with pink scar tissue.  Drel frowned and sponged the blood off of the Ensign’s face.  “It’s not pretty and it probably still smarts, but it’ll have to do till we can get you to the medical bay.”

“Thank you,” the Andorian said, feeling her nose with one hand and pushing herself to her feet with the other.  “I owe you my life.”

Drel wiped her hands and closed the medkit.  “I wouldn’t say that much, and besides, take a look at that.”  She pointed at the drones.  The medical drone had reattached the other drone’s arm, but it was still heavily damaged.  The drone was trying to make further repairs while the other drone swatted its good arm at the forcefield, rebounding again and again.  Any second now, it would figure out how to pass its hand through the forcefield, and the rest of it would follow.  “We’re not out of the woods yet,” she said.

“The woods?” the Andorian repeated.

“Uh, yes, it’s a human expression one of my previous hosts picked up,” Drel explained.

“How amusing!” said the Andorian, managing to smile and even appear genuinely relaxed–as if there weren’t two Borg drones ten feet away trying to break through a forcefield and assimilate them, or beat their heads in: whichever came first.  “Ensign Shonos, at your service,” she said, extending a hand in greeting.  “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Security officers, Carlin thought, noting the red of the Andorian’s uniform, under the splatters of blue blood.  They’re all crazy.  Nevertheless, she took the hand.  “Lieutenant Carlin Drel, USS Nautilus.  I beamed over to help when my ship received a distress signal from your EMH.”

“Well, at least he’s still online,” said Shonos.  “That’s good to hear.  I came down here to Auxiliary Computer Control to see if I could get the computer’s higher functions back online.  The Borg knocked it out before they boarded the ship and we can’t get anything but emergency protocols.”  She started tapping on a consol, which responded sluggishly.  “I can’t make much sense out of this.”

Drel looked over her shoulders.  “Looks like the main processor is being blocked.  Try routing commands through the backup circuits.”  She pointed at the appropriate controls.

Shonos nodded and began working on it.  “In the meantime, do you think you can do something with them,” she jerked her head at the two drones.

“If I can get the transporter working again, maybe,” she moved back to the wall consol and pulled up transporter control.  It was a little scrambled, but still functional.  The real trouble would be getting a lock on the drones, since internal sensors seemed to be down.  “I’ll try a manual lock,” she said.

“And where are you beaming them?”

“Out into space if I can get enough power for that.”  The range the transporter was showing looked pretty restrictive.

“Let me see what I can do,”  Shonos pressed a few more sequences.  “There, main computer coming back up, and here’s a little boost to the transporters.”

“Good enough,” said Drel.  Her consol chimed.  “Got it!  Energizing!”  The two drones vanished in a swirl of blue energy.  Carlin rematerialized them a couple meters away from the outer hull.  “They won’t be much of a threat floating in vacuum.”  She smiled.

Shonos returned her smile.  “Nicely done, Lieutenant!”

Suddenly, the Ensign’s combadge chirped.  “Commander Davis to Shonos,” a man’s voice said.

The Andorian tapped her combadge.  “Shonos here!”

“We just got Main Computer functions back online down here,” said Davis.  “I assume congratulations are in order for you and Lieutenant Kelly.”

The Andorian’s antennas drooped and she lowered her eyes.  “Lieutenant Kelly didn’t make it, sir.  We were attacked by five drones the moment we arrived in Auxiliary Control.  We took down two of them, but Kelly was killed while we were trying to recalibrate our phaser rifles.  I would have been killed as well, if not for the intervention of Lieutenant Carlin Drel who beamed over from the Nautilus.”  Shonos looked up and gave Drel a smile.

Drel tried to smile back, but instead found herself sweeping the floor of the room with her eyes.  Now that she looked, she noticed the body of a male human science officer lying on the floor among the bodies of three drones.  The back of his skull had been caved in by a massive blow.  Drel couldn’t help but wonder if she’d been able to prevent Lieutenant Kelly’s death if she’d left the medical bay just a little sooner.

“I wasn’t aware we had personnel from other ships aboard, but I’m grateful to hear it,” Commander Davis was saying.  “In any case, we can thank our heroes and mourn our dead when this is over.  I’ve set up an auxiliary bridge in Main Engineering.  The Borg have installed some sort of jamming technology on the deck above us and its interfering with internal sensors.  I need you and this Lieutenant from the Nautilus to take them out.  Understood?”

“Yes, sir!  Shonos out,” said the Andorian, tapping her combadge once more.

Drel tapped her consol and switched off the emergency forcefield.  “I’m sorry about Lieutenant Kelly,” she offered.

Shonos shook her head and retrieved her phaser rifle.  “There’s nothing anyone could have done.  Kelly fought and died bravely, and that’s what matters.  Follow me, Lieutenant.”  Together, they headed down the corridor to an open Jeffrey’s Tube.  “We’re lucky we’re only two decks above Main Engineering,” she said.  They stepped into the tube and climbed down a ladder to the next level.  On reaching it, they opened the hatch and stepped through.

They were in a cul-de-sac and the corridor beyond was filled with Borg.  There were three drones working on a series of rectangular devices that glowed eerie green.  One of the Borg turned toward them and Drel fired without thinking.  The beam ricocheted off the drone’s shield and it kept coming.  Now the others were turning toward them too.  She scrambled to recalibrate her phaser to fire again.

In the meantime, Shonos fired.  The volley from her phaser rifle broke harmlessly against the drone’s shield as well and she shrugged.  “It was worth a try.”  Then, she turned her phaser rifle on the nearest of the rectangular devices and fired a volley.  Her shots split the device’s casing, causing it to explode and arc green energy across the corridor.  Both drones who’d been working on it fell dead and a piece of shrapnel hit the drone that was approaching them.  It collapsed, impaled, but still twitching.  Drel finally finished her recalibration and put the drone out of its misery with a shot to the head.

“Nicely done, targeting the device instead of the drones, Ensign,” Drel said.

The Andorian smiled.  “It seemed like a good idea.  I’m just glad it worked out!”

They hurried to the next intersection and swept the corridor for more Borg.  There were none, though several of their devices had been installed along the walls.  Drel pulled out her tricorder and scanned the nearest one.  “It’s a jamming device alright.  It’s feeding off the main EPS manifold on this deck and broadcasting the energy as a field of static.  With a deck full of these things, the Borg could black-out sensors throughout the secondary hull.  I think it might even have a subspace link to other units elsewhere on the ship, allowing them to effectively blind the whole ship’s sensors and even extend the interference into the surrounding space.”

“So basically they’ve turned this deck and with it the whole ship into a jamming station.  Any idea how to turn it off?” Shonos asked, nudging it with her rifle.

“Aside from blowing them all to bits one by one?” Drel asked.

“That could get a bit time consuming, not to mention dangerous,” said Shonos.  “We were lucky not to get hit by shrapnel last time.  Next time there may not be a friendly drone around to take the blow for us.  And if the drone is less than friendly–”

“Point taken,” said Drel, she started working on a wall consol next to the Borg device, calling up the ship’s EPS control systems.

“Could you cut power to the jamming devices instead?” Shonos asked.

The consol beeped negatively.  “That’s what I just tried,” Drel explained.  “The Borg have installed some kind of an override.  It’s preventing me from cutting the power to these things, or increasing it.”

“Can’t starve it, can’t overload it.  I guess we deal with this the old fashioned way, then,” said Shonos, leveling her rifle.  “Stand back.”

“Wait!” said Carlin.  “I’ve got an idea.”

“I’m listening,” said Shonos.

“Actually, you’re my inspiration, Ensign,” said Drel.  “When we couldn’t kill those drones back there by shooting them directly, you hit their jamming device instead and used it to blow them up.  I’m thinking of trying the same principle here.”  Carlin punched in an engineering override, and was grateful to find the Khitomer recognized her codes.  “We can’t overload the devices or cut their power.  I bet we can’t cut power to the EPS manifold on this deck either–the Borg would have thought of that.”  A quick command sequence and a negative beep from the consol confirmed it.  “Yes, they did…But I bet they didn’t think about preventing us from disengaging the EPS overflow buffers on this deck.”

Shonos frowned.  “But if we did that, the whole manifold would overload in a matter of seconds.  The damage would be massive!  It would blow away the entire deck and–” Suddenly the Andorian’s eyes went wide and she smiled as the realization hit her.  “And it would take all of the jamming devices with it!”

“With luck, the subspacial link would ensure that taking out this deck blew not only the devices here but also every jamming device on the ship.  It might even overload a few on other ships as well, if there are any nearby.”  Carlin brushed a stray strand of hair back.  “The only problem is that this will cost the Khitomer Deck 17.”

Shonos nodded.  She tapped her combadge.  “Shonos to Commander Davis.”

“Davis here!” came the reply.  “What’s your progress, Ensign?”

“We’ve located the devices, but they’re tied directly into the EPS manifold on this deck.  Lieutenant Drel believes she can neutralize the Borg jamming field by overloading the EPS manifold, but that will destroy this entire deck, sir,” Shonos reported.

“Tell this Lieutenant she’s crazy as hell if she thinks–” There was a noise in the background: weapons-fire.  There was the wham of forced plasma beams followed by the shriek of phaser-fire.  After a moment, Davis’ voice came back.  It was panicked.  “Belay, that!  The Borg are trying to storm Main Engineering and they’re not pulling their punches.  I need those internal sensors and a diversion now!  Tell Lieutenant what’s-her-name to blow the deck and then both of you get down here.  We need every trigger finger we’ve got for this fight!”

“Aye, sir!” said Shonos.  She tapped her combadge again.  “This is Ensign Shonos to all personnel on Deck 17!  We are about to overload the EPS manifold on this deck.  Now would be a good time to leave!”  She nodded to Drel.

Drel took a deep breath and punched in the sequence to disengage the vital safeties and disconnect the overflow buffers.  The air began to hum as energy built up in the EPS conduits.  “We’ve got to get out of here,” said Drel.


Shonos grabbed her arm and together they sprinted for the nearest Jeffrey’s tube hatch.  Behind them, the computer blared, “Warning!  EPS manifold power is exceeding tolerances.  Overload in ten seconds!  Ten…Nine…”

They opened the hatch and climbed in.  Shonos leapt down the ladder while Drel closed the hatch to the corridor.  Then she lept down the ladder to the next deck as well.  Shonos shut the hatch above them just as the deck pitched and trembled, rocked by the explosion on the deck above.  “Bye, bye Deck 17,” Drel said grimly.

“We’ve got to get to Main Engineering,” Shonos said, recalibrating her phaser rifle.

Drel nodded.  She checked her phaser and then they left the Jeffery’s tube together.  They came out behind a group of half a dozen drones who were attacking a pair of security officers, penned down at one of the doors to Main Engineering.  The half the drones were tactical drones, standing back and firing forced plasma beams while the other half–apparently not equipped with ranged weapons–marched forward, wielding their heavy mechanical arms like clubs.

Shonos didn’t waste any time agonizing over the situation.  She rolled into the middle of the corridor and came up firing.  She swept all three of the rear drones with a volley from her phaser rifle.  Two went down and another was sent reeling as the shot blew a hole in his side.  He turned slowly toward Shonos as she fired another volley at him.  This one did nothing though.  His shield had adapted.  Drel took aim and fired.  Her phaser was set for a higher frequency than Shonos’ and it penetrated the drone’s shield easily–only to glance off its thick exoplating.  She fired again, this time aiming for the exposed flesh of the drone’s head.  The skin sizzled and caught fire and the drone fell dead.  Drel fired again, aiming for one of the other drones–who were nearly at the doorway now.  Her shot fizzled against the drone’s shield.  She muttered a curse.

By now, though, Shonos had recalibrated her weapon.  She unleashed a devastating volley, and the security officers fired their recalibrated weapons at the same time.  All of the drones took multiple hits and fell into a smoking sparking pile on the floor.

“Nice shooting, Shonos!”  One of the security officers shouted down the corridor.  “Now get your blue butt over here!  The Borg are overrunning the barricades on the lower level.”

Drel and Shonos rushed into Main Engineering to find it under assault by Borg.  The two of them stood on a ramp overlooking the lower level of Engineering, where a barricade manned by three security officers was under attack by more than a dozen drones.  The foremost drones hacked at and smashed the cargo containers that made up the barricade while tactical drones in the rear provided covering fire. The security officers pelted them with phaser fire, killing two, but the other drones ignored it and soon they had adapted.

Shonos and the other two security officers took up positions at the top of the ramp and fired down on the drones while Drel recalibrated her phaser.  From the sounds of the explosions, the three of them scored a number of devastating hits.  Then, the Borg returned fire.  One of the security officers went down, hit in the side, while Shonos and the other were forced to duck for cover.

Carlin crawled over to where the wounded man lay.  He had internal damage and he was already on the verge of shock.  She tapped his combadge.  “Medical emergency!  Computer, one to beam directly to the Auxiliary Medical Bay!”  The wounded man vanished in a shimmer of blue light and Drel could only hope that the EMH and the medics Sokar had sent over would be able to save him.  She picked up the fallen man’s phaser rifle and rose to one knee to fire a shot at the Borg below.  Her beam struck one of the tactical drones in the side of the head and its cybernetic eye burst into flame.  The drone merely turned to look at her.  She fired again, this time at the organic side of its face.  Its flesh sizzled and it collapsed.  The sight made Drel feel sick.  She fired again, but this time the Borg had adapted.

Just then, a new drone entered Main Engineering, escorted by four imposing tactical drones.  The new drone’s exoplating had a lighter color than that of the drones around him, almost silver.  His eyepiece also glowed blue, rather than the reds of the other drones.  The most shocking thing about this drone was what it did on entering Main Engineering: it shouted a command.  “All drones destroy the warp core!  We must not allow this vessel to survive,” it said.

“The boss has just arrived and he wants us all dead,” Shonos observed, recalibrating her phaser rifle.

“And since when do the Borg have bosses and shout orders,” asked Carlin, eyeing the newcomer over the curve of some railing.  The drones below were ignoring her for now.  They were too busy shoving their way through the barrier and cutting down anyone who stood in their way.  Commander Davis and the engineers with him fired a few futile volleys at them and scrambled to get away.

“I hear the queen can talk,” said Shonos put in.

“This one isn’t a queen,” said Drel.

“Maybe it’s like Locutus back at Wolf 359,” said the security officer beside them.  “My dad was there.  He says he talked and he was running the show around there.”

“Maybe,” Drel said.   Then, she noticed one of the tactical drones leaning in and saying something to the commander drone.  Drel’s eyes went wide.  “Maybe the queen and Locutus can talk and give orders, but no one ever talks back to them.  The Borg don’t need to: they’re all one mind.  This drone isn’t.”

Shonos looked up.  “If this drone isn’t connected to the hive mind, then it’s the only one that isn’t adapted to our fire.”

“Let’s take down the boss,” Drel said.

Shonos nodded, and braced her phaser rifle against her shoulder. “On three.  One, two, three!”

Shonos and Drel popped up and immediately took aim at the unique drone.  They fired as one, their blasts pelting the drone’s exoplating.  For a moment, it seemed to hold, deflecting each blast in a shower of sparks.  Then, the armor failed and split open.  The drone spasmed and fell.  Its chest exploded and shrapnel imbedded itself in one of the tactical drones beside it, felling it as well.

A moment later, the tactical drones turned on Shonos and Drel, firing their green plasma beams.  They ducked, but not before Calrin saw that the drones had finished forcing their way past the barricade and killed the last of the security officers on the lower level.  Unfazed by the loss of their leader, six of the drones proceeded toward the warp core.

“Damn!  I really thought killing their boss would at least slow them down,” said Drel.

“Apparently not,” said Shonos, recalibrating her weapon.  “We’ve got to stop them before they cause a warp core breech and blow us all up!”

Drel shook her head.  “We can’t risk firing that close to the warp core.  We might cause the breech ourselves.”

“And what do you suggest?” demanded Shonos.

Below them, they heard Commander Davis shout, “Computer!  Eject the core!  Authorization: Davis, One-Four-Iota-Seven!”

“Unable to comply,” the Computer said.  “Ejection systems have been disabled.”

“Honestly, that was gonna be my suggestion,” Carlin said.  She started tugging at her pony-tail.  “If the Nautilus was here, we could call for an emergency beam out–but even then we couldn’t get half the crew in time.”

Shonos looked up.  “Carlin Drel, you’re a genius.”

Carlin raised her eyebrows.  “I am?”

“Yes, sir!”  Shonos crawled over to a consol that was behind some cover, then stood to operate it.  She called up transporter control.  “Do you remember how you handled those Borg behind the forcefield?  Well, now that the internal sensors are up, we can do that to all the Borg.”

“You won’t be able to get an automatic lock through their personal shields, and there’s no time to try manual,” Drel warned.  “You’ll need a way to disrupt them.  A photonic burst might do the trick.”  She turned to the security officer beside them.  “Do you have a photon grenade?”

He pulled one off his belt and handed it to her.  “These things stopped working on them half an hour ago, though,” he warned.  “They’re not as adaptable as phasers.”

“We don’t need them to blow the drones to bits, just create a nice disruptive flash,” Drel said, adjusting the grenade’s settings.  Antori Drel had been able to turn a deadly photon grenade into a non-lethal flash grenade in 5 seconds flat.  It took Carlin 10 seconds, but she still managed it.  “There!  This should generate a low-level photonic burst across a large area.  It’ll probably only disrupt their shields for a few microseconds though.  You’ll have to react instantly.”

Shonos smirked.  “Instant reactions are over-rated.  I’ve programmed the computer with the transport sequence.  It’ll initiate as soon as it detects the photonic burst.”

Suddenly, the computer blared out: “Warning!  Warp core containment disrupted!  Warp core breech immanent!”

“Now or never!”  Drel said.  She primed the grenade, popped up above the railing, and threw it into the crowd of drones below, then ducked down again.  A few seconds later, a bright flash and a pop filled the room.  Then the sound of the transporter’s hum came.  Drel peeked back over the railing and saw the lower level deserted, except for Commander Davis and three engineers, who stood to against the wall, stunned.  Drel smiled and clapped Shonos on the back.  “We did it!”

“Warning!  Warp core breech in sixty seconds!” the computer interrupted.  Fortunately, that snapped the engineers below into action.  Before the computer could count down to thirty seconds, they had stabilized the core.  Drel and Shonos walked down the ramp to join them, picking their way over the wreckage of the barricade and the bodies of dead drones and officers.

As they approached, Commander Davis looked up from his consol and greeted them.  “Ah, Ensign Shonos!  Excellent timing and incredible initiative.  Without a doubt, you have saved this ship.”

“I had more than a little help from Lieutenant Drel from the USS Nautilus, sir.  She deserves the credit,” Shonos reported.  “Lieutenant Carlin Drel, Commander Davis.”

The man extended a hand.  “A pleasure to meet you, Lieutenant.  I expect we’ll be cleaning up after your little idea on Deck 17 for a month to come, but if Shonos is to be believed you’ve saved us all.”

Carlin blushed.  “With all due respect, sir, I’m sure Ensign Shonos exaggerates.  Her quick thinking saved my life on more than one occasion, and it was she who came up with the idea of beaming the drones in Engineering into space.”

“And it was Lieutenant Drel who devised a way to make that even a possibility,” said Shonos.

Commander Davis raised a hand.  “You two have both performed exemplarily and you can pat each other on the backs until your arms fall off as far as I’m concerned, now that this is over.”

“Over, sir?” Drel asked.

Commander Davis nodded and tapped his consol.  “You heard me, Lieutenant.  According to internal sensors there are only a couple other drones left active aboard the ship, and both apparently damaged.  It seems like the Borg put everything they had into their attack here.  It was their last-ditch effort to take us out.”

Drel nodded.  “Any idea what’s causing them to behave so…oddly, sir?” she asked.

“What, you mean not assimilating people and pounding them to hamburger instead?” asked Davis.  He shook his head.  “No idea, Lieutenant.  Maybe it has something to do with the pounding we gave that cube.  Maybe it has something to do with that talking drone you two took out.”  He glanced over to where one of his engineers and a science officer were scanning the body of the drone in question.  “Anything?” he asked them.

The science officer shook his head.  “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  It’s definitely not a queen.  I can say that much.  It’s way more advanced than any of the other drones, though.”

“Any idea why it wasn’t communicating through the hive mind?” Drel asked.

The science officer shrugged and folded his tricorder.  “Your guess is as good as mine, Lieutenant.  We’ll probably never know.  It’s not like you left a lot of it to study.”

Drel blushed.  “Sorry about that,” she said.

Just then, Commander Davis’ consol beeped urgently and he looked at it.  He frowned and looked up at Carlin.  “Lieutenant Drel, you’re from the Nautilus, you say?”

She nodded.

“You’d better take a look at this.”  He stepped aside and allowed her to take her place at the consol.

Drel stepped up and saw the display readout for an incoming hail with a registry code NCC-31910: USS Nautilus.  It was on a distress frequency.  Drel swallowed and opened the channel.  Lieutenant T’Paie–the ship’s Chief Engineer–appeared on the screen.  Green blood matted the hair on the left side of her head and smoke billowed from damaged equipment somewhere behind her.  “This is the USS Nautilus to any Starfleet vessel, we have lost shields and weapons and have been boarded by the Borg.  We require immediate assistance.”

Drel cued the transmitter.  “This is Lieutenant Carlin Drel aboard the USS Khitomer to the Nautilus.  The situation is contained over here.  What’s your situation?  What’s the status of the Borg sphere?”

“The sphere was badly damaged and withdrew,” T’Paie reported.  “Unfortunately, this ship was also badly damaged.  I have lost contact with the Bridge and internal communications and sensors are offline.  My staff and I have just repelled a Borg attack on Main Engineering.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can, with whatever reinforcements I can muster.  Drel out,” she closed the channel and looked to Commander Davis.  “Are we within transporter range?”

“We are, just barely,” said Davis.  “As for reinforcements, I don’t know who we can spare.  Everything around here’s so scattered and we still have to rid this ship of the remaining Borg and make repairs.”

“I volunteer to go, sir,” said Ensign Shonos, standing tall.  “Lieutenant Drel risked her life coming to the Khitomer to help save us, and she personally saved my life.  The least I can do is return the favor.”

Drel thought the honor-bound Andorian had already repaid her, but she smiled and said nothing to that effect.  “I’d be happy to have you, Ensign.”

Davis hesitated for a moment, then nodded.  “Very well, Lieutenant, Ensign.  Good luck to both of you.  Transporter Room Six is just down that corridor there.  I’ll have Chief Sherman beam you over immediately and follow you with a couple security teams as soon as we can put them together.”

The Vega Colony Attack, Part One: Prelude

USS Nautilus, Chief Science Officer Carlin Drel’s Log: Stardate 86947.3

We’ve been diverted from our patrol of the Delta Valonis Cluster in order to answer a distress signal from the Vega colony.  A Borg cube has been detected on route to the colony.  Starfleet is gathering all available ships to repel the Borg.  Antori don’t fail me now!  I may need all of your skills to stay alive.  In the meantime, Captain Sokar has ordered me down to sickbay to assist Doctor Harold prepare a triage unit, just in case.

“Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” said the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) Mark Two, materializing in front of Drel.

“Well, you are, Doc, if we can’t get your holo-emitters fixed,” she said, pulling out her tricorder and scanning the hologram.  “One of them appears to be on the verge of shorting out.”

“Shorting out!”  The Doctor examined himself in alarm.

“Not yet,” Drel said, letting a small grin tug at her lips.  “Hopefully not at all, but if we see any action, it could happen.”

“Well you’ve got to fix it then!  You’ve got plenty of time I suppose.”  The hologram gave her a worried frown.  “You do have plenty of time, don’t you?”

“I should be just in time actually.  We’re due to arrive at the Vega Colony in under an hour.”

“And what happens at the Vega Colony?”

Carlin didn’t answer and instead tucked a few strands of auburn hair that had broken out of her pony-tail back behind her ear.  She was trying not to think about what might happen at Vega.

“Well?” the hologram insisted, waving his hands at her.

Drel sighed and lowered the tricorder.  “At the Vega Colony, we engage the Borg,” she said matter-of-factly.  “And since you’re the last thing I have to work on in this triage center we’ve set up here, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me finish.”

“The Borg!” the hologram wailed.

“Yes, the Borg,” said Drel, trying to scan the hologram again.  “Now, hold still.”

“And did you say triage center?  This is the sickbay.  Don’t you have an alternate site you can convert, like the mess hall.  How am I supposed to treat all the casualties we’ll be having in here?  How are we even supposed to fight the Borg?  I’m a doctor, not a soldier!”

Drel glared at the anxious hologram, set down her tricorder and started tapping keys on the nearby consol.  “You aren’t supposed to even get turned on, if we’re lucky.  Doctor Harold just needs you as a backup in case he get’s swamped with casualties–and I don’t want his backup shorting out.  So I need you to hold still.”

The hologram tried to peek over her shoulder.  “What are you doing?”

“Disabling your motor subroutines,” she said, and the holographic man froze in place.  “There, that’s better.”  She ran her tricoreder over the paralyzed figure once and it chimed.  “Okay, I see the fluxuation now.  Hold on, this should be simple to fix.”  She walked over to the wall and pulled open an access panel.  She pressed a few buttons on the exposed control panel and the hologram’s leg’s disappeared.

“What are you doing!” he shouted in alarm.

“Don’t worry, it’s just temporary,” she assured.

“Do you even know what you just did?  You’re not a trained engineer, you’re in science officer blues.  You have no idea what you’re messing with!”

“On the contrary, I’ve designed sickbay holo-emitter arrays not too different from this one,” she said, then pointed to the brown spots running down either side of her hairline and down her neck.  “I’m Drel.”

“Oh, I see, a joined Trill.  I suppose one of your hosts was a trained engineer a couple lifetimes ago?  I’m inspired with confidence!”  said the hologram sarcastically.  “Would you mind terribly putting my legs back and unfreezing me?”

“Just a second.”  Drel snapped a new holo-emitter into place, then touched the control panel again.  The EMH’s legs appeared again.  “There, that ought to do it.”

The EMH rolled his eyes.  “I’d like to be a doctor, not a statue.”

“Of course,” she said.  “Computer, restore motor functions on Nautilus EMH…”

“Motor functions restored,” came the reply.

“Thank you,” sighed the EMH, then rounded on her to give a sharp reprimand.

“…And end program,” Drel finished.  The EMH vanished before he could say a word.  Carlin rubbed her stiff neck.  “Those things just won’t shut up, will they?”

“Now you understand why I never use them,” said Doctor Harold.

Just then, a klaxon began to sound and red lights flashed on all the walls.  Carlin’s heart jumped at the sound.  Then she heard the intercom.  “Red Alert, all hands to battle stations.  We have arrived at the Vega colony and will engage the Borg shortly,” said the voice of Captain Sokar in a calm that nothing could shake.  “Lieutenant Drel, please report to the Bridge.”

Drel allowed herself a shiver.  We will engage the Borg shortly.  “How do Vulcan’s manage to make even that sound like a weather bulletin on an airless moon?”

Doctor Harold shook his head.  “You’d better get going,” he said.  “He may be dull, but he’s always serious.”

Drel nodded and left Sickbay, heading down a short corridor for the turbolift.  “Bridge!” she ordered.  The ride was faster than she wanted it to be, and when the door opened and deposited her on the Bridge, it took all her will not to freeze.  The main viewscreen was dominated by a massive Borg cube, glowing in haunting green and black.  It was damaged, trailing green plasma from several breaches in its hull, but it was also unopposed.  Drel could see no other Federation ships on the screen.  “Are we too late,” she asked, coming up behind the Captain.

“We have insufficient data to speculate at this time, Drel,” said Sokar, turning in his chair.  “We were supposed to contact the Khitomer the moment we arrived, but our hails have gone unanswered.  Perhaps you will have more success.”  He motioned to the science consol, which a crewman vacated, looking eager to leave.

Carlin nodded and took her place at the station.  Sensors and com-arrays answered to her touch, giving her momentary comfort.  “The cube appears to be dead in the water.”

Sokar raised an eyebrow.

“It’s, uh, a figure of speech,” Drel explained.

“I am familiar with your…creative speech patterns, Drel.  We have known each other for some time and I understood your expression,” said Sokar.  “My surprise was at the status of the Borg cube.  I did not expect them to be so swiftly defeated.”

Drel flashed a nervous smile and nodded.  She could see Lieutenant-Commander Toban at Tactical was smiling as well, as were and Ensign Claire Shuster at the Conn and Lieutenant Mordom at Ops.  Sokar, of course, wasn’t smiling–never did, though Drel swore Antori had gotten him close a couple times.

“Lietenant, the status of the Federation fleet?” Sokar prompted.

“Right.”  She glanced back at the sensor readout.  “I’m detecting several Federation ships, a dozen at least.”  She paused.  “They’re all damaged, sir, some pretty badly.”  There was no comfort in that thought.

“Have any responded to our hails?” asked Sokar, unfazed.

“It’s hard to tell.  There’s a lot of chatter out there,” she said.  “I’m definitely picking up several Federation signals, but they’re all pretty weak and scrambled.  I’ll see if I can sort them out.”  She ran an algorithum and studied the readout, sorting hails by registry number.  NCC 46701 rose to the top of the list.  “I’ve got a signal with the Khitomer’s number, but it’s not on a standard channel and it’s pretty garbled.”

“Trace the signal to its origin and send the coordinates to the Conn, and I will see if I can assist in clearing up the message itself,” said Sokar, rising to help her.  Drel made room at the consol while the ship came about.  Soon the viewscreen showed a Federation ship, with the sweeping lines of a powerful Valor-class cruiser.  She was listing and hanging motionless in space.

“Found the Khitomer, sir,” Shuster reported.  “She’s stationary 12 kilometers off our starboard bow.  Her shields are down.”

“And yet, the ship remains intact,” Sokar observed.

Carlin nodded, checking her sensors.  “Looks like they have some breeches in their secondary hull, but they’re otherwise undamaged.  I wouldn’t want to be their Chief Engineer right now, but the Borg haven’t blown them to confetti either.”

“Curious,” said Sokar.

The science consol beeped.  Carlin glanced down again.  “The signals cleaned-up, sir, but it’s not coming from the Bridge.  Looks like…Auxiliary Medical Bay, Deck 16.”

“Onscreen,” said Sokar, eyes fixed on the viewscreen.

The image of the Khitomer vanished and was replaced by the gentlemanly face of an EMH Mark Four–the successor to the artificially immature version Drel had just dealt with in Sickbay, though she’d heard its change in appearance hadn’t improved its bedside manner.  Right now, the EMH looked very perturbed.  “This is the Khitomer EMH to any ship!  I have lost contact with the Bridge and require immediate assistance.”

“What is the situation?” asked Sokar.

“The Borg have boarded the ship and I have a lot of wounded people over here,” said the EMH.  “I need a trained medic to assist me, and…and a security team to repel the Borg!”

Drel’s consol beeped.  She glanced down and frowned.  “Sir, I’m picking up a Borg sphere closing on the Khitomer’s position.  There are three other starships close enough to intercept, but they’re all partially damaged.”

“Why were they not detected earlier?” asked Sokar.

Drel shook her head.  “There’s a lot of interference out there…”

“Excuse me?!  I need help over here!” the EMH shouted from the viewscreen, standing on his toes and waving as if that would make him heard better.  Drel ignored him.

Suddenly, the image on the viewscreen cut out, replaced by an image of the approaching Borg sphere.  A chilling monotone of a million voices all speaking as one came from every speaker and com device on the ship.  “We are the Borg.  Existance, as you know it, is over.  You will be assimilated.  Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own.  Resistance is futile.”

As soon as the transmission ended, Captain Sokar turned to his crew.  “Ensign Shuster, plot an intercept course with the Borg sphere.  We cannot allow it to reach the damaged Federation fleet.  Toban, standby shields and charge weapons.”

“Aye, sir,” said the Bolian at Tactical.

“I’ll see if I can’t clear up some of that interference, and make sure there are no more surprises, sir,” said Drel.

Sokar cut her off with a raised hand.  “The Khitomer’s situation cannot be ignored, Lieutenant, but with an engagement eminent we must be careful not to commit resources unnecessarily.”  He turned to Carlin.  “Drel, you are the ship’s second-best medic and–most importantly–an experienced security officer.  Considering your previous hosts, you are the most experienced officer aboard.  I want you to beam over and assess the gravity of the situation aboard the Khitomer.  If you require additional resources or personnel, we will beam those over as well.  Lieutenant Mordom will take your station until you return.  You should arm yourself with one of the phasers from the weapons locker on Deck 2.  Lieutenant T’Paie has retrofitted them with a frequency modulator which will make recalibrating them in combat easier.”

Logical.  It didn’t make sense to commit a large away team if the Khitomer’s EMH turned out to be over-reacting.  And, with a lifetime’s experience in engineering, security, and now science and medicine, she was the most logical choice.  She swallowed, nodded, and started for the turbolift.  “I’ll be in Transporter Room One in a minute with a phaser and a med-kit.”  Sometimes, she hated being a joined Trill.

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