Star Trek: Wildfire
A Star Trek Voyager Novel
by Frank Atlas
Book I: Sleeping at Warp
Book II: Burn Factor
Hi all! Haven't had much time to check in at the TrekBBS, Real Life just takes the cake sometimes. But with a baby and a new business, I've only had time for a project or two (when Herself isn't looking). I hope soon I can return to the regular chat more often, so don't forget me!
Here is part II of my novel. The novel is now called Wildfire. Hey what can I say, I'm making it up as I go.
I've also designed a new front & back cover for it. I'd appreciate any feedback!
Since it's a novel that I'm posting here at the Trek BBS, it might undergo some changes which I'd be unable to update here. After the novel is complete (we're halfway now), I will be posting a free, nicely-formatted e-book for download, so it'll read more like a book.
I want to thank you all for dropping in! I'll continue to update as I'm able. Remember to subscribe to this thread if you want to be alerted to new chapters. Hope you enjoy it!
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Book II: Burn Factor
29 The Track That Fills With Snow
The snow fell silently on the mountain.
The crisp winter air burned his lungs in the endless climb.
Chakotay brushed away snow from a rock and pulled himself a little further up the steep cliff face. In the distance, he thought he heard the cry of a hawk. He thought of his father, and reminded himself there were no longer birds on Bajor.
The plateau opened up before him. With a final push his aged muscles dragged his body forward, where he fell in the snow and allowed his lungs to labor in peace. He breathed into his hands, numbed from exhaustion and cold.
In the glint of the Bajoran sun, he thought he caught a motion in the sky. Perhaps it was Crow, playing a trick on an old man. He squinted. Perhaps it was simply failing vision.
Or perhaps - it is Hawk. Revealing himself for another purpose.
Chakotay hauled himself upright and peered over the edge of the plateau. Below, the others scrabbled their way up the slope, carrying their lives on their backs. Refugees of his crew, and those souls they had collected over a two decade journey. A tribe lost in time and space.
Thirty-seven of them followed him up yet another mountain.
He'd never seen his friends again. After its decimation in the Second Cardassian War, and with no further defense by the Federation, followed by the destruction of Deep Space Nine, Bajor had gathered what she could of the old Federation guard, the Maquis, and a small mercenary army, and defended herself against an onslaught of minor aggressions.
Soon after, came the Fall of the Federation.
The invaders came.
The Hunter, his antiquated defiant-class ship, had been shot down in the Nausicaa-Breen Offensive, Bajor's last stand as an independent world. He had managed to guide her to a crash landing in the mountainous wilderness of Bajor's northern continent. Here, with the help of the planet's magnetic polar flux, and the wilderness survival teachings of his father, and Starfleet, his band continued to evade capture. They lived in the ancient ways of another culture once left to die, yet which had survived, and continued to live on, across light years and millennia and worlds.
But he was old. His long braids gray and brittle. Soon it would be time for a new leader. And with Chakotay, would die the memory of all that had come before.
He scanned the plateau for traces. He found none. Yet his instincts told him to be watchful. Or maybe it was Hawk. He rose and waved them forward.
The tribe had fought for survival against an endless string of conquering forces. Invaders, who passed through and claimed the land as their own. Cardassians. Klingons. Romulans. Breen. Nausicaans. And new alien races from the Delta Quadrant, constantly trafficking Bajor and stripping her of all she had. Bajor had been trodden into unrecognizability.
It had all started...with the War. He couldn't remember all the details. He was never sure about how it all started. So many different stories, that the Fall of the Federation had become lost in the obscurity of time, a tragic waste whose lesson would be lost forever.
They finish their climb, and stand overlooking a vast valley of tall, ancient evergreens. Chakotay tells the tribe to make camp. He sets to scout the area as they put up their shelters.
In the trees, he hears Hawk.
No. Not Hawk. It is a man, crying.
He finds a Nausicaan trapped under a fallen tree. He had probably been tracking them in preparation for an attack. To use the tribe as slaves, in the Nausicaan mining worlds. Chakotay had thought he'd heard a shuttle several nights ago, descending unevenly, too rapidly. The others had convinced him he had imagined it.
The Nausicaan lays trapped under the tree, trapped on lawless Bajor. He is covered in filth and probably starving. He sees Chakotay, and growls in hatred.
Chakotay approaches him. In silence, they watch each other. The Nausicaan struggles in futility. His disruptor rifle, thrown out of reach.
Chakotay ignores the gun and removes the tree instead, as the Nausicaan studies his tribal markings and handcrafted accoutrements.
“You survive out here,” the invader said.
Chakotay said nothing. He unwound a pouch of Apidae propolis he had gathered in summer, sprinkled it into the open leg wound as a tincture, and unraveled a binding from his pack.
“We make slaves of you.”
“It is you who is the slave. To everything you fight against, and fear.”
“You are weak.”
“I know my weakness. I know my strength. Do you?”
“You are my enemy. I want to eradicate you Federations from existence. You all deserve nothing but death.”
“Since you're able to stand in judgment of an entire civilization, perhaps you can help me to stand in judgment of a single individual. What should I do with you?”
He slavered. “You should kill me, before I kill you.”
Chakotay rose and went to the disruptor rifle, laying in a drift. He picked it up, activated it, and shoved the nozzle into the Nausicaan's throat. The Nausicaan roared and his tusks twitched.
Chakotay stilled. He allowed the stillness of the mountain to permeate his being.
The gun did not waver.
Day turned to night.
Defiance turned to anger. And anger, to frustration. And frustration - to fear. And fear, in time, to stillness.
Everything he holds as true is denied. Now, he faces his enemy. The enemy is revealed. Lying bare in the snow.
The Bajoran moons rose high in the quadrant, when the Nausicaan broke the stillness: “Bra'kaj,” he said to himself, lowly.
“Your child,” replied Chakotay.
A look of sadness penetrated the Nausicaan's mien. He started to shiver.
Chakotay lowered the disruptor and stood. “You will see your child again.” He offered his arm. “Come. We have food.”
The Nausicaan took his arm.
After filling his belly and studying the faces in the firelight, the Nausicaan grabs a gun.
He shoots Chakotay in the heart.
The tribe is silent. Unmoving. The invader, confused, laughs.
He is caught in surprise when Chakotay grabs his collar, and forces the Nausicaan to look in his eyes as his life drains from him. The Nausicaan silences, tries to withdraw.
With his last breath, Chakotay places the akoonah in his killer's hand. The last thing Chakotay sees is his enemy activating the visionquest device – a first step on his own long and difficult journey to self-realization.
Hawk calls out to him.
Chakotay dies in the snow, smiling, and free.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
30 Here Be Dragons
The map shone on the display, a complex grid intersecting star systems across sectors spanning the entire wheel of the galaxy. Federation callouts interwove the galaxy with the claim of history's greatest known civilization; and her search for self-knowledge, just beginning.
It had all changed after the Beta War. The victorious Federation had equipped its fleets with quantum slipstream technology, and had defeated its enemies with swift and final justice. Applied with Federation governance, the heady mixture of technology and enlightened civilization absorbed empires, suns and hearts like nothing the galaxy had ever known before – nor would likely ever know again.
Admiral Harry S.L. Kim of United Galactic Federation Starfleet Command Security turned his attention from the great map to his high view overlooking San Francisco Bay, swathed in an unexpected late afternoon fog. On his desk, a single PADD, the weight of its secured data heavy on his shoulders. To Harry, the small device signaled the Federation's most destructive, most insidious security threat in its history:
Overt Federation dominance in space and on the ground had long converted its enemies to strategies of undermining from within; silently striking through proxy, stealth propaganda, espionage, and terror. Ferreting them out proved an endless task; in the free society of the United Galactic Federation, some were always free to identify with resistance to convention; how far they took it, impossible to predetermine, was only identifiable after the fact.
In Harry's view of the Federation, freedom relied on diverse community; empowered individuality; and voluntary responsibility to the greater good. This would always exclude certain individuals, who resisted such as an external imposition of authority; and who, for whatever reason, felt they had no power of choice; or who self-destructed as their only expression of power. And sometimes they just needed to serve their self-interests through the ruthless destruction of others. Militaries, races, politics, economies, laws, lanes, cultures, customs - only the gamepieces changed.
These threats continued to harass and undermine Federation integrity; yet of course rooting them out before they acted had always proven beyond the purview of the Federation Charter, and Starfleet Security. A catch-22 and inherent flaw in Federation policy – yet one which preserved the very freedom afforded by the Charter. The weakness inherent in every strength. Despite this, Harry continued to believe weakness that erred on the side of freedom was far preferable to one which erred on the side of authoritarian rationale, illusory conformity and the trappings of state.
He took his cane so he could stand a little longer looking at the familiar view of the bay. While he ordinarily didn't indulge in sentimentality, he found it creeping in for a moment now. He could have used someone to talk to; but all his real friends had passed on over the decades. Despite the technology filtering through his battle-scarred, timeworn musculature, and the authority of his stately gold-piped admiral's uniform, age continued to take its toll. A small price to pay, for his part in making that map.
“Hero of the United Galactic Federation”. If only people knew him; if only they really knew him.
He had sent his staff home. Today was Founder's Day. A day of celebration throughout the galaxy. But Harry had no time for statesmanship today. No time for the hero's honor awaiting him on this day. He wanted to think in quiet. The greatest challenge of his long-spanning career lay upon his desk.
A single directive and authorization seal from UGF President Hov'Ett Iura. A single, unspecified, ordinary delivery manifest, for a cargo referred to only as S-22.
Harry wasn't supposed to know. But he had fought, as he had always fought. And he had won, as he had often won. The truth is, they needed him. They needed his security fleet.
So they included him. And the President promised him the fate of a traitor and enemy of the state, if he violated the trust. A fate, Harry knew, Iura was fully capable of delivering. Harry had learned too much about the lionized politico's climb to power to ever believe otherwise. And in the end, Harry would uphold his own values, his own oath to Starfleet, as he always had. The president knew this all too well; he could rely on the heroic Harry Kim to do his duty. All Harry had to do, was nothing. Do nothing, and uphold his oath. Do nothing, and preserve his honor, his position, his family and legacy. Do nothing, and preserve peace throughout the entire galaxy. Do nothing, and preserve his life's work and place in history.
As the worlds celebrated the greatest civilization in history, in a galaxy of his making, Starfleet Admiral Harry S.L. Kim looked out his solitary window at the mist, and leaned on his cane.
He had one thing more to face before the end of his tour.
President Iura had made the directive clear.
In this, our authority must needs exceed that of office and rank.
From orbit, we activate the unnamed device. Our targets, those who most threaten the Federation from within.
Their minds are wiped without their knowledge. All knowledge of the device remains nonexistent. As ordered.
The technique had been developed in secret, utilizing programming gleaned from a recovered Borg data nodule. Harry had learned it had been retrieved from drones of former J'naii, a species who first introduced the concept of psychotectic therapy to Starfleet. While the Borg had never successfully developed it as a weapon, Section 13 had recovered the data and innovated the technique for use against the ever-evolving terrorism threat.
Harry had studied the specifications. The technology utilized a mind-altering technique called 'remote psychotectesis'. With it, one could conduct a range of procedures; from minor neuro-associative restructuring, to selective engrammatic purges, to wholesale memory wipes – and do so from transporter range.
According to the directive from the President, Harry was to facilitate the secure transport of the technology to each and every Federation world; his purview lay solely in the logistics, and none of the implementation – or otherwise.
This would require the security resources of dozens, hundreds of Milky Way Class starships. And one hell of a cover. Provided, of course, by Section 13, the unofficial, unaccountable, untraceable rogue arm calling itself a Starfleet Security agency.
Harry considered the technology that could wipe out Federation and political enemies by remote; affording the operator complete plausible deniability. What could be done with such power? What should be done?
For the Federation, it would signify nothing short of violation of one of its principle tenets: the integrity of the individual. Not even the individual would be aware of the procedure.
So the question was – would the Federation apply its ideals when the going got tough? Or more to the point, would he?
Harry couldn't speak for the Federation; but on this day, he found himself alone, quietly weighing this decision that would determine the course of the future of the entire Galactic Federation. A responsibility borne by each and every individual involved in this directive. Harry, it would seem, represented the final person in the chain able to question the “Solution”.
In his heart he knew, that if their leadership defied the most fundamental tenet of the Federation Charter, then regardless of the consequences, or public ignorance, these powers-that-be will have violated – and forfeited - their mandate; they will have become hypocrites; and in the actuality of his knowledge, unauthorized and unfit for leadership. The Federation would become a lie; and the lie, the first harbinger of self-destruction. Being aware or unaware of the situation made no difference. Accepting it or denying it made no difference. This was simply the reality.
He wondered whether he would choose idealism or pragmatism. Yet he felt they no longer represented mutually-exclusive domains; but part of the same construct. Should I violate those principles, he asked himself, even in order to preserve the body that holds them? Or allow the body to sicken at the cost of cold, philosophical ideals? If the enemy wins, who remains to bear those ideals?
Harry felt that reality was neither ideal nor separate from ideal. But in the question of whether civilization's ultimate authority was borne by artificial political constructs, or whether this leadership acknowledged its place in a greater cosmos, the universe in which Man still had no power over life and death? Then Man was no master, even of himself – and his authority, a lie. Even if there were no greater authority in the universe than Man; for Man to assume absolute authority would be a different proposition altogether – and one not likely to ultimately succeed, except in his own myopic, encapsulated worldview.
He would exist separate from the cosmos; and separated from that which gave him life, he would, in time, wither and die. In dignified finery, no doubt. Or perhaps in a glorious, violent self-destruction.
Harry had seen too much out there, outside of Man's domain, to call himself the ultimate authority of the galaxy. Which was precisely the difference between him, and the power-seeking politician in Iura.
As he watched droplets of the fog obscuring San Francisco Bay track down his window, Harry regarded the twin red crowns of the stately Golden Gate Bridge breaking through the mist, a sight he once worried he would never see again; and heard a voice from his distant past. The words came from his first captain to an eager young Ensign on a ship lost on the other side of the galaxy: Here be dragons, Harry. We can either fall off the edge of the map, or cry damn the photon torpedoes and full speed ahead.
Harry commands the Milky Way starship himself. But in this, his authority today will exceed that of his office and rank.
From Earth's orbit, Harry activates the unnamed device. His targets, those who most threaten the Federation from within:
Those in his own circle of conspiracy.
Their minds are wiped without their knowledge. All knowledge of the device remains nonexistent. As ordered.
After programming the transporter, he targets the final threat to the United Galactic Federation:
Admiral Harry S.L. Kim of Starfleet Command Security.
Harry drifts to his final sleep. The last thing he sees is an indicator, reading that a cargo shipment transport pattern has been coded to wide field dispersal with no rematerialization sequence. Item: S-22. Reason for disposal: Containment failure.
He utters his last command:
“Damn the photon torpedoes and full speed ahead.”
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
31 Demon Sky
The away team beamed onto the promontory in an obscuring, toxic gale. Kathryn activated her tricorder. “Deja vu,” she said.
“Captain,” Tuvok's voice transmitted through her EVA helmet speaker. “Surface temperature at five hundred twelve degrees Kelvin. Hazardous levels of thermionic radiation. Class Y atmospheric conditions confirmed.”
“Captain, reading traces of deuterium hydrogen sulfate,” said Lieutenant Carey. “But radiation is interfering with scans. I can't localize a deposit.”
“Dichromates?” she asked them.
“Negative,” Tuvok replied. “However thermionic radiation may interfere with those readings, as well.”
Captain Kathryn Janeway scanned the arid valley between high, jagged ridges formed from a violent clash of tectonic plates. They were likely the first - and last - intelligent life to step foot on this barren, poisonous, violent planet. If this were the Alpha Quadrant, she would never have ordered a mission to a Demon-class. But survival, she had learned, had a way of changing your priorities; and the survival of those under you – had a way of necessitating an unavoidable measure of risk – for the crew, and from the crew. As captain of Voyager, she shouldered a priority that hadn't changed in a decade, and which superceded all others: to get her crew – and their children - back safely to the Alpha Quadrant. Today, like every other day, she would risk everything she had, everything she was, to that end.
“Mister Carey, you'll monitor the storm and transporter lock. Doctor, keep a watch on our EVA systems; and monitor for any presence of dichromates, proteins, or any other indications of mimetic life. Tuvok, you'll bring up the rear. Neelix? Neelix -“
“Don't worry about me, Captain”, the ever-ebullient Talaxian replied, lowering his drilling equipment. “I've done this dozens of times, in my, ahem, former trade.” He surveyed the landscape, re-calibrated his tricorder and scanned a new direction. “Demon-class ground deuterium deposits usually vector to mineralization through a process of mechanical volcanogenic transport. My isotopic analysis is revealing some anomalous geochemical signatures in this direction, Captain; they might indicate possible aqueous-phase mineralization.” He surveyed the landscape. “We should follow along this synvolcanic fault two thousand meters to a footwall in the subvolcanic intrusion. Where the downslope transportation of magma and hydrothermal fluids quite probably interacted to produce our happy little deuterium and oxygen isotopes in the subsurface waters.”
Neelix looked up to find everyone was turned to him. “I've, ah, been putting in some time on the holodeck. Starfleet...expeditionary...geology.”
“You're on point with me, Mister Neelix,” Kathryn said.
Lieutenant Carey slung his transport enhancers, and looked around. “I don't see why we couldn't just use the deuterium we collect from cosmic hydrogen,” he said. “That is what the Bussard collectors are for, after all. Why risk coming here?”
“And let Voyager's ramscoops have all the fun?” Neelix was in his usual irrepressible form, happiest, as always, when he was contributing: “The low abundance of deuterium in cosmic sources requires significant processing, storage and energy, for low yields. Fluids derived from terrestrial magma contain elevated concentrations of chlorides and sulfate ions. They're also heavier in salinity. Voyager's deuterium storage facility can separate these molecules directly utilizing a chemical exchange process with hydrogen sulfide and water, resulting in far greater yields at much reduced expenditure of ship's resources.”
“Hydrogen sulfide. Interesting.” Lieutenant Carey gripped his phaser rifle and scanned the horizon.
The team filed down the ridge overlooking the shattered rock formations of the valley. “Interesting isn't the half of it, Lieutenant! Hydrogen sulfide was one of the main causes of early mass extinctions on your home planet, when Earth, well, looked more like this. One particular mass extinction is believed to have resulted from volcanic eruptions of carbon dioxide and methane into the oxygen-depleted oceans, which absorbed increased hydrogen sulfide faster than the plankton could process it. This started killing plant life and reduced planetary oxygen and ozone. It spiraled downhill from there and resulted in the Permian Mass Exinction. 'The Great Dying', I believe your people call it.”
Carey resumed his pace. “Nothing great about dying, Ambassador.”
Neelix continued. “On this class of planet, Captain, the bulk of a deuterium deposit will be inaccessible from hand tools. But if we approach it, say, from just under the volcanic footwall, near the extremity of a downflow, the ground should be permeable enough for penetration of the bore. That should yield transporter access to all the aqueous deuteride we require, Captain. Ah, I'm looking forward to a little honest physical labor again.”
Captain Janeway stopped, and looked him over with a smirk. “Mister Neelix, I'm glad I authorized your proposal of an expeditionary geology department. Placing you in charge of it was clearly one of my smarter decisions. Your resourcefulness continues to inspire and strengthen us, Mister Neelix.” She put her hand on his heart. “You're a real credit to ship and crew. We couldn't have made it this far without you.”
Neelix moved to speak but found he couldn't.
The group scrabbled their way down the rock slope into the valley. Overhead, the wind-swept stormclouds lit with radioactive static discharges.
“Nice day for a walk,” Lieutenant Carey suggested. “Reminds me of Idaho.”
“I thought you were from Earth, Lieutenant,” Neelix replied. “I always find a good hike invigorating.”
“Give me space over planetfall,” Carey replied. “Navigating a shuttle through a planet's gravimetric flux; or configuring the transporter matrix for a challenging atmospheric condition. Scanning for minerals, drilling for deuterium – is just one of those chores that come with starship duty.”
“When I've seen as many barren planets as you have I'm sure I'd feel the same way, Lieutenant.”
“You've got it all wrong, Lieutenant Carey,” Kathryn interrupted. “We're not scanning for deuterium.”
Kathryn hauled herself up a boulder and scanned the ridge ahead. “And this isn't just any planet. It's unique. A uniqueness that's ours to discover – or remain ignorant of. Give me planetfall any day.” She folded her tricorder and considered it. “Technology may be powerful; but exploration – discovery – that's what we're here after. What the tricorder doesn't scan.”
“Captain, I'm concerned about these levels.” The EMH interrupted her topographic analysis with Commander Tuvok, to show her his tricorder readings. “The environmental toxicity is elevating faster than predicted. I recommend we finish up and start again tomorrow.”
“Very well, Doctor. Janeway to Neelix. Status?”
We're beaming the final volume now, Captain. This last deposit more than suffices for our needs. We'll be ready to break camp in ten minutes.
She regarded the EMH, who nodded with a small discomfiture. She noted his concern, compounded, possibly, with annoyance at himself for losing his footing earlier, and falling down a long slope. Not only was the EMH a sight without an EVA suit, but his uniform was now covered in dried clay. Commander Tuvok had cautioned against resetting his emitter in the presence of so much thermionic interference, which might prevent reestablishment of a stable holomatrix. While the Doctor's holographic matrix may have escaped unharmed, his pride, unfortunately, hadn't.
The sky darkened. The crew looked up at the flashing discharges. Suddenly the ground tremored.
“Neelix, that's last call. Break camp, we'll double back to you.”
No arguments from me, Captain. We'll be ready. Neelix out.
The band hiked their way back through the exposed granite obelisks jutting through an ancient lava bed; it had eroded over the eons, leaving a forest of stone columns and wind-eroded arches.
The Doctor's tricorder pinged. “Captain. I'm picking up...I don't know what I'm picking up. But whatever it is, it wasn't there when we passed through the first time.”
A shrieking howl sounded through the valley.
She turned to the EMH, and worriedly eyed her team. “Phasers.”
Kathryn motioned for the team to stay put. She armed her phaser rifle and stepped to the edge of the stone wall. She peered around the corner; then stepped out. “Commander.”
Tuvok stood beside her. His expression shifted to one of concentrated logical calculation – and distrust.
Ahead, naked in the sand, lay a humanoid newborn baby.
The EMH scanned the lifeform, studied his readings, and looked at the medkit slung over his shoulder. He scanned his kit. “Captain. The sample containers. I was researching the environmental preconditions of the Demon, hoping to gain some insight into rapid cellular regeneration to aid in trauma treatments. My sample containers exposed residual cellular traces, and must have triggered a response from latent biomimetic lifeforms in the clay. When I...fell. It's my own fault, Captain.” The EMH lowered his eyes in self-recrimination.
“Why didn't the transporter biofilters recognize the celluar residue?”
“The samples may have been inert until activated by the atmosphere. The containers must have been improperly sterilized - which makes me question the validity of the other cellular research I obtained at the medical conference on Telorus III.”
“If that's true why wasn't the Doc copied?” Carey asked.
“Indeed,” replied Tuvok, “he may have been. However without a portable holoemitter, there would have been no way to stabilize his holomatrix. The magnetic field would have immediately dissipated.”
Neelix interposed himself. “We're not...just going to leave it there, Captain?”
It descended and alit on an obelisk with great articulated talons.
The EMH came forward; a look of disturbed recognition crossed his face. He checked his tricorder. “It's a Telorusian pterodactyloid, Captain.” He looked up. “Actually, a biomimetic duplicate.”
“Tell him that,” Neelix contributed.
The Telorusian pterodactyloid fluttered an eight-meter furred leather wingspan, and tested the air. The baby cried. The great winged reptile angled its long-crested skull, shrieked and prepared to launch itself at the infant.
“Stay back,” Kathryn ordered them, and stepped forward raising her phaser rifle.
“No Captain!” Tuvok insisted. “They aren't real. They are both of this planet. Don't risk your life.”
Kathryn concentrated on the pterodactyloid and broke away.
Tuvok insisted: “Captain! You are in violation of Starfleet away team protocol!”
“To hell with protocol!”
“It's not a child, Captain!” Carey added. “It's an electrochemical analogue!”
“For God's sake get it to safety!” She turned for a final look at their faces. “And get yourselves home. That's an order!”
The Demon sky rages as Katherine faces the beast. She crouches and fires.
The pterodactyloid notices her, and lunges at her from above; its talons shatter her helmet and claw into her heart. She seals her mouth against the burning atmosphere. The last thing Kathryn sees is Neelix gathering the infant, turning to his captain with silent strength, and disappearing with the others in a transporter field.
With her dying breath, she resists.
Blinding light penetrates her.
Kathryn found herself on her knees, on Voyager's bridge, confronting the bottomless, luminescent eyes of the alien intruder; clutching at the alien's violent, energy-induced grip on her head and her heart.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
The alien relented; Katherine gasped and clutched the burning points of contact, wracked in a pain that was somehow more than physical.
“Who...are...you...and...what are you...doing on...my ship!“
Suddenly her body cycled through dozens of strange emotional responses, and a living image of the galaxy overwhelmed her mind.
It was the computer that spoke:
Communication...juxtapose... psycho...physicality. Isolated... shattered... existence... you...Somatiforms. The computer finished and the alien looked her over in silence. Her powdery coral skin and articulated coverings appeared to bioluminesce in subtle differential patterns, and Kathryn noticed a somewhat tingling field that surrounded her being like some kind of ionic pressure fold.
Kathryn's head reeled. “What have you done to my mind!”
Emergence. Nature. Expression. Propogation.
“I don't understand!”
The alien crouched and ran a finger on the floor as if she were drawing something in sand.
The Nature of...your existence...we experienced...in the... Emergence...of... the Captain Cha-Ko-Tay. We...embody...the Federation Somatiform Path.
“You...studied our species? Through Captain Chakotay?”
“Wait – what? Our triform what?” Kathryn said.
When Kathryn didn't understand, the computer continued:
Kathryn deliberately calmed herself despite the lingering shocks. The alien was at least making an effort at communication, without the direct neural interference she had relied upon until now; Kathryn wasn't about to let the opportunity slip away.
“Yes; Chakotay is...relativistically connective. You put Chakotay through this...this? So you could understand the nature of our species?”
“'Embodiment'. How we live and think? Who we are? Our place in...the universe?” She had a realization. “Or was it - the human heart.”
The alien blinked.
The...Expression...of...the Federation Somatiform Path...we...experienced... in...the Emergence of the Commander Harry S.L. Kim. We apprehend your...Extant Capacity...through he. The... preceptive... reflex... of...the Federation Somatiform...will.
“Do you mean...our character?”
“Through Commander Kim, you...experienced...whether we practice what we preach? Our impact on the galaxy? Well I'd stake the reputation of Starfleet on Harry any day of the week.”
The alien's nacreous irises cycled through the spectrum in harmonizing grades of color.
The Emergence of...this Admiral Kathryn Janeway...reveals... the Propogation...of the Federation Somatiform Path. If... locus...of experience... perpetuates... as preceptive imposition...of static paradigms or... Emergent Capacity.
Kathryn rubbed her forehead. It didn't help.
If how... the Federation Somatiform...masters its codes...or is mastered by them. You...like the others...chose apparent cessation...over existence. You...Federation Somatiform... perpetuate... Emergence... unknowingly.
“Through my vision -”
Emergence. Subquantal temporal dissolution.
Kathryn hesitated at the thought that somehow, her vision could – in some reality – actually have happened. She instantly knew she didn't want an answer to that question.
“Through this...Emergence...you wanted to know how we perpetuate ourselves. Our cultures, our practices? If we wear our uniforms – or if the uniforms wear us. Starfleet officers call it...duty. But on a more personal level some call it...humanity.”
The alien watched her in silence, which Kathryn took to mean she was as close as she was going to get to comprehending the alien.
“And what have you observed?”
The alien stood and the computer spoke: You...incomprehensibly...defy...your Nature.
“Yes. We do.” Regaining her composure, Kathryn stood to her full length and confronted the alien eye-to-eye. “And what did this Emergence tell you about how we 'somatiforms' respond to being held captive in forced complicity to a genocide? The destruction of a sun!”
The alien walked around the bridge, regarding the crew frozen in states of catatonia.
The Path...reflexes. Incomplete...your apprehension...is. Manifest capacity...we...facilitate. Containment...our only...influence. Subquantal... temporal lineage...preserved. Self-destruction...the absolute...precondition...of Enqar...Emergence.
Of you...Federation Somatiforms...we have our...indication. Self-destruction...the absolute precondition...of Federation Emergence.
The alien turned to her.
Yet... we... have never encountered a... conscience capable...of deflecting Emergence... before. Until the Captain Tuvok. And...now... this...Admiral...of Kathryn Janeway.
Around you...the Path...disentwines.
Your Somatiform existence...
The alien studied the crew on her way back to Kathryn, each possibly in the throes of an Emergence.
She faced Kathryn.
Your path narrows.
As the alien glided to the Captain's chair, Kathryn noticed a callout appear on the flickering Ops display. It indicated an unauthorized access in the computer core. Lifesign: Vulcan.
She feigned dizziness and cleared the panel.
Kathryn approached the alien. “Who are you?”
Kathryn sat, and persisted. “I, am Admiral Kathryn Janeway. A human Starfleet officer representing the United Federation of Planets, and the one responsible for the actions and safety of this crew.”
The alien regarded her. We are QadishuKyaliYaru...of...Cyati... Metaquantal...Solipsis.
“Well, Qadishu...Kyali...Yaru, of the Cyati Metaquantal Solipsis, ” Kathryn strained, “Now that you understand us a bit better, we are beginning to communicate. Perhaps we can work together to understand each other.
“You took this vessel because you needed to stop a threat to the entire galaxy - the resurrection and evolution of the Borg. But that doesn't explain why you needed Voyager in particular. It also doesn't explain what you plan to do when we arrive in the Alpha Quadrant. Or why.
“Release my vessel and let us establish a dialogue. I offer you my promise that you won't be harmed; and you will be heard. Perhaps together we can avoid the need for any further destruction.”
The Cyati looked Kathryn over in consideration.
Suddenly the ship's systems lost power. Voyager fell violently from the slipstream. Kathryn hauled herself to the ops station. The bioneural net was currently suffering...an infection from a systemic blockage of artificial neurotransmitters. On another panel, the environmental controls cycled through the planetary atmospheres of various Federation worlds. The cycle settled on Andoria. Suddenly the ship's ambient temperature dropped to twenty below zero Celsius.
The alien ran to the helm – and collapsed to the floor.
A transporter pattern activated on the bridge. Captain Tuvok appeared, phaser pointed at the alien. He turned her over.
She touched his face, as a transporter field took her.
Kathryn couldn't override the shuttle transporter in time. The alien and shuttlecraft beamed off the ship. On screen, the shuttle jumped to warp, as Voyager careened out of control in the deep uncharted space - of the Delta Quadrant.
Tuvok turned to Kathryn, as Voyager's emergency power failed.
“Deja vu,” she said.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Cool, finally got the second novel out then mate!! Gonna enjoy reading this one!!
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Hey, thanks K! Glad to hear from you.
More is on the way!
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
32 Carrion Flower
“We're alongside the Endurance now, sir.”
“Nothing as of yet, Admiral.”
JAG Commander Trelliq Pel rose from the command center and moved to her First Officer's seat. On the viewscreen, the Resolute's two Defiant-class escorts rendezvoused with the Excelsior Endurance on the periphery of the turbulent spatial region in sector zero four-seventy, better known as the Badlands.
She watched Admiral Leth Korett Valxaen enter from his ready room and scan the busy crew on the bridge. He nodded once to his Bolian first officer and noted the viewer.
“Open a channel.”
The Captain of the Endurance stood; a rugged middle-aged Earther attended by a Vulcan officer in an engineering jumpsuit.
“Admiral Valxaen. Long time no see.”
“How's the fishing, Geordon?”
“You should see what I hooked a month ago, Leth. A Rynalian soarfish four point two meters long. On a line rated for Begran spikeback half its size. Scanned him before he threw himself back; nearly took my cruiser with him. I'll send you the molecular pattern for the best steak you ever ate in your life.”
The Admiral turned to Trelliq and grinned. There went her dinner plans. Not that she minded – Trelliq treasured these little moments when he powered down his phaser banks to his first officer – and only his first officer – on the bridge. “That's the best news I've heard all day. Now Lrenior, there's a planet for fishing. I'll send you the deepwater bioscans. The one good thing if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the Altratian Corridor. So what have you got, Geordon? Any fish stories here?”
“If only, Admiral. Looks like we've found a live one this time. Endurance has been investigating reports of piracy in this region. Several indicated evidence of an unspecified number of attacking ships described as Nausicaan fighters. Destroyed an independent colony freighter four days ago, the Coeur Noir. This morning we found debris that may confirm the reports here on the periphery of the Badlands.”
“If it rains disruptor fire. Leth you know my first officer Commander Tijo.” Captain Mack turned to his Vulcan officer.
The imperturbed Vulcan engineer spoke. “Admiral. From traces of control conduit deuterium and hull duranium, stoichiometric analysis suggests that a battle took place here within the past seventy-six hours. Our shuttle Tresta Maru located and beamed aboard a piece of triaxially-stressed tritanium core casing, molecularly-bonded with quadraxial layers of a ceramic-polymer composite. The casing matches the atomic structure of the type used by Nausicaan raiders.”
If Admiral Valxaen reacted, Trelliq couldn't spot it. “Question is, where's the rest of the ship – or ships?” he asked. “And just who is out there raiding Nausicaan raiders?”
“Unknown, Admiral. The evidence is insufficient to narrow speculation.”
“Whoever it was,” Captain Mack said, “must have finished one hell of a fight.”
An alarm sounded at the Ops station.
“Sir I've located another fragment,” said the human science officer. “A hundred seventy-five thousand kilometers in from our present location.”
“Take us in,” Admiral Valxaen sat in the command chair, antennae perched on cautious alert. “Retrieve the fragment for analysis, Commander Pel.”
Trelliq noted the small, shadowy form on the viewer, obscured by the brilliance of the storms. She performed some calculations on her console, and said, “Helm, take us through the gravimetric event perimeter bearing two seven four mark three one nine, on a return pass forty thousand kilometers from the fragment. Shields up – and cover your aft.”
The helmsman input the data. “Maximum transporter range, aye Commander. Aft secure, Sir.”
“After which we can determine the extent of any threat before committing further into the region, sir?”
“That's one way to do it, Commander. Helm, one-eighth impulse.”
The Sovereign starship Resolute fired its impulse engines and crossed the anomalous gravimetric threshold into the Badlands. Trelliq's breath quieted as she watched the fragment drift in a slow spin on their approach; studied its battle-scorched edges and charred markings in the glaring light of the violent plasma strata. She ignored the dread in the pit of her stomach, gave the order, and watched the fragment demolecularize in a transporter energy matrix.
“Sir, we've got the fragment,” said the human science officer. “Preliminary scans indicate a duranium-tritanium composite.”
“Federation hull plating,” said Valxaen. “Engineering officer, cross-reference the fragment composite with any Federation ships reported missing or who have delayed reporting in.”
“Sir?” Commander Reginald Barclay turned from the engineering station. “That...that's the composite hull plating of several classes of ship. Analyzing now, sir.” He probed the data, cycling through registry schematics of starships, runabouts and shuttles. “Molecular pattern-analysis confirms it, sir.” He turned to the Admiral. “It's...an Intrepid.”
Admiral Valxaen's eyes narrowed. “Are you a pessimist, Mister Barclay?”
“What? No sir. Not really, sir. I try to consider myself more of a realist.”
“Give it time, Commander. The less you'll be wrong, and the rarer pleasure when you are.” He stood and approached the viewscreen, searching the colossal arcing plasma filaments of the turbulent space. “Commander Pel, exactly how many Maquis were serving aboard – the Voyager?”
Trelliq tapped her computer.
“Twenty-three, sir,” Barclay interrupted. “That – that is, surviving of the original crew, sir. Of a current crew complement of one hundred sixty seven. You...don't...think -”
“No, Mister Barclay, I'm not about to accuse desertion based on a Nausicaan reactor core fragment and a piece of Federation hull plating.” He took three PADDs from an attending lieutenant, and scanned them quickly; he rejected two and kept the third. “But neither are we going to ignore whatever is lurking in there – until we've neutralized that threat. Whatever flag it flies under.”
Trelliq looked up from her sensor readout and leaned in. “Sir, on the snowball's chance in hell Voyager has fallen under Maquis control, she may not be alone in the Badlands. She may just as well have the Perseus with her, and who knows how many other ships – Maquis or otherwise – amassing for a reason worth killing for. Whoever it is, there may be a force marshaling in there.”
Admiral Valxaen leaned closer. “I need answers, Commander. I want to know what to expect before committing a single ship to a possible trap. There's a predator in that wild and I want it in Resolute's targeting scanner. This is your turf. Any ideas on how to find a wolf?”
First Officer Pel stood, took a few steps to think, and shook her head to herself. “Yes, Admiral.” Her reservations weren't lost on the Admiral, who narrowed his eyes and awaited her response. “With your permission, Sir.”
Admiral Valxaen retracted his antennae and gestured with an open hand.
“Helm, set course for Bajor,” she ordered.
“Yes sir;” she turned from the Admiral to the plasma storms. “To find a wolf – free a wolf.”
Trelliq navigated as the pilot guided the shuttle Cervantes through the orbital checkpoint. All orbital traffic over Bajor faced visual inspection from a phalanx of ships representing an ad hoc coalition of authorities: Bajoran Militia, Federation Starfleet, and – Cardassian Central Command. Their assistance is most reassuring, she thought.
She watched the influx of traffic over Bajor, as well as diaspora of departing alien ships, which reminded her of rats leaving a burning building. DS9 had been stacked to the pylons with ships of numerous makes. Experience told her to be wary of others; and the civil cracks appearing even in Starfleet. Some captains of the fleet had privately expressed being at odds with orders and even each other; putting into port for “emergency repairs” when ordered to the defense of Cardassian interests; and some “escorting” Cardassian ships through shipping lanes “for their own protection”. According to the scuttlebutt at DS9, the Cardies continued to extend diplomatic ties with Bajor and the Federation; making their presence felt in the sector; but for the Maquis, only making their position as Arbiter even more suspect.
In response, the Maquis – she'd heard from the short, leering Ferengi bartender – were buying. He would not say what, but seemed to regret his inability to profit. “Not my usual trade,” he'd said. With a little feminine coaxing, the Ferengi revealed he had lately been serving the “wrong kind of customers – the sober”, he'd said to her companion Commander Tijo. After the Vulcan moved off, and she requested an unopened bottle of Andorian whiskey, and two boiling shots of something called Malon Core Recyclant to toast, the Ferengi revealed to her that his new customers were interested only in “short term, volatile markets”. Not that she believed rumors; and believed the Ferengi even less. Still, she trusted one thing about that bartender: his disappointment in a missed opportunity for profit. Trelliq would feel a lot better knowing exactly what was in the Badlands, turning ships into debris. If the bartender knew – he wasn't talking. For any price.
And that worried her even more.
“Here comes our two-thirds chance to crash and burn,” Trelliq told her pilot, one sleepless-looking Commander Reginald Barclay. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, reminding her of an actor about to enter the stage.
The comscreen activated. “State your registry and purpose, please,” said the Cardassian glinn on screen, barely looking up.
Trelliq breathed an alm to the Prophets, and retreated to the back to change into “costume” for a performance of her own.
Barclay opened the channel. “Federation shuttlecraft Cervantes, of the starship Resolute,” he replied. “Transporting a Bajoran naturalized citizen on behalf of the...Dhakur Committee for Refuge.”
“Um, which frequency are you....”
The glinn's hooded eyes raised. “Surprise me.”
Reg sent the data. “Transmitting.”
“Proceed with transport at these coordinates.” The glinn took full notice of the Commander. “Do not deviate from your course without checkpoint authorization. Consider this your only warning.” The screen cut.
“Wouldn't think of it,” Reg said to himself.
The Supplicant Scribe for the Dhakur Committee for Refuge beamed into a side street off a major plaza, in Jator, the council seat of Nëhrun district, and drew her hooded cloak low. Protesters gathered under the stone-carved arcades and ancient architecture of the plaza in the breaking cold of the southern hemisphere spring. The crowd nearly filled the plaza with cordoned factions agitating and shouting at each other, and at the makeshift podia which had cropped up in several areas.
She tried to identify the various factions, but found only a few she could name: the Maquis Colony Coalition, the Bajoran Citizen's Action Group, various religious groups, civil rights groups, anti-terrorism protests, and a very notable presence of very calm, very rigid, very armed, Bajoran Militia soldiers.
As Trelliq pushed her way through the throng she heard impassioned Bajorans and non-Bajorans alike proselytizing over their crowds. She processed what she could of their harangues. The Cardassian presence in orbital checkpoints exacerbated deep hatred from one popular agitator. This presence only fueled ill will following amendments to the Reaffirmation of Allegiance Charter; such as the formalizing of Cardassian reparations through the Bajoran process, which continued to incite the Maquis.
Trelliq learned that the Bajoran Citizen's Action Group and Maquis Colony Coalition had begun a contest of logjamming the Council of Ministers and protesting the Vedek Assembly. Their conflicts reflected inversely on various worlds in the sector; some public demonstrations turning violent. Public figures were being castigated and cast as agents on both sides. A security fleet of Federation ships patrolling the Sector did little to assuage any sense of distress. Let alone rumors of vessels washing up destroyed in the Badlands. Hardline institutional politicos could be seen on visual playbacks, drumming up Bajoran jingoism; like the familiar Minister Toleth Asuan, fast gaining favor as the next Kai, Trelliq observed, on a platform of stabilizing political power and prior experience challenging the Cardassian Occupational government; as well as a laissez-faire attitude towards Maquis Colony autonomy.
Another less-than-tranquil religious leader demonstrated the current Kai's extensive training in Prophecy and the ancient Tomes; Kai Lhiran Shayel had been installed as a symbol of Bajor's reconnection with its cultural identity, and simpler values in troubled times. A simplicity, the speaker noted, that was meant to symbolize peace, but now appeared inadequate to engage the increasing public discord. Look upon the fellow who stands beside you now, he urged; look upon the BCAG and the MCC. Look upon those of us present; and those of us absent forever more. Can ancient platitudes answer our demands? Trelliq hesitated; he seemed to look right at her. We will seek our own interpretations, he added, and challenge the strictures of the Vedek Assembly through the secular mechanisms available to every Bajoran's right. Like our right to public assembly – yes! And our right – to the vote of No Confidence!
Trelliq clasped her hood and pushed her way through the throng. From what she gathered, the disappearances of Voyager and Perseus had ratcheted the tension; but the destruction of the Federation embassy and kidnapping of the Federation representative – that unfortunate legal counselor Rima Toloruk – had ignited the civic groups and private citizenry into full-blown crisis mode. To many, Voyager, half-crewed by Maquis, had become a platform for terrorist infiltration into the Federation, for purposes only now becoming apparent. It seemed everyone she saw had an opinion on who was behind the terror – and just as so, it seemed that at least someone in every faction was ready to take credit for the acts.
She could just hear what Aoki would have to say about such theories: her childhood guardian, a psychologist, would call them conspiratorial self-fulfilling prophecies; the exemplification of hindsight and confirmation biases, projection, and fear. The Perseus, a powerful new ship with technology that could “attack the vitality of the Bajoran wormhole and the sector” as Counselor Toloruk had put it, was derided with enmity and anger. Whatever her loyalties, with Admiral Kathryn Janeway's direct involvement in their disappearance, not a few were agitating that Janeway herself was the mastermind behind a coming “Federation incursion”, which increasingly more people referred to as ”a Federation War.”
Other factions that did not think of Janeway as a double agent of Federation incursion touted her as a Starfleet dissident and Maquis hero. For still others, she remained a loyal officer (for good or ill), and a victim of radicalism. Here on Bajor, the doubts that Trelliq's fellow Starfleet officers only whispered were being blasted through megaphones and over interplanetary com frequencies. Janeway's service record had become the subject of many very public, very heated debates throughout the entire Federation. Her continued disappearance only fanned the flames of speculation. Trelliq hesitated to think what would happen if the hull fragment in the Badlands had been discovered by a civilian ship. Perhaps – such discovery was only a matter of time.
Trelliq drew her cloak against the searing heat of the crowd – of people questioning the Federation, and Bajor's position in it. She looked back at the turbulent plaza, cordoned off like lines in the sand.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
The streets of the old quarter were trodden bare and strewn with litter. Trelliq cautiously made her way through narrowing, unfamiliar streets lined with ancient domiciles, vacant shops and broken fountains. Windows and doors were sealed shut against the springtime sun, against timeworn economic impoverishment, and against the gathering political storm. She felt as conspicuous in her cloak as she would have in her Starfleet uniform. Even before establishing contact – with someone – in the form of a brief coded transcription, she knew she would meet them far from the orbital checkpoints, far from the gaze of authorities and the restive streets. Call it old habit.
Do you think he'll remember you? Reg had asked.
She wondered about that. “I was only a child when I last saw him,” she had replied, recollecting her dark memories of this embattled soldier of the Resistance.
“It's possible that he's still in contact with his network in the Resistance. I mean – if he's still...alive.” Reg had brought the Cervantes into asynchronous orbit over the sunlit southern hemisphere of Bajor. He'd turned to her and closed his eyes in halting self-reproach. “Sorry, Commander.”
“It's possible they know where to find him – unless time and tide has turned against him – even then he was a rogue among mercenaries and fugitive from justice. The authorities had even labeled him a sociopath.”
“But your parents – liked him?”
“Yes. I remember him well. I liked him too, as a child. At the time, I didn't know what he was. My parents...lived the life of refugees and Maquis sympathizers on Bajor.” Her eyes had scanned the continent for signs of her past; but the distance was too great. “You can imagine how it was then.”
“My imagination,” Reg had replied, “has its limits, Commander.”
Trelliq thought about all the people she had known, wondering where they were now – and whether the current crisis was breaking up what remained of their personal networks the way it undermined her own in Starfleet. She took her duty seriously, as a Judge Advocate General and provisional First Officer of the USS Resolute; a duty to protect the Sector – the citizens here, the Maquis, and, (unfortunately), even Cardassians.
Her thoughts turned to the crews of Voyager and the Perseus. Were they in trouble? Were they in control of their ships? Both Janeway and Chakotay had had extensive command experience; but Captain Tuvok – had not sat in command of his own ship; but had always deferred to more experienced command authority. Trelliq did not doubt his experience nor character; but she frankly hoped he was up to the task of command of a new ship and crew. That is, if he – or any of them – were even alive. In even the best of cases, the Perseus Trial was now indeed her captain's trial by fire.
How quickly the citizenries they were sworn to protect could dismiss their loyalty. As an officer, Trelliq preferred not to speculate. As JAG, she would act according to the protocols of an officer of the court. This meant giving fellow officers of the fleet the benefit of the doubt, until demonstrated otherwise – with conclusive evidence. “Innocent until proven guilty” was a right enjoyed by every citizen of the Federation – a right unfortunately taken more often than given. Trelliq had no reason to suspect that the disappearance of those ships and crews was anything more than an unfortunate coincidence – and that was the absolute limit of her official and personal opinion on the matter.
Which makes you a loyal officer, Reg had said.
She'd replied: Or a bureaucratic fool.
Trelliq watched the streets carefully as she slipped through them, wondering if among these decaying city ruins she could find the evidence she needed to help mend the Fleet, and the Federation, with help from – a relic of Bajor's wartorn past.
A child at the time, she hadn't understood much of what had been happening around her. Looking back now, as a Starfleet JAG officer, and as an adult, Trelliq sifted her memory for clues to help put it all into place. Actually, she now realized, it was sharing a shuttle transport with Reginald Barclay that had brought her past vividly into mind. He had a way of asking innocent, loaded questions that made her wonder if he hadn't some credential or experience providing ship's counseling. For an engineer, he struck her as remarkably sensitive to her own psychology – and not easily taken in by a show of confidence.
She revealed to him her parents had known Baiku when he fought for the Nëhrun Resistance Cell during the Occupation. His was one of the many recurring faces of family friends in a string of refugee camps, speaking in hushed, heated tones and occasional outbursts of rage over the campfires. One of those disappearing for months – to return injured, exhausted, and silent.
“I took the liberty of reading your service record, Commander;” Reg had said. “I wanted to learn about your background. I'm – sorry.”
“Don't be, Reg,” she'd assured him. “What's that old Earth expression? Water under the bridge.”
She watched him, but he hadn't believed her then, either. Some officer of the court.
She told him that her parents had protested during a peaceful demonstration meant to persuade the Federation to refuse the Demilitarization Treaty with Cardassia Prime. She and the other children had been hied away to the mountains at the time.
“A squadron of Xepolite raiders attacked the protest, tried to “persuade” us – only farmers – to abandon our dry fields to developers. Hardscrabble we had hewn out of castoff land, by our own hands. After I became a Starfleet officer, I learned that the Xepolites had been funded and equipped -”
“By Cardassia?” he guessed. “You went to Earth after that?”
“Yes.” She had gone quiet. “The day after my mother and father were vaporized by proxy disruptor fire.” Every time these words left her lips in her life, they said to her, that this injustice would be righted – without benefit of proxy.
She rested her fingers on the windscreen, watching Bajor turn beyond her grasp. “A Federation ship came to our aid. A Human clinical psychologist named Aoki Sevier caught my fall. Took me to Earth, opened her own home to me – and put me in school. A bed, a home – it was my dream come true. A dream that had lost all meaning without them.
“In time I came to understand more. Aoki helped me piece together my parents' lives. I learned my parents had been itinerant school teachers and peace activists; Maquis sympathizers – but not warriors. They had no influence beyond the sound of their voices and the strength of their resolve. Me? I tried to do more than speak out. In time, with Aoki's help, I got myself into Starfleet Academy. Devoted myself to Federation law. Working with the system.” Trelliq had found herself divulging more to Barclay than – almost anyone she'd ever known; or was she just gathering her nerve before beaming down to – this planet.
“Through it all I just hoped to somehow contribute to Bajor's cause. The freedom of those I had left behind. The freedom of every life taken by force. I would see it respected.” She'd turned to him and straightened. “Preferably from the command deck of a heavily armed tactical warship.”
“Your service record was wrong, Commander,” Reg had told her, studying her intently. “It wasn't academic excellence. It wasn't outstanding athletic ability. Or anything else it said about your rise to the rank of Commander before your twenty-eighth birthday.”
“No? What was it, then?”
He leaned in to her and captured her full attention. “Drive. Pure and simple.” He had shaken his head in appreciation. “You've got a galaxy-class warp reactor in there,” he said, pointing to her heart. “The last place in the universe I would want to stand is between justice and JAG Commander Trelliq Pel, Executive Officer of the Starship Resolute.”
“One ready to beam, Mister Barclay,” she'd replied.
She slid Barclay's output-enhanced tricorder to her belt, emerged from shadow and navigated down increasingly narrowing streets, remembering the last time she had walked proudly on Bajor – it was the day she had returned home at last – a free woman, bearing the uniform of a United Federation of Planets Starfleet Officer. The same uniform now concealed under a cloak. Trelliq gritted her teeth and made a promise to herself.
A promise someone was going to regret.
She hardened her fists and strengthened her resolve. She would meet this soldier of the Resistance, this outlaw defender of the DMZ worlds; planets reclaimed by Cardassia Prime and conscripted as weigh stations in an unceasing cold attrition against Bajor. Planets whose colonists were left defenseless under the turrets of totalitarian military domination. Planets that gave names to Baiku Ca'al and Grifahni Gage, and their mercenary forces who made the DMZ worlds a living hell for Cardassian intruders – but in so doing earned only Bajoran damnation. The Nëhrun Revolutionaries had become vilified radicals; impossible to reign in or otherwise control. They were the living incarnations of chaos, a threat to the entire Sector. A threat which, perhaps, had not yet ended.
Perhaps she too, wouldn't control him. But face him, she would.
Baiku was a mercenary who, as she had explained to Barclay, hadn't adhered to any edicts of the Bajoran Provisional Government at the end of the Occupation. Instead he rousted Maquis extremists and continued aggressive acts against the military resources of Cardassian Central Command and their proxy thugs. The patently criminal act of inciting rebel skirmishes in the DMZ continued to jeopardize the Bajor-Cardassia treaty; they had been named hostile terrorists by the Bajoran authorities, and eventually even alienated their own freedom-fighting Maquis – with incendiary, revolutionary assaults against the Bajoran Provisional Government itself.
The forced exiles of the Ilvian Proclamation hadn't satisfied these Nëhrun Revolutionaries for justice against the collaborators in their own government. The mercenaries had viewed the Cardassian Withdrawal as an opportunity to “fertilize the fields with ashes of betrayers”, as they had put it – the burning penitence of the Occupational collaborator, bureaucrat and holy hypocrite. To create an altogether new Bajoran system of rational self-governance. Starting with the abolishment of the Kai.
This was the man she now sought – this childhood hero she now understood was instead – this mercenary, this revolutionary, this radical, violent fugitive of justice. But if anyone can get through the Badlands with his hull intact, it is Baiku Ca'al, she'd told Reg.
“But what would he want in return?” Reg had asked her. “As a man who fought and killed for the survival of his people, who armed for revolution against his own government? Will he take up arms once more against an enemy?
“And what if – that enemy is – his own people?”
She slid down a narrow, littered lane, and walked to the end, to the remnants of a high stone wall. A hidden, armored door sat recessed in the wall; it was marked by a chiseled groove in the shape of an ideogram – an ancient indecipherable symbol, yet unmistakably Bajoran.
Trelliq inhaled deeply, steeled her nerve, and pushed the door open. A gust of cool, sickly-sweet air hit her face.
The door opened to a lush garden. On the path stood a man wearing orange robes.
“Welcome, Commander Pel,” he said in a placid voice. “Little Trella, is that you?”
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
“Oh Baiku, you look good.” She studied his face as he took her hands, this powerful soldier in monk's robes. A face etched with war and serenity, truth, and loss. And, as Trelliq looked upon him now as a woman, she felt her earlier trepidations dissolving away like a molecular transporter pattern. His was a spirit at peace with itself, that quelled her own discomfiture by its very presence. And anchored above this still, bottomless depth like a floating vessel, she sensed the worldwise charm that had beguiled her as a child. Perhaps hidden to any who did not share this particular trait. “In robes?”
“The last time you saw me, I wore the ruined clothes of a soldier of the Resistance. As the Prophets teach: The body is clothed in suffering; the soul, in faith and deed."
She withdrew her hood and let him study her face; the face of a Starfleet Commander, Judge Advocate General, Executive Officer of the Sovereign Starship Resolute, a free Bolian-Bajoran – and a child become woman.
She broke the moment's reflections: “My human colleagues in the JAG Corps have a saying: Worth makes the man. Baiku Ca'al, hero of Nëhrun, victor at Abreneth, Defender of Reuna colony; the man who sheltered my family when we had none. The man who inspired a frightened child and gave her hope. A man – without whom, I, like so many others, would not be alive, let alone free.”
“As your family gave me shelter when I had none, and you, Trella, hope, where I had none. And what about you? By your collar I can see you are a defender of the just – as your parents were. I must admit it suits you, Commander Trella. Would that your parents could see you now. I will look upon you on their behalf. You are their greatest hope realized.”
“You would have me accompany you on your starship to seek answers,” said Baiku as they walked among the exotic flora of the manicured hillside. “To help you cut out a poison before it takes root.”
She regarded his robe; “- Yes, Vedek.”
“This untamed wilderness; this haven for the untamed spirit.” He looked at her, and his eyes had her answer. “And if I told you the will of the Prophets would have me remain here? On Bajor?”
“I would ask how you know what the will of the Prophets really is.”
He smiled. “A sound question. However my answer is simpler than that.” He paused on the path and Trelliq turned. “They told me.”
“The Prophets. Told you. With words.”
“In communion with the Orb of Prophecy and Change.”
“The Orb – is here?”
“Yes.” He resumed walking. “In fact, the entire galaxy is here, in this garden. Every question has an answer, and every answer can be found here, in nature. All is connected to this moment, to she who can see.”
“How can I...I mean...I'm afraid botany hasn't been an interest of mine since I was a child.”
“By creating the moment, Commander.” He invited her down a stone staircase embedded in the slope. “Use your own experience. You're a Starfleet officer. Trained to observe and report. So? Observe, and report now.”
“I see...a garden manicured by time and almost invisible hands.”
“A promising beginning. What else?”
“I see...” She scanned the rolling grounds as they descended the stone steps. Vedek Baiku stayed her arm and stopped.
“Please watch your step, Commander Pel. The stone is loose.”
She looked down at the crack in the stair. A tall flower grew beside it. “I see a single flower with yellow-infused petals arranged around a ciliated crown. It has spotted petioles armored with barbed chomates.”
“The Carrion Orchid,” Baiku said. “What you may not know is that the flower always grows in the presence of Carrion Root, an acid-secreting climbing root that grows through stone. If an animal falls on the loosened stone, the root's cell wall action potentials activate and allow the root to entangle its victim, while thorns fill it with paralyzing acidic secretions. The Carrion Orchid has adapted to flourish on the root's secretions and stands as a warning sign to the presence of the root.”
“I don't understand, Baiku. Why would you allow the root to remain in the garden?”
“Carrion roots too, sometimes serve a greater purpose. Here, as a reminder to our novitiates and masters alike – to be ever mindful of the path. Even as the fullness of the entire garden emerges into view – we must know our own step.”
Trelliq had hoped today to speak of Bajor's future; but found that to do so, Baiku insisted on speaking of the past. She allowed him his recollections, knowing that such memories likely rarely found expression in such tranquil environs as this monastery.
“ – Nëhrun Revolutionaries like Grifahni and myself led our paramilitary units on a campaign through the DMZ – and beyond – and didn't stop until we'd come full circle to Bajor. Unfortunately, we couldn't muster enough support from those weary and starved farmers. With the allure of pacifistic leadership under Kai Opaka, peace won out; the governmental transitions, smooth so far as the public was concerned.
“But – one man's peace is another man's silence. I did not surrender so willingly. I was, however, eventually compelled to surrender.” He paused, and then smiled. “But not by the heavily-armed Bajoran Militia special forces unit assigned to neutralize me. One which, ironically, had once been commanded and trained by one Colonel Grifahni Gage. That had been before he deserted and became branded a criminal by the Occupational government. No – they never got me.”
Trelliq soaked up the history lesson she never learned at the academy. “How did you lose? What happened?”
“I didn't lose. I won.” Baiku reflected for a moment, she thought, full of untold stories. “I had fought from Lakat to the doorstep of the Temple of the Prophets, and finally – Ashalla. I stood face to face with my quest – the Kai of Bajor, Opaka Sulan.
“There she was – my enemy, all of Bajor's enemy, I was convinced. Through the worst inhumanities capable of intelligent species, those three words drove me like a hammer: Kai Opaka Sulan. A confrontation for which I had fought – and killed – since my first rebellious act. My chance to lead Bajor to a greater future; one finally freed from its bondage of history, and antiquated, brutalized culture.
“And in one moment Opaka defeated my raging soul from the inside out. She was the superior warrior, and I became her student and disciple.”
“How did she defeat you so quickly?” Trelliq asked.
“She called for a harvesting sickle, and put it in my hand. She said, 'If Bajor truly requires the death of its past, then I, as Kai, and as a Bajoran, will receive that transformation on behalf of all of Bajor. Make the cut clean and swift.' And then she removed her vestment, lowered herself to the ground, and presented her neck to me without hesitation.”
Vedek Baiku helped Trelliq up a knoll to the path. “She had overcome the discord that had still bound my soul. She set me free. She set all of Bajor free.”
Baiku spoke of her parents; Trelliq learned some things about them she had never known. Her mother's lost pregnancy. Her father's favorite dish – cold Hasperat for breakfast. He had given her a name to a file containing personal data her mother had kept, with other refugees, secured in Bajor's central computer. Trelliq could not help herself but hope – for some small insight she could treasure about her lost parents. Losing herself in the conversation, Trelliq could have talked with Baiku for hours; but time would not permit. Commander Pel, unfortunately, had a mission to complete. She interrupted him. “Baiku....”
He knew what she wanted to say. In some ways, she found, the Vedek-Warrior knew her better than she knew herself. “Did you come through the monastery gate seeking chesspieces for war?” he asked.
She looked at the gate, and sighed in capitulation. “I came here for a way to preserve the peace and security of the sector. I don't know, maybe there was something else that brought me here. For another purpose. I don't know.”
Vedek Baiku smiled. “I don't know either. Not knowing may be entirely the point, Commander.”
“Baiku, I came here to ask for your help.”
“And help you shall have, though it take a lifetime.” He took a breath and looked skyward. “The Path of Prophecy is turning, Commander – and that which is prophesied will turn the galaxy.”
Trelliq wasn't sure what to believe. But at that moment, watching him, she did believe Baiku was not telling all he knew. The Path of Prophecy – she thought better than to question him, sensing he would not say more than he already had.
Baiku reached into a thicket of grass and pulled out a small weed, and studied it in his rough hand. “The usurper attacks to survive, blind to its oneness with its victim. The weak suffer but the powerful enslave themselves to isolation and fear. Pirates attack freighters – not warships. They are driven by the insatiable delusion that their next meal will end their hunger forever. Who is the pirate's enemy? Who is capable of amassing the power required to defeat the lean and intelligent predatory force? Who is it, for whom clear shipping lanes are a motive? Not official powers, for there is little to gain in covering up a victory against common criminals. Not other pirates. Another pirate force would simply use the first force as cover, or interference to drive their prey elsewhere for an attack. Our predator – has other motives than law or greed. A hidden agenda intending first to confuse, and second, to destroy.
“As you may have already seen in the city: confusion fosters cynicism, and cynicism divides and conquers.”
He let the wind carry the blade away. “And then there is the agent of catalysis.”
“The – what?”
“You. Commander Trelliq Pel. As any good soldier, you are concerned with knowing the knowable, such as the origination of hull fragments. Now you must concern yourself with the unknowable.”
He invited her to kneel with him. The two began to tend a bank of emerging shoots. “Now, First Officer Pel, if Voyager – under either Federation or Maquis control – were amassing a force in the Badlands – would her Captain risk revealing their position – on Nausicaan pirates? Would her Captain be taking her anywhere near sensor range from the edge of the region? Would her Captain attack a fleet of pirates, when they actually provide an excellent cover for her own ship movements? And if she attacked the pirates to protect herself from exposure – would she leave any evidence to be found?
"If the predator is from an independent colony world – Maquis, or – mercenary – the same questions apply. Yet hidden this predator remains. Hidden – biding its time – and waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. A moment well-planned, down to its smallest detail.
“Now, First Officer Pel, who is strengthened by the illusion of either Federation or Maquis traps in the Badlands? Who gains from questions raised by the evidence of the hull fragments? Who benefits from the doubts that spread like fire with the rumors of that evidence? Perhaps a power that is interested in reinforcing a tenuous position? A power seeking to publicly justify its own movements? A public performance intended also to strengthen their value to established sector powers?
“You can seek answers out there, with haste and sensor arrays. Those same answers are present here and now, in this garden – to she who can see.”
Vedek Baiku turned to the top of the hill, where two men emerged from the monastery.
Trelliq strained to make them out.
“That dressing. That isn't -”
“Kai Lhiran Shayel.”
Baiku returned to his tending. “Yes, it is he. Having one of his many informal meetings, no doubt with a visiting dignitary or diplomat. He sometimes holds council with lesser public scrutiny in various monasteries depending on the time of season. I'm afraid I don't recognize the other gentleman. I believe he is a negotiator, probably strengthening diplomatic ties.”
“One man's peace – is another man's silence,” she repeated. “If the Cardassian's a diplomat,” Trelliq drew up her hood, “then I'm a Q.”
They watched the two men descend the stairs. Gul Trask stumbled on the loose stone, but caught himself on Kai Lhiran's arm.
“Believe only the unknowable, Commander,” Baiku said. “In the Badlands, your sensors will only tell you lies.”
“Baiku, have you ever thought about it?” she asked him, watching the emergency-installed leader of free Bajor confer with the Cardassian delegate in the tranquil monastic garden, far from his peoples' unrest.
“The Kai,” he observed, “is Bajor's Carrion Orchid.” Baiku turned from the Kai to lean in. “I admit, not once in my life had I even considered it.” He dropped his trowel and stood. “But this night, I contemplate which is the more troubling: to lead unaware of the path; or bearing false intention.”
Trelliq stood, leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered, “Create the moment, Vedek Baiku. Bajor needs the great leader – in you.” Their faces lingered together for a moment. “Prophets be with you, Ca'al.” Then she unclasped his hands and tapped her communicator. “Cervantes -”
“Please wait, Commander.” He held out his hand. “There is one thing more.”
She followed with him, watched him watching her; a soul clothed in faith and deed.
He led her to a small candlelit room in the back of the temple. He knelt, and she with him. When she looked at him in question, he only nodded softly, and opened the lid to a box that sat before them.
The Orb of Prophecy and Change shimmered into her soul....
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
33 Seven in Red
“She is Borg.”
The Enqari scientist dismissed her colleague with an intense, but suppressed frustration. “She has no soul. She has no metaphorical ethic, no independent thought. We must appeal to her function.”
“That may be a straightforward matter,” replied her male counterpart, staring out the briefing room window of the Perseus Secondary hull, at the smear of smoldering light and spatial devastation that remained of the Enqar homeworld system. He turned. “However we may not fully understand the undisciplined organizational dynamic of her present authority base enough to persuade effective action,” he said, sitting. “We must prepare for uncontrollable contingencies as these Outliers will no doubt attempt their own evasions.”
“Well, we will just have to attempt rational communication, Doctor, won't we,” the Executrix said from her position at the head of the conference table. “Anything is better than creeping along the galaxy on thrusters, for the love of Entropy! With a Dreadnought approaching a mere day away.”
“Now Executrix, no need for language. The commanding Attendant of this vessel claims to be following direct orders to leave the sector. If you ask me she is making an excuse to perform some further illicit action in this sector without violating her orders. Our course is so helical it is nearly circular.”
“They obviously have some sort of pseudo-organizational hierarchy in place. It is our task to ascertain their primitive reasoning processes in order to enlighten them how to proceed.”
She turned to the foot of the table, to eye Seven of Nine, who was flanked by Lieutenant Vorik on her left, and Doctor Salvatore on her right.
“We are insulting them,” said a younger man.
“You shall speak when you have something useful to contribute, Protégé,” the Executrix said. “And do remember the privilege of Personhood is not universally extended. It may be granted only by the Corporatarch to those who earn it.”
Doctor Salvatore slapped the table, and Seven admonished him. “Doctor, emotional indulgences are counterproductive.”
“Yes, Commander. I apologize for wasting...everybody's...time. Now can we get to the part of deciding where to drop our guests? In all due haste. Something tells me we don't want to be around when heads begin to roll.”
The Enqari delegation consisted of a triumvirate of scientists clad in laboratory gowns; an older male, Corporatarch Cyberneticist Doctor Rogitel Drurek; a young male, “Protégé Drurek” Tem Ros; and the delegation senior scientist, Executrix Doctor San Met, whose sleeves enclosed her hands entirely. They were each accompanied by two technician Adjutants whose mouths were obscured by the stiff ceremonial collars of their lab tunics. Three more Enqari Attendants were present, each employed to perform the physical duties of a scientist – they held out chairs, filled glasses and even lifted cups for drinking. These Attendants were clad in drab gray smocks and had a collarpiece that obstructed fully one half of the face and head.
“It is your Voyager Commanding Attendant who damned the Enqari,” the Executrix said. “Our lunar delegation of scientists and technicians have done little more than conduct colonization research – in the interest of planetary terraformation and the systematic industrial engagement of an economic strata of our own society.”
“Engagement?” countered Salvatore. “Don't you mean enslavement?”
“Enslavement applies to Persons, Adjutant....”
“Doctor Corbin Tibalt Salvatore. Your Excellency.”
“Nor does the Enqar Alliance discriminate among its conscripts”, she replied. “It comprises no less than four major races each with its own uniform scatter of minority sects, across the entire breadth of socioeconomic strata of the Corporatarch. Very unlike the obviously unequal species ratios pressed into service among, ahem, the crew of this vessel. Of which your human species is obviously the exploited Attendant minority of your Federated Planets. The Enqar Alliance affords every opportunity equally across cultures and Citizen Units to the development of their economic reclassification. Policy is enacted upon Citizen Units according to their status level on the given day of implementation. Every Enqari endorses and embraces this policy, as it is the self-evident ideal culmination of all social development systems. Outlier Units such as the present company could never hope to comprehend it.”
She looked over the pad her assistant held for her and read. “It is nothing to be ashamed of to miscomprehend its complexities in comparison with whatever social system you Federated Outlier Units may use. Enqar society is based on enlightened rational objectification of all Social Units,” she said.
“Social units? You mean, people?” asked Salvatore.
She looked at her assistant for confirmation, and then the Doctor. “I suppose that's what you would call them, yes. On Enqar, Personhood is more accurately granted by the Algorithm of Corporatarchy. It is a perfected, unassailable system that fairly elevates many Citizen Units to the status of Personhood – and just as fairly penalizes any Discordants back to Unit Status. All entirely dependent upon our inherent or applied value to society, of course –”
“Your society,” Vorik said, “no longer valuates anything.”
“Lieutenant Vorik,” Seven interrupted. She was discomfited by the diplomatic problem she had taken on her cruiser, and eager to resume tweaking the PRAM parameters to locate either other hull of the Perseus. The Tertiary cruiser hadn't arrived at the rendezvous and was not detectable within long range scans. So far, not even the PRAM sensor had turned up possible signatures within a long range radius of any designated rendezvous points. This was for one of two reasons. Either the hulls were not at those locations; or they were – and emitting zero energy output.
While Vorik had agreed with her assessment, the rest of the crew, it seemed, had not. Seven tried to understand where the logical breakdown was occurring and so far found herself – at a statistical loss. Compelled to obey orders she did not agree with – to return to Federation space – challenged her certitude in ways she dared not reveal to anyone. Her crew's tacit complicity with her circuitous route at sublight speed – her only assurance she had not yet entirely alienated herself nor the credibility of her emergency command. Her human deficiencies, however, were fast becoming clear.
Meanwhile, an Enqarian Dreadnought had appeared on an intercept course on long range scans, less than a day's travel away at current speeds. And then there was – this delegation of Enqari.
“What was your analysis able to determine?” Seven asked.
Vorik stood and activated the wall monitor to reveal a topographical outlay of the moon's colonization infrastructure. “Our analysis determined that assimilation originated in this populous nodal zone here, Commander. Sensors indicate these are the oldest structures on this moon, the gas giant's only atmospheric satellite. This area appears to have been the central point of its social organization. The rate of assimilation in this case took over much faster than conventional Borg dispersion rates. We surmise this may be due to people being unaware of the process of internalized assimilation, and so less likely to mount resistance.”
“Agshoth City Colony,” Executrix Doctor San Met said. “The node is the colony's Corporate Congress, and the optimal epicentral deployment point of our nanoprobe agent.”
Seven looked at her for a beat. “You – deliberately released the nanoprobe agent into the society.”
“Yes, of course.”
“That's quite a field test,” complimented Doctor Salvatore.
“It was far more than a test, Corbin Tibalt Salvatore,” she read from her Adjutant's pad. Seven surmised the Enqari scientist was feigning difficulty with the name simply to avoid calling him by a title which she shared. Doctor San Met continued: “We were in the process of developing a new manufacturing base and workforce to industrialize the terraformation of the planet proper.”
“You did this – to your own people,” Salvatore stared incredulously, a new strain for the rough lines of his face. “To turn them into cyborganic laborers.”
“But of course,” the elder male, Rogitel Drurek said. “But they were not 'people'. It was an Attendant Unit colonization force, similar to these Units here. The assimilation was intended to be confined to the moon.”
“Yet it obviously managed to escape the moon,” Vorik said. “Is there any indication of how this eventuated?”
Seven wasn't sure if she read the emotions right, but she watched as Doctor San Met draped her eyelids, seemingly loathe to respond, and mustering an effort of intercultural civility. “Commander Nine, kindly inform your Attendant that that fact is no longer relevant.”
“My designation is Lieutenant Commander,” said Vorik. “And it is your deniability, Executrix, which has little bearing on the consequences to your homeworld or the extinction of your race.”
“She doesn't know,” the young scientist interrupted. “None of us know.”
Doctor San Met nodded to her Attendant, who pushed a button on a pad.
The young scientist winced in mute pain and tore at his collar. He covered his eyes and mouth with the backs of his hands, and the Attendant relented. He sat upright once more, in perfect attentive silence. Seven watched droplets of sweat form on his temple while blood flushed his face and neck.
She looked at Salvatore, who took note of his tricorder, and turned it for her benefit.
The collar deployed a bioelectric signal that activated the pain sensors in his mouth and throat. The suit's biofeedback electronics meshed across his entire body – as did the clothing of each in the delegation – including the Executrix. Seven wondered what might have happened to Tem Ros if he had moved to silence his Executrix in the same manner. As a Borg, she found the technology – and behavioral modification technique – primitive. As a human, she found her feelings concerning and ill-at-ease, sensations that had started to interfere with her digestive process. She found herself deferring to an overriding Borg regard for the Enqari.
Doctor Salvatore administered a hypo to Tem Ros, who became visibly relieved. Salvatore put the hypo away and drew a phaser from his medkit. “If anyone uses that pain device again while aboard this ship, I will shoot you. Are we clear? Thank you.”
“You are a sworn healer,” the Executrix said.
“A sworn healer,” Doctor Drurek added, “with an energy weapon in his kit, Executrix.”
“As you were, Doctor.” Seven watched Salvatore sit. In light of her being compelled to represent the Federation ship, she mustered a neutral tone with every erg of Borg resolve available to her. “Lieutenant Vorik, what have the system scans indicated?”
'There are no appropriate planets or facilities within range,” added Vorik, his Vulcan impassivity giving no indication of any emotional reaction to the meeting. “We will either have to rendezvous with the Dreadnought, or retreat, as the delegation has suggested.”
“No ship in the galaxy can outrun a Dreadnought,” said Doctor Drurek. “It travels at warp fifteen.”
“Approximately warp seven point four on our scale, Commander,” said Vorik.
“That's quite impressive,” said Salvatore. He turned to Seven. “Maybe we should surrender.”
“That is a typical response upon encountering the Enqarian Dreadnought,” finished Doctor Drurek, reading from an Attendant's pad. “However in this case I beg to suggest the alternative. An attempt at...evasion.” He looked up and Seven noted him agreeing with what he had just said.
“Surrender is of course expected,” informed the Executrix. “However it has fallen incumbent upon me, in light of young Protégé Drurek's catastrophic incompetence with the nanoprobe containment, as well as the unprovoked Federate destruction of Enqar, to request refuge aboard this ship until the Corporatarch is able to confirm exoneration of this delegation from any punitive status. Once confirmed, we shall of course return to the Corporatarchy.”
“Asylum,” Drurek read from a pad. “They call it asylum.”
Seven noted his unease with the prospect of returning to the Dreadnought and facing possible punishment for the destruction of the Enqar home system. As concerned as he appeared, the man did not, however, care enough, she noted, to voice a differing opinion with that of the Executrix. She wondered what happened to those who did. If anyone actually did. Certainly none from this delegation offered additional insights.
“You wish to remain aboard this ship to avoid culpability in your gross malfeasance and crime against your own homeworld,” Seven clarified. “You would rather request political asylum from those you accuse of completing the criminal process you initiated. Your hypocrisy has failed to persuade our – questionable reasoning.” Seven stood and tapped her communicator. “Helm, set course for the Dreadnought. Warp nine.”
The Executrix read a pad and faced Doctor Drurek. “We have fifteen hours.”
Seven turned. “You have two minutes.”
“That is impossible.”
“Incorrect. Gather your people. Lieutenant Vorik will escort you to the transporter room now.”
Vorik stood to face the Executrix. “The honor is mine,” he said to her.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Seven in Red:
On the main viewer of the Perseus Secondary's battle bridge, the courtly Adjutant eyed Seven with shock-eyed urgency. Behind him, an older man sat in the central position of the glassy Dreadnought bridge; he did not deign to note his own viewer.
“By what unethical and unworldly means of propulsion was that?”
“Enqarian Dreadnought. I am Commander Seven of Nine of the U.S.S. Perseus, of the –”
“We know who you are. Yesterday we had never heard of your Federation – but today, we shall revile that name for all time.”
“The devastation to your world was initiated not by us but by an alien interloper who has commandeered –”
“Do not attempt to compound your crime against the galaxy with prevarication and evasion,” the Adjutant said.
“Sir. Are you in command of that vessel?”
“You will direct your communication to me, Outlier. Better still, I shall terminate it altogether.”
“Then I shall drop Executrix Doctor San Met and her delegation elsewhere. Good day.”
“San Met? Is on that ship?” The elder man jumped up from his seat and shoved the Adjutant aside.
“Yes, Captain –”
“Pallaj Mul Brugnai Rejental. We demand that you release your prisoner at once!”
“Pallaj Rejental. We are not her captors. We rescued the delegation and have approached your ship in order to deliver them back to their people.”
“You will release them into our custody at once. They are to stand trial and be judged guilty. The delegation and their Adjutants and Attendants will be put to death immediately following trial.”
“You have already passed judgment – before a trial? And you would convict and execute their – slaves as well?”
“Attendants. Of course. Enqarian legal code demands it. It is what the Algorithm of Corporatarchy is programmed for. In truth I'm relieved to have summoned your ship. We were at something of a loss to determine who would be standing for the punishment of the capital crime. The nature of the crime made the process most difficult to enter into the Algorithm.”
Seven stepped closer to the viewer while the Pallaj lasciviously eyed the full cut of her ridged gunmetal skinsuit. “If we had not facilitated this meeting, you would have purposely tried and convicted an innocent party in order to fulfill the demand of your legal code. To appease the law of a society that no longer exists.”
“You have much to learn about rule of law, Outlier. But as Pallaj, it falls to me to ensure justice – every crime requires finding guilt and committing sentence under Enqarian code. Algorithmic Authority is absolute and punishes all its criminals. The destruction of the Enqar homeworld system absolutely demands capital punishment. You will send the delegation to us immediately. You will then lead us to the immediate vicinity of the U.S.S. Voyager and assist in its surrender to the Enqar Corporatarchy. That ship and crew may experience the full brunt of Enqarian justice.” Pallaj Rejental leaned into the viewer. “And then, you will divulge the location of this...Federation. That we may enter it into the Algorithm and officially declare Enqar to be in a state of war against this United Federation of Planets.”
Seven circled the battle bridge and studied the entreating faces of her crew while she considered their situation.
She was not trained for this.
“Pallaj Rejental.” She faced him. “I am not yet prepared to turn the delegation over to you. They have made an official request for our protection. Your jurisprudence, like your culture, exists – not different from, but in direct opposition to Federation principles. I must have time to ascertain correct action. I request that you grant me the time I need in order to assimilate the situation and minimize any potential undiplomatic responses –”
“Time?! You are Borg! What do you care about the fate of living Persons! Do not apply inferior reasoning to an oversized problem.”
“Borg, perhaps.” She had no reply to waste on his rationale. “But of the two of us, I am not the galaxy's judge, jury nor executioner.”
“Speaking in the first person is an abomination coming from you. Out-lier!”
Seven turned away and motioned to mute the com.
She orders the helm to prepare for departure.
The billions...and billions...of Borg. Those who survived assimilation, released from accountability. Their Voice obliterating choices, drowning out memory, extinguishing name....
Why should the Enqari matter to her now?
Why – were they different from any other of the galaxy's countless lost?
It was not the Executrix nor this Pallaj, for whom Seven hesitated. But the remainder of the delegation – and the vast majority of Attendants and Adjutants – those subjugated millions, stripped of humanity and hope – whose deaths would pass unvoiced into an abyss of galactic time. But if she could save...just one.... She stopped. She thought of Janeway, and realized that this, this – was the Admiral's handiwork. Seven noticed her reflection in the dark interface of a wall terminal; her cybernetic eyepiece, her facial implant – she was Borg. Resistance is....
She tapped her communicator.
“Mister Vorik. Belay the transfer. Bring the Enqari to the lounge. Provide them nourishment.”
Commander, are you certain that is not ill-advised –
“Perhaps not. Would it help if I made it a direct order, Mister Vorik?”
That will not be necessary, Commander.
Seven returned to the viewer and signaled for communication to be restored.
“Pallaj Rejental, I require council,” she told him. “Or I shall be compelled to return to Federation space for orders. I will comply with the determinations – of my superiors at Starfleet Command. If they reject the delegation's plea for asylum, then you may collect your prisoners at your convenience. On Earth. On the far side of the Alpha Quadrant. Just past the Romulan and Klingon Empires. It is difficult to miss. Perseus Secondary out –”
“There is no need to fabricate your origins with such fantastic claims. Our Algorithm will find your space, no doubt in outlier territory of this quadrant. Since you've made clear your intentions to evade legal recourse I have little choice but to either grant you the time you request, or engage your...'ship'.” He peered closer. “But know that the only reason I have not yet authorized your destruction is in the hopes of accommodating the Algorithm's demand for a trial; as well as to enlighten the discordant among this vessel, some of whom have had their faith shaken in Algorithmic Authority – a cultural contamination I hold you directly responsible for. Fortunately for you this has so far proven only a minor inconvenience to our well-trained Disciplinary Squad, and of course, the people who have lost their Attendants. Suicided in shame, most of them – after retracting their dissensions of course.”
He leaned in and shook his head. “They always do. Very well. You have one hour, Outlier.”
The screen cut, and Seven considered the Enqarian Dreadnought hanging there – a living anachronism, this relic of a dead civilization, armed from deflectors to exhaust ports.
“I am not certain how to proceed as a Starfleet officer,” Seven told the Enqari delegation, from her position at the head of the briefing room table. “In truth I was only commissioned to fulfill a temporary posting. Now I am left without the guidance of those specially trained to apply Federation policies in complex interplanetary diplomacies such as this one.
“I find that, without the conventional training or experience, I must rely on my judgment and the counsel of my staff. If it is rationalism you value, you would do no better in this galaxy than to study Mister Vorik's Vulcan culture. Be warned, however – for you would learn exactly to what degree true rationalism would challenge your rigid, faulty assumptions. As Borg assimilation, no doubt, had already shown most of your population just prior to their deaths. An experience you have been fortunately spared.
“When I was first cut off from the Borg, I knew fear. The captain of the vessel which saved me – Voyager – told me something then I will always remember. The choices we face are limited; yet they permit great potentials. If we rise to them.” Seven faced a diminutive Attendant and spoke directly to her, and then others. “For the first time I can remember in a long time, I am afraid. Afraid that my judgment may be erroneous, but I'm even more afraid if it is the correct one. Yet I have learned that fear – is the proper response when facing the destruction of life. Fear doesn't know the difference between death – or rebirth. It is my own fear which indicates to me what I must do about you.”
She turned to the Executrix. “It is his request I consider,” she said, indicating the young Tem Ros. “And hers,” indicating an Attendant. “And his, and hers. I leave your fate in their word – and their ability to voice it.”
The room hung in silence.
And then, an Attendant turned to her. “I don't want to die,” she said.
Seven stood. “Pending Starfleet Command orders to the contrary, your request for asylum is – granted.”
The entire delegation stood in gratitude.
Seven of Nine moved to leave. “I understand that there are many jobs for Borg specialists in the Federation.” She turned at the door. “In numerous reconstruction zones.”
Vorik entered the bridge. “Commander, the delegation has returned to quarters.” He noted the Dreadnought looming on the viewer. “May I ask what you intend to do once the Enqari commander learns of your decision to grant asylum?”
Seven looked around the bridge. No one spoke.
“Strategic withdrawal,” Vorik suggested.
Ensign Hardesty cut in. “Leave them alone in space. Adrift. A ship without a port. A people without a home.” He turned to Seven. “Sound familiar?”
“Point taken, Ensign.” Seven knew no more needed to be said – to this crew.
“The Federation is not responsible for –”
“We are directly responsible, Mister Vorik.” Seven returned to her seat panel, but what she was looking for in the databanks, she was uncertain. “I am unwilling to abandon them so easily. Quantum drive will not outrun the truth of what we have done – and what we have failed to do.”
She watched the Dreadnought.
“Incoming transmission,” said the com officer.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Seven in Red:
“Incoming torpedo!” shouted the helmsman Ensign Hardesty.
“Shields!” Seven ordered.
The blast knocked the crew to the deck.
Commander that blast overloaded several tricore phase compensators, communicated Ensign Salazar. We're replacing them now. I can give you warp in ten minutes!
“Tactical, arm phaser banks,” said Vorik.
“Belay that, Commander,” Seven ordered. “Auxiliary power to shields. Evasive maneuvers!”
The Perseus Secondary cruiser pulled away from the Dreadnought.
The ship quaked and station circuits overloaded in a shower of sparks and plasma vapor.
“We must defend ourselves, Commander.”
“Stand down, Mister Vorik.”
Vorik sat beside her and said lowly, “The enemy, Commander, might consider such a response – irrational. I held my tongue when you set a convoluted course for the Alpha Quadrant at quarter impulse. But now I must question that same rationale when it threatens the safety of this ship. What exactly do you intend to accomplish, Commander?”
“I intend to protect lives, Lieutenant Commander.” She stood and walked to the viewer. “I intend to find a way for both ships to survive.” She turned to him. “At any cost.”
“Are you saying that Voyager should not have been involved with the Enqar incident Commander? That the Enqari should have been allowed to live as Borg?” Vorik queried. “Is that why we now risk our own ship – in some kind of atonement?”
She leveled her gaze at him. “Would you rather live as a Borg, or be dead, Vorik?”
“I would rather –”
“Irrelevant!” Seven interrupted. “Speculation – is irrelevant.” As were her assimilation tubules, and their final argument, in her hand implant.
Vorik glared at her. Then she saw other faces turn to her, questioning her with muted urgency. Seven felt her work of the past several months unraveling in her hands; and suddenly all her emotional docking clamps retracted at once and left her floating alone in space like – the relic that she was. A humanoid relic of a dead civilization, a civilization of the dead. Her meticulous, awkward attempts at relationship-building, identifying with her crewmates. Connecting with them. Becoming something more – human – if it were even possible. How easily they now saw her for who she was, who she could not escape, no matter how much it had come to mean to her. Seven of Nine, the last mechanistic legacy of the Borg. The cold command. A passage from a book Vorik had given her came to mind:
“The dust shall scatter, the rock endure.”
“And logic burn the flame,” he finished. “The Fire Plains Analects of Surak.”
“The Federation could endure without us, Mister Vorik. Without that ship, the Enqari cannot.”
Vorik persisted: “You may be unwilling to destroy what's left of Enqar, Commander; the Enqari, however, appear quite willing to take that risk. They have chosen their role.”
Seven stepped to the viewer, watching the slow, inexorable turn of the Dreadnought. “And our role, Mister Vorik? The role of the Federation, in the destruction of the Enqar homeworld?”
“An unfortunate circumstance, Commander. But not one of our doing.”
I concur, she thought. They chose to experiment with Borg technology and it easily thwarted their primitive controls. They were spared the assimilation they deserved. Their death was a mercy upon the galaxy. Seven paused. Not all of the Enqari – were dead. And this crew – deserved a better fate than Janeway's ethics would allow.
Yet she, herself – Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct – Commander – had a chance here and now, in her hands – to align the Federation with Borg ideology, and permit them to turn their backs on their own destructive power while whole civilizations were ripped from existence – or to turn this relic Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One – into a living, breathing human being. Here, and now. Damn Janeway for revealing the one element in the universe not detectable to a Borg drone optical sensor: the truth.
Seven of Nine thought; and made her choice.
“Maximum power – to shields. Divert power from weapons and other systems.”
“Your logic may be correct, Mister Vorik. However its application here – is in error. What Admiral Janeway and Starfleet protocol make clear, what the Federation Charter mandates, and what our obligations as Starfleet officers, Federation representatives, and indeed free, intelligent species – and what I made clear prior to our arrival to the Enqar system – is that this ship – became expendable the moment we lost control of our quantum slipstream technology.”
Seven studied the watchful gazes of her bridge crew and persisted. “We were to sacrifice our ships and ourselves before putting another planet in jeopardy from the slipstream weapon. It was our own direct involvement in creating the quantum slipstream technology that destroyed the Enqari. We have failed in our duty. That obligation has not been relieved simply because we have survived their destruction.”
Seven regarded the discordant faces around the battle bridge: entreating her, demanding her, and – strengthening with her. She continued: “It should have been us destroyed before the Enqar homeworld. Regardless of how we may feel about their society. Our survival in this matter is no longer assured nor mandated by Starfleet Command. Nor logic...or even...good conscience – a value we may or may not personally share, but an obligation we have sworn to preserve on behalf of Starfleet, for our vaunted “duty”, and for the privilege of serving on a Federation starship.”
“You would...have the Borg unleashed once more upon the galaxy if you could,” Vorik said.
“We have defeated the Borg before, Commander,” she replied. “The summary execution of the entire planet was a choice made by the alien. Not necessarily the only correct one. Others in the galaxy may believe Voyager was acting on behalf of the Federation. The alien was not; but now we must. Our role in this matter is not so easily dismissed as the Enqari themselves were.”
She addressed them individually. “I have been where you are now. At a galactic crossroads of retaining what makes you unique; or of becoming...Borg.”
She let that sink in.
“I do not have the luxury of trivializing the choice we make here today. What we do now will determine the entire course of Federation expansion in the galaxy.
“If I am to understand Starfleet values – self-preservation – as Admiral Janeway has demonstrated on numerous occasions – is not assured with starship duty. Our negligence not only facilitated the accelerated destruction of the Enqari – it now threatens our own way of life. How we proceed may determine whether the rest of the galaxy holds the Federation – as a peaceful society, or a natural force of destruction. It determines that reality for each individual aboard this ship and who calls herself or himself a citizen of the Federation.”
She circled the bridge to engage her crew one by one. “These Enqari – must survive. It is their moral obligation, and it is up to us to see they can. I am not prepared to assimilate our crew – with Borg impunity unleashed on the galaxy. I will not be the one to assimilate the Federation into the galaxy's newest Borg Collective. That can span the quadrants destroying civilizations while holding itself above account. I have come too far – we have all come too far – to turn back the timeline. Anyone who disagrees is free to surrender their station; take all available shuttles and escape pods – and abandon ship. I shall remain. I intend to engage the remaining Enqari – to establish relations – to help them if I can, or even protect them from themselves if necessary – to preserve what makes them unique. At any cost. I owe as much to each of you. It is my hope that you can see that is exactly what I am doing.”
She left them to their thoughts and returned to the center of the bridge.
“I don't know about anyone else Commander,” Ensign Hardesty said, “but I'd like to do what we came out here to do.” He turned to his helm.
The entire bridge crew – went back to work without a single word of argument.
Vorik turned to the viewscreen, and Seven followed his gaze. “To quote one of your human proverbs, Commander,” he said, studying the approaching Dreadnought, “Sow the wind –”
“Reap the whirlwind,” she finished.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Seven in Red:
“The Dreadnought is charging weapons,” said the Ensign at tactical.
“Reinforce shields at the angle of deflection. Lock phasers on their tractor emitter. As soon as you get a clear shot, fire at that and only that installation. Helm, attack pattern gamma three on my mark.”
“Commander?” Ensign Hardesty turned, and with a single look from her, said “Gamma three. Laying in now, sir.”
The Dreadnought fired its disruptors. The Perseus Secondary shuddered under the barrage.
“Tactical – fire.”
“Phasers firing.” The Secondary discharged phasers against the Dreadnought's tractor emitter. It exploded. “Target destroyed, Commander!”
“Full power to propulsion. Helm, maximum warp!”
The ship shook under a disruptor salvo.
“Commander!” Hardesty shouted. “That blast hit our port lateral coil!”
On screen, a large ignited chunk of the port nacelle disintegrated under a disruptor explosion.
“Warp status!” Seven demanded.
“I'm having trouble establishing a stable warp field configuration. Port coil series four through nine are functionally destroyed. Commander, reading stress microfracturing in the port Bussard compression tanks. Isofield reinforcement at maximum, but – power's fluctuating in those decks!”
“Auxiliary power to the containment fields, Ensign. And engage helm at maximum achievable velocity.”
The Perseus Secondary jumped to warp. The Dreadnought followed.
“The Enqari are overtaking us Commander!”
Seven blazed through her panel calculations. “Evasive pattern delta four.”
“Two more incoming torpedoes!” Ensign Hardesty gripped his helm and Seven boosted thrusters to the last second, evading one – but not the other one. The torpedo exploded against the aft hull; the ship caromed off course and power went down across several decks and systems.
“We've lost navigation!” Hardesty cried.
Seven called up another system. “Computer, initiate pilot hologram.”
A holographic human compiled in a holographic chair at the helm beside Hardesty. “Navigator, you will manually enter helm coordinates from long range scans. Helm, evasive maneuvers.”
Hardesty turned. “Commander, we'll have no way of knowing our bearings – or if we should cross over into hostile territory.”
“Would you prefer the Enqari – or to warp into a star Ensign?”
“Protest withdrawn, sir.”
The Perseus Secondary heaved as it fell out of warp.
“It's no good, Commander. The port coil's series overcompensation burned out auxiliary circuits.” He blazed through failing commands on the helm interface. “Warp engines inoperative! Sir I can't even establish a field around the starboard nacelle!”
“Seven to Lieutenant Salazar,” Seven tapped her communicator.
Commander. Plasma distribution manifolds across the port nacelle have fused open. Enough power leakage is still reaching the functional port warp coils to create a harmonic field distortion and prevent a stable warp configuration –
“Which means quantum slipstream is inoperative,” added Vorik. “If we cut power at the nacelle TPS manifolds to eliminate the warp coil resonance, then magnetic containment of the integrity fields around the damaged gas storage tanks will collapse, resulting in an explosive decompression of hydrogen. The probability of eliminating all risk of electroplasmic stimulation of the gas from the nacelle is quite negligible, Commander. To say nothing of ballistic damage. It could create a field imbalance that would tear the ship apart at warp speed. We. Must. Defend. Ourselves. Commander.”
Seven considered without reply and faced ahead. Then she said, “Full impulse, Ensign. Evasive pattern alpha. Mister Vorik. The next time you make that recommendation – will be from your confinement in quarters. Is that clear?” Seven glared at Vorik, who locked his gaze onto the main viewer with an intensity that belied his logical heritage.
It was not so long ago she would have shared his position. Self-preservation at any cost. Seven could practically see the command choked behind the set of his jaw, like a rock wall before a Vulcan sandstorm. The command to open fire on the Dreadnought boiled within – unseen, unvoiced, and undeniably constant.
For Seven – there was certainly a time when that directive of self-preservation was all-powerful. As a member of the Borg Collective she had stood by watching whole civilizations undergoing assimilation. All resistance destroyed by macroscopic energy weapons and microscopic nanoprobe infusions into body – mind – and spirit. She had taken them in. She had heard – and endured them one and all.
But as a human – when exactly had she changed? When did she find herself holding onto this – irrational belief that she was no longer a force for the wholesale destruction of the galaxy? If she would not change here – and now – then for what did Captain Janeway risk her entire ship and crew on behalf of a single Borg drone, designated only a number – Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One? She was Borg?
We are not Borg.
We are not Human.
We are Seven of Nine.
Seven watched the Enqarian Dreadnought drop out of warp, looming on approach, and knew what she must do.
She stood. “You have the bridge, Mister Vorik.”
“Yes, Commander. May I ask where you are going?”
“To effect our repair.”
Seven paused in the corridor as a trio of science officers passed arguing an application of theoretical calculus on shield frequency rotation. When they were out of sight, she turned back – and entered the transporter room.
At the terminal, she activated an encrypted command sequence. Pallaj Rejental appeared on her screen.
What could you possibly want now, Borg?
“Pallaj Rejental. Your legal system requires the trial and sentencing of a guilty party for the destruction of the Enqar home system.”
As I have already explained. Did you hail me to debate legal code?
“No. I am here to...confess to the crime and receive justice on behalf of the Enqari.”
The Pallaj lit up with thoughts of possibility.
Seven continued: “I will beam over to your vessel and surrender willingly, and face the full punishment for the crime.”
You – would do this voluntarily? He squinted sidelong. What is it you really want?
“In return you will stand down your attack on this cruiser – and you will either offer the Enqari delegation aboard this vessel immunity, or allow their asylum to go unpursued. And their Adjutants and Attendants.”
Now this...is very strange behavior for a Borg, indeed. Whatever motivates your surrender? The Algorithm is not so easily placated. You must admit your reasoning with all due plausibility.
She paused and thought, To prove to myself that I am worthy of Captain Janeway's faith and the risk she took, and the crew of Voyager took, in rescuing me from myself. A risk I now reciprocate – to those voiceless members of the surviving delegation of the extinguished home system of Enqar. “We,” she said, “are Borg.”
The Pallaj gave a solemn nod to an Attendant, who began entering data into a pad. After a moment, he scanned over several pads held to him, and frowned.
“Unacceptable.” He stood and walked to the viewscreen. “For a crime of this unthinkable magnitude the death of a single Outlier will not placate justice. Not even if she is the last living Borg in the galaxy.”
He read a pad. “The Algorithm has made its judgment. In view of the undetermined whereabouts of the Federation ship Voyager, guilt falls to the next available duly representative ship...the Federation cruiser Perseus, and all Social Units aboard, be they Outlier or Citizen. How perspicacious the Algorithm has not named any Enqari specifically for the destruction of the homeworld system, yet has not permitted the escape from justice of any complicitous Persons or Social Units. The Algorithm of Corporatarchy is all-wise.”
He motioned to an officer, who began entering a sequence into a weapons station referencing the Federation cruiser on a sensor map. “Justice will be served by nothing less than the destruction of your Federation Outlier vessel and of course, the Enqari science delegation who have brought this devastation upon us. Furthermore, the Enqari Algorithm of Corporatarchy has now officially declared a permanent state of war with the United Federation of Planets. No Enqari will remain at peace until the Federation smolders in ruins! You, Borg, will beam yourself to us immediately, to spare your crew a painful, prolonged death by torture. You shall all face our consequences. And then we shall destroy your Perseus. The Algorithm – has decreed, and your Pallaj has spoken –”
“I do not recognize your artificial authority, nor your indiscriminate faith in technology,” Seven interrupted. “In addition, the actual basis of authority on your own vessel has expired with the destruction of your world,” she countered. “Your Algorithm, like your title, is now obsolete, Mul Brugnai Rejental.” She let that register in a psyche obviously unaccustomed to defiance, his face wooden, masking any sinking recognition of the reality of his position, and felt – pitilessness for him. “I imagine the irreconcilable fact that the Algorithm had not predicted the destruction of Enqar – has only begun to generate its consequences on board your ship.”
“Admittedly, our explanations have required meticulous...crafting. For quashing the undisciplined concerns of the less civil-minded Attendant population.” He leaned in and bit, “We are redoubling our faith in strong order despite any discord that continues to threaten peace. And despite the barbaric continuing threat of your...Federation! No one in Enqar history has ever escaped their sentence or the full panoply of the Algorithm's power.” He broke into a feral grin. “And neither shall you, Outlier. Now that the Algorithm has officially declared you and your ship guilty of the destruction of Enqar – nothing short of your trial and summary executions can restore Enqari peace aboard this Dreadnought.”
“Mul Rejental, learn what I have learned of Borg destruction. You may one day forgive yourself for surviving the destruction of your people.” She activated the transporter. “But you will never find peace.”
Seven of Nine stepped on the transporter pad and demolecularized, wondering if she should ever be whole again.
Re: Star Trek: Wildfire
Seven in Red:
United Federation of Planets Starfleet Provisional Commander Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One reconstituted on an enclosed control mezzanine overlooking a cavernous interior space – of a colossal warp coil extending through the starboard nacelle of the U.S.S. Perseus Secondary cruiser.
Warning. Radiation levels at maximum human tolerance.
“Computer, verify the coils are powered down.”
Working. Verified. Links with damaged systems isolated and powered down. Unverified fluctuations in phase compensator links and subsystems. Warning. Radiation levels at maximum –
“Computer, silent mode.” Seven took an extra second to take in a view normally flooded with warp engine radiation, from a room usually only accessible by Jefferies tube. She activated the workstation and began a decoupling sequence; breaking the links between primary TPS relays that provided tetryon plasma energy for establishing warp fields. And breaking the promise she had made to Captain Janeway the only other time she had committed the act of – sabotage.
The ship rocked under fire. Seven stumbled and righted herself. So far the regenerative shielding had repulsed much of the force of the Dreadnought firepower, and the ablative hull armor continued vaporizing and dissipating the less sophisticated disruptor energy. But it would not hold up indefinitely. The Dreadnought's vastly superior power reserves could generate phased energy millennia after Perseus had run out of power.
Her communicator chirped: Commander Seven of Nine, Vorik said, the Enqarian Dreadnought has resumed its attack. Permission to fire on their disruptor emitters only.
“Negative, Mister Vorik. You will divert all power to shields, and standby.”
Commander, we cannot withstand attack indefinitely. Your indecision is putting this ship at unnecessary grave risk.
“Mister Vorik, you will standby and await my orders.”
Commander, perhaps if you gave the crew some indication of your plan – that is if you even have one –
The ship shook again as phased disruptor energy cracked in a sonic shockwave that echoed through the decks.
“You will cease disrupting my calculations immediately and await my arrival to the bridge. Divert all available power to shields and stand by. That is a direct order.”
And what of the Enqari delegation, Commander?
“We will share their fate, Mister Vorik.”
Seven strode the corridor and saw her reflection in a wall terminal. Her severe expression, her armored guard; and beneath it, an uncertain footing under the almost unbearable weight of a responsibility to ship and crew she had never felt before; in direct conflict with this awakening moral enigma the Enqari had provoked in her; in direct conflict with her Borg instinct for survival at any cost. A survival she now knew was – no life at all. A lesson it had taken her years to learn; begun with a single act of liberation. When Seven had asked her, years later – how Janeway could have known that such a risk against her own ship and crew, for a Borg – could even possibly succeed – Janeway had looked up from her mug, and into Seven's eyes, and said, “I only needed three things to know what to do about you. The bathroom mirror, and a leap of faith.”
“And the third?”
Janeway had toasted her coffee cup. “A life worth living.”
Seven still wasn't certain she fully understood the Admiral's meaning; but in comparison to a Borg existence – that old life she was later free to choose – she had willfully remained an individual. If only Janeway were present now – but no. Seven no longer had the luxury of a superior command structure. She was now the ranking officer – a position she felt less prepared for, the more she understood of her own humanity, and the longer she served on a continually-surprising individualist ship. The developments in this Perseus Trial were most...irrational...disordered...and continually defying adaptation. Compelled to obey orders she did not agree with, to alienate the crew, and to heed imperfect instincts or internal nanoprobes.
It was not so long ago the Borg she was would have simply run them through, over, in, or died trying. She thought back at a conversation she'd had with B'Elanna, during that run-in with the transient Caatati species. B'Elanna had demanded of Seven an emotional response, when faced with the Borg devastation of that unfortunate race. Seven had had none to give; but her eventual gesture of thorium replication technology had gone a long way with the Caatati, the Voyager crew – and the Captain.
And now, the Enqari – not so different from the Caatati. Yet Seven found herself not nearly so certain in her actions this time. Perhaps it was the additional responsibility of ship command. Perhaps it was the doubts of the lost Primary and Tertiary hulls burning the back of her mind. Or perhaps it was – the irreparable frailty of her seedling humanity, a mere molecule by comparison to the individual lives she saw obliterated – an irrelevant grain of soul emerging somewhere between beauty and the Borg.
Every disruptor barrage, bringing them one step closer to the systematic destruction of the U.S.S. Perseus Secondary cruiser with all hands. One sentence of execution at a time. With almost Borg inevitability.
A disruptor blast threw her to the wall. Ship's energy fluctuated and escaped in raw forms from ruptured conduits into the corridor.
She fell as the grueling tremors ate away her nerve. She wanted to shut them out, somehow. She could not adapt to them. She got up and started to run.
There was nowhere to run.
She was afraid. She ran for her life.
Another blast threw her to the deck. Warning klaxons sounded.
Warning, the shipwide computer announced, chronoton feedback overload in lateral relay network. Evacuate decks eight and nine immediately. Warning: hydrogen decompression alert in port nacelle and pylon, evacuate....
She rose, and saw herself in the terminal – listening to the klaxons – and hearing the voices.
The billions...of voices.
The unity. The terror. The pain, and the numbness.
The Totality. Become silence.
She had heard her Unimatrix go silent. She had heard the Borg Collective go silent. She had heard the galaxy go silent.
But for the first time in her life, Seven of Nine heard the silence of the innocent – and knew what she had done.
She stood alone in the passageway; her ship, like her humanity, running for its life but not fast enough, deteriorating all around her. For what did Janeway risk everything – for her? For what did Seven survive?
Disruptor fire crashed in her ears, as the Perseus Secondary quaked under the salvo.
Seven of Nine fell.
And got – angry.
“Computer. Emergency protocol twenty-nine alpha; seal plasma manifolds and taps to reactor-adjacent systems, and disengage impulse engines. Authorization Seven of Nine omega one four.”
Acknowledged. Warning: safety lockouts prevent that operation during flight.
“Alert engineering – and override safety lockouts. Now.”
The ship sounded a danger blast. Echoing through the deckplating, she heard the engines powering down to another kind of unnerving silence.
The turbolift opened. Under a stuttering light, Doctor Salvatore made room for her.
“Battle Bridge,” she told the computer.
“Doctor. Have you shot anyone today.”
“I'm happy to report no, Commander. Though the Enqari do test one's limits.”
She looked ahead. “That is an understatement.”
“Push you past your tolerances. Make a person do something they might never consider, otherwise.”
The lift stopped and Salvatore moved to exit. “But you, Commander? You've got something the Enqari will never have.”
Her eyes questioned him. “And what is that, Doctor?”
“Something worth fighting for. And that's how you'll defeat them. And I don't mean torpedoes and phaserbanks.”
“Mister Vorik would seem to strongly disagree with that assessment.”
“The Vulcan's disturbed?” He walked off. “What more proof do you need?”
Seven entered the battle bridge. Vorik sat in command, bracing himself against the disruptor tremors. “Commander Vorik, I have the bridge. Commendable endurance, Commander. Our refusal to fire has no doubt already confused their lack of imagination. Operations officer, arm chronophasic emitters. Auxiliary power to quantum drive. Navigator, take over helm.”
“Commander, welcome to the bridge.”
“Thank you Mister Vorik,” she said, sitting, and entering her calculations and commands into her panel.
“You might not wish to thank me yet,” he said. “I have yet to determine any sustainable course of action.”
“Which is precisely what the Dreadnought commander must believe of us. But now it's time to apply inferior reasoning to an oversized problem.”
The holographic navigator took over helm control, and Ensign Hardesty looked at Vorik and shrugged.
Seven continued tapping commands into her interface. “Standby Ensign Hardesty. This maneuver requires computational precision. It is nothing personal.”
Vorik scanned the systems report handed to him on a PADD. “Our engines are still inconveniently offline, for a reason that has escaped me. Would you happen to know anything about it Commander?”
“It was necessary to power down the engines in order to disengage the linkages.”
“You deactivated our engines in the midst of a retreat. Without consultation.”
“And this crew adapted skillfully, a tribute to your leadership. Now Mister Vorik, I suggest you bring the engines back online. We are about to need them.”
“Indeed,” Vorik replied, and motioned to the officer at the engineering station. “To what do you refer, Commander?”
She input her final commands. “Something humans call – a leap of faith, Mister Vorik.” Seven looked up. “Navigator, main deflector to maximum. Activate quantum drive systems. All stations stand ready.” Seven took a look around. The bridge crew manned their stations on high alert – and ready for whatever it was she would invite upon them. Vorik straightened and impassively faced the Dreadnought with cold, logical confrontation.
Only one thing remained for completion of her function: the cold command. Seven of Nine, the last mechanistic legacy of the Borg, faced forward. “Computer, execute command Pi Seven Nine.”
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