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Old November 2 2007, 04:21 PM   #32
Goliath
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

October 2007 Challenge: The Hoary Cliché

ST: VOY “Suture”


Captain’s Log, Stardate 52104.7. The starless void is now seven days behind us. The ship’s crew—and its captain—seem to be recovering from their long ordeal. But I still think some shore leave would help us all forget the darkness of the void. We are presently passing through a region rich with main-sequence stars, and long-range sensors have detected a system likely to contain at least one M-class planet. We have altered course to investigate.

The planet hung in the centre of the viewscreen, glowing blue and white, like a giant star sapphire on a field of black velvet dusted with diamonds. Sitting in her command chair, Captain Janeway felt a lump of homesickness in her throat.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, finally.

Behind her, Lieutenant Tuvok gave his full attention to the readouts on the Tactical console. “Definitely class M,” he said. “It seems to resemble Earth during the Paleocene epoch. That would fit the apparent age of the star—about sixty million years younger than Sol.”

Janeway and her First Officer exchanged glances. The Captain took another sip from her coffee mug, and said: “What else can you tell us, Mr. Tuvok?”

“The climate is warm and humid world-wide,” said the Vulcan. “Cool and temperate at the poles. Warm and temperate in the northern and southern hemispheres, with hot and arid zones above and below the equatorial region. Thick vegetation.”

“Any dinosaurs?” asked Ensign Kim.

Tuvok arched an eyebrow. “Impossible to tell at this distance.”

Janeway smiled. “Set a course for that world, Mr. Paris. Full impulse.”

“Full impulse, aye Captain,” said the Helmsman.

Janeway had just lifted her mug to her lips again when she heard the familiar, unwelcome beeping behind her, to her left. “Captain!” said Ensign Kim. “Captain, I’m receiving a Federation distress call—priority one.”

The Captain turned in her seat, looking back at Operations and frowning. “A Federation distress call?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s coming from the centre of the system—less than fifty million kilometres from the star.”

With another glance at her First Officer, Janeway said: “On speakers.”

The speakers crackled. At first, all they could hear was—music? French horns blared forth, followed by tubas and trombones, as the sound of woodwinds and violins rose and fell in the background, like the waves of the sea

“Is that music?” said the Captain. “What is that?”

“I’m not sure, Captain,” said Kim, baffled.

“Computer,” said Janeway: “identify the music in this transmission.”

THE OVERTURE FROM DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER BY RICHARD WAGNER, said the Computer. FIRST PERFORMED ON STARDATE....

Then they heard the voice—panicked, staticky, desperate: “…calling Voyager. This is an emergency distress call—priority one! Voyager, come in! Voyager, please respond!”

Startled, Chakotay looked over at the Captain. “Is that—”

Janeway rose to her feet. “Onscreen,” she snapped.

Up on the viewscreen, the starfield was replaced by a scene of horror: what looked like the badly-damaged bridge of an Intrepid-class starship, burning, littered with bodies. A female figure in the uniform of a Command officer stood at the Ops console, looking like—

“Captain?” said Lieutenant Paris, his eyes widening. “Captain—it’s you! It’s—”

Voyager!” cried the other Captain Janeway, on the viewscreen. Suddenly, Borg drones appeared on the ruined bridge, materializing out of swirls of green light. The music they had heard before still thundered in the background.

Voyager,” screamed the woman onscreen: “Get out of this system! Get out of here now!”

***

Captain’s Log, Stardate 52104.7. The starless void is now seven days behind us. The ship’s crew—and its captain—seem to be recovering from their long ordeal. But I still think some shore leave would help us all forget the darkness of the void. We are presently passing through a region rich with main-sequence stars, and long-range sensors have detected a system likely to contain at least one M-class planet. We have altered course to investigate.

The planet hung in the centre of the viewscreen, glowing blue and white, like a giant star sapphire on a field of black velvet dusted with diamonds. Sitting in her command chair, Captain Janeway felt a lump of homesickness in her throat.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, finally.

Behind her, Lieutenant Tuvok gave his full attention to the readouts on the Tactical console. “Definitely class M,” he said. “It seems to resemble Earth during the Paleocene epoch. That would fit the apparent age of the star—about sixty million years younger than Sol.”

Janeway and her First Officer exchanged glances. The Captain took another sip from her coffee mug, and said: “What else can you tell us, Mr. Tuvok?”

“The climate is warm and humid world-wide,” said the Vulcan. “Cool and temperate at the poles. Warm and temperate in the northern and southern hemispheres, with hot and arid zones above and below the equatorial region. Thick vegetation.”

“Any dinosaurs?” asked Ensign Kim.

Tuvok arched an eyebrow. “Impossible to tell at this distance.”

Janeway smiled. “Set a course for that world, Mr. Paris. Full impulse.”

“Full impulse, aye Captain,” said the Helmsman.

***

Voyager came down out of the sky, decelerating rapidly. It hovered for a moment over the headland, then touched down, settling on its landing struts. The roar and whine of its impulse engines died away, leaving only the screeching of native birds as they fled from the gigantic intruder.

“The Eagle has landed,” said Lieutenant Paris, on the bridge.

“Well done, Tom,” said the Captain. She tapped a button on her armrest. “This is the Captain speaking,” she said. “All hands, stand down from Blue Alert.”

The picture on the viewscreen was gorgeous, reminding Janeway of an impressionist painting: a deep blue sky, and a deeper blue sea on all three sides of the headland. Deep green vegetation, and foamy white breakers on beaches of golden sand.

“Looks like paradise,” Chakotay said. Janeway glanced at him and grinned.

“Temperature twenty-eight point five degrees centigrade,” said Tuvok, at Tactical. “The native flora is… unremarkable. Trees resembling southern beeches, with numerous varieties of gymnosperms in the underbrush, along with flowering plants. The local fauna seem to be small and non-threatening—mostly birds and reptiles, with some primitive and non-specialized mammals.”

“Perfect,” said the Captain. She stood up and stretched, arching her back. “All departments draw up repair and resupply schedules.”

There was a chorus of “yes, ma’am’s” and “aye, Captains”. “Chakotay,” she continued. “Send out away teams to scan the surface—find out if there’s anything venomous or infectious out there. Then organize shore parties. See that everyone gets to spend one of the next three days on the surface.”

“Aye, Captain,” said the First Officer.

Janeway looked out at the alien world through the viewscreen. “Paradise,” she said, absently.

“Captain,” said Lieutenant Paris, turning in his chair. “Captain, I have a suggestion.”

“Go ahead, Mister Paris.”

“Well, Neelix and I were talking about doing this on the holodeck, but this is even better,” said Paris. He paused, smiling.

“Don’t keep us in suspense, Tom,” said the Captain, smiling back.

“All right,” said the Helmsman. “Who here—has ever been to a clambake?”

***

Tactical Officer’s Log, Stardate 52106.0. Against my objections, Commander Chakotay has ordered me to take a day’s leave, suggesting that I join the first shore party on the alien world. But since I do not eat clams, and the climate on the surface is uncomfortably humid for a Vulcan, I have requested permission from the Captain to take our new shuttlecraft, the Delta Flyer, on a grand tour of the star system—thereby putting my off-duty hours to good use. She has granted my request.

I am particularly interested in the outermost eleventh planet. Long-range sensors detected faint, indeterminate life-signs: but this planet lacks an atmosphere, and its maximum surface temperature is a mere fifty degrees Kelvin. Any life forms thereon must be helium-II-based. Needless to say, such organisms are extremely rare. I look forward to studying them, and to spending some time in quiet meditation.

Tactical Officer’s Log, Supplemental. Our Emergency Medical Hologram has requested permission to join me on my away mission. I happened to mention the possibility of superfluid life-forms on the eleventh planet, and he found the prospect fascinating. In addition, he says it will be a good opportunity for us to “get to know each other better.”

Tactical Officer’s Log, Supplemental. The
Delta Flyer is underway.

The Doctor is enjoying himself. He is very…talkative.


***

“So,” said the Doctor, sitting at one of the aft stations in the Delta Flyer’s cockpit. “How about some music to pass the time?”

Up front, in the pilot’s chair, Tuvok continued to study the controls. The Flyer was on course for the outer system. All systems were nominal. “What did you have in mind?” he said finally.

“Oh, I don’t know… how about Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto?” said the Doctor. “It has a wonderful aria in the third act—La donna è mobile.”

Tuvok flipped a switch and checked a gauge. The shuttle’s controls were absurdly crude. Lieutenant Paris had designed them to resemble a 20th-century aircraft instrument panel.

“An opera,” said the Vulcan.

“Of course!” said the EMH.

“I see,” said Tuvok.

“Well,” said the Doctor, frowning. “That was a ringing endorsement. You don’t like human music much, do you, Mr. Tuvok?”

“Forgive me, Doctor. But I am a Vulcan. I find most human music very…”

“Emotional?”

Tuvok raised an eyebrow, and looked back over his shoulder. “On Vulcan, music serves to sober and quiet the mind.” He returned his attention to the controls. “Most human music does quite the opposite.”

“Well—there must be some human music you enjoy.”

Tuvok looked up for a moment, staring out into space and considering. Finally, he looked back down, and flipped another switch. “I have heard some compositions from the twentieth century that I found quite pleasing.”

“Oh?” said the Doctor, brightening. “Like what, for example?”

“‘Four minutes, thirty-three seconds.’ For any instrument or combination of instruments. By John Cage,” Tuvok said.

“All right,” said the Doctor. “Is there an instrument you prefer?”

Once again, the Vulcan Tactical Officer glanced back briefly at the Emergency Medical Hologram. “I have always been partial to T’Lir’s transcription for Vulcan harp,” he said.

“Splendid,” said the Doctor, beaming. “Computer, play ‘Four minutes, thirty-three seconds’ by John Cage, transcribed for Vulcan harp.”

The computer chirped. Then, for a moment, nothing happened. The Doctor looked around the cabin. Finally, he asked: “Is this how it starts?”

“Yes,” Tuvok said.

The Doctor waited another moment. “I don’t hear anything,” he said.

“Listen closely, Doctor,” Tuvok said.

The Doctor frowned, and listened closely. Finally, he said. “I still don’t hear anything. Are the sounds outside of the normal human range of hearing?”

“No,” Tuvok said.

After another moment, The Doctor said: “The computer must not be responding. Computer,” he said: “play ‘Four minutes, thirty-three seconds’ by John Cage, transcribed for Vulcan harp.”

Once again, there was an electronic chirp, followed by silence. His frown deepening, the Doctor turned back to his control panel. “Computer,” he said: “show me the score for this piece of music.”

Obediently, the screen displayed a musical score. It read:

I
TACET

II
TACET

III
TACET


“‘Tacet’?” said the Doctor.

“Doctor,” said Tuvok.

“But that means—You tricked me! This is just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence!”

“Yes,” Tuvok said.

“But—”

“Doctor, please,” Tuvok said. “I am trying to listen.”

***

Captain Janeway stood in her quarters, examining herself in the mirror. Not bad she decided finally. Not bad at all, for a woman of a certain age.

She picked up a terry-cloth swim robe from a nearby chair. “Seven,” she called, looking over at the entrance to her bedroom. “Are you ready? We should go.”

There was no answer.

“Seven? Come on out, let’s have a look at you.”

Still no answer.

“Seven, come out here.”

“No,” said Seven, from the bedroom.

“That’s an order, Seven.”

“I will not comply.”

The Captain put her hands on her hips and frowned. “Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, come out here this instant!”

Seven emerged from the bedroom and stood there, looking awkward. Like Janeway, she was dressed in a black one-piece swimsuit.

“There,” said the Captain, smiling. “That wasn’t so bad, was it? You look fine.”

Seven of Nine scowled. “This garment is not satisfactory,” she said.

“Why? That’s a Starfleet uniform women’s swimsuit, the same as mine. What’s wrong with it?”

“Over sixty percent of my surface area is exposed.”

Janeway stared. Was Seven of Nine embarrassed? Impossible. “Seven,” said the Captain. “I don’t understand. Your everyday outfit is a dermaplastic body stocking that leaves very little to the imagination.”

“Irrelevant. My body suit covers eighty-eight percent of my surface area.”

She was embarrassed. Unbelievable, thought the Captain. “Seven, a man’s swimsuit is much more revealing than a woman’s. Lieutenant Paris and Ensign Kim will be exposing far more of their surface area than we will, and they don’t mind.”

“Irrelevant. I cannot participate in this recreational activity. I will return to the Astrometrics Lab.”

“Oh, no you won’t. You’re coming swimming with the rest of us, and that’s final.”

Janeway had a sudden inspiration and walked over to the replicator. “Computer,” she said, “a Starfleet women’s racing swimsuit, to fit Seven of Nine.”

There was a shimmer of light, and Janeway picked up a small bundle of slick black cloth. “Here you are,” she said, offering it to Seven. “This will cover everything but your face, hands and feet. Plus, the low-friction fabric will help you swim more efficiently.”

Seven looked at the suit sceptically, but nodded and went back into the bedroom to change. Captain Janeway slipped on her robe, tied the belt, and waited. “Well?” she said finally.

“This is acceptable,” said Seven.

***

On the outer edge of the star system, the Delta Flyer was in a geocentric orbit around the eleventh planet. In the shuttle’s cockpit, Tuvok pointed to a display screen. “There,” he said.

Standing behind the pilot’s chair, the Doctor frowned and looked closer. “Are you sure?”

“Watch closely,” said the Tactical Officer, turning a knob. The screen zoomed in on what at first appeared to be a pool of liquid helium. As the two Starfleet officers watched, the pool began to flow slowly, across the frozen surface, like a giant amoeba.

“That’s incredible!” said the Doctor.

“Helium-II contaminated by complex molecules,” Tuvok said.

“But—how could such a creature evolve here?”

“Unknown,” said the Tactical Officer, leaning back in the pilot’s chair and steepling his fingers. “Some type of panspermia, perhaps. When we return, we should examine the M-class planet for evidence of ancient asteroidal or cometary impact…”

An alarm went off.

“…craters,” said Tuvok, leaning forward.

“What’s that?” said the Doctor.

“An unidentified ship is approaching from astern,” Tuvok said. “Take your station, Doc—”

Suddenly, the Delta Flyer lurched sickeningly, flinging the Doctor against the wall of the cockpit. “Tractor beam!” shouted Tuvok. He looked around, above, behind…

There. The giant cube-ship was behind them, at twelve o’clock. Tuvok jammed the Flyer’s throttle forward, attempting to break free from the tractor beam. No effect. Then the cockpit speakers came to life:

“WE ARE THE BORG.”

“Oh, no,” said the Doctor.

“We cannot break free. Mayday,” said Tuvok, activating the subspace radio. “Mayday, Mayday. Delta Flyer calling Voyager. Come in, Voyager.”

“YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED.”

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. Delta Flyer to Voyager. Come in, Voyager.”

“RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

“They are jamming our transmission,” said Tuvok. He took down a hand phaser from a bulkhead rack and got out of the pilot’s chair. “Doctor—prepare to repel boarders.”

The Doctor had a horrified expression on his face. “My mobile emitter!” he cried.

Tuvok looked down at the Doctor’s mobile emitter, then up, into the Doctor’s eyes. “You must deactivate yourself,” he said. “We cannot allow the Borg to capture you.”

“But—we lost my backup module!”

“Doctor,” Tuvok said, looking down, tapping a button on his phaser, increasing its power setting. “Deactivate yourself. That is an order.”

The Doctor tried to say something, failed, tried again. “I understand,” he said, finally.

Tuvok looked up again. “It has been an honour to serve with you, Doctor.”

The Doctor nodded, and pressed a switch on his mobile emitter. As he dematerialized, the 29th-century device fell to the deck with a clatter.

Tuvok took aim with his phaser, hesitated, then switched the weapon to his left hand, took one, two steps forward, crouched down, and snatched up the mobile emitter with his right hand. He closed his fist around it and shut his eyes.

Remember,” he whispered, fiercely.

The sound of the Borg transporter beams filled the cockpit. Opening his eyes, Tuvok stood up, shoved his phaser forward, and shot a Borg drone in the face at point-blank range. The creature tumbled to the deck. There were others behind it, but the Delta Flyer’s cockpit was too narrow for them to maneuver. The next drone tried clumsily to step over the body of its dead comrade. Tuvok shot that one as well, and took aim at a third drone, in the rear.

Behind him, a drone raised its prosthesis, and jammed it into the Vulcan’s back. Tuvok stiffened. His eyes rolled back in his head, and his body jerked convulsively. Then he collapsed.

***

It was late afternoon, and about fifty members of USS Voyager’s crew had left the ship for the nearby beaches. A few of them were riding personal watercraft out in the bay, while a few more were surfing, closer inshore. The majority were swimming, playing volleyball, or just sunning themselves. Neelix had examined the local sea life and pronounced most of it not just edible, but delicious: he was tending a large covered firepit, steaming large quantities of shellfish and crustaceans, along with what passed locally for potatoes, corn, carrots, and onions.

Some of the bridge crew were playing tag in the water when they saw the Captain and Seven of Nine walk up the beach in their swimming robes.

“Here she is, folks,” shouted Tom Paris, “the reigning Miss Delta Quadrant, Captain Kathryn Janeway!” There was a chorus of cheers, hoots, and whistles.

Janeway gave them a withering look as she took off her robe. “At ease, gentlemen.”

“And let’s not forget,” said Tom, laughing, “Starfleet’s new fifty-metre freestyle champion, Seven of Nine!”

Seven removed her swimming robe and took a few tentative steps into the surf. “I will adapt,” she muttered.

“Hey, Seven,” called Harry Kim, “what’s with the racing suit? Did you assimilate a seal?”

“No,” Seven said, crossly. Behind her, Captain Janeway stifled a laugh.

It really is like paradise, thought the Captain.

***

Tuvok! Help! Tuvok, wake up! What’s happening? Where am I?

Tuvok!

Tuvok awoke to the sound of the Doctor’s panicky shouting. “Doctor?” he said, hoarsely.

Tuvok! Thank goodness! What’s going on?

Something was wrong. The Doctor’s voice…it was inside Tuvok’s head.

Have we been assimilated? Tuvok wondered.

Assimilated? said the Doctor, his voice filled with alarm. Oh, no! No!

But wait—where were the other voices? Seven of Nine had spoken of billions—but Tuvok could only hear the Doctor’s. What has happened, he wondered.

Tuvok, I don’t want to be a drone! Help me, please!

There was a gap in Tuvok’s memory. The Borg had been preparing to board the [/i]Flyer[/i]. He had told the Doctor to deactivate himself. And then… Let me think, Doctor, he thought.

Help! Help me!

“Doctor,” Tuvok said, aloud. “Be quiet!

Tuvok heard a whirring noise, followed by the clumping of heavy boots on metal. A Borg drone appeared above him, leaning over him, looking down, its pallid face dead, expressionless. The Vulcan realized that he was lying on his back, on a table, with his wrists and ankles restrained. The compartment around him was only dimly, greenly lighted, but he could see enough to know that he was onboard the Borg cube.

The drone turned and clumped back to its workbench. As Tuvok watched, he saw the creature call up three-dimensional images of sophisticated holographic circuitry. It was examining the Doctor’s mobile emitter. Other drones either stood or walked back and forth in the background, engaged in tasks only they could comprehend.

Doctor.

Tuvok!

Doctor, listen. We may not have much time. Are you listening?

Yes.

At the last moment, before the Borg boarded the Delta Flyer, I tried to mind-meld with your mobile emitter.

There was a pause. Are you listening, Doctor?

Yes, the Doctor replied. I didn’t know that was possible.

Nor did I, Tuvok admitted. But I have read about an incident where Spock, son of Sarek, mind-melded with an intelligent machine—the Nomad probe. And again, later—with the V’Ger entity. So I decided to try.

Why?

To save your soul, Doctor. To transfer your katra from your mobile emitter to my mind.

I have a katra?

Yes. Think of my brain as an organic EMH backup module.


But…but now we’re part of the Collective! Oh, Tuvok, why? I’d rather be dead! I’d rather be nothing!

We are not yet part of the Collective, Doctor.

We aren’t?

No. The Borg have not yet assimilated me. I am not sure why. But this conversation is taking place inside my mind. Use my senses, Doctor. See through my eyes. Feel through my skin.

I…I’ll try. There was another pause.

Do you see, now, Doctor?

I think so…but this is hopeless! We’ll be assimilated for certain!

There are always possibilities, Doctor. Now, please—be quiet. Let me think.

But—

Doctor!

All right.

***

Janeway was impressed. Seven was a powerful swimmer. She splashed a lot, but she got where she was going.

Tom and Harry swam over. “So,” said Tom, “how’s the little mermaid?”

“You mean me?” said Seven. “Clarify.”

“It’s a fairy tale,” Tom said. Briefly, he explained the story of the mermaid princess who became human.

Seven considered. “I see. An appropriate allusion. I am well. I am mastering this activity.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, let’s see,” said Harry, tapping her on the shoulder. “Tag. You’re it.”

“It,” she said.

Treading water nearby, Janeway laughed. “It’s a game, Seven. It’s called tag. The player who’s ‘it’ must touch another player. The other players try to avoid being touched. A player who’s touched becomes ‘it’, and so on.”

Seven frowned. “A strange game.”

“Come on, Seven,” said Tom, “we’ll go easy on you.”

Seven raised an eyebrow. “Very well. I will participate.” Suddenly, she lunged to the side and touched the Captain’s shoulder. “Tag. You’re it.”

***

Tuvok. Who—or what—is that?

A Borg that had once been female had entered the chamber, not long after the drone had heard Tuvok speak. She too stood at the workstation, examining the mobile emitter. Her head, neck, and shoulders appeared mostly organic: but despite her feminine shape, the rest of her body seemed robotic.

“Fascinating,” she said. “A miniature holographic emitter. Far in advance of any technology the Federation currently possesses. Where did you obtain this?”

I believe that is the Borg Queen, Tuvok thought, as he tugged at his restraints. Seven of Nine has mentioned this creature to me. The Queen’s place in the Collective is not entirely clear: Seven could only say that, ‘she brings order to chaos’. She seems in some way to...embody, or personify, the Collective.

The Borg Queen turned and looked at Tuvok, the light glittering off her metallic eyes. “It’s from the future—isn’t it?” she said. “What century is it from? The 28th? 29th? How careless of you to leave it so lightly guarded, Security Chief Tuvok.” She turned back to the workbench.

Doctor, Tuvok thought. I have a plan. I will require your assistance.

What do you want me to do?

The Borg have made an error. My restraints are just slightly too loose. I am going to attempt to slip my right hand through its cuff. To do that, I must completely relax its muscles and tendons. You must assist me, with your knowledge of Vulcan anatomy. Visualize my hand. Create a three-dimensional image of its structure, in my mind, to help me concentrate.

But...what good will that do?

Doctor, please.

All right. A detailed three-dimensional image of his hand appeared in Tuvok’s mind: bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels; perfect.

Is this what you need?

Yes. Now: help me visualize the soft tissues of my hand relaxing, becoming shapeless, formless and flexible.

Like this?

Yes.

Are you sure this will work?

Concentrate, Doctor. As the tendons and muscles in his hand went limp, the Vulcan began to pull with all his strength, working his hand back and forth back and forth in its cuff, pulling it through its restraint a millimetre at a time. The pain was intense. Tuvok ignored it, and kept pulling.

“I know you’re awake,” said the Borg Queen, her steely gaze turned once again to her captive.

Tuvok glanced at her, then turned his attention back to the ceiling. “Yes,” he said, making every effort to conceal the pain and effort of pulling his hand through its restraint.

“Perhaps you’re wondering why we haven’t assimilated you,” said the Queen.

“The question had occurred to me,” said Tuvok.

“There is no further need for assimilation,” said the Queen. “Assimilation is obsolete. The flesh is obsolete.”

Tuvok frowned, and looked at the Borg Queen once again. “What do you mean?” he said.

“Once we have assimilated this new technology, molecular imaging scanners will take the place of nanoprobes,” the Queen said. “We shall convert living organisms into holographic data streams, and remove their imperfections merely by rewriting their programs. And once a creature has been scanned, rewritten, and stored, there will be no limit to the number of copies we can create.”

The Queen spread her arms and looked upward, exultant. “We shall transcend the flesh, and exist as beings of light and thought. What were once implants will instead serve as mobile emitters. The Collective will become one vast holomatrix. We—shall—be—perfect!

Almost there, thought Tuvok

The Queen lowered her arms once more, and walked over to the table where Tuvok lay. Weirdly, green spotlights appeared to follow her wherever she walked. “And you, Lieutenant Tuvok—you will be the first.” Standing on his left side, she stroked his hair with her black-gloved hand: the sensation made the Vulcan’s flesh crawl. “You will serve as the model for the first generation of holo-drones. After all—what better species than your own—Species 3259?”

“Should I be flattered?” said Tuvok.

“Yes.”

Quick as a striking snake, Tuvok’s right hand flashed out, across his body, and caught the Borg Queen by the throat. The creature made a gurgling noise. All around the room, Borg drones abandoned their work, turned toward the table, and advanced in their slow, zombie-like fashion, raising their prostheses.

“Release me,” Tuvok said, “or I will kill you.” He squeezed, tightly, brutally. The Queen’s eyes bulged. Her tongue protruded from between her lips. “I have the strength,” the Vulcan said. “You know that.”

The nearby drones halted in their tracks, looking on impassively. “Back them away,” said Tuvok.

The drones retreated as slowly as they had advanced. Tuvok relaxed his grip slightly. “Release my restraints,” he said.

Tuvok’s remaining arm and leg restraints clicked open. Slowly, carefully, he shifted to a sitting position, then got up off the examining table. Then, moving quickly once again, he released his grip on the Borg Queen’s throat, spun her around, and put her in a choke hold, wrapping his right arm around her neck, and shoving his left forearm up against the back of her head.

“Now,” he said. “If you do not comply, I will break your neck. You will die, and the Collective will be thrown into chaos. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she gasped.

It’s working! said the Doctor.

Quiet, thought Tuvok. “Move over there,” he said, to the Queen.

Tuvok and the Borg Queen shuffled over to the workbench where the mobile emitter sat. “Pick it up,” he said.

The Queen complied. “Activate it,” said the Vulcan.

With a trembling hand, the Borg Queen activated the futuristic device. The Doctor materialized. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” he said. Then, looking around in astonishment, he said: “What—”

“Doctor,” Tuvok said. “Listen carefully. We have been captured by the Borg.”

“But—”

Listen, Doctor. I have taken their Queen hostage, and we are attempting to escape. Keep quiet, and follow my lead. That is an order.”

Then, to the Doctor within, Tuvok said: Can you deactivate the Queen’s transponder?

I...I believe so, said the Doctor’s katra. Yes.

Excellent, thought the Vulcan. Then, to the Borg Queen: “Is the Delta Flyer intact?”

“You cannot escape us!” said the Queen.

“We shall see,” Tuvok said. “Answer my question. Is our ship intact?”

“Yes,” she said, reluctantly.

“Good,” Tuvok said. “You will direct us to it. We will board it, together, and leave this vessel. If any of your drones attempt to interfere, I will kill you. If any Borg ship tries to follow us, I will kill you. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she said, sullenly, hatefully.

“Then comply,” said the Vulcan. Then, to the EMH: “Follow us, Doctor. Stay close.”

***

The local sun had set, and the planet’s two moons had risen. The beach was lit by lantern light, and by the glow of campfires. At the head of the main picnic table, Captain Janeway took a last sip of her synthahol punch, set it down, and said: “Mr. Neelix, that was delicious. Thank you so much.”

A chorus of compliments followed the Captain’s. The Talaxian stood blushing, beaming. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m just glad you all enjoyed it so much. And don’t forget—it was Mr. Paris’s idea.”

“Mmm. Well done, Mr. Paris,” said B’Elanna, still sucking the meat from the legs of something that looked like a lobster. Tom smiled broadly, and placed his hand lightly on the back of her neck.

“More fruit, anyone?” said Neelix, holding up a platter. “Captain?”

“No, thank you—I’m full,” the Captain said. “Don’t forget to save some of that for Mr. Tuvok—especially those blue stone-fruit. Those were wonderful.”

“I wonder how Tuvok and the Doctor are getting along,” said Harry.

There was a ripple of laughter. Tom shook his head. “Poor Tuvok.”

“Well, I for one am sure they’re having a wonderful time together,” said the Captain, picking up her drink and stirring it with her straw. She was about to take another sip when her communicator chirped.

“Chakotay to Captain Janeway”

The Captain tapped her combadge. “Don’t worry, Chakotay,” she said, smiling, “we’re saving some for you as well.”

“Captain, we’ve just received a message from the Delta Flyer. They’re on their way back at maximum impulse. Tuvok said they’ve had an encounter with the Borg.”

Janeway’s smile vanished. “Red alert,” she said, standing quickly. “Beam me directly to the bridge, Commander.”

***

Janeway stared at the female figure sulking behind the force field, in the Brig. The Captain listened as both Tuvok and Seven of Nine explained the significance of their prisoner. Finally, the Captain turned to her Chief Tactical Officer.

“You kidnapped the Borg Queen,” she said.

“Yes,” said Tuvok.

Janeway turned, looked at their prisoner again, then turned back to Tuvok. “The Borg Queen,” she said. “The Queen of the Borg.”

“Yes,” said Tuvok, looking uncomfortable.

“You kidnapped her.”

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “It seemed like the logical thing to do, at the time.”

Once again, Janeway looked at the Queen. The Queen stared back, her metal gaze full of hatred. “What are we going to do with her? Won’t they come looking for her?”

“I do not believe so,” said Seven of Nine. “Her transponder has been disabled, like mine. The Collective will not know where to look. In any case, they were certainly thrown into chaos when they lost contact with her. They are surely assembling a new Queen to replace her, as we speak.”

“Then we may have a chance to get away undetected,” the Captain said. “Before the Hive gets itself organized again.”

“Correct,” said Seven.

Janeway tapped her combadge. “Captain to Lieutenant Paris.”

“Paris here.”

“Tom, prepare to leave orbit and resume course for the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway out.”

The Captain considered their prisoner once again. Their prisoner glared back. Finally, the Captain spoke. “We seem to have three options. We can leave you here, in the Brig. We can put you in stasis. Or we can beam you down to the planet, and leave you behind. Do you have a preference?”

“You will all be assimilated,” the Borg Queen snarled. “Resistance is futile.”

“Very well,” said the Captain. She tapped her combadge again. “Transporter room. Beam the Borg Queen down to the surface of the planet.”

The Queen dematerialized and vanished. As Tuvok turned off the Brig force-field, the Captain spoke again: “Captain to Paris.”

“Paris here.”

“Tom, take us out of—”

“Ensign Kim to the Captain!”

“Captain here.”

“Captain, long-range-sensors have detected a Borg cube heading insystem, moving fast, on an intercept course for this planet.”

“What?” said Janeway. She looked at Seven and Tuvok. “How did they know where we were?”

“I don’t know,” said Seven of Nine.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. “They must have assimilated the Doctor’s database. He knew that Voyager had landed here, before we left for the outer system in the Delta Flyer. This would be the logical place to begin their search.”

“Captain,” said Harry, over the comm system.

“Yes, Harry,” said Janeway.

“The Borg are hailing us, Captain.” There was a pause. “He says he wants to talk to you personally.”

“‘He’ wants to talk to me? Who is ‘he,’ Harry?”

“I…I think you’d better come see for yourself, Captain.”

***

Moments later, on the Bridge, Captain Janeway took her seat. Her senior staff-members were in their places, and Seven of Nine was at the workstation on the arch behind the Captain and First Officer. “Tactical update,” the Captain said.

“The Borg cube is standing off, just outside of weapons range. Shields are at maximum. Phasers are fully charged, and photon torpedo tubes are loaded.”

“They’re hailing again,” said Ensign Kim.

Janeway looked around, then said: “Put them onscreen.”

The image of the Borg cube was replaced by the deathly pale, grey-veined face of a drone. Like the Queen, it was bald, with metallic eyes. Its—

With a shock, Janeway realized that the drone looked like a Borg version of the Emergency Medical Hologram.

“What the…” said Tom.

“We are the Borg,” said the drone. Then, it smiled slightly. “But I’m sure you know that already.”

“To whom am I speaking?” said the Captain.

“I am...well...to tell the truth, I haven’t been able to decide on a designation for myself,” said the drone. “‘Finitio,’ perhaps—the end, and the beginning. Or ‘Multiune’—the one who is many. In any case—I am the Borg.”

“You’re the new Queen.”

“If you like,” it said diffidently. “I prefer to think of myself as the new...Maestro.”

“Very well...Maestro. Why do you look like our Emergency Medical Hologram?”

“Ah, yes—that. Well. You can blame your Mr. Tuvok for that. Our analysis of the Doctor’s mobile emitter was not yet complete when your Tactical Officer escaped with it. We were forced to use the Doctor’s holomatrix as the pattern for the first generation of holo-drones.”

The view shifted abruptly, to another location within the Borg vessel. A small army of drones were at work building an incomprehensible machine. Aside from their various prosthetics, all of them looked like assimilated versions of the Doctor.

The face of the Maestro reappeared. “But as you can see,” he said, “the operation was a complete success.”

Janeway looked appalled. “Is you entire ship’s crew holographic?”

“Not yet,” said the Maestro. “But we’re working on it. Give us time, Captain.”

“All right,” said the Captain. “What do you want from us?”

“I want to thank you, Captain Janeway.”

“Thank me.”

“For making all this possible. In just a few days, your mobile emitter has brought the Collective closer to perfection than all the technology it has assimilated in the past few centuries. This is an epoch—the year zero. Nothing we plan to do will be impossible for us. Nothing.”

“So...how were you planning to thank us?”

“By assimilating you, of course. Once we complete our analysis of the mobile emitter, we can take molecular imaging scans of your bodies, and use them as the holographic data patterns for the next generation of drones. The scanning process is...destructive. But you’ll hardly miss your physical bodies, I assure you.”

“And if we refuse this...reward?”

“Refuse? Captain, don’t be silly.”

“They’re moving in!” said Harry Kim. Suddenly, tractor beams lanced out from the Borg cube and splashed against Voyager’s shields. The bridge trembled, throwing the crew off-balance as the inertial dampeners struggled to compensate.

“And now,” said the Maestro, “some music to assimilate by. La resistenza è inutile—‘resistance is futile’—an operatic aria, sung to the tune of Giuseppe Verdi’s La donna è mobile.”

The familiar music from Verdi’s Rigoletto began to play, oom-PA-PA, oom-PA-PA, and soon, the Borg Holodoctor began to sing:

L’assimil-AZI-on’
È ’nevi-TAB-ile!
LA resistenza—È inutile!

Aggiunger-E-mo
le vostre CAR-atter-
IS-tiche distintiv’—AI nostri proprie!

L’assimil-AZI-on’
È ’nevi-TAB-il’!
La resis-TENNN-za—è inutil’!
È inutil’!


“Shields down to seventy-four per cent,” said Tuvok.

“Tom!” the Captain shouted. “Break us free! Maximum impulse!”

“I can’t, Captain. Their tractor beam is too strong.”

“Tuvok! Return fire, all weapons! Target their emitter!”

“Firing.”

Phaser beams and photon torpedos blasted the closest side of the giant cube-ship. Suddenly, the Borg tractor beam failed. Voyager turned hard about, and flew away at maximum impulse.

Onscreen, the Maestro laughed theatrically. “Ha ha ha! Well, done, Captain. Well done.” Then, he continued:

L’assimil-AZI-on’
È ’nevi-TAB-ile!
Vi adatt-ER-ete—PER assisterli!


“Helm—evasive maneuvers! Tuvok—shut that off!”

Quindi aggi-UNG-en-
Do alla NOS-tra
Perfezi-ON-e—PER-fezione!


“Unable to block the Borg transmission, Captain.”

Quindi aggi-UNG-en-
Do alla NOS-tra
Perfezi-ONNN-e—Perfezion’!
Perfezion’!


Using Voyager’s superior maneuverability, Tom Paris managed to keep the ship away from the Borg cube, banking and turning, diving and climbing. Still, the cube clung to their tail, as if attached to Voyager by some kind of elastic band.

“I don’t know how long I can keep this up, Captain,’ said Paris.

“Tuvok. Can we lose them?”

The Vulcan shook his head. “Negative. The Cube is faster, and far more powerful than Voyager. We cannot run. We cannot hide. We can fight, but the Cube will defeat us, eventually.”

“Even if we could escape,” said Chakotay, “the Borg would still have the mobile-emitter technology.”

The Captain’s face twisted with anger. “Damn that thing! I should never have brought it onboard.” She thought furiously. Then, to the Helmsman: “Tom. Do you remember how to perform an Immelmann?”

Tom glanced back at the Captain, surprised. “With Voyager?”

“You heard me.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Continue evasive maneuvers for now,” said Janeway. She rushed up the stairs to Operations. “Seven,” she said, snapping her fingers. “Come over here.”

The former drone complied, and the three humans huddled around the Ops console. “Do you have a plan, Captain?” said Harry, hopefully.

“Yes,” Janeway said, keeping her voice low. “Do you remember the whale-probe incident, in 2286?”

“Sure,” said Kim.

“Captain Kirk and his crew used a gravitational-slingshot maneuver around the Sun to send their ship back in time three hundred years. The course they followed should be in our memory banks.” She paused briefly. “The local sun is almost identical to Sol. Do you think you could plot a similar course that would take us back just three days, instead of three centuries?”

“Three days?” said Kim, startled.

“It doesn’t have to be exact, Harry. Just get us back before we arrived in this star system.”

Seven frowned. “You are attempting to prevent these events from happening.”

“That’s right. If we can warn Voyager away, the Borg will never get their hands on the mobile emitter. Can you do it?”

Harry and Seven of Nine looked at each other. “Can you?” said the Captain.

The two looked back at the Captain. “Yes,” said Seven.

“I think so,” said Kim.

“Then do it. And do it quickly. We’re heading into the system toward the star.”

Seven and Kim set to work. “Tuvok,” said the Captain, returning to her command chair. “We’re about to perform a half-loop with a half-roll. Ready the aft torpedo launchers, and prepare to fire with both the dorsal and ventral phaser arrays.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Tom—are you ready?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Really, Captain,” said the Maestro, reappearing onscreen. “This is getting tedious. Why don’t you just make it easy on yourself. Whatever you’re plotting, you know as well as I do that resistance really is futile.”

Now, Tom!”

***

In his control centre, the Maestro watched, startled, as Voyager suddenly looped upward, scouring the surface of the Borg cube with its dorsal phasers. The Cube slowed, but overshot, its greater mass preventing it from matching Voyager's course change. At the top of the loop, the Federation starship rolled over, and opened fire with its ventral phaser banks. As it sped away at maximum impulse, back toward the centre of the star system, its aft tubes released a full spread of torpedoes that blew huge holes in its enemy’s hull.

“Oh, nicely done, Captain,” chortled the Maestro, delighted. He reversed the Cube’s course and followed Voyager toward the star. “Nicely done, indeed. But that won’t save you. Nothing will.”

***

“The cube is pursuing,” said Tuvok. “It is closing rapidly.”

As the cube ate up the distance between itself and Voyager, music began to play over subspace again. Woodwinds and violins thrilled, and brass instruments blared: the rhythm reminded Janeway of a galloping horse.

“What now?” said the Captain.

“I’m not sure, Captain,” said Chakotay, baffled.

It’s the Ride of the Valkyries, by Richard Wagner, said the Doctor’s katra.

“The Ride of the Valkyries,” Tuvok said. “By Richard Wagner”

The Captain did a double-take over her right shoulder, toward the Tactical station. Then, she turned to her left. “Harry! Seven! Are you ready?”

“I think so, Captain,” said Kim.

“Are you ready, or not?”

“Yes,” said Seven of Nine.

“Course plotted,” said Kim.

“Tom,” said the Captain. “Take us in—maximum warp.”

***

The Maestro watched as Voyager deployed its warp nacelles and shot away. “Ha ha ha-ha!” he laughed. “Run, rabbit!”

As the cube engaged its transwarp drive, the Borg Holodoctor began to sing again: “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit[/i], kill the wabbit!

***

Voyager plunged toward the star, its Borg pursuer following closely.

Tom said: “Entering the star’s corona. Pericentre in ten…nine…eight…”

“Shields at forty-seven per cent,” said Tuvok. “Outer hull temperature climbing quickly.”

“Seven…six…five…”

“The Borg vessel is closing. Outer hull temperature critical.”

“Four…three…two…”

The Captain said: “Hang on, everyone.”

“One…”

***

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INPUT FAILURE

RETRY

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REACTIVATING...

The Maestro blinked, looked around the cube’s control centre, confused. What had just happened? The Borg ship had been following Voyager into the star’s corona. Then, at the pericentre… everything had gone…blank…

No matter. They were still in pursuit. There was Voyager, up ahead, flying away from the star once more.

Like a conductor, the Maestro raised his hands. As the overture for Der Fliegende Holländer swelled up, the Borg Holodoctor waved his hands and cried: “Arise, storms! North winds, blow! South winds, blow! Flash, lightning! Strike the wabbit!

***

On Voyager’s bridge, Captain Janeway shook her head, trying to clear it. “Harry,” she said thickly. “Harry!”

“Here, Captain,” said Kim.

“Did we make it?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Tuvok?”

The Vulcan examined his tactical console. “Yes, Captain. Judging from the positions of the system’s planets—the stardate is approximately—52105. The other Voyager should be just on the edge of the star system.”

“Then there’s still time,” said Janeway. “Open a—”

The deck tilted and bucked under their feet as the Borg weapons hit their target. Captain Janeway was thrown out of her seat. Someone screamed. Tuvok clutched at his Tactical console, trying to keep his feet. Then the console exploded like a grenade, hurling him backward against the bulkhead, into blackness.

***

Tuvok? Tuvok!

Doctor…what…

You’ve been wounded, Mr. Tuvok. Badly. Don’t try to move. Keep still

Tuvok tried to focus. The pain was…intense. But bearable. Just.

Finally, he thought: Am I dying?

Save your strength, Mr. Tuvok.

Doctor.

There was a pause. Then: Yes, Mr. Tuvok. If you don’t get medical attention very soon, you’ll die.

I see, thought Tuvok. He struggled to maintain his self-discipline, as bitterness and sorrow welled up within him. He had come so far, and waited so long. Now he would never see his wife and children again—and all that he was would be lost, forever. There would be no one to carry his katra to the temple on Mount Seleya, to join the spirits of his ancestors.

I’m sorry, said the Doctor.

Remembering that he was not alone helped the Vulcan compose himself. No, Doctor, he thought. I am the one who is sorry.

For what?

For tricking you, earlier…on the Delta Flyer. I was being… selfish…

It’s all right, Mr. Tuvok. I understand now.

You…do?

Yes. The point was to listen to the sounds in the silence—to the music of the world around us.

Yes.

Would you… like me to play it for you now?

Had he been human, Tuvok would have smiled. Yes, Doctor, he thought. Thank you.

‘Four minutes and thirty-three seconds,’ by John Cage, said the Doctor’s voice. Transcribed for Vulcan harp.

And then…

Silence.

***

Slowly, painfully, Captain Janeway grabbed on to the arm of her chair and dragged herself to her feet. She looked around wildly. The bridge was a wreck. The rest of the bridge crew was either dead, or too badly wounded to move. Fires burned out of control, and electrical sparks flashed and sputtered. Someone was sobbing in pain. On the bridge viewscreen, through the static, she saw the Borg cube coming up fast, blotting out the stars like the shadow of death itself.

As quickly as she could, the Captain limped up the steps to Operations. Ensign Kim lay sprawled nearby, his face bloody and scorched, his dead eyes open wide. Janeway hit the button for the subspace communicator’s emergency channel. “This is the Federation starship Voyager calling…calling Voyager!” she said. “This is an emergency distress call, priority one! Voyager, come in! Voyager, please respond!”

Please, she prayed. Please, please…

Desperately, she repeated her hail. Then, miraculously, the image on the viewscreen switched to a view of the Voyager’s bridge, undamaged, its crew unhurt. Up on the screen, snowy and distorted, another Kathryn Janeway stood in front of her command chair, coffee-mug in hand, a startled expression on her face. Sitting at the helm, a wide-eyed Lieutenant Paris said: “Captain, it’s you. It’s—”

Voyager!” Janeway screamed. Weird green lights flickered and swirled around the Bridge as Borg drones beamed aboard—all of them looking like sick, twisted versions of the EMH. “Voyager, get out of this system! Get out of here now!”

One of the Doctor-drones stuck its prosthesis into her side. Janeway stiffened. Her eyes rolled back in his head, and her body jerked convulsively. Before she lost consciousness, she heard a voice—familiar, yet twisted, sinister:

“La resistenza,” it hissed, “è inutile!

***

The image on the viewscreen disappeared abruptly. “Get her back!” said Janeway. “Mr. Kim, get her back!”

“I can’t, Captain. Transmission terminated at the source.”

“Are we within sensor range?”

“Yes, Captain,” said Kim. On the viewscreen, a Borg cube appeared, holding Voyager in its tractor beams like a monstrous, bloated spider cocooning a fly. As the Bridge crew watched, horrified, cutting beams lanced out, and began to slice the Federation starship into pieces.

“Helm!” shouted the Captain. “Hard about! Get us out of here! Maximum warp!”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Voyager heeled over, banked into a tight turn, deployed its nacelles for warp speed, and shot away, moving faster than light. A moment later, Lieutenant Paris reported: “We are clear of the star system, proceeding at maximum warp.”

Still tense, the members of the Bridge crew looked around at each other.

Finally, Ensign Kim said: “What the hell was that?


THE END

NOTES

1. The clichés used here are:

--Voyager defeats the Borg;
--time travel (especially via gravitational slingshot);
--the reset button
--and lots of “pepper jack cheese”--lame details included in fanfic because they’re peculiar to the author—in this case, details about classical music and opera.

2. If anyone is unfamiliar with the pieces of music mentioned above, you can click on the following links:

--the late, great Luciano Pavarotti performing La donna è mobile;

--a performance of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries;

--and the classic 1957 Warner Brothers cartoon What’s Opera, Doc?. The overture from Wagner’s Die Fliegende Holländer plays over the stormy scenes at the beginning, and the end.

If you want to hear a performance of John Cage’s 4’33”, just sit quietly and listen to the noises around you for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. “Tacet” means “do not play your instrument.”

3. Assuming that babelfish has done its job properly, the Maestro’s aria translates roughly as follows:

Assimilation
Is inevitable!
Resistance is futile!

We will add
Your distinctive
Characteristics to our own!

Assimilation
Is inevitable!
Resistance is futile!
Futile!

Assimilation
Is inevitable!
You will adapt to serve us!

Thereby
Adding to our
Perfection—perfection!

Thereby
Adding to our
Perfection—perfection!
Perfection!
__________________
An illusion--with intelligence! A malignant vision, with a will of pure evil!
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