BORG TRANSWARP HUB
SPATIAL GRID 986
September 5th 2371
The Queen was dismayed. Little of any value had been gained in their search for the ultimate means to the Federation’s destruction. Inside her, a dark voice that was of her but not from her whispered “We must find the answer. We are Borg. Our memory is timeless, and our patience infinite.”
The Queen didn’t question the origin of the command. It was as it had always been and she would obey, just as others had before her.
She examined the locations of those cubes that she felt best able to deploy on this ever more important mission. Within a matter of days, the assets would be available to deploy to the Alpha Quadrant. While it would still be a mission of stealth, she would accomplish it. In the meantime her cubes in the other three quadrants would continue their search as part of their mission of assimilation.
Never once did she doubt that they would find the answer.
TZENKETHI COALITION BORDER REGION
September 5th 2371 – 2218 FST
Chariscarpia hadn’t been sleeping. She never slept. Nonetheless, the small Tzenkethi vessel had caught her unawares. She had been studying a further language, one that she had heard more and more of as she had progressed through this region of space, and it had absorbed her totally. Right now though, she put aside her study of this ‘Federation’ to attend to her own protection.
The Tzenkethi vessel, a small craft, would pass within 8,000 divisions of her current location. To move now would increase the likelihood that her drives power signature would be detected and so she sat and waited.
Within moments, a second vessel appeared of similar design but larger. The strange sound of their guttural language still eluded her translation, but when the second vessel fired, it became apparent that the first was fleeing. Knowing she could do nothing to help lest she give away her own position she watched as the fire from the larger ship tore at the shields of the smaller.
It wasn’t long before a drive nacelle was torn free and the small ship began to tumble lazily, its lights darkening and its atmosphere venting to space. The larger vessel paused, and then hurriedly wheeled hard about to race back towards the home world that she had detected some weeks ago.
Chariscarpia was surprised again when seconds after the larger Tzenkethi vessel had departed a still larger white vessel had appeared in a burst of radiation she knew was connected with certain forms of subspace drives.
It carried the markings of the ‘Federation’ and she watched with interest as first they attempted to contact the stricken Tzenkethi ship, and then harnessed the vessel with a beam similar to her own collector. Within moments, she recorded a distinct energy signature between the two ships before the ‘Federation’ ship sped away into subspace once more.
With her curiosity piqued, Chariscarpia singled out the trail of the streamlined vessel and plotted a slow and careful course to follow it. She once again resumed her studies of the Federation language, ensuring even as she did so that the radius of her proximity alarms was increased.
STARBASE 621 – TRANSIT ACCOMODATION
TZENKETHI COALITION BORDER REGION
September 5th 2371 – 2307 FST
Winston had just finished eating a late meal when his communicator warbled. It took him several seconds to find it under the pile of PADDs by his bed, but eventually he thumbed it.
“Sir, I’ve just had a call from Dr Pulaski, she’s asking if you could attend sick bay as soon as possible. She requires some immediate help on a difficult procedure.”
Winston was slightly baffled. It wasn’t as if the station was short of qualified personnel unless there had been a major incident and he was fairly certain that he would have known of that by now.
“Advise Dr Pulaski I’ll be there straight away…erm, where is it?”
“Deck 35 Sir; I’ll get somebody to meet you at the turbolift.”
“Thank you.” He thumbed the connection closed and hurriedly dressed in lightweight clothes. If Kate needed help in a surgical procedure he’d need to change fast.
As he exited the ‘lift on deck 35, he was met by a young medtech. She hurriedly ushered him to a section of the MedCentre that was obviously in the middle of a crisis.
“Anthony, over here. Nurse, get that stimulator over here stat.”
It was only as he ran over to where Pulaski was quickly donning surgical reds that the situation became clear. A gurney rushed past him carrying the badly injured form of a male Tzenkethi, his fur matted where it had been burned or slicked with blood.
“Work first, questions later. Get changed, and we’ll hit the scrub chamber.”
As he scrambled into a proffered set of surgical reds and passed through the scrub chamber, Pulaski briefed him.
“We have four Tzenkethi, two adults and two children. We’ve already lost another two before they could get here. I really need your help here; you’re the closest I’ve got to an expert.”
Winston paused. “It was a long time ago Kate I…”
“Damn it Anthony, I will not let innocents die. Now the adult male has compression fractures, internal bleeding…” and so the list went on as she described the injuries of each of the survivors. Winston realised that they were all consistent with depressurisation and blunt trauma so presumably a spaceborne accident. He rapidly but carefully inspected all four casualties and shouted out orders, his previous reticence disappearing as memories of his previous time out here resurfaced. They were memories that had been long buried.
STARBASE 621 – MEDICAL ANNEX
TZENKETHI COALITION BORDER REGION
September 6th 2371 – 0928 FST
It had taken the combined skills of all four primary surgical teams to complete the surgery that had saved the Tzenkethi’s lives, and it wasn’t over yet. The adult male was still in a critical condition while one of the youngsters required constant monitoring.
Winston had acted as co-ordinator for many of those procedures. While there were certainly records of Tzenkethi anatomy and biology, he was the only one currently resident on the Starbase who had ever performed surgery on one of the big feline aliens. During the last Federation-Tzenkethi conflict, few had been taken alive preferring to die in combat rather than be captured, so his first-hand knowledge had proven vital during the long night.
He rubbed at gritty eyes, knowing they desperately wanted to close, when through blurred vision he saw the Starbase Commanding Officer enter the annex. He attempted to stand and found his legs were several seconds behind his brain.
“Please Doctor, don’t get up. I know it’s been a tough night for you. I just wanted to pass on my personal thanks for your work.” Captain Alexia Perez was a short and pretty Latino woman whose reputation was one of no nonsense business. Right now she looked almost as tired as he felt though.
“I have to confess that this isn’t purely a social call Doctor. I know after action reports are going to be a while forthcoming and I needed to know if any of your patients said anything.”
“Said anything?” Winston racked his fatigue drugged brain for any recollection but it was all a blur of blood and controlled chaos. “I don’t believe so, but then I was moving from patient to patient. I’m honestly not sure. Have I missed something?”
Perez shook her head. “Probably not. You were out here during the last conflict weren’t you?”
He nodded, remembering how the fight to save Tzenkethi lives last night had transported him back to those days.
“Well the winds seem to be changing out here. The people you saved are likely refugees looking for asylum and their numbers are growing by the week. Right now there are upwards of 300 Tzenkethi resettled on a colony planet deep within the Federation home worlds.” She looked at him with something akin to hope. “It looks like the youngsters are tiring of conflict Doctor, and the Autarch doesn’t like it.”
“Hence the reason they were hunted down,” he said.
“Exactly.” Her face fell. “It’s an uphill struggle Doctor, but then liberty always is. The view from the top is always worth the climb though.” Standing, she squeezed his shoulder. “Once again, thank you.”
As she left the annex, Winston stood and shuffled unsteadily into critical care. The adult male lay on a biobed, patches of skin showing bare where his injuries had been tended to. The nurse tending him looked up and smiled in recognition, though to be honest he was too tired to remember her name. Instead he returned her smile wearily and left to look in on the female and her children. He recalled one of the seemingly thousands of quotes that his brain grabbed and stored at random. Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
It might well be that this small family had just won one of the most important battles of their lives, and he’d played a small part in it, a thought which bolstered his flagging spirits.
So it was with some concern that he saw the female Tzenkethi out of bed and stalking across the recovery room, the two male medtechs concerned about restraining her because of her wounds. They looked at him for guidance and he waved them back, hoping not to further panic the stricken female.
Speaking quietly, as he’d learned to do back in the conflict, he said “Can you understand me?”
She stopped, shaking her head and pawing at her ear. The decompression had ruptured one ear drum and the other was in a poor state so Winston was well aware of the disorientation she must be feeling.
“Where is he?” She stopped her pacing and her ears fell flat against her head, but her tail remained motionless. It was more a sign of uncertainty or fear than the overture to an attack he knew.
“Please, sit and we’ll talk.” Despite her injuries, her movements were still lithe and controlled. She looked at him silently for a moment before turning and sitting back on the bed.
“What is your name?” He needed to establish a rapport quickly before the fear caused her to panic and lash out.
“Zahaan”, she whispered. “You are the healer yes?”
He nodded, mentally parsing his speech into the Tzenkethi form. “I am one of many here. You were very lucky Zahaan though we were unable to save two of your fellow travellers.”
Her head dropped, the ears slowly rising again. “Yes, they died before we were rescued.” Looking back up at him, she said “The children? My mate?”
He resisted the impulse to smile too broadly. Baring his teeth, even in friendship, would have been too close to the Tzenkethi expression of challenge or anger. “They live Zahaan though your mate is still seriously ill. We must tend him for some while yet. Would you wish to see the children?”
She stood and raised her hands, palm up and claws retracted. “My thanks healer.” He reciprocated the gesture and then led her into the ward where her cubs lay. Sitting awkwardly in the too small chair by their beds, she whispered small purring and cooing noises as she stroked their cheeks. She looked up from the small forms, surprising him with moist eyes. He had assumed incorrectly that like their racial cousins, the Caitians, the Tzenkethi were unable to shed tears.
“We ask for sanctuary healer.”
Recalling Captain Perez’s words, he nodded. “I believe it will be granted and there will be safety for you. Will you wait here?”
“You have my word healer.” And Winston knew that was a bond that was never broken by a Tzenkethi.
Stepping back into the side ward, he called one of the medtechs, asking him to contact Captain Perez as the Tzenkethi were requesting asylum. By the time she arrived though, Winston had already fallen asleep sitting beside Zahaan.