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September 12th 2371 – 0925 FST
Mo climbed down from the cockpit of the USS Hildr
and stretched in the warm morning air. She loved flying and the freedom of space, but to arrive on a planet, stretch and take that first breath of fresh air was something she luxuriated in.
“No time for aerobics trusty leader.” Homer waved over at the admiring ground crew as they walked around the USS Gunr
, his own Valkyrie
. “Guys, orders from my Master Chief Petty Officer; you can look all you like but if you touch it he swears a fate worse than death!”
Turning back to Mo, he grinned. “So who’s this Commander we’re supposed to be liaising with?”
“Commander Etcher apparently.”
“Well I just hope he’s not some desk bound bonehead who wants to mess with my master tactical plans.”
Mo raised her eyebrows in mock disbelief. “Master tactical plans?”
Before Homer had a chance to respond, a young fresh faced woman in flight gear jogged up to greet them.
“Lieutenants Martari and Richmond?” Homer stepped forward immediately and shook her proffered hand.
“That’s us Ma’am. We’re here to meet with Commander Etcher?”
She smiled and indicated they should follow her. “It’s Escher actually, like the guy who did all those kooky paintings of stairs?” Seeing Homer’s blank stare, she shrugged. “Anyway, most people make that mistake so it’s ok. Oh and it’s me by the way.”
Homer had been far too busy admiring the young woman’s six o’clock and nearly fell over his own feet at the greeting. Mo did all she could to stifle a giggle, but was nowhere near successful.
They stepped out of the bright sunlight of the Zethander Spaceport apron into the cool air conditioned environment of the militia aerospace operations bunker. Escher led them into an office with a long narrow window overlooking the flight line and offered them a cool drink.
Mo accepted gratefully and took a long swallow of the sweet fruit drink. “So Ma’am, I understand you want to organise a little affiliation training?”
Escher nodded and pointed out to the flight line. “If it’s possible yes. I guess right now with the situation as it is we’ll need to take a rain check, but certainly it’s something that would benefit the pilots here. Think it’s a possibility?”
Mo looked at Homer who was suddenly all business. Baseball and flying were his own personal raison d’etre and any chance to indulge in either was guaranteed to grab his attention.
“Seems like a beneficial arrangement on both sides Ma’am. I’d like to suggest we include the combat medic pilots in it as well. Nothing quite like flying dissimilar sorties.”
Homer was referring to the practice of flying craft of differing abilities against each other. Practicing tactics to negate an opponent’s advantage was always a worthwhile endeavour.
Escher nodded at the suggestion. “Sound’s good. Let me show you round the squadron and I can show you how we operate at the moment. Even if we can’t get any flying in right now, it’ll give us a basis for comparing notes.”
Homer was out of his seat so fast he nearly spilt his drink. Mo rolled her eyes knowing that all the pretty young commander had to do now was mention baseball and Homer would crash and burn.
USS ANGEL – FLIGHT DECK
ZETHANDER – GEOSTATIONARY ORBIT
September 12th 2371 – 1003 FST
As the door to the Zethander Militia shuttle folded down, Dan stepped forward to greet General Mendark. Dan had read of the General’s exploits and knew from his reputation that he was that rare breed of commander who could genuinely lead. It was after suffering major injuries in a shuttle crash towards the end of the Cardassian Wars that he had retired from active duty with Starfleet and took an administrative post with the Zethander Militia.
He still looked every inch the marine as he descended the ramp, from his buzz cut iron gray hair to his spit bulled boots and trim physique, but Dan saw how he favoured his left leg.
“Welcome aboard General.” He shook hands warmly and introduced Kat Gray and T’Sell. “Commander T’Sell has just returned from the vessel we discovered after the Borg incursion.”
“Oh? I read the initial report on…what is it? Scorpion
Dan grimaced. “Ah, that was just the name we coined for it Sir. I think when you have time Commander T’Sell can fill you in with a lot more information she’s just brought over.”
It was information that she hadn’t even had chance to discuss with Dan yet and he was looking forward to getting a little more insight into their unexpected guest.
Mendark’s eyes twinkled. “Wouldn’t mind a visit either, but it’ll have to wait for now I’m afraid. I understand you have a suite where we can operate a co-ordination centre from Captain?”
“Certainly Sir, this way.” Dan led the General from the hangar deck, down the central boulevard and up one deck to a hastily refitted science lab, chatting all the way about their mission and its complexities.
“We can accommodate whatever personnel you need to bring up General, but obviously if the team’s bigger than fifteen we’ll need to appropriate another lab.”
As Dan led Mendark into the lab, he nodded appreciatively.
“This’ll be fine thank you Captain. We’re square over the disaster zone and having real time sensor information is really going to help.”
“Well it’s all available Sir, and there’s a dedicated communications suite as well. If you need anything else, just speak to Commander Gray here and we’ll try and pull it together for you.”
Mendark looked at Dan seriously. “Captain, I just want to say on behalf of the people you’ve helped down there, thank you. It’s still a hell of a mess but it would have been so much worse without your ship and crew.”
Dan couldn’t hide the swell of pride he felt. “It’s what we do Sir.” And damn we do it well
TANGO CONTROL – SERVICE DUCTS
September 12th 2371 – 1007 FST
By now Petrov felt she had exhausted all the possibilities of safe escape from the underground labyrinth below Tango Control and had to face the looming prospect of risking her life to save it. There were really only two options left open to her. The first was to check out the scum filled pool at the end of the shattered service duct and the second was to work her way back up into Tango Control itself and face the horror that waited there. Neither option filled her with confidence in her chances of survival.
But sitting here like a malyshka will get me nowhere
she thought. She sat and watched one of the small furry rodents that inhabited these lower regions and made an arbitrary decision.
Ok little Rata, if you go left I go back to the pool, if you go right it’s back up to the surface.
For a while, the obstinate little creature did nothing except clean its whiskers and blink myopically at her. Petrov was on the verge of throwing a rock just to make it move when it dropped to all fours and scuttled off to the right.
Her decision made, she wasted no time in second guessing herself and began the long crawl back through the ducts that would eventually lead her back to the horror she had so desperately tried to escape.
USS ANGEL – CAPTAIN’S READY ROOM
ZETHANDER – GEOSTATIONARY ORBIT
September 12th 2371 – 1015 FST
“This is amazing!” Dan had read through T’Sell’s updated report and still couldn’t believe it. “Did Chariscarpia explain how all this works?”
“She tried Captain but the physics of it are way beyond my comprehension. The nearest I could actually get is that the null node is almost like a stasis chamber which preserves the body while allowing conscious thought to continue. Chariscarpia is cybernetically enhanced so that when she occupies the cocoon she essentially becomes the ship and has access to every function of it.”
Dan shook his head in disbelief. “What about her crew?”
T’Sell still seemed chagrined that a scientific concept, albeit an alien one, could be beyond her understanding. “Again Sir, the concepts are all slightly vague to facilitate our understanding, but it would appear that the ship passed through an anomaly that even Chariscarpia had difficulty explaining. Her description matched what we might expect of an energy ribbon of some sort but when the ship emerged the crew had simply vanished. No bodies, no remains whatsoever.”
Dan couldn’t begin to imagine what two hundred years alone would be like, and wasn’t sure he wanted to.
“I assume between the work that Ensign Dixon did in the control room and the subsequent repairs you’ve listed here, Chariscarpia has full functional control of the vessel again?”
T’Sell nodded. “Indeed Sir. It would seem that Ensign Dixon effectively enabled Chariscarpia’s awakening by replacing the chips that had either worked loose in the wormhole or been knocked free following the collision with the cube. Replacing the expired chips is what eventually restored Chariscarpia’s recall and from thereon she directed work teams to facilitate the final repairs.”
The one question Dan had put off until last was perhaps the most important to him. “Has Chariscarpia stated her intentions now that the ship is functional again?”
“It would appear,” T’Sell said with just the hint of a smile, “that she would like to stay for a while and learn more about the Federation.”
Dan couldn’t resist a smile himself. “Good work T’Sell, I was hoping that would be her choice. So how do you feel about being my first contact specialist?”
“Given a choice between that and lassoing asteroids Sir, I feel the former would be less stressful.”
September 12th 2371 – 1040 FST
Rousseau awoke slowly, or rather he didn’t. for the person that had been Captain Thomas Rousseau no longer existed except as a rapidly dwindling small voice that railed against the abomination he’d become.
Instead it was One of Fourteen, Primary Tactical Adjunct of Trimatrix 3231 who now awakened in Tango Control’s transformed MedCentre. Where once gleaming sterile medical equipment had stood in immaculate order, now vines of knotted cable and conduits dripped condensing moisture on to instruments of unknown purpose. Unknown to any except the Borg of course.
All around him drones passed to and fro and the beehive buzz of communal thought drowned out the small dissenting voice that was all that remained of Thomas Rousseau.
“One of Fourteen, Primary Tactical Adjunct of Trimatrix 3231, you are now of the Borg and yet separate. Your task is not that of ours. It is one of deception.”
One of Fourteen saw that unlike the drones around him, his body was unencumbered by Borg implants. Outwardly his appearance was as it had always been though the Borg nanoprobes were spreading rapidly within him, changing, controlling, and rewriting his very DNA.
“I am One of Fourteen, Primary Tactical Adjunct of Trimatrix 3231. I understand.”
No. NO! The miniscule remnant of Rousseau screamed his horror at the abomination he had become, but it didn’t matter. His voice went unheard, ignored by the Collective as irrelevant.