Her thoughts turned to her fellow crew – and her Captain. Taking the Perseus Primary cruiser, Captain Paris and Ujio Shir had been caught by an Enqarian dreadnought tractor beam. Seven of Nine held most of the diminished crew on the Secondary cruiser. Whether either ship could escape the sun death in time, remained persistently unknown.
The shock nova had caught the entirety of the Borg fleet off guard – as well as, in all likelihood, the other Perseus cruisers. Vexa had not given herself time to reflect upon that logical probability; yet she knew, like Vulcan fever in the blood, that some crises were no matter of if
, but when
they would happen. And her reflection on the other component cruisers of the U.S.S. Perseus
– lost with all hands in the uncharted space of the Delta Quadrant – was a shock she could not defer much longer, regardless of the exigencies of command.
, she brooded.
Using a clearing technique she had learned from Doctor Salvatore, who had described it from the late Commander Tiroj, Vexa drew her attention away from the obsessive Borg problem – and what it distracted her from – to refresh her worn concentration. She would focus momentarily on an unrelated detail in her present surroundings.
She studied Commander Munich, whose hair had remained the same metallic violet color for the past three days now. Vexa noted the subtle shifts of color with a logical fascination; it never seemed to change from day to day, but in the space of every few days, it usually appeared an entirely different hue. It seemed no band of the visible spectrum was above service. She wondered if it had anything to do with Jace's description of Munich as – “vivacious” - and his autonomic circulatory responses to the Commander's presence even beyond the protocols of rank. Even if that were the case, it wasn't as if Vexa could ever affect such a vivid feature herself, and even if so, how would he, this illogical, unnoticing Jace –
“–disabling the chronophasic matrix? Vexa?”
“I – I beg your pardon Commander. The – chronophasic matrix?”
“To split the stream.”
Compound hull metrics and chronophasic calculations whirred effortlessly through Vexa's mind. “It would require testing, perhaps in a holographic simulation; however it is theoretically sound. I might be able to split the stream exactly enough to alter the Heavy Cruiser's trajectory into a new course. They would of course be unable to maintain slipstream velocity for long but it should be enough to send them any number of light years distant.”
“Exactly enough,” Grif repeated.
She leveled at him. “I have begun to realize, in my work particle mapping, and indeed, in numerous other events during this mission, that applying theoretical models in the field is often tasked by irreconcilable factors of unforeseen physics and humanoid failing –”
“Oh, I get it, Lieutenant. Reality sometimes gets in the way of logic.”
“What you call reality is logic poorly understood.”
“And what you call humanoid failing is logic poorly obeyed. To some of us flawed humanoids, logic is a tool, not the master. Life's a pain in the aft, sometimes, isn't it. I just wonder what the Vulcan Science Directorate would say if they heard you admitting to poor logic. Probably say you don't get enough practice, way out here in the real worlds.”
“I cannot argue your point, Lieutenant,” she turned from him. He may have only been trying to lighten his mood, or in some way, her own, but – Vexa was in no mind for illogical repartee with this...she centered her thoughts – again. He probably hadn't even noticed he'd been insulted, and his argument destroyed. Yet Vexa could not deny that Jace had more readily assimilated into the command structure than she. It would be wise, she thought, to study such imprecision for a reference point. When it came to dealing with non-Vulcan crew.
“Better use all hailing frequencies, Vexa,” Commander Munich said to her, resting her head on her hand. “For a distress call.”
Grif scanned his PADD while Vexa and Munich shared an unspoken understanding. The Commander shifted a glance between her two officers, and Vexa knew she knew. There was no logical indication – Commander Munich gave zero signal. Yet somehow, Vexa knew, that
exo-behavioral expert knew
. Or maybe it was another kind of expertise.
, she cogitated. She watched for any inhibitory sign from the Commander. Yet so far, none had been volunteered. Although Vexa's entire neurosensory network was giving alarm, her interior being suddenly exposed like this - logic fortunately agreed: an absence of vested personal interest from the Commander to a certain Tactical officer would not be disagreeable. With a previously unseen sensitivity - among humans - even under these stressed conditions, Commander Munich had spared Vexa of even a microscopic indication of her awareness of incongruency in Vexa's interior logic. And Vexa now knew something previously unspoken of the Commander, as well – that she had spent an extended time on Vulcan.
Vexa weighed her reasoning based on nothing more than hypothesis, absent of logical evidence – and queried whether there wasn't more truth to Jace's argument than she cared to admit. What was happening to her on this ship?
Everything she had been taught, everything she was; the unique and ancient heritage of T'Khasi
, Vulcan – was somehow being called into question at every whim of these humanoids. She promised herself she would never allow such irreverence to alter her own meticulously-crafted constructions – no matter how long she was to serve among emotional humanoids.
But whether the universe would support her logic – was an entirely different matter. The shock nova defied logic, existing in defiance of all known physics, all known theory, here
, in real space. Vexa couldn't help but wonder what other elements in the cosmos would defy logic as humanoids understood it? She began to perceive a hidden cost to Starship duty. A personal metamorphosis no planet-dweller might understand.
Jace, fortunately, spared them all further difficulty and turned his attention from his PADD to the Heavy Cruiser. “Splitting the slipstream will only put off the inevitable confrontation, Commander,” he insisted. “We can't leave these Borg free to roam the galaxy. We have
to eliminate this threat. And we can't do that using all our power in theoretical applications
. We have to drop out of slipstream and fight while we are strong, and ready, and at the moment of our choosing. It's an advantage we're not likely to get again.”
“Like the Rucarel.”
“Yes, Vexa. Like the Rucarel. A security solution.” It was his chance to turn from her. “An egghead solution won't cut it this time. This isn't some logical puzzle to be turned over and reset if we fail.”
“One might say the same of the alternative...'meathead' solution you would prefer.”
He slammed the table and stood, genuinely startling Vexa as he leaned over her. “I would prefer
preventing the creation of an enemy in the first place; barring that, I would prefer eliminating that enemy during its gestation, rather than after it has carved up your world into neat little pieces!
“By attacking the Rucarel, my father risked his life against highly improbable odds; but he took that chance – because the possibility of that ship delivering its cargo to the waiting Xepolite fleet would have meant a plague harvest on every planet in the sector - the starvation of billions! And an unwinnable situation. Unlike the Rucarel, there's more at stake with that ship out there than control of a sector.
“We're talking about sparing the entire galaxy from the Borg, right here and now. How many thousands, tens of thousands of planets had the Borg destroyed? How many worlds had they razed? This is the moment to carve out their malignancy from the galaxy. That alien – she was more advanced than any
of us, and she knew this
. That's why she eliminated the whole Enqar system, and now it's up to us to round up the remainder who haven't yet realized they are already dead - who haven't yet learned that in this
galaxy, the cult of living death will find no more acre!
“And with nothing at hand but what's at hand, here and now, with this third of a ship and fully animated crew. It is time for the Borg to die
, and for the living to claim our space - logically, passionately, fearfully, for all holy hell ever after by the Prophets or the pick-axes, whatever is in reach!”
Vexa saw, for a timeless moment she would not forget, a living something, carried through a people and a generation - that once mobilized a planet to rise up and overthrow a tyranny. His father, alive in him. His freedom, burning across humanoid hearts like a wildfire.
Munich stood and put her hand on his shoulder, quieting him. She drifted to the viewport in thought, while her two officers regarded each other in silence.
After a minute, Commander Munich spoke: “You have convinced me, Lieutenants. Our situation calls for nothing less than our survival and success, if we want to escape the fate of the Enqari. Eliminating the Borg before they start assimilating worlds again is unquestionably the right thing to do, at any cost to this ship and crew.” Commander Munich turned to the table, and looked at the empty chairs for advisement that was unavailable. They were it. “But as my
father said, there's more than one way to skin a cat.”
Vexa turned to her. “I beg your pardon, Commander. I fail to see the relevance of Terran culinary preparation to this discussion.”
“Masu boshaya isha ipik mev, Ve Xa
Illustration of the Commander's deft understanding of Vulcan culture was complete. Not by her demonstration of language – any school child could display that accomplishment. Not even for the selection of this particular proverb, from one of the off-worlder-restricted texts of the Kolinahr
. But to allow Vexa to broach the topic of the Commander's experience on Vulcan, without being forced to acknowledge her previous demonstration of Vulcan cultural adroitness.
In the sudden pall that had descended on their fate, the Commander was extending to Vexa an offer of personal association, what her humans called friendship; giving them both a way to broach an area of potential common interest. It produced an illogical, yet strangely quelling effect. Vexa studied the Commander's neural encoder, and found herself mystified by the question of whether it permitted the Commander to realize such sensitivities in any other of the eleven hundred seventy-three languages she spoke fluently. Such a mind would be of unfathomable value to Starfleet, the Federation, and all the worlds they might encounter.
“Ki'gla-tor nash-veh, T'Kehr
,” Vexa replied. “Water finds hidden channels.” The Commander indicated a distinct, illogical pleasure at Vexa's unexpected Vulcan honorific; normally restricted to formal use, but in this context, a lighter expression of familiarity – and an invitation into her cultural sphere. The offer of friendship – was reciprocated – and a rare opportunity for a Vulcan to extend to an off-worlder. Vexa turned to Grif, who, at a loss for contribution, had called up a magnification of the Borg power drive installations. “The commander meant, we will end this threat with logical certitude and finality – at the precise moment of our choosing.”
Grif inhaled to speak.
“When I'm satisfied we have a plan that will succeed
,” Munich added. “And not a moment before. Courage
– notwithstanding, Grif.” She turned to Vexa. “How long can we maintain current velocity?”
“We could maintain it all the way back to the Alpha quadrant, if that is your determination, Commander. However there is another matter. I have analyzed the Borg ship. While they may not realize it yet, they do have the potential to destabilize the slipstream using their own deflector. It involves a variation on the theta band microinversion they used to keep the quantum threshold open. Once they have found this tactic I surmise it will take them a minimum of ten hours to make the necessary modifications to their energy configuration.”
“And how long to make that determination?”
“Unknown. They may have already made it.”
“Then we have an eight hour window of action before the Borg can decide it for us. For now we'll work on the plan with the greatest chance of success.” She stood. “Splitting the slipstream.”
Grif jabbed his PADD and powered it off.
Munich continued, “Keep working on your tactical attack, Grif. I want to see what you come up with before I give the order to split the stream. Vexa, you have the bridge; set up Operation Split Stream. I'm going to the transporter room to see if I can learn more about that little Borg signal that so easily fooled our computing systems.
“Don't worry, Grif. The Borg – have not seen the last of the USS Perseus. Hourly reports. Let's get to it.” Commander Munich stood, and swayed unsteadily.
“Commander, are you alright?” Vexa asked.
Vexa went to her; her neural encoder was shrouded in some kind of power surge, and her ear was bleeding. Commander Munich's body fell into a seizure.
“Nikhila!” Grif ripped the earpiece from her and tapped his communicator. “Computer emergency site to site transport. Two to beam directly to Sickbay.”
“Just like the Borg,” he looked up at Vexa. “Ganging up on the one.”