Vexa entered the battle bridge in a hurry and displaced a holographic crewman at Ops. On the split screen of the viewer, the radiating gravimetric matrix of the slipstream horizon, unfolding over light years in advance of their ship; on the other half, the Borgified Enqarian Heavy Cruiser, some distance behind.
Subspace analysis revealed the Borg signal as a more powerful version of the one used by the drone. It had overridden a shipboard communications assembly and shunted a powerful long range signal burst to the nanotube transceiver filaments of the Commander's neural encoder. Vexa began to analyze the command pathways which allowed the signal to override the shipboard systems. Blocking this carrier wave would make little difference if the Borg could simply access another component.
“Communications is the only way the Borg can reach us, Lieutenant,” the young human female pilot told her. “The Enqarian ship just wasn't built for these forces, even with the Borg enhancements. The most they can do is maintain equilibrium of the slipstream – and hope we fall out of it.”
“An advantage they are about to lose, Ensign Leroux.”
Vexa powered up a running simulation of the chronophasic matrix and began her slipstream calculations.
“Borg Heavy Cruiser holding at nineteen point three seconds behind,” said Ensign Leroux, “at current quantum slipstream velocity.”
“Precisely the slope of the learning curve,” Vexa said, “between theory and execution.”
The pilot turned to Vexa, to wonder about her logic.
Vexa looked over her complex model of chronophasic emission dynamics. The Tertiary cruiser schematic rotated on her workstation display, callouts streaming with equations. She cycled through each stage, and checked emission profiles for unforeseen imbalances adapting the chronometry to only the bottom third of the tactical cruiser Perseus
. Normally functioning as the bottom half of the Perseus secondary hull, the Tertiary cruiser had a flat dorsal profile with a deltoid forward hull. Its body supported the main deflector and culminated in two great, downturned sovereign nacelles. The Belly of the Beast
, as the Human crew had dubbed it; an illogic she did not care to fathom.
Tapping through each abstracted, animated stage, she watched the three-dimensional quantum slipstream wireframe diverge into a double stream, one with a variable exit point. This would carry the Borg Heavy Cruiser an indeterminate distance, and with equal probability, overwhelm their ship's structural integrity in the endpoint fluctuations. Logic satisfied, she applied the finishing touches on the ship's gravimetric and navigational dynamics, and programmed power distribution allocations. Then she linked the command routing sequence with the ship's emission matrix and the main deflector, and coded the arming sequence.
“Lieutenant....” the pilot said, gazing at the main viewer.
Vexa looked, and tapped her communicator. “Lieutenant Grifahni to the bridge.”
- On my way
The turbolift door whirred open and Grif stepped through, confronting the viewer. The Borg Heavy Cruiser had narrowed the gap considerably, and was closing in on the Tertiary.
“Looks like they were playing their cards close to the chest,” he said.
“The Borg have evidently exceeded the structural limitations of the Enqari vessel,” Vexa replied. “Modifications to our deflector are complete. We are ready to split the slipstream.”
Grif shook his head. “Munich is under. The EMH says she'll require some neural reconstruction, but that damage was limited by the design specifications of the encoder. She'll be out at least a few more hours for surgery. How long until the Borg get within firing range?”
“A minimum of five minutes, Lieutenant,” said the pilot Leroux.
“Change of plan,” Grif said to Vexa. “I have command.”
“Main deflector armed and ready to split the stream,” said the pilot, voicing her mind indirectly. The bridge holographic crew worked in the background, out of the command loop.
“Take your station, Lieutenant Grifahni,” Vexa asserted. “Commander Munich left the bridge to me. We certainly do not have time to construct a new plan of action.”
“The Borg aren't leaving us any choice, Lieutenant Vexa,” Grif warned.
“Our orders are explicit, Lieutenant. Going outside chain of command nearly landed us in a court martial once before. Did you not learn from that experience?”
“I did. I learned that out here, you do what needs to be done. Back home, they rake you over the coals.” He moved to the center seat. “The rest is incidental.”
“Stand down, Lieutenant Grifahni,” Vexa interposed herself between him and the chair and stood her ground, and Grif stopped up short. Doctor Salvatore's command training had not been lost on her. “Do not force me to activate the ESH security enhancements.”
“Lieutenants!” Leroux shouted.
The Borg Heavy Cruiser was upon them. And well-transformed across every visible square meter of hull.
Grif reacted first, by launching himself to the tactical station. Vexa scrambled down to the Ops station. “Code orange. Launching stream sequence.”
The bridge lighting burned orange under a warning klaxon, while the ship went to alert. On the forward screen, gravimetric radials began to form and alter the flow of the slipstream's shear forces.
“Arming aft torpedo launchers,” Grif interrupted.
“Stand down, Lieutenant!” Vexa bit, as she concentrated on her matrix.
The slipstream began to diverge. The ship shook as the port side gravimetric shear cut behind them, cutting off the course from the Borg.
“Subspace microinversion in progress!” Grif shouted. “The Borg have adapted! They're punching through!”
Vexa adapted her own output. “Divert power from weapons systems to navigation! Now, Grif!” After a moment of no change, she persisted: “I gave you an order, Lieutenant!
“Power diverting now!” Grif shouted. “From life support decks twelve through fifteen! Deck evacuation in progress! Five seconds!”
” Vexa shouted, hanging on as the ship slammed hard against the shear line. The Perseus Tertiary yawed in the roiling slipstream shears.
“Chronophasic matrix destabilizing!
” shouted Leroux.
– EMH to bridge. What's going on up there!
“We are skirting a quantum gravimetric shear, Doctor,” Vexa shouted over the din of the engines and shield feedback.
– And I'm trying to conduct a surgery here!
“Would you prefer the Borg to complete your work, Doctor?”
– A few more minutes and there'll be nothing left to complete! Sick bay out!
“Microinversion collapsing the stream!”
shouted Leroux, blazing at her helm to keep navigation under control in the cosmic forces.
The weapons klaxon sounded. “Torpedoes away!
” shouted Grif. “Full spread!
Vexa raced to make her corrections. The torpedoes were just about to destroy her work. She fired a fierce glare at the tactical station, and for the first time in her life, considered using a phaser on a living being.
“Lieutenant! The Borg!
” Leroux shouted. On the viewer, the Borg Heavy Cruiser was impaling the turbulence behind them, holding together through the worst of the storming shearline. A spread of ignited photon torpedoes pulsed at the enemy ship from multiple origin points on the Tertiary cruiser's weapons arrays.
The photon torpedoes struck the turbulence and detonated into great space-tearing streamers. It engulfed the Borg cruiser in a conflagration while the slipstream burned behind them like a lit fuse.
The ship began to roll.
“Structural integrity field down to forty percent! Thirty! Twenty-five! I can't re-establish!
” Grif called out. “Shear forces will tear her apart!
“Maximum power to engines!
” Vexa shouted. “Steady the ship, Ensign!
“That's all we've got, Lieutenant!
” The console began to spark and overload.
Vexa cut power to Ops and bounded up the stairs to the center seat. “Tactical, signs of the Borg!
“Sensors overloaded! Status of Borg vessel unknown! Damn! Structural integrity seven percent and falling!
” Vexa shouted. “Rotate forward shield frequency -
“I've got the shields!
” Grif interjected.
“ - to an inverse harmonic of the chronophase! Theta one-eighty, emission aperture one! Temporal variance one point vinculum three microseconds! On my mark!
“What's that mean!
” shouted Grif.
“In three! Two!
“It means hang on to your boots, things are about to get theoretical!
” shouted Leroux, and activated the sequence.
The ship's outer shielding began to phase in time. Its envelope blazed as ions seemed to dissolve and extend ahead and astern in space. Suddenly a convoy of ships appeared in the slipstream before – and behind them.
The Tertiary cruiser occupied hundreds of points in time along the slipstream simultaneously for a few seconds, as the pilot reestablished the chronophasic matrix and brought navigation under control. One by one the ships merged back to their original temporal source point, and the USS Perseus
Tertiary cruiser, whole again, blasted through its quantum slipstream exit point into normal space.