Systems came offline and ship's status returned to normal. Grif looked at Vexa. “That was new.”
Leroux looked around. “I was a hundred different people just now.”
Vexa analyzed her chair sensor readings. “Four hundred eighteen, to be precise, Ensign.” She looked at the viewer. “Curious sensation.”
Vexa regained her composure and completed her analysis. “Sensors.”
Grif replied, “All clear, Lieutenant. The Borg ship is nowhere to be found. We did it!”
“The torpedo detonations collapsed the threshold of the quantum bifurcation,” Vexa persisted. “The other stream may not have held.” She turned to the tactical station, calmer now, cooler now, but with a conviction that felt like desert-baked bedrock. “Lieutenant Grifahni. Your refusal to obey orders caused a mission failure.”
“And quite probably spared the galaxy a new enemy. I'll pay that price.”
“Nevertheless, as we are still alive to perform duty, my duty is clear.” She stood and faced him. “Lieutenant Grifahni Jace, you are hereby relieved of duty and confined to quarters pending further evaluation. Computer, security protocol seven one eight.”
Two Emergency Security Holograms compiled on either side of Grif.
“I trust you will not resist, Lieutenant.”
“No, I'll go.” He stopped at the turbolift. “I just hope you don't regret this later, Vexa.”
“Regret,” she replied, “is your logic. Not mine.”
“Vexa to sick bay, report.”
– Sick bay here. We had some problem with power fluctuations but managed to pull through using a portable holographic generator. Nothing like a little field medicine to keep a doctor sharp. You know, these holographic systems are programmed with all the latest techniques and marvels of modern medicine, but for a while there I had a moment of deja vu working as a frontier medic again, stitching up neural connections with crossed fingers. Not that I ever did, mind you, being a poor simulacrum of that outstanding physician and unmatched bottle washer – but I remember it like I did. A little mending of the temporal lobe and our patient is doing fine. She'll be on her feet in a day or two. Until then, you'll have to make do in the big chair, Lieutenant.
“Logical work, Doctor. When would a visit be permissible?”
– A few hours, Lieutenant. For any normal humanoid it would have been a minor procedure. But this one – I've never seen so much neural activity, even during alternating wave cycles. Outside a Borg, that is. Had a lot of repairing to do. A little downtime will be good for her.
“Thank you Doctor.”
– Bridge, one other thing.
– About the officer who brought her in.
– He was adamant about being called the moment surgery ended. Yet I can't seem to, uh, contact him.
“Thank you, Doctor.” Vexa paused in acceptance of logical truth. “I'll see he is informed.”
“Can we resume course, Ensign?” Vexa asked Leroux.
“Engine power is experiencing some fluctuation, Lieutenant.”
Vexa straightened in the command seat, redoubling her concentration. “Vexa to Ensign Hret.”
– Hret here. We lost three CP emitters in the temporal event, Lieutenant. Had several relays fuse across every deck. I'd like to run a full diagnostic on warp and quantum systems to be safe. Give us a chance to replace some of these systemwide components and avoid any unforeseen imbalances in TPS distribution. I'm also detecting some minor fluctuation readings with the matter/antimatter reaction I'd like to pin down. An hour?
Vexa looked at Ensign Leroux, whose temple was running with blood. “Ensign, are you -”
Behind the Ensign, a quantum vortex ripped space into an energetic turmoil on the main viewer.
A salvo of lit energy torpedoes emerged and arced toward them. Then the Borg Heavy Cruiser streamed into position and fired its disruptors, delivering a devastating broadsides as it passed.
The Perseus Tertiary quaked, systems exploded, power and holograms began winking out.
“Shields! Evasive maneuvers!” Vexa commanded. “Red alert!”
The ship shuddered against the explosive impacts. Engines surged with power and relays began blowing out.
The Tertiary pitched downward through the torpedo detonations.
Several engineering crew entered the bridge. “Ensigns! Man those stations!” Vexa ordered. “All weapons! Maximum yield! Target their forward stardrive!”
The Tertiary discharged phasers and photon torpedoes against the Heavy Cruiser, and spiraled away to strafe with its aft weapons arrays, while minimizing its target profile. “Direct hits!” said the Ensign. “That thing they call a stardrive is as fragile as it looks! They're pulling off!”
The Borg stardrive fractured and disgorged a trail of charged electroplasma, and the Heavy Cruiser began to keel. Vexa held off ordering pursuit; a wounded enemy was a desperate enemy, and the Tertiary had its own wounds to assess. The ships drifted apart.
“Vexa to Engineering! Status of quantum drive!”
– That last attack overloaded a deflector manifold, Lieutenant! We're bypassing and sending in repair teams now! Lieutenant, the warp fluctuations are a likely result of the chronophasic temporal event; it's doing something to our warp mix. We're showing a multiphasic variance in harmonic band frequencies. I've never seen anything like it. It's like – it's sprung a leak into another phase, Lieutenant.
“Do not be alarmed, Ensign. It is likely an ionic phase misalignment in subspace radiative geometries. Exposing the core to prolonged inverted metaphasic pulses can realign core phase reactions and restore efficiency.”
– And...just how does one go about configuring something like that, Lieutenant?
“I'm on my way, Ensign Hret. Leroux, will you be -”
“Go, Lieutenant,” Leroux replied. “I've had light sparring injuries worse than this. And the Borg seem to be adrift.”
“You have the bridge, Ensign.” Vexa took one last look at the retreating cruiser. “Let me know the second they alter course.”
“Will do, Lieutenant. Lieutenant!”
Vexa paused at the lift.
“Don't you think – we could use his help about now?”
“His help is what landed us here, Ensign.”
“At least - give him a chance to make it right – sir. You may not feel regret. But some of us do
Vexa paused; logic was clear. The fact that the pilot would even suggest an alternative to logic – Vexa considered whether this may be one of those times calling for a more humanoid imprecision. Logic could withstand its misapplication; but could the crew withstand unyielding obedience to logic? Which would serve the greater logic of command?
She tapped her communicator. “Vexa to security. Please release Lieutenant Grifahni from quarters and return him to duty.”
– Security here. Grifahni's not in his quarters, ma'am. He's – gone off the grid.
Vexa eyed Ensign Leroux, and felt the hot desert bedrock again.