Change of plan indeed
, Vexa thought, as she made her way to engineering. Whether Grifahni had plotted these events or not, she was uncertain. Regardless, she would not allow his continued interference to jeopardize ship and crew. Security would be on high alert for his signal; but Vexa did not doubt Grif had prepared his own countermeasures for dealing with the holographic grid, among other security measures. It was, after all, his own department which had consulted on their installation.
But Vexa extrapolated the logic of events and knew, that if Grif was to succeed in his own plan, there was one bottleneck he would have to navigate. If she only waited, the Tactical officer would inevitably be forced to confront her command. He would be expecting an easily-intimidated scientist, who would fold in the face of strong conviction and a stack of tactics - or sheer masculine pressure.
She reached into the weapons locker, over the hand phasers, and withdrew a phase rifle. “Security solution,” she said, and powered the weapon.
United Federation of Planets Starfleet Lieutenant Junior Grade Vexa, Chief Operations Officer of the USS Perseus
, Provisional commander of the Perseus
Tertiary cruiser, former adjunct of the Vulcan Science Systems Engineering and Applied Theoretical Science Directorates to the Theoretical Propulsion Group under the Advanced Starship Design Bureau at Utopia Planitia, Technology Officer late of the Vulcan Diplomatic Courier Defender Zhalanyai
, hiked her way to the troubled engineering deck, amid the running damage control responders and wrecked corridors of her command.
What was it about this rogue Bajoran soldier that seemed to place him confirmedly at odds with command? Born into a legacy of chaos, his independent spirit a double-edged sword, as she'd heard humans call it. Starfleet will have instilled in him the ability to trust and rely on fellow fleet officers and crew. But with this Grifahni, there was something of the mercenary soul which had survived, despite the years of heavy fleet training.
She peered around every corner, instantly assessing the lay of every upturned panel, every ruptured conduit. Subconsciously cataloging every Jefferies tube, phase rifle at the ready; unable to dismiss the logic of the threat the mercenary Grifahni presented. His gross illogic was almost inconceivable - that he should directly disobey chain of command. Vexa had never encountered this depth of intransigence in her life. How does someone spend his life qualifying for Starfleet, and then so easily discard his career? And now that he'd violated command - just how far was he willing to go? The phase rifle felt unwieldy in her grasp; her finger searched for the phase trigger.
But was it only his action she disavowed? The shock of his insubordination, his defiance of her up to now logical, ordered duty?
Or was it – the deceitful, unrequited illogic of her primeval Vulcan heart? Which was she truly punishing him for? His lack of control – or her own?
Regardless of the source of her logical shortcoming, the result was yet another abuse against logic she would not, could
not disregard. The ship
– took precedence over their failings. She would have to find a way to do the same. The universe might not obey logic – but without it, she dared not think of what she might become. The mad truth lurking under her crumbling pillars of control, in the mortal devastation of this Perseus Trial.
You can't outrun yourself.
Vexa thought back on their experiences together. Logic had demonstrated Grifahni's insubordinate tendencies during the ship's security lockout, when he went on a one-man crusade against the power grid; as well as the Perseus maiden flight, when he had gone alone on a hunt for the intruder, instead of reporting his concerns. He had defied the Board of Inquiry and its Assembly; the Bajor sector crewmembers in the mess. Culminating with today's direct insubordination that put the entire ship under attack.
Vexa stepped cautiously down a darkened, gutted corridor, toward a turbolift; noting the low-key patter of a shorting circuit, a scent of burning ozone. She queried her logic: what if anything, was the common factor in all these cases?
She stopped. There was a common factor.
Her logic retracted in uncertainty, around this singular persistent element:
Starfleet Lieutenant Junior Grade Vexa, Chief Operations Officer of the USS Perseus.
She loured. Jace had been rescuing her from the day they had met.
The Vexa Paradox
, rearing its unworthy head yet again.
“This will not be permitted to continue,” she told the universe, the gods of the turbolift, or whoever was listening.
Vexa entered engineering, where Ensign Hret labored in solitude, cursing at a thermal regulator he was trying to force out of position.
The Denobulan spanged his hand forcing an isolinear spanner from position, and brandished the spanner at the equipment. “Make a fool out of me, will you?” he threatened, hand on mouth.
“Perhaps if you did not use the device outside of its rated specification, Ensign.”
“What? Oh, Lieutenant, I didn't hear you.” He stood and dusted off his uniform. Vexa scanned engineering. It was in a shambles with battle damage and half-finished repairs. “Ensign Hret. Are you alone here?”
“Don't think this is over,” he warned the thermal regulator. “What? Oh yes, Lieutenant, all my crews are scurrying all over the ship holding it together. Are you here to help me set up the, erm -”
“The inverted metaphasic pulse. Yes.”
“Yes. Ah. Anticipating some trouble from the warp core?” he asked, eyeing her phase rifle.
“Merely a precautionary measure, Ensign. Shall we proceed.” She stepped over a dislodged panel and righted a chair on her way to the warp core.
“This, uh, inverted metaphasic pulse. You've done this before, have you?”
Vexa activated the core station. “Once. I assisted my father in a field repair.”
“Need I ask how old you were at the time?”
“You needn't,” she said, and left it at that.
The overhead lights started flickering, and erratic power disruptions of primary and secondary systems indicated a sudden fluctuation in the power grid. Her station diagnostic of the ship schematic overlay revealed the source of interference. It seemed to be emanating from numerous origin points around the entire ship.
“Vexa to bridge. Report.”
– The Borg are holding position, Lieutenant. They have resumed an attack bypassing communications bands using the carrier wave. We are attempting to override but the signal has locked a channel open somehow. They seem to be stimulating the hull itself with a tetryon-based waveform, to somehow resonate dielectric interferences through the isomagnetic shielding of the TPS conduits.
“Ensign Hret, perhaps you should go to the bridge to see about this interference. I will continue with the inverted pulse assembly here.”
“Aye, Lieutenant. You might want to keep an eye on thermal regulation. Feel free to use this unit for target practice if it gets too cantankerous.”
. Vexa wondered how they managed to accomplish anything, spending so much energy on the illogical personification of inanimate objects.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a processing error.
“That is not logical,” she said to her panel.
Suddenly the lights fell, and red warning lights flashed across the deck. Intruder alert
, announced the computer.
The blast doors to engineering whirred open. Vexa crouched. She heard the unmistakable tread of magnetic boots, and hit the deck.
Taking her phase rifle, Vexa scurried across the deck to barricade herself behind a rack of replacement parts. She peered between the shielded canisters at the shadows moving across the threshold. From the corridor, phaser fire hit several drones, before their personal shields adapted to the frequency rotation cycles. So much for her phase rifle.
Five. Ten. Sixteen Borg filed into Engineering. Vexa turned cold, but somehow doubted it was due to environmental control.
They began to operate on the warp core interface as well as several stations around the bay. Had the Borg ship approached, Vexa knew the bridge would have warned her. Logic dictated that the Borg had found a way to enhance transport for a long-range boarding intrusion. Perhaps using the carrier signal as a means of puncturing the shield harmonics to permit an energy beam. They would be able to exceed transporter range maxima if – and she was particularly mathematical about this – they were willing to incur statistical probability of losses in pattern cohesion. Which would imply a one-way journey for a major fraction of their number. This may also explain how the Heavy Cruiser overcame its design limitations to close on the Tertiary. Structural damage was irrelevant.
This boarding was likely, in human terms, a winner-take-all gambit.
She studied the cold, bloodless faces of the cybernetic humanoids, embedded with self-replicating technology, and remembered what Grif had called them. The cult of living death
. And now, her failure in command may have damned the entire crew to a Borg fate. Regret, perhaps not, but a more damning logical sentence against her command, and perhaps even her very existence.
She studied their procedures. They had begun assimilating manifolds and generating power transfers, as Borg interfaces emerged over their systems. Gas vented from pulled life support conduits and spilled over the deck, cloaking everything in a reddish fog lit by the sickly green ambient glow of Borg interfaces. It seemed the Borg were attempting to override the Tertiary's chronophasic systems. One drone had positioned himself to study Vexa's inverted metaphasic pulse, and began altering its energy transfer.
This was more than a takeover of ship.
She calculated and speculated and observed. Only one hypothesis she could generate would fit all the available data:
The Borg were going to recreate the slipstream temporal event.
Such an occurrence could lead to...she performed a calculation – and apprehended a numerical result she could only describe in scientific notation. They would create an instant army using temporal replication, with themselves as templates. This process would overcome the replicative fading effect of cloning, a previous limiting factor to their population expansion, no doubt. They were going to duplicate themselves in time, and build an armada. A spacefaring fleet with hundreds, thousands of temporal replica Borg vessels based on – the USS Perseus
Each with its own capability of exponential temporal reproduction. Using Vexa's chronoalignment technique, the Borg could build an entire civilization in a day. A strategy, in Borg terms, which would more than justify the recent willful losses within the drone ranks.
Things were about to get very bad very quickly for the galaxy.
She extrapolated the process based on their equipment configurations. It would require controlling a running series of multiphasic terminal nodes along the slipstream, in order to dissociate and reintegrate each timeline separately; but theoretically – there was enough evidence to suggest the Borg found it an outcome likely enough to abandon the spent Enqarian Heavy Cruiser and take major transport losses in order to board Perseus.
If that were the case, coupled with the inferred state of the Heavy Cruiser, which would be useless to them now – Vexa extrapolated that there was a ninety-eight point four five probability the entirety of the Borg crew had beamed to the Perseus Tertiary. Save any sleeper drone lifepods they may have seeded along the way
, she qualified.
The truth of logic was, there would be no way to know entirely the extent of Borg reemergence in the galaxy. But for this ship, Vexa knew there was a strong likelihood the Borg Heavy Cruiser no longer posed a threat from without. Which meant, if they could somehow eliminate this boarding party, they may be able to make good on Commander Munich's decision to eliminate the Borg – a compensatory proposition, as she now lay in sick bay recovering from a near-fatal Borg attack.
They hadn't been able to direct her neural pathways. All they had managed to do was ruin existing pathways. The neural encoder had presented a new technology to them. The Borg were intrinsically incapable of interfacing with it prior to assimilation. All they would do is interfere. And if possible, destroy. When self was willfully destroyed, all that could possibly remain would be the outward transmission of destruction.
As they would no doubt commit on a galactic scale – again – given the opportunity.
The Vexa Paradox
Hypothesis and speculation. Yet it all seemed to fall into place with the logical congruency of truth. The question was, why should this hypothesizing satisfy her? Perhaps it was due to the contingencies of ship duty. Perhaps working among imprecise humanoids was taking a toll on her logic. Perhaps, in the field, evidential confirmation was a luxury she simply did not have time for.
Logic poorly obeyed
, was how Jace had described it. Is that the Vulcan she was becoming?
Where was he now, she wondered, and found herself unduly distracted by sudden concern for Jace's well-being.
He was right
, she realized. We should have listened to him all along. We should have attacked. Just like the Rucarel
But Vexa had been all too convincing, all too convinced of her own incomplete logic. And now, the entire ship would face the consequences of her illogic – once again.
Her heart hammered against her lower ribcage, preparing her for a fight or a flight, neither of which, she knew, could possibly succeed against so many drones. She could call for a transport, but if the Borg disrupted it with a carrier wave, she would only hasten her own assimilation. She was trapped. In the belly of the beast
She peered over the edge once more, into the deathly fog of her illogic. Wondering if she was about to lose her individuality and join them, and seal their success with the temporal stream. Transmit her destructive illogic across the entire galaxy. She looked at her phase rifle. The Borg would easily locate and disarm it before it could overload.
Vexa suddenly found herself stalemated by logic, with no more ideas. They had all led her to their inevitable, logical conclusion: a galaxy stalemated in the Vexa Paradox.
An immutable Kal'toh
sphere of logic without meaning.
Her eyes fell.
Her communicator chirped.
The Borg raised and responded as one. Each drone in engineering, stimulated to the command, turned and marched – toward her.
You were right
I need you, Jace
She activated her phase rifle with a tremoring finger. Maximum kill setting.
And turned it back upon herself.