Here's the next act!
The ready room door chime sounded, and Jonathan Archer looked up from the padd in his hand. “Come in?”
The door slid open and T’Pol stepped in. Archer looked at her, his expression grave and concerned. He lifted up the padd. “The computer analysed Phlox’s numbers,” he said. “They’re pulsar frequencies. With geometric light year measurements.”
T’Pol looked at the display. “Spatial coordinates,” she said. Her voice was quiet, but when she turned back to him, he could see the concern on her face, the cold realisation she was now making the same as the one he’d made twenty minutes before.
Archer stood and leaned heavily on the support that ran along the ceiling. His eyes met hers. “They told their homeworld how to find Earth.”
T’Pol looked away. “Did you learn where the message was sent?”
Archer tapped the controls, bring up the computer’s analysis. “Somewhere deep in the Delta Quadrant.”
The worry on T’Pol’s face, as subtle as it was, vanished. “Then I doubt there’s any immediate danger,” she remarked. “It would take at least two hundred years for a subspace message to reach the Delta Quadrant, assuming it’s received at all.”
Archer looked out the window as the stars rushed by. “Sounds to me we’ve only postponed the invasion until… what?” He turned back to her. “The twenty fourth century?”
Archer felt a shudder of fear, knowing that these aliens would be coming. He had faced only a few of them, with nothing more than what they could make of an old transport vessel and they had been able to adapt to every defence he and his crew could develop, failing only at the last. If there had been more of them, or if their ship had been more powerful, he was sure that they would have destroyed Enterprise
. And when they came in two centuries, he was sure they were going to come in more heavily armed vessels, and in greater numbers.
He was glad it would be long after his time.
It took one hundred and ninety seven years for the subspace signal to cross the width of the galaxy. Carried within it were the means to determine the location of the planet called Earth, but deeper, encoded into the fabric of the message itself, was a greater knowledge.
The Borg received the transmission in the middle of the twenty fourth century. The message had been slowed by its long journey and degraded by distance. Much of what was in it was lost. But when she found it, she knew it had come from her own kind, and she worked tirelessly to learn its secrets.
She found the location of Earth. She found snippets of data, scattered within the message, surrounded by blocks of information degraded and useless. The data seemed to indicate that the message had been transmitted by drones who had come from more than two decades into her future, data regarding a primitive and backwards species that had somehow been able to defeat her Cubes. She almost didn’t accept it, but her analysis left no doubt.
She considered her options and decided that she must act on what she had learned. Why else would her drones from the future have sent the message from the past? It was obviously important, and her future self must have intended for her past self to act upon it.
She sent two Cubes. The first would take a direct route; the second a more circuitous route, waiting to see what the first encountered.
The first had attacked a small mining outpost in an isolated system of the Federation. It had sifted through the minds of the people that it had assimilated and examined every scrap of data in their computers. But there was nothing remarkable about them, no great knowledge or technology, and the Cube began its journey home. Senseless to travel across the galaxy to assimilate a species no different to any one of thousands found closer to home. But as it travelled, it became aware of a small vessel, designated NAR-32450
, which was following it, with three life forms aboard. The Cube attacked the vessel, killing one of them when she attacked a drone, but assimilating the other two. She found nothing special about them either and instructed the Cube to continue on its way back home.
The second Cube, she let it stay on its course. True, she didn’t expect to find anything, not after what her first Cube had shown her, but she didn’t dare discount the message so readily. It would arrive at the borders of the Federation just over a decade after the first. It attacked and assimilated a number of Human outposts along the border they shared with a species that called themselves Romulan, but again found nothing remarkable. And, simply for curiosity’s sake, she took some of the Romulan outposts as well. They had an interesting method of providing warp drive, with miniature black holes, but quite unremarkable otherwise. She concluded that despite the message, there was nothing special about this Human species after all, and she sent the signal to bring the second Cube home.
But then, almost a year later, thousands of light years from the Federation, the second Cube encountered a Human vessel, this ship named Enterprise
, and it surprised her. How had they gotten out this far? Curious, she instructed the Cube to assimilate the Enterprise
, but at the very last moment, with the vessel caught in her tractor beams and its consumption seemingly assured, the Enterprise
had somehow broken free and escaped, travelling at an extreme velocity, using a method of propulsion that she had never before encountered.
This intrigued her, and she wanted it. She wanted to know how the Enterprise
had come to be so far from the Federation. She wanted to know how the Enterprise
had escaped, how it had broken free. She made her Cube turn and head back towards Earth.
Now, with Picard assimilated and his thoughts laid open to her, she understood. She had Picard’s knowledge of the Q entity, a troublesome creature by all accounts, though at least wise enough to leave her be. But now, with her invasion started, she wasn’t going to stop. Granted, assimilating the Humans wouldn’t give her anything greatly different to what she could get from species closer to the Unicomplex, but she felt that the Humans had deceived her, and it angered her. Oh, she knew it was Q’s fault to begin with, but she wouldn’t go after him. All she could do was assimilate Q’s accomplices. And it would give her a foothold here. She could begin expanding into the Alpha Quadrant. It was, after all, going to happen eventually. Why not now?
But, the message disturbed her, at least a little. It spoke of two attempts to attack the Human’s Federation, and how they had both failed. She couldn’t conceive of what mistake she could make that would lead to her failure, and the message was silent in this regard, the information having been lost forever during the two centuries it had spent traversing the galaxy.
The idea of failure was alien to her. Hadn’t she faced the Starfleet armada and defeated them? And it wasn’t even a great struggle. They had given her a pitiful fight. How then could she be defeated? It was inconceivable. Their resistance was futile.
But now they had taken Picard back. And once again, this angered her, and she was about to strike out, and destroy this Enterprise
just as she had destroyed the others. But then, her cunning mind thought cunning thoughts, and she stopped. Why destroy the Enterprise
? She could do it easily, yes, but she would destroy her Locutus, and that would rob her of the pleasure of seeing how the Humans panicked at the site of one of their most powerful bent to her will. She’d hate to miss that. And anyway, wasn’t a quick death too easy for Riker? Let him think that he was making progress, then Locutus could turn on him and cause his death. It would make Riker suffer for his arrogance, and it would make Picard suffer for his resistance.
She smiled. Yes. For the moment, she would leave them be.
Shelby’s voice came over the battle bridge’s com. “Captain, we’ve sustained damage to the impulse drive. The saucer section is disabled.”
Before Riker could answer her, an alarm sounded from the Ops console. “I’m reading subspace field fluctuations from the Borg ship,” Gleason said. “It looks like they’re getting ready to increase power.”
“Stand by, Commander,” Riker said to Shelby. If the Cube was about to attack, then there was nothing the saucer could do. There was no way to get it mobile in the few seconds they had before the Borg attacked. All Riker could do was hope that the stardrive would be enough to keep the Borg’s attention away from the saucer, at least until they had been able to repair their impulse engines. But still, without warp drive, the saucer wouldn’t have much of a chance anyway. Still, better than no chance at all. Riker turned to Burkland at tactical. “Stand by to draw their fire…”
“Captain, the Borg ship!” called Welsey. Riker turned back towards him, a jolt of fear moving through him as he heard the alarm in the ensign’s voice. “It’s moving away!”
On the screen, the image of the Cube rotated, then shot away at a tremendous speed. Riker let himself relax a little.
“It’s resuming its course towards Earth, sir.”
Riker sighed. Why hadn’t the Cube attacked? The Enterprise
was defenceless, and the Cube was more than a match for her. Still, Riker was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. He didn’t know why the Borg hadn’t attacked, but they hadn’t, and that gave him hope.
He turned and walked to the command chair. “Rendezvous with the saucer section,” he ordered. “Then lay in a course of pursuit.”
Once the two sections of the Enterprise
were rejoined, Riker went to the main sickbay in the saucer, where Data and Worf had brought Locutus. He was still limp on the biobed; the muscle paralyser wouldn’t cease its effects until he was injected with the counter agent. Beverly’s readouts indicated that many of Picard’s organs had been replaced with mechanical implants. His kidneys, his spleen. And there were a swarm of implants around his intestines. She was worried about what the Borg had done to his artificial heart and voiced her intentions to replace it as soon as she could. She’d been shocked to see that his arm had been severed, but she would be able to clone a new one for him, provided she could safely remove the biomechanical one that had been put in its place.
Worf had assigned a full dozen of his security to sickbay, but Crusher had balked at this, insisting that they would only get in the way. Worf had argued – he was not going to underestimate the Borg again and would take no chances – but Riker had sided with the doctor. The most important thing was repairing the damage done to Picard, and Beverly was their best hope for that. And if having a dozen security guards in sickbay meant that she wouldn’t be able to do her job as well, then the guards went. Worf growled, but he couldn’t argue with the point. He instructed the guards to wait outside; out of Crusher’s way, but close enough to be ready should they be needed. But Worf refused to leave, and he stayed at the doctor’s side.
The scans had taken almost twenty minutes to complete, and now the results were up on the large wall monitor. Beverly was examining them, but her expression grew more and more concerned.
Riker stood, watching her, but growing increasingly anxious as Beverly remained quiet. After some time, he spoke. “What’s his condition?”
Beverly turned. “There’s extensive infiltration of the microcircuit fibers into the surrounding tissue. His DNA is be rewritten
“Can you revive him?”
Crusher looked up from the limp body and shook her head. “I’d like more time to study the structural changes in the motor pathways.” The degree of complexity she’d seen in the Borg implants was far greater than she’d expected, but she was confident that she could remove them. As long as she had the time she needed. To rush in now, to operate on Picard before she had the knowledge she needed, that could be far more dangerous to Picard than leaving him as he was.
“Doctor, we don’t have more time,” Riker said. “Once he was wired into the Borg, they knew everything he knew. I’m hoping it goes both ways. If we’re lucky, he had access to everything we need to know about them. Especially their vulnerabilities.”
Beverly looked at him. For a moment, there was anger in her eyes, anger that he was willing to put Picard at risk, but then she understood his position. There was a lot more at stake than just Picard, and she couldn’t let her feelings for him stand in the way. She picked up a hypo from the bench, loaded it with the counter agent and pressed it against Picard’s neck. She leaned over him. “Jean-Luc? It’s Beverly. Can you hear me?”
For a moment, he was silent. Then his eyelids flickered and opened. The eyes looked around, scanning the room before fixing on Beverly.
“Beverly…” The sound of his voice was pained. “Crusher…”
“Yes,” said Beverly. “Don’t try to move.”
“I am on board the Enterprise
“That’s right,” said Riker, stepping forwards.
Worf’s hand moved closer to his phaser and quietly called another two of his men in.
Locutus turned to Riker sat up on the biobed. “A futile maneuver. Incorrect strategy, Number One, to risk your crew and ship to retrieve only one man. Picard would never have approved. You underestimate us if you believe this abduction is any concern.”
The door hissed open and two of Worf’s security personnel entered. Locutus turned to them. “There is no need for apprehension. I intend no harm.” Locutus turned to Riker. “No harm,” he repeated. “I will continue aboard this ship to speak for the Borg as they continue without further diversion to sector zero zero one where they will force your unconditional surrender.”
Riker sighed. For a moment, it had seemed that Picard had been trying to break through the Borg’s control of him, that he had been promising not to harm them. But his hopes were in vain. The only reason that Locutus wouldn’t harm them was because he needed them. Once the Enterprise
and her crew had fulfilled their usefulness, the Borg would no doubt destroy them.
Data’s voice came over the comline. “Captain Riker, could you please come to the bridge? I believe I may have found a link between Locutus and the Borg.”
“On my way, Data,” Riker said. He turned and left.
Beverly hurried after him.
Data was sitting at the aft science station. On the screen before him were the results of a sensor scan he had been running. He looked up as Riker and Crusher approached, moving his chair back so they could see his display. “Using multi-modal reflection sorting, I have been able to detect a complex series of subspace signals between Locutus and the Borg ship,” he said.
“That’s how they’re controlling him?” Beverly asked.
Data shook his head. “It is not just a matter of control, Doctor. The signals are interactive across a subspace domain similar to that of a transporter beam. I would hypothesize that these frequencies form the basis of the Borg’s collective consciousness.”
“Can’t we block them?” asked Riker.
“Possibly,” said Data, “but as you will recall, on several occasions we have observed the Borg removing key circuits from injured comrades, no doubt separating them from the group consciousness.”
Riker sighed and stood up straight. “The injured Borg then immediately self-destruct,” he said.
“That is correct, sir,” said Data.
Beverly shook her head, deep in thought. “Cutting the link to Locutus might be fatal to the captain,” she said.
Riker frowned. “We have to find a way to reach him. We must know what he knows.”
“Without those interactive signals, it would only be a matter of microsurgery,” said Beverly. “I could do it.” She could have screamed at the injustice of it all. It would be so easy to remove these implants, but if she did, she would likely kill the man she was trying to save. She groaned. “But as long as those Borg implants are functioning, there’s no way I can separate man from machine.”
Data looked up, an idea forming. “Then perhaps there is a way I can access the machine.”
Data had gone back down to sickbay to examine the medical scans Crusher had made of Locutus. It seemed promising, and he had no doubts that he could connect himself to Locutus, but there were also grave concerns. Would he be able to find what he needed, or would the Borg be able to block him out? Or worse, would the Borg overwhelm his mind? Could he succumb to the same fate that had taken Picard, to become one of them? He didn’t know, but he hoped not. He couldn’t feel fear, but the idea left him with something he supposed Humans might term “anxiety.”
But, it didn’t affect him, and he explained to Riker and Crusher what he would need to do in order to link himself with Locutus. Riker had quickly agreed, despite the risk.
Locutus had risen from the biobed and was walking slowly around sickbay when Data entered with Riker and Crusher. The guards stood at the doors, ready to stop him if he made any attempt to leave, but so far he hadn’t. He was simply making an examination of sickbay.
All heads turned as Locutus said the Klingon’s name. Worf readied himself, expecting the Borg to attack, but dreading the thought of having to fight the being that had once been his captain.
But Locutus made no move against Worf, simply spoke. “Klingon species. A warrior race. You too will be assimilated.”
Locutus turned to walk away, but Worf spoke back. “The Klingon Empire will never yield,” he growled.
Locutus turned back. “Why do you resist? We only wish to raise quality of life for all species.”
“I like my species the way it is,” Worf snarled.
Locutus regarded him for a moment. “A narrow vision. You will become one with the Borg.” He turned, taking in all of them; Worf, Riker, Data, Crusher, the guards… “You will all become one with the Borg.” He turned to Data. “The android, Data. Primitive artificial organism. You will be obsolete in the new order…”
Beverly quickly stepped forwards, pressing a hypo against his neck, and Locutus slumped once again. Worf and Data stepped forwards to catch him as he collapsed.
“Take him to your lab, Data,” Riker said. Data and Worf carried the limp form of Locutus away.
The comline opened. “Shelby to Riker.”
“Captain,” she said, and Riker could hear the fear tightening her voice, “the Borg have entered sector zero zero one.”
And at that moment, the massive Borg Cube, unhindered and unstoppable, was passing Saturn.