So... One week turned into almost a year! Still plugging away at this story when I have the time and the final chapter is almost finished. In the meantime, here is the penultimate one. Thanks to any who are still following the story of Ba'el, Kalara and the others onboard the USS
Data scrolled up on Turner’s primary monitor and her sensors confirmed what she had hoped. Onyx Station’s shields were down.
Turner smiled. The mission had succeeded, so far at least. With the shields down, Redemption
would be able to begin transporting off the remaining Starfleet officers and ambassadorial aides onboard. Including Ba’el. If everything proceeded as it should, the next time she heard from Redemption
, he would be the one sitting in the captain’s chair.
She dismissed the stray thought as her sensors showed two of the Laurentii tadpoles breaking off from a writhing mass and zeroing in on one of her men.
“Nine, you have two tadpoles coming after you.”
“I copy Lead… I could use some help.”
Turner checked her screen and saw that no one else would be able to make it in time. Breaking to port and pulling back on her stick, she came around in a wide turn. Inverting, she dived to starboard and kicked in the fighter’s burners, making a run straight for the fleeing Hornet and the two pursuing tadpoles.
The chase took her back towards the space station and the heart of the battle. She could see Redemption
, still taking a beating from two Hegemony Behemoths. A couple of friendly Behemoths had broken through and were coming to her assistance, but Turner could tell that if the ship did not recover their people off the station fast it was not going to make it back out again.
Nearing Starburst Nine – piloted ably by a Cardassian male named Lemec – Turner flicked her finger over the screen in front of her, cycling through the weapon-selection choices and settling on the twin phaser banks on either side of her cockpit. Nudging the ship around – the sight of Onyx Station vanishing off her port side – she dropped the aiming reticule hovering in the middle of her cockpit window over the lead tadpole’s squirming outline. Waiting a breath, she depressed the fire control button, unleashing the full power of her phasers.
A steady burst of crimson fire scored the green living hull, tearing at flesh and releasing effluent into the void. Immediately, Turner switched weapon-control to primary and sent a quartet of focused laser bursts into the ship.
Flesh bubbled and evaporated, turning to fluid and then to molten ash. The tadpole careened out of control, gore hardening to rock in the cold. A tight spiral curled the tadpole back down toward its fellow tadpole, forcing it to juke and dive away from Starburst Nine.
“Thanks for the save, Lead.”
“It’s not over yet,” Turner replied, checking her screens and seeing a handful of other tadpoles heading their way. “We’re going to have-“
Turner broke off as a screech filled the cockpit. Wincing at the feedback, she cursed and slapped her hand down on the red wash that had suddenly invaded her screens. Turning off the alert, she cycled back to her main sensor screen. What she saw there seemed unbelievable at first, so she broke hard to port, bringing her Hornet’s nose up and back around to face the station again.
A terrible explosion had ripped apart the starboard side of one of the Behemoths coming to Redemption’
s aid. As Turner watched, a glow suffused Onyx Station, gaining in intensity until it was unleashed in a focused burst of charged particles that smite the already stricken Behemoth.
“Son of a bitch,” Starburst Nine whispered over the comm.
Turner could only stare. Whatever advantage they had gained with their nanite attack had just been erased.
The Laurentii had regained control of Onyx Station.
Through the tactical holographic display that surrounded them, Prin Ly’et and the rest of Redemption
’s bridge crew had a clear view as Onyx Station began its assault.
The massive living space station, up until now a bystander in the midst of the chaos of battle, had already taken out one of the Behemoths. From the energy gathering in crackling electricity around the station’s outer bulk, it was minutes away from another attack.
“Evasive manoeuvres,” Prin shouted. The Redemption
lurched to the side, tossing the bridge crew as the inertial dampeners struggled to keep up. The station vanished from the forward view, but Prin knew that she only had to twist her head around to see it.
Instead, she could see the massed ranks of Behemoths and other Hegemony vessels, locked in a fraternal struggle for control of the fate of their people. There did not seem to be any way out.
Reaching out, Prin slapped her comm badge. “Bridge to engineering.”
There was silence for a moment and then an unfamiliar voice sounded, backed up by the steady throb of the ship’s engines. “Engineering here.”
“Where is Commander Kane?”
“He’s… I’m not sure, Commander. He’s here but he… None of the Borg are responding.”
Prin stood in the middle of the Pit, her eyes unfocused. Damn it, Kane, what the hell is going on down there?
Before she could press the unknown engineer for more information, the sound of a scream tore from the open comm. line.
Kane felt the moment that the Laurentii gained access to Ispaoreai Hyps’rat’s brainchamber. The single mind not only communed with the station’s neural structure, it subsumed it like a parasitic symbiont that had the capability to overthrow the host. Kane realised that the sensation was familiar – he had felt something similar the day he became Borg.
Kane’s heart pounded in his temples, louder than the sound of Ispaoreai Hyps’rat’s systems had been moments before. After experiencing the glory of being joined to such a being, of accepting it into his homehive, he found it difficult not to give in to the swell of anger that threatened to overwhelm him at being so summarily dismissed.
We cannot give up without a fight.
Leyeta’s voice brought an unexpected calm to the link between the Free Borg. Kane embraced it, realising that his companion was right. Not only had they embraced Ispaoreai Hyps’rat into their link, but allowing the Laurentii to regain control of the space station could spell the end of the Redemption and her allies.
, he told his fellow Borg.
Taking a moment, Kane accepted the strength of will being fed to him by the others, storing it up while maintaining his connection to Ispaoreai Hyps’rat with every ounce of strength still remaining to him. The Laurentii who had seized control fought back. It was almost like hanging from a ledge on the top of a building with one hand while someone prised his fingers away, one by one.
Kane reached back down the frequency pathway created between his own cortical nodes and the nanite hubs created by the torpedoes. He delved even further than he had previously, forcing his own consciousness through the intangible conduits until he could actually see through Ispaoreai Hyps’rat’s own internal sensors and ocular flesh. His vision grew to encompass the vast central core where the station’s brainchamber resided.
Through those sensors, he could see the Laurentii who was attempting to seize control. He saw him stood within the hourglass-like chamber, his hands and legs slowly being invaded by the station’s neural tendrils. The Laurentii’s body began to rise, lifted by Ispaoreai Hyps’rat into the position of commander of the station, what the Laurentii called a kruin.
As far as Ispaoreai Hyps’rat was concerned, though, this was not its commander or its kruin. This being was its own consciousness, a part of it that had been lost and had now been replaced. As if Kane had pulled out a handful of his own neurons and had filled the void with replicas.
The new kruin accepted the invasion, his body tensing with each penetration. Kane secured his will to Ispaoreai Hyps’rat’s own soul, temporarily freed from the attacks of the newcomer. Through his link, he sensed as the kruin used his newfound power to launch an attack on the renegade Behemoths. Kane tried to thwart the attack, but his own control over the space station faltered.
What are you?
The voice echoed across the Borg link, a whisper filtering through age-old defences.
Who are you?
The kruin had found some way of accessing the connection. Kane felt a shiver of fear run through the link.
You are not wanted here. You are not needed. Be gone.
And as quickly as that, the new kruin launched his assault. As the pain overwhelmed him, Kane felt Leyeta reach out towards him, her thoughts full of reclaimed love and hopeless despair.
“What by the Prophets was that?”
Prin gripped the back of Barani’s chair as the sound of screams faded from the bridge. She could not be sure, but she would have sworn that she had heard more than one voice.
“Engineering? What was that?”
The moment of silence dragged. Prin was just about to demand an answer when the same voice, sounding shell shocked, spoke.
“This is Lieutenant Mithos, sir. Commander Kane and three other members of the engineering crew… They’re dead, sir. Some kind of feedback loop. It looks like their implants were destroyed instantly.”
Prin heard the words. In that awful moment of realisation, she relived years of friendship and regretted all those that had been torn from her. Kane
. She allowed herself a brief – too brief – instant to grieve and, with an effort that threatened to tear her soul, moved past the pain.
Kane was dead, but the rest of the crew under her responsibility were not.
“Acknowledged, Lieutenant. Please take command down there until we get out of this. Bridge out.”
As she returned back to her chair, feeling the eyes of every member of the bridge crew following her every step, Prin could feel Redemption
’s engine laboring away beneath her feet. Studying the tactical display, she lowered herself into the chair. A gap had opened up in the surrounding enemy Behemoths, an opening that had been carved out in blood.
Fighting back another pang, Prin bit back her initial reaction. “Take us out,” she said finally. “Follow the Behemoths and get us out of here.”