Maybe chapter isn't the right thing to call these sections, anyway, here is the next part. Enjoy.
LTJG T’Noor sat across the table from her friend Tara. The two had been roommates at their last duty station. Despite the Vulcan T’Noor’s reserved demeanor, they had become friends. In accordance with her usual behavior pattern T’Noor studied her friend’s actions pensively before commenting.
Tara, busy studying the design of the antique phaser II pistol in her hands remained oblivious to T’Noor’s attention. She flipped the phaser over and cycled it through various power levels, finding the weapon well maintained despite its age.
T’Noor knew that there was more going on behind the facade-of-focus on the weapon. For as long as T’Noor had known the green Orion, Tara did her most intense thinking with something else occupying her external senses. T’Noor preferred to meditate in quiet with as few distractions as possible.
Tara had tried once to sit in reflection following the serene and still Vulcan method and found it too quiet, too stifling. She hadn’t lasted five minutes and had instead solved her quandary, what to do about a certain pair of LT’s who were interested in her, while rock climbing.
T’Noor found Tara’s behavior quite illogical on the surface, but fully embraced the infinite diversity in infinite combinations
philosophy which allowed her to accept that Tara was different, and that Tara’s way of thinking probably complimented her own.
Finally, T’Noor broke the silence, “Tara, your abilities are more than adequate for this mission.”
Tara looked up and smiled at her friend, “I hope so, but how come I feel so nervous?”
One of the things T’Noor endeavored to do as often as possible was to avoid telling non-Vulcans when they said something illogical. She also stopped herself frequently from letting them know when they referred to any one of a plethora of illogical emotions. In her limited experience, neither response generated a useful reaction.
T’Noor had not yet, however, grasped the subtleties of rhetorical questions, and tended to take them literally. So, expounding on her knowledge of humanoid physiology she began, “When exposed to the uncertainty of a new and threatening experience the sympathetic nervous system triggers a flight or fight response in most humanoid species, in the case of Klingons a fight response. This results in large amounts of adrenaline being dumped into the body in preparation for possible combat...”
She stopped when Tara began laughing gently, “No, no.... I know that. What I mean is that I don’t feel as confident as you do in my abilities, that’s all.”
T’Noor raised an eyebrow, “That is illog...” then stopped herself. “I appologize.”
Tara leaned across the table towards her friend, a sad, pensive look on her face. “T’Noor,” she said, then after a pause added, “Got you!” and smiled, all trace of uncertainty and apprehension gone.
T’Noor merely allowed herself the slightest upward curl to one side of her mouth. “Indeed,” was all she said.
The Green Orion clarified her thoughts, which her friend had failed to ascertain, “I was just wondering how many shots I’d get with this before the Borg adapted, and whether it would be worth it to see if they’ve got anything bigger in the armory. Did you see the weapon that female crewmember carried by? It looked like it fired projectiles instead of energy.”
T’Noor nodded, “I did observe it, and her animated demonstration. Apparently the weapon has a considerable rate of fire. Perhaps you should attempt to acquire it for this mission?”
Standing first, Tara shook her head. “It’s not my style, but I’m going to check with the weapons locker. Want to go with me before you go to the bridge?”
Standing as well, T’Noor replied, “I will accompany you.”
Commander Ridgeway’s Quarters
It took several seconds for Ridgeway to identify the faintly metallic tapping from outside the closed door of his temporary stateroom as a knock. He realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised at the lack of door chimes, due to the overall Spartan-like layout of the Persepheron
, but he was anyway.
The fact that upon opening the door he saw Dulak actually tapping on the bulkhead next to the doorway with a small piece of metal actually did take away some of his feeling of personal responsibility at not recognizing the knock as such.
“What are you doing, Ensign?” Ridgeway asked.
Dulak pocketed the piece of metal and stood to attention facing the Commander. “Sir, Ensign Dulak, reporting as ordered.”
“At ease Dulak. I can see you are here, what I meant was, why were you tapping on the bulkhead.”
Dulak relaxed his stance slightly, spreading his feet and clasping his hands loosely behind his back. “I am sorry sir. On Cardassia, when there is no electronic bell at the door, one knocks on a sounding plate beside the door with a small stone. Is there some other way to do this?”
Ridgeway laughed, “Yes, by all means. You simply rap on the door itself with your knuckles, like this.” Ridgeway demonstrated, then motioned for Dulak to enter the stateroom.
“Mr. Dulak, your personnel file showed you as being from Bajor, is that wrong?”
Dulak shook his head, “No sir, I assure you, I grew up mostly on Bajor. I lived on Cardassia only until my seventh year, when my father was transferred to Bajor. He was only a low-status maintenance man, and brought me to Bajor without permission. When he was killed by a resistance bomb, I had no one in the military to vouch for me, so I was orphaned.”
Ridgeway said, sympathetically, “I am sorry Mr. Dulak. Please, have a seat.” Ridgeway motioned towards the now vacant lower bunk. Dulak sat, awkwardly.
“The reason I brought you here was I wanted you to know that I am sending you on an away mission with Lieutenant Townsend and Lieutenant Tara. Your job, due to your studies of both alien technology and computers, is to patch into the Borg computer and capture any data you can without getting assimilated. Tara is going for security purposes and Lieutenant Townsend will be conducting tricorder scans to gather information that way.”
“I’ve reviewed what I could of your service and training records. I am quite impressed with your performance at the academy, and while I’d like to get you a lot more training before throwing you to the wolves, I don’t have that luxury.”
“The Borg, sir.”
Ridgeway took a second to look puzzled, “What?”
“It’s the Borg, sir. Throwing me to the Borg.” Dulak said with a totally straight face.
Not able to decide if the Ensign was attempting a joke, or merely didn’t understand the expression, Ridgeway let it slide.
“Right. Hopefully, the Borg won’t see you as a threat and Tara won’t have to engage them, but I also cannot say that there is no risk involved. Are you ready for this?”
Dulak’s reply surprised Ridgeway, “I would like to be able to take along some computer algorithms I wrote at the academy. I have them...”
Ridgeway cut in abruptly, “By ‘some computer algorithms’, do you mean you actually wrote a program to go along with your practicum paper at the academy?”
While he couldn’t be sure what the Cardassian version of looking sheepish was, if Ridgeway were forced to put money on it, he would have bet that it was the look Dulak gave him next. “Uh yes sir, that is one of them.”
“Are you aware that Starfleet has classified the paper, and I must imagine the program as well?”
Dulak looked to the ground and shuffled his feet in an entirely too human manner. “I am aware of the paper’s status sir, but I hadn’t completed the program by the time I left the academy. No one has seen it yet.”
It was Ridgeway’s turn to look uncomfortable. “Why do I get the feeling that you didn’t compile this program on academy time Mr. Dulak?”
Dulak met Ridgeway’s eyes and smiled. “That assessment is correct Commander. There were so many security protocols in place and so much oversight on all official class projects that I never would have been able to complete the program using official channels.”
Ridgeway did not smile back, inhaling deeply, turning away and exhaling slowly before facing the Ensign again. “Did it ever occur to you that those protocols, that oversight was in place for a reason?”
Dulak looked at Ridgeway, puzzled. “Why, yes it did sir.”
Choosing his next words carefully, Ridgeway spoke slowly. “Mr. Dulak, I highly suggest that unless you want your Starfleet career to be a very short one you had better not pull any stunts like that while under my command. You are not on Cardassia. You are not an orphan living by his wits on occupied Bajor. You are a Starfleet officer now, and we have rules, rules I expect you to follow.”
“Commander, I assure you, I wrote that program solely for the benefit of the Federation. I...”
Ridgeway raised a hand, cutting Dulak off. “Actually, ‘Yes Sir’ was the answer I was looking for, but since you brought it up... You misunderstood me Ensign. I don’t have a problem with you writing a computer program. In fact, I encourage you to keep that intellect of yours busy with innovative solutions and new ideas. What I meant was, don’t do it behind my back. Lieutenant Townsend and myself expect to be kept in the loop.”
“And of course, I am sure Master Chief Rexar will want to know about your projects as well. Just make sure not to forget that your primary duties take precedence, once we reach the Shepard
“Now about these programs.” Ridgeway moved on, considering the matter closed for the time being. “I assume they will help you interface with the Borg data? My concern is that the program not get assimilated and integrated into the Borg’s programming. I really wouldn’t want to be responsible for giving them something they can use against the Federation.”
Dulak nodded, relieved at the switch in topics. “Well sir, I wrote the program with built-in security measures. If any part of the code is accessed externally the program fragments and becomes random noise. There is no way the Borg could assimilate it.”
Ridgeway grinned. “I wish I shared your confidence Mr. Dulak, but I’m going to trust you on this one. Besides, in an hour even if they do hijack your program, that Borg ship has an appointment with a main sequence red giant. Whether or not they access your program won’t matter after that, so it will be a good test of your programming skills.”
“Better get to the transporter room. I’ll let Lieutenant Townsend know you are on your way.”
Dulak snapped to attention before responding, “Yes Sir,” pivoting and stepping out of the stateroom.
Ridgeway wiped the back of his hand across his forehead, wondering if his initial meet and greets with the rest of his crew would be as interesting. He hoped they wouldn’t.
Holding true to the minimalist design throughout the rest of the warp tug, the transporter room was no surprise. While no one had to actually stoop to stand on the transport pad, anyone much over two meters would have. The pad itself was suspiciously similar to the emergency models used in larger ships, with the exception of only having a capacity of four. The design specs actually indicated five average sized humans as the high-end transport load, but those five would have to be quite ‘friendly’.
To make matters worse, clearances were so tight that the control console was actually designed to pivot to allow transportees access to the pad. On the positive side, it was possible for the transporter operator to ‘high-five’ members of the transport team prior to transport without either of them moving from transport positions.
Luckily, this transport was only three officers, and minimal equipment.
After Lieutenant Townsend, Lieutenant Junior Grade Tara, and Ensign Dulak stepped onto the pad, Crewman Parker, the Thompson SMG now slung over one shoulder, swung the control console into position and looked back at Commander Ridgeway, standing behind her. “Sir, I have coordinates locked in. Ready to transport as soon as we drop out of warp.”
Ridgeway looked at his team. Tara now carried an odd-looking rifle. It wasn’t any kind of phaser rifle Ridgeway recognized. He decided to wait until they came back to ask. Becoming more proficient at the com panels he quickly punched up the bridge, “Chief Prak, we are ready to transport as soon as you drop us out of warp. Make sure Lieutenant T’Noor stays on those sensors. I want to know the second the Borg start taking advantage of not playing deflector shield. Oh and what’s the ETA on the subspace transmitter?”
Gruffly, from the other end of the circuit came the Tellarite’s voice, “Are you finished?” Followed by a pause and some mumbling Ridgeway couldn’t quite make out. “Davis says another ten minutes on the transmitter.” Then with the com circuit still open, “Helm drop us out of warp, ahead half impulse.”
The transition from warp was audible as a previously unnoticed hum subsided. Ridgeway even felt a slight transition as the inertial dampeners adjusted.
The “We’re at impulse, go ahead and transport,” over the com channel seemed redundant. Ridgeway said, “Energize,” and watched as his team was engulfed in the familiar glimmer and dulcet tones of a federation transporter before disappearing.
From the way Parker monitored her console, Ridgeway didn’t need to say it, but he did anyway. “Keep a lock on them.”
Without looking back, Parker said, “Aye sir,” and continued what she was doing.
Immediately, Ridgeway regretted opting to send the away team over on com silence. Even though he knew it made their detection less likely, he still yearned to know what was going on. It was the first away team he had ordered as an acting CO, but not one he would have chosen for that distinction. Now all he could do was wait.
Borg Vessel, Designation unknown
The atmosphere onboard the Borg vessel was far cooler than the Persepheron
and was also noticeably thinner. It also became quickly obvious that the oxygen level was marginal, and the smell of ozone from damaged equipment was strong. All in all, it was amazing that a ship this damaged had even minimal life-support, so no one on the away team commented.
Lighting was dim and greenish in color, some flickering regeneration bays were visible from where Townsend stood, back to back with the other two members of her away team, but no drones were visible. “Clear.” She said quietly.
Dulak’s view was much more spectacular, if disturbing. He stood, facing towards some of the most damaged sections of the ship. Actually, from his perspective, damaged was a bit of a misnomer. Missing was more accurate.
Both above and to the left, through mangled support beams, equipment dangled loosely from warped sections of bulkhead. Wires and what he could only assume was fiber-optic cable hung, like Spanish moss from a dead tree, in various places. The most unsettling part of the view was that in over half of his field of vision, the only thing visible was the star field outside with the Persepheron
in an almost head-on view. Three tractor beams emanated from the tug, trisecting the visible backdrop of space in approximately even sections. Dulak swallowed, trying to moisten his throat to speak. “Clear,” he croaked.
From behind him her heard the unmistakable sound of a weapon slide being racked back, followed by the ramping-up hum of capacitors charging. Tara’s voice reached his ears, quiet yet clear. “We’ve got company.” Then much more quietly, practically a whisper, and questioning, “Master Chief?”