<<<Link to Part One>>> Here we go -- Part II. A little bit delayed by real life ... so thanks for your patience! I'm starting a new thread because the other was so huge. Part One is linked above, if you want to refresh your memory, or just missed it the first time around. I'm posting the Prologue only for now, while I edit the next few chapters. Kind of a tease, I know; sorry. More to come later this week, though! Thanks for reading! ---------------------------------------------------------- PROLOGUE Delta Quadrant, near the border of the Beta Quadrant Uncharted Protostellar Nebula USS Tesseract, NX-81261-- Sickbay One of Fifteen, primary adjunct of bimatrix 247. That was this drone’s designation. The individual whose memories were contained in the engrams within her malfunctioning cortical array no longer existed. Dena no longer existed. We are Borg, she told herself, over and over again. Where are the others? She looked at herself in panic, aware for the first time of how small her body really was. Without the Collective in her mind, she felt small. Alone. And the memories … they were terrifying. The night air was damp and cold. Dena carried her youngling, Pilae, through the dense vegetation in the nature preserve at the heart of the city of Lenaris. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. She saw the ships high above the city, some caught in tractor beams, some exploding as they were hit by powerful disruptors. She held Pilae close, shushed her as the little girl whimpered with fear. There was nowhere to hide. She held her breath as she saw a red beam of light cut through the wispy ground fog. It had to be one of them. Inside the containment field on the Federation vessel, One of Fifteen paced back and forth, eyeing the exoplating on the body that had once been Dena’s. She fought the sudden urge to scream. Not ‘them,’ she told herself, trying to stay calm. Us. The Collective. We are as one. We are Borg. The memories still plagued her. “Mommy. Mommy, I’m frightened,” Pilae whispered. Dena shushed her again, held her closer. She tried not to think about Feranir, or what was left of him. Those creatures – a ghastly combination of death-pale flesh and intricate machinery – had injected him with their technology before her very eyes. She knew what would happen next. By now, everyone had heard the stories from the neighboring traders. The man she loved was gone – soon, he would be one of them. She wanted to go back for him, everything within her screamed at her to go back for him, but she knew she had to run, so she did. She scooped up their daughter and ran as fast as her feet would take her, three squares from the crowded pathway outside their residential tower to the nature preserve. Now, she stood frozen with fear, momentarily unable to move or even scream as the drone stepped out of the haze and looked directly at her and her daughter. Pilae had no such trouble. The tiny girl wailed loudly and thrashed in Dena’s grasp as the grotesque figure came into view. It was exactly what Dena needed to snap her out of her trance. She spun around and ran as fast as she could through the slick vines and weeds, occasionally getting caught up in the tangled grasses. She put everything she had into not falling down. If she fell down, she knew it would be over. She didn’t know where she would go. There was no escape; everyone knew there was no escape. The massive cube in the sky would consume or destroy all in its path, and there was no stopping it. But the survival instinct was strong in her people, and so they fought. And Dena ran. One of Fifteen could sense her respiration speeding up and her pulse rate increasing. Her nanoprobes quickly compensated, but not before she recognized the physiological reaction she was having. It was fear. Fear just like she had felt when … No, she stopped herself. Dena no longer exists. We are Borg. Error, she thought … or was that her Borg programming? She was having trouble separating her own thoughts from those of – “No!” she cried aloud, eliciting a wary glance from the guard outside the containment field. Her own voice sounded strange to her. No, not my own. Ours. Our thoughts are one. We are Borg. She looked down at her body once more, and started to shake as she remembered what had happened next. She remembered the pain the nanoprobes had caused as they restructured her anatomy down to its very DNA. She remembered Pilae’s terrified shrieks as they ripped her away and injected her with their technology, too. She remembered it all, in excruciating detail, and this time, she couldn’t stop the screaming. With a sharp cry, she threw herself against the containment field, ignoring the safety protocols flashing through her cortical array. “Where is my daughter?” she demanded, in Federation Standard. The Starfleet security officer assigned to monitor her raised his phaser rifle and pointed it at her. “Step away from the containment field,” he said threateningly. The technology in her brain constantly feeding her enhanced information about everything around her allowed her to recognize his species as 6961 – Ktarian, from the Alpha Quadrant. “Where is my daughter?” Dena screamed. “What have they done to us?” She tore desperately at the cybernetic implants on her body, wondering if there was anything left of her underneath. Her cortical array was feeding her warning after warning, but she ignored it and kept trying to remove the technology that suddenly felt like it was suffocating her. She tried once more to breach the containment field, but it was futile. The alien standing on the other side tapped a small device on his chest, still using one hand to aim his weapon at her. “Sickbay to Doctor Bashir,” he said, just as she succeeded in ripping the first implant out of her forearm -- a small control panel for the array of equipment integrated into her left hand. She stared at the device for a moment, then violently threw it away from her. It bounced off the containment field and fell to the floor. She was bleeding now, but she didn’t care. Whatever the Borg had done to her, she was determined to undo it. Then, she was going to find her daughter.