An early, rudimentary Borg assimilate Tilly. Saru and the crew must fight to save the Discovery. Commander Saru, Ensign Tilly, and L'Rell were engaged in cheerful conversation as their shuttle traveled towards the surface of a planet. Saru had conducted a routine scan of the planet when the Discovery had commenced its orbit, and finding it to have a very agreeable atmosphere and landscape, had asked to be given shore leave. He was well aware that they rarely orbited such a hospitable place as this one, and was thankful to have been given the opportunity to take the shuttle to the surface and enjoy an entire day outside the confined space of the ship. Saru now sat at the controls in the front of the shuttle, carefully navigating it through the atmosphere they were beginning to enter. He turned sideways to look at Tilly and asked, "So, Ensign, I understand that you're more than a little pleased to be undertaking your first solo away mission." He motioned towards the man accompanying Tilly. "Other than with your security officer here." L'Rell was sitting behind them and, always eager to join the conversation, added, "It's a proud thing to have a distant colony personally request your help. Stories of your great achievements have traveled halfway across the galaxy, it seems." "I don't know about that," Tilly replied modestly. "They asked for the eager young ensign they'd heard about who was good with the computers and, apparently that meant me." "It does mean you," Saru said. "And what about you two?" Tilly asked. Saru answered her, "I hear it's a peaceful, beautiful planet, and since Discovery will be in orbit for a few days, we are taking some much needed shore leave." L'Rell smiled and added, "He's going to run around in circles, and I'm going to sit under a green tree and watch him." "I don't get to run on Discovery, and Kelpians do like to run," he said. L'Rell leaned forward towards Saru and asked, "Maybe we'll be able to enjoy a swim as well?" Saru looked back at L'Rell in exasperation, and admonished, "It's hardly safe to immerse yourself in the waters of an unknown planet. You do take unneeded risks, L'Rell." "Perhaps it will be a very small swim... in shallow water," she conceded. A loud beeping started to sound. Tilly immediately got up from her chair and went to the back of the shuttle, where she picked up a heavy case of equipment, and then said to the others, "Time for me to transport. Enjoy your shore leave, and I'll see you back on the ship." Saru and L'Rell wished Tilly a successful mission, and Tilly and her security guard were transported from the shuttle. L'Rell stood up and took the front seat vacated by Tilly, so that they could both examine the now visible surface of the planet through the viewscreen. Saru maneuvered through the atmosphere of the planet for a short time, searching for a suitable place to set down and take shore leave. Soon L'Rell pointed to a clearing on the planet that was just becoming visible to them. "What about that area? Open plains, trees. I see a small river." Saru looked at the place L'Rell had pointed at and nodded his agreement. "Good. And you can have your 'just a very small swim'." The shuttle turned and headed towards the area they had chosen. When the transport was complete, Ensign Tilly found herself in a large room surrounded by many computers that were arranged in a complex grid formation. This was the remote human colony that had requested her assistance. She stood for a while where the transport had positioned her, holding the box of equipment, but no one seemed to have become aware of her presence. After a short time she decided that she would be more easily seen if she walked around the room, and so she started moving towards a group of about 30 colonists that were operating some computers. As she approached closer to them they suddenly all turned in unison and looked at her with blank, expressionless faces. She smiled at them, but no one spoke. Not to her, or to each other. They looked at her for about 30 seconds, and then they all turned back towards the computers and continued their work, as if they had not seen her. Tilly noted that all their movements seemed perfectly coordinated, in a very unnatural manner, and she immediately felt a sense of unease. Something about the room she was in and the behavior of the colonists felt threatening in a way she could not explain. She wanted to leave, but she had accepted the mission, so she knew it was her duty to stay and complete her work. She decided that she would complete a minimal amount of work as quickly as possible. Finally, one of the colonists came up to her and, with a strangely disturbing, exaggerated smile, said, "Welcome, Sylvia Tilly. We've been waiting for you. Stories of your technical skills and youthful, open minded attitudes have reached us. We have much to learn from each other." Tilly did not want to become friendly with these people and so, without returning the smile, she bent down and opened the box of equipment that she had brought. "I've brought the equipment, so just tell me what you want and we'll see if I can do it," she said. Another of the colonists, seemingly the leader, stepped forward and enthusiastically answered, "We want incorporation. Of Discovery's technology into our own. As you can see our computer systems are primitive compared to what you have on your ship. Perhaps you could start with the central processing units over here." The leader walked Tilly over to a line of the computers. She put the box she was carrying down and removed some equipment, ready to commence work. As she approached the first computer she was surprised when one of the side panels opened by itself. She was familiar with this type of computer, and she knew it did not have any automated panels. "Wow. How did that happen?" "Efficient, isn't it?" the leader enthused. "We have synchronized our brain patterns with those of the computers programming. We can operate all of our technology with thought alone. I just thought it open. It's very useful." "How do you do that? Human machine interfaces of some kind?" Tilly asked. "Yes" "That's illegal in the Federation," she warned. "There can be unexpected effects. It's dangerous." "People fear progress. We don't. That's why you're here helping us to improve our technology." "Your technology isn't advanced enough for you to create these sorts of interfaces. How did you get them?" "VGER gave them to us." "Who's VGER?" "What's VGER," the leader corrected. "VGER is a machine entity that visited our planet long ago. It gave to us the gift of being able to join our minds together with our technology so that we can function as one combined unit." "How often do you use these interfaces?" Tilly asked with concern. "At first we wore them as a wrist band," the leader answered. "We could turn them on only when we needed to. But when we experienced the ecstasy of joining our minds with the perfection of a machine we no longer had the wish to ever turn them off. So we remodeled the wristbands into implants and everyone wanted one. It's an indescribable feeling to always exist within the certainty of pure logic. We experience no fears or doubts." Tilly did not agree with the leader's ideas, and so replied firmly, "Fears and doubts are how people learn." "This is where you are so wrong," the leader said, still smiling. "All those who are interfaced with the computer share the one consciousness. We have become one collective of minds. The knowledge of each new member is automatically assimilated by the entire collective. We learn with no effort." Tilly realized that these colonists could not be reasoned with, and as they were engaged in activities that were forbidden by the Federation, she knew she could no longer help them. She needed to leave as soon as possible, and so she started to plan her exit strategy. "It's not really my way of learning," she said curtly, as she stepped away from the computer. The leader did not notice her change of attitude, but continued with his enthusiastic explanation of their work. "We experience the perfect logic of the computer but we lack universal knowledge. This is our limitation. If more people can be interfaced and join our collective we will expand what we know. It is our desire that in the future all people will be interfaced and thus possess all knowledge. Then we will have the ability to create a world of perfect efficiency with no more suffering. Can you imagine what such life would be like?" "I should leave," she insisted. "You're doing some things here that are illegal and I can't be doing that." Tilly began packing up her equipment when the leader moved closer and grabbed her hard around the arm. She cried out in pain. "Ouch. What are you doing?" "Sorry. We'll be sad to see you go but we understand your concerns. Perhaps just finish this one improvement." He pointed to the machine with the open panel. "I'll just put this one part in and then I'm gone," she agreed, and commenced her work. Lieutenant Stamets had been noticing anomalies with the computer systems in engineering for several hours. He had methodically worked his way around the room, conducting diagnostics on every computer, until finally he had traced the problem to a particular section of engineering. He walked over to that section and found Ensign Tilly to be the only person attending to the computers there. She was busily walking around the computers, programming each one with... something. He walked up to her and asked sternly, "What are you doing?" Tilly casually moved away from him, continuing her activities as if he had not asked the question, and said, "I just had my first solo away mission. And I'm only an ensign. How's good is that going to look on my record? Pretty good going Captain Tilly." Stamets followed her movement and, leaning over her shoulder, repeated his question with increased insistence, "What are you doing?" She finally stopped her activities, looked at him, and smiled vaguely. "Oh... you noticed." "Yes, I noticed," he replied. "Impressed?" she asked. "What... exactly... are you doing?" he persisted. She started to explain her activities with a level of enthusiasm that seemed strangely excessive, even for her. "The people I just visited... down on the planet... they can do some really amazing things. They function with the efficiency of the perfect machine. If we combined their methods with our technology, it would be the biggest leap of progress in our lifetime. And the Discovery is all about discovery... isn't it? New, improved, ways of functioning. Right?" Tilly's enthusiasm did not disguise her unsatisfactory answer, so Stamets remained standing and staring at her, waiting for the explanation she had not yet given him. She continued talking in a manner which, to him, was beginning to seem like peculiar ranting. "Centralized computer networks are more efficient. Everyone knows that. If we could create one common computer system shipwide then we could share jobs. When I'm here in engineering, and I've got some free time, I could help out on the bridge, and someone on the bridge could help me when I've got too much to do. Ideally every computer console should be able to access every function on the ship. We waste a lot of time walking around corridors when we could do everything from just one place. I don't know why it hasn't been done already." Stamets replied sharply, "It hasn't been done because long long ago... in our primitive Starfleet past, people decided that they liked having their own... separate... job and didn't want someone else popping in to help at unexpected moments. They also realized that centralized computers are a security risk because some insane ensign could take over the whole ship. And everyone enjoys walking around corridors." "They need to get over it. All of it," she stated emphatically. "Stop everything you're doing," he commanded. "Reverse everything you've already done. Write a report about how amazing the people you just visited are, how you'd like to improve the ship, and submit it to Starfleet for their consideration." "Yes Sir, right away." She turned away from him and commenced work on a different computer. Stamets stood there and frowned. He thought that everything about the conversation he had just engaged in was strange and made him very uneasy, so he decided that this was something he needed to tell to the captain. He left engineering and walked hurriedly to report to the captain. Captain Lorca had been in his ready room for several hours as he dealt with a steady stream of reports of shipwide computer malfunctions. Some of the reports had come in over the com, and some from the worried crew members that regularly rushed into the room to detail new anomalies. Lieutenant Stamets had been one of these worried crew members, and he now stood in the ready room, hoping for an explanation that Lorca knew he could not give. They both turned towards the door as a breathless Lieutenant Tyler rushed into the room. He began his security report, "Captain, we could be looking at a coordinated attack. Several crew members have been transported into their quarters and locked in. I had to use my security override to release them. Weapons have gone missing. Life support was altered in several areas. All power was lost on levels 5 and 9." Lorca carefully considered this information, and replied, "These shipwide incidents started four hours ago." "Which was when Ensign Tilly started tinkering with the computers," Stamets contributed. "Maybe that's a coincidence. I hope so," Lorca continued, "but we have to go with the most obvious explanation. She did just return from an away mission to a colony we know little about." He turned to Stamets and said, "From what you've told me about her aberrant behavior in engineering she may have been compromised in some way." He looked at Tyler and ordered, "She is to be treated as a security threat. Get down to engineering with a team and take her to sickbay." "Yes Sir," Tyler replied. He turned and started to walk towards the door. Suddenly they felt themselves being transported, and when the transport was complete they found that they were in the brig. They all looked at each other with surprise, and then fear. Commander Saru ran through the grass and across the rocks. He leaped with precision over the many gullies and small streams, smoothly landing on the other side to continue his journey. He quickly climbed up the steep hills and then efficiently clambered down the other side. He was surprised at his own agility during such a long and difficult run as he was now engaged in. He had not attempted such a run since he had left his home planet, and after serving in the confined spaces of the Discovery for so long, he had expected to have lost some of his abilities. But, he was pleased to discover, this was not the case. He finally stopped and stood on the crest of a hill, enjoying one last look at the magnificent landscape of the planet that could be seen from this height. He had been running for a long time, and so he decided that he had run enough, and was now in the mood for some more of the pleasant conversation he and L'Rell had been engaged in for most of the day. He looked down at the clearing that they had chosen for their shore leave. In the middle of the clearing he could see L'Rell stretched out across a large rock, relaxing in the sunshine. She had obviously completed her swim. Which, he thought proudly to himself, he had insisted she should commence only after they had both examined the river for mystery predators. He started walking down a path towards the clearing. When he reached the bottom of the path L'Rell heard him coming and sat up. She squinted into the sun and asked, "Do you never tire? You do not even breathe deeply." "The hills here are hardly large enough to cause me any serious exertion," he answered. "I could run up and down mountains five times the height of these ones with no difficulty." "You were born to run," she noted. "May I ask a personal question?" "I have a certain faith in your good taste and diplomatic words... so ask me whatever you want." "You were bred to be nothing but prey. To sense the coming of death, and to flee from your predators. When you run, do you feel dread? Do you feel like you are being pursued?" The question did not offend him. Actually, he thought, he felt a sense of pride in the answer he was going to give her. "When I first started to run as a child I did feel an overpowering, instinctive panic. I wanted to avoid open areas and find places to hide. But I'm not just the Kelpian I was bred to be, obeying my every innate instinct. I have my higher mind, so I just kept telling myself that there were no predators and... eventually... I overcame my fears and learnt to derive joy from running." L'Rell seemed vaguely impressed with his answer. As far as Saru could read her emotions. She replied, "I too have overcome many of my tendencies. I have a craving to eat you right now... but I resist that desire." Saru laughed. L'Rell said such things often. "You are the most amusing Klingon I have ever known." Suddenly his ganglia were activated. He rapidly looked all around for the threat that this activation would indicate, but could see nothing. He then stood still and listened carefully. L'Rell, always with a keen eye for danger, immediately became aware of his response. She stood up and listened also. "I can't hear anything," she said. "I hear something in the distance. Some people talking perhaps. Since we are alone on a strange planet I suggest, on this occasion, we heed my Kelpian fear response and leave quickly." "Agreed." L'Rell got down from her rock and together they hurriedly packed their belongings into the shuttle and left the planet.